Teen Shot Dead By Police As His Car Was Driving Away, Chief Says

Jordan Edwards, as seen in an undated family photo provided by attorney S. Lee Merritt.

Courtesy of S. Lee Merritt

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Courtesy of S. Lee Merritt

Jordan Edwards, a high school freshman, was leaving a house party in a Dallas suburb late Saturday night with several friends when police officers arrived outside. The officers were investigating a complaint about noisy teenagers in the neighborhood, and they had heard gunshots in the area as they approached.

Within minutes, the black 15-year-old passenger had been killed — shot in the head by an officer through the front passenger window and pronounced dead at the hospital shortly afterward.

The next day, Balch Springs police Chief Jonathan Haber apologized to Edwards’ family at a news conference, explaining the situation by saying the vehicle was backing toward officers “in an aggressive manner.”

By Monday afternoon, however, Haber had retracted that account.

NPR’s Wade Goodwyn explains the discrepancies as Haber laid them out:

“In fact, the car with five teenagers inside was moving forward, not backward, and away from the officers, not toward them. There was no altercation, known or otherwise.

“Nevertheless one of officers fired a rifle multiple times into the passenger window, killing young Jordan Edwards. None of the teens were carrying weapons, nor were they drunk.

“Chief Haber said his review of the officer’s body camera video indicated the shooting may not meet his departments standards.”

The officer, who remains unnamed, has been placed on administrative leave. Both the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the Dallas County district attorney’s public integrity unit are investigating the shooting.

“We offer our sincere condolences to Jordan’s family and will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers as we move forward expeditiously, with a commitment to justice and transparency,” District Attorney Faith Johnson’s office said in a statement Monday.

The attorney for Edwards’ family, Lee Merritt, said at a news conference Monday that the teen’s parents will continue to push for the officer to be arrested and charged.

“We are declaring war on bad policing. This has happened far too often,” Merritt said, while flanked by Edwards’ family. “America must find a way to police its citizens without killing them.”

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Puerto Rico Eyes Options As It Faces Debt Deadline — Again

People carry a large Puerto Rican flag as they protest looming austerity measures amid an economic crisis in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Monday. The May Day demonstrations come as the island faces a Monday deadline for reaching a deal on debt payments, or entering bankruptcy-like proceedings.

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Danica Coto/AP

After nearly two years of missed payments and delayed actions, Puerto Rico is bumping up against another deadline as it tries to grapple with tens of billions of dollars of debt.

One proposal for partial repayment of the debt was rejected over the weekend. Another option is for the island to essentially declare bankruptcy, through a process created specifically for Puerto Rico.

After midnight on Monday, if some sort of deal has not been struck, the U.S. territory will be fair game for lawsuits by its creditors.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marched in San Juan on Monday, in May Day protests fueled by anger over the out-of-control-debt and resulting cuts in services.

The island is preparing to “cut public employee benefits, increase tax revenue, hike water rates and privatize government operations, among other things,” The Associated Press reports. The unpopular steps are driven by the same oversight board that has been negotiating the future of Puerto Rico’s debt payments.

The debt was born out of a 25-year economic disaster that left the territory running a deficit year after year, taking out loans just to keep the lights on. Economic woes drove residents off the island and to the mainland, which worsened the cash-flow problem.

In 2015, the island’s governor declared the debt, more than $70 billion, “unpayable.” Puerto Rico couldn’t afford to make its loan payments and also pay for basic services like police, schools and hospitals.

The two years that followed were marked by defaults on loan payments, budget cuts and tax hikes. Austerity measures meant residents of Puerto Rico — who are U.S. citizens — experienced slashes in government services.

If Puerto Rico were a municipality in the U.S., it would be able to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy — that’s what cities like Detroit have done when their debts became unmanageable. But as a territory, it doesn’t have that option.

In June 2016, Congress passed a law, PROMESA, that created a special oversight board to tackle Puerto Rico’s debt problem.

The board took some control away from local government, which has prompted protests from Puerto Ricans, who say the board — which has been facilitating negotiations between Puerto Rico and its creditors — is valuing investors’ interests over those of the islanders.

But the oversight board also gave Puerto Rico a new option for handling its debt: If voluntary talks fail, the board has the ability to initiate a mandatory, court-supervised debt restructuring process.

PROMESA doesn’t call this “bankruptcy,” and it’s not identical to Chapter 9. But the underlying principles are the same.

“It mirrors conventional bankruptcy processes that are ordered and arbitrated through a court system,” says Eric LeCompte, the executive director of Jubilee USA Networks, a religious development organization that supports debt relief and debt forgiveness.

The “Title III” process, as it’s called in PROMESA, allows Puerto Rico to address all of its debts at once, in a comprehensive process — which even Chapter 9 doesn’t allow, LeCompte says. It’s essentially a bankruptcy process custom-built for Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

The other option has always been to strike a deal without involving the courts.

Late on Friday, Puerto Rico’s governor made an offer to the island’s creditors that would have done just that. Bloomberg reports that the proposal would have paid as much as 77 cents on the dollar to some creditors, and as little as 39 cents on the dollar.

That was a worse deal than the previous governor had suggested to creditors, the Wall Street Journal reports. Bondholders rejected the idea, sending the debt back to the negotiating table over the weekend.

These negotiations have been dragging on for years, but a new deadline loomed over the latest talks.

Puerto Rico has been protected from litigation through a temporary stay, designed to buy time for talks, that expires at midnight on Monday.

That stay has been extended before, but Congress has made no move to offer a reprieve this time.

President Trump, for his part, has recently criticized efforts to help Puerto Rico with its financial crisis. He tweeted that a Democratic push to send funding to the island’s Medicaid program amounted to a “bailout” of the U.S. territory. (An omnibus bill, passed over the weekend, ultimately included nearly $300 million for the healthcare program.)

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Trump Administration Rolls Back 2 Of Michelle Obama's Signature Initiatives

Former first lady Michelle Obama attended the presentation of “Let Girls Learn” at Matadero cultural center last June in Madrid, Spain.

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Former first lady Michelle Obama might find some of the latest actions by the Trump administration pretty difficult to stomach.

On Monday newly minted Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a rollback of school lunch standards championed by the former first lady, declaring at a Virginia school that the administration would “Make School Meals Great Again.”

Meanwhile, CNN reported that the Trump White House will not continue the Let Girls Learn program in its current form. The initiative aims to provide educational opportunities for young women in developing countries.

The school nutrition standards have long been a source of controversy, making them a more likely target of the current administration. Reports about the Let Girls Learn program, which the Peace Corps oversees, are perhaps more surprising.

In an email obtained by CNN, Peace Corps acting director Sheila Crowley said, ” ‘Let Girls Learn’ provided a platform to showcase Peace Corps’ strength in community development, shining a bright light on the work of our Volunteers all over the world.”

However, Crawley noted, “moving forward, we will not continue to use the ‘Let Girls Learn’ brand or maintain a stand-alone program.”

Neither the White House nor the Peace Corps responded to emails from NPR to verify the decision or to comment on it. But the Peace Corps told CNN that the agency would continue to “to prioritize girls’ education and empowerment programming.”

The former first lady launched the Let Girls Learn initiative in 2015, saying that it would tailor an approach to the problem girls face in many developing countries, including being forced into child marriages and not having appropriate bathrooms for girls who may seek to attend schools.

“You have told me that whatever obstacles these girls face — whether it’s school fees, or violence or cultural beliefs that girls simply aren’t worthy of an education — you’ve said that these problems will not be fixed from on high,” Obama told activists who pushed for the approach. “That these are community challenges that call for community solutions.”

The first lady made the initiative a priority of her husband’s final years in office, traveling in 2016 to Liberia and Morocco with her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto.

Promoting healthy eating and combating childhood obesity were also top priorities for Michelle Obama. Curbing the requirements that Obama pushed for, Agriculture Secretary Perdue argued on Monday that the standards led to children simply not eating the lunches.

“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue said in a statement. “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program.”

NPR’s Allison Aubrey reports that the School Nutrition Association, which represents school food administrators, has been pushing for the changes.

The affected standards involve whole grain requirements, sodium content and milk options.

The USDA will now let states grant exemptions regarding whole grain standards for the 2017-2018 school year if they’re having trouble meeting the requirements, and the agency said it will “take all necessary regulatory actions to implement a long-term solution.”

Sodium reductions set in place by the Obama administration will be postponed for at least three years to “provide schools and the school nutrition industry with the certainty and predictability they need to make appropriate plans for creating foods with the appropriate amount of sodium.”

Milk requirements would also loosen, allowing schools to serve 1 percent flavored milk.

The fight over school lunches has lasted years. Even after the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 took effect, Michelle Obama continued to have to defend its importance, as NPR’s Tamara Keith reported in 2014. In 2016 the Senate settled on a compromise that would keep most of the new standards in place, including requiring to schools to serve more fruits and vegetables along with the planned reductions in sodium and increase in whole grains.

A spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump confirmed that Mrs. Trump does plan to keep up the vegetable garden that Michelle Obama planted at the White House.

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NPR's Eyder Peralta Released After Brief Detainment In South Sudan

Authorities in South Sudan detained Eyder Peralta, NPR’s correspondent in East Africa, for roughly four days before releasing him Monday morning. Peralta and his South Sudanese assistant were first placed in custody in the city of Juba on Friday, and they were held for three nights.

It remains unclear why they were detained.

Peralta flew home unharmed to his base in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday morning. His assistant is still in custody, however, and NPR spokeswoman Isabel Lara says the organization is now “in touch with authorities regarding his release.”

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In Afghanistan, Security Incidents And Civilian Casualties At Record Highs

An Afghan soldier walks at a checkpoint last month on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan.

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As the U.S. considers sending more troops to Afghanistan and reviews its current strategy there, a new report from a U.S. government watchdog paints a bleak picture of the country’s security and corruption issues.

Congress has appropriated more than $117 billion total to Afghanistan reconstruction efforts, and 60 percent of that has gone to the support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). At the same time, Taliban militants have gained territory during this past year, and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says the conflict is at a “stalemate.”

The findings were detailed in the latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR — a military agency set up by Congress that audits U.S. spending in Afghanistan.

“Security is the most obvious and urgent challenge,” SIGAR says. “Security incidents throughout 2016 and continuing into the first quarter of 2017 reached their highest level since UN reporting began in 2007.”

Conflict-related civilian casualties reached their highest levels since the U.N. began documenting them in 2009, the report states, with 3,498 civilians killed and 7,920 injured.

And the casualty toll within the ranks of the ANDSF “continued to be shockingly high,” the report says, with 807 killed within the first six weeks of the year.

That figure does not include the massive Taliban-claimed attack at a military base in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif that killed at least 100 Afghan soldiers.

“The ANDSF faces many problems: unsustainable casualties, temporary losses of provincial and district centers, weakness in logistics and other functions, illiteracy in the ranks, often corrupt or ineffective leadership, and over-reliance on highly trained special forces for routine missions,” the report says.

The report points out two other huge problems for the ANDSF – corruption and trouble holding on to members. “About 35% of the force does not reenlist each year,” according to SIGAR, and last month, the Afghan Ministry of Defense said it “sacked 1,394 of its officials for corruption in the past year.”

The report describes these problems as “corrosive,” saying they could undercut nonmilitary goals. At the same time, it quotes U.S. Forces in the country as saying the ANDSF is “generally performing better than at this same point last year.”

Another huge problem: The production of opium, a trade that supplies some 60 percent of the Taliban’s funding, “stands near record levels.”

Previous SIGAR reports have pointed out other major issues. For example:

  • “Nearly a half-billion dollars’ worth of transport aircraft procured for the Afghans were found unfit for use and were scrapped for pennies on the pound.”
  • “Some buildings were built with concrete that dissolved in rain, or with walls and roofs that could collapse, or with unsafe wiring and inadequate plumbing.”
  • The Two-Way has previously reported that a recent SIGAR report found that “a hospital in Afghanistan paid for by the U.S. is poorly built, years late and might be too expensive for the Afghan government to run on its own in the long-term.”

It’s not entirely bad news — SIGAR says the country’s healthcare and education sectors are improving. U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Aaron O’Connell, who edited a new book about Afghanistan, detailed the improvements to education in an NPR interview last month:

“Under the Taliban, there was less than a million people in schools and almost zero women. Now there are between 6 and 9 million Afghans going through education, and about a third of them are women. All of this is real progress, and it’s sustainable. It pays dividends in the years that follow.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who visited the country last week, has said that the Trump administration is reviewing U.S. policy toward Afghanistan.

And as it does so, SIGAR is calling for a “fresh, frank look at the reconstruction program,” involving assessing which U.S.-funded programs are stronger and weaker, and preparing to cut the weaker ones. He also wants to see a U.S. counternarcotics strategy, which has been “on hold for nearly two years.”

As O’Connell put it, there is “still space to reason what the appropriate amount of blood and treasure is to spend on a mission that seems to be in stalemate at best, backsliding at worst.”

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In South Korea's Presidential Election, A Referendum On U.S. Relations

A demonstrator waves U.S. and South Korean flags together, at a pro-U.S. rally in front of Seoul’s City Hall on Saturday.

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Lauren Frayer/NPR

At a pro-U.S. rally in central Seoul over the weekend, supporters of impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye chanted for the destruction of their enemy, North Korea. They’ve formed an encampment outside City Hall, where they express support for Park and the U.S., and criticize left-wing politicians.

Park was removed from office in March, a first in South Korea’s history. She goes on trial Tuesday for corruption, and faces life in prison if convicted. On May 9, there’s a presidential election to replace her.

At the polls, South Koreans are expected to punish Park’s fellow conservatives, and elect a liberal instead. The vote also has become a referendum on U.S. relations — about how close South Koreans want to be with the United States.

Park is an icon of South Korea’s conservative establishment. Her backers tend to be older, Christian, conservative and pro-U.S. — people who lived through the 1950-’53 Korean War as children.

“The communist threat is still high. We need the U.S. to defend us,” said Lee Seung-won, 74, who wore Army fatigues and buttons with a Christian cross and U.S. and South Korean flags. “Younger generations don’t realize it, but if we replace Park with a liberal, we’re risking our future.”

Lee Seung-won, 74, considers himself a pro-U.S. conservative, and he believes the ousted South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, was unfairly treated. Park goes on trial Tuesday for corruption. An election to replace her will be held May 9.

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Lauren Frayer/NPR

A liberal, however, is leading in the polls: Moon Jae-in, a human rights lawyer who wants dialogue with North Korea, and possibly cooler relations with Washington.

Protesters clashed with riot police last week in Seongju, a rural southeastern region of South Korea, where the U.S. military is installing a defense system designed to shoot down North Korean missiles. An increasing number of South Koreans are opposed to it. The presidential front-runner Moon vows to renegotiate the deal.

Moon’s rallies tend to draw support from younger South Koreans who’ve grown up in a prosperous, peaceful country. They worry less about war, and more about youth unemployment and corruption. Aside from ex-President Park, the head of Samsung, the country’s biggest company, is also on trial for corruption.

“I support Mr. Moon. First of all, I believe he will not be like Ms. Park, taking money from the companies,” says Choi Jihye, 23, a student. “I believe he is clean.”

Park is accused of conspiring with a childhood friend to collect tens of millions of dollars in bribes from big companies. Charged with bribery, coercion and abuse of power, she faces life in prison if convicted.

Her fall from power has many South Koreans rethinking Park’s policies, including the traditional, steadfast alliance with the U.S., which began in the Korean War and its aftermath, when South Korea was a much poorer nation.

Choi says she always considered herself pro-U.S., but she’s worried about relations under President Trump. In recent days, Trump has said he may scrap a free trade agreement with South Korea, and has threatened to make Seoul pay for the missile defense system the U.S. military is installing. Trump also has said he’s thinking about preemptive military action against Pyongyang.

“I don’t know what he wants to do. Fight with North Korea? Take something from South Korea?” Choi asks. “I cannot understand what he is doing now.”

North Korea may not understand either, and that may explain why it has not conducted a sixth nuclear test, as has been expected. It has previously set off five underground nuclear explosions, including two last year.

“North Korea knows Trump is no Barack Obama. It knows he could attack any day now,” says Jeon Young-sun, a professor of North Korean studies at Konkuk University in Seoul. “So I think that’s why North Korea is holding back on major provocations.”

On Monday, North Korea said it’s bolstering its nuclear program at “maximum” speed — and that only its “Supreme Leader,” Kim Jong Un, will decide when the next step will come.

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As Audiences Enjoy 'Peak TV,' Strike Threat Puts Spotlight On The Writers

In 2007, the Writers Guild of America went on strike over revenues from Internet and DVD sales. Above, writers and supporters march in Los Angeles on Nov. 9, 2007, the fifth day of the strike.

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Reed Saxon/AP

As early as midnight tonight, around 13,000 film and TV writers are ready to go on strike. Their union, the Writers Guild of America, West has not yet managed to reach an agreement over pensions and health plans, and how much writers get paid with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios.

Writers occupy a critical place in television production. It’s much different from the movies. In movies, it’s the director whose vision is executed, who controls the tone and pace. But in television, plots, characters, themes, even the vibe, all get established in the writers room. Back in 2015, Shonda Rhimes, arguably the most powerful woman in television, described herself as first a writer in an interview on WHYY’s Fresh Air.

“On Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, I am the writer, executive producer, creator. On How To Get Away With Murder, I am just the executive producer.”

Just?” responded host Terry Gross in some disbelief.

Rhimes replied that her executive producer tasks on How To Get Away With Murder involved far less creative control.

“It’s more like being the grandmother,” she said. “You hold the baby but then you get to give the baby back. With the other shows, I’m responsible for everything.”

“Writers literally run TV shows,” agrees James Poniewozik, chief TV critic for The New York Times. He says “peak TV” — an era where more than 450 scripted series were produced this season alone — would be impossible without hundreds of writers rooms filled with people bouncing ideas off each other, polishing each others’ work — and serving the creator’s singular voice.

Mad Men was a particular example of that,” he says. “It was a show really that was TV, but it was very literary. It sort of modeled itself on the kind of voice that you would have in short fiction.”

The collective voice of the writers room is especially crucial with a network comedy like ABC’s Black-ish that might produce as many as 25 episodes a season. But shorter series are increasingly common on streaming, cable and even network shows. Stranger Things, on Netflix, had only eight episodes. That translates to less money for writers, who are paid per episode. According to the Writers Guild of America, writers’ median salaries have actually dropped over the past two years.

Poniewozik was hopeful this strike would be averted. As happy as he is that the writers and studios have found common ground, he could not help but think about a strike’s potential personal upside.

“I might at least get caught up on a lot of my backlog,” he said wryly.

All those shows we don’t have time to watch might be ones we can finally get around to. Poniewozik still plans to check out the Showtime drama Billions and if — god forbid — the strikes drags on and on — he points out there are at least four decades worth of the show Dr. Who.

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'Aggressive Yet Sublime': A Looter, Nirvana And The Los Angeles Riots

Gilbert Monterrosa was 15 years old (left, from his high school yearbook in 1992) during the Los Angeles Riots. He and some friends decided to loot a Fedco department store where he found something unexpected — Nirvana’s album, Nevermind.

Courtesy of Gilbert Monterrosa

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Courtesy of Gilbert Monterrosa

When you talk about the unrest that broke out in Los Angeles 25 years ago after the Rodney King verdict, one thing people usually remember is the looting.

People went into stores and just walked out with stuff. Some people stole vital things such as food and baby formula because they didn’t know how long the riots would last. Others stole booze and cigarettes. Still others dared to carry mattresses and giant TVs home on their backs — and they weren’t stopped by anyone.

Gilbert Monterrosa was one of those looters. But, he says he was a reluctant participant.

Monterrosa was 15 at the time — a sophomore at James A. Foshay Junior High, now known as James A. Foshay Learning Center. He lived with his mom and two younger sisters in what was then known as South Central Los Angeles, and they had immigrated from El Salvador.

Monterrosa says he and his siblings weren’t allowed to watch TV after 5 p.m., so when the riots started on April 29, they didn’t know anything had happened. They just went to bed like they always did.

It wasn’t until the next day when Monterrosa was walking to school and bumped into his friend Luce and her mom that he first realized something was going on. Luce’s mom insisted Monterrosa turn around and go back home. She said she would call his mom and explain the whole thing. As they walked back, Luce explained.

“I was completely oblivious as to what was going on,” Monterrosa says. “Luce goes, ‘You didn’t watch did you?’ And I go, ‘No what happened?’ She goes, ‘S*** is gonna go down. Last night people were burning cars and flipping them over and things were going on on television. It might happen again today.’ And I said, ‘What? C’mon man!’ “

But when Monterrosa got home and turned on the TV — as thousands of others would do around the country — he saw exactly that. As he watched TV for the next four hours, he saw breaking news video of his neighborhood on fire, and people breaking into stores across town and stealing things.

It wasn’t long before two of Monterrosa’s friends came over and insisted they go out and steal too. At first, he did not want to go. That was, until a neighbor played on Monterrosa’s major weakness.

“It was known across my neighborhood that I was a mama’s boy,” he says. “That I listened to everything she had to say. And because my dad wasn’t around, my stepdad wasn’t also around, I had to play the machismo card and show them that I was the man.”

So when the neighbor, Eduardo, questioned him, Monterrosa caved.

“Eduardo, I remember, said, ‘And this little b**** is going?’ and it just burned me up inside,” he says. “And I said to him, ‘Yeah I’m going!’ “

Monterrosa and his friends piled into the car and drove to the nearest Fedco department store on the corner of La Cienega and Rodeo streets. The Fedco no longer stands on this intersection — it has now been replaced by a Target — but back then, Fedco was similar to a Costco. It was a major wholesale warehouse with groceries and all kinds of goods. When Monterrosa and his friends arrived, they discovered items all over the floor.

“It was as if somebody had opened up the doors to Fedco, and they were just giving stuff away,” Monterrosa recalls. “People that I knew that were in opposing gangs were helping each other out, and there’s stuff everywhere on the floor — clothing, food — everything is just chaos. Absolute chaos.”

Looters carry televisions out of a Fedco Department Store at La Cienega Boulevard and Rodeo in Los Angeles on May 1, 1992, during the second day of rioting in the city.

Paul Sakuma/AP

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Paul Sakuma/AP

Monterrosa remembers being pretty nervous, but then he started to think that there was one thing he might really want, something his mom could never afford — a boombox. That’s because Monterrosa was really into music.

“LL Cool J, Ice Cube, NWA, a lot of R&B, a lot of hip-hop, that was my life,” Monterrosa says. “Because that’s all you listen to, growing up in South Central.”

So Monterrosa went inside the Fedco, grabbed a boombox and noticed something else among the slew of items on the floor.

“I looked down on the floor, and there was this album cover with a baby swimming, and a dollar bill on a hook,” he says. “And I saw that and I said, ‘What the f*** is that? What is that, right?”

The albumwas Nevermind by Nirvana.

Monterossa snuck back home with the album and boombox. He waited for his mom to go to bed, put on headphones, hit play — and heard Nirvana for the first time.

“It was unreal. It was like opening an entire world of music to me,” Monterrosa says. “It was sonically aggressive yet sublime at the same time. There were these breaks in the music where everything was just really hard, and then it just came down and built up again. And in my mind’s eye I could picture the riots as I was listening to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ And it just became the soundtrack of that day.”

That CD got Monterrosa into a bunch of other music — things he’d never heard before.

“It led me back to The Clash, and The Clash led me back to The [Rolling] Stones, and The Stones led me back to The Beatles,” Monterrosa says, “and then I listened to Bohemian Rhapsody, and then from there I went on toLa Traviata.”

It was right around this time that Monterrosa’s mom decided to move to a new neighborhood — Silver Lake, which is on the east side of LA — and he started going to a new school.

And because he was into grunge — Nirvana, Pearl Jam, flannel shirts — he started hanging out with the other grunge dudes — dudes who were into editing videos and doing graphic design.

“These guys were like, friends with the jocks, the cheerleaders, the burnouts, the cholos,” Monterrosa says. “I talked to everybody because I was part of that group of guys that listened to alternative music.”

Monterrosa says if he hadn’t changed his music and his clothes, at the same time he changed his neighborhood, he probably would have ended up getting in trouble, like his other friends back in the old neighborhood.

“If I would’ve stayed in South Central, I know for a fact that I would either be dead or in jail,” he says. “My ego wouldn’t have allowed me to be a punk. Just like I was taught to go into the LA riots by Eduardo, these guys were able to push my buttons, and if you have that much machismo, growing inside of you, and you come from a broken home, where you have to be the man, I probably would’ve been part of this group of guys that would have ended up getting arrested or getting killed by another gang of people.”

It wasn’t all easy in the new school. Monterrosa eventually dropped out.

But then he got his GED, and now he works in IT for a security company that allows you to monitor your home through your smart phone. He’s married and has a little boy. His mom is retired, and he and his sisters take care of her.

Twenty five years ago, Monterrossa stole some stuff during the LA riots. He did a bad thing that day, but in a way, it turned out to be a good thing.

Driving around LA, he says he still thinks about how that album changed his life. He still has the CD.

“I still listen to that album,” he says. “And instead of seeing a Fedco on La Cienega and Rodeo, I see a Target there now. And I’m listening to this, and I go, ‘Man, this is where I heard you for the first time.’ It’s like a really bad relationship, yet a really good relationship, that you can’t forget about.”

NPR’s Anjuli Sastry produced and Melissa Gray edited All Things Considered‘s series of reports on the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots.

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Why Mexican Chefs, Farmers And Activists Are Reviving The Ancient Grain Amaranth

Close-up of tzoallis being made during a summer nutrition workshop held by Puente a la Salud, a group based in Oaxaca, Mexico, that is helping to push an amaranth comeback. An ancient Aztec staple, tzoallis are made of amaranth and corn flour, agave honey and amaranth cereal.

Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

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Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

On a sunny Friday morning in San Pablo Huitzo, a town in the Valles Centrales region of Oaxaca, Mexico, a half-dozen women are gathered for a workshop on making alegrías, a healthy, granola bar-like snack made with popped amaranth seeds. Their ingredient list is short: water, honey, raisins, a form of raw cane sugar known as piloncillo, and lime juice.

“The trick,” explains the event’s gracious host, Maria Lopez, “is to get the syrup to the right temperature” before adding the tiny orbs of amaranth, each barely bigger than a grain of coarse sand.

Gastronomy student Clarissa Moran (center) works with women in microenterprise groups to create new products with amaranth.

Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

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Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

This could be any chatty gathering of neighborhood cooks in any kitchen in the world, except that in Oaxaca, amaranth is not just a fad ingredient. The ancient indigenous plant is part of a movement to revive native crops and cuisines, and a means of restoring the physical health and economy of their state, one of the poorest in Mexico.

The alegría gathering is one of six weekly microenterprise workshops that the nonprofit Puente a la Salud Comunitaria (Bridge to Community Health) holds with 25 different groups in Oaxaca. Founded in 2003 by two American volunteers in Oaxaca seeking a solution to the high rate of birth defects and childhood malnutrition in rural areas, Puente quickly hit on the idea of reintroducing amaranth into the local diet, explains Pete Noll, the organization’s executive director.

Farmers participate in a trust-building exercise at an organic fertilizer workshop in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Most of Puente’s farmer partners practice what’s known as agroecological farming — which prizes maintaining biodiversity — or are “in transition” to these methods.

Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

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Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

High in protein and other nutrients, amaranth is also drought-resistant and profitable, netting local farmers three to five times the profit of other locally grown grain crops.

Puente soon began working with small farmers to strengthen local economies through the sustainable cultivation of amaranth, known as amaranto in Spanish. As national obesity rates rose precipitously — Mexico has surpassed the U.S. in the number of overweight adults — Puente took on fighting both malnutrition and obesity. To date, the organization has worked with 6,000 families in over 80 communities to help incorporate amaranth and other healthy foods into their diet.

Alegrías made by microenterprise group members of the Central Valleys Amaranth Farmers Cooperative, for sale at an Amaranth Day event in Etla, Oaxaca.

Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

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Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

In ancient Mesoamerica amaranth was known as huautli, meaning “the smallest giver of life,” and was grown in large quantities similar to that of maize. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, amaranth all but disappeared from the native diet. No one knows for sure why. One theory holds that the edible sculptures of Aztec deities made of amaranth, corn and honey — and perhaps laced with human blood — were a pagan threat to Spanish Catholicism.

Back at the Lopez household, after the alegría ingredientshave been mixed, the women spread the mixture on a sheet of buttered paper held in a wooden frame, cut it into squares and taste the final product. The verdict: universal thumbs up. The next steps, explains Hope Bigda-Peyton, Puente’s director of development and sustainability, will be for the group to figure out costs, pricing and profit margins. Once they’ve developed their packaging and logo, they can sell their alegrías at local markets and restaurants, or at the two amaranth specialty shops that Puente operates.

(Left) Farmer Adolfo Lopez of San Andrés Zautla, Oaxaca, is an amaranth grain and leaf producer. (Right) The amaranth varietal Nutrisol grows in a field in Mixteca Alta, Oaxaca.

Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

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Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

Not far from where Lopez lives, in the town of Suchilquitongo, tender young amaranth leaves sprout between rows of corn on Minerva Cruz’s farm. One of close to 250 farmers that Puente works with, Cruz is in her third year of cultivating amaranth. “It’s a very noble plant and it has a lot of traditional value. That’s what caught my attention,” she explains.

Cruz has lent her farm to Puente for five years to serve as an amaranth processing center. Thanks to a federal grant, the farm recently got prototype machines that thresh and clean the plant’s seeds, which has vastly increased efficiency. It “is a really big step [forward] for Puente,” Noll says.

In the brick warehouse adjacent to the machines, Gerardo Lopez, head of Puente’s agricultural extension program, shows how each bag of amaranth seeds is carefully labeled to indicate the varietal it contains and how it was grown. Most of Puente’s farmer partners practice what’s known as agroecological farming — which prizes maintaining biodiversity — or are “in transition” to these methods.

This amaranth-based, open-faced tlayuda is typical of the Mixteca region of Oaxaca. Amaranth cereal sprinkled on fruit, like watermelon, is a common way of consuming amaranth in Mexico.

Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

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Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

Farmers like Cruz who grow amaranth have also developed a repertoire of recipes for the plant. Although the seed, flour and leaves of the bushy plant can all be consumed, cereal (the popped seeds) is the most commonly used form in Mexico. Cruz’s mother likes to add the leaves to water and blend them with lime peel to make an agua fresca.

Last summer, to promote the use of amaranth in cooking, Puente partnered with well-known Oaxaca City chefs to create new dishes featuring amaranth. Pilar Cabrera of La Olla created an amaranth leaf and grain salad, amaranth sweet bread, breaded amaranth chicken and an amaranth smoothie. Rodolfo Castellanos of Origen created a hamburger on an amaranth bun and a chocolate cake topped with amaranth cereal and red plum ice cream.

Puente’s farmer network has so far exported to only one source outside the country, Toronto’s ChocoSol Traders. There, founder Michael Sacco and chef Chrystal Porter are perfecting a recipe for a “complete-protein tortilla,” made with amaranth, chia seeds and maize.

At Las Quinces Letras in Oaxaca City, chef/owner Celia Florián has hosted amaranth cooking demonstrations by women farmers. She also likes to highlight amaranth and other traditional ingredients prepared in healthy and delicious ways, like her sublimely refreshing agua fresca, filled with strands of the chilacayote squash and its seeds, pilonicillo, bits of lime peel and popped amaranth seeds. Another favorite dish involves blanching amaranth leaves in hot water, squeezing them dry, coating them with beaten egg, breading and frying them. The dish is served with a salsa of pumpkin seeds, or in soup.

“We encourage water over soda at the restaurant,” says Florián. “Gradually people’s mindsets are changing” to healthier behaviors.

In 2016 Puente staffers and volunteers made a 12-meter-square tlayuda, incorporating amaranth flour, cereal, seeds or leaves in every layer – the biggest ever of its kind, according to the National Group for Amaranth Promotion in Mexico.

Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

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Courtesy of Puente a la Salud Comunitaria

Susana Trilling runs a cooking school in Oaxaca. “I work with a lot of women from the mountains, and they use amaranth to make fritters and soups,” she says. “They boil the leaves in a clay pot with onion and garlic, and it’s always served with hard-boiled egg and Mexican rice.”

Trilling has taught some of these recipes at her school, and incorporates fresh amaranth in the summer months as part of her staff breakfast with hard-boiled eggs. “Especially during the amaranth appreciation campaign,” she adds, “people got excited” about the idea of using amaranth as an alternative to granola, in crepes, and in wafers Trilling makes with her students with amaranth flour and coconut.

If all these delicious uses are not enough to convince Oaxacans to consume more amaranth, Puente has another enticement up its sleeve.

Every October, on “Amaranth Day,” it sponsors the making of a giant tlayuda, a popular street food made by topping a corn tortilla with beans, cheese and chopped cabbage. In 2016 Puente made a 12-meter-square tlayuda, incorporating amaranth flour, cereal, seeds or leaves in every layer — from the tortilla dough to the topping of toasted grasshopper, avocado, radish and salsa.

“We thought it would last longer than it did!” recalls Bigda-Peyton. “It probably took all of 25 minutes for the crowd to finish eating it … a new take on an old favorite.”


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Trump Proclaims May 1 Loyalty Day (So Did Every President Going Back To Eisenhower)

President Trump, seen saluting an American flag during his inaugural parade, issued a statement in honor of Loyalty Day on May 1, as many presidents have before him.

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In proclaiming May 1 as Loyalty Day, President Trump described it as a day meant “to express our country’s loyalty to individual liberties, to limited government, and to the inherent dignity of every human being.”

The proclamation further describes the American values and “unique heritage” the president intends the day to honor:

“As one Nation, we will always stand strong against the threats of terrorism and lawlessness. The loyalty of our citizenry sends a clear signal to our allies and enemies that the United States will never yield from our way of life. Through the Department of Defense and other national security agencies, we are working to destroy ISIS, and to secure for all Americans the liberty terrorists seek to extinguish. We humbly thank our brave service members and veterans who have worn our Nation’s uniform — from the American Revolution to the present day.”

Trump’s mention of ISIS may seem unusual in a proclamation for a day meant to highlight national pride and American values, but it is part of a long tradition of presidents (or their staff who write the proclamations) tying this little-known holiday to the threats of the time and bringing their own views to the idea of loyalty.

Despite some initial alarm on Twitter, Loyalty Day is not unique to President Trump. In fact, it’s been around for decades.

In 1955 Congress passed a resolution designating May 1 of that year as Loyalty Day. It was the height of McCarthyism and an anti-Communist red scare in America. A Christian Science Monitor article from the time said the congressional resolution was “aimed at off-setting Communist May Day rallies around the world.”

Three years later, Congress weighed in again to make it an annual affair, “set aside as a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States of American and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.” It called for president to sign a proclamation each year calling for the display of the American flag and inviting observances at schools and “other suitable places.”

From the Government Printing Office, the law passed in 1958 annually designating May 1 as Loyalty Day.

Government Printing Office/Screenshot by NPR

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Government Printing Office/Screenshot by NPR

And since then each president has issued proclamations to mark Loyalty Day on May 1 each year, and those proclamations have been vastly different, reflecting each president’s own definition of loyalty and what should be emphasized.

Reflecting Challenges Of The Day

In his first Loyalty Day proclamation, President Dwight Eisenhower referred to an “unswerving devotion” to the liberties enshrined in the Constitution.

“Whereas the prime requisite for retaining our freedom is unswerving devotion to the liberties embodied in our Constitution; and

“Whereas it is fitting that a special day be set aside for solemn re-evaluation of those priceless gifts of freedom which are our heritage, to the end that we may stimulate and renew that high sense of patriotism which has signalized our glorious history as a Nation;”

Four days before the botched invasion of Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, President Kennedy’s Loyalty Day proclamation emphasized standing up to totalitarianism.

“Whereas we as a people enjoy the blessings of a free democratic society in a world threatened by the forces of totalitarianism; and

“Whereas steadfast devotion to our country and our Constitution is indispensable to the preservation of our freedom and liberty;”

Kennedy’s 1963 Loyalty Day proclamation was further colored by the Cold War footing of the nation. “Understandably, our people avoid ostentatious displays of patriotic fervor. Nevertheless, in these trying times, when international forces are attempting to undermine and destroy our form of free government and our way of life, it is entirely fitting and proper and in the national interest to set aside a special day each year on which to express our unceasing devotion and loyalty to this Nation,” the proclamation read.

In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson began his Loyalty Day proclamation, describing the anti-communist history of the day.

“May 1st, in some parts of the world, is marked by demonstrations in support of totalitarian party dictatorships. Since 1959, we in the United States have celebrated it as ‘Loyalty Day,’ a time when we are asked to recall the ideals which have nourished our free society.

“The contrast between these two types of celebration is striking. We are not demanding unthinking fealty to a party or a doctrine. On the contrary, allegiance to American ideals demands commitment to a ceaseless search for new routes to freedom, justice and equality.”

Johnson’s proclamation that year goes on to point out America is a nation “where the rights of minorities are respected as fully as the rights of the majority.”

“To an American, then, loyalty is not automatic acceptance of authority but consecration to the principles of a free society.

“It imposes restraints on the majority and on minorities alike. The majority must have the right to act, but its actions must follow the course of due process.

“Minorities must retain the right to dissent, but should never confuse the right to be heard with the right to determine policy, should never assert the undemocratic and arrogant claim to speak for the society as a whole.”

At the time, American service members were dying in increasing numbers in the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement in the U.S. was intensifying. Dissent was on full display, as was the sacrifice of those serving the nation.

An Emphasis On The Individual

In his first Loyalty Day proclamation, President Richard Nixon talks about “individual freedom.”

“Loyalty to our country and its flag must rest on understanding of our great national values which they have represented — individual freedom under the law, equality of opportunity in all walks of life, justice and protection of the law for all. Each of us has an obligation to fulfill these ideals and to preserve them for our children and for succeeding generations.”

There are slight echoes of Nixon in President Trump’s proclamation this year, with his reference to individual liberty. But the greatest similarities are between Trump’s proclamation and President Ronald Reagan’s from 1988, where he declared:

“Loyalty Day, May 1, is a day we set aside to promise allegiance to our country; to revere our heritage of individual freedom, limited government, and respect for every man’s divinely bestowed dignity; and to reaffirm our sacred trust to preserve, for our children and for all generations to come, this blessed land of liberty we call America.”

Accentuating Diversity

But in Reagan’s first Loyalty Day proclamation, back in 1981, he emphasized the diversity of the country.

“One of the great treasures of America is the unity of its people. No nation is composed of citizens with such diverse cultural, racial and religious backgrounds as is the United States of America. And while the unique contributions of each segment of our population are important, the significant fact remains that each of us, whatever background, remains loyal to the Nation and to the ideals of freedom for which it stands.”

Thirty-five years later in his final Loyalty Day proclamation, President Barack Obama similarly emphasized the nation’s diversity.

“While ours has always been a large and complicated democracy, full of differing views and boisterous debates, our history also makes clear that we are strongest when we find in our diversity a deeper, richer unity, stemming from an overarching belief in the possibilities our shared future holds. This Loyalty Day, let us remember that what defines us as one American people is our dedication to common ideals — rather than similarities of origin or creed — and let us reaffirm that embracing this truth lies at the heart of what it means to be a citizen. As long as we stay true to that mission and uphold our responsibility to deliver a freer, fairer Nation to the next generation, a future of ever greater progress will remain within our reach.”

NPR Librarian Katie Daugert contributed to this report.

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