Archive For The “News” Category

New Southwest Border Arrests Jump 78 Percent In November

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New Southwest Border Arrests Jump 78 Percent In November

Issac Rodriguez, from Sinaloa, Mexico, peering through the fence that divides Mexico and the U.S. in Tijuana, Mexico.

Rodrigo Abd/AP


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Rodrigo Abd/AP

New government figures released Friday show that the U.S. Border Patrol arrested 51,856 individuals attempting to illegally cross the southern border in November. That’s a 78 percent increase over the same period last year.

The escalating arrests represent a high-water mark for apprehensions under the Trump administration and the number of those apprehended are increasingly adults with children.

In November of last year, 7,016 “family units” were apprehended. In November 2018, the number of families arrested jumped almost four-fold to 25,172, while only 5,283 were unaccompanied children.

“The November 2018 border numbers are the predictable result of a broken immigration system – including flawed judicial rulings – that usurps the will of the American people who have repeatedly demanded secure borders,” said Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in an emailed statement.

Waldman blamed a recent ruling by a federal judge in San Francisco that blocked the Trump administration from requiring asylum seekers to present themselves at ports of entry.

“Unfortunately, individual district court judges in separate immigration rulings have given another free pass to illegal aliens to violate our laws. This has consequences,” said Waldman.

She added that the increase in illegal border crossings is a key factor in the president’s deployment of more than 5,000 troops to the southern border deter the migrant caravan originating in Central America.

U.S. Border Patrol data covering FY2000 to FY2017 shows that the last time more than 50,000 people were arrested at the southern border in the month of November was 2007. It was during the administration of President George W. Bush and 51,594 people were caught.

Back then, the unauthorized migrants were largely Mexicans. The current wave of migrants is increasingly from the Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

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Trump To Pick Heather Nauert, Former Fox News Anchor, As U.N. Ambassador, Source Says

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Trump To Pick Heather Nauert, Former Fox News Anchor, As U.N. Ambassador, Source Says

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing on Aug. 9, 2017. President Trump is expected to announce Friday his nomination of Nauert as the next ambassador to the United Nations.

Alex Brandon/AP


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Alex Brandon/AP

From Fox & Friends to the State Department, and now likely to the United Nations.

President Trump is expected to announce Friday that he has chosen Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman and a former Fox News host, to become the next ambassador to the U.N., a senior administration official tells NPR’s Tamara Keith.

If confirmed, Nauert would replace Nikki Haley, who is leaving the post at the end of the year.

Nauert was camera-ready when she came to the State Department in April 2017, having worked at ABC and Fox. She never traveled with and was not close to her first boss at the department, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. With Mike Pompeo in charge of State, Nauert has been on the road much more.

Yet she faced some criticism for a tourist-like Instagram post from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on a trip that was meant to focus on the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Nauert (left) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak with reporters while flying from Panama to Mexico on Oct. 18.

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Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AP

There have been other missteps, including the time when she cited D-Day — the Allied invasion of Normandy against the Nazis — as an example of America’s strong relationship with Germany.

She’s been a strong defender of Trump’s at the podium, something he has clearly noticed.

“She’s excellent, she’s been with us a long time, she’s been a supporter for a long time,” Trump told reporters on Nov. 1.

The State Department used to hold daily briefings. That has been scaled back to two a week, at most.

Nauert, 48, has been back and forth between her husband and two sons in New York and her job in Washington, D.C.

Before joining the Trump administration, she had no government or foreign policy experience, though she did work on some overseas assignments for ABC, including in Baghdad.

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A Photographer Turns A Lens On His Father's Alzheimer's

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A Photographer Turns A Lens On His Father's Alzheimer's

Stephen and Gene DiRado — a son and his father — in Marlborough, Mass., Oct. 29, 1998.

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

At first, Stephen DiRado thought his dad was dealing with depression. Gene DiRado, then in his late 50s, had become more withdrawn, more forgetful. So Stephen processed his growing concern by doing what he’d done since the age of 12: taking photographs. It was the 1980s, and Stephen schlepped his 8×10 camera and tripod over to his parents’ home in Marlborough, Mass., to check in on Gene and make portraits of him.

“I was running toward him with the sense of fear that something was wrong,” Stephen says now about those years.

The camera, he thought, would help bring him closer to his dad, who was a painter. With each print, the two men would discuss the composition, the design. Increasingly, Gene was forgetting things. Still, it was years before Stephen realized his father was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Stephen’s black-and-white portraits of Gene, spanning decades, turned into a documentary project called With Dad. The project is the winner of the 2018 Bob and Diane Fund, awarded this week, which aims to support photographic work about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia through a $5,000 grant.

Gene DiRado (top) with his wife Rose, son Gene, and daughter Gina, in Hampton Beach, N.H., Aug. 17, 1989.

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

Gene poses with Missy in Marlborough, Mass., Oct. 16, 1993.

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

“I would see it in his face — and that’s when I would get that sinking feeling,” Stephen says of those early years, when he was struggling to come to terms with his dad’s declining health. “I started to look for me in those photos. What’s my role?”

The two continued the project until Gene’s death in 2009. Since then, Stephen has been photographing his mother Rose as she navigates life without her husband. With the grant money from the Bob and Diane Fund, Stephen plans to make a book of the photographs.

Shots recently spoke with DiRado about the project. The following excerpt of that conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

How did you get started on this work?

My father was in my studio around 1987 and I was moving some of my photos around to put them in crates to mail off to a gallery. I had one particular photo up on an easel and my father just rhetorically said, ‘You know, it’s not a good photo. I don’t like it — it’s poorly designed. I don’t know why the gallery picked it.’ I took the photo, I put it on the floor and five minutes later I picked up the same photo to put it in the same exact spot on an easel and my father said, “Now that’s a really good photograph.’

It really alarmed me. It set something off. I looked at my father and said ‘Dad, why don’t we make appointments that I come to your house and work on a series of portraits?’

This was back in 1987. Alzheimer’s was something you were hearing about that was really foreign.

After Gene’s first stroke, in the University of Massachusetts Medical Hospital, Worcester, Mass., May 19, 1998.

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

(Left to right) Gene, Rose, son Chris, and Stephen (lower right) in Boynton Beach, Fla., April 16, 2001.

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

How difficult was it to work on a project that was so personal?

At the end of a shoot, I’d come back with tears in my eyes and thinking that I’m exploiting my father for personal use. But I’d wake up the next morning and that would all fade away. There was a true purpose about this. It kept me with him. It was my job to be with my father.

How did your relationship with Gene change over time?

In the case of my father — photographing him since I was a young kid — it wasn’t so much ‘Why are you photographing me?’ It was, ‘Are you making a good photograph of me?’ And so I always brought back these photos to show him and we would talk about, ‘Are they designed well? Are they articulating our emotions?’ “

Gene in Marlborough, Mass., Nov. 2, 2003.

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

In the advanced stages, he was becoming more despondent. The minute I set up the camera he would walk over to look at the camera and I was really freaked out by that; he was paying far more attention to the camera than me. Eventually the last three or four years of his life, it came down to just being the camera. I became invisible. It was pretty tough stuff.

What did your family think of the project?

I don’t think it was a thought. They’ve been photographed by me since i was 12 years old all the time — very private moments and very public moments. It was the friends not close to me — friends that were acquaintances — that said, ‘How can you do this? Isn’t this very private and something you need to keep within the family?’ And I would say, ‘You don’t understand this now but this is profoundly important for all of us — for anybody dealing with this. And I’m hoping that others can be helped by it.

What do you think your father would say about this work?

I think about my father all the time. He’d still be critiquing me. He would say ‘That one’s not so good, this one’s good.’ None of this stuff goes away.

April 10, 2005

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

Gene’s birthday, Aug. 5, 2007

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

Feb. 23, 2008

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado

Nov. 6, 2009

Stephen DiRado


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Stephen DiRado


Gina Martin, an account executive at National Geographic, started the Bob and Diane Fund in 2016 in memory of her mother, Diane, who died from Alzheimer’s in 2011 and her father Robert. The jurors included Sarah Leen, director of photography at National Geographic, Chip Somodevilla, senior photographer for Getty Images, and NPR’s Keith Jenkins.

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Chicken Diplomacy: How President Bush Went For The Gut In The Former USSR

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Chicken Diplomacy: How President Bush Went For The Gut In The Former USSR

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (left) and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush share a light moment together outside the White House in 1990. Could they be discussing chicken?

Ron Sachs/ Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images


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Ron Sachs/ Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

As we’ve been hearing this week, people have very different memories of the late President George H. W. Bush. Some see him representing a civility that has disappeared from American politics. For others, he’s the symbol of indifference to the suffering of many Americans during the AIDS epidemic. But ask someone from the former Soviet Union about Bush, and they’re likely to think of… his legs.

Some context: As the Soviet Union began to unravel in the late 1980s, the food supply chain broke down. It’s a picture a lot of people remember.

“You’d have people standing in lines to get especially scarce things, like vodka. But increasingly also cheese, bread, milk,” says Yanni Kotsonis, a historian of Russia and its economic history at New York University.

To deal with these shortages, the Soviet Union made a series of trade deals.

“There might be a deal with some enterprise in Eastern or Western Europe, and suddenly there’s a flood of that particular good,” Kotsonis explains. “It could be ballpoint pens. It could be cologne. It could be Bulgarian kompot, which is preserved fruit in a jar. It could be canned fish from Greece.” And the Soviet people would line up for it, whatever it was.

And in 1990, the U.S. made a deal to send over surplus chicken — which, given the U.S. preference for chicken breasts (then and now), meant dark meat. And so, Kotsonis explains, the market was flooded with these large chicken leg/thigh combinations.

“It was announced as a deal between the United States, led by President Bush, and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union. And the nickname immediately caught on that these are Bush’s legs, or Bush’s feet.”

And these Bush legs, known as nozhky boosha, made a big impression on the Soviet market.

“Each Bush leg was the size of a Soviet chicken,” recalls Anya Ulinich, laughing. She is a writer in Brooklyn now, but in 1990 she was a teenager in Moscow. “Or at least it seemed sort of that way. It was like an elephant next to a Chihuahua.”

While these days consumers may pay top dollar for a small, flavorful heritage breed, back then, the Soviet chicken stock was not a source of pride, Ulinich explains. “All these jokes were always made about the Soviet chicken — that it ran a marathon, or several. Or it got an award for being the longest-lived chicken. They were kind of scrawny and blue and dark.”

Sasha Senderovich, who teaches Russian and Jewish studies at the University of Washington, remembers that the Soviet bird’s shortcomings didn’t end there.

“If you were able to procure that scrawny Soviet chicken, you would have to bring it home, and kind of continue to kind of deal with it, because it wasn’t fully plucked,” Senderovich explains. “There would still be some feathers on, and you would pluck those that were still there. Then you would have to singe them inside the apartment, on your gas burner, so it would stink up the whole house,” he recalls with a shudder.

By contrast, Bush legs were enormous, white, and fully processed. And, they were available. Historian Yanni Kotsonis says that in the 1990s, about 70 percent of Russian chicken was imported. At times, Russia bought up to 40 percent of U.S. chicken exports.

“Sure it was motivated by Bush’s good connections with the poultry industry. But it also represented a very real form of diplomacy. And I lament the loss of that kind of diplomacy.”

But Kotsonis acknowledges that around the same time Russians were embracing the soft diplomacy of delicious Bush legs, they were also watching the brutal bombings of the first Gulf War. And thinking about their own dependence on the country behind it. For a lot of Russians who lived through this period, feelings toward America can be somewhat conflicted.

Sasha Senderovich fondly remembers the Bush legs coming out of his grandmother’s oven. And yet, he says the Bush legs “were the sort of first foot soldiers of American capitalism you sent eastwards, to lay the groundwork for all the rest that followed,” he laughs ruefully.

With perestroika came not only surplus American dark meat, but a loosening of political humor. Senderovich recalls the most popular joke:

“The Bush legs tells to the Soviet chicken, ‘Oh, you look so small, and you look so sickly! And look at me, I’m so healthy, and I’m so large, and so much bigger than you!’ And then the Soviet chicken responds: ‘But I died my own death.’ “

Like a lot of Russian humor, this one is hard to parse. Is the joke on the scrawny Soviet bird who thinks he’s noble? Or on the capitalist American bird who isn’t? Or on the Soviet consumer stuck between these two?

Either way, it’s a thing of the past. Import sanctions over the last decade took Bush legs off the Russian menu, and the domestic industry rebuilt to fill the void. But for millions of former Soviets, the deliciously complicated memory remains.

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Is America Ready For Prescription Heroin?

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Is America Ready For Prescription Heroin?

In several European countries and Canada, patients with longterm opioid addiction are prescribed pharmaceutical grade heroin which they inject in clinics like the Patrida Medical Clinic in Berlin. Some addiction specialists want to pilot similar programs in the U.S.

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The U.S. drug crisis does not appear to be letting up. The nation experienced a shattering 47,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017. Driving the surge are potent, cheap synthetics like fentanyl. They’ve spread into the illicit drug supply, and in response communities have been trying a range of interventions, from increasing naloxone trainings to upping treatment resources.

But a new analysis from policy think tank, the Rand Corporation, concludes it’s time to pilot an approach from outside the U.S.: offering pharmaceutical-grade heroin — yes, heroin — as a form of treatment for long time heroin users who haven’t had success with other treatments. It’s already happening in several European countries and Canada. But it would challenge culture, laws and practice in the U.S.

“These are controversial interventions,” says lead author Beau Kilmer, who co-directs RAND’s drug policy research center. “There are some people that don’t even want to have conversations about this. But given where we are with opioid deaths near 50,000 and fentanyl deaths near 30,000, it’s important that we have discussions about these interventions that are grounded in the research and grounded in the experiences of other countries.”

Here’s how programs that offer prescription heroin, or heroin-assisted treatment (HAT), work. Patients typically get a regular, measured dose of pharmaceutical-grade heroin — also known as diacetylmorphine or diamorphine — and inject it under close medical supervision inside a designated clinic. The idea is if people have a legal source of heroin, they’ll be less likely to overdose on tainted street drugs, spend less time and energy trying to get their next fix, and instead be able to focus on the underlying drivers of their addiction.

“This is just another treatment that could help stabilize lives,”says Kilmer.

It’s not meant for everyone. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone are highly effective treatments that function in different ways to address cravings and withdrawal symptoms or block the effects of drugs. But these first-line treatments don’t work for some longtime opioid users. In Canada’s main study of prescription heroin, eligible patients had already tried quitting heroin an average of 11 times.

Prescription heroin as a form of maintenance therapy dates back to the early 1920s in the UK, and revved up in the 1990s in other parts of Europe. (It was even a thing in the U.S. before the sweeping federal drug laws of the early 20th century.)

Heroin-assisted treatment is different from the concept of supervised consumption sites, where patients bring in their own illicit drugs and then inject them while medical staff are present, ready to respond in case of an overdose. These are increasingly debated in the U.S. as at least a dozen cities consider them.

Kilmer says prescription heroin has been researched with more rigorous methods. Several randomized controlled trials in Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands found that people addicted to heroin benefited from the approach, according to RAND’s analysis. They were more likely to stay in treatment compared to those who took methadone, and they were less likely to revert to using illicit heroin. Evidence also suggests that prescription heroin may be more effective than methadone in reducing criminal activity and improving patients’ physical and mental health.

For Dr. Chinazo Cunningham, an addiction specialist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, alternative approaches are important, but she thinks it’s more imperative in the U.S. to focus on what she sees as the most pressing issue right now: “We have treatment that works, we just need to provide it in a way that is accessible to people,” she says.

As it stands, a vast majority of people who could benefit from first line treatments for opioid use disorder aren’t getting it, a problem that’s even driving a black market for treatment.

“It’s hard for me to imagine heroin-assisted treatment because I think right now even talking about getting more mainstream treatment like methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone to people, there’s already so much stigma around it,” says Cunningham.

As part of the analysis, RAND conducted focus groups and interviews in several New Hampshire and Ohio counties hit hard by the overdose crisis. The idea of prescription heroin was new to many and was met with skepticism over its acceptability from health professionals, local leaders, and those in treatment. People worried that heroin-assisted treatment “would enable drug use” and face community resistance.

And there’s a big legal obstacle. Heroin is a strictly regulated Schedule 1 drug which means doctors can’t prescribe it. It is legal to conduct research on Schedule 1 drugs, but as is seen with medical marijuana research, it is a difficult process that would require approvals from several government agencies including the DEA. There are no human trials currently underway for heroin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Still, the RAND report says a pilot program could offer insight into whether the results abroad might translate stateside.

The report says alternately, communities might consider studying a Schedule 2 opioid, hydromorphone, which is used for pain in the U.S. There would be fewer hurdles to setting up a pilot program. A study in Vancouver found it was as effective as prescription heroin, and now at least seven sites in Canada offer injectable hydromorphone to patients.

Still, there does appear to be some interest from at least a few addiction specialists in the U.S. In New York, Cunningham’s colleague at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Aaron Fox, says he’s open to it. In fact, he’s spending the early part of next year on leave to study prescription heroin in other countries, with hopes of “figuring out how to do a pilot” back in the U.S.

He says he doesn’t see it as a silver bullet, but often that’s not how treatments work for other diseases, either.

“People need additional options for something like cancer. If people fail responding to treatment, there are other treatments,” Fox says. “If people aren’t able to stop or cut down on their heroin use when enrolled on methadone or buprenorphine, we need other options for people.”

What fuels him is seeing patients, like a recent woman, who just wasn’t having success with other treatments. He recalls wanting her to return to the methadone program she had been in before, but she was struggling and decompensated. He didn’t want to give up.

“I’m not going to say, ‘I tried my best, that’s it,’ when there are these other tools shown to be effective in other countries,” he says. “Why not use that in the U.S.?”


Elana Gordon (@elana_gordon) is a health a reporter and a 2018-2019 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.

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North Korea Seen Expanding Missile Base

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North Korea Seen Expanding Missile Base

Satellite images reveal tunneling and other construction activity at two sites believed to house long-range missiles.

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D Schmerler/MIIS/PlanetLabs

North Korea appears to be expanding a missile base in a remote, mountainous part of the country, according to new commercial satellite imagery studied by independent researchers.

The base, located near the Chinese border, is believed to be capable of housing long-range missiles that could, in theory, hit the United States. Researchers say they see clear signs that the base is being upgraded.

“They are constructing hardened drive-through shelters for the vehicles that would carry the long-range missiles,” says Catherine Dill, a senior research associate with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, which conducted the analysis. “And they are also constructing tunnel entrances.”

Dave Schmerler, a research associate at Middlebury who worked on the imagery, says it’s not clear whether the missiles have actually been deployed to the site.

According to imagery from commercial providers such as Planet and Google Earth, the construction appears to be taking place at the existing facility, the Yeongjeo-dong missile base, and a second site, known as Hoejung-ri, around 7 miles away. It’s unclear whether the new site is an extension of the existing base or an entirely new one.

The base would very likely be used to house longer-range missiles, such as this Hwasong-12, which is capable of reaching Guam.

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Either way, the evidence clearly shows that the North is continuing to expand its missile capabilities, Dill says. Last year, North Korea tested long-range missiles that put the entire continental United States within range. Separately, the North also tested a powerful nuclear weapon.

The North officially suspended its testing around the time of a summit in Singapore between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But that voluntary moratorium did not apply to the bases that might house the missiles, Dill says. At these facilities, construction appears to be continuing apace. “They started construction before the Singapore summit and they’ve continued it since then,” Dill says.

North Korea has not tested any long-range missiles following a summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. But it continues to expand its bases for such missiles.

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D. Schmerler/MIIS/Google Earth

The bases are believed to serve as shelters for mobile missile launchers. If North Korea came under attack, the trucks could be fueled and armed in hardened underground facilities. They would then drive to any one of a number of predetermined sites and fire their missiles at the enemy.

This is the second missile base to be spotted by independent researchers in recent weeks. Last month, a separate group found an active missile base that was not widely known to the public. That base is believed to house much-shorter-range missiles than the base announced Wednesday.

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NYT: Disgraced CBS Chief Les Moonves Misled Investigators

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NYT: Disgraced CBS Chief Les Moonves Misled Investigators

Les Moonves, former president and CEO of CBS Corporation, attends a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 11. Moonves was ousted in September after a series of women accused him of harassment and sexual assault.

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Les Moonves, the former head of CBS, actively obstructed an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted employees, according to a draft report obtained by The New York Times. As a result, Moonves may be barred from receiving the controversial $120 million severance package he had been promised under his contract.

The report, which lawyers working for CBS prepared for the company’s board, also includes previously unreported allegations against Moonves, according to the Times.

The newspaper said that the lawyers spoke to 11 women with allegations against Moonves, and collected second-hand reports about other allegations as well. They found credible reports of harassment, and also determined that Moonves received oral sex from at least four employees “under circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent that there was no hint of any relationship, romance, or reciprocity (especially given what we know about his history of more or less forced oral sex with women with whom he has no ongoing relationship).”

The lawyers also heard multiple reports of an employee kept on staff who was “on call” to provide oral sex to Moonves.

Moonves has rejected allegations of nonconsensual sexual misconduct, and through a lawyer, denied to the Times that an employee was kept on payroll for sexual purposes.

A number of women have come forward publicly to accuse Moonves of forcible kissing during business meetings, forcing female colleagues to perform oral sex, and retaliating against those who declined his advances.

The report also details how Moonves attempted to interfere with the lawyers’ investigation into his behavior, according to the Times‘ reporting.

Moonves was “evasive and untruthful,” deliberately lying about his misconduct, the lawyers found. He deleted hundreds of texts and when asked to hand over devices, gave investigators his son’s iPad instead of his own.

The New York Times also reports that a board member at CBS was informed of an alleged assault more than a decade ago, but continued to support Moonves. The report details how the former head of communications at CBS drafted a resignation letter for Moonves, which Moonves did not sign, weeks before he actually left the company.

After Moonves’ initial departure, it appeared he was still eligible for the lucrative severance package detailed in his contract. Some of his alleged misconduct occurred before he joined CBS and other behavior might be difficult to prove.

However, the Times notes, the draft report to the board suggests Moonves violated his contractual obligation to cooperate with investigators.

“It seems very unlikely that the board would be able to to grant him those $120 million as part of his severance,” NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports. “But it’s also reflective of a culture where there seemed to be no accountability, where governance itself seems to have failed at CBS.”

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Cuba Extends Internet To Mobile Phones, Promising New Access

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Cuba Extends Internet To Mobile Phones, Promising New Access

Cuba’s telecom monopoly is rolling out broad Internet access for mobile phone users this week. Here, a woman uses her smartphone to surf the Internet in Havana.

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Desmond Boylan/AP

Cuba’s state telephone company will allow mobile phone customers to use the Internet via a new 3G network, starting on Thursday. But as with previous tech advances in the island nation, only those who can afford it will be able to take advantage of the access — which remains under the control of the autocratic government.

Phones have emerged as a key method of accessing the Internet in Cuba. After all, it was only 10 years ago that the Castro government lifted its ban that prohibited regular citizens from buying computers, and Internet access in private homes was rare before 2016.

With a population of more than 11.1 million people, Cuba currently has 5.3 million mobile lines and 1.3 million landlines, according to the phone monopoly ETECSA, or the Telecommunications Company of Cuba S.A.

It provides mobile service through nearly 800 3G base stations and more than 1,000 2g stations.

ETECSA says its new offering will “expand the possibilities of Internet access as part of the process of computerization of the Cuban society.”

That will likely be welcome news to many Cubans, who live in a country that the nonprofit rights monitor Freedom House calls “one of the world’s least connected and most repressive environments for information and communication technologies.”

Cubans also “continue to face extremely slow connections of 1 Mbps, even at Wi-Fi hotspots,” according to Freedom House’s report on Cuba’s Internet access that was released last month.

To take advantage of the new service, Cubans will need to pay the equivalent of $7 for 600 megabytes of data, $10 for 1 gigabyte, and $30 for 4 gigabytes, according to the state-run Granma news agency.

The cost of access poses a steep barrier in a country where nearly 60 percent of the population lives on $100 or less per month, as a 2016 Cuban consumer survey found. Despite that obstacle, 68 percent of Cubans said they had a Facebook account, and 57 percent said they had an email address, the survey said.

The promise of wide mobile access to the Internet comes more than a year after Google helped boost Internet speeds within Cuba, installing servers through a deal with ETECSA. The country’s main Internet link comes through the ALBA-1 submarine cable, which runs from Venezuela. ETECSA also routes some traffic through a private satellite.

In recent years, Cubans have been able to access Facebook and other popular Internet sites via their cellphones — but it often involved a combination of a special access card sold by ETECSA, pay-as-you-go public Wi-Fi hot spots, and phones that were sent back home from relatives abroad.

Cuba has long had one of the lowest rates of Internet usage in the world. Things slowly began to change in 2013, when some citizens were allowed access through a government portal. According to Freedom House, the Cuban network includes “a national email system, a Cuban encyclopedia, a pool of educational materials and open-access journals, Cuban websites, and foreign websites that are supportive of the Cuban government.”

In 2015, President Obama allowed U.S. businesses to invest in Cuba’s telecom sector. Shortly after that move, the Communist government opened hot spots to the public; previously, only tourists and government officials could use the Internet, as NPR’s Carrie Kahn reported.

The new web service will be available on Thursday, and this week the first mobile customers will receive notifications that they’re eligible. Because of the size of the service roll-out, Cuba’s telecom company will send those notifications over the course of three days.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel celebrated the wider access, saying via Twitter that it was an advance for Cuban society.

Hoy martes el Ministro de Comunicaciones anunciará y explicará en la Mesa Redonda el servicio de Internet en los teléfonos. Seguimos avanzando en la informatización de la sociedad #SomosContinuidad #SomosCuba

— Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) December 4, 2018

The government also broadcast a round-table discussion on national TV Tuesday night, featuring the president of ETECSA, Mayra Arevich, and Cuba’s communications minister, Jorge Luis Perdomo Di-Lella. And in a sign of how things have changed in Cuba in recent years, their discussion was also streamed on Facebook and YouTube.

But there were also signs that Cuba will need to keep working on its infrastructure, to improve notoriously spotty and slow service. As it told its customers about the new Internet access, ETECSA also warned them that in the first days of operation, “incidents could be experienced” that will disrupt service.

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Michael Flynn Has Provided 'Substantial Assistance' In Russia Inquiry, Feds Say

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Michael Flynn Has Provided 'Substantial Assistance' In Russia Inquiry, Feds Say

Prosecutors on Tuesday filed new paperwork in the case of former national security adviser Mike Flynn. He’s been cooperating with investigators since his guilty plea last year.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP


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Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Updated at 9:38 p.m. ET

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has provided “substantial” aid in the Russia investigation and beyond — and that merits a judge’s consideration at Flynn’s sentencing this month, prosecutors said in court papers late Tuesday.

The government said in a memo to a federal judge that it believes sentencing for Flynn should be lenient and that even a sentence without prison time “is appropriate and warranted.”

Prosecutors say Flynn helped with “several ongoing investigations,” not just the Russia inquiry, including a redacted criminal investigation. Authorities say some of Flynn’s help may not have yet borne fruit but they’ve asked a judge to sentence him anyway as had been planned on Dec. 18.

Prosecutors wrote that Flynn offered “firsthand information about the content and context of interactions between [Donald Trump’s] transition team and Russian government officials” on two sensitive matters: a United Nations resolution about Israeli settlements and the then-outgoing Obama administration’s sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

“Several senior members of the transition team publicly repeated false information conveyed to them by the defendant about communications between him and the Russian ambassador regarding the sanctions,” the court document says.

The following sentence is redacted, as are several other parts of the document. The document hails Flynn’s cooperation with prosecutors but many of the details are obscured.

On the whole, authorities said Flynn cooperated early and was “particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight” regarding matters being investigated by the special counsel’s office.

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His work with the government included 19 interviews with special counsel lawyers or others at the Justice Department.

Flynn pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI. He told investigators he didn’t remember a conversation with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States at an important moment in the presidential transition.

Actually, Flynn later admitted, he did. Since then he been has been giving information to investigators in exchange for leniency from the Justice Department.

What happened back then

In the closing days of 2016, the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama imposed punitive measures on Russia to retaliate for its attack on the 2016 presidential election. It ejected a number of people posted inside the U.S. and closed diplomatic facilities they used.

Meanwhile, the incoming Trump administration sought to prevail upon Moscow not to escalate the situation when it responded to Obama’s actions. Flynn talked with the presidential transition team, according to court documents, as he was also negotiating with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States.

Ultimately, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would not escalate its response to the actions taken by the outgoing Obama team. Then-President-elect Trump praised that decision on Twitter.

Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016

In early January 2017, The Washington Post reported aspects of Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador. But Flynn and others in the Trump camp insisted that Flynn didn’t talk about sanctions with his Russian counterparts.

That included then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who told CBS on Jan. 15, that he’d talked with Flynn himself about the situation and been assured there was no such discussion.

At the Justice Department, however, then-Acting Attorney General Sally Yates knew that wasn’t so — and she knew the Russians involved knew it too. Worried that discrepancy might open Flynn to foreign leverage, she went to the White House to warn then-White House Counsel Don McGahn.

The story continued to swirl until Feb. 13, when Flynn resigned. Many of the specific details about what took place inside the White House aren’t clear.

For example, as The Post also reported, Pence didn’t learn that Flynn had given him false information until around the time the newspaper reported it. Trump, on the other hand, had been briefed much earlier. So Trump knew for some two weeks that Flynn hadn’t told Pence the truth but also didn’t act or tell Pence.

On the day after Flynn’s resignation, then-FBI Director James Comey visited the White House for a meeting with Trump and others. Afterward, Comey later said, Trump asked everyone else to leave the Oval Office and began talking about Flynn.

Trump said he hoped that Comey could “let this go,” according to Comey’s account.

Comey documented his account of that encounter and others in memos that later became public after Trump fired him in May 2017. Critics argue that Trump’s requests, his subsequent firing of Comey and other actions both pertaining to Flynn and unrelated to Flynn mean that the president may have obstructed justice.

Trump denied he asked Comey to ease up on Flynn and disputes other aspects of Comey’s account. The president and his attorneys also have since taken the position that Trump has broad powers under the Constitution to hire and fire virtually anyone he wants within the executive branch, for any reason.

That means that, in this view, the president cannot have broken any law.

The exile

Flynn was a longtime U.S. Army intelligence specialist who rose to the summit of his career as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama. But he clashed with other powerful leaders inside the intelligence community and he was ousted in 2014.

So Flynn went into business for himself, selling his expertise about geopolitics to clients within Washington and around the world. Two of his important foreign relationships involved powerful Russians and Turks.

In 2015, Flynn traveled to Russia to appear at a celebratory dinner for the state-controlled RT media network and accepted tens of thousands of dollars in payments from Russian entities. Flynn’s business also began to do work for Turkish clients, including those with ties to Turkey’s president.

Flynn also became involved in an ambitious nuclear reactor project with a number of potential international supporters, including Russians, Egyptians, Israelis, Chinese and others.

House Democrats have suggested that Flynn continued to lobby on behalf of that project even after Trump was inaugurated and Flynn was serving in his official role as national security adviser.

Democrats also suggested that Flynn’s interest in strengthening ties with the stakeholders and the Russians meant that he had decided before the inauguration that the U.S. sanctions then in force against Russia would be “ripped up.”

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Demonstrators Across Israel Protest Violence Against Women

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Demonstrators Across Israel Protest Violence Against Women

Hundreds of red shoes filled Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on Tuesday, part of a nationwide protest to push the government to address violence against women.

Oded Balilty/AP


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Oded Balilty/AP

Protesters across Israel on Tuesday criticized what they say is the government’s failure to address violence against women.

Activists carried signs bearing the names of women killed this year, lit candles and blocked city streets. Some demonstrators lay in the roads, with fake blood splattered across their clothes, and clutching stuffed animals. In Tel Aviv, protesters displayed shoes that had been dyed red. In Jerusalem, a fountain spouted red fluid, resembling blood.

Media outlets reported that people chanted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “wake up, our blood is not cheap.”

The protest was a reaction to the killings of 24 women this year by a partner, family member or person they knew, according to local media: One woman was reportedly stabbed to death by her husband hours after visiting a lawyer. Another was allegedly attacked by her son with a hammer.

Last week, the bodies of 13-year-old Silvana Tsegai and 16-year-old Yara Ayoub were discovered in Israel, The Los Angeles Times reported. Authorities said both were killed by men they knew.

“We had to do something radical, to make sure that women in Israel show the government that we are not going to take this anymore,” organizer Ruti Klein told The Associated Press.

Netanyahu stoked criticism when he voted against a proposal to establish a parliamentary inquiry into women who had been killed. Protesters called for more action and more funding to stop the violence.

It follows a United Nations report filed last year which concluded that the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty of 1992 “serves as Israel’s bill of rights,” but that the legislation upholds equality between men and women “only in the public sphere.” Some 200,000 women were victims of domestic violence between 2014 and 2015, the report stated.

Women of the Wall, a group that has long advocated for greater rights for women praying at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, tweeted a note of solidarity “with a national movement protesting violence against women in Israel – because women’s lives are not up for grabs. This battle is all of ours.”

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