Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are introduced during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Monday. David Goldman/APhide caption
These figures top the ratings for the 1980 debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, when just under 81 million people tuned in. As The Associated Press reports, “No debate since then had exceeded 70 million viewers.”
Nielsen’s numbers include 13 television networks. They don’t account for viewers who watched the debate online – and NPR’s media correspondent David Folkenflik has been crunching those numbers.
As David tells All Things Considered, the live streaming numbers are “where things get interesting”:
“I looked at a number of outlets and their feeds on Facebook. If you look at the live streams of seven different major outlets including places like Al Jazeera, ABC News, NowThis news, The New York Times, Univision, Fox, a couple others — that was in excess of 35 million views. They’re not counted identically to a television viewer, but 35 million people looked at least at part of the live streams of the debate that way.”
“Similarly, about 5 million people looked at the live streams and streams available on YouTube. And that’s not including the individual websites as well — for example, an excess of 2.4 million people, estimated, watched in on CNN.com through their free feed. So there are a lot of different ways people are approaching this now.”
These figures, he says, indicate a change in viewing patterns — ” even as we’re coming together [to watch the debate] we’re doing it in a much more fragmented way – so many more television outlets, so many more online outlets, different ways to consume.”
David points out one caveat to the record-breaking figure from Nielsen: the U.S population has grown considerably since 1980. That year, “the population of the United States was a little over 220 million. Now it’s almost exactly 100 million more people. So seemingly at least, the TV numbers — not so astonishing that there might be growth in them,” he explains.
And speaking of records, EPSN tells David that Monday Night Football ratings hit a historic low. The game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints was directly competing with the Trump-Clinton showdown.
A doctor who treats infertility in New York City says he has helped a couple have the first baby purposefully created with DNA from three different adults.
John Zhang of the New Hope Fertility Center in Manhattan traveled to Mexico earlier this year to perform a procedure for a couple from Jordan that enabled them to have the baby in May, according to a clinic spokesman.
Zhang performed the procedure in the hopes of helping the couple, who the clinic declined to identify, have a healthy baby. The couple had lost their first two children to Leigh syndrome, an inherited neurological disorder.
The idea of creating babies this way to help prospective parents who come from families plagued by genetic disorders has long been controversial. In February, a 12-member panel assembled by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine outlined a plan for how scientists could ethically pursue the research.
The Food and Drug Administration had requested the report after two other groups of U.S. scientists asked for permission to try. Despite the report, the FDA said Congress had prohibited the agency from allowing the procedure. In response to the latest development, the FDA reiterated that position in an email to NPR.
That prohibition had prompted Zhang to travel to Mexico, according to the clinic.
The baby’s birth prompted both praise and criticism. Some infertility experts welcomed the development as a potentially important step for women carrying genetic disorders.
Zhang plans to present the details of the case at the society’s meeting next month in Salt Lake City.
Some scientists said the move was irresponsible because not enough research had been done to know whether it was safe.
“This is a troubling development on a number of levels,” wrote Paul Knoepfler, a cell biologist at the University of California, Davis, in an email to NPR. “It could have gone wrong in any number of ways and still could.”
Even one scientist hoping to perform this procedure in the United States is worried about details he has seen in Zhang’s presentation.
“While exciting, there appears to be problems with the study,” wrote Dieter Egli of Columbia University Medical Center in an email. Egli said he sees possible abnormalities in the embryos Zhang created.
Others fear the move could open the door to the creation of so-called designer babies, in which parents try to pick and chose the traits of their children.
“This is entrepreneurial reproductive technology at its most unethical and irresponsible,” wrote David King, who heads the genetic watchdog group Human Genetics Alert in London, in an email. “When are the world’s governments going to stop rogue scientists crossing crucial ethical lines?”
The birth of the child was first reported Tuesday by the British magazine New Scientist. A clinic spokesman who asked not to be named told NPR that most of the details in the article were accurate except statements that the baby was born in Mexico and there was no oversight of the procedure there.
Leigh syndrome is known as a mitochondrial disorder because it is caused by defects in a type of DNA known as mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondria are structures in cells that provide the cells with energy.
To help women who carry defects in mitochondrial DNA, scientists have developed techniques to replace the defective mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA.
The technique Zhang used involved removing all the DNA from the nucleus of eggs donated by women with healthy mitochondrial DNA. The DNA in the nucleus of eggs carries most of the genetic information needed to create a person, including the information most people consider important, such as determining an individual’s physical appearance.
Zhang then removed all the nuclear DNA from the eggs of the woman trying to have a healthy baby and placed that DNA into the donor egg, leaving the defective mitochondrial DNA behind. Those eggs, which then presumably had only healthy DNA, were then fertilized with sperm from the husband of the woman trying to have a baby.
Zhang created five embryos this way. Only one developed normally, according to his report. It was transferred into the woman’s womb and resulted in the birth of a boy, who appears healthy, according to the clinic.
Because mitochondrial DNA is only passed from women to their female offspring, the boy is incapable of transferring the transplanted DNA to any future children, sidestepping many of the ethical concerns.
Eating well has many known benefits. But a good diet may not be able to counteract all the ill effects of stress on our bodies.
A new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, suggests stress can override the benefits of making better food choices.
To evaluate the interactions between diet and stress, researchers recruited 58 women who completed surveys to assess the kinds of stress they were experiencing. The women also participated in what researchers call a “meal challenge,” where they were each given two different types of meals to eat, on different days.
One meal was high in saturated fat, the type of fat linked to cardiovascular disease. The other meal was high in a plant-based oil, which is considered more healthful.
“When women were not stressed and they got the healthier meal, their inflammatory responses were lower than when they had the high saturated fat meal,” explains study author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at the Ohio State University. She says this was not a big surprise.
But here’s the part that may seem counterintuitive: “If a woman was stressed on a day when she got the healthy meal, she looked like she was eating the saturated fat meal in terms of her [inflammation] responses,” Kiecolt-Glaser explained.
In other words, the healthier meal was no better in terms of its impact on inflammation. “The stress seemed to boost inflammation,” Kiecolt-Glaser explained.
The kinds of stressful events the women experienced weren’t life-threatening. Rather, they’re the sorts of events that make us feel overwhelmed or out-of-control, such as a child care scramble or caring for an elderly, sick parent.
The researchers measured several markers of inflammation in the body, including C-reactive protein, or CRP.
Over a lifetime, higher inflammation levels are linked to an increased risk of a range of diseases, including “cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, some cancers,” Kiecolt-Glaser explains. “It’s an ugly list of possibilities.”
The findings add to the evidence that stress is a powerful player when it comes to influencing our health. Kiecolt-Glaser’s prior research has shown that people who are stressed heal wounds more slowly. She’s also demonstrated that stress can promote weight gain by altering metabolism and slowing down calorie-burning.
Kiecolt-Glaser says there’s still a lot that’s unknown. For instance, in this new study, she’s not sure how the inflammation levels of stressed-out women would have been influenced by an ultra-healthy meal — say, an avocado with greens on a piece of whole-grain toast. She points out that both of the meals the women ate for this study were very high in calories and had about 60 grams of fat.
Now, if you’re looking for the upside in this line of research, rest assured: There are a whole range of strategies that have been shown to help manage stress.
“Close, personal relationships are perhaps the world’s greatest stress-reducer,” Kiecolt-Glaser says. Studies of mindfulness meditation and yoga have also been shown to be effective.
When I was reporting this story, I asked stressed-out Georgetown University law students what they do to manage stress. They pointed to a range of activities — from salsa dancing to listening to hip-hop to going to the gym. “I really enjoy exercising when I’m stressed. It gives you an outlet to distract you,” Marina Smith told me.
And it seems these students are onto some good strategies, says Aric Prather, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, who studies how lifestyle choices influence health. “Exercise and social connectedness,” he says, “are effective in improving people’s well-being and their ability to cope with stress.”
Emergency service personnel work at the scene of a house explosion on Tuesday in the Bronx. Mary Altaffer/APhide caption
A fire department battalion chief described as a “rising star” by his department was killed in an explosion in the Bronx on Tuesday morning. At least 12 other people were injured in the blast.
Michael J. Fahy was directing the fire department’s response to a complaint about a gas odor coming from a two-story private residence, in an area under investigation for growing marijuana, New York officials said at a press conference.
Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said that Fahy was working with local units to determine the source of the gas odor early Tuesday. Response teams had been working at the scene for about an hour, including getting people out of surrounding buildings, when the explosion occurred.
“It blew a large portion of the roof off, onto the street, where the members were,” Nigro said. Fahy “was struck on the head and various other parts of his body” and died at a nearby hospital.
Photos from the scene show wood and debris scattered around the area of the blast.
Fahy served the department for 17 years and was a father of three. “He was on the rise, he was a star, a brave man. He was doing what fire officers do this morning,” Nigro said. “It’s a terrible loss for the family, for the Fahy family. It’s a terrible loss for the fire department family. … We feel it deeply.”
Fahy held a doctorate from New York Law School, according to The Associated Press. His father also served in the Fire Department, Nigro told reporters.
Nigro said firefighters, police, civilians, and workers from the Con Edison utility company were also hurt but those injuries were not life-threatening. He added that the last time a New York firefighter died in the line of duty was in 2014.
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said at the news conference that a couple of weeks ago, the department received information that there was possibly a marijuana grow house on the block. Law enforcement officials are in the initial stages of that investigation, he added.
“It’s a reminder of the dangers our first responders face every day, the dangers that the men and women face every day and the bravery with which they do their job,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.
Grace Coddington started her career as a model. She now directs photo spreads for American Vogue. Michael Loccisano/Getty Imageshide caption
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
In every field, there are people whose behind-the-scenes work ripples out; whose vision helps define the way we live, work or play. In fashion, Grace Coddington is one of those people.
Many people first heard of Coddington through The September Issue, the 2009 documentary about American Vogue. She’s been a top editor there for nearly 30 years, directing the photo spreads that appear in the magazine. She helps choose the clothes, setting and models, and she works with the photographer to figure out how to capture it all.
Now her work is captured in hardcover. Grace: The American Vogue Years is a massive coffee table book filled with photographs. The cover is a vivid red — not far from the copper hair color that has always been Coddington’s visual signature.
When NPR visited Coddington, she was in her element, watching one of the most important fashion shows at New York Fashion Week. The fashion house is called Rodarte, and people fight to get tickets to a show like this. Coddington sits in the front row, at the center of the action.
Coddington sits beside American Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour at a 2015 fashion show. Instead of taking notes, Coddington says she prefers to sketch the dresses she sees on the catwalk. Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weekhide caption
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
As models drift down the floor, people snap photos and scribble notes. Coddington also has a notebook, but she isn’t writing in it — she’s sketching each dress that comes down the catwalk. “I’m no good with words,” she says, “so I kind of draw almost everything. … It just sort of takes me back to that moment when I saw the dress and what my reaction was.”
Back in her personal office in Midtown Manhattan, Coddington pulls out some of her sketch books. They’re filled with simple silhouettes that are purely meant to jog her memory. The walls are scattered with photographs — Coddington as a young British model, more recent shoots that she’s overseen for Vogue — and a nearby bookshelf holds every issue of the magazine going back three decades.
Actress Keira Knightley appears in a 2007 photo spread Coddington directed for American Vogue. Arthur Elgort/Courtesy of Conde Nast Publicationshide caption
Arthur Elgort/Courtesy of Conde Nast Publications
Fashion people sometimes have a reputation for being severe, but not Coddington. She’s 75 and sunny — happy to laugh at herself. For example, when she finally joined Instagram after years of nagging from her colleagues, her first image — a sketched, nude self-portrait — was censored by the app. “It got taken down,” she says. “And you know what? It’s the best thing that could’ve ever happened, because everybody was in an uproar. And eventually it mysteriously came back. … And then my next Instagram was of — I did my cats.”
One longtime Vogue editor suggested to NPR that people get their aesthetic sensibility around age 13, when adulthood is visible but still out of reach. What was Coddington like at 13? “That’s kind of a hard time in my life,” she says. “I lost my father when I was 11, and I think that was hard for me. I had an older sister and she was very dramatic about it, and you know I just hung in the shadows and didn’t say anything. And I think I didn’t say anything for several years.”
The family owned a seaside hotel in remote Northern Wales. During the winter, seas were rough and nobody visited. “Every time you licked your lips you could taste the saltwater,” Coddington remembers. “And during the mornings … I would go off and walk on the rocks and just sit and dream. Dream of being grown up, I think. … I remember seeing a story on Audrey Hepburn of how she had her own little flat. It seemed to be very small considering what a big star she was, but I thought: God, if I could just have that flat with like one room and one bedroom that would be a dream.“
You can find traces of Coddington’s childhood in her photo spreads, which sometimes feature a redhead in the English countryside. She says those echoes aren’t intentional. “It’s something you recognize and you like it, but I don’t think I set out to make it a replica of my youth.”
You can find traces of Coddington’s childhood in her photo spreads, which sometimes feature a redhead (in this case, model Karen Elson) in the English countryside. Arthur Elgort/Courtesy of Conde Nast Publicationshide caption
Arthur Elgort/Courtesy of Conde Nast Publications
Of course, she’s also done photo spreads that capture suburban American angst, or fairy tale fantasy. One photo shows Kim Kardashian with her husband, Kanye West, and their baby. Kardashian is taking a selfie with a phone while Kanye takes an iPad picture of the mother and child. Coddington says the photo captures “that kind of obsessive thing … of everybody photographing everybody photographing everybody.”
But that theme of the dreamy, young redhead in the countryside keeps coming back. At a fashion week party on Madison Avenue, NPR asked some guests to describe Coddington’s style. Their answers summon that teenage girl on a rocky shoreline:
“She takes you into a dream; she tells you a story,” says creative director Fabien Baron.
“Things … look as though they’re paintings; they look as though they’re movies. And that’s what she’s produced,” says Vogue journalist Suzy Menkes.
Journalist Suzy Menkes says Coddington’s photo spreads “look as though they’re movies.” (Pictured: model Kendall Jenner) Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott/Courtesy of Conde Nast Publicationshide caption
Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott/Courtesy of Conde Nast Publications
The fashion world has changed a lot since Coddington started modeling in the 1960s. With blogs, Instagram and Pinterest boards, everyone can be a fashion editor. Thirty years from now, there is unlikely to be someone with the concentrated influence that Coddington has had. Does seeing so much of her work in one hardcover give her any insight into her career?
“I look at it and I feel — I mean, it sounds terrible — I feel kind of satisfied,” Coddington says. “I feel that if I die tomorrow, it’s OK. I’ve done something in the field of fashion editing.”
Smog blankets Cairo, Egypt, in 2012. Hassan Ammar/APhide caption
The World Health Organization said 92 percent of the world’s population breathes air containing pollutants exceeding WHO limits, in new research released Tuesday.
The new WHO air-quality model, which uses satellite data and ground measurements, “represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data, by country, ever reported by WHO,” according to a press release from the organization. The report used information from nearly 3,000 places from around the world, doubling the amount of data from the last assessment of this kind.
The WHO research measured particulate matter in the air, such as “sulphates, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water.” It did not account for known pollutants such as nitrogen oxides or ozone – meaning that these are likely conservative figures.
The pollution levels had a staggering impact on health: according to the report, “In 2012, one out of every nine deaths was the result of air pollution-related conditions.” The number of deaths attributable to both indoor and outdoor air pollution totaled approximately 6.5 million worldwide, of which 3 million deaths were blamed on outdoor air pollution — the focus of this report.
“Air pollution continues take a toll on the health of the most vulnerable populations – women, children and the older adults,” Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO, said in a press release. “For people to be healthy, they must breathe clean air from their first breath to their last.”
WHO added that lower and middle income countries, where about 87 percent of the deaths occur, bore the brunt of the health impact.
China had the most deaths attributable to air quality in 2012, at 1,032,833, followed by 621,138 in India and 140,851 in Russia. The U.S. had 38,043.
Here is the report’s breakdown by region:
“The WHO Western Pacific and South East Asia regions bear most of the burden with 1.1 million and 799 000 deaths, respectively. In other regions, about 211 000 deaths occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa, 194 000 in the Eastern Mediterranean region, 190 000 in Europe, and 93 000 in the Americas. The remaining deaths occur in high-income countries of Europe (289 000), the Americas (44 000), Western Pacific (44 000), and Eastern Mediterranean (10 000).”
The researchers said that much of the outdoor air pollution comes from sources like “inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities.” The model also includes sources not caused by humans, such as sand storms.
Maria Neria, director of WHO’s public health and the environment department, told the Guardian that this improved data on air pollution should be seen as a call to action:
“Countries are confronted with the reality of better data. Now we have the figures of how many citizens are dying from air pollution. What we are learning is, this is very bad. Now there are no excuses for not taking action.”
Kevin Hart was the most successful comedian last year. He’s seen here speaking at the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaConhide caption
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon
There are two “firsts” in the list of highest-paid comedians that was put out by Forbes Tuesday: For the first time in a decade, someone other than Jerry Seinfeld tops the rankings; and a woman is in the top 10 for the first time, according to Forbes’ tally.
Kevin Hart ended Seinfeld’s decade of dominating the list of highest-paid comedians in decisive fashion, using his tour of huge venues to earn $87.5 million — roughly double the $43.5 million that Seinfeld, the next-most successful comedian on the list made in the same period from June 2015 to June 2016, Forbes reports.
Amy Schumer is the first woman to break into the list of comedy’s top earners, with $17 million netting her the fourth spot in the rankings. And like Hart — who says on his Twitter bio, “My name is Kevin Hart and I WORK HARD!!” — Schumer is building on her recent success.
Schumer, 35, is on a world tour that will send her to Australia later this year; like Hart, she’s currently playing U.S. venues that normally host NBA games. Her book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, earned Schumer a $9 million advance last September) has become a best-seller since its release in August.
Hart, 37, is widening his exposure even more: He just launched a batch of for-pay “Kevmojis” that use his expressions to liven up smartphone texts, and his concert/action film What Now? will hit theaters on Oct. 14.
The earnings shuffle comes after years in which the path to comedy super-stardom followed a familiar pattern: Comedian makes a career on the road, get a solid radio or TV break, and then maybe they parlay TV into the movies. The pattern worked for comedians from Milton Berle to Joan Rivers; from Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy to Jerry Seinfeld.
Although he’s a star, Hart doesn’t headline a TV show, and while ubiquitous in film, he’s shy of being a matinee idol. Comedians like Hart and Schumer and others have broken the mold by using social media, merchandising and the web to speak — and sell — directly to fans.
For Hart, here’s how Forbes‘ Madeline Berg explains his huge year:
“In the 12 month period, Hart played over 100 shows with an average gross of over $1 million at each stop. And these shows aren’t at dingy comedy clubs; Hart played stadiums and arenas, including Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center. Because the stand-up comedian’s set requires little more than a stool, water bottle and microphone, he takes home a larger cut of that gross than most rock stars would.”
Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert trade publication Pollstar, tells Berg, “Only a few comedians [are] capable of playing sports arenas the way that Kevin Hart does.”
The short list of comedians who can fill an arena now includes Schumer — whose show at Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center was recently reviewed by The New York Times.
“It’s been an insane year,” Schumer is quoted as saying on stage. “I’ve gotten very rich, famous and humble.”
Forbes’ rankings require concert sales to account for most of the stars’ revenue from one summer to the next. But both Schumer and Hart are also cashing checks from Comedy Central — in her case for Inside Amy Schumer, which will see its fifth season next year, and in his case for Hart of the City, a new show about comedy on the road that’s set to debut Sunday.
With Seinfeld in the second spot, the Forbes top five also includes Terry Fator at No. 3 with $21 million — due to his successful career in Las Vegas — followed by Schumer. At No. 5 is Jeff Dunham, with $13.5 million.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during the presidential debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016. David Goldman/APhide caption
NPR listeners and readers have said they want fact-checking during this political campaign season and NPR responded with what I found to be a very impressive new offering Monday night: a close to real-time annotation of a transcript of the first televised debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
As the debate transcript rolled by, supplied by an automated transcription service, a team of some 30 newsroom staffers, including reporters, editors and members of the visuals team, jumped in to fact-check and annotate what the candidates were saying and keep the process moving along. By the end of the process, the transcript contained 74 annotations, some adding context and others pointing out statements the candidates got right or wrong.
NPR’s audience clearly appreciated the massive effort; as of Tuesday afternoon, more than 6 million people had checked it out.
My office heard great praise for and some criticism of the effort. Some of the critics were unhappy with the errors made by the automated transcription service. My take on that is that most of those looked to be hand corrected by NPR staff by the morning.
Others saw bias in which candidate statements got fact-checked and which didn’t. That’s always an inherent risk in fact-checking a lengthy candidate speech or 90-minute debate.
Here’s how the totals broke out, according to our tally. NPR fact-checked nine Clinton statements, and 33 Trump statements. Another 32 annotations added context for what the candidates were saying (11 added context to Clinton, and 21 to Trump). The vast majority of fact-checks on Trump concluded that he was wrong; by our count just a handful of Clinton’s statements were judged wrong.
Some emailers sent lists of Clinton statements that NPR did not fact-check. One example, sent by Grant Cates of Orlando, was this Clinton statement:
“Well, let’s stop for a second and remember where we were eight years ago, we had the worst financial crisis — the great recession, the worst since the 1930s. That was, in large part, because of tax policies that slash taxes on the wealthy, failed to invest in the middle class, took their eyes off of Wall Street and created a perfect storm.”
Cates wrote: “Seems like an obvious opportunity for NPR to summarize the causes of the great recession. What were the tax policies and failed investments that led to the recession? What about subprime loans for housing and how government policies promoting home ownership had unintended consequences?”
I’d agree with that, and I see other Clinton statements that could be checked, too. I also see Trump statements that went unchallenged, like this one: “Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax, we’re on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there is a tax when they sell, an automatic 16 percent, approximately. When they sell into us there’s no tax. It’s a defective agreement.”
I asked the newsroom about the methodology behind the fact-checking. Domenico Montanaro, NPR’s lead political editor, emailed:
“We wanted to try something new and comprehensive that focused on the facts and built on what we have done in recent months — annotations of convention speeches, economic addresses and more. In the planning stages, we reached out across desks to policy and beat experts and editors from business to foreign affairs to education and created a shared document that everyone who wanted to be involved could do so in an easy way. Our team of political and visuals editors behind the scenes filtered, managed, checked and updated. The editorial was organic. We told our folks essentially if you see something, say something. Like viewers at home, when we heard something that made us go, ‘Is that true?’ Or ‘That’s not true.’ Or ‘well that’s not the whole context,’ our reporters were on it. As the night evolved, more got added and updated. If something stood out to an editor that hadn’t been fact checked, then we reached out to a relevant reporter. But honestly, this very sharp collaborative team left very few rocks unturned in about as fast a way as you can.”
As for the emphasis on fact-checking Trump, he wrote:
“What’s fair isn’t always equal. Our reporters across multiple desks, across multiple beats with deep content knowledge did a stellar job of fact checking in real time. We certainly are always cognizant of providing balance and focusing on both candidates, but if the numbers show that one candidate was fact checked more, it might be because that candidate said more things that needed fact checking.”
My take: It’s not possible to fact-check every candidate statement. Some additional statements could have been checked but, overall, I think NPR’s team offered a valuable service that met the goal of providing citizens with information they need to make their November decisions. For more on the impact of fact-checking in an election, I’d recommend reading Danielle Kurtzelben’s piece at NPR.org. Meanwhile, NiemanLab had more on the technical gee-whiz behind the project.
Editorial researcher Annie Johnson and intern Anna Mazarakis contributed to this report.
The U.S. government has agreed to pay a total of $492 million to 17 American Indian tribes for mismanaging natural resources and other tribal assets, according to an attorney who filed most of the suits.
In a joint press release by the Departments of Interior and Justice, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel said, “Settling these long-standing disputes reflects the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to reconciliation and empowerment for Indian Country.”
The settlements mark the end of a push by the Obama administration to resolve what the U.S. says is more than 100 lawsuits totaling more than $3.3 billion brought by American Indian individuals and tribal governments against the federal government. The policy of reaching settlements on the disputes, some of which date back more than a century, is part of a campaign promise the president made to American Indians before he took office.
“Few have been ignored by Washington as long as Native Americans, the first Americans. Too often, Washington has paid lip-service to working with tribes,” then-candidate Obama said in a speech at the Crow Nation Reservation in Montana in May 2008. “My Indian policy starts with honoring the unique government to government relationship, and ensuring treaty responsibilities are met.”
Those treaty responsibilities include agreements dating back to the 1800s that made the U.S. government the trustee for huge swaths of tribal land. The Department of the Interior says it manages almost 56 million acres of land on behalf of tribes, and handles at least 100,000 leases on that land for a wide variety of uses including housing, timber harvest, farming, livestock grazing, oil and gas extraction. More than 250 tribes have some assets held in trust by the federal government.
Under those trust agreements, the U.S. government must make sure tribes receive “just compensation” for the use of their land or resources. “The government bought the land from Indians, but it didn’t pay the Indians,” says Melody McCoy, a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund who has spent 20 years handling lawsuits against the federal government over alleged trust mismanagement and underpayment.
“The U.S. government would say it held the assets in trusts benevolently, for the protection of Indian lands and money,” says McCoy, who handled 13 of the 17 newly announced settlements. “The flip side of that is that in exchange, the government was supposed to be a good trustee, and it wasn’t. Land was not managed well. Money and resources were not managed well.”
The result was decades of allegedly lost income for Native Americans across the country.
Before the Obama administration could turned to the business of settling the 100-plus lawsuits by tribes, it had to resolve a 13-year class-action lawsuit alleging the government failed to pay individual people billions of dollars in profits from land that had been seized from American Indians. A $3.4 billion deal was reached in 2009.
The tribal lawsuits proved more difficult to settle, because they often concerned payments the tribes alleged should have been made over the course of decades. “There were substantial litigation risks and problems to both sides,” which drove both sides to the bargaining table, McCoy says. By 2012, the administration had reached settlements with dozens of tribes.
The settlements announced Monday are the second round of agreements. McCoy says that since Obama took office, there have been 95 total settlements with tribes, and that 11 more, some of which she handles, are in active negotiation. “It is quite an accomplishment,” she says.
Although most of the 17 settlements are still awaiting final court approval, a handful of documents have been released, naming the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma, The Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Gila River Indian Community. The settlements range from $25,000 up to $45 million, says McCoy, who has seen documents for 15 of the 17 settlements announced.
She says the money from the tribal settlements will be transferred directly from the U.S. Treasury to tribal governments, and that there are no stipulations about how it will be spent. In a departure from more than a century of policy, the U.S. government now insists that tribal governments take the payments, refusing to hold the settlement assets in trusts.
“Going forward, the U.S. certainly has an opportunity to treat tribes more fairly,” McCoy says. As for the tribes she has personally represented against the federal government, she says they are pleased.
“My clients feel like they had an extraordinary opportunity to engage with the U.S. government to government at the political level,” she says.
Then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch makes a phone call using a cellular telephone in a car in 1984. Marty Lederhandler/APhide caption
A decade after Martin Cooper made the world’s first public call from a portable phone in 1973, telephones were becoming truly mobile.
“It’s still pretty rare to see someone using a telephone in a car. But it’s about to become a lot more common.” That’s how NPR host Jim Angle introduced a piece on Nov. 5, 1983, titled “Cellular Phones Are Completely Mobile” — the earliest mention of the term found in NPR’s archives.
From the vantage point of 2016 — where mobile devices outnumber people — the story is pretty mesmerizing. It features an insurance salesman named David from Chicago, who’s “among the first 1,500 customers to use a new mobile phone system called cellular,” says reporter Linda Wagner.
David’s old mobile phone used a “party line system,” she explains. It bounced multiple calls off one high-powered transmitter, which in David’s case only had 12 radio frequencies available, Wagner says, meaning “only 12 people in a 50-mile radius could use the system at once.”
The original caption to this 1989 photo read: “Cellular phones are being offered by many car manufacturers as optional equipment for drivers who can’t bear to be out of touch, even on the road.” Richard Sheinwald/APhide caption
But here she recorded the launch of “cellular” — cities divided into “cells” that connected into a network that handed the signal off from one radio antenna to the next, continuing the call even as the caller traveled from one area to another.
This was a big deal. Wagner says under the previous system, only 1,000 people could be mobile phone consumers in Chicago, a city of some 3 million. “With cellular technology” — Wagner makes what in retrospect is the understatement of the century — “the market seems wide open.”
She predicts that by the end of 1984, cellular mobile phones would be operating “in New York, Detroit and other major American cities.”
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Insurance salesman David could now work while driving. He “can direct-dial to any number or receive calls from any number in the world,” Wagner says.
She describes him reaching to the touchtone phone to the right of his driver’s seat. He enters the number and pushes the button marked “send” and picks up the receiver, which he calls a “headset.”
John Holland, quality assurance manager at Pao Tel Mobile Services, inserts a phone number assignment to a cellular phone in California in January 1992. Alan Grath/APhide caption
“If I wanted to, I could put this headset down and talk to you over the microphone,” he says. He has “essentially a speakerphone in the car,” he explains.
Remember, this is 1983, when phones still looked like hefty bricks — almost a decade before the first text message of 1992, which had to be typed on a computer because, well, phones didn’t have keyboards.
David’s swanky car setup cost him $3,300 for the hardware: a phone, “a transmitting box the size of a small briefcase that fits into his trunk” and something Wagner calls “wiring charges.” In addition, the service itself cost on average roughly $2,000 a year.
In other words, this was quite the luxury item — “not like putting a phone in your house,” David says, to remind you again that we’re in 1983.
“But what it boils down to is that it’s cost effective,” he continues. “I’ll be able to utilize what really amounts to dead time when you’re driving in your car. There’s not much you can do,” he says. “You can’t write letters.”