Monday, February 29, 2016

SOLAR ENERGY - The Debate in Nevada

"Debate over solar rates simmers in the Nevada desert" by Sam Weber, PBS NewsHour 2/27/2016

This post can also be a "Greed File" because of big-energy's concern of "a threat to their business model."  NV Energy, hint, change your business model and not stick-it to solar customers.

Excerpt

With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Nevada seems like the perfect place for rooftop solar.

And with the help of state and federal incentives, the amount of rooftop solar in the state has exploded, increasing by more than 400 percent from 2014 to 2015.  But the future of the rooftop solar industry in this state is now very cloudy after a decision late last year by the state’s Public Utility Commission to change the rates for customers with solar panels.

At stake is a system known as “net metering,” which allows rooftop solar customers to get credit for the excess energy they send back to the grid when it’s sunny.

Versions of ‘net metering’ are on the books in more than 40 states and the effect for many rooftop solar customers is a dramatically reduced electric bill.  But in lowering their bill, utilities and regulators around the country have been trying to determine if solar customers are paying their fair share of the electric grid’s operating costs.

In Nevada, the Public Utility Commission ruled that there was a cost-shift from non-solar customers to solar customers.

“The customers who are participating in net metering were not sharing in the costs of the utility’s distributions and transmission system – the pipes and the wires that get the electricity to your home,” said Anne-Marie Cuneo, Staff Director of Regulatory Operations for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

In December, the Public Utility Commission increased the basic connection fee and reduced the value of the credit that homeowners receive for excess energy to help close the gap between non-solar and solar customers, which utility NV Energy calculated to be about $16 million a year.

Solar advocates say the change threatens the whole industry and many companies said they were moving operations out of the state, including SolarCity, which laid off 550 workers in January.  Advocates argue that utilities have been pushing for changes in ‘net metering’ rules because they see solar as a threat to their business model.

“Solar is becoming real,” said Marco Krapels, Executive Vice President for Strategy and Structured Finance at Solar City.  “The utility monopolies are saying, ‘well wait a minute, we’ve got to crush it before it gets too big.’  And that’s what’s happening now.”

OPINION - Shields and Ponnuru 2/26/2016

"Shields and Ponnuru on Christie endorsing Trump and the 10th GOP debate" PBS NewsHour 2/26/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Judy Woodruff joins syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review to discuss the week in politics, including Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio's chances of derailing a Trump nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ decision to leave South Carolina before the primary and President Obama’s Supreme Court standoff.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - "A Mother’s Reckoning"

"The mother of a Columbine shooter on the son she thought she knew" PBS NewsHour 2/25/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in April 1999 carrying guns and homemade pipe bombs.  Within an hour, 12 students and a teacher were dead, and 24 others injured.  Seventeen years later, Dylan’s mother Sue writes of a son she thought she knew in her new book, “A Mother’s Reckoning.”  Sue Klebold joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss her life in the shadow of tragedy.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  April 20, 1999, Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

Two seniors, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, walked into the school armed with weapons and homemade bombs.  Less than an hour later, 12 students and one teacher were dead, 24 students injured, and the two shooters had turned the guns on themselves.

It was a searing time for the community, for the victims’ families, and for the nation.

Seventeen years later, Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan, writes of a son she thought she knew, the parent she thought she was, a tragedy and its aftermath.  Her new book is, “A Mother’s Reckoning.”

Sue Klebold joins us now from Denver.

Sue Klebold, welcome to you.

You write early in this book:  “The ordinariness of our lives before Columbine will perhaps be the hardest thing for people to understand about my story.  For me, it is also the most important.”

Why is that the most important thing?

SUE KLEBOLD, Author, “A Mother’s Reckoning”:  Because I want people to understand that, if someone is struggling with thoughts of suicide or, in some cases, homicide, that these issues can be hidden.

And we should all try to be more mindful of what our loved ones are thinking, what might be hidden behind their expressions, and how their behaviors can lie if they’re very sophisticated at hiding what they’re thinking and feeling.

JEFFREY BROWN:  In fact, just days before the shooting, Dylan went to the prom.  You write of seeing him as he came home.  And you write of saying to yourself that night, “I have done a good job with this kid.”

You truly believed that at that moment?

SUE KLEBOLD:  I truly believed that at that moment.

I felt that he had — he had had a good year, a good evening.  I felt that he was contented and that he was healthy and that he was moving forward with his life.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The questions from everyone, of course, whether in sorrow or anger or just utter confusion, is, how could you not have known, right?  How could you not have known that your son was so troubled that he was capable of something like this?

AMERICA - Economic Anxiety

"Is economic anxiety fueling Trump and Sanders supporters?" PBS NewsHour 2/25/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Why have both Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders taken the country by storm this year?  One cause might be fear for the future.  Many Americans today are living paycheck to paycheck, worrying that their children won’t be any better off.  Those anxieties are driving them into the arms of antiestablishment populists.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

AUDIENCE:  We love Trump!  We love Trump!

DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate:  Oh, we love you, we love you!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Not again, you may be thinking.

DONALD TRUMP:  We’re going to build a big, beautiful wall.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate:  There is nothing we cannot accomplish.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Another story on Trump and Sanders as political outliers defining this year’s presidential campaign?

DONALD TRUMP:  We’re in first place everywhere.

PAUL SOLMAN:  But why have they taken America by storm?  We put that question to longtime liberal thinker Robert Reich, friend of Hillary Clinton since college, secretary of labor under her husband, Bill, but now a Bernie Sanders supporter.

Are you surprised by the turn America has taken politically in the last half-year?

ROBERT REICH, University of California, Berkeley:  I’m surprised at how fast it happened.  I predicted in my book “Saving Capitalism” that the biggest political contest in the future would be between, not Democrats and Republicans, but between the anti-establishment populists and the establishment, because I saw the increase in this degree of anxious class, I call it, anger and frustration that the economy and society are no longer working for them.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Covering economic developments in America since the 1970s, I too have been chronicling this growing anxiety my entire career.

I met security guard Bobby Hicks five years ago.

BOBBY HICKS, Security Guard:  I am the most insecure security officer you will meet, because I’m worried.  Right now, I live paycheck to paycheck.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Cookie Sheers is an administrative assistant at a Boston nonprofit.

COOKIE SHEERS, Administrative Assistant:  We all feel stuck, like you’re just at that edge of water where you can come up for air every few minutes, but never long enough to feel that you have accomplished something.  You always have to go back down.

FEAR MONGERING - The Privacy Issue

"The privacy vs. security battle, reignited" PBS NewsHour 2/24/2016

I will say again, and again, NO ONE has the right to Obstruct Justice by refusing a legally obtained warrant, nor use the excuse of 'privacy' to hid criminal activity.

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  As Apple’s standoff with federal courts reignites the debate over privacy versus security, some may wonder just how much American intelligence policies have changed since Sept. 11.  Hari Sreenivasan talks with former CIA Director Michael Hayden about the constitutional cost of national security, the efficacy of drone strikes and the human element within the Central Intelligence Agency.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  We move now from defense to intelligence, and how the country has changed since the attacks of September 11.

The privacy vs. security debate has surfaced again in the wake of the FBI’s appeal to tech giant Apple to unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shootings.  And there is renewed campaign debate over torture.

Hari Sreenivasan has our conversation with one man who was at the center of U.S. intelligence policy.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden is the only person to ever serve as both the director of the CIA and the head of the National Security Agency.  His tenure at both agencies came during a critical period, as the U.S. launched and prosecuted the global war on terror.

He’s just written a book about his time in government called “Playing to the Edge.”

He joins me now.

Thanks for joining us.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), Author, “Playing to the Edge”:  Thank you, Hari.
-----
HARI SREENIVASAN:  The other big story right now is obviously this tension between Apple and the government.  In this conversation, you have said that you come down on the side of Apple more often than not.  In this specific case, with this specific device, you are on the side of the government in trying to open it up.  This is the phone, of course, that was used by the attacker in San Bernardino.

You know, one of Apple’s arguments has been, listen, this will set a precedent, it will create a back door.  And, sure enough, there’s at least nine or 10 other cases where Apple is being asked to open up that phone.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN:  Absolutely.

And the U.S. attorney in Manhattan says he has got 175 of these instruments sitting in a room that he wants to be reopened.  So, in this particular case, the original ask from the FBI, going back months now, was some sort of universal back door that would allow them to get into Apple and other companies’ encrypted devices.

Frankly, Hari, I think American safety, American security — put the privacy argument aside, which is quite powerful.  But I’m a security guy.  I think American security is better served with end-to-end unbreakable encryption.

And I recognize that makes the life of the FBI more difficult, may even make the life of my old agency more difficult.




UNITED STATES - Divided We Stall

"How did today’s government become so divided?" PBS NewsHour 2/24/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Separation of powers is a core component of American democracy, but political divisions rose to new heights this year as Congressional Republicans clashed with the Obama administration on everything from budget blueprints to Supreme Court nominations.  Gwen Ifill talks to E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post and Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller for a closer look at today’s caustic political landscape.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Separation of powers is at the heart of American democracy, and it seems the powerful have never been more separate.

Yesterday, Republicans said they will block any nominee the President sends for the Supreme Court.  They have also rejected outright his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and refused earlier this year to grant even pro-forma consideration to his budget blueprint.

Against this backdrop of resistance, the rise of Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

So, how different, how unprecedented, how permanent is this growing split?

For that, we turn to two authors of books about the political turning point at hand.  E.J. Dionne is a liberal columnist for The Washington Post, and the author of “Why the Right Went Wrong.”  And conservative Matt Lewis is a senior contributor for The Daily Caller and author of “Too Dumb to Fail.”

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.

Matt Lewis, what is happening, if anything, to the Republican party?

MATT K. LEWIS, Author, “Too Dumb to Fail”:  Well, I think, with the rise of Donald Trump, clearly, you have a populist moment.

I really do worry that we’re going to — if Donald Trump wins the nomination, he will redefine what it means to be a conservative, what it means to be a Republican.  And no longer will it be a party about ideas, about free markets, about defending the unborn.

And it instead will become a white, identity politics, angry, protectionist, populist party.  And I think that is a radically different direction and something that, fingers crossed, will not happen.

GWEN IFILL:  But, E.J., given what we have seen unfold here in Washington just in the past few days, it seems like it’s about more than Donald Trump.

E.J. DIONNE, Author, “Why the Right Went Wrong”:  Oh, absolutely.

I think this is something that has been happening to conservatism over 50 years.  I mean, the first sentence in my book is, "The history of contemporary American conservatism is a story of disappointment and betrayal."

And I think Republican politicians have made a series promises to their base that they couldn’t possibly keep, about the rise — about shrinking government, about rolling back cultural change, changing the ethnic makeup of the country.

And the base has gotten angrier and angrier.  And I think that has led to Donald Trump.  And I think the leadership in Congress has had to take and has chosen to take a harder and harder line against a Democratic President.

I mean, you can say, of course, Democrats have opposed presidential nominees for the Supreme Court in the past, but I think what you have seen over the last few weeks is really unprecedented.

GWEN IFILL:  Well…

E.J. DIONNE:  We won’t even hold a hearing on your nominee.

And there was a story in The Des Moines Register today that Chuck Grassley wouldn’t even meet with the President to talk about a nominee.  At least that’s where it was.  That really goes beyond.

UNITED STATES - Nuclear Arsenal Overhaul

"As Pentagon overhauls nuclear triad, critics advise caution" by Dan Sagalyn, PBS NewsHour 2/24/2016

Excerpt

MINOT, N.D. — During the Cold War, the United States developed a vast nuclear arsenal with weapons on aircraft, submarines and land-based missiles.  These three ways of delivering nuclear weapons became known as the triad, with the Soviet Union as the primary target.  The strategy was to deter an attack on the United States by having enough nuclear weapons that could survive a strike and retaliate.

Over the next three decades, the Pentagon plans to spend $1 trillion billion to rebuild the triad.  Military commanders and civilian experts say nuclear weapons are used every day to deter a nuclear attack against the U.S. and that the current stockpile needs to be replaced because they are old.  An example:  The B-52H bombers began flying in the late 1950s early 1960s and are older than the crews that fly them.

But critics say the Defense Department is duplicating what it had during the cold war.  Two leading critics, former defense secretary William Perry and former top nuclear commander Gen. James Cartwright (Ret.), say one leg of the triad — land-based nuclear tipped missiles — should be phased out.








CLOSING DOWN - Guantanamo

"Inside Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center" PBS NewsHour 2/23/2016

Read "Congressional Republicans" as fear mongers.

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  President Obama announced plans Tuesday to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, asserting that its existence undermines national security.  The proposal -- which would send the facility’s remaining 91 detainees to domestic U.S. sites -- would fulfill the president’s 2008 promise to close the prison, but Congressional Republicans have been vocal in their opposition.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  From President Obama today came a fresh appeal to — quote — “close a chapter at Guantanamo.”  From Republicans came an outright refusal.  It all focused on a fight that’s gone at least as long as he’s been President.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay doesn’t advance our national security.  It undermines it.

GWEN IFILL:  For the President, it may be his final chance to keep a 2008 campaign promise, shutting down the military prison at Guantanamo.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit.  It drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running, and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward for less than 100 detainees.

GWEN IFILL:  At its peak in 2003, Guantanamo held 680 detainees.  Today, 91 prisoners remain at the detention facility; 35 are expected to be transferred out by this summer.

The President’s new proposal would send the remaining detainees to an unspecified facility inside the United States.  It speaks of 13 potential sites, including civilian prisons and military bases, but makes no recommendation.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  The notion of having terrorists held in the United States, rather than in some distant place, can be scary.  But part of my message to the American people here is, we’re already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the United States, because we threw the book at them, and there have been no incidents.  We have managed it just fine.

GWEN IFILL:  Then-President George W. Bush first ordered foreign terror suspects held at Guantanamo after 9/11.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.

GWEN IFILL:  But in one of his first acts as President, Mr. Obama signed an executive order to shut it down.  Today, he pointed out that, early on, the decision appeared to have bipartisan backing.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  My predecessor, President Bush, to his credit, said he wanted to close it.  It was one of the few things that I and my Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, agreed on.

GWEN IFILL:  But McCain and others have never backed this President’s solution, and have even passed a law that would bar moving detainees to American soil.



"How do lawmakers feel about the plan to close Guantanamo?" PBS NewsHour 2/23/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Following President Obama’s announcement that he will fulfill his longstanding promise to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Capitol Hill lawmakers have been torn between support and opposition.  Gwen Ifill talks to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for their perspectives on the proposed shutdown and what it could mean for the detainees.

AT THE WHITE HOUSE - 106 Year Old Breaks-Out

"Watch a 106-year-old woman bust a move with the president" PBS NewsHour 2/22/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  106-year-old Virginia McLaurin has lived through 18 different presidents, though she never thought she’d live to see an African-American in the White House, let alone meet him.  But thanks to an online campaign, McLaurin was able to fulfill her dream and even bust a move with the president and first lady.  The White House commemorated the meeting with a video released on social media.

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS - UK vs EU

"Amid economic concerns, the U.K. considers an EU exit" PBS NewsHour 2/22/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The U.K. has been a member of the European Union for more than 40 years, but that partnership might come to an end amid British concerns over eurozone turmoil and the ongoing refugee crisis.  British voters will soon hold a referendum to decide whether or not to exit the EU.  Judy Woodruff talks to Steven Erlanger of the New York Times for the possible implications of a U.K.-EU split.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The United Kingdom has been a part of the European Union for more than 40 years.  But its place in that postwar attempt at European integration is now in question, and whether Britain will stay or go is a hotly-contested issue that will soon go before British voters.

DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom:  I have no other agenda than what is best for our country.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  It was a high-stakes moment, the British leader appealing to the House of Commons, and to the country at large, not to bolt from the European Union.

DAVID CAMERON:  Our current trade agreements with 53 countries around the world would lapse.  This cannot be described as anything other than risk, uncertainty, and a leap in the dark that could hurt working people in our country for years to come.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David Cameron said the deal he struck with 27 other E.U. nations on Friday grants Britain special status.  It includes measures to ensure Britain won’t be forced into becoming part of a European super-state.  It also creates safeguards for Britain’s financial services and the pound currency.  And it grants London the power to limit welfare payments to migrants from the rest of Europe.

Cameron is depending on that deal to win over doubters in his own Conservative Party.  But the effort was dealt a major blow yesterday when London’s popular mayor and fellow Conservative Boris Johnson came out in favor of leaving the E.U., what’s become known as the Brexit.

ARTS - At the Oscars 2016

"‘The Revenant,' ‘Mad Max' win big at Oscars" by Corinne Segal, PBS NewsHour 2/28/2016

Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro G. Inarritu pose with their Oscars earned for “The Revenant.” Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters


Leonardo DiCaprio took home his first Oscar Sunday for his role in “The Revenant” after five previous nominations.

DiCaprio used his acceptance speech to call for action on climate change.  “Climate change is real, it is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together to stop procrastinating,” he said.

“The Revenant” director Alejandro González Iñárritu also took home the award for Best Director, his second year in a row to win the award after winning last year for “Birdman.”  He is the first director in 65 years to win the Best Director award two years in a row.

Mad Max: Fury Road,” the story of a road warrior fighting to survive in a dystopian wasteland, took home most of the 10 awards for which it was nominated.  George Miller's fourth installment of the “Mad Max” franchise won a large portion of the production awards, including Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Spotlight,” a movie about the Boston Globe's investigation of sex abuse within the Catholic Church,” won for Best Picture in a field packed with eight nominees.

In between the award presentations, Host Chris Rock kept the focus on the Oscars' lack of diversity, which drew criticism after no non-white actors were nominated in the acting categories last month.  In his opening monologue, he called the ceremony the “White People's Choice Awards” and called for more opportunities for black actors.  “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors,” he said.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, echoed that message in a statement mid-ceremony.  “Everyone in the Hollywood community has a role to play in bringing in the vital changes the industry needs so we can accurately reflect the world today,” she said.

Read the full list of winners in bold below:

Best Picture
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Best Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Matt Damon, The Martian

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Best Supporting Actress
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Best Adapted Screenplay
Drew Goddard, The Martian
Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, The Big Short
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Emma Donoghue, Room

Best Original Screenplay
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight
Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen, Bridge of Spies
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmin Inside Out
Alex Garland, Ex Machina
Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Andrea Berloff, Straight Outta Compton

Best Foreign Language Film
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Mustang (France)
A War (Denmark)
Embrace the Serpent (Colombia)
Theeb (Jordan)

Best Documentary Feature
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

Best Animated Feature
Inside Out
Anomalisa
Shaun of the Sheep
When Marnie Was There
Boy and the World

Best Film Editing
Hank Corwin, The Big Short
Jason Ballantine and Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant
Tom McArdle, Spotlight
Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Original Song
“Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey
Music and Lyric by Abel Tesfaye, Ahmad Balshe, Jason Daheala Quenneville and Stephan Moccio
“Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction
Music by J. Ralph and Lyric by Antony Hegarty
“Simple Song #3” from Youth
Music and Lyric by David Lang
“Til It Happens To You” from The Hunting Ground
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren and Lady Gaga
“Writing's On The Wall” from Spectre
Music and Lyric by Jimmy Napes and Sam Smith

Best Original Score
The Hateful Eight
Carol
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Bridge of Spies

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
Edward Lachman, Carol
Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
Roger Deakins, Sicario
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Costume Design
Sandy Powell, Carol
Sandy Powell, Cinderella
Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl
Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road
Jacqueline West, The Revenant

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared

Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Sound Mixing
Benjamin A. Burtt, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ben Osmo, Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, Mad Max: Fury Road
Mac Ruth, Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, The Martian
Chris Duesterdiek, Frank A. Montaño, Jon Taylor, Randy Thom, The Revenant
Drew Kunin, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Bridge of Spies

Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Short Film, Live Action
Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont, Ave Maria (Incognito Films)
Henry Hughes, Day One (American Film Institute)
Jamie Donoughue, Shok (Eagle Eye Films)
Benjamin Cleary, Stutterer (Bare Golly Films)
Everything Will Be Okay

Best Short Film, Animated
Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay's Super Team
We Can't Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow Tomorrow

Best Documentary, Short Subject
Body Team 12, David Darg and Bryn Mooser
Chau, beyond the Lines, Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, Adam Benzine
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Last Day of Freedom, Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman

Friday, February 26, 2016

JOURNALISM - "Spotlight" Gets It Right


"‘Spotlight' Gets Investigative Journalism Right" by Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica 2/25/2016

There's a moment in almost every movie when people in the audience who really know the line of work depicted on screen cry out in frustration and say:  “Oh, come on!”  “Absurd.”  “Never happens.”

Over the decades, Hollywood screenwriters have taken liberties with every imaginable profession and craft, from doctors to lawyers to spies to police detectives.  Rocky Balboa survives punches that would decapitate an ordinary boxer.  The car chases in 'The Bourne Identity' defy physics.  John McClane, the hard-boiled cop in the 'Die Hard' series, displays a supernatural ability to evade bullets.

Journalism movies have had their share of utterly improbable moments.  In the 1994 film “The Paper,” the city editor of a New York City tabloid gets into a fist fight with his female boss as he tries to stop the presses.  (Not a great career move.)  More recently, the first season of HBO's television series 'The Newsroom' showed a producer landing a series of astounding scoops in the first hours after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.  The reporter's information came from miraculously well-placed sources – a sister who worked at Halliburton and a close friend who happened to be a junior BP executive attending all the key crisis meetings.

All of this makes “Spotlight,” the film based on the Boston Globe's investigation of the Catholic Church, a remarkable achievement.  The movie, which has been nominated for six Academy Awards including best picture, vividly captures the mix of frustration, drudgery and excitement that goes into every great investigative story.  Where liberties were taken, and there were a few, they are in line with the realities of the news business.

One of the most credible aspects of the movie is the cluelessness with which the reporters begin their quest.  As is often the case, the Globe's group of reporters, known as the “Spotlight” Team, have no idea of the size and scope of what they're trying to examine.  At first, they stumble around, lacking the most basic information about how the church bureaucracy worked.

The notion of pedophile priests was not new.  Newspapers from Dallas to Portland had done deeply reported stories on individual cases.  Boston itself had just witnessed the criminal trial of a particularly notorious priest, Father John J. Geoghan.  Initially, senior editors at the Globe are not even persuaded there was a story worth chasing.

As the film briefly acknowledges, the Globe was behind the Boston Phoenix, a respected alternative weekly, in covering the subject for local readers.  Kristen Lombardi, a reporter for the Phoenix, had already written a series of stories implicating Cardinal Bernard Law, the leader of Boston's archdiocese, in allowing Geoghan to remain in daily contact with children for three decades.

“Spotlight” opens with the arrival of Marty Baron, a veteran journalist who took over at the Globe after a stint as editor of the Miami Herald.  As investigative reporters know well, Florida is a reporters' paradise, lousy with graft, corruption and colorful characters.  The state's public records laws are decisively tilted toward openness.  When a Globe columnist covering the Geoghan trial wrote that “the truth may never be known,” Baron sat down with the head of the “Spotlight” team, Walter “Robby” Robinson, and asked him to take a fresh look at the issue.

The editor suggested filing a lawsuit to force release of records the Catholic Church had submitted under court seal.  Such suits were unheard of in Massachusetts.  Liev Schreiber, the actor who portrays Baron, captures the true life editor's white-hot focus and intensity, so much so that long-time colleagues were taken aback by the resemblance.

The movie accurately depicts the team's key early breakthrough.  The reporters figured out that priests who had “acted out” with children were often listed in the diocese's phone book as 'on leave.'  They obtained years of directories and pored through thousands of entries to create a database, using the then-remarkable new technology known as a computer spreadsheet.  With artful editing and a stirring score, director Tom McCarthy made this excruciatingly boring work an inspiring event, which in a way it was.

Another turning point came when Sacha Pfeiffer, the Globe reporter played by Rachel McAdams, knocks on the door of a priest who off-handedly acknowledges that he has abused children.  (He asserts, bizarrely, that his conduct was not improper because he was not sexually aroused.)  The reporter is clearly flustered and unprepared for this admission and she rushes through the interview before a woman at the house can slam the door.  The practice of “door stopping” is routine for investigative journalists; nearly all such encounters end in failure.  But the few attempts that succeed deliver an adrenalin kick unlike anything in reporting.

Fascinatingly, one of the more compelling scenes about journalism in the movie was invented by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, the screenwriters who worked closely with the reporters and editors involved the story.

It comes late in the film, after the “Spotlight” team has figured out that scores of Boston-area priests had abused children.  Eric MacLeish, a lawyer for the victims, angrily tells Robinson that he sent the Globe a list of 20 priests “and you buried it.”  Soon after, the reporters come across a story that ran deep inside the Globe's metro section when Robinson was in charge of local coverage.

The writers came across the buried story when they interviewed MacLeish as part of their research for the film.  They seized on it as the perfect way to illustrate the Globe's earlier failures to investigate an important local institution.  The conversation between MacLeish and Robinson is fictional.  But the sentiments portrayed in the movie are real.  “It happened on my watch and I'll go to confession on it,” the Robinson told Entertainment Weekly.  “Like any journalist who's been around this long, I've made my share of mistakes.”

In investigative reporting, of course, nearly all great stories are screamingly obvious in retrospect.  The reporting and documents the Globe obtained through its lawsuit proved that Church leaders had knowingly shuffled around pedophile priests from parish to parish.  Geoghan turned out to be a piece of a much, much larger story, one that has rippled across the United States and the world over the past 15 years.  Baron has pointed out that the movie is not a stenographic record of how the investigation unfolded.  But it gets the big things right, providing a compelling picture of how great reporters break big stories.

POLITICS - Bernie vs Clinton Photo Finish?

"Bernie Sanders Still Has a Path to Victory.  Here It Is." by Christopher Hass, In These Times 2/25/2015

Excerpt

The media says Clinton is inevitable (again), but the battle for delegates could be closer than anyone expects.

The main media narrative coming out of Saturday’s Nevada caucus was clear: Hillary Clinton’s got her inevitability back, and Bernie Sanders’ campaign is toast.  You can see it across a broad swath of the political spectrum, from Salon (“Hillary Clinton’s Path Is Clear: Barring a catastrophe, her nomination is inevitable”) to the Drudge Report (“Bern Out: Hillary could end it all in two weeks!”).

But if you put aside conjecture and speculation for a moment, there’s really only one fact we can know for certain: Sanders currently trails Clinton by just a single pledged delegate, 51-52.  Yes, it's true that, including superdelegates (which we’ll get to in a bit), a candidate needs to amass at least 2,383 total delegates in order to claim the Democratic nomination—but that’s just another way of saying that you have to win by one.

That’s not how the media tends to talk about the nomination, but it’s the framework to keep in mind as things unfold over the next few weeks and months—and it’s a framework the campaigns themselves clearly understand.  For all the talk of momentum, it’s math that will determine the winner.

(Re)setting expectations

When polls closed in New Hampshire, two things happened within seconds; the networks declared Sanders the winner, and the Clinton campaign released a three-page memo that attempted to reframe not just her loss but the entirety of the race to come.  The memo explained:

While important, the first four states represent just 4% of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. …

The way to win the nomination is to maximize the number of delegates we secure from each primary and caucus.  That means, in many cases, that the margin of victory (or defeat) within a given state is actually more important than whether the state is won or lost.

Given its timing, the memo may have looked like sleight of hand to disguise an embarrassing loss, but the underlying point is absolutely correct.  The early states, with their relatively small populations, account for only a fraction of the total primary votes.  And though every delegate is a zero sum game (either Clinton wins it or Sanders does), every state is not.  The margins matter.

So, let’s look at the margins.

What it takes

Trying to map the 2008 race to 2016 is an imperfect science, but 2008 does provide the most recent example of what a long, contested Democratic primary looks like (and of course, there’s one constant in both: Hillary Clinton).

Most everyone remembers the exciting first act of 2008; Barack Obama's historic victory in the Iowa caucus, Clinton's teary-eyed come-from-behind win in New Hampshire, and the photo-finish of the Nevada caucus.  When seen in terms of delegate differential, however, it looks likes this:



The reality is considerably less dramatic, isn’t it?  Math will do that.  Now, here is where the race stands at the same point in 2016:


Thursday, February 25, 2016

BEHIND THE SCENES - "Bridge of Spies"


"‘Bridge of Spies’: The True Story is Even Stranger Than Fiction" by Tim Weiner, ProPublica 2/24/2016

Steven Spielberg’s movie captures the essence of the Cold War in the tale of a man whose “legend” was so encompassing, U.S. agents did not learn his true identity until the Soviet Union started to collapse.

Hollywood loves the smoke and mirrors of espionage.  For decades, it has made a dirty, dangerous business look glamorous on silver screens.

“Bridge of Spies,” the cold-war epic directed by Steven Spielberg, contends for six Academy Awards Sunday, including best picture.  The brilliant Briton Mark Rylance is up for best supporting actor.  He plays the Soviet spook who the FBI knew as Col. Rudolf Abel before and after his arrest in New York in 1957.  Tom Hanks stars as the noble lawyer James Donovan, who defended the mysterious colonel up to the Supreme Court.  In 1962, at the behest of the CIA, Donovan handed his imprisoned client over to the Russians in exchange for the captured pilot of a U–2 spy plane shot down over Sverdlovsk.  The swap took place at the Berlin bridge connecting communist East Berlin to the West — thus the title.

The movie tries to be true to life.  But it reconstructs five grim years in two hours and twenty-one minutes.  As it often is, the truth was stranger than its fictional portrayal.

I’ve written on American intelligence over three decades, as a reporter for The New York Times and as the author of histories of the CIA ("Legacy of Ashes") and the FBI ("Enemies").  I see Rylance, an actor’s actor, as the heart of the film.  He bears an astonishing resemblance to Abel; his silence and cunning captures the essence of espionage.  A gray man in a gray suit slips through the shadows in a black-and-white world carrying encrypted secrets.

Now to the story’s facts and fictions:

J. Edgar Hoover had been on the warpath against Soviet spies for a decade when a drunken KGB courier walked into the U.S. Embassy in Paris in April 1957.  Reino Hayhanen feared for his life, having fouled up to a fare-thee-well.  He had taken $5,000 intended for the American Communist underground in New York, gone on a bender, and bought a one-way ticket to Paris.  The CIA station chief delivered him to the custody of the FBI in New York.  After the defector dried out, he gave the Bureau its first deep look inside a Soviet spy operation in the United States.  Hoover’s nightmare came to life.

Hayhanen told the agents an astounding story.  He had a legend — a false identity — and a forged American passport when he boarded the Queen Mary for New York.  He served as a courier carrying money and encoded microfilm messages sent to and from Moscow.  Many messages were hidden in hollowed-out coins, secreted in New York’s parks and sidewalks.  (A trick nickel makes a cameo appearance in the movie.)  Hayhanen named his top superior as the First Secretary of the Soviet delegation to the United Nations — who had just left New York, never to return — and his main contact as Col. Abel, alias “Emil Goldfus,” an artist with a studio in Brooklyn.

The FBI’s Edmund J. Birch led a squad trailing the artist.  Carrying a hidden camera in a briefcase outside a Manhattan restaurant, he got a clear shot — “one beautiful picture of his face,” Birch remembered.  Haynahen identified the face as Abel’s.  The FBI watched the suspect around the clock.  He never did anything suspicious.  The evidence was hearsay.

The Bureau wanted to make an espionage case but they lacked clues.  Hoover was livid.  On his orders, without a warrant, and outside the law, his agents grabbed Abel, tossed his apartment, and found extensive evidence of spy craft.

But unless the FBI broke Abel, the illegally seized evidence was likely to be inadmissible in court.  He was initially charged under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the immigration statute that the Justice Department used when an espionage case could not be made.

FBI agents grilled him for more than two years — first in a broiling prison for illegal immigrants outside McAllen, Tex., on the Mexican border, at “a wetback camp, in a wire cage,” said the FBI’s Ed Gamber, who interrogated Abel for six weeks and later testified in court.  “He was a gentleman, he was polite; he was a nice guy.”  And he never broke.  Then teams of FBI agents braced him at the Atlanta federal penitentiary, one of the toughest prisons in the United States.  “I’ll talk with you about art, mathematics, photography, anything you want to talk about, but don’t ask me about my intelligence background,” Abel said.  “I have not said anything, and I’m not going to now.”

Playing Abel in “Bridge of Spies,” Rylance has a great line eliding that silence in three words.  If he cooperated, he asks, “Would it help?”  History suggests not.

In real life, prosecutors persuaded a federal judge to allow use of the evidence they had seized.  Abel was quickly convicted and sentenced to thirty years.  Donovan almost immediately won an appeal before the Supreme Court, which granted an extraordinary 90 minutes for argument.  He cited the Constitution’s ban against warrantless searches and jailing, arguing that Abel’s arrest and imprisonment were an affront to American justice.

Anyone who follows the court may be shocked to read that, after long deliberation, only five justices sided with the government.  The minority of four wrote: “This is a notorious case, with a notorious defendant.  Yet we must take care to enforce the Constitution without regard to the nature of the crime.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was outraged.  “We would have to expose all our intelligence sources and methods in order to obtain a conviction,” Eisenhower fumed at a National Security Council meeting attended by Vice President Richard M. Nixon in May 1960, seven weeks after the decision– and shortly after the U–2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was shot down.  “About all the FBI can do is keep spies under surveillance.”

The only thing of import Abel ever said to the FBI was an insult: “American intelligence walks in baby shoes.”  And he had a point.  Not until the end of the cold war did the CIA and the FBI learn that the man they knew as Abel was an entirely different person.

He was born in 1903 in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, as Willie Fisher, the son of a Bolshevik.  He went to the Soviet Union, became a committed Communist, and was given training, a legend, and a role in Moscow’s spy network before World War Two.  He came to the United States after the war and worked in silence, undetected, for nearly a decade.  And he lived on for nearly a decade after the great swap, dying on November 15, 1971.

Twenty years on, the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist.  And today another colonel trained by its vicious spy service rules in the Kremlin.

Hollywood would never greenlight that movie.  No one would believe the script.

Monday, February 22, 2016

GREED FILE - Wal-Mart and Winnsboro, South Caroline

"What happens when Wal-Mart leaves small towns behind" by Christopher Booker, PBS NewsHour 2/20/2016

Lets see; first Wal-Mart opens almost killing any local business, then leaves town.  Typical 'we don't care' and 'money before people' big business.

Excerpt

Around 90 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Wal-Mart store, according to the company.  Residents of Winnsboro, South Carolina, however, are no longer part of that overwhelming majority.

In January, as part of a company-wide restructuring, Winnsboro's Wal-Mart became one of 154 stores that shuttered its doors across the country over the past year.  As with the rest of the closures, the town's employees were given two week's notice before the store closed for good, rapidly removing what had become a commercial and social center of the small, rural community for the past 18 years.

The debate over Wal-Mart is a heated one.  And while the effects of the store coming to town have been seen more frequently, less is known about an area's economic and social implications of when the big box giant pulls out.

What's clear in Winnsboro, though, is that Wal-Mart's exit could potentially transform the town as much as its arrival.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/19/2016

"Shields and Brooks on Trump v. Pope and Scalia’s Supreme Court successor" PBS NewsHour 2/19/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including Donald Trump’s war of words with Pope Francis, GOP candidates’ strategies in South Carolina, burgeoning support for Bernie Sanders in Nevada and the controversy over the late Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court successor.

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times Columnist:  Everything sacred in our world is being attacked.

I think it’s an accumulation of things for Trump.  It’s — you start the week attacking George Bush and the Iraq War.  You call everybody a liar.  Then you have the Pope thing.  Then you have the Apple thing.

The question is, will fatigue ever set in?  And some of the polls suggest no.  In some the polls, he’s still doing solidly.  But there are another set of polls.  There’s a stream of polls, including the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which suggest it’s beginning to hurt him and that he’s beginning to slide.  There is some exhaustion factor.

So I don’t think it’s one thing that’s — but it’s the accumulation of bombast.  And there may be this — we may be getting to the moment — and I thought he was completely unhinged in the debate Saturday night — where that begins to have some telling effect.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Do you see some of the magic maybe dissipating from Donald Trump?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  Yes, I agree with David, first of all, on the debate.

My only explanation for it is, he was unnerved by the public booing.  And the booing was so sustained.  And this is a man who feeds off the adulation of his own rallies.  There’s no way in the world you planned going into a national debate for Republicans on national television that you were going to suggest — charge, not suggest — charge that the last Republican President of the United States not only knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction, but took the country into war knowing that.

So, it was just — it was really bizarre, beyond.  As far as the pope is concerned, it will come as an enormous surprise to Donald Trump that the Pope has probably no idea who he is.  The question was, what about someone who advocates building walls, rather than building bridges, and closes off any access or really compassion to those who are suffering from forced migration and the dispossessed?

And the Pope said, that’s un-Christian, and I think by just about any definition.  There is an iron rule in American politics about the clergy, whether it’s the Pope or a rabbi, or a minister.  And that is, they should never interfere in politics, unless they — the one exception being when they agree with me and my side.

IRAN POLITICS - Choosing Next Supreme Leader

REMINDER:  Iran today is a Theocracy, government by religion (where religious law trumps all civil law).  As I understand Iranian politics the current "Guardian Council" has veto power over laws, which would include WHO can be selected.

"How will Iran choose its next Supreme Leader?" PBS NewsHour 2/19/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Iranians will go to the polls next week to choose a new Parliament, as well as select the council that will in turn choose the country's next Supreme Leader after Ayatollah Khamenei's death.  But how will the recent nuclear deal with the U.S. affect voting?  William Brangham talks to NPR's Steve Inskeep, who has just returned from a research trip in Iran, for more on the political scene there.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The signing of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran was supposed to begin a new era of relations between Iran and the West.  The deal would free Iran from decades of crippling economic sanctions, while giving the West some confidence that Iran won't be able to develop a nuclear weapon.

Many in the United States, however, remain wary of Iran's intentions, including virtually all the Republican candidates running for president.  They all vow to renegotiate the agreement.

But what is happening inside Iran?

National Public Radio's Steve Inskeep is just back from a reporting trip, and he joins me now.

Steve, welcome back.  And welcome to the show.

STEVE INSKEEP, NPR:  Thanks.  Glad to be here.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  The nuclear deal has been signed.  Iran is freed somewhat from these sanctions.

What is it like there?  Are things getting better for Iranians?

STEVE INSKEEP:  No, not in day-to-day life, not yet.

In fact, in talking with people on the street, which I find to be one of the most productive things to do when traveling to Iran, I find a lot of pessimism.  People have gone through years of economic suffering.  Many people have disagreed with the political direction of their government.

And even though things are moving, in their point of view, in a more optimistic direction, it's very slow.  And of course it's too early to see any concrete economic results from the end of sanctions that just happened a few weeks ago.

There was a time when people were saying just the anticipation of the end of sanctions was improving Iran's economy, but that seems not to have trickled down to ordinary people.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  But I don't understand.  Rouhani was elected in no small part to eliminate sanctions, to improve relations with the West, to try to make the economy better.  Is this the sense that it's not happening fast enough or not enough?

STEVE INSKEEP:  That is exactly right.

There is this residue of support for Hassan Rouhani.  I even found people in centers of support for the prior president, who was very different, who said, yes, I support Rouhani.  I'm with Rouhani.

But I think more liberal people or Western-facing people who want much greater openness, who want much greater change have been disappointed not to see more.

CUBA - President Obama's March 21st Visit

"What does Obama’s historic visit mean for Cuba and the U.S.?" PBS NewsHour 2/18/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  President Obama will be the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge, according to a Twitter announcement Thursday (2/18).  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports on the latest in a series of moves to normalize relations with the communist state, and Judy Woodruff talks with William LeoGrande of American University for more on the implications.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  On March 21, President Obama will make Cuba the first stop on a trip to Latin America.  It will be an historic moment that comes 14 months after Cuba and the United States announced renewed diplomatic ties.

Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, begins our coverage.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  It will be the first visit to Cuba by a sitting American president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.  President Obama announced the plans on his official Twitter feed today.

And Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes outlined the goals.

BEN RHODES, Deputy National Security Adviser:  We see it as a means of pushing forward this normalization process, trying to achieve a greater opening between the United States and Cuba commercially, but also supporting and advancing the values that we care about.

MARGARET WARNER:  The visit, including talks with Cuban leader Raul Castro, follows more than a year of work to thaw relations.  Embassies reopened in both countries, and the two nations this week agreed to start daily commercial flights.

But these moves toward normalization haven’t produced results as quickly as hoped.  Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, meeting Cuba’s trade minister in Washington this week, complained that, despite Washington easing restrictions on U.S. companies wanting to do business there, Havana hasn’t done the same.

Rhodes echoed that today.

BEN RHODES:  What we would like to see is that they are taking the types of steps that allow those regulatory changes to take hold, that allow U.S. businesses to start to be able to operate in Cuba in ways that benefit the Cuban people.

RACE MATTERS - The Question Yet to be Asked

"How one chief tried to reverse police wrongs of the civil rights era" by Kenya Downs, PBS NewsHour 2/18/2016

Excerpt

Growing up, retired Montgomery County police chief Kevin Murphy wondered why no one in his home state of Alabama formally acknowledged the injustices and violence committed against Rep. John Lewis by police during his time as a student activist.  During the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, he did just that.  Murphy publicly apologized to Lewis, and personally handed him his badge.

Witnessing the negative interactions of police with minority communities as a youth has guided Murphy’s approach to law enforcement.  After becoming chief, one of the first things he did was implement a program for his officers to learn racial bias in policing, using lessons on important parts of Montgomery’s civil rights history.  The class has since be added to regular police training, including a tour of the Rosa Parks Museum and scenarios that mimic real-life scenarios of improper policing.  His goal was to caution new officers on how to use the power of their uniforms ethically.  He has a message for law enforcement agencies across the country on how to be more effective at serving their communities.

“Law enforcement needs to start hold themselves accountable,” he said.  “There’s no such thing as street justice.  You have to abide by the law when you’re wearing a uniform and set the example.  When you don’t do that you’ve lost all credibility with the public you serve.”

Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault (NewsHour) traveled to Montgomery to report.

SOUTH AFRICA - Seeking Forgiveness

"A ruthless defender of apartheid now seeks forgiveness" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In South Africa, thousands were killed and tens of thousands were detained under the watch of former apartheid-era government official Adriaan Vlok.  Once seen by some as the regime’s “face of evil,” Vlok is now seeking redemption by reaching out to the people he helped to oppress.  Special correspondent Martin Seemungal reports.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A generation has passed since South Africa ended apartheid.  And while the country has made progress towards reconciling years of state-sanctioned, violent oppression, the reckoning continues.

At the same time, there have been smaller, individual efforts to do penance.

Tonight, special correspondent Martin Seemungal brings us the story of a man who was once the very symbol of apartheid, as he tries to make amends.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL (NewsHour):  It is an unusual scene in South Africa, a white man in his late ’70s in a black township delivering free food to the needy.

But it’s not just what the man is doing.  It’s who the man is or, who he was.  His name is Adriaan Vlok, and he was a cabinet minister during the harshest years of apartheid, known as a ruthless defender of white minority rule over the black majority.

MONDLI MAKHANYA, Writer, “City Press”:  Adriaan Vlok was the manifestation of the evil that the apartheid regime was.  And he was the worst of the worst.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  Mondli Makhanya was an anti-apartheid activist then.  Today, he is an outspoken editorial writer for a Johannesburg newspaper.

MONDLI MAKHANYA:  From the mid-1980s, I would venture to say, other than President P.W. Botha at the time, he was the most evil man in South Africa, and he was the face of the evil of the apartheid regime.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  As minister of law and order, Vlok was responsible for the police, the shock troops in the war against black activists fighting apartheid.  A bloody, violent fight, thousands were killed.  Tens of thousands were detained, locked up without trial, all under the watch of Adriaan Vlok.

LAW - Apple's Obstruction of Justice

"Judge's order to Apple over attacker phone encryption unlocks privacy concerns" PBS NewsHour 2/17/2016

IMO there is NO Constructional Right to allow hiding of criminal activity, especially when there is a warrant.  Privacy should not used as an issue to hide criminals and terrorists.

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Since the San Bernardino attack, the FBI has been trying to read the contents of a cell phone used by attacker Syed Farook, made impossible by encryption.  Now Apple CEO Tim Cook is rejecting a federal court order to create software to unlock the device.  Gwen Ifill talks to Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary of Homeland Security, and Nate Cardozo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The battle over privacy vs. security is back front and center, as Apple digs in against the FBI and the courts over the issue of access to data on its phones.

December 2, 2015, that's the day Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, went on a murderous rampage in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people.  Hours later, they were, in turn, killed by police.  Ever since, the FBI has been trying to read the contents of a cell phone Farook used.

JAMES COMEY, FBI Director:  We still have one of those killers' phones that we have not been able to open.  And it's been over two months now.  We're still working on it.

GWEN IFILL:  Last week, FBI Director James Comey told a Senate hearing that the Apple iPhone's encryption has made it impossible for the agency to access its content.

Now a federal judge in California has ordered the company to create software that will do just that.  But Apple CEO Tim Cook forcefully rejected that order early yesterday, writing in a letter addressed to Apple customers: “In the wrong hands, this software, which doesn't exist today, would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone's physical possession.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest disputed that, saying the government wants access only to the single device associated with Farook.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  We're not asking Apple to redesign its products or to create a new back door to its products.  This is a much more specific request that the Department of Justice has put forward.

GWEN IFILL:  Apple stepped up its protections after NSA leaker (aka traitor) Edward Snowden exposed government surveillance of phone traffic in 2013.

One feature can even erase the iPhone's contents after 10 failed attempts to unlock it.  Prosecutors say they are worried that this feature could be on the phone Farook used.  And unless Apple devises a way to unlock it, they could lose all its data.  The company now has five days to make its formal response in court.

Note that Nate Cardozo could be making a prejudicial assumption, that the FBI is asking Apple to turn over a way to access this iPhone.  That need not be the way it happens.  Apple could create the way to disable the one feature, the FBI would take the iPhone in question TO APPLE and have them do it.  The FBI would NOT get the software and Apple would not have to put the code on any iPhone.



Sen. Dianne Feinstein calls on Apple to obey court order

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

POLITICS - Key Republicans Back Off on Consideration Supreme Court Nominee

"GOP EASES STAND ON VACANCY" San Diego Union-Tribune 2/17/2016

NOTE:  This is from the on-line print version, so no links to article.

Key Republicans back off vow not to consider Obama nominee

As key Republicans sounded a partial retreat Tuesday from a vow to not even consider a Supreme Court nomination this year, President Barack Obama said he expected the Senate to do its duty by voting to confirm or reject the candidate he names to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Invoking the renowned conservative justice's legal philosophy, Obama said he would follow the words and “original intent” of the Constitution by choosing a well-qualified nominee, despite Republican calls that he leave the decision until after the presidential election so that his successor can fill the seat.  The President said he was amused that Republicans who called themselves “strict interpreters of the Constitution” were suddenly citing unwritten precedent about not confirming justices during an election year to justify their position.

“It's pretty hard to find that in the Constitution,” Obama said during a news conference in Rancho Mirage after a two- day summit with Southeast Asian leaders.  “The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now.”

Obama acknowledged that Scalia's replacement could change the balance of the court, but he challenged Republicans to put aside partisan considerations.

“It's the one court where we would expect elected officials to rise above day-to-day politics, and this will be the opportunity for senators to do their job,” he said.  “I expect them to hold hearings.  I expect there to be a vote.  Full stop.”  Obama's comments came hours after two key Senate Republicans voiced reservations about Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's call over the weekend that there should be no nomination process during an election year.  Strategists said GOP leaders may have made a tactical mistake that could trigger a public backlash.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the 82-year-old Iowa Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that he may be open to holding hearings on Obama's nominee.

“I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions....  In other words, take it a step at a time,” he told radio reporters in Iowa.  Grassley's staff members did not say why Grassley, who is in Iowa during a congressional recess, stepped ever so slightly back.  But Grassley, who has long prided himself on embodying the good governance ethos of Iowa, found himself the subject of criticism on Tuesday in an editorial in the state's largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register.  “This could have been a ‘profile in courage' moment for Sen. Grassley,” the paper wrote before Grassley's remarks.  “This was an opportunity for our senior senator to be less of a politician and more of a statesman.  It was a chance for him to be principled rather than partisan.”

Three days earlier, Grassley had insisted the “standard practice” was to not confirm new Supreme Court justices in an election year.  “It only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new President” in November, he said.

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina warned that if fellow Republicans rejected an Obama nominee “sight unseen,” they would “fall into the trap of being obstructionists.”

Other Republicans feared the spectacle of Supreme Court hearings in the middle of an unpredictable presidential campaign.  McConnell had hoped to keep a dutiful schedule of bland bills and low drama in the Senate this year.  “Most every Republican has to feel like in this really robust election year with all the fighting and back and forth going on, that this is not the time to have a battle over a Supreme Court nominee,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R) Utah and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, told NPR Tuesday.

Legal experts, however, cite more than half a dozen examples since 1900 of justices being confirmed during a presidential election year.

Grassley was among the 97 senators who voted unanimously to confirm Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in February 1988, the final year of President Ronald Reagan's term.  He filled a vacancy that arose in June 1987 when Justice Lewis Powell Jr. retired. Reagan chose Kennedy in late November after Judge Robert Bork was defeated in the Senate.

Whether Grassley would be able to hold hearings when McConnell and others are balking is an open question.  McConnell has emphasized that committee chairmen have considerable autonomy under his leadership.  But Grassley will no doubt feel pressure on multiple fronts, including from Democrats, with whom he has had good relations on the committee.

Some quickly seized on Grassley's remarks as evidence of what they think will be growing pressure on Republicans to at least hold hearings on any nominee Obama brings forward.

“Sen. Grassley's statement indicates that our Republican colleagues are moving, as they must eventually, toward obeying the Constitution in holding hearings and a vote on the president's Supreme Court nominee,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and a member of the Judiciary Committee.  “Rejecting this Constitutional obligation will rightly prompt public outcry and outrage — eventually forcing the right outcome.  The Republican leadership can spare the court and the country damage by doing the right thing.”

Obama said there is nothing in the Constitution to suggest the President's nominee should not be considered and voted on in his last year in the White House.  “Historically, this has not been viewed as a question,” he said.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate's tradition was to approve qualified “mainstream candidates.”

“Every single senator has a right to vote no on any given nominee,” he said in a statement.  “But the wisdom of the Founding Fathers dictates that we should go through the full vetting and confirmation process so that we and the nation can determine whether those candidates are out of the mainstream in this ideological era.”  White House aides say the president and his team have just begun to consider nominees for the high court, and they do not expect an announcement for at least several weeks.  The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that Scalia's body would lie in repose in the Great Hall of the court Friday.  His funeral Mass will be held Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.  Meanwhile, California Attorney General Kamala Harris 'doused' (? used) speculation that she maybe on Obama's list of potential nominees, saying during a campaign event at a San Jose union hall that while she is flattered to have her name mentioned, she has no interest.  Harris, 51, said her focus is on her current job and her campaign to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

“I'm not putting my name in for consideration.  I do not wish to be considered.  I am running for the United States Senate,”  Harris emphatically told reporters after the union rally.

Harris didn't say who she wants the president to nominate, but suggested it should be someone with “practical life experience.”  She also would favor a nominee who would protect abortion rights and marriage equality for same-sex couples.

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

Monday, February 15, 2016

PHRASE OF THE DAY - Republican Debate, New Hampshire

"Shields and Brooks on Democratic debate strategy, Trump’s N.H. win" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2016

Excerpt

The candidate whom the establishment most favored and Democrats most feared, Marco Rubio, got caught in the debate, where Chris Christie, looking like an 18-wheeler coming down the highway with his high beams, Marco Rubio looked like Bambi caught in those headlights.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/12/2016

"Shields and Brooks on Democratic debate strategy, Trump’s N.H. win" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to the discuss the week’s news, including takeaways from Thursday’s PBS NewsHour Democratic debate, Donald Trump’s victory in New Hampshire and how the first primary re-scrambled the GOP field.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The Democrats faced off on the debate stage last night, and now the focus of the race for the White House turns to South Carolina and Nevada.

With that, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

And welcome, gentlemen.  Some of us are back from Milwaukee, and glad to be back.

Mark, Tuesday — it was only three nights ago — Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary big time.  How did that change the race, how did it change the dynamics, do you think, in last night’s debate?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:  Well, it changed the race, Judy, by guaranteeing that we will probably have a race in June, that there will be a Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton competition in California.

It guaranteed Bernie Sanders $6.5 million in the first 19 hours after the polls closed.  He’s got a national following.  He’s got a national treasury.  It puts her at a disadvantage. It gave him credibility.

So, going in last night, Hillary Clinton, on the heels of a thrashing 48 hours earlier, was in a position of trying to bring him back down to earth as they head South.  And I thought she arrived, surprisingly, with her poise and confidence intact.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  How did you see the dynamics going into the debate last night?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:  Well, going into the debate, it was a question of how aggressive she would get, and would she get overly aggressive or not?

I thought her demeanor, especially in the first half-hour, 45 minutes, was quite good.  She can be sometimes lecturing.  But she was more explaining, because — you were there, Judy, so you might know this.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF:  I know this.

DAVID BROOKS:  That they were — it was a debate over pragmatism vs. vision.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Right.

DAVID BROOKS:  And she was saying, well, you know, that’s not reality.  You can’t start the health care system as if we don’t have a health care system; 100 million people have their employer health care.  You just can’t do that.

And so she was trying to explain reality to them.  And I thought she was quite effective.  I think, toward the end, one of have the central facts in the structure of the race, the first is pragmatism vs. his radical vision, but the second is, on what ground is this debate being fought?

And because he has such a strong narrative and his campaign is built around that narrative, his life is built around that narrative, it’s always fought on his ground.  And she has no narrative.  And she’s trying to create one with Obama, but that’s Obama’s narrative.

And so I think, as the domestic part went on, he sort of gained strength just by the structure of the way the argument is.



Shields and Brooks analyze the PBS NewsHour Democratic debate

URBAN IDEAS - Social Media and Restaurant Inspections

"Up to code?  An algorithm is helping Chicago health officials predict restaurant safety violations" PBS NewsHour 2/12/2016

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In Chicago, the Department of Public Health has partnered with the city's data team to improve restaurant inspections by using analytics and social media to predict and detect which establishments are more likely to have potential food safety violations.  NewsHour's Megan Thompson reports as part of the series, Urban Ideas.

MEGAN THOMPSON (NewsHour):  Mark Chmielewski is the Executive Chef at Latinicity, a hip new eatery in downtown Chicago.  At this sit-down restaurant, bar, and at 10 food counters customers can watch their sushi being rolled, burgers flipped, and burritos wrapped.

But what they don’t see are the steps behind the scenes that ensure the safety of their food.

MARK CHMIELEWSKI:  All stations have hand sinks.  Probably the most biggest thing is washing your hands.  All the fish gets iced down.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  Chmielewski oversees systems and procedures to ensure that all the food served here is fresh.

MARK CHMIELEWSKI:  Everything up off the ground.  Up off the floor.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  Temperature is key.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends hot food is served at least 140 degrees.  Cold food must be refrigerated 40 degrees and below.  And dirty dishes must be washed in hot water close to boiling.

MARK CHMIELEWSKI:  It’s paramount, to have, you know, great food safety with a lot of different systems in place to prevent the public and your staff from becoming sick from food borne illness.  That can be devastating. It can shut you down. Fast.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from food borne illness…from all sources of contaminated food.  128-Thousand are hospitalized – and 3-thousand die.