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WGBH News: U.S. News



U.S. News News from WGBH, Boston



Published: Sun, 02 Dec 2012 12:14:00 EST

 



Bloomberg: Facebook's Saverin May Save $67 Million By Renouncing Citizenship

Wed, 16 May 2012 15:22:00 EST

News that Eduardo Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship ignited controversy from those who accused him of trying to dodge taxes and those who say it's just a symptom of a costly tax code.

Bloomberg took out its pencil, paper and calculator and came up with this number: $67 million.

That's how much the news service estimates Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin could save in federal income taxes after having renounced his United States citizenship in advance of social media company's public debut.

Bloomberg reports:

"The company plans to sell shares for as high as $38 apiece this week, compared with $32.10 in private auctions on SharesPost Inc. on Sept. 26. Saverin's stake may be worth as much as $2.89 billion, based on the company's 1.898 billion total shares outstanding. His stake was worth about $2.44 billion in September.

"Bloomberg calculated the $67 million figure by applying the 15 percent U.S. capital gains rate to the approximate $448 million spread between the two values. Bloomberg's methodology was reviewed by Robert Willens, an independent tax adviser based in New York."

Saverin's spokesman told Bloomberg their calculations were flat out wrong and that it furthers the narrative that Saverin gave up his citizenship to dodge taxes.

"His motive had nothing to do with tax and everything to do with his desire to live and work in Singapore," Tom Goodman told Bloomberg.

Since Saverin's decision became public earlier this week, it has been derided and praised by those who accused him of being greedy and trying to dodge taxes and those who say it's just a symptom of a costly tax code.

Today, in an op-ed by The Los Angeles Times, Bruce Ackerman defends the individual right to renounce one's citizenship, but the consequence of doing so should be severe, he argues.

"The key point is to reject the cynical notion that citizenship is just another marketplace commodity," Ackerman writes. "If an American wishes to separate himself from this country and its people, he is taking a step of deep significance. He should not be able to easily return and brag to his friends about the billions he is making by evading civic responsibilities."

In today's Wall Street Journal, the paper finds that while the practice of giving up citizenship is rare, "the trend has accelerated over the past two years-especially in Asian financial centers."

The paper found that in 2010, about 100 Americans "opted out of U.S. citizenship in Singapore last year, almost double the 58 that did so in 2009." About 1,780 gave up citizenship worldwide in 2010, up from 742 in 2009. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Town's Effort To Link Fracking And Illness Falls Short

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:41:00 EST

Many residents of Dish, Texas, blame the fracking operations that surround their tiny town for a host of health problems - from nosebleeds to cancer. The former mayor was so scared, he left town. But scientists who've studied Dish say there's not enough evidence to link natural gas operations to any illness.Quite a few of the 225 people who live in Dish, Texas, think the nation's natural gas boom is making them sick.They blame the chemicals used in gas production for health problems ranging from nosebleeds to cancer.And the mayor of Dish, Bill Sciscoe, has a message for people who live in places where gas drilling is about to start: "Run. Run as fast as you can. Grab up your family and your belongings, and get out."But scientists say it's just not clear whether pollutants from gas wells are hurting people in Dish or anywhere else. What is clear, they say, is that the evidence the town has presented so far doesn't have much scientific heft.'This Place Was Absolutely Beautiful'To understand why people in Dish feel the way they do, it helps to look at a satellite image of the tiny town about 35 miles north of Fort Worth.From above, you see an odd patchwork: ranch-style homes and green pastures interspersed with industrial lots filled with gas wells, compressors, storage tanks and metering stations.A visit to Dish fills in the details.In most parts of town, it's hard to miss the sulfurous odor of escaping gas or the rumble of compressor engines big enough to power a locomotive.Mayor Sciscoe has agreed to give me a tour of Dish and explain why he thinks natural gas production is bad for residents' health. He's an imposing guy who meets me dressed in black cowboy boots, a black sport jacket and aviator sunglasses.Sciscoe has been in charge of Dish since last year, when the previous mayor and his family actually did leave town to get away from the drilling.Gas wells weren't always a part of the landscape, Sciscoe says. There weren't any when he arrived in 1987."This place was absolutely beautiful," he says. "It was serene. It was very quiet, very clean. I raised five children here," including two who became Marines.But in 2005, two things happened to the town, which was named Clark at the time.First, Clark became Dish as part of a deal to get free satellite TV service from the Dish network.Second, energy companies arrived and began drilling lots of gas wells. The wells were made possible by a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which released natural gas trapped in the hard shale a mile underground.'A Who's Who Toxic Chemical Mix'To explain how profound that change has been, Sciscoe brings me to the biggest thing in Dish. It's a swath of gas wells and heavy equipment that stretches for a quarter-mile at the town's southern border. Sciscoe says emissions from this site are a big problem."It's just a who's who toxic chemical mix," he says. "Pretty much all of those items that you get from petroleum products are spewing into the air in this area."The town spent $15,000 on an air quality study several years ago. It found elevated levels of several chemicals including benzene. But since then, energy companies have made some changes, and an air monitoring station installed by the state has shown that pollution levels are generally within government limits.Dish also got state health officials to come and check residents' blood and urine for toxins. The officials say they found no cause for concern, though Sciscoe disagrees.It's pretty clear people in Dish have been hurt, he says."There's not a lot of residents right around this facility. But within a quarter of a mile, half a mile of this facility, there's been six people die of cancer here," he says. "And so do I think this is a concern? Yes I do."So why don't scientists see it that way?Health Effects: What Would It Take To Know For Sure?To find out, I make a visit to Brian Schwartz, an environmental epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.I ask him what it would take to figure out whether there really is a link between ga[...]



Latino Voters: Seen, But Will They Be Heard, In 2012?

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:57:00 EST

Now the fastest growing voting group, Latinos have never been so heavily courted in a presidential race. They could play a key role in battleground states in the 2012 elections.If young voters were the breakout stars of the 2008 presidential election, then Latino voters may take center stage this year.Every other week or so, it seems, a new poll gauges Latinos' opinions about the candidates, the issues and their level of engagement. Both parties are pouring millions into their Latino outreach. Latino politicians have assumed prominent roles in the conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. And a Latino senator is on the short list of potential running mates for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.Latino voters arguably never have received this much attention so early in a presidential election. It's a new reality for America's largest minority group and fastest growing bloc of voters.But, for Latino advocates, the heightened interest won't matter much if their concerns don't move to the front burners of the two parties."If you are truly looking to be competitive at the national level, there's no way you can continue on the path of ignoring Latino voters," say Clarissa Martinez, director of immigration and national campaigns for National Council of La Raza, the oldest Latino civil rights group in the U.S. "Latinos now are asking the question, 'OK, so what are you going to do? We appreciate you stopping by. We had the pictures [taken]. We had the words in Spanish [from candidates]. When do we get to the policy stands that are actually acted upon?' "A Focus Beyond ImmigrationLatinos are frustrated with both parties for failing to enact an immigration overhaul, one of candidate Barack Obama's 2008 campaign promises. They are also angry at the Obama administration for processing a record number of deportations over the past three years.On Thursday, coordinated protests planned in presidential battleground states will demand that Obama exempt Dream Act-eligible young people from deportation. (The Dream Act, which failed to pass the Senate last year, would provide a path to citizenship for young people brought illegally to the U.S. as children if they attend college or serve in the military.)Education is another issue important to Latinos but not prominent so far on the campaign trail. A poll released Tuesday, by the American Federation for Children and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), found that 58 percent of Latinos in five battleground states want to "hear more from the presidential candidates on how they will improve education." By comparison, only 49 percent of all respondents agreed."There's much more to gaining ground with Latino voters than immigration," Albert Collazo, spokesman for HCREO, told reporters.Latinos polled also ranked the economy and jobs as their top concerns, followed by the federal deficit and education.An estimated 22 million or more Hispanics will be eligible to vote in 2012. Many projections put their voter turnout in November as high as 12 million, which would be a record and a 26 percent increase from 2008.Latinos could be especially important in battleground states with large Hispanic populations, such as Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, where their strong turnouts on Election Day could determine outcomes in congressional races as well as the presidential contest."I think Latinos have been accustomed to the attention of candidates since the late 1990s and then them disappearing after," says Stanford University political scientist Gary Segura, a principal in the polling group Latino Decisions. "The 2012 emphasis may be a function of what happened in 2010 - the only places where Republicans lost [elections] were in places with huge Latino numbers, like in Colorado, California and Nevada."Unprecedented Steps To Reach Latinos President Obama was the first in U.S. history to win the office without capturing a majority of white voters. Given his unpopularity among white men, he's pinning his[...]



Candidates Gird For A 'Scorched Earth' Campaign

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:24:00 EST

With both the economy and his own poll numbers weaker than he'd want them to be, President Obama has launched attack ads against Mitt Romney that are unusually blunt and direct for this early stage of a campaign. And Romney has responded with a few roundhouse rights of his own.If President Obama is already running campaign ads that showcase people describing Mitt Romney as a "vampire" and a "job destroyer," what will his ads be like by November?It's not unusual for an incumbent president to launch springtime attacks against a challenger, but the tone of the ads Obama has already run regarding Romney's business record and his views on foreign policy and social issues portend a highly negative campaign, political observers say."It's hyperbole every election to say, 'This is the most negative election ever,' " says Republican consultant Dave Carney. "I think hyperbole will be fact this cycle."Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has not shied from criticizing Obama, running hostile ads and devoting the bulk of most of his speeches to claims that a second Obama term would do serious harm to the economy and individual freedom.But a challenger will always attack. A presidential race can turn particularly vicious when the incumbent feels vulnerable and begins castigating his opponent."When they feel the heat, that's when they bring out the heavy artillery, says Kerwin Swint, author of Mudslingers: The Twenty-Five Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time.With the economy still wobbly and Obama barely ahead or sometimes trailing Romney in the latest polls, the president's campaign will do everything it can to sully Romney's name before swing voters can picture him comfortably in the White House, Swint says"They don't want to give independents a chance to get used to Mitt Romney as a credible president," says Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. "Those images of greed and laying people off - that's what they want to shape over the summer."Not Above The FrayThere was a time presidents seeking re-election shied from tearing down their opponents, at least this early in the campaign year.Bill Clinton began running TV ads a full year ahead of his 1996 re-election bid, but they criticized Republicans in general, as opposed to his eventual opponent, Bob Dole. In 1984, Ronald Reagan barely mentioned his Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale, until the fall.George W. Bush took a more aggressive approach in 2004. As soon as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry had sewn up the Democratic nomination, Bush went on the attack."The day after Super Tuesday, Bush had a meeting at the White House and said, 'Let's go after Kerry as a flip-flopper,' " says William Schneider, a veteran political analyst who teaches public policy at George Mason University. "It was Bush, not Karl Rove, who decided on the strategy."Bush not only attacked Kerry, he sought to undermine Kerry's ability to present himself as a war hero and not a wimpy Democrat.Obama now is trying to do the same thing against Romney, whose success as a "turnaround artist" in business and public service is the driving premise of his campaign."What they're trying to do in both cases is to chip away at their opponent's perceived strength," says Jim Jordan, a Democratic consultant who served as Kerry's campaign manager for part of his presidential run."As distasteful as it is for me to analogize between Obama and the Bush folks, that is a fair [comparison]," Jordan says. "It's a very smart strategy for the Obama guys to be using."Sending A MessageRepublicans say Obama is going on the attack because of the weakness of his own record. But this campaign was bound to be negative because of the very real differences between the two candidates across a variety of policy areas, says David Mark, author of Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning."It's a clashing vision of government," Mark says. "It's inevitably going to be negative and a contrast between the candidates."Mark, a senior e[...]



Candidates Gird For A 'Scorched Earth' Campaign

Wed, 16 May 2012 13:24:00 EST

With both the economy and his own poll numbers weaker than he'd want them to be, President Obama has launched attack ads against Mitt Romney that are unusually blunt and direct for this early stage of a campaign. And Romney has responded with a few roundhouse rights of his own.If President Obama is already running campaign ads that showcase people describing Mitt Romney as a "vampire" and a "job destroyer," what will his ads be like by November?It's not unusual for an incumbent president to launch springtime attacks against a challenger, but the tone of the ads Obama has already run regarding Romney's business record and his views on foreign policy and social issues portend a highly negative campaign, political observers say."It's hyperbole every election to say, 'This is the most negative election ever,' " says Republican consultant Dave Carney. "I think hyperbole will be fact this cycle."Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has not shied from criticizing Obama, running hostile ads and devoting the bulk of most of his speeches to claims that a second Obama term would do serious harm to the economy and individual freedom.But a challenger will always attack. A presidential race can turn particularly vicious when the incumbent feels vulnerable and begins castigating his opponent."When they feel the heat, that's when they bring out the heavy artillery, says Kerwin Swint, author of Mudslingers: The Twenty-Five Dirtiest Political Campaigns of All Time.With the economy still wobbly and Obama barely ahead or sometimes trailing Romney in the latest polls, the president's campaign will do everything it can to sully Romney's name before swing voters can picture him comfortably in the White House, Swint says"They don't want to give independents a chance to get used to Mitt Romney as a credible president," says Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. "Those images of greed and laying people off - that's what they want to shape over the summer."Not Above The FrayThere was a time presidents seeking re-election shied from tearing down their opponents, at least this early in the campaign year.Bill Clinton began running TV ads a full year ahead of his 1996 re-election bid, but they criticized Republicans in general, as opposed to his eventual opponent, Bob Dole. In 1984, Ronald Reagan barely mentioned his Democratic challenger, Walter Mondale, until the fall.George W. Bush took a more aggressive approach in 2004. As soon as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry had sewn up the Democratic nomination, Bush went on the attack."The day after Super Tuesday, Bush had a meeting at the White House and said, 'Let's go after Kerry as a flip-flopper,' " says William Schneider, a veteran political analyst who teaches public policy at George Mason University. "It was Bush, not Karl Rove, who decided on the strategy."Bush not only attacked Kerry, he sought to undermine Kerry's ability to present himself as a war hero and not a wimpy Democrat.Obama now is trying to do the same thing against Romney, whose success as a "turnaround artist" in business and public service is the driving premise of his campaign."What they're trying to do in both cases is to chip away at their opponent's perceived strength," says Jim Jordan, a Democratic consultant who served as Kerry's campaign manager for part of his presidential run."As distasteful as it is for me to analogize between Obama and the Bush folks, that is a fair [comparison]," Jordan says. "It's a very smart strategy for the Obama guys to be using."Sending A MessageRepublicans say Obama is going on the attack because of the weakness of his own record. But this campaign was bound to be negative because of the very real differences between the two candidates across a variety of policy areas, says David Mark, author of Going Dirty: The Art of Negative Campaigning."It's a clashing vision of government," Mark says. "It's inevitably going to be negative and a contrast between the [...]



Four Decades After Dying In Cambodia, Soldier To Receive Medal Of Honor

Wed, 16 May 2012 12:51:00 EST

More than 40 years after his actions during the Vietnam war saved the lives of his fellow soldiers, Army Specialist Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony.

President Barack Obama will award a posthumous Medal of Honor today to Spec. Leslie H. Sabo Jr., a Pennsylvania rifleman killed after sacrificing his body to grenade fire in Vietnam during 1970's "Mother's Day Ambush".

A Defense Department description of Sabo's heroic actions says the 22-year old saved the lives of several other soldiers. He charged enemy positions and killed several North Vietnamese fighters while drawing fire away from his unit.

Later, when a grenade was tossed near a wounded fellow soldier, Sabo used his body to shield his comrade from the blast. Wounded from fire, Sabo then crawled towards an enemy bunker and dropped a grenade that "silenced the enemy fire, but also ended Specialist Sabo's life."

The Associated Press explains the four decade delay in recognizing Sabo's actions:

"The Army says paperwork for the award was done at the time of the war by George Koziol, one of the men wounded in the battle of Se San but that it was lost in 1970 and did not resurface for three decades.

"In 1999, Alton Mabb, a 101st Airborne Division Vietnam veteran, found the original paperwork while at the National Archives researching an article for the division's magazine. A few weeks later he asked archive personnel to send him copies of the paperwork and began the push to get Sabo recognized."

President Obama will present the medal to Sabo's widow, Rose Mary Brown, and brother, George Sabo.

The White House will live stream the medal ceremony, starting at 3 p.m. EDT. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Minority Rules: Who Gets To Claim Status As A Person Of Color?

Wed, 16 May 2012 12:46:00 EST

Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's claims of Native American heritage seem uneasy to swallow. But why? What does it take to be considered an ethnic minority, and what does the controversy say about the way we judge ethnic backgrounds?Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren isn't backing down from her claim of Native American ancestry, despite the apparent lack of primary documents proving that she's 1/32nd Cherokee.The controversy surrounding Warren's heritage led us to wonder - how much of a racial or ethnic heritage constitutes minority status? Should percentages of a bloodline matter at all?The Census Bureau lets individuals self-identify. Since the 2000 count, people have been permitted to check multiple boxes for race or ethnicity. But history has shown a wide variance in how people of different backgrounds come to be identified as part of ethnic groups.Notably, the issue of racial identity surfaced recently following the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, who was African American. The boy's shooter, George Zimmerman, initially was identified as white, prompting accusations that he racially profiled Martin. Once it was reported that Zimmerman's mother is Latino and his father is white, he was identified as Hispanic and later as white Hispanic.The early 20th century's "one-drop rule" stated that a person with a single drop of African blood in their lineage was considered black, and the classification was used for discriminatory purposes."This is the story of the tragic mulatto, right? A person who looks totally white was denigrated as a black person," said Anne Cheng, a professor who specializes in race studies at Princeton University.For generations, people have used their mixed-race background to gain advantages in society. Many of those who were half-black, for instance, "passed" for white to avoid discrimination.Today, some people have flipped the "one-drop rule" to claim minority status to try to gain perceived advantages in scholarships, college admission and in the workplace. In response, the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color passed a resolution last year urging law schools to treat the practice of "box checking" as "academic ethnic fraud."So the question of membership in a distinct racial or ethnic group matters to those both inside and outside the groups. But the ways we define minority status are as diverse as the people defining themselves.Among the 400-plus federally recognized Native American tribes in the U.S., questions about the authenticity of people's tribal memberships have led to power struggles and in some cases, expulsions."It's an answer all over the place," said Michael Woestehoff of the National Indian Gaming Association. "I'm Navajo. To be considered Navajo, it's up to 1/32nd ... [but] for elections and holding office, my tribe requires you to speak fluent Navajo."A similar percentage standard is used by the Cherokee Nation, of which Warren's campaign says her great-great-great-grandmother was a part. Mother Jones' Tim Murphy waded in earlier this month:Prior to 1963, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians granted tribal membership to anyone who could prove he was 1/32 Cherokee. ...For those who applied after 1963, the standards went up to 1/16. Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation-an umbrella group which includes the Easter Cherokee - is 1/32 Cherokee, which was the subject of a minor controversy prior to his election, but obviously not a deal-breaker. In other words, without wading too deeply into ongoing debates within the Native American community, Warren could make a fairly a legitimate claim to the title.Different tribes handle the question in differently, especially when it comes to health care and education benefits tribe members receive and how tribes use profits from tribal gaming businesses, which generate an average of $26 billion in revenue a year.For the Salt [...]



Neither John Edwards Nor His Mistress Will Testify At Corruption Trial

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:40:00 EST

His attorneys also will not call Edwards' adult daughter to the stand. He's accused of using campaign funds to try to hide his affair and a daughter Rielle Hunter delivered.

The campaign corruption trial of former Democratic presidential contender John Edwards will not reach a dramatic climax with testimony from the former senator or the mistress he's accused of trying to hide with 2008 campaign funds.

According to The Associated Press, Edwards' attorneys said in court today that they will not be calling Edwards or Rielle Hunter to the stand and that they expect to rest their case later today.

They also won't be calling Edwards' adult daughter Cate to the stand, AP says.

As the wire service reminds us:

"Edwards is accused of masterminding a plan to use money from two wealthy donors to hide his pregnant mistress during his bid for the 2008 White House. Edwards faces six counts of campaign finance violations. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison."

Edwards has said he did not break campaign finance laws. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Is There Racial Bias In Clemency Decisions?

Wed, 16 May 2012 11:30:00 EST

Nearly 20 years ago Clarence Aaron was sentenced to three life terms for his involvement in a drug deal. His request to have his sentence shortened was denied by the White House in 2008. Now a story by ProPublica's Dafna Linzer reports the Bush administration was not told key facts before deciding on it. Host Michel Martin speaks with Linzer.




Little-Known Lawmaker Upsets GOP's Senate Plans In Nebraska

Wed, 16 May 2012 10:49:00 EST

Republican voters in Nebraska defied the expectations of pundits and the intentions of outside groups and nominated a little known rancher and state lawmaker to run for an open U.S. Senate seat. Deb Fischer, 61, will face a former governor and former senator, Democrat Bob Kerrey, in November.

Republican voters in Nebraska Tuesday defied the expectations of pundits and the intentions of outside groups and nominated a heretofore little-known rancher and state lawmaker to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by incumbent Democrat Ben Nelson.

Deb Fischer, 61, rode a last- minute surge in support to defeat the establishment-favored candidate, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. In the November general election, she will face a former governor and former senator - Bob Kerrey - who easily won the Democratic nomination.

Fischer had lagged behind Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the polls and in fundraising for the race. But her candidacy caught fire going into the campaign's final days, after receiving an endorsement from Sarah Palin.

Fischer also benefited from a $200,000 ad buy last weekend from a superPAC led by Omaha businessman Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade and co-owner of the Chicago Cubs. The ad questioned Bruning's character and financial dealings.

Fischer also lucked out in her opponents' strategy. Stenberg had the support of the conservative Club for Growth and South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate Conservative Fund, both of which also launched a string of negative attack ads against Bruning, who had a wide lead in the polls throughout the campaign. But rather than aid Stenberg, the ads ultimately helped Fischer, who largely remained above the fray.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Palin - the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate - said Fischer as recently as a week ago had been "dismissed by the establishment. Why? Because she is not part of the good old boys' permanent political class."

Palin said: "The message from the people of Nebraska is simple and powerful: America is looking for real change in Washington, and commonsense conservatives like Deb Fischer represent that change."

Now Fischer faces Kerrey, an experienced campaigner, who has won three statewide races in Nebraska, but who also has been absent from the state for the past 12 years, after he moved to New York City to take the presidency of The New School.

In remarks Tuesday night, Fischer made clear she intends to make Kerrey's residency an issue in the general election, saying "we need somebody who's different. Somebody's who's tough. Somebody who's a Nebraskan."

Fischer's has been a member of Nebraska's unique unicameral legislature since 2004, focusing largely on education issues. Her only other political experience was a stint on the local school board. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




9-Year-Old To Westboro Baptist Protesters: 'God Hates No One'

Wed, 16 May 2012 10:36:00 EST

Patty Akrouche says she's "never been prouder" of her 9-year-old son Josef Miles than she was this past weekend. He quietly rebutted the infamous group's anti-homosexual protest.

Patty Akrouche says she's "never been prouder" of her 9-year-old son Josef Miles than she was this past weekend.

As Akrouche wrote on her Facebook page, she and Josef were on the campus of Washburn University in Topeka when they encountered some of the protesters from the tiny Westboro Baptist Church, which has gained notice in recent years for protesting against homosexuality, abortion and other issues outside the funerals of military veterans and celebrities.

Westboro's followers are infamous for their signs that - using an F-word we won't repeat - say "God Hates [Homosexuals]."

"Josef was determined to make his own statement so we went to the car and with pencil and his sketch pad, he made up his own little sign that reads 'GOD HATES NO ONE,' " his mom wrote. "Those people are scary but he stood strong, was respectful and stood by his convictions. He will be a good man, I have no doubt. I got my Mothers Day present early."

For his quiet counter-protest, Josef has gotten noticed too - for example, by The Huffington Post and the Morris News Service.

So, Buzzfeed may need to update it's "30 Best Anti-Westboro Baptist Church Protest Signs" page (note: some images there do have words we wouldn't use). [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Medical Report Details George Zimmerman's Injuries, ABC News Says

Wed, 16 May 2012 07:13:00 EST

The man who shot and killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has argued he acted in self defense. Evidence of his injuries may support his case.

George Zimmerman had a broken nose, black eyes, cuts on the back of his head and a minor back injury the day after he shot and killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, according to medical records compiled by his doctor, ABC News reports.

Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., says he acted in self defense on Feb. 26 when he shot Martin, a 17-year-old African-American. Martin's family and supporters have argued that Zimmerman racially profiled the boy and followed him through the Sanford neighborhood before their tragic encounter. The case has rekindled a national discussion about race relations and racial profiling.

This latest report from ABC News means that network has in recent weeks gone from reporting that a police surveillance video of Zimmerman did not show any obvious evidence of injuries to saying that an enhanced version of that video did show some sort of injury on the back of his head to now reporting that according to the doctor:

"In addition to his physical injuries, Zimmerman complained of stress and 'occasional nausea when thinking about the violence.' But he was not diagnosed with a concussion. The doctor noted that it was 'imperative' that Zimmerman 'be seen with [sic] his psychologist for evaluation.' "

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. He is currently out on bail.

Meanwhile, Orlando's WFTV-TV says that an autopsy report shows that along with the fatal gunshot wound to his chest, Martin had "broken skin on his knuckles."

Legal analyst Bill Sheaffer tells the station that Zimmerman's attorney may try to make the case that the injuries to Martin's knuckles support his client's case that he was punched by the teenager. But the injuries also "could be consistent with Trayvon either trying to get away or defend himself," Sheaffer told the station. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




Gymnast's Journey: Toddler Tumbler To Golden Girl

Wed, 16 May 2012 03:03:00 EST

Aly Raisman started gymnastics like millions of other kids - in a toddler tumbling class. Now 17, the Massachusetts athlete is considered one of the best tumblers in the world. And she's on track to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.Aly Raisman started gymnastics like millions of other children - in a toddler tumbling class. Now 17, the Massachusetts athlete is considered one of the best tumblers in the world. And she's on track to make the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.As a gymnast, Raisman sets herself apart with her power moves. When she competed at the 2012 American Cup, an NBC TV commentator said of one tumbling pass: "Most people in the world would have said that this pass is not possible."In her tumbling routine at that competition, Raisman ran across the floor into a series of aerial somersaults that ended with a "punch layout." For the maneuver, she flipped over, fully extended, like a pancake being flipped. It's almost like she's floating.If she nails that routine at the Olympic trials at the end of June, Raisman will have a very good chance of taking one of the five spots on the women's U.S. gymnastics team."I'm excited. I'm anxious. And I'm just kind of ready for it to happen," Raisman says. "I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for it. So I just kind of want it to come now."Her mother, Lynn Raisman, says that as the oldest of four children, Aly has shown drive and determination in everything she does."Gymnastics has really taken a priority in her life for a really long time, and that comes from her," Lynn says. "Because if it didn't, I think she would have quit a long time ago."Raisman was only 2 years old in 1996, when the U.S. women's gymnastics team last took Olympic gold. When she set her sights on competing in the Olympics, her mother found an old VCR tape of that golden team and gave it to her."In my room, I would replay it day after day after day," Raisman says. "And I was literally obsessed with it. I could memorize all the scores and tell you who was going next, and all that stuff. I was so inspired by it."Until last year, Raisman went to Needham High School and maintained a rigorous training schedule. Now she's completing her senior year online. On most days, she spends seven hours at the gym. She says the key to tumbling is conditioning, not just lifting weights."Actually I have to climb the rope without legs, with 10-pound weights on," she says - adding with a laugh, "so it's very, very hard."As a result of that work, her upper body seems very powerful - something she confirms."I look really strong, definitely compared to normal girls," Raisman says. "I'm proud of it, I guess, because it's a lot of hard work to get that, and it doesn't just come overnight."Raisman competes in the floor exercise, uneven bars, vault and balance beam.Training recently at a gym in a Boston suburb, she practices her dismount from the balance beam. Her coach, Mihai Brestyan, stands a good distance away, quietly giving pointers."OK, this was a good one," he says. "Stay with this one, that's it."Brestyan, who's Romanian, says Raisman is an Olympic-caliber athlete because she is self-critical."To be successful, you cannot be all the time pleased with yourself - you need to be critical," he says. "Because if today you think, 'Oh, I am good enough,' tomorrow, someone else [is] better than you."Raisman doesn't want anyone to be better than her. She wants a gold medal. But like any teenager, she's not entirely focused on the gold. She's also thinking about the prom."My prom dress is brown," she says. "And it's really different, because most people don't wear brown to prom. It's almost like a cap sleeve, with jewels. And it has a low V-neck, but it's very simple, and elegant and sophis[...]



Coming To A Political Campaign Near You: Outside Money, And Lots Of It

Wed, 16 May 2012 03:00:00 EST

Congressional candidates are increasingly raising money from supporters and groups who are ideological and outside their district - leaving some to say local voters and local issues are playing second fiddle to these donors' ideologies.

It's happening in several congressional races, in states like Nebraska, Montana and Ohio - millions of dollars from out-of-state donors and outside groups are fueling candidates' war chests.

Last week in Indiana, outside money helped Richard Mourdock beat out six-term incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary.

On Wednesday, WCPN's David C. Barnett reports for NPR's Morning Edition about the congressional race in Ohio's 9th District. The Republican challenger there is Joe Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber," the guy who rose to fame in 2008 by tangling with then-candidate Barack Obama. The incumbent Democrat is Marcy Kaptur, and $3 out of every $4 in the race has come from donors who don't live in Ohio's 9th.

When did so many Americans decide races outside their backyards were important enough to back financially?

NPR's science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam stopped by Morning Edition with recent social science research that could provide some answers.

"Across the United States, money is pouring into congressional races that comes from outside the congressional district, and there's another thing that's happening at the same time, which is a lot of the money is increasingly coming from donors who identify themselves as strongly partisan," Vedantam explains.

He points to an article in the latest issue of American Politics Research by Ray La Raja and David Wiltse.

In 1972, 40 percent of donors to congressional and presidential races identified themselves as liberals or conservatives. Today, the number is about 60 percent, says La Raja, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Along with that partisan spike comes a similar trend in political contributions: Donors are using their money to weigh in on ideological national issues, such as abortion, gay marriage and foreign policy, instead of focusing solely on local issues.

"What La Raja's research seems to suggest is that Washington's polarization came first, and starting in about 2002, there has been this really growing polarization among the voters, which is translating into more partisan donors in politics," Vedantam says.

And, why is 2002 so important to La Raja's findings? He says that's when political campaigns really began to focus on online fundraising.

"Now, you're sitting in front of your computer, you get an email that says, 'Look what those people are doing to us in Washington.' You have your credit card ready, the people who are motivated by that are passionate about the issues, they're ideological. They send money," La Raja says.

Campaign fundraising has become a "self-reinforcing system," Vedantam says, where politicians appeal to those partisan contributors who are likely to give money to a particular cause or campaign, and the cycle encourages itself again and again over each political year. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]




'Close Encounters' With Gas Well Pollution

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:52:00 EST

Hundreds of thousands of natural gas wells have sprung up across the country. In Garfield County, Colo., the drilling rigs are so close to homes that some people call them "Close Encounters." When the gas boom began a decade ago, residents began asking: Is it safe to live this close? Their quest for answers became too polarizing to pursue.Living in the middle of a natural gas boom can be pretty unsettling. The area around the town of Silt, Colo., used to be the kind of sleepy rural place where the tweet of birds was the most you would hear. Now it's hard to make out the birds because of the rumbling of natural gas drilling rigs.The land here is steep cliffs and valleys. But bare splotches of earth called well pads are all over the place."That's the one I'm worried about because it just went in," says Tim Ray.We're on his front porch just after sunset. You can see the lights of drill rigs all around his small house."There's actually one up here over the hill that they just put in." He points in another direction: "There's three or four of them up there."The rigs are lit up like Christmas trees and puffing different colors of smoke. People in Ray's neighborhood feel like the rigs are so close, they call them "Close Encounters."Companies can drill 20 wells or more at a single site. They come back again and again over the course of years. Each time, there's an onslaught of strange smells. People living near the wells complain about itchy eyes, scratchy throats and getting sick to their stomachs. "I worry about my health. I worry about my kids' health," Ray says.What's In Those Fumes?But the truth is, Ray and his other neighbors are guessing. They know almost nothing about what's happening on the well pads around them. They just wonder: What's in those fumes that blow into their yard? What's in that smell?"Nobody has told us anything about the quality of our air, as far as what we're smelling or anything," Ray says. "I would feel better if I knew that the gases weren't bad."People are asking these same questions wherever natural gas is being drilled around the United States.Nearly a decade ago, Garfield County in Colorado started trying to tackle that question, and was chugging ahead of the whole country in pursuit of scientific truth. Local politician Tresi Houpt was the engine pushing that effort.It pains her that people are still asking the questions that revved her up when she first learned about her county's gas boom while campaigning to be county commissioner."There's a great frustration," she says. "I'm hearing the same stories that I heard nine years ago."Houpt is a Sally Field type, with bangs and all. She speaks softly and deliberately, and wears pressed Carhartt work pants and cowboy boots.As she started to campaign to be a Garfield County commissioner, she came down from her home on a ski mountain to meet people in ranches, rural neighborhoods with the big blue skies and clear starry nights. She couldn't believe what she saw: drill rigs right outside homes, armadas of diesel-spewing trucks, fumes wafting from equipment called compressors and condensate tanks."In Colorado, you can have a drill rig 150 feet from homes. The original thought was if the rig falls, it won't hit the house," she says. She didn't want their rural refuge to be sacrificed to produce energy for the rest of the country.In Search Of Answers The current drilling boom started in Colorado around 2000. Just like in Texas, Utah and Pennsylvania, an engineering technique called hydraulic fracturing allowed drillers to tap into rock and unlock previously inaccessible reservoirs of natural gas.Gas companies drill a well, and then deep below the surface, they perforate the rock[...]



No Signal? No Problem. States Push Tech-Free Escapes

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:46:00 EST

In parts of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, broadband internet access and good cell phone reception are tough to come by. Robert Siegel talks with Dave Decker, executive Director of the Tri-State Tourism council, about his efforts to spin that potential nuisance into a positive, by pitching tech-free vacations.




Records Show Edwards Paid Mistress $9,000 A Month

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:46:00 EST

The trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards continued Tuesday in North Carolina. Edwards is accused of accepting almost a million dollars in secret payments to cover up an affair with his pregnant mistress. North Carolina Public Radio's Jeff Tiberii talks to Melissa Block about the case.




Why Do Terrorists So Often Go For Planes?

Tue, 15 May 2012 16:22:00 EST

The latest terrorism scare, like so many others, involved a plot to blow up an airplane. While it seems many terrorist groups are fixated on planes, there are also signs that they're now looking for easier targets that can cause catastrophic damage.Ever since the Sept. 11 attacks, airports have probably been the most heavily guarded sites when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks.And yet the most recent terrorism plot in Yemen involved an attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner with a bomber wearing a difficult-to-detect explosive bomb in his underwear, according to U.S. officials.Why do terrorist groups keep trying to defeat the multiple layers of security at airports when there are so many soft targets?For one, a plane heading into the U.S. represents the first available target to strike against a large number of Americans. It doesn't require reaching the U.S. first, and then acquiring a weapon and launching an attack from U.S. soil.Also, terrorist groups have learned from previous attacks on planes."Terrorists like to do what they know how to do," says terrorism analyst Jessica Stern.But the difficulty of breaching airport security does appear to be generating other approaches.Two Different Types Of Plots Stern says she sees two trends. One involves developing new and more sophisticated techniques for evading security measures and attacking airplanes.The other involves "looking for low-tech ways to attack softer targets," she says. This is a way of encouraging "leaderless resistance," says Stern, the author of Terror in the Name of God.For example, the latest issue of Inspire, the jihadi magazine produced by the Yemen-based group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, includes an eight-page feature that encourages readers to start wildfires in Australia and the United States.It recommends that would-be saboteurs in the U.S. study weather patterns in order to determine when vegetation will be dry and winds favorable for a wildfire.It specifically suggests Montana as a good site for practicing pyro-terrorism, because of the residential housing that is in wooded areas.Stern says the aim of terrorism is to frighten the public and push governments into over-reacting - so spectacular, random-seeming attacks like airplane bombings work well."Terrorists do really aim for what we call symbolic targets," she says. "Terrorism is a form of theater, so they're going to hit targets that will make us maximally afraid, and inflict the maximum amount of humiliation."In that sense, she says, arson in populated forest areas could be "a good second best" for a target.A Range Of VulnerabilitiesSecurity analysts have pointed to dozens of potential terrorist targets and vulnerabilities, from military bases to passenger trains, chemical plants to storage for liquefied natural gas.Former CIA agent Charles Faddis says he expects that there will be more attacks on targets that, by their nature, are hard to defend.Faddis, the author of Willful Neglect: The Dangerous Illusion of Homeland Security, says he particularly fears situations where suicide gunmen might attack people at a public event."There are an infinite number of targets where you can find large numbers of people - college campuses, pro sports events," he says.Even where such events have security screening, Faddis adds, they often don't have armed guards, so a determined, suicidal shooter would be hard to stop.A Focus On ResiliencyThat problem is causing analysts to rethink the balance between guarding against an attack and recovering from one."We've got to recognize that we're never going to be able to answer the question, 'Are we s[...]



Vermont Beer Makers Bring Back Old-Time Maple Sap Brews

Tue, 15 May 2012 15:16:00 EST

Boiling down the last of the season maple sap and brewing a strong dark beer to share in the summer was a common tradition on Vermont farms a couple of generations ago. The practice had all but died out, but is being revived now, thanks to a handful of local brewers.In Vermont, the last sap in the spring maple sugaring season isn't considered good for much. It's too dark and strong to use for commercial maple syrup - people tend to like the light and clear stuff.But long ago, that late season sap was used in a potent dark beer that offered some cool relief to farmers when the hay was cut in the heat of summer.Now some local microbreweries are bringing the historic drink back from extinction.In the 1970s Vermont musician John Cassel recorded a popular local song about sap beer. But you would have been hard pressed to find any sap beer to drink at the time.The traditional making of sap beer had already gone the way of obsolete farm traditions - like hand milking - a couple of generations earlier. Folklorist Greg Sharrow says sap beer represents a time when farm families made just about everything they needed from their own land.In a 1992 interview with the Vermont Folklife Center, the late Edgar Dodge described how sap beer was made on the Vermont farm where he grew up in the Depression Era. It sounds more like fun than work. "You'd take the last run of the sugaring operation, you know what I'm talking about? Get down to where you can taste the leaves in it, that sort of thing," he said.Dodge said that leafy-tasting sap would be boiled down, about halfway to syrup.Farmers added hops, yeast, a little sugar or maybe some raisins and put it up in a barrel in the cellar.A glass of sap beer was cool relief after a day of hot farm work. As Dodge remembered, it was brought out of the cellar just about the time the first hay was cut. "And this would be fit to drink about the first of haying, which in those days was the fourth of July. You'd start haying about the fourth of July," he told the Folklife Center. (Click here for the whole interview.)Now, any amateur brewer knows there's some guesswork and mystery involved in beer-making, and that applied in spades to sap beer back then. Dodge said you couldn't be sure until you tasted it whether the final product would be drinkable or whether it was just "junk" until you opened the barrel.When it was good, it was strong."I don't think the man ever lived that could drink two eight ounce glasses and walk ten minutes later. I don't believe so. So, that was sap beer. I doubt if there's a barrel of sap beer in the state of Vermont today," he said back in 1992.Maybe not then, but now there's been renewed interest in the old refreshment, thanks to a couple of Vermont microbreweries.Sean Lawson heard about the maple sap beer a few years ago, and started researching it. He came up with own version - brewing it in a more controlled environment than "ye olde cellar" - and has been doing it now for five years.This month, he won a silver ribbon at the prestigious World Beer Cup for the sap beer he bottles under his label, Lawson's Finest Liquids.Lawson's sap beer is similar to the traditional drink. It's high in alcohol and has a strong maple flavor. He uses barrels once used to age maple liqueur from Saxton River Distillers, which Lawon says makes it extra maple-y. And it tastes different every year."It's a product of both the season and the place and the sugarmaker and their trees, so every year my batch is a little bit different and that's part of the fun," Lawson says.Last year Lawson produced 375 hand-numbered [...]



Ron Paul Spokesman: Candidate Unlikely To Ever Endorse Romney

Tue, 15 May 2012 13:02:00 EST

Presidential candidate Ron Paul is not expected to ultimately endorse presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Paul's chief strategist said Tuesday. "Never say never, but I don't believe that's likely," said Jesse Benton.

Presidential candidate Ron Paul is not expected to ultimately endorse presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Paul's chief strategist said Tuesday.

"Never say never, but I don't believe that's likely," said Jesse Benton, during a half-hour-plus give-and-take with reporters, when asked about a future Romney endorsement.

And there's also no chance, he said, that Paul, who is remaining in the race in an effort to collect delegates to the Republican National Convention, will endorse Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Or that he would endorse anyone outside the Republican Party, he said. Unless his supporters are treated badly.

During the call, in what appeared to be a direct message to Paul supporters, Benton repeatedly emphasized that the campaign expects its delegates to the national convention to act with "decorum and respect."

"Our supporters are going to get an excessive amount of blame for problems that arise in heated moments" during the August convention in Tampa, Fla., he said, calling for "respect and civility" among those participating.

"They're going to be under a microscope," Benton said.

The Paul campaign estimates that it already has secured about 100 national convention delegates committed to Paul, a Texas congressman, and an additional 200 supporters who are delegates bound to Romney.

On Monday, Paul announced that his campaign would no longer invest in presidential primary states, and Benton said that the campaign had turned down the Republican National Committee's offer to set up a joint general election fundraising committee, as it has with Romney.

But Paul is expecting to pick up additional national convention delegates this weekend at the Minnesota state GOP convention, and in coming party conventions in Washington, Missouri, Louisiana, and Iowa, Benton said.

The delegates are serving as Paul's leverage to influence the party's convention platform, and party rules going forward. Benton said the campaign has been in contact with Romney campaign officials about the platform, and they've "agreed to be helpful."

Paul's platform focus includes Federal Reserve transparency and accountability, monetary reform, Internet freedom, and opposition to indefinite detention.

"There have been no discussions [about] whether Ron will speak or not speak" at the convention, he said.

As to whether Paul supporters would get behind Romney once he secures the nomination, Benton had this to say: "I think that's still up for grabs. The ball is in the court of the Republican Party, and in the court of Mitt Romney."

It depends, he said, on whether Paul supporters and their ideas are treated "seriously and with respect."

"In a nutshell, we want to do things that open up the party," he said, and that prevent the party establishment from "locking the party down and benefiting the people who are already inside the tent."

Is Paul concerned that if he doesn't endorse Romney, the expected GOP nominee might lose to President Obama?

"That is not going to figure into Dr. Paul's calculus," Benton replied. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]