Browsing articles from "January, 2018"

New Fossil Found In Israel Suggests A Much Earlier Human Migration Out of Africa

Jan 26, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on New Fossil Found In Israel Suggests A Much Earlier Human Migration Out of Africa

The fossil found in Misliya cave. Details of the teeth — their shapes and sizes relative to each other — helped scientists confirm that this belongs to Homo sapiens.

Gerhard Weber/University of Vienna/Science


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Gerhard Weber/University of Vienna/Science

The fossil found in Misliya cave. Details of the teeth — their shapes and sizes relative to each other — helped scientists confirm that this belongs to Homo sapiens.

Gerhard Weber/University of Vienna/Science

Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the oldest fossil of a modern human outside Africa. The fossil suggests that humans first migrated out of the continent much earlier than previously believed.

The scientists were digging in a cave called Misliya, on the slopes of Mount Carmel on the northern coast of Israel. “The cave is one of a series of prehistoric caves,” says Mina Weinstein-Evron of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who led the team. “It’s a collapsed cave, but people lived there before it collapsed.”

The cave had been occupied for several hundred thousand years, she says.

All the archaeological evidence suggested that the ancient people who lived in the cave were hunter-gatherers. “They were hunting animals, mainly ungulates, like fallow dear, gazelle, aurochs [an extinct species of wild cattle] and other small animals,” says Weinstein-Evron. “They built fireplaces throughout the length of the cave, again and again, in the same place, in the same sort of defined arrangement.”

They made their stone tools using a technique called Levallois, which originated in Africa at least some 300,000 years ago and is known to have been used by both humans and Neanderthals.

315,000-Year-Old Fossils From Morocco Could Be Earliest Recorded Homo Sapiens

Weinstein-Evron says she and her team wanted to find out which species of ancient humans lived in the cave. So, she says, they kept digging. “And among the animal bones and flint tools we found a jawbone, an upper jawbone of an individual,” she says.

It was the upper left jaw, with parts of the nasal cavity and cheekbone still intact. And it looked remarkably similar to that of modern humans, she says. “It really is like us. … It’s like you and me.”

The fossil also had intact teeth. “We have the pre-molars, the molars, the canine, and we have the lateral incisor,” says Israel Hershkovitz, a paleoanthropologist at Tel Aviv University who was part of the team that studied the fossil.

A detailed analysis of the jawbone and the teeth confirmed that it indeed belonged to someone of our species, Homo sapiens. And when they dated the fossil, it turned out to be between 177,000 and 194,000 years old, making it the oldest known such fossil outside the African continent.

The Misliya cave during excavation. The ancient humans repeatedly built hearths in this cave over the hundreds of thousands of years that they lived in it. Dark ashy sediment can be seen at the bottom central right of the picture.

Mina Weinstein-Evron/Haifa University/Science


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Mina Weinstein-Evron/Haifa University/Science

The Misliya cave during excavation. The ancient humans repeatedly built hearths in this cave over the hundreds of thousands of years that they lived in it. Dark ashy sediment can be seen at the bottom central right of the picture.

Mina Weinstein-Evron/Haifa University/Science

“Honestly, we were extremely surprised,” says Hershkovitz. “We were not expecting to find a modern human so early in time.”

He and his team reported their findings Thursday in the journal Science.

“All our earlier evidence suggested that Homo sapiens got out of Africa about 120,000 years ago,” says Michael Petraglia, at the Max Planck Institute for The Science of Human History. That evidence included fossils found in Israel (in nearby caves on Mount Carmel) that date to between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago.

So this new discovery is surprising, he says. “It is a big deal.”

Fossil Find Points To A Streamlined Human Lineage

What this new finding shows is that there were many waves of migration out of Africa starting very early in our evolutionary history, he says.

“What the Misliya cave find indicates is that there were times when Homo sapiens populations seeped out of Africa,” says Rick Potts, a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Groups of humans were probably exploring at different times, he says, “looking over the next hill and down into the next valley.”

They were probably exploring new frontiers based on local ecological conditions.

3.3 Million-Year-Old Fossil Sheds Light On How The Spine Evolved

“They didn’t have maps. They didn’t know where they were going, whether they were in Africa or wherever,” says Potts. They were just following perhaps where the game was good, and food resources were good for eating, there was water.”

But these explorations were likely a “process of colonization that failed,” he says.

“There isn’t very good evidence for these early humans being part of our gene pool outside of Africa,” says Petraglia. That means these groups, including the group in Misliya cave, probably died off at some point.

Genetic evidence suggests humans alive today have descended from a group of humans who left Africa about 60,000 years ago.

‘We Are Them’: Jon Balke and Siwan Call For Coexistence On ‘Nahnou Houm’

Jan 26, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on ‘We Are Them’: Jon Balke and Siwan Call For Coexistence On ‘Nahnou Houm’

Nahnou Houm isn’t Jon Balke’s first Andalusian experiment: 2009’s Siwan also explored traditional music from the region.

Antonio Baiano for ECM Records/Courtesy of the artist


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Antonio Baiano for ECM Records/Courtesy of the artist

Nahnou Houm isn’t Jon Balke’s first Andalusian experiment: 2009’s Siwan also explored traditional music from the region.

Antonio Baiano for ECM Records/Courtesy of the artist

Al-Andalus was a region of Spain which, after the expansion of the Islamic Empire, was governed by Muslim rulers for nearly eight centuries – from 711 to 1492.

During the first part of that time, followers of Judaism and Christianity were tolerated by most of the Muslim rulers, which encouraged a relative climate of cooperation between scholars of all three faiths. That climate of cooperation produced advances in math, science, art and music that influenced the rest of Europe.

The region’s spirit has inspired contemporary Norwegian pianist and composer Jon Balke — who, with his group Siwan, recently released his second album drawn from those influences, titled Nahnou Houm.

Balke first learned of Al-Andalus when he was commissioned to write music by a Moroccan promoter to celebrate a venue’s 15th anniversary.

“This was how I stumbled upon Gharnati music, which is the Andalusian music that existed in 1400 in Spain and was driven out,” Balke says.

The intellectual and social exchange fostered by its rulers helped make Al-Andalus one of the most culturally rich areas of Europe. But the Christian kingdoms to the north attacked repeatedly, and in 1492, the Spanish crown reclaimed the last vestiges of the region. Muslims and Jews were either forced to convert, killed or expelled. Many sought refuge across the Mediterranean Sea.

“They left Andalucía and went to North Africa, and Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria,” Mona Boutchebak says.

An Algerian classical singer, Boutchebak is the lead vocalist on the new album by Jon Balke and Siwan. She says the culture of what came to be called Andalusia was carried and preserved by the exiles.

Algerian singer Mona Boutchebak gives the traditional music of Al-Andalus a modern voice.

Antonio Baiano for ECM Records/Courtesy of the artist


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Antonio Baiano for ECM Records/Courtesy of the artist

Algerian singer Mona Boutchebak gives the traditional music of Al-Andalus a modern voice.

Antonio Baiano for ECM Records/Courtesy of the artist

“It is a mixture between Arabic music [and] Spanish,” Boutchebak says. “Flamenco comes from this music, from this tradition. I’m from this tradition, from the Arab-Andalusian one.”

It’s a tradition that’s still taught in schools — “what we call in Algeria the Arabo-Andalusian schools, where you can learn to sing the Arabo-Andalusian tradition,” Boutchebak explains. “So I went and I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I started to sing when I was 11, to learn this tradition.”

Jon Balke has taken this tradition’s poetry and composed his own music around it.

“It’s a framing of the musical project,” Balke says. “It puts the project in a framework that speaks about history and that speaks about a kind of a mentality that, from what you can read, existed in the best parts of this period — a kind of open, liberal practice of tolerance and coexistence.

“These poems, they speak about this kind of attitude, even if they speak about love or rain on the river or mystical experiences. You get the kind of a feeling of a period which was a really booming period in European history.”

At first, Boutchebak resisted the idea of combining her ancient tradition with jazz improvisation and music from the north.

“At the beginning, even for me, it was a little bit hard to imagine baroque music, improvisations, Andalusian music, and me in the middle,” she says. “I was asking myself, ‘What am I going to do?’ At times I felt it like it was so far from me, but it isn’t. We are all the same. The title of the album is ‘We Are Them,’ Nahnou Houm.”

Balke hopes that by trying to recapture a long-gone period of cultural and religious coexistence, his Siwan project can offer an alternative intolerance in the modern world.

“It is possible to coexist,” Balke says. “It is possible to respect even a person who believes something different from you or comes from a totally different background. And even if there are conflicts, it’s possible to solve them in another way than shooting the person.”

A Father, A Husband, An Immigrant: Detained And Facing Deportation

Jan 26, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on A Father, A Husband, An Immigrant: Detained And Facing Deportation

Manuel, shown with his family, first came to the United States illegally more than two decades ago. He was one of the 143,470 immigrants arrested in the interior of the country last year by immigration authorities.

Jed Conklin for NPR


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Jed Conklin for NPR

Manuel, shown with his family, first came to the United States illegally more than two decades ago. He was one of the 143,470 immigrants arrested in the interior of the country last year by immigration authorities.

Jed Conklin for NPR

The day was going to be perfect.

Alex figured he would wake up at 6:30 a.m., help get his little brothers up and off to school and catch the bus by 7. After school, the 14-year-old would do something he had been looking forward to for weeks — play in his first football game.

He would get to put on the team jersey — purple, with a camouflage print collar. And most importantly, his dad, Manuel, would be there, cheering from the sidelines.

Instead, Alex woke up to his mom screaming and crying outside his bedroom door.

By the time he got out of bed, it was too late. His dad was already gone — on his way to the county jail and then to immigration detention, where he would spend the next six months waiting to learn his future in the United States.

Manuel came to the United States from Mexico illegally two decades ago. He is one of the 143,470 immigrants arrested in the interior of the country last year by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities. These kinds of arrests are up 25 percent compared with in 2016 — part of an effort by the Trump administration to fulfill a campaign promise to deport more immigrants who have come to the U.S. illegally.

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Manuel’s story points to a broader policy directive of President Trump’s first year in office. At a time when arrests at the border are at a 46-year low, the federal government has begun to go after people who were not targets under the previous administration: those in the U.S. interior who have lived in the country for years and who often have committed no crimes. In 2017, arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record increased by 42 percent compared with in 2016.

Manuel’s case illustrates not only the giant, complicated bureaucracy involved in immigration enforcement but also the ripple effects one arrest can have on a family and a community.

NPR obtained Manuel’s ICE file, which confirms the details of his history in the United States. At the family’s request, NPR has obscured some family member’s names and left other details vague because of their status in the country.

Anatomy of an apprehension

Manuel and his wife, V, grew up together in Sinaloa, Mexico. When they started dating as teenagers, V’s family objected: Manuel was from a poor family, and V from a wealthy one with ties to the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

Manuel and his wife hold hands. He first crossed the border in 1995 after threats from his wife’s relatives, who didn’t approve of the relationship.

Jed Conklin for NPR


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Jed Conklin for NPR

Manuel first crossed the border in 1995, when he was still a teen, after V’s uncle tried to kill him by running him over with a car. Another time, the uncle put a gun to Manuel’s head. When Manuel returned to Mexico in 1997 to marry V, her relatives beat him up.

Faced with near-constant threats, Manuel attempted to return to the U.S. in early 1998. That time, he was apprehended. He could have asked for asylum then, but he was 19 and didn’t understand immigration law. He was sent back to Mexico. Three days later, he crossed the border again, this time successfully.

Now in his late 30s, Manuel was living quietly under the radar in the Pacific Northwest when immigration officials showed up that Monday morning in April.

It was 5:30 a.m. He was preparing to leave for the first of the three jobs he worked to support his family.

The agents said they came to investigate a report that Manuel was driving a stolen car. He had owned the car for years. When asked later, police couldn’t produce any reports about the stolen car.

Then the agents asked Manuel for documents to prove his citizenship. He didn’t say anything. They told him he had a deportation order from 1998.

The agents put Manuel in handcuffs. He asked the officers to let him say goodbye to his wife. He didn’t get to say goodbye to his kids. Apart from his illegal entry into the United States, Manuel had not been charged with any crimes.

Alex, 14, plays the accordion in his bedroom. He has been learning how to play one of his dad’s favorite songs, La Puerta Negra, or “The Black Door.” His grades suffered during his father’s detention.

Jed Conklin for NPR


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Jed Conklin for NPR

His son Alex didn’t make it to school that day. He did go to his football game, but he couldn’t stop thinking about his dad. Alex’s head wasn’t in the game. Eventually, the coach pulled him off the field. Within a few weeks, Alex’s grades had dropped so much that he wasn’t allowed to play at all.

Over the next few months, Manuel tries to talk to his sons — age 8 to 19 — on the phone every night from the detention center where he is being held.

“I tell them that they have to put a lot of effort into their schoolwork because they don’t have to pay for my error,” he says.

Manuel remains hopeful he’ll get to go home. But he has also watched many of the friends he has made in detention get deported.

Executing the law ‘across the board’

The Trump administration is looking to expand the government’s capacity to detain immigrants in the country illegally. In May, the Department of Homeland Security asked Congress to fund 17,000 new beds in detention facilities — one-third more than the system’s capacity at the end of the Obama administration.

That request comes at a time when the number of people crossing the border is lower than it was at the beginning of the Obama administration or during the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations. By the end of the Obama administration, the number of border crossers was actually dropping — and that trend has largely continued during the first year of the Trump presidency.

Keys hang by the backdoor of Manuel’s house. The whole family was affected by Manuel’s detention. Their oldest son had to drop out of college to support the family. Their younger sons, usually upbeat, began crying at school and some of their grades dropped.

Jed Conklin for NPR


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Jed Conklin for NPR

Decreased border crossings means more resources can be used to expand deportations in the country’s interior.

Last January, ICE agents got a memo stating that “officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.” That memo was written by Matt Albence, director of enforcement and removal operations at ICE. He has been at the agency for six years, and as he sees it, officers’ hands were tied under the Obama administration.

“The laws that Congress has passed and that our offices are sworn to uphold, we are now executing them faithfully across the board,” Albence told NPR in December.

To be clear, President Barack Obama deported thousands of people each year, too. But under a 2014 executive order, Obama directed immigration agents to focus on two groups for deportation: border crossers upon entry and illegal immigrants with criminal records. The government would not target noncriminals in the country’s interior.

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In 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, these types of arrests accounted for 2.1 percent of total removals. In 2017, that figure climbed to 6 percent.

Albence said that about 90 percent of the people arrested by ICE have had a prior run-in with the courts. That 90 percent includes people like Manuel, who had that deportation order for crossing the border 20 years ago.

Anyone in the country illegally should know they are subject to deportation, Albence says.

“There’s certainly a humanitarian perspective where you can feel sympathy for the individual and their circumstances,” he said. “But that does not mean we’re not going to enforce the law.”

Albence says anyone who is in the U.S. illegally should stop violating the law. And if there is no way for them to get legal status — through family or employment — he says self-deportation “is certainly an option.”

For people who’ve grown roots in a community, and raised American kids, self-deportation doesn’t feel like a possibility. And when one immigrant is locked up, that absence is felt acutely.

Three of Manuel and V’s sons play on the trampoline in their backyard. Manuel was away from his family for six months.

Christina Cala/NPR


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Christina Cala/NPR

Manuel had been paying for his oldest son to attend college. That son now has to leave school so he can work as a firefighter to support the family.

The oldest son is what is known as a DREAMer, a child brought to the U.S. who has temporary permission to stay in the country under DACA, or Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals. That program could end in March unless Congress acts, so he fears for his own future as well as his father’s.

Decision day arrives

At last in mid-September, after nearly half a year in detention, Manuel gets his day in court.

He has seen his kids once in all that time. The drive is far. But they make it this day.

If Manuel loses, the next time he leaves the detention center could be with a one-way ticket to Mexico.

The courtroom is cold and sterile. The judge tells Manuel she is denying his request to stay.

Visibly upset when the judge issues her ruling, Manuel is escorted out of the room. He is not able to see his kids.

The detention center where Manuel was held is hours away from where his family lives. When his first request to stay was denied, he was escorted out of the courtroom without even seeing his kids, who had traveled for the decision.

Jed Conklin for NPR


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Jed Conklin for NPR

The detention center where Manuel was held is hours away from where his family lives. When his first request to stay was denied, he was escorted out of the courtroom without even seeing his kids, who had traveled for the decision.

Jed Conklin for NPR

“I’m angry, upset and confused mainly,” the oldest son says right afterwards. “I couldn’t even say bye. Especially after they told him, I couldn’t even look at him in the face and say bye. That was pretty painful.”

Manuel is not deported immediately. He has to decide whether he’ll fight the ruling and stay behind bars — perhaps for months longer — or accept the judge’s decision and try to make some money in Mexico to support his family back in the United States.

Manuel’s oldest son isn’t optimistic.

“He has the right to appeal, but it almost seems unnecessary, and also seems like no matter what he does, they’re going to f****** reject him,” he says. “I mean, I might as well leave, too. I might as well go back to a country I’ve never been to. This is the American dream, you know? We’re living it.”

In a moment of despair, Manuel calls V and tells her to send all his clothes back to Mexico, so he’ll have something to wear if he is deported.

She empties his closets.

A legal Hail Mary

Manuel does have one thing going for him that most immigrants don’t: a lawyer, Andrea Lino.

According to the American Immigration Council, 85 percent of people in immigration detention don’t get a lawyer, in part because it can be hard to find one while behind bars, and detainees in immigration court aren’t guaranteed one.

But having one makes a clear difference: Detainees with lawyers are released 44 percent of the time, compared with 11 percent for detainees without them.

While Manuel is deciding whether to appeal the ruling, his elderly mother gets a phone call at her home in Mexico. The menacing voice tells her that Manuel was deported and that members of the Sinaloa cartel kidnapped him at the border. The caller demands a ransom and threatens to kill her son.

She knows this is a bluff and that he is still locked up in the United States. But she also knows that the threat of violence is real. She has seen the cars circling the house, waiting for a sign that Manuel is back.

Manuel decides to keep fighting in court. His lawyer makes a Hail Mary legal filing and argues that the long history of death threats from his wife’s relatives should be grounds for him to stay in the U.S. The chances it will work? Somewhere around 5 percent, Lino tells him.

In mid-October, the judge issues her order. It’s one page.

It says her original decision overlooked the fact that Manuel was persecuted in Mexico because of his family relationships. The fact that those death threats came from family members gives him legal protection that he wouldn’t have had if they had come from random strangers.

She rules that Manuel can remain in the United States.

On the day he is released, Manuel is hugged by a friend at the detention center. The fact that he had a lawyer greatly improved his chances of avoiding deportation.

Jefferson Mok


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Jefferson Mok

It’s called “withholding of removal.” Not asylum, not a path to citizenship. There are lots of limitations — for instance, Manuel can’t leave the country and must pay a yearly renewal fee.

But the upshot is: Manuel can go home, back to V and their children.

Their oldest son is in shock.

“It’s just such a powerful feeling,” he says. “It’s powerful because of what you believed in came true, it’s actually happening now. … It was powerful because my birthday just passed and all I wanted was my dad.”

A father comes home

Manuel’s release comes a few days later.

He walks through a chain-link gate, over a railroad track and outside the detention center for the first time in months. He waits at the bus station for an overnight Greyhound ride home. V texts him the whole way. The two oldest sons are waiting in their car outside the bus station. They’re shaking. And then, they see their dad.

“I just didn’t know what to say,” the oldest son says. “It was that kind of shock where you can’t even let it come out. … I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be like, ‘Hey Dad, what’s up? It’s been awhile.’ Or it’s like, ‘Hey Dad, I missed you so much.’ “

Manuel hugs his boys. They cry. Manuel says the 10-minute drive home from the station feels like forever. He walks through the gate to the yard of their modest single-story house, past the trampoline and dog toys lying in the fresh snow. The last time he walked through the gate, daffodils were blooming.

Manuel is home.

Royce, the family dog, sits on the back patio of the house where Manuel, V and their children live in the Pacific Northwest.

Christina Cala/NPR


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Christina Cala/NPR

He is also the exception. For most immigrants who enter deportation proceedings, the ordeal ends with a flight to a different country. Last year, the United States deported 226,000 people.

If Manuel hadn’t had a lawyer, or if the death threats were from random people, and not family members, he probably would have been deported.

But his family has not emerged from the experience unchanged. The last few months have left some scars.

Manuel says his younger boys still cling to him, afraid he’ll have to leave again.

And several months after his release, Manuel says he still hasn’t received the proper papers to work. As a result, the oldest son remains the family’s biggest breadwinner, and his schooling is left on hold. Congress continues to debate the future of DACA, so his future remains hazy, too. And after negotiations to solve that issue crumbled in Washington last week, it doesn’t appear that a solution will come soon.

After his release from detention, Manuel walks with one of his sons near the local elementary school. Manuel still hasn’t received proper documentation to work. As a result, the oldest son remains the family’s biggest breadwinner, and his schooling is left on hold.

Christina Cala/NPR


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Christina Cala/NPR

Manuel says he knows that he broke the law and that his decision to come to the United States got his family into this mess. But he doesn’t regret it either.

“I’d do anything for my family, and everything I’ve done until now has been for them,” he says. “And I’m going to keep doing it, so they can be somebody in this life.”

This story was produced for broadcast by Sam Gringlas and Christina Cala, with help from Ana Lucia Murillo and Matt Ozug. The story was edited for broadcast by Jolie Myers and for the Web by Maureen Pao.

Jerry Brown’s Last State Of The State Mixes Optimism And Warnings

Jan 26, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Jerry Brown’s Last State Of The State Mixes Optimism And Warnings

California Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State Address at the Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 25, 2018.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his State of the State Address at the Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 25, 2018.

Andrew Nixon/Capital Public Radio

When Jerry Brown returned to the California governor’s office in 2011 — nearly 30 years after he finished his first two terms in 1983 — he inherited a $27-billion budget deficit and a state mocked by critics.

The Economist of London pronounced us: ‘The Ungovernable State,'” Brown was quick to remind a joint session of the California Assembly Thursday, seven years after resuming the state’s leadership. “And the Business Insider simply said: ‘California is Doomed.'”

Now, California boasts a multi-billion-dollar surplus. Its economy is booming. And Brown touted a list of bipartisan accomplishments: a pension overhaul, a new budget reserve, and an extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program to combat climate change.

“Their passage demonstrates that some American governments can actually get things done, even in the face of deepening partisan division,” the governor said, taking a shot at Congress.

He is California’s longest-serving governor, a three-time Democratic presidential candidate, and a one-of-a-kind American politician. And Thursday’s Assembly speech was his final State of the State address.

He told lawmakers that California is prospering and laid out a path for the state to continue its progress — but issued dire warnings on a global scale.

As he looked ahead to his 16th and final year at the helm, Brown called for fresh looks at California’s criminal justice system, which has ballooned over the last half-century; and how the state manages its forests to reduce the risk of wildfires.

The governor also made the case for the transportation funding law he signed last year, which voters will likely decide the fate of in November.

“Fighting a gas tax may appear to be good politics, but it isn’t. I will do everything in my power to defeat any repeal effort that may make it to the ballot. You can count on that!” Brown said, drawing applause from Democrats while Republicans sat on their hands.

He also continued his unflagging support of two signature infrastructure projects: the Delta tunnels and high-speed rail.

“Yes, there are critics, there are lawsuits and there are countless obstacles,” he said. “But California was built on dreams and perseverance and the bolder path is still our way forward.”

But even many Democrats struggle with these projects’ costs. And Republicans blame Sacramento Democrats — including Brown — for California’s skyrocketing cost of housing and other vital expenses.

Assembly GOP Leader Brian Dahle, who represents rural northeastern California, talked about the challenges facing his neighbor, a single mother of four.

“Her cost of living is going up,” he said after the speech. “They just passed a gas tax last year; that drives up her transportation costs. Energy costs are going up. And she has to decide whether she’s going to put food on the table, turn the heat up.”

Dahle said small businesses like his are “dying of a thousand cuts.”

Thursday’s was not a speech that railed against President Trump or sought to fire up “the resistance.” Brown did not mention Trump by name, though he acknowledged the president for approving federal funds to fight wildfires.

And despite threats from the Trump administration to arrest state and local politicians who defy federal immigration laws, the governor — who just months ago signed California’s “sanctuary state” law — skipped the subject entirely.

That didn’t trouble legislative Democrats like Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

“What a lot of us have come to understand,” Rendon said afterwards, “is that the best way we can fight against Donald Trump — the best way we can fight against everything that’s happening in Washington, DC — is to be successful.”

Instead of dwelling on the president, Brown went global, noting that the Doomsday Clock had just moved the minute hand to 11:58 — as close as it’s been to midnight since the height of the Cold War.

Doomsday Clock Moves Closer To Midnight, We're 2 Minutes From World Annihilation

“Our world, our way of life, our system of governance — all are at immediate and genuine risk,” the governor said. “Endless new weapons systems, growing antagonism among nations, the poison in our politics, climate change. All of this calls out for courage, for imagination and for generous dialogue.”

Jerry Brown is not the most sentimental of politicians. But the governor, who turns 80 in April, seemed to linger in the moment, knowing his time in public office will end in less than a year.

As he wrapped up to a standing ovation, Brown stepped back to the microphone to offer a window into his state of mind.

“Keep going! I’m in no hurry,” he said over the applause. “Nowhere to go!”

Episode 819: Tax Me If You Can

Jan 25, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Episode 819: Tax Me If You Can

Douglas Bruce celebrates voters' approval of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights Nov. 3, 1992

Douglas Bruce celebrates voters' approval of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights Nov. 3, 1992

In 1992, Douglas Bruce proposed a measure called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, TABOR for short. TABOR was effectively a tax-limitation measure that said, whenever a government wanted more money — whenever it wanted to increase taxes — it had to put the question on the ballot. Increased taxes for roads? The voters would get to decide. Better schools? Put it on the ballot. But put the price there first.

The proposal passed. And there were a lot of other things in it, too. And today, because of Douglas Bruce’s amendment, Colorado is the only state where politicians don’t have the power to raise taxes under any circumstances.

They say you can’t fight city hall, that one person can’t make a difference. But today on the show, we’ll tell you the story of how one man did. And what happened to his state. And what happened to him.

Music by Ramtin Arablouei. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook / Instagram Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.

Bank Of America Ends Free Checking Option, A Bastion For Low-Income Customers

Jan 25, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Bank Of America Ends Free Checking Option, A Bastion For Low-Income Customers

Bank of America's latest fee arrangements for checking accounts could hit hardest with those who can least afford it, say critics.

Bank of America's latest fee arrangements for checking accounts could hit hardest with those who can least afford it, say critics.

Bank of America is eliminating eBanking accounts this month, transferring their owners into accounts that charge a maintenance fee if they don’t maintain a minimum balance or get direct deposit. The move ends a program introduced in 2010 and completes a phaseout begun several years ago, when the bank stopped offering eBanking as an option to new customers.

The eBanking account had offered customers a checking account without any monthly fees, provided they conduct their business online or at ATMs. If the eBanking customers wanted to get their statements by mail and speak with tellers in person, the accounts would carry an $8.95 monthly fee.

Now, the bank has swapped those remaining customers into Core Checking, an account that requires customers to maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or at least one direct deposit a month of $250 or more — which comes out to $3,000 annually. Customers in these accounts are charged $12 a month if they cannot meet these requirements.

“This is one of the lowest qualifiers in the industry and a great value,” Bank of America spokeswoman Betty Riess told CNBC. She added that the Core Checking option “provides full access to all our financial centers, ATMs, mobile and online banking” and told the Chicago Tribune that — in the newspaper’s words — “only a small number of customers still had eBanking accounts.”

That has done little to assuage critics’ worries the move will disproportionately hurt the bank’s low-income customers, who would be the likeliest to struggle to meet the Core Checking requirements.

“The debate over Bank of America’s accounts and fees points to a larger economic justice issue — people with less income pay more to get cash, make payments, and conduct their business,” Dory Rand, president of the Woodstock Institute, told the Tribune.

“Without access to safe and affordable bank accounts, low-income consumers often turn to costly alternative financial services, such as currency exchanges or check-cashers,” she continued. “The bottom line is: the most financially vulnerable need more and better options to transact their business and participate in the financial mainstream.”

A study released last fall by Bankrate.com found that Americans with an annual household income under $30,000 pay more than three times the monthly bank fees paid by higher-income brackets — an average of $31 a month, compared with an average of $9 for other income groups.

That is one reason why “just 59% of U.S. adults with household income under $30,000 per year even have a checking account,” according to the study.

The change has prompted a backlash online, including a snowdrift of tweeters professing their intention to close their accounts and criticizing the bank for its effects on low-income customers. A Change.org petition protesting the move has also drawn more than 86,000 signatures as of this writing.

“Bank of America was one of the only brick-and-mortar bank that offered free checking accounts to their customers. Bank of America was known to care for both their high income and low income customers,” the petition’s creator, Mel San, wrote in her description.

“Now sadly, Bank of America seems to have changed their mind and wants to no longer offer free checking accounts to the American public.”

CNBC reports that the bank’s chief financial officer, Paul Donofrio, told Wall Street analysts the bank’s actions are driven by a desire to “balance” benefits for all.

“All I can tell you is that we’re going to balance our customer needs,” he said, “and we’re going to balance the competitive marketplace with our shareholders’ interests and we’re going to do the right thing for all the parties.”

Trump Says He Is Willing To Talk To Mueller Under Oath

Jan 25, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Trump Says He Is Willing To Talk To Mueller Under Oath

President Trump speaks to a gathering of mayors in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP


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President Trump speaks to a gathering of mayors in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Updated at 7:55 p.m. ET

President Trump said Wednesday he is willing to be interviewed under oath by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.

In an impromptu meeting with reporters, Trump said he is “looking forward” to talking with Mueller. “I would love to do it,” he said, going on to say he “would do it under oath.” Trump added he would take his lawyers’ advice.

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Trump has given conflicting answers as to whether he would agree to a potential interview with Mueller. In June, the president said he was “100 percent” willing to do so. But during a news conference earlier this month, when asked about reports that the special counsel planned to seek such an interview, Trump dodged the question.

Mueller has indicted multiple former associates of the president, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.

Sessions Interviewed By Special Counsel Robert Mueller As Part Of Russia Inquiry

Trump maintained on Wednesday there was “no collusion” between his campaign and the Russians, but he added that he “couldn’t have cared less about Russians having to do with my campaign,” calling himself “one of the greatest candidates” and “much better” than 2016 rival Hillary Clinton. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia attempted to tip the scales in favor of Trump.

The president made the comments just before departing for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Trump Aims To Play Salesman During Davos Economic Forum

The special counsel is also thought to be probing whether Trump sought to interfere with the Justice Department’s Russia investigation. Mueller’s appointment came after the president abruptly fired then-FBI Director James Comey last year.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that after firing Comey, Trump summoned then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to the Oval Office for a meeting, where the president asked McCabe whom he voted for in the 2016 presidential election. McCabe said he did not vote, “several current and former U.S. officials” told the Post.

Trump said on Wednesday that he didn’t recall asking McCabe about his voting record and called it a “very unimportant question.”

A Trump Interview With Robert Mueller Would Follow Presidential Tradition

Trump also elaborated on his immigration plan that the White House is expected to unveil on Monday, ahead of his State of the Union address on Tuesday. He said his plan would offer a path to citizenship for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program over a period of 10 to 12 years. The Obama-era program shielded from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Congress is trying to come up with a compromise on the DACA program, which Trump set to expire in March. The issue became a wedge in last week’s budget negotiations that resulted in a three-day government shutdown.

The DACA program is slated to end on March 5, but Trump said that those protected by it should “not be concerned” about possibly being deported.

Trump also said he wants $25 billion to build his border wall, which he touted repeatedly during the campaign, along with $5 billion for other security measures.

Trump Says 'Nobody Knows' If An Immigration Deal Can Happen

Chipper Jones, Vlad Guerrero Among 4 To Join Baseball Hall Of Fame

Jan 25, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Chipper Jones, Vlad Guerrero Among 4 To Join Baseball Hall Of Fame

Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones tips his helmet to the crowd during his last at-bat in October 2012 in Atlanta. Jones played 19 seasons — all with the Braves — hitting 468 home runs. He’s the only switch-hitter in major league history to have a .300 batting average for his career.

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Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones tips his helmet to the crowd during his last at-bat in October 2012 in Atlanta. Jones played 19 seasons — all with the Braves — hitting 468 home runs. He’s the only switch-hitter in major league history to have a .300 batting average for his career.

John Bazemore/AP

Baseball writers honored Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones and Cleveland Indians infielder Jim Thome in their first year of Hall of Fame eligibility Wednesday night, and also added San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero of the Montreal Expos and Los Angeles Angels.

Not approved, again: ace pitcher Roger Clemens and home run kings Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, who have been strongly tied to performance-enhancing drugs.

Players, who must be retired for five years before being considered, need 75 percent of votes to get into the Hall. The Baseball Writers Association Of America approved Jones, the only switch-hitter in major league history with a .300 batting average for his career, with more than 97 percent, one of the higher vote percentages seen.

Clemens and Bonds both failed to clear 60 percent, but edged up about 3 percentage points. Players are considered for 10 years on the main ballot; Clemens and Bonds both have four years remaining.

Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez, in his ninth year of consideration, fell 20 votes short at 70.4 percent. Starting pitcher Mike Mussina of the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees also came close at 63.5 percent.

A veterans committee in December selected starting pitcher Jack Morris and shortstop Jack Trammell, who led strong Detroit Tigers teams in the 1980s, to also join the Hall of Fame in the 2018 class.

Players being considered for the first time next year will include pitcher Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton and dominant Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Trump Aims To Play Salesman During Davos Economic Forum

Jan 24, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Trump Aims To Play Salesman During Davos Economic Forum

President Trump will arrive at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday morning.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images


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President Trump will arrive at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday morning.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump will have some shoveling to do as he heads to snowy Switzerland this week.

He’s trying to sell his “America First” brand of economic nationalism in the mecca of globalization — the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. The president will also be meeting with the head of the African Union, two weeks after he reportedly dismissed African nations in crude and vulgar terms.

“The president believes we can have truly win-win agreements. America First is not America alone,” said Gary Cohn, director of Trump’s National Economic Council. “He’s going to talk to world leaders about making sure we all respect each other.”

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Trump will deliver a speech to the gathered leaders on Friday in which he is expected to tout his economic agenda of tax cuts and deregulation.

“The president’s appearance is there to sell his accomplishments, to remind the world that we’re open for business, that we’re a competitive country,” Cohn said.

Trump is the first sitting U.S. president to attend the Davos summit since Bill Clinton went in 2000.

Other leaders in attendance include French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau used the summit to announce that Canada and 10 other countries have reached agreement on a trade pact. The deal is a successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. in one of his first acts as president.

From Taxes To The Swamp: Trump's Promises, Kept And Incomplete, 1 Year In

While other countries are working to lower trade barriers, the Trump administration on Monday announced new tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels. But Cohn insists America is not giving up its place at the global economic table.

“The U.S. is pulling back from nothing,” Cohn said.

Trump is set to arrive in Davos on Thursday morning and will meet that day with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Earlier this month, the president canceled plans to attend the opening of a new U.S. Embassy in London.

“I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for ‘peanuts,’ only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars,” Trump tweeted. “Bad deal.” (The announcement of the move was actually made in the final weeks of President George W. Bush’s administration.)

President Trump 'Wrong' To Call London Embassy Area An 'Off Location,' Residents Say

The White House said there are no hard feelings.

“The president is prioritizing his meeting with Prime Minister May because we do have a special relationship” with the U.K., said Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

Trump will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Swiss President Alain Berset, whose country is hosting the summit.

Friday’s meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is chairman of the African Union, takes on extra significance after Trump reportedly used a vulgar slur to describe African countries during an Oval Office meeting on immigration.

McMaster said Trump is eager to talk about ways to boost security and prosperity in Africa.

Trump's 'America First' Agenda Marks Sharp Break In U.S. Economic Policy

Pence Draws Applause, Some Heckles, For U.S. Embassy Move To Jerusalem

The Power Hour

Jan 24, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on The Power Hour

Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump exemplify our contradictory feelings about the rich and famous. As Hidden Brain explores this week, we idolize the powerful, but also relish their downfall.

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Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump exemplify our contradictory feelings about the rich and famous. As Hidden Brain explores this week, we idolize the powerful, but also relish their downfall.

D Dipasupil/WireImage

If you’ve ever visited the palm-lined neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, you’ve probably noticed that the rich and famous aren’t the only ones drawn there.

Stargazers also flock to this exclusive enclave, seeking a chance to peer into — and fantasize about — the lives of movie stars and film directors.

Call it adulation, adoration, idolization: we humans are fascinated by glamour and power.

But this turns out to be only one side of our psychology.

We also feel envious — even resentful of the rich and powerful — and that ambivalence is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history.

This week on Hidden Brain, we’re looking at power from different sides: Why we adore the rich, and why we are equally thrilled to watch their marriages crumble in the tabloids. In the second half of our show, we look at how we gain influence, and what happens to us once we have it.

“Power is part of every moment of our social lives,” researcher Dacher Keltner says. “We’ve got to be aware of it. It can lead us to do foolish things, and we should try to do the things that make it a force for good.”

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Tara Boyle, Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Renee Klahr, Parth Shah, and Rhaina Cohen. Chris Benderev also contributed to this week’s show. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories every week on your local public radio station.

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