Day: April 10, 2017

Investigation of Trump’s Charity Wins Pulitzer Prize

The biggest U.S. news story of 2016 — the tumultuous presidential campaign — yielded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for the Washington Post reporter who not only raised doubts about Donald Trump’s charitable giving but also revealed that the candidate had been recorded crudely bragging about grabbing women.


David A. Fahrenthold won the prize for national reporting, with the judges citing stories that examined Trump’s charitable foundation and called into question whether the real estate magnate was as generous as he claimed.


Fahrenthold’s submission also included his story about Trump’s raunchy behind-the-scenes comments during a 2005 taping of “Access Hollywood.” His talk about groping women’s genitals rocked the White House race and prompted a rare apology from the then-candidate.


In another election-related prize, Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal won the Pulitzer for commentary for columns that “connected readers to the shared virtues of Americans during one of the nation’s most divisive political campaigns.”


The judges said Fahrenthold’s reporting “created a model for transparent — journalism,” a model he built partly by using Twitter to publicize his efforts and let Trump see what he was doing. The president “can expect to see more of me on Twitter,” said Fahrenthold, now part of a team looking at Trump businesses.


American journalism’s most distinguished prizes also recognized work that shed light on international financial intrigue and held local officials accountable.


The New York Daily News and ProPublica won the Pulitzer in public service for uncovering how authorities used an obscure law, originally enacted to crack down on prostitution in Times Square in the 1970s, to evict hundreds of people, mostly poor minorities, from their homes.


“Thanks to this investigation, New York now sees how an extremely muscular law, combined with aggressive policing, combined with a lack of counsel, combined with lax judges produced damaging miscarriages of justice,” Daily News Editor in Chief Arthur Browne said. The Daily News reporter credited with most of the work was Sarah Ryley.


ProPublica’s managing editor, Robin Fields, said the project was “the type of collaboration that ProPublica had in mind” when the independent, nonprofit organization was launched nine years ago.


The New York Times’ staff received the international reporting award for its work on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to project Moscow’s power abroad. The award in feature writing went to the Times’ C.J. Chivers for a story about a Marine’s descent into violence after returning home from war.


Winners ranged from partnerships spanning hundreds of reporters to newspapers as small as The Storm Lake Times, a twice-weekly, 3,000-circulation family-owned paper in Iowa. Co-owner Art Cullen won the editorial writing award for challenging powerful corporate agricultural interests in the state.


Cullen said he was stunned by the win. “Nobody’s ever heard of us before,” he said with a laugh.


The prize for explanatory reporting went to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, McClatchy and the Miami Herald, which amassed a group of over 400 journalists to examine the leaked “Panama Papers” and expose the way that politicians, criminals and rich people stashed money in offshore accounts.


Meanwhile, the Herald’s Jim Morin won the award for editorial cartooning. He also won in 1996.


Eric Eyre of The Charleston Gazette-Mail received the investigative reporting prize for articles showing that drug wholesalers had shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia in six years, as 1,728 people fatally overdosed on the painkillers. Eyre obtained Drug Enforcement Administration records that leading drug wholesalers had fought in court to keep secret.


The staff of the East Bay Times in Oakland, California, received the breaking news reporting award for its coverage of a fire that killed 36 people at a warehouse party and for its follow-up reporting on how local officials hadn’t taken action that might have prevented it.


Executive Editor Neil Chase said the award was “tremendously humbling,” but “you have to pause and realize that 36 people died in the fire, and this story should have never happened.”


The staff of The Salt Lake Tribune received the local reporting award for its work on how Brigham Young University treated sexual assault victims. The series prompted the Mormon school to stop conducting honor code investigations into students who reported being sexually assaulted.


Hilton Als, a theater critic for The New Yorker, won in the criticism category. The judges praised how he strove to connect theater to the real-world, “shifting landscape of gender, sexuality and race.”


Freelancer Daniel Berehulak received the breaking news photography award for his images, published in The New York Times, documenting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drug dealers and users. Berehulak won the feature photography Pulitzer in 2015 for his work on the Ebola outbreak in Africa.


This year’s feature photography winner was E. Jason Wambsgans of the Chicago Tribune, for his portrayal of a 10-year-old boy who had been shot.


Amid concern about fake news and the role of the media, “it’s just a very important time to try to help people see the importance of great journalism in their lives and in the democracy,” prize administrator Mike Pride said as the awards were announced at Columbia University .


Arts prizes are awarded in seven categories, including fiction, drama and music. Among the arts winners, Colson Whitehead took the fiction prize for “The Underground Railroad,” a novel that combined flights of imagination with the grimmest and most realistic detail of 19th-century slavery. Playwright Lynn Nottage won her second drama Pulitzer, for “Sweat.”


This is the 101st year of the contest, established by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Public service award winners receive a gold medal; the other awards carry a prize of $15,000 each.


Havana Named Host City for 2017 International Jazz Day

Herbie Hancock has twice before visited Havana to perform intimate solo-duet concerts with his Cuban counterpart Chucho Valdes, but at the end of April the two renowned jazz pianists will be collaborating on a grander scale.


Hancock and Valdes will be serving as artistic directors for the 6th International Jazz Day.

On Monday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced that Havana will be the global host city for the event, culminating with an all-star concert on April 30 at the recently renovated 19th-century Gran Teatro de La Habana.

The concert will be broadcast live on Cuban television and live streamed by UNESCO.


Last year, Washington was the host city with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosting the global concert at the White House.


US, Russian Crew Lands After Six-month Stay on Space Station

A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts made a parachute landing in Kazakhstan on Monday, wrapping up a nearly six-month mission aboard the International Space Station, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

The Russian Soyuz capsule, which left the station shortly before 4 a.m. EDT (0800 GMT), touched down southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 7:20 a.m. EDT (1120 GMT).

Seated in the capsule were returning station commander Shane Kimbrough of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko from Russian space agency Roscosmos.

“It’s really neat to be part of something this big, something bigger than ourselves … even bigger than a nation,” Kimbrough said during a change-of-command ceremony on Sunday.

“We get the ability up here to interact with things that actually benefit all of humanity. It’s really humbling.”

Three crew members remain aboard the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth. In command is NASA’s Peggy Whitson, who on April 24 will break the 534-day record for the most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut.

Whitson, a veteran of two previous missions on the station, is the first woman to hold the post of commander twice.

Whitson, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and France’s Thomas Pesque will be joined by two new crew members on April 20.

The U.S. and Russian space agencies agreed last week to extend Whitson’s mission by three months.

Russia is reducing its station cadre to two from three members until its new science laboratory launches to the space station next year, the head of Roscosmos said last week at the U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Whitson will return to Earth in September, having amassed a career U.S. record of 666 days in orbit. Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who has 878 days in orbit, is the world’s most experienced space flier.


Scientists Link El Nino to Increase in Cholera in Eastern Africa

Researchers are reporting a link between a climate phenomenon know as El Nino and the number of cholera cases in eastern Africa. Predicting when there’s going to be an El Nino event could improve public health preparedness.

El Ninos are a global climate phenomenon that occurs at irregular times, approximately every two to seven years.

During an El Nino, surface ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific off the coast of South America become warmer than usual. The warming trend begins around Christmas time.

The following year, in the fall, sea surface temperatures also warm, if somewhat less, in the western Pacific, leading to extreme weather events like flooding and droughts, conditions that are ripe for cholera outbreaks.

Approximately 177 million people reside in areas where the incidence of cholera increases during El Nino.

But there’s been scant evidence of El Nino’s health impact in Africa.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the incidence of cholera increased in countries in East Africa.

“Because they can either lead to surface flooding that washes contamination into drinking water in areas where there’s open defecation,” said epidemiologist Sean Moore, who led the study. “It also can lead to overflowing of sewer systems in urban areas which again can lead to contamination of drinking water.”

There are approximately 150,000 cases of cholera per year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Moore, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore.

But during El Ninos, researchers found the incidence swelled by some 50,000 cholera cases in eastern Africa, although the overall number of cases on the continent did not change — for reasons that are not completely understood, said Moore.

Patterns of shift in the number of cholera cases were measured during El Ninos between the years 2000 and 2014. There also were 30,000 fewer cases reported in southern Africa during El Nino years compared to non-El Nino years, researchers found..

Scientists also saw a slight increase in the number of cholera cases in areas hit by drought due to El Nino.

Moore said that’s because when water becomes scarce, available drinking water can become contaminated by bacteria in human waste.

Without treatment, mortality rates from cholera can climb as high as 50 percent.

To the extent that the climate phenomenon can be predicted six to 12 months ahead of time, Moore said public health officials can prepare for outbreaks, which tend to occur early on.

“An advance warning could, even if it doesn’t prevent outbreak, it could at least prevent the deaths that tend to occur during the early part of an outbreak,” he said.

With oral rehydration therapy, Moore said the risk of death from cholera drops to 1 percent. He said there are now cheap cholera vaccines that could be used to prevent the disease when it’s known that an area is going to be hit by an El Nino.


Facing Fuel Shortage in Cuba, Havana Diplomats Roll Up Sleeves

When they are not tending to international affairs, diplomats based in Havana can be found these days stewing in interminable queues at gas stations and concocting ways to increase the octane in fuel as Cuba’s premium gasoline shortage takes its toll.

Cuba sent around an internal memo last week advising that it would restrict sales of high-octane, so-called “special fuel” in April. That is not an issue for most Cuban drivers, whose vintage American cars and Soviet-era Ladas use regular fuel.

But it is for the embassies that use modern cars whose engines could be damaged by the fuel at most Havana gas stations. So the diplomats are taking a leaf out of the book of Cubans, used to such shortages, and becoming resourceful.

Given the U.S. trade embargo, Cubans have for decades had to invent new ways to keep their cars on the road, replacing original engines with Russian ones and using homemade parts.

“I bought octane booster, and the embassy has bought lubricants, meant to help the motor deal with rubbish gasoline,” said one north European diplomat, who got a relative to bring the booster in his luggage given it is unavailable in Cuba.

“At the moment we are using the car that runs on diesel, so we can ‘survive’,” said an Eastern European diplomat.

Cuba has not announced the measure officially yet. According to the memo, “the special fuel remaining in stock at gas stations from April will only be sold in cash and to tourists until the inventory is depleted.”

“It’s very serious. I have already suspended a trip to Santiago de Cuba for fear of lack of gas,” said one Latin American diplomat, adding that it seemed like the problem would last. “Diplomats are very worried.”

Some embassies in Havana have people scouting out which stations still have some higher-octane fuel and are sending around regular updates to staff. One gas station worker said they were getting small deliveries of fuel each day still.

The embassies are also advising people to carpool or use the diplomatic shuttle.

Meanwhile the European Union has requested from the ministry of foreign affairs that one or more service centers be set aside for diplomats with special gas, according to a European diplomat.

Cuba has become increasingly reliant on its socialist ally Venezuela for refined oil products but the latter has faced its own fuel shortage in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the Communist-ruled island cannot easily replace subsidized Venezuelan supplies as it is strapped for cash.

Although the memo referred to April, it is not clear how long the shortage will last. Cubans joke that once something disappears in Cuba, it is never to return, referring to products that have disappeared from their ration book like cigarettes, beef and condensed milk.

The Peugeot dealership in Havana has sent its clients lists of technical tips how to protect their motors while using lower-grade gasoline, including more frequent maintenance and ensuring vehicles at running at optimum temperature before driving.

The shortage is also impacting others using modern cars such as taxi drivers, tourists and workers at joint ventures.


Symantec Attributes 40 Cyber Attacks to CIA-linked Hacking Tools

Past cyber attacks on scores of organizations around the world were conducted with top-secret hacking tools that were exposed recently by the Web publisher Wikileaks, the security researcher Symantec Corp said on Monday.

That means the attacks were likely conducted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The files posted by WikiLeaks appear to show internal CIA discussions of various tools for hacking into phones, computers and other electronic gear, along with programming code for some of them, and multiple people

familiar with the matter have told Reuters that the documents came from the CIA or its contractors.

Symantec said it had connected at least 40 attacks in 16 countries to the tools obtained by WikiLeaks, though it followed company policy by not formally blaming the CIA.

The CIA has not confirmed the Wikileaks documents are genuine. But agency spokeswoman Heather Fritz Horniak said that any WikiLeaks disclosures aimed at damaging the intelligence community “not only jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.

“It is important to note that CIA is legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans, and CIA does not do so,” Horniak said.

She declined to comment on the specifics of Symantec’s research.

The CIA tools described by Wikileaks do not involve mass surveillance, and all of the targets were government entities or had legitimate national security value for other reasons, Symantec researcher Eric Chien said ahead of Monday’s


In part because some of the targets are U.S. allies in Europe, “there are organizations in there that people would be surprised were targets,” Chien said.

Symantec said sectors targeted by operations employing the tools included financial, telecommunications, energy, aerospace, information technology, education, and natural resources.

Besides Europe, countries were hit in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. One computer was infected in the United States in what was likely an accident – the infection was removed within hours. All the programs were used to open back doors, collect and remove copies of files, rather than to destroy anything.

The eavesdropping tools were created at least as far back as 2011 and possibly as long ago as 2007, Chien said. He said the WikiLeaks documents are so complete that they likely encompass the CIA’s entire hacking toolkit, including many taking advantage of previously unknown flaws.

The CIA is best-known for its human intelligence sources and analysis, not vast electronic operations. For that reason, being forced to build new tools is a setback but not a catastrophe.

It could lead to awkward conversations, however, as more allies realize the Americans were spying and confront them.

Separately, a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers on Saturday released another batch of pilfered National Security Agency hacking tools, along with a blog post criticizing President Donald Trump for attacking Syria and moving away from his conservative political base.

It is unclear who is behind the Shadow Brokers or how the group obtained the files.



Drake, The Chainsmokers Lead Billboard Award Nods

Rapper Drake and EDM duo The Chainsmokers are the top contenders at the Billboard Music Awards with 22 nominations each.


Dick clark productions announced Monday that the performers set a record for most nominations in a year. The 2017 awards show will air live May 21 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.


Other big contenders include twenty one pilots (17 nominations) and Rihanna (14).


Nominees for the biggest award, top artist, include Adele, Beyonce, Justin Bieber, the Chainsmokers, Drake, Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Rihanna, twenty one pilots and the Weeknd.


Albums from Beyonce, Drake, Rihanna, twenty one pilots and the Weeknd are up for top Billboard 200 album.


The Billboard Awards have 52 categories. The show will air live on ABC.




Nearly 5M Children in War-torn Yemen Get Polio Vaccine

Nearly five million children under age five have been successfully vaccinated against polio in war-torn Yemen almost two-months after a nationwide immunization campaign was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank.

The campaign, which began on February 20, has taken much longer than usual to complete because of security challenges.  The logistics involved in reaching millions of children with life-saving vaccines in war-torn Yemen are immense and complicated.

WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, told VOA different parts of the country are controlled by different warring parties.  He said informing them of the campaign, organizing health teams and transporting the polio vaccines takes a lot of time.

“For this campaign, more than 5,000 vehicles have been rented, more than 40,000 health workers were mobilized…. This is a big operation, obviously.  But, with the support of local religious leaders, political leaders, that element is absolutely crucial that it is being accepted by the population and that vaccination teams are being trained and prepared in advance,” he said.

Jasarevic said health workers only recently were able to bring the campaign to Yemen’s Sa’ada governorate.  Despite intensifying violence, he said more than 150,000 children under age five were vaccinated against polio and nearly 370,000 children between the ages of six months and 15 years were immunized against measles there.

He said the war has made routine immunizations in Yemen impossible, making nationwide immunization campaigns against polio and other killer diseases necessary.

“We have seen for example in Syria that polio came back because there were areas where children were not immunized for some time.  We do not want this to happen in Yemen.  Yemen is still polio-free and we want to keep it polio-free and these campaigns are one of the ways to make sure that the virus cannot find a host,” Jasarevic said.  

The United Nations reports Yemen’s two-year-long conflict has all but destroyed the country’s health system.  It says the situation of Yemen’s children continues to worsen and many are dying from preventable diseases.


Researchers Close to Injection-free Vaccine

Getting a vaccine without the shot has always been one of the greatest hopes of medicine. For people in the developed world it means getting a vaccine can be as simple as taking an aspirin. For people in the developing world, or in isolated rural areas, it means they can get vaccines without a doctor or nurse. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.


Malaysian Rhino Horn Seizure Worth Over $3 Million

Malaysian customs officials said Monday they have confiscated 18 rhino horns, weighing more than 51 kilograms, and valued at over $3 million.

Customs said they found the horns in a crate Friday at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport cargo terminal after receiving an anonymous tip.

The haul had been shipped from Mozambique via a Qatar Airways flight with false documentation, classifying the the horns as “obre de arte” — or work of art.  

Rhino horn global trade is banned under a United Nations convention.  

Malaysian officials say the case is under investigation and no suspects have been arrested.

Rhino horns have been used for centuries in traditional Asian medicine, but they have not been proven to cure any illnesses.  

The wild rhino population at the start of the 20th century was 500,000, but has since dwindled to 29,000.