Here And There with Dave Marash (general)

What’s the hardest word for a tyrant to say to his people?  “Goodbye,” as in, my time’s up now.  That’s the problem right now in Nicaragua, where President Daniel Ortega is under siege, loudly rejected by a growing portion of the Nicaraguan population.  And every killing and crackdown committed to keep him in in office only makes the crisis worse.  So far hundreds have been killed and thousands are in jail or ominously out of sight.  Steve Hellinger of The Development GAP think tank looks at the story.

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Do you know where the State of NM spends its money?  Last year, 43 cents of every dollar were contracted to firms from outside NM, and that share has only increased in each of the last 5 years of Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration.  The Legislature has mandated State Govt time and again to make this data publicly available.  But it took John R. Roby, the big data specialist of Searchlight NM not only to dig out the info, but make it available on line for you.  How’d he do it?  It wasn’t easy. 

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For years, the housing authority in Alexander County in southern Illinois, let their public housing properties deteriorate.  By the time the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development took over, the buildings were too far gone to repair.  So HUD shut them and left hundreds of families looking for affordable places to live in a market that has little to offer.  Many residents have had to relocate hours away from the places they lived for decades. Molly Parker of The Southern Illinoisan and Pro Publica has the story.

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Amazon pays its warehouse workers more than some competitors, and they offer medical benefits, which is unusual.  But, critics say, the company’s close digital monitoring of everything from productivity rates to bathroom breaks make it an oppressive workplace.  And why were ambulances on stand by at 2 Amazon warehouse where workers were fainting from the high heat before the company put in air conditioning? Reporter Nina Shapiro of the Seattle Times went to an Amazon warehouse and has the story.

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Experts say, there has never been a voting system that was not vulnerable to hacking.  Investigative reporter Kim Zetter of VICE News’ Motherboard says, with election day less than 3 months away, those vulnerabilities remain largely unaddressed.  Will Putin play spoiler in the American elections again?  Suspected Russian spoofing of American power grid controls has been spotted.  Does this mean the Kremlin is shifting targets away from the election, or just that they’re expanding their hacking techniques? 

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Dona Ana County in southern NM is at the heart of what’s expected to be the closest contest among the state’s 3 Congressional races.  In the past, low voter turnout has limited the county’s influence on such political decisions, but this year, Heath Haussamen of NM Politics.net says, county election officials are determined to change that.  It’s a non-partisan effort to get out the vote, but it could have an impact on a very partisan election.

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Israel tells Russia, a 60 mile buffer zone between Iranian forces and the Syrian-Israeli border is a non-starter; we want Iran out of Syria.  Russia’s answer –no can do…and when asked about Russian attitudes towards further Israeli airstrikes against Iranian and Hezbollah bases in Syria, his answer is, It’s not for us to say. So should Israel see this as a green light, a yellow light or a red light for future bomb and missile attacks?  Andrew Parasiliti of the RAND Corporation on the implications. 

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Russia and Germany are working together to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, which will further solidify Russia as the energy supplier for Germany and much of Europe.  President Trump says this will give Russia political domination over Germany.  Keith Johnson of Foreign Policy calls that an exaggeration.  But Keith agrees with the White House that there’s no exaggerating the negatives in the new pipeline for Ukraine, both in terms of national income and energy security. 

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Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO for short, finally won the Presidency of Mexico on his 4th try, and he did it by an overwhelming majority vote.  He’s also got strong majorities in both houses of Congress to tackle his promises to reduce historic levels of crime and violence and uproot endemic corruption.  And Victoria Gaytan of the think tank Global Americans reminds us, AMLO also has to deal with Donald Trump, who has publically called him “a terrific person.” 

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Twelve Thai schoolboys, aged 11 to 16 and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave for more than a week before they were found alive, after which it took more than a week to bring them to safety.  It was, for its time, the biggest news story in the world.  What an event! What a media event! How did it affect politically divided Thailand and what happens next for the kids and their soccer coach?  Tassanee Vejpongsa, Bangkok-based reporter for the Associated Press has been covering the story

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The migration of mostly middle-class, often well-educated and skilled refugees from the war in Syria has stirred lots of hostility and conflict in Europe.  So why has an equally large migration of similar people fleeing the police state in Venezuela gone so much more smoothly across Latin America?  Could it be because Europeans cling to tribal identities while Latin Americans see themselves as a single community?   Demetrios Papademetriou of the Migration Policy Institute explains. 

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America has had it both ways…as a country filled with beavers to one where the busy aquatic rodents have been almost exterminated.  Finding a livable middle ground for beavers and human hasn’t been easy, but Ben Goldfarb, author of the new book, EAGER: THE SURPRISING SECRET LIFE OF BEAVERS AND WHY THEY MATTER says we’re getting there…and we’re setting examples of how to do beaver restoration that are changing Western Europe.  Find out how transformative beavers can be to our riverine environments.

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Do the facts matter anymore?  The crime rate in Germany is very low and the absorption of more than a million migrants since 2015 has hardly affected the economy.  But enough Germans have been listening to the nativist rants of outsiders like Donald Trump and insiders like Interior Minister Host Seehofer that they believe the opposite. This has put Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government in danger.  Madeleine Schwartz of the NY Review of Books is based in Berlin and has been following the story. 

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First, Donald Trump threatened to pull the US out of NATO is member states didn’t fulfill their pledges to boost their defense spending.  But that’s just a squabble about money.  Now, he’s called into doubt America’s commitment to NATO’s collective security by questioning why the US should fight to defend Montenegro.  “They’re an aggressive people,” Trump says, adding that an aggressive Montenegro could start World War 3.  Montenegrins are insulted and bemused…NATO allies are worried.  USA Today White House correspondent David M Jackson helps to sort things out. 

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Jeffrey Wilson wanted a Wise Man’s view of today’s American political reality, so he conducted an interview with the scholar-activist Noam Chomsky; and he wanted to communicate what he learned to an audience that might never read Chomsky’s books.  So, he turned his interview and some reality-testing of it in a graphic novel-style book The Instinct for Cooperation.

The making of the book actually exemplifies its subject: the transformative effect of mutual aid as seen through the Occupy Wall Street action in New York and a Mexican-American Studies program in Arizona.

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Although there are still a few pockets of resistance in Syria, the Islamic State has largely been defeated, and its ability to be a base for large-scale terrorism has been sharply reduced.  But Brian Michael Jenkins of the RAND corporation says that has only re-shaped, not eliminated terrorist  threats.  So how should America adjust is strategies and tactics in the GWOT, Global War on Terror to pre-empt almost random, so-called “lone wolf” terrorism?

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The First Amendment could not be more clear.  It protects freedom of speech, personal and published, and freedoms of assembly and religion.  Now a 5-4 majority decision written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito extends First Amendment protections to outvoted minorities who won’t join and don’t want to pay into their workplace’s labor union.  Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent says this isn’t so much an extension as a dangerous corruption of First Amendment law. Noam Scheiber of the NY Times covered the Janus vs AFSCME case and talks with us about the story.

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We start our program week, with President Donald Trump’s trade war.  Who are supposed to be the foreign targets of Trump’s economic belligerence, and who are meant to be its beneficiaries?  And who in America already consider themselves to be among its casualties?  And when and where will consumers start to see rising prices on things they buy because of Trump’s tariff policies?  Ali Velshi, the chief economic correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC looks at the story, in depth on HERE & THERE -- coming up next. 

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Almost every corporation tries to present a pretty face to the news media.  But reporter Marie C. Baca of the Albuquerque Journal and the Columbia Journalism Review says Facebook’s attempts to channel journalists into telling the story it wants before the public are as aggressive as anyone’s.  Gosh, did the state’s leading newspaperreally want to talk with Gov. Susana Martinez? they said, after shunting Marie into a lesser session with carefully coached small business people.  

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Military forces backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are re-taking southwestern Syria from one of the last group of rebel holdouts.  The front lines keep getting closer to the borders of Jordan and Israel, and Israel at least is warning Hezbollah and Iranian forces fighting for Assad to back off, or else.  The government advance has gotten lots of air support from Russia, which is one reason why Israeli leader Binyamin Netanayhu is heading for Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin.  Josef Federman, the Associated Press’ Bureau Chief in Jerusalem has been directing coverage of the story. 

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Libya still has 2 governments, one based in Tripoli in the West and the other in Tobruk in the East.  Neither one is much good, but the Tripoli government has international recognition from the UN and the US.  But the Tobruk government has by far the better army and now controls Libya’s biggest oil port, and its military leader, Field Marshall Khalifa Hifter says it will no longer let Tripoli dictate shares in oil profits.  Award-winning Libyan journalist Mustafa Fetouri of Al-Monitor helps us sort things out. 

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Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un both came to Singapore, had an apparently amiable conversation and went home in peace.  President Trump called this a game-changing triumph, but only weeks later admitted that North Korea hadn’t changed, and was still a dangerous nuclear threat to America. So are the analysts who say Trump gave North Korea more and got less than his Presidential predecessors correct?  Joe Cirinicione of the Ploughshares Fund is one of our top experts on nuclear weapons and diplomacy with Pyongyang.  

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President Donald Trump, under extreme political pressure, suddenly reversed his family separation policy for migrants crossing America’s southern border.  But are the forcibly separated families really being reunited, and will they now face years together in detention while they await their day in court? Zoe Carpenter of The Nation has visited one notorious detention center and tells how it’s just one part of a zero tolerance policy that collapsed of its own weight, incompetence and cruelty. 

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Ivan Duque won the Presidency of Colombia campaigning on the program of his political mentor, former President Alvaro Uribe, to undermine the peace agreement with the FARC rebels.  Now that he’s won, Colombians are asking if he’ll keep to that hard line or show some independence and try to negotiate changes the FARC will accept?  The bigger question is will he bring law, order and governance to the rural areas the FARC has surrendered?  Joshua Goodman of the Associated Press discusses the story, in depth.

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It has been more than 32 years since one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents destroyed a reactor at the Chernobyl complex in Ukraine.  Harvard University historian Serhii Plokhy new book, entitled Chernobyl, sorts out the many consequences of the accident, for the health of people in Northern and Eastern Europe and for the politics of the Soviet Union and its successor states. 30-plus years and we’re still learning new things about the persistence of radiation and its human impacts. 

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Colombia has elected a new President who wants to do a Trump-like thing and toss out a peace treaty his predecessor made with the former FARC guerilla army.  But at least the results were decisive and the election was clean.  Christopher Sabatini of Columbia University says recent elections in Venezuela and Honduras were as dirty as could be, and the prospects for upcoming Presidential elections in Mexico and Brazil show how threatened the very existence of real democracy is in today’s Latin America.

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In the last weeks before NM’s gubernatorial primaries, Politico Magazine broke what is called a “scandal” about the Democratic primary winner Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.  Grisham’s spokeswoman admits to “honest mistakes,” but how big a deal is this?  Are the faults in the state’s Democratic star, or in the way the State does public business.  Should public servants make private profits doing other public services? Trip Jennings of NM In Depth helps us sort that out. 

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The first place Russian use of fake news to manipulate foreign populations was uncovered was in Ukraine.  Todd Helmus of the RAND Corporation led a study team to detail what the Russian trolls were doing and how they did it.  He’ll tell us what his team found, and how they did that.  Ukraine, of course was only the beginning, interfering in the 2016 American Presidential election was the main event, but the Russian digital intrusions kept on coming, in the Brexit vote, and in national elections in France, Germany and Italy.  

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For 9 of the past 11 years, the University of New Mexico’s Athletic Department overspent its budget by millions of dollars.  And now it’s revealed UNM is out of compliance with Title IX because women aren’t getting an equal share of finding or participation in UNM athletics.  What went wrong and how did the University’s Presidents and Regents let it happen, and did the fact that a lot of university fund-raising has been kept secret from the public made problems worse?   Investigative reported Daniel Libit of the websitenmfishbowl.com has been first on this story, and give us an update. 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy on immigration across America’s southern border was designed to have consequences.  But new statistics uncovered by Reuters reporter Mica Rosenberg show the effect of prosecuting every border-crosser is separating migrant families in enormous numbers.  How enormous?  Before zero tolerance families were separated at a rate of about 100 a month.  But – in the only numbers ICE has made public – in 2 weeks in May 638 families were broken apart.  And reuniting them after deportation is not easy nor always quick.

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Turkey seems to have won a stare-down with the United States in Northern Syria.  The US has agreed to make Kurdish troops, our best allies in the fight against the Islamic State, leave the Syrian city of Manbij.  Now Turkey has announced it has an active incursion inside Iraq, whose government is also our ally, and Iran and Hezbullah are threatening US interests  elsewhere in Syria.  Pultizer Prize winning reporter Roy Gutman explains what’s going on. 

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You can't win a war without winning some battles, but even winning a whole string of battles does not mean  you've won the war.  Take for example, the American-led war to, in President Trump's word, "annihilate" the Islamic State.  In city after city, allied air attacks married to on-the-ground fighting by Iraqi and Syrian forces have forced IS to retreat from Ramadi, Tikrit, Falluja, Mosul and Raqqa.  Why isn't the war over?  As former US intelligence officer David Eneboe puts it in the title of his new book IT'S THE IDEOLOGY that has not been defeated.  Ending the scourge of Islamism is what it's all about.  

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Investigative reporter Simon Boazman has just broadcast a documentary, Islamophobia, Inc on Al Jazeera English.  The thesis: the sharp rise in hate crimes against American Muslims has been encouraged by a well-financed, well-organized conspiracy of hatred.  A hidden group of funders, at least some of them familiar donors of “dark money” to right-wing causes underwrite and distribute remarkably repetitive messages to a potential audience of millions.  Overblown invocations of “jihad” and “Sharia law” stoke fears.

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18 years ago, there was essentially one Taliban-approved source of news in Afghanistan.  Today, Afghan news consumers support hundreds of radio, tv, print and online news options.  Ilias Alami of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee on how newspeople work together to survive.  Says Alami, in Afghanistan, all reporters are war reporters, like it or not.  But he notes, there are many other stories that demand coverage as well.

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If our National Parks are looking a little run down, it’s because there is an $11 billion backlog of undone maintenance on everything from roads and guard-rails to rest rooms. Elizabeth Miller of the Santa Fe Reporter, Backpacker and The Guardian USA on the Trump Administration’s plan to pay for repairs with money raised by leasing out more public lands, including National park lands for energy development.  Could National Parks maintenance be paid for out of general tax revenues?  Of course, but that’s not the White House’s choice.

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The pension fund for Colorado’s state employees is running short of money.  2 reasons are consistent underfunding by the legislature and below average returns on pension fund investments.  But investigative reporter David Sirota tells us, “reforming” the fund involves penalizing retirees and protecting lawmakers and money managers.  Pensioners will see cost of living adjustments cut and contributions raised, while money managers get to keep their veil of secrecy from public evaluation of their work. 

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Donald Trump keeps saying he wants to be Vladimir Putin’s friend, but Trump’s renunciation of the nuclear arms agreement with Iran won’t help the relationship, and neither will Israeli attacks on Iranian forces fighting on Russia’s side in Syria.  Scholar-analyst Stephen F. Cohen of NYU and Princeton and The Nation on why the US and Russia aren’t getting along.  Cohen says one reason is the US News Media and its addiction to stories that put Putin in a bad light. 

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The Conservative Republicans of the Nixon era, who created the OSHA system were sure to include stakeholder participation through advisory boards. Now the radical-conservatives of the Trump era have knocked them out, and may some workplace health and safety protections as well.  Has development of a sensor to warn construction workers of approaching  danger been halted, or ended?  Rebecca Moss of the New Mexican and ProPublica tells the story.

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 According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions the threat to our southern border is so great that families who used to be simply deported will now be prosecuted with adults and their children forcibly separated for months at a time, and President Trump has sent the National Guard to the border.  But what are they actually doing there?  Can you say, motor pool? Desert Sage columnist Algernon D’Ammassa of the Deming Headlight with the view from the US-Mexico border.

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President Donald Trump withdraws from the multi-national nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, rejecting pleas from our closest allies and sending Kim Jong Un to Beijing for Chinese advice on the implications for his own negotiations with the US leader.  Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund on nuclear brinksmanship and diplomacy. Trump’s aggressive policies, he says, could push Israel and Iran into war and make a deal with North Korea even more unlikely. 

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CNS, a corporate combination led by Bechtel National promised it could save the Department of Energy more than 3 billion bucks, running 2 shops in its nuclear weapons program.  They haven’t come close.  So why, investigative reporter Patrick Malone of the Center for Public Integrity asks, does the Government keep giving them big profit bonuses?

CNS’ plan was simple, fire workers and cut benefits to those who aren’t let go.

Guess what.  They did both, but the costs of nuclear weapons keep going up.

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As the 2018 election cycle unfolds, keep you eyes out for avowed racists, nativists and neo-Nazis.  Donna Minkowitz of The Nation Magazine reports there are likely to be a dozen or more such people on the ballot, and one narrowly missed by the Republican Gubernatorial candidate in VA last year.  Here’s running for the Senate this year. Will public acceptance of institutional haters be a big part of President Donald Trump’s political legacy?

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Avoidable deaths have occurred, unnecessary pain and injury, too, because of inadequate medical staffing at jails run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Mary Hudetz of the Associated Press and NM In Depth says the warnings have been piling up for years.  The BIA budget for medical care for all Native Americans provides less than a quarter of the money the Federal Buro of Prisons offers its inmates.  No wonder most American Indian death rates are far worse than for “average Americans.” 

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In 2009, the Albuquerque Police Department made up a label, "The Memphis Mob" to describe a group of African-American men they'd arrested.  It produced headlines and a claim by then-Mayor Martin Chavez that this was "one of the biggest gang busts in Albuquerque history."  Then the label disappeared for 7 years, until, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER JEFF PROCTOR OF NM IN DEPTH says it was used by an APD detective to aim a Federal ATF operation planned for the city.  The result?  27% of the arrests made by the ATF were of African-Americans in a city whose population is just 3% African-American. 

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2017 was an unusually quiet year for school shootings.  2018 has been the opposite.  The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland Florida on February 14th was the 11th of the new year.  And there have been half a dozen more school shooting incidents since.  Dr. Ronald Stephens of the National School Safety Center travels the country advising on how to make schools more secure.  

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After declaring in his usual emphatic way that Turkey’s next national election would be held in November 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suddenly changed plans.  Now the vote will be on June 24.  Journalist and analyst Pinar Tremblay of Al Monitor says the rush to the polls is to prevent opposition parties from finding strong candidates and getting organized in time. Also, the switch means the election will held under the restrictive rules of a State of Emergency, which have been in place since a compromised coup almost 2 years ago. 

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Since mid-October, precipitation in  New Mexico has been about 3 squirts and a spit…6 straight months of “historic” drought.  Environmental Reporter Laura Paskus of the NM Political Report says for the state’s recreation and agriculture industries things could hardly look worse. The next hope for real rain is the so-called Monsoon which can start in May or June or never show up at all.  

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Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted to Congress, new and tougher rules are needed to protect his customers’ privacy from political manipulators like Cambridge Analytica and Russian trolls.  Zuckerberg says he wants one set of rules, even if they are hard on his company, to apply everywhere on earth.  Craig Timberg of the Washington Post on the soon-to-be enacted European rules on internet privacy and on what Facebook and the Congress are likely to do next. 

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For the first time in almost 60 years, the President of Cuba is not a member of the Castro family.  But does this mean the new President Miguel Diaz-Canel will be Cuba’s real national leader?  AMB. VICKI HUDDLESTON, for several years America’s top diplomat in Cuba says, for a lot of reasons, the answer is not yet clear.  Raul Castro will still lead the Cuban Communist Party and both his son and his former son-in-law remain in powerful government positions. 

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How much impact did the American-led attack on 3 Syrian Government chemical weapon sites have?  Says journalist and author Charles Glass, probably not much.  And how much impact did the missile and bomb assault have on the wider war in Syria?  None at all, is his answer.  We survey the Syrian landscape to update you on the several different battlefronts of his destructive war and ask the question, is it time to end the fighting?

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In 2016, evidence now shows, Russia-tied hackers tried to break into 21 state voting systems.  They succeeded in getting inside voter rolls in Illinois, but, this time, the evidence shows, they did no damage.  2018 is another national election year and reporter Christina Cassidy of the Associated Press, work on securing the voting process still has a long way to go.  One example, the Department of Homeland Security wants 150 security liaisons in place, 3 in each of the 50 states.  So far, they have only gotten security clearance for 20.  

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Who’s that playing the cruel slave owner Simon Legree…could that be Mickey Mouse?  Negotiations over wages and benefits for Disney cast-members only got nastier when Disney made a promised $1000 a worker tax-reform bonus contingent on workers signing a contract they had overwhelmingly rejected.  Reporter Michael Sainato has been covering the story, and he reminds us, Disney is the company forced to pay back  money it had withheld from workers for their uniforms.  Under that pllicy Disney was paying workers well under the Federal minimum wage, even as their profits soared.

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When right-wing Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King attacked Parkland, Florida high school massacre survivor Emma Gonzales for not speaking Spanish, he triggered memories in AP reporter Russell Contreras, who says language bullying to speak, or not to speak Spanish is all too common in America today.  King says the Castro regime’s monopoly on guns is a warning for America, as if the American government were as oppressive as the Cuban.  Hey Congressman, that American govt is who pays your salary.  Why do you take it, of you think it’s so totalitarian in nature?

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Do cell phones increase your risk of cancer.  The latest research from the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health is less than conclusive, but investigative reporter Mark Hertsgaard of The Nation says, newly released details are more ominous than earlier releases had indicated.  For some cancers, there was what is called “some evidence” of possible linkage, while for at least one cancer..Schwannoma, the evidence in rats was “clear.” 

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By almost every measure, public schools in Canada have a much better record for educating their immigrant students than schools in the United States. What are the reasons why, and how do the Canadians do it?  Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week magazine and the PBS NewsHour says there are several reasons -- all of which could be teaching points for America’s education leaders.  Canada is more selective in which immigrants are accepted, and more supportive of teachers and students in the classroom. And, crucially, the atmosphere for immigrants in Canada is much welcoming than in the USA. 

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In 2015 when mistakes made by contractors for the Federal Environmental Protection Administration unleashed a spew of stored wastewater from the Gold King Mine in Southern Colorado, it created an agricultural disaster for Navajo famers along the banks of the San Juan River, it got the world’s attention.  Not only was the Animas River turned a lurid yellow color, the spill sent a lot of toxic materials downstream. Jonathan P Thompson, author of the new book RIVER OF LOST SOULS says the trouble started more than a century ago, and the danger of other environmental catastrophes is both real and widespread.  

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Italy held national elections last month, and the top-polling party, the anti-political 5 Star Movement won 32% of the votes, a very shaky start on a governing coalition.  Worse, almost all the other parties who got significant numbers of votes say they cannot and will not work with the others.  One voting trend stood out, Italians rejected virtually every party or politician who had a recognizable brand name.  Where does Italy go from there?  Christopher Livesay of PBS NewsHour sorts it out for us from Rome. 

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Bill Press has spent much of his life immersed in politics, starting watching his grandfather work for votes as Mayor of Delaware City, DE…then moving from retail politics to wholesale, as Chair of the Democratic Party of California.  Now he’s in his 3rd decade as a political analyst and commentator, looking at a new corporate-scale political environment.  What does he see for the upcoming campaigns of 2018 and 202?  His new autobiography BILL PRESS FROM THE LEFT covers all of that and more

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One controversial element of the Obama Administration’s nuclear weapons agreement with Iran was the return to Iran of more than a billion dollars in funds that had once been part of the deposed Shah’s weapons-purchase account.  Richard J. Burton was the attorney who helped negotiate the agreement to give the Iranians back their frozen funds.

2 questions still being asked…why was the payment to Iran made in cash? And why wasn’t some of it held back to be used to repay claims by Americans who were victims of Iranian-backed terrorism?

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Xi Jinping has succeeded in positioning himself to be China’s President-for-life and ideological as well as political leader.  A key part of his ideology of total government control is his crackdown on public education.  Peter Herford the former CBS News executive who helped set up the ground-breaking school of Journalism at Shantou University in southeastern China on what Xi’s intervention means.  The new crackdown not only bowdlerizes th content of classes, it restricts all students to one curriculum, eliminating their right to choose their courses. 

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Retired Marine General Jim Mattis is the last man standing from President Donald Trump’s original national security team.  But how long can the Defense Secretary last?  Mark Perry, the author of the new book, THE PENTAGON’S WARS joins us to talk about what happens when there’s friction between the leaders at White House and the Pentagon.  Gen. Mattis tends to take a less ideological approach than his new partners, Secy of State Mike Pompeo and Natl Security Advisor John Bolton, not to mention the President who hired them. 

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Television executives say they carefully target their audiences, on broadcast, cable or – on demand – on the internet.  But analyst Jenny Schuetz of the Brookings Institution says their calibrations seem way out of date, still over-emphasizing the East and West Coast and giving short shrift to the South and Midwest.  Voters see this and don’t like it.  A lot of the areas that gave Donald Trump his surprise victory in 2016 are places the TV networks have turned their backs on, a breach niche programs like Duck Dynasty address and widen.

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Thomas TJ Brennan told the story of his long and painful recovery from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress injury inflicted during his service on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan in a fine memoir, SHOOTING GHOSTS, done with photo-journalist Finbarr O’Reilly.  Something that helped was cannabis.  Why he asks, it is still illegal for the VA to offer it as treatment?  It’s just one sign of how behind the times the Veterans Administration system is in using new therapies for one of the most common serious injuries suffered by American in combat. 

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The auto industry prides itself on its innovations.  But new ideas that help sell cars get very different treatment from new ideas that could save lives. Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus of Public Citizen and one of America’s pioneer advocates for auto safety on the battle to get better brakes into cars and trucks.  The costs in prices for advanced braking systems seem small compared to the savings in human lives, and insurance companies note, in customer’s insurance premiums. 

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They say you can know a lot about a person by listing his enemies.  It’s telling, too, when the enemies list is endless.  But even for the prolific antagonist Donald Trump, there are priorities.  Globally, North Korea and Iran vie for the top spot, whilemano a mano, his irresistible opposite is Jeff Sessions, and when domestic politics gets beyond the White House, the enemy is the state of California.  Long-time Sacramento journalist Peter Schrag wrote in The Nation magazine about the California resistance to President Trump…

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The pollster, columnist and marketing strategist John Zogby was one of the first to see the mass murder at the high school in Parkland, Florida as a “tipping point” in America’s debate over gun control.  The children, he predicted, the students will lead a national movement towards more regulation of firearms. What were the first signs that led him to that conclusion?  And does he think the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High will play a role in the 2018 elections?  And what about the backlash of smears and conspiracies rampant on the internet?  Will the trolls drown out the students?

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For 30 years the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has been the American public’s only “open window” to safety issues in the national nuclear weapons industry.  Last year Republican members of the Board tried to close the window and failing that, shut down the safety board entirely.  Nope.  Investigative reporter PatrickMalone of the Center for Public Integrity says the DNFSB survived in the Trump Administration’s 2019 Budget, and he’ll show why that’s a very good thing.  

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Venezuela used to be among Latin America’s most prosperous, functional and democratic countries.  Today it is none of those things,  Joshua Goodman of the Associated Press reports from Caracas, the Venezuelan capitol city now among the most violent, dangerous and crime-ridden places on earth.  Nicolas Maduro is bent on making himself President-for-life.  Can anyone stop him?

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In its first 4 years of existence, the Consumers’ Financial Protection Bureau returned close to $12 Billion taken from consumers by unscrupulous payday lenders, banks and other financial institutions.  Until the Trump Administration stopped all payouts last November.  Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative report Jesse Eisinger of Pro Publica on the battle to protect you from financial predators, and the Republican politician whose former seat in Congress was partially paid for by campaign contributions from payday lenders.  No wonder he seems to want to protect the predators. 

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Why would two sets of pre-schoolers be playing separately in a single schoolyard divided by a chain link fence?  Lauren Villagran of Searchlight NM says it’s New Mexico state public education department policies that segregate the Head Start kids from the state-funded pre-schoolers, keeping the poorest children in a world of their own.  Does this make sense to you?  There’s more agreement in the Legislature that more money needs to go for early-childhood education than there about where the money should come from. 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a new task force to control the output of manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs.  A worthy idea says Polk Award-winning reporter Lenny Bernstein of the Washington Post, and a welcome shift from the passivity of the Obama administration. But the change maybe a little late, since the opioid market is shifting away from Vicodin and Oxy-contin to the more dangerous and harder to detect Fentanils.  Meanwhile the national death toll from opioid overdoses continues to climb. 

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 Most people from the Iraqi city of Mosul are glad they were liberated from the Islamic State, but sad about the cost, in human lives, and in the utter destruction of most of the Western half of the city. And now it’s clear the US and the rest of the world are stepping away from financing rebuilding.  Morally wrong, some senior diplomats who have worked there, tell AP Correspondent Lori Hinnant, they think so, but worse, they think this could create a new generation of terrorists.  T

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The worst parts of the country to suffer a serious accident are in rural America.  People die of trauma 3 times as often as in the cities or suburbs.  One huge reason?  Fewer hospitals.  And they’re getting fewer all the time.  Rural hospitals face a double whammy…it’s harder to recruit doctors to sparsely settled place and the patient population is unpredictable and low. Staci Matlock, editor of the Taos News, with some sure signs of stress in her local hospital and how her taxpaying readers may be asked to help out. 

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Almost 7 years in, and the war in Syria is as destructive as ever to civilian life, even though the array of destroyers doing the shooting and changes keeps changing.  Saudi Arabia has cashed out and its former clients may now be working for Turkey whose Army has invaded a Syrian area called Afrin. Not too close to American troops. Charles Glass knows Syria as well as any Western reporter, and he’s still a frequent visitor. 

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For years, enough roads led to the border village of Santa Teresa, NM for people to think they might eventually turn a profit there.  Along came NAFTA and Jerry Pacheco started dreaming about a town straddling the border, living the dream of social harmony and profitable trade.  Sarah Tory of High Country News says Pacheco’s not the only one banking on Santa Teresa’s future.  Of course, if President Trump kills NAFTA and builds his border barrier, Santa Teresa will go back to being a hole in the wall. 

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Angela Merkel has said it: her 4th term as Germany’s Chancellor will be her last and she intends to serve the full 4 years.  But 6 months after she won election, she still needs to form a government.  That depends on half a million members of her partners in a “Grand Coalition,” The Social Democratic Party. Will they approve another 4 years playing second fiddle? If they don’t, Merkel says she’ll call a new election in which the far right anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany Party is expected to grow in votes and power. Madeleine Schwartz of the NY Review of Books is living in Berlin. 

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Is there still a “Western World?”  And if there is, who is its leader?  Not the usual suspect.  President Donald Trump has few followers beyond our borders, and with Angela Merkel struggling to form, much less lead, a government in Germany, and Teresa May struggling to stay in office in the UK, a name you hear a lot is French President Emmanuel Macron.  Why?  What’s he done and where is he leading France and Europe?  AP’s Paris Bureau Chief Angela Charlton covers the story,

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The humanitarian disaster in Syria is as bad as ever, with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Arab families caught up in conventional warfare between the Turkish Army and Kurdish militias.  Roy Gutman covered the flight to refuge in Afrin and updates us the refuge has become a deadly trap. And what’s the US military up to, building a client army of 30,000 and several thousand Americans on the ground in support? Finishing off, “annihilating” the ISIS threat is just Job 1 of several.  The story, in depth on HERE & THERE -- coming up next

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Homelessness is, by definition, a housing problem, but America’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr Ben Carson says it’s not his problem, “not a Federal problem, but everybody’s problem.”  Which usually means, it’s nobody’s problem, except the millions of people in America who go homeless every night.  Alastair Gee runs The Guardians’ investigative project on homelessness, Outside in America.  He reports a lot of cities are solving their homelessness problem by handing out one-way bus tickets out of town.  Some solution!

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Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Jamie Dimon are all self-made American billionaires.  They’ve succeeded by creating new solutions to investing, retail marketing and banking, now they’re joining together to tackle one of the country’s most perplexing problems: healthcare.  Elizabeth Rosenthal, the author of An American Sickness, a best-selling examination of the infrastructure of American medical care looks at the key questions, some possible answers, and the impact these 3 men might have on all American healthcare. 

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The US Constitution guarantees that everyone facing criminal charges, even if they can’t afford one, is entitled to legal counsel.  The State of New Mexico effectively says, “Can’t afford it.”  Maggie Shepard of the Albuquerque Journal on the state’s over-burdened Office of the Public Defender.  One critic says the effect is, more innocent people in jail and longer sentences for the innocent and guilty alike.  

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Who’s working in America’s radio and television news rooms?  On TV, it sometimes looks like women and minorities are better represented, but are the people you see still tokens of hidden exclusion revealed in the number of women and minorities off camera.  And what about the executive suites…is promotion to top management equally open to all?  And does the invisibility of radio move it towards inclusion or exclusion of women and minorities?  Bob Papper has for years conducted the Hofstra University – Radio TV Digital News Association survey of the industry in America.  

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According to recent surveys, just over 10% of America’s working adults – people with jobs – are going hungry.  Here in NM, the rate is the highest in America.  15.3% of the working men and women in New Mexico regularly fail to feed themselves or their families.  And yet, President Trump wants to make it harder to get food stamps, and America exports well over $100 billion worth of food products every year.  Joel Berg, once a top manager in the Department of Agriculture, now leads Hunger-Free America…a brand name and a far off aspiration.

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The bottom is dropping out of America.  A Nobel Prize economist says deep poverty in the USA is as bad as the worst in Bangladesh or Burkina Faso.  And it’s spreading:  One sure sign: hunger.  As usual, California shows the way to the future.  Charlotte Simmonds of the Guardian’s Outside in America team on how a new generation of hungry and homeless people have swamped Silicon Valley.

Prominent among the new needy, families, young singles, and people with full-time jobs.

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If President Trump’s aim at Davos was to put America First, he did it, in his own mind and in his own speech.  But most observers rated the American third, at best, in impact, well behind France’s Macron and China’s money.  What got people’s attention were Macron’s brainpower and China’s huge expansion of tis global loans for infrastructure and influence program.  We talk with financial strategist Nomi Prins, author of the just-published book Collusion about the show at Davos and the real world economy beyond it. 

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It may be the most successful American revolution since 1776, the bottom-to-top renovation of tomato business.  The point: to get tomato pickers closer to a living wage and more humane working conditions.  The farm fields, in Florida and up the east coast as far as Virginia that produce close to half of all the tomatoes eaten in the United States meet that standard.  Look for the Fair Food label.  Susan Marquis, Dean of the Graduate School at the RAND Corporation and the author of I AM NOT A TRACTOR, on the tomato revolution and how it was accomplished.

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Here’s a measure of how the Government of Puerto Rico values the lives of its citizens.  When Gov. Ricardo Rosello first told the visiting President Trump the Hurricane Maria death toll of was just 16, literally everyone knew that was wrong.  Today the official number is still under 70.  But Julio Ricardo Varela of Futuro Media and Latino USA showed the real number is closer to 1000.  When it comes to government estimates of the value of property damage done by the storm, they seem almost as high as their death count is low. 

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Good news for the oil, gas and coal industries, but the Trump tariffs announced on solar energy materials seem pretty bad for everyone else…unless the foreign-owned companies getting protection expand operations in the US, and more important, innovate here, so that the US isn’t just a backwater in the energy streams of the 21st century.  Keith Johnson of Foreign Policy on this and other big doings in global energy markets.  Are today’s higher oil prices a peak, just a dot on an upward slope, or the new normal?  

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THERE:  There it was on the internet.  Amazon was even offering it for sale.  A tee-shirt inscribed “Rope. Tree. Journalist.  Some assembly required.”  What a cute idea…let’s lynch reporters, columnists or editors we disagree with!  Dan Shelley, the Executive Director of the Radio Television Digital News Association wasn’t amused.  So he went right to the sources, including Amazon and asked, is this an idea you endorse?  The shirts were pulled from the digital shelves, but Dan warns, right-wing agitation against a free press isn’t over.

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The Donald Trump-GOP Congress tax bill is now law…and it is clear it’s a bonanza for America’s largest corporations and richest people.  But what about the rest of us?  Jordan Goodman, America’s Money Answers Man, has the answers on new taxes…who will benefit from the new law?  How soon will the benefits begin and how long will they last?  And who are the – Donald Trump’s favorite word – “losers” in the new tax configuration, and what are the consequences for them and for the nation as a whole? 

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In Vietnamese, the phrase, “may you live in interesting times,” is considered a curse.  Women in Pakistan, and much of the Islamic world know why.  The times they are living through are more than just interesting.  Rafia Zakaria has written two recent books, The Upstairs Wife and Veil that reveal the changes in national politics and religious practices that challenge women from Karachi to Timbuktoo.  Their status as citizens, as wives, as women is changing…but what will come next is still a mystery. 

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Glenn Simpson was an ace investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, until he took his skills private and formed the research firm Fusion GPS.  Simpson calls what his company does – things like compiling the so-called dossier of alleged connections between associates of Donald Trump and associates of Vladimir Putin – “journalism for rent.”  It’s a label investigative reporter Jack Gillum of the Washington Post finds troubling.  Fusion GPS uses the means of journalism, but often to ends that look like journalism minus a lot of professional standards. 

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Anne Frank kept a secret diary while hiding out from the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam.  She was betrayed, captured and killed by the Nazis but her diary became world famous.  During the Islamic State occupation of Mosul, a young girl Anne Frank’s age also kept a secret diary, but published it on Facebook.  Reporter Bram Janssen of the Associated Press found “Ferah” and tell us her story which ends with her and her family surviving occupation and outlasting the jihadi terrorists.

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