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On Torture Report, Colorado’s Udall Leaves Subtlety at the Door on the Way Out

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Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, said the C.I.A. had not learned from its mistakes.

 

WASHINGTON — To Senator Mark Udall, the Central Intelligence Agency’s effort to mislead the public about its brutal interrogation program is not a thing of the past.

Mr. Udall, a Colorado Democrat who pressed his case against the agency even as he packed up his office after his re-election defeat last month, sees the agency’s strong effort to rebut the findings of the Senate’s report on the torture of terrorism suspects as proof the intelligence community has not learned from its mistakes.

“We did all these things and had the opportunity over the last six years to come clean, and the C.I.A. just fought tooth and nail to prevent that from happening,” Mr. Udall said in an interview after the stinging attack he delivered on the Senate floor against the intelligence community and the White House. “Now we are doing the same thing today that we did six or eight or 10 years ago by denying this happened.”

Mr. Udall, 64, an avid outdoorsman more often associated with environmental, energy and fiscal issues during his congressional career, has become a fierce critic of the nation’s spy and antiterror apparatus, from the mass collection of telecommunications data to the expansion of drone strikes under the Obama administration. He said he was exploring ways to continue in that role after leaving Congress — to keep public attention fixed on intelligence operations he sees as in conflict with the nation’s character.

“There has to be accountability,” Mr. Udall said. “The longer you wait to address the question of accountability, the more it festers and there is more potential that people lose interest and we repeat these very acts at some point in the future.”

After one term in the Senate and five in the House, Mr. Udall had one of his biggest moments in the final days of his tenure. He took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to not only condemn the torture documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report, but to denounce the response from John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director.

Mr. Brennan, like other intelligence community leaders from 2001 to 2009, conceded that some abuses occurred but argued that useful intelligence was obtained. He and others also dispute the findings that C.I.A. officials misled both the Bush administration and the public about the interrogation program, a key element of the Senate report.

Skirting close to disclosing classified information on the floor, Mr. Udall pointed to a still-secret internal review done by the C.I.A. under the former director Leon E. Panetta that was obtained by the Senate. He said the Panetta review showed the agency had determined for itself that much of the Senate report was true.

“Director Brennan and the C.I.A. today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture,” he said on the floor. “In other words, the C.I.A. is lying.”

Mr. Udall didn’t stop at the agency. He strongly criticized President Obama for failing to “rein in” the agency and its leadership and for not embracing the report’s findings. Instead, the White House has focused on the president’s decision to end the interrogation program instead of the issues of whether it provided valuable intelligence or whether those who conducted it should be prosecuted.

Mr. Udall also faulted the administration for keeping some of those responsible for the program in leadership positions.

“The president needs to purge his administration of high-level officials who were instrumental to the development and running of this program,” he said. “He needs to force a cultural change at the C.I.A.”

Suddenly, the idea circulating in Washington that Mr. Udall could join the administration in some capacity seemed unlikely.

Republicans carefully reviewed Mr. Udall’s floor speech to see if he divulged secret information, and came to the conclusion he had not. Given earlier comments that he was willing to read the Senate report on the floor if it was not made public, Republicans said they were also prepared to thwart him on that front.

“We were ready,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the senior Republican on the Intelligence Committee. “I was prepared to go to the floor and take him on if he started to release classified information. But I really thought at the end of the day he would not want that to be his legacy.”

While Mr. Udall incited the ire of his Republican colleagues, he earned respect from fellow Democrats.

“Nobody in this place fought harder than Mark Udall to shed light on these tactics,” said Senator Michael Bennet, his Colorado colleague. “His goal from Day 1 has been holding the C.I.A. accountable, shedding light on this dark chapter of our history, and ensuring that neither the C.I.A. nor any other agency or future administration would make the grievous mistakes that were made here.”

As for his complaints about President Obama, Mr. Udall, who played a round of golf as a member of one the president’s exclusive foursomes, said he admired the president and had been a strong backer of the administration on its health care, climate and foreign policy initiatives.

“But that doesn’t mean I don’t take my own compass bearings on civil liberties and human rights,” Mr. Udall said.

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  ~~  Watch Udall’s floor speech ~~


An Ebola Orphan’s Plea in Africa: ‘Do You Want Me?’

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Sweetie Sweetie gathered her lunch to take back to her room. The group home is sponsored by ChildFund International. Details of its work and how to help can be found at childfund.org.

 

PORT LOKO, Sierra Leone — Sweetie Sweetie had no choice.

Her father had just died of Ebola. So had her sister. Her mother was vomiting blood and fading fast.

When the ambulance arrived and her mother climbed in, Sweetie Sweetie climbed in, too. Ebola had been like a pox on her entire house, and even though the young girl looked fine, with no symptoms, nobody in her village, even relatives, wanted to take her. With nowhere else to go, she followed her mother all the way into the red zone of an Ebola clinic and spent more than two weeks in a biohazard area where the only other healthy people were wearing moon suits.

As her mother grew sicker, Sweetie Sweetie urged her to take her pills. She tried to feed her. She washed her mother’s soiled clothes, not especially well, but nurses said they were moved by the effort. After all, they think Sweetie Sweetie is only 4. Health care workers did not even know her real name, which is why they called her Sweetie Sweetie.

After her mother died, the young girl stood outside the clinic’s gates looking around with enormous brown eyes. There was no one to pick her up. She was put on the back of a motorbike and taken to a group home, whose bare, dim hallways she now wanders alone. Social workers are trying to find someone to adopt her, and Sweetie Sweetie seems to know she is up for grabs.

On a recent day she asked a visitor: “Do you want me?”

Ebola has been wretched for children. More than 3,500 have been infected and at least 1,200 have died, United Nations officials estimate. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the most-afflicted countries, have shut down schools in an attempt to check the virus, and legions of young people are now being drafted into hard labor by their impoverished parents. Little boys who should be sitting in a classroom are breaking rocks by the side of the road; little girls struggle under gigantic loads of bananas on their heads. This was always true to some degree, but social workers say there are more children, especially teenagers, on the streets than ever before, which could lead to an increase in crime and adolescent pregnancies. When the schools do reopen, there will probably be many vacant seats.

But the worst off, by far, are the Ebola orphans. The United Nations Children’s Fund, or Unicef, says that across the region there may be 10,000 of them. Many are stigmatized and shunned by their own communities.

~~   READ MORE IF YOU CAN  ~~


This Is How a Prisoner of War Feels About Torture

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I share no philosophic world views and have almost no mutual agreement with Senator McCain with one exception, we are both friends with the Udall family.  This piece and the video of McCain speaking on the Senate floor should be read and listened to.  Old friend Wally Berg said to me: “I like that Mark (Udall) and his Dad’s old buddy from the other side, John McCain, are speaking out about the Senate Intelligence Committee report.  I mean really, what the fuck can anyone say when John McCain talks about torture, POW’s and American values. It is time to just shut up and listen.”       ~~  Rōbert  ~~

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In a speech from the Senate floor, John McCain broke with his Republican colleagues to commend the Senate’s CIA report, relying on his own experience in Vietnam.

 

The release of a Senate report on the CIA’s former interrogation program brought both political division and shock on Tuesday. While the shock was more universal, the division fell mostly along partisan lines with one notable exception: Senator John McCain.

In a nearly 15-minute speech from the Senate floor, McCain offered what is arguably the most robust defense so far of the report’s release, referencing his own experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and rebuking his Republican colleagues by endorsing the study’s findings.

It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose—to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies—but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.
His longtime amigo Senator Lindsey Graham was one of many politicians and intelligence officials to say that the report—which contained graphic accounts of physical and psychological abuse—could damage American interests abroad and that the timing of its publication was “politically motivated.”

“The timing of the release is problematic given the growing threats we face,” Graham said on Tuesday. “Terrorism is on the rise, and our enemies will seize upon this report at a critical time. Simply put, this is not the time to release the report.”

“They will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.”

McCain responded directly to the claim. He condemned the use of misinformation to garner support for past CIA practices and linked this history to the current campaign to keep the Senate report under wraps. “There is, I fear, misinformation being used today to prevent the release of this report, disputing its findings and warning about the security consequences of their public disclosure.”

But most poignantly, McCain spoke of his own five-and-a-half-year captivity in Vietnam to argue that torture fails to yield credible information.

~~~  READ MORE/WATCH McCAIN’S ON THE SENATE FLOOR  ~~~


Republicans Vow to Fight E.P.A. and Approve Keystone Pipeline

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Senator Mitch McConnell has said he will fight regulations that would limit carbon emissions.

 

WASHINGTON — The new Republican Congress is headed for a clash with the White House over two ambitious Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are the heart of President Obama’s climate change agenda.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the next majority leader, has already vowed to fight the rules, which could curb planet-warming carbon pollution but ultimately shut down coal-fired power plants in his native Kentucky. Mr. McConnell and other Republicans are, in the meantime, stepping up their demands that the president approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

At this point, Republicans do not have the votes to repeal the E.P.A. regulations, which will have far more impact on curbing carbon emissions than stopping the pipeline, but they say they will use their new powers to delay, defund and otherwise undermine them. Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a prominent skeptic of climate change and the presumed new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is expected to open investigations into the E.P.A., call for cuts in its funding and delay the regulations as long as possible.

The Republicans’ new majority in the Senate also increases their leverage in pushing Mr. Obama to approve the pipeline, although it is still unclear if he will do so.

The White House vowed to fight back. “We know that there will be attempts to impede or scale back our actions,” John D. Podesta, the senior White House counselor who is leading Mr. Obama’s climate agenda, said in a statement on Monday. But he added, “We’re confident we can prevail.”

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Colorado, a State Split Left and Right

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Senator Mark Udall speaking at a field office in Englewood.

ERIE, Colo. — To trace the border between the liberal and conservative corners of the American West, head down East County Line Road, a two-lane asphalt stripe parting the plains here in Northern Colorado.

To the east lies Weld County, a conservative stronghold where 20,000 oil and gas wells pump day and night, and Republicans are so dominant that they are running unchallenged for county assessor, clerk and a commissioner’s seat. Fifteen miles to the west is Boulder, where a Buddhist-inspired university offers classes in yoga and the Tibetan language, and nature activists are working to carve out legal rights for ecosystems and wild species.

Straddling those divisions is Erie, a town of 21,500 whose perch along County Line Road embodies the shifting politics and demographics of a Western swing state where Republicans are waging a spirited battle to reclaim power after recent years of Democratic gains. Two prominent Democrats, Gov. John W. Hickenlooper and Senator Mark Udall, are in fierce re-election fights, and both parties are spending millions to claim a bellwether win.

“Colorado is subjected to extremes,” said Roy Romer, a former governor. “It’s not just blue and red. It’s also urban and rural. We have a history to this.”

To some, the social and demographic changes that have shaded Colorado blue in recent elections are welcome. But Colorado’s political leanings have tilted back and forth in surprising ways since it became a state in 1876, sometimes marching in lock step with Republican ranching and mining magnates, and other times bolting to support populists or so-called Silver Republicans who detested the once-dominant gold standard.

“This is not a blue state,” said Ted Trimpa, a lawyer and political strategist who helped to craft the Democratic rise to power in the statehouse over the past decade. “This is very much an independent state, and more and more reflects where people in the rest of the country are.”

The contest between Mr. Udall and his Republican challenger, Representative Cory Gardner, a second-term congressman from far eastern Colorado, has become one of the most competitive and expensive Senate races in the country. It is a must-hold seat if Democrats have a shred of hope of retaining their Senate majority. For Republicans, it offers a long-sought chance to reclaim a marquee statewide office and show that they can once again win in a Western state that is growing more urban, Hispanic and socially liberal.

The campaign has touched on energy drilling and the economy, President Obama’s health care law and the size and role of government, but at its core has been a battle for the votes of women and Latinos. In 2010, Democrat Michael Bennet defied a nationwide Republican surge to win a Senate race here, in large part because Democrats hammered his Republican opponent on abortion and contraception. As for Latinos, they now represent 14 percent of Colorado’s electorate and 21 percent of its population, and while many are reliably Democratic, Republicans have been going door to door to try to sway them.

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Sen. Hart to DenPost on Corey Gardner endorsement: You talked to whom, exactly?

timthumb.phpColorado statesman Gary Hart does not get it, at all. He is calling the Denver Post‘s endorsement of Congressman Cory Gardner in his race against incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Udall the “worst political endorsement by a serious newspaper in my lifetime.”

Hart made his views known in a letter he sent to the Denver Post that the paper decided not to print. But the state news media has taken up the letter, and it was published at Huffington Post-Denver on Tuesday.
“As a Colorado citizen who pays more than ordinary attention to American politics generally and to Colorado politics particularly, I am dumbfounded and appalled by your endorsement,” he writes.
Hart mainly takes issue with the Post‘s characterization of Udall as a sort of upper-chamber wallflower.
“I know for an absolute fact that [Udall] is at or near the center of virtually all serious national security, energy, environment, and economic debate currently occurring. I know for a fact that he is widely respected as a serious legislator by Senators of both parties. I cannot imagine from what sources you are deriving your information, but it is clearly not other United States Senators or anyone with a clear picture of what is going on in our nation’s Capitol.”
The Post‘s endorsement was notable for the sniping tone with which it treated Udall and for the lack of any serious sources or examples it used to make its points. The endorsement authors cited only a Gerald Seib opinion column on the blessings of divided government published in the Wall Street Journal and another opinion column written by onetime Republican Capitol Hill staffer-turned-Republican Party strategist Joe Brettell, in which he called Gardner a “rising star.” The Post editors never mentioned Brettell in the endorsement, simply crediting the quote to “ABC News.”
Hart served in the U.S. Senate for two terms, from 1975 to 1987. He is Chair of the U.S. State Department’s International Security Advisory Council, Chair of the U.S. Defense Department’s Threat Advisory Council, and Chair of the American Security Project.
Hart is the kind of source deeply familiar with the Senate and with national politics that the Denver Post editorial board might have turned to when weighing its endorsement in the race. Hart would have “problematized” the baffling assertions the board members planned to make.
“It is flatly false to say that Senator Udall is not a leader or that he is not at the center of major debates,” Hart wrote in his letter. “It is much more accurate to say that he is not a self-promoter, which seems to have become the coin of the political realm…
“You have chosen to support a conventional partisan over a serious legislator concerned with the national interest.”
Udall is a conservative-libertarian Democrat who has liberal social views. Gardner is a hardline conservative Republican of the Tea Party era.
As FiveThirtyEight puts it: “Gardner is strongly anti-abortion (he got a 0 percent rating from NARAL). He has only a 26 percent rating from the NAACP; he’s earned a 9 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters and a 92 percent score from the NRA.”
That record doesn’t match with the editorial views of the Denver Post and it doesn’t match with the views of the majority of Denver or Colorado residents.
FiveThirtyEight describes Udall as “strongly pro-choice (he gets a 100 percent rating on abortion rights from NARAL Pro-Choice America), and he earned a 96 percent rating from the NAACP on minority issues, a 97 percent rating on the environment by the League of Conservation Voters and a 0 percent score from the National Rifle Association.”
Mark Udall believes in letting women make their own health care decisions, safeguarding equality under the law for all, protecting the environment and closing loopholes on gun-purchase background checks. That is a much closer match with the views of the readers served by the Denver Post.

Mr. Gregory Moore
Editor, The Denver Post
Denver, Colorado
Dear Mr. Moore:
Your editorial board’s decision to endorse Congressman Cory Gardner for the United States Senate ranks as one of the worst endorsement decisions, not only by theDenver Post but by any serious newspaper, in my lifetime.
As a Colorado citizen who pays more than ordinary attention to American politics generally and to Colorado politics particularly, I am dumbfounded and appalled by your endorsement. Colorado quite possibly has the two best Senators in the United States and you choose to dismiss one of them. It is flatly false to say that Senator Udall is not a leader or that he is not at the center of major debates. It is much more accurate to say that he is not a self-promoter, which seems to have become the coin of the political realm.
I know for an absolute fact that he is at or near the center of virtually all serious national security, energy, environment, and economic debate currently occurring. I know for a fact that he is widely respected as a serious legislator by Senators of both parties. I cannot imagine from what sources you are deriving your information, but it is clearly not other United States Senators or anyone with a clear picture of what is going on in our nation’s Capitol. You have chosen to support a conventional partisan over a serious legislator concerned with the national interest.
For you to conclude that Mr. Gardner will be anything other than a consistent vote for a Tea Party dictated agenda on the major social and economic issues of the day is confounding. Simply because one source called him a “rising star” does not qualify him for Senate membership. I had the privilege of serving with serious Senators of both parties. Mr. Gardner has a very long way to go before even coming close to their standard of statesmanship. Senator Udall, from a distinguished public service family whom I have known and with whom I have served, has the gravitas concerning the future of our nation that a partisan such as Mr. Gardner will never have in his lifetime.
I will leave it to my wife to decide whether to continue her subscription to the Post. I have lost confidence in the seriousness of your editorial judgment.
Sincerely,
Gary Hart
Kittredge, Colorado


Ben Bradlee, Who Led ‘Washington Post’ To New Heights, Dies At 93~~Good Coverage

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Ben Bradlee, then-executive editor of The Washington Post, looks at the front page of the newspaper, headlined “Nixon Resigns,” in the composing room on Aug. 8, 1974.

 

Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, who led The Washington Post to national eminence through charm, drive, instinct and, most notably, an epic confrontation with the Nixon White House, died Tuesday. He was 93.

Through his tenure at the Post, the legendary newspaper editor helped to define the standards and aspirations of American journalism for more than a generation. He oversaw an expansion of the kinds of coverage his newspaper offered readers that influenced editors at papers across the country. Internally, Bradlee was best known as a champion of ambitious reporters and stylish writers, goading them to new heights.

Bradlee’s most consequential test would arrive amid the scandal that first vexed and later brought down President Nixon, starting with the report of a break-in at the national headquarters of the Democratic Party at the Watergate complex in 1972.

“If you were told — any editor of The Washington Post since the beginning of time — there was going to be a story that 40 people would go to jail and the president of the United States would resign, he’d say, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ ” Bradlee told an interviewer from C-SPAN several years ago. He was rewarded for standing by two unknown local reporters who doggedly pursued the story against the critical conventional wisdom of the rest of the political press.

“Reporters need to know they have to keep banging away at it. They have to give their own energies and curiosities and aggressiveness full rein,” says former Washington Post reporter David Remnick, now editor of The New Yorker magazine.

Remnick recalled being summoned to Bradlee’s office after the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan had complained the young reporter was looking into anecdotes about his heavy drinking. As Bradlee leaned back in his chair, Remnick tried to reassure Bradlee not to worry. The editor cut him short and ended the meeting this way: “Worry? Me worry? I don’t f- – -ing worry!”

A salty phrase; a hearty laugh; an unyielding journalistic backbone — Ben Bradlee was well known for all three. He played the role of fearless newsroom captain almost without flaw.

“They have to have somebody behind them telling them it’s OK, because there are all these people out there saying it’s not; all these governments and PR people saying it’s not,” Remnick says. “You need somebody behind you saying, ‘Keep at it,’ and that was Bradlee’s message in a thousand different ways.”

 

~~~  READ/LISTEN  ~~~


Morales Is The Favorite In Bolivia Elections~~A good story….

imagesBolivia’s President Evo Morales is expected to win a third term in today’s election. Morales has paved the way for his re-election through his skilled handling of the economy.

~~   LISTEN TO THE STORY   ~~


Remembering Charles Bowden-Forbes Magazine-Nathaniel Flannery

UnknownThis morning I woke to see news that New Mexico-based investigative journalist Charles Bowden had passed away.* A longtime researcher of Ciudad Juarez, Bowden focused on the overlapping an intertwined effects of globalization, free trade, and drug cartel-related violence. Deeply critical of NAFTA and the 1990s era economic relationship between Mexico and the U.S., Bowden also offered clear headed analysis of an impossibly complicated city.

A few years ago when I went to Ciudad Juarez for the first time I brought a copy of Bowden’s 1998 photo book Juarez: the laboratory of our future. Bowden was among the first researchers to delve into investigating the evolution of Ciudad Juarez at the outset of NAFTA. He introduced many readers to now common images of border fences, migrants crossing the Rio Grande on rafts and police investigators at homicide scenes. His prose is careful, analytical, thoughtful. He describes Juarez as “part of the Mexican gulag, the place for the people no one wants” but also writes “I’ve eaten in Juarez, drunk in Juarez, been happy in Juarez, and been sad in Juarez…I am not sightless. Juarez has a distinct quality. It is the city wherepeople may dream and f*** and drink and sing, but it is not the city where people hope.”

Deeply pessimistic about the economic development model being implemented in Juarez at the outset of the NAFTA era, Bowden did however provide clear and even-handed analysis of the city’s evolving (or devolving?) security dynamic. In 2010 after publishing Murder City Bowden told The New Yorker’s Meredith Blake that “If you read the newspaper accounts of violence in Juárez, they fail to convey the pain, the fear, and the ruin of the city. I wrote of murders, tortures, and rapes in a spare manner because a flat tone conveys agony better than a herd of adjectives.” Bowden skipped colorful language and focused on hard analysis. “There are five hundred to nine hundred street gangs now of armed, murderous, unschooled and unemployed young people… Nothing can immediately roll back the violence, because it is now part of the fabric of the city, a place where in two years twenty-five per cent of the houses have been abandoned, forty per cent of the business shuttered, at least a hundred thousand jobs lost, and where a hundred and four thousand people have fled,” he said.

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Bowden passed away in his sleep at his New Mexico home. He was 69. Journalist and friend Terry Greene Sterling said “What I will always remember him for, beyond his vast talent as a writer, is his generosity with younger writers, writers coming up.” Another friend remembered, “He kept saying that he was proud of his ability to be a witness. He was very proud of the voices he gave to people who didn’t have a voice.” Ray Caroll, another long-time friend said, “He was a journalist’s journalist. The guy drilled deep into every subject matter. Whatever Chuck Bowden did, he did with all his heart.” I didn’t always agree with Bowden’s anti-NAFTA economic viewpoint but I always appreciated his writing. Bowden once said “The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire.” He will be missed.

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Journalist Charles Bowden Dies At 69–INTERVIEW- NPR

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Charles Bowden, Author With Unblinking Eye on Southwest, Dies at 69

NYT


Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper visits artist/designer Lisa Issenberg @ her Kiitella HQ in Ridgway

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Hickenlooper’s Tweet

Hickenlooper’s post on Instagram


Chile Pepper Capital Seeks To Preserve Roots~~It’s that season again~~

 

New Mexico chile peppers are distinct, but locals in the pepper industry have been struggling to compete with the foreign pepper market. A new state law requires that only New Mexico-grown peppers are labeled as such.

The heart of chile pepper country in southern New Mexico is the tiny village of Hatch, which bills itself the “Chile Capital of the World.” A new state law aims to protect this food heritage by preventing foreign peppers from being labeled as New Mexico-grown.

At the heart of the “Chile Capital” is the Pepper Pot restaurant, which exclusively serves New Mexico-grown chiles. In the kitchen of the Pepper Pot, owner Melva Aguirre churns out hundreds of plates a day of chile rellenos.

“A lot of people use Spam. A lot of people don’t eat meat, so they put cheese in them,” she says. “When it’s time for me to make it for the chile festival, I have to make up to 3,000 to use on the weekend.”

Tens of thousands of hot-pepper fans converge on Hatch each fall for the annual chile pepper festival, all devotees of the smoky, rich flavor distinct to the New Mexico variety.

~~  LISTEN TO THE STORY  ~~


Democrats Seize on Social Issues as Attitudes Shift

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Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, last month. He has criticized his Republican rival’s “radical agenda” on abortion. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

 

WASHINGTON — Facing re-election, Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin, no longer talks about stopping same-sex marriage. “It’s those on the left that are pushing” the issue, he says.

Ed Gillespie, the Republican Senate candidate in Virginia, argued that Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic incumbent, was “making up my views” when Mr. Warner accused him of seeking to overturn abortion rights and ban some forms of contraception. In fact, Mr. Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said in a recent debate, he wants contraceptives available (behind the counter) at pharmacies without a prescription.

Representative Cory Gardner, a Republican in a tight Senate race in Colorado, proposed the same thing after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case exempted some private businesses from covering certain contraceptives in health insurance plans. He was shielding himself from attacks by Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat, who has spent months slamming Mr. Gardner’s “radical agenda” on abortion and family planning.

“Udall is running his entire campaign on social issues,” said Brad Dayspring of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “All they talk about is birth control, ‘personhood,’ abortion.”

So will many other Democrats this fall. They aim to match President Obama’s feat in 2012, when the incumbent used topics such as same-sex marriage and contraception as weapons to offset his vulnerability on the economy. That they would even try while facing the older, whiter, more conservative midterm electorate shows how thoroughly the politics of social issues have turned upside down.

The tumultuous social changes that began in the 1960s supplied decades of political ammunition for Republicans. Beginning with Richard M. Nixon, they rallied Americans disturbed by noisy protests over civil rights, the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War.

“Acid, amnesty and abortion” was the epithet hurled at the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, George McGovern. Republicans seized on concerns about welfare, school busing and crime — memorably with a black convict named Willie Horton in 1988 — to cement their grip on white voters. As recently as 2004, Republicans used a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to rally tradition-minded “values voters” behind President George W. Bush’s re-election.

Now the values wedge cuts for Democrats. Demographic change keeps shrinking Nixon’s “Silent Majority.” President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress overhauled welfare. Fear of crime has receded enough that members of both parties propose more lenient sentencing.

American households have changed significantly. Nearly half of adults are unmarried. Fully 10 percent of opposite-sex married couples are interracial or interethnic. Acceptance of same-sex marriage has expanded with astonishing speed.

Legalization of medical marijuana has moved, in two states, Colorado and Washington, to legalization of recreational marijuana. College students from the Summer of Love are pushing 70, the elders who disapproved of their behavior are largely gone and young adults are wondering what the turmoil was ever about.

~~  READ MORE  ~~


HOW TO LOOK SMARTER ~~ posted by Andy Borowitz ~~ The New Yorker

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – A new study released Tuesday indicates that wearing glasses does not make arick-perry-290 person look smarter, but standing next to Texas Governor Rick Perry does.

In the study, when participants were shown photos of a person with and without glasses, they registered little or no change in their view of the person’s intelligence.

However, when the photo of the same person was juxtaposed with a photo of Governor Perry, participants suddenly said that the person looked “much smarter” or “brilliant,” with some participants even using the phrase “like a genius.”

According to Davis Logsdon, who conducted the survey for the University of Minnesota, the results could be a game changer in the strategies people use to look smarter. “For people trying to appear more intelligent, it turns out that the must-have accessory is not glasses; it’s Rick Perry,” he said.

Get news satire from The Borowitz Report delivered to your inbox.

Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty.


If He Walks and Talks Like a Monk, but Has His Hand Out …

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In Times Square, amid the dozens of Elmos, Mickey Mouses and superheroes who work the crowds for loose bills, new costumed characters have come to seek their fortunes.

They are mostly men of Chinese descent, with shaved heads, beatific smiles and flowing robes of orange, but sometimes brown or gray. They follow a similar script: Offering wishes of peace and a shiny amulet, they solicit donations from passers-by, often reinforcing their pitch by showing a picture of a temple for which the money seems to be intended. Then they open a notebook filled with the names of previous donors and the amounts given.

The men appear to be Buddhist monks; a smaller number of similarly dressed women say they are Taoist nuns.

No one seems to know who they really are or where they come from. The police have taken no official stance, stepping in only when the monks become aggressive. Various Buddhists have confronted the men, asking about their affiliation or quizzing them about the religion’s precepts. The men remain silent or simply walk away.

They have become ubiquitous — so much so that the Naked Cowboy, the Times Square performer whose real name is Robert Burck, now simply refers to them as “co-workers.”

“They’re littered all over,” he said.

Even in New York, where people soliciting money are practically a tourist attraction, these monks tend to stand out, both for their attire and for their sense of entitlement. They offer the amulet and, in some cases, a bracelet; if they are not satisfied with the donation, they unabashedly demand $20 or more.

This year, the police have arrested at least nine people who have presented themselves as monks, mostly on charges of aggressive begging or unlicensed vending.

But merely begging in the streets is not against the law. The police have largely left these men alone, to the consternation of Buddhist leaders in New York’s Chinese neighborhoods, who portray them as nothing more than beggars who undermine Buddhists’ credibility.

“They are damaging the reputation of real monks and damaging the reputation of Buddhists in America,” said Shi Ruifa, a monk in Brooklyn who is president of a confederation of nearly 50 temples.

Similarly attired men have attracted scrutiny around the world. They are a familiar presence in Australia, where the authorities heralded their reappearance in Sydney with a press statement, “Bogus Buddhists Are Back.” They have also been seen in Canada and New Zealand. In Hong Kong, their presence has merited a Facebook page, Fake Monks in Hong Kong. Overall, there have been few arrests, though the authorities in China recently arrested seven men dressed as Shaolin Temple monks on charges of swindling $26,000 from tourists.

In Toronto, the police received reports a year ago of monks asking for money and threatening to put a hex on those who did not donate, according to Constable Victor Kwong, a spokesman for the Toronto Police Service.

Toronto, like New York, prohibits aggressive panhandling. Although “people thought they were being duped,” Constable Kwong noted, “nothing is illegal about walking around dressed like a monk.” No arrests were made.

Continue reading the main story
In New York, the men have inspired a Fake Monks in New York City page on Facebook, documenting its subjects’ whereabouts, from Central Park to the city’s Chinese neighborhoods, where local monks have mostly driven them away. Last year, Mr. Shi confronted a man in orange robes in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and quizzed him on the Five Precepts of Buddhism.

The man “didn’t know even one,” he said.

In another exchange, Harry Leong, a practicing Buddhist for 25 years, said he respectfully asked a robed man in Times Square for his religious name and temple.

“He did not give me any direct answer, even after I repeated the same questions to him several times,” Mr. Leong recalled. “I then asked him if he was a fraud, and he ran away from me.”

In interviews, the robed men were evasive about where they were from and generally refused to answer any questions about their background, temple or training. They tended to speak little English, favoring Mandarin, with accents hinting of provinces all across China.

One woman dressed as a nun said her temple was in Taiwan, but declined to give specifics.

“I cannot tell you where my temple is,” answered another woman dressed as a nun, who said her family name was Lin and that people called her Little Lin. “I won’t tell you. But it’s not that I don’t have a temple.” At another point, she grabbed at the sleeves of her robe and said, “If I didn’t have a temple, why would I be dressed like this?”

Another man dressed as a monk, eating a hot dog while three topless women and a Spider-Man nearby posed for pictures with tourists, defended his actions. “I’m not a terrorist,” he said in Mandarin. “I’m not an outlaw, I’m not a thief.”

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With that, he got up and began walking toward the subway, saying, “I’m going back to Flushing.”


Cheney’s Back, Blitzing Rivals and Drawing Scorn~~the old bastard just won’t go away…JR

cheney-shoot-friendsAs his heart failed a couple of summers after leaving office, former Vice President Dick Cheney slipped into a coma and, by his later account, spent weeks dreaming that he was in a countryside villa north of Rome, padding down a stone path every morning to pick up a newspaper or coffee.

Yet Mr. Cheney was never one to slip into quiet retirement in Italy or, for that matter, at his Wyoming ranch. Two years after a heart transplant reinvigorated him physically, he seems reinvigorated politically, too, as he takes on President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Clinton, radical Islam, Senator Rand Paul, his own party — and history.

Frustrated by what he considers the president’s weakness as extremist groups seize wide portions of Iraq, Mr. Cheney, 73, has blitzed the airwaves in recent weeks and formed a new organization to promote American national security in a perilous time. He has drawn nothing but scorn from Democrats and even some Republicans who view his remonstrations as the height of hubris from someone they blame for many of the country’s difficulties. To them, he is a punch line.

But Mr. Cheney’s ability to command attention speaks to his distinctive place in the public arena. He is blunt, he is unapologetic and he is seemingly immune to the barbs aimed his way. He remains driven by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and determined to guard the nation against the dangers he sees. If the rest of the world has moved on, he has not. “I’m not running for anything,” he told Charlie Rose in one of his multiple interviews of late. “I get to say exactly what I think.”

Some have no interest in listening. On MSNBC and on liberal op-ed pages and websites, his re-emergence has provided endless fodder for who-is-he-to-talk commentary. Some activists even argued he should be barred from television because they view him as discredited.

For a White House beleaguered on multiple fronts, the former vice president’s return is in fact a welcome opportunity to focus attention on decisions made by Mr. Cheney and President George W. Bush rather than defending Mr. Obama’s own handling of foreign policy, which most Americans disapprove of in polls.

“He’s like the A-Rod of politics,” said David Plouffe, the longtime Obama strategist, referring to Alex Rodriguez, the scandal-tarnished baseball star. “No one wants to hear from him, especially when he is trying to create an alternate reality to the one he is responsible for.”

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How the Iraq War Launched the Modern Era of Political BS

Factual divides over whether Iraq had WMDs, and whether Saddam was working with Osama, set the stage for today’s battles over reality.
—By Chris Mooney | Wed Jun. 25, 2014–Mother Jones

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That queasy sensation of déjà vu you’re experiencing is understandable. With Iraq back in the news, and Paul Wolfowitz and Bill Kristol on TV sounding off about the situation, there’s every reason to worry that a new wave of misinformation is on the way.

There is no debate that the Iraq war was sold to the American public with a collection of claims that ended up being proved false. Iraq was said to have weapons of mass destruction, but this wasn’t the case. Advocates for the war insinuated that Saddam Hussein was colluding with Al Qaeda and was somehow involved in the 9/11 attacks. That, too, was false.

Yet many Americans (and some of their leaders) still believe this stuff. It’s a tragedy, but it’s also a kind of natural experiment in misinformation, its origins, and its consequences. And since 2003 social scientists, psychologists, and pollsters have been busy examining why false beliefs like these are embraced even in the face of irrefutable evidence—and what impact this sort of disinformation has on American political discourse.

The resulting research shows that the Iraq war looks like an early version of a current phenomenon: the right wing rooting its stances in simple untruths about the world (see climate change). So here’s a quick trip through some of the ground-breaking scholarship on how the Iraq war polarized the US public over the acceptance of basic facts:

The role of Fox News. In a pioneering study that laid the groundwork for much future work, the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland used a series of post-Iraq war polls (conducted from June through September in 2003) to analyze the the preponderance of false beliefs about the war. The study first defined three clear falsehoods: 1) real evidence linking Iraq and Al-Qaeda had been uncovered; 2) WMDs had been discovered in Iraq following the US invasion; and 3) global public opinion was in favor of the US invasion. Then, it examined the likelihood of holding such incorrect beliefs based upon a person’s political party affiliation and habits of news consumption.

Sure enough, Fox viewers led the way in embracing these false assertions, with 80 percent of them believing at least one of the three. Seventy-one percent of CBS viewers also held one of these three false beliefs. For consumers of NPR and PBS, only 23 percent believed one or more of these pro-war myths. Notably, Republicans and supporters of George W. Bush had a much higher level of belief in these falsehoods. So what caused these misperceptions to exist? Republican ideological allegiance likely led to an initial belief in these misrepresentations, but then Fox watching bolstered these views. For Democrats, too, watching Fox worsened their misperceptions.

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SundayReview~~NYT | OP-ED COLUMNIST The End of Iraq Changing Maps in the Mideast~~Ross Douthat

EVERY so often, in the post-9/11 era, an enterprising observer circulates a map of what the Middle East might look like, well, after: after America’s wars in the region, after the various revolutions and counterrevolutions, after the Arab Spring and the subsequent springtime for jihadists, after the Sunni-Shiite struggle for mastery. At some point, these cartographers suggest, the wave of post-9/11 conflict will necessarily redraw borders, reshape nation-states, and rub out some of the lines drawn by Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot in a secret Anglo-French treaty almost 100 years ago.

In 2006, it was Ralph Peters, the retired lieutenant colonel turned columnist, who sketched a map that subdivided Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and envisioned Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics emerging from a no-longer-united Iraq. Two years later, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg imagined similar partings-of-the-ways, with new microstates — an Alawite Republic, an Islamic Emirate of Gaza — taking shape and Afghanistan splitting up as well. Last year, it was Robin Wright’s turn in this newspaper, in a map that (keeping up with events) subdivided Libya as well.

Peters’s map, which ran in Armed Forces Journal, inspired conspiracy theories about how this was America’s real plan for remaking the Middle East. But the reality is entirely different: One reason these maps have remained strictly hypothetical, even amid regional turmoil, is that the United States has a powerful interest in preserving the Sykes-Picot status quo.

This is not because the existing borders are in any way ideal. Indeed, there’s a very good chance that a Middle East that was more politically segregated by ethnicity and faith might become a more stable and harmonious region in the long run.

Such segregation is an underappreciated part of Europe’s 20th-century transformation into a continent at peace. As Jerry Muller argued in Foreign Affairs in 2008, the brutal ethnic cleansing and forced migrations that accompanied and followed the two world wars ensured that “for the most part, each nation in Europe had its own state, and each state was made up almost exclusively of a single ethnic nationality,” which in turn sapped away some of the “ethnonational aspirations and aggression” that had contributed to imperialism, fascism and Hitler’s rise.

But this happened after the brutal ethnic cleansing that accompanied and followed two world wars. There’s no good reason to imagine that a redrawing of Middle Eastern borders could happen much more peacefully. Which is why American policy makers, quite sensibly, have preferred the problematic stability of current arrangements to the long-term promise of a Free Kurdistan or Baluchistan, a Greater Syria or Jordan, a Wahhabistan or Tripolitania.

This was true even of the most ambitious (and foolhardy) architects of the Iraq invasion, who intended to upset a dictator-dominated status quo … but not, they mostly thought, in a way that would redraw national boundaries. Instead, the emphasis was on Iraq’s potential for post-Saddam cohesion, its prospects as a multiethnic model for democratization and development. That emphasis endured through the darkest days of our occupation, when the voices calling for partition — including the current vice president, Joe Biden — were passed over and unity remained America’s strategic goal.  But now that strategy has almost failed. De facto, with the shocking advance of militants toward Baghdad, there are now three states in what we call Iraq: one Kurdish, one Shiite and one Sunni — with the last straddling the Iraq-Syria border and “governed” by jihadists.

This means that Iraq is now part of an arc, extending from Hezbollah’s fiefdom in Lebanon through war-torn Syria, in which official national borders are notional at best. And while full dissolution is not yet upon us, the facts on the ground in Iraq look more and more like Peters’s map than the country that so many Americans died to stabilize and secure.

What’s more, we pretty clearly lack both the will and the capacity to change them. It is possible, as The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins has argued, that a clearer Obama administration focus on Iraq, and a more effective attempt to negotiate a continued American presence three years ago, could have prevented this unraveling. (Little about this White House’s recent foreign policy record inspires much confidence in its efforts in Iraq.)

But now? Now our leverage relative to the more immediate players is at a modern low point, and the progress of regional war has a momentum that U.S. airstrikes are unlikely to arrest.

Our basic interests have not altered: better stability now, better the Sykes-Picot borders with all their flaws, than the very distant promise of a postconflict Middle Eastern map.

But two successive administrations have compromised those interests: one through recklessness, the other through neglect. Now the map is changing; now, as in early-20th-century Europe, the price of transformation is being paid in blood.


Democrats See Winning Issue in Carbon Plan

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WASHINGTON — He is a Democrat in a marquee Senate race, pressed by a strong Republican in a state with a challenging political environment. So when a new proposal to limit power plant emissions was seen as posing a threat to allies of the Obama administration, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado acted quickly: He embraced the plan.

“Coloradans have seen firsthand the harmful effects of climate change, including severe drought, record wildfires and reduced snowpack,” Mr. Udall said in a statement shortly after the Environmental Protection Agency plan was made public last week. “The E.P.A.’s draft rule is a good start, and I will fight to ensure it complements the work we have already done in Colorado and provides states the flexibility they need to make it successful.”

The E.P.A. proposal to reduce carbon pollution from power plants was deemed a political gift from the Obama administration to Republicans running for Senate seats in the coal-producing states of Kentucky and West Virginia, and an anchor around the necks of their Democratic opponents. Elsewhere, the threat of higher electricity bills and Republican attacks about another federal power grab were supposed to send Democrats scurrying for cover and distance from the White House.

But Mr. Udall’s example shows that not all Democrats look at it that way.

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Last Of The Navajo ‘Code Talkers’ Dies At 93

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Chester Nez, one of 29 Navajo Code Talkers whose language skills thwarted the Japanese military in World War II, is shown in a November 2009 photo. Nez died on Wednesday.

 

The last of the Navajo “Code Talkers” who used their native language as the basis of a cipher that confounded the Japanese military during World War II has died at age 93.

Chester Nez, of Albuquerque, N.M., died Wednesday of kidney failure, member station KPCC reports. He was the last of the original 29 U.S. Marine Code Talkers, who were the subject of the 2002 film Windtalkers starring Nicolas Cage. Nez himself is the author of the book Code Talker.

Nez told KJZZ’s Laurel Morales in an interview in 2011 that “the Japanese tried everything in their power to try to decipher our code but they never succeeded.”

According to AZCentral.com, Nez was in the 10th grade when he was recruited in the spring of 1942 by representatives of the U.S. Marines, who came to his Arizona boarding school looking for Navajo speakers.

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Climate Change Deemed Growing Security Threat by Military Researchers

bag-lunch-afghanistanWASHINGTON — The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict, a report published Tuesday by a leading government-funded military research organization concluded.

The CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

In addition, the report predicted that an increase in catastrophic weather events around the world will create more demand for American troops, even as flooding and extreme weather events at home could damage naval ports and military bases.

In an interview, Secretary of State John Kerry signaled that the report’s findings would influence American foreign policy.

“Tribes are killing each other over water today,” Mr. Kerry said. “Think of what happens if you have massive dislocation, or the drying up of the waters of the Nile, of the major rivers in China and India. The intelligence community takes it seriously, and it’s translated into action.”

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