Federal Report Calls For $275 Million To Stop Asian Carp

Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jump from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill., in June.

John Flesher/AP

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John Flesher/AP

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed spending $275 million to upgrade defenses against an invading force. The enemy? A fish. Specifically, Asian carp that are threatening to break through to the Great Lakes.

In June, a live Asian silver carp was caught in the Illinois Waterway just 9 miles from Lake Michigan. Scientists fear that if the voracious carp establish themselves in the Great Lakes, they could devastate the region’s $7 billion fishing industry.

The Corps of Engineers wants to upgrade the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Ill., on the Des Plaines River. The waterway is a link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River, where Asian carp are already a big problem. The Associated Press writes, “The Brandon Road complex is considered a bottleneck where defenses could be strengthened against fish swimming upstream toward openings to the lake at Chicago.”

The 488-page report also details plans to block the path of the fish “while minimizing impacts to waterway uses and users.” The report also looks to using underwater sound systems to deter the fish, building a new approach channel in the Brandon Road area and placing using an electrical barrier to stun fish at the downstream end of the waterway.

The draft report had originally been expected in late February, but its release was blocked by the White House, which wanted to conduct a review.

According to Scientific American:

“Seven species of carp native to Asia have been introduced into United States waters in recent decades, but it’s four in particular—bighead, black, grass and silver—that worry ecologists, biologists, fishers and policymakers alike. Introduced in the southeast to help control weeds and parasites in aquaculture operations, these fish soon spread up the Mississippi River system where they have been crowding out native fish populations not used to competing with such aggressive invaders. The carps’ presence in such numbers is also compromising water quality and killing off sensitive species such as freshwater mussels.”

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Wealthy San Francisco Neighborhood Fails To Pay Taxes, Loses Private Street

A 2008 photo shows Presidio Terrace, a gated community in San Francisco. A San Jose couple bought the street — a private road — after the homeowners association failed to pay a tax bill.

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26 Presidio Terrace, a four-floor San Francisco mansion, was recently on the market for $14.5 million. 30 Presidio Terrace, a neighbor in the gated community, last sold for $9.5 million.

But Presidio Terrace itself? As in, the street? The strip of pavement these tony residents rely on to reach their front doors? The private road the homeowners association has owned for more than a century?

That’s a bargain. After the homeowners association failed to pay a $14 tax bill … for three decades … the road went up for auction, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A San Jose couple snagged it for about $90,000.

Tina Lam and Michael Cheng made their strategic purchase in 2015. But now, the newspaper writes, “they’re looking to cash in — maybe by charging the residents of those mansions to park on their own private street.” Or, lacking that, opening the spots up to the general public.

Cheng, a real estate investor who was born in Taiwan, tells the newspaper the couple “got lucky.” Lam, a Silicon Valley engineer who immigrated from Hong Kong, says she “really just wanted to own something in San Francisco” because she loves the city so much.

The whole story is well worth a read over at the Chronicle.

Presidio Terrace was originally built as an enclave for white residents, as Curbed San Francisco noted last year. The Virtual Museum of San Francisco quotes an ad from 1906, bemoaning the fact that Japanese and Chinese residents were moving into neighborhoods and saying, “There is only one spot in San Francisco where only Caucasians are permitted to buy or lease real estate or where they may reside. That place is Presidio Terrace.”

Presidio Terrace, along with many other wealthy neighborhoods, continued to prohibit ownership by nonwhites until 1948, the Chronicle notes. That year, the Supreme Court blocked such racial covenants from being enforced. (Some neighborhoods tried to uphold their racial covenants even after they were illegal; member station WAMU has reported on an example in Washington, D.C.)

These days, Presidio Terrace is gated and guarded. SFGate described it as “very private and swank.” San Francisco’s late former mayor Joseph Alioto used to be a resident, as did Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

According to a lawsuit filed by the Presidio Terrace Association, the neighborhood’s current residents didn’t find out about the sale of their private road until this May — more than two years after it happened.

It all started with a $14 bill. Or, well, a lot of $14 bills.

The homeowners association says in the lawsuit that based on city records, “the property taxes on the Common Area have been less than $14.00 annually for the past several years.”

The taxes weren’t paid for “many years,” the association says, because the city was sending the bills to an address “associated with an accountant who last performed work for the Association in the 1980s.” A warning that the account was in default, owing $994.77, was sent to the same address. It too went unnoticed.

A few months later, the street was auctioned off.

(Incidentally, are you wondering how much each resident paid to that HOA? Based on news reports, it’s well north of $500 a month.)

The city should have known the address was wrong, the residents say. They’re calling for the sale to be rescinded.

The office of the treasurer-tax collector does not seem persuaded by that argument. A spokeswoman told the San Francisco Chronicle there was nothing they could do.

And, the spokeswoman told the paper, “Ninety-nine percent of property owners in San Francisco know what they need to do, and they pay their taxes on time — and they keep their mailing address up to date.”

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A Cartoon's Black Star Prompts A Fight: What Did Roman Britain Look Like?

A still from the video that has stirred the controversy.

BBC Teach via YouTube/Screenshot by NPR

In a brief BBC cartoon posted to YouTube late last December, a high-ranking Roman soldier and his family tackle the challenges of daily life in ancient Britain. The dad is off helping build the famed Hadrian’s wall at the province’s far northern edge; the son tries to make right for losing his father’s scarf. Everyone ends up happy ever after.

Yet benign as its plot may seem, this little film — which, sadly is only available for British viewers — has stirred up a big fight on social media. And it all revolves around the color of the leading characters’ skin.

Paul Joseph Watson, editor at Alex Jones’ far-right Infowars website, fired the first volley late last month, casting the educational video as an anachronistic attempt “to re-write history to pretend Britain always had mass immigration.”

“Thank God the BBC is portraying Roman Britain as ethnically diverse,” Watson tweeted. “I mean, who cares about historical accuracy, right?”

Historians — i.e., people who make their living caring about historical accuracy — promptly replied to the tweet. Several, including teacher Mike Stuchbery, offered some colorfully worded rebuttals, among other things saying, “Roman Britain was ethnically diverse, almost by design.”

But no one’s response drew more attention — or more backlash — than that of Mary Beard, a Cambridge classics professor who “has spent her career working through the texts and source materials of ancient Rome,” according to Fresh Air in 2015.

The cartoon “is indeed pretty accurate,” Beard tweeted in response to Watson, “there’s plenty of firm evidence for ethnic diversity in Roman Britain.”

The argument, as Beard and several other historians laid it out, was that for an empire that extended from Britain to North Africa — and from Spain to Syria — it was “unsurprising” to see nonwhite faces so far north. Soldiers were drawn from around the empire, and the University of Reading’s Matthew Nicholls noted several instances of Africans serving on Hadrian’s Wall specifically.

“I think, for example, that the BBC character was loosely based (with a bit of a chronological shift) on Quintus Lollius Urbicus, a man from what is now Algeria, who became governor of Britain,” Beard elaborated in the Times Supplement of London last week. “You can still visit his grand tomb at Tiddis.”

What followed her original response, though, was “a torrent of aggressive insults, on everything from my historical competence and elitist ivory tower viewpoint to my age, shape and gender (batty old broad, obese, etc etc),” she wrote in the Supplement.

Statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb — who has also been featured on NPR, by the way — also waded into the fray, turning to genetic statistics to argue against Beard’s point and calling her argument “BS” (and terms more colorful). And that string included this taunt: “I get more academic citations per year than you got all your life!”

Still, many historians did have their say — infavor of Beard’s dissent. (Another statistician supported Beard, as well.)

On Monday, Beard’s employer, the University of Cambridge, supplied a defense of its own, noting “the evidence is in fact overwhelming that Roman Britain was indeed a multi-ethnic society.

“This was not, of course, evenly spread through the province,” the Cambridge faculty of classics continued, “and it would have been infinitely more noticeable — it can be assumed — in an urban or military context than in a rural one.”

Still, the university expressed optimism on one point: “We do hope participants in the public discussion and others will want to learn more about this subject.”

Then they offered a reading list — for all the disinterested onlookers who would like to decide for themselves.

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How Smartphones Are Making Kids Unhappy

Author Jean Twenge says smartphones have brought about dramatic shifts in behavior among the generation of children who grew up with the devices.

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For the first time, a generation of children is going through adolescence with smartphones ever present. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has a name for these young people born between 1995 and 2012: “iGen.”

She says members of this generation are physically safer than those who came before them. They drink less, they learn to drive later and they’re holding off on having sex. But psychologically, she argues, they are far more vulnerable.

“It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades,” she writes in a story in The Atlantic, adapted from her forthcoming book. And she says it’s largely because of smartphones.

Twenge spoke to All Things Considered about her research and her conclusions. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How does teen behavior now differ from generations past?

Today’s teens are just not spending as much time with their friends in person, face-to-face, where they can really read each others’ emotions and get that social support. And we know from lots and lots of research that spending time with other people in person is one of the best predictors for psychological well-being and one of the best protections against having mental health issues.

What is this generation facing that worries you so much?

iGen is showing mental health issues across a wide variety of indicators. They’re more likely than young people just five or 10 years ago to say that they’re anxious, that they have symptoms of depression, that they have thought about suicide or have even [attempted] suicide. So across the board, there’s a really consistent trend with mental health issues increasing among teens.

Is it specifically the smartphone, or is it social media? Or is it the number of hours per day spent on these things?

So, you look at the pattern of loneliness. It suddenly begins to increase around 2012. And the majority of Americans had a cell phone by the end of 2012, according to the Pew Center.

Given that using social media for more hours is linked to more loneliness, and that smartphones were used by the majority of Americans around 2012, and that’s the same time loneliness increases, that’s very suspicious. You can’t absolutely prove causation, but by a bunch of different studies, there’s this connection between spending a lot of time on social media and feeling lonely.

How much of a factor is parenting?

So I was somewhat surprised when I interviewed iGen teens how many of them are deeply aware of the negative effects of smartphones. Parenting is playing a role. I think many parents are worried about their teens driving, and going out with their friends and drinking. Yet parents are often not worrying about their teen who stays at home but is on their phone all the time. But they should be worried about that. I think parents are worried about the wrong thing.

Can you propose solutions that might help people?

The first is just awareness that spending a lot of time on the phone is not harmless and that if you’re spending a lot of time on the phone, then it may take away from activities that might be more beneficial for psychological well-being, like spending time with people in person.

Then for parents, I think it is [a] good idea to put off giving your child a smartphone as long as you can. If you feel they need a phone, say, for riding a bus, you can get them a flip phone. They still sell them. And then once your teen has a smartphone, there are apps that allow parents to restrict the number of hours a day that teens are on the smartphone, and also what time of day they use it.

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Three Scouts Dead After Sailboat Hits Power Line In Texas

Three Boy Scouts have died after a sailboat they were aboard struck a low-hanging power line on a lake east of Dallas, Texas, over the weekend.

The Scouts were sailing in a Hobie Cat on the Lake O’ the Pines when the catamaran’s mast snagged the transmission cable.

Wardens from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department found the boat on fire about 300 yards north of the cable, according to The Dallas Morning News. The bodies of two of the Scouts, apparently electrocuted, were found in the water nearby.

A third, 11, was rescued by another boat, where he was given CPR before being transported to an ambulance. He was taken to a hospital in Shreveport, La., but authorities said Monday that he had succumbed to his injuries.

Daniel Anderson, chief operating officer for the East Texas Boy Scouts of America, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying the boys were at a campout at the lake.

“There’s literally hundreds of campouts like this every year in East Texas and nothing like this ever happens,” Anderson said, according to the AP.

Last year, a man was severely injured in Gulfport, La., when a sailboat on a trailer he was parking hit a power line.

US Sailing, which publishes regulations for yacht racing, includes a paragraph in the rules that says, “All US Sailing events and championships, at all levels, shall be held at sites free of power line hazards.”

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Sherman Holmes On World Cafe

Sherman Holmes

Courtesty of the artist

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Courtesty of the artist

  • “White Dove”
  • “Homeless Child”

My guest today has just released his debut solo album, and he’s in his 70s! His name? Sherman Holmes.

Now, of course, he’s not a new kid on the block. He’s had a decades-long career in The Holmes Brothers with his real brother Wendell Holmes, and Willie “Popsy” Dixon, who was like a brother.

Over the course of a dozen albums, the Holmes Brothers fused soulful three-part harmonies, rhythm and blues, and traditional gospel music. In 2014, they were awarded the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. That same year, all three Holmes Brothers signed up as mentors in the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program. It pairs seasoned artists with young aspiring creatives so they pass on traditional art forms, the old-school way: one-on-one.

Sadly, Wendell Holmes and “Popsy” Dixon didn’t live to complete the program. Both passed away in 2015. Of course, this was devastating for Sherman Holmes. But the Virginia Folklife Program’s director, Jon Lohman, encouraged Sherman to keep working with his young student through her performances, and even get onstage himself to perform a heartfelt tribute to his brothers.

That performance sparked the idea for the Sherman Holmes Project – it features Sherman backed by his dream country band, which Jon Lohman helped assemble. The result is a collection of songs on Sherman’s debut solo album called The Richmond Sessions.

Sherman and his band join us in this session from In Your Ear Studios in Richmond, Virginia. The segment was engineered by Carlos Chafin and Andrea Stefl.

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Hang 20: Abbie Girl Takes Top Pooch In World Dog Surfing Championship

In the World Dog Surfing Championships, dogs can compete solo or in tandem with another dog or person.

Laura Klivans/KQED

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Laura Klivans/KQED

Few things are more delightful than a dog running on the beach. Except, maybe, a dog surfing on a beach.

Dozens of dogs — and more than 1,000 people — showed up to the second annual World Dog Surfing Championships Saturday in Pacifica, California.

Dog surfing is relatively new — the first competition was in San Diego 12 years ago.

And while the event may seem silly, competitive dog surfing is growing quickly, with contests in Hawaii, Florida, Texas and as far away as Australia.

Dogs compete solo, just dog and board, or tandem, with either a person or with another dog.

The dogs are scored by a group of three judges.

“Number one is stay on the board and number two is looking happy,” Sam Stahl, one of the judges explained. “No one wants to see a dog terrified at the end of a surf board.”

At the event, an Australian Kelpie named Abbie Girl not only stayed on her board, but maneuvered it too.

Her board is custom built for a dog — it’s short and has a bright orange blaze down the bottom with her name on it.

Michael Uy is her owner. He started surfing with her after he adopted her from a rescue organization. He’d take her to the beach to mellow her out and socialize her.

“One time we put her on a surf board to rest. And she stood up on the board and we thought well why don’t we put her on a wave and see what happens, and she just rode it all the way into shore,” Uy said.

Abbie Girl took home the prize for top dog — she’s now the two-time reigning champion of the event. After a push from her owner, she surfed maybe 20 feet, lifting a front leg to balance and then lands on the beach. The judges noticed her footwork.

Top prize — a trophy for Abbie and a bottle of wine for her human.

Stahl, one of the judges, has a theory on why so many people get into the competition.

“There’s a lot going on in the world and a lot of things that have people kind of riled up and I think it’s important for some people to have something like this to look at and smile at,” he said. “And nothing’s more fun than watching dogs surf, honestly.”

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