National / International News

In 2014, U.S. Budget Deficit Falls To Pre-Recession Level

NPR News - Wed, 2014-10-15 11:37

As tax revenues increased and spending cuts took effect, the deficit dropped to 2.8 percent of GDP — in dollar terms, the lowest level since 2008.

» E-Mail This

The NBA's experiment: offering fans a shorter game

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-10-15 11:34

The National Basketball Association will run an experiment this week to test the premise "Less is more." A preseason game pairing the Brooklyn Nets with the Boston Celtics will have just 44 minutes of play, instead of the usual 48. 

NBA officials mentioned “our schedule” as one motivation behind the experiment. That is: Lots of games often means lots of injuries. Maybe shorter games could mean less wear and tear on players’ bodies.

Then again, maybe not, says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. "If for instance, it’s the case that LeBron James, out of a 48 minute game plays 37 minutes, we don’t know if he’ll play proportionately fewer minutes" in a shorter game.    

In other words, the coach is already asking himself:  "How many minutes can I play LeBron without worrying too much about injury?"

"If that number's 37," says Zimbalist, "it could still be 37 in a 44-minute game."

There is the possibility that fans — and TV networks — would prefer shorter games, says Glenn Wong, who teaches sports management for the University of Massachusetts business school.

"Two hours is something that fits well in terms of fans — and in terms of TV slots," Wong says. Typical NBA games last significantly longer.  "I think there’s a certain trend toward reducing the length of the game."

In particular, the final minutes of an NBA game can drag. The 44-minute game would also cut one of three mandatory ad breaks in the fourth quarter. But what slows down those last minutes, really, is part of how the game gets played. The NBA's own website lays out how teams use intentional fouls to stop the clock.

"You can just keep fouling people, and fouling people, and fouling people and extending this," says David Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah University, "and hope something’s going to happen."

A 44-minute game doesn't address that problem.

"I think you could say that the game in terms of actual chronological time is too long, and you could take steps to address what’s actually making it go longer," Berri says. "But just giving people less product — that just doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense."

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

Trekkers die in Nepal blizzards

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 11:12
A blizzard and several avalanches in the Himalayas of central Nepal are reported to have killed at least 29 people, many of them trekkers.

Cellar slave girl to receive £100,000

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 11:03
A deaf girl from Pakistan kept as a slave for nine years by a millionaire couple from Salford is to receive £100,000 in compensation.

US 'hid Iraq chemical incidents'

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 10:24
The Pentagon withheld details of incidents where soldiers were wounded by abandoned chemical weapons in Iraq in 2004-11, a US newspaper says.

Air raids and clashes hit Benghazi

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 09:54
Gunfire and air strikes rock Libya's second city, Benghazi, amid an offensive to drive out Islamist militias.

Charity refuses Ashya cash request

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 09:29
A charity that received donations to pay for treatment for five-year-old brain tumour patient Ashya King says it will not give money to the boy's family.

VIDEO: How to wear an Ebola protection suit

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 09:22
The BBC's Alastair Leithead visited the National Biocontainment Training Centre in Galveston, Texas to try on a bio-hazard suit and see just how hard it is to guarantee the safety of Ebola doctors and nurses.

Ditch 'Blu Tack' funding system

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 09:16
First Minister Carwyn Jones calls for a new funding system for Welsh public services to replace a "Blu Tack and cardboard" formula devised in the 1970s.

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.

» E-Mail This

VIDEO: Mrs Clooney on marriage and marbles

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 09:04
The new wife of Hollywood star George Clooney, lawyer Amal Clooney, has had talks with Greek PM Antonis Samaras as part of a campaign to return the Parthenon sculptures from Britain.

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.

» E-Mail This

Promote British values, schools told

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 08:28
Schools should not shy away from promoting "fundamental British values" to their pupils, says Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Rebels clash with al-Qaeda in Yemen

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 08:27
Shia Houthi rebels and al-Qaeda militants engage in heavy fighting in southern Yemen, as the rebels seek to expand the territory under their control.

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.

» E-Mail This

Dutch bikers join fight against IS

BBC - Wed, 2014-10-15 08:25
Three members of a Dutch motorcycle club with military backgrounds have gone to Iraq to help Kurds fighting Islamic State, a fellow biker confirms.

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.

» E-Mail This

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.

» E-Mail This

Pages