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How Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution Was Resurrected—and Betrayed
by Yahoo News - Latest News & Headlines
Jul 20, 2019
“Courtesy Bill GentileBill Gentile covered the Central American wars of the 1980s that haunt the United States to this day. In the first chapter of this series he wrote about the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. In the second, he looked at the U.S.-backed counter-revolution. Here he looks at what has become of the region, and of journalism.* * *Return Trips* * *MANAGUA, Nicaragua—Journalists follow the news. So when peace came to Central America at the beginning of the 1990s, I knew it was time for me to leave. The story there that had dominated front pages and nightly news for more than a decade dissipated almost overnight. In any case, I was ready to expand my work from Latin America and the Caribbean to more distant frontiers and Claudia, my Nicaraguan wife, was glad to escape the pressure cooker of a country mired in perpetual crisis. So we moved to Miami, a blend of developed and developing countries, where I still could cover major national and international stories, where my experience in conflict reporting and fluency in Spanish would be assets, and from where I could cover not just the region but stories far beyond.Central America’s Wars of the ’80s Still Haunt the U.S.It was a difficult transition. The logistics made sense, but the profession itself faced growing threats. By the end of the 1980s and especially at the beginning of the 1990s, the craft of photojournalism was contracting. Digital photography was becoming accessible to everyone; social media began to compete with the old mainstream operations, and 24/7 cable meant legacy outlets like Newsweek, my employer, became the platforms of old news before they even hit the stands.A peasant walks past a cotton plantation in western Nicaragua.Courtesy Bill GentileI moved to Philadelphia and began working for Video News International (VNI), the first company in the nation to use the new digital “prosumer” cameras to generate television content. Claudia and I separated and eventually divorced. When VNI fell apart, I turned to freelancing with video. By the year 2000 I had begun teaching as my main gig and freelancing as much as time and energy would allow.But Nicaragua never left me. And I never left Nicaragua.* * *‘The World Stopped Watching’* * *White Pine Pictures is a Canadian documentary film production company whose members in 1986 produced The World Is Watching, about the coverage of the Contra War in Nicaragua by Western media. I was one of the featured journalists. In 2002, some 16 years later, White Pine contacted me to ask whether I would be willing to return to Nicaragua to film a sequel.“Absolutely.”I proposed we scan a handful of images from my book, Nicaragua, and publish them in the country’s newspapers. We’d ask people to contact our producer in Managua if anyone recognized the people in the pictures, then we’d follow up on their stories since the Sandinista victory on July 19, 1979. A peasant man and daughter make adobe blocks for building their new home.Courtesy Bill GentileIt worked. Sandinista soldiers. Contra fighters. Peasants. Workers. Our producer’s phone rang off the hook. And in the end? I found myself trying to explain how terrible those days had been, in large part because they failed to advance the Sandinistas’ plan for a more equitable Nicaragua than the one they inherited from the Somoza dictatorship.‘Terrible and Glorious Days’ Covering the Contra War of the 1980sCalling their sequel The World Stopped Watching, the White Pine filmmakers produced a documentary explaining how the absence of international media loosens the restraints on the bad guys, who can do whatever they want because we, the international observers and watchdogs, are not around to hold them accountable. And that’s exactly what has happened.At their electoral defeat in 1990, the Sandinista government accepted the process and, with no small amount of urging by former President Jimmy Carter, handed over power to a new government. It was the first time in Nicaragua’s history that a sitting government peacefully handed over power as the result of a legitimate, internationally recognized election.At a news conference recognizing their landslide loss, Sandinista leaders, including ousted President Daniel Ortega, showed up with pallid, drawn faces. Most of the international press corps was stunned by the results as well.A mural of famed guerrilla fighter and liberator Augusto Cesar Sandino in the northern mountains.Courtesy Bill Gentile“El cuadro esta pintado,” one high-ranking Sandinista official declared just days before the vote. “The painting is finished,” he said, assuring me with blind confidence that the Sandinistas would crush the opposition. The result was a measure of how deeply the Sandinista leadership was disconnected from the people.But at a rally not long after the vote, Ortega promised his followers that, “We will rule from below.” In other words, the highly organized Sandinista party would flex its muscles and get its way no matter who was president.* * *Malign Neglect* * *Anthony Quainton is Distinguished Diplomat in Residence in the School of International Service (SIS) at American University in Washington, D.C. He spent 38 years in the U.S. foreign services as a diplomat in Nicaragua, Peru, Kuwait and the Central African Republic. He also served as Coordinator of the Office for Combating Terrorism. At a recent conference, Quainton delivered a keynote speech titled, “Managua and Washington in the Early Sandinista Revolution,” calling his his assignment in Nicaragua in the early 1980s “Mission Impossible.”He argued that had the United States made a major and long-term commitment to the social and economic development of the region and backed off its support for corrupt regimes, “some of the problems we are now encountering might have been avoided or at least ameliorated. Unfortunately when the Sandinistas were eventually voted out of power in 1990, the United States largely lost interest in the region. We are reaping the whirlwind of that neglect in the refugee and gang crises we are now facing,” he said.“Opportunities to create a more stable Central America existed four decades ago,” said Quainton. “They were lost. Both sides could not see beyond their ideologies. Neither could escape from its history. The Sandinistas believed that they were a vanguard party and that history had entrusted them a revolutionary mission. … They could not escape from the troubled history of Yankee intervention. We could not escape from Vietnam and the experiences of the Cold War. Bridging the historical, ideological and emotional divide between us was more than I or my colleagues could do. Try as we could, the Mission was always impossible.”Quainton’s argument is balanced and cogent, but it presumes there was some kind of parity in 1979 between a little country devastated by earthquakes and wars with no tradition of good governance, and a stable, global, functional democracy and superpower some 200 years old. Prior to 1979 much of the Sandinista leadership lived in La Montaña and in clandestine cells. They had little or no institutional foundation to build on. No Harvard or Oxford background to draw from. No Jefferson, Washington or Lincoln to emulate.A young woman washes clothes in Lake Managua, which borders the capital, Managua.Courtesy Bill GentileInstead, they were forced to cope with political, economic and military aggression by the single most powerful nation on the planet. To justify that action, Ronald Reagan warned a group of conservative supporters that defeat of the contras would create "a privileged sanctuary for terrorists and subversives just two days' driving time from Harlingen, Texas." He warned that “feet people” trudging north would be “swarming into our country” to escape communism.But if, as the Trump administration claims, Central Americans are now headed north in huge numbers, it’s because of the complete failure to address their hopes, their needs, and their safety.* * *Rule and Ruin* * *Yet none of this justifies what Sandinista rule has become.Today, most of the original Sandinista leadership has abandoned the Ortega regime, viewing it as a betrayal of the organization’s original promises to the Nicaraguan people. Daniel Ortega has been president, once again, for the past 10 years. His wife, Rosario Murillo, is vice president.Facing Down the Death Squads of NicaraguaDuring anti-government protests in the spring of 2018, Sandinista police and Sandinista-backed armed thugs killed an estimated 300 people. Media outlets are constantly harassed and shut down. Even international non-governmental organizations whose only agenda is to help the poor and underprivileged have abandoned the country because of government restrictions and intervention. Nicaragua continues to be rated as the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.So where do journalists and journalism fit into all this? How do we see our role? Four decades after my first arrival in Managua, have I helped bring about positive change? Did I do any good here?I certainly hope so. I hope the images I created and published via UPI, Newsweek magazine, my Nicaragua book and other outlets, have contributed to the visual record of that time and that place in history. It’s important to remember that, at the time when I was covering the region, there was no Facebook, no Google, no Instagram, no email. There was no internet! Television was limited to ABC, CBS and NBC. CNN was just beginning. Fox did not exist. So most of the world relied on a handful of magazines including Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report, Life and National Geographic, for its visual explanation of the globe. Major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post published only black and white pictures back then.A tiny handful of women and men, including myself, were privileged to be part of a small cadre of photojournalists entrusted with the mission of providing the world with a visual explanation of itself. And we did so sometimes despite great peril.But there is another dimension to what we do, perhaps more important than our impact on the wider world. And that is the mere act of practicing our craft defines and validates us. Like La Montaña for the guerrillas, journalism is the anvil upon which we test, forge and mold ourselves into what we aspire to be.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.”
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Tuition-Free College Could Cost Less Than You Think
by NYT > Education
Jul 20, 2019
“Making a tuition-free college education available to everyone who wants one is an immensely worthwhile — and realistic — goal, a Harvard economist says.”
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Importance
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As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Readies for War With Israel
by Yahoo News - Latest News & Headlines
Jul 20, 2019
“Joseph Barrak/GettyBEIRUT—The tranquil winding roads of Lebanon’s mountainous interior are far from the tense waters of the Persian Gulf where President Donald Trump says America came within 10 minutes of war with Iran a few weeks ago. And where, he said on Thursday, the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone. But if fighting ever does begin, these hills and valleys near the border with Israel will quickly be on the front lines. And according to Hezbollah commanders, that moment could be coming soon.When Trump talked of war, he meant a shooting war in the conventional sense. But for Iran and its allies, it’s Trump’s economic war with its suffocating sanctions that is bringing the region to the brink of armed conflict. The targets of Trump’s weaponized dollar increasingly see resorting to military engagements as the only response left.Trump Is a Warmonger. His Weapon, The Dollar.Here in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s commanders are close allies and clients of Iran—and they are targeted by U.S. sanctions as well. They warn that if the pressure continues these rugged hills where the Party of God fought bloody guerrilla campaigns to end 15 years of Israeli occupation in 2000 and repel an Israeli invasion in 2006 could erupt once again. And this time, they say, the combat will be far more devastating.Hezbollah’s forces, battle-hardened in the Syrian civil war, have begun redeploying toward the Israeli border, not only in Lebanon, but in Syria opposite the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights. Hezbollah fighters who spoke to The Daily Beast say their organization is hurting from sanctions and ready to initiate hostilities—if and when Tehran deems that necessary.“The sanctions now have us preparing for dealing with the Israeli front,” says “Commander Samir,” a Hezbollah officer in charge of 800 fighters on Lebanon’s border with Israel. He declines to use his real name because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “We will fire the first shot this time,” he says.Hezbollah’s military wing has changed fundamentally since its 2012 entrance into the war in Syria to prop up the Assad regime, transforming into a regional fighting force the Shia organization inspired by the Iranian revolution that the U.S. lists as a terrorist group.When Trump offers the reasons he pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran last year, precipitating the current crisis, he cites Iran’s support for militias that extend its power and influence across the region as something the U.S. intends to end—with Hezbollah the main target. But the pressure may actually be consolidating and motivating Iran’s proxies.Hezbollah is still fighting in Syria while training Iranian allied militias in Iraq and Yemen. The commander says his organization and Iran have moved past their split with Palestinian allies over Syria, where they were on opposite sides of the Syrian revolution as it turned into a bloody regional proxy war, and Iran is once again providing training and support for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.From a living room overlooking the valleys where he became a veteran, ambushing the Israeli army and melting away into the surrounding hills, Samir says the next war will be nothing like those that came before.He underscores the importance of Hezbollah’s positions in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan, giving it the ability to open a second front there against Israel, and boasts about drone capabilities and new anti-aircraft and anti-naval weapons acquired in Syria alongside a more seasoned fighting force.   “Our wish before the war in Syria was to go and open a front in the Golan but [the Syrian Government] set a red line,” the commander says, describing the limits the pre-war Assad regime placed on Hezbollah activity in its territory. “Now there are no red lines,” he said.The commander acknowledges a new war would bring vast devastation to Israel and Lebanon, but says the sanctions crippling the Iranian economy and forcing a large reduction in Iran’s financial support for Hezbollah could make this nightmare scenario real. To Target Israel, Iran’s ‘Suitcase’ GPS Kits Turn Hezbollah Rockets Into Guided MissilesAlready, salaries for Hezbollah fighters have been halved, according to the three fighters The Daily Beast spoke with. But while they are hurting economically, they insist their organization feels strong militarily.    “The Iranians have said either we all sell oil or no one does,” Commander Samir says definitively, describing Hezbollah’s interests in lockstep with Iran’s. Like the two other fighters that spoke to The Daily Beast, he describes Hezbollah’s concerns in more regional rather than domestic terms, responding to actions of U.S. allies around the Middle East rather than Israeli action on Lebanese soil.  “If any missile hits Iran, it will be treated like Israel did it,” says the commander,In spite of the increasing destabilization of the region since the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and sanctions started taking hold, the Trump administration has argued that its policy of “maximum pressure” will force Iranian acquiescence. However, according to Ahmad Moussalli,  a political science professor and specialist in Islamic movements at the American University of Beirut, the financial constraints imposed by Washington are having the opposite effect. “You find this axis sees itself as fighting for its existence,” says Moussalli referring to Iran and its regional allies and proxies. “So they are going to pull together and strengthen their axis,” he continues, pointing to the way Hezbollah has been increasing overt political influence in Lebanon while allies in Yemen and Iraq have been taking more aggressive action. “Iran is not going to sit down, take it and destroy itself from within,” Moussalli says. “And the only way for them to react is militarily; they don’t have many other options.” He leaves no doubt that Iran is the power determining regional responses rather than Hezbollah or any other proxy acting on its own initiative. The eruption of shelling between Israel and Gaza ahead of the Israeli election in May provided some instructive examples of changes in tactics. Commander Samir points to a threat—which was not carried out—by Islamic Jihad to fire missiles at the northern Israeli city of Haifa. The threat was a marked change from recent rhetoric by the Palestinian Islamist faction which had previously taken the public position of “quiet for quiet,” a term used by the Israeli army to describe its claimed intention not to initiate armed hostility. “It was a message from us and Iran,” he brags about the ability to fire at Israel from the south or the north while contending the choice to do so or not is up to Tehran. “Islamic Jihad never shoots before calling the Iranians.” “Assir,” a seasoned Hezbollah fighter in Syria is back in Lebanon after years of bloody tours in what’s been an unending war. He takes up a nom-de-guerre because Hezbollah fighters are generally not authorized to speak to media. When we meet in Beirut, he says that like the many fighters coming back to Lebanon as Assad consolidates control over much of Syria, he is not being demobilized but rather redeployed south to the Israeli border.   “People who finish their mission in Syria go to the south,” Assir says, describing how his comrades and he have been given new posts since tensions started rising in the Gulf. “There are some units in Syria but a lot go back to Lebanon or to the Golan. Thousands have come back.”Military success in Syria has reinforced Assir’s confidence and he points to the tensions in the Strait of Hormuz as the source of the next conflict with Israel. “The commanders talk about if there is a spark in Hormuz, there could be a spark in Lebanon,” recalls Assir. However, Moussalli sees the prospect for war with Israel, while it looms, probably is not imminent. He doubts that Hezbollah is eager for a war at the moment. He says currently Iran is primarily focused on responding in the Gulf area and Iraq. “Syria and Lebanon will be engaged in war once Europe or Iran completely pull out of the nuclear agreement,” says Moussalli, arguing war with Israel is still a ways off. “The issue with Israel is a rather big one,” he continues, referring to the costs of the 2006 war. “So yes there is pressure, there is the possibility of war but I don’t think it is near,” he says, believing that if sanctions are relieved the tension will be as well.  But, “are they ready [for war]?” he adds referring to Hezbollah. “Yes they are.”The second Lebanon War ignited in the wake of Hezbollah seizing two Isralei soldiers and killing three others in a cross border raid in July 2006 and Israel retaliating with a massive artillery and aerial bombardment of Lebanon. Hezbollah in turn fired rockets at northern Israeli cities and Israel launched a ground invasion. The result was the demolition of large swaths of Lebanon, pulverized by Israeli jets, while Israeli soldiers found themselves in an unwinnable quagmire and forced to withdraw from a country for the second time in less than a decade. By the time the shooting ended 1,200 Lebanese – mostly civilians, 45 Israeli civilians and 120 soldiers had been killed. More than a million people in Lebanon, a quarter of the population at the time, were displaced and while there are no official numbers of Hezbollah casualties, the UN estimated that 500 of the Lebanese casualties were Hezbollah fighters. Moussalli’s assessment of a slower march toward the carnage of an Israeli-Lebanese conflict more devastating than past ones is echoed by “Commander Ayman,” a Hezbollah officer currently based in Beirut who also oversees units fighting in Syria. “The Americans know the kind of fighters we have, so Hezbollah and Iran have been reminding the world how bad [a war] could be,” notes Ayman.  While confirming there is a strict red line around any attack on Iran, he maintains there is a strong desire to avoid war, suggesting the blusterous talk of imminent conflict with Israel is designed to convince the U.S. to abandon its current strategy.Israel also doesn’t seem very interested in conflict over Lebanon at the moment. While Netanyahu has pursued a policy of striking Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, he has avoided another war in Lebanon. Even when Hezbollah tunnels into Israel were unmasked in January, there was no action over Lebanon.  Unlike Israeli wars in Gaza, which have carried low costs to Israeli soldiers and civilians and have pushed the electorate toward Netanyahu, wars in Lebanon have had large military and civilian costs for Israel, often turning the electorate against the government.When asked if Netanyahu thought that the U.S. sanctions he has actively encouraged could ignite conflict with Hezbollah, the Prime Minister’s Office officially declined to comment. The Israeli military also declined to comment on how it sees the current level of tension on its Lebanese border or if its alert level had changed since Iran started reacting to sanctions, claiming it “is too complex an issue to explain on the phone or in a statement.”Meanwhile sanctions and rhetoric continue to escalate. Following the U.S. Treasury Department’s announcement last Tuesday of fresh sanctions targeting Hezbollah members of the Lebanese parliament, threats of annihilation have been hurled back and forth between Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who, not coincidentally, is fighting for reelection).In a speech last Friday marking the 13th anniversary of the 2006 war with Israel, Nasrallah gloated about expanded military capabilities and threatened that another war would “bring Israel to the brink of extinction.” Netanyahu responded on Sunday by threatening to deal Lebanon and Hezbollah “a crushing military blow” if Hezbollah attacks. On Monday, European signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, gathered in Brussels to try to salvage the agreement that the US pulled out of in 2018. The Europeans hope to find enticements that will encourage Iran to stay in the deal. During his address, Nasrallah claimed that he didn’t intend to start a war with Israel. Those sentiments were reiterated by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an interview with CNN in New York on Wednesday where Zarif stated that Iran will not start a war but will defend itself.  The sheer destruction a new conflict between Hezbollah and Israel would unleash on Lebanon leads Moussalli to call it a “madness war.” While Hezbollah’s exact intentions are unclear, the border between Israel and Lebanon was much quieter before U.S. sanctions put Iran and its allies on this collision course. Even if Hezbollah and Israel don’t want to start shooting now, it increasingly seems like a decision determined by Washington’s policies and how Tehran reacts. After all, according to Trump, a few weeks ago it looked like a war—one likely to stretch from the Gulf to the Mediterranean—was only 10 minutes away. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.”
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America will roast for 4 days
by Yahoo News - Latest News & Headlines
Jul 19, 2019
“Tens of millions of Americans will feel triple-digit heat between Thursday and Sunday. The National Weather Service (NWS) noted that 20 to 30 high temperature records could fall between the Rockies and the East Coast. There will be little relief even at night: The weather agency expects 123 records for the warmest daily low temperature to be either broken or tied this week. The Midwest will see many of the highest extremes on Thursday and Friday, while the East Coast will feel its most intense heat on Saturday.The NWS labeled this excessive heat as "scorching." On Saturday in Washington D.C., the confluence of humidity and air temperatures are forecast to produce a heat index (or feeling) of around 110 F. Meteorologist Michael Ventrice called these forecasted conditions "dangerously hot." Indeed, heat waves kill more Americans than any other weather event.Although climate change doesn't produce weather -- like sprawling fronts of unusually warm air, hurricanes, or wildfire conditions -- it does make these events worse. Any heat wave today, for example, is sitting atop boosted global temperatures. These elevated temperatures are responsible for June 2019 being the warmest June in 139 years of record-keeping, and 18 of the 19 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.This added heat means more record hot weather becoming not just possible, but occurring more frequently. "A barely noticeable shift in the mean temperature from global warming can end up turning a 'once-per-decade' heatwave into a 'once-per-year heatwave' pretty easily," Patrick Brown, an assistant professor in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University, said over email. Shifting averages mean more heat.Image: Climate central / climatecentral.org> The likelihood of extreme heat, like what we are seeing in the US Midwest this week, increases nonlinearly with the warming of average temperatures (caused by increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations). pic.twitter.com/Q20frMvgVa> > -- Patrick T. Brown (@PatrickTBrown31) July 17, 2019"Heat waves are occurring more often than they used to in major cities across the United States, from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to nearly six per year during the 2010s," noted the U.S. Global Change Research Program.SEE ALSO: Climate change will ruin train tracks and make travel hellBoosted temperatures translate to more heat records. In the last decade, for instance, twice as many daily high heat records have been set as daily low records in the U.S. > NYC has chance for hottest feels like temperature in the country on Saturday but DC and Philly will make a run at it also. pic.twitter.com/w6Hl31WhxK> > -- Bill Karins (@BillKarins) July 18, 2019The powerful driver of the increased frequency of extreme heat is clear. In the late 1850s, physicists like John Tyndall discovered that certain gases, like carbon dioxide, trap radiative heat on Earth -- meaning solar radiation reflected off the planet's surface and heat emitted from Earth itself. Today, atmospheric concentrations of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide are at their highest levels in at least 800,000 years, though likely millions of years. What's more, atmospheric CO2 levels are now increasing at rates that are unprecedented in both the historic and geologic record. "What's important to recognize is the changes humanity is driving at present are commensurate with the most significant events in the history of life on this planet," Matthew Long, an oceanographer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Mashable in March.  WATCH: Ever wonder how the universe might end?”
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Ex-Illinois student's life spared in killing of scholar
by Yahoo News - Latest News & Headlines
Jul 18, 2019
“A former University of Illinois doctoral student was spared the death penalty Thursday and sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping and killing a 26-year-old scholar from China. Jurors deliberated about eight hours over two days before announcing they were deadlocked on whether 30-year-old Brendt Christensen should be put to death for killing Yingying Zhang in 2017 as part of a homicidal fantasy, automatically resulting in a sentence of life behind bars without the possibility of parole. "The Zhang family ... must live with the thought that Yingying was ripped away from them by a total stranger, thousands of miles away, fulfilling his self-absorbed and selfish fantasies," he told Christensen.”
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University investigates a noose near a dorm
by CNN.com - RSS Channel - HP Hero
Jul 18, 2019
“Stanford University is looking into reports of a noose found hanging near a campus residence -- which could become a hate crime investigation.”
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