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Top Stories: Netanyahu On Gaza; China Investigates Party Official

Jul 29, 2014

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Korva Coleman

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Good morning, here are our early stories:

— Israeli PM Netanyahu Says Gaza War Could Be 'Prolonged'.

— China Puts Former Top Communist Party Official Under Investigation.

And here are more early headlines:

Former San Antonio Mayor Castro Sworn In As Housing Secretary. (Dallas Morning News)

U.S. Impounds Imported Oil In Dispute Between Iraqi, Kurd Leaders. (Businessweek)

Wildfires In West Trigger Air Quality Alert In Maine. (Maine Public Broadcasting)

New U.N. Genocide Hearing Opens Against 2 Cambodian Defendants. (AP)

Time Warner Seeks Mediator To End DirecTV Standoff. (Los Angeles Times)

Huge Ketchup Bottle To Be Sold In Illinois. (Deccan Chronicle

New Print Font Unveiled Honoring Late Venezuelan Leader: ChavezPro. (Reuters)

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Maman Pye cacao, a Haitian supertree, can produce 20 times as many cacao pods as ordinary trees, and the pods themselves are denser with cacao seeds than ordinary pods. (Shutterstock)

Could Specialty Cocoa Be Haiti's Golden Ticket To Prosperity?

by Rashmee Roshan Lall
Jul 29, 2014 (

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In Robillard, a tiny hamlet deep in the Haitian hinterland, Valmir Mamonvil is standing next to a would-be national hero: Maman Pye cacao, which in Haitian Creole means "mother cacao tree." His father planted it 30 years ago, but for Mamonvil, the tree is more than a family heirloom. It could be his kids' ticket to prosperity — and his country's chance to cash in on surging chocolate demand around the world.

Maman Pye is one of about 600 "supertrees" scattered throughout northern Haiti. Supertrees are not unique to Haiti. They don't even seem remarkable, until you look closer. These mamas can produce 20 times as many cacao pods as ordinary trees, and the pods themselves are denser with cacao seeds than ordinary pods. What's more, their fruitful ways are easily spread, largely by grafting.

All of which makes Maman Pye and its sisters key to realizing a long-cherished dream in Haiti: to rev up cacao production and gain a foothold in the high-end global chocolate market, says Philippe Mathieu, a chocolate lover and former agriculture minister who now directs USAID's cacao program. "We are looking to find a niche market, because Haiti can provide chocolate for the connoisseur," he says.

In some ways, it's a modest goal. Beset by historically low yields and poor farm-to-market infrastructure, Haiti doesn't yet expect to become a commodity player or for cacao to single-handedly transform the economy. Instead, Mathieu and others hope that cacao supertrees will improve standards of living in the long-struggling country, which has a per capita gross national income of less than $800 a year.

There's certainly plenty of room for a niche producer. The World Cocoa Foundation says global demand for Theobroma cacao, literally "food of the gods," is rising 3.1 percent a year. The reason? Citizens of emerging economies are becoming chocoholics. Hershey, for instance, predicts China will be its second-largest market (after the United States) by 2017. Cacao supply, however, is notoriously erratic. Crops in West Africa, which produces 70 percent of the world's cacao, are vulnerable to extreme weather, pests and disease.

Haiti wouldn't need huge plantations to compete: Unlike large, industrialized crops, 90 percent of the world's cocoa comes from small, family-run farms like the ones Haiti has.

Those are sweet macroeconomic fundamentals, but how does the Haitian stuff taste? Singular, according to the experts: sweetly seductive rather than bitter, even in its natural form. Haitians swear by their chokola, richened with cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. Mathieu, who has written copiously about Haitian cocoa, says it's "unbeatable."

"Specialists in big chocolate companies came here and loved our cocoa so much, they said they would buy everything we had — 10 times more, 100 times more," he says. "But we didn't have it. The quantity we produce is not enough right now."

Haiti's cacao results from the remarkable union of Criollo and Trinitario, varieties championed throughout the world. They arrived on Hispaniola, the island Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, with French and Spanish conquerors in the mid-16th century. For a while during the colonial era, cacao was exported in abundance by sharp-eyed Europeans looking to make their fortunes.

Their legacy of quality cocoa may mean riches for Haitians 500 years on. Right now, the low yields and weak infrastructure render Haitian chocolate almost wholly absent from groceries and confectioners worldwide. Connoisseurs, including those from Paris' prestigious Salon du Chocolat, wish it weren't.

Part of USAID's $88 million Feed the Future North program, the cacao project aims to double yields within a decade, so that by 2024, Haiti will produce 400 kilograms per hectare. That would bring Haitian cacao production up to the world average. While USAID has had some success with cacao yields in the past, it now sees the supertrees as critical to taking Haiti's cacao even further.

In Mamonvil's garden, grafts from Maman Pye have been applied to low branches of ordinary cocoa trees. When they take, the grafts will transfer Maman Pye's fruitful genes to younger trees. The younger trees will mature more quickly than trees grown from seedlings, producing pods within just three years — and many more pods than their ordinary brethren.

The program isn't relying wholly on supertrees and grafts, though. It also teaches farmers the basics: how to prune correctly, protect delicate seedlings using big-leaved banana plants for shade, share tips and tricks at farm field schools, and graft from supertrees. Nearly 2 million seedlings will also be planted.

If the program hits its targets, Haiti will produce some 10,000 tons of cacao per year. It'll be a tiny bit of the total worldwide output, which is currently 10 million tons, but enough to gain a foothold as a niche producer of luxury chocolate. There's no guarantee it will succeed, of course; little is easy in Haiti. But if Haiti can produce enough of its specialty cocoa, then rising demand and chocolate prices would, in theory, do the rest.

Back in his garden in Robillard, Mamonvil says he is hopeful for the first time in years. "One of my sons has just finished studying agronomy. He'll help, of course, but it's funny," he says, "all my six children tell me they will always return, no matter what they do, to take care of the cocoa trees."

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Garner was confronted by police trying to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk, authorities said. (AP)

What We See In The Eric Garner Video, And What We Don't

Jul 29, 2014 (

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Gene Demby

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The rough grooves of the Eric Garner story probably feel familiar to lots of folks by now: an unarmed black man dies after an encounter with the police, agitating old tensions between residents and the officers who patrol their neighborhoods.

The Garner case is already rippling out into broader political conversations, like the value of the "broken windows" strategy which targets low-level offenses that have made arrests climb in the city even as crime is near record lows. (Garner was initially approached by the police because he was suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes on the street.)

From Joseph Goldstein's New York Times story:

"I think we need to look at whether we still need these arrests," said Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a former captain of the New York Police Department.

"This is a good moment," he said, "to re-evaluate what comes after 'broken windows,' now that the windows are no longer broken."

On Saturday, Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, spoke at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. "I begged him every single day, every day, I said, 'Babe, please don't let them cops kill you.' Every single day. He said, 'Babe, I'm good.' Last text I got from him was 'I'm good,' and that was a half-an-hour before they took his life," Esaw Garner said, according to the L.A. Times. "They harassed him. When we went to the supermarket, they harassed him."

In an odd coincidence, another video surfaced the day of Esaw Garner's press conference that showed a different violent encounter with city police: in this one, an officer appears to stomp on the head of a man being restrained on the ground by other officers.

We tend to apply the Potter Stewart test to what counts as excessive use of force by police: we know it when we see it. But the history that many of us see in videos like the one showing Eric Garner's fateful confrontation with the police is at odds with legal and statistical ambiguities that we don't often see.

An Old Question Of Deadly Force

Eric Garner's death immediately joined a larger parade of fatal clashes between black men and police that seem to stretch back all the way through living memory. His name joins a string of others that together form a kind of shorthand for excessive force: Amadou Diallo. Patrick Dorismond. Timothy Stansbury. Sean Bell. Ramarley Graham.

In some of its details, the Garner incident most readily evokes the case of Michael Stewart, a graffiti artist in New York City who, like Garner, died after officers allegedly placed him in a chokehold. That incident, too, became a racial flashpoint. (Spike Lee's classic Do The Right Thing references it directly in a scene featuring a tense police standoff during the movie's climax.)

Indeed, Eric Garner isn't even the first unarmed black man named E. Garner at the center of one of these tragedies. Forty years ago, Edward Garner was fleeing the scene of a burglary he'd just committed in Memphis, Tenn., when he was shot in the back of the head and killed by a police officer as he tried to climb over a chain-link fence. Unlike Eric, Edward Garner was a wispy 15-year-old, although the officer who shot him said he assumed he was several years older. That officer also acknowledged that he was pretty sure that Garner did not have a weapon when he fired at him, but said that he shot Garner so that he couldn't get away. Garner's body was found with a purse with $10 inside.

Garner's father sued the city and the officer, citing the Civil Rights Act of 1871, argued that his son's constitutional rights had been violated. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, and the justices were asked to decide whether deadly force could be used to stop someone fleeing from the police.

The justices sided with Garner's father, and held that the police can't employ deadly force on a suspect who is running away. "It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape," Justice Byron White wrote in that majority opinion.

Deadly force like that applied in the Edward Garner case is just a subset of excessive force. And since police officers are given broad discretion on how and when to apply force, its definition can vary from one case to the next.

What Does 'Excessive Force' Mean?

Since there are no universal definitions of what constitutes excessive force, keeping track of violent encounters between civilians is a complicated undertaking.

It's not like the federal government hasn't tried. The United States Department of Justice started compiling this information in the 1990s, and one of the early reports acknowledged that there were several approaches, each of which had pros and cons.

"Several methodologies (use of court records, citizen complaints to police, use-of-force reports by officers, surveys of citizens, etc.) were discussed. ... Each was viewed as having advantages and disadvantages. A related point is that the lack of accepted definitions of use of force and excessive force will remain a fact of life even after a fuller understanding of these incidents is developed."

Collecting this data also requires the cooperation of thousands of local police agencies, who can opt not to disclose it. That means the numbers we have might not just be apples-to-oranges comparisons. They're also incomplete.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics tracks national data on both police "use of force" and "excessive force," and released a report in 2012 with findings on "arrest-related deaths" from 2003 to 2009. The BJS found that 4,813 people died while law enforcement personnel were attempting to arrest or restrain them, or shortly thereafter. About six in 10 of those people were classified as "homicides by law enforcement personnel." The remainder were attributed to other manners of death — "suicide and death by intoxication," "accidental injury" or "natural causes." About six percent of arrest-related deaths had an indeterminate cause, the BJS reported.

If you're looking at the universe of all arrests, it feels like arrest-related deaths are exceedingly rare. The report noted that those 4,800 arrest-related deaths came during a period in which the FBI estimated that there were nearly 98 million arrests made nationally. That's .005 percent of all arrests, some of which will be deemed justifiable homicides.

But if you consider these numbers simply as a tally of arrest-related deaths by themselves, it happens frequently enough that any such case might make a headline every single day. A measure compiled by Colorlines and the Chicago Reporter in 2007 found that nearly 9,500 people across the country were shot by the police between 1980 and 2005 — "an average of nearly one fatal shooting per day."

The Messy Details Of The Garner Case

So there's no agreement on what "excessive force" is, what it looks like or whether it happens too often. But in the Garner case, there's not even agreement on what a chokehold is.

The aforementioned Michael Stewart case resulted in new rules that forbade NYPD officers from using chokeholds, but it's not very clear how effective that ban has been. An independent oversight group that reviews civilian complaints about the city's police found more than 1,000 incidents in recent years in which officers were said to have used chokeholds. Only nine could be corroborated.

The New York Daily News reported that officers at the scene of the Garner confrontation didn't mention in their incident reports that he had been placed in a chokehold by police officer, which would seem fairly clear from the video. But as my colleague Martin Kaste reported last week, that might depend on your definition of "chokehold."

"But while chokeholds are prohibited by the city's police department, many police trainers say chokeholds are relatively safe — and should be used more. These proponents of the method, it should be noted, hate the word "chokehold." They say it confuses two very different kinds of maneuvers: actual chokeholds, which cut off a person's air supply, and "lateral vascular neck restraints," which don't.

Missy O'Linn, a former cop and self-defense trainer who is now a lawyer who defends cops in court, says in a neck restraint, the officer puts his or her arm around a person's neck in a "V" — putting pressure not on the windpipe, but on the sides of the neck, and on the arteries to the brain."

At this point, no charges have been filed in the Garner case. (If a trial does move forward, there's even the possibility that the widely-viewed and dissected video that captured Garner's last moments might not play a very significant role in it.)

As we've written before, all this means the resolution of this specific incident — no matter what it looks like — is bound to be unsatisfying.

All these things snowball into each other, and while the trials of their shooters are about the particulars of their cases, they are also about all the other gruesome cases that came before them. ... We end up talking about everything, all at once, even though our criminal justice system isn't meant to resolve all of that context. Sometimes it feels as if it's not even capable of resolving the specifics of the cases in front of it.

What constitutes "excessive force"? What constitutes a "chokehold"? What happened before the cell phone video began recording Eric Garner? And what matters more: the previous 10 minutes or the previous 40 years?

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Some marathons are warning runners when conditions increase the risk of heat stroke. (iStockphoto)

Athletes Should Fear The Heat More Than The Heart Attack

by Katherine Hobson
Jul 29, 2014 (

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When a runner's heart stops during a marathon, it gets a lot of press - even though it's actually a pretty rare event. A more common killer among runners, and a condition that needs more prevention efforts, is heat stroke, according to a study by Israeli researchers.

During a 2011 running race, physicians at a Tel Aviv hospital noticed there were far more heat stroke victims admitted than cardiac patients. They wondered if this was an anomaly, and analyzed local races from March 2007 to November 2013, encompassing 137,580 runners.

Across those races, there were two serious cardiac events, neither of which was fatal or life threatening. But there were 21 serious heat stroke cases, including two fatalities and 12 that were life threatening.

There's a continuum of heat illnesses, ranging from milder heat cramps all the way to heat stroke, which is defined as a fever above 104 degrees and symptoms including dry, hot skin, rapid breathing and unconsciousness. When the body gets that hot, the kidneys, brain and other organs can fail.

One caveat: It gets hot in Tel Aviv. It's possible that not every race site will face the same heat-stroke danger, though "it's reasonable to assume that heat stroke is just as common in other countries with similar climate," Dr. Sami Viskin, senior author of the study and a cardiologist at Tel Aviv Medical Center, told Shots via email. (And heat stroke can occur in mild climates too.)

It's important for racers to be prepared for heat. That means acclimatizing to warmer weather — though that can take up to two weeks, so it's not always practical. The authors say it may be better to schedule races during the summer, when participants are used to the heat, rather than the spring. People also should beware of racing if they've recently had a fever, since that can reduce the body's ability to ward off heat stroke, the authors say.

The National Athletic Trainers' Association also recommends drinking enough fluids before, during and after exercise to help avoid overheating.

And race organizers need to be able to diagnose heat stroke quickly by taking a runner's body temperature rectally on site, so they can provide proper cooling, most effectively by immersing the person in a cold water bath.

Heat stroke is a big problem, says Dr. George Chiampas, a Northwestern Medicine emergency medicine physician. He's also medical director of the Chicago Marathon, which made some changes after the 2007 race was halted amid high temperatures that sickened hundreds. (The single death that year was actually a result of a heart condition, not the heat.)

Now runners see green, yellow, red or black flags along the route to indicate whether the conditions, including weather, are good, less-than-ideal, potentially dangerous or so bad that the race has been stopped, Chiampas tells Shots. Post-race surveys show that runners run more slowly and adjust their strategy if conditions are yellow or red, he says.

And medical personnel near the finish line are trained to talk with runners to see if their mental status has been affected - a sign of heat illness.

The study was published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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Zhou Yongkang, then Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of security, attends a plenary session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China in 2012. (AP)

China Puts Former Top Communist Party Official Under Investigation

by Eyder Peralta
Jul 29, 2014 (

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The central committee of China's communist party placed a former top-ranking official under investigation on Tuesday.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua reports Zhou Yongkang is accused of "serious disciplinary violation."

Reporting from Beijing, NPR's Anthony Kuhn tells our Newscast unit that while there is no specificity to those charges from the party, this usually implies that criminal corruption charges will follow.

"Before his retirement in 2012, Zhou was a member of the politburo standing committee. He had control over police, security and intelligence services," Anthony reports. "In recent months, many of Zhou's family members and former subordinates have been detained on suspicion of corruption, raising expectations that Zhou would soon fall as well."

As The New York Times points out, Zhou is the "most serious party figure ever to face a formal graft inquiry," and this is an "audacious move" by President Xi Jingping to "impose his authority" over a "potentially dangerous adversary, with ties to more senior retired figures."

The Times explains:

"Until now, the detention and investigation of Mr. Zhou has been secretive and unconfirmed by the government, although known among party insiders and reported abroad.

"Charges against Mr. Zhou could well center on the fortunes made by members of his family, often in sectors once under his sway. An investigation by The New York Times showed that Mr. Zhou's son, a sister-in-law and his son's mother-in-law held assets worth some $1 billion, much of it in the oil and gas sector that was Mr. Zhou's political fiefdom, where he could shape decisions and promotions. That estimate was based on publicly available records and a limited assessment of their companies' value and did not include real estate or overseas assets, which are more difficult to identify and assess."

Xinhua reports that Central Committee of the Communist Party of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection will conduct the investigation.

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