Here And There with Dave Marash

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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For many years at the Rocky Mountain News, M. E. Sprengelmeyer had what a lot of people consider a dream job, ace reporter for a major regional newspaper.  M. E. covered war in Iraq and Afghanistan and politics in Washington and on the campaign trail.  Then the Rocky closed and M E found HIS dream job.  For 8 years he ran the small town weekly, The Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa, NM.  He shares that experience with us, what he learned about reporting and small town life and why he’s decided to quit ‘em both.

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The city of Fresno, California and the surrounding jurisdictions of California’s Central Valley register among the highest rates in the state of both teenage pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease.  Fresno Bee reporter Mackenzie Mays did a series of reports showing that the public schools, which could be part of a solution, actually may be worsening the crises.  For example, the Fresno School Board President publically proclaims his kids have always opted out of any kind of public school sex education…not that a lot is offered to kids who desperately need it. 

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In Afghanistan, the more new developments are reported, the more the problems remain the same.  Award-winning photo-journalist Finbarr O’Reilly, the co-author of the great dual memoir with Thomas Brennan, Shooting Ghosts, about returning from the Afghan war to the normality of peace, is just back from a visit to Afghanistan.  This time he swapped his cameras for an iPhone and his Kevlar armor for civilian clothing. Both changes made a difference  Finbarr’s insights are worth your attention..

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Net neutrality, it once ruled the American internet, but now it’s gone.  So what?  Ali Velshi, the Chief Business Correspondent for NBC News offers some looks ahead to a near-certainty of higher consumer costs and the frightening possibility of reduced services and censored content.

The big change in the Trump FCC rules is far less regulation for the oligarchies that dominate both internet service provision and content creation.  As the old blues goes…you don’t miss your neutrality till it’s gone. 

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