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A memorial of items sit in the middle of the road at the site where Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo. Any investigation into Brown's fatal shooting by a police officer is likely to take months. (EPA /Landov)

Many Seek 'Justice' In Ferguson, Mo., But Will Have To Wait A While

Aug 20, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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Both the county case as well as the federal investigation into the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown are expected to take time, as are basic answers about the circumstances that led to the black teenager's death Aug. 9.

About two dozen people showed up Wednesday in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse to demonstrate against County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, who is preparing to present evidence in the case to a grand jury.

"This means something to me so I had to be here," says demonstrator Lamont Farr, a home health care worker. "We want Bob McCulloch off this case, that's what we're here for today."

When McCulloch was 12, his father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. McCulloch is white. The man who shot his father was black. That history worries many in the community about the prosecutor's objectivity.

"We're fighting for justices across the world, but we don't even have justices at home," Farr says.

McCulloch says his father's death decades ago won't affect his judgement, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement Tuesday he isn't asking the prosecutor to step aside.

The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating whether Brown's civil rights were violated. FBI agents have now reportedly conducted more than 200 interviews. But the answers, and potential charges so many are demanding, won't come quickly.

"You're looking [at] at least months. And it's not impossible in some civil rights investigations that they take years," says former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins, who worked with Attorney General Eric Holder in the Clinton administration.

"If you're looking for answers, those answers may be a long time in coming, in part because of the rules the guidelines for the Department of Justice," Coggins says. "They're allowed to tell the community 'We're on the job, we're making progress,' things like that, but they're not allowed to share the specific evidence until an indictment comes down."

But Coggins says federal involvement could help quell distrust of the county's handling of the case. He says he has seen it before.

"Sometimes it's very difficult for a DA or a county attorney to convince a community that he or she can be objective where the police are concerned," he says. "The Civil Rights Division prosecutes police officers all the time. That's what they do."

In Ferguson, on Canfield Drive, the site where police officer Darren Wilson shot Brown, Cori Bush, a pastor, shows up daily.

"I'll be out here as long as this is going on," she says.

In the middle of the road, visitors add flowers, baseball caps and stuffed bears to an ever-expanding makeshift memorial for Brown. Bush comes out to pass out food during the day and demonstrates at night.

"It's in shifts," Bush says. "So whatever is the shift is."

She knows the big crowds will eventually dwindle, but Bush is from here. She has no plans to stop participating.

"This can go on until the verdict comes down," she says. "We gotta get the indictment first, and then the verdict, so, it may be a while."

As the legal process plays out, a neighborhood already so torn by unrest and uncertainty has no choice but to wait.

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Killer whales perform in Shamu Stadium at the SeaWorld Orlando theme park in Florida. SeaWorld says it will not appeal a citation that prohibits trainers from performing with the whales. (AP)

SeaWorld Won't Appeal Ban On Trainers Performing With Orcas

by Dana Farrington
Aug 20, 2014

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SeaWorld has decided not to appeal a court ruling that prohibits its trainers from performing with killer whales, the Orlando Sentinel reports, citing a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The legal battle has lasted for years, beginning with the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau by an orca named Tilikum in 2010.

As we reported after the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined SeaWorld $75,000 and kept trainers from performing alongside the killer whales. At the time, SeaWorld contested OSHA's conclusion.

This past April, a U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., upheld that citation.

SeaWorld has taken a lot of heat for its use of the whales for entertainment, particularly after the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which featured Tilikum.

Since Brancheau's death in 2010, SeaWorld has taken steps to improve safety for trainers. As NBC 6 in South Florida reports, it "has implemented new safety protocols and equipment for trainers, including an investment of $70 million in lifting floors in the pools that could quickly isolate whales."

SeaWorld announced Aug. 15 that it would be creating bigger "living spaces" for the whales, the first of which will be at SeaWorld San Diego and is scheduled to open in 2018. The facility will be "nearly double" that of the existing one, with 10 million gallons of water — 50 feet deep and more than 350 feet long. It also said it would be investing $10 million for research on killer whales in the wild.

The animal-rights group PETA denounced the move to build "bigger concrete boxes," and its director of animal law said it was a "desperate drop-in-the-bucket move to try to turn back the hands of time."

While trainers won't be part of the show any longer, they will still be training with the whales to get them acclimated to humans, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

"The idea is that if someone were to fall or jump in the water, it wouldn't alarm or excite the whale and cause it to act aggressively," the paper says.

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Hojotoho! How much Metropolitan Opera trivia do you know? (Metropolitan Opera)

Masters And Disasters: The Met Opera Quiz

Aug 20, 2014

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Now that the embattled Metropolitan Opera has surmounted most of its labor squabbles, it's time to take a break from reading about the rancorous negotiations. See how many of these nerdworthy Met questions you can answer. Score high and bellow out your best Wagnerian "Hojotoho!" Score low and start learning the "Simpleton's aria" from Boris Godunov.

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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad walk along a street in Mleiha, near the Damascus airport, during a tour organized by the Syrian government on Aug. 15. (Reuters/Landov)

In Syria, The U.S. Weighs A Range Of Unpalatable Options

Aug 20, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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President Obama said Wednesday that the Islamic State is a cancer that threatens all governments in the Middle East. But that raises the question of what the U.S. could or should do.

Two former U.S. ambassadors to Syria, Robert Ford and Ryan Crocker, have advocated different approaches to a conflict where there are many different options. But none is appealing and there's no guarantee, or even a likelihood that U.S. action would ultimately determine the outcome.

Ford, who stepped down from the post in February, has wanted the U.S. to do more to arm moderate rebels, who are battling both President Bashar Assad's regime and Islamic State militants.

Crocker, on the other hand, has long argued that the Assad regime may be bad, but it doesn't pose nearly the same threat compared with the Islamic State, which previously called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

"I am no apologist for the Assad regime. I was there under father [Hafez Assad] and son [Bashar Assad]," says Crocker, who served as ambassador to Syria from 1998-2001. "They are a brutal bunch of bastards, without question. But in terms of our security, ISIS is by far the largest threat.

A Call To Strike In Syria And Iraq

Crocker also thinks the U.S. needs to launch airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria as well as Iraq — even if that means some coordination with Assad.

The Islamic State controls large swaths of territory in eastern Syria and western Iraq and has declared a caliphate, or a single Muslim empire that does not recognize existing borders.

"Since they erased the Iraq-Syria border, we should take them up on it," says Crocker, "and go after them both in Iraq and in Syria. They don't respect the border, but neither should we."

Crocker, now the dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, says there is no need to form an open alliance with Assad, who the U.S. accuses of carrying out mass atrocities.

Meanwhile, Joshua Landis, a Syria analyst, notes that any action the U.S. might take could play into Assad's hands.

"It means helping his government, because any attempt to destroy ISIS, which owns a third of the country, is going to rebound to his benefit unless the other militias take that territory," says Landis, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma and runs the blog Syria Comment.

There are other analysts and former State Department officials who argue that the U.S. should be doing much more to help moderate militias that are battling both the Islamic State and the Assad regime.

But Landis is skeptical.

"We don't have allies that are strong enough to replace the Syrian state and stabilize the country," he says.

So that poses a big dilemma for the U.S.

"If you work with Assad, you damage your reputation, but you might be able to help the Syrian people not die as much," Landis says. "If you destroy the Syrian state, what's left of it, you are going to get more chaos, and more ISIS."

Andrew Tabler, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes this debate and the Syrian conflict will play out for some time to come. He argues there are moral and practical reasons to avoid dealing with Assad.

"The biggest issue standing in the way of working with the Assad regime, even tacitly, is the real operational limitations of the Assad regime's forces," he says. "They are not heavily present in the eastern part of the country where ISIS is dominant. And when they fight ISIS directly, and they do sometimes, they are not very good at retaking and holding territory."

The U.S. is also concerned that the Syrian government has allowed the Islamic State to flourish, perhaps to show the world that those opposing the regime are terrorists.

Tabler says Obama has no good choices, but should at least be asking: "What can dislodge ISIS forces from that area? And the answer is, I think, working with moderates, including tribes in that area, very much like we are doing in Iraq."

But Obama has been far more cautious about getting involved in Syria since the war erupted there three years ago. And so far, he's given no indication that he's considering a major move in Syria.

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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad walk along a street in Mleiha, near the Damascus airport, during a tour organized by the Syrian government on Aug. 15. (Reuters/Landov)

EPA Wades Into Water Fight With Farmers

by Frank Morris
Aug 20, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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