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- 05/28/17--08:53: _Dems try to enlist ...
- 05/28/17--09:30: _Army vet and colleg...
- 05/28/17--10:27: _New York senators’ ...
- 05/28/17--11:06: _John F. Kennedy, sy...
- 05/28/17--11:26: _AP Report: Kushner ...
- 05/28/17--12:34: _How ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’...
- 05/28/17--12:36: _A brother’s death b...
- 05/28/17--12:41: _Trump considering s...
- 05/28/17--13:02: _Once an unlikely ca...
- 05/29/17--07:40: _WATCH: President Tr...
- 05/29/17--09:04: _NASA eyes a possibl...
- 05/29/17--10:21: _Column: How the che...
- 05/29/17--11:13: _Column: How JFK cre...
- 05/29/17--13:00: _Kentucky veterans g...
- 05/29/17--13:24: _Frank Deford, who h...
- 05/29/17--13:38: _How to savor a perf...
- 05/29/17--14:18: _One doctor’s war ag...
- 05/29/17--15:25: _Louise Erdrich and ...
- 05/29/17--15:29: _AP Report: Feds inv...
- 05/29/17--15:30: _Has China really st...
- 05/28/17--08:53: Dems try to enlist military vets in fight for House majority
- 05/28/17--10:27: New York senators’ scandal highlights vast stipend system
- 05/28/17--11:06: John F. Kennedy, symbol of a generation, left mixed legacy
- 05/28/17--11:26: AP Report: Kushner ties to Russia questioned as Trump blasts media
- 05/28/17--12:34: How ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ shaped a musical era
- 05/28/17--12:41: Trump considering sending more troops to Afghanistan
- 05/28/17--13:02: Once an unlikely candidate, Iowa’s governor embraces new job
- 05/29/17--09:04: NASA eyes a possible landing on Jupiter’s Europa
- 05/29/17--13:24: Frank Deford, who has died at 78, changed the way we see sports
- 05/29/17--13:38: How to savor a perfect summer day, in verse
- 05/29/17--14:18: One doctor’s war against global organ trafficking
- 05/29/17--15:30: Has China really stopped obtaining organs from executed prisoners?
ATLANTA — Democrats hope to enlist military veterans in another type of fight — for majority control of the House.
Looking ahead to next year’s elections, Democrats are trying to recruit at least two dozen military veterans to challenge Republican incumbents, arguing that candidates with military on their resumes appeals to independent voters and can help the party break the GOP grip on Washington.
“Veterans have had the experience of putting the country first, before personal politics” and party dictates, said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass, who did four tours of duty in Iraq, left the Marines as a captain and was elected to Congress in 2014. That tends “to attract the kind of independent voters who are looking for a good leader,” Moulton added.
Several veterans already have announced their bids in some of the 79 Republican-held House districts that national Democratic Party leaders have identified as top targets.
Decades ago, veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam were mainstays in Congress. In 1969-71, 398 veterans served in the House and 69 in the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service. But the change to an all-volunteer force in 1973 sent those numbers plummeting.
The extended post-Sept. 11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq helped reverse the trend, and now there are 80 veterans in the 435-seat House and 20 veterans in the 100-member Senate.
For Democrats, struggling to return to the majority, military veterans provide potential candidates as the party deals with an elective wipeout during Barack Obama’s presidency with the loss of more than 1,030 seats in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress.[Watch Video]
Moulton and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who lost both legs and partial use of an arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq, have spoken to veterans in districts ranging from obvious Democratic targets to places where the path to victory isn’t as obvious.
The party needs to pick up 24 seats to reclaim a House majority next November.
In the Philadelphia suburbs, former Air Force officer Chrissy Houlahan is challenging two-term Republican Rep. Ryan Costello in one of 23 districts where Democrat Hillary Clinton topped Trump in November. Outside Denver, former Army Ranger and combat veteran Jason Crow, a onetime campaign adviser to Obama, is running for the seat held by another veteran, five-term GOP Rep. Mike Coffman.
Both mentioned President Donald Trump as factors in their campaign.
“All the bravado and the wailing and gnashing of teeth isn’t the way we conduct ourselves as professional service members,” Houlahan said of Trump’s rhetoric.
Said Crow: “I’m deeply troubled by President Trump and what he’s trying to do to country and our democracy.”
Dan McCready, a former Marine who attended Harvard Business School alongside Moulton, steered clear of Trump as he announced his bid in the more Republican-leaning North Carolina district of three-term Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger.
But all three candidates, along with Moulton, agreed that veterans offer voters an approach rarely taken on Capitol Hill.
“We know what it’s like to serve the country in non-political ways, and we’re standing up to say that the system is broken,” said Crow. He added that any military unit brings together “Republicans, Democrats, unaffiliated, every different background, every part of the country, urban rural, every rung of the economic ladder, and they have to come together very quickly … or the mission fails.”
Democratic veterans have run notable campaigns in recent years.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a West Point graduate and former Ranger, emphasized his record to attract enough voters in a conservative state. In Missouri last year, former Army intelligence officer Jason Kander drew national attention for his U.S. Senate campaign ad in which he assembled an AR-15 rifle while blindfolded. He lost by 3 percentage points, but got 230,000 more votes than Clinton, who lost the state by 18 points.
Seth Lynn, who runs the nonpartisan Veterans Campaign, an organization that trains veterans running for office, says research suggests veterans running against a non-veteran get “about a 2-point bump” on average.
Lynn isn’t yet tracking exact numbers of veteran candidates, but says he’s seen a “noticeable uptick” among Democrats.
Some of that, Lynn says, is the usual clamoring by the party out of power: Republican veterans arose in 2010, the first midterm under Obama, and Democrats’ boasted a large slate in 2006, amid opposition to the Iraq war during President George W. Bush’s second term.
Those veteran candidates did not all win, of course. But those midterm years marked the last two times voters tossed out the House majority in favor of the other party.
The post Dems try to enlist military vets in fight for House majority appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
— Molly Solomon (@solomonout) May 28, 2017
An army veteran and recent college graduate fatally stabbed Friday on a train in Portland, Oregon, as they defended two women against a white supremacist’s anti-Muslim tirades, were hailed as heroes by the community.
Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, were killed by 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian when they intervened to halt his verbal assault against two Muslim women on a MAX light rail train.
The Portland Mercury reported that Christian was known to the community as a white supremacist and had been photographed giving Nazi salutes in the past.
Police said Christian also stabbed a third man who survived the attack and is now hospitalized. Christian was arrested by authorities a short while later.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said the Best and Meche “did the right thing” in coming to the defense of the two women.
“Their actions were brave and selfless and should serve as an example and inspiration to us all,” Wheeler said. “They are heroes.”
Best, a father of four and 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army who worked for the city of Portland, died at the scene. Meche, who had recently graduated with a degree in economics from Reed College, died after he was taken to the hospital.
Our nation's latest heroes: Taliesin Meche, 23 & Ricky Best, 53 Thankyou for your courage in the face of hate.Always remember, never forget. pic.twitter.com/ILCPIgeMsu
— Jeremy (@ofa_Jeremy) May 28, 2017
Christian is being held on several charges including aggravated murder, intimidation, attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a weapon. He is set to appear in court on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
The stabbings took place first day of Ramadan. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement Saturday it has seen a recent increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S., casting some of the blame on President Donald Trump’s actions on immigration and calling on him to speak out against the attacks in Portland.
“President Trump must speak out personally against the rising tide of Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry and racism in our nation that he has provoked through his numerous statements, policies and appointments that have negatively impacted minority communities,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
As financial support began to pour in for the victims and memorials continued to grow near the scene of the attacks, including a crowd that gathered Saturday night for a candlelight vigil, Portland Imam Muhammad A. Najieb praised the three men who interceded.
“I am very thankful as a Muslim, I am very thankful as a Portlander that we stand together here as one,” he told the Associated Press.
Local station KATU posted a video of the vigil on its Facebook page.
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ALBANY, N.Y. — Lawmakers in many states get paid extra if they hold leadership posts or oversee important committees. Extra work, the thinking goes, should equal extra pay.
But few state legislatures have a bonus system as extensive as the one in New York’s state senate, where nearly all 63 members take home stipends nicknamed “lulus” that add between $9,000 and $34,000 to their wages.
That stipend system has now drawn new scrutiny following an investigation that revealed eight senators were getting bonuses reserved for committee chairs, even though they were vice chairs.
Some good-government groups say New York’s senate may be the first that has found ways to pay lawmakers for jobs they don’t have.
“They have these stipends for positions and we have no idea what these people do,” said Blair Horner, executive director of New York Public Interest Research Group. “I assume they just don’t want public scrutiny.”
The term “lulu” once referred to payments “in lieu” of expense money, but now spans a spectrum of wage bonuses. Most of the state’s senators hold multiple roles that might qualify for extra pay, though they can choose only one to be added to their salaries. The state’s Assembly also offers lulus, but there are fewer to go around in the 150-member body.
Dozens of other states give top legislative leaders extra pay and at least 17 compensate lawmakers for their roles in committees.
Most, though, reserve the stipends for lawmakers in powerful positions.
The bonuses range from tens of thousands of dollars for appropriations committee chairs in Pennsylvania to just $10 a day for standing committee chair in North Dakota.
In Massachusetts, lawmakers this year overrode a veto to bump some leadership salaries, raising most committee chair’s bonuses to $30,000 and most vice chairs to $15,000. The top leaders in the Massachusetts House and Senate saw their stipends jump to $80,000 each.
California lawmakers, whose salary of $104,118 is the nation’s highest, do not receive additional money for committee roles.
Critics say that compared to most other states, New York’s stipend system in the Senate is ripe for manipulation.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that at least five Republicans, and three members of the Independent Democratic Conference, the faction of rogue Democrats who ally with Republicans to give the party its majority, had been incorrectly marked as committee chairs in state payroll documents so they could receive higher stipends.
Gerald Benjamin, director of The Benjamin Center, said New York Senate leadership is “more willing to push the edge” with the system in order to placate the independent Democrats.
“Ethically, I think, giving money allocated to one job or practice to someone who is not doing that practice is problematic,” he said, adding that it would also darken the clouds over an institution the public already views with skepticism.
Republican leaders in New York’s senate defended their use of the stipend system.
A lawyer for the Republican leadership, David Lewis, wrote a memo saying the additional compensation falls under a specific clause allowing unspecified pay for senators serving in a “special capacity.”
“I believe all the members — Democrat, Republican, Assembly or Senate — are worthy of the compensation that they receive,” Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican, told reporters earlier this month.
The senators who have taken the stipends have said their compensation is legal.
Senate Democrats accused the Republicans of illegally using the lulu system to buy loyalty and maintain their hold on power.
“Somebody needs to get to the bottom of it because, again, this is taxpayer dollars,” said Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins during the public radio program The Capitol Pressroom. “And it’s either in law. Or not.”
Mike Murphy, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leaders, said the Albany district attorney recently asked for an informational meeting to discuss allocations in the stipend system.
The state hasn’t raised the $79,500 base pay for senators in nearly 20 years.
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JOHN F. KENNEDY: And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
JEFF GREENFIELD: For many of us, it is as stark a measure of the passage of time as any. Could this symbol of a new generation really have been born a hundred years ago? Could he really be dead for 54 years…eight years longer than he lived? From a-half-century’s distance, we have a clearer understanding of why his presence was so arresting: the handsome war hero with a radiant wife and young children who helped define him.
The oldest President…replaced by the youngest ever elected, whose flair and wit became defining traits. But now, we also know that the image of that idealized family concealed a private life far different. Historians debate his sometimes-contradictory legacy. He ran for president as a cold warrior and ramped up U.S. military presence in Vietnam. But in the last year of his life, he called for an end to the Cold War.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: We are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combat ignorance, poverty, and disease.
JEFF GREENFIELD: And he signed a nuclear test ban treaty with Moscow. He presided over attempts to bring down the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. But during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviets placed missiles 100 miles from Florida’s shore, he rejected the military option to remove them and may have averted WWIII. He was at first a reluctant civil rights warrior, but in the last year of his life he committed to a landmark bill that banned racial discrimination in public places and the workplace, though this would have jeopardized his re-election.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: We chose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
JEFF GREENFIELD: And he set the nation on a path to win the space race. Despite what he did in life, the shocking manner of his death and its aftermath may have had as great an impact. His alleged assassin was a violence-prone former Marine and self-taught Marxist. But for many, the responsibility was elsewhere. This was Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren at the Capitol memorial service.
CHIEF JUSTICE EARL WARREN: We do know that such acts are commonly stimulated by forces of hatred and malevolence, such as today are eating their way into the bloodstream of American life.
JEFF GREENFIELD: There was something of a consensus that something had gone wrong, terribly wrong in the collective soul of the country, where optimism and confidence had always been at the core of our outlook. Moreover, it seemed impossible to believe that the most powerful person on Earth could be brought down by a single, insignificant figure. Instead, conspiracy theories bloomed in best-selling books and popular movies, pointing to a cabal of shadowy, powerful figures in the military-industrial complex. And to the extent that Americans embraced such theories, what did it say about how much trust should be placed in the legitimacy of the American system? That kind of doubt grew deeper and wider in the late-1960s—with the divisive and costly Vietnam War, racial unrest in the cities, generational upheaval on campus and the assassinations of JFK’s brother, Robert, and Martin Luther King, Junior. A decade after Kennedy’s death, after Vietnam and Watergate, the percentage of Americans who had trusted their government in Washington to do what was right dropped by more than half.
No one can say what would have been different if President Kennedy’s life had not been cut short. His ingrained cautiousness might have made him less ambitious about launching a War on Poverty than his successor, Lyndon Johnson. But that same cautiousness—and his skepticism about the military’s judgment, after the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as his long-held doubts about fighting a land war in Asia—might have made him pull back from the Vietnam commitment he’d made in his first years. Perhaps his extramarital affairs would have become public and threatened his political survival.
What does seem clear is that his death drained something out of the American spirit; made us less confident, less certain. If that could happen in broad daylight in the streets of a city, maybe we weren’t the country we thought we were.
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WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Sunday demanded to hear directly from top White House adviser Jared Kushner over allegations of proposed secret back-channel communications with Russia, saying the security clearance of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law may need to be revoked. Trump, having returned from a nine-day overseas trip, immediately railed against administration leaks in a flurry of tweets as “fabricated lies.”
A key Trump campaign figure possibly seeking secret communications with a country that intelligence experts say intervened in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is “obviously very concerning,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.
Schiff said the government needed to “get to the bottom” of the matter and urged a review of Kushner’s security clearance “to find out whether he was truthful.”
“If not, then there’s no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance,” Schiff said.
The Associated Press and other news organizations reported that Kushner in December proposed a back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team. Kushner spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about facilitating sensitive discussions to explore the incoming administration’s options with Russia as it developed its Syria policy. The intent was to connect Trump’s chief national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, with Russian military leaders, a person familiar with the discussions told the AP. The person wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss private policy deliberations and insisted on anonymity.
Russia, a pivotal player in Syria, has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, often at the expense of civilians and at odds with U.S. policy during Syria’s long civil war.
The White House did not acknowledge the meeting or Kushner’s attendance until March. At the time, a White House official dismissed it as a brief courtesy meeting.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, described the latest allegations involving Kushner as “serious” and called for a thorough investigation.
“He needs to answer for what was happening at the time,” Booker said. “What’s worrying me are the patterns we’re seeing. So one is this administration not talking about our values, cozying up to authoritarian leaders. And the other pattern we have is just a continuous drumbeat of inappropriate contacts with the Russians.”
Lawyers for Kushner said he was willing to talk with federal and congressional investigators about his foreign contacts and his work on the Trump campaign.
The disclosure of the back channel put the White House on the defensive. Just back from visiting the Middle East and Europe, Trump on Sunday dismissed recent reports as “fake news.”
“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies,” Trump tweeted. He added: “Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names … it is very possible that those sources don’t exist.”
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said he didn’t know if the news reports were true but described back-channel communications as a “good thing.” He was echoing the sentiment of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who declined to address the contents of Kushner’s December meeting with the Russian diplomat to reporters in Sicily over the weekend and suggested that back-channel communications were commonplace and not concerning.
“It’s both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable,” Kelly said. “Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us is a good thing.”
“I don’t see the big deal,” he added.
Kushner’s involvement in the proposed back channel was first reported by The Washington Post, which said he suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for the discussions, apparently to make them more difficult to monitor. The newspaper cited anonymous U.S. officials who were briefed on intelligence reports on intercepted Russian communications.
The Post reported that Kislyak was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well for as the Trump team.[Watch Video]
Greg Miller, one of the reporters who broke the story for the Washington Post, spoke with the NewsHour Weekend’s Hari Sreenivasan.
According to the person familiar with the Kushner meeting, the Trump team eventually felt there was no need for a back channel once Rex Tillerson was confirmed as secretary of state on Feb. 1.
Flynn served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser before being fired in February. Officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call.
Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, told Congress this month that that deception left Flynn vulnerable to being blackmailed by the Russians. Flynn remains under federal investigation in Virginia over his foreign business ties. He was interviewed by the FBI in January about his contacts with Kislyak.
Kushner was a trusted Trump adviser last year, overseeing the campaign’s digital strategy. He remains an influential confidant within the White House as does his wife, Ivanka Trump.
Reuters has reported that Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak last year, including two phone calls between April and November. Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick, told Reuters that Kushner “has no recollection of the calls as described.”
Federal investigators and several congressional committees are looking into any connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, including allegations that there may have been collaboration to help Trump and harm his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has requested information and documents from Trump’s campaign dating back to July 2015, the AP and other news outlets confirmed.
Kelly appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and ABC’s “This Week,” Schiff also spoke on ABC, and Booker was on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
This report was written by Hope Yen and Vivian Salma of the Associated Press. Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Eileen Sullivan, Julie Bykowicz, Chad Day and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.
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Music journalist Alan Light has covered the gamut of superstar musicians during his career as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine and The New York Times, the editor-in-chief of Spin and Vibe magazines, and, more recently, as a correspondent for NPR and the co-host of the radio show “Debatable” on SiriusXM.
In 2012, he also released a memoir with one of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 69.
The book, “My Cross to Bear,” which was co-authored with Allman, delves into the band’s history, its place as a vanguard of rock and roll, and the troubles and lessons that came along with that success, including the tragic 1971 death of Allman’s brother and bandmate Duane Allman.
Light spoke to the PBS NewsHour on what he learned about Allman’s life and the musical career that spanned more than 40 years.
What did you learn from working on the memoir with Gregg Allman?
I sort of will never know what it is that the book, that the project, represented to him. I had worked with him some before that and he was a pretty reluctant interview. He is not someone who likes to talk about himself. Maybe he was just doing too many interviews over too many years. It was not something that he looked forward to doing. So I really needed to be convinced that he really wanted to do the book and he knew what it was going to entail and what it was going to require. And that … he was fully committed to it, everything was on the table, he talked very openly and really gave a sense of wanting to get this story in full and get it out there right.
So for my purposes, it was great. Anything that I feared about his own — whatever it was, his reticence or shyness or what — kind of fell away and he gave the book everything you need it.
There were lot of directions you could have gone with the book. What struck you the most about him as a person and a musician?
I think that this recurrence of tragedy in his life, from his Dad being murdered when he was two years old, to losing so many of his bandmates — there was a quality of Gregg that really was sort of haunted by all of that. It all felt very present, especially the relationship with his brother. You really got the sense that not a few hours in a day went by that he wasn’t thinking about Duane. It was something that he called on sort of constantly in conversation and in his thoughts.
There was all the emotional challenge that comes with that. The emotional challenge of going out with the Allman Brothers Band every night when you’re the surviving Allman brother. And obviously it’s never not in your thoughts. But there’s also a side of that I think he drew on for power and for focus, a reminder of why he was doing this. He was always very adamant that the band was Duane’s vision. It was he who had the idea for what the group was going to sound like, and who was going to be there and how they were going to create this thing. So there was a part of him that felt like it was his responsibility to live out Duane’s vision. And as hard and difficult that was, it was kind of what the job was.
The first thing that I think of really is this sense of, I don’t know what you call it, this awareness and this presence of his past, and these tragedies in his past. In his house, there were letters, notes from Duane to him that were framed and on the wall. That stuff was very much in the foreground of his mind, it’s what he talked about, it’s clear that’s what he thought about. That’s what it is that I think of first.
The time that I spent with him, it started from when he was still quite sick coming off his liver transplant. He got better over the time we were working on the book, he was getting stronger and stronger each time. The guy had walked through so many fires. He was the survivor when so many had fallen and I think there was some survivor’s guilt that came with that. I think there was some sense of purpose that came with that. He walked through so many fires that we started to feel like he was unstoppable. But this was a guy who had already been given some extra lives. Even he, I think, remained surprised he was the one still standing, with the gratitude and regrets that come with that.
The Allman Brothers Band was known for its live performances and as an incredible jam band, something Gregg Allman helped carry on for more than 40 years. What kept him going?
He drew on lots of different kinds of music. He talked about how seeing Otis Redding was what changed his life and Duane’s life and put them on this path to becoming musicians. And he talked about the folk singers that he loved. This guy was in a very pure way a blues singer, with what his life had given him. There was a depth and a resonance to the soul of his singing that connected him in a very real way with what the foundation of the blues was. And so as experimental, as exploratory as the band could get – there was obviously the jam band element to them – it was grounded in the power of his voice and his delivery, and his emotional clarity and pain was at the center of that.
There was a part of him that was competitive in a way, too. As much as people would talk about them as a Southern rock band, as a jam band, he was who he was. But there was also a part of him that knew that he had better players than everybody else did. They were capable of something, and they were capable of connecting to an audience in a way that none of the bands that were talked about as their peers were able to do.
The band has been widely cast as helping to create this idea of Southern rock. But I understand Gregg didn’t necessarily care for that term. Is the idea of the genre of Southern rock a fair description for the Allman Brothers?
It’s accurate as far as it goes. It was rock ‘n’ roll with the Southern sensibility of their music, of the blues, of country music, of some of the other traditions of the region that you can hear in there. But I think he thought of them much more as a blues band that played jazz, to really improvise like jazz players more than what became the kind of solidified version of Southern rock.
The sort of arty boogie side of a lot of the Southern bands, that wasn’t what he thought the Allman Brothers were doing, that wasn’t what he thought they were about. He wasn’t disdainful of it, but I think he felt like just because those bands come from that same part of the country, and were assigned to the some of the same labels, doesn’t mean they were doing the same thing.
How do you think Gregg Allman and the band will be remembered years from now?
What you’re left with are the songs, some extraordinary songs, both as compositions and as performances. Those will live for a long, long time. Even if what they were doing didn’t precisely fit into the “Southern rock” category or the “jam band” category, there’s no question that they helped pave the way for multiple major movements in the development of rock ‘n’ roll. When you talk about a legacy, there’s a whole lot of players doing different things and playing the Allman brothers as inspiration. That’s how it moves down the line.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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DES MOINES, Iowa — As a onetime county office worker in rural Iowa, Republican Kim Reynolds insists she never saw herself running for office, much less serving as governor.
But after a mid-career political surge and the appointment of mentor Terry Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China, the former legislator and lieutenant governor acknowledges growing more comfortable with her ascent Wednesday to the state’s top job.
In fact, she was even somewhat envious watching Branstad sign landmark legislation in the just-ended session, the first in nearly 20 years in which Republicans controlled the House, Senate and governor’s office.
“I was kind of hoping, as we watched the bills go back and forth, that — gosh — I’d really like to sign that one,” Reynolds recently told a Republican county dinner in western Iowa.
The 57-year-old former Clarke County treasurer has come full circle, having stood by Branstad for six years, and now in the role of his chosen successor, with the groundwork in place to run for the office herself next year.
Reynolds was sworn in Wednesday, two days after Branstad was confirmed by the Senate for the ambassadorship.
With guidance from the nation’s longest-serving governor, she has established a political base and feverishly studied policy in preparation for the role she would have never seen coming, but now embraces.
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do over these last six years,” Reynolds told about 100 Pottawattamie County GOP activists during a recent event. “I didn’t set out to run for office; I actually never thought I would.”
That was after Reynolds left college without a degree; marrying, raising three daughters and, only then, looking to a career of her own.
Reynolds, however, says she quickly saw herself as up to the task of governor, after rising over the past 10 years from Clarke County treasurer, to state senator to one office away from the governorship in the Iowa Capitol.
“I was six months on the job when the governor turned to me,” she recalled in an Associated Press interview last week. It was 2011 and western Iowa had been hit with disastrous flooding as the divided Legislature was deadlocked in budget talks. Branstad was scheduled to lead a trade mission to China and South Korea.
“I need you to do it,” she recalled Branstad telling her.
If that newfound goal was to be governor, she also squeezed in time to finish her undergraduate degree. In December, Reynolds — in black gown and mortar board — stood with hundreds of graduates younger than her own children in Iowa State University’s Hilton Coliseum to receive her diploma for a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.
Fueled by what advisers call an anxiousness to prove her intellectual chops, Reynolds brings the same intensity to policy research.
As lieutenant governor, she has demanded extensive briefing material, complaining at times of being ill-prepped for public events.
“Kim’s a studier and a worrier,” said Doug Gross, a former adviser to Branstad and past GOP nominee for governor.
She took office with a robust $1 million in her campaign account, a big head start on lesser-known Republican primary prospect Ron Corbett, the mayor of Cedar Rapids, as well as the half-dozen Democrats weighing the race. Reynolds also is working with Something Else Strategies, the firm that created Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s memorable 2014 campaign ads.
Reynolds has also had a taste of the political limelight.
In 2012, as secretary of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, she presided over Mitt Romney’s presidential nomination.
She also stood with countless GOP presidential hopefuls as a host of her state’s presidential caucuses. National GOP leaders also sought her for the 2014 Senate race.
Former Iowa Republican Chairman Matt Strawn said Reynolds made it clear to him and others she had her eyes on becoming governor.
“I was left with the unmistakable impression that she would run,” Strawn said of a lunch with Reynolds a year ago in Des Moines. “It was done very artfully. But, make no mistake. She was interested, if the situation arose.”
Still, she has kept in touch with key GOP leaders around the state.
Reynolds, for instance, has visited bellwether Cedar County in eastern Iowa to promote business openings, tour storm damage or headline county GOP dinners, as she did two years ago, county GOP chairwoman Dawn Smith said.
“Kim has been here quite a few times. She really connects with the counties,” Smith said.
Reynolds rushed to finish her remarks at the Pottawattamie County picnic, as a steady rain pelted the roof of the cold, metal building where they gathered.
Even curtailed, such appearances demonstrate what adviser Jeff Boeyink calls Reynolds’ political work ethic.
“Lots of guest shots on FOX News? They’re fine,” said Boeyink, a former Branstad chief of staff. “But I’d rather have her doing the Muscatine County Republican dinner or the Davenport Rotary.”
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President Donald Trump is preparing his first Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery.
Trump is also set to lay a wreath Monday at the cemetery, the final resting place for many U.S. military members and others who have served the country.
Trump previewed the address Saturday before he flew home from Italy, the final stop on his first trip abroad since taking office.
He addressed U.S. service members stationed at a naval base in Sicily as “warriors of freedom” and the “patriots who keep the fires of liberty burning.”
Trump also noted his desire to boost spending on the military, and as commander in chief pledged his “complete and unshakeable support” to the men and women in uniform.
In the first of two tweets Trump sent out on Monday, he said: “Today we remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving. Thank you, God bless your families & God bless the USA!”
In the second, Trump said: “I look forward to paying my respects to our brave men and women on this Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery later this morning.”
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NASA is setting its sights on getting a much closer, deeper look at Jupiter’s tantalizing moon, Europa, and the mysterious ocean hidden beneath its icy crust. With two orbital missions already in the works, by NASA and the European Space Agency, NASA is looking further into the future toward a possible mission to put a robot on the surface.
Europa’s ocean, which may lie under only a few miles of ice—perhaps only a few hundred feet in some places—may be as deep as 30 miles, and contains more water than in all of Earth’s oceans. With the possibility of some form of hydrothermal vents supplying heat and life-supporting chemicals on the ocean’s floor, like those on Earth, the tiny moon has become one of the hottest subjects in the search for extraterrestrial life in the solar system.
In advance of issuing a call for formal proposals, NASA is priming the scientific community to begin thinking about what set of scientific instruments should be included on a lander. Ultimately, ten proposals will be selected to proceed to a competitive concept study, which carries funding of $1.5 million for each selected group, who will have a year to submit their technical proposals.
Past spacecraft, including NASA’s Voyager and Galileo, gathered the first evidence leading to the discovery of Europa’s ocean: patterns in the cracks of the moon’s icy crust interpreted as ice sheets floating on water, as well as disturbances in Jupiter’s magnetic field in Europa’s vicinity that can be explained by the presence of a salty ocean.
Most recently, the Hubble Space Telescope detected plumes of water vapor erupting from Europa’s surface, further wetting scientists’ appetites to explore the liquid realm beneath.
Europa was discovered by Galileo in January 1610, along with three other large moons, the “Galileans.” Through a small telescope like Galileo’s, they appear as mere star-like dots, and for over 300 years that’s about all that humans could see of them. Only when the first robotic probe, Pioneer 10, passed through the Jupiter system did we get a closer picture.
Envisioning the lander
How would you design a robot to probe Europa’s deep dark waters from a landing site on the icy surface above? That’s the primary framing question for any competitive design concept. NASA will only select proposals that address specific scientific goals—namely, to look for evidence of life and a habitable environment in Europa’s ocean.
What instruments would you include? Ground-penetrating radar to survey structures in the moon’s crust? Chemical detectors to sniff for water vapor and other volatiles that may seep up from the ocean? Motion sensors to measure the movements of floating ice? Sensitive microphones to listen for any sounds penetrating the ice from below? NASA has issued just the right challenge to get imaginations churning….
It’s not technically feasible at present to deliver a probe directly to the waters under Europa’s ice crust—let alone to the ocean floor tens of miles below that—so a lander will need to do its job without direct visual inspection. Pictures of Europan jellyfish swimming around would be nice—but we can’t get a camera down there yet. It’s difficult enough exploring the depths of Earth’s oceans….
What else does the lander need?
The final design of the lander ultimately will comprise more than the scientific instruments it carries. There will be plenty of engineering challenges and considerations further along in the design process.
Simply landing the probe will require some serious thought. Unlike landings on Venus, Mars, and Saturn’s moon Titan, parachutes are not an option since Europa has no atmosphere to help slow a lander down. Some form of rocket-powered descent and soft touchdown might work.
Deciding where to land requires planning as well. A landing site where the ice is thin and the waters relatively near the surface could make it easier for the lander to measure properties of the ocean, but we know very little about the nature of Europa’s surface terrain. Other than a few pictures taken by passing spacecraft, Europa is mostly unexplored. Planners should get some guidance from surveys by upcoming missions–NASA’s Europa Clipper and ESA’s “JUICE“—but right now the icy moon is terra incognita.
Another design consideration is a lander’s end-of-mission disposition. The nuclear-powered Galileo spacecraft was deliberately incinerated in Jupiter’s atmosphere at the close of its mission, to prevent it from crashing into a moon like Europa and contaminating a potentially life-bearing environment. Even if the lander doesn’t carry nuclear power cells, an outer space version of environmental “green” responsibility is a requirement.
Scientists preparing concept proposals don’t need to concern themselves with the robot’s landing or safe-self-destruct modes right now–just its scientific capabilities. Now is the time for dreaming up how the lander might tell us what, if anything, is swimming in the waters of Europa.
Not so long ago, people like my Aunt Muriel thought of sunburn as a necessary evil on the way to a “good base tan.” She used to slather on the baby oil while using a large reflector to bake away. Aunt Muriel’s mantra when the inevitable burn and peel appeared: Beauty has its price.
Was she ever right about that price – but it was a lot higher than any of us at the time recognized. What sun addicts didn’t know then was that we were setting our skin up for damage to its structural proteins and DNA. Hello, wrinkles, liver spots and cancers. No matter where your complexion falls on the Fitzpatrick Skin Type scale, ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun or tanning beds will damage your skin.
Today, recognition of the risks posed by UV rays has motivated scientists, myself included, to study what’s going on in our cells when they’re in the sun – and devise modern ways to ward off that damage.
What happens when sun hits skin
Sunlight is composed of packets of energy called photons. The visible colors we can see by eye are relatively harmless to our skin; it’s the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light photons that can cause skin damage. UV light can be broken down into two categories: UVA (in the wavelength range 320-400 nanometers) and UVB (in the wavelength range 280–320 nm).
Our skin contains molecules that are perfectly structured to absorb the energy of UVA and UVB photons. This puts the molecule into an energetically excited state. And as the saying goes, what goes up must come down. In order to release their acquired energy, these molecules undergo chemical reactions – and in the skin that means there are biological consequences.
Interestingly, some of these effects used to be considered helpful adaptations – though we now recognize them as forms of damage. Tanning is due to the production of extra melanin pigment induced by UVA rays. Exposure to the sun also turns on the skin’s natural antioxidant network, which deactivates highly destructive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals; if left unchecked, these can cause cellular damage and oxidative stress within the skin.
We also know that UVA light penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB, destroying a structural protein called collagen. As collagen degrades, our skin loses its elasticity and smoothness, leading to wrinkles. UVA is responsible for many of the visible signs of aging, while UVB light is considered the primary source of sunburn. Think “A” for aging and “B” for burning.
DNA itself can absorb both UVA and UVB rays, causing mutations which, if unrepaired, can lead to non-melanoma (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma) or melanoma skin cancers. Other skin molecules pass absorbed UV energy on to those highly reactive ROS and free radicals. The resulting oxidative stress can overload the skin’s built-in antioxidant network and cause cellular damage. ROS can react with DNA, forming mutations, and with collagen, leading to wrinkles. They can also interrupt cell signaling pathways and gene expression.
The end result of all of these photoreactions is photodamage that accumulates over the course of a lifetime from repeated exposure. And – this cannot be emphasized enough – this applies to all skin types, from Type I (like Nicole Kidman) to Type VI (like Jennifer Hudson). Regardless of how much melanin we have in our skin, we can develop UV-induced skin cancers and we will all eventually see the signs of photo-induced aging in the mirror.
Filtering photons before the damage is done
The good news, of course, is that the risk of skin cancer and the visible signs of aging can be minimized by preventing overexposure to UV radiation. When you can’t avoid the sun altogether, today’s sunscreens have got your back (and all the rest of your skin too).
Sunscreens employ UV filters: molecules specifically designed to help reduce the amount of UV rays that reach through the skin surface. A film of these molecules forms a protective barrier either absorbing (chemical filters) or reflecting (physical blockers) UV photons before they can be absorbed by our DNA and other reactive molecules deeper in the skin.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration regulates sunscreens as drugs. Because we were historically most concerned with protecting against sunburn, 14 molecules that block sunburn-inducing UVB rays are approved for use. That we have just two UVA-blocking molecules available in the United States – avobenzone, a chemical filter; and zinc oxide, a physical blocker – is a testament to our more recent understanding that UVA causes trouble, not just tans.
The FDA also has enacted strict labeling requirements – most obviously about SPF (sun protection factor). On labels since 1971, SPF represents the relative time it takes for an individual to get sunburned by UVB radiation. For example, if it takes 10 minutes typically to burn, then, if used correctly, an SPF 30 sunscreen should provide 30 times that – 300 minutes of protection before sunburn.
“Used correctly” is the key phrase. Research shows that it takes about one ounce, or basically a shot glass-sized amount of sunscreen, to cover the exposed areas of the average adult body, and a nickel-sized amount for the face and neck (more or less, depending on your body size). The majority of people apply between a quarter to a half of the recommended amounts, placing their skin at risk for sunburn and photodamage.
In addition, sunscreen efficacy decreases in the water or with sweating. To help consumers, FDA now requires sunscreens labeled “water-resistant” or “very water-resistant” to last up to 40 minutes or 80 minutes, respectively, in the water, and the American Academy of Dermatology and other medical professional groups recommend reapplication immediately after any water sports. The general rule of thumb is to reapply about every two hours and certainly after water sports or sweating.
To get high SPF values, multiple UVB UV filters are combined into a formulation based upon safety standards set by the FDA. However, the SPF doesn’t account for UVA protection. For a sunscreen to make a claim as having UVA and UVB protection and be labeled “Broad Spectrum,” it must pass FDA’s Broad Spectrum Test, where the sunscreen is hit with a large does of UVB and UVA light before its effectiveness is tested.
This pre-irradiation step was established in FDA’s 2012 sunscreen labeling rules and acknowledges something significant about UV-filters: some can be photolabile, meaning they can degrade under UV irradiation. The most famous example may be PABA. This UVB-absorbing molecule is rarely used in sunscreens today because it forms photoproducts that elicit an allergic reaction in some people.
But the Broad Spectrum Test really came into effect only once the UVA-absorbing molecule avobenzone came onto the market. Avobenzone can interact with octinoxate, a strong and widely used UVB absorber, in a way that makes avobenzone less effective against UVA photons. The UVB filter octocrylene, on the other hand, helps stabilize avobenzone so it lasts longer in its UVA-absorbing form. Additionally, you may notice on some sunscreen labels the molecule ethylhexyl methoxycrylene. It helps stabilize avobenzone even in the presence of octinoxate, and provides us with longer-lasting protection against UVA rays.
Next up in sunscreen innovation is the broadening of their mission. Because even the highest SPF sunscreens don’t block 100 percent of UV rays, the addition of antioxidants can supply a second line of protection when the skin’s natural antioxidant defenses are overloaded. Some antioxidant ingredients my colleagues and I have worked with include tocopheral acetate (Vitamin E), sodium ascorbyl phosophate (Vitamin C), and DESM. And sunscreen researchers are beginning to investigate if the absorption of other colors of light, like infrared, by skin molecules has a role to play in photodamage.
As research continues, one thing we know for certain is that protecting our DNA from UV damage, for people of every color, is synonymous with preventing skin cancers. The Skin Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Dermatology all stress that research shows regular use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen prevents sunburn and reduces the risk of non-melanoma cancers by 40 percent and melanoma by 50 percent.
We can still enjoy being in the sun. Unlike my Aunt Muriel and us kids in the 1980s, we just need to use the resources available to us, from long sleeves to shade to sunscreens, in order to protect the molecules in our skin, especially our DNA, from UV damage.
Kerry Hanson is a research chemist at the University of California, Riverside. She has consulted for Bayer, J&J/Neutrogena and P&G. Her academic work has been funded by Hallstar and through a joint University of California Discovery Grant with Merck. She is a member of the American Chemical Society. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.
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While historians have portrayed him as everything from a nascent social justice warrior to a proto-Reaganite, his political record actually offers little insight into his legacy. A standard “Cold War liberal,” he endorsed the basic tenets of the New Deal at home and projected a stern, anti-Communist foreign policy. In fact, from an ideological standpoint, he differed little from countless other elected officials in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party or the liberal wing of the Republican Party.
Much greater understanding comes from adopting an altogether different strategy: approaching Kennedy as a cultural figure. From the beginning of his career, JFK’s appeal was always more about image than ideology, the emotions he channeled than the policies he advanced.
Generating an enthusiasm more akin to that of a popular entertainer than a candidate for national office, he was arguably America’s first “modern” president. Many subsequent presidents would follow the template he created, from Republicans Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump to Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
A cultural icon
JFK pioneered the modern notion of the president as celebrity. The scion of a wealthy family, he became a national figure as a young congressman for his good looks, high-society diversions and status as an “eligible bachelor.”
He hobnobbed with Hollywood actors such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis, hung out with models and befriended singers. He became a fixture in the big national magazines – Life, Look, Time, The Saturday Evening Post – which were more interested in his personal life than his political positions.
Later, Ronald Reagan, the movie actor turned politician, and Donald Trump, the tabloid fixture and star of “The Apprentice,” would translate their celebrity impulses into electoral success. Meanwhile, the saxophone-playing Bill Clinton and the smooth, “no drama” Obama – ever at ease on the talk show circuit – teased out variations of the celebrity role on the Democratic stage.
After Kennedy, it was the candidate with the most celebrity appeal who often triumphed in the presidential sweepstakes.
A master of the media
Kennedy also forged a new path with his skillful utilization of media technology. With his movie-star good looks, understated wit and graceful demeanor, he was a perfect fit for the new medium of television.
He was applauded for his televised speeches at the 1956 Democratic convention, and he later prevailed in the famous television debates of the 1960 presidential election. His televised presidential press conferences became media works of art as he deftly answered complex questions, handled reporters with aplomb and laced his responses with wit, quoting literary figures like the Frenchwoman Madame de Staël.
Two decades later, Reagan proved equally adept with television, using his acting skills to convey an earnest patriotism, while the lip-biting Clinton projected the natural empathy and communication skills of a born politician. Obama’s eloquence before the cameras became legendary, while he also became an early adopter of social media to reach and organize his followers.
Trump, of course, emerged from a background in reality television and adroitly employed Twitter to circumvent a hostile media establishment, generate attention and reach his followers.
The vigorous male
Finally, JFK reshaped public leadership by exuding a powerful, masculine ideal. As I explore in my book, “JFK and the Masculine Mystique: Sex and Power on the New Frontier,” he emerged in a postwar era colored by mounting concern over the degeneration of the American male. Some blamed the shifting labor market for turning men from independent, manual laborers into corpulent, desk-bound drones within sprawling bureaucracies. Others pointed to suburban abundance for transforming men into diaper-changing denizens of the easy chair and backyard barbecue. And many thought that the advancement of women in the workplace would emasculate their male coworkers.
Enter Jack Kennedy, who promised a bracing revival of American manhood as youthful and vigorous, cool and sophisticated.
In his famous “New Frontier” speech, he announced that “young men are coming to power – men who are not bound by the traditions of the past – young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.”
In a Sports Illustrated article titled “The Soft American,” he advocated a national physical fitness crusade. He endorsed a tough-minded realism to shape the counterinsurgency strategies that were deployed to combat Communism, and he embraced the buccaneering style of the CIA and the Green Berets. He championed the Mercury Seven astronauts as sturdy, courageous males who ventured out to conquer the new frontier of space.
JFK’s successors adopted many of these same masculine themes. Reagan positioned himself as a manly, tough-minded alternative to a weak, vacillating Jimmy Carter. Clinton presented himself as a pragmatic, assertive, virile young man whose hardscrabble road to success contrasted with the privileged, preppy George H.W. Bush. Obama impressed voters as a vigorous, athletic young man who scrimmaged with college basketball teams – a contrast to the cranky, geriatric John McCain and a stiff, pampered Mitt Romney.
More recently, of course, Trump’s outlandish masculinity appealed to many traditionalists unsettled by a wave of gender confusion, women in combat, weeping millennial “snowflakes” and declining numbers of physically challenging manufacturing jobs in the country’s post-industrial economy. No matter how crudely, the theatrically male businessman promised a remedy.
So as we look back at John F. Kennedy a century after his birth, it seems ever clearer that he ascended the national stage as our first modern president. Removed from an American political tradition of grassroots electioneering, sober-minded experience and bourgeois morality, this youthful, charismatic leader reflected a new political atmosphere that favored celebrity appeal, media savvy and masculine vigor. He was the first American president whose place in the cultural imagination dwarfed his political positions and policies.
Just as style made the man with Kennedy, it also remade the American presidency. It continues to do so today.
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Several dozen veterans from Kentucky marked Memorial Day this year with an early visit to Washington, D.C., made possible by the Honor Flight program, which brings veterans and their guardians to the nation’s capital for free.
Some in their 80s and 90s, these men and women served in combat and as medics and mechanics, in the freezing cold of Germany and France during World War II, to the tropics of Vietnam. They spoke ill of war itself but admiringly of each other. And they were grateful for the applauding crowds that greeted them as they visited the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam memorials, many for the first time.
“When war is thrust upon you, you have one of two alternatives: to conquer or be conquered,” said Gus Ridgel, who served in Korea. After a visit to the memorials and Arlington National Cemetery, he said, “It’s impressive when you look at the recognition that the men and women who have died over the years, for your generation to be able to breathe a breath of freedom.”
“I was in Italy, but I’m no hero,” veteran Robert Kock said. “I didn’t do anything great, just what I was told to do. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t expect that big of a crowd and I didn’t expect all the reception we got here, just amazing.”
Reporting and documentary by Jailen Leavell, a senior at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Kentucky, and a member of one of our Student Reporting Labs.
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Longtime Sports Illustrated writer and NPR commentator Frank Deford, an esteemed sports journalist known for his colorful commentary, died Monday at his home, his wife told the Washington Post. He was 78.
Fans and colleagues of the Baltimore-born journalist say he transformed the way Americans think about sports, weaving intimate portraits of coaches and athletes and bringing statistics to life with his distinctive style of storytelling.
“He wanted to show a largely non-sports audience that sports were closer to them than they thought,” NPR’s Tom Goldman wrote in a piece about Deford’s retirement earlier this month.
“You’re writing about young, vibrant people; there are wins and losses. In other words, it’s great drama,” Deford told the Atlantic in 2012.
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After graduating from Princeton University, Deford started his career at Sports Illustrated in 1962, earning the nickname “Frank De-Freud” for the way he was able to so deeply dive into his interviewee’s psyche, he told Goldman earlier this month.
In 1979, he was approached by a sports producer at NPR’s Morning Edition to start a weekly sports radio spot. Deford told Goldman he was “something of a ham.” So while he thought of himself as a writer, he said, “it wasn’t as if you had to drag the words out of my vocal chords” for radio.
In 1981, Deford was “something of a ham” in this Miller Lite commercial with former baseball player Marv Throneberry and Oakland A’s manager Billy Martin
Deford thought he’d last a few months, he recalled in that interview. But from 1980 until the beginning of May 2017, Deford came on the air every Wednesday, filing more than 1,600 commentaries that included Shakespearian takes on the Superbowl and closer looks at controversial issues like academic fraud in collegiate athletics and challenges faced by gay male athletes.
“When Frank came on, being outrageous, it was very much what we wanted in our commentators,” former Morning Edition producer Ketzel Levine told NPR. “He just kind of took it in a whole different direction that no one had really taken it before.”
In 1989, he became editor-in-chief of “The National,” a daily sports newspaper that went out of print 18 months later. Deford continued to contribute to Sports Illustrated, as well as magazines such as Vanity Fair and Newsweek. But his work spanned genres — he was a regular commentator on CNN, and, since 1995, contributed to HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”
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He appeared several times on PBS NewsHour. In 1998, he described first baseman Mark McGwire as “precious” after the MLB star set a new home-run record. He criticized the Olympics’ lack of diversity, calling the Winter Games “almost all white athletes being watching by almost all white people.” In 2006, he participated in a debate on whether the U.S. would warm to soccer — a sport he famously loathed.
“Someone had to stand up to the yackety-yak soccer cult,” he wrote in his farewell from NPR earlier this month, referring to the heat he’d taken for his treatment of the sport over the years.
He was also an author of 18 books. While his fiction sometimes focused on sports, he also wrote stories closer to the heart. He chronicled the life and death of his daughter in “Alex: The Life of a Child,” a memoir that shared her struggle with cystic fibrosis; it was made into a movie starring Craig Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia. After Alex died in 1980, Deford became president of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a position he held until 1999. He remained president emeritus until his death.
Deford was a six-time winner of the U.S. Sportswriter of the Year award and twice earned the honor of Washington Journalism Review’s magazine writer of the year. In 2013, President Barack Obama gave him the National Humanities Medal; he also earned a spot in the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
In 2013, he became the first sports journalist to receive the W.M. Kiplinger Award for Distinguished Contributions to Journalism — the National Press Foundation’s highest honor.
In a 2008 interview with Deadspin, when ask if he’d felt pressure to adapt to the changing media market, he said “you have to do what the market requires of you … You either keep swimming, or you sink.”
“I have survived so long because I’ve been blessed with talented and gracious colleagues, and with a top brass who let me choose my topics every week and then allowed me to express opinions that were not always popular,” he said in his final piece — an ode to Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s final performances — May 5.
“And perhaps just as important, I’ve been blessed with you, with a broad and intelligent audience — even if large portions thereof haven’t necessarily given a hoot about sports … NPR allowed me to treat sports seriously, as another branch on the tree of culture.”
See more memories of Deford in the Twitter moment below.
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By Camille T. Dungy
I supposed you have food there, too, but here it is summer
and we have asparagus, avocado, and stone fruit.
I am so happy.
The yard trees of my youth yield more fruit than we can handle.
I was going to bake chicken with cherries and apricot,
but already it is too hot. I can’t turn on the oven.
Sometimes I bite straight into plums.
Other times I slice them to serve on a platter.
Sometimes I want to move away
so I must remember everything I used to love: stone fruit and asparagus,
draughts of eucalyptus carried through the window on the wind.
It is now, at the end of May, when stone fruits start to be in season. Cherries, apricots, peaches, plums — those fleshy and sometimes delicate fruits, best enjoyed in warm weather, that contain a pit inside. In “Against Nostalgia,” a poem from Camille T. Dungy’s new poetry collection, she celebrates stone fruits and their role in her memories of summer.
“There’s something about being able to be excited about summer and its bounty,” Dungy said. “And this poem is asking myself to remember that that kind of excitement doesn’t have to be place-specific or even time-specific. That I can have a really wonderful memory that is not painful nostalgia, but a kind of joy.”
Much of Dungy’s new collection, “Trophic Cascade,” does this: it asks us, in spite of the pain or difficulty of being human today, to find joy and vibrancy in our experiences. The poems examine modern-day problems such as environmental degradation, the difficulties of living as an African African, and ongoing war and violence. But there is also a strain of hope that runs through them.
“I suppose I could curl into a ball, but that doesn’t seem like a particularly effective survival method,” Dungy said. “Instead, I think: how can I write into hope, into possibility, into survival.”
“Trophic Cascade” is the fourth in a series of what Dungy calls “survival narratives” — each set in different centuries, and each concerned with how we survive in the face of crisis. This new collection, set in the 21st century, takes its title from the scientific term for when a top predator is added or removed from an ecosystem, often causing a cascading effect on the food chain.
That idea, Dungy said, resonated with her not only as an environmental concept, but also because she wrote the book as a new mother.
“The trophic creature in the book is metaphorically my child,” whose arrival changed everything, she said.
As her daughter, who is now 7, grows up, Dungy said, she has learned not to bemoan the loss of each previous state, but instead enjoy the person her daughter has become.
“And so as I wrote, I was thinking about her leaving those states, as much as about leaving that stone fruit,” said Dungy. “It’s a push against nostalgia. It’s trying to figure out a way to hold more happiness than despair.”
Below, listen to Dungy read the poem “Against Nostalgia”:
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Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade, and the essay collection Guidebook to Relative Strangers. She has also edited anthologies including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, 100 Best African American Poems, and many other print and online venues. She is a professor at Colorado State University.
In late 2016, Dr. Francis Delmonico saw an unknown number coming up on his phone. The Vatican was calling.
“One minute please for the foreign minister,” said the voice on the other end of the line.
A controversy was brewing. Delmonico, a leading voice on ethical organ transplantation, had planned a February 2017 summit in Rome for representatives of more than 40 countries to discuss the ethics of transplanting organs and to sign a pledge to uphold high standards.
But there was a hitch: A key invitee to the forum was Dr. Jiefu Huang, who has led reform of China’s organ donation practices. Critics, including some in the Vatican, wanted at the summit no representatives of China, which for years sold and transplanted organs from executed prisoners.
Delmonico, however, saw the Chinese presence as a good thing. It was “an opportunity for them to proclaim a new day and be accountable” that the practice has stopped, he said. In fact, some of the Chinese old guard have attacked Huang because of his efforts to stamp out unethical and corrupt methods of obtaining organs.
The Catholic Church’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, was calling for an explanation.
“Here’s an opportunity to do something that no one has been able to do thus far,” Delmonico recalls telling Gallagher. It was a chance to get China to sign a statement saying it is wrong to use executed prisoners’ organs.
“They are part of the problem, but they are also part of the solution,” Delmonico said.
“‘Okay Frank, have your meeting,” Delmonico remembers Gallagher saying. “The pope knows you’re here.’”
Pope Francis did not attend, but Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences did. In a significant development, China signed the summit’s statement condemning the use of organs from prisoners and advocating the creation of national laws to prosecute transplant-related crimes. Beijing’s two delegates were joined by 75 other signatories representing more than 50 institutions and more than 40 nations at the conference. Delmonico called it a “seminal event” in the fight for global reform.
Delmonico, a Harvard Medical School professor, has spent more than a decade focusing on China. At the same time, he has led the fight to establish global ethics principles that now govern how human organs are obtained and transplanted. The reforms have affected scores of countries on six continents. Still, organ trafficking is spiking in countries like Egypt and Pakistan, presenting new challenges to Delmonico and his colleagues.
At the Vatican conference, participants heard a number of stories about poor individuals whose efforts to sell their kidneys went awry. Los Angeles Times South Asia Correspondent Shashank Bengali told the story about a migrant laborer named Sundar Singh Jatav. Jatav, 23, was from a village in Northern India. He went to Mumbai, India, looking for work. In 2015, his boss told him he could make money selling his kidney and introduced him to an organ broker. Jatav was offered $10,000, enough to pay off his family’s debts. At the hospital where Jatav was to have his kidney removed, he was told by three doctors that donating a kidney is “no different than giving blood.”
His kidney was removed in March 2016.
But Jatav was never paid, so he leaked part of the forged transplant application, which stated, incorrectly, that he and the recipient of his kidney are relatives, as required by law in India.
According to LA Times reporter Shashank, the Indian police raided the hospital and stopped the recipient from receiving the kidney.
Jatav “fears retaliation by the ‘organ mafia’ and has requested police protection,” according to Shashank. “His appetite has diminished, he has bouts of dizziness, and he cannot walk for more than a few minutes without fatigue — symptoms he blames on the kidney procedure, even though such complications are rare. He does not have money to see a doctor,” Shashank reports.
The story of Jatav is not an isolated case. The organ traffickers who never paid him were arrested.
By bringing the stories of organ trafficking victims to the Vatican, Delmonico sought to mobilize the assembled transplant doctors from around the world and empower them to address the recent rise in trafficking.
Starting in the mid-1990s, the world saw an increase in a practice called “transplant tourism,” a form of organ trafficking in which an individual travels to a country such as China or India and pays for an organ transplant in cash. Typically, the purpose is to circumvent wait lists in both the individual’s home country and in the country where the transplant is performed.
In many cases, transplant tourism marginalizes poor individuals in those countries who are pressured into selling organs. Those individuals are usually paid very little and receive inadequate follow-up medical care.
Organ trafficking had been on the radar of the World Health Organization for years. The agency had issued guidance on the purchase and sale of human organs at the World Health Assembly conference in 1987. But “WHO did not follow-up,” said WHO Clinical Procedures Coordinator Dr. Luc Noel.
By 2005, transplant tourism had grown to account for more than 10 percent of the world’s more than 90,000 annual kidney, heart and liver transplants. The rise worried the WHO and global experts, a situation one doctor described as “chaos.”
At the same time there was a split among medical professional organizations about whether organ trafficking was seen as a problem, Noel said. For example, in 2006, the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) had a questionnaire on their web site, polling its members on whether or not it would be permissible to buy and sell kidneys. To Dr. Noel, this reflected an ambiguous approach to organ trafficking. “You don’t carry a poll about should kidneys be sold or not, if you have clear [ethical] views” on the matter, he told the NewsHour.
Some transplant professionals saw organ trafficking as their responsibility to eliminate.
“The people who are engaged in this activity all went to medical school and they all got training,” said UCLA’s Danovitch. “They’re surgeons and physicians, and they’re nurses, and they’re anesthesiologists, and they’re hospital administrators.”
“It’s our problem to deal with it,” he added in an interview. “It’s our black mark.”
Delmonico feared the ISN questionnaire would be a setback to the cause. He called Dr. Mohamed Sayegh, who had been president of the American Society of Transplantation and worked closely with the ISN leadership.
“Mo, what can we do about this?,” he asked.
Delmonico and Sayegh met at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. They decided to convene a conference of doctors and professional medical associations, laying the grounds for what would become the 2008 Declaration of Istanbul.
The Istanbul declaration, now translated into 14 languages and endorsed by more than 100 organizations, laid out an international consensus for organ transplant ethics and denounced organ trafficking, transplant tourism and transplant commercialism. The Declaration brought together 78 of the 90 countries with an organ transplantation system.
The Istanbul conference also established a so-called “Custodian Group”: a network of doctors around the world that report to each other whenever there is a case of organ trafficking. The group also monitors the laws and policies of governments and medical institutions.
The principles enshrined in Istanbul “made it very clear…what our standards are,” said Jeremy Chapman, former president of the Transplantation Society and the editor-in-chief of the group’s journal, Transplantation. “There could be no doubt about the profession’s disapproval of unethical forms of organ donation,” Chapman said.
Before the declaration, organ trafficking and transplant tourism were “a total mess,” said Dr. Jacob Lavee, founder of Israel’s largest heart transplant unit. Frank Delmonico, he said, was the driving force behind the improvements in global practices.
It was “Frank’s personal achievement to recruit, in almost every country in the world, key figures among the transplant world willing to cooperate and implement the declaration,” Lavee said.
Delmonico, 71, retired from performing surgeries about four years ago, and his role since then is more as a diplomat than a medical doctor. He has traveled to more than 70 countries and, by his estimates, has logged more than 700,000 airline miles in his years fighting organ trafficking and building ethical organ transplant policies around the world.
“This guy lives in a plane, lives in a suitcase,” Sayegh said. “He is maniacally driven for a cause.”
Delmonico passed up a more tranquil retirement for a grueling travel schedule and says he has no regrets. He recently traveled to eight countries in three months.
“In your lifetime, you get a chance to contribute,” Delmonico said during a Skype interview with the PBS NewsHour from a library at the Vatican, during a March trip to Rome. “Here’s a chance to contribute.”
Delmonico, who considered the priesthood as a young man, sees his work as a calling. Medicine for him is about “the whole dimension of the individual, not just a matter of organ or some organ problem, but the whole of the person. The spiritual side of the person as well.”
“That’s what made me become a doctor,” he said.
A bloody history
Delmonico’s work with China began in 2005 when he received a call from Huang who asked him to help with a problem. Huang at the time was China’s vice-minister of health. Delmonico was an advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), a position he still holds today.
Huang told Delmonico that people from around the world were coming to China for transplants and that the organs were from executed prisoners, a practice the Chinese physician said he wanted to end. The international community condemns the practice as unethical. Delmonico agreed to work with China to develop a transplantation system based on voluntary live donations or from people who die in hospitals, rather than from executed prisoners.
While Huang wanted reform, some Chinese doctors were worried they would lose their sole source of organs for transplants. Other doctors and officials were making money by selling organs from executed prisoners and did not want the lucrative practice stopped, Delmonico said. Chinese hospital websites advertised kidney transplants for $62,000, and a heart transplant between $130,000 and $160,000.
To discourage organ profiteering, Delmonico and other Western doctors agreed to boycott all papers from China that relied on data involving organs from executed prisoners. Delmonico and his colleagues also penned an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for the practice to stop as a way “to rid Chinese society of corruption.”
In December 2014, Huang declared on behalf of the Chinese government that starting on January 1, 2015, his nation would no longer use organs from executed prisoners.
Has China turned a corner?
Today, China is looking to expand its volunteer donor base for the estimated 300,000 Chinese patients on the organ transplant waiting list. Chinese volunteers now number just over 4,000, which is still low by international standards. But some experts say the transition from hardly any volunteer donors to the current number is a concrete sign of reform.
At issue is how the Chinese government defines legal death.
For many years, the government only accepted donation after circulatory death (DCD), which occurs when the heart stops beating. China did not believe in brain death. However, taking organs after circulatory death is less desirable, because once the heart stops beating, organs start to decay and there is little time to transplant them. That limits the number of available organs.
Delmonico pioneered the concept of donation after brain death and circulatory death (DBCD), which occurs when all circulation to the brain stops and consciousness is permanently lost. While legally dead, the donor still has a heartbeat, which gives doctors more time to find a match and complete the transplant.
“Frank helped us create a Chinese classification of organ donation, melding between brain death and cardiac death to overcome the cultural barrier of organ donation in China,” Huang told the NewsHour in an interview.
“Frank came in and helped us to revisit every step and help[ed] us find a way that [was] technically and ethically acceptable in China and the international community,” said Wang, the head of China’s organ transplant response system.
But critics say Delmonico’s declaration that China has turned the corner on using organs from executed prisoners could be jumping the gun, lacking firmer evidence of reform.
“Why rush to integrate China in the international transplant community without investigating on three decades of transplant abuse?” Dr. Torsten Trey, a founding member and executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, wrote in an email to NewsHour. Trey also condemned China’s inclusion in the Vatican conference.
Also at issue is who was being abused. Dr. Jacob Lavee, President of Israel Society of Transplantation, says while China has admitted to using organs from executed inmates, it has not admitted that many of the prisoners were actually prisoners of conscience–political dissidents, ethnic minorities such as the Uighurs, and practitioners of Falun Gong, a form of Chinese meditation and exercise with a spiritual underpinning, among others.
The NewsHour spoke to Chinese practitioners of Falun Gong who were arrested and detained several times between 1999 and 2009. Wang Chunying, a nurse from Liaoning Province, described one incident in which she was forced to give blood. She suspected the purpose of the blood draw was to determine if she would be a good match for organ donation.
“The atmosphere was very tense and horrific,” she said. She resisted, she said, but was pinned down by nine policemen as they drew blood from her leg. Wang said the policemen claimed they were checking the prisoners to make sure they did not have infections, But she said since prisoners were treated badly, it did not make sense that detention officials would care if the prisoners were sick. “The living conditions were terrible in the reeducation camp. They didn’t care about whether we live or die. One of us got his finger cut through by the needle when working on sewing machines. The unit guard simply pulled out the needle, opened the case of the machine, put some oil from the sewing machine to the injured finger and then told her to go back to work.”
Lavee says because of stories like this, the boycott on China should continue until the country allows international inspections to verify that organs are not coming from executed prisoners.
“Frank is simply willing right now to close one of his eyes and be blind to what continues to go on while celebrating the fact that there has been some reform in China,” Lavee said.
Delmonico, who has visited China nearly a dozen times and toured transplant clinics, concludes China has made dramatic strides in reforming its transplantation processes. But he suspects that the practice of obtaining organs from executed prisoners continues, at least in part .
“I can say to you [transplant tourism is] markedly reduced,” Delmonico said. “But can I assure you or the rest of the world that it’s completely stopped? I can’t.”
A new form of slavery
Reflecting from a library in the Vatican in late March, Delmonico conceded he was disappointed in some ways with the Rome conference in February.
“It’s a great disappointment that [Pope Francis] didn’t come…to the conference,” Delmonico said, “and he didn’t come because of the Chinese problem.”
Delmonico said he anticipated the potential controversy but didn’t foresee its magnitude. Still, if he had it to do over, he would lead the conference the same way, including Huang and Wang as participants.
“I wouldn’t have the meeting without them,” Delmonico said.
A number of doctors who attended the conference said the pope’s endorsement of its mission not only added the Vatican’s moral authority that Delmonico sought, but the conference statement has become a tool to spur further action.
Newly energized, many of the more than 60 doctors that met in Rome have returned home, seeking endorsements for the Vatican summit’s principles and working to create new laws and regulations making it illegal to engage in organ trafficking.
In 2016, Pope Francis listed organ trafficking as one of the “new forms of slavery” and “true crimes against humanity.” The conference’s program included a handwritten note from the pope. It would be a good idea, he wrote, to “examine human trafficking and modern slavery.”
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Memorial Day, of course, is the traditional kickoff to summer. And for many of us, that means time to catch up on our reading.
Jeffrey Brown brings us some suggestions from our “NewsHour” Bookshelf.
JEFFREY BROWN: Some of us go for lighter fare. Some catch up on missed readings, and others go for rereadings of old favorites.
We get some summer picks from two prominent writers who also own bookstores.
Louise Erdrich is author of 15 novels, as well as nonfiction and poetry. Her most recent novel is “LaRose.” Prior to that, “The Round House” was winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. She’s the owner of Birchbark Books in Minneapolis. And Emma Straub’s novels include “Modern Lovers” and “The Vacationers.” She is co-owner with her husband of the Brooklyn, New York bookstore Books Are Magic.
And welcome to both of you.
I’m guessing that you both are year-round readers, but let me start with you, Louise.
Does summer reading have a particular resonance for you, the things you go after?
LOUISE ERDRICH, Author, “LaRose”: It does.
I’m here in Minnesota, so I go to the lake, and I bring a load of books, and I sink into them, and read wherever I am around a lake. That’s how we do it.
JEFFREY BROWN: That’s how you do it in Minnesota, huh?
LOUISE ERDRICH: And that’s how we do it. It’s reading on the dock. It’s reading if you’re floating in the lake. It’s reading if it rains, everything. That’s where you read, and you can read yourself into a sort of stupor, which you then solve with a lot of grilled meat.
JEFFREY BROWN: And Emma Straub, what do you do in the summer for reading?
EMMA STRAUB, Author, “Modern Lovers”: Well, starting this summer, I’m just going to go to Louise’s house by the lake with a stack of books and wait for grilled meat.
LOUISE ERDRICH: It will be great. Yes, it’s how it happens.
EMMA STRAUB: It sounds perfect. It sounds perfect.
I guess I have always thought of summer reading as like the stack of books I would bring with me to summer camp, you know, when you have no other options. So you have to bring as many as you will think you will read. And then, when you read all of those books in three days, you have your parents send you another box and another box.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, Louise, you’re going to start us off with a crime thriller, right? What is it?
LOUISE ERDRICH: I am.
Actually, there are 25 of Donna Leon’s crime mysteries set in Venice. Venice itself becomes a character in these books. It’s “Eternal,” and eternal fragility is really encapsulated in the books in an effortless way. It’s part of the tension of these books.
They’re Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries. You become so wrapped up in these compelling characters, that I think you could go through all 25 this summer. I think you could, Jeff. Each one is better than the last.
JEFFREY BROWN: Alright, Emma, what do you want to start off with a — something comparable?
EMMA STRAUB: Well, you know, it’s funny. I think my picks are sort of going in the opposite direction, which is, rather than having like an entire body of something to dive into, what I have been leaning toward recently are things that come in small packages.
So, that is short stories and essay collections, in particular two essay collections, a woman named Durga Chew-Bose’s “Too Much and Not the Mood,” which looks like a work of art and is a work of art. They are essays about identity, and family, and becoming an adult
JEFFREY BROWN: And the other?
EMMA STRAUB: It’s called “Sunshine State” by a woman named Sarah Gerard. And it’s an essay collection about Florida. And it’s a deep dive into identity and weirdness and location and family. And I think that, together, these books just point toward a really exciting and fresh new corner of American essays in particular.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, Louise, you also had some other choices on the list you sent us, a little more serious nonfiction and poetry.
LOUISE ERDRICH: I do.
And I don’t think people usually take poetry to the beach to read, but this book has been sold by its cover for quite some time.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we should say, its called “When My Brother Was an Aztec,” right, by Natalie Diaz.
LOUISE ERDRICH: It is.
Natalie Diaz is a powerhouse of a writer. And this book is a wild ride. It has headlong rushes of ecstatic, beautiful language, small details about life on Mojave Reservation. Natalie Diaz is Mojave.
And this is set in Arizona mainly, but it’s also, of course, set in her heart and her head. And there’s a sensibility that is so dark, but so funny. It’s just such a rich, compelling piece of literature. You know, it’s just the kind of book that you want to live with each poem for a while.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, Emma, you gave us some essay collections. How about a fiction, a beach fiction escape?
EMMA STRAUB: There’s a new collection of short stories that just came out a couple of weeks ago by a young woman named Lesley Nneka Arimah. It’s called ” What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky.”
It’s about family and relationships. And it’s got a gorgeous cover. And it’s been sitting there at the very front of my bookstore. And I keep walking past and fondling it, and picking it up and waiting for the right time to bring it home. I’m really excited to read that one.
JEFFREY BROWN: And you mentioned there was a novel.
EMMA STRAUB: It’s called “Do Not Become Alarmed.” And the reason that it’s almost cruel to recommend for vacation reading is because it is a vacation gone extremely, horribly, horribly wrong. It’s about…
JEFFREY BROWN: Enjoy your vacation right?
EMMA STRAUB: If you’re going on a cruise, I do not recommend that you bring this book.
It’s about two families who go on a cruise together. And they decide to disembark the boat one day and go and go and have a little adventure. And then the children get separated from their parents, and a lot of things go really, really badly.
But it’s an incredibly gripping thriller. It’s one of those books that you really will stay up late to read. And you’re just saying, oh, I will just read one more chapter, I will just read one more chapter, which is, it’s so delicious when you get one of those books.
JEFFREY BROWN: OK, let me just ask you both very briefly for a re-reading, some old favorite.
Louise, you first.
LOUISE ERDRICH: I’m thinking about all of Lorrie Moore’s books. It was such a pleasure to read them the first time. And I thought, I just want to reexperience them the way I did before.
So I started “Bark” again, “Birds of America.” I have “Who Will Run The Frog Hospital.” Of course, she’s known for her extremely sharp wit, sharp observations, her tremendous ability to capture the moments between couples that where they grate against each other or where they come together.
Those are beautiful moments in the book. And, sometimes, they’re very poignant.
JEFFREY BROWN: OK, Emma Straub, briefly, your re-read?
EMMA STRAUB: So, my re-read choice is Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad.”
When I read it, it just — I felt kind of like I had been hit over the head with a frying pan. I just — you know, I thought stars were twirling around my head like a cartoon character. I just was gobsmacked. And every time I have dipped my toe back in, I am delighted all over again.
JEFFREY BROWN: OK, now, we’re going to have more books from your list online. And viewers can go there later on.
For now, summer books with Louise Erdrich and Emma Straub.
Thank you both very much.
EMMA STRAUB: Thank you.
LOUISE ERDRICH: Thank you.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some terrific suggestions there.
The post Louise Erdrich and Emma Straub share summer reads you won’t want to put down appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Federal authorities are investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at Veterans Affairs hospitals, a sign the problem isn’t going away as more prescriptions disappear.
Data obtained by The Associated Press show 36 criminal investigations opened by the VA inspector general’s office from Oct. 1 through May 19. It brings the total number of open criminal cases to 108 involving theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges.
The numbers are an increase from a similar period in the previous year. The VA has pledged “zero tolerance” in drug thefts following an AP story in February about a sharp rise in reported cases of stolen or missing drugs at the VA since 2009. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff in the VA’s network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics are suspected of siphoning away controlled substances for their own use or street sale — sometimes to the harm of patients — or drugs simply vanished without explanation.
Drug thefts are a growing problem at private hospitals as well as the government-run VA as the illegal use of opioids has increased in the United States. But separate data from the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. DEA investigators cited in part a larger quantity of drugs kept in stock at the bigger VA medical centers to treat a higher volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, and for distribution of prescriptions by mail.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said AP’s findings were “troubling.” He urged Congress to pass bipartisan accountability legislation he was co-sponsoring that would give the agency “the tools needed to dismiss employees engaged in misconduct.” The Senate is set to vote on the bill June 6.
“The theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA,” Rubio said.
In February, the VA announced efforts to combat drug thefts, including employee drug tests and added inspections. Top VA officials in Washington led by VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged to be more active, holding conference calls with health facilities to develop plans and reviewing data to flag problems. The department said it would consider more internal audits.
Criminal investigators said it was hard to say whether new safeguards are helping.
“Prescription drug diversion is a multifaceted, egregious health care issue,” said Jeffrey Hughes, the acting VA assistant inspector general for investigations. “Veterans may be denied necessary medications or their proper dosage and medical records may contain false information to hide the diversion, further putting veterans’ health at risk.”
Responding, the VA said it was working to develop additional policies “to improve drug safety and reduce drug theft and diversion across the entire health care system.”
“We have security protocols in place and will continue to work hard to improve it,” Poonam Alaigh, VA’s acting undersecretary for health, told the AP.
In one case, a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Ward at the VA medical center in Richmond, Virginia, was recently sentenced after admitting to stealing oxycodone tablets and fentanyl patches from VA medication dispensers. The nurse said she would sometimes shortchange the amount of pain medication prescribed to patients, taking the remainder to satisfy her addiction.
Hughes cited in particular the risk of patient harm. “Health care providers who divert for personal use may be providing care while under the influence of narcotics,” he said.
AP’s story in February had figures documenting the sharp rise in drug thefts at federal hospitals, most of them VA facilities. Subsequently released DEA data provide more specific details of the problem at the VA. Drug losses or theft increased from 237 in 2009 to 2,844 in 2015, before dipping to 2,397 last year. In only about 3 percent of those cases have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined, according to VA data.
At private hospitals, reported drug losses or theft also rose — from 2,023 in 2009 to 3,185 in 2015, before falling slightly to 3,154 last year. There is a bigger pool of private U.S. hospitals, at least 4,369, according to the American Hospital Association. That means the rate of drug loss or theft is lower than VA’s.
The VA inspector general’s office said it had opened 25 cases in the first half of the budget year that began Oct. 1. That is up from 21 in the same period in 2016.
The IG’s office said the number of newly opened criminal probes had previously been declining since 2014.
Michael Glavin, an IT specialist at the VA, says he’s heard numerous employee complaints of faulty VA technical systems that track drug inventories, leading to errors and months of delays in identifying when drugs go missing. Prescription drug shipments aren’t always fully inventoried when they arrive at a VA facility, he said, making it difficult to determine if a drug was missing upon arrival or stolen later.
“It’s still the same process,” said Glavin, who heads the local union at the VA medical center in Columbia, Missouri. The union’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, says whistleblowers at other VA hospitals have made similar complaints.
Criminal investigators stressed the need for a continuing drug prevention effort. The VA points to inventory checks every 72 hours and “double lock and key access” to drugs. It attributes many drug loss cases to reasons other than employee theft, such as drugs lost in transit. But the DEA says some of those cases may be wrongly classified.
“Inventories are always an issue as to who’s watching or checking it,” said Tom Prevoznik, a DEA deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations. “What are the employees doing, and who’s watching them?”
The post AP Report: Feds investigate dozens of new cases of possible drug theft from Veterans Affairs hospitals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Decades ago, China began a practice that human rights advocates and medical ethicists condemned: taking organs, such as kidneys and livers, from executed prisoners to transplant into people who needed them.
The Chinese government says it’s reformed the practice. Now they say they only recover organs from volunteers. But some say the practice continues.
Hari Sreenivasan and producer Dan Sagalyn have the story.
HARI SREENIVASAN: This is when a life is renewed. A transplant surgeon, seen here, removes a kidney from a volunteer donor and inserts it into someone whose kidneys are failing.
In most cases, patients who need a new organ have to wait months or years before one is available. But this man, who told us he had end-stage kidney disease 11 years ago, could wait no longer.
KIDNEY TRANSPLANT PATIENT (through interpreter): I was on dialysis already two years, and I was constantly going downhill.
HARI SREENIVASAN: We met him in Vancouver, Canada. He asked that we conceal his identity by hiding his face and replacing his voice to protect his privacy.
KIDNEY TRANSPLANT PATIENT (through interpreter): They called these people the living dead. You just haven’t died yet, but you’re gone.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Because of his age and rare blood type, he says he would have died before reaching the top of the waiting list for a new kidney. So, urged by family and friends, he went to China’s capital, Beijing, in 2006. Within one week, he received a new kidney. He says he paid $10,000 for the transplant.
In Canada, it would have been free, since the government pays for health care. In the U.S., the average hospital charge for a kidney transplant is $150,000. Traveling to another country for this kind of surgery is called transplant tourism.
KIDNEY TRANSPLANT PATIENT (through interpreter): I went there dead. I came back alive.
HARI SREENIVASAN: On average, 22 people die every day in the United States waiting for a transplant. The median wait time for a lung here is four months, a heart almost a year, and a kidney two years. Transplant tourists understandably have been drawn to other countries by promises of little to no wait.
It’s not just Canada that generates transplant tourists to China. On the other side of the world, at about the same time, an Israeli doctor had a patient who also needed a transplant.
DR. JACOB LAVEE, Transplant Surgeon: Back in 2005, a patient of mine came to me one day and told me, doc, I’m fed up waiting here in Israel for a suitable heart donor to become available, and I was told — that’s what he told me — by my insurance company that I should go to China because they have scheduled me to undergo heart transplantation. And he specified a specific date two weeks ahead of time.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Heart surgeon Dr. Jacob Lavee is president of the Israel Society of Transplantation. While kidney transplants can involve obtaining a kidney from a living donor, that is not the case with a heart transplant.
DR. JACOB LAVEE: If a patient was promised to undergo a heart transplant on a specific date, this could only mean that the — those who promised that knew ahead of time when his potential donor would be dead.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Human rights investigator Ethan Gutmann and lawyer David Matas have testified before Congress about China’s transplant system.
DAVID MATAS, Human Rights Lawyer: It is unconscionable to kill a healthy, innocent person so that a sick person can live.
HARI SREENIVASAN: They say they know how organs in China become available with no wait time.
DAVID MATAS: They have obviously got a lot of people sitting around waiting to be killed for a transplant. And they are just picking the right person to be killed depending on who the patient is.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Matas and Gutmann say Chinese doctors have coordinated with Chinese prison officials, and inmate executions take place when patients are in need of organs.
Medical professionals and human rights advocates say this practice violates the prisoner’s human rights.
However, this is how one Chinese doctor justified the practice. This video was produced by the Chinese government.
DR. HE XIAOSHUN, First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University (through interpreter): To apply the traditional Chinese way of thinking, the prisoners committed sins in their lives. If we let them donate their organs, well, in a sense, they are offering salvation. They can atone for their crime with that opportunity.
HARI SREENIVASAN: At a press conference in 2005, China’s vice minister of health, Huang Jiefu, admitted the government took organs from executed prisoners.
But, in 2014, Huang Jiefu, who is now leading the reform efforts in China, declared that, starting in 2015, China would stop using organs from executed prisoners.
But Matas and Gutmann believe they have evidence that this practice still continues. They say inmates on death row include prisoners of conscience, such as practitioners of Falun Gong who become unwilling sources for organs. Falun Gong is a form of Chinese meditation and exercise with a spiritual underpinning.
Since 1999, the Chinese government has cracked down on Falun Gong, charging it with being an unregistered religion and cult that aims to subvert the state.
DAVID MATAS: We interviewed Falun Gong who got out of prison, got out of China, systematically blood-tested, organ-examined, not for their health — they were being tortured — and only the types of examinations relevant to transplantation.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Wang Chunying and Yin Liping practice Falun Gong. Both say they were detained a number of times between 1999 and 2009.
WANG CHUNYING, Falun Gong Practitioner (through translator): In 2008, I was forced to take a blood draw. The atmosphere was very tense and horrific. I thought this blood draw must be related to looking for matching organs.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Chinese government might say, we just needed more blood. That is all. We didn’t take her organs. We didn’t do anything to her body. We just took blood to make sure there wasn’t an infection in the yard.
How do you know that the government wanted your blood for any other reasons?
WANG CHUNYING (through interpreter): Because the living conditions were terrible in the reeducation camp. They didn’t care about whether we lived or died.
YIN LIPING, Falun Gong Practitioner (through interpreter): Once, I was forced to take a blood draw. There were multiple times of other tests, such as MRI, ultrasound and chest X-ray.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Gutmann says he’s interviewed ethnic minorities from Tibet and Xinjiang who all tell similar stories about medical examinations while in prison.
ETHAN GUTMANN, Human Rights Investigator: When you start to hear the same description of an examination in a completely different language from a completely different group, but it’s the same examination, this is one of the big tipoffs that this is really directed towards China’s enemies, its political and religious enemies.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Matas and Gutmann say there’s another possible motive driving this practice: profit. In the past, some Chinese hospitals even advertised the costs of new organs, $98,000 to $130,000 for a liver, $130,000 to $160,000 for a heart.
By reviewing Chinese medical publications, hospital Web site data, and making calls to hospitals, Gutmann and Matas estimate there could be 60,000 to 100,000 transplants still taking place each year in China. The Chinese government rejects these accusations.
In 2016, it says there were just over 13,000 transplants performed in the country. Compare that to the United States that had 33,000 transplants last year.
In an e-mail to the NewsHour, a spokesman from the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., writes: “The Chinese government firmly abide by the internationally recognized ethical principles about organ transplantation, and adhere to the voluntary organ donation after the death of Chinese citizens.”
We asked if political prisoners were singled out for execution for their organs. The embassy didn’t respond to this question.
Chinese officials do say, since 2015, they no longer recover organs from prisoners.
Dr. Huang Jiefu, who is leading reform efforts, acknowledged in an interview with a Chinese newspaper progress has been slow.
“Our use of death row prisoner organs before the establishment of a citizen organ donation system was an act of desperation to save the lives of patients suffering organ failure. When the citizen donation system was set up, we abolished this source of organs as quickly as possible.”
In February of this year, at a Vatican conference on organ trafficking, Chinese medical leaders agreed that using organs from executed prisoners is a crime and should be condemned worldwide. A number of American doctors who have been to China say they believe the country has taken major steps to stop the practice of taking organs from executed prisoners.
DR. FRANCIS DELMONICO, Adviser, World Health Organization: The reports that we get from Canada or the United States or from the Middle East of individuals undergoing transplantation, that’s markedly reduced, but it has not completely stopped.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Dr. Francis Delmonico is an adviser to the World Health Organization and former president of the Transplantation Society. He’s leading the international effort to help China establish a new system of organ donation.
When did you first become aware that China might be executing people for their organs?
DR. FRANCIS DELMONICO: 2005.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How?
DR. FRANCIS DELMONICO: I was invited to the Peking Union Medical College by Jiefu Huang, who was, at the time, vice minister of health.
And he was a liver transplant surgeon. And he said to me, “Frank, this is — we have got a horrendous problem, and I need your help.”
Individuals in China were being executed. And those were the — they became the source of organs for many people from around the world going to China, as many as 11,000 transplants being performed, and this is in 2006.
HARI SREENIVASAN: While some doctors like Huang Jiefu wanted this practice stopped, others who were making money from organ trafficking didn’t, according to Delmonico.
To put pressure on China, a number of medical associations and journals launched a boycott, beginning in 2006, banning Chinese research papers that relied on data from executed prisoners.
At the same time, Delmonico and other doctors helped China build a new and legitimate system for organ recovery, similar to the system in the U.S., requiring consent and only from live or deceased donors in hospitals.
Has China stopped harvesting organs from people that they have executed, that they are executing?
DR. FRANCIS DELMONICO: I don’t know that for certain. So I can say to you that it’s markedly reduced. But can I assure you or the rest of the world that it’s completely stopped? I can’t.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Delmonico says there’s a new generation of doctors in China that want and embrace the reforms that are taking place in China’s transplantation system.
But human rights investigator Ethan Gutmann says China is still killing prisoners and taking their organs.
ETHAN GUTMANN: Our report shows tremendous continuity over time, even while they’re — the Chinese are making completely different statements about this.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Leading experts to call for inspections of Chinese hospitals.
DR. JACOB LAVEE: What needs to be done now is an international committees of transplant experts that will be allowed to visit China and verify the source of these organs.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In his desperation, this man says he didn’t think about where his new kidney came from, and, looking back, that he has no regrets.
KIDNEY TRANSPLANT PATIENT (through interpreter): It’s given me a new outlook on life. I had an opportunity to see my children graduate from universities. I have a happy life with my wife.
HARI SREENIVASAN: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Hari Sreenivasan.
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