The Russia Investigations: More Pleas, More Charges — Any More Preparation?

Richard Gates arrives at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse for a hearing on Friday in Washington, D.C.

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This week in the Russia investigations: More newcomers join Mueller’s roll of honor; the feds meet with state officials on election security; and D.C. starts thinking about possibly considering some potential planning to defend the 2018 midterms.


Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller broke his own record this week for guilty pleas. On Tuesday, Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan appeared in federal court and admitted he had lied to investigators about his contacts with Donald Trump’s former campaign vice chairman, Rick Gates.

On Friday, Gates himself appeared before a federal judge and confirmed that he is changing his plea to guilty. He had been fighting the case brought against him and the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, which alleged they laundered millions of dollars and broke other laws related to their work for clients in Ukraine.

That makes the fourth and fifth pleas in the Russia imbroglio — but how much closer does it bring an answer to the question about whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election?

Maybe not at all.

Gates and Manafort have not been charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by “impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes.” That was the charge Mueller leveled at 13 Russians and three Russian companies he says did interfere with the election.

Or the special counsel’s office could be laying down one brick in a larger structure. At the very least, Gates’ future testimony against his longtime business partner raises the likelihood that Manafort could be convicted of some or all of the charges he continues fighting.

Manafort and his lawyers know this. So one of Mueller’s strategies in getting Gates to turn state’s evidence might be to persuade Manafort to do the same and tell what he knows about other people in the Trump campaign orbit.

Or evidence from Gates might be what the special counsel’s office needs to build a case against Manafort for conspiring in the 2016 Russian interference effort. Or, after years of working with Manafort, Gates might have other evidence that would permit Mueller to bring new charges against Manafort.

Mueller announced a new indictment in Manafort’s case on Friday evening. After Gates appeared in federal court Friday to enter his plea, Manafort continued to maintain his innocence and said he remained committed “to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

As usual, only Mueller’s team knows where all this is headed. After nearly a year of work, however — on top of the previous FBI investigation that began in the summer of 2016 — some patterns and priorities are becoming clear.

One is that the special counsel’s office has a massive trove of information at its command, down to microscopic details about who said what to whom in which email sent when. It knew when Manafort was making particular edits in a certain Google document, for example.

Another is that it has become adept — as shown by its five pleas — at concluding agreements that involve gaining the cooperation of onetime targets in its investigation. No one knows how far up the ladder that technique may enable Mueller to reach.

Sound the alarm — but don’t be alarming

In an alternate universe, the big story this week might have been about the summit at which the nation’s secretaries of state and other elections officials convened in Washington, D.C. They talked about the threats to voting in 2018 and they got a briefing from top federal national security officials, as NPR’s Miles Parks reported.

One dilemma, as our Parks wrote, is that state leaders want to strike a balance between warning voters about Russia’s ongoing active measures but not scare them so much they lose confidence in voting.

“I’m always trying to straddle the line between sounding the alarm on this issue and being alarmist,” said Steve Simon, Minnesota’s secretary of state.

States say they’re working though, preparing for cyberattacks like the ones that probed elections systems in 2016. And their once chilly relationship with the federal government on the issue of election security is thawing somewhat, although state-level leaders also grumbled that the briefing they got didn’t go into the levels of detail they wanted.

That tension may never be resolved, especially following last year’s unauthorized leak of a National Security Agency report about a cyberattack by Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.

It documented how much the NSA knows about one specific attempt to compromise a Florida elections vendor, but it was only a tantalizing view through a keyhole. Everyone knows there is more here behind the scenes. Rather than giving the public information at that same level of detail, the government is prosecuting the woman who allegedly released it.

Karina Smith holds her 2-year-old son Kyler as she fills out her ballot at a polling place at on November 7, 2017, in Alexandria, Va.

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Should somebody do something?

Mueller’s office changes the Russia imbroglio every time it acts. Few things, though, so far have created such a political reaction as the indictment of the Russian social media influence-mongers.

President Trump acknowledged the active measures after changing his position many times. Members of Congress began to call for more action. And although Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the DOJ Russia investigation, he got back into the game too.

Sessions called for the creation of a new cyber task force that will give him recommendations by June 30 for how the Justice Department’s various agencies can tighten their electronic defenses.

As Defense Department officials like to say, however, the enemy also gets a vote. So how much of the work that D.C. is undertaking might amount to generals preparing to fight the last war?

The 2018 story is already different. America’s spy bosses have warned unequivocally that the active measures campaign not only is coming back this year, it never stopped. So the United States — and especially its government agencies — won’t be taken by surprise in the same way they were before.

Unless, of course, they are because the attacks come in different form.

Mueller’s indictment last week of Russian operatives showed the extent of the preparations and ingenuity that Russia’s intelligence agencies used in preparing the 2016 active measures.

That indictment alleges: Human operatives traveled to the United States to do reconnaissance years before the fact. Influence-mongers used information stolen about real Americans to mask their identities. They sometimes connected to the Internet using a virtual private network that enabled them to appear to be inside the U.S. and so on.

There are more than 100 Russian intelligence officers or other agents running around the United States, as the the head of counterintelligence for the U.S. spy agencies told NPR in late 2016. (And those are just the ones he knows about.) So whatever the Russian intelligence agencies — the GRU, the foreign intelligence SVR or the more domestic-focused FSB — want to do, their people are likely already here in the U.S. doing it.

The most optimistic view is the one held by people such as Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, who say the simple expectation of an attack has already spoiled how effective it could be.

“The American people are smart people,” he said earlier this month. “They realize people are attempting to manipulate them, both domestically and foreign.”

No number of warnings about social media agitation, however, can inoculate an individual email user with a weak Gmail password, or prevent the feeding frenzy in the press after embarrassing messages start to appear in public. And those are just the tactics we know about.

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Olympians Are Using Non-Alcoholic Beer As Recovery Drinks. Here's The Science

Magdalena Neuner of Germany enjoys a glass of Erdinger non-alcoholic beer after the medal ceremony for the Women’s 10km Pursuit at the IBU Biathlon World Championships in Ruhpolding, Germany, in 2012. Today’s Olympians have been swept up in a new trend largely emerging from Bavaria: non-alcoholic athletic recovery beers.

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In greek mythology, the Olympians were said to drink ambrosia, which bestowed upon them immortality. Occasionally, athletic heroes like Heracles were also gifted a sip. Well, the myths don’t say much about the golden-amber liquid getting them all drunk.

Today’s Olympians have been swept up in a new trend largely emerging from Bavaria: non-alcoholic athletic recovery beers. A number of breweries, such as Erdinger and Krombacher have, over the last few years, expanded their offerings of sober sports beers. This year, beers from both brands are a common sight in the Olympic Village.

But how much science is there to support the use of beer as an athletic recovery drink?

Beer’s most oft-cited health benefits revolve around plant-derived compounds called phenols. These organic, usually plant-derived compounds often have defining tastes. The spice of peppers? That’s the phenol Capsaicin. The pungent heft of oregano or the smoke in scotch? Carvacrol in the leaves and guaiacol from charred barrels.

Appalachian State University’s David Nieman has studied phenols’ health effects. On the whole, phenol-rich diets tend to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of sickness, he says. “[Polyphenols] have a very unique molecular structure that can actually regulate the genes that control inflammation,” says Nieman, in addition to general antiviral properties.

In 2011, Nieman and the University of Munich’s Johannes Scherr investigated the effects of beer, which contains around 50 different phenols, on athletes — whose intense physical activity can compromise their immune activity. When marathon runners were instructed to drink 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic beer a day, their risk of upper respiratory infection was reduced. The activity of white blood cells, a good indicator of inflammation, was lowered 20 percent.

However, phenols aren’t the only health benefits beer has to offer — and not just any brew could be called a sports beer. For example, regular alcoholic beer is a diuretic, and having to urinate more dehydrates athletes, says biologist Mauricio Sepulveda of Chile’s Pontifical Catholic University points out. It also can disrupt crucial protein synthesis, says Ben Desbrow with Griffith University in South East Queensland, Australia.

What’s more, beer is a uniquely social drink, notes Desbrow — a dietician who has long studied the health effects of the brew and even engineered a version less likely to give tipplers a hangover. “In Australia, and I’m sure it’s the same in many places around the world, we’ve got a lot of people who, after exercise or exertion or maybe a hard day’s work, they like to drink beer,” he says.

That comes with a hydration dilemma. If athletes drink beer, they won’t get properly hydrated. That’s because water, when drunk in large quantities, is quickly expelled without electrolytes. According to Desbrow, our bodies can easily hold water and properly rehydrate when we take in calories as we drink — but athletes can’t eat before every new match, round, bout, or run. One of the benefits of sugary recovery drinks is that they restore athletes’ stores of glycogen — a sugar-based compound our bodies use to readily store energy. If an athlete needs something to drink between rounds of boxing, or innings of a baseball game, they’re going to want the sugar in most sports drinks.

But when the day is wrapping up, athletes don’t need to worry about replacing glycogen stores in a hurry. So a nonalcoholic beer and some water can help them recover — while also offering an opportunity to socialize with other athletes.

In 2013, Desbrow found that having athletes drink a reduced-alcohol beer with added electrolytes allowed them to retain more fluids. His original study only had seven participants. But since then, he and other researchers (including Sepulveda) have done severalfollow-up studies which have generally confirmed that light or non-alcoholic beer works well enough for hydration.

Desbrow’s specially formulated, electrolyte-rich beer wasn’t significantly more hydrating than regular light beer. Yet, several breweries are touting the added electrolytes in their sports beers. The added marketing appeal might make it worthwhile, but modifying the salt content of beer — without majorly disrupting the flavor — can involve some complicated and costly experimentation.

And removing alcohol from beer is already pretty complex. One of the most popular methods is to take advantage of the fact that alcohol’s boiling temp is lower than water’s by nearly 4 degrees Celsius. By applying heat and creating a vacuum (which further reduces the boiling temperature), brewers cook off the alcohol — but not without also altering the flavor profile of other compounds.

Other brewers use reverse osmosis to remove alcohol: They filter out most everything but the water and alcohol, leaving a syrupy concentrate. After distilling out the alcohol, they remix the concentrate and remaining water. Either way, the beer has to be recarbonated, either through adding yeast to the bottle or injecting CO2 (which technically makes it a soda).

Other new methods of brewing non-alcoholic beer are popping up. Bravus has a sober IPA — long thought impossible, since hop flavors are quickly disrupted by alcohol-boiling heat — by using what it will only call “biological wizardry.” There is also a growingarray of wild yeasts and genetically modified brewers yeasts, which can produce low-alcohol beers.

Ultimately, sports drinks are pretty darn good for replenishing electrolytes and spent sugar stores. But at the end of the day (literally), low-alcohol beers can provide a recovery beverage with two benefits relatively unmatched by other options: first, a host of extra healthy plant-derived compounds. Secondly, as Desbrow points out, people drink beer together over all the world (and have for much of the history of human civilization). What could honor that spirit more than shared brews in a multinational village of Olympians?

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English pub scraps snail race as cold makes competitors sluggish

LONDON (Reuters) – An English pub has canceled a charity snail race scheduled to take place on Saturday after unseasonably icy weather made potential competitors too slow to compete.

“The cold snap has led to a medical problem with our racing snails – it’s called hibernation,” the Dartmoor Union Inn in southwest England said on its Facebook page.

Temperatures across much of Europe are below normal for the time of year, and British weather forecasters have warned of bitterly cold winds and snow that could disrupt transport and cut off rural communities over the coming week.

England’s public health authority said on Friday the prolonged cold weather posed a danger to elderly people and young children if they could not heat their homes.

The Dartmoor Union Inn said it planned to reschedule what it had billed as “The 1st International Snail Grand National”, in aid of a local air ambulance service, once the weather warms up.

Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Mark Potter

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It's Hard To Imagine How Armed Teachers Might Change Schools

President Donald Trump leaves the stage after addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference. He has repeatedly called for arming teachers after the school shooting in Florida.

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What would our schools really be like if teachers carried guns in their classrooms? If, as President Trump first suggested at this week’s White House meeting with families who have suffered school shootings, 20 percent of teachers were armed?

He repeated the idea in tweets the next day, saying “20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to … immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions … Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!”

Some people at the meeting seemed to approve of the president’s idea; many did not. The president repeated his message to acclaim before the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday.

In the world beyond the Oval Office, Dr. David Hemenway at the Harvard School of Public Health, an expert on gun violence, calls the president’s idea, “a crazy proposal,” according to NBC News. And many teachers took to social media to say they’re infuriated by the idea.

But 42 percent of Americans told a Washington Post-ABC News poll they believe gun-bearing teachers could have deterred last week’s school shootings in Parkland, Fla.

I’ve tried to imagine how pistol-packing teachers might change the nature of a school, and the relationship between students and teachers. Will students now advise each other, “Don’t get caught text messaging in physics class! That teacher is locked and loaded!” Will principals who hire new teachers now say, “Well, his college recommendations aren’t strong. But he’s won marksmanship medals.” And will teachers now tap a bulge under their coats and admonish students, “OK, class, do I have to remind you what happens if I don’t get those essays on Gwendolyn Brooks by Friday?”

The valor and devotion of American teachers is beyond doubt. In one school shooting after another, teachers and staff have risked and even given their lives to protect their students, including Scott Beigel, a geography teacher, Aaron Feis, a football coach, and Chris Hixon, an athletic director, just last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

But would strapping guns on teachers make them educators, or armed guards? What happens if and when a teacher’s gun is left unlocked, or is stolen, or gets wrestled away from a teacher by a disturbed student? Would giving guns to teachers make students feel safer — or even more on-guard, when they should be open to learning? Isn’t it already hard enough for teachers to teach?

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Educators Fear And Embrace Calls For Concealed Carry In The Classroom

A classroom in Circleville, Ohio.

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After last week’s shooting in Parkland, Fla., calls to arm teachers and school personnel have intensified. Both President Trump and the National Rifle Association argued this week that enabling school officials to shoot back could save lives and could deter potential assailants from entering a school.

Trump has clarified that he believes only those “adept” at using firearms should be armed, not all teachers.

Teachers are already carrying concealed guns in a handful of states, including Ohio. Officials who support concealed carry for teachers say they’re not just handing out guns but carefully considering who and how they should carry. Ohio has invested thousands in training.

But many educators are uncomfortable with the idea, and worry that it could put students in further harm and deter people from entering the field of teaching, which is already facing shortages.

Ohio: ‘I’m not gonna just go around and just hand guns out.’

At one training session to teach best practices in the small town of Rittman, Ohio, more than a dozen teachers stood in a line poised with guns in hand.

They’re were there as part of the FASTER program funded by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation. The state is also kicking in $175,000 dollars over the next two years.

For the past five years, FASTER has trained more than 1,300 teachers and staff across 12 states. Chris Cerino is a former police officer and law enforcement trainer who prepares teachers and staff in case of an active shooter.

“We teach them about target and backstop,” Cerino says, “We give them good marksmanship skills. We talk to them about closing the distances and using cover. And we also talk to them about not shooting when they shouldn’t or can’t.”

A sign outside Hicksville schools warns visitors that teachers are armed.

Courtesy Keith Countryman

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Courtesy Keith Countryman

In Ohio, any school board can give permission to carry a firearm into normally gun-free schools. Those decisions are often made behind closed doors because they’re part of a district’s confidential safety plan.

The Buckeye Firearms Foundation’s Jim Irvine says it’s not just teachers with guns, it’s principals, nurses, and maintenance people. And he says, it’s strictly voluntary.

“No one should ever be forced to carry a gun,” Irvine says. “It’s something you have got to want to do because if you don’t want to do it, you’re not going to embrace it with the right mindset and the right attitude to do it properly.”

That mindset includes the possibility that children could be injured in crossfire or that the active shooter could be one of the teacher’s own students.

On day two, trainer Andrew Blubaugh is showing the group how to use a small window on a classroom door to check for a threat and how to restrain the shooter if he’s caught.

“What’s great about you guys is when we start talking about the element of surprise, they’re not expecting a teacher,” he says. “They’re looking for uniformed officers. That’s what they’re going to be cued in on. So you have the element of surprise.”

Most of those getting trained here don’t want to be identified. They don’t want others to know they’re carrying because a shooter could target them first.

Keith Countryman, superintendent of Hicksville Schools in northwest Ohio, carries a concealed gun.

“The people I’ve chosen to carry,” he says, “I’ve instructed them that are to never have the gun off their body for any reason nor have it shown for any reason unless it’s needed in a threatening situation.”

Following the shooting in Parkland, Fla., Countryman met with his security team to consider arming more teachers who he says are not paid extra. They decided instead to consider other measures like adding more cameras outside the building.

“I’m not gonna just go around and just hand guns out. ‘Hey, go get your concealed carry and you can carry a gun here at school.’ That’s never gonna happen at our school.”

Outside Countryman’s school in Defiance County is a warning sign that reads, “these individuals may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students and staff.” The superintendent says he’s confident if something happened anywhere in the building, they’d be able to confront the intruder within seconds.

Connecticut: ‘I don’t think we’ll be putting guns in the hands of teachers.’

The Department of Homeland Security advises people “Run. Hide. Fight.” when there’s an active shooter. It’s a method police departments use when training school employees, students, and increasingly, aspiring teachers.

But it’s that last part — fight — that’s always worried Emily Cipriano.

“I never would think: ‘Here’s my bag of things I bring to class to take notes’,” Cipriano said. “‘How am I going to use this to defend myself’?”

Cipriano is a graduate student at the University of Connecticut’s education school. She wants to teach high school English one day. She’s heard talk about arming teachers in the wake of the Florida shooting, but she’s not interested in carrying a gun. For her, she hopes playing defense will be enough to keep her and her students safe.

“I have to believe that, ya know, with blocking the door, with using books to shield ourselves, or with setting up my classroom in a way that we’re able to protect ourselves that I wouldn’t have to resort to bringing anything with me to school,” she said.

The president of Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, said there are teachers in Connecticut who want to carry a gun, but none would speak publicly about it. He also declined to be interviewed for this story.

But former teacher Rene Roselle said requiring teachers to carry a gun, would cause many to leave the profession.

“If we got to the point where we’re arming teachers, then we would see people leave in a great amount,” said Roselle, who now trains teachers as part of UConn’s education school. She said guns should be the last thing being put into classrooms.

“If we’re often not giving teachers the pencils and the papers that they need to be able to have a classroom,” she said, “I don’t think we’ll be putting guns in the hands of teachers.”

Richard Schwab is an education professor at UConn who trains school leaders. He said teachers should be armed, but not with a weapon.

“I think what we arm teachers with is knowledge,” he said, adding that he’s against arming teachers, but they should be prepared for school shootings.

“We could never prepare every teacher for every social ill,” Schwab said. “We really ask a lot of our teachers. Is this one more thing? Yes. Is it the breaking point for teachers and people who want to become teachers? I don’t think it is.”

However, teacher shortages have been a problem for almost a decade. Many have been leaving the profession faster than they can be replaced. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs has been declining every year since 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

But Schwab said it’s other factors — like increased attention on tests and less classroom freedom — that’s driving teachers away. Possibly giving their lives for their students, isn’t one of them.

“This is part of life today,” he said. “Unfortunately we’ve had a number of experiences like this in our nation’s schools. But we all have to deal with this, and we all can’t hide in our homes.”

Twenty-three-year-old Emily Cipriano agreed. Having grown up in a post-Columbine world, she’s always been aware of school violence.

“There are so many different roles that teachers already play,” she said. “I understand that this now is a huge role — you’re essentially saying you’re here to save a student’s life. But I just think that’s something we’ve always considered.”

For Cipriano, school shootings are a small part of the ever-growing list of things that teachers are asked to handle.

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Heavy Rotation: The Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

Mélat’s song “Push” is featured on this month’s edition of Heavy Rotation.

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Every month, NPR Music asks DJs from public radio stations across the country for the songs they’re spinning on repeat. These can be new releases, favorites from local artists and everything in between.

This month’s playlist includes a new track from an up and coming Austin artist, an upbeat song about white privilege from Tune-Yards, and a jazz instrumental cover of Amy Winehouse.

Heavy Rotation: The Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing

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Mélat, ‘Push’

  • from Move Me II: The Present

Born to refugees who relocated to Austin after fleeing their native Ethiopia, Mélat has an unique outlook and life experience for someone her age. Influenced equally by her father’s affection for R&B and her own cultural upbringing in an Amharic-speaking household, Mélat’s confidence as a singer-songwriter shines through every track she graces with her powerful but smooth vocals. Mélat’s propensity for bold vocal performances and overall passion has already culminated in two full-length albums and a day named in her honor by Austin mayor Steve Adler. Mélat’s latest offering is Move Me II: The Present, 10 tracks of R&B, hip-hop infused excellence. The second song on the record (which also served as the second promotional single), “Push,” provides a perfect platform for Mélat’s vocals complete with a Curtis Mayfield-evoking guitar groove. — Jack Anderson, KUTX

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Lucius, ‘Neighbors’

  • from NUDES

Following the bright pop burst of 2016’s Good Grief, Lucius has opted to lay it bare and go back to basics. The new LP Nudes peels back the layers of elaborate production for a simple, acoustic backdrop that showcases the duo’s best assets: their vocals. Most of the album is made up of back catalog revisits and covers, but the first single is a brand new track called “Neighbors.” This song reveals just how powerful the voices we’re dealing with are as they soar, pull back, go soft, and then rip through the final lyrics: “Signal’s loud but it’s still busy, baby.” These are the (only) kind of nudes I’d be happy to receive. — Jessi Whitten, Colorado Public Radio


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Dream Wife, ‘Somebody’

  • from Dream Wife

The idea for Dream Wife germinated when three friends created a fake girl band, complete with original songs and an accompanying mockumentary, as a performance art school project. The songs turned out great and the London-based trio — one Icelander and two Brits — had so much fun, they decided to keep it going as a real band. Their resulting eponymous debut is an infectious collection of indie-punk songs. The incredibly catchy album standout, “Somebody,” was originally released as a single last year on International Women’s Day. The band describes it as a ballad for women.

“The song explores the experience of living in a female body within our society. It’s a conversation on the reclamation of bodies by the women who occupy them in a tender, yet direct and empowering way,” says the band of the track.

The song is bold, confident and makes me want to hear more from this talented young band.— Cheryl Waters, KEXP


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Marquis Hill, ‘Coming Out Of The Universe’

  • from Meditation Tape

When it’s good, jazz provides the listener a respite from ordinary life (as the great drummer Art Blakey said, it “washes away the dust”). At its very best, though, this music can provide a sort of transcendental experience. The style that so often transcends is typically categorized as the catch-all sub-genre known as spiritual jazz. in Marquis Hill’s new Meditation Tape, we have a mixtape-style album that materializes a new fork in the path for this genre. On “Coming Out Of The Universe,” Hill’s singular style is updated: his trumpet plays through distortion, soaring over the heavy bass groove laid down by Junius Paul and the ethereal synth textures of Brett Williams. It’s all held together by longtime collaborator and fellow Chicagoan Makaya McCraven’s boom-bap break beat. One final collaborator is heard at the end, in the form of the legendary drummer Marvin “Bugalu” Smith – waxing poetic on the nature of human consciousness and its relationship to our physical universe. — Matt Fleeger, KMHD


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Everything Is Recorded, ‘Close But Not Quite’

  • from Everything is Recorded by Richard Russell

The best of these is “Close But Not Quite,” featuring Mercury Prize winner Sampha. The song features a sample of Curtis Mayfield‘s “The Makings Of You,” from Mayfield’s classic 1970 solo debut, Curtis. The introduction of the song beginslike a soft lullaby with a gentle piano, and an in-the-pocket bass line that keeps the beat as Samphasings tenderly: “Fate lets you fall into her arms without a word/And only the size of your breath that hurts/I’m not one to go to church/But you made me believe in something more than hurt.”

Then the payoff hits hard on the chorus, as Russell blends the Mayfield sample into the chorus with seamless attention to detail where Sampha and Curtis Mayfield’s voice becomes one, and a new long song is born. — Bruce Warren, WXPN


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Tune-Yards, ‘Colonizer’

  • from I can feel you creep into my private life

Like Annie Clark with St. Vincent, Merrill Garbus with Tune-Yards steadily advances her music toward a larger audience without sacrificing her integrity as an artist. Her voice plus her band’s propulsive synths, programming and percussion, result in Tune-Yards’ signature sound. More focused this time, inspired by her investigations of house and techno music, plus African and Haitian rhythms, the sound supports Garbus’ smart, searching lyrics. Halfway through the record, “Colonizer” arrives. The song’s repeated phrase “my white woman’s voice” is impossible to miss, even to the most casual listener. “Colonizer” has something to say about race, gender, privilege, culture and appropriation.

Garbus is an artist who is aware of what she’s doing in her music, and what’s going on in our culture, and she wants to let you in on it. But Tune-Yards is here to entertain, not to preach. It’s a fun listen from start to finish. — Mark Simmet, Iowa Public Radio

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Greta Van Fleet, ‘Highway Tune’

  • from From the Fires

The big festival line-ups for summer are bereft of real rock bands but in a recent interview, Jack White said we shouldn’t worry, a renaissance is just around the corner. It’s being led by a brash band of brothers from Jack’s home state of Michigan, with a girl’s name: Greta Van Fleet.

“Highway Tune” has been at No. 1 on our chart already, unusual for a debut and for a rock song! They’re compared to Led Zeppelin in reviews and last week, Robert Plant signed off on them, even suggesting that Josh Kiszka, the singer, could fill his role, as he’s not interested in a reunion! Elton John has also given them a big thumbs up. He throws a pre-Oscar party in LA every year and invites a hot new act to join him (Adele and Ed Sheeran in years past), but this year he’s bringing back the rock by inviting GVF! — Mark Wheat, The Current


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Inara George, ‘Young Adult’

  • from Dearest Everybody

A blissfully sweet fairy tale with a touch of misunderstanding, “Young Adult” is an ode to the passing of Inara George‘s father, a subject she has long since avoided writing about. In Dearest Everybody, her first album since 2009, George presents a set of songs of self-reflection for everyone listening. Though “Young Adult” carries the process of facing the loss of her father, it’s a tune that most every 20-something can relate to. Lyrics presenting the ups and downs, the process of just figuring out who you’re supposed to be, yet melodies serving as a reminder that everything turns out well in the end. George shows us that the seemingly simplest of lyrics can bring together the most beautiful moments of healing. — Alexis Palmer, Mountain Stage


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Hart, Scone & Albin, ‘Rehab’

  • from Leading the British Invasion

John Hart is a guitarist who has paid past tribute to jazz touchstones like Billy Strayhorn and Thelonious Monk. Leading The British Invasion finds him in a trio with drummer Rudy Petschauer and organist Adam Scone, taking a glimpse not at The Beatles or The Kinks but rather a series of female British soul stars, from Dusty Springfield to Lorde to Adele to Sade.

Hart breaks down the track perfectly: “We picked up the tempo on the 2006 Amy Winehouse hit ‘Rehab,’ with a street beat from Rudy reminiscent of some of the great collaboration between guitarist Grant Green and organ great Big John Patton.” Yes! Yes! Yes!— Gary Walker, WBGO

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Russian Bobsledder Disqualified For Doping, Court Says

Nadezhda Sergeeva and Anastasia Kocherzhova, competing as Olympic Athletes from Russia, react in the finish area during the women’s bobsleigh heats on Wednesday in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

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Nadezhda Sergeeva of Russia has tested positive for a banned substance and has been disqualified from the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said Saturday.

Sergeeva was ranked 12th in the women’s bobsleigh, but is now disqualified from the event and “the results obtained” by her team “at the same event are disqualified with all resulting consequences,” the organization said in a statement.

The court said the 30-year-old tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart drug used to treat angina, and said she admitted to the violation. The drug affects metabolism, according to The Associated Press. The World Anti-Doping Agency banned it in 2014.

Sergeeva “accepted a provisional suspension beyond the period of the Games,” the court wrote, “and reserved her ‘rights to seek the elimination or reduction of the ineligibility period’ following the conclusion of the Games.”

Sergeeva is the second Russian athlete to fail a doping test at the Pyeongchang Olympics. As NPR’s Bill Chappell wrote on Friday: “The news about Sergeeva comes one day after a bronze medal was stripped from Russian curling athlete Aleksandr Krushelnitckii, who had tested positive for meldonium in Pyeongchang.”

The Russian Bobsled Federation announced on Friday that Sergeeva had failed the drug test.

Hockey player Ziga Jeglic of Slovenia and speedskater Kei Saito of Japan also tested positive for banned substances, the AP reports, and the two have left the games.

Athletes from Russia are competing under the Olympic — not Russian — flag, after authorities banned Russia’s federation from competing once they concluded that Russian athletes had engaged in systemic state-backed doping in the 2014 games in Sochi.

The International Olympic Committee is still debating whether to allow Russian athletes, now wearing uniforms labeled OAR (Olympic Athlete from Russia), to march under the Russian flag during the closing ceremonies on Sunday.

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Czech Republic's Ester Ledecka Makes History With Golds In Snowboarding And Skiing

Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic celebrates winning gold in the ladies’ snowboard parallel giant slalom at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games Saturday.

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With a gold medal in the snowboard parallel giant slalom, Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic has become the first woman in Winter Olympics history to win a gold medal in two different sports at the same Olympic Games.

On Saturday she emerged victorious in the final run against Germany’s Selina Joerg, finishing just 0.46 seconds ahead. Joerg took silver in the event, followed by Ramona Theresia Hofmeister, also of Germany, who took bronze.

A week earlier, Ledecka surprised spectators and herself by taking a gold medal — in skiing. Ledecka finished first in the women’s super-G in Alpine skiing, finishing several spots ahead of the decorated American skier Lindsey Vonn.

But Ledecka is best known and has seen the most success as a snowboarder, where she’s won world titles and competed in the Winter Games in Sochi four years ago.

Ledecka is the third athlete to win gold in two events in the same Winter Games, according to analytics company Gracenote. The last time it happened was in 1928, with Johan Grøttumsbråten taking gold in the Nordic combined and cross-country skiing. Four years earlier, Thorleif Haug achieved the same thing, the company says.

The 22-year-old Ledecka earlier made Olympic history just by being the first woman to compete in both the Alpine skiing and snowboarding events.

She first skied at age 2 and snowboarded at age 5, according to The New York Times, but refused to follow the conventional wisdom of her coaches to give up one sport in order to specialize.

In the men’s snowboarding parallel giant slalom, Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland was the gold medal winner, besting his silver medal he won in Sochi in 2014.

Lee Sang-ho of South Korea finished 0.43 seconds behind to take silver, the country’s first medal in a snowboarding event. Zan Kosir of Slovenia was the bronze winner, beating Sylvain Dufour of France in the “small final,” which determines the contest’s overall third place.

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U.S. Men's Curling Takes On Sweden In The Gold Medal Final [LIVE UPDATES]

Before today, no U.S. curling team had ever played in an Olympic gold medal match. Here, Matt Hamilton delivers a stone in an earlier game in the round robin tournament at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.

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The U.S. men’s curling team will make history on Saturday at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, playing in the first gold medal curling game ever to feature an American team. Led by John Shuster, the U.S. takes on Sweden at 3:30 p.m. KT — 1:30 a.m. ET.

As a nation of nascent curling fans looks on, we’ll be updating this story from the Gangneung Curling Center in South Korea. (If you’re new to curling, skip to the bottom of this page for some tips.)

When these two teams played early in the tournament, Sweden opened with four points in its first end and never looked back, beating the U.S. team 10-4. That game was called after eight ends, after Sweden put it out of reach. But that was a week ago; since then, the U.S. team has gained momentum and confidence as it knocked off strong opponents.

Sweden and the U.S. took very different paths to get here. The Americans fought their way back into the playoffs after starting 2-4; the Swedes have lost only two games in Pyeongchang.

The Americans reached the final by edging Canada in a close-fought 5-3 game that saw Canada edge forward – only to have the Americans, led by skipper John Shuster, claw them back. And late in the game, the U.S. team snagged two points that put them into the final.

The U.S. team is made up of Shuster, Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner, with Joe Polo as the alternate.

The Swedish team is led by Niklas Edin, along with Oskar Eridsson, Rasmus Wranaa, Christoffer Sundgren, and the alternate Henrik Leek.

It’s been a terrific run for the Swedish national curling team – both the men’s and women’s squads are in gold-medal finals this weekend. The Swedish men won bronze in the 2014 Sochi Olympics; they’ve never won gold.

The women’s final, between Sweden and South Korea, will be played on Sunday morning in South Korea – at 9 a.m., or 7 p.m. ET Saturday night in the U.S.

This year’s tournament in Pyeongchang comes on the 20th anniversary of curling’s return as an official Olympic event. It was part of the original slate of sports when the Winter Olympics began in 1924, but it was eliminated after only three nations entered. Sweden was one of them, winning silver.

A Quick Guide to Curling:

Games comprise 10 ends, with both teams delivering eight stones in each end. It’s a huge advantage to deliver “the hammer” – the last stone of an end.

Curling is played on a sheet of ice that’s 150 feet long and nearly 16.5 feet wide. Each stone is a 42-pound (or up to 44-pound) chunk of granite selected from Ailsa Craig, an island in Scotland.

The target area on the sheet is the house. The bullseye is called the button – and it’s bisected by the center line and the tee line. The object is to finish an end with your stones closest to the button than the other team’s. Each stone that’s closer than the opponents’ brings one point.

Teams are called “rinks” – for the U.S., the John Shuster rink is in the final, for instance.

The games often last 2-3 hours. Each team has four players and an alternate (who usually sits with the coach just off the playing area)

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Trump Administration Restricts H-1B Worker Visas Coveted by High Tech

The Trump administration is tightening the rules for companies that contract out high-skilled workers who are in this country on H-1B visas.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency issued a new policy memo on Thursday that requires “detailed statements of work or work orders” about the work that will be performed when an H-1B visa worker is employed at a third-party work site. Employers will have to file more details that support the need for foreign talent.

H-1B visas are controversial. American tech companies use them to hire highly skilled foreign workers, such as engineers, IT specialists, architects among others, in situations in which they say there is a shortage of U.S.-born talent. The visas are good for three years and renewable for another three-year term.

Critics of the visas — 85,000 of which are issued every year — say American workers are aced out of competition with workers who can be paid less.

As CNN reports, “Indian outsourcing firms will be the hardest hit. Indian workers receive more than 70% of all H-1B visas.”

The USCIS memo says that if a visa beneficiary will be placed at one or more third-party worksites, the employer “has specific and non-speculative qualifying assignments in a specialty occupation for the beneficiary for the entire time requested in the petition; and the employer will maintain an employer-employee relationship with the beneficiary for the duration of the requested validity period.”

The memo says USCIS recognizes that visa-holders may wind up earning less money than promised or might perform “non-specialty” jobs when they are contracted out to third-party worksites.

The policy change comes as the Trump administration has signaled its desire to change the visa program with a “Buy American, Hire American” policy outlined in an executive order signed in April 2017. The order promised to root out fraud and abuse in the program.

As the Mercury News reports, the H-1B program has come under intense federal scrutiny.

“A Bay Area News Group report earlier this week found a sharp rise in the number of reviews immigration officials were conducting on H-1B applications. From January to August 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent 85,265 requests for evidence in response to H-1B visa applications, a 45 percent increase compared to the same period a year earlier, agency data show. Such requests are made when an application is missing required documents or when the agency determines it needs more proof to decide if a worker is eligible for the visa. Immigration lawyers say the extra enforcement could discourage companies and individuals from seeking an H-1B visa in the first place.”

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