Snow-Making For Skiing During Warm Winters Comes With Environmental Cost ~ NPR


Snow-making has been called a Band-Aid to the bigger problem of warming temperatures.

Patrik Duda / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm


In the height of ski season this year, blades of grass and patches of dirt still dot cross country ski trails in Aspen, Colo. Conditions like this present a conundrum for professional skiers: Their livelihood relies on snow and cold temperatures, but essentials like travel and snow-making come with an environmental cost.

Simi Hamilton is one of the fastest cross country skiers in the world, and before the snow fell this season, he hit the pavement in his hometown of Aspen on roller skis. Training without snow is something Hamilton is getting used to. Year after year, he watches the snow line move further up the mountains.

“We would be in the high Alps at 6,000 feet trying to train in mid-January and we’d still be training on just, like, a two-foot deep platform of man-made snow and there’s just green grass next to the trails,” Hamilton said.

Olympic cross country skier Simi Hamilton trained on roller skis in his hometown of Aspen, Colo., last fall.

Elizabeth Stewart-Severy/Aspen Public Radio


A missed turn on this ribbon of snow means skiers get grass stains, and that’s the new reality of cross country skiing. Warming temperatures mean a later start to winter. Even after winter hits, more precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow. The lack of snow means ski areas have to fill in the gaps.

“There’s not a whole lot ski resorts can do other than buff out snow-making,” said Auden Schendler, vice president for sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company.

Most of the snow that cross country skiers race on is artificial. Resorts and cross country race venues across the world blow huge piles of man-made snow. They truck it across the landscape to create ski trails, and some resorts are even storing manufactured snow through the summer months to be sure they can provide skiing early in the season.

This sets up a tricky situation: a warming climate is undeniably detrimental to the ski industry. But Schendler said the man-made snow solution is just a Band-Aid, and one that actually aggravates the problem.

“You’re using a very energy-intensive fix to deal with a changing climate and the fix cannibalizes the very climate you care about,” Schendler said.

As global temperatures rise, researchers have tracked an upward trend in both the number of resorts that are making snow, and the number of acres they cover with the artificial stuff. Elizabeth Burakowski studies changes in winter climate at the University of New Hampshire.

“It is a challenge for professional athletes to say, walk the walk when it comes to carbon emissions,” Burakowski said.

But snow-making technology is becoming more efficient, according to Burakowski. In terms of global greenhouse gas emissions, the industry is “probably a drop in the bucket.”

Nonetheless, athletes like Olympic cross country skier Noah Hoffman are aware that every drop counts.

“We see the changes to the climate on a yearly basis, and yet, we’re burning huge amounts of fossil fuels flying from venue to venue, and then the snow that we ski on is incredibly energy intensive,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman tries to offset the harm caused by his Olympic skiing dream by speaking out on environmental issues.

“I don’t know how to settle those two sides of the coin in my own mind,” he said.

But he thinks it starts with acknowledging his own role in contributing to the problem.


Elise LeGrow’s ‘Playing Chess’ Honors Blues And R&B Greats


Elise LeGrow remakes blues and soul classics for her full-length debut, Playing Chess.

Shervin Lainez/Courtesy of the artist


Chess Records is an American institution. Founded in Chicago by Phil and Leonard Chess in the 1950s, it became the label that launched Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Watersand Bo Diddley. Now, Canadian singer Elise LeGrow is taking on the label’s catalog on her debut album: Playing Chess features covers of songs made famous by Chuck Berry, Etta James, Sugar Pie DeSanto, The Moonglows and more.

“Etta James has been one of my favorite singers for a very long time and, of course, I was aware of Chuck Berry’s hits. But I didn’t realize that the common thread there was Chess,” LeGrow tells NPR’s Scott Simon.

The album features guest appearances from the Dap-Kings and, on the track “Long, Lonely Nights,” Questlove and Captain Kirk Douglas from The Roots. Questlove’s father, Lee Andrews, co-wrote that ballad back in 1965.

As she put together the track list, LeGrow says, old memories collided with some new surprises. Now 30, she’d heard Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” for the first time as a child, playing behind Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction‘s iconic dance sequence. When she put the song on her covers shortlist, her producer revealed he had written an original melody for the lyrics 40 years ago. Their combined efforts resulted in something all LeGrow’s own: “I’ve had some people say it’s completely unrecognizable until they hear the line, ‘C’est la vie,’ ” she says.

LeGrow is already looking ahead to her next release, but she says she’ll still want her sound to stay in the tradition of the greats she emulates on Playing Chess: “a live band and a girl in a room.”

Playing Chess is available now from S-Curve Records. Listen to the full interview at the audio link.


Alec Baldwin’s Trump returns to SNL to get his intelligence briefing from ‘Fox and Friends’

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“Saturday Night Live” kicked off this week’s episode with a cold open sketch that lampooned “Fox & Friends” and included a cameo from President Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin, watching the morning show from bed.

“We want to say a big hello to all of our fans out there,” the Ainsley Earhardt character (Heidi Gardner) says. “Whether you’re fixing breakfast, or getting dressed for work, or laying in the Lincoln Bedroom tweeting with an Egg McMuffin on your chest — hello!”


‘Deep Scars’ as Trucker Drives Across Peru’s 2,000-Year-Old Nazca Lines ~ NYT


The condor geoglyph in the Nazca Lines south of Lima. Credit Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press

A 2,000-year-old United Nations World Heritage Site in Peru was damaged this week when a trucker intentionally drove his tractor-trailer off a roadway that runs through the protected historic area, the authorities said.

The site, the famed Nazca Lines, is a sprawling series of images scratched into the surface of a coastal plain about 225 miles south of Lima, the capital. The site was created between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500, and is the world’s best-known example of geoglyphs — large designs created by arranging rocks or altering the landscape — that depict animals, plants and other figures.

The truck driver, Jainer Jesús Flores Vigo, was arrested and is expected to be charged with an “attack against cultural heritage,” according to the government-owned news outlet Andina.

The Nazca Lines, created by a pre-Inca civilization, are believed to have been used for religious and ceremonial gatherings for hundreds of years. From the ground, the lines are nearly impossible to identify; their true splendor is best viewed from above.

The Pan-American Highway, which runs through the protected site, has left it increasingly vulnerable to human actions, according to the United Nations.

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George “Dubya” is back … SNL

Will Ferrell revived his beloved George W. Bush impersonation to open Saturday Night Live when the actor and 12th greatest SNL cast member returned to guest host the latest episode.

In the cold open, Ferrell’s “Dubya” talked about how Donald Trump’s White House has suddenly cast the Bush administration in a positive light, so the former president wanted to remind everyone how bad his eight years in office were.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen the news but according to a new poll, my approval rating is at an all-time high. That’s right: Donnie Q. Trump came in and suddenly I’m looking pretty sweet by comparison. At this rate, I might even end up on Mount Rushmore,” Dubya said.

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Military Victory But Political Defeat: The Tet Offensive 50 Years Later ~ NPR


A unit of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, rests alongside a battered wall of Hue’s imperial palace after a battle for the Citadel in February 1968, during the Tet Offensive.



Looking back a half century, to when they were young officers, their memories of the battle of Hue are still fresh.

“What I saw was probably the most intense ground fighting on a sustained basis over several days of any other period during the war,” says Howard Prince, an Army captain who worked with South Vietnamese forces.

“We were under fire, under heavy fire,” says Jim Coolican, a Marine captain.

Mike Downs, another Marine captain recalls, “We didn’t know where the enemy was, in which direction even.”

The enemy forces were everywhere. Inside houses and tunnels and in the sewer system, and they captured the citadel, a massive castle-like expanse in this city that was once the imperial capital, just north of Saigon.

It was the bloodiest battle of the Tet Offensive and also the entire war — and it all took American officials completely by surprise, says author Mark Bowden.

“You had the incredible rose-colored reports coming from Gen. William Westmoreland, who was the American commander in Vietnam,” says Bowden, who wrote the recent book Hue 1968. “[He was] assuring the American people that the end was near, that the enemy was really only capable of small kinds of ambushes in the far reaches of the country.”

But then came Tet. North Vietnamese troops and their Viet Cong allies swept throughout cities and towns, into military bases, even breaching the walls of the U.S. Embassy grounds in Saigon.

Back in Washington, President Lyndon Johnson called his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, and asked for an explanation.

McNamara told him that the American people would realize that the enemy forces were stronger than they had been told, that the Pentagon was searching for targets but the Vietnamese enemies were still a “substantial force.”

A substantial force. But just six weeks earlier, a top White House official told New York Times reporter Gene Roberts the war was already over.

Roberts was heading off to Vietnam, so National Security Adviser Walt Rostow gave him a story idea. He told Roberts about a new U.S. agricultural program, Roberts recalls, “which would double the rice yields in Vietnam and would win the peace now that Americans had won the war.”


The Untold Story of the Pentagon Papers Co-Conspirators ~ The New Yorker


In 1971, Gar Alperovitz played a vital, clandestine role in making the Pentagon Papers public.

Photograph by Sharon Alperovitz

Speaking publicly for the first time, a historian reveals the crucial role that he and a small band of others played in helping Daniel Ellsberg leak the documents to journalists.

In June of 1971, Gar Alperovitz, a thirty-five-year-old historian, sped through suburban Boston, looking for an out-of-the-way pay phone to use to call a reporter. Alperovitz had never considered himself much of a risk-taker. The father of two ran a small economic think tank focussed on community-building. He had participated in demonstrations against the Vietnam War and rung doorbells with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Boston, as part of an antiwar campaign. But what he was doing on this day, propelled by his desire to end the conflict, could lead to federal prison.

He pulled his old Saab up to a phone booth on the outskirts of Harvard Square, and rang a hotel room nearby. When the reporter picked up, Alperovitz identified himself with the alias he had adopted: “It’s Mr. Boston.” Alperovitz told the journalist to open the door. Waiting in the hallway was a cardboard box, left minutes before by a runner working with Alperovitz. Inside were several hundred pages of the most sought-after documents in the United States—the top-secret Vietnam history known as the Pentagon Papers.

The handoff was one of about a dozen clandestine encounters with journalists that Alperovitz orchestrated over the course of a three-week period, when he and a small group of fellow antiwar activists helped Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst at the rand Corporation, elude an F.B.I. manhunt and distribute the Pentagon Papers to nineteen newspapers. Ellsberg, who had smuggled the documents out of rand’s Santa Monica office two years earlier and copied them with the help of a colleague, has long been the public face of the leak. But Ellsberg was aided by about a half-dozen volunteers whose identities have stayed secret for forty-six years, despite the intense interest of the Nixon Administration, thousands of articles, books, documentaries, plays, and now a major film, “The Post,” starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, about the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg told me that the hidden role of this group was so critical to the operation that he gave them a code name—The Lavender Hill Mob, the name of a 1951 film about a ragtag group of amateur bank robbers. He has referred obliquely to his co-conspirators over the years. But he held back from identifying them because some in the group still feared repercussions.

Now, Alperovitz, who is eighty-one, has agreed to be revealed for the first time. “I’m getting old,” Alperovitz told me, with a laugh. Several other members of the group told me that they still wished to remain anonymous, or declined interview requests. One former Harvard graduate student who also played a major role—she hid the papers in her apartment and organized hideouts for Ellsberg—considered coming forward in this piece, but she ultimately decided not to, after conferring with lawyers. As a green-card holder, she worried that her involvement could lead to her deportation by the Trump Administration. Still, she remains proud of her role. “Those were extraordinary days,” she told me. “It was about questioning the government and being against the government. I was very, very angry about what was happening in Vietnam.”

Alperovitz said that the renewed interest in the Pentagon Papers, brought on by “The Post,” pushed him to finally acknowledge his role, but he also alluded to the “very dangerous” climate under President Trump. A historian and political economist, whose writings have focussed on the dangers of nuclear war and economic inequality, Alperovitz said that Trump’s “outrageous and destabilizing” rhetoric on North Korea compelled him to tell his story and “to suggest to people that it’s time to take action.”

“We were trying to stop the war,” Alperovitz told me in, in an interview in his home near Washington. “I’m not heroic in this, but I just felt it important to act,” he said. “There were lots of people dying unnecessarily. There were lots of people who were taking risks to try to end the war, and I was one of them.”

Ellsberg told me that Alperovitz, in particular, was “critical to the way this thing worked out,” organizing the broader distribution of the papers. Ellsberg had initially turned over the documents only to Neil Sheehan, a reporter at the Times, which published the first front-page article on the Pentagon Papers, on June 13, 1971. (The Nixon Administration quickly secured an injunction to halt the Times from continuing to publish the documents.) But it was Alperovitz who devised the strategy of distributing the papers to as many news organizations as possible, including the Washington Post, an approach that later proved to be crucial from both a legal and public-relations standpoint. And it was Alperovitz who came up with the elaborate techniques for slipping the documents to reporters while evading the authorities. “Gar took care of all the cloak-and-dagger stuff,” Ellsberg said.

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Legendary Trumpeter Hugh Masekela Dies At 78


Hugh Masekela burst on the world pop scene in the 1960s, playing alongside Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The legendary jazz musician died on Tuesday at age 78.

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Hugh Masekela, the legendary South African jazz musician who scored an unlikely No. 1 hit on the Billboard chart with his song “Grazing in the Grass” and who collaborated with artists ranging from Harry Belafonte to Paul Simon, has died at 78 after a protracted battle with prostate cancer, his family announced Tuesday.

“[Our] hearts beat with profound loss,” the Masekela family said in a statement. “Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions across 6 continents.”

Over his career, Masekela collaborated with an astonishing array of musicians, including Harry Belafonte, Herb Alpert, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Paul Simon — and his ex-wife, Miriam Makeba. For almost 30 years, “Bra Hugh,” as he was fondly known, was exiled from his native country. And almost despite himself — as he struggled for decades with copious drug and alcohol abuse — Masekela became a leading international voice against apartheid.


The trumpeter, composer, flugelhorn player, bandleader, singer and political activist was born in the mining town of Witbank, South Africa, on April 4, 1939. Growing up, he lived largely with his grandmother, who ran a shebeen — an illicit bar for black and colored South Africans — in her house. (Until 1961, it was illegal for nonwhites in South Africa to consume alcohol.)

Masekela heard township bands and the music of the migrant laborers who would gather to dance and sing in the shebeen on weekends. One of his uncles shared 78s of jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller. Those two forces, the music and the booze, did much to shape Masekela’s life. He began drinking at age 13.

He was given his first trumpet at age 14 by an anti-apartheid crusader, the Rev. Trevor Huddleston, who was also the superintendent of a boarding school that Masekela attended.

“I was always in trouble with the authorities in school,” Masekela told NPR in 2004.


“Slow Burn”: What Can Watergate Teach Us? By Sarah Larson ~ The New Yorker


The podcast, hosted by Slate’s Leon Neyfakh, offers a sense of political drama, hope, and the comfort of knowing that justice was served.

Photograph by Bettmann / Getty

“Slow Burn,” the popular Slate podcast about Watergate hosted by Leon Neyfakh, will soon reach its exciting conclusion, in which, one assumes, Richard Nixon resigns in disgrace. Each week, in half-hour-ish segments, “Slow Burn” seeks to illuminate for the modern listener what it was like to live through the Watergate scandal, beginning with the aftermath of the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters, in June, 1972, and following the wild story’s circuitous path, illuminating its basic elements—the burglars’ connections to Nixon’s reëlection campaign, the secret White House recordings, Deep Throat, and the like— as well as less familiar characters and crazy minor details, involving everything from stolen shoes to dune buggies.

“Slow Burn” manages all of this with aplomb, vivid writing, deft use of archival and recent audio, and a zesty theme song that evokes seventies TV. Neyfakh, a Slate staff writer, narrates in careful but excited tones, sounding like a wonk who’s truly enjoying himself. All of this is key to what makes listening to “Slow Burn” feel vital: a sense of political drama, hope, and the comfort of knowing that justice was served. It’s both escapist and invigorating. You listen with attention, as if you’re searching for answers. After the first episode came out, Chris Hayes of MSNBC tweeted, “it blew my mind”; Neyfakh appeared on Hayes’s show in late December and on Rachel Maddow’s in early January. Both hosts asked him about Watergate’s relevance to today. The answer to that question is complicated—and less fun than listening to “Slow Burn.”

Watergate has “this long, wonderful story that people only know a little piece of, and it has certain resonances with our current political moment,” Neyfakh told me recently. “All the President’s Men,” the 1976 movie based on the 1974 book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, he went on, “only covered the first five or six months. It begins with the burglary and then it ends with the Inauguration—June to January. There’s all this other stuff that happened afterward that is not covered. And that I personally knew very little about.” Neyfakh is thirty-two. “All the President’s Men” ends with a shot of the Washington Post newsroom, Nixon on TV getting inaugurated for his second term, and a great clattering of typewriter keys: journalists writing, and then a montage of teletype headlines culminating in “nixon resigns.” That resignation happened in August, 1974, two years after the break-in. “Slow Burn” explains what was going on during that montage, and it’s as bonkers as it is revelatory.

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