Jim and Liz Steinle, the parents of Kate Steinle, walk to a court room for closing arguments in the trial.
The Justice Department has filed an amended arrest warrant for Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the undocumented Mexican immigrant who was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier two years ago.
The warrant says the 45-year-old Garcia Zarate violated the terms of his supervised release by possessing the gun that killed Steinle in a case that ignited a national debate over so-called sanctuary cities. The original warrant, issued by a federal court in Texas, was filed in July 2015, days after the shooting.
After a monthlong trial, a San Francisco jury deliberated for six days before finding Garcia Zarate not guilty of murder and manslaughter charges. But the panel found him guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. A sentencing date for that offense has not been scheduled. Garcia Zarate could face the maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.
Garcia Zarate, a five-time deportee, was originally sentenced in 2011 in Texas to 46 months in prisons for felony re-entry to the United States. He was to have served three years of supervised release. But in March 2015, Garcia Zarate was sent to San Francisco on a 20-year-old drug warrant. When that charge was dropped, local law enforcement released him despite the existence of a federal detainer request that would have led to his deportation.
Now, as a Justice Department official told NPR, “there is an existing federal detainer that requires this defendant to be remanded into the custody of US Marshals Service to be transported to the Western District of Texas pursuant to the arrest warrant.”
Federal authorities say they are working to get custody of Garcia Zarate and ultimately deport him.
There is no need to charter a sleigh pulled by reindeer for your air travel to holiday destinations after all. American Airlines and its pilots have worked out a deal to staff cockpits in late December after a scheduling snafu threatened to cancel thousands of flights.
Because of what the airline is calling “a processing error” in its scheduling system, American mistakenly allowed many more pilots to take time off over the holidays that it should have.
American Airlines has a deal with its pilots to keep its end-of-the-year flights staffed. The airline had inadvertently given too many pilots the holidays off.
Captain Dennis Tajer, who serves as spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, told NPR earlier this week that many of his fellow pilots “went to their sons, daughters, husbands and wives and said, ‘guess what? I’m off for Christmas! First time in 10 years!'”
But it turned out to be too good to be true, and Tajer said more than 15,000 flights between Dec. 17 and Dec. 31 were without a captain, first officer or both, assigned to fly the plane. He said the scheduling mess-up threatened to cancel many of the flights.
The airline tried to cover the scheduling error by staffing flights with reserve pilots and offering some pilots premium pay to work. But the union filed a grievance saying the airline’s efforts to restrict premium pay and trip trading for December flights violated terms of the pilots’ contract.
The timing of the snafu couldn’t have been worse, said transportation professor Joe Schwieterman of Chicago’s DePaul University. “You look at the holiday season and [full flights] and you throw this kind of problem into the mix and no doubt, travelers get nervous,” he said. “Many dread the crowds already without this lingering uncertainty.”
The world’s largest airline had a lot on the line and not just because of the possibility of ruining holiday travel plans for thousands of occasional customers.
“American has a huge business traveler base that they need to keep happy,” said Schwieterman, adding that he expected the airline to “open the wallet to fix this the best they can.”
American apparently did just that. After a meeting Friday between union leadership and American’s senior management, they reached “an agreement in principle addressing our respective needs, and we have withdrawn our grievance,” the Allied Pilots Association said in a statement.
American Airlines thanked its pilots “who are doing their part to cover the holiday schedule and beyond.”
“We can assure our customers that among the many stresses of the season, worry about a canceled flight won’t be one of them,” the airline’s statement adds. “In short, if Santa is flying, so is American.”
Planet in San Francisco has agreed to send up a satellite with our logo on it and take some pictures for us. In a way, we’re in the spying game now. Back in the 60s, satellites would take photographs from space and then send the film canisters back to earth—literally drop them into the atmosphere, where they were caught in a net attached to an airplane. There was only a limited number of pictures you could get that way. And they still took a ton of time to analyze. Now, digital images are beamed back to earth in such high quantity and with such high speed that the government has no choice but to teach computers to analyze them.
Even tiny Planet announced on November 9th that they’d reached their goal of photographing the world’s landmass every single day. A company called Genscape uses satellites to take photos that contain “market intelligence:” information that their clients can use in business. Genscape’s images monitor the progress of oil wells being drilled in South Sudan, or a pipeline being built across Ohio.
On today’s show, what can Planet Money’s satellite show to give us an edge in business? Robert hits upon an idea that could provide important intelligence to the American public.
Some teens on the James Logan Colts cheerleading squad take a knee during the national anthem before a football game at James Logan High School in Union City, Calif.
Pablo De La Hoya/Youth Radio
Pablo De La Hoya/Youth Radio
My friend Teana Boston is kind of a big deal. She’s 16 years old. And she’s already been invited to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at professional sports games. But recently, she wrote her own remix:
For the land of the free …
Watching this TV, the news feels like a movie.
How can this be?
But I’m not surprised … it happens every day, lives are taken away.
But there is something about this sight. He crawled in the street, hands spread out like his feet but he was still shot in his heart. And I don’t get that part.
Teana felt compelled to write her own version of the national anthem, one that deals with race.
“I did my research on what I was really singing about, and I have to realize that it’s not the land of the free. So we have to not just say, yeah, freedom, yeah,” she says.
She wanted to protest police brutality against black people.
I’m protesting, too.
I’m a cheerleader. Every Friday during football season, I’m freezing in my red and black uniform on the sidelines of the games.
Teana and I go to the same high school, James Logan in Union City, Calif. We took the same ethnic studies class, which made us both think hard about American history — through a black lens. We learned about suffering and that sometimes history isn’t even history. I was 10 when Trayvon Martin was shot, and the man who killed him didn’t even go to jail.
When Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee, a lot of people thought he was being unpatriotic. But for me and the other black cheerleaders on my team, we were inspired. We saw an opportunity to call attention to racial injustice. We began taking a knee, too, but the football players remain standing.
Cheerleaders at James Logan High School in Union City, Calif., perform at a football game.
Pablo De La Hoya/Youth Radio
Pablo De La Hoya/Youth Radio
A varsity football player, Bud Laimont, told me, “Why do I stand? Because the coaches make us. And I guess it’s like, you’re just supposed to do it.”
“What do you think about the cheerleaders taking a knee?” I asked.
“Do it!” Laimont said.
Doing it is not so easy. When the announcer says it’s time to stand for the national anthem, we kneel. When we first started doing it, the stadium was shocked.
“They found it as disrespectful. They kind of like side-eyed us,” says my friend Jada McMurry. “But in the end I did what I did because that’s my right.”
It wasn’t just the fans who were upset. We felt the heat, even from the coaches.
“They got mad and said that we can’t be doing that. But I was like, I’m still doing it. I don’t care,” McMurry says.
I think us taking a knee came as a surprise to people, because a lot of people in the school think of cheerleaders as airheads. They think we’re oblivious to what’s going on in the world.
But they’re wrong.
I got into cheerleading because I wanted to be a role model at my high school. I didn’t expect it to turn into this very public protest.
But the truth is, I experience racism. I don’t want to be treated like a criminal when I walk into a store. I don’t want to worry about my younger brother and his safety.
So here was this small thing I could do to call attention to racism, and not let it go by. I questioned how I fit into the school and the sport. I decided to take a knee.
Many of us react to the buzzes and beeps that come from our phones with the urgency of a parent responding to a baby’s cry. We can’t help but pick up our phone and look at the latest notification. This probably isn’t the healthiest nor the sanest response to a vibrating hunk of a metal, so we tell ourselves we should be less distracted. We shouldn’t be so gripped by social media and the churn of work email.
Cal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown University and author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says the problems created by constant interruption are “more urgent than people realize.”
By letting email and other messages guide our workday, Cal says we’re weakening our ability to do the most challenging kinds of work—what he calls “deep work.” Deep work requires sustained attention, whether the task is writing marketing copy or solving a tricky engineering problem.
We’re also denying ourselves the satisfaction that often comes from committing our full attention to a task. Replying to a string of emails rarely arouses this same feeling.
This week on Hidden Brain, we look at how to cultivate deep attention and what we gain when we immerse ourselves in meaningful work. We also explore a potential shortcut that one lab is testing. Researchers at George Mason University’s Human Factors and Applied Cognition research lab are using brain stimulation to help people manage multitasking and interruptions. Hidden Brain host Shankar Vedantam gets electrodes strapped to his head to try it out.
“Modulation of complex multitask performance by tDCS depends on individual differences in baseline task ability,” Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2016 Annual Meeting 42, 2016.
Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, and Renee Klahr. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.
Buildings are seen near the ocean in North Miami. Broward County and many communities in southeast Florida have been aggressive and proactive in preparing for the effects of climate change.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
One of the largest credit rating agencies in the country is warning U.S. cities and states to prepare for the effects of climate change or risk being downgraded.
In a new report, Moody’s Investor Services Inc. explains how it assesses the credit risks to a city or state that’s being impacted by climate change — whether that impact be a short-term “climate shock” like a wildfire, hurricane or drought, or a longer-term “incremental climate trend” like rising sea levels or increased temperatures.
Also taken into consideration: “[communities] preparedness for such shocks and their activities in respect of adapting to climate trends,” the report says.
“If you have a place that simply throws up its hands in the face of changes to climate trends, then we have to sort of evaluate it on an ongoing basis to see how that abdication of response actually translates to changes in its credit profile,” says Michael Wertz, a Moody’s vice president.
Ratings from agencies such Moody’s help determine interest rates on bonds for cities and states. The lower the rating, the greater the risk of default. That means cities or states with a low rating can expect to pay higher interest rates on bonds.
“This puts a direct economic incentive [for communities] to take protective measures against climate change,” says Rachel Cleetus, the lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Moody’s is the first of the country’s big three credit rating agencies to publicly outline how it weighs climate change risks into its credit rating assessments. And it’s just the latest “market-based signal,” Cleetus says, “that what seemed like a far-off distant future gets collapsed into the present and that people have to start making decisions now based on what is already baked in reality for many of these places.”
In its report, Moody’s breaks the U.S. into seven “climate regions,” based off of geography, regional economies and expected risks.
In the Midwest, “impacts on agriculture are forecast to be among the most significant economic effects of climate change,” the report says.
The Southwest is projected to become more vulnerable to extreme heat, drought, rising sea levels and wildfires.
Rising sea levels and their effect on coastal infrastructure is the biggest forecast impact on the Northeast.
Communities that face a high risk of being seriously impacted by the impacts of climate change are being asked by analysts during the rating process how they’re preparing for these risks, Moody’s says.
Jennifer Jurato, the chief resilience officer for Broward County, Fla., says they received surveys from Moody’s asking how the community and local government was responding to issues of sea-level rise and flood protection.
Broward County is the second-most populous county in the state and is part of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, which was created to prepare for and respond to climate change.
Jurato says Broward County and many communities in southeast Florida have been aggressive and proactive in preparing for the effects of climate change, creating barriers to flood waters, elevating properties, managing stormwater systems and implementing flood management programs.
But she says it hasn’t always been easy to get buy-in politically. It can be difficult for a policymaker to justify a big investment when the associated benefits or risks seem a long way down the road.
Moody’s announcement may change that.
“Now we’ve got the incentive on an annual economic basis to make the smart investments that we’ve been arguing for,” she says. “The shorter-term economics are starting to come into play and they’ll have immediate impacts on the cost of financing important community projects.”
White nationalists clash with police as they are forced out of Emancipation Park after the “Unite the Right” rally Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
An independent review of Charlottesville’s handling of the white nationalist rally there in August found that law enforcement and city officials made several significant mistakes, resulting in violence and distrust.
The city commissioned the report, which was prepared by Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney in Virginia. In conducting the investigation, Heaphy said his team pored through hundreds of thousands of documents, interviewed hundreds of witnesses, and reviewed countless hours of video and audio.
The resulting 220-page report is a detailed record of the chaos and conflict that unspooled in the Virginia college town. It is unsparing in identifying the errors authorities made that day and in the preceding months.
The city failed to protect either free expression or public safety, the report finds: “This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions—the protection of fundamental rights. Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on August 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community.”
The “most tragic manifestation” of the failure of protect public safety was the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, the report says.
“Early on August 12, CPD had placed a school resource officer alone at the intersection of 4th Street NE and Market Street,” the report explains. “This officer feared for her safety as groups of angry Alt-Right protesters and counter-protesters streamed by her as they left Emancipation Park. The officer called for assistance and was relieved of her post. Unfortunately, CPD commanders did not replace her or make other arrangements to prevent traffic from traveling across the Downtown Mall on 4th Street.”
All that remained to impede traffic was a single wooden sawhorse.
“This vulnerability was exposed when James Fields drove his vehicle down the unprotected street into a large crowd of counter-protesters at the intersection of 4th Street SE and Water Street, killing Ms. Heyer,” it says.
The report praised the city’s fire department and the University of Virginia Health System for their quick response to victims of the car attack, calling it “a bright success on a day largely filled with failure.”
Some of the problems identified in the report echo the criticism of law enforcement response at the time; some are new revelations. Among the mistakes:
- Attempts in the days before the protest to move the event to a different location meant that law enforcement had to plan for two scenarios.
- Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police did not sufficiently coordinate their plans. On August 12, their officers could not communicate over the radio with one another because they were on different channels.
- Police did not adequately separate conflicting groups, which led to physical altercations.
- Police commanders instructed their officers not to intervene in all but the most serious physical confrontations. They prepared to respond to violence by declaring an unlawful assembly and dispersing the crowd.
- Once unlawful assembly was declared, police efforts to disperse the crowd generated more violence, as conflicting groups were pushed toward each other.
- Officers remained behind barricades in relatively empty areas, rather than being stationed along crucial routes as protesters and counterprotestors shifted and clashed.
- Tactical gear wasn’t accessible when officers needed it.
- Charlottesville Police received inaccurate information from the Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman on the legality of restricting weapons other than firearms. Chapman told police were told they could not restrict other weapons, when in fact the city could have prohibited bats, poles and shields.
In a statement to NPR, Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones said that the city does “not agree with every aspect of the report’s findings,” but it is thankful for the work of the reviewers.
“We faced an unprecedented series of protests and demonstrations this summer, culminating with the Unite the Right Rally on August 12th,” Jones said. “On a number of fronts, as the report acknowledges, we succeeded in protecting our City to the best of our abilities. But in other areas we, and our law enforcement partner in the Virginia State Police, undoubtedly fell short of expectations, and for that we are profoundly sorry. This report is one critical step in helping this community heal and move forward after suffering through this summer of hate.”
After documenting what went wrong, the report also had a number of recommendations for Charlottesville and other municipalities tasked with preparing for similar “mass unrest events.”
Among Heaphy’s recommendations:
- That cities use “the stadium approach”: secure perimeters with designated points of entry and enforced separation of conflicting groups.
- That the Virginia General Assembly “criminalize the use of a flame to intimidate” and “empower municipalities to enact reasonable restrictions on the right to carry firearms at large protest events.”
- That police recognize that “not all attendees at protest events will coordinate with law enforcement, either because they are too loosely organized to do so or because it is incompatible with their ideology.” Rather than ignore such groups, agencies must plan for resistence and anticipate gaps in intelligence and planning.
- That the Justice Department or a national police organization establish a clearinghouse to share information and plans before and after events.
- That police officers be trained in “the role of law enforcement in facilitating free expression” and de-escalation techniques.
- That police use a continuum of strategies during such events: Adopting a “soft” approach of “wearing ordinary uniforms and avoiding militarized approaches” that can stir unrest, while preparing for disorder with clear policies on making arrests and using force.
The inoperable and unused scanner at Afghanistan’s Islam Qara border crossing in March 2017.
In 2006, the U.S. military purchased $12.1 million worth of inspection equipment for five border posts in Afghanistan in an effort to crack down on illicit drug smuggling and boost customs duty revenues to the Afghan government.
After operation, training and maintenance costs, the total investment for the equipment to date is estimated at up to $62.6 million.
However, according to a new report, the equipment is now sitting “inoperable and unused” at four of the five locations. At three of them, officials told inspectors that the equipment had not been operational for at least two years.
The report was issued by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR – a military agency tasked by Congress to audit U.S. spending in Afghanistan.
Drug smuggling is a rampant problem in Afghanistan and a primary source of funding for the Taliban, as NPR’s Tom Bowman has reported. The U.S. is preparing to send hundreds more military advisors to the country next year and has recently bombed opium processing plants.
The amount of narcotics produced in Afghanistan continues to rise – and as SIGAR reported in October, “the estimated value of opiates produced in Afghanistan nearly doubled from $1.56 billion in 2015 to $3.02 billion in 2016.” It said the U.S. has sunk at least $8.6 billion into counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) purchased the eight pieces of inspection equipment in 2006 that were capable of scanning vehicles and cargo containers for narcotics, explosives and contraband. According to the watchdog’s report, the Pentagon-funded Border Management Task Force (BMTF) trained and mentored Afghan officials about how to use the equipment, spending about $36.5 million and holding more than 7,000 training sessions.
SIGAR also estimates that CENTCOM paid the equipment manufacturer “between $10.8 million and $14.4 million” to maintain the scanners from 2007-2014.
The equipment was formally handed over to the Afghan government in 2014, when BMTF stopped working in Afghanistan. And in most cases, it appears that the equipment quickly fell into disuse and disrepair.
In fact, Kabul Airport is the only location where investigators found equipment still functioning as it was intended.
“We interviewed Afghan government officials at each location to determine why the equipment was not being used,” the report states. “Afghan officials we spoke with cited technical and software problems, maintenance issues/broken parts, and a lack of capable operators as reasons for the non-functioning equipment.”
And while most officials said they had received training, “at one location an official noted that they had not been trained to maintain or troubleshoot even minor problems.”
The report concludes that because the U.S. has no presence on Afghanistan’s borders, it’s up to the Afghan government to use the equipment properly to curb smuggling and boost revenues.
“Unfortunately, at this point, it appears that the Afghan government has been unable or unwilling to sustain that investment,” SIGAR stated. CENTCOM said in an attached letter that it “concurs with that assessment.”
SIGAR recently made headlines in its latest quarterly report – largely to do with information that had been withheld by the U.S. military. Here’s more:
“Very basic information such as the number of Afghan troops that have died, the exact size of the force, how many people are joining, and the readiness of their equipment has previously been made available in quarterly reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction — a military agency set up by Congress that audits U.S. spending in Afghanistan.
“The watchdog’s report released Tuesday, however, explained that the U.S. military command in Afghanistan withheld these crucial measures of the war’s progress this time around.
“A U.S. military spokesman, Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, told NPR that the information was classified at the request of the Afghan government for operational security reasons.”
Soybean plants, with pods ready for harvest, in Boonsboro, Maryland.
Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images
Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images
For more than a century, corn has been the most widely planted crop in the country and a symbol of small-town America. Think of the musical Oklahoma, where the corn is as tall as an elephant’s eye, or the film Field of Dreams, in which old-time baseball players silently emerge from a field of corn.
Even farmers are partial to corn, says Brent Gloy, who grows some himself, on a farm in Nebraska. (He also graduated from the University of Nebraska. You know, the Cornhuskers.)
“I do think there’s some truth to this idea that we’re probably predisposed to corn,” Gloy says. “But the current prices will make you lose those predispositions pretty quickly.”
In fact, those prices have now led to the end of King Corn’s reign. According to statistics released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn is being pushed aside by a crop that’s largely unfamiliar to people outside the farming community – soybeans.
The numbers show that for the first time in history, American farmers harvested more acres of soybeans this year than any other crop – 83 million acres. (Farmers planted more acres of corn than soybeans, but more soybeans survived to harvest time.) The USDA predicts, based on current market conditions, that amount of land covered with soybeans will continue to increase, reaching 91 million acres next year, and 92 million acres in 2021.
Gloy has been monitoring these trends because he’s also an agricultural economist, and a visiting professor at Purdue University. Farmers are switching to soybean, he says, because it’s more profitable.
Prices are high because of “a lot of demand coming out of Southeast Asia.” China buys more U.S. soybeans than any other country, by far, and uses them to feed pigs and chickens.
Yet soybeans still don’t get the kind of honor and respect that corn does. There’s certainly no college football team called the Soybean Threshers.
Ines Prodöhl, a historian at the University of Munich, in Germany, has been thinking about the reasons why.
She’s writing a history of soybeans, and she ran into what she calls our “societal indifference” toward this crop when she came to the United States, years ago, and started searching for pictures in an online database called American Memory at the Library of Congress. “I was looking for images like farmers being proud of their soybeans, or anything like that,” she says.
She could only find fifteen or twenty soybean images; for other crops, there were thousands. “There was a ton of images about cotton, or corn, or wheat, and there was almost nothing about soybeans!” she says.
It probably doesn’t help that soybean plants are pretty unimpressive to look at, compared to those tall stalks of corn with tassels on top. They’re modest bushes that grow hip-high. Their leaves conceal pods full of little beans that, when mature, are tan and hard as marbles.
But Prodöhl says there are important historical reasons for the soybean’s lack of a public profile. Soybeans were brought to the U.S. from China relatively recently, in the 1920s, by scientists who promoted them not as food, but as alternate crop that would replenish soil that had been depleted from many years of growing corn or wheat.
“They never talked about soybeans as a foodstuff. Never, ever. It just didn’t happen,” says Prodöhl.
Today, soybeans are an important food, but they’re still quite literally invisible to most Americans. From the fields, they flow into giant factories that crush them into oil and meal. They end up in processed food, or industrial products, but their largest use is as animal feed.
This is how most Americans experience the country’s new #1 crop. They meet it in the form of a pork chop, or as that other American cultural icon, the chicken McNugget.