ALISON STEWART: A couple of million people visit the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain, each year to see the world-famous works of art, such as “The Annunciation,” “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” and “Las Meninas.”
Now, for the first time, the museum is attracting a set of patrons who are able to experience the artwork in a different way: By touching it.
Fifty-six-year-old Jose Pedro Gonzalez lost his sight at age 14.
Today, he is at the Prado Museum running his hands along El Grego’s “Nobleman.” It’s one of six reproduced paintings in the exhibition called “Touching the Prado.”
LA ONCE SPOKESPERSON, JOSE PEDRO GONZALEZ: Suddenly, I saw the ruffs, they go all the way up to his ears. I saw them. And what else did I notice? Well, how the painting is done. Look, this has a different texture than this.
ALISON STEWART: Gonzalez represents La Once, Spain’s National Association for the Blind. It’s one of the organizations that helped bring this exhibition to the museum.
JOSE PEDRO GONZALEZ: I have never been given the chance to touch a painting in a museum, not even in a smaller version of it. So for me, this is a unique experience.”
ALISON STEWART: The tactile copies are the result of a special technique called Didu, developed in Spain by Durero Studios. Didu was first used in a 2010 photo exhibition by a journalist who had lost most of his sight due to illness. The process uses special inks and ultraviolet light to raise parts of the images, allowing the works to be visualized.
The Prado paid a little more than $6,000 for this “Mona Lisa,” which took 20 days to recreate. The reproductions include works by Goya and Correggio.
Black cardboard glasses are provided so those who can see are able to experience the exhibit as the visually impaired do.
“Touching the Prado” runs through the end of June.
A computer user poses in front of a Google search page in this photo illustration taken in Brussels May 30, 2014. Google now allows you to download an archived list of everything you have ever searched for. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Google now allows you to download an archived list of everything you have ever searched for.
The tech giant has been working on the feature since last year, but it only gained wide-spread attention after it was reported by an unofficial Google Operating Systems Blog last week.
The downloadable collection comprises of terms users have “googled,” including information that may be more sensitive, such as medical symptoms or the names of blind dates.
“You can download all of your saved search history to see a list of the terms you’ve searched for,” according to Google’s website. “This gives you access to your data when and where you want.”
The list does not stop at Google’s search engine function. It also includes documentation of searches within users’ email accounts and addresses that may have been typed into Google Maps. The range of personal information available has given rise to concerns over the databases’ potential vulnerability.
Google has said the company is aware of the dangers associated with storing an extensive amount of personal information on home computers and warns users with a message before they download their entire search archive, asking users to “please read this carefully, it’s not the usual yada yada,” normally seen in warning messages.
“If you have decided to take your data elsewhere, please research the data export policies of your destination,” the message reads. “Otherwise, if you ever want to leave the service, you may have to leave your data behind.”
Step 3: In the top right corner of the page, click the icon and select “Download.”
Step 4: Click “Create Archive.”
Step 5: When your personal archive is ready to be downloaded, Google will send you an email. You can then view the archive in the “Takeout Folder” of your Google Drive. You can also choose to download the list as a zip of JSON files onto your computer.
ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more about the investigation into the death in Baltimore of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, we’re joined now by Luke Broadwater. He is a reporter for “The Baltimore Sun”.
Luke, can you just get up us to speed on where the investigation stands now?
LUKE BROADWATER, BALTIMORE SUN: Yes. The police department is focusing in on what they don’t know and what they still need to figure out.
And there are two key gaps in the information that we know. One is the time from when Freddie Gray runs from police to that time when the first video that we’ve all seen picks him up on the ground, screaming, as police are arresting him. And the second is what happened inside the van?
ALISON STEWART: Let’s talk a little bit more about that time inside the van. There’s been a lot of attention given to what has been called, quote, “rough rides”, giving rough rides to people who are in custody.
Can you explain to our viewers what that means?
LUKE BROADWATER: Well, a rough ride is an unsanctioned technique. It’s actually illegal. You’re not supposed to do it. It violates department policy.
By policy, detainees are supposed to be seatbelted and secured inside a van, and anytime an officer drives erratically to try to throw somebody around and injure them that is intentionally causing harm and that is not allowed under police procedures. There have been multiple lawsuits against the police department, over time, including some big judgments, for these kinds of actions.
And the problem with a rough ride is because the person has their hands handcuffed, they can’t brace themselves. So, if you take a rapid turn around the corner and cause the gentleman to fall forward, bashing his head into something, there’s no way for him to brace himself.
ALISON STEWART: There have been two enormous judgments, one for $39 million for one person, another for $7.4 million. We should say that both of those people were paralyzed. And a third woman is suing in federal court, a third person is suing in federal court.
And I want to read a quote — this is from “The Baltimore Sun”, from some of your colleagues reported. She’s described it this way, “They were breaking really short that I would slam against the wall, and they were taking really, wide fast turns. I couldn’t brace myself, I was terrified.”
So, if we pull out a little bit, does this suggest a bigger problem regarding the police in Baltimore?
LUKE BROADWATER: The Baltimore police have a long and negative history with the city of Baltimore, with the residents. This dates back, frankly, it dates back a century. And I don’t think that necessarily the problems of the police department can be looked at just in a vacuum. Baltimore itself has a long history of racism and racist practices in terms of segregationist housing, where white — covenants for white neighborhoods cause people to live in some neighborhoods and blacks were forced out into other neighborhoods.
And to this day, we’ve seen the ramifications of that. Under two mayors ago, Governor O’Malley in a tough-on-crime effort, a program called Zero Tolerance was put into place, and that resulted in over 100,000 arrests of Baltimore City residents almost every year. That’s about one in six people in Baltimore were arrested. And sometimes as much as a fourth of those cases didn’t even result in charges. And those resulted in a big rift between the community and the police department.
ALISON STEWART: Luke Broadwater from “The Baltimore Sun” — thanks for sharing your reporting, Luke.
ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Keeping Israel’s successful plan in mind, we wondered if or how Israel’s water technology, especially its use of desalination, could be put to use in drought-stricken California.
For more about that now, we are joined now from San Francisco by Daniel Potter. He is a reporter for KQED Science.
So, Daniel, it’s sort of obvious. People look and think, well, California’s is obviously right next to the Pacific Ocean. Why isn’t desalination a bigger part of the conversation about the drought? Why isn’t it?
DANIEL POTTER, KQED: I think the short answer is because desalination is a really — setting up a desalination plant is a very long-term process. It requires a lot of permitting and a huge amount of investment. So, setting up a desalination plant, a lot of people I have talked to have said there is a good chance that plant would not be finished until long after the drought ended.
ALISON STEWART: Are there desalination plant working, in progress in California? I know there are a couple that are in the process of being constructed, correct?
DANIEL POTTER: There are a few tiny ones that already exist and that are desalinating presently. The biggest one is in Carlsbad. It’s set to come on line probably this fall, and when it’s ready it will produce something like 7 percent of the water for San Diego County. That project is on the order of something like $900 million or maybe $1 billion.
ALISON STEWART: So, is there some sort of subtext here about the privatization of water?
DANIEL POTTER: I think that’s a fraught topic, especially in California, because the history of water policy here is so complex and so many people have different and competing sources of water. You have a farmer in one place, who has to let his crops die, and a farmer in another place who is planting almonds which are a very water-intensive crop.
Because one guy has access to water and another one doesn’t, one place can pay, you know, maybe 10 bucks an acre foot, which is about a third of a million gallons of water. Another place in southern California, people pay hundreds of dollars per acre foot.
ALISON STEWART: What is the political climate around desalination?
DANIEL POTTER: There’s a tension there. I think for companies that see desalination as an investment opportunity, there’s a lot of potential, and they see it as a big growth area. Other parts of — California, obviously, has a very strong environmental culture, and a lot of people are skeptical of it. A lot of say, why turn to desalination? It’s almost an extreme response compared to conservation, compared to reclaimed water.
ALISON STEWART: And the environmental issue is the extra salt that comes out of the water, what happens to it when you put it back in the ocean? Is that right?
DANIEL POTTER: That’s one big factor, yes. There’s a lot of leftover salt, if you’re not careful, if it’s dumped back in all at once, it’s much denser than sea water, and so it just sinks and it can hurt sea life on the bottom wherever it’s dumped. There’s also — it takes a lot of energy to run a desal positive plant, and so, people grouse about the carbon footprint as well.
ALISON STEWART: Daniel Potter from KQED, thanks for sharing your reporting.
Editor’s note: The original version of this segment incorrectly stated that under a 1994 agreement, Israel supplies some water to Jordan at no cost. However, Israel does charge Jordan for the operating costs of supplying that water.
MARTIN FLETCHER: The biblical River Jordan — a rare freshwater resource in the Middle East. It forms the border between Israel and the West Bank and Jordan.
At this bend, about six miles from Jericho, it is believed John the Baptist baptized Jesus of Nazareth.
These pilgrims hail from Ballston Spa, upstate New York.
MARTIN FLETCHER: “How’s the water?”
KRISTIN MCCABE: “It’s cold!”
MARTIN FLETCHER: And shallow too.
MARTIN FLETCHER: “In the ’60s, the water level of the Jordan River was actually where we’re standing now.”
GIDON BROMBERG, ECOPEACE MIDDLE EAST: “In wintertime it was this high.”
Gidon Bromberg is Israel director of EcoPeace Middle East, an environmental group.
GIDON BROMBERG, ECOPEACE MIDDLE EAST: “Pilgrims, when they came here were under threat of being drowned by the strength, by the power of this river. Today, a mouse wheel will hardly turn with what’s left of this river.”
MARTIN FLETCHER: For decades, Israel and its neighbors diverted the Jordan’s flow to supply drinking water and water for crops. While the river is down 95 percent from its historical flow, there’s hope that someday, it could return to its former glory.
That’s because Israel today has more water than it needs — it’s gone from drought to water surplus in just a few years – impressive anywhere, but especially in the arid Middle East, one of the driest regions in the world.
For years, Israel’s water authority ran public service TV ads like this one.
Israel’s drying up, she says, as her face begins to crack. Save water!
Now the ads have been discontinued. Not needed anymore.
Through a combination of recycling, conservation, and most recently desalination technology — removing salt from salt water — Israel not only has plenty to drink, but potentially plenty to share. And that could be good news for easing tensions in a region where water is often the source of conflict.
Israel is already easily the world leader in water reuse — far outpacing the rest of the world, including the United States.
Across Israel, plants like this one in the desert town of Rahat treat wastewater instead of letting it go to waste. So-called grey water from the kitchen and bathroom as well as black water from sewage is filtered, cleaned, and reused for irrigation.
“Its a perfect little recycling ecosystem. The waste from the people of Rahat over there is treated here and then used to irrigate the fields nearby.”
But the real leap forward has been in desalination technology, vastly improving Israel’s ability to turn salty water into fresh drinking water.
In ten years, Israel has built five desalination plants along its Mediterranean coast. In Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sorek, Palmachim and Hadera.
Each cost around $4 hundred million dollars.
They’re privately owned and sell their water to the government, which sells it on to the people. Together the desalination plants provide up to 50% of Israel’s drinking water.
MARTIN FLETCHER: “The Israelis have achieved something extraordinary.
Five, six, seven years ago it was all about save water and bathe together, and now they’ve got more water than they need.”
GIDON BROMBERG, ECOPEACE MIDDLE EAST: “It is remarkable. It’s been a slow process. So Israel’s leadership in treating sewage has taken place over the last fifteen years, but the breakthrough has been in the development of membrane technology for desalination because that breakthrough in technology dramatically reduced the costs of desalinating seawater.”
MARTIN FLETCHER: “From about one dollar a cubic meter to about forty cents.”
GIDON BROMBERG, ECOPEACE MIDDLE EAST: “Exactly. To less than half the cost.”
MARTIN FLETCHER: Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, the Sorek plant, open only eighteen months, calls itself the world’s biggest seawater desalination plant of its kind. It can produce more than six hundred thousand cubic meters of drinking water a day — enough for one and a half million people, almost a fifth of Israel’s population.
Avshalom Felber is CEO of IDE Technologies which built the Sorek desalination plant.
MARTIN FLETCHER: “This is where the water from the Mediterranean enters the plant.”
AVSHALOM FELBER, IDE TECHNOLOGIES: “Exactly, underneath here is a deep pit, about 70 meters down where all this water is collected and it comes by gravity from the sea; it’s under sea level. The pumps here lift it here from this pit to the pretreatment area.”
MARTIN FLETCHER: From pre-treatment, the water moves through a series of smaller and smaller screens and filters. Then the water is piped into this complex of buildings where a fine membrane is used to remove the last bits of salt and other minerals.
MARTIN FLETCHER: “There’s about two thousand pressure vessels here that shoot water down through the membranes at a pressure of seventy atmospheres. Halfway down the water becomes drinking water.”
The desalinated water finally passes through these pipes to enter Israel’s water grid.
This tap is always open to check at every instant the quality of the water that Israelis will drink.
AVSHALOM FELBER, IDE TECHNOLOGIES: “Forty-five minutes ago this was seawater and now drink it and see how tasty it is.”
MARTIN FLETCHER: Still there are questions about its environmental impact — very salty water is a byproduct of the process, and it gets dumped back into the Mediterranean. Environmentalists say there’s not enough information to know the long-term impacts that might have on sea life.
And the process uses a lot of energy, around three percent of all of Israel’s annual electricity output.
As everything here is politics, Israel’s new water independence could yield political progress — though historically that progress has been slow.
GIDON BROMBERG, ECOPEACE MIDDLE EAST: “The biggest problem is the mindset. It’s been all or nothing for the last twenty years. The negotiations in the peace process have either been we agree on all five final status issues of the peace process, water being one of them, but also Jerusalem, settlements, border, or we agree on nothing.
And therefore for twenty years we’ve agreed on nothing.”
Water’s often caught up in wider political debates. For example, we visited the planned West Bank Palestinian city of Rawabi, where construction stopped for a year and a half over disputes about water.
The Israeli prime minister cut through the red tape this year and promised to open the tap this spring.
Still, in the past, the Israelis have used water to prevent conflict.
In their 1994 peace accord, Israel agreed to provide Jordan with five percent of its annual water needs at cost — and that’s been increased to about seven percent just because Israel can.
And water experts like Bromberg hope Israel’s government will use its current water surplus to extend the same generosity to the Palestinian living in the West Bank.
GIDON BROMBERG, ECOPEACE MIDDLE EAST: “We can move forward today, and every Palestinian can turn on the tap and have water flowing.”
In fact, the Israeli government has agreed in principle to sell the Palestinians 20 to 30 million cubic meters of its desalinated water, enough to supply drinking water to the West Bank for about eight months.
Water officials from both sides say they are eager to work together.
The head of the Israeli water authority’s desalination division, Avraham Tenne.
AVRAHAM TENNE, ISRAEL WATER AUTHORITY: “We, as the water people, we do speak together. We don’t have to wait to have committees to meet together. We meet many times, even during all kinds of wars, all kinds of conflicts that we have with them, water people are talking all the time. Meeting all the time. And sharing information all the time.”
Palestinian water minister Mazen Ghoneim.
MAZEN GHONEIM, PALESTINIAN WATER MINISTER: “We have nothing against the Israeli side. What we want exactly, just to help our people.”
MARTIN FLETCHER: Today Israel’s challenge is to do all it can to secure its water independence — and to use that independence to build bridges with its neighbors.
The map above illustrates the cost and speed of connectivity in cities across the world. Faster connectivity speeds are represented by warmer colors. More expensive Internet bills are represented by bigger circles.
Even though the Internet was invented in the United States, Americans pay the most in the world for broadband access. And it’s not exactly blazing fast.
For an Internet connection of 25 megabits per second, New Yorkers pay about $55 — nearly double that of what residents in London, Seoul, and Bucharest, Romania, pay. And residents in cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Paris get connections nearly eight times faster.
Here’s how cities across the world compare when it comes to Internet price and speed:
Internet speeds and prices in cities in North America.
Internet speeds and prices in cities in Europe.
Internet speeds and prices in cities in Asia.
So why are Americans paying more for slower service? The answer: There’s limited competition in the broadband market.
In fact, half of American homes have only two options for Internet service providers for basic broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission. And for faster speeds, a majority of households have only one choice.
That’s why a handful of cities have chosen to create their own municipal broadband services to compete with private broadband providers: Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bristol, Virginia, Lafayette, Louisiana, Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Wilson, North Carolina.
The municipal broadband services in these cities often provide faster speeds using fiber instead of traditional telephone or cable lines, though not necessarily for cheaper. Other cities have even partnered with Google to roll out high-speed internet.
Watch NewsHour Weekend Sunday to learn more about how New York City is working to get internet access to the more than 730,000 homes without broadband access. Or watch our full report in the player below:
Fort Meade, UNITED STATES: A computer workstation bears the National Security Agency (NSA) logo inside the Threat Operations Center inside the Washington suburb of Fort Meade, Maryland. The Obama administration on Saturday unveiled a 6-year-old report examining the once-secret program to collect information on Americans’ calls and emails. Credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (AP) — With debate gearing up over the coming expiration of the Patriot Act surveillance law, the Obama administration on Saturday unveiled a 6-year-old report examining the once-secret program to collect information on Americans’ calls and emails.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence publicly released the redacted report following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the New York Times. The basics of the National Security Agency program had already been declassified, but the lengthy report includes some new details about the secrecy surrounding it.
President George W. Bush authorized the “President’s Surveillance Program” in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The review was completed in July 2009 by inspectors general from the Justice Department, Pentagon, CIA, NSA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
They found that while many senior intelligence officials believe the program filled a gap by increasing access to international communications, others including FBI agents, CIA analysts and managers “had difficulty evaluating the precise contribution of the PSP to counterterrorism efforts because it was most often viewed as one source among many available analytic and intelligence-gathering tools in these efforts.”
Critics of the phone records program, which allows the NSA to hunt for communications between terrorists abroad and U.S. residents, argue it has not proven to be an effective counterterrorism tool. They also say an intelligence agency has no business possessing the deeply personal records of Americans. Many favor a system under which the NSA can obtain court orders to query records held by the phone companies.
The Patriot Act expires on June 1, and Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would allow continued collection of call records of nearly every American. The legislation would reauthorize sections of the Patriot Act, including the provision under which the NSA requires phone companies to turn over the “to and from” records of most domestic landline calls.
After the program was disclosed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama and many lawmakers called for legislation to end that collection, but a bill to do so failed last year. Proponents had hoped that the expiration of the Patriot Act provisions on June 1 would force consideration of such a measure.
A bipartisan group of House members has been working on such legislation, dubbed the USA Freedom Act. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama is pleased the efforts are restarting in the House.
“Hopefully, the next place where Democrats and Republicans will turn their attention and try to work together is on this issue of putting in place important reforms to the Patriot Act,” Earnest said.
If no legislation is passed, the Patriot Act provisions would expire. That would affect not only the NSA surveillance but other programs used by the FBI to investigate domestic crimes, which puts considerable pressure on lawmakers to pass some sort of extension.
A woman sits outside a makeshift shelter in an open ground to keep safe after the earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 26, 2015, a day after Saturday’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake which killed more than 2,400 people and devastated Kathmandu valley. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS
More than 2,500 people were killed, and nearly 6,000 injured. In response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis, the Nepalese government has set up 16 relief stations across Kathmandu, the New York Times reported.
The massive quake also set off an avalanche on Mount Everest, which killed at least 18, and injured another 61, according to the Associated Press. Aid workers continue to search for survivors, as planeloads of supplies, doctors and relief workers begin to arrive on the scene.
A woman mourns the death of a family member a day after an earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal April 26, 2015. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS
Victims of the earthquake that hit Nepal yesterday are cremated on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images
Nepalese resident Suresh Parihar plays with his 8-month-old daughter Sandhaya as he is treated for injuries sustained in an earthquake at a city hospital in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. Photo by Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images
Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors.
Women chant hymns during a prayer ceremony at a temple in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2015, for victims of Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal. Rescuers dug with their bare hands and bodies piled up in Nepal on Sunday after the earthquake devastated the heavily crowded Kathmandu Valley. Photo by Amit Dave/REUTERS
Rescue team personnel carry an injured person towards a waiting rescue helicopter at Everest Base Camp on April 26, 2015, a day after an avalanche triggered by an earthquake devastated the camp. Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images
Nepalese residents mourn the death of a relative following an earthquake, at a mass cremation at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. Photo by Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images
Nepalese residents sleep in an open area in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015, after an earthquake hit the Kathmandu Valley. Photo by Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images
People queue up as they wait for an aircraft to evacuate to their country at Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport a day after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 26, 2015. Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/REUTERS
A man runs past damaged houses as aftershocks of an earthquake are felt a day after the earthquake in Bhaktapur, Nepal April 26, 2015. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS
President Barack Obama speaks at the annual White House Correspondent’s Association Gala at the Washington Hilton hotel April 25, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The dinner is an annual event attended by journalists, politicians and celebrities. Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
WASHINGTON — A presidential election just getting into gear provided President Barack Obama plenty of new material to work with on the night he describes as Washington celebrating itself.
“It’s amazing how time flies,” Obama told those attending the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association on Saturday night. “Soon, the first presidential contest will take place, and I for one cannot wait to see who the Koch brothers pick. It’s exciting.”
Obama added: “Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker … who will finally get that red rose?”
On the Democratic side, Obama observed that Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked things off by going unrecognized to Chipotle. Meanwhile, he said, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley went completely unrecognized at an O’Malley campaign event.
Taking a playful poke at himself and at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is considering a bid, Obama said: “Apparently, some folks want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.”
The dinner also gave the president an opportunity to rib some of his loudest critics.
“Just this week Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now, that’s a legacy,” he said. “That’s big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn’t do that.”
The correspondents’ dinner brings in some big names from Hollywood. Some of the cast members from the TV series “Black-ish” attended, and Obama said he had to give ABC fair warning about the show. “Being black-ish only makes you popular for so long,” he said. “Trust me, there’s a shelf life to that thing.”
Of course, he had to give a shout-out to his health care law.
“Today, thanks to Obamacare, you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance, if you lose your job,” he said. “You’re welcome, Senate Democrats.”
The featured entertainer of the night, Cecily Strong from “Saturday Night Live,” got some big laughs with some tough subjects. For example, she observed that the Secret Service is the one law enforcement agency that could get in trouble if a black man gets shot.
“Your hair is so white now,” she told the president, “it can talk back to police.”
And she had the journalists repeat after her and solemnly swear they will not talk about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s appearance “because that is not journalism.”
The mix of Washington journalists and Hollywood stars – showcased live on C-SPAN, the political nerd’s favorite cable channel – delivered hours of interesting images for hardy viewers. (Yes, that was Oscar-winner Jane Fonda on the arm of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer.)
Few of the politicians who may want to succeed Obama showed up for the dinner. One on hand was Donald Trump, who again has been teasing Republicans about running for national office.
Most of the prospective and declared Republican candidates stayed away. Many chose to meet potential supporters and donors at conservative gatherings in Las Vegas and Des Moines, Iowa.
The dinner helps fund scholarships and awards that recognize journalists. This year’s award winners include:
Josh Lederman of The Associated Press and Jim Avila of ABC News, the Merriman Smith Award for presidential coverage under deadline pressure.
Peter Baker of The New York Times, the Aldo Beckman Award for repeated excellence in White House coverage.
The Edgar A. Poe Award, recognizing coverage of news of national or regional significance, to The Washington Post’s Carol A. Leonnig and The Wall Street Journal team of Gary Fields, John R. Emshwiller, Rob Barry and Coulter Jones.
Scott Horsley of National Public Radio received a special mention in the Beckman Award category for his coverage of White House policies and politics.
Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator on Gilmore Avenue near Baltimore Police Department Western District during a protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Protests in Baltimore over the death of a black man who was fatally injured in police custody turned violent on Saturday, leading to dozens of arrests, injuries and damage to city storefronts.
More than one thousand people took the streets in the largest rally yet over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died on April 12 from injuries sustained while in police custody.
The initially peaceful demonstrations turned violent in the evening when what police described as “splinter groups” looted a convenience store, threw metal barriers at officers and smashed the windows of shops and police cars, the Associated Press reported.
Protesters jump on a police car at a rally to protest the death of Freddie Gray who died following an arrest in Baltimore, Maryland April 25, 2015. Credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
“I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at a press conference at City Hall on Saturday.
In her first public remarks since her brother’s death, Gray’s twin sister, Fredericka Gray called for protesters to stop the violence.
“Freddie Gray would not want this. Freddie’s mother and father does not want the violence” she said at the press conference alongside the mayor.
Demonstrators confront law enforcement officers near Baltimore Police Department Western District to protest against the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, in Baltimore April 25, 2015. Credit: REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Police have acknowledged some errors in the Gray case on Friday, including failing to seek timely medical help and buckling Gray into a seat belt in the police van, which violates the Police Department’s policy.
Six involved officers have been suspended with pay.
The mayor and a coalition of about 25 Baltimore faith leaders issued a “call for peace” Sunday, asking citizens to honor the city’s “long tradition of peaceful and respectful demonstrations,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
Police detain a protester at a rally to protest the death of Freddie Gray who died following an arrest in Baltimore, Maryland April 25, 2015. Credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A wake for Freddie Gray is being held Sunday afternoon. Funeral services will be held Monday morning.
Michigan couple April DeBoer (2nd L) and Jayne Rowse pose with their children (L-R) Rylee, Ryanne, Nolan and Jacob in their home in Hazel Park, Michigan April 19, 2015. DeBoer and Rowse, parents for four adopted children and a foster child, are bracing for the Supreme Court decision next week that could ultimately determine whether same-sex couples could legally marry in states like Michigan that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters
Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law that denied a range of government benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
The decision in United States v. Windsor did not address the validity of state marriage bans, but courts across the country, with few exceptions, said its logic compelled them to invalidate state laws that prohibited gay and lesbian couples from marrying.
The number of states allowing same-sex marriage has grown rapidly. As recently as October, just over one-third of the states permitted same-sex marriage. Now, same-sex couples can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. A look at what is now before the Supreme Court, and the status of same-sex marriage around the country:
WHAT’S LEFT FOR THE SUPREME COURT TO DO AMID ALL THIS CHANGE?
The justices on Tuesday are hearing extended arguments, scheduled to run 2 1/2 hours, in highly anticipated cases about the right of same-sex couples to marry. The cases before the court come from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, all of which had their marriage bans upheld by the federal appeals court in Cincinnati in November. That appeals court is the only one that has ruled in favor of the states since the 2013 Windsor decision.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Two related issues would expand the marriage rights of same-sex couples. The bigger one: Do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry or can states continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman? The second: Even if states won’t allow some couples to marry, must they recognize valid same-sex marriages from elsewhere?
WHAT ARE THE MAIN ARGUMENTS ON EACH SIDE?
The arguments of marriage-rights supporters boil down to a claim that states lack any valid reason to deny the right to marry, which the court has earlier described as fundamental to the pursuit of happiness. They say state laws that allow only some people to marry violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and make second-class citizens of same-sex couples and their families. Same-sex couples say that preventing them from marrying is akin to a past ban on interracial marriage, which the Supreme Court struck down in 1967.
The states respond that they have always set the rules for marriage and that voters in many states have backed, sometimes overwhelmingly, changes to their constitutions to limit marriage to a man and a woman. They say a lively national debate is underway and there is no reason for courts to impose a solution that should be left to the political process. The states also argue that they have a good reason to keep defining marriage as they do. Because only heterosexual couples can produce children, it is in the states’ interest to make marriage laws that encourage those couples to enter a union that supports raising children.
IS THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PLAYING A ROLE?
The administration is backing the right of same-sex couples to marry, although its argument differs in one respect. The plaintiffs say that the state laws should fall, no matter what standard the court applies. The administration calls for more rigorous scrutiny than courts ordinarily apply to most laws, saying it is appropriate when governments discriminate against a group of people. That already is the case for claims that laws discriminate on the basis of race, sex and other factors. But the administration is silent about what the outcome should be if the court does not give gays the special protection it has afforded women and minorities.
The Justice Department’s decision to stop defending the federal anti-marriage law in 2011 was an important moment for gay rights and President Barack Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage in 2012.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE COURT STRIKES DOWN THE STATE BANS?
A ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry would invalidate the remaining anti-gay marriage laws in the country. If the court limits its ruling to requiring states to recognize same-sex unions, couples in states without same-sex marriage presumably could get married elsewhere and then demand recognition at home.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE COURT RULES FOR THE STATES ON BOTH QUESTIONS?
The bans in 14 states would survive. Beyond that, confusion probably would reign. Some states that had their marriage laws struck down by federal courts might seek to reinstate prohibitions on gay and lesbian unions. Questions also could be raised about the validity of some same-sex weddings. Many of these problems would be of the Supreme Court’s own making.
WHY IS THAT?
From October to January, the justices first rejected appeals from states seeking to preserve their marriage bans, then allowed court rulings to take effect even as other states appealed those decisions. The result is that the court essentially allowed the number of states with same-sex marriage to double.
WHERE IS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LEGAL?
Same-sex couples can marry in 36 states, the District of Columbia and parts of Missouri. More than 500 marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in Alabama this year after a federal court struck down the state’s ban. But probate judges have not issued any more licenses to gay and lesbian couples since the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a halt to same-sex unions in early March.
Gay and lesbian couples may not marry in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
HOW MANY MARRIED SAME-SEX COUPLES ARE THERE IN THE U.S.?
Gary Gates, an expert at UCLA’s Williams Institute on the demography of gays and lesbians in the U.S., estimated that there were 350,000 married same-sex couples as of February. Gates relied on Gallup Inc. survey data and Census Bureau information to arrive at his estimate. That’s just 0.3 percent of the nation’s 242 million adults, Gates said. Almost as many same-sex couples are unmarried, Gates said.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT ISSUES FACING GAY RIGHTS?
One fight in the news this year is over efforts to carve out religious exemptions for people and institutions that object to same-sex marriage. It is clear that churches do not have to marry same-sex couples if doing so violates their religious tenets, but what about county clerks? Can photographers refuse to shoot same-sex weddings? Can bakers decline to bake a cake for two men? Civil rights groups say they will continue pressing for other protections from discrimination against LGBT people in employment and housing, among other areas. Even if same-sex couples win the right to marry everywhere, people still can be fired because of their sexual orientation in more than half the states.
ALISON STEWART: Reporters, politicians and celebrities all gathered last night at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an event that honors Washington journalists for their work. But it’s become better known as the night when the Commander in Chief tries to become the Comedian in Chief.
Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong hosted the event.
CECILY STRONG: Hillary’s campaign slogan is ‘It’s your time,’ which I assume is what she says into a mirror as she’s deadlifting 200 pounds
Rand Paul has announced that’s taking over the family’s Not Being President business. And yes that’s Rand, as in, he didn’t get elected, but at least he ran-d.
ALISON STEWART: And keeping with traditions, Strong made fun of presidential problems.
CECILY STRONG: And I bet that when the president walked in and saw all those bellhops, he though, finally some decent security.
ALISON STEWART: The president spared no one, including himself, spared no one, including himself with jokes on his executive actions to foreign relations.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I look so old, John Boehner has already invited President Netanyahu to speak at my funeral.
I still have to fix a broken immigration system, issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran, all while finding time to pray five times a day.
ALISON STEWART: The president came out swinging at Republicans.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst president of his lifetime, which is interesting, because I think Dick Cheney is the worst President of my lifetime.
ALISON STEWART: But he didn’t let Democrats off the hook.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, thanks to Obamacare, you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance if you lose your job. You’re welcome, Senate Democrats.
ALISON STEWART, PBS ANCHOR: In Baltimore, a demonstration over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray started peacefully but turned violent last night when protesters clashed with police.
Authorities arrested 34 people; six officers suffered minor injuries. Fans attending the Baltimore Orioles game were told to stay in place because of safety concerns.
I’m joined now once again by Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater.
Luke, do you know why things turned violent?
LUKE BROADWATER, THE BALTIMORE SUN REPORTER: We don’t know exactly why things turned violent.
Up until mid-afternoon, it had had been a very peaceful protest. Twelve hundred people has descended on the city hall and people were expressing themselves, and the police were letting them do that.
Then the march went down to Camden Yards where the Orioles play, and things really got out of control.
I would say less than 100 people were involved in the violence and the rioting and looting, so it was a small minority of the protesters. But they did a lot of property damage, and some people did get injured.
They smashed the windows of police cars and some civilian cars, the windows of property — of businesses in the area. There were some (INAUDIBLE), and there were some assaults. So it was not a pretty sight last night in Baltimore.
ALISON STEWART: Can you describe the level of the police force? There have been a lot of discussions about the militarization of the police. How many police officers were there? Were they in combat gear?
LUKE BROADWATER: Yes. They did not start out in combat gear, but they did acquire it as the night went on. There were, by our estimation, over 1,000, — sorry, over 1,000 police officers.
Probably about 1,300 from the police force. The state troopers did come in as well and some from the county police force as well.
They had shields, they had their batons out. They had their helmets, and they did engage in some crowd control tactics that, you know, looked like military operations in terms of pushing the crowd back with the shields.
They had the police chopper shouting orders to disperse, and then threatened those who did not with arrest.
ALISON STEWART: The mayor and the commissioner are making a differentiation between the protesters and people they are calling agitators. To whom are they referring?
LUKE BROADWATER: Yes. You are right. Even before the protests started, the mayor and the police commissioner and faith leaders in Baltimore expressed a lot of concern about outside groups coming in.
They didn’t mention anyone by name. I believe they were referring to, though, Mr. Shabazz, the former head of the New Black Panthers. They were worried about his influence and others’ influence and the protest potentially turning violent.
We had had a week of nonviolent protests in Baltimore, and last night was the first real violence that we saw.
ALISON STEWART: Luke Broadwater from “The Baltimore Sun.” Thanks, Luke.
ALISON STEWART: The number of women in the U.S. who die in childbirth is nearing the highest rate in a quarter-century. An estimated 18.5 mothers died for every 100,000 births in 2013, compared with 7.2 in 1987.
The Post reports that this translates to, quote, “a woman giving birth here is twice as likely to die than in Saudi Arabia and three times as likely than in the United Kingdom.”
“Washington Post” reporter Danielle Paquette, who wrote the story, joins us.
Danielle, in your piece, there is a startling line, and I am just going read it. It says, “the United States is the only advanced economy in the world with a rising maternal mortality rate.”
What is going on in this country as opposed to other advanced economies that is causing this problem?
DANIELLE PAQUETTE, REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, Alison, this problem confounds a lot in the medical community. There is not one thing driving the problem.
Experts I have spoken to tell me that certain parts of the country there is — there are gaps in health insurance coverage, especially in the South. For example, Mississippi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates, that the state did not expand Medicaid.
There’s something like 100,000 people who don’t have access to any healthcare. And many of them are women. We have in Mississippi 160 doctors for every 100,000 residents. That drives part of this problem.
ALISON STEWART: One of the interesting things in your piece is that the problems are described as preventable. So what’s stopping people from preventing them?
DANIELLE PAQUETTE: Well, some doctors say it is something as simple as getting a routine checkup. So many women lack access to healthcare, especially in the South. And so maybe just something as simple going to that doctor and saying, hey, something doesn’t feel right. Help me out.
Another thing is a social reason. Oftentimes doctors will see women, women might say something feels off, something is not right. And a physician might write that off as stress or perhaps just paranoia.
And that – that same women (ph), some nurses say may go home and then she may enter premature labor and she may start bleeding. If she would have been at the hospital at the time of this, you know, that could possibly have saved her life.
ALISON STEWART: This makes me think that this is just a very stark example of the bigger issue of that certain populations in this country, based on whether it is race or based on economic standing, have better access to better healthcare.
DANIELLE PAQUETTE: It is incredible to see the numbers. Risk varies drastically by race. In some parts of the country, African-American women are nearly twice as likely to die of pregnancy-related complications.
ALISON STEWART: Danielle Paquette from “The Washington Post,” thank you for sharing your reporting.
Prosecutors revealed Monday that two mental health evaluations concluded that Aurora, Colorado, theater shooter James Holmes was sane when he committed the acts, the first time the results of the different evaluations became public.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers made their opening statements Monday at the trial of Holmes, who opened fire and killed 12 people at a suburban Colorado movie theater, nearly three years ago.
District Attorney George Brauchler held up a photo of the back door of the Aurora movie theater.
“Through this door is horror. Through this door is bullets, blood, brains and bodies,” he said. Holmes swiveled in his chair and appeared calm as Brauchler delivered his statement.
“Through this door, one guy who thought as if he had lost his career, lost his love life, lost his purpose, came to execute a plan,” Brauchler said, before playing a recording of a 911 call from the theater. The call was punctuated with screams.
There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.
After a jury selection process that whittled down a record 9,000 summons to 12 jurors and 12 alternatives, the trial will determine, among other questions, whether Holmes was, as his lawyers said, “in the throes of a psychotic episode.”
“By the time Holmes stepped into theater, his perception of reality was so skewed, he no longer lived in the same world we live in,” public defender Daniel King said in his opening statement. “But to him, it seemed as real as this seems to you right now.”
Prosecutors have filed 166 charges against Holmes, including 24 counts of murder and 140 counts of attempted murder. Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. reminded the jury Monday that Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all of them. Under Colorado law, the burden lies with prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not insane, the judge said.
Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes (C) and his public defenders Tamara Brady (L) and Daniel King (R) are pictured in a courtroom sketch during a hearing in Centennial, Colorado April 1, 2013. Prosecutors in Colorado will seek the death penalty for accused movie theater gunman James Holmes for killing 12 people at a midnight showing of the Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012. Photo by Bill Robies/Reuters
On July 20, 2012, Holmes attacked a midnight screening of the Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises” at a Century movie theater. The shooting claimed 12 lives and injured another 70 people. The Denver Post reported that as many as 400 people attended that night’s showing.
Holmes’ lawyers acknowledge that Holmes was the shooter, but also maintain he was suffering a psychotic episode during the shooting. At this time, five mental health experts are expected to take the stand to offer their evaluations over Holmes’ sanity, The Denver Post reported.
For the next several months, the jury will decide whether Holmes was guilty of the mass shooting. And athough Holmes’ lawyers have tried to avoid the death penalty, prosecutors continue to pursue it as an option for the jury.
The Denver Post is live blogging developments from the Arapahoe County Justice Center as the Aurora theater shooting trial begins.
A man carries a child, who was wounded in Saturday’s earthquake, after Indian Army soldiers evacuated them from Trishuli Bazar to the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday. Photo by Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
On Monday, the devastation from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the heart of Nepal on Saturday was not yet fully known. The death toll surpassed 4,000 without accounting for the mountain villages where rescue workers still struggled to go.
Thousands of survivors were sleeping outdoors and in need of shelter, food, fuel and medicine. Lingering tremors and traffic jams in and around the capital Kathmandu made distribution of relief supplies difficult.
Those injured from Saturday’s earthquake lie inside an Indian Air Force helicopter as they are evacuated from Trishuli Bazar to the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday. Photo by Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
To learn more about what some relief organizations are doing and how individuals can help, click on the following links:
USAID has given the Nepalese government an initial $1 million and sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Nepal. The agency’s staff in Bangkok, Thailand, is coordinating with other U.S. relief organizations in the region. A situation report says some buildings have collapsed, roads are damaged, telecommunications networks are spotty but landlines appear functional.
AmeriCaresdispatched a response team from Mumbai, India, and is shipping medical supplies from its warehouses in the United States, Europe and India.
Residents watch as protesters clash with police near Mondawmin Mall after Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore April 27, 2015. Seven Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday as rioters threw bricks and stones and burned patrol cars in violent protests after the funeral of Gray, a black man who died in police custody. Photo by Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Reuters
Several Baltimore officers were hurt Monday as riots erupted, following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died April 19 from a spinal injury while he was in police custody. Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said some officers sustained broken bones and one was unresponsive as rioters threw rocks and bricks at local police officers.
Thousands of mourners attended Gray’s funeral Monday. Doors to New Shiloh Baptist Church in the city opened at 9:30 a.m., and by 11:15, the 2,500-person church was almost filled to capacity, the Associated Press reported.
The white casket encasing Gray’s body was opened for family, friends and supporters to view as projections on both church walls read, “Black Lives Matter & All Lives Matter.”
In front of the northern Baltimore funeral home during Gray’s wake on Sunday, cars sounded their horns in support as demonstrators shouted, “Honk for Freddie!”
Baltimore resident Caira Byrd, 21, was one of the handful of peaceful protesters outside the wake. She said Sunday’s protest was to show an alternative to the chaos that erupted during protests Saturday night.
“We want to give them an insight on a positive protest,” Byrd said. “Everybody was hurting. It was painful. We as black people, we’ve been going through this for a long time. So as of right now, Freddie Gray, we feel like he died for change.”
A member of the family reacts during Freddie Gray’s funeral service at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore. Mourners lined up on Monday before the funeral of Gray, a Baltimore black man who died in police custody. Photo by Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Reuters
Some protests turned violent Saturday night, with demonstrators smashing police cars and shattering a storefront in downtown Baltimore. Police met protesters in full riot gear, making 35 arrests near Camden Yard, where the Baltimore Orioles play. Six officers suffered minor injuries.
Tension between black residents and the police is not new in Baltimore. Last year, the Baltimore Sun released an investigation that found the city had paid about $5.7 million since 2011 to citizens who sued for police brutality and civil rights violations.
The tension was reignited with the release of a cellphone video on April 12 that showed officers dragging Gray’s limp body into a police van while he was screaming in pain.
Baltimore resident Daniel Mickens, 57, knows of this history well, having spent his entire life in Baltimore. Mickens said he attended Sunday’s demonstration with the hope of showing younger residents positive solutions.
“Still right to this day I still have some resentments, but I’m not going to respond with a negative element. I’m just going to take what I know through my experience and try to help the next individual’s experience to be a much more positive outcome.”
Diamond Scott, a 29-year-old Baltimore resident said she was protesting Sunday for a better future for her 7 year old son. “I just want justice, that’s it.”
After Gray died, six Baltimore officers were suspended with pay while the police department conducts a criminal investigation. Additionally, the Department of Justice is reviewing the case for potential civil rights violations.
City officials said the investigation would be completed by Friday, May 1, and the findings would be given to state prosecutors who then will decide whether state criminal charges will be filed.
Protesters clash with police near Mondawmin Mall after Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore April 27, 2015. Photo by Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Reuters
Shortly after Freddie Gray’s funeral, protesters have taken to the streets of Baltimore. As of this posting, Baltimore Police Department is reporting that seven officers have been injured in clashes and at least one police car has been set on fire.
Here’s a Twitter list of reporters, officials and people who are updating from the scene:
“Gluten Free” appears on the packaging for cookie mix for sale at a supermarket in Princeton, Illinois. Many Americans with severe allergies must avoid wheat, but for the rest, is a gluten-free diet doing more harm than good? Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Gluten-free. It’s among the hottest trends in food today. It competes with “non-GMO,” “local” and “organic” for mindshare among today’s health-conscious, price-insensitive, and trend-following foodies, yuppies, and self-anointed amateur nutritionists. It’s become so fashionable to be gluten-free that even Fido and Spot have jumped on the bandwagon.
We’re likely in the midst of a gluten-free bubble; one that seems poised to burst.
Like all such sweeping trends, it has a powerful attractive force that lures innocent bystanders into asking if they too should join the party. Last Fall, The New Yorker ran an article entitled “Against the Grain: Should You Go Gluten Free?” to help readers answer the very question. Grain Brain and Wheat Belly hold entrenched positions on lists of today’s best selling books. Gluten-free is clearly on the minds of many.
We’re likely in the midst of a gluten-free bubble; one that seems poised to burst.
Like financial bubbles, the herd behavior identified by such popular attention is never sustainable. Here’s the big disconnect that captures the essence of the problem: less than 1 percent of the population has celiac disease, approximately 6 percent are gluten intolerant, and … drum roll please … almost 30 percent of American adults are trying to avoid gluten. One of the main reasons consumers avoid gluten is they feel it’s healthier. It’s generally not.
The blunt reality is that many gluten-free foods are not healthier for the 93 percent of the population that doesn’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Consider that a Glutino Original New York Style Bagel has 26 percent more calories, 250 percent more fat, 43 percent more sodium, 50 percent less fiber and double the sugar of a Thomas’ Plain Bagel. Further, because many gluten-free products utilize rice flour, they are also at risk of containing higher levels of arsenic than desirable or healthy.
And then there’s the cost. The Glutino bagel I just described costs 74 percent more than the Thomas’ bagel. Nabisco’s Gluten-Free Rice Thins cost 84 percent more per cracker than Nabisco’s Multigrain Wheat Thins. And when it gets to baking products, the costs are even higher. Betty Crocker’s gluten-free brownie mix is more than 3 times the cost per serving of Duncan Hines regular mix.
While economic logic might lead you to conclude that higher prices would lead to lower demand, you’d be wrong. In a classic indicator of bubble dynamics, higher prices have been met with higher demand.
That’s right, despite the facts I’ve just shared — namely that gluten-free may harm those not needing it for health reasons and that it’s more expensive — the gluten-free craze continues. Market research firm Nielsen estimated that sales of products with a gluten-free label have doubled in the past four years, rising from $11.5 billion to more than $23 billion. While the trend is impressive, it’s partially driven by marketing efforts. Chobani Greek yogurt and Green Giant vegetables, for instance, added “gluten free” labels onto products that never contained gluten. Add a label, grow your sales! Reminds me of Internet mania when merely announcing a URL increased valuations overnight.
Consider Trader Joe’s campaign advertising “Gluten-Free Greeting Cards For 99 Cents Each! Every Day!” Another sign the gluten-free bubble is nearing its end is the popular backlash against casual gluten-free diners.
None of this is to suggest that there isn’t a real underlying need for gluten-free products. There is, and I know from personal experience. In October 2011, my doctor informed me that a blood test indicated I had heightened sensitivity to gluten. The sensitivity was so high he recommended a gluten-free diet. I protested, suggesting he was over-diagnosing my unhealthy diet.
I asked: “Have you considered icecreamitis? That’s a disease I know I have,” bluntly admitting my addiction to the divine creamy frozen sugar to which I was devoted. I insisted he conduct a genetic test to determine if I had a genetic marker for celiac disease. When the results came back, I was saddened to learn that I indeed had the gene. I’ve been gluten-free for 3.5 years now and I genuinely do feel better.
Whether you have celiac disease, are gluten intolerant, or just part of the fashionable trend-following crowd, you can rest assured that this article is certified gluten-free.
GWEN IFILL: On Friday evening, Sabeen Mahmud, a leading Pakistani human rights activist, was shot and killed outside the Second Floor, the cafe she ran in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi. Her mother was seriously wounded in the attack.
Shortly before her killing, Mahmud posted a photo online of an event she’d just held at the cafe, which was known for its lively political and arts discussions. Friday, the topic was killings and the disappearance of political activists in the province of Baluchistan, allegedly carried out by the Pakistani military.
Just last month, NewsHour correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro spoke with Mahmud at her cafe about her work, its dangers, and the space she created.
SABEEN MAHMUD, Human Rights Activist: People get an opportunity to take their minds off of whatever is going on, and we’re an open space. And it’s open to all and anyone who chooses to walk through its doors.
And it’s a model. It’s a template for other people to create similar public spaces in other areas of the city. And maybe, you know, those are the only — that that is a respite that we need from the violence and the anguish sometimes that you can’t help but feel.
I have a very cavalier attitude to fear, but maybe I — I don’t care. I just feel, when the time will comes, the time will come.
GWEN IFILL: Sabeen Mahmud was buried Saturday, mourned by more than 200 colleagues, as her murder was condemned by Pakistan’s prime minister and by the United States.
To tell us more about her life and work, Fred de Sam Lazaro joins me now.
Fred, how did you come to know of Sabeen Mahmud?
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Well, Gwen, we had gone to visit her because she really was an icon for a lot of young people in Pakistan, and particularly in Karachi.
She was a tech entrepreneur earlier in life. And she was only 40 when she was killed. But there is a growing techie culture in Karachi. And that was the focus of our story. We will have that story on pretty soon on the NewsHour. And so I had gone to her to talk a little bit about that whole scene and about what life was like in Karachi for someone very connected to the world, and yet hemmed in by all the political turmoil that Pakistan is roiled in right now.
GWEN IFILL: She talked to you about being cavalier about fear. Did she recognize the risk?
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: I think she was well aware, acutely aware of the risk, because this is one of the world’s most violent cities.
There are a number of targeted killings, particularly of people who are considered liberal and people who dare to venture into no-go areas, and Baluchistan appears to be one of those.
She was, of course, fearless. Karachi is a place where a lot of people have armed escorts. She did not. She traveled very freely. And, as she said on the tape, when the time comes, the time comes.
GWEN IFILL: One of her friends, you quoted her online in your piece. One of her friends is quoted as saying that she was silenced. Do we know who did the silencing? Are there any thoughts about what the cause of this was?
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There’s blame that — there are fingers being pointed in all kinds of direction.
One of the biggest frustrations, Gwen, is that there’s a climate of impunity. And no one knows for sure or can intelligently point to suspects in this kind of a climate. One thing that seems to be a consensus is, it’s highly unlikely that the people who killed her will ever see justice.
GWEN IFILL: And so, when something like this were to happen here, we assume there’s a next step, a criminal justice system which steps up and gets to the bottom of it. Is there any evidence of that so far?
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: There hasn’t been from similar kinds of episodes.
We have seen a number of people in the so-called liberal establishment in Pakistan who have been felled by gunfire, social workers, political leaders who have dared speak out, for example, against the blasphemy law, which is very controversial, very, very little follow-up to that. And, of course, the media buzz dies down.
There is a great groundswell of deep mourning right now. And how much that might sustain an ongoing judicial process is an open question. People are doubtful that the real culprits will ever be found, however.
GWEN IFILL: Well, Fred, you always bring us these untold stories. And, in this case, it was incredibly and, sadly, timely actually.
So, thank you very much for that. And we look forward to seeing your complete report later on the NewsHour.