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Authorities Lose Contact With Air Algerie Aircraft

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 24, 2014

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Authorities have lost contact with an Air Algerie aircraft traveling from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers, Reuters reports citing the Algerian state news agency.

Reuters adds:

"APS said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso.

"Spanish private airline company Swiftair confirmed it had no contact with its MD-83 aircraft operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110 passengers and six crew. An Algieran official had earlier said it was an Airbus A320."

In a statement, Swiftair said the flight took off at 9:17 p.m. ET, and was supposed to arrive shortly after 1 a.m. ET. on Thursday.

"There is at this moment, no contact with the aircraft," Swiftair said.

This is a breaking news story. We'll update when we know more.

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Paul Davis, third from left, the presumed Democratic nominee for Kansas governor, receives the endorsements of more than 100 current and former Republican politicians on July 15, 2014, in Topeka, Kan. (AP)

A Strange Political Dustup Clouds Kansas Governor's Future

by Jim McLean
Jul 24, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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Kansas's Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is locked in an unexpectedly tough re-election battle for doing exactly what he said he would do - cut taxes.

Citing mounting evidence that those tax cuts are creating a budget crisis - not stimulating the Kansas economy as promised - some in the state's moderate Republican establishment recently did the unthinkable: endorse a Democrat for governor.

That's not only endangering Brownback's re-election hopes, it's also tarnishing his plans to turn one of the reddest of red states into a national model.

Sam Brownback left the U.S. Senate to run for governor intending to demonstrate he could use conservative policies to reverse decades of population and economic decline in his home state. He easily won the 2010 race, and immediately began implementing and promoting what he calls his red-state model.

"You've got really two models developing: You've got this red state model and blue state model," he explained in a recent interview with the Heritage Foundation. "And one of these models is going to end up winning out and that model is going to go, I think, nationwide. I really hope it's the red state, lower taxes, less government, more freedom model."

Tax cuts are the most important part of the red-state model, and Brownback argues that lowering and eventually eliminating state income taxes will make Kansas a top choice for entrepreneurs and job creators.

His efforts to sell his model as a path forward for other states caught the attention of Michael Leachman, a researcher at the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"The tax cuts that Kansas implemented a couple of years ago and took effect at the beginning of 2013 were one of the biggest state tax cuts in history," he explains. "And now a number of other states are pointing to Kansas as a model for how you can use very large tax cuts to promote economic growth."

But so far, Leachman says, following Kansas's lead may not be a good idea. The tax cuts haven't generated anything close to the economic "shot of adrenaline" that Gov. Brownback promised.

"There is no evidence of any boost to the state's economy," he says. "Kansas's job growth since the tax cuts took effect is actually a little slower than job growth has been nationally."

If a lack of immediate results was all that Sam Brownback had to worry about, he could appeal for patience. But there is mounting evidence that his tax cuts are largely responsible for a sudden and sharp drop in state revenues.

Senate Democratic leader Anthony Hensley says if the trend continues the state will quickly burn through its cash reserves, forcing legislators to deal with a burgeoning budget crisis when they return to Topeka in January.

"I think the governor is in a serious state of denial right now about the fiscal condition of the state," he says, chuckling.

The specter of cutting funding to schools, universities and a popular highway program by hundreds of millions of dollars is political fodder for House Minority Leader Paul Davis, Brownback's likely Democratic opponent in the fall.

One recent poll shows Davis leading Brownback by six points.

That has spurred some moderate Republicans to do something quite unexpected. Just last week, more than 100 of them - all current or former elected officials - endorsed Davis.

"We are all Republicans but we will always be Kansans first," says former state Sen. Wint Winter Jr., who helped organize the uprising. "We stand today united in the belief that under the current Republican governor Kansas is going in the wrong direction."

But Brownback is not backing down and insists his tax cuts are starting to work. At a recent campaign rally, he cited a discussion with a business owner he hired to help with his daughter's recent wedding.

"He looks at me and says, 'hey, you're the governor right? Yeah, Yeah. 'That tax deal that you did; that's really helped my little small business out," he says. "And I said, good, good. What are you going to do with the money? He said, 'well I'm looking this fall at buying another truck and hiring another guy to run the truck."

Whether voters give Brownback and his experiment more time could depend on just how much worse - or better - the state's fiscal problems get between now and November.

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Thousands of young immigrants, many of them from Central America, have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing an unprecentented humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Getty)

Amid Wave Of Child Immigrants, Reports Of Abuse By Border Patrol

Jul 24, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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Some of the immigrant children crossing the border say they are being subjected to abusive and inhumane treatment in U.S. Border Patrol stations in South Texas. This includes frigid holding rooms, sleep deprivation, verbal and psychological abuse, inadequate food and water, denial of medical care, and worse.

Dozens of children have come forward to make complaints against Customs and Border Protection officers. The agency responds that any complaints are the result not of mistreatment, but of its stations being overwhelmed by the surge of minors.

Inside 'Las Hieleras'

The complaints center on what happens inside the group holding cells that immigrants call las hieleras, the freezers. The concrete cells are used by the Border Patrol to house adult and under-age immigrants for days or weeks while they're being processed into U.S. immigration courts. The children are later sent to better-equipped government-run shelters.

"I suffered a lot in la hielera," says 11-year-old Sixta, who is brought to tears by the memory. "I still wake up crying thinking I'm there. And I never want to return there again as long as I live." Her last name has been omitted because she is here illegally.

Sixta crossed the Rio Grande with her older sister early last month after making the trip from San Pedro Sula, Honduras — the world's most violent city. She's now living with her mother in a ramshackle house outside of Dallas. Their living room is still full of balloons from her welcome party. Sixta was asked what was worse: the treacherous journey through Mexico, or her 17 days inside two Border Patrol stations in South Texas.

"The experience inside the freezer," she says without hesitation.

Sixta says the room was kept so frigid she caught a cold, and it went untreated for so long that she started bleeding from her nose and throat. When she asked for a doctor, she says, agents slammed the steel door to the cell in anger. Most Border Patrol stations have paramedics who are supposed to provide medical care.

Sixta says agents told her and her sister, "You damned Hondurans are a pest in our country."

Her first cousin is Jennifer, a slender, bashful 14-year-old who crossed into Texas separately a few weeks earlier. She's now living with her father, a television repairman, in Los Angeles.

"It was horrible because they put handcuffs on my wrists and ankles when they put us on an airplane," she says, sitting in her father's tiny living room surrounded by broken TVs. "When we asked, 'Why are you putting these on?' they called us thieves and said, 'You came here to steal from our country.' "

Jennifer shows a scab just above her heel from where she says the restraints broke the skin.

Immigrant children interviewed by NPR related other types of grievances, as well.

A Salvadoran girl said they were refused water and had to drink from a toilet tank. Several kids said agents came in at all hours of the night to pound the walls with their batons to wake them up to do a count.

Formal Complaints

Many of these complaints were included in a 25-page protest letter submitted last month to the Department of Homeland Security by five immigrant advocate groups.

They take on new urgency now that the Border Patrol in Texas has been overwhelmed by nearly 60,000 unaccompanied Central American youths since October.

The commissioner of customs, Gil Kerlikowske, said in an interview with NPR last week that his office takes charges of abuse seriously. He did not deny the immigrant children have legitimate complaints about conditions in the holding cells, but he discounted the most serious criticism.

"When I looked at all of the complaints, sleeping on a concrete floor is not anything any of us wanted to see, and to see a room the size of this office with maybe 40 or 50 kids lying on the floor covered in a blanket, waiting 2 and 3 and 4 days to be actually moved to a better facility, I know that we were overwhelmed," he said.

Reacting to the commissioner's comment, immigration attorney Erika Pinheiro says the problem is not new.

"I'm sorry but the commissioner absolutely cannot attribute this to the surge," she says. "This is something that's gone on for many years. At a minimum, we can expect CBP to respect the basic human dignity of these children."

Pinheiro is directing attorney at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, a Los Angeles-based organization that made available many of the child complainants who were interviewed for this story.

There are also complaints of verbal abuse, of agents calling the children and teenagers "parasites," "dogs," "whores" and worse, and threatening them with bodily harm.

A legal services project by the American Bar Association in the Rio Grande Valley filed 74 complaints on behalf of child immigrants in 2013.

"We understand that there are lots of children, and that the officers are under extreme pressure. There's not enough space; it's very stressful," says Michelle Quintero Millan, staff attorney with ProBAR. "But at the same time, treating kids in this way ... it's inappropriate, regardless of the humanitarian disaster that's going on right now."

CBP Commissioner Kerlikowske said he has read a synopsis of the most recent complaints filed by the five groups last month. "What I did not see," he said, "other than several complaints of offensive language, I didn't see complaints of assault or use of force."

But there were complaints of physical abuse.

A 17-year-old Guatemalan named Jose Miguel says agents repeatedly kicked him and his cellmates awake at night to conduct the count.

"Maybe they can't handle so many kids," he says. "They're fed up. They're angry because they can send the adults back, but they have to attend to the children."

Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the agents' union, was asked if some of his members might be taking out their frustrations on the child detainees.

"I don't think there's any overt attempt to try and make this more difficult than it has to be," Moran said, "especially for juveniles. Because in the end we are responsible for the well-being of people in our custody."

Mixed Responses

Immigrant attorneys characterize the alleged mistreatment by the Border Patrol as "systemic," but it's unclear how widespread it is.

A dozen immigrant mothers and children were interviewed who had nothing to do with the formal complaints. All of them agreed the cells were cramped and cold, and the bologna sandwiches were terrible, but they said they were well-treated.

"The treatment we received was good, up to a certain point, because Americans are excellent human beings," said Osiris Sandoval, a 26-year-old mother from Honduras who was sitting at the McAllen, Texas, bus station after being released from Border Patrol custody.

Customs and Border Protection knows it has an accountability problem. Immigrant rights groups have filed these types of abuse complaints for years to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General and the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The lawyers say the grievances usually never go anywhere; CBP investigators have reportedly responded to the recent complaints by interviewing about a dozen of the children on the telephone.

Last month, the agency removed its head of internal affairs, James Tomsheck, amid accusations that he ignored misconduct by CBP officers, who comprise the nation's largest police force.

Commissioner Kerlikowske came in five months ago with the goal of straightening out a troubled agency. Faced with growing criticism of its treatment of the Central American children, now the question is whether the Border Patrol will be more responsive to these complaints.

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Thousands of young immigrants, many of them from Central America, have crossed illegally into the United States this year, causing an unprecentented humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Getty)

Videographer's 'Happy' View Of Gaza Turns Tragic

Jul 24, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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This hazelnut-chocolate spread looks like the iconic Nutella, but it tastes more richly of hazelnuts, says Chris Kimball. (America's Test Kitchen)

With Help From America's Test Kitchen, Why Buy When You Can DIY?

by NPR Staff
Jul 24, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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A classic s'more, made with homemade Graham crackers. Greek yogurt is not so hard to make, and you control the ingredients.

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Even people who love to cook don't make everything from scratch. You might make a homemade graham cracker crust, but who makes graham crackers?

Chris Kimball, that's who.

The host of America's Test Kitchen TV and radio says there are lots of foods you'd never think of making for yourself that you actually can. But why would you go to the trouble of hacking things like balsamic vinegar, Greek yogurt and caramel, Nutella spread and dairy-free whipped cream, so easily bought in the store?

"Some save you money, and some produce a much better product — because a lot of the commercial products you get have fillers, gum, stabilizers," Kimball says. And, perhaps the most important reason of all, it's fun. To prove it, he showed Morning Edition host Renee Montagne how to make these treats in the tiny NPR West office kitchen.

Kimball tells us that the Nutella hack is a favorite. The iconic chocolate-hazelnut spread, originally created in a thick, brick form as a way to stretch out expensive chocolate in Europe after World War II, has a "plastic texture," he says. "When you make your own, it tastes like hazelnuts," he says.

Here are some of the DIY recipes and notes America's Test Kitchen shared with us:

Coconut Milk Whipped Cream (dairy-free)

When we heard that it was possible to make dairy-free whipped "cream" using the thick layer of coconut fat from the top of a can of regular (not low-fat) coconut milk, our curiosity was piqued. Our test batches, although not as lofty as true whipped cream, had a pleasant mild coconut flavor and enough velvety billows to make us think that this unlikely ingredient could provide an acceptable dairy-free alternative.

With a little more experimentation, we came up with two tips for success. First, the creamy part of coconut milk isn't always separated from the watery part; we found that refrigerating the can for a few hours helps form two distinct layers. Second, it's important to skim off only the very thick, fatty portion of the milk, or the cream won't whip properly.

1 10 oz. can of coconut milk, containing about 3/4 cup of cream

1 1/2 Teaspoons sugar

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

To make 1 cup of whipped coconut cream, chill a mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Using a spoon, skim the top layer of cream from the can of coconut milk (about 3/4 cup of cream) and place it in the chilled bowl with sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Beat on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and continue beating until the cream thickens and light peaks form, about two minutes. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to four hours.

Yield: 1 cup whipped coconut cream

Instant-Aged Balsamic Vinegar

True aged balsamico can be as high as $60 an ounce! We wondered if we could hack our way to a reasonable substitute with a decent supermarket brand.

We tried reducing supermarket balsamic with sugar and flavorings ranging from black currant juice to coffee. In the end, we found that a straight reduction of 1/3 cup of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of sugar worked well enough, but the addition of 1 tablespoon of port added the complexity we were after. Vigorous boiling destroyed nuances in the vinegar's flavor; the best results came from reducing this mixture for 30 to 40 minutes over extremely low heat (barely simmering) to about half of its original volume. (recommended supermarket brand Lucini Gran Riserva—$14 for 8.5 ounces).

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon port

1 Tablespoon sugar

Reduce balsamic vinegar with port and sugar very slowly over low heat until it measures half its original volume.

Kale Chips

If you've somehow missed that kale chips are a "thing," with recipes flooding cooking sites and packages of commercially made chips now turning up even in ordinary supermarkets, trust us: Tossing torn leaves of kale with oil and salt and baking them until crispy is a worthwhile endeavor. The slightly browned leaves take on a nutty, sweet taste and a pleasing, brittle texture. But the standard oven approach isn't perfect: It's hard to get the leaves evenly browned; plus, it's difficult to drive off enough moisture so that the chips stay crispy when stored for more than a few hours. So when we noticed a few blogs promoting a microwave method, we were eager to give it a try. We found that the microwave dehydrates the leaves evenly and thoroughly, so they stay crispy longer—and the chips cook a whole lot faster than they do in the oven. (Note: For the best texture, we prefer to use flatter Lacinato kale. We also found that collard greens work well, but we don't recommend curly-leaf kale, Swiss chard, or curly-leaf spinach, all of which turn dusty and crumbly when crisped.) Here's our take on the technique.

5 oz. kale (about 1/2 bunch)

kosher salt to taste

Remove stems from kale. Tear leaves into 2-inch pieces; wash and thoroughly dry, then toss well with 4 teaspoons oil in large bowl. Spread roughly one-third of leaves in single layer on large plate and season lightly with kosher salt. Microwave for 3 minutes. If leaves are crispy, transfer to serving bowl; if not, continue to microwave leaves in 30-second increments until crispy. Repeat with remaining leaves in 2 batches. Store chips in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Graham Crackers

Graham crackers get their distinct wheat flavor from graham flour, a coarsely ground whole-wheat flour. However, many store-bought graham crackers these days contain far more white flour than wheat. For our version, we wanted a graham-forward cracker with hearty texture, so we used twice as much graham as all-purpose. Granulated sugar complements the wheat's sweetness and helps the crackers crisp. We also add a little toasty, caramel-like sweetness with a few tablespoons of molasses. The dough is sticky, so we roll it out between sheets of parchment, which also allowed us to slide the prepped crackers right onto the baking sheet. We trim the edges, score the dough, and dock the tops a few times with a fork to keep them from puffing in the oven. Overbaking these crackers will turn them dry and crumbly. Keep an eye on them. They should take only about 15 minutes and should be golden and firm at the edges.

1 1/2 cups grapham flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 Teaspoon baking powder

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1/3 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

5 Tablespoons water

2 Tablespoons molasses

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Process graham flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in food processor until combined.

Working with 1 piece of dough at a time roll dough out between 2 pieces of parchment paper into 11 by 8—inch rectangle, 1/8 inch thick. Bake crackers until golden brown and edges are firm, about 15 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Slide baked crackers, still on parchment, onto wire rack and let cool completely.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

If you're anything like us, eating a spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar is a pleasure. But if you've never had homemade Nutella, you're missing out on a world of flavor. From our perspective, store-bought Nutella has a couple of major shortcomings: lack of real nuttiness and a plasticky texture. Could we make this supermarket favorite taste fresher and even more flavorful? The answer is yes — and the technique is surprisingly simple. Toasted hazelnuts and cocoa powder provided the backbone, while a food processor and some oil brought it together. Mix in confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and salt, and you're done.

2 cups hazelnuts

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons hazelnut oil

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 Teaspoon salt

Place hazelnuts in single layer on rimmed baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees until fragrant and dark brown, 12-15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through roasting. When hazelnuts are cool enough to handle, place second medium bowl on top and shake vigorously to remove skins.

Process peeled hazelnuts in food processor until their oil is released and they form a smooth, loose paste. Add sugar, cocoa powder, oil, vanilla, and salt and process until fully incorporated and mixture begins to loosen slightly and becomes glossy. Transfer spread to jar with tight-fitting lid.Store at room temperature or refrigerate for up to one month.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has become ubiquitous in the last few years. In the test kitchen, we use it in recipes like tzatziki sauce, or we simply eat it on its own, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with some good granola. Buying a container from the store is easier than ever, with many major yogurt companies now making Greek-style yogurt. But there are a lot of good reasons to make your own. It's easy, and quality pints don't run cheap. But perhaps most important, many brands take shortcuts, like using gelatin, pectin, or inulin (a flavorless dietary fiber) to make a thicker product, which saves money and time but degrades flavor. To make fresh, clean-flavored Greek-style yogurt, use the best-quality homogenized, pasteurized milk and "starter" yogurt (with live active cultures) that you can find. You won't need any special equipment, just a few simple techniques:

4 cups 2 percent pasteurized low-fat milk

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder

1/3 cup plain 2 percent Greek yogurt

Place fine-mesh strainer over large glass bowl, then set bowl in larger bowl filled with ice water. Heat milk in large saucepan over medium-low heat until milk registers 185 degrees. Remove pot from heat, gently stir in milk powder, and let cool to 160 degrees, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Strain milk through prepared strainer and let cool, gently stirring occasionally, until milk registers 110 to 112 degrees; remove from ice bath. In small bowl, stir 1/2 cup warm milk into yogurt until smooth. Let yogurt sit undisturbed until thickened and set, 5 to 7 hours.

Transfer to refrigerator until completely chilled. Set clean fine-mesh strainer over large measuring cup and line with double layer of coffee filters. Transfer yogurt to prepared strainer, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until about 2 cups of liquid have drained into measuring cup. Transfer strained yogurt to jar with tight fitting lid, discarding drained liquid.Refrigerate yogurt for up to one week.

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