Monday, June 27, 2016

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 6/24/2016

"Shields and Brooks on voter disenchantment across the globe" PBS NewsHour 6/24/2016


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including what Brexit might suggest about the upcoming presidential election, how frustrations with low-paying jobs and expensive education are influencing voters this year, President Obama’s “depleted” legacy and the prospects for new gun legislation.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The presidential nominees also weighed in on the Brexit result today.

During a press conference at his Scottish resort and golf course this morning, Donald Trump praised Britain’s decision to leave the E.U.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presumptive Presidential Nominee:  I really do see a parallel between what’s happening in the United States and what’s happening here.  People want to see borders.  They don’t necessarily want people pouring into their country, that they don’t know who they are and where they come from.  They have no idea.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Hillary Clinton also responded to Britain’s vote to leave.  In a statement today, the former secretary of state said — quote — “We respect the choice the people of the United Kingdom have made.”

And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome to you both.

This whole program up until now practically has been about the vote in the U.K., David, to leave the European Union.  What do you make of this?

DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:  Well, in country after country, we’re seeing a conflict between what you might call urban cosmopolitans, and less well-educated ethnic nationalism.  And ethnic nationalism is on the rise.

And I agree with everything that Ivo, Richard and Margaret were saying, but it should be said — and I covered — I lived in Brussels for five years at the Maastricht Treaty, when all this was coming together — and the elites, as much as I hate the leave — the fact that the U.K. is going to leave the E.U., the elites in some large degree brought this on themselves.

There was built into the European unification project, an anti-democratic, a condescending, and a snobbish attitude about popular democracy.  And, secondly — and this is also true here — and I’m as pro-immigration as the day is long, but we have asked a lot of people who are suffering in this company to accept extremely, radically high immigration levels.

And we have probably overflooded the system.  And so while it’s easy — and I do condemn the vote to leave, get out — a little humility is in order on the part of the establishment, frankly, that we have flooded the system with more than it can handle.  And, secondly, we have not provided a good nationalism, a good patriotism that is cosmopolitan, that is outward-spanning, and that is confident.  And, therefore, a bad form of parochial, inward-looking Trumpian nationalism has had free rein.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mark, the elites brought it on themselves?

MARK SHIELDS:  I think the forces and the advocates of globalization have been primarily obsessed with the well-being of the investor class and the stockholders and the shareholders; and been indifferent, oftentimes callous, to the dislocation and the suffering that people in countries affected by this trade, the expanded trade, the larger economy, who have been victimized by it.

And it has been a accompanied, I think, by an elitist condescension, in many cases, and it’s been taken advantage of.  I mean, the shorthand today is that we saw the words of the Republican nominee in waiting, who is a part-time presidential candidate and a full-time real estate developer, you know, he won, and Barack Obama lost.  I mean, by any scorecard.

There is no spin you can put on this that in any way comforts Democrats today.


"Brexit, Cameron resignation signal momentous change for UK" PBS NewsHour 6/24/2016


SUMMARY:  Great Britain voted 52 to 48 percent Thursday to become the first nation to leave the European Union.  The vote prompted Prime Minister David Cameron -- a leading voice in the “Remain” camp -- to announce his resignation, though he will stay on until October to ensure a smooth transition.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant takes a look at how Britain is readying itself for a post-EU paradigm.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The British people have spoken, and, in voting to leave the European Union, have sent shockwaves around the world.

Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant begins our coverage in London.

WOMAN:  The U.K. has voted to leave the European Union.

MALCOLM BRABANT (NewsHour):  The official word came just after 7:00 in the morning, U.K. time.

Rapturous cheers went up at leave parties.  The final tally, 52 percent, more than 17 million people, opted to leave the 28-member European Union.

AILEEN QUINTAN, “Leave” Supporter:  We have actually shown that opposition to the E.U. isn’t a small fringe — fringe minority.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  For the 48 percent who voted to stay, the result was devastating.

MAN:  I think it’s going to lead to great political, economic, business uncertainty.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  The political fallout was instant.  Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign to remain, announced that he will step down by October.

DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, Britain:  I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  Cameron promised the referendum in 2013, in part to appease E.U. skeptics in his own conservative party.

"What motivations led British voters to choose Brexit?" PBS NewsHour 6/24/2016


SUMMARY:  Thursday’s Brexit vote was largely a victory for right-wing British politics.  But both “Leave” and “Remain” supporters had a plethora of political and emotional motivations.  For a closer look at what drove the British majority to decide to exit the European Union, Judy Woodruff talks to former EU official Sir Michael Leigh and Tim Montgomerie of The Times of London.

"Will other countries follow Brexit example and shun globalization?" PBS NewsHour 6/24/2016


SUMMARY:  Thursday’s successful Brexit vote holds great consequences for economies worldwide, with some analysts warning that departure from the EU could plunge Britain back into a recession that might in turn spread to other countries.  For more on the financial implications of Brexit, Hari Sreenivasan talks to David Wessel of the Brookings Institution and Diane Swonk of DS Economics.

"What impact will Brexit have on U.S. trade policy?" PBS NewsHour 6/25/2016


SUMMARY:  Britain is the U.S.’s closest diplomatic and military ally and top economic partner in Europe.  One-fifth of U.S. exports to Europe go to the UK and so do half a billion dollars in direct investments.  Senior editor of Foreign Policy magazine Cameron Abadi joins Alison Stewart to discuss the effects Brexit might have on business relations in the UK and Europe.

MAKING SEN$E - Housing Shortage and Wages

"Why a severe housing shortage means reduced wages for workers" PBS NewsHour 6/23/2016


SUMMARY:  According to a new report, more than 40 million American households are spending a third of their income on rent, and housing shortages in major cities such as New York and San Francisco may ultimately lead to billions of dollars in lost economic productivity.  Special correspondent Duarte Geraldino reports on the origins of the problem and why it has progressed to such a drastic level.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The cost of buying or renting a home in key American cities keeps on rising.  A new study out finds more than 40 million households are spending a third of their income on rent.

And the housing shortage in cities like New York, Washington and San Francisco may be costing more than 100 million American workers thousands of dollars in lost wages.

Special correspondent Duarte Geraldino explains why as part of our weekly series on Making Sen$e of financial news.

DUARTE GERALDINO (NewsHour):  You can hear so much in this old building, every sort of step.

BRIAN HANLON:  Yes, it's like every creak.

DUARTE GERALDINO:  Brian Hanlon has multiple graduate degrees, a steady job and a middle-class income.

BRIAN HANLON:  This is it right here.  It probably hasn't been renovated since the Eisenhower administration.

DUARTE GERALDINO:  Yet, at 34 years old, he's the subtenant of a woman lucky enough to have a rent-controlled apartment.  But Hanlon's time is running out.

BRIAN HANLON:  I have been in this room for about four-and-a-half years.

DUARTE GERALDINO:  Four-and-a-half years?

He worries the owner of his apartment house will offer the actual leaseholder a lot of money to move, meaning Hanlon will have to pay a lot more to live in this Mission District neighborhood.

BRIAN HANLON:  Well, so market rate for this place, I'm guessing, is probably — it would probably be about $5,000 a month.

DUARTE GERALDINO:  Five thousand dollars a month?

BRIAN HANLON:  A three-bedroom in the Mission?  Sure.

DUARTE GERALDINO:  The situation is forcing a growing number of people low-, medium-, and high-income workers into ever tighter living conditions; and some, with no income, out of their homes altogether.

U.S. SUPREME COURT - Two Politically Charged Decisions

"Busy day at SCOTUS yields support for affirmative action, roadblock for executive orders" PBS NewsHour 6/23/2016


SUMMARY:  The reduced Supreme Court weighed in on two politically charged cases Thursday.  Justices confirmed the constitutionality of a college affirmative action program, but deadlocked on President Obama's executive action protecting millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation -- thus nullifying the order.  Judy Woodruff talks to Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal about the day in court.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We return to the big day at the Supreme Court.  A split on immigration puts millions in limbo.  And justices uphold affirmative action.

We dig into both cases now with “NewsHour” regular Marcia Coyle, chief Washington correspondent of “The National Law Journal.”


MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal:  Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  We know we need you here on days like this, especially on days like this.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  Let's talk about the affirmative action case first.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  What was it that the University of Texas case was about?

MARCIA COYLE:  Well, actually, this was the second time the Supreme Court had looked at how the University of Texas uses race as a factor in its admissions policy.

Back in 2013, the case came to the Supreme Court by Abigail Fisher, a student who was denied admission to the university in 2008.  And she claimed that the use of race as factor was why she was denied admission and that it violated the Constitution.

The Supreme Court, in 2013, led by Justice Kennedy, a 7-1 court, sent it back to the lower federal court, saying, you gave too much deference to the university's explanation.  You have to give the toughest scrutiny we have under the Constitution, and the university has shown — has to show there are no workable race-neutral alternatives.

Well, that lower federal appellate court held hearings, briefings, upheld the plan again.  It came back to the Supreme Court.  Abigail Fisher brought it back with a conservative organization that had backed her from the beginning.  And the Supreme Court today, in a surprising 4-3 decision, upheld the university's use of race, as Justice Kennedy said, a factor of factor of a factor.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Why do you say surprising?

MARCIA COYLE:  He had never voted to uphold an affirmative action plan, although he had written and spoken about the importance of diversity in higher education.  So, he did believe that it was an important, compelling interest to have a diverse student body.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Now, this was — there were some really strong opinions voiced here.  Justice Alito wrote, this is affirmative action gone wild?

MARCIA COYLE:  Gone berserk, that's what he said.

"Experts weigh in on the validity of Obama's immigration executive action" PBS NewsHour 6/23/2016


SUMMARY:  The Supreme Court's deadlock on President Obama's executive action preventing deportation of unauthorized immigrants represents the latest blow to the administration's attempts at immigration reform.  For more on the cases for and against the President's initiative, Judy Woodruff talks to Angela Maria Kelley of the Center for American Progress and Jon Feere of the Center for Immigration studies.

MIDDLE CLASS BLUES - As if Americans Didn't Already Know, IMF Report

"Sobering IMF report on U.S. economy cites dwindling middle class, growing income equality" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2016


SUMMARY:  A new outlook issued Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund drew some startling conclusions about the U.S. economy.  The report asserts that the American middle class is gradually shrinking, the seven-year economic recovery is starting to slow and the pronounced income equality divide may become worse without intervention.  Judy Woodruff talks to Christine Lagarde of the IMF for more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The American middle class is shrinking and struggling.  The six-year-long economic recovery is showing some signs of slowing.  And the pronounced wealth divide in the U.S. may get worse without bigger steps.

That warning was part of a new report issued today about the U.S. economy by the International Monetary Fund.

I sat down with its managing director, Christine Lagarde, at IMF headquarters here in Washington earlier today to hear more of her concerns about what’s happening to the middle class and the poor, and what could be done about it.

Managing Director Christine Lagarde, thank you for talking with us.

CHRISTINE LAGARDE, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund:  Pleasure.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, this latest report from the IMF looks at the American economy, says it is in good shape overall, shows resiliency, but then it goes on to point out a number of factors that provide concern for the future.

And one of them has to do with the shrinkage of the American middle class.  What do you and your colleagues see, and what concerns you?

CHRISTINE LAGARDE:  We are seeing a shrinking of the middle class.

If you look at the size of the middle class in 1975, it was roughly 60 percent of total population.  If you look at the middle class today, it is about 50 percent.  So, that’s a significant decline of the middle class.  And it is an economic issue, because the middle class has always been the consumption force of this nation.

The upper class doesn’t spend as much.  The lower class doesn’t have as much to spend.  So, the maximum impact in terms of consumption is generated by the middle class.

U.S. CONGRESS & OBAMA - A Rare Agreement

"Congress, Obama find accord on regulation of household chemicals" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2016

CAUTION:  The new regulations could work IF Congress actually funds the EPA with enough to hire investigators and run the program.  Underfunded programs do NOT work.


SUMMARY:  President Obama reached a rare agreement with Congress on a new law to regulate toxic household chemicals.  The legislation, signed Wednesday, will give the EPA the authority to vet and ban tens of thousands of substances potentially harmful to humans, including chemicals in detergents, cleaners and furniture.  Gwen Ifill learns more from political director Lisa Desjardins.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The President and Congress have reached rare agreement on a new law that will regulate everyday toxic chemicals.  The President signed it today, setting in motion the biggest changes in four decades.

The Environmental Protection Agency now has new authority to review, and eventually restrict or ban, tens of thousands of chemicals that could be carcinogenic or otherwise harm human health, among them; substances found in household detergents and cleansers, flame retardants and furniture.

But it may take a while.

Lisa Desjardins joins us to fill in the picture.

Lisa, why is this significant?

LISA DESJARDINS (NewsHour):  This is incredibly significant.

We’re talking about a vast universe of things that we touch in our everyday lives.  Some estimate that one out of every three sort of processed products that we buy, not food, but everything else, could have toxic chemicals in it.

And what happened, Gwen, was the law passed 40 years ago was essentially toothless.  So the EPA wasn’t even able to regulate forcefully something like asbestos, which we know from scientific evidence is lethal and may — causes a lethal form of cancer, but yet it’s not banned because the law previously wasn’t strong enough.

GWEN IFILL:  You and I both have covered Washington for a while.  We know how hard it is to get bipartisan agreement on anything.  Why this, why now?



LISA DESJARDINS:  Nothing is getting done in Washington.  A sweeping bill over an $800 billion industry?  Well, that’s the answer.  The industry got on board.

The chemical industry felt this was in their interest because, up until now, they have self-regulated and states have regulated, Gwen.  So the chemical industry has dealt with 50 different sets of laws across this country.  They found that it was in their interest at this time to have a national law, have the EPA take this over.

So what we’re going to have now from this law is the EPA having dominance, being able to override states, with some exceptions, in general when it comes to chemical safety.

LEADING EDGE OF SCIENCE - Language to the Voiceless

"Teen scientist’s revolutionary speech device could grant language to the voiceless" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2016


SUMMARY:  At age nine, Arsh Shah Dilbagi asked his parents for a puppy; they gave him a Lego kit instead.  Undeterred, Arsh used it to construct a dog.  Now 17, the tech prodigy is still building his dreams from scratch.  His latest project is a smartphone-sized device called “Talk” that converts breath into speech, a boon for the developmentally disabled.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports.

ARSH SHAH DILBAGI, Student Inventor:  Hi.  My name is Arsh Shah Dilbagi.  I’m from Panipat, India.  I love robots.  I’m good at computer science and math.  And I wish to change the world.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO (NewsHour):  He was 15 when he made this video two years ago, as a finalist in Google’s Science Fair, with a smartphone-sized device called TALK that converts breath into speech.

COMPUTER VOICE:  TALK is an innovative device for people with developmental disabilities.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  He is also savvy at marketing, abundantly displayed on social media.

Here he is giving a "TED Talk" in Mumbai:

ARSH SHAH DILBAGI:  I felt that, as long as you are breathing, you should be able to live, truly live.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  He’s always like to tinker, he says.  When his parents gave him a LEGO kit, instead of a dog, there was only one thing to do.

ARSH SHAH DILBAGI:  I made a little dog out of the LEGO kit.

The very fact that we humans are capable of creating machines which can be more capable than we ever can be, that is fascinating.  That’s just like cheating evolution.

Over the years, learned locomotion, how to control motors, how to put things together, how to make robots better.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  He learned to turn toys into tools.  The idea for the speech device began when he accompanied his grandmother to the hospital, he says, and saw a severely speech-impaired Parkinson’s disease patient.

ARSH SHAH DILBAGI:  I researched about everything I could about all the speech impediments.  That research went on for a long time.  And after that, I decided, OK, there are problems that I found out with the currently available solutions.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO:  He says devices now on the market, like the one used by one of his favorite authors, Stephen Hawking, all require a laptop computer, they can be invasive, and they are, of course, expensive, well beyond vast majority of people, especially in India.

VOICE OF COURAGE - Rep. Ann McLane Kuster

"On the House floor, a very personal rebuke of the Stanford rapist's sentence" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2016

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We return to the U.S. Capitol now, but for a different form of speaking out.

The light sentencing of a Stanford University swimmer for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman sparked outage across the country and in Congress.

The story prompted New Hampshire Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster to share her own experience with sexual assault during a speech on the House floor Tuesday night.

REP. ANN MCLANE KUSTER (D), New Hampshire:  I was an 18-year-old student.  I was going to a dance.  The dance was at a fraternity, and I intended to enjoy the evening with my friends.

We danced.  We listened to music.  We enjoyed the evening, and we enjoyed the party, until one young man assaulted me in a crude and insulting way, and I ran, alone, into the cold dark night.

I have never forgotten that night.  I was filled with shame, regret, humiliation, while he was egged on by everyone at that party standing by.

Several years later, I was working as a legislative assistant right here on Capitol Hill, and I was assaulted again, this time by a distinguished guest of the United States Congress.  I was 23 years old, and as Judge Poe referenced tonight, I didn't say a word to anyone.

And, in fact, until I wrote these words to share with you tonight, I had never told anyone this story.  My family didn't know, my husband my children, my friends.

I tell these stories tonight on the floor of the United States Congress not because they are remarkable or unique.  Sadly, I tell these stories because they are all too common, and, tonight, we will not be silent anymore.

Tonight, we stand together, Republicans and Democrats, mothers and sisters, from across the country to take a stand for liberty and justice for all.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Congresswoman Kuster also called for more accountability and education about sexual assault on college campuses and in communities.

RACE IN AMERICA - Mississippi Segregation Persists

"In Southern schools, segregation and inequality aren't just history — they're reality" PBS NewsHour 6/22/2016


SUMMARY:  Last month, a Mississippi judge ordered the state's public schools to desegregate, illuminating the ongoing struggle to comply with the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling.  Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault talks to Maureen Costello of the Southern Poverty Law Center for insight into how Southern schools can move race relations forward.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The Justice Department recently hailed a federal court ruling affirming plans to desegregate schools in Cleveland, Mississippi.  Desegregation, the court ruled, allows students to learn, play and thrive together.

As part of her year-long look at solutions to racism, special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault talks with a teacher on how to successfully teach in integrated settings.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT (NewsHour):  The percentage of black and Latino students in what's being called apartheid schools is on the increase, and yet most schools seem ill-prepared to help those students be the best they can be, while reducing prejudice and teaching them to learn to live with each other.

But Maureen Costello of the Southern Poverty Law Center says there are ways to achieve all three.

Maureen Costello, thank you for joining us.

MAUREEN COSTELLO, Southern Poverty Law Center:  Thank you.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT:  The Southern Poverty Law Center has a curriculum that looks at teaching tolerance in schools.  What caused that to happen?

MAUREEN COSTELLO:  Well, before we started this program, we were fighting hate crimes, basically.

Morris Dees, our founder, was bringing civil suits against groups like the Klan, and often the young men who had committed some terrible acts against others were motivated by terrible, terrible hatred, and just complete misunderstanding of what other people were like.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT:  It was mostly race at that point.

MAUREEN COSTELLO:  It was usually race, although, sometimes, it was also ethnicity.

But he was seeing 19- and 20-year-old perpetrators who were going to spend the rest of their lives in prison.  And he said, you know, we have to do something to stop this before it starts.  And he said, we need a school program.

And that really was the beginning of teaching tolerance.  Let's find the best research we can find about how we can reduce prejudice starting at early ages, and let's get it out there to teachers.

One of the issues in American education is that 80 percent of our teachers are white women.

MAKING THE GRADE - New Standards in Teaching Science

"In elementary education, ‘doing science’ rather than just memorizing it" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2016


SUMMARY:  The battle over Common Core education standards is playing out across the country, but a new set of requirements for teaching science is creeping into curricula without the same fanfare.  Some states are voluntarily adopting the practices, which emphasize more consistent science instruction as well as hands-on experimentation.  Special correspondent John Tulenko of Education Week reports.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  For years, Common Core academic standards for math and English have been the subject of battles all over the country.

But there’s also a move afoot to set new standards for science as well, and a number of states are starting to adopt them voluntarily.

Special correspondent John Tulenko of Education Week reports.

JOHN TULENKO, Education Week:  It takes just 10 minutes to cross through Gillette, Wyoming.  This small city sits in the northeast corner of the state, surrounded by hundreds of miles of prairie.

But schools here in Campbell County are on the edge of something big, the next generation science standards.

CHRISTY MATHES, Sage Valley Junior High School:  You are going to build a strand of DNA, and you are going to decode it and figure out what that DNA actually says.

JOHN TULENKO:  For Christy Mathes at Sage Valley Junior High School, the new standards are about learning to think like a scientist.

CHRISTY MATHES:  There’s a lot of really good stuff in them.  Every standard is a performance task.  It’s not, 'the child needs to memorize these things.'  It’s the student needs to be able to do some pretty intense stuff.  We are analyzing, we are critiquing, we are creating, we are actually doing the science.

JOHN TULENKO:  Take today’s lesson on genes.  Mathes had her students pick fictional 'Character Cards' with the name, height, hair and eye color, of each character.

CHRISTY MATHES:  This is a secret.  Just you and your group know.

JOHN TULENKO:  In teams, they built a genetic model of their character’s traits and then the groups traded models.

CHRISTY MATHES:  And then they’re going to figure out who you had based on what you code for.


"Venezuelans face collapsing economy, starvation and crime" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2016

COMMENT:  Trump supporters, do you ACTUALLY believe in his 'make America great again' rhetoric?  America IS still grate, and Trump is Hugo Chavez's twin.


SUMMARY:  "Plummeting worldwide fuel prices have damaged several economies, but perhaps no country has been hit harder than Venezuela.  Once flush with oil money, the nation now faces a collapsing economy, skyrocketing inflation and a wave of looting and crime driven by mass food shortages.  For more on the dire situation in Venezuela, Gwen Ifill talks to Nicholas Casey of The New York Times.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The fall in world oil prices has likely hit no country as hard as it has Venezuela.  Once flush with cash, the country is now in crisis, with a collapsing economy, skyrocketing crime and inflation rates, and major food shortages, all this as the government of President Nicolas Maduro tries to maintain control.

For more on this situation, we turn to Nicholas Casey of The New York Times, who is reporting tonight from Caracas.

Thank you for joining us.

So, Nicholas, give me a sense about how long this collapse — it feels like a slow-motion collapse — how long has it been going on and what has caused it?

NICHOLAS CASEY, The New York Times:  It's been going on for a couple of years now.

And it's been tied to the collapse in oil prices in Venezuela.  Venezuela gets almost all of its revenue from oil.  So, when these prices started to collapse, the first thing you saw was that some of the foods started to disappear, not in huge quantities, but enough that there were lines in front of stores.

The electricity started to disappear.  There's even problems with water right now because the government doesn't have the money that it needs.  Now, what's happened with the food is that there has been so much which has gone at this point, that people are starting to get hungry.

And last week, and the week before, we saw a wave of lootings of stores.  People basically left these lines that they were gathered in and started to go directly into the stores, break down the doors, and take things that were inside.

GWEN IFILL:  You say that the lack — the collapse of the oil — of oil prices contributed to this.  How much was that tied up with the collapse in faith of this current leadership, of President Maduro?  How much of one thing creating the other?

NICHOLAS CASEY:  Well, it's not just, as you point out, the collapse of the oil prices which has caused what's happened here.

There are other countries, like Mexico and Brazil, which have a lot of oil revenues themselves, and don't have the same problems as Venezuela.  Venezuela and Maduro came after years of what a lot of economists say was economic mismanagement by Hugo Chavez, who totally transformed the economy here.

The government spent lots of money, lots of money, and didn't save much for a time when the price of oil wouldn't be as high as it was before.  So, now Venezuela finds itself in the position where it needs money.  It doesn't produce a lot of food.  It needs money to import food, and it doesn't have anything right now.

So, in the short term, it's the price of oil which has got us here.  But in the long term, it's a lot of economic changes that took place in this country in the so-called Bolivarian Revolution that came from Hugo Chavez.

HUMAN SENSES - The Sense of Smell

"Smelling doesn't just perceive a scent — it changes it" PBS NewsHour 6/21/2016

REF: Human Senses


SUMMARY:  Scientists are discovering more about normal human biology every day.  Case in point: the sense of smell, which everyone utilizes constantly, but few understand in depth.  Science producer Nsikan Akpan takes a look at how smells work, how they move and how every sniff we take changes the odor itself.

NSIKAN AKPAN (NewsHour):  Whoa.  What's that?  It looks like a space alien puked.

Can you guess what it is?  That is an odor, or at least what an odor looks like.  Odors are normally invisible, swirling around us.  But I will tell you the secret behind why you can see this one.

Hey there.  My name is Nsikan Akpan, and you have landed upon the first episode of “ScienceScope.”

Here, we will put science itself under a microscope, showing you how amazing discoveries are made and the people behind them.

First up, these trippy-looking waves.  This smell-scape is brought to you by high-powered lasers, a gigantic tank of water and this guy.

JOHN CRIMALDI, University of Colorado at Boulder:  You can learn more about this problem from sitting and looking at something like this than just anything else.

NSIKAN AKPAN:  That's John Crimaldi, an engineer and fluid mechanist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

His lab studies how smells move through space.  Do they drift like clouds or curl like smoke, or do smells have another shape altogether?  The answers will lay the foundation for a nationwide project that is studying how animals and humans use smells to map their surroundings.

JOHN CRIMALDI:  If we have situations where we want to detect, say, a location of a chemical weapon, or if we want to try and find hidden contraband, or if we want to find somebody that's trapped under the snow in an avalanche, the tools we use in the 21st century to do this are animals.

NSIKAN AKPAN:  Or people.

And that puts both at tremendous risk.  Crimaldi and his colleagues want to outsource this risk to robots by teaching them how to smell.  That sounds pretty wild, I know.  But think about it.  We have machines to replace our other senses, such as cameras with facial recognition or implants to restore our hearing, but we don't have similar technology for smell.

IRAQ - Fighting ISIS

"Dire circumstances for Iraqis fleeing Fallujah fighting" PBS NewsHour 6/20/2016


SUMMARY:  The campaign to drive the Islamic State from Fallujah is advancing much more swiftly than anticipated, with much of the city already retaken.  But this success offers little comfort to the tens of thousands of residents who have been forced into the desert by the fighting and live without basic amenities.  Special correspondent Jane Arraf joins Judy Woodruff to describe their situation.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The offensive to retake the city of Fallujah, held by ISIS for more than two years, is proceeding much more quickly than anticipated.  But tens of thousands of its residents have been forced by the fighting into the desert, as temperatures soar, without services, or even water in many cases.

We turn to special correspondent Jane Arraf.  She's in Baghdad now, where she is on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor.

Jane, you were just in Fallujah yesterday.  And is it the case this operation has been going much faster than expected?

JANE ARRAF (The Christian Science Monitor):  Well, Judy, it has been going faster certainly than some of the previous operations, including the battle for the provincial capital Anbar.

But I think we have to remember that Fallujah is a different case.  Fallujah had up to 100,000 people in it.  And it was where ISIS first came into, where they tried to persuade Iraqis that they were a better alternative than the Iraqi government.

They didn't lay the land mines, they didn't lay the improvised explosives the same way that they riddled other cities with.  It was actually faster for the special forces that we were with to actually go through there and fight.

Having said that, they have not in fact liberated Fallujah, in the sense that the Iraqi government likes to say that they have.  Now, Iraqi special forces, including the commander, who we spoke with, says that they have now cleared 75 percent of the city.

American military sources say they think that's closer to 25 percent.  And they say that the effort is continuing.  But as it's continuing, as you pointed out, there is absolute tragedy on the outskirts of Fallujah with all these civilians trying to flee.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, tell us about that.  Who stayed in Fallujah when ISIS had control, and what's happening to those people?

JANE ARRAF:  A lot of people did leave at the beginning, but then a lot of people stayed for a variety of reasons.

And when it got to two years in, essentially, they weren't allowed to leave.  So, the people that I was speaking with, mostly women and children, because they were separated from their husbands and their brothers as the Iraqi security forces tried to weed out suspected ISIS fighters from civilians fleeing, were telling us, were telling me that they had been without real food for weeks on end.

Now, as the siege of Fallujah intensified, ISIS itself started running out of food, and it started giving food only to those tribes, those families that were loyal to it.  So, groups of women who I spoke with said that they had been living on the only thing they could afford, which was basically dried dates that were meant for animal feed.

They weren't allowed to leave the city.  If they could leave the city, it was through bribery.  And at this point, people just don't have the money.  So, they basically stayed, Judy, because they had to stay.  It is when ISIS was driven back and the floodgates opened and up to 80,000 people fled over the past three days, just last week, that things got really dire.

Some people were actually killed trying to leave.  I met a man with the remainder of his family in an ambulance in Fallujah being evacuated by Iraqi security forces who has lost three of his daughters and his wife.  As they were leaving, they were hit by either a mortar or a rocket.

GUNS IN AMERICA - Gun Ownership Debate

"Debate over gun ownership reemerges in Congress and the courts" PBS NewsHour 6/20/2016


SUMMARY:  In Congress and the courts, gun control took center stage Monday.  There was a partisan showdown in the Senate over four different measures.  Meanwhile, the Supreme Court declined an appeal of semi-automatic weapons bans.  Gwen Ifill talks to political director Lisa Desjardins, Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal and Evan Osnos of The New Yorker about the debate on gun laws and gun ownership.

LISA DESJARDINS (NewsHour):  From courtrooms, to Congress, the often theoretical debate over guns touched ground today, eight days after the massacre in Orlando.

In Washington, a showdown on the Senate floor over four different gun control measures, from background checks to banning sales to those on the no-fly list.  It was a classic partisan duel.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER:  Republicans say hey, look, we tried.  And all the time, they're cheerleaders for bosses at the NRA.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas:  Our colleagues want to make this about gun control.  My colleagues many ways want to fight the symptoms without fighting the disease.

LISA DESJARDINS:  Lots of debate, but no expected changes, when all was said and done.

Across the street, Supreme Court justices decided not to hear an appeal of semiautomatic weapons bans in Connecticut and New York.  That means the bans stay in place.  They were enacted after the school shooting in 2012, at Newtown, Connecticut.

Families of the Newtown victims were also watching this courtroom in Bridgeport, where a state judge heard arguments about whether they can sue a gun manufacturer.  James Vogts represents Remington Arms, which made the semiautomatic rifle used in the Newtown shooting.

JAMES VOGTS, Attorney for Remington Arms:  It's really not the role of this court, or perhaps a jury, to decide whether civilians, as a class, broad class of people, are not appropriate to own these class of firearms.

LISA DESJARDINS:  Joshua Koskoff represents the families who are suing.

JOSHUA KOSKOFF, Attorney for Newtown Victims' Families:  It was an AR-15 rifle, a weapon, Judge, that was designed to be used in combat by our military to assault and kill enemies of war.  It was Remington's choice to entrust the most notorious American military killing machine to the public.

LISA DESJARDINS:  Recent polls show Americans generally support gun restrictions.  In a Reuters/Ipsos survey last week, about 71 percent approved of strong or moderate gun restrictions, while about 16 percent want basic limits and just 6 percent said firearms should have no or few restrictions.

But, as debate continues, so does the violence.  In Chicago yesterday, police reported something rare, an apparent gang-related shooting using not a handgun, but a semiautomatic assault rifle.

WOMAN:  When does it stop?  What's going to — how do we get help with this?  What do we do?

LISA DESJARDINS:  The Chicago victim was 17 years old.

GWEN IFILL:  For more on the recurring debate over gun laws and gun ownership, we turn now to Marcia Coyle, “NewsHour” regular and chief Washington correspondent for “The National Law Journal;” Evan Osnos, whose extensive report on concealed-carry laws appears in this week's “New Yorker” magazine; and, as you just heard, “NewsHour” correspondent Lisa Desjardins, who's been following the action on Capitol Hill.

As of now, this time 6:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight, do we have any — is there any possibility that any of the four gun bills that were up for a vote today might pass?

LISA DESJARDINS:  Realistically, no.  And we already know that one has failed, something that seems innocuous, increasing funding for background checks on the federal level.  That has not received 60 votes.

It was Republican amendment.  That didn’t clear.  We do not expect the other three to clear there that 60-vote bar either.

GWEN IFILL:  In spite of what we just saw in terms of public opinion?

LISA DESJARDINS:  That’s right.

And when you look at public opinion here, there’s a real disconnect.  You see overwhelmingly, not just Americans as a whole, Gwen, supporting things like background checks, some moderate restrictions, you could say, but Republicans as a group.

Recently, Pew and many other groups have polled Republicans and they find 80-some percent sometimes support background checks, but yet Republicans on Capitol Hill are going the exact opposite directions.

"Gun control bills fail despite momentum after Orlando shooting" by Alan Fram and Mary Clare Jalonick (both AP), PBS NewsHour 6/20/2016

IN THE DUST - Fossil Fuel Jobs

"Tough times for U.S. towns powered by fossil fuel energy jobs" PBS NewsHour 6/20/2016

COMMENT:  Though I do have compassion for this class of workers, this is another example of what can (and does) happen when a town or region depends on just one (or very few) industries for jobs.  In today's world any town or region needs a wide and diversified source of jobs to have a resilient economy that can survive change.  The era of one-industry towns is dead.


SUMMARY:  Plummeting fuel prices are usually considered a good thing, but in rural Wyoming -- where fossil fuels like coal employ 10 percent of the state's private sector workforce -- they can spell disaster.  For the people of Gillette, dropping coal costs mean layoffs, a disappearing identity and struggles to adapt to the changing face of American industry.  Special correspondent Leigh Paterson reports.

LEIGH PATERSON (Inside Energy):  Gail Japp's horses have helped her through hard times, like when she was getting divorced.

GAIL JAPP, Former Peabody Energy Employee:  When you have had a bad day, you just come out and they just make life worth going on.

LEIGH PATERSON:  Especially this one, named Money.

GAIL JAPP:  He's very trusting and he's very loving.

LEIGH PATERSON:  Recently, things have been tough again.  Japp was one of the nearly 500 Wyoming coal miners laid off recently.  And to pay her mortgage, she will have to sell a lot of her things, including her beloved horses.

GAIL JAPP:  So, I have no choice.  I just — I have got to downsize.  And there's a lot of stuff I'm going to have to sell.

LEIGH PATERSON:  Japp worked for Peabody Energy for over a decade, mostly massive haul trucks.  After cutting jobs, including hers, in March, the coal giant declared bankruptcy in April.

GAIL JAPP:  Those were so fun.  Them things were just awesome.

LEIGH PATERSON:  She misses it, and is worried about getting a new job.

GAIL JAPP:  Yes, I can't leave Gillette, which is really going to make it hard for me to find something, because my dad is 90 years old, and then I got two grandkids here in town that try to stay with me as much as they can.  So it's just — I don't know.  It's been devastating.

LEIGH PATERSON:  That's because prices for coal, oil, and gas are all way down, all at the same time.  Revenue from those industries accounts for around 70 percent of the state's budget.

Fossil fuels employ around 10 percent of Wyoming's private sector work force, so, an energy bust hits towns like Gillette particularly hard, because this region is rich in all three, coal, oil, and gas.  Gillette even calls itself the energy capital of the nation.

But over the past year, unemployment claims in the county have more than doubled.  Businesses are closing, homes are up for sale, rail traffic is way down, and people all of the sudden are in need of basics like food.

Friday, June 24, 2016

BRITAIN - Common Sense Looses on EU Vote

IMHO:  The vote by British citizens is a big mistake.  It is a win for paranoia, misplaced nationalism, and prejudice.  Britain was much stronger as a member of the EU.  Having said that, the British citizens have the right to their vote.

"Britain votes to leave the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron resigns" by News Desk, PBS NewsHour 6/24/2016

The United Kingdom has voted to exit the European Union, becoming the first nation to leave the economic, political and cultural bloc.  The news sent shockwaves through the global economy and led to the resignation of British prime minister David Cameron, who supported the Remain campaign.

“Over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar have all had their say,” Cameron said in his resignation speech.  We should be proud of the fact that, in these islands, we trust the people with these big decisions.”

Cameron continued by congratulating the Leave campaign for “the spirited and passionate case that they made.”  The prime minister did not release a precise timetable for his departure, but guaranteed that he would remain in his post for at least three months with an aim to depart by October.

Exit polls show that England and Wales drove the decision to leave, while Northern Ireland and Scotland citizens leaned toward staying.  Scotland prime minister Nicola Sturgeon believes a second independence referendum for her nation is “highly likely” following the Brexit.  Scotland voted 62 versus 38 percent to stay in the EU, according to the BBC.

“It's a statement of the obvious that the option of a second independence referendum must be on the table and it is on the table,” Sturgeon said.

Global markets immediately plummeted in reaction to the referendum results.  The British pound nosedived to its lowest valuation in 30 years, as the nation's stock market — FTSE — reported 8 percent losses within the first few seconds of trading Friday morning.

Economic analysts are predicting the biggest single-day decline since the 2008 financial crisis.  Bank of England governor Mark Carney promised 250 billion pounds ($347 billion) to stabilize the economy.  Other European markets took heavy hits, and the European Central bank pledged to provide liquidity for domestic and foreign currencies to prevent panic, as did the U.S. Federal Reserve for the dollar.

"Brexit: Four reasons it comes as a shock" by Paul Solman, PBS NewsHour 6/24/2016


Shocker, a word you'll hear rarely from someone who, like myself, sizes up the world probabilistically.  But shocker is the verdict on the Brexit vote, for at least four reasons.

First, of course, are the political implications.  As economist Justin Wolfers put it late last night on Twitter, though overstating slightly: “Economists favor more integration, not for the economic gains, but because it fosters peace, which is more valuable.”

"Time for real talk.  Economists favor more integration, not for the economic gains, but because it fosters peace, which is more valuable." - Twitter @JustinWolfers

Second, these are millions upon millions of people who were voting against their pocketbooks.  And they knew it.  That's because, economically, the results were unusually predictable.  Every time the odds of a Brexit “Leave” vote had gone up, the value of the British pound had gone down.  This might not be so bad if the UK were an export-based economy.  A cheaper pound would mean cheaper prices on British goods and services.  What the country loses in buying power it might more than make up for in jobs.  But as Matt Yglesias tweeted late last night:

"Cheap pound would be great for UK exports were the UK not withdrawing from the world's biggest integrated market." - Twitter @mattyglesias

And Wolfers again:

"Upside: Britain is on sale.  Everything, 10-15% off.  Steak and kidney pies for everyone." - Twitter @JustinWolfers

Everyone outside Britain, he means — like me and my wife, leaving Oxford on Monday after 10 weeks here.  I got an email from a vendor this morning telling me where to send a “cheque” for the 65 pound-price we agreed upon yesterday.  In the ensuing 24 hours, I've saved $5.  Maybe I'll stall till tomorrow.  Oh wait, the pound could shoot back up! When should I pay? It's a question every importer from Britain will now be asking — more pressingly than in years, if not decades.  And those $5 my vendor loses will be $5 less to spend on what will now be increasingly expensive goods and services from abroad.  In the time we've been here, numerous Brits have told us they'd like to go to America because it's so much cheaper.  Did they vote for Brexit too?

The third shock is more personal; my apparent over-reliance on the prediction markets, and on economists like Justin Wolfers who do as well.  The two of us conducted a video chat more than five years ago in which we extolled the virtues of markets, mainly with respect to sports betting, but also in politics.  And I have reported on political markets for the NewsHour many times, as recently as February.  Last night, Justin reproduced this tweet:

“To Justin:  I think you need an explanation on gambling odds.  These markets are not full markets where people can bet a lot of money.  They are not as informative as you believe they are.”

Justin's reply:   “I love me a good mansplainer.  Because honestly, I just didn't realize.”

In the defense of the market-dependent, yesterday's Brexit vote drew plenty of money: an estimated £50 million pounds or more on one British prediction market alone.  But what we failed to realize — or more honestly, failed to remember — is that odds are probabilities, not facts.  At 11 pm last night here in England, I tweeted:

"Brexit polls now closed here in UK.  Betting mkts put the odds of Remain win at 85% likelihood.  They were down to 60% before Jo Cox killing." - Twitter @paulsolman

Three hours later:

"Most dramatic swings I've ever seen on the prediction mkts:  Brexit from 12% to 54% when this tweet began now back down to 40% as I finish it" - Twitter @paulsolman

The point is, even at 11pm, with the odds at 85 percent for “Remain,” there was still roughly one chance in six that the UK would vote to leave.  And by definition, such an event will occur, on average, one-sixth of the time.  On the prediction markets, those odds should lead to the right call five times out of six, on average.  And that can lull those who monitor the markets into a false sense of complacency, as it did me with Brexit.  I didn't forget about that sixth time.  But I dismissed it.  I'm shocked that I did.

The fourth shock should perhaps not come as one, as assiduously as we here at Making Sen$e having been covering economic inequality over the years.  It's the gulf (or abyss) between elites and workers in countries like the US and the UK.  That would help explain the confidence of the prediction markets.  Who bets money on elections if not, disproportionately, those who already have enough?  With which side was the Remain side identified, if not the Establishment?  But after the assassination of the aggressively humane Labour MP Jo Cox, would aggressively civil England actually vote for the forces of aggression?  The answer is that it did so, aggressively.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

NUCLEAR POWER - PG&E's Diablo Canyon Closing

"END OF A NUCLEAR ERA" by Ivan Penn & Samantha Masunaga, San Diego Union-Tribune 6/22/2016

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

One of California's largest energy utilities took a bold step in the 21st century electricity revolution with an agreement to close its last operating nuclear plant and develop more solar, wind and other clean power technologies.

The decision announced Tuesday by Pacific Gas& Electric Co. to close its beleaguered Diablo Canyon nuclear plant within the next decade runs counter to the nuclear industry's arguments that curbing carbon emissions and combating climate change require use of nuclear power, which generates the most electricity without harmful emissions.

Instead, PG&E joined with longtime adversaries such as the Friends of the Earth environmental group to craft a deal that will bring the company closer to the mandate that 50 percent of California's electricity generation come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

PG&E's agreement will close the book on the state's history as a nuclear pioneer, but adds to its clean energy reputation.  California already leads the nation by far in use of solar energy generated by rooftop panels and by sprawling power arrays in the desert.

“California is already a leader in curtailing greenhouse gases,” said Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  “Now they're saying they can go even further.  That's potentially a model for other situations.”

Under the proposal, the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County would be retired by PG&E after its current U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission operating licenses expire in November 2024 and August 2025.

The power produced by Diablo Canyon's two nuclear reactors would be replaced with investment in a greenhouse-gas-free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and energy storage, PG&E said.  The proposal is contingent on a number of regulatory actions, including approvals from the California Public Utilities Commission.

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, built against a seaside cliff near Avila Beach, provides 2,160 megawatts of electricity for Central and Northern California — enough to power more than 1.7 million homes.

Tuesday's announcement comes after a long debate over the fate of the plant, which sits near several earthquake fault lines.  The Hosgri Fault, located three miles from Diablo Canyon, was discovered in 1971, three years after construction of the plant began.

Calls to close Diablo Canyon escalated after a 2011 quake in Japan damaged two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant there, leading to dangerous radiation leaks.  In the aftermath of that disaster, state and federal lawmakers called for immediate reviews of Diablo Canyon and the San Onofre Nuclear Plant in San Diego County, which was still in use.

The San Onofre plant was shut down for good in 2013 as a result of faulty equipment that led to a small release of radioactive steam and a heated regulatory battle over the plant's license.

In documents submitted to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission as recently as last year, PG&E said Diablo Canyon can safely withstand earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding.

Daniel Hirsch, director of the program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz, said PG&E's agreement was thoughtful.

“It is not simply a decision to phase out the plant, but to replace it with efficiency and renewables,” he said.  “So it is a very strong net gain for the environment.”

As the state boosts its energy efficiency goals and plans for renewables, including solar and wind power, Hirsch said, Diablo Canyon is “getting in the way.”

PG&E Chief Executive Tony Earley acknowledged the changing landscape in California, noting that energy efficiency, renewables and storage are “central to the state's energy policy.”

“As we make this transition, Diablo Canyon's full output will no longer be required,” he said.  That eventually would make the nuclear plant too expensive to operate, Earley said during a conference call with reporters.  Hirsch tempered his approval with caution, saying that as long as the plant remains in operation, safety risks remain.  “Diablo really does pose a clear and present danger,” he said.  “If we had an earthquake larger than the plant was designed for, you could have a Fukushima-type event that could devastate a large part of California.”

State Senate leader Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, echoed Hirsch by saying nuclear energy is “inherently risky, and the Diablo Canyon Power Plant is vulnerable to damage from natural disasters that could threaten the well-being of millions of Californians.  This transition will make our energy sources less volatile, more cost-effective, and benefit the air we breathe.”  In the mid-2000s, the nation's utilities had anticipated a nuclear renaissance that would usher in a new age of centralized power plants.  Power companies submitted proposals to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 31 new reactors.  President George W. Bush pushed federal loan guarantees to hasten nuclear plant construction.

However, instead of a renaissance, the nuclear industry began to unravel.

Duke Energy announced in February 2013 that it would close the Crystal River, Fla., nuclear plant after a steam generator replacement project led to cracks in the concrete reactor containment building.  The plant became too costly to fix.

In May 2013, Dominion Resources Inc. permanently shut down the Kewaunee nuclear plant in Wisconsin after the power company said it was no longer affordable to operate the facility.

A month later, Southern California Edison permanently closed the San Onofre plant after determining that fixing the new but faulty steam generators would prove too expensive.

Perhaps the biggest problem for the nuclear industry was the vast amount of natural gas that became available in the United States because of fracking.

Natural gas plants now are far cheaper to build and operate than a nuclear plant.  A natural gas facility runs at about 8 or 9 cents a kilowatt hour compared with twice that much for a nuclear plant.

And the push for renewable energy has turned attention to solar and wind power to help reduce emissions and combat human-caused climate change.

“The unraveling of the renaissance was not a surprise to anyone who understood the workings of the power markets,” said Bradford, the former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission member.  He serves as an expert witness in legal proceedings across the nation.

Bradford said PG&E's plan for Diablo Canyon shows the flaws in arguments by the nuclear industry that a clean-energy network requires nuclear.

“It's a very tough day for people who have been advocating for massive nuclear subsidies,” Bradford said.

Even after Diablo Canyon closes, Southern California will still get a small percentage of its electricity from Arizona's Palo Verde nuclear plant.  Among the owners of the 4,000-megawatt nuclear plant in the Arizona desert are Southern California Edison, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Southern California Public Power Authority, whose members include municipal power companies supplying Glendale, Pasadena, Burbank and Anaheim.

The impending closure of Diablo Canyon would leave just one nuclear plant on the West Coast, the Columbia Generating Station, about 200 miles outside of Seattle.

To craft Tuesday's proposal, PG&E worked with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, the National Resources Defense Council, Environment California, Friends of the Earth, and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

Monday, June 20, 2016

COMMENT OF THE DAY - Sir William Golding, Women

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 6/17/2016

"Shields and Brooks on gun violence and how leaders responded to Orlando shooting" PBS NewsHour 6/17/2016


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including reactions to Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, whether President Obama should use the term “radical Islam,” the possibility of increased gun control, Donald Trump’s sliding popularity, and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ softening attitude towards Hillary Clinton.

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


Gentlemen, begin by the terrible thing that happened last weekend in Orlando, this 29-year-old man with — who had displayed erratic behavior, Mark, through much of his life.  Are there any lessons from this?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:  I’m not sure there are, Judy.

I was — I have been amazed how polarized our nation is.  Ordinarily and historically, events this tragic — and there have been none really this tragic, I guess, in just sheer magnitude — but there is sort of a uniting feeling in the country.

And that’s been missing.  We can blame our politics and our politicians.  And we will.  But it’s — I think it reflects the country.  There’s just — we live in a couple of different worlds.  Republicans overwhelmingly think it’s a matter of terrorism, and Islamic terrorism, and that that’s where all the attention — and Democrats overwhelmingly respond that it’s the availability and the promiscuous availability of weapons without background checks or adequate controls.

And so I guess the — tragedies like this have historically brought out the best in the country, and I don’t think that’s happened this time.  It definitely hasn’t.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  We think of 9/11.

MARK SHIELDS:  Think of 9/11, exactly.  Think of other times of tragedy, and even Charleston.


DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times:  I actually take of a cheerier view, I think.

I thought there was an amazing amount of simple, unadorned grief and sympathy for the victims and the victims’ families.  And the fact a large percent of them were gay wasn’t as big an issue.

That was my perception, that people of all sides said, these were human beings, God’s creatures, who were killed.  And there was an outpouring of simple grief for the people.

On the political stuff, obviously, the gun thing is divisive.  But I thought most people said, well, this is both an act of terrorism and a hate crime at the same time.  And it can be both.  And I think that’s what really just struck me about the week is, sometimes, the divisions we have between psychology and politics and religion, those divisions don’t really make sense in practice.

And we have seen this so many times with so many different shooters. They’re the same personality type.  You begin with a sense of humiliation, personal failure, personal disappointment, personal injury.  That turns into a sense of grievance, that the problem is not me, the problem is the world.

Then that turns into sort of moral outrage at the evil people who are doing this.  Then that gets weaponized by sort of some radical ideology that allows me to justify the violence.  And then you walk down the line.

And they walk down these same series of steps, and it’s just the social isolation of young, angry men.

2016 OLYMPICS - The Toxic 'Pool'

"In Brazil's Olympic bay, tides of death and ecological devastation" PBS NewsHour 6/17/2016


SUMMARY:  Among the many concerns confronting Brazil's first Olympic Games, one of the most pressing is the state of Guanabara Bay, site of the sailing competition.  A vital source of income for local fishermen, the bay is severely polluted and lethally toxic -- but those fighting to preserve it face a violent response.  Special correspondent Lulu Garcia-Navarro of NPR reports.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO (NPR):  Alexandre Anderson is a hunted man, targeted for his work on these treacherous waters.

Every day, as he heads out onto Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay, he's on a mission to defend the bay he calls home.  He tells us its stark beauty hides a dark reality.

ALEXANDRE ANDERSON, Fisherman (through interpreter):  We hope the Olympics will show the world another bay.  There is the bay for the rich, for visitors to see, and there is the bay of the fishermen, who are suffering.  That is the bay of excrement, garbage, and oil.  It is the Guanabara Bay of violence.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO:  Alexandre took us on a tour of that bay.  He knows it well.  He grew up fishing here.  But as the bay got more and more polluted, he became an activist, who leads a fishermen's organization.

The ecological devastation here is hard to miss.  He shows us a mangrove swamp used as an illegal dumping ground for trash.  Raw sewage is also pumped into the bay from communities that have no access to sanitation.

But for Alexandre Anderson, the biggest polluters are not only the residents who lack basic infrastructure, but also the petroleum industry.  This is one of the biggest refineries in the area.  And it's right on the banks of the Guanabara Bay.

And you can see here in the water it's slick with oil.  Rio de Janeiro, a world-famous beach town, is also Brazil's oil and gas heartland.  Energy accounted for 13 percent of Brazil's GDP in 2014.  And almost three-quarters of the world's recent deep-water oil discoveries have been made in Brazil.  The Guanabara Bay is the industry's hub.

Alexandre takes us to an oil industry shipyard and points out broken eco-barriers meant to stop paint and chemicals from leaking into the water.

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT - Dissent in the Ranks

"State Department officials push for military intervention in Syria" PBS NewsHour 6/17/2016


SUMMARY:  The question of how to end the devastating five-year Syrian Civil War has split the United States foreign service.  Recently, a group of State Department officials signed an internal memo protesting U.S. policy in Syria and calling for military intervention to destroy the Islamic State and force the Assad regime into peace negotiations.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  How do you end the war in Syria?  It is a question that has plagued world leaders since the start of the devastating civil conflict there.

Today, we learned more about the extent of disagreement inside the U.S. State Department about the course set by President Obama.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  For five years, the savage Syria conflict has killed some 400,000 and put millions more to flight.

Now 51 mid-level diplomatic officials have gone on record advocating a dramatic shift in U.S. strategy.  They have signed an internal so-called dissent letter, calling for targeted military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

The dissenters argue it would help bring Assad to the negotiating table and deal a major blow to ISIS.  The document remains secret, but Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is familiar with the document's contents.

ANDREW TABLER, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy:  If the Assad regime violates the cessation of hostilities and uses it to further its position on the battlefield, in such cases, military force could be used.  Second, if humanitarian assistance is not provided or is impeded in some way, military force could be used.

MARGARET WARNER:  In Copenhagen today, Secretary of State John Kerry said he had not yet seen the memo, but welcomed it.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  I think it's an important statement, and I respect the process very, very much, and I will probably meet with people or have a chance to talk with them when we get back.

MARGARET WARNER:  The memo came through a channel created for State Department employees to register policy disagreements without retaliation.  When conflict first broke out in 2011, President Obama called for ousting Assad.  And in 2012, he threatened military action.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  A red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.  That would change my calculus.

MARGARET WARNER:  But after a regime chemical attack killed more than 1,000 Syrians in August 2013, the President didn't launch military strikes, nor step up arming the Syrian rebels.

More recently, he's launched U.S. airstrikes in Syria, but only against ISIS.  Instead, Russia intervened last fall on Assad's behalf, bolstering him.  Today, Russian air attacks hit anti-Assad rebels battling is in Southern Syria.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin warned today any U.S. move targeting Assad's forces would plunge the region into total chaos.

Andrew Tabler's response?

ANDREW TABLER:  If you look at this, over time, whether it's the United States and the threat of use of military force in 2013 or Israel's continued use of strikes inside of Syria, this is something that the Assad regime is known to respond to.

MARGARET WARNER:  All of this comes as a February cease-fire has largely dissolved.  It did let humanitarian aid reach some Syrian communities, but others remain cut off by Assad loyalists.  And peace talks backed by Secretary of State Kerry and the Russians have shown no progress.

An August 1 deadline for a political transition won't be met.  Plans now are only to resume talks then.

BRIEF BUT SPECTACULAR - Comedy And Islamophobia

"When a comedian realized she could fight Islamophobia" PBS NewsHour 6/16/2016


SUMMARY:  Growing up in Palm Springs, Iranian-American Muslim comedian Negin Farsad yearned to fit in.  But as she grew older amid rising Islamophobia, Farsad realized she had her own people, and she could use her comedy to do more than make people laugh -- she could make them think.  Farsad gives her Brief But Spectacular take on being an Iranian-American Muslim female comedian lady.


"Why the Navy is making a major change in its approach to PTSD" PBS NewsHour 6/16/2016


SUMMARY:  For years, the military has struggled to deal with the unseen, psychological wounds of war, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Now, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has instituted major changes to the rules affecting sailors and Marines who suffer from PTSD.  Mabus joins John Yang to explain the reforms and why they are necessary.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed thousands of American servicemen and maimed and injured tens of thousands more, but some wounds are not as easily seen or identified.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, afflicts as much as one-fifth of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in any given year.  Compounding the affliction, personnel who were kicked out of the military because of erratic behavior caused by PTSD, by Traumatic Brain Injury, called TBI, or by other mental health conditions often lose their benefits, including access to veterans health care.

But that will now change for at least one of the services, navy personnel, sailors and Marines, under a new policy enacted by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

Secretary Mabus joins us now.

Thank you for joining us.

RAY MABUS, Secretary of the Navy:  Glad to be here.

JOHN YANG:  Tell us what this new policy is and why you made this change.

RAY MABUS:  The policy that we had been operating under was, if somebody committed misconduct, the erratic behavior you were talking about, that took preference over everything else in terms of a discharge.

And so people would get discharged with bad paper, with discharges that didn’t give them any benefits when they left.  What we have done with policy that I have just signed was to say, if you’re being administratively discharged for some misconduct, we’re going to take a look to see if you have got a diagnosable condition, to see if you have got PTSD, to see if you have got Traumatic Brain Injury, and then that will factor in, so that you may still be discharged, but you will be discharged with benefits, with help that we’re going to recognize the reason for this erratic behavior and give you help after you leave the military.

And it’s not just for combat injuries, combat wounds.  It’s also for things like sexual assault that is often followed by PTSD.

JOHN YANG:  And just to be clear, you say that this conduct took precedence.

In other words, it didn’t matter that the misconduct may have had an underlying cause.

RAY MABUS:  Right.

The only thing that was looked at was the misconduct.  And the discharge was based on that misconduct without why it was caused, without PTSD evaluation, without TBI evaluation.  And the awful thing was, when people left under this circumstance, they got no benefits.

So, they couldn’t get into veterans health care.  They couldn’t get the assistance they needed to deal with PTSD or to deal with Traumatic Brain Injury.  It was a pure policy issue.  And this is not just for people being discharged now, not just for active-duty people.  If you’re a veteran, and you were discharged and got bad paper, and so you’re not getting any benefits, and you believe that it was caused by in some way or another PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury, come back.  We will take another look at it.

We will take another run at the determination of the discharge.  If it is found by that, you will be able to get your benefits, even if you have been discharged for a while.