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Clams this fresh taste like tender calamari. (Martin Kaste/NPR)

In The Land Of Razor Clams, Dinner Hides Deep Within The Sand

Apr 18, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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People dig for clams on Long Beach Peninsula when the state allows it, no matter what time of day. On this day, it just so happened that a low tide forced them to be out there before dawn. Andi Day shows off the clam gun that her grandfather made for her grandmother in the 1970s. The welded stainless steel is for speed when cutting into the sand; the wooden handles are for comfort.

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As soon as you drive into town, it's pretty clear that Long Beach, Wash., is all about the razor clams. The first clue is the giant frying pan. It's 14 feet tall, and a relic of the clam festivals of the 1940s. And then there's the clam statue that spits when you insert a quarter.

But if you really want to see how much people here love their clams, you'd have to be like Karen Harrell and get up before dawn and hike out onto the blustery beach to go clam-digging.

Harrell is one of hundreds of people already out on the beach, just ahead of the low tide, tramping around in rubber boots. Her husband, Ron, points out the telltale dimples in the wet sand.

"See that one? See how it went down?" he says. "See him squirt and go down?"

Ron goes after it with a clam gun, which, if you've ever been clam-digging, you know isn't so much a gun as it is a tube with a handle.

"You push it on down over the clam," Ron says. "And then you put your finger on the hole on the top, and it creates a suction. And as you pull, it just sucks all the sand up."

And chances are, that tube of sand will contain a clam as big as your hand.

Plastic guns cost $15, or you could pay over $100 for the fancy ones. On this beach, you'll sometimes see an heirloom.

The one Andi Day uses has been in her family for more than 40 years. Day, who works for the local visitor's bureau, says her grandfather made it for her grandmother around 1974.

The gun is welded stainless steel, but the handles are wooden — that's a special touch. "The hands don't get cold," she says. "It keeps your hands warm."

Once you've got a good clam gun, even the kids can catch dinner. Heck, they can catch several dinners.

Fifteen clams is the daily limit, and around here, that's a magic number. When friends bump into each other on the sad, the first thing they ask is, "Did you get your limit?"

Inveterate clam-digger Jim Neva admits it's kind of a race. "It's a guy thing. You want to be the first to get your limit, you want to get the biggest ones," he says. "You want to be down there washing your limit off when somebody else has got only one or two in their sack."

Clam-digging also satisfies that primeval urge to go out into nature and find free food.

"To me, when I open the freezer door, and I see all those stacks of clams, it's like going to your safe deposit box and looking at your collection of gold bullion," Neva says with a laugh.

He says he gives most of his frozen clams to family, because "the freezer is where food goes to die."

Like Neva, most people freeze their clams for later. Others smoke them and "can" them in jars.

Clamming is what separates old-time Washingtonians from the newbies, especially on the Pacific Coast. On the Long Beach Peninsula, locals talk about digging clams as being "in the blood," and they reminisce about long lazy evenings of bonfires and family fun on the beach.

But clambakes are not so common, at least not in the spring. In the Northwest, the Pacific tends to spit at you a lot more than any angry clam. So the clams are cooked indoors.

As for cooking them, there isn't a single recipe that's typical of Long Beach. Every family has its own preference. The Razor Clam Festival traditionally focused on clam fritters, but that may be because giant fritters lend themselves to giant frying pans.

There's also talk of rolling them in Ritz cracker crumbs and frying them. But purists just sauté the fresh clams in olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper (and, for the citified types who've spent too much time in Seattle, garlic and cayenne.) If the heat is high and you cook them quickly, they're as tender as the best calamari.

But this all went away for a while. Too much digging caused the clam population to collapse a few decades back. That's one reason they stopped needing that giant frying pan.

But tighter regulation allowed the clams to rebound - a lot. The town even brought back the annual Razor Clam Festival — and another giant frying pan. The festival is this weekend, and organizers have drafted Neva to teach digging basics to an army of visiting newbies.

First lesson: Do not turn your back on the ocean. There's nothing more embarrassing than having a clam in your hand — and letting it get away.

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Kenyan security officers rounded up people Friday as part of a crackdown that has swept up thousands of undocumented refugees, immigrants and Kenyan citizens of Somali descent in recent weeks. (AFP/Getty Images)

Somalis In Kenya Are Used To Raids, But Say This Was Different

Apr 18, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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Women wait for their identification to be vetted at a temporary center in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on April 9. Andi Day shows off the clam gun that her grandfather made for her grandmother in the 1970s. The welded stainless steel is for speed when cutting into the sand; the wooden handles are for comfort.

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Mohammed Ali Isaac's hands shook as he showed his Kenyan ID to the police officers. They let him pass, but his cousins weren't so lucky. The two women had forgotten their IDs at home, and the police were threatening to load them into one of three large trucks they'd brought for the purpose.

Today's raid, with dozens of armed police officers in the middle of the day in the predominantly Somali neighborhood of Eastleigh in Nairobi, was timed for just after people streamed out of Friday prayers. It was the latest — and perhaps boldest — roundup in a series of police sweeps that have caught up thousands of undocumented refugees, immigrants and Kenyan citizens of Somali descent in recent weeks.

"I'm nervous," Mohammad Ali Isaac admitted. He was waiting with his cousins while they sent another relative back home to pick up the forgotten IDs. If his cousins were arrested, he said, it would be difficult to get them out without a bribe. And bribes, he added, were higher on Friday, when the police could threaten them with a whole weekend in the cell.

At age 20, Isaac is already a veteran of the struggle of growing up Somali in Kenya. The community has always felt like outsiders, despite the fact that Kenya is home to hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees, and to many more ethnic Somalis who were born here.

"In Eastleigh, we're used to police operations and police crackdown," said Ahmed Mohamed, secretary general of the Eastleigh Business District Association with 20,000 members. "But this is unprecedented. We've never seen such security forces during the daylight. And during the Friday prayers."

Wearing his customary blue blazer, Mohamed said he was trying to negotiate with the police commander to stop the arrests, while aiming to quell an increasingly restive crowd.

Thirty-two people were arrested in the sweep, including the mother of a 4-month-old child who was hastily tossed into the arms of a relative. When that relative presented the baby to the crowd, there was an angry roar. A woman named Fatumah Hassan shouted that she was born in Kenya, but that if this harassment continued, she would "give up her Kenyan ID" and fight back. The crowd cheered in support.

"The fear," added Mohamed, the business leader, is that Kenya "will exacerbate the very thing they're fighting, which is radicalization."

The police commanders says Friday's sweep is a normal operation. The Kenyan police enforcement campaign began last week in response to two terror attacks: a deadly bombing here in Eastleigh, and a church shooting in the coastal city of Mombasa that killed six people. Neither of those attacks has been directly linked to Somalis.

However, the attack on Westgate Mall in September that killed at least 67 people was claimed by militants al-Shabab, and some of those attackers used refugee cards to enter the country from Somalia. Since then, some Kenyan politicians have dusted off an old xenophobic pledge to drive all Somali refugees back to Somalia, though the Kenyan High Court recently declared that a violation of both Kenyan and international law.

Twenty-four-year-old Sadia, who asked that her last name not be used for safety reasons, said she was two months pregnant when police officers forced their way into her apartment last week. She showed them her refugee card from the United Nations, she said, that gives her protected status and the right to live in Kenya. She said the officers told her, "That's no good," and arrested her along with her three children, age 4, 3 and 1.

She had a miscarriage in prison two days later that she blames on rough handling by the police and sleeping on a cold cell floor comforting her toddler. When the bleeding wouldn't stop, two officials from the United Nations finally came to escort her to the hospital. But only long enough for a checkup — then back to her cell to spend a third night.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Former Sen. George Allen, center, greets attendees at the 64th annual Wakefield Shad Planking in Wakefield, Va., in April 2012. This year's Shad Planking featured Democratic Sen. Mark Warner as the speaker. (AP)

In Virginia, Politicians Fish For Support At Old-Fashioned Event

by Brakkton Booker
Apr 18, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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Women wait for their identification to be vetted at a temporary center in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on April 9. Andi Day shows off the clam gun that her grandfather made for her grandmother in the 1970s. The welded stainless steel is for speed when cutting into the sand; the wooden handles are for comfort.

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At a time when new technologies and social media are transforming politics, we turn to a decidedly old-fashioned campaign event. It's an annual festival known as the Shad Planking, a spring rite of Virginia politics for nearly 70 years.

It's a must-attend event for state politicians, who practice the oldest form of retail politicking among tall pine trees at a dusty camp site.

In Wakefield, about an hour southeast of Virginia's capital of Richmond, shad fish have been roasting by on an open fire since 5 a.m. They're nailed to oak planks.

By early afternoon, this oily, bony fish, which is now seared onto the plank, needs to be scraped off, chopped and served to the hundreds gathering here for the annual Shad Planking.

At the entrance way to the event, Hank Pedigo greets attendees as he collects tickets. He's a one-man welcome wagon.

"Welcome everyone, tear your yellow ticket down the middle, hand your map in right up here on the right hand side. Thanks for coming," he says.

The Shad Planking is the premier event on the commonwealth's political calendar. And if you are a candidate you'd better show up, according to Pete Snyder, who ran for lieutenant governor last year.

He didn't win, but he's back this time for the sheer fun of it. Even in a big state like Virginia, he says, there's an intimacy to its politics.

"Virginia is a large state geographically, but it's a small state in political circles. And here you get to see all the candidates up close and personal, where you get to squeeze the Charmin of these candidates, put them on the spot and see what they think about issues," Snyder says.

Virginia isn't the only place where you'll find a big, old-timey event like this.

Iowa has the Harkin Steak Fry. Arkansas has the Gillett Coon Supper. Florida has the Wausau Possum Festival. Kentucky has the Fancy Farm Picnic.

But Snyder said the Shad Planking — held in the backwoods of Southside Virginia — is a timeless event that captures the essence of retail politics.

"It's a throwback to a bygone era when people have a beer, get to talk up close and personal, you don't need the filter of cable news to get to know your candidates," he says.

And what better way to get to know a candidate than over a cold brew? Even better if the candidate serves it to you for free.

Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, was handing out beers while answering questions about energy policy and jobs and Obamacare. He's the likely GOP nominee for U.S. Senate this year.

Gillespie's opponent is the event's featured speaker — incumbent Sen. Mark Warner, who struck a light note with this Republican-leaning crowd.

"Looking at this crowd, I realize I'm here as an endangered species — a Virginia Democrat. Looking around the crowd that's kind of like Republican women here as well —- not many of either of us," Warner said.

This kind of good natured rhetoric and the neighborly atmosphere won over Dee Hoy, a first-time shad planker.

Hoy admitted she wasn't a fan of the taste of shad fish.

Sitting in a camping chair with a bluegrass band — aptly named "Common Ground" — playing in the background, Hoy said she'll be back next year.

"I enjoyed it. I loved the music and the speakers were great. It was a good time. A very good time," she said.

It's a promising start to Virginia's campaign season.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Former Sen. George Allen, center, greets attendees at the 64th annual Wakefield Shad Planking in Wakefield, Va., in April 2012. This year's Shad Planking featured Democratic Sen. Mark Warner as the speaker. (AP)

Salsa Is Food, Not Music

Apr 18, 2014 (Latino USA) — We call the music salsa, but is that really the right name? We talk to our guests about salsa as a marketing term, whether or not it's a rhythm, and what we really mean when we say salsa.

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Women wait for their identification to be vetted at a temporary center in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on April 9. Andi Day shows off the clam gun that her grandfather made for her grandmother in the 1970s. The welded stainless steel is for speed when cutting into the sand; the wooden handles are for comfort.

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Former Sen. George Allen, center, greets attendees at the 64th annual Wakefield Shad Planking in Wakefield, Va., in April 2012. This year's Shad Planking featured Democratic Sen. Mark Warner as the speaker. (AP)

Cosby Represents

Apr 18, 2014 (Latino USA) — As an entertainer, Bill Cosby included Latin music and many Latino actors. Host Maria Hinojosa and producer Daisy Rosario talk about what seeing Latinos represented in Cosby's work has meant to them.

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Women wait for their identification to be vetted at a temporary center in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on April 9. Andi Day shows off the clam gun that her grandfather made for her grandmother in the 1970s. The welded stainless steel is for speed when cutting into the sand; the wooden handles are for comfort.

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Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

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