National News

John Nagl says the U.S. isn't finished in Iraq

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 11:15

American soldiers found chemical weapons in Iraq as long as a decade ago, left over from Saddam Hussein's war with Iran, according to a New York Times investigation. Some U.S. troops were injured by the shells. Both the discoveries and injuries were kept secret. 

This comes against the backdrop of deepening American involvement in the region, where we've already invested close to $2 trillion in Iraq alone. 

John Nagl helped write the Army and Marine Corps' "Counterinsurgency Field Manual." In a new memoir he details the cost of the wars - both in terms of money and, in his view, credibility - through the lens of his own life. A retired Lt. Col. and Pentagon official, Nagl served in Iraq twice. 

"There clearly is another war happening in Iraq right now," Nagl said, referring to the 1,600 troops on the ground as military advisers, plus the supporting planes, ships, and intelligence officers. 

"I don't think it's going to be as big for the United States as the last Iraq war was, or my first Iraq war was. But the implications of the war and the necessity of to get it right is just as big as it was the last two times. 

Nagl's new book"Knife Fights," catalogs what he sees as the costs of the second Iraq war through the lens of his personal experience in the region: 

1990
Nagl deployed to Iraq in first Gulf War

2003-2004
Nagl deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq

NYT Magazine cover story: Prof. Nagl’s War 

2004 
Saddam Hussein captured. 

Nagl returned to Washington, DC to work in office of Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz. Co-authored the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual with Gen. David Petraeus.

Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq 

Job prospects for Petraeus

2007
Iraq Surge: U.S. sends additional 20,000 troops to Baghdad and Al Anbar Province

Troop cuts could mean contractor surge

2011
Official end of U.S. combat mission in Iraq

U.S. troops quit Iraq, but large U.S. presence remains

What Iraq taught us about reconstruction

2014
Rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

ISIS gains control of key infrastructure in Iraq

Read an excerpt from "Knife Fights" below:

PREFACE

 

This is a book about modern wars and how they affect the lives of young men and women. It is a tale of wars that needed to be fought and wars that were not necessary but that happened nonetheless, at enormous cost in blood and treasure. It is also an intellectual coming-of-age story, that of both the author and the institution to which he devoted most of his adult life, the American military. It is a book about counterinsurgency and its journey from the far periphery of U.S. military doctrine to its center, for better and, some would argue, for worse. It is also, then, a book about America’s role in the world, and specifically about when and how we use military force abroad in the name of national security.

The book largely takes the form of a memoir, which feels somewhat self-indulgent to me—I was very much more shaped by than shaper of the events this book relates. But my hope is that following the arc of my own learning curve will be the easiest way for a reader to understand the broader story of the American military’s radical adaptation to a world of threats very different from those involving nuclear weapons and Soviet tanks massed at the Fulda Gap that I studied at West Point a generation ago. Following that arc will also help to explain why, after decades of responsibility for the lives of American soldiers, I have recently shouldered the responsibility to prepare another generation of young men for a life of service far from the battlefield, in the classrooms and on the playing fields of friendly strife as the ninth headmaster of The Haverford School.

The U.S. military changed quickly after 9/11—not quickly enough from the perspective of those we lost and had injured, but quickly indeed by the standards of very large, hierarchical institutions. Some say the military in fact has changed too quickly, embracing counterinsurgency with a fervor that has had unforeseen negative consequences. I do not take that view. This book is not a pep rally, not a victory lap around counterinsurgency’s successes in Iraq, and certainly not in Afghanistan, where they have been thinner on the ground. But as the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., liked to say, the right question is often “Compared to what?” Any intellectually serious reckoning with America’s post-9/11 wars has to contend with what the alternatives were once the decision to invade Iraq had been too hastily made and too poorly implemented. In the wake of mistakes there are sometimes no good choices; in both Iraq and Afghanistan, counterinsurgency was the least bad option available.

I had the rare opportunity to be involved in both the theory and the practice of war, helping write doctrine and also living with the consequences of implementing doctrine in the field as an officer responsible for the lives of America’s sons and daughters. The bulk of my combat experience was in Iraq, and Iraq is central to the story this book tells. But the shadow of Afghanistan hangs over all of it, even the Iraq story.

The first post-9/11 consequence of the American military’s pre-9/11 focus on large, conventional combat operations wasn’t the failure to see the Iraq War for what it was. First there was the Afghan campaign of the fall of 2001, a campaign conceived of and initiated by the CIA because the American military had no plan on the shelf that spoke to such a situation. The Afghan campaign’s initial success at scattering America’s enemies allowed us to make the mistake of immediately pivoting to Iraq, sinking us into the morass of two ground wars in Asia when one would have been more than enough.

Focusing on Iraq meant taking our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Pakistan, allowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda to regroup and gain strength, blinding us to the true nature of the situation there until it was almost too late.

If Iraq was the midterm, Afghanistan is the final exam. It’s a lot harder than the midterm. And while we eked out a passing grade on the midterm, after a horrible start, the final grade remains in doubt, an incomplete. We’re unlikely to know the answer for some years to come, but the Afghan end state is important for the future of the region and for America’s place in the world—a world that is likely to be roiled by insurgency and counterinsurgency for decades to come.

The story begins in a very different place and time, a time when the Soviet Union had just been tossed into the dustbin of history, its internal contradictions rendered unbearable after its own painful war in Afghanistan. America stood unchallenged as the world’s only superpower for the first time in history, but Saddam Hussein had misread American determination to enforce the international security regime it had created in the wake of the Second World War. For the first time since Vietnam, the United States deployed the full weight of American power abroad. It was a heady and unsettling time for a young man who had studied war but never seen it.

What it takes to make all hospitals Ebola-ready

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 11:14

The largest nurse organization in the country, National Nurses United, is asking President Obama to take executive action and mandate “uniform, national standards” at all U.S. hospitals to help protect healthcare workers confronting Ebola.

"We know that without these mandates to health care facilities we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers at extreme risk," the letter says. "They are our first line of defense. We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons."

The group says those standards should include protective equipment like Hazmat suits and hands-on training to protect nurses and other hospital workers, even at the smallest of hospitals. And there are 5,000 community hospitals in the U.S.

Dr. Dennis Maki, a disease control expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says it takes at least half a day to train people in the protective garb alone. “I’ve just gone through Ebola training in my own hospital for putting the garb on and off this week, and I can tell you that’s a very complex undertaking.”

Dr. Ashish Jha,  director of the Harvard Global Health Institute,  says proper Ebola training and equipment at every hospital in the U.S. will probably cost in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. But not every hospital worker needs in-depth training.

“I think every hospital person certainly needs to know something basic about isolation,” Jha says.  “And then probably every hospital needs a small number of staff who can stabilize and manage that patient for the short run.”

Jha and Maki say it’s unreasonable to expect that small community hospitals be able to care for Ebola patients long-term. Large medical centers have more staff and resources to safely care for them, they say.  

The CDC says it is reaching out to hospitals to help them prepare for Ebola cases. The agency is investigating exactly how two healthcare workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted the disease.

Graphic by Shea Huffman & Tony Wagner/Marketplace

For A U.S. Hostage Facing Death, Syria Meant A New Life

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 09:08

Abdul-Rahman Kassig went to Iraq as a U.S. soldier and returned to the Middle East to establish his own aid mission. Now he's a captive of the Islamic State in Syria, which is threatening to kill him.

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Ebola In The United States: What Happened When

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 08:51

Taming Ebola virus is now a challenge for the American health care system. We track the U.S. experience with Ebola from the appearance of an Ebola strain in laboratory monkeys in Reston, Va., in 1989.

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The Texas Road Food Takeover: Smoked, Fried And Tex-Mex

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 08:26

Like the march of fire ants and juniper trees across Texas, a trio of hardy cuisines is edging out the state's gastro-diversity. Classic Lone Star dishes like Frito pie are becoming harder to find.

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What Will Malala's Nobel Peace Prize Mean For Girls' Education?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 08:25

Although important strides have been made, a children's rights expert says the world has a long way to go before Malala Yousafzai's vision of meaningful education for all is realized.

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Thailand's Leader Hints At Putting Off Return To Democracy

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 08:13

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in a May coup, had originally said that elections would be held by late 2015. Now he suggests the date could be pushed back.

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The numbers for October 15, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 07:31

Another health care worker from Dallas was diagnosed with Ebola Wednesday morning, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are trying to find passengers on a flight she took Monday. The unidentified patient flew from Cleveland to Dallas with about 130 others just before she reported symptoms. The CDC is asking those passengers to call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

Vox has an explainer with five ways you can catch Ebola on a plane, and the many more ways you can't. In short: it's pretty difficult. Here are some other stories we're reading — and numbers we're watching — Wednesday:

130 million

That's how many people subscribe to HBO worldwide. The network — once resistant to cord-cutting and blasé about password sharing — will uncouple its streaming service, HBOGo, from cable packages next year. Time Warner stock rallied at the news.

5,000

The number of chemical weapons secretly discovered in Iraq in the years after the 2003 U.S. invasion, according to an extensive New York Times investigation. The abandoned weapons — and injuries sustained by the soldiers that found them — were reportedly kept hidden until now, even within the military.

$20,000

That's how much Facebook is offering female employees to cover the costs of freezing their eggs, TechCrunch reported. Apple will begin offering the ostensible perk next year. The tech industry has a well-documented gender gap the move is seemingly addressing, but critics say egg freezing is just another way — along with free food, shuttles, laundry, massages and so on — for tech companies to keep employees content and working without distractions.

Rethinking a corporate inversion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 07:00

A $54 billion pharmaceutical merger is up in the air after the U.S. Treasury Department said it would crack down on so-called corporate inversions — that’s when a U.S. business merges with a foreign company to save money on taxes. Illinois-based AbbVie Inc. is reconsidering an agreement to buy UK rival Shire PLC.

AbbVie hasn’t called off the merger, but the company says its board is rethinking the deal in light of new tax regulations. The Treasury Department announced changes last month that make inversions less attractive.

It’s likely that AbbVie will renegotiate rather than walk away, says tax consultant Robert Willens, and not just because the company risks a $1.6 billion breakup fee.

“They’re going to lose a lot of credibility if they pull out of the deal in response to the Treasury announcement, after telling the market for weeks that the deal was primarily motivated by business reasons,” he says.

To comply with the Treasury rules, AbbVie could restructure the deal so that Shire shareholders had more control.

“But that’s not necessarily a desirable result for the acquirers,” says Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “I’m not sure we’re going to see a lot of those kinds of deals go through.”

Still, several high profile inversions are moving forward, including Burger King’s acquisition of Canadian chain Tim Horton’s. Medical device maker Medtronic said it would refinance its deal to buy Irish company Covidien to comply with the new rules.

Willens says new inversions have slowed down since the regulations changed, but stopping them would require tougher action by Congress. The rules do not address a practice known as “earnings stripping,” for example, which allows a foreign parent company to essentially lend money to its American subsidiary, and then deduct the interest payments from its taxes.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that a bill to stop corporate inversions would save the U.S. Treasury about $20 billion over ten years. 

PODCAST: Netflix goes ultra-high-definition

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 03:00

A merger in the pharmaceutical industry is up in the air after the U.S. Treasury Department cracked down on what are called corporate inversions. Illinois-based AbbVie is reconsidering a $54 billion deal to buy UK rival Shire. More on inversions and why the Obama administration wants to stop these deals from happening. Plus, Netflix has quietly raised prices for a service almost no one uses: streaming video in 4-K, or ultra-high-definition, used to be available for eight or nine dollars a month. Now, a subscription is $12 a month. Only a few manufacturers make devices with 4-K displays. So, why raise the price on a service that's not in high demand? And the price of oil is falling that's partly because the oil industry's been booming in this country. Well, a consequence of that growth is a shortage of regulators who oversee drilling.

 

Avocado sales ripen around the world

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00

The U.S. is the biggest importer of Mexican avocados—We eat about 1.7 billion pounds a year. But Mexico is eyeing an even larger market: Asia.  

Behind 20-foot-doors in a chilly warehouse, hundreds of thousands of avocados are ripening in cardboard boxes. 

“We take the rooms up as far as 72 degrees,” says Luis Galicia. He’s the assistant manager at Mission Produce’s ripening center in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Customers want to sell and use avocados at different stages of softness. So, Galicia explains, the avocados are heated to ripen only a certain amount, and then chilled at about 38 degrees.

The avocado business, he says, is hot. Mexican avocado sales increased by about 30 percent the first half of this year—and that’s not the result of a Chipotle rush or a Super Bowl guacamole bump. Yes, avocados are a popular condiment for sandwiches at Subway and breakfast items at Denny’s, but the real growth is happening in Asia. Japan is already the second largest importer of Mexican avocados. And in the first six months of 2014, Mexico sent nearly $3 million dollars worth of avocados to China.

Eduardo Serena, Marketing Director of the Mexican Avocado Industry, says for the first time, the industry will have marketing campaigns specifically designed for China and Japan.  

Maura Maxwell, Latin America editor for The Market Intelligence Group, says marketers will have their work cut out for them.

“The thing with China is there isn’t an avocado consuming habit,” she says. “People aren’t familiar with the fruit yet.”

Consumers need basic education about when the fruit is ripe—Black on the outside for Hass avocados is a good thing, but Maxwell says many people assume the soft bumpy pear-shaped fruit is rotten.

Right now, Serena says the most popular ways to eat avocados in Japan is with sushi, or fried. 

“In China in particular, they like to use as smoothies as a juice, and also of course in soups,” Serena says. In today’s avocado awakening, there’s no wrong way to eat the fruit.

So go ahead, toss on the Tabasco, limón, or soy sauce.

 

 

Netflix raised prices on a service nobody uses (yet)

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00

Until recently, streaming Netflix video in 4K, or ultra-high-definition display, was available for $8 or $9 a month. It now requires a $12 dollar-a-month subscription. 

Only a few manufacturers make devices with 4K displays, and it’s probably not too late to be the first on your block to get one.  

"We’re expecting 10 million of these 4K TVs to be sold this year, worldwide," says Eric Smith, who looks at home-entertainment devices for Strategy Analytics. "And most of them are in China, actually."

But prices are dropping, and sales will probably go up. Smith says in a few years, a third of new TVs may be 4K.

Strategy Analytics projects that sales of ultra-high-definition TVs will climb in the next few years.

Eric Smith/Strategy Analytics

Overall, getting 4K will mean paying more: a new TV, and probably more bandwidth, since the sharper picture takes four times as much data.

For Netflix, producing shows like “House of Cards” in 4K means spending more. The company says that’s why it's raising prices. 

But, despite the costs, the tech ramp-up in video will continue. 

"We’ll get to three-dimensional, eventually we’ll get to holographic projection," says Larry Hettick, who looks at consumer services for Current Analysis, a telecom consultancy. "And as the price point becomes bearable to consumers, then eventually they’re going to pay for it."

Medicare open enrollment brings change

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00

Medicare’s open enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7. 

The open enrollment is for Medicare Part D, prescription drug coverage, and for private Medicare Advantage plans. You can enroll in Medicare at age 65. The open enrollment period is when you tweak your coverage.

“It’s a little bit like eating your spinach," says Tricia Neuman, director of Medicare policy research at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "Nobody likes to do it.”

Neuman says most seniors are reluctant to change their Part D prescription plans, but should consider it.

“Just to be sure that there are no surprises," she says. "That might mean having greater difficulty seeing a doctor or difficulty getting a prescription you want to fill.”

Medicare is getting a few surprises from baby boomers. Almost two million more are expected to enroll this year.

They smoked less than their parents—Their problem is obesity. 

“They’re likely to cost more than their parents did but not just because of living longer lives," says Kate Baicker, a health economist at Harvard. "But also because of having more complicated health conditions."

Conditions like diabetes and heart disease, for instance.

One shortage in booming oil fields: regulators

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00

Regulators in Wyoming are hemorrhaging employees. The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration lost a quarter of its inspectors last year. The state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fared no better. And Mark Watson, the oil and gas supervisor, says rehiring, especially for specialized positions, is extremely difficult.

“They're in demand and we don't pay as much,” he says.

“You know, that job," he says, "we’re competing with someone in industry that might have 20 years of experience and we probably would pay 50 percent less than what they could get in industry.”

That’s right. 50 percent less. Watson says he’s talked to new graduates whose first offers out of college are $25,000 more than he makes as the state’s top oil and gas regulator. And it’s not just him. Nationwide, petroleum engineers working in industry make 70 percent more than those working for governments, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“In the boom times, I’ll say, we especially have a hard time competing with industry when it comes to recruiting and retaining people,” says Michael Madrid, who heads the minerals division of the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming. Right now, Madrid’s division is actually mostly staffed.

But there’s concern about the future, and not just in Wyoming. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office says BLM offices nationwide could find themselves short-handed as the boom continues. And Madrid says that would be bad for everyone, including industry.

“The work will eventually get done, but there’s long, significant delays if we’re short-handed,” he says.

Which is bad for those who want to keep the boom booming.

This story comes from Inside Energy, a public media collaboration focused on America’s energy issues.

 

 

 

 

Supreme Court Blocks Abortion Rules That Closed Most Texas Clinics

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 20:27

The Fifth Circuit court had ruled that the laws, requiring admitting privileges and pricy upgrades, could go into effect as it considered the case. The Supreme Court decided otherwise late Tuesday.

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Australian Novelist Richard Flanagan Awarded Booker Prize

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 20:01

The head of the judge's committee says The Narrow Road to the Deep North, the story of POWs in World War II forced to build the Thailand Burma Railway, is a "magnificent novel of love and war."

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In Mexico, Officials Say They Have Found More Mass Graves

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 16:46

Officials also announced that they had arrested 14 other police officers they say had a hand in the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero.

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High Court Places Hold On Texas Law That Would've Closed Most Abortion Providers

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 16:17

The Supreme Court agreed to block parts of the law from going into effect, while it is challenged in the court system.

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IN PICTURES: A Chaotic, Violent Day In Hong Kong, As Police Clear Streets

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 15:50

Overnight, dozens of occupiers were arrested as police worked to clear some main thoroughfares blocked during massive acts of civil disobedience.

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Embryonic Stem Cells Restore Vision In Preliminary Human Test

NPR News - Tue, 2014-10-14 14:33

Cells derived from embryos appear to have improved vision in more than half of the 18 patients who had become legally blind because of two progressive, currently incurable eye diseases.

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