Fearing Deportation, Families Plan For The Worst

In the wake of the Trump administration’s plans to crack down on illegal immigration, fear is sweeping through immigrant communities. Parents are being advised to put a plan in place for their children in case they find themselves detained or deported.

Brothers Miguel, 14, and Angel, 15, know exactly what to do if they come home from school one day and their mom isn’t there.

“I would immediately just grab the binder and just call my family here,” Angel says.

He’s talking about a black, three-ring binder they keep in a closet. Their mother, whose name is not used because of her fear of being deported, put it together a few months ago.

Her six children are all U.S. citizens, but she came here illegally from Mexico 18 years ago. And while she prays every day that she won’t be picked up and deported, Angel says she’s prepared them all for the worst.

Angel says after grabbing the binder, he would, “call to a friend of mine that’s a police, have him to come to the house and take care of us while we figure out what happened to my mom and where she is.”

The mother says she’s given her two oldest boys instructions on what to do and who to call. She also put a notarized letter in the binder giving her cousin, an American citizen, legal authority to take care of all of her children until they can be reunited with her in Mexico.

Her 7-year-old daughter doesn’t really know about any of this. She’s busy being young — playing basketball and violin and winning her school’s spelling bee.

She’s mostly unaware of the panic seeping in around her. Her mother says she wants to preserve that sense of innocence for as long as possible.

“I felt horrible when I had this conversation with the three older kids because even though they are older, they would cry and hug me,” the mother says, as translated from Spanish. “I understand that I am in a country that’s not mine but it is the country of my children. So, if they were older I wouldn’t worry, but they still need me.”

It’s estimated that there are more than 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. and that more than four million children who were born in this country have at least one parent who’s unauthorized.

Jess Hanson is a lawyer with the National Immigration Law Center based in Los Angeles, Calif. She teaches “know your rights” workshops and says the anxiety across the country is palpable.

Her advice to parents? Make a plan.

“If you’re detained in a workplace raid at 1 p.m. and you’re supposed to pick your kids up at 3, you know, who’s going to pick up your children?” she asks. “Who’s going to feed them dinner? Those kinds of very practical considerations need to be taken into account.”

Other things to include in a plan are updated passports, key phone numbers and a power of attorney to watch over your kids, “to allow a relative or close friend to make medical decisions on the child’s behalf and a place for the child to live temporarily if the parents are not around,” she says.

Hanson says if families don’t make a detailed plan — if they don’t have their own black binder with details on who can legally step in to take care of their kids — they run the risk of the state stepping in and placing their children into foster care.

Jennifer Guerrais a reporter with with NPR member station Michigan Radio. You can follow her at @RadioJenG.

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As Braille Literacy Declines, Reading Competitions Held To Boost Interest

Marcus Johnson, a 12th-grader at the Tennessee School for the Blind, takes a timed test on interpreting charts and graphs, typing his answers into his Braille writer.

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Reading isn’t usually a competitive sport. But it’s become one for Braille readers because of a lack of excitement about Braille.

Right now, the Los Angeles-based Braille Institute is putting on regional competitions like this one in a classroom at the Tennessee School for the Blind.

A braille reading competition actually looks more like a typing contest.

As competition begins, students flip through their packets. Their spread fingers sweep over the square pages.

In some events, they proofread Braille. But in this session, they interpret charts and graphs, typing their answers into mechanical nine-key Braille writers.

The old-school equipment is akin to taking a math test without a calculator these days. Digital technology, especially a computer’s ability to read text aloud, makes Braille seem more and more antiquated. But 12th-grader Marcus Johnson finds it a necessary skill.

“Because you cannot use technology for every aspect of education, so sometimes you just have to have that physical writing there,” he says.

For Johnson, there’s also something about the written word, even in an alphabet of dots.

“To me, it’s kind of reminiscent,” he says. “I’ve had vision before in my life. I lost my vision while I was young. But it kind of just helps to bring back the feeling of actually having a physical book.”

But it’s not easy, even for someone who’s been blind since birth.

Sydney Walker made her middle school-aged son learn Braille as a baby, putting raised labels on things all over the house.

“It wasn’t easy, I’ll say,” she says. “I think some people have the idea that if you’re born blind, you’re automatically going to be great Braille reader.”

It’s far from automatic. And Braille literacy has fallen to around 10 percent for children.

“The kids are not wanting to do it because it takes extra time, and it’s harder,” says Joanne Weatherall, a retired teacher from the Tennessee School for the Blind.

She’s blind herself and comes back to be a scorekeeper each year. She says no sighted person would ever think they could forget about learning to write with a pencil and paper just because they type most of the time.

“It should not occur to a blind person to not be where they can’t write something down,” she says.

She says people might be entertaining the idea of getting through life without knowing Braille because it’s easier and faster.

“The only thing I would think is because kids that start out in school very young learning technology — it’s very easy for them,” she says. “It’s faster than reading and writing in Braille because that can be very slow and cumbersome.”

This national competition that is fed by these regional events was set up 16 years ago as a fun way to make sure Braille didn’t fall out of use. And Weatherall says she still has to convince students to compete.

“What to do to really get the kids really charged up about Braille, I don’t know because many of them hate it, which just makes me crazy,” she says.

What makes Weatherall grin are Braille lovers like Marcus Johnson, who plans to attend a local university in the fall, though he says Braille will not be particularly useful in his college classes.

Blake Farmeris the news director of NPR member station WPLN. You can follow him at@flakebarmer.

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Un-Sweetened: How A Maryland County Cut Soda Sales Without A Soda Tax

Over three years, a campaign urged Howard County, Md., residents to pare back on sugary drinks — through ads, social media, health counseling and changes to what vending machines sold. And it worked.

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A three-year campaign in Howard County, Md., aimed at curbing the community’s sweet tooth led to a significant decline in sales of sugary drinks.

According to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine, the Unsweetened campaign led to a 20 percent decrease in sales of soda and a 15 percent decline in fruit drink sales between January 2013 and December 2015.

“This policy-focused campaign provides a road map for other communities to reduce consumption of sugary drinks,” write the authors of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper who evaluated the Unsweetened campaign.

The community-led campaign, funded by the Horizon Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to health and wellness, included TV and outdoor advertising, as well as a social media campaign. The campaign also worked with healthcare professionals — including pediatricians — to improve messaging that pediatricians could use to educate their patients on the risks associated with excessive sugar intake, including obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

In addition, community partners advocated for policies to reduce consumption of all sugary drinks — including a new local law that promotes access to healthier food and drink options on local government property, such as vending machines at parks and other government buildings.

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The campaign ran some edgy ads and activities. For instance, this ad dubbed Hey Coca-Cola, There’s a Better Way mimicked Coke-style ads with a snappy jingle.

The ad shows volunteers for the Unsweetened campaign approaching people drinking sodas in public places, such as parks, and trying to convince them to swap their sugary drinks for water.

The “soda-swapping” wasn’t just a one-off activity to film the ad. Volunteers led these swaps at public events throughout the campaign. “This was a way they tried to have active conversations with people in the community,” explains Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Obesity & Food Policy. She’s an author of the new paper that evaluates the campaign.

The volunteers took a playful, polite approach to the “swaps,” but it was a fairly in-your-face tactic. I asked the campaign, did they ruffled feathers with this technique?

“We didn’t have pushback or negative responses,” Horizon Foundation President and CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick told us. “But … we acknowledge that change can be hard.”

“One response we’ve often heard from people is that they don’t just want water,” Vernick told us. The group points people to its Better Beverage Finder, a tool that offers 300+ no-sugar and low-sugar alternatives to sugary drinks.

It’s hard to know which components of the Unsweetened campaign had the most impact in changing people’s sugary drink habits. “We were evaluating the program as a whole, so we don’t know which components made a difference,” says Marlene Schwartz.

“But my personal opinion is that changes to the actual environment … [have] a big impact,” she says. She points to policy changes that limited beverage choices at schools. “You’re changing what’s easiest for people to purchase.”

Schwartz says her other hypothesis is that “some of the most controversial things the [Unsweetened campaign] did — such as changing what was allowed to be sold in vending machines on government property — got a lot of discussion in the press.

There were people who were against the policy, and there were debates about it. While criticism may sound like a negative outcome, Schwartz’s hunch is that the controversy brought more attention to the issue.

“What it does is it engages the community in the conversation about sugary drinks,” she says. “So even if you disagree with the policy, you can’t help but learn that sugary drinks are a big enough deal that government is [considering] a new policy.”

One thing Maryland’s Howard County did not do? Pass a soda tax. “In Howard County, we do not have the legislative authority to institute a tax,” explains a Horizon Foundation spokesperson.

“Sugary drink taxes are gaining momentum around the country, and early results are showing that they work,” Horizon’s Vernick told us. But she says when it comes to nudging communities to make healthier choices, it “should not be an either/or question.” She says a comprehensive approach seems to work best.

“Ultimately, we believe that the combination of good policies and strong community outreach will create the most effective results,” Vernick says.

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Author, Modern Love Essayist Amy Krouse Rosenthal Dies At 51

Chicago author Amy Krouse Rosenthal has died at 51, according to The Associated Press.

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Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the best-selling author who recently announced her illness by penning a personals ad for her beloved husband, has died at 51.

Rosenthal had ovarian cancer. Her longtime literary agent confirmed her death to The Associated Press.

As an author, Rosenthal won hearts with her children’s books and her memoirs — and broke them with her “Modern Love” columncalled “You May Want To Marry My Husband.” It ran in the New York Times earlier this month.

In the piece, Rosenthal announced her illness, celebrated her family and sought a new partner for her husband Jason. She finished the essay — difficult to write through a haze of drugs and illness — on Valentine’s Day, she said, “and the most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.”

Rosenthal was a prolific writer, with more than 30 books to her name, the AP reports — including children’s books Uni the Unicorn and Duck! Rabbit! The wire service continues:

She made short films and YouTube videos, gave TED talks and provided radio commentary for NPR, among others.

“She also raised three children and had a flair for random acts of kindness, whether hanging dollar bills from a tree or leaving notes on ATM machines. …

“Rosenthal loved experimenting with different media, and blending the virtual and physical worlds. One of her favorite projects began with a YouTube video, ’17 Things I Made,’ featuring everything from books she had written to her three children to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. At the end of the video, she welcomed fans to join her at Chicago’s Millennium Park, on August 8, 2008, at 8:08 p.m. The goal was to make a ‘cool’ 18th thing.

“Hundreds turned out to ‘make’ things – a grand entrance, a new friend, a splash, something pretty.”

Rosenthal was famously upbeat — an NPR book critic once called her “preternaturally cheerful.”

Even her essay announcing her terminal disease was forward-looking and, in its own way, profoundly joyful. But the popular essay left many a reader in tears, as Rosenthal celebrated her husband and the life she was about to leave behind:

“If you’re looking for a dreamy, let’s-go-for-it travel companion, Jason is your man. He also has an affinity for tiny things: taster spoons, little jars, a mini-sculpture of a couple sitting on a bench, which he presented to me as a reminder of how our family began.

“Here is the kind of man Jason is: He showed up at our first pregnancy ultrasound with flowers. This is a man who, because he is always up early, surprises me every Sunday morning by making some kind of oddball smiley face out of items near the coffeepot: a spoon, a mug, a banana. …

“If he sounds like a prince and our relationship seems like a fairy tale, it’s not too far off, except for all of the regular stuff that comes from two and a half decades of playing house together. And the part about me getting cancer. Blech.”

Rosenthal contributed to NPR several times, including a Thanksgiving-themed commentary from 1997 about what she was grateful for. “I’m thankful for hot soup on cold Sundays,” she said. “I’m thankful every time I pull up to a parking meter with free time remaining. I’m thankful for pockets.”

You can hear that commentary here:

You can also read an excerpt from her first memoir, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. One of the items was “Dying.”

“People are just dying everywhere, all the time, every which way,” she wrote. “What can the rest of us do but hold on for dear life.”

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Beware Of 'Accuracy'

Accuracy can be totally ambiguous, telling us how often the answer is wrong, but not how it is wrong, says Tania Lombrozo. For example, if a pregnancy test is

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In a recent post, Adam Frank introduced some key ideas behind Bayesian statistics. He began with the example of a medical test for a disease, asking the question: How likely is it that I have the disease, given a positive result from a test that’s 80 percent accurate?

This probability can be calculated using Bayes’ theorem, a simple formula that follows from the axioms of probability theory. To calculate the number we want, we’d need to know how common the disease is in the relevant population, how often the test generates a false positive, and how often it generates a false negative.

As Adam’s post was making the Internet rounds, I was — by coincidence — teaching Bayes’ theorem in my undergraduate class, Sense & Sensibility & Science. We went through examples just like Adam’s, including the psychology behind why people so often estimate the relevant probability incorrectly. I also shared an important lesson with my students. The lesson is this: Beware of “accuracy.”

The term “accuracy” seems innocuous enough. We often want to know how accurately we responded on an exam, or how “accurate” a statement is. But when it comes to something like a medical test, “accuracy” underspecifies what we’re after, because there are two importantly different ways to get things right, and two importantly different ways to get things wrong.

To see this, consider the two possible states of the world (having the disease, not having the disease), and the two possible results of the test (positive, negative). All combinations can occur, and two of these combinations get things right: We both have the disease and get a positive test result, or we don’t have the disease and we get a negative test result. But the remaining two combinations get things wrong in very different ways. One way to get things wrong is to have a false positive: A person without the disease gets a positive test result. Another way to get things wrong is to have a false negative: Someone who does have the disease gets a negative test result.

In Adam’s example, he uses the “accuracy” of 80 percent to refer to an 80 percent chance of having a positive test result given that a person has the disease. But in many contexts, accuracy is totally ambiguous — it tells us how often the answer is wrong, but not how it is wrong. The example I use in my class is a pregnancy test that advertises “99 percent accuracy.” How many of those errors are false positives (telling a non-pregnant woman that she’s pregnant) versus false negatives (telling a pregnant woman that she isn’t)? Those are very different kinds of errors — a consumer may very reasonably want to know which kind is more likely.

Going beyond “accuracy” is important for a few reasons.

First, we need to go beyond accuracy to do the math. Bayes’ theorem takes into account both the false positive and the false negative rate — not undifferentiated “accuracy.” That means that if we want to know what a test result means for our probability of having a disease, we need to know how often each type of error occurs. More generally, if we want to know how to update our beliefs in light of some new piece of evidence, we need to know how often that evidence should arise under each hypothesis we’re entertaining.

Second, not all errors are equal. For some diseases, a false positive might come at little cost — perhaps it means a follow-up test that reveals the initial error. But a false negative could mean that symptoms go untreated and complications develop; in some cases, it could mean death. The relative costs of a false positive versus a false negative depend on the specific case in question, but it’s almost always an error to treat them as one and the same.

Finally — and more speculatively — it could be that a more fine-gained vocabulary for describing the relationship between reality and what we say or think gives us better tools for calling out misstatements of fact, half-truths and fabrications. Invoking a “Bowling Green Massacre” that never occurred is one type of error (call it a “false positive”); failing to mention meetings with Russian ambassadors is another (call it a “false negative”).

Just as we need to be wary of “accuracy,” we may need to be wary of “inaccuracy,” too. When it comes to errors, it matters how we get things wrong.


Tania Lombrozo is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She writes about psychology, cognitive science and philosophy, with occasional forays into parenting and veganism. You can keep up with more of what she is thinking on Twitter: @TaniaLombrozo

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A 'Stella' For Springtime, Snowstorms Or Starlight

“The song a robin sings through years of endless springs…”

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For tens of millions in the Northeast, the name of the hour is “Stella” — as in Winter Storm Stella, the Weather Channel-branded nor’easter poised to bring heavy snowfall to a number of cities along the I-95 corridor. I’m among those who will soon be hunkering down (and later, shoveling out), but my first involuntary response is to start humming a familiar melody.

As any actual Stella can surely attest with a weary sigh, the name has a special purchase in popular culture, thanks to a scrap of dialogue by Tennessee Williams — and more to the point, its indelible delivery by Marlon Brando, in the movie version of A Streetcar Named Desire.

We’re not here to talk about that. What’s stuck in my head is the melody to “Stella By Starlight,” a song composed by Victor Young for another film, a 1944 Paramount supernatural horror picture called The Uninvited. I’ve never seen this movie, which stars Gail Russell as the Stella in question, but I’ve heard the song at least a few thousand times, and probably more.

As a vocal number, with lyrics tacked on by Ned Washington, it enjoyed some popular success in versions by (among others) Frank Sinatra (1947), Tony Bennett (1961) and Ella Fitzgerald, who included it on her Verve album Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! in ’61.

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The lyrics open with a couplet suitable for mid-March, though not for our current conditions: “The song a robin sings / Through years of endless springs.” As always, Fitzgerald is clear as a bell, and manages to make the song’s melody feel easygoing in its unconventionally winding form.

In his recent book The Jazz Standards, Ted Gioia brings a special warmth to his analysis of “Stella By Starlight,” making the case that it’s “a masterpiece of through-composed misdirection.” Among the particulars are a delayed deployment of the root chord; a surprise modulation after the second eight bars; and a mere, fleeting tease of the core motif in the final eight. “This bold framework, which violates our ingrained expectations, was precisely what made me embrace ‘Stella By Starlight’ as an essentially modernistic composition,” Gioia writes, and in that he is far from alone.

Jazz instrumentalists, more than singers, have been responsible for keeping “Stella” in active circulation over the last 70 years. You’ll have no problem finding dozens of recorded versions, by some of the music’s most familiar names, including alto saxophonist Charlie Parker and pianist Bill Evans. But no one did more to standardize the song than Miles Davis and Lee Konitz.

Davis, the trumpeter and bandleader, recorded “Stella By Starlight” a handful of times from the late 1950s on: It was among the small handful of standards he always seemed to keep in a side pocket. One early version, with Evans on piano, was released almost 20 years after it was recorded, and subsequently included in The Complete Columbia Recordings of Miles Davis with John Coltrane, on Legacy.

For many fans, Davis immortalized “Stella” as a vehicle for lyrical elaboration in his set lists of the mid-’60s. Here is a semi-abstracted treatment of the song from the Plugged Nickel in Chicago in 1965, with too many stray details to enumerate. But notice how Herbie Hancock sneaks in an Evans-esque chordal fillip from “So What” at the piano, just after 1:20. Note, too, the double time that seems almost to materialize out of a mist, spurred by bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. (And lest it seem like a slight of omission, Wayne Shorter’s solo on tenor saxophone blazes like a searchlight.)

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Because of the slipstream innovations of Davis’s young rhythm team, successive generations of jazz musicians have internalized “Stella By Starlight” as a point of departure. But Konitz, an alto saxophonist of equally intrepid ideals, has also framed the song this way.

There are no hard numbers on this point, but it seems reasonable to suggest that no one on earth has played “Stella” more times than Konitz, who is now 89, and still very much on the scene. He even included a new version on his Frescalalto, a quartet album featuring Kenny Barron on piano, released on Impulse! in digital formats last month.

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Any longtime Konitz admirer will recognize this performance as fully characteristic: a melodic improvisation with the unknowing ease of someone feeling around for the light switch in his own room. When Barron enters at the piano, just before the one-minute mark, it’s as if that light has been flipped on. But what Konitz does in the lead-up isn’t fumbling or unsure, and neither are his later statements over an ambulatory swing beat. He’s finding, not just seeking.

One more example before you grab that snow shovel: A couple of years ago, Robert Glasper refocused attention on his acoustic piano trio, after garnering a lot of attention for the Robert Glasper Experiment, his R&B crossover band. Covered was the album he made with the trio, which features bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid.

For the most part Covered features acts of stylistic translation: deft trio arrangements of tunes by Radiohead, Jhene Aiko and Kendrick Lamar. But Glasper does include one jazz standard, as if to assert that he’s still bonded to that repertoire. And his “Stella” does have a fair amount of piano fireworks, without knocking the band out of its groove.

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“In all honesty,” Gioia observes, “I still have trouble understanding the appeal of such a hook-free art song among the general public.” Glasper’s arrangement offers one solution: Provide the hooks yourself.

But the enduring hold of “Stella By Starlight,” over these many decades, suggests that even a so-called art song can stick around in the popular consciousness, if enough sterling interpreters keep finding reasons to play it.

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GOP Health Care Bill Could Leave 24M Without Coverage By 2026, CBO Says

House Speaker Paul Ryan uses charts and graphs to make his case for the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on March 9, 2017.

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The Congressional Budget Office has released a report on the potential impact of the House GOP health care bill. It estimates that the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion between 2017 and 2026. It also estimates that compared with current law, 14 million more people would be uninsured by 2018, and 24 million more would be uninsured by 2026.

Just over 28 million Americans were uninsured in the first half of 2016, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. The CBO estimates that in 2026, there would likewise be 28 million uninsured Americans under current law, compared to 52 million under the Republican repeal and replace plan thus far.

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