Browsing articles from "September, 2014"

Great Expectations: A New Season of New Music

Sep 3, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Great Expectations: A New Season of New Music

Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain receives its world premiere at Santa Fe Opera in the coming season.

Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain receives its world premiere at Santa Fe Opera in the coming season.

Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera


hide caption

itoggle caption

Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera

Musicologist and pianist Charles Rosen once quipped: “The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition.” But it’s tough to see much gloom when faced with the diversity of premieres and provocative programming around the country in the 2014-2015 season.

John Adams reboots the Thousand and One Nights story in a new violin concerto called Scheherazade.2. Two Pulitzer winners — Jennifer Higdon and Kevin Puts — continue the trend of taking books and films to the opera stage with Cold Mountain and The Manchurian Candidate. And conductor Michael Tilson Thomas re-creates the famously long 1808 concert where Beethoven premiered his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and his Choral Fantasy.

We’ve pored over hundreds of listings in compiling this guide to compelling premieres and creatively programmed concerts. Have we missed something monumental? Let us know in the comments area or on Facebook or Twitter.

OPERA

Although opera companies big and small have taken their lumps lately, there are fresh ideas and plenty of new works in the wings. Two of the most anticipated world premieres ahead this season are from recent Pulitzer winners Jennifer Higdon and Kevin Puts.

Higdon’s Cold Mountain, with a libretto by Gene Sheer, is based on Charles Frazier’s best-selling novel and debuts Aug. 1 at the Santa Fe Opera. Nathan Gunn stars as Confederate soldier W. P. Inman, who deserts the army for his beloved Ada, played by Isabel Leonard, and his home on Cold Mountain in North Carolina. Anthony Minghella’s 2003 movie adaptation earned a Best Supporting Actress award for Renée Zellweger. Cold Mountain is Higdon’s first opera and she says she’s both excited and nervous. “I’m anxious to see if it works on the stage and with orchestra,” she told NPR Music. “When it comes down to it, the music has to carry the weight of the responsibility.” Nothing was easy about composing her first opera, but there was one unexpected consequence. “I didn’t realize that I would be carrying these characters in my head and heart for about two and a half years,” she says. “But in many ways, living inside the opera, which it felt like I did, was not like anything I’ve ever experienced before. The entire group stayed with me day and night. I’ve been pretty absent from the present day world for quite some time. That type of concentrated creativity has been amazing to experience.”

Kevin Puts’ Manchurian Candidate opens at Minnesota Opera March 7. The political thriller is perhaps best known via the 1962 film of the same name that starred Frank Sinatra as a brainwashed Korean War POW. Puts and his librettist Mark Campbell base their opera on the 1959 Richard Condon novel. Puts won the music Pulitzer for his first opera Silent Night, also a collaboration with Campbell at the forward-thinking Minnesota Opera. With the orchestration of the new work almost complete, Puts told NPR Music the hardest part of writing the opera was to achieve balance. “This is a thriller,” he said, “so the challenge has been in maintaining a breathless pace and still finding moments to sing, reflect and to give the audience a breather.”

Lyric Opera of Chicago launched its outreach initiative Lyric Unlimited in 2012, bringing mainly contemporary operas to intimate venues throughout the area. Two promising entries in the series this season will resonate with Chicago’s Mexican and Polish communities.

El Pasado Nunca Se Termina (The Past is Never Finished), opening March 28, is a mariachi opera set on the eve of the Mexican Revolution. It’s another collaboration between composer Pepe Martinez and librettist Leonard Foglia (the director of Higdon’s Cold Mountain), the same team responsible for the earlier mariachi-inspired Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, a Houston Grand Opera commission from 2010. The Property, by composer Wlad Marhulets and librettist Stephanie Fleishmann, is based on a graphic novel by Rutu Modan and opens Feb. 25. It tells the story of a woman and her granddaughter retracing their steps back to modern day Warsaw to regain property lost during World War II.

Los Angeles Opera will explore a single character through three operas across several centuries. Figaro Unbound: Culture, Power and Revolution at Play celebrates the wily Figaro as he appears in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (opening March 21), Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (opening March 8) and John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (opening Feb. 7). The operas were inspired by the 18th-century playwright Beaumarchais, whose work was considered radical in the years leading up to the French Revolution. The Figaro Unbound series includes additional theater works and activities Feb. 7-April 12.

Houston Grand Opera puts a new spin on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, premiering Dec. 5. Simon Callow, best known as an actor in such movies as Amadeus and A Room With a View, directs an operatic version of the beloved story; he wrote the libretto as well. The music is by Iain Bell.

ORCHESTRA

Anything new from John Adams is worthy of attention. This season the New York Philharmonic, with music director Alan Gilbert, premieres Scheherazade.2 for violin and orchestra March 26. Adams says the piece “imagines a modern woman storyteller/hostage whose strength of character and powers of endurance are tested over and over by male hegemony.” Violinist and MacArthur fellow Leila Josefowicz will premiere the piece.

Upstate at the adventuresome Albany Symphony, music director David Allen Miller leads the orchestra in the Dec. 20 world premiere of The Winter’s Tale for cello and orchestra by Michael Torke. He’s the composer of sparkling orchestra pieces like Bright Blue Music.

Pulitzer winner David Lang‘s new piece man made debuts Oct. 2 on the first subscription concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic season. (We’ll webcast the concert at NPR Music.) On Jan. 16 the LA Phil gives the U.S. premiere of the late Henryk Górecki’s Fourth Symphony. The work was left unfinished when the composer died in 2010; his son completed the piece, which debuted in London earlier this year.

James Levine has championed music by the late Elliott Carter. March 8, Levine leads the MET Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in the world premiere of The American Sublime, a piece written especially for him that uses texts by Wallace Stevens.

The Alabama Symphony has commissioned Caleb Burhans, a young multi-genre musician to keep an ear on, to write his first orchestral piece, which premieres May 8. Sept. 19 the orchestra premieres a work by Serbian composer Đuro Živković, winner of the 2014 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Michael Tilson Thomas, who turns 70 next year (can that be?), leads the San Francisco Symphony in a Beethoven flashback. MTT re-creates the 1808 extravaganza wherein Beethoven premiered not only his Fifth Symphony but also his Sixth, the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Choral Fantasy. Several movements from his Mass in C major and the concert aria Ah! perfido also received their Viennese premieres at that famed event and will appear on MTT’s program, which features pianist Jonathan Biss and soprano Karita Mattila as soloists.

The Grand Rapids Symphony presents the world premiere of Dialogues of Love, a new choral symphony by Avner Dorman, which it commissioned. Music director David Lockington conducts the piece Nov. 21-22 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Two pieces by the prolific young composer Nico Muhly will receive their world premieres. An orchestral work commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra is slated for a May 13 debut in Philadelphia. His Second Service (Magnificat Nunc dimittis), a work for chorus and organ, premieres 30 miles southwest at the Christ Church Christiana Hundred in Wilmington, Del. Oct. 19. An orchestrated version follows in Liverpool, England Oct. 25.

Somewhere between an oratorio, an opera and a symphonic work is Peter Sellars’ staging of J.S. Bach‘s sublime St. Matthew Passion for the Berlin Philharmonic with conductor Simon Rattle and a starry cast of soloists. Sellars’ riveting vision of the work makes its U.S. premiere at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan Oct. 7-8, as part of the White Light Festival. Sellars sees Bach’s Passion in communal terms, as a ritual or prayer, with choristers, soloists and some orchestra players having memorized the music in order to blend in as organic characters in the drama. The Berlin Philharmonic’s DVD of this production, from 2012, was on many best of the year lists. The New York performances include nearly all of the same soloists, including Magdalena Kožená, Christian Gerhaher and a heart-wrenching Mark Padmore as the evangelist.

CHAMBER

This year’s Pulitzer winner for music, John Luther Adams, teams up with the string quartet Brooklyn Rider for a premiere of Veils and Vesper, a six-hour sound installation that incorporates the movement of audience members on March 25-26 at Carolina Performing Arts. This marks the first time the piece has been performed with live musicians.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center new music series at the Kaplan Penthouse (Dec. 11 – May 7) features an impressive lineup of composers, from Toshio Hosokawa and Vivan Fung to Andrew Norman, Jorg Widman and Derek Bermel. The series includes U.S. and New York premieres.

MORE PREMIERES (And Provocative Performances)

September:

19 – Houston Symphony Orchestra: Karnavalingo by Gabriela Lena Frank (world premiere)

23-30 – New York Philharmonic: Clarinet Concerto by Unsuk Chin with soloist Kari Kriikku (U.S. premiere)

October:

9-14 – New York Philharmonic: Thunderstruck by composer-in-residence Christopher Rouse (world premiere)

10 – Eastman Wind Ensemble: Music for Wind orchestra (No Strings Attached) by André Previn (world premiere)

30–Nov. 1 – New York Philharmonic: Flute Concerto by Christopher Rouse (New York premiere)

November:

13-18 – Boston Symphony Orchestra: Dramatis personae, for trumpet and orchestra by Grawemeyer Award winner Brett Dean with soloist Håkan Hardenberger (American Premiere)

20-22 – Boston Symphony Orchestra: new work for chorus and orchestra by Erik Esenvalds (world premiere)

20-22 – Detroit Symphony Orchestra: DSO Music Director leads the world premiere of his own Endgames, as well as performances of a trombone concerto by his wife, Cindy McTee, with DSO Principal Trombone Kenneth Thompkins as soloist

20-22 –Los Angeles Philharmonic: Symphony No. 4, “Organ” by Stephen Hartke (world premiere)

21-22 – Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra: Double Concerto for Violin and Cello by André Previn with soloists Jamie Laredo and Sharon Robinson (world premiere)

December:

11-13 – Seattle Symphony: Cello Concerto by Mason Bates with soloist Joshua Roman (world premiere)

January 2015

9-11 – Los Angeles Philharmonic: Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, staged version with video (world premiere)

22-23 – Philadelphia Orchestra: Piano Concerto by Mark-Anthony Turnage with soloist Marc-André Hamelin (North American premiere)

February:

12-14 – Boston Symphony Orchestra: Responses: Of sweet disorder and the carefully careless by Harrison Birtwistle (American premiere)

20 – American Symphony Orchestra: Mona Lisa (opera) by Max von Schillings

21 – Alabama Symphony: Transylvanian Seasons by Cristian Bence-Muk (world premiere)

March:

5, 7 – Boston Symphony Orchestra: King Roger (opera) by Karol Szymanowski, with conductor Charles Dutoit

6 – Alabama Symphony: new orchestral piece by Ellis Ludwig-Leone (of the band San Fermin) (world premiere)

26-31 – Boston Symphony Orchestra: new work for organ and orchestra by Michael Gandolfi, with soloist Olivier Latry (world premiere)

27-28 – Colorado Symphony: The Raven by William Hill (the orchestra’s principal timpanist), based on Edgar Allan Poe (world premiere)

April:

19 – Juilliard Orchestra: David Robertson conducts a 90th birthday tribute to Pierre Boulez

23-25 – Atlanta Symphony Orchestra: Creation/Creator for chorus, vocal soloists and orchestra by Christopher Theofanidis (world premiere)

May:

8-9 – New York Philharmonic: Senza Sangue (one-act opera) by Peter Eötvös (U.S. premiere)

14-17 – Los Angeles Philharmonic: new work for baritone and orchestra by Kaija Saariaho with soloist Gerald Finley (world premiere)

18-20 – Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Anthology of Fantastic Zoology by Mason Bates (world premiere)

19-31 – Los Angeles Philharmonic: The Next on Grand: Contemporary Americans festival includes Ritornello by Caroline Shaw (West Coast premiere), a new work for orchestra by Bryce Dessner (world premiere), Concerto for Two Pianos by Philip Glass (world premiere)

20, 22-23 – San Francisco Symphony: new work by Samuel Carl Adams (son of John Adams) (world premiere)

28, 30 – Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Violin Concerto by Anna Clyne (world premiere) with soloist Jennifer Koh

June:

5-14 – Opera Philadelphia: Charlie Parker’s Yardbird by Daniel Schnyder, with tenor Lawrence Brownlee (world premiere)

10-13 – New York Philharmonic: Joan of Arc at the Stake by Arthur Honegger, with actors including Marion Cotillard (U.S. premiere of this staging)

A Liberian Health Worker Aims To Keep Ebola Out Of His Rural Region

Sep 3, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on A Liberian Health Worker Aims To Keep Ebola Out Of His Rural Region

Lorenzo Dorr works at the grassroots level to help deliver health services in far-flung areas of Liberia. In July, he was on his way to meet with community health providers in Konobo, one of Liberia's most remote rural districts.i
i

Lorenzo Dorr works at the grassroots level to help deliver health services in far-flung areas of Liberia. In July, he was on his way to meet with community health providers in Konobo, one of Liberia’s most remote rural districts.

Courtesy of Tiyatien Health/Last Mile Health


hide caption

itoggle caption

Courtesy of Tiyatien Health/Last Mile Health

Lorenzo Dorr works at the grassroots level to help deliver health services in far-flung areas of Liberia. In July, he was on his way to meet with community health providers in Konobo, one of Liberia's most remote rural districts.

Lorenzo Dorr works at the grassroots level to help deliver health services in far-flung areas of Liberia. In July, he was on his way to meet with community health providers in Konobo, one of Liberia’s most remote rural districts.

Courtesy of Tiyatien Health/Last Mile Health

Lorenzo Dorr is facing one of the most important challenges of his career as a Liberian health outreach worker: Trying to keep Ebola from taking hold in the southeastern part of the country.

In the weeks ahead, Dorr will be talking with our blog, Goats and Soda, about his mission.

The 50-year-old father of four has spent more than two decades working in Liberian community health. He was trained as a physician assistant and got his start providing essential care to residents of Grand Gedeh County. Over the years, Dorr has supervised medical clinics, mentored and trained community health workers and coordinated larger projects. In 2012, he earned a certificate in epidemiology and global health delivery from Harvard.

Dorr is now working with Last Mile Health, known in Liberia as Tiyatien Health, a nonprofit started by a Liberian-born physician that trains and deploys community health workers in remote areas.

While much of the attention given to Liberia’s Ebola outbreak has focused on large cities, the country’s far-flung, rural regions are beset by serious challenges as well. After a 14-year civil war that killed 250,000 people, the healthcare system was devastated and most hospitals and clinics were destroyed. Since the war’s end a decade ago, community health workers have become a vital source of primary care for villagers who otherwise might have to walk for days to seek treatment.

Dorr coordinates anti-Ebola measures and helps train and equip village health workers in the southeast of the country, an area known for logging and gold mining. He’ll soon start work in a county called Rivercess, one of Liberia’s poorest, which thus far has seen one confirmed Ebola case. Dorr wants to limit the spread. He spoke with NPR from Grand Gedeh County, where he’s based.

Tell me a bit about your background and the work you’re doing.

I started out working in the southeast region in 1986. My first assignment was in a town in Grand Gedeh, but there was not really any health infrastructure, the clinic was not ready when I arrived. I operated from home until the three-room building was completed. It was the only medical facility with a professional health worker in the area, serving more than ten towns and villages, and I was the only staff assigned. I was providing every service from clinical assessment to treatment and dispensing of drugs. I had to deal with all medical situations. It was a challenge but I was able to get through it. People would come and get me overnight, I’d have to travel four hours, two hours, tend to labor cases, do deliveries in communities away from the facility. There were a lot of challenges, we had no ambulance. That prepared me to go the extra mile. I was the only person they had.

There’s been a scarcity of health workers to reach each area, each town and each community in Liberia. The rural health strategy is to establish the community health program to serve as primary health care providers for patients. The community health workers mobilize on vaccination and immunization campaigns and health-related programs, providing first aid to community members when they are sick, encouraging pregnant women to seek health care and mothers to seek post-natal care. Each community health worker caters to 250 persons. Where there are health facilities within five kilometers, they don’t need community health workers.

I’m in a managerial position now. I’m supporting the county’s anti-Ebola task force. We’re training on prevention and awareness. The main reason we do this is so people know what the disease is, how it presents and what to do, so we will limit the spread of the virus. This is the key message.

My role is to coordinate all the Ebola activities in the areas. As of today there has been no case reported [in Grand Gedeh County].

What’s the mood among people now—are they afraid?

I’d say people are afraid, but they are afraid in good spirits. It’s a fear that drives you to be more careful or cautious. You go about your activities so you don’t endanger yourself and others.

Liberia has closed its schools to prevent the spread of Ebola. What are children doing?

Most children are doing nothing. Schools initially were closed because it was felt there should not be direct contact between people. Children are idle. It’s not good for the children. If schools are open, it’s another way to disseminate information about Ebola. School authorities could allocate time each day to share Ebola-prevention and -control messages. The students in turn could educate their families and soon the entire community, the nation, is well educated and prepared to prevent and control the spread of the disease.

What role can religious leaders play in educating Liberians about Ebola?

The church [Christian and Muslim religious institutions] is very, very important. It’s one of the key civil society organizations helping stop spread of disease in our country. Membership is very huge. Very few people are not affiliated with religious organizations. If religious institutions are involved in the fight against the disease, we feel it can go a long way.

What are some of the main challenges for health workers?

We should be prepared before a case is identified, not chasing after it after hell breaks loose. We should be ready to shoot at it as soldiers. If we don’t fortify our positions, the enemy will infiltrate our camps and it will be difficult to regroup. But if we fortify our positions, we don’t allow our enemy in.

Supplies have been a challenge for the county health teams/systems. There hasn’t been much consignment of supplies coming down. Some facilities closed because they’re not well trained, they have no supplies. Little attention is being given to counties not experiencing Ebola so far.

We’re doing all we can in terms of prevention even though there’s little or no equipment at all in the health facilities. Educating the community is the most important thing. Know what it is, how the disease is contracted, how to keep people safe. Personal protective equipment is a challenge for almost all facilities in the country—gloves, gowns, aprons, masks, goggles, boots, caps. It is a real big challenge to health workers. They have to go slow, because they fear they will contract the disease without being protected. Health workers don’t feel they’re trained adequately, they fear they’re not prepared enough to manage cases.

[Last week] there was a new development. The county health team reported about some consignment that’s been shipped to the southeast. I’ve been told it includes personal protection equipment, complete sets. Exactly how much will come to the county we are yet to know. But it’s good news. Let’s see what happens in the next few days. We will be working in the coming days to identify how we could get the consignment for Grand Gedeh into the county as soon as possible.

Ebola is not the only health challenge, right?

Right now everybody is focused on Ebola. But before Ebola there were other diseases in the community — respiratory infections, sexually transmitted infections, malaria, diarrhea, etc. A lack of commodities and drugs, coupled with the Ebola issue, has taken its toll. People are dying from other diseases because there are no drugs. Not much is being done to reestablish activities regarding other existing diseases. Where I am, people lack essential drugs. Plenty of people are not able to buy [drugs] and not able to be treated. This has eluded the national government because everybody’s focus is on Ebola. It’s not healthy for the process of prevention. People would rather stay home, try traditional medicines and go to prayer houses and centers. They believe by prayer they will get well.

With everybody’s attention focused on Ebola, we’re neglecting other diseases. One has the right to worry about what will happen next.

You’re planning to go to Rivercess soon — how many Ebola cases are confirmed there?

One case has been officially reported. But it’s not clear. The only way it will be clear is when we travel to the area and see.

Note: We’ll be checking in regularly with Lorenzo Dorr to hear how his efforts are progressing.

Should Local Police Get The Military’s Extra Armored Trucks?

Sep 2, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Should Local Police Get The Military’s Extra Armored Trucks?

Page County Sheriff John Thomas's department received an MRAP in May.i
i

Page County Sheriff John Thomas’s department received an MRAP in May.

David Welna/NPR


hide caption

itoggle caption

David Welna/NPR

Page County Sheriff John Thomas's department received an MRAP in May.

Page County Sheriff John Thomas’s department received an MRAP in May.

David Welna/NPR

Mine-resistant ambush-protected troop carriers, known as MRAPs, were built to withstand bomb blasts, they can weigh nearly 20 tons, and many U.S. troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are alive today because of them. But many of the vehicles are now considered military surplus. And thanks to a congressionally mandated Pentagon program, they’re finding their way to hundreds of police and sheriff’s departments.

The Pentagon gave John Thomas, sheriff of Page County, Va., a gigantic MRAP — meant to withstand roadside bombs in Iraq — in May.

As he drives through the Shenandoah Valley, the sheriff says he did give some thought to getting one. “When we looked at acquiring the MRAP, I looked very strongly at the public, political opinions and political climate,” he says.

Thomas says he knew some might question why Page County needed an MRAP. “And i knew that there was a lot of anti-use of military equipment by police forces. But what most people don’t understand is that an MRAP is nothing but a truck with a big bullet-proof box on it, there is no offensive — the ones that we get —there is no offensive capability.”

And with all the guns out there in the hands of dangerous people his department sometimes has to deal with, Thomas says it’s well worth having the added protection of a bullet-proof MRAP. “I’ve been shot myself. I have seen slugs go through the driver door of my car, through my radio console, and out the passenger door. And it sure would’ve been nice to have an armored vehicle between me and the individual that was shooting at me, rather than just having a car that was being shot up like a stick of butter.”

About ten miles down a road from the county seat of Luray, where the sheriff has his headquarters, stands a landfill. On it, is a large metal shed that houses Page County’s hulking, desert-beige MRAP.

An MRAP at the High Springs Police Department in High Springs, Fla.i
i

An MRAP at the High Springs Police Department in High Springs, Fla.

Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun/Landov


hide caption

itoggle caption

Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun/Landov

An MRAP at the High Springs Police Department in High Springs, Fla.

An MRAP at the High Springs Police Department in High Springs, Fla.

Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun/Landov

A tag on the front of the 39,000-pound MRAP says the vehicle’s worth $733,000 — but all Page County had to pay was the cost of shipping it from a refurbishing plant in Texas. Sheriff Thomas says for this rural county’s 25,000 inhabitants, it was a good deal.

“Is it overkill? Yeah, it is. I mean, for our use, it’s more armor than we need. But, it’s free,” he says.

A fat exhaust pipe belches diesel smoke when a sheriff’s deputy starts up the vehicle. The sheriff says since the day it arrived, it has not been out on the road — and it won’t be until some of his deputies get trained to drive it and the passenger hold is modified to carry stretchers for search and rescue missions.

“We want to get this vehicle fully outfitted to show the public what it can actually do, besides just being some type of big, military-looking vehicle. One thing we’re not going to do is paint it black,” Thomas says.

What it’s really for, Thomas says, is to give his officers better and safer access to situations they respond to — whether it’s elderly people stranded in a flooded hollow, a school shooting, or a raid on a rural methamphetamine lab. The sheriff says although he informed the county supervisor of plans to acquire the MRAP, no public hearings were held.

“Now if people have questions about it, I offer myself anytime they want and if the public would like to discuss it, I’d be more than happy to discuss it,” he says.

At a national level, images from Ferguson, Mo. of rifle-toting police using armored vehicles has raised a lot of questions about why the Pentagon is handing over MRAPs and other war material to local law enforcement:

“It certainly does seem to be a case of overkill,” says Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union. She says law enforcement officials are getting weaponry they never would have otherwise acquired. “We think that local governments can and should demand public hearings when local police want to apply to the Pentagon to receive military equipment.”

Over the past year, the Pentagon’s given away more than 600 MRAPs. In June, the sheriff of Bergen County, N.J. requested two MRAPs.

That angered the top executive of Bergen County, Kathleen Donovan. “Thank God we don’t have mines on the streets of Bergen County. And so so why do we need an MRAP? It’s not a rescue vehicle, as portrayed by some, it’s the wrong message to send to all of our communities and we’re a very diverse county. There’s just no reason for it, and nobody can figure out why we should have it.”

Bergen County sheriff Michael Saudino now says he won’t use the MRAPs until the U.S. and New Jersey attorneys general review the military surplus program.

“I just felt that I would take a step back, you know, before putting this thing into service and see what their suggestions are. It’s not going to stop me from obtaining the vehicle.”

Several law enforcement agencies that have received MRAPs are going further, though — they’re sending theirs back to the Pentagon.

New U.S. Rules Protect Giant Bluefin Tuna

Sep 2, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on New U.S. Rules Protect Giant Bluefin Tuna

In an effort to reduce the number of giant bluefin tuna killed by fishing fleets, the U.S. is putting out new rules about commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the western Atlantic. The rules have special protections for giant bluefin — fish that have grown to 81 inches or more.

The new requirements were recently published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a nearly 750 page amendment to its management plan. The agency hopes the changes will help rebuild the tuna population and improve data it gets from fishing vessels.

As NPR’s Christopher Joyce reports for our Newscast unit, commercial fleets in the gulf cannot target giant bluefin tuna, whose numbers have fallen since the 1970s. The gulf is of crucial importance, as it is the fish’s breeding ground.

“But fishing fleets can harvest other types of tuna and large fish using long-lines. These are lines loaded with hooks that float below the surface and can run 30 miles long. They often accidentally hook and kill giant bluefin tuna.

“The new rules will lower the allowable number of these accidental killings, called ‘by-catch.’ They also will require video cameras on fishing vessels to record full-time what’s being caught. The rules cover long-line fishing in the Gulf and parts of the Atlantic coast.”

The new rules were welcomed by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ ocean conservation unit, with director Lee Crockett saying, “NOAA Fisheries deserves great praise for significantly increasing protections for bluefin while allowing fishing for yellowfin tuna and swordfish to continue.”

The group also lists some of the things that sets the bluefin apart:

“They’re as fast as racehorses, bring fishermen to their knees, and grow to the size of a small car. These ‘superfish’ make transoceanic migrations, can dive deeper than 4,000 feet, and live up to 40 years.”

Sharing Risk Can Help Tame The Cost Of Infertility Treatment

Sep 2, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Sharing Risk Can Help Tame The Cost Of Infertility Treatment

Getting to this point can be very expensive if in-vitro fertilization is involved.

Getting to this point can be very expensive if in-vitro fertilization is involved.

iStockphoto


hide caption

itoggle caption

iStockphoto

Infertility treatment is a numbers game in some respects: How many treatments will it take to conceive a child? And how much can you afford?

Even as insurance plans are modestly improving their coverage of such treatments, clinics and others are coming up with creative ways to cover the costs to help would-be parents reduce their risk for procedures that can run tens of thousands of dollars. Some even offer a money-back guarantee if patients don’t conceive, while one online program lets people pool some funding.

Shady Grove Fertility, a large center with sites in Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., has a number of options to help people afford infertility treatment. The center pioneered a “shared-risk” program for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment years ago that offered a 100 percent refund if a couple didn’t have a baby. Now the center offers a similar option for couples who use donor eggs to conceive. Other fertility centers offer their own versions.

Sperm are placed inside the egg with a needle during a fertility treatment called intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

Both Shady Grove shared-risk programs allow couples to try up to six cycles of IVF or donor eggs for a flat fee. If they don’t have a baby, they get the full amount back; couples can also stop at any point in the process and get a full refund. The program costs twice as much as a single cycle — $20,000 for shared-risk IVF and $30,000 for shared-risk egg donor.

“In reality, patients who get a baby on the first cycle are subsidizing those who don’t get a baby,” says Michael Levy, president and IVF director at Shady Grove. “We see this as an opportunity to give patients security regarding the financial risk that they face.”

Shared-risk and other financing options are popular in part because health insurance coverage for infertility treatment, while slowly improving, is still sparse. Fifteen states require insurers to cover infertility treatment to varying degrees, according to Resolve, an infertility advocacy group.

Among employers with more than 500 workers, 65 percent cover a specialist evaluation, 41 percent cover drug therapy and 27 percent cover in vitro fertilization, according to human resources consultant Mercer’s 2013 employer benefits survey. Thirty-two percent of large companies don’t cover infertility services at all.

More questions. More answers.

There are other ways to manage the cost of infertility treatment. In addition to shared-risk programs, many fertility clinics offer other discounts and financing options to help couples afford treatment. Other companies also offer financing and/or infertility insurance to help cover the costs for couples who are working with a surrogate to have a baby, for example, or for IVF treatments.

Glow is one of the most recent companies to help address the financial uncertainties around infertility and treatment. The company, which is best known for an app that helps women track ovulation and other pregnancy-related health data, started Glow First last August for couples worried about infertility.

Participants pay $50 monthly for up to 10 months. The money is pooled with contributions from people who also entered the pool that month. At the end of 10 months, those who haven’t become pregnant split the pot of money; Glow will pay their share to an accredited infertility clinic once they submit their bills for fertility testing or other services. The company does not take a cut, according to the Glow website, but there are no refunds for participants who change their minds.

The first group that began contributing in October 2013 has just ended. Roughly 50 people participated, according to the company. The payout to those who didn’t become pregnant was $1,800.

“This relatively minimal contribution will help to offset those downstream and very high costs” of fertility testing and treatment, says Jennifer Tye, Glow’s head of marketing and partnerships.

After Just Two Years, Huge Atlantic City Casino Shuts Down

Sep 2, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on After Just Two Years, Huge Atlantic City Casino Shuts Down

A woman gathers shells along the ocean near the Revel Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., early Tuesday. The casino resort has closed, a little over two years after opening with the promise of helping to renew Atlantic City.i
i

A woman gathers shells along the ocean near the Revel Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., early Tuesday. The casino resort has closed, a little over two years after opening with the promise of helping to renew Atlantic City.

Mel Evans/AP


hide caption

itoggle caption

Mel Evans/AP

A woman gathers shells along the ocean near the Revel Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., early Tuesday. The casino resort has closed, a little over two years after opening with the promise of helping to renew Atlantic City.

A woman gathers shells along the ocean near the Revel Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., early Tuesday. The casino resort has closed, a little over two years after opening with the promise of helping to renew Atlantic City.

Mel Evans/AP

After operating for only two years, the Revel Casino Hotel has closed down, part of a trend that will reportedly shutter a third of Atlantic City’s big gambling halls by the end of September. It cost $2.4 billion to build the Revel facility.

“It’s a tragedy,” massage therapist Lori Bacum, who worked at the resort’s spa, tells NJ.com. “There were some warnings, but none of us thought it would happen. We felt so safe, because this was the place that was going to take (the city) to a new level.”

From the AP:

“By mid-September, four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos will have closed, but none will be a costlier failure than Revel.

“It started construction just before the Great Recession hit and had to take on so much debt it never could turn a profit.

The Showboat closed on Sunday, Trump Plaza is closing Sept. 16, and the Atlantic Club closed in January.”

The closures come as casinos in Atlantic City and surrounding areas struggle to attract customers in a region that’s becoming saturated with gambling options — as NPR’s David Greene reports for today’s Morning Edition.

The arrival of new casinos in cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – and Baltimore, where Maryland’s fifth casino recently opened — is giving gamblers more options. And that makes it harder for any one town to attract customers from miles around.

“Pennsylvania is a terrific example,” Suzette Parmley of The Philadelphia Inquirer tells David. She says the casinos are expected to bring money pouring into resources for senior citizens and boosting tax revenue.

“From 2012 to 2013, it was booming – billions of dollars coming into Pennsylvania,” Parmley says. But now, she adds, “Pennsylvania has already flattened out; it’s actually on a slight decrease this year in revenue, from last year. It’s still making a lot, but already the trajectory is going downward because you have Maryland in the mix now, you have Ohio in the mix.”

In Atlantic City, Revel opened in April of 2012; its owners twice sought bankruptcy protection. The last hotel guests left Monday. And by Tuesday morning, workers had removed the resort’s name and put up a yellow chain to block access.

“At the end of the month, some 6,500 jobs will have been lost” in Atlantic City, David says.

As CBS News reports, Revel’s unique approach of emphasizing its hotel qualities seemed to backfire:

“The idea behind Revel was to open a totally different resort, a seaside pleasure palace that just happened to have a casino as one of its features. That included Atlantic City’s only total smoking ban, which alienated many gamblers; the lack of a buffet and daily bus trips to and from the casino; and the absence of a players’ club. By the time those decisions were reversed, it was already too late. High room and restaurant prices hurt, too.”

On Final Recording, Joe Beck Exposes Possibilities Of The Guitar

Sep 1, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on On Final Recording, Joe Beck Exposes Possibilities Of The Guitar

Guitarist Joe Beck said he thought of the guitar as a six-piece band. Music reviewer Tom Moon says that’s exactly how Beck’s music sounds: layers of overlapping ideas. He reviews Beck’s posthumous release, “Get Me Joe Beck.”

Golf Course Provides Oasis For Low-Income Kids

Sep 1, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Golf Course Provides Oasis For Low-Income Kids

All summer long, kids from a gritty neighborhood in Providence, R.I., have been escaping to a golf course and driving range carved out of a vacant lot. At Button Hole, a new generation is learning golf for a dollar a game.

Ahead Of New Talks, Russian Minister Calls For Ukraine Cease-Fire

Sep 1, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Ahead Of New Talks, Russian Minister Calls For Ukraine Cease-Fire

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Monday for a cease-fire in Ukraine, but demanded that Ukrainian troops leave positions from which they can harm the civilian population. His comments come ahead of talks in Minsk, Belarus, involving Ukraine, Russia, Russia-backed separatists and international monitors.i
i

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Monday for a cease-fire in Ukraine, but demanded that Ukrainian troops leave positions from which they can “harm the civilian population.” His comments come ahead of talks in Minsk, Belarus, involving Ukraine, Russia, Russia-backed separatists and international monitors.

Jia Yuchen/Xinhua /Landov


hide caption

itoggle caption

Jia Yuchen/Xinhua /Landov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Monday for a cease-fire in Ukraine, but demanded that Ukrainian troops leave positions from which they can harm the civilian population. His comments come ahead of talks in Minsk, Belarus, involving Ukraine, Russia, Russia-backed separatists and international monitors.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Monday for a cease-fire in Ukraine, but demanded that Ukrainian troops leave positions from which they can “harm the civilian population.” His comments come ahead of talks in Minsk, Belarus, involving Ukraine, Russia, Russia-backed separatists and international monitors.

Jia Yuchen/Xinhua /Landov

Russian and Ukrainian officials are meeting today in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, with Russia-backed separatists and international monitors to discuss a proposed cease-fire to stop the fighting in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the meeting’s goals should be a cease-fire, but he demanded that Ukrainian troops leave positions from which they can “harm the civilian population.”

Karoun Demirjian, who is reporting for NPR from Moscow, tells our Newscast unit:

“[A] rebel leader in Donetsk told Russian news service Interfax that their main goal is to win recognition of their independence from Kiev.

“During a television interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin said statehood in eastern Ukraine should be one of the topics up for discussion — the Kremlin stressed though, that Russia isn’t directly supporting calls for independence.

“Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military spokesman says that Russian formations were directly firing on troops at the Luhansk airport overnight. Russian-backed separatists say they seized the airport today.”

Monday’s meeting in Minsk comes a day after a Ukrainian border guard vessel was attacked near the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who is reporting from Mariupol for Newscast, says Ukrainian officials blamed Russian-backed separatists for the attack on the vessel patrolling in the Sea of Azov. She adds: “The separatist fighters last week launched an offensive along the coastline and now control several towns and villages here.

The crisis in Ukraine has resulted in the worst ties between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Indeed, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN on Sunday that the U.S. should “provide the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin for further aggression.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., echoed those calls in an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation.

“Give them the weapons they need,” he said. “Give them the wherewithal they need. Give them the ability to fight.”

In a news conference last week, President Obama blamed Russia for the violence in Ukraine. The administration’s actions against Russia have so far mainly been limited to economic sanctions on Russia’s banking, energy and defense sectors.

“Capital is fleeing, investors are increasingly staying out, his economy is in decline,” Obama said last week. “This ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia.”

151 Years Later, Pickett’s Charge Hero Gets Medal of Honor

Sep 1, 2014   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on 151 Years Later, Pickett’s Charge Hero Gets Medal of Honor

First Lt. Alonzo Cushing, shown in an undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society, is expected to get the nation's highest military decoration this summer — the Medal of Honor — nearly 150 years after he died at the battle of Gettysburg.i
i

First Lt. Alonzo Cushing, shown in an undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society, is expected to get the nation’s highest military decoration this summer — the Medal of Honor — nearly 150 years after he died at the battle of Gettysburg.

Wisconsin Historical Society/AP


hide caption

itoggle caption

Wisconsin Historical Society/AP

First Lt. Alonzo Cushing, shown in an undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society, is expected to get the nation's highest military decoration this summer — the Medal of Honor — nearly 150 years after he died at the battle of Gettysburg.

First Lt. Alonzo Cushing, shown in an undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society, is expected to get the nation’s highest military decoration this summer — the Medal of Honor — nearly 150 years after he died at the battle of Gettysburg.

Wisconsin Historical Society/AP

Confederate soldiers are shown during the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, as Gen. George E. Pickett orders his 15,000 men to charge.i
i

Confederate soldiers are shown during the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, as Gen. George E. Pickett orders his 15,000 men to charge.

AP


hide caption

itoggle caption

AP

Confederate soldiers are shown during the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, as Gen. George E. Pickett orders his 15,000 men to charge.

Confederate soldiers are shown during the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, as Gen. George E. Pickett orders his 15,000 men to charge.

AP

Gen. George Picketti
i

Gen. George Pickett

Brady-Handy Photograph Collection/Library of Congress


hide caption

itoggle caption

Brady-Handy Photograph Collection/Library of Congress

Gen. George Pickett

Gen. George Pickett

Brady-Handy Photograph Collection/Library of Congress

A century and a half after Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, a 22-year-old Union officer whose heroics helped stop the rebels and turn the tide of the Civil War will finally receive the Medal of Honor.

The White House announced this week that Lt. Alonzo Cushing will receive the award, ending a near three-decade campaign begun by a Wisconsin woman, now in her 90s, who lives on what had been the family farm where Cushing was born.

“When he dies, he dies repelling one of the most fabled charges, attacks, ever in American military history,” said Kent Masterson Brown, a Kentucky lawyer and historian who wrote a biography of Cushing after learning of him from an exhibit at Gettysburg during a childhood visit.

Cushing was only two years out of West Point on that third day of the battle, in charge of an artillery battery in the Army of the Potomac. According to the White House announcement, Cushing was manning the only artillery piece in his unit that still worked.

“During the advance, he was wounded in the stomach as well as in the right shoulder. Refusing to evacuate to the rear despite his severe wounds, he directed the operation of his lone field piece, continuing to fire in the face of the enemy,” the White House statement said. “With the rebels within 100 yards of his position, Cushing was shot and killed during this heroic stand.”

Brown said it was Cushing’s pivotal role that has caught so many people’s attention. “What caused them to latch onto Cushing was how he died, what he was doing when he died, who he was defending that position against when he died,” Brown said.

It was in the course of researching his book that he learned of Margaret Zerwekh, who in 1987 started a letter-writing campaign to honor Cushing, including one to the late William Proxmire, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin.

“It’s been a long time in coming, but I think it falls under the category of ‘it’s never too late to do the right thing,'” said Ron Kind, who started as an intern in Proxmire’s office, and is now the Democratic congressman who inserted language into the 2014 Defense authorization bill that allows the award.

But why 27 years from Zerwekh’s first letter to Proxmire to President Obama’s announcement?

Congressional action was necessary because Medal of Honor referrals are supposed to take place no later than two years after the event. For years, members of Congress from the South were uneasy about re-opening the Civil War, particularly a battle that has become the focus of lost-cause lore for generations.

“I think there may have been some concerns about a Union soldier receiving recognition at Gettysburg, and I think there are still some people who are sensitive about the Civil War and how it’s depicted,” Kind said.

In recent years, the vocal congressional opposition boiled down to Jim Webb, the former Democratic senator from Confederate Gen. George Pickett’s home state, Virginia. Webb blocked attempts to honor Cushing, Kind said, because so much time had passed since the war that it would be nearly impossible to determine the facts of what Cushing did in the battle.

An assistant to Webb pointed to a letter he wrote to Senate colleagues in 2012 about his concerns.

“As a point of observation, the Confederate Army lost more than 250,000 dead — one third of its soldiers — and received no Medals of Honor,” Webb wrote in a letter to other senators in 2012. “While one would never wish to demean any act of courage, I believe that the retroactive determination in one case would open up an endless series of claims. The better wisdom for this body would be to leave history alone.”

Webb retired from the Senate in 2012, and Kind said Webb’s successor, Democrat Tim Kaine, did not share Webb’s concerns. What’s more, a Pentagon review Webb had wanted was completed, which further supported Cushing’s case.

“If there were objections being raised, we obviously talked to those individuals to make sure that there weren’t any problems in moving forward,” Kind said.

Whether most members of Congress knew they were wading into the Civil War when they passed that bill is unclear. Kind’s amendment authorizing Cushing’s medal was contained in a package of 14 proposed changes offered on the House floor last summer by Texas Republican Mac Thornberry — everything from permission for the defense secretary to evaluate suicide prevention to a prohibition against collaborating with China on cyber-security.

They were passed without any mention about Cushing on a voice vote — on a Thursday evening following seven hours of debate, when most House members had already gone for the night.

Six months later, negotiators for the House and Senate hammered out a compromise defense bill. This passed both chambers without much discussion, as Congress worked to wrap up for the year quickly.

“There were no surprises in any of this,” Kind said.

Cushing will become the 1,523rd Union soldier to receive the Medal of Honor, and only the second since 1915, said Laura Jowdy, the archivist at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. “The Confederate side would not qualify for a medal,” she said. “Although some might argue they should.”

Pages:«1...56789101112

Categories

Current Times

  • NPT: 2019-07-20 09:39 AM
  • EDT: 2019-07-19 11:54 PM
  • PDT: 2019-07-19 08:54 PM