Jason Bentley, KCRW Music Director
Of Montreal was founded by singer Kevin Barnes back in 1996; ever since, the Athens, Ga., group has continued to explore new creative possibilities, as true artists do. The band recently returned to Morning Becomes Eclectic to showcase songs from its new album, including "Fugitive Air."
While Ukrainian riot police have reportedly left Kiev's Independence Square, one of the United States' top diplomats says she has told President Viktor Yanukovych that "what happened last night, what has been happening in security terms here, is absolutely impermissible in a European state, in a democratic state."
Victoria Nuland's sharp words followed Tuesday's crackdown at the square. As we reported, "hundreds of riot police ... stormed an anti-government camp in the capital's Independence Square, with police dismantling barricades amid shouts of 'Shame!' and 'We will stand!' from protesters."
Wednesday, Nuland was in Kiev. She reported afterward that she "spent more than two hours with President Yanukovych. It was a tough conversation, but it was a realistic one. I made it absolutely clear to him that what happened last night, what has been happening in security terms here, is absolutely impermissible in a European state, in a democratic state."
But, Nuland added, "we also made clear that we believe there is a way out for Ukraine, that it is still possible to save Ukraine's European future and that is what we want to see the president lead. But that is going to require immediate security steps and getting back into a conversation with Europe and with the International Monetary Fund, and bringing justice and dignity to the people of Ukraine. I have no doubt after our meeting that President Yanukovych knows what he needs to do. The whole world is watching. We want to see a better future for Ukraine."
The State department also posted pictures of Nuland offering food to some of the protesters and to some of the riot police.
Also in Kiev on Wednesday to pressure the government to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis: European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton.
The protests, as we wrote Tuesday, began late last month after Yanukovych "backed away from an agreement to strengthen economic ties with the 28-nation European Union — a pact that enjoyed the support of roughly half of the people in the former Soviet republic. By moving closer to the EU, Ukraine would have weakened links with Russia, which has dominated the region for centuries."
NPR's Corey Flintoff is in Kiev. He reports that it's hard to say what will happen next. It was "a shock to everyone when the government decided to bring in riot troops and try to forceably clear the square," he tells our Newscast Desk.
Secretary of State John Kerry said after the police action that the U.S. is "disgusted" by the use of force. His predecessor, Hillary Clinton, tweeted Wednesday that she was "on my way back to the U.S. from Madiba's [Nelson Mandela's] funeral and watching what's going on in Ukraine with alarm."
A doctor, a vegan, a researcher and a farmer recently waded into a hot-button topic in the food world: Is it a bad idea to eat meat?
They faced off two against two on the topic for the Intelligence Squared U.S. series. In an Oxford-style debate, they delved into the medical, ethical and environmental arguments surrounding the motion "Don't Eat Anything With A Face."
Before the debate, the audience at New York's Kaufman Music Center voted 24 percent in favor of the motion and 51 percent against, with 25 percent undecided. After the debate, 45 percent agreed with the motion, while 43 percent disagreed — making the team arguing against eating meat the winners of the debate.
Those debating were:
FOR THE MOTION
Neal Barnard, M.D., is adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. He guides numerous clinical trials investigating the effects of diet on body weight, chronic pain and diabetes. Barnard's most recent study of dietary interventions in Type 2 diabetes was funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has authored dozens of scientific publications, 15 books for lay readers, and has hosted three PBS television programs on nutrition and health, ranging from weight loss to Alzheimer's prevention. As president and founder of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Barnard has worked on efforts to overhaul federal dietary guidelines. He also leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition and higher ethical standards in research.
Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, has been called "the conscience of the food movement" by Time magazine. Since the mid-1980s, Baur has campaigned to raise awareness of what he sees as the abuses of industrialized factory farming and a system of cheap food production. His book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food (2008), a national bestseller, investigates the ethical questions surrounding beef, poultry, pork, milk and egg production.
AGAINST THE MOTION
Chris Masterjohn is a nutritional sciences researcher who is currently examining the physiological interactions between fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has published six peer-reviewed publications and has submitted one manuscript for review. He also writes two blogs: The Daily Lipid and Mother Nature Obeyed, which is hosted by the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Joel Salatin is a full-time farmer in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. A third-generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents' ideas. The farm serves more than 5,000 families, 10 retail outlets and 50 restaurants, through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs. Salatin has written for magazines such as Stockman Grass Farmer, Acres USA and Foodshed. He is the author of eight books, including Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World (2012). The family's farm, Polyface Inc., was featured in the new New York Times bestseller The Omnivore's Dilemma, by food writer Michael Pollan, and in the award-winning documentary film Food Inc.
"The launch of HealthCare.gov was flawed and simply unacceptable." Those are the words of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, published Wednesday just before she met with people who share those views: members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
With her agency under fire since the website's failed release last month, Sebelius announced an internal inquiry and other steps today that will focus on improving the contracting process, project management, and employee training.
"I believe strongly in the need for accountability, and in the importance of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars," Sebelius wrote in a blog post ahead of today's hearing.
Those dollars run in the billions. With the agency's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services division spending $5.3 billion on contracts in 2013, Sebelius said, HHS is the third-largest contracting agency in the federal government.
Sebelius wrote that "structural and managerial policies" led to the flawed website's launch. And to prevent a repeat of the problems, she laid out three steps:
- Asking HHS Inspector General Dan Levinson to review the development of HealthCare.gov, focusing on how the contractors were chosen, program management and contractor performance, in addition to payment issues.
- Creating a new position of CMS Chief Risk Officer, who will focus on mitigating risk across CMS's programs. Sebelius will seek recommendations from the risk officer within two months.
- Update training for CMS employee on best practices for contractor and procurement management, rules and procedures.
"The administration originally hoped to have 500,000 people enrolling in coverage in October alone," NPR's Scott Horsley reported this morning. "As it is, there were only about 365,000 enrolled by the end of November."
The AP reports that as a result of the new system, "an additional 803,077 people have been determined to be eligible for Medicaid, the safety-net program shaping up as the health overhaul's early success story."
The website's problems, and the new health care system's unwelcome changes to some Americans' policies, have exposed Sebelius to regular criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
Today, Sebelius is taking a barrage of questions from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a session that sometimes saw the members yelling over one another.
One heated exchange took place with Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., who was eventually upbraided by his colleagues for peppering the HHS secretary with questions and not allowing her time to respond.
Shimkus said the new federal system is putting an undue burden on Medicaid. He also sought a promise from Sebelius to provide a list of insurance policies that include abortion coverage (a topic he's asked her about before).
As Sebelius sought to answer his questions, Shimkus responded by saying, "It's like talking to the Republic of Korea or something."
That remark might raise eyebrows in South Korea, the U.S. ally whose formal name Shimkus invoked. We presume he meant to allude to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the famously opaque and enigmatic country known as North Korea.
Soon afterwards, Shimkus' questioning was ended by the rapping of the chairman's gavel, as his time had expired.
During Sebelius' appearance before the same panel at the end of October, the HealthCare.gov website was found to have crashed.
Sebelius is in a complicated situation, in which she seemingly remains in good standing with President Obama even as her agency endures criticism from the White House.
As Politico notes, "when Jeff Zients, the management consultant the White House recruited to head the website repair efforts, declared the fixes largely successful at the end of November, he suggested his team had discovered 'weaknesses in how the project was being managed' — comments that were hard not to read as a slap at the oversight that took place under Sebelius, or at least on her watch."