Browsing articles from "April, 2017"

Saturday Sports: NBA Playoffs Begin

Apr 15, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Saturday Sports: NBA Playoffs Begin

NBA playoffs are underway with Cleveland and Golden State as the mainstream favorites to win; and in the world of hockey, the Washington Capitals look poised to win their first championship.

Emily Nussbaum On The ‘Girls’ Finale

Apr 15, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Emily Nussbaum On The ‘Girls’ Finale

Emily Nussbaum, TV critic for The New Yorker, joins NPR’s Linda Wertheimer to talk about the last episode of the HBO show Girls.

Conservative French Presidential Nominee’s Unusual Tactic: Tout His Faith

Apr 15, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Conservative French Presidential Nominee’s Unusual Tactic: Tout His Faith

Conservative French presidential candidate Francois Fillon delivers a speech April 9 during a campaign meeting in Paris. The two-round presidential election is set for April 23 and May 7. Fillon has played up his religion during the campaign, and that has played well with France’s Catholics.

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Conservative French presidential candidate Francois Fillon delivers a speech April 9 during a campaign meeting in Paris. The two-round presidential election is set for April 23 and May 7. Fillon has played up his religion during the campaign, and that has played well with France’s Catholics.

Thibault Camus/AP

With his coiffed, salt-and-pepper hair and stoic demeanor, Francois Fillon looks like a president out of central casting. The 63-year-old conservative, a former prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, is even serious and prim at his campaign rallies, where his passionate supporters clap and chant his name.

“I’m not asking you to like me, but to support me,” he told one crowd at an April 9 rally. “We’re not choosing a buddy. We’re choosing a president.”

Fillon is also a practicing Catholic, and the only presidential candidate who speaks openly about his faith.

“I am a Christian,” he told French TV in an interview earlier this year. “Meaning I never make a decision that would be contrary to respecting human dignity or solidarity.”

His faith may be one reason he remains a contender in France’s presidential election, even though his campaign is dogged by scandal.

In the U.S., presidential candidates are usually forced to profess their Christianity or face the wrath of fundamentalist voters, even though there’s supposed to be separation of church and state.

That’s not the case in France, which is officially a secular nation and where only a third of citizens identify with a religion, says Pierre Brechon, a professor at political science institute Sciences Po in Grenoble. He’s written about religion in public life.

“In 1905, back when religion was at the center of political life, France introduced the law of laicité,” the concept of constitutional secularism, Brechon says. “Today, religion is no longer the center of public life … there are a number of people for whom religion is unfavorable.”

But he says religious orientation does still manage to color political views. Catholics, for instance, tend to vote for conservative candidates — and Fillon, as a Catholic himself, appeals to them, Brechon says.

Fillon has several supporters in the congregation of La Madeleine, a landmark Roman Catholic church in a well-heeled neighborhood in central Paris.

Emmanuel Alain Cabanis, a professor of medicine, says he supports conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon because he’s the most likely to bring a fourth word — spirituality — to France’s national motto of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR


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Emmanuel Alain Cabanis, a professor of medicine, says he supports conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon because he’s the most likely to bring a fourth word — spirituality — to France’s national motto of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR

Emmanuel Alain Cabanis, a 74-year-old professor of medicine at the University of Paris, leaves holding palm fronds April 9 to celebrate Palm Sunday. “Faith is what separates us from machines,” he says.

Cabanis says that he’d love to hear a fourth word — spirituality — added to the three in the French national motto, and that Fillon is the only candidate who seems comfortable with spirituality.

“I am a Fillon supporter, for reason of liberty,” Cabanis says. “I think he’s the best guarantee of liberty, equality, fraternity and spirituality.”

The professor is not swayed by allegations that don’t seem very spiritual at all — that Fillon gave his family fake government jobs that cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of euros.

“I am sure Fillon is not guilty,” says Monique Gobert, a grandmother and homemaker who’s handing out palm fronds. “He’s a churchgoer. I cannot see him stealing from the state. We gave him a certain amount of money for his campaign to do what he likes. Maybe he paid his wife too much, but he had the right.”

Fillon is counting on supporters like these, who see him as responsible and moral, no matter what.

But Delphine Fischer, who sings in the church choir and is actually supporting Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, says that any sort of Catholic base won’t help Fillon win.

“Economic problems, unemployment, security, terrorism — that’s what’s on people’s minds this time,” she says. “Spirituality is going to be in second place.”

After the service, the Paris subway was packed with well-dressed Fillon supporters, heading to his rally in Paris.

Thousands of supporters of conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon turned out for a rally in Paris on April 9. Fillon, a practicing Catholic, is the only candidate in the 11-person race who is open about his faith.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR


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Joanna Kakissis/NPR

Thousands of supporters of conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon turned out for a rally in Paris on April 9. Fillon, a practicing Catholic, is the only candidate in the 11-person race who is open about his faith.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR

Thousands turned out for the rally, including Emmanuelle de Roquefeuil, a legal assistant at a Catholic school.

“I’m a Christian, so the fact that he is, too, has value for me,” she says. “But he also has value far beyond that. He is the most prepared for the job.”

Inside the rally, Marie Cerruti, a 31-year-old sales manager, hands out flyers to young Fillon supporters, encouraging them to join the campaign.

She identifies as a Christian but is happy France is a place “where there is a lot of religion, a lot of different kinds of people, and it’s beautiful to see.”

She says the main reason she’s supporting Fillon is because she believes he can make France great again within the European Union.

“In the European Union, it’s Germany doing everything, and we want a big place at the table again, too,” she says. “(Fillon) can do something for France in Europe.”

France's National Front Party Draws Young Voters To The Far-Right

When Fillon starts speaking, the crowd goes wild. Silim Mourid, a 29-year-old aviation manager with a sweater slung over his shoulders, cheers and chants his candidate’s name.

Mourid is Muslim, and says he believes Fillon’s sense of sense of Christian values also make the presidential candidate appreciative of other religions.

“We have candidates like Marine Le Pen talking about banning Muslims,” Mourid says. “There’s no getting around religion. We need to talk about it.”

Mourid’s 26-year-old wife, Nailat Ali, is unconvinced by Fillon’s campaign pledges. She wants to keep religion out of politics altogether, and says her choice likely will be hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Jake Cigainero contributed to this story.

Will Turkey Vote To Give Erdogan Even More Power?

Apr 15, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Will Turkey Vote To Give Erdogan Even More Power?

A woman walks past a giant poster bearing portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, ahead of the referendum on whether to change the current parliamentary system into an executive presidency.

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A woman walks past a giant poster bearing portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, ahead of the referendum on whether to change the current parliamentary system into an executive presidency.

Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

In Turkey, The Man To Blame For Most Everything Is A U.S.-Based Cleric

Turkish voters will decide Sunday whether to replace the Turkish Republic’s parliamentary form of government with a strong presidency. It’s a vote that could alter — or, opponents say, endanger — the democratic traditions of this key U.S. ally. Turkey is a NATO member helping fight ISIS.

If the referendum passes, it will increase the power of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Polls released late in the campaign showed a narrow lead for “yes,” with a large number still declaring themselves undecided. Erdogan is predicting at least a 55 percent margin for “yes.”

Turkey's President Erdogan Pushes For Broader Powers

The vote comes at a perilous time. Turkey remains under a state of emergency declared last July, following a failed coup that left nearly 300 people dead. The Erdogan government has used the emergency powers to conduct a sweeping purge of the military, judiciary and civil service. More than 100,000 people have been fired or arrested, including more than 100 journalists.

In this atmosphere, referendum opponents say it’s difficult to run an effective campaign. Government officials dismiss this concern, noting that France is holding elections this spring while under a state of emergency following terrorist attacks in Paris.

The pro and con arguments

Supporters say the change will bring stability and efficiency to a government that has often been paralyzed by infighting. They note that Turkey has had 64 governments since the 1920s, rivaling Italy for instability. They say a stronger government will be better at fighting terrorism; the country has suffered several recent attacks.

Critics and analysts such as the Venice Commission, part of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation pact of European countries including Turkey, say it’s “a dangerous step backwards in the constitutional democratic tradition of Turkey,” warning of “the dangers of degeneration of the proposed system towards an authoritarian and personal regime.”

The current system

Under the existing constitution, Turkey’s chief executive is the prime minister, chosen by the parliament. Until recently, the president was an appointed position serving as head of state, not head of government — similar to the queen of England.

Erdogan served as prime minister from 2002 until 2014, when he became Turkey’s first president elected by the voters. He immediately announced that he would be a “different kind of president,” and has taken a much more active role in running the government than his predecessors.

What would change

Power would be more concentrated under the presidency.

If the referendum is approved by majority vote, the office of prime minister would be abolished after the next elections, scheduled for 2019. Another body, the Council of Ministers, would also go, and all executive and administrative authority would be transferred to the president’s office.

The current setup requires the president to be nonpartisan.

Under the new system, the president would no longer have that limit. Erdogan could formally rejoin the party he co-founded, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdogan resigned from the party when he became president.

The change would increase Erdogan’s influence over who runs for Parliament.

Cabinet ministers would no longer have to be members of Parliament and the Parliament would not have power over Cabinet appointments — ministers would be appointed directly by the president.

If the referendum is approved, the Parliament would have reduced oversight powers.

There is one change the referendum would bring that is being applauded by pro-democracy groups: the abolition of military courts.

Presidential terms

Under the current constitution, Erdogan can run for a second five-year term in 2019 and serve until 2024. Under the proposed changes, Erdogan could have his term limit effectively reset and stay in power through 2029.

Critics say there’s a loophole that could give him even more years in the job than that. If Parliament calls snap elections during a second term, he has the option of running for a third.

What happens after the vote?

Assuming the referendum passes, most of the changes it contains won’t take effect until the next set of elections, due in 2019. But two important provisions would kick in shortly after the vote. Erdogan would be able to reclaim his position as head of the ruling party, and he would gain new authority to appoint members to the council that oversees the naming of judges and prosecutors.

Opponents of the referendum say this could badly weaken the judiciary’s independence, removing another check on presidential power.

Giant Bomb Was ‘Right Weapon’ For Attack On ISIS, U.S. General Says

Apr 14, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Giant Bomb Was ‘Right Weapon’ For Attack On ISIS, U.S. General Says

“This was the right weapon against the right target,” U.S. Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. said, the morning after the U.S. dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on an ISIS underground complex in Afghanistan.

The bomb was dropped in the Achin district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. A video of the strike shows it hitting at the lower edge of a mountain, along a narrow valley, producing a huge shock wave and blast plume.

The nearly 22,000-pound bomb is believed to have killed at least 36 fighters and destroyed “large quantities” of weapons when it struck a network of tunnels, bunkers and other fortifications used by the offshoot group ISIS-K (for Khorasan province), according to an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman.

The U.S. assessment is still in progress, a Pentagon official tells NPR’s Tom Bowman, adding that there’s a chance the death toll might include results from two other smaller operations against ISIS-K that took place last night.

Nicholson said the “MOAB” ordinance — for Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or less formally, the “Mother of All Bombs” — was “designed to destroy caves and tunnels, which ISIS-K have been using, along with extensive belts of IEDs, to thicken their positions against our offensive.”

U.S. special forces and Afghan commandos are now inspecting the site, Nicholson said, adding, “the weapon achieved its intended purpose.”

Nicholson, the commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support force, discussed the operation Friday in a news conference in Kabul.

When he was asked about the timing of the unprecedented strike, and whether it had been influenced by the White House, Nicholson said, “In regard to timing, it’s when we encountered this target on the battlefield.”

The general said that because the spring offensive against ISIS-K had been slowed by fighters using caves and tunnels, “It was the right time to use it tactically, against the right target on the battlefield.”

Addressing the Afghan public, Nicholson said all precautions were taken to prevent civilian casualties.

“We had persistent surveillance over the area before, during and after the operation, and now we have Afghan and U.S. forces on the site, and see no evidence of civilian casualties,” Nicholson said. “Nor have there been any reports of civilian casualties.

After providing an update on the operation, Nicholson recounted a litany of offenses committed by ISIS-K, from beheadings and other public executions to suicide bombings.

The strike is part of a broader offensive — which Nicholson said is a sign of Afghanistan’s commitment “to defeat Daesh in Afghanistan this year.”

The official designation for the MOAB is the GBU-43B; here’s how NPR’s Phil Ewing explains its origin:

“The GBU-43B has been in the U.S. arsenal for more than 14 years, deployed to bases in the Middle East where it could be loaded aboard an American aircraft but never used until now. At more than 30 feet long, it’s too big to fit inside the weapons bay of a standard Air Force bomber. Instead, troops load it into the cargo compartment of a specialized transport, the MC-130 Combat Talon, which releases it over the target by opening its ramp in the same way it might for paratroopers or air-dropped supplies. The bomb is guided by satellite to its target.

John Mayer On World Cafe

Apr 14, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on John Mayer On World Cafe

“I realized that it doesn’t fit me to be any bigger than the music is,” John Mayer says. “It was like me walking around with a really tight shirt for a couple of years.”

Frank Ockenfells/Courtesy of the artist


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“I realized that it doesn’t fit me to be any bigger than the music is,” John Mayer says. “It was like me walking around with a really tight shirt for a couple of years.”

Frank Ockenfells/Courtesy of the artist

John Mayer releases his new album, The Search For Everything, in its entirety Friday. When we spoke last week, he called it “the chronicle of my discovering and reconciling pain.”

'It's Hard To Stay Patient': A Conversation With John Mayer

John Mayer: Restoring An Image, And An Instrument

Mayer’s been delivering the record in waves — two waves of four songs each, including the singles “Love On The Weekend” and “Still Feel Like Your Man,” have already come out. The look and sound are totally different than the last couple albums Mayer put out: 2012’s Born And Raised and 2013’s Paradise Valley both had Laurel Canyon vibes, but The Search For Everything is a big, shiny return to pop from a man who’s won seven Grammys and sold more than 30 million records around the world. It’s also beautiful, heartbreaking and a stark reminder that even though Mayer’s made headlines in the past couple years for the celebrities he’s dated, or things he’s said, he is first and foremost a talented musician.

Mayer is currently on an epic tour to showcase the new record. Last Friday, he let World Cafe crash his dressing room at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly before his concert. You can listen to our full chat above, and check out an edited transcript below.

Talia Schlanger: This is a record that people are calling a pop record.

John Mayer: Hm, my version of it, yeah.

We haven’t heard from you for a few years; what you offered before was a little rootsier, a little more Laurel Canyon-esque. Was this a deliberate choice — to dive back into the pop machine?

Yeah. I don’t think that I took a break from it because it was a machine, I think I took a break from it because my ears get tired. Not just from recording a record, but from touring for so long.

So it was a deliberate decision to take a break from pop for a little while to begin with?

I think it’s a decision to take a break from that sound. … I started listening to Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) and Neil Young and The Band, and I’m just nervy. And I listen to stuff, and I don’t like the fact that I’m not doing it. … It almost literally gets under my skin and I can’t stop moving and I get antsy and I go, “Let me at it.”

And so it’s not necessarily like “oh, I can’t take the pop thing anymore.” It’s more like the excitement [of] “Ooh, let me at that first crack.” I want the first crack. You know what I mean? I don’t want the seventh album, I want the first album of its kind. So then when it came time to do The Search For Everything, it was like — hey, let’s just make the best of what we’ve done so far. It’s almost like our greatest hits, but not for the songs themselves — for sort of the process. This is like — this is the best of what I’m able to do as a writer.

Was there one song that started it all, where you’re like, “Oh yeah, this is the inception of what this album is supposed to be”?

That’s a very good question. There were a few. There were a couple of weeks in the very beginning of making this record that were astounding weeks. Astounding writing weeks. The songs wouldn’t stop. I started frightening myself.

Each song just made me write another song. I had this run where I was like — this is about forgetting that we’re making a product and just writing. I wanna go so deep that it transcends the traditional contract of “musician who is known goes in studio and makes songs for his waiting public.” I drilled so much deeper than that, it was like — there is no public right now. There is no musician. There is no star, there is no nothing. … It was almost like there is no John Mayer.

And then I realized from that point on, it better either make you hurt or make you feel something or make you move, but it can’t just be music for music’s sake at this point. So a lot of stuff didn’t make it either because it wasn’t true or it was a little bit too ambitious. … I had one song on here that sounded like a Black Keys song, and it was awesome until I started singing on it. And then I would listen back it, and lest anyone believe that I’m way into myself — I mean I’m way into myself, but I don’t love myself, but I’m literally into myself.

What do you mean?

Well, like, I’m about myself, I’m self-centered, but I don’t think everything I do is great. But I think about everything I do all of the time.

Well, we all do — we’re all humans. But do you feel like you do that more?

More, all the time. All I do is think about what I do. Horrible, it’s a horrible existence.

Uh oh.

But then I’ll go in the studio, and I’ll come back and listen and I’ll go, “Oh, that is a great drumbeat. Listen to that guitar tone. Listen to that —” and then when I sing on top of it, I go, “I don’t believe that for a second.” And so I don’t finish it because I don’t buy it. Like if I don’t buy it, no one else is gonna buy it. I go, “That’s not me.”

So you said that a song has to make you feel something or hurt. Which one on The Search For Everything makes you feel the most?

Oh, “In The Blood.”

Oh, good, I’m glad. I wanna talk about that one. Tell me about it.

I won’t talk too much about it ever, for some reason. I guess I made a deal with myself that if I was gonna go that honest on a song, I wasn’t gonna necessarily be a liability to it and color it in. But suffice to say that when I heard that one come back, it was like, holy — had a fist in the air.

When you’re writing, you’re just trying to hear a part of yourself that you can identify — identify itself to you. When I listened to that back, it was like an anthem for me, about me, and I went — I just had a fist in the air for any time it would play, I’d just be like — there it is.

Yeah, but I don’t want that to be heard by somebody as pride, [as if] there’s a lot of hubris in this song. “In The Blood” is like a pleading — a pleading or reckoning or wondering if you can be the person that you want to be.

It’s turning around and pointing at yourself and going “What’s in there?” It’s a certain time in your life where you just want to turn yourself upside down and shake everything out and go, “Where’s the loose change? What is in here?”

There’s a lot of love on this record, it sounds like the search for the one thing or the one person. And you’ve been writing about love and relationships a lot.

My whole career, yeah.

I’m wondering if there’s a difference, like in the early days when you write a song like “Your Body Is A Wonderland” or “Why Georgia” or “Dreaming With A Broken Heart” — it’s only your friends or your family who know who this is about. And I don’t wanna play the proper noun game — I’m not interested in that — but I do want to know how that changes the process, when you have people out there who are gonna speculate and guess who songs on this record are about. Do you have to approach the writing in a different way?

I think I’ve always done a very good job of converting personal information into universal songwriting. And like I’ve said before, if I do a good enough job of writing the song, people aren’t going to be distracted the whole time the song is playing. Ultimately, you want people to not care about anything that led to the song. You want them to care they’ve got it, you want them to care that they’ve got something to jam to or relate to. When I wrote “Stop This Train” — that song means a lot to a lot of people and I’ve learned that over the years, and that means a lot to me — they’re not thinking about my parents, they’re not thinking about Richard and Margaret Mayer, they’re thinking about their parents.

So when I say, “Still Feel Like Your Man,” I think people understand the directionality of that in terms of a singer singing to an idea, but that’s where it ends. And then people listen to it and they think about who they still feel connected to. Obviously, the tabloids and the magazines or whatever — it is an epilogue to a public relationship, so I get that. But maybe — he says as he throws his arms up — maybe there’s people out there who can say, “Oh, he really did feel something.” And I don’t think that’s the worst thing in a world where a lot of people might have imagined or might still imagine that I don’t really have emotions about this stuff. I think you’d probably find some people if you’d poll them — “He just goes out with people.” Like no, listen to this record and you’ll be like, “Oh, that’s not an animal. He’s not an animal.”

Does it bug you that you would be perceived that way?

Not anymore. It did and it almost destroyed me, to try to be like, “Oh, I can fix this.”

How did you get over that?

Just die and come back to life.

Really?

Yeah.

I realized most people don’t care about you. Your friends care about you, your family cares about you, but most people aren’t looking at you all day. And that was the major miscalculation. Now I’m like … I’m glad that I didn’t just jump right back in and make stupid records because I didn’t have my head together. I was like, “Got it. Let me just go take a breather, I’ll see you again, I’m gonna go disappear for a minute, get my head together” and repaired it and came back and it’s like — I’ve never had more fun in my life playing music. I’ve never had more fun in my life. And I’m glad I had the experience of growing my hair long and walking around drunk in New York City and no one bothering me. I got to have some years that I didn’t get before. Like Bill Murray says, “Everybody’s an ass for two years when they first become a celebrity,” but I didn’t do my two years until later on.

How do you make sure that they don’t come back now that you’ve made a pop record and you’re sort of in that realm again, and tabloids are asking you things, or the press is making requests?

You just put yourself back in your hotel room at the end of the night. You put yourself back on the charging dock, remind yourself that this is all gift-related, this is all musical gift-related. And the extracurricular stuff is fun — like Dave Chapelle says he likes fame, he just doesn’t really trust it. I think that’s the most honest way. I like it, I just don’t trust it anymore.

Do you want it though, now?

I want it if it’s related to music. I realized that it doesn’t fit me to be any bigger than the music is. It doesn’t fit. It was like me walking around with a really tight shirt for a couple of years. It doesn’t necessarily fit.

I want to maybe close by talking about the instrumental at the end to The Search For Everything.

I wrote this instrumental on Christmas Day in Joshua Tree. … I had this RV, I drove it out to Joshua Tree ’cause I had nobody and nothing. I was like — I’m gonna go to Joshua Tree for Christmas, I’m not gonna be sad in an environment that reminds me of a thing I don’t have. I’m going out in the middle of nowhere. And I wasn’t sure why I went, and once I got there I was kind of upset. It was really windy, I was watching The Big Lebowski in the middle of nowhere. Nobody was there, there were no bonfires.

I thought maybe there’d be bonfires and a world of disenfranchised people meeting together — nothing, it’s a parking lot. … I woke up Christmas morning, and I had brought my ProTools stuff and my little recording rig, and I just started playing the guitar. And I was staring at Jumbo Rock right out of the window of the RV, and I just sat there and played this melody. And then I forgot about it. And then I opened up my computer one day and played it back and I went, “Oh, this is beautiful.” ‘Cause I drove away from Joshua Tree going, “Nothing happened this week, this was some sad-sack stuff.” And then when I laid it out as a song and played it, I went, “Oh, this is gonna go in the middle of the record.”

So when I go back to your criteria, did it make you hurt, or make you feel something or make you move?

It made me — it’s a very sweeping, deep thing that’s bigger because it doesn’t have my vocals on it. There’s some other power because it’s not me. It’s me getting out of the way.

I will say one more thing that people don’t know about the record. The record started with this poem, and the poem’s in the middle — there’s a much longer poem that you will see more of in the future, but —

What is it, will you say it?

It says, “How sad it is that time should pass, her majesty the hourglass. We take the sand of bygone years and make mud of it with all our tears. What is now compared to then and will I ever love again? The answer to that question brings the endless search for everything.” And the day I stood in a bathroom and I stood there for one hour … and I just kept writing, kept writing, kept writing, kept writing — and these little couplets and — and I was like, “Oh, that’s the mission statement for this record.”

There’s this lovely moment that I had in the record where you look at … the person, or the thought of the person, and you look at them and you go, “Oh, you can go. This is about me.” And a lot of this record is, “You can go,” and me going, “Oh, this is about me.” And you drop a vase and water and ceramic goes everywhere and you’re just like, “You can go — I’ll take care of this if you just step out. I’ll take care of this.” … And the theme might sort of be the most triumphant version of that, which is like, “Oh, I’m free to go now.” It’s not free to go from any one relationship, it’s not free to go from any one person — it’s free to go from yourself and your old interpretations of yourself that are not true, these old, burned-in habits of thinking, these old, burned-in desires that aren’t even your desires — they’re not even what you want. They’re not even what you need.

Here I am with the show that I want, with the band that I want, with the music that I want, and I’ve never been more excited to see what comes. I wake up in the morning, I put my feet on the floor and I say to myself, “Not hung over.” It’s the first thing I say, I say it to myself every morning. … And then I go, “We get another day where we have discovered how to live, where we enjoy it and our health is here. The end.” That’s it. Your true life exists in between the period of time where you stop being an ass and something kills you. That’s your life, and I just started my life.

Is Yellow Fever Knocking At Our Door?

Apr 14, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Is Yellow Fever Knocking At Our Door?

Scientists love patterns.

It’s what makes science possible — and powerful — especially when it comes to infectious diseases.

Over the past 30 years, scientists have noticed a distinctive pattern of mosquito-borne diseases in the Western Hemisphere: Three viruses have cropped up, caused small outbreaks and then one day — poof! — they hit a city and spread like gangbusters.

All three viruses are carried by the same mosquito, called Aedes aegypti. All three have caused millions of cases in Latin America and Caribbean. And all three have gotten a foothold in the U.S., causing small outbreaks.

Brazil's Expanding Yellow Fever Outbreak Started With Monkeys

Now there’s a fourth one lurking in the Brazilian rain forest, says Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. It’s familiar. And it’s deadly: yellow fever.

In a recent commentary for the New England Journal of Medicine, Fauci and his colleague Dr. Catherine Paules explain the pattern seen across Latin America and how the historical information could help us intercept the next epidemic.

The waves of epidemics from the three other viruses started back in the 1990s.

First dengue — a nasty virus that can cause hemorrhaging — re-emerged in parts of Latin America after it had been eliminated in 18 countries.

Next up came chikungunya. The virus first appeared in the Caribbean in 2013. It hopped around the islands for a few months and then finally hit the mainland of Central and South Americas, where it caused debilitating joint pain in thousands of people.

Then last year, Zika emerged as the first mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects. Still today, the U.S. is seeing about 30 to 40 Zika cases in pregnant women each week.

“Now all of a sudden you start to see this very interesting clustering of yellow fever cases in Brazil,” says Fauci.

The outbreak started in December and has swelled up to about 600 confirmed cases and more than a thousand suspected cases, the Brazil Ministry of Health reports. Symptoms can include fever, nausea and muscle aches. In about 15 percent of cases, the disease progresses into a toxic phase, which can include jaundice, bleeding and organ failure. There have been about 200 deaths in Brazil.

“That’s a potential threat,” Fauci says.

So far, the disease is still isolated to a rural area, Fauci says. And it’s spreading only among mosquitoes that live in the forest and not in mosquitoes that thrive in cities, called Aedes aegypti.

But that scenario could change quickly, Fauci says, if Aedes aegypti picks up the virus from infected people.

“If Aedes aegypti mosquitoes start spreading yellow fever in Brazil, there’s a possibility that you might have an outbreak in very populous areas in Brazil, such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo,” Fauci says.

“Whether that’s going to happen, I don’t know. But if it does, we’re going to get a lot of travel-related cases in the U.S.,” he says, “which means physicians here have to be aware of it.”

And that’s why Fauci penned the commentary: To alert public health officials and doctors so they won’t miss cases.

“This is a wake-up call for doctors and health officials],” Fauci says. “Be careful. If someone comes in with a illness that’s compatible with the yellow fever, you might want to ask them, ‘Have you traveled to this part of Brazil? “

But there’s another reason to keep an eye on yellow fever in the Americas. Unlike Zika, chikungunya and dengue, the world actually has an effective way to prepare for an outbreak. We have a vaccine that is 99 percent effective.

“That’s really an amazing asset,” says biologist Erin Mordecai, who studies infectious diseases at Stanford University.

So this is a great example of a time that we could be proactive,” she says. “We have a good vaccine, and we need to make sure that there’s enough available in the case of a large outbreak.”

And right now, that’s a bit of a problem, Fauci says. The world’s supply of the yellow fever vaccine is low. There aren’t enough doses to protect Brazil’s population of 200 million, not to mention the rest of Latin America.

“We don’t have enough vaccine. Period,” he says. “We’re going to have to make more vaccine. And that will take time.”

And in the meantime, predictions that Brazil’s outbreak would burn out quickly have turned out to be wrong. The outbreak continues grow while health officials make deep cuts into the vaccine stockpile.

Top Stories: U.S. General On Afghan Bombing; Trump’s Changing Views

Apr 14, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Top Stories: U.S. General On Afghan Bombing; Trump’s Changing Views

Good morning, here are our early headlines:

— Giant Bomb Was ‘Right Weapon’ For Attack On ISIS, U.S. General Says.

— Trump, Then And Now: What His Shifting Positions Say About What He Believes.

And here are more early headlines:

With Tension Growing, Pence Goes To South Korea. (CNN)

Syria Moving Tens Of Thousands Out Of Villages. (Guardian)

U.S. Sending Military Trainers To Somalia. (VOA)

2 Georgia Officers Fired After Video Shows Them Attacking Suspect. (WSB)

Secret Service Fires 2 Agents After White House Fence Incident. (CBS)

Report: Dakota Access Pipeline To Begin Service Next Month. (Reuters)

Detroit Church Offers Free Gas For Good Friday. (WWJ)

Topeka Firefighters Rescue Cat And Owner From Tree. (Topeka Capital-Journal)

All Roads Lead Back To Florida In ‘Sunshine State’

Apr 13, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on All Roads Lead Back To Florida In ‘Sunshine State’


Sunshine State

Sunshine State

Essays

by Sarah Gerard

Paperback, 359 pages |

purchase

In Sarah Gerard’s debut, the 2015 novel Binary Star, her unnamed protagonist undergoes a metamorphosis of metaphorical proportions. A road trip with her boyfriend takes them to the darkest regions of inner space, and Gerard’s body and psyche undergoes startling transitions. In the book, she also tackles topics close to heart and experiences, including eating disorders, which she’s struggled with in her own life. In Sunshine State, her penetrating and deeply felt debut collection of essays, Gerard once again draws on the experiences and environment of her own life — specifically, her formative years in Florida.

I was a kid in Florida in the ’70s and ’80s, not far from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area where Gerard grew up. “Mother-Father God” — the piece in Sunshine State that comes closest to straightforward autobiography — uncannily evokes that time and place, right down to the Jimmy Buffet T-shirts, banks of palms, and “lakes teeming with alligators.” It’s the story of how her parents met, told simply and without excess sentimentality. But that plainspoken tale is woven into a journalistic examination of New Thought, a spiritual movement dating to the 1800s in which Gerard’s parents became swept up during the ’80s. Gerard strikes just the right balance between objective distance and glimpsed emotion. She also establishes the dynamic she uses to great effect throughout the book: unflinchingly candid memoir bolstered by thoughtfully researched history.

'Binary Star' Is A Hard, Harrowing Look Into Inner Space

In “Going Diamond,” her parents’ stint as Amway salespeople — which itself becomes as cultish as their time in the New Thought movement — spins off into an account of the famous home-and-beauty company’s business model and motivational philosophy through the years, as well as its insidious colonization of the upward aspirations of working people. Again, Gerard’s careful layering of first-person memories and big-picture reporting lends substance to what might otherwise be lightweight recollections of childhood. Not that her autobiographical material doesn’t stand on its own; “Records” is a coming-of-age tale set to a backdrop of ’90s indie rock and hardcore, only its immersive, music-punctuated narrative dissolves into a coldly harrowing testimony about date rape. Gerard juggles nostalgia, criticism, romance, and violence with pitch-perfect pathos.

“Are you a journalist?” the coordinator of a seabird sanctuary in Pinellas County asks Gerard in Sunshine State‘s eponymous essay. “I’m more of a memoirist,” Gerard answers. She’s at the sanctuary for a six-week stint of gathering research for her piece on Florida’s preservation efforts. Through profiles and firsthand anecdotes, her story leads her to Ulysses S. Grant, beer magnates, and the internecine politics and corruption of the animal sanctuary world (no, really). Along the way, she deftly mixes the elemental enormity of thunderstorms in the Gulf of Mexico with the delicate ecological balance — always on the verge of cataclysmic disruption — that marks the interplay of natural and manmade forces in Florida. “I felt I was on the trail of something ancient,” Gerard observes. Her writing, lucid yet atmospheric, takes on a timeless ebb and flow.

Sunshine State doesn’t confine itself to its titular locale. It also ventures into other places, both real and virtual, from Cleveland to Reddit. But all those roads lead back to Florida, which Gerard imbues with the eerie gravitational pull of both hometowns and black holes. In an age where the crazy-from-the-heat, ripped-from-the-headlines “Florida Man” has become a popular meme, and where the state as a whole has become in increasingly contentious political hotbed, Gerard crafts a nuanced and subtly intimate mosaic. Sunshine State is not a glowing encomium of Florida, nor is it a snarky takedown. Instead, it’s a drifting, psychogeographical exploration of a place she once called home — and that, in return, has come to live inside her.

Jason Heller is a senior writer at The A.V. Club, a Hugo Award-winning editor and author of the novel Taft 2012.

Chefs’ Secret For More Flavorful Tortillas? Heirloom Corn From Mexico

Apr 13, 2017   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Chefs’ Secret For More Flavorful Tortillas? Heirloom Corn From Mexico

Most people in the world have never experienced the taste of the kind of tortillas Hilda Pastor makes using heirloom corn. That’s because of the rise of mass-produced instant corn flour.

Marisa Peñaloza/NPR


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Marisa Peñaloza/NPR

Most people in the world have never experienced the taste of the kind of tortillas Hilda Pastor makes using heirloom corn. That’s because of the rise of mass-produced instant corn flour.

Marisa Peñaloza/NPR

On a sunny morning in Guadalupe Victoria, near the Guatemalan border in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, Hilda Pastor is washing corn in her backyard sink to make tortillas. It’s a daily ritual that starts the night before.

“I mix dried kernels, water and a spoonful of cal” – that’s calcium hydroxide or slaked lime, “and it soaks overnight,” says Pastor, a 48-year-old mother of three.

This tortilla-making process was invented by the Aztecs 600 years ago and is called “nixtamilizing. It softens the corn and heightens its flavor and nutritional value.

Most people in the world have never experienced the taste of the kind of tortillas Pastor makes using heirloom corn. That’s because of the rise of Maseca, a mass-produced instant corn flour commonly sold at Latin markets worldwide, including in Mexico.

“Tortillas made with Maseca taste like plastic; they have no flavor,” Pastor says as she presses her dough into round discs. “It’s very important for me and my family to keep our tradition alive.”

One way to keep tradition alive is to create demand for the heirloom corn varieties that give traditional tortillas like Pastor’s their richness of flavor.

Hilda Pastor’s husband, Anibal Lopez, hopes that more people can find appreciation for heirloom corn flavor. Commercial corn production in the U.S. has made it difficult for farmers like Lopez, who cultivates heirloom varieties in Mexico, to make a living.

Marisa Peñaloza/NPR


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Marisa Peñaloza/NPR

Hilda Pastor’s husband, Anibal Lopez, hopes that more people can find appreciation for heirloom corn flavor. Commercial corn production in the U.S. has made it difficult for farmers like Lopez, who cultivates heirloom varieties in Mexico, to make a living.

Marisa Peñaloza/NPR

According to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, or CIMMYT, a research center in Texcoco, Mexico, there are 60 unique landrace or heirloom varieties of corn in Mexico. Every corn variety in the world comes from these – from small purple kernels to larger red, orange and yellow kernels.

But commercial, mechanized corn production in the U.S. is based mainly on hybridization of two American landraces: the Southern Dents and the Northern Flints.

That’s made it hard for farmers who cultivate heirloom varieties in Mexico, like Pastor’s husband, Anibal Lopez, to make a living. He grows a subsistence crop to feed his family.

“I just wish that more people could appreciate the flavors of criollo or heirloom corn,” Lopez says.

Enter Jorge Gaviria.

The American entrepreneur founded specialty ingredient purveyor Masienda in 2014. Gaviria buys surplus high-quality heirloom corn from small-holder farmers in Mexico and imports it to the United States. His goal: to bridge a Mexican ancient tradition and the American palate.

Gaviria, the son of a Cuban father and a Mexican mother, grew up in Miami and trained as an apprentice at Blue Hill at Stone Barns – Dan Barber’s high-end, farm-to-table restaurant in Tarrytown, N.Y. – where he learned about sustainable agriculture.

“What really stuck with me was the idea of reclaiming ingredients that we have really lost touch with in the age of commercial and industrial agriculture,” he says.

Though tortillas have always been part of Gaviria’s diet, he realized he didn’t know much about corn. His original idea was to open a tortilleria, so he set out to find the best quality corn out there.

Jorge Gaviria founded Masienda in 2014.

Molly DeCoudreaux/Courtesy of Jorge Gaviria


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Molly DeCoudreaux/Courtesy of Jorge Gaviria

Jorge Gaviria founded Masienda in 2014.

Molly DeCoudreaux/Courtesy of Jorge Gaviria

Tortillas and chips are big business in the U.S., but the $6 billion industry is not very diverse. “The U.S. produces more corn than anywhere else in the world,” says Gaviria, “but roughly 98.5 percent of it is dedicated to anything but human food” – things like ethanol or animal feed.

Gaviria’s research took him to Oaxaca in southwestern Mexico. He says he’ll never forget the first time he ate an heirloom corn tortilla.

“The smell coming out of my plate was something I’d never smelled before – it was life changing,” he says. “Tortillas had a lasting flavor that didn’t just disappear in my mouth, and it really stayed with me.”

There are about 3 million small-holder farmers in Mexico, according to CIMMYT. These Mexican farmers and their ancestors have grown heirloom corn for subsistence for thousands of years. “They are the custodians of heirloom corn,” says Gaviria. “The entire global corn supply – it all originates in Mexico.”

Gaviria started working with 100 farmers, buying their surplus corn. Today he’s enlisted 1,200 farmers, he says. His goal is to help farmers in Mexico who are “growing something really unique” to find buyers. These farmers are the “key link to preserving the flavor, the tradition and the genetic diversity of Mexico,” he says.

But identifying the farmers wasn’t enough. Gaviria’s next challenge was to enlist chefs in the United States. He wants American chefs and the diners they serve to start to see corn as “an ingredient that’s worth taking an extra second to appreciate and admire.”

To generate interest, Gaviria has been traveling the country like a Johnny Appleseed of Mexican corn. Masienda now has around 200 clients, including the meal-kit delivery company Blue Apron and chef Rick Bayless’ retail food business, Frontera Foods.

Chef Alexis Samayoa of Espita Mezcaleria, a trendy Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., buys imported, dried corn from Masienda.

Marisa Peñaloza/NPR


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Chef Alexis Samayoa of Espita Mezcaleria, a trendy Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., buys imported, dried corn from Masienda.

Marisa Peñaloza/NPR

Another chef who has joined Gaviria’s corn crusade is Alexis Samayoa of Espita Mezcaleria, a trendy Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., that opened about a year ago.

Samayoa says he was determined to offer authentic foods made with masa, or corn-flour dough, from Oaxaca, like tlayudas – a sort of Mexican pizza made with masa and refried beans instead of wheat flour and tomato sauce.

“It’s all about the flavor,” he says. But nixtamilizing the corn to make masa is “a big process. It starts today and it ends tomorrow.”

It’s also a big investment. Samayoa estimates he pays an extra $3,000 every two weeks for heirloom corn products. He not only buys imported, dried corn from Masienda, but also owns his own lava rock corn grinder and a tortilla press. And Samayoa has hired a couple of workers solely to make the masa and tortillas.

He walks to a corner of the restaurant where sacks of corn labeled chalqueno cremoso are stacked up against a Frida Kahlo mural. He prizes this particular variety for its unique taste.

“It has that richness and sweetness of corn,” he says. “There is just this sweet, nutty, silky flavor that it’s just right.”

Plus, he says, “it’s very satisfying to honor and preserve ancient culinary traditions,” while also hearing customers say, “‘Wow, this corn is great.'”

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