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As Gaza Fighting Rages, West Bank Palestinians Can Only Watch

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Palestinian Imad Abudayyah and his son, Ghassan, speak to relatives in the Gaza Strip via Skype from Ramallah in the West Bank. Israeli restrictions make it extremely difficult to travel between the two territories. West Bank Palestinians have largely been bystanders in the current round of fighting. Photo: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR

By Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson | NPR

At least three times a day, Imad Abudayyah, 49, fires up his laptop at the West Bank hotel where he’s currently living with his 11-year-old son, Ghassan, to reach out to relatives in the Gaza Strip. Abudayyah says Skype is the only way they can see the family members they have left behind.

He is a Western-educated budget expert who is working with the Palestinian Authority on finance reform, a post that makes it easier for him to obtain an Israeli permit to come and go from Gaza. But even for Abudayyah, getting permission is tough these days. He missed 15 days of work waiting for his permit to leave Gaza and return to Ramallah in the West Bank, Abudayyah says.

“I remember 10 years ago it was easier,” he says. “The more time that passes, the more complicated the situation. I’m afraid in the coming years we may not be able to come to the West Bank.”

A poll last September by Gisha, an Israeli group that monitors Palestinian freedom of movement, showed more than a quarter of the 1.8 million people living in Gaza have relatives in the West Bank. But they rarely, if ever, get to see each other, even in periods of relative calm, because official Israeli policies severely restrict such travel between the territories, which are less than 40 miles apart.

A Palestinian man pushes his bicycle amid debris following an Israeli military strike in Gaza City on Wednesday. While Israel and Hamas have clashed repeatedly in Gaza, the West Bank has been comparatively calm in recent years.
Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images, via NPR

According to Gisha, the restrictive rules are part of Israel’s “separation policy,” a systematic attempt to divide Gaza and the West Bank. The policy became even more restrictive once Hamas took over the government of the Gaza Strip in 2006, and only a few hundred Palestinian civilians have been allowed to cross each month as “exceptional humanitarian cases.”

While conditions are difficult in both Palestinian territories, the latest fighting has again shown that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live very separate lives.

The West Bank is headed by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and his secular Fatah movement, in contrast to Gaza, which is headed by Hamas, the radical Islamist group. West Bank Palestinians, on average, are better off than their Gaza counterparts. The West Bank has occasional outbursts of violence, but has been relatively calm in recent years compared with Gaza, where Israel and Hamas have clashed repeatedly.

This isolation has made Skype a vital bridge for families like Abudayyah’s that are divided between the territories.

He says it was especially difficult to get a permit for his son. It took more than a month, but he finally managed to bring his only child to Ramallah six days ago.

The Israelis “bombed the flat above where he lives with his mom” in Gaza, says Abudayyah, who is divorced. “Luckily he wasn’t home; he was visiting his friend. [But] it scared the hell out of him.”

Abudayyah couldn’t get permits for other relatives. His younger brother, Rizek, and his family moved into Abudayyah’s vacant Gaza City apartment. It’s considered relatively safe because it’s located near a government compound reserved for Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader. Because of the Palestinian political split, Abbas doesn’t visit Gaza, and his compound there is empty and considered an unlikely Israeli target.

Abudayyah says he still worries. “Definitely whenever we feel there is sort of danger around the neighborhood, we talk to each other,” he says.

It’s not always easy to get through on Skype because constant shelling and power outages limit Internet access in Gaza. On Tuesday evening, it took several tries to reach his brother, and even after they connected, it took two minutes for the scratchy connection to stabilize enough for the men to see each other.

Ghassan fidgets next to his dad who exchanges pleasantries with family members. Soon the boy’s 12-year-old cousin, Noor, is on the line.

She asks Ghassan whether there is shelling in Ramallah, to which the boy replied: “No, we only have demonstrations here,” along with a general strike earlier in the week.

He tells her he wants to go and protest with other Palestinians against Israel, but adds: “My father won’t let me to go.”

The banter is soon replaced by more difficult questions about the war. Imad Abudayyah asked if anyone in the family has been able inspect the damage to their brick factory in Gaza that Israeli forces destroyed earlier in the week. His brother tells him no, because it’s been too dangerous to get there.

The relatives say goodbye before the power is cut off at the Gaza end.

Young Ghassan has mixed feelings about the calls.

“Actually I am happy because I can talk to them and see them on Skype, yeah, but I can’t see them in Ramallah. I want my family to come to Ramallah to be safe,” he says. The same goes for his friends and all of Gaza, he adds.

His father says better yet is if a real cease-fire can be negotiated so that the family can reunite in Gaza.

A Plan To Untangle Our Digital Lives After We’re Gone

A proposed law might determine what happens to our online accounts when we die. But the tech industry warns the measure could threaten the privacy of the deceased. Photo: iStockphoto via NPR

By Molly Roberts | NPR

Ancient peoples sent their dead to the grave with their prized possessions — precious stones, gilded weapons and terracotta armies. But unlike these treasures, our digital property won’t get buried with us. Our archived Facebook messages, old email chains and even Tinder exchanges will hover untouched in the online cloud when we die.

Or maybe not.

Last week, the Uniform Law Commission drafted the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, a model law that would let relatives access the social media accounts of the deceased. A national lawyers’ group, the ULC aims to standardize law across the country by recommending legislation for states to adopt, particularly when it comes to timely, fast-evolving issues.

And little evolves more quickly than the Web.

As we live more and more of our lives online, more and more of what used to be tangible turns digital.

“Where you used to have a shoebox full of family photos, now those photos are often posted to a website,” notes Ben Orzeske, legislative counsel at the ULC.

That shoebox used to go to the executor of the deceased’s will, who would open it and distribute its contents to family members. The will’s author could decide what she wanted to give and to whom. The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act aims to make the digital shoebox equally accessible.

“This is the concept of ‘media neutrality,’ ” Orzeske explained. “The law gives the executor of your estate access to digital assets in the same way he had access to your tangible assets in the old world. It doesn’t matter if they’re on paper or on a website.”

It turns out those terms-of-service agreements Internet users usually click through without reading include some strict rules: The small print on sites like Facebook and Google specifies that the user alone can access his or her account. But the ULC’s proposed law would override those contracts, Orzeske said.

The law’s proponents say this change would solve a host of problems.

For one thing, it would allow the executor and family members to clear up any unresolved financial matters in the wake of a death.

“An executor could go find estate assets like online bank accounts through email,” Orzeske said.

But the law could also have more sentimental implications.

Though Facebook switches dead users’ profiles to memorial status if a decedent’s family asks, the site does not allow family members to log onto a loved one’s page without a formal request. And sometimes, these petitions are turned down.

That’s happened to many grieving relatives, from Virginia farmer Ricky Rash to Jay and Helen Stassen of Minnesota. Both families lost their sons to suicide — and both were frustrated in their attempts to find answers through their child’s Facebook account.

ULC lawmakers hope their efforts will fix this problem, allowing families to handle online accounts just as they would photographs or diaries.

But Facebook — and companies like it — see another side to the issue. Where the ULC’s policy might seem only to help, Jim Halpert, head of the privacy practice at DLA Piper U.S., thinks it could hurt.

Halpert, who represents social media and communications companies like Facebook, Google and Yahoo, explained that the proposal does more than offer distressed families closure — too much more.

“The bill takes no account of minimizing intrusions into the privacy of third parties who communicated with the deceased,” Halpert said in an email statement. “This would include highly confidential communications from third parties who are still alive — doctors, psychiatrists, and clergy, for example.”

Carl Szabo, policy counsel for the NetChoice eCommerce trade association — whose members include AOL, Yahoo, Facebook and Google — says the ULC law would also threaten the privacy of the deceased.

“It sets the default privacy to zero,” Szabo said. “Unless the user makes an affirmative choice, by nature everything is disclosed.”

For someone unfamiliar with the law, then, what seemed private in life may turn public after death.

So is there a middle ground?

Some companies are working on it.

Yahoo Japan’s Yahoo Ending lets the deceased choose — before death, of course. The new platform allows the living user to craft farewell emails, prepare cancellations of subscription services, and choose certain photos and videos for postmortem deletion.

Sites in the United States are trying, too.

“Google has a tool on their dashboard called the inactive account manager,” Orzeske said. “It allows you to hit a switch and choose to have your emails deleted, preserved or handed over to someone if your account is inactive for some amount of time.”

This protects privacy even in death, letting a user choose to keep confidential communications confidential.

“It serves the exact same purpose as making a will,” Orzeske said.

But Szabo says the ULC act trumps the user’s wishes the moment the state in which he or she resides enacts the law.

“The day the state passes the uniform act, all your privacy choices are overridden,” he said.

As states decide whether to make the ULC’s vision a reality, companies will search for ways to let their clients know which gates will open after death and which will remain closed.

In the meantime, a Facebook profile remains shrouded in just as much mystery as King Tut’s tomb.

Molly Roberts is an intern on NPR’s Washington desk.

Related Stories: 
 May You Tweet In Peace: Social Media Beyond The Grave
 The Effort To Write Laws For Your Digital Life After Death

‘Dylan’s Gospel’ Album Reissued

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Dylan's-GospelBy Eric Berg | KUSP’s Berg Alert - 

“Dylan’s Gospel” by The Brothers and Sisters was the pet project of, and directed by, LA record producer Lou Adler – who recorded the Mamas and the Papas, made The Monterey Pop Festival happen and produced Carol King’s “Tapestry” album.  Inspired by the choirs he heard in the black Baptist churches of South LA, and the gospel feel of Dylan’s lyrics, he rightfully thought pairing up the two would be a match made in heaven.  Adler assembled some 40 church singers, professional vocalists and assorted musicians from the area. Most of them already knew each other.  He dubbed them “The Brothers and Sisters of Los Angeles” and recorded this album in a quick, four-day musical marathon of joyful singing in June of 1969.

Gospel half hour

Not exactly the Dylan Gospel Hour by any means, this long out of print recording is a too short but essential 36 minutes – ten tracks of exhilarating 60’s Dylan masterpieces done with “gospel and funk and hallelujah” – as the album was described in a hipster magazine ad some 45 years ago.

Merry Clayton and others

Several of the sisters were professional background singers who later became well known in the years after “Dylan’s Gospel”.  Like Merry Clayton, best known for her signature howl behind Jagger on the Stone’s “Gimme Shelter” and recently featured in the Academy Award winning documentary “20 Ft From Stardom” She leads the choir on “The Mighty Quinn” and gives it just the right amount of Sunday afternoon church party funk.  (By the way, Clayton is currently recovering from serious injuries after a mid June car accident in Los Angeles.)

Edna Wright, sister of Lady Lay” and you’ll hear Gloria Jones with The Brothers on the album’s full throttle gospel Darlene Love and a member of the Blossoms, takes the lead on “Lay standout track,  “Chimes of Freedom”.

A groundbreaking first

Originally released on Adler’s Ode Records label, “Dylan’s Gospel” went straight to the cut out bins and out of print almost overnight. There have been other more modern attempts to gospelize the works of Bob Dylan over the years but this album, long sought after by collectors was a groundbreaking first and it still is.  Adler’s Brothers and Sisters  brought together a group of then unknown singers who gathered simply because they loved to sing.  And what could be more suitable back in those times for new gospel record than these ten songs Dylan wrote during his most productive years.

Long overdue, “Dylan’s Gospel” by The Brothers and Sisters has just been reissued with extensive liner notes and photos on cd and vinyl by Light in the Attic Records.

That calls for a mighty “hallelujah!”

 

Labor Violations Remain Common in Farm Work

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By Adia White | KUSP News

The strawberry harvest last year in Santa Cruz County earned farmers  more than $390 million.  The Department of Labor says somewhere in that pile of money was about a million that one farm didn’t pay its employees. The Department of Labor recently announced it was suing a farm in Watsonville, charging the owner had underpaid and demanded kickbacks from employees. And in the ag industry that story is easy to find. Labor violations in the agricultural sector also include dilapidated housing and workers who simply go unpaid. KUSP’s Adia White reports.

Ocean Waves As You May Never Have Seen Before

A large wave on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, sucks sand off of the seafloor and into the wave itself. This photo is the cover image of Clark Little’s latest coffee table book, Shorebreak. Photo: Clark Little

By Barbara J. King

Clark Little photographs ocean waves.

Many of us do. We may be drawn to waves because they connect us with the moon and the tides, or with the magnificent marine creatures small and large who dwell in our seas, or just because it’s fun to surf and swim and float along the shore. And so we stand at the ocean’s edge, whip out our cellphones or our cameras and tripods, and aim to snap that perfect image.

Clark Little goes about things a little differently. Working on Oahu’s North Shore and focusing on shorebreak waves, he adopts what his website calls “a unique and often dangerous perspective of waves from the inside out.”

What exactly “waves from the inside out” means can be grasped by looking at this write-up of his work by Katie Hosmer on the My Modern Met site.

Even better, don’t miss this 3 1/2 minute video. In it we see Little’s technique in action, plunging right into the waves with his handheld camera. His passion for the ocean and its “heavy, four-lipped monster” is there for all to see.

 

Little’s photography is art. But it is science, too, I think, in the sense that it invites us to think and learn about the physics of waves.

On this summer’s day, enjoy the sight of Little’s awesome waves!

Note: It’s thanks to my Twitter friend biologist Malcolm Campbell that I learned of Little’s artistry. Malcolm is great fun to follow on Twitter, in part because each week he compiles a digest of online science posts and articles. (My July 6 post for 13.7 about stray dogs in Puerto Rico was a recent “read of the week” pick of his.) Thanks, Malcolm!


Barbara’s most recent book on animals was released in paperback in April. You can keep up with what she is thinki

California Approves $500 Fines For Residential Water-Wasters

A scene like like could lead to a $500 fine. Courtesy of Stephen Laufer

A scene like like could lead to a $500 fine. Courtesy of Stephen Laufer

 

…voluntary conservation measures have failed to achieve the 20 percent reduction that Gov. Jerry Brown was hoping for.

 

By L. Carol Ritchie (via nprnews) -

Californians who waste water will have to pay up to $500 a day for their extravagance under new restrictions approved Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board.

The move comes after the board concluded that voluntary conservation measures have failed to achieve the 20 percent reduction in water use that Gov. Jerry Brown was hoping for, reports The Associated Press.

In fact, a survey by the board showed a 1 percent increase in water use in May compared to the same month a year ago.

Residents will be fined for wasteful outdoor watering, including “watering landscaping to the point that runoff flows onto sidewalks, washing a vehicle without a nozzle on the hose, or hosing down hard surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways,” AP reports.

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The Coffis Brothers – No Longer on the ‘Wrong Side of The Road’

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By Eric Berg from the BergAlert

The Coffis Brothers and the Mountain Men return to their old stomping grounds for a headlining show at Don Quixote’s in Felton on Saturday, July 12 2014. The above KUSP podcast was aired 07/10/14

Coffis

San Lorenzo Valley rockers The Coffis Brothers and The Mountain Men are straight out’a Ben Lomond, but on their new album “Wrong Side of the Road”  you’d swear they were from somewhere deep in the land of Dixie by way of an extended stay in the hills of LA’s fabled Laurel Canyon.

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Why Monterey Isn’t Rationing Water and Santa Cruz Is

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SC Water Dept

Before rationing took effect, Santa Cruz checked water use with an aggressive public information campaign. Photo: Wes Sims.

By Wes Sims | KUSP News

Two of the larger districts in the Monterey Bay area rely on rivers for their water. Under rationing, in Santa Cruz, if your family uses fifteen hundred gallons over the limit, Water Director Rosemary Menard says “You’d be looking at about 75 dollars a month in fines.”

Meanwhile, on the Monterey Peninsula, there are no fines. Here’s why there’s rationing in one place and not another.

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Independence Day Do’s and Don’ts

The temporary 'entrance' to Twin Lakes Beach, the day before. Photo: Laufer

The temporary ‘entrance’ to Twin Lakes Beach, the day before. Photo: Laufer

Monterey Bay area cities and Counties host numerous Independence Day events and a variety of regulations aimed mostly at fireworks. So here’s a brief digest of things to do and what not to do where. First off fireworks: they cause injuries and fires every year. Kids are proportionally more likely to get hurt. For some alarming quantitative outcomes of previous July 4ths check out this handout from Marina’s Web site.

Getting Around

Santa Cruz County’s Metro bus service will not operate.

Monterey Salinas Transit is operating on a Sunday schedule.

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Questlove And The Roots: How A Hip-Hop Band Conquered Late Night

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Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson serves as drummer, bandleader and producer for The Roots. Photo: Ben Watts/Press Here Publicity

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson serves as drummer, bandleader and producer for The Roots. Photo: Ben Watts/Press Here Publicity

By Dave Deggens

The not-so-secret weapon on The Tonight Show is The Roots, a band whose success on the NBC program was so swift it even surprised a few people at NBC. The group’s drummer and leader, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, says music is a crucial part of The Tonight Show, and he spent some time showing NPR TV critic Eric Deggans exactly why.

For the first time, a hip-hop group is the house band for the most influential TV show in late night.

And you can chalk up much of The Roots’ success to the relaxed perfectionism of the band’s leader, Questlove.

When I first meet him, he is lounging on a couch in a mixing room, deep inside The Tonight Show‘s Rockefeller Center studios. Casually dressed in black jeans and black hoodie emblazoned with the words “legendary Roots crew,” Questlove is listening to a recording of the band rehearsing its new single, “Never.”

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