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Lunch lady rises to teachers union leader

Lily Eskelsen García, 59, a telegenic, guitar-slinging firebrand, has made her unlikely rise to the top of the National Education Association as the union faces the most daunting political challenges in its 157-year history.

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She is already fighting back with blunt talk, urging teachers nationwide to revolt against “stupid” education reforms and telling politicians to leave teaching to the professionals.

Her first priority: Putting the brakes on standardized testing, an issue she believes will resonate not only with her members but also with parents — important potential allies for the political clashes she sees ahead. García believes the country is in the grip of testing mania, the quest for high scores killing joy, narrowing curriculums and perverting the learning process.

“I’ll be damned if I will sit quietly and play nice and say diplomatic things about something that has corrupted the profession I love,” García said.

Stepping in as the first new president in six years, García is taking over a union that is at war with old antagonists and increasingly sparring with its longtime allies.

While Republicans are aiming to weaken teachers unions through policies such as private-school vouchers and legal battles over dues collection, the unions also are colliding with Democrats who are challenging bedrock labor rights such as seniority and teacher tenure. High-profile Democrats, such as Rep. George Miller, D-California, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, shocked teachers in June when they applauded a Los Angeles judge’s ruling that found California’s teacher tenure laws were unconstitutional. Last month, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown organized a similar lawsuit in New York and has pledged more to come in other states.

The NEA, which represents about one out of every 100 Americans, has been increasingly at odds with the Obama administration over testing and teacher evaluations, among other issues. That tension reached a boil in July, when the NEA — historically the more reticent of the two major teachers unions — demanded Duncan’s resignation.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time when conditions surrounding teacher unionism have been as threatening as they are now,”said Charles Taylor Kerchner, a professor at Claremont Graduate University who has written extensively about teachers unions.

Opponents of the unions have claimed the moral high ground, accusing the two main national teachers unions, the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), of protecting teachers’ interests at the expense of children, charges that have damaged their image.

Now, in steps García, a loquacious longtime resident of Utah who began her education career as a cafeteria lunch lady soon after graduating from high school.

“That’s padding my résumé,” she said dryly from her office at the NEA’s headquarters, four blocks from the White House. “I was actually the salad girl. They wouldn’t let me near the hot food.”

Daughter of a Panamanian mother and granddaughter of a Mississippi sharecropper, García was the first in her family to graduate from college. She paid her way through the University of Utah with student loans and by singing in bars and coffeehouses, accompanied on the guitar by her first husband, Ruel Eskelsen.

She graduated magna cum laude and earned a master’s degree before going to teach at Orchard Elementary in West Valley City. Nine years later, she was named the Utah Teacher of the Year.

“I was a very good teacher,” said García, who taught at the school for 16 years.

That same year, the teachers union was dueling with the governor over school funding. The union held a rally in Salt Lake City and invited the Teacher of the Year to speak. García strummed her guitar and sang an original composition: “I’m-a-Teacher-and-I-Got-To-Work-In-Utah Blues.” In short order, she was elected president of the Utah Education Association.

She rose up the ranks and was propelled to the executive committee of the NEA in 1996. Two years later, García took a leave of absence to run for Congress in an ill-fated attempt to unseat a Republican.

In 2011, García’s personal life took a tragic turn when her husband committed suicide in their Washington home. She found his body when she returned from an NEA business trip. They had been married 38 years.

“Depression took Ruel the way cancer takes some people,” García said. “There are no bad guys in this, no villains. He didn’t do this to us. His sickness did this. His sickness took him away. Once you understand that, it doesn’t take away the pain but it takes away the anger.”

She has found strength in talking. Trying to protect García, co-workers at the union wanted to post a notice that Ruel “died suddenly.”

“And I said, ‘No, you won’t,’ ” she said. García dictated a new version: “After a lifelong struggle with depression, he took his life.”

Her voicemail and email inboxes filled.

“People were thanking me for being that clear and telling me their own stories,” García said. “They would tell me about their mother, or their son, or their own attempt. I knew it meant something to them that I didn’t hide this and that I wasn’t angry and I wasn’t embarrassed.”

Both her sons have struggled with drug addiction. Her younger son, Jared, has a lengthy criminal record, mostly for theft and burglary.

“He’s probably been in prison more than he’s been out,” said García, who adopted Jared when he was 4, rescuing him from an early childhood of abuse. “I thought: ‘I’m a great teacher. I’ve got all this love.’ But that’s not how it works.”

García pressed on. “Life is good when you think about it,” she said.

García is as plain-spoken about her work as she is about her personal life. When she addressed the NEA’s annual convention in July, she attacked those who consider standardized tests an all-important measure of student and teacher success.

“It’s the testing, stupid!” García said, riffing on the slogan linked to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. “Better yet, it’s the stupid testing!” she shouted, calling standardized testing a “phony” accountability system that has hurt public education.

Now the NEA’s vice president, García will take the top over post from Dennis Van Roekel, a one-time high school math teacher who was decidedly more measured in his manner and speech. In her new role, García will earn an annual salary of $283,124, and other compensation can add an additional $100,000.

García also faces internal problems at the NEA, with membership plummeting more than 7 percent between 2010 and 2013 to a total of about 3 million educators.

Union officials have blamed the drop on reduced education spending, the growth of charter schools — which are largely not unionized — and the increased use of technology in the classroom.

Union members are divided about the best way to regain footing, with a more militant faction known as the Badass Teachers Association arguing that the NEA has been too complacent in its dealings with the Obama administration.

“Teachers are very disillusioned with some of the things that both unions have done,” said Marla Kilfoyle, a high school teacher who is general manager of Badass Teachers, which has about 50,000 members. “But the anger toward the NEA seems to be more palpable.”

That group and others want the unions to dump the Common Core State Standards, the national K-12 math and reading standards that have been adopted in most states. But leaders of both unions remain committed to the Common Core.

“I read the standards, and I love them,” said García, who has a Common Core app on her phone.

García’s tightrope challenge is to respond to the concerns of members while offering concrete ways to improve schools that will win support from the public and repair fraying ties to longtime allies, observers said.

“As talented as she is, that’s really hard to do,” said Frederick M. Hess, a political scientist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Last year, in a civil ceremony, García married Alberto García, a Mexican artist. Her Spanish is spotty and his English is minimal, but they managed to work together on a book for young adults, titled “Rabble Rousers,” about social-justice heroes. “I wrote it at a seventh-grade level, so members of Congress could understand it,” García quipped.

García — who has written a humor column about parenting and maintains a blog called “Lily’s Blackboard” — often injects such wit into the matters she takes most seriously. She once penned a protest song about No Child Left Behind, with lyrics that included the line: “If we have to test their butts off, there will be no child’s behind left.”

She and her husband held a wedding ceremony in July before family and friends at the NEA’s convention. It was officiated by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the partner of AFT President Randi Weingarten, who also attended. García is working with Weingarten to forge more collaboration between the unions, which have frequently worked in isolation.

“Can’t you just see this scene in the made-for-TV Lifetime movie about my life?” García said.

While he is awaiting an immigrant visa, Alberto García lives in Mexico and his wife lives in Washington.

That leaves her free time to concentrate on the battles ahead. The NEA presidency is term-limited to six years. As García considers the union’s challenges, she sounds every bit the elementary school teacher.

“It all comes down to building personal relationships,” she said, smiling. “Personal relationships with someone who’s not always your friend, or maybe you didn’t think could be your friend. But you try. . . . I just started. And I’ve got six years to get something done.”

How hummingbirds use their tongues to extract nectar

Until now, the general consensus was that hummingbirds used capillary action to sip tiny bursts of nectar.

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Capillary action is a force you can observe by putting a long, thin tube in a glass of water: The water will travel up through the narrow space without any suction. Scientists thought that the long, narrow grooves they saw on hummingbird tongues accomplished the same feat.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers uncovered the truth: Their tongues work like tiny mechanical pumps.

Study authors Alejandro Rico-Guevara and Kristiina Hurme (both of the University of Connecticut) explained the process in an article for the Conversation:

[begin ital]

The grooves in the hummingbird tongue don’t reach the throat, so the bird cannot use them as tiny straws. For this reason, instead of using vacuum to generate suction – imagine drinking lemonade out of a straw – the system works like a tiny pump, powered by the springiness of the tongue. The bird squashes the tongue flat, and when it springs open, this expansion rapidly pulls the nectar into the grooves in its tongue. It turns out it’s elastic energy – potential mechanical energy stored by the flattening of the tongue – that lets hummingbirds collect nectar much faster than if they relied on capillarity.

[end ital]

In other words, the bird rapidly reshapes its tongue, and that change in tension draws sweet nectar into their mouths.

This allows them to drain an entire flower in under a second — a process much too quick for capillary action.

Apple Watch: You’ll want one, but you don’t need one

A version of this happens dozens of times throughout the day-for messages, emails, activity achievements, tweets, etc.

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Wait — isn’t the promise of the Apple Watch to help me stay in the moment, undisturbed by the mesmerizing void of my iPhone?

Let’s back up. The Apple Watch is an epic product release. It’s the company’s first new product category since the iPad and the first new product since Steve Jobs died. It was created almost entirely under the guidance of Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, and it’s the first device from Apple that was designed-hardware and software-by Jony Ive. Apple has sunk money into new retail experiences and positioned the device, which starts at $349 and climbs above $10,000, as both the latest must-have gadget and a bona fide luxury item. To say it’s a major moment for Apple would be an understatement.

No one is questioning Apple’s ability to mint money with its gadgets and services (see: $178 billion in the company’s cash reserves), but the ambitions of the watch speak to Apple’s broader ambitions. With a possible entry into the auto market on the horizon, Apple’s success at getting into-and winning-a whole new category is a big deal.

Apple faces two huge challenges with the watch. It has to make a beautiful gadget that hews to the company’s history of groundbreaking design and technology. And because it’s a brand-new product category, the company has to make a case for the very existence of not just its watch, but any watch. It has to persuade people they need technology on their wrists.

As to looks, the watch’s hardware is beautiful in a surgical way. The little cube of metal and glass is very much an Apple product: clean, sleek, remarkably solid. But as a piece of jewelry, it’s similar to other digital and smartwatches. The design doesn’t compete with Rolex or Breitling for sheer style, but the more I wore the inconspicuous thing, the more I liked it on my wrist.

It’s loaded with cutting- edge technology. The tiny Retina display has a new form of pressure sensitivity Apple calls Force Touch, which responds to not only where but how hard you touch the screen. The watch notifies you with extremely nuanced vibrations via its Taptic Engine, which can produce strikingly realistic sensations, almost like a bell tapping on your wrist. Perhaps most important, the watch’s “digital crown” helps you navigate long menus, set options, and zoom in and out of maps and photos.

The speedy software and motion tracking is controlled by the company’s new S1 processor, which packs multiple components on a single chip. I have no doubt the Apple Watch is the most advanced piece of wearable technology available today.

The Apple Watch does function as a watch, with literally millions of different dial combinations. Its timekeeping is so precise, it’s within 50 milliseconds of the global Coordinated Universal Time. Apple has had some fun with this: If you’re in a room full of Mickey Mouse faces, Mickey will tap his foot in perfect sync on every watch. It’s incredibly cool.

Apple allows you customize the watch face, with not only Mickey and other designs but widgets it’s calling Complications. These items dotting the edges of the display can tell the temperature, signal your next calendar appointment, show the phases of the moon, and so on, offering information that elevates the device beyond a simple timepiece.

Still, it is a timepiece, and one problem makes it somewhat inferior to a conventional wristwatch: It activates its screen only when it thinks you’re looking at it. Sometimes a subtle twist of your wrist will do, but I often had to swing my wrist in an exaggerated upward motion to bring the display to life. Even so, sometimes the screen doesn’t turn on. Sometimes you tap it and nothing happens. For all Apple’s touting of its remarkable time-telling device, I found it lacking for this reason alone.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things to wrap your head around is the way the watch extends-and often replicates-your phone’s functions. You can receive and send text messages, for instance, but doing so on the small screen with your hand cocked in the appropriate position isn’t ideal if you’re working on something longer than a one-line reply.

And although it connects deeply with the phone, the watch has a completely new way of doing things. Because navigation is split between swipes of your finger, scrolling with the crown, and taps of varying pressure, it takes a while to get oriented.

The notification scheme is a little maddening at first. Apple sends a push notification every time you get a corporate email, personal email, direct message on Twitter, message on Facebook, and interactions in countless other services. Each notification pings the watch with a sound, vibration or both (which can be muted). This quickly gets overwhelming. I found myself turning off notifications from entire apps, which seems to defeat the watch’s purpose. Mercifully, Apple included a way to clear all those notifications: Just Force Touch on the list.

Getting the watch to work for you requires work. I pruned a list of VIP contacts in my mail app to make email notifications more tolerable; I killed several app notifications that were consistently interruptive; and I streamlined my applications to the truly vital.

In many ways, the watch functions much like a small iPhone. Though there are new ways of getting to your apps and interacting with them, much of the phone’s model interface has carried over. So often you end up not only having to take action but deciding where to take action. Still, I found some balance between the two devices. Checking text messages and emails by quickly glancing at the watch saved time and was helpful when I was deeply engaged in an important activity.

Within Apple’s new suite of functions, I found both hits and misses.

On the plus side is Apple’s new Activity app, which presents three basic sets of achievements to hit every day and makes hitting them almost frictionless. One metric watches how many calories you burn; a second is for exercise that elevates your heart rate; and a third is a notification for standing, to ensure you get up at least once an hour.

Setting these up was painless, and I immediately started seeing the results of being made so aware of my activity levels. I have no idea if this will have any lasting impact on my health, but Apple’s frictionless approach to teaching people about exercise habits is a leap in the right direction.

There are rough spots. Apple hopes to reinvent how we communicate with friends and family by adding three new methods of messaging. The first allows you to essentially “sample” your heartbeat and send it off, but the novelty wears off quickly. The second, Sketch, allows you to draw or tap some symbols and send them to another Apple Watch user, but you don’t have much space you have to work with.

The third new message concept is 3D, animated emojis. That sounds great until you realize the emojis are really more like neutered, animated GIFs from the late ’90s Internet. We already have emojis, and Snapchat, Instagram, Periscope, GroupMe, Twitter, Facebook, WeChat, and on and on. There’s something forced and inauthentic about Apple in this space.

I’m split on one feature Apple includes on the watch: Glances act like little cards hiding underneath your watch that give you a glimpse of information from first- and third-party apps. Twitter will display the latest tweet in your timeline, there’s a controller for your music app, or you can see a detailed description of your next calendar appointment. In theory, these screens should be wildly useful for quick access to information. In practice, the watch must pull information from the phone, leaving you with a spinning wheel that indicates data loading, rather than a quick hit of info.

The watch is not life-changing. It is, however, excellent. It is more seamless and simple than any of its counterparts in the marketplace. It is, without question, the best smartwatch in the world.

So Apple has succeeded in its first big task with its watch. It made something that lives up to the company’s reputation as an innovator and raised the bar for a whole new class of devices.

Its second task-making me feel I need this on my wrist every day-is not quite there yet. It’s still another screen, another distraction, another way to disconnect, as much as it is the opposite. The Apple Watch is cool, it’s beautiful, it’s powerful, and it’s easy to use. But it’s not essential. Not yet.

Clinton camp says longshot Democratic challengers still pose a real threat

All of the possible challengers are long shots against Clinton and would face a steep climb against the well-known former secretary of state.

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Many Clinton supporters also say competition would help her by honing her campaigning skills and discouraging the sense of entitlement that damaged her White House bid in 2008.

But each of the emerging challengers also appeals to a constituency within the Democratic Party that Clinton has struggled with in the past. And unlike Clinton — who has yet to formulate a clear message for a potential campaign — each has distinct issues to build a campaign around.

Jim Webb, the former senator from Virginia who just formed an exploratory committee, is a populist Appalachia native with potential appeal to working-class and Southern whites. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has been laying the groundwork of a campaign for months, focusing his energies on wooing the kind of progressive activists that view Clinton with suspicion. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vermont, the gadfly socialist who is also pondering a run in the Democratic primary, represents the antiwar left still bitter with Clinton over the war in Iraq.

Longtime Clinton family political adviser Harold Ickes said it would be a mistake to dismiss such challengers and the dangers they pose.

“(What if) this were 2007 before Obama got into the race and you’d said, ‘Do you think Senator Obama is a threat to Hillary?'” Ickes asked rhetorically. The clear answer, he suggested, is that most would have dismissed Obama as little more than an annoyance.

But the biggest concern among many Clinton acolytes is someone who says she is not running — Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, an economic populist who has come to personify a longing among liberal Democrats for someone further to Clinton’s left.

Warren especially interests and worries Bill Clinton, the unofficial top strategist for his wife’s shadow campaign, according to two people who know the former president well. Bill Clinton admires Warren’s stemwinder speaking style, and Hillary Clinton echoed parts of Warren’s sticking-up-for-the-little guy economic message during midterm speeches this year.

During their one midterm appearance together, Clinton lavished praise on Warren and kept her own remarks brief. Elsewhere, she tried out appeals to working-class and underemployed voters that strategists expect to hear again if Clinton runs.

Many Clinton backers insist that some Democratic opposition is both inevitable and welcome, since it tends to toughen up the eventual winner for the head-to-head contest with a Republican in the general election. Looking at the lessons of Clinton’s bitter primary contest with Obama in 2008, Democrats also hope that Clinton will be polite, even deferential, to potential opponents such as Webb if she runs.

Loyalists to Obama and Clinton privately agree that Obama snatched the nomination away from Clinton in part because of her campaign’s failure to see the upstart as a real threat.

“I have never assumed, and I think anybody would have been in error to assume, that our party would just give its nomination to anyone,” said Craig Smith, a longtime adviser to both Clintons who is now working for the Ready for Hillary super PAC.

“That is not the history of our party. This isn’t how it works,” Smith told reporters in New York at a November gathering of potential donors and workers for a Clinton campaign. “You’ve got to go out there. You’ve got to work for it.”

Speaker after speaker at the Ready for Hillary-sponsored event tried to dispel the notion that Clinton will walk away with the nomination. Some strategists outside the group, however, note that its very existence reinforces the notion that she is the de facto choice. No other potential candidate has anything like the pro-Clinton machinery, which includes three major outside groups that have amassed money and an impressive list of potential supporters.

(Begin optional trim)

Webb — Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, a combat veteran, an author and a filmmaker — became the first Democrat to formally jump into the race with the release last month of a lengthy Internet video and the formation of an exploratory committee.

Webb did not mention Clinton in his video but appeared to take a few shots at her as the establishment favorite. Government is “paralyzed,” Webb said, and he wants to shake it up. He made a point of saying he is a public servant, not a “career politician.”

“In my view, the solutions are not simply political but those of leadership,” Webb said. “I learned long ago on the battlefields of Vietnam that in a crisis, there is no substitute for clear-eyed leadership.”

Like Clinton, Webb is considered considered a strong defender of American military power who is moderate on social and economic issues. They occupied similar political space in the Senate, but Webb,who has been critical of recent U.S. wars, may have special appeal to white working-class and Southern voters whose interests he has long championed. Webb’s exploratory committee did not respond to requests for comment.

O’Malley, who leaves office in January, touts himself as a can-do executive who oversaw a wave of progressive policies in Maryland, including legalizing same-sex marriage, abolishing the death penalty and raising the minimum wage.

Many analysts believe O’Malley would be likely to position himself as the second candidate, ready if Clinton stumbles. He has attended more than two dozen political events this year in the early caucus state of Iowa, where Clinton was trounced in 2008.

Sanders’s political niche would be as an antiwar conscience candidate, highlighting Clinton’s 2003 vote to approve the Iraq war, her support of the war in Afghanistan and her role in helping guide the campaign in Libya while secretary of state. U.S. military involvement in Syria came after Clinton had stepped down, but she has said publicly that she supported an intervention much earlier.

(End optional trim)

One danger, several strategists said, is that Clinton might be lured into espousing base-friendly positions that would hurt her in a general election, as GOP nominee Mitt Romney did in advocating strict immigration measures during the 2012 Republican debates. Perhaps a bigger risk, they said, is that a savvy primary opponent with a sharply honed message or a fresh face could upstage her.

By comparison with those of Republicans, whose tea party wing tends to pull centrists to the right, the differences among Democrats are more on the margins, many Clinton supporters said. That will make it all the more important for her to take her opponents seriously — at least on the surface — and use them to show her strengths as a capable leader who is up to the challenge of pulling out a third Democratic general-election win in a row, according to the strategists.

Clinton is watching the potential field — both Democratic challengers and possible Republican opponents — but they are essentially irrelevant to her decision about running, friends said. They also said Clinton is genuinely undecided and is still mulling the decision of whether to run.

Focus on Clinton’s plans, already intense, will increase after Christmas. She has said she is likely to make a decision after Jan. 1.

That’s when other potential challengers to Clinton could also emerge. Although the November 2016 election is still far off, other hopefuls have less leeway to wait.

“I think there are people in the party who would like to know sooner rather than later” what Clinton is going to do, Ickes said, starting with Webb and O’Malley.

“Unlike Hillary, they don’t have … a national political apparatus, nor do they have a national money base,” Ickes said. “And you know, there are money people who are going to say, ‘I’m not giving to anybody until I know what Mrs. Clinton is going to do.’ “

(Optional add end)

One senior Democratic strategist who backs Clinton criticized Webb’s Internet announcement, dubbing it a “14-minute hostage video.” But that strategist and others also said that Webb elevates his stature simply by virtue of challenging Clinton.

“If it’s one-on-one, he will, by default, be a serious candidate,” said that strategist, who requested anonymity because Clinton has not yet said she is running.

“There will be an opposition, and that opposition needs some outlet,” he said. “He can be the vessel of that opposition, and then when Iowa falls apart for him, for example, that’s it.”

Racial questions in Missouri town have long dogged police

Since the shooting, the department has been criticized for how police have handled the response to the incident and for not disclosing key details, including the name of the officer involved.

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The department bears little demographic resemblance to the citizens of this St. Louis suburb, a mostly African American community whose suspicions of the law enforcement agency preceded Saturday afternoon’s shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who this week had been headed to technical college.

But while the racial disparity between the public here and its protectors has come to define the violent aftermath of Brown’s death, the department’s problems stretch back years and include questions about its officers’ training and racial sensitivity.

The office of Missouri’s attorney general concluded in an annual report last year that Ferguson police were twice as likely to arrest African Americans during traffic stops as they were whites.

And late last year, the state chapter of the NAACP filed a federal complaint against the St. Louis County police department, whose officers are now assisting Ferguson’s force since the shooting, over racial disparities in traffic stops, arrests and other actions.

Tensions between residents and the police have shaped the aftermath of Brown’s death in unpredictable and alarming ways. Those include the nightly clashes between young residents, most of whom are African American, and a predominantly white police force dressed in full riot gear and armed with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

Early Wednesday morning, a St. Louis County police officer shot and critically wounded a man who pointed a gun at the officer, a police spokesman said. Police had responded to calls regarding four men armed with shotguns and wearing ski masks in St. Louis as well as calls about shots fired in the area. People fled the scene when police arrived, but one person pointed a handgun at an officer, who shot the man, spokesman Brian Schellman said.

Police officials have provided little information about Brown’s shooting and have withheld the name of the police officer involved, citing security reasons. The vacuum has been filled by social media, which has displayed in real time street confrontations between police and demonstrators, documenting the fraught interactions in images, videos and short dispatches.

On Wednesday, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson acknowledged the problems facing his department and asked the community for help in restoring its trust.

“Apparently, there has been this undertow that has bubbled to the surface,” Jackson said at a news conference. “It’s our priority to address it and to fix what’s been going wrong.”

St. Louis is among the most segregated metropolitan areas in the nation. Ferguson, one of the 91 municipalities in largely white St. Louis County, has seen its population shift in recent years. About two-thirds of the city’s 21,100 residents are black. That’s a significant increase from 2000, when blacks made up just over half of the population. White residents, who had accounted for 44 percent of the population, now make up just under 30 percent.

Yet the police force patrolling Ferguson has not changed along with the population. The police force has 53 members, and three of them are black. The city’s mayor and police chief are white, as are most of the members of the Ferguson City Council.

“I’ve been trying to increase the diversity of the department ever since I got here,” Jackson said Wednesday. He pointed out that he had promoted two black superintendents.

“Race relations is a top priority right now,” Jackson said. He said his force is working with the Department of Justice’s community relations office to improve how police interact with the citizens. “I’ve told them, ‘Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.’ “

Residents have described Brown’s death as a breaking point that finally pushed years of tension to the fore.

“People here are angry, frustrated,” said Corey Crawford, 36. “There needs to be justice. If you can find a single person in this community who trusts the police, that is like finding a four-leafed clover.”

It has been “very hostile” for years, said Anthony Ross, 26, who lives nearby. He called the relationship between residents and police nonexistent. “Everybody in this city has been a victim of DWB [driving while black],” he said.

For at least a decade, there have been complaints about racial tensions between police and black communities in the St. Louis County area. Communities, some residents say, can have less-experienced, poorly-equipped police departments and highly uneven levels of protection.

This year, St. Louis County invited researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles to help study complaints that county police had engaged in racial profiling and to help them improve protocols for everything from traffic stops to neighborhood monitoring.

This came after a former lieutenant with the county police who had been accused of ordering officers to target black people at stores was fired. An investigation determined that he had made “inappropriate racial references.”

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation in 2003 found that dozens of small police departments in the region suffered from poor training owing to a lack of funding, leading to inadequate investigations of complex crimes and an uneven use of force. The newspaper further found that this led to problematic officers moving easily between one city’s force to another without punishment.

As attention has shifted to the protests and nightly standoffs on Ferguson’s streets, key details regarding the shooting remain unclear. Authorities have yet to say how many times Brown was shot or where he was struck. Earlier in the week, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that Brown was shot multiple times but did not elaborate.

But on Wednesday, Jackson, Ferguson’s police chief, would not say how many times Brown was shot. The only update regarding the confrontation came Wednesday, when Jackson said that the officer’s “face was swollen” after the encounter, so he required medical treatment. Police have said that Brown was shot after a physical confrontation with the officer, including a struggle over the officer’s gun, which witnesses have disputed.

During a separate news conference Wednesday, Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, also declined to say how many times Brown was shot.

“We want to test the veracity and accuracy of anybody who comes to us with a statement and says they saw something,” McCulloch said.

Jackson said in an interview Wednesday that he was driving with his children to lunch Saturday when a sergeant called him about the shooting. Before even arriving at the scene, Jackson called county police to take over the investigation.

But as protesters from the community and neighboring city flooded Ferguson’s streets for both prayer vigils and tense standoffs, Ferguson again called on the county for help. Hundreds of officers from St. Louis County Police, the city of St. Louis and the Missouri State Highway Patrol arrived to help deal with the looting that had broken out.

In audio recordings released Wednesday by the hacking collective Anonymous, a voice identified as belonging to a county police dispatcher indicated that Ferguson police were unaware that one of their officers had been involved in Saturday’s shooting.

The female dispatcher noted that she had received two calls about an “officer-related shooting” on Canfield Drive.

“We just got another call about an officer-involved shooting . . . there,” she said. “This came from the news, so [unintelligible] don’t know.”

A few seconds later, the dispatcher, apparently frustrated that the information appeared to be coming from news accounts, said she couldn’t get confirmation from the police in Ferguson.

“We just called Ferguson back again, and they don’t know anything about it,” she said.

County police did not respond to a request for comment regarding the dispatch tape’s veracity.

Anonymous became widely-known for its cyberattacks on government sites and credit card companies.

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Carol D. Leonnig and Mark Berman reported from Washington.

Fight over fate of Ex-Im Bank translates into cash for lobbyists

Hensarling’s committee has authority over the Export-Import Bank, the 81-year old credit agency that underwrites loans to foreign entities to buy U.

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S. exports, and the Texas Republican has been pushing to let the its charter expire, arguing it promotes “crony capitalism.” But doing away with Ex-Im, Dempsey says, would hurt the thousands of NAM companies that rely on Ex-Im loans to sell their products overseas.

“It was pretty obvious to us then that this was going to become the type of issue it has become,” said Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs for NAM, which represents 14,000 manufacturing companies. “It’s long been important for the NAM but it’s really only been in the last few years that it’s become so controversial. We’ve really had to heighten the level of activity on it.”

The bank’s charter expires June 30, and determining its fate has been one of the most contentious congressional debates over the past year — and one that has sparked an intra-party battle between business-friendly and free-market Republicans.

It has also unleashed a flurry of lobbying, with trade groups trying to prove their mettle to members and independent firms raking in the cash as they join the fray, proving once again how much a new policy fight in Washington can be a boon for K Street.

Last year, NAM, which has long maintained its own in-house lobbying team, began adding more resources and manpower to save the bank while amping up lobbying spending to a nearly all-time high of $12.4 million in 2014 — a 63 percent jump compared to the previous year.

Among the beneficiaries of this increased spending are former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, a Democrat, and former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Haley Barbour, both the heads of top D.C. lobby firms, Gephardt Group and BGR Group, respectively. For their work on Ex-Im, Gephardt’s firm has earned $260,000 and Barbour’s firm has earned $350,000, according to lobbying records.

NAM also paired up with the Chamber of Commerce to create the coalition Exporters for Ex-Im, a group of 50 national, state and local business groups supporting the bank’s extension, in part to coordinate letter-writing campaigns to lawmakers and organize a fly-in. The coalition is represented by Hamilton Place Strategies, the advocacy firm run by former George W. Bush aide Tony Fratto, whose efforts include tweeting at lawmakers to support the bank.

Coalition members have published op-eds and produced YouTube videos warning of potential job losses if the bank is shut down, featuring voices as varied as the founder of a gourmet quiche shop in Freeport, New York, and the head of an airline hydraulics manufacturer in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. And the group has armed itself with statistics to make its case: In FY 2014, the bank supported 164,000 U.S. jobs and $27.4 billion in U.S. exports, and 90 percent of the bank’s transactions supported small businesses, NAM says.

“We’ve put a massive amount of effort into the Ex-Im Bank since last year,” Dempsey said. “It’s very much a priority for the NAM. This has been an all-of-organization type of effort.”

NAM is not alone.

Boeing, the bank’s biggest beneficiary, has 36 lobbyists on contract who spent at least part of their time lobbying on Ex-Im during the first quarter of 2015. They’re spread across six firms — Simmons & Russell Group, Washington2Advocates, CGCN, Monument Policy Group, S-3 Group and McBee Strategic — with each shop earning between $40,000 and $60,000 in fees for their efforts during the first three months of 2015, according to lobbying records.

The aerospace giant’s roster of lobbyists includes Kyle Simmons, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff; Sam Geduldig, former political director to John Boehner, R-Ohio, before he became House Speaker; and John Scofield, a former top Republican House Appropriations Committee aide. A Boeing spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

Delta Airlines, the leading corporate voice opposing the bank’s reauthorization, has 17 lobbyists on retainer on the issue, spread across three firms: Elmendorf Ryan, Fierce Government Relations and Hoppe Strategies. Elmendorf Ryan earned $60,000 to lobby on Ex-Im and other issues for Delta during the first quarter of 2015. Fierce earned $80,000 during the same period. Hoppe was retained in February and has yet to report lobbying fees.

In some cases, retired lawmakers and their former aides who now earn their paychecks as lobbyists find themselves on opposite ends of the Ex-Im fight.

For instance, Democratic power broker Steve Elmendorf is squaring off with his old boss, Gephardt. And Republican lobbyist Kirk Blalock, of Fierce Government Relations, is going up against Barbour, for whom he worked at the RNC.

And the messaging strategy on both sides goes beyond traditional lobbying, bringing in paid advertising, grassroots advocacy and social media outreach.

Delta, which objects to the bank’s financing of wide-body Boeing jets to competing foreign carriers like Emirates, has deployed its pilots, flight attendants and other employees to bring their concerns to lawmakers. The airline has estimated that the bank has cost the U.S. airline industry up to 7,500 jobs and $684 million a year.

“Delta’s employees have been leading that effort,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “Pilots, flight attendants, customer service agents, ground employees and many others have made hundreds of visits with members of Congress over the past several years.”

The airline does not coordinate with the conservative groups that also want the bank put out of business, but for ideological not competitive reasons.

The Club for Growth, the Koch-backed Freedom Partners and Heritage Action, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, oppose the agency because they argue it is corporate welfare that distorts the marketplace, and point out that the biggest recipients of Ex-Im financing include Boeing, General Electric and Caterpillar.

Those groups have not hired formal outside lobbyists, but are spending money in other ways: The Club for Growth this spring launched a $1 million advertising campaign against the bank, including a $250,000 TV ad in Florida that calls the agency “outrageous corporate giveaway.”

The ad campaign, which urges Republican members to vote against Ex-Im reauthorization, began airing in April in the congressional districts of Reps. Stephen Lee Fincher (Tenn.), Earl “Buddy” Carter (Ga.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Bill Flores (Texas), and in May expanded to the districts of Rob Bishop (Utah), Bill Shuster (Pa.), David McKinley (W.Va.) and Chris Stewart (Utah).

Heritage Action, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, has only 10 paid staffers but is banking on its network of 10,000 “sentinels” — a mix of tea party elected officials, Republican activists and other conservatives — to get the word out. Heritage Action’s vice president of grassroots outreach Russ Vought, a former Hensarling aide, holds phone calls every Monday night with the network to brief them on updates.

“We have these folks in every congressional district across the country,” said Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action. “It’s a pretty wide reach. Our volunteer network, they text back and forth with members, or have a direct line of contact to a chief of staff in D.C.”

Holler said the grassroots model pre-dates the Ex-Im fight and it is now being put to good use.

“We’ve been doing pretty much the same things we’ve been doing since 2012 but with more urgency, given the deadline,” Holler said.

Trump slams McCain for being ‘captured’ in Vietnam; many in GOP quickly condemn him

AMES, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump slammed Sen.

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John McCain, R-Ariz., a decorated Vietnam War veteran, on Saturday by saying McCain was not a war hero because he was captured by the North Vietnamese.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. Sarcastically, Trump quipped, “He’s a war hero because he was captured.” Then, he added, “I like people that weren’t captured.”

Trump’s comments came during his appearance at the Family Leadership Summit, a daylong gathering of about 3,000 social conservative activists that is drawing nine other Republican presidential candidates.

A celebrity businessman and reality television star, Trump has surged to the top of polls in the GOP race, in part because of his inflammatory comments about undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

Republican leaders and other candidates have been careful in how they respond to his immigration remarks, but his condemnation of McCain opened the floodgates, drawing swift and sharp criticism from other Republicans.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry, himself a subject of recent attacks from Trump, said Trump was “unfit” to serve as president and should “immediately withdraw” from the race.

“Donald Trump should apologize immediately for attacking Senator McCain and all veterans who have protected and served our country,” Perry said in a statement. “As a veteran and an American, I respect Sen. McCain because he volunteered to serve his country. I cannot say the same of Mr. Trump. His comments have reached a new low in American politics. His attack on veterans make him unfit to be Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, and he should immediately withdraw from the race for President.”

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, also chimed in with a Twitter post calling or an end to such “slanderous attacks”:

Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, campaigning in Western Iowa, denounced Trump’s remarks and said McCain is “undoubtedly an American hero.” This is a change in tune for Walker, who on Friday refused to speak ill of Trump over his immigration comments.

“He needs to apologize to Senator McCain and all the other men and women who have worn the uniform,” Walker told reporters following a campaign stop in Sioux City. “It’s just a disgrace.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) posted on Twitter: “America’s POWs deserve much better than to have their service questioned by the offensive rantings of Donald Trump”

The Republican National Committee also criticized Trump and defended McCain.

“Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period,” RNC Chief Strategist and Communications Director Sean Spicer said in a statement. “There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.”

Mitt Romney, who ran against McCain in the 2008 GOP primaries, also took to Twitter to defend him: “The difference between @SenJohnMcCain and @realDonaldTrump: Trump shot himself down. McCain and American veterans are true heroes.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., who has been perhaps the loudest defender of Trump’s remarks about immigrants and met privately with Trump a few days ago in New York, refused to condemn Trump over his comments about McCain.

Cruz said that he considers McCain a friend and “an American war hero” and that it is an honor to serve with him in the Senate. But he said he would not criticize another Republican candidate, including Trump.

“I recognize that folks in the press love to see Republican-on-Republican violence, so you want me to say something bad about Donald Trump or bad about John McCain or bad about anyone else,” Cruz told reporters here. “I’m not going to do it. John McCain is a friend of mine. I respect and admire him and he’s an American hero. And Donald Trump is a friend of mine.”

For the past few days, Trump has been publicly feuding with McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee. McCain said that Trump had drawn out “crazies” with his immigration-focused rally in Phoenix last weekend, and Trump responded by calling McCain a “dummy” for finishing at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy.

Trump stepped up his criticism of McCain on Saturday in Ames. He said he had supported McCain’s 2008 campaign and claimed to have raised $1 million for him.

“He lost,” Trump said. “He let us down. I never liked him as much after that because I don’t like losers.”

In a combative, 18-minute news conference following his remarks here, Trump refused to apologize for his attack on McCain’s war service.

Trump said he considers prisoners of war to be heroes — although he called Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl an exception — but accused McCain of doing little to help veterans in the Senate.

“John McCain has not done enough for the veterans,” Trump told reporters. “The veterans in this country are suffering. The veterans in this country are treated as third-class citizens. John McCain talks a lot, but he doesn’t do anything.”

Trump grew agitated by repeated and sharp questioning from reporters, who were asking him to explain his earlier suggestion that McCain should not be considered a war hero because he had been captured.

“I like the people that don’t get captured, and I respect the people that do get captured,” Trump said.

But he did not answer the questions about McCain directly. He snapped at one persistent reporter, “Go back to being a pundit.”

Trump managed to avoid serving in the Vietnam war because of a series of draft deferments. Asked why he didn’t serve, Trump said, “I had student deferments and ultimately had a medical deferment because of my feet. I had a bone spur.” But Trump said he did not recall which foot was injured and instructed reporters to look up his records.

Trump added, “I was not a big fan of the Vietnam War. I wasn’t a protester, but the Vietnam War was a disaster for our country. What did we get out of the Vietnam War other than death? We got nothing.”

After meeting with the news media, Trump took to Twitter, where he did not back down from his criticism of McCain: “John McCain has failed miserably to fix the situation and to make it possible for Veterans to successfully manage their lives. … All he does is go on television is talk, talk, talk, but incapable of doing anything.”

Outside the political world, Trump was also being widely criticized.

Ann Mills-Griffiths, president of the National League of POW/MIA families, a nonprofit group that supports families of American troops held as prisoners of war and those missing in action, said that Trump’s comments were inappropriate.

“Sen. McCain was a prisoner of war who came home with honor but also continued to serve the nation and certainly the cause of America’s veterans returned and unreturned,” Mills-Griffiths said in an interview. “We all need to be grateful for those who did serve with honor.”

John Rowan, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said in an interview that the group is “assiduously non-partisan” and does not support candidates or comment on political rhetoric.

Rowan said only of Sen. McCain’s service in Vietnam, including his time as a prisoner of war, that “he served his country well.”

But Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, commented that Trump’s remarks were offensive to all veterans who have served overseas.

“Trump’s asinine comments about Senator McCain’s service are an insult to everyone who has ever worn the uniform — and to all Americans,” Rieckhoff said on Twitter. “Trump’s stupidity is especially egregious given the death of a Navy Petty Officer just this morning and the death of 4 Marines this week. An attack on one veteran’s service is an attack on us all.”

And John W. Stroud, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, said: “For someone who never served a day in uniform to criticize the service and sacrifice of a combat-wounded veteran is despicable.”

Washington Post staff writers Jenna Johnson in Sioux City and T. Rees Shapiro in Washington contributed to this report.

Pope Francis arrives at U.N., plans visit to Ground Zero

In his first address to the U.

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N. General Assembly, the pope touched on a litany of international issues, including nuclear proliferation, drug trafficking and slave labor. But he dwelled most on the need to preserve the world’s ecological system, warning that further damage perpetuates “today’s widespread and quietly growing culture of waste.”

“Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity,” Pope Francis said in his native Spanish from the lectern inside the General Assembly, an audience of world leaders seated before him. “The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.”

“The poorest,” the pope said, “are those who suffer most from such offenses.”

Shortly before the pope began his address, Washington’s political class was distracted by news that House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, will resign at the end of October. The announcement came one day after the Catholic Boehner welcomed the pope to the U.S. Capitol. Before revealing his plans at a meeting of House Republicans, Boehner tweeted photographs of himself with Francis under the words: “What a day.”

As his first trip to the United States entered its fourth day, Pope Francis, the spiritual leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, visited places and embraced themes that allowed him to express commitment to people who are poor, dispossessed, and suffering.

His speech at the U.N. was the first in a series of stops scheduled Friday, the emotional apex of which is likely to be his visit just before noon to Ground Zero, the memorial in Lower Manhattan where nearly 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

By 7:30 a.m. Friday, about 200 people were on line outside a tickets-only entrance to the Ground Zero site, many of them relatives of people who were killed on 9-11.

Ariana Vigiano, 16, and her mother Maria Vigiano-Trapp, 50, were near the front after arriving early from their home on Long Island. Both said they were hoping the pope would fortify their faith in God, which was shaken after Ariana’s father, John, a New York City firefighter, was killed trying to rescue people from the World Trade Center.

“I’m still trying to get a little bit of closure,” she said. “I’m hoping he will say something that will really speak to me and help me feel really spiritual and try to get me in touch with my father.”

After a late-afternoon tour of a Catholic elementary school in East Harlem and a motorcade past sprawling crowds in Central Park, Pope Francis is to preside at a 6 p.m. Mass before 19,000 worshipers at Madison Square Garden.

Since his arrival Tuesday, the pope has addressed a number of weighty issues, expressing his support for immigrants, the need to combat climate change and his opposition to the death penalty. His speech before the United Nations, was no less substantial, providing him an opportunity to deliver to a worldwide audience his expansive views on the environment and economic and social issues.

On his first morning in New York, Pope Francis’s chauffeur-driven Fiat and motorcade pulled up to the U.N. on Manhattan’s East Side at around 8:20 a.m., where he was greeted by the body’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea.

Prior to addressing the General Assembly, the pope spoke to a gathering of United Nations staff, thanking them for their work on behalf of world peace and laying a wreath for those U.N. workers who have died in service.

At the conclusion of his remarks, he offered to pray for “you and your families” and asked that they “pray for me.”

“To non-believers, I ask you to wish me well,” he said, after which the audience erupted in laughter and applause.

The pope’s address to the General Assembly could influence the body as it prepares to approve a set of sustainable development goals that include ending world hunger and poverty and ensuring the availability of clean energy and water.

In his speech, the pope addressed the threat of war, saying an “urgent need” exists for a “complete prohibition” of nuclear weapons. He also said “hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community.”

“While regretting to do so,” he said, “I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their culture and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives or by enslavement.”

The pope also touched on “another kind of conflict, which is not always so open,” a reference to drug trafficking that he said “is silently killing millions of people.”

“Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption,” he said. “A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatnese the credibility of our institutions.”

In his trip to the United States, a five-day tour that includes Washington, New York and Philadelphia, jubilant crowds have showered the 78-year-old spiritual leader with adoration as he has traveled between stops, some of which have highlighted his commitment to the poor and dispossessed.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis implored congressional leaders at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday to set aside bitter partisan differences to achieve progress on immigration reform. During a visit to the White House, the pope expressed support for President Obama’s campaign to tackle climate change.

When he visits the 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan, the site where planes struck the twin towers 14 years ago, the pope is expected to meet with families of some of the victims who died in the attack.

The pope is to descend into the lower level of the Ground Zero museum, for a multi-religious ceremony organizers hope will promote tolerance at a time of religious violence and skepticism. The ceremony is to occur in the soaring Foundation Hall, against a World Trade Center retaining wall that survived the attacks.

The choice of the spot represents a “new urgency” for religious tolerance, said James Massa, a Brooklyn bishop who has been a national Catholic leader on interfaith work and who designed the ceremony.

“That’s the wall that holds back the Hudson River,” he said. “If that had fallen on 9/11, even greater chaos would have happened. It held. It’s the wall that holds back the chaos. I think these leaders with the pope are gathered, like the conscious of our time, that holds back the chaos of war and violence and hatred that afflict segments of humanity.”

The pope’s whirlwind day will conclude with the Mass at Madison Square Garden, the warmup for which will include performances by singers Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Hudson and Gloria Estefan.

On Saturday morning, Pope Francis is to travel to Philadelphia, where his stops will include the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Center City, Independence Hall and a correctional facility.

The pope flies back to Rome on Sunday.

Even a modest slowdown in China sacks the global commodities market

So profound was that growth that even the hint of a slowdown iscausing convulsions in the many countries that fed China’s rise.

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The deceleration in Chinese investment and construction, though gradual, has come with a dramatic side effect: a vast lowering in the value of the raw materials that are mined or drilled from the earth. By one major measure, commodity prices across the globe are at their lowest point in a century. And the downturn — felt from financial capitals to Zambian mining towns — is likely to be far more lasting and consequential than the turbulence China triggered in the world’s financial markets last week.

The dive in the commodities market reflects the first time since China emerged as a production beast that the nation is pulling down, rather than buoying, the global economy. After a two-decade farm-to-city migration on a scale never seen before, a series of markers show that Chinese growth has lost steam. Its economy this year is forecast to expand 7 percent, off from sustained double-digit highs, and many analysts suspect real growth is lower than the Communist Party’s numbers suggest. Last year, coal consumption declined for the first time in 14 years. Companies are now trimming long-term demand projections.

“This period of incredible construction is flattening out,” said Yukon Hwang, a specialist in Chinese economic development at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Demand won’t ever be as robust as it was during this super-cycle.”

The sheer scale of China’s economy is so big that the nation still dominates the commodities market, consuming more than two-thirds of global iron ore, about half of its copper and nickel, one-eighth of its oil. But prices for those materials and energy sources have tanked amid the realization that China was building too fast — constructing little-used highways and entire suburbs of empty apartments — while many commodities producers were still scaling up.

The world is left with a commodities glut: As China’s appetite wanes, the rest of the developing world isn’t growing fast enough to pick up the slack.

In theory, a drop in commodities prices should provide a boost for developed, consumer-led countries — something that is already taking shape in the United States, where spending for everything from cars to homes is on the rise.

But in resource-rich countries, the pain of China’s slowdown is acute. Latin American nations are facing an end to years of easy commodities-led growth, helped by Chinese investment. Petro-states, such as Russia and Venezuela, are in crisis. The World Bank says sub-Saharan Africa, facing head winds from China’s situation, will grow less rapidly this year than projected — a step backward after a booming decade in one of the world’s poorest regions.

Many commodities experts say prices could remain low for several years and lead to massive cutbacks in jobs and investment. Rio de Janeiro-based Vale, the world’s largest producer of iron ore, has been racing to shutter mines and cut costs. The company, in tandem with a Japanese co-owner, recently sold the Isaac Plains coal mine, in Australia, only three years after the site was valued at more than $600 million.

The sale price: $1.

Above all, China’s rise was built by steel. And the experience of the past 20 years shows how Chinese demand could upend a sleepy commodity market on the way up while causing a price collapse and riling trade partners on the way back down.

On the way up? The Chinese steel industry transformed from one of the world’s largest (in 1995) to the largest eight times over. Chinese state-owned companies went on a massive overseas quest for iron ore, forcing the establishment of a daily market price. (Until the mid-2000s, the Japanese set annual prices in backroom negotiations with suppliers.) The value of iron ore spiked, sending mining companies on a hunt to expand — sometimes even into conflict zones. When the global recession hit, a Chinese government stimulus was filtered almost directly into the steel industry; producers didn’t flinch. In early 2011, the price for iron ore hit $180 per dry metric ton, up sixfold from 2005.

“Once-in-a-generation prices,” Jimmy Wilson, the president for iron ore at the Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, said in a presentation on the company’s Web site.

Economists say China always intended to “build ahead” — that is, to construct urban centers with the expectation that they would fill up with a fast-growing urban middle class. Over 20 years, some 300 million people — one quarter of the country — moved from the countryside to the city.

But even so, China overshot — something that was first apparent in 2011.

“That’s when you started seeing the ghost cities,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

As a result, mining companies have a glut of ore on their hands. Iron ore prices have plummeted to about $50 per dry metric ton. BHP reported an 86 percent drop in net profit, to $1.9 billion, for its latest financial year. A recent survey of Australian mining companies showed that 80 percent plan to reduce jobs. Smaller companies are canceling projects and in danger of failure.

“We are in the early stages of a capital spending bust,” Morningstar, an investment and research firm, said last October in a lengthy report on iron ore.

Chinese leaders hope that if they slow down on construction, an inevitable wave of new urbanites will gradually fill up the apartments and buy cars for the highways. In the meantime, the excess buildup of steel is causing its own shock wave: Chinese companies are increasingly trying to export it.

By the estimate of U.S. industry officials, Chinese steelmakers can’t find domestic buyers for about half of what they produce. That alone amounts to about 400 million tons — what the United States would make in four years. In the first six months of the year, Chinese steel exports to the United States increased 25 percent, intensifying a trade dispute in which top American manufacturers accuse Beijing of dumping its supply in foreign markets at basement costs.

Chinese steelmakers face lower production costs because they are less constrained by environmental regulations at home and benefit from a series of government subsidies, Mario Longhi, the chief executive of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel, said in an interview.

“They dump it in the rest of the world, and the United States is the most punished country in that context,” Longhi said.

U.S. Steel and four other major producers last month filed a complaint with the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission asking for tariffs against imports from China and several other countries.

In its own attempt to slash costs, U.S. Steel has cut jobs and idled mills from Texas to Ohio.

Longhi said that Chinese growth has “created a monster over time.”

Countries are typically hungriest for raw materials when they first industrialize; that’s what happened in the United States at the start of the 20th century and in Japan after World War II. China followed the same path, but, with 1.4 billion people, on an unprecedented scale.

China is not totally finished growing through government investment (and pouring concrete). It’s trying, for instance, to merge Beijing and surrounding cities into a connected megalopolis nearly the size of Utah.

But the nation’s leaders say the formula that drives growth needs to become more balanced and more dependent on consumers than on debt and investment. That requires a loosening of the government reins — another delicate process — in which dominant state-own enterprises would be privatized, with markets opened to foreign competitors.

“China’s future success, like its past accomplishments, will depend on continued implementation of necessary yet often difficult macro policies and reforms,” the International Monetary Fund said in a recent report on China.

Analysts say that China, as its per-capita income rises, will present an attractive market for an even broader range of companies. A growing middle class will want coffee, pork and refrigerators and demand better schools and hospitals.

“You have sector after sector where China is not done investing,” said Daniel Rosen, a Chinese economics analyst and partner at the Rhodium Group in New York.

Still, markets have historically struggled to anticipate when a fast-growing giant will hit a slower gear. That’s why, in the case of commodities, companies across dozens of nations overproduced and then were caught off guard when China decelerated. Analyst predictions made several years ago about future Chinese expansion already look overly rosy.

In a research paper published in October, former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers and Harvard economist Lant Pritchett said forecasters rely too heavily on recent growth — rather than the long-term mean — in making predictions. Summers and Pritchett cautioned specifically about a drop-off in China, noting decades of unusually rapid expansion.

“China’s super-rapid growth has already lasted three times longer than a typical episode and is the longest ever recorded,” they wrote. “The ends of episodes tend to see full regression to the mean, abruptly.”

Rape threats, then no response: What it was like to be a woman on Twitter in 2014

Twitter’s policies on this type of thing are pretty clear.

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The site has long forbidden its 284 million users from “targeted abuse” — the repeat, often one-sided sending of harassing or threatening messages to a particular user. And since a spate of ugly, high-profile harassment cases earlier this year, Twitter has vowed to enforce its policies more effectively — even promising, in a series of heralded changes made earlier this month, that a “safer Twitter” was on the horizon.

The issues of cyberbullying and harassment are, of course, nothing new; nor are they unique to Twitter and its users. But our awareness of these problems, and their wide-ranging social and psychological impact, is very recent.

Per an October study by the Pew Research Center, four in 10 Internet users have experienced online harassment, most of them through a social network. And despite the efforts of Del Harvey, Twitter’s secretive Head of Trust & Safety (and her attendant moderation team), Twitter remains one of the highest-profile — and most mainstream — social networks for harassment.

“Because of Twitter’s open nature — any user can send a message to any other user, in public — it’s especially vulnerable to mass harassment,” the tech writer Robinson Meyer explained.

In other words, Twitter’s progress on this issue is way more than an isolated case study; it is, instead, an early battleground, and a crucial weathervane that indicates if the war for a safe, inclusive social Web can be won.

I’ll be honest: I’ve followed this issue very closely, and not only because it’s part of my beat. Like virtually every woman with any kind of public Internet profile, I regularly receive threats, slurs and other typed invective in the course of doing my job. Sometimes they’re fairly benign: “get raped,” while definitely not the first thing you want to see on a Friday morning, doesn’t prompt a serious chat between me, my editor and building security.

But there have been other messages, too, messages that had me leaving work early, or consulting with The Washington Post’s lawyers, or calling my dad out of a business meeting in New York to explain what he and my mom should do if someone calls a bomb squad on them, as someone on Twitter promised.

It is very, very difficult to explain to a parent why people who don’t know you hate you so fiercely, all because of something you wrote on a blog. It is extra-difficult to explain that these people also hate them, my parents, by association.

“More of those Internet loonies?” my dad asked — which I guess approaches understanding.

But it also, alas, underestimates the importance of the issue — an importance that we, as a society, are still only beginning to recognize on a mass scale.

When Pacific Standard ran Amanda Hess’ seminal story on the online harassment of women last January, it was called the “civil rights issue of our time.” That’s not because women are “crybabies,” to quote a common argument, or because there exists some new, modern interest in “legislating feels.” It’s because many women, simply as a consequence of being women, face constant, systemic intimidation and aggression every time they sign online.

This year has only proved Hess’ thesis. In May, after a college student named Elliot Rodger killed six people in Isla Vista, California — and published a deranged, misogynistic manifesto to explain his spree — Twitter was rocked by waves of backlash, first from women sharing stories of sexual violence on the #YesAllWomen hashtag … and later by men disputing them, sometimes violently.

Less than three months later, following the death of comedian Robin Williams, his daughter, Zelda Williams, was driven off Twitter by a network of trolls who claimed she was somehow responsible for his suicide. (“Deleting this from my devices for a good long time, maybe forever,” she wrote. “Time will tell. Goodbye.”)

Even that incident would soon be upstaged by the antics of #Gamergate, a seething, vitriolic pseudo-movement that, within a span of months, used Twitter to drive at least three women in the gaming industry from their homes. Shortly thereafter, Monica Lewinsky joined Twitter as part of her campaign against cyberbullying — and she was met with a wall of, you guessed it, sexist cyberbullies.

Those, notably, are just the high-profile names — the big, extreme cases that made the news. Women tend not to talk about the the steady, inevitable trickle of lesser threats, the things that are “just wallpaper to me now,” as one feminist writer told The Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg in August. Few achieve the notoriety that Zelda Williams or Anita Sarkeesian or Monica Lewinsky do.

“Zelda has become this poster child,” Jennifer Pozner, the head of the advocacy group Women in Media and News, told The Post in August, “but what that overlooks is that Twitter, in particular, has become a place for abuse, and for women and people of color in particular. The company knows it and has done precious little.”

Is that true or fair to say of Twitter? I honestly couldn’t say, myself, which only confounds the issue further. A Twitter spokesman declined to comment specifically for this story; on previous occasions, the company has insisted that it does everything currently in its power to protect harassment victims — and that, in the future, it will do even more. (It’s telling, perhaps, that when Take Back the Tech slammed Twitter’s handling of women’s issues in September, “transparency around reporting redress” was one of the areas where Twitter needed to improve.)

The company did partner in November with the non-profit Women, Action and the Media on a project to research the harassment of women on Twitter and escalate their reports. Weeks later, in early December, Twitter announced some small changes to its abuse-reporting policies, including the ability to report on behalf of other users.

And yet, dozens of people have told me that they don’t even bother reporting abusive tweets anymore, because it seems to them, at least, that Twitter never takes action. Instead, they’re forced to turn outside the network: BlockTogether, a Web app that automatically hides messages from new or sparsely followed accounts, is an oft-invoked tool; others sign over their accounts to partners or friends until a particularly bad wave of abuse washes itself out.

I still report accounts, although my personal experience has also been uneven. I’ve become accustomed to seeing those automated form emails, always sweetly condescending, telling me that Twitter has ruled the account in question A-OK, or that the site would like me to “review (its) abusive behavior policy” and reply back that I have done so before they review my claims.

Last Friday, for instance, I reported four accounts — including the one that sent the aforementioned gem “get raped, (expletive)” — and got three matching, boilerplate rejections back.

“We understand that you might come across content on Twitter that you dislike or you find offensive,” the message reads, in part. “However, Twitter is a global platform that lets us participate in broader conversations and connect with people from many corners of the world.”

Indeed.

I am not naive on these issues: I understand that Twitter’s toeing a very difficult line, trying to provide a constructive, useful service to its users while also upholding the all-important virtues of free speech. Since both those things are critical to Twitter’s success, and since they often appear to act in opposition to each other, Twitter’s basically damned either way: Whatever it does, whoever it privileges, somebody will be unhappy. It’s really not an enviable position to be in.

And yet, there still seem to be so many holes Twitter could fill without controversy: There is still no way for victims to report multiple people at once; no way to stop an account, once suspended, from simply starting up again elsewhere; no way to prevent someone from making a whole bunch of fake accounts for the sole purpose of attacking someone else. Then there’s the issue of Twitter’s moderation team, which has reportedly not scaled at the same pace as the network. It’s telling, for instance, that important research around gender-based abuse was outsourced to Women, Action & the Media.

“I don’t think we should have to do this work,” a “frustrated” Jaclyn Friedman told the Atlantic in November. “It’s a scandal that a tiny, under-resourced nonprofit with two staff members is having to do free labor for them.”

Dewey writes The Post’s The Intersect web channel covering digital and Internet culture. 杭州桑拿网,杭州桑拿,washingtonpost杭州桑拿会所,/news/the-intersect/