Browsing articles from "January, 2019"

A Syrian Chocolatier’s Legend Lives On In Europe — But Stays Close To Its Roots

Jan 31, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on A Syrian Chocolatier’s Legend Lives On In Europe — But Stays Close To Its Roots

Bassam Ghraoui, who ran Syria’s most famous chocolate factory, left for Hungary when war consumed his home country. He successfully rebuilt his business in Budapest. The company still uses ingredients from Syria.

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Bassam Ghraoui, who ran Syria’s most famous chocolate factory, left for Hungary when war consumed his home country. He successfully rebuilt his business in Budapest. The company still uses ingredients from Syria.

Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

Andrassy Avenue in the Hungarian capital of Budapest is lined with neo-Renaissance mansions and luxury boutiques representing the finest names in Europe.

One name stands out: Ghraoui. It’s the name of a premier chocolatier from Syria.

Inside, there are hand-engraved orange trees on the walls and frescoes of apricot trees on the ceiling. There are glass cases, as if you’re in a gallery or a jewelry store.

“The customers, they are curious … and they ask, ‘What makes this chocolate special?'” says sales associate Noemi Czinkoczky. “And we tell them how much effort goes into each piece of chocolate.”

Joanna Kakissis/NPR


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“The customers, they are curious … and they ask, ‘What makes this chocolate special?'” says sales associate Noemi Czinkoczky. “And we tell them how much effort goes into each piece of chocolate.”

Joanna Kakissis/NPR

But the jewels inside the glass cases are handmade, hand-painted chocolates.

Sales associate Noemi Czinkoczky wears plastic gloves to select dark-chocolate hearts with almond pralines, milk chocolates with an upmarket hazelnut cream called gianduja and white-chocolate truffles. She places them in a bright-orange box and hands it over to an eager advertising executive buying a gift for his boss.

“We don’t have anything like these chocolates in Hungary,” she says. “The customers, they are curious … and they ask, ‘What makes this chocolate special?’ And we tell them how much effort goes into each piece of chocolate.”

She does not have to brief tourists from the Middle East.

“People recognize the name,” she says. “Like they just come in and, ‘Oh my God, is this Ghraoui? The Ghraoui?’ And we say, ‘Yes, the Ghraoui. The one you knew from before.'”

The Ghraouis are one of Syria’s oldest merchant families. Their confectionery, founded in 1805, was initially known for its delicate preserved fruits, especially the fragrant apricots sourced from the orchards of Ghouta and stuffed with roasted pistachios from Aleppo. In 1931, Sadek Ghraoui introduced chocolate to the repertoire after a trip to a trade fair in Paris.

But it was his son, Bassam, a multilingual engineer who wore tailored suits and listened to classical music, who transformed Ghraoui chocolate into an internationally recognized, award-winning delicacy.

“What makes our chocolate unique, beyond its quality, is that our creations reflect Syria,” Bassam Ghraoui told the magazine AramcoWorld in 2008 in Damascus. “See, try this: Damascus almonds, brought just two days ago from the farmlands where they were grown.”

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Buying Ghraoui chocolate from boutiques in Damascus was something special for Syrians. When Rania Ismail was a schoolgirl, she lived for Ghraoui’s chocolate-covered biscuits. After she grew up and became a journalist, she was sent to interview the man who made them.

“I saw right away that this was a man who was in love with chocolate,” she says. “That was amazing to me, that every time he wanted to taste his own chocolate, he has this sparkle in his eyes, as if he’s seeing it, tasting it for the first time.”

She married him. Together, they expanded the business throughout the Arab world. Ghraoui also recruited his business-savvy Texan nephew, Mohamed Midani, to move from Houston to Damascus in 2004 to help him expand in Europe and even North America.

“I spent every summer as a kid at the chocolate factory,” says Midani, now the company’s chief operating officer. “I’d bring back boxes of the chocolates to my classmates at school. They called me the Willy Wonka of the Middle East.”

Ghraoui chocolates were sent to the Queen of England and former French president Jacques Chirac. The company won top prizes at the Salon du Chocolat, the annual trade fair for the international chocolate industry.

Inside Ghraoui chocolate in Budapest there are glass cases, as if you’re in a gallery or a jewelry store. But the jewels inside the glass cases are handmade, hand-painted chocolates.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR


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Inside Ghraoui chocolate in Budapest there are glass cases, as if you’re in a gallery or a jewelry store. But the jewels inside the glass cases are handmade, hand-painted chocolates.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR

Then, in 2011, came the war.

It soon got too dangerous to work in the chocolate factory in eastern Ghouta, an area outside Damascus which rebelled strongly against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. That factory was eventually bombed, but Bassam Ghraoui continued to financially support many employees who worked for him.

“He was like a brother to me,” says Mouhab al-Khani, who used to run the factory in Ghouta. “We were a family.”

Ghraoui and his family left Syria in 2012 and settled for a time in Paris, where he already owned an apartment. They looked for a place in Europe to start again. Ghraoui settled on Hungary, where he could afford real-estate and labor costs, and where he had traveled several times for business over the years.

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In 2015, he bought a house in Budapest and obtained Hungarian citizenship for himself, Rania and their two daughters. “Yes, I am Hungarian, and give me time, I will speak Hungarian,” he told Reuters news agency in 2016.

Other Syrians did not see Hungary as a welcoming place. The Hungarian government, led by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, made international headlines in 2015 for building a border fence to keep out Syrian and other refugees traveling through Hungary to reach Germany. Orban says Hungary is not a country for immigrants.

But his administration welcomed the Ghraouis, who invested in Hungary.

“We are looking to build a beautiful presence in Hungary and put Hungary on the map of exporting high-quality chocolate,” Bassam Ghraoui announced at a formal gala in Budapest in 2017. The event marked the opening of his new flagship factory and the Andrassy Avenue boutique, which was fashioned by French architect Bruno Moinard, who designed Cartier’s shops.

Ghraoui adjusted to his new home. The chocolate-covered biscuit his wife loved as a schoolgirl was renamed Danube, after the river that separates his new city into the more historic Buda and the more modern Pest. Another creation, château d’amour, was named after an opera by the 19th-century Hungarian composer Ferenc (Franz) Liszt. It’s made of feuilletine flakes (crisped, sweet crepes) and praline coated with dark or milk chocolate.

“What makes our chocolate unique, beyond its quality, is that our creations reflect Syria,” Bassam Ghraoui said in a 2008 interview.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR


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Joanna Kakissis/NPR

“What makes our chocolate unique, beyond its quality, is that our creations reflect Syria,” Bassam Ghraoui said in a 2008 interview.

Joanna Kakissis/NPR

Ghraoui continued to use ingredients from Syria: oranges, apricots, almonds, whatever he could import. He also brought over some of his staff from Syria, including Mouhab al-Khani, who now runs the new factory. Ghraoui also hired many Hungarians, including Éva Szalonna, who helps make the chocolates.

“He was so welcoming,” she says during a recent shift at the factory, wearing a plastic hair net, mask and gloves as she sorted through a new batch of chocolates. “I remember when I was in the office for the first time, he kissed my hand and said he’s really happy to know me. Rania embraced me. I was astonished.”

The Ghraoui reboot in Hungary worked. Business was good enough for Ghraoui to plan for a boutique in Paris, a longtime dream of his.

Then he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

“We lived in the hospital for four months,” his wife Rania says. “Until the last minute, he was positive. He even gave chocolates to his doctors.”

Bassam Ghraoui died in Budapest on May 1 of last year. He was 63.

“Mr. Ghraoui’s death in exile is a painful reminder of the millions of Syrians who might never see their homeland again,” wrote Lina Sinjab in The National, an English-language news service in the Middle East.

Rania, now the CEO of Ghraoui chocolate, finds solace in the Budapest boutique she and her husband built together.

“Here I can almost feel him and touch him,” she says. “It makes me feel like I’m with him. And this is the only way for me.”

Her eyes fill with tears but she wipes them away. There’s work to do.

The shop is full, and the factory is busy. And later this year, Ghraoui chocolate will expand to Paris.

Journalist Mate Halmos contributed to this story.

The 20 Best Songs We Heard In January

Jan 31, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on The 20 Best Songs We Heard In January

Vampire Weekend, Lizzo and Lana Del Rey released some of our favorites songs of the month.

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Vampire Weekend, Lizzo and Lana Del Rey released some of our favorites songs of the month.

Courtesy of the artists

Welcome to the first in our new series of roundups highlighting the best new songs of each month. January is often a slow time for releases, as labels and artists come off the holidays and start to tease bigger projects on the horizon. But the first month of this year still delivered plenty of memorable and surprising tracks. Singer Lana Del Rey, known for her lush, layered arrangements, released a devastatingly spare track about holding on to hope in times of darkness; Australian singer Stella Donnelly’s “Old Man” gives a wink and a smile while eviscerating lecherous men; rapper J. Cole’s “Middle Child” takes on the glorification of drug use, a capricious music industry and all the haters who doubted him.

Stream our 20 songs from January below or on Spotify, and be sure to check out the best albums we heard in January over here.

Andrew Bird, My Finest Work Yet


James Blake, Assume Form


Cover for Bett


J. Cole, Middle Child


Cover for hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it


Cover for Beware Of The Dogs


Cover for Music Inspired By the Film Roma


Frank García y su Son Samario, Pequeñas Poesías


Girlpool, What Chaos Is Imaginary


Injury Reserve, Jawbreaker


Little Simz, Selfish


Lizzo, Juice


Cover for Phoenix


Cover for The Seduction of Kansas


Caroline Spence, Long Haul / Mint Condition


Cover for Outer Peace


Vampire Weekend, Harmony Hall / 2021


Joy Williams, Front Porch


Nilufer Yanya, In Your Head


The 10 Best Albums We Heard In January

Jan 31, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on The 10 Best Albums We Heard In January

NPR Music's favorite albums from January 2019.

NPR Music's favorite albums from January 2019.

Every December, the NPR Music team peruses 11 months’ worth of albums and songs and crams its collective reflections and critical assessments into a handful of big lists. This year we’ve decided to dissect the torrent of new releases as they’re happening and share a list of the most notable albums and songs from each month. January featured a couple of consensus favorites: We loved Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow for its sonic adventure and deeply personal revelations on love and motherhood; Pedro The Lion’s first official album in 15 years, Phoenix, delivered potent tales of lost youth and the universal struggle to fit in a troubled world. Other highlights on our multi-genre list include Florence Price, a pioneering African American composer in the Jim Crow era, Belgian-Congolese DJ and producer Nkisi, the electro-folk of Ecuadoran artist Nicola Cruz and … well, just scroll downward and you’ll see.

Oh, and you’ll also want to check out our list of the 20 best songs we heard in January over here.

Better Oblivion Community Center, Better Oblivion Community Center

Better Oblivion Community Center
Better Oblivion Community Center

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

This surprise popped out into the world last week and immediately this collaboration between Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst became my favorite record of this young year. They call their project Better Oblivion Community Center. The album is, as I understand it, a conceptual record with an imagined wellness center called the Better Oblivion Community Center as its linchpin. Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers complement each other in voice and in words in ways that feel eerily as if they’ve been together for decades, even though their first public collaboration was on Phoebe Bridgers’ 2017 debut album. It’s a rich, thoughtful record that I’ll spend this year digging and digging into. —Bob Boilen

Bring Me The Horizon, amo

Bring Me The Horizon
amo

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

Too often, when hard rockers play with other musical categories, they stomp all over them. Not this English favorite of heavy music connoisseurs and emo teens alike. Always one of the most evocative and experimental on the Warped Tour spectrum, on its sixth album Bring Me The Horizon goes deep into the electronic sphere and crafts some great pop hooks in the process. Still heavy, though! —Ann Powers

Layale Chaker, Inner Rhyme

Layale Chaker Sarafand
Inner Rhyme

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

French-Lebanese violinist and composer Layale Chaker offers up a beguiling debut that intertwines the bright and beautiful strands of her musical life so far: Western classical music, jazz, and the rich legacy of Arab music and poetry. Structurally, the album limns the architecture of the 12 classical Arabic poetic meters — but you don’t have to be steeped in that heritage to appreciate the gorgeous, wine-dark swirls of her music. —Anastasia Tsioulcas

Nicola Cruz, Siku

Nicola Cruz
Siku

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

Siku is a meditation on vibrations. A blend of folkloric music from Nicola Cruz’s native Ecuador with electronic music, it involves collaborations with other musicians (the title is a reference to an Andean wind instrument and a tradition of playing in pairs, Cruz recently told NPR’s Scott Simon) as well as experiments that sent him deep into the land around him. Literally: Cruz recorded the track “Arka” in a cave. He records for ZZK Records, a Buenos Aires-based collective of artists whose music continually blows my mind – if you don’t know the label, Siku is a perfect place to start. —Felix Contreras

Dawn Richard, new breed

Dawn Richard
new breed

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

Dawn Richard is one of those artists who finds comfort (and maybe even creative fuel) in being in flux. The New Orleans native formerly known as D∆WN plays a strategic game of genre hopscotch on her latest album, new breed. The 10-track project serves as both an ode to hers hometown and an open love letter to any woman of color who’s felt unappreciated, oversimplified or underestimated. Bops on new breed range from highly symbolic pop ballads (“vultures / wolves”) to sexy, straightforward proclamations (“shades”) to spoken-word teardowns of other people’s preconceived notions (“we, diamonds”). Dawn Richard takes the listener all around her city and into the depths of her mind, where every insecurity is balanced with a mantra. —Sidney Madden

Florence Price, Symphonies Nos. 1  4

Fort Smith Symphony / John Jeter
Price: Symphonies Nos. 1 4

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

A pioneering composer in Jim Crow-era America, Florence Price acknowledged her struggles when she wrote: “I have two handicaps — I am a woman and I have some Negro blood in my veins.” These two symphonies deftly blend European and African-American traditions and mark two pivotal points in her amazing story. Premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933, Price’s Symphony No. 1 marked the first time a work by an African-American woman had been performed by a major orchestra. And this world premier recording of her Fourth signals a boost for Price (who died in 1953) as it was recently discovered among a trove of manuscripts thought lost forever. —Tom Huizenga

NKISI, 7 Directions

Nkisi
7 Directions

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

Sonic particles collide and combust on London producer Nkisi’s debut album, 7 Directions, as if in the slipstream of a thousand planetary movements. Cosmic synths rise above chaotic drums that count Congolese polyrhythmic percussion and Belgium’s 1990s gabber scene amongst their forebears. The sound design is exquisite: a digitalised intake of breath bolsters a beat on “II,” while an unknown entity calls out a high-pitched greeting on “VII.” This is trance music in the ritual sense, not the genre. It can lift your senses into another dimension on a long walk just as easily as it fosters a meditative state on the dance floor. —Ruth Saxelby

Pedro The Lion, Phoenix

Pedro The Lion
Phoenix

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

In the 15 years since the last Pedro The Lion record, singer-songwriter David Bazan has released a string of solo albums — some unrelentingly bleak, some brash and hard-driving, all shot through with insight about human nature — and spun off a few side projects like Headphones, Overseas and Lo Tom. Now, Bazan has re-formed his old band and brightened his sound on Phoenix, the first in a planned series of records about the places in which he came of age. Each freshly invigorated new song bursts with diaristic detail and relentless reflection on the moments that shape us and the compromises we make along the way. —Stephen Thompson

Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow.

Sharon Van Etten
Remind Me Tomorrow

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

Sharon Van Etten has stayed busy over the past few years. Between 2014’s Are We There and her latest album, she spent time pursuing various creative and intellectual goals, like acting in Netflix’s The OA and studying for a degree in mental health counseling. She also became a mother. It makes sense, then, that Remind Me Tomorrow sounds like the work of an artist with a lot on her mind and an incessant desire to drive forward. On her fifth album, Van Etten builds buzzy, atmospheric textures and explores love, freedom, fear and regret while crafting a stark and breathtaking reminder of the aching sense of melody and emotional vulnerability that has been the backbone of her songwriting. —Marissa Lorusso

Summer Walker, Clear

Summer Walker
CLEAR

♬: Apple / Spotify / YouTube / Amazon

Three months have barely passed since Summer Walker released her full-length debut and already she’s returned with a four-song set to kick off 2019. CLEAR, a smoldering set of live recordings, doubles down on the promise heard on Last Day Of Summer. The Atlanta vocalist is part of LoveRenaissance, the Atlanta label rekindling the strongest RB vibes to emerge from the city since the heyday of LaFace Records. Walker’s labelmate 6lack also had a big 2018 with his sophomore release, East Atlanta Love Letter. Walker’s clearly addicted to heartache on torch songs like “Wasted” and “Settling,” but she also bears the uncanny ability to seduce even as she surrenders. This is old soul poured from new wineskins. —Rodney Carmichael

First Listen: Various Artists, ‘Music Inspired By The Film ROMA’

Jan 31, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on First Listen: Various Artists, ‘Music Inspired By The Film ROMA’

Music Inspired by the Film ROMA comes out Feb. 8 via Sony Music.

Courtesy of Netflix


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Music Inspired by the Film ROMA comes out Feb. 8 via Sony Music.

Courtesy of Netflix

The magic of Alfonso Cuarón‘s Academy Award-nominated film Roma is vast. The writer-director’s black-and-white masterpiece has won hearts on Netflix and the big screen alike with its achingly beautiful tale of a young woman’s life, set against a historic backdrop of early-’70s Mexico City.

After Cuarón was done with the film, he was hit with another bit of inspiration: to suggest that a bunch of his favorite artists create songs inspired by the film. The result is a startlingly powerful companion piece, Music Inspired by the Film ROMA.

Various Artists, Music Inspired By the Film ROMA

The roster of artists is surprising, and when taken as a whole, the collection adds another layer of interpretation that allows listeners to enjoy the film even more.

It’s a thrill to see Patti Smith‘s name alongside the brilliant Quique Rangel from Café Tacvba. Smith’s song, “Wing,” opens the album and deftly captures the stoic strength of the film’s main character, Cleo (Yalitza Aparacio). Rangel’s “La Hora Exacto” adds definitive CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) edginess to the album’s trajectory. The Cuban/French twin sisters who make up Ibeyi get right into the soulful anguish of Cleo’s life of hurt and redemption, with heartfelt observations almost too emotional to bear. Cuarón’s 15-year-old daughter, Bu Cuarón, shows wisdom and feelings well beyond her age in her plaintive “PSYCHO.” Beck‘s moody “Tarantula” is another standout.

Without giving anything away, there’s a powerful moment in the film when the wife/mother character, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), says in an almost offhand way that women in their world are “always alone.” How to render that idea in music with subtlety and nuance? Enter DJ Shadow‘s haunting “We Are Always Alone.”

In Roma, Cleo’s story is set in one of the largest cities in the world, and her story of isolation amid the throngs is captured perfectly in T Bone Burnett‘s album-closer “Roma,” which reflects Mexico City in its kaleidoscope of sounds and voices and dreams.

It all adds up to a tremendous collection of music — a perfect companion to a perfect film.

Various Artists, Music Inspired By the Film ROMA
















It’s Cold Out And Police In Missouri Have A Request

Jan 30, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on It’s Cold Out And Police In Missouri Have A Request

Police in Warrensburg would like everyone to cut them a break. They posted on their Facebook page, asking the public to keep crime to a minimum over the next three days because it’s just too cold.

Bipartisan Group To Meet To Discuss Border Security Funding

Jan 30, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Bipartisan Group To Meet To Discuss Border Security Funding

Rachel Martin talks to GOP Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee about the border security funding negotiations — central in the fight that caused the government shutdown. NPR’s Mara Liasson weighs in.

Oil Prices Edge Upward After U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Venezuela

Jan 30, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Oil Prices Edge Upward After U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Venezuela

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right) and National Security Adviser John Bolton announce sanctions against Venezuela at the White House Monday. Oil prices have risen more than 2 percent in the the days since it was announced the U.S. would stop purchasing oil from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right) and National Security Adviser John Bolton announce sanctions against Venezuela at the White House Monday. Oil prices have risen more than 2 percent in the the days since it was announced the U.S. would stop purchasing oil from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

Evan Vucci/AP

Oil prices are up more than 2 percent after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company known as PDVSA.

As of Tuesday night, International Brent crude oil futures had risen 2.32 percent to $61.32 a barrel, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures went up 2.54 percent to $53.31 a barrel, Reuters reported. Prices continued their upswing early Wednesday.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions Monday that effectively halt U.S. purchases of oil from Venezuela, NPR reported. It’s part of an effort to push out the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro, in favor of his rival Juan Guaidó. About 40 percent of Venezuela’s oil is sold to the United States.

“The U.S. claims that Maduro and his inner circle divert billions in PDVSA profits to their personal accounts and to pay off military officers said to be propping up Maduro’s government,” reported NPR’s John Otis. Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez told NPR that if Maduro remains in power, we can expect to see a 40 percent drop in Venezuelan oil production within the next few months. The U.S. is Venezuela’s number one customer of oil, CNN reported.

Under the restrictions imposed by the administration, U.S. companies can still buy oil from the Latin American country, but all proceeds would go into a “blocked” account and be inaccessible to Maduro, Reuters reported.

Otis explains that “under the sanctions, any further U.S. payments would go not to Maduro but into bank accounts that could be used by Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president.”

Maduro on Wednesday called the U.S. sanctions illegal, as reported by the Russian RIA news agency in Reuters.

American refineries could lose money now that they can’t get their crude from Venezuela, Rystad Energy analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu said in a statement. Many American refineries in the Gulf coast import heavy crude to mix with lighter oil coming out of shale basins in the U.S., Rodriguez-Masiu said. “With sanctions in place, those refineries will have to turn to other sources” — likely from the Middle East, and at a premium, she said. “US refiners will be amongst the biggest losers.”

Meanwhile, she said, countries like China and India can now pick up the unsold Venezuelan oil at a discount. For them, news of the sanctions “was akin to Black Monday.”

In the absence of Venezuelan oil, the Trump administration is now considering tapping into the country’s emergency reserve of crude, Reuters reported, citing a government source. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is held in underground caverns in Louisiana and Texas, and holds about 649 million barrels of crude.

Education Department Gathers Feedback On New Campus Sexual Assault Rules

Jan 30, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Education Department Gathers Feedback On New Campus Sexual Assault Rules

There have been about 100,000 comments on proposed changes to Title IX. The deadline for comments is Wednesday. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says new rules could better protect the accused.

California Power Provider PG&E Files For Bankruptcy In Wake Of Fire Lawsuits

Jan 29, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on California Power Provider PG&E Files For Bankruptcy In Wake Of Fire Lawsuits

Flames burn near power lines in Montecito, Calif. State fire officials say power lines coming into contact with trees have sparked multiple Northern California wildfires in recent years. PGE filed for bankruptcy today.

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Flames burn near power lines in Montecito, Calif. State fire officials say power lines coming into contact with trees have sparked multiple Northern California wildfires in recent years. PGE filed for bankruptcy today.

Mike Eliason/AP

California energy company Pacific Gas and Electric has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company announced Tuesday. PGE is facing roughly $30 billion in potential liability after it caused hundreds of fires in the past few years.

In addition to billions in liability, the company also faced state regulators who were considering breaking the company into pieces or even making the company a public utility. And California Attorney General Xavier Becerra had floated the idea of trying PGE for murder if it was found to operate its equipment in a reckless manner. Ultimately, the company decided declaring bankruptcy was the best option.

“We are fully committed to enhancing our wildfire safety efforts, as well as helping restoration and rebuilding efforts across the communities impacted by the devastating Northern California wildfires,” Interim CEO John Simon said in a statement. “To be clear, we have heard the calls for change and we are determined to take action throughout this process to build the energy system our customers want and deserve.”

PGE is working out a $5.5 billion “debtor-in-possession” financing deal with several banks to give the company the necessary funding to keep delivering power to customers while the bankruptcy reorganization takes place.

By filing bankruptcy, all the wildfire lawsuits will be immediately put on hold and consolidated in bankruptcy court, the Associated Press reports.

The bankruptcy announcement comes days after PGE was cleared of wrongdoing in the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people in Sonoma county. California fire investigators found that the fire was caused by a private electrical system, not by PGE. The company’s decision to pursue reorganization “took into account PGE’s longstanding belief based on available evidence that its equipment did not cause the Tubbs Fire,” the company said.

Sen. Warner Introduces Measure To Prohibit Government Shutdowns

Jan 29, 2019   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Sen. Warner Introduces Measure To Prohibit Government Shutdowns

Steve Inskeep talks to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia who introduced a bill aimed at preventing future shutdowns. It’s called Stop STUPIDITY Act. NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe weighs in on the topic.

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