Foresight 2020: Senator Amy Klobuchar

The main thrust of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s presidential pitch is her ability to win back key Midwestern states that once voted firmly Democrat.

This week, the senator is kicking off a “blue wall” tour of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin where she plans to connect with voters who might prefer a more centrist candidate.

Klobuchar will stop in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Milwaukee. Her campaign says she will focus on economic issues with a focus on investing in infrastructure and rural communities.

The senator joins us to discuss healthcare, the president and the Midwest.

Show by Amanda Williams.

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Israel Goes To The Polls Again

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the political fight of his life. Israel held its second national election in six months and the polling for it is too close to call.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party looked like it was going to sail to victory in the election in April. However, Netanyahu failed to garner enough support from smaller parties and could not form a government.

In a bid to win support from hard right-wing parties, Netanyahu promised to annex a significant portion of the West Bank if he won the election, eliminating the possibility of a future Palestinian state.

What does this mean for Israeli-U.S. relations? What’s the future of the two-state solution? We ask an expert for answers.

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Free Software Pioneer Quits MIT Over His Comments On Epstein Sex Trafficking Case

Richard Stallman, pictured in 2015, resigned from his posts as President of the Free Software Foundation and visiting scientist at MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence lab.

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Free software pioneer and renowned computer scientist Richard Stallman resigned from his post at MIT following recent comments about one of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking victims. He also resigned as president of the Free Software Foundation.

On Monday, Stallman, a visiting scientist at the university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, posted a brief message on his blog announcing the decision. “To the MIT community, I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT,” he wrote.

“I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations,” Stallman added.

In a statement, Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation John Sullivan noted that the board will begin an immediate search for a new president.

Despite Stallman’s professional accolades — he has received several honorary doctorates, was given the MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 1990, and is considered the godfather of the free software or open source movement (though he detests the latter moniker) — he has long cut a divisive figure for his personal views.

The controversy swirling around him now stems from a series of emails from a CSAIL listserv — made public by Selam Jie Gano — in which Stallman said that a 17-year-old girl who allegedly was instructed by Epstein to have sex with AI pioneer Marvin Minsky, likely seemed “entirely willing” to engage in the illegal act. He also argued it is unfair to call such an incident “sexual assault.”

Minsky, now deceased, was an MIT computer scientist accused of sexually assaulting Virginia Guiffre, who has said she was trafficked by Epstein.

In the thread, Stallman wrote, “We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing.”

When a person on the email chain noted that the girl was 17 at the time, and that sex with a minor is statutory rape, Stallman replied, “I think it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.”

The remarks drew ire from computer scientists in and out of the university and they inspired some to dig through Stallman’s past blog posts. That effort has since unearthed other writings in which he advocated for the legalization of pedophilia and child pornography.

The Daily Beast first reported that Stallman wrote in 2003, “I think that everyone age 14 or above ought to take part in sex, though not indiscriminately. (Some people are ready earlier.)” In 2006, he wrote, “I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily [sic] pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren’t voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.”

Stallman’s departure follows that of MIT Media Lab Director Joichi Ito earlier this month. He also left amid scandal after an article by The New Yorker revealed the lab tried to conceal its financial relationship with Epstein.

The disgraced financier who committed suicide in a jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges had been involved in landing gifts from others of about $7.5 million.

In a letter to the MIT community, CSAIL Director Daniela Rus said the university will work with Stallman “to come up with a transition plan.”

“We thank him for his technical contributions to the lab, to the free-software movement, and to the wider computer-science community over the decades,” Rus wrote.

“Recent events have also prompted me and other senior leadership at the lab to focus on having a discussion on how we can improve the ways we respectfully work with one another in this community. This includes ongoing conversations about the future of the CSAIL-related listserv.”

Stallman did not immediately reply to NPR requests for comment.

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mxmtoon Leaps From Online To Make Her Debut

mxmtoon’s debut album, the masquerade, straddles whimsy and earnest depth.

Nicole Busch/Courtesy of the artist


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With the ease of uploading music online, Internet sensations are made everyday. But for one rising bedroom pop artist, it was truly accidental … almost.

Until recently, mxmtoon — who otherwise prefers to go by her first name, Maia — kept her music a secret from the people in her immediate life. Now, with her debut album, the masquerade, mxmtoon is slowly peeling back the layers of her online persona.

Starting at 15 years old, the Oakland, Calif. native would post videos on YouTube from her bedroom under an old screen name, mxmtoon. She would play her ukulele and record covers and original songs quietly after her family had gone to bed. Naturally, mxmtoon sang about what she knew — high school, angst, seasonal depression. One of her first songs, “1-800-DATEME,” was about being single on Valentine’s Day.

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Though she kept this part of herself a secret from loved ones — “I was just so terrified of my family finding out” — the 19-year-old remembers the sense of freedom she felt with each new upload.

“The internet, at that point, allowed me to have this space where I could create my own story and exist and be something other than what I felt like I was stuck as in my day-to-day life,” mxmtoon says.

The teenager kept these two parts of her — Maia at school and mxmtoon online — totally separate for years. That is, until her videos started getting noticed by music publications. As she gained more notoriety, mxmtoon got worried her parents were going to find out about her secret life. It was time to come clean.

“So, I sit my room, take a really deep breath, open the door and walk out to the kitchen. I say, ‘Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something,” she remembers. “It was terrifying to make that jump from something that was so confidential to so public.”

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mxmtoon describes the masquerade as a series of “rhyming diary entries to music” that act as self-serenades. One of the album’s lead singles, “prom dress,” for example, was inspired by her real life prom dress try-off that the artist says quickly divulged to a mini panic attack.

“So much of the themes and the topics of this album are just about, you know, being a teenager and being in that space where you have literally no clue who you are,” mxmtoon says. “You’re trying to figure it out. You don’t know what your story is and how that’s perfectly fine and OK.”

mxmtoon’s the masquerade is out now.

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‘There Isn’t Just One Type Of Black,’ Says Comedian Nicole Byer

Along with pastry chef Jacques Torres, comedian Nicole Byer hosts Nailed It!, a show that celebrates great failures in cake-making.

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Nailed It! is a competition show where home bakers try to re-create elaborate cakes — and often fail spectacularly.

“Our show is truly like: As long as you don’t kill people with your food, you might win!” says co-host Nicole Byer.

So when Byer learned the Netflix program was nominated for an Emmy, she was shocked.

“The call I got from Netflix, one of the execs on the show, she was like … ‘We were — nominated?'” Byer says. “Everybody was surprised.”

Byer isn’t even a baker. She’s a comedian who isn’t afraid to talk about all the things we’re nervous about — how we look, how we have sex, how desperate we might be to have sex. Among other things, she hosts a podcast called Why Won’t You Date Me?

“It’s a real question!” she says, sighing. “I’m so single.”

As part of She’s Funny, the All Things Considered series about the rule-breaking and risk-taking women of comedy, I sat down with Byer before a live audience at The Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles.


Interview Highlights

On a comedy sketch where she’s asked to act out stereotypical blackness for an audition, and the incident that inspired it

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You can see it. It’s a commercial where I play a fairy. It’s a Nestlé commercial, but it was for Israeli Nestlé. So I guess in Israel, they don’t know black. So the cast director was a white lady … and she was like, “OK, Nicole, how do I say this — I need you to be as black as possible, and if you go too black, I’ll bring you back.” And in my head I was like, “What does that mean?” Like, if I shout, “Crips! Bloods!” I don’t know. What to you is too black? Also, if I’m a gang member, how are you bringing me back, you know? So it was very confusing. …

She was the one who flat-out said it, so I’m not mad at her. … Other people will coat it with “urban” or “street” or “edgy” or things like that. And I know what I sound like. So it would require me to code switch for me to do those things. And that’s not who I am. So you are asking me to literally put on your version of “black,” which is to me a blackface, because that’s not me. And it’s hurtful when you realize: Oh, Hollywood understands one type of black. And there isn’t just one type of black — just like there isn’t one type of white. Like, Emma Stone, Emma Roberts — all these girls get to exist and they don’t have to be one thing. They can be anything they want. And we have to be just one thing. …

When I was little, people would say to me and my sister, or to my mother: “Wow, they’re so well-spoken.” And I didn’t realize until I was an adult that that’s a microaggression. … Just because I’m a little black girl doesn’t mean that I’m going to sound the type of way you think I’m going to sound. My name is Nicole, and not something black-sounding, because my mother knew that on a resumé, a black-sounding or a black-looking name will not get you in the door. And that was in [1986]. That is not different now in 2019.

Audie Cornish and Nicole Byer (right) speak at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles.

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Matthew Nadu for NPR

On how comedy and acting got her through her mother’s death (during high school) and her father’s death (at age 21)

One of the first jokes I wrote: ’cause I didn’t start doing stand-up till 2013; I was doing a lot of improv and sketch [comedy]. So I had started doing improv … the beginning of June 2008, and my dad died in June 2008. And I’d asked him, when I started taking classes, I was like, “Daddy, OK, so for my grad show will you finally come to New York and watch me perform?” And then he said, “Hard no. I’ll die before I watch you do improv.” [laughing]

People don’t like that joke. I still think it’s pretty funny. Who wants to watch someone do object work?

But yeah, doing comedy truly helped me through that, because I was really sad. Me and my dad never got along, and my mother really wanted us to get along, obviously. … She had encouraged me to do the school play, ’cause she was like, “You talk so much. Why don’t you talk other people’s words on a stage? And don’t come home for a couple hours.”

So I started doing the play, and that was amazing for me. And then I was in the musical when my mom died, and that was a nice thing … it took my mind off of things. I didn’t have to be me for the two hours of play rehearsal; I got to be whoever I was playing in the play. So then when my dad died, I was doing improv. I didn’t have to be me — I could go on stage and be like, “I’m an elephant!” Or whatever. (I’m making fun of improv, but I truly have a show tonight at 9:30 where I’m going to do improv.) So yeah, it was a blessing that I had found these things before they passed away so I could escape.

On therapy

Oh, I go to so much therapy. So much therapy … so much therapy. I, my [therapist] Mary, I love her, I see her every Thursday, and I unload. I hadn’t seen her in like a month, and then last Thursday I don’t think she said two words, and then I was like, “OK Mary, see you later!” So this week she’ll have more things to say to me, but I was just like, “I need to tell you so much!”

But I love therapy. I’m a huge supporter of people getting into therapy — especially black people. We hold a lot of trauma. And I think especially black women, we’re told: Be a strong black woman, your business is your business. And it’s like: Sure, your business is your business, but a therapist can help you manage your business. And people are like: That’s for rich people. No. There’s sliding-scale therapy where they look at your paycheck and go, “Oh you make 8 Skittles? Therapy’s half a Skittle.” You know, it’s good to talk to people who are not your friends or are not your family.

On learning how to do her own makeup and hair for TV

I learned how to do my own makeup because I was tired of looking like s*** on television. Like, I’ll go back and look at things earlier in my career and be like: Yep, that was a makeup artist who was mixing sand and tan, and not getting ebony. Like, I’m a dark woman. When I was starting out you could not use drug-store brands on me. You couldn’t; they didn’t make it in my color. So when you pop out Covergirl, I was like: Not this girl.

So I learned. I would watch tutorials, and I learned how to do my own makeup, and I would come to set with a base. I would bring my own makeup. I started wearing wigs because people did not know how to do my hair. … Also, I didn’t have any money, so this wig would get ratty, but I was like, I’d rather be in my own ratty wig than having someone just patting my hair down. Like, have you ever seen a white woman do a black woman’s natural hair? … Isn’t it wild? Where they’re just like, “OK, and you’re good!” And you’re like: “You didn’t put anything in my hair! Also, you patted it into a square.”

On joy and resilience

When my mom died, I was a hellion. I think that’s a good word. I made a lot of bad choices, and I was really angry with the world, and I lived with a very reckless abandon. Like, one of my dear friends is like, “When I first met you, I thought you were going to die before you hit 30.” And I was like, “Fair.” Because when I hit 30, I was like, “Well, hot dang.” So I think those years really shaped me into now, because now I’m like, “Oh I have to, like, think before I do things,” and now I’m “in therapy,” and I “do a little yoga.” I just started taking care of myself.

I don’t know if it’s resilience. I don’t know. I think I just — I have a lot of things I want to share with the world, and I really like what I do. It really brings me joy to do comedy. … It was a long journey to that.

Lauren Hodges, Joanna Pawlowska, Bilal Qureshi and Emily Kopp produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web.

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China Used Twitter To Disrupt Hong Kong Protests, But Efforts Began Years Earlier

Twitter and Facebook last month suspended hundreds of thousands of accounts and operations that they said were part of a Chinese state-linked disinformation campaign designed to discredit pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

A few days later, Google followed suit, banning 210 YouTube channels that it said it had identified as part of a similar disinformation effort.

Twitter published a list of the most active 936 accounts it banned and more than 3.6 million of their tweets, but it has not detailed how it ascertained that the accounts were connected to the Chinese state.

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In its statement, Twitter highlighted behaviors that allowed it to trace many of these accounts to mainland China — a cause for suspicion given the ban on Twitter within the country. A Twitter spokesperson declined to elaborate on how these accounts were identified.

Twitter did say that the suspended accounts were all used at some point to promote China’s official narrative on Hong Kong’s protests, which casts the mass movement as a willfully destructive mob pushing for regime change in Hong Kong.

NPR’s data team and Beijing correspondent took a deep dive into the more than 900 accounts Twitter identified as linked to a Chinese state effort to discredit Hong Kong protesters. Here’s what we found.

Tweets about, well, all sorts of things

The suspended Twitter accounts did not share exclusively pro-Beijing posts or content against the Hong Kong protests.

In fact, the accounts with the highest number of retweets or likes were about pornography. Tweets about cute animals also performed well.

Many of the accounts were created years ago — one as early as 2007 — and tweeted in various languages, including Indonesian, Arabic and English.

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Bots for hire?

Given the diversity of content the suspended accounts shared, experts say it is likely that at least a significant fraction of them were either bots for hire or compromised accounts hacked from their original owners. NPR’s research surfaced several instances where, after years of tweeting in one language, accounts suddenly began tweeting in Chinese in the last year and a half.

This thread, posted by a Chinese data scientist who asked NPR not to use his name because of political sensitivities, delves into one suspended account and the disinformation campaigns for which it was apparently used.

I’ve been having a lot of fun coming up with life stories for accounts suspended by Twitter. Buckle in for a wild ride.

Meet 披荆斩棘 (@saydullos1d), from Cottonwood Colorado, a Denver suburb. She joined Twitter in 2013 and slowly built a following of over 21,000.

— Air-Moving Device (@AirMovingDevice) August 22, 2019

Accounts used repeatedly for different disinformation or promotional campaigns over the years could have been purchased through what’s known as the darknet — the portion of the global Internet that is uncatalogued and accessible only through specialized browsers.

“In the same places where you can buy software exploits from Russian hackers and ransomware, there are also actors that offer what they call disinformation as a service: either building up an entity positively on social media or negatively, by tearing them down or spreading compromising information,” says Priscilla Moriuchi, a research head at Recorded Future, a digital risk and intelligence company in the Boston area.

Stealing and repurposing social media accounts is also common, says Moriuchi: “After selling credit card numbers, selling leaked credentials on a massive scale is a pretty large business enterprise, and the credentials are really cheap.”

Documents show that Chinese government agencies pay to acquire more social media followers. A tender posted on Aug. 16 by Chinese state-run outlet China News offers 1.25 million yuan ($176,900) to acquire more Twitter followers. Another government tender posted a few days later offers 750,000 yuan ($106,120) to acquire more Facebook and Twitter followers to support an exposition of Asian countries being held in China’s Guangxi province in September.

Last year, The New York Times reported that China’s state news agency Xinhua was among dozens of clients that paid a prominent bot factory to acquire Twitter followers.

Post-election spike

Demonstrations in Hong Kong began on March 31 against a bill that would have allowed the extradition of crime suspects to mainland China, but they expanded into a movement to improve democracy and lessen the central Chinese government’s influence in the city. On Sept. 4, Hong Kong’s leader killed the bill, but protests continue.

NPR found activity from the now-suspended Twitter accounts increased after the Hong Kong protests began. But the accounts were most active more than two years earlier: right after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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These accounts did not begin widely tweeting in Chinese until late 2017 — and many of the initial tweets were about Guo Wengui, a Chinese entrepreneur and fugitive now living in New York City who claims to have compromising information on key Chinese leaders.

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Seeding accounts to sow dissent

“Seeding,” or creating new accounts and developing their network and audience, is key to mounting successful disinformation campaigns.

“You can’t instantaneously do [disinformation campaigns],” says Clint Watts, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. “Every day they’re probably seeding more accounts,” Watts says. “You don’t come out with an account and start broadcasting right away your influence message, because you don’t have an audience.”

Watts adds that seeding and using accounts too quickly can raise red flags. Diving into the data, we see a sudden surge of Chinese-language accounts beginning in late 2017.

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Between December 2017 and February 2018, the majority of these new accounts tweeted in Chinese. From then on, posts in Chinese climbed from effectively zero to between 15% and 35% of tweets.

Engage and retreat

After these new Chinese-language accounts emerged, we see a corresponding uptick in engagement with them. Simply put, they were retweeted and liked much more than previous Chinese-language tweets by the banned accounts.

The most dramatic rise in such engagement happened in early December 2018. A series of protests organized by retired military veterans had broken out across China, embarrassing the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which has long drawn political support from veterans. Tweets discrediting the protests, along with reshares and likes of those tweets, quickly spread.

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The more recent second spike in engagement with the now-suspended accounts occurred around June of this year, just as the Hong Kong protests were escalating.

In both events, tweet engagement spiked and quickly dropped off within weeks.

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Historically, many of China’s state-backed disinformation campaigns on English-language social media have used its many accounts to retweet state propaganda messages to give the illusion that such views are mainstream and widely supported, according to a Recorded Future analysis from earlier this year.

“With social media, a lot of what becomes acceptable is about volume. If you just say something enough times, it becomes truth on social media,” says Recorded Future’s Moriuchi.

“Will not cease”

Twitter faces an uphill battle against disinformation. The company has drawn broad criticism for failing to prevent these campaigns from spreading.

“These shutdowns are probably a very small percentage of what these countries actually have operating,” Watts says.

In its statement, Twitter acknowledged one reality of disinformation campaigns: “It is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease.”

Amy Cheng contributed reporting from Beijing. Huo Jingnan contributed reporting from Washington.

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Gates Foundation’s Humanitarian Award To India’s Modi Is Sparking Outrage

In this March 28 photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a campaign rally in Meerut. One of his efforts as prime minister has been to construct millions of toilets to reduce open defecation.

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A protest is mounting over one of the recipients of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Goals Award, to be presented next week in New York City, as part of events surrounding the U.N. General Assembly. The award is given to individuals who have contributed to efforts to improve the lives of the poor.

The individual is India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is being cited for building toilets for millions of rural Indians as part of his Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission). His award was announced by an Indian government minister on Twitter earlier this month but the other recipients have not yet been made public.

Activists are calling for the Foundation to rescind the award because of Modi’s human rights record.

The protesters say that Modi’s government has created a humanitarian crisis in Kashmir, which has been under lockdown for six weeks. And Modi has long been criticized by human rights defenders for inciting violence against minorities, silencing dissent and undermining human rights.

On Tuesday, a dozen demonstrators with Stop Genocide, a project of the American human rights group Justice For All, marched to the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle. They delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures, many from people of South Asian descent. In addition, three Nobel Peace Prize winners — Shirin Ebadi, Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman and Mairead Maguire — co-signed a protest letter addressed to Bill and Melinda Gates last week.

The petition states that it is “inconsistent to give a humanitarian award to a man whose nickname is the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ ” — a reference to the 2002 massacre in which more than 1,000 people were killed in anti-Muslim riots. At that time, Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister, and many hold him responsible for the violence.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, lawyers and human rights activists Suchitra Vijayan and Arjun Singh Sethi warned of the danger of honoring Modi. “This award would legitimize his policies and embolden the ethnonationalist forces he has championed,” they wrote. “If the Gates Foundation really wants to amplify sanitation efforts in India, it should give the award to community workers instead of a far-right nationalist.”

But the Gates Foundation is planning to go ahead with the Modi honor. Asked to comment by NPR, the foundation provided this statement: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is receiving an award at the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the progress India is making in improving sanitation, as part of its drive toward achievement of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.” [Editor’s note: The Gates Foundation is a funder of NPR and this blog.]

Since 2014, Modi’s Clean India Mission has worked to eliminate open defecation and promote cleanliness and hygiene in rural areas. Those aims reflect the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, with 2030 as a target date. Open defecation is directly connected with the incidence of diarrheal diseases.

According to Clean India Mission’s website, the project has built over 10 million toilets.

“Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do,” wrote the Gates Foundation to NPR in a statement.

But Modi’s toilet campaign has also come in for criticism. A 2017 report from the U.N.’s Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner gave a mixed review. The report found instances of “some aggressive and abusive practices” from the authorities to coerce people to stop practicing open defecation. This includes revoking food ration cards, cutting off electricity services and publicly shaming or harassing people.

The report also noted that in some “open defecation free” certified areas, elderly people reported that they still practiced open defecation because they preferred it. And only 61% of schools in 2016 had available and usable girls’ toilets, even though the government reported that it had built separate toilets for girls and boys in every school from 2014 to 2015.

Indian government officials rejected the findings, saying they were “either factually incorrect, based on incomplete information or grossly misrepresent the situation.”

Despite the concerns raised by the U.N. report, Anit Mukherjee, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington, D.C., says that on the whole, the Clean India Mission has made great strides in tackling the country’s sanitation problem.

“To be very honest, this is the first time that I have seen some tangible change,” says Mukherjee, who has worked on social programs in India for the past 15 years, including efforts to improve access to toilets in schools. “It was absolutely abysmal, the state of sanitation in the rural areas and cities. [Clean India Mission] has turned sanitation into a national movement.”

Asked whether it is fair for the Gates Foundation to give the award to Modi because of his human rights record, Mukherjee says “it’s difficult to answer.”

“The Gates award is about his narrow work on sanitation. And Modi’s government has done more work to improve sanitation in India than any other government before. The government has achieved some measure of success,” he says. “I don’t see why not.”

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Remembering Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts appears at the National Press Foundation’s 26th annual awards dinner on February 10, 2009 in Washington, DC.

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Listeners have reacted with sadness to the news that Cokie Roberts, an NPR “founding mother,” died this morning of complications from breast cancer.

As one listener wrote to our office, “she had a plumb, level and straight presence that promised that we would get through this hail and lightning storm.”

I mostly knew Roberts through my work covering the radio and television world as a newspaper reporter, before I joined NPR (where my role occasionally called upon me to address listener questions about her commentary). Before I met her in real life, however, I knew her as a pioneering woman, one of several in visible roles at NPR. In retrospect, it’s because of women like her that I never really doubted when I was an aspiring journalist that there would be a place for me in what was then a male-dominated profession.

As Mara Liaisson told Here & Now today, there was a not-so-pretty reason so many women ended up at NPR in the early days: NPR “paid so poorly back then, and a lot of times when male reporters got to a certain age or got married, had kids, they would leave for a higher-paying job at a television network.” (NPR pays competitive salaries today.)

But Roberts, and others — including Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg and others — did the work and succeeded, and brought along other women in their wake. Among the many tributes to Roberts pouring forth today, I’ve noted a thread of just how many women feel they owe their careers in some way to Roberts. Here are just a few reactions from women in the NPR newsroom:

I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing now, covering the White House, co-hosting a Podcast, and getting to share it with two awesome kiddos without women like Cokie Roberts blazing the path. And she was totally generous with her time and encouragement for those who followed! 7/

— Tamara Keith (@tamarakeithNPR) September 17, 2019

I always meant to tell her – and now I wish I had – @CokieRoberts was an early role model to me from afar, an example of what was possible for women. I didn’t grow up with a lot of professional women around me, but I saw her on TV and remember, as a little girl, watching in awe.

— Sarah McCammon 🎧📻 (@sarahmccammon) September 17, 2019

We are heartbroken. A legend has passed. When I was in high school I wanted to grow up to be Cokie Roberts. I worked w/her at ABC & NPR. She could intuit whenever I needed a kind word, a nudge that I was doing good work and it made a difference. We will miss her so very much.

— Rachel Martin (@rachelnpr) September 17, 2019

Official tributes from NPR include remembrances from Nina Totenberg and Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition.

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