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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base does not signal a change in the Pentagon’s military campaign there, which is focused on defeating the Islamic State group and al-Qaida remnants.

    At his first Pentagon news conference as defense chief, Mattis said the U.S. strike was meant only to demonstrate Washington’s intolerance of violations of an international convention against the use of chemical weapons. The Syrian government has denied that it used chemical arms in an attack on a Syrian town last week.

    Mattis said that if Syria were to use chemical weapons again it would “pay a very, very stiff price.”

    READ MORE: 5 important stories that are totally free of politics

    The post Mattis: Defeating Islamic State still top U.S. priority appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Production still/Warner Bros

    Many brands have come to the same conclusion as the fictional Tyrell Corporation in “Blade Runner”: by giving their products a past and a personality, they can increase their power of influence on the consumer, writes Wahyd Vannoni. Production still/Warner Bros

    The classic sci-fi film “Blade Runner” is set in 2019 Los Angeles. But one of the 1982 movie’s main characters, replicant Leon Kowalski, was created yesterday — April 10, 2017. Replicants like Kowalski were created by the fictional Tyrell Corporation, who imbued these machines with memories and a sense of personal history to better control them.

    Now that we’ve reached Kowalski’s “inception day,” many brands have come to the same conclusion: by giving their products a past and a personality, they can increase their power of influence on the consumer.

    In our year 2017, globalization and mass production have resulted in a race to the bottom as far as price is concerned. A watch on alibaba.com may cost less than a dollar. If all you need is a machine that tells time, why pay more?

    To escape this trap, an increasing number of brands feel compelled to include an “our history” section in their websites.

    Rolex, for instance, informs us about the “visionary spirit” of Hans Wildorf who in “1905 … founded a company in London specializing in the distribution of timepieces.” You may be spending tens of thousands of more dollars for the same information (telling time), but you are now buying a piece of history. Likewise, the Swiss watch company Blancpain traces its foundation as far back as 1735.

    You may be spending tens of thousands of more dollars for the same information (telling time), but you are now buying a piece of history.

    In the retail clothing industry consumers may buy several pairs of jeans directly from a factory in Asia. While “anyone can make a pair of blue jeans,” it is “Levi Strauss & Co. [that] made the first blue jean –– in 1873,” Levi’s website states.

    For maximum effect, not only do brands need to point to a foundation moment, it is preferable for the subsequent narrative to include humble beginnings and the overcoming of adversity.

    Nutella was an ingenious solution to “the shortage of cocoa supplies following World War Two,” while Hewlett-Packard emerged from “a rented garage” and worked “with limited resources”

    QUIZ: Are you a sucker or an influence master?

    And if you thought that Budweiser is just another beer, the Super Bowl commercial “Born the hard way” will suggest you revise your preconceptions.

    Leon Kowalski may have met his end in the first Blade Runner film. But other replicants are back when the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, hits theaters in October.

    The post Brands treat us like the replicants in ‘Blade Runner’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: A museum exhibition explores a different way of covering the news through art.

    Jeffrey Brown is back with the story from a recent trip to Los Angeles.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Twenty-four-hour news channels, digital news feeds, the latest tweet, it’s the now-familiar, nonstop, sometimes overwhelming world of news and information we live in.

    But that sense of news bombardment isn’t really new, and an exhibition at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles shows how artists have often commented on, wrestled and played with it.

    Curator Arpad Kovacs:

    ARPAD KOVACS, Curator, J. Paul Getty Museum: Most of us just don’t know how to make sense of it. And I think that’s where artists step in and are able to kind of make something fruitful and sort of thoughtful, and take the images, take the text, take the information as source material to make something that looks critically at the information that we receive every single day.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The exhibition, titled Breaking News, takes us to a pre-Internet era, featuring work by artists often seeking political, as well as aesthetic expression.

    For Martha Rosler, the starting point was LIFE magazine as a guide to the American psyche. As the Vietnam War raged, the magazine captured the war in photographs. But turn the page to sumptuous home interiors. Rosler put the two together, in one photo, Pat Nixon in the White House, with the image of a war victim over the fireplace.

    ARPAD KOVACS: She’s making this juxtaposition, bringing these two disparate images together, in an effort to show how we can sometimes be oblivious to what’s happening in this world.

    DONALD BLUMBERG, Artist: This stuff is from ’70-’72.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Artist Donald Blumberg also sought to transform a news medium into a work of art, one that says something about the times. He took images from newspaper stories about slain soldiers or war atrocities.

    DONALD BLUMBERG: And I re-photographed them, and I wanted to enlarge them to a size that was inescapable for the viewer to pass. And it was intended to be a direct political act against the war in Vietnam. That’s what it was intended to do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: By saying, look hard at these photographs that sort of appear.

    DONALD BLUMBERG: Look hard. You can’t escape it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He also began photographing his television set, freezing in time major historical events. His first work captured images from the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    DONALD BLUMBERG: It was a way of creating a reportage to photograph off the television and translate it into a mosaic, a mosaic in which a person could look at the whole story and break it up into little fragments, one cell, two cell, horizontally, diagonally.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Then there’s a kind of strange news poem created by Omer Fast in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. He took single words spoken by CNN anchors and reporters. You will certainly recognize one of them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The standard of reporting.

    JEFFREY BROWN: To fashion a piece about fear and anxiety.

    Robert Heinecken played with news anchors in a different way, as a kind of commodity, in his piece, Case Study in Finding An Appropriate Newswoman.

    He used photos of newscasters and combined them into an idealized co-anchor.

    ARPAD KOVACS: I think what he was interested in is trying to reveal all of the complex decisions that go into making such a choice that the general public is not aware of.

    Here, we have five panels in which he’s reproduced issues of LIFE magazine.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For some artists, the subject was what’s left out, what’s not there. Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar created this large-scale five-panel piece with every cover of LIFE magazine. In a kind of “Where’s Waldo?” style, he called it Searching for Africa in Life.

    ARPAD KOVACS: When you look at this work, you realize that there are very few instances where the continent of Africa is represented. And in many of those instances, it’s actually rather ambiguous whether the cover pertains to a story that deals with Africa.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The news as art, the art of the news. The exhibition Breaking News is at the Getty through April.

    From Los Angeles, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And for the record, the Getty Foundation helps to underwrite the NewsHour.

    The post How artists have wrestled with nonstop news appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s return to the war in Syria, and focus on the effect it is having on children.

    The schools have been devastated. More than a third have closed since the war began. And a recent report by the International Rescue Committee found more than 1.7 million children and youth are not attending classes.

    That is the focus of our weekly segment Making the Grade.

    And we’re joined by David Miliband the president of the International Rescue Committee. He recently visited the region and refugee children in Lebanon.

    David Miliband, welcome back to the program.

    We know this war has taken a terrible toll on lives in so many ways, but what is the main finding of your report on the effect on children and their ability to learn?

    DAVID MILIBAND, CEO, International Rescue Committee: Thank you, Judy.

    Well, the situation inside Syria is obviously top of the news because of the crushing and appalling chemical weapons attacks last week. But the long-term impact of six years of war on about 1.7 million children inside the country who are being denied education is obviously very grave indeed.

    There is the fundamental stress, what is called the toxic stress, of being involved in a war. And for those inside the country, they’re denied the most basic access to education.

    Obviously, that problem is doubled by the experience of the refugees who are out of the country, 5.5 million refugees out of the country, half of them kids, probably half of those not getting an education at all.

    So, it is true to talk about a generation of Syrian schoolchildren being denied the most basic elements of an education. And, of course, that stands in stark contrast to the fact that they would have expected, in a middle-income country, which Syria was before 2011, to get a decent education.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does this mean? Based on this report that the International Rescue Committee has put together, what does this mean specifically in terms of children’s literacy, their ability to read, their ability to do basic math?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, we found that children in grades six, seven, eight, so children almost approaching teenage years, were unable to do the kind of sums or spelling that you would expect from a grade one student.

    So, that’s what six years of education being lost means, never mind the huge blow to the children’s understanding and self-esteem that comes from seeing their country blown apart, and often their families blown apart as well.

    And so I think that the message I would get across to your viewers is that the toll on children is almost greater than on any other group. But, secondly, never underestimate the resilience of the children and the ability of them, when given proper educational provision, to bounce back.

    We, the International Rescue Committee, offer education in the north of Syria to children inside the country. We also offer education in the neighboring states.

    And what we find is that, however hard the children have been hit, there’s a remarkable capacity to bounce back, if they’re given proper help. And that makes international humanitarian aid especially important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is proper help? What does that consist of? And what can be done about this? Because people are certainly looking for ways out of this war, but, if anything, that looks harder than ever today.

    DAVID MILIBAND: You’re right about the huge diplomatic effort that’s going to be necessary.

    But, on the humanitarian front, and especially the educational front, there are two things that are essential. First of all, there’s no point in pretending that kids who have been through a war are like any other first grader or fifth grader turning up for school. They need proper attention to their social and emotional resources.

    What’s called the toxic stress that they have suffered is effectively brain damage and/or what would be called amongst adults PTSD. And these children need to have that addressed before they’re able to access learning.

    However, in addition to those social and emotional skills and resources that they need to build up, they also need the basic elements of an education.

    And our argument is that, at a time when the overall humanitarian budget is under huge stress, at a time when less than 2 percent of the global humanitarian budget is spent on education, that is the worst possible time for the administration in Washington to be talking about one-third cuts, 31 percent cuts in America’s contribution to humanitarian aid, because America has often marked itself out for its commitment on the humanitarian front. And those children in Syria who we surveyed, they need America’s help.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying there’s a direct link between what the U.S. does in terms of foreign aid and the long-term repercussions, survival of these children, and their ability to be functioning human beings?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, you don’t need to just take my word for it. I lead a humanitarian organization, so you might expect me to say that humanitarian aid is important.

    But just listen to the U.S. defense secretary, Secretary Mattis. He’s very clear, as a military man, that military effort on its own, it needs to be — is not enough on its own. It needs to be allied obviously to diplomatic effort, but also to humanitarian and development efforts as well.

    And those three aspects of American foreign policy, the military, the diplomacy and the humanitarian development, need to go together.

    And so the suggestion from the administration that now is the time to slash America’s leadership on humanitarian aid seems extremely misguided. We’re living through the world’s — certainly this century’s worst civil war in Syria. We know there are four famines that are hitting parts of Africa. The global refugee crisis is at its height.

    Humanitarian aid is an essential commitment to the future of those children, but it’s also a stabilizer of the societies from which they come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you mentioned the defense secretary, James Mattis. In fact, he said at his news conference today that the U.S. — it sounded as if what he was saying was that, unless there is another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime, at this point, the U.S. has no further plan to intervene militarily.

    What does that mean for the efforts of groups like the International Rescue Committee?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, we can report from the ground that our staff — I have got about 1,400 staff working for the International Rescue Committee inside Syria.

    They rushed towards that chemical weapons attack in an ambulance. They rescued 10 people, took them to a hospital in Idlib, and saved their lives. But, obviously, they are in fear not just of chemical weapons attacks, but conventional weapons attacks as well.

    And so my message from the ground would be that we — it’s incumbent on American political leadership to make stop the killing the central demand that is made of all the actors in the conflict. Until we stop the killing, then not only will the humanitarian situation get worse, but the prospects for any kind of durable peace evaporate as well.

    And my fear from the ground is that, in the few days since the chemical weapons attacks, there’s actually been an intensification of the conventional weapons warfare. And that’s obviously cold comfort to anyone on the ground trying to live their life inside Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it was clear today, again, just quickly, in listening to Secretary Mattis, that the administration is right now drawing a line between responding if there is a chemical weapons attack, but something very different if it’s short of, even if it’s barrel bombs on civilians.

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, obviously, as a leader of a humanitarian organization, it’s not for me to advocate one military tactic or another.

    What I can say is that the situation on the ground is grave and getting worse, that the cease-fires that are being proclaimed at various points haven’t held at all, and that, with 500,000 dead, 5.5 million refugees, it’s well past the time when Syria wasn’t just a humanitarian emergency, but it was a political emergency as well.

    It’s a source of massive instability across the Middle East and into Europe. And that calls for the highest levels of diplomatic and political engagement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee, thank you.

    DAVID MILIBAND: Thank you so much.

    The post How war and years of lost education have devastated Syrian children — and what can be done to help appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: White-nose syndrome is a disease that has been killing millions of bats across the Northeastern U.S. since 2006. Last year, the disease mysteriously appeared in the Seattle area.

    As Michael Werner from Public Media’s EarthFix desk reports, researchers are racing to learn what West Coast bats are in for.

    MICHAEL WERNER: Wildlife veterinarian John Huckabee is on the lookout for symptoms of a deadly and contagious disease, a disease that kills bats by the millions.

    DR. JOHN HUCKABEE, Wildlife Veterinarian, PAWS Wildlife Center: There are a few small deep pigmented areas of scarring, but, overall, looks like he’s in very good shape.

    READ MORE: Debunking the myth of the vampire bat

    MICHAEL WERNER: This silver-haired bat doesn’t seem to be a carrier. But, a few months ago, a little brown bat arrived at his office outside Seattle.

    JOHN HUCKABEE: I saw that one of the wings had a lot of contracture and some wounds, some lesions on the wing, and it had an appearance that it may have a fungal infection.

    MICHAEL WERNER: The odd scarring was a possible sign of white-nose syndrome, one of the deadliest wildlife diseases in modern times.

    First discovered in New York state in 2006, white-nose syndrome has killed more than 5.5 million bats and counting. The disease, which is spread primarily by bat-to-bat contact, has wreaked havoc on the large colonies of the East Coast.

    JEREMY COLEMAN, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: We have seen populations of bats in eastern colonies decline, in some cases, to 100 percent.

    MICHAEL WERNER: Until recently, it wasn’t known how the disease killed its victims, but new research suggests that bats with white-nose wake up more often during hibernation.

    This causes them to burn through fat reserves that would usually sustain them through the winter. Starvation and death soon follow. In just a few short years, the epidemic raced across the country, spreading from the Northeast all the way to Nebraska and Oklahoma.

    But then it hit an enormous natural barrier. The Rocky Mountains kept the disease from reaching Western bats, or so scientists thought, until Huckabee’s discovery. Some speculate that an infected bat may have hitched a ride on a freight truck. Others think hikers or cavers may have unwittingly carried the fungus on their clothes or equipment.

    Since the first infected bat was found in the forests east of Seattle, the white-nose fungus has been found twice more in Washington state, both near the original site around North Bend.

    WOMAN: We have bats in the net.

    MICHAEL WERNER: Fear of a white-nose outbreak has jump-started research, not just in Washington, but around the Northwest.

    In Central Oregon, ecologist Tom Rodhouse and a team of researchers are collecting data on local bats.

    TOM RODHOUSE, Ecologist, National Park Service: Bats hang out in the dark. They hang out in these big cliffs and crevices that we can’t access. So, we have gone for decades without really understanding what’s happening with bats.

    MICHAEL WERNER: They’re trying to assess the health and population size of Oregon’s 15 species of bats.

    TOM RODHOUSE: There’s really no way for us to ascertain what’s happening with our bat populations without this kind of a coordinated large-scale survey effort.

    MICHAEL WERNER: Back in Washington, researchers such as Abby Tobin are trying to learn how bats spend their winters.

    ABBY TOBIN, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife: We’re trying to figure out what type of habitats they’re roosting in, if they’re hibernating through the winter, or if they are kind of active throughout, and also looking at those habitats they’re using, and whether the environment there is conducive for the fungus to thrive.

    Why don’t we kind of go down a little bit and see away from the trail?

    MICHAEL WERNER: She’s setting up bat detectors, specialized microphones that can pick up bats’ high-frequency calls.

    ABBY TOBIN: Each bat has a unique echolocation call, and so we’re able to identify them based on that call from those acoustic detectors.

    From this, I could tell this is canyon bat. And they have this typical kind of hockey stick shape look to their claw.

    MICHAEL WERNER: In the lab, Tobin looks for small signs the disease is taking hold in Washington.

    ABBY TOBIN: And there’s a couple little tiny little holes. I am looking right now to see if there is any damage to the wing membranes, which would be a sign that it had white-nose syndrome.

    It’s important to detect white-nose syndrome early because it allows us to get a sense of where it is, and so we might be able to do some sort of containment or treatment with the animals.

    MICHAEL WERNER: Despite white-nose’s deadly effects on bats, it poses no known threat to people. But many questions remain. And it could be years before definitive answers emerge.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Michael Werner in Seattle.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a postscript: High school students at our Student Reporting Lab outside of Louisville, Kentucky, produced a story on the effect of white-nose syndrome on bats at Mammoth Cave National Park.

    You can find that report on studentreportinglabs.org.

    The post Deadly epidemic spurs research into the lives of bats appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: The international uproar continued over the forced removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight.

    Today, the airline’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, issued an apology, saying — quote — “No one should ever be mistreated this way. I want you to know that we take full responsibility, and we will work to make it right.”

    Along with the outrage, many were asking, how could this happen?

    Our Jeffrey Brown picks up the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, by now, the video has been watched hundreds of millions of times, including more than 270 million on social media in China, where many wondered if the passenger had been singled out because he is of Asian descent.

    The cell phone video shows a bloodied man identified as Dr. David Dao being pulled from his seat on a plane set to depart from Chicago on Sunday night. The flight was sold out, and passengers were first offered vouchers to take another flight, so members of a United crew could board. When that didn’t work, Dao and three other passengers were asked to leave.

    Questions remain about what happened, and what’s supposed to happen in a situation like this.

    Ben Mutzabaugh is covering it for USA Today, and joins me now.

    And welcome to you.

    BEN MUTZABAUGH, USA Today: Thanks for having me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One thing that was clarified today was that the flight was actually not overbooked, but oversold, right, sold out?

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: Right. That’s correct.

    So, it won’t move the needle a whole lot, given the video that we saw, but what technically happened was, the plane was full. United had four employees of their affiliate Republic Airlines that needed to make it to Louisville so more flights didn’t end up getting canceled down the line.

    They had to make space for them. They needed four volunteers. Three were OK with being voluntarily kicked off the plane. One wasn’t, and here we are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, as we heard, the CEO, Munoz, gave an apology today, after huge criticism for not apologizing sufficiently up to this point.

    This is a — this is a mess for United, right?

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: This has really, really spiraled out of control.

    And I think the apology today was probably helpful. It certainly sounded more sincere than the one that we got yesterday. And it also came after the internal memo that pretty much said employees had done things the right way.

    And even if that’s true, you can’t see that video and have that go over well with what you hear. They are facing a full-fledged, all-out public relations crisis at a time when they’re really trying to change the perception of the airline.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, everybody watching this, everybody who flies is wondering, what kind of rules apply or should apply in a case like this?

    So, it’s very common these days that flights are overbooked, right? That’s the way the airlines operate. What rules apply?

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: So, the government says airlines can overbook flights. They can sell more seats than there are on the plane. They have to inform you of your rights, and then they have the call for volunteers.

    Now, if that doesn’t happen, the airlines can remove passengers based on a list of criteria. The only thing the government really requires in the scenario is for the airlines to inform passengers of their rights and to get a written copy of the rules, which basically list the criteria that they will use to choose people to leave the flight.

    And they set compensation levels that pretty much top out, if you get to a domestic destination more than two hours late, you will get 400 percent of your one-way ticket for that flight or a maximum of $1,350.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, but it if comes to that, where they really need — first of all, they offer the vouchers we’re all familiar with, right, try to lure people to take…

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: Right, yes, start at $200, go to $300, and keep raising.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right. And in this case, I understand United was offering up to $1,000 to get people to…

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: Definitely $800.

    We have seen some reports — there are so many — watching this spiral out of control, it’s amazing to see all the stories that have surfaced on social media, which is probably part of the problem for United.

    But, yes, they offered $800, $1,000. No takers, until they got to the last four. And then they just couldn’t — should have raised it more perhaps.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, when it gets to this next stage where they are asking people to leave, do we know — you’re saying every airline has its own criteria? How do they decide on who they’re going to ask to get up and go?

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: It’s generally a combination of frequent flyer status, the fare paid, lowest fare paid.

    The cynics will say that if you boot the person who paid the lowest fare, that the least amount of compensation you will owe them under the federal regulations on dumping about what you would owe them.

    So it stands to reason you might bump passengers who have paid the lowest fare. Other things can include the last ones to check in. There is really a list of factors.

    But perhaps — perhaps what makes this so troubling for the airlines, and especially in a situation like this, is that, although it’s somewhat transparent, it’s not completely transparent. You get a list of factors, but not a hard-and-fast checklist.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    And then if you want to — if you want to say no, as Dr. Dao does — did, do passengers have any rights to say no?

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: They do not.

    And this is where this particular situation, I think, really went off the rails. So, United probably, in my opinion, should have done more to entice him or someone else to get off the plane, because, once you turn this situation over to the authorities, you have got an airline that says you have to get off the plane, you have got a passenger who says, I’m not getting off the plane.

    If you call authorities then, there is pretty much only one way that turns out. And that’s what we saw in the video. Now, admittedly, that video turned out probably much worse than anyone would have anticipated.

    But if they could have done anything and got Mr. Dao off the plane, this becomes a local — not even a local story in Louisville, and we’re not talking about it today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, just in our last 30 seconds here, I mean, people still book mostly based on price and convenience, right?

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How much brand loyalty is there? How much lasting impact would you expect this to have?

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: There are frequent flyers who will stick with an airline no matter what.

    But what we have seen for the public at large, people who are infrequent flyers, no matter how big the scandal, no matter how big the crisis, no matter how poor the reputation, passengers have shown time and time again they will book the fare that’s $199, instead of $200, no matter what.

    Now, it remains to be — this has turned into a pretty big situation for United.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, this is unusual, right? This is not good attention for United.

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: This will test that. Exactly.

    This will test that. But the precedent says people will come back if the fares are lower.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK. They will be watching carefully.

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Ben Mutzabaugh of USA Today, thank you very much.

    BEN MUTZABAUGH: Thank you.

    The post How did United Airlines’ startling passenger confrontation happen? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Each year, 26,000 men in the United States die from prostate cancer. But there is confusion over conflicting advice about whom should get tested for the disease. There is new guidance out today from an influential task force.

    Our William Brangham has that story.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Here’s where some of the confusion started.

    Five years ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force told men aged 55 and over not to undergo the common PSA test for prostate cancer, citing fears of overtreatment or false positives.

    But, today, that panel reversed course, saying that men 55 to 69 should consider the test, but that men 70 and over should still skip it.

    I’m joined now by the doctor who chairs that task force.

    Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo is an general internist at U.C. San Francisco.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO, Chair, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: Thank you for having me.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, forgive my sense of whiplash here, but help me understand, what is the task force recommending today? What’s the evidence behind your recommendation?

    DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO: The task force is recommending that men between the ages of 55 and 69 have a conversation with their doctor about prostate cancer screening.

    We want men to know about the benefits of screening. We want them to also be aware of the harms that might occur along the along the way during the process of screening. The key here is that men should have this discussion. They should be aware the benefits and harms and then make the right decision that’s right for them.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, what would be the harms? I can understand the benefits. They can find out whether you have cancer or not, but what are the harms involved?

    DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO: The challenge with prostate cancer screening is the test that we use, the PSA test, is not that good for distinguishing the types of cancers that are going to cause problems, the aggressive cancers, distinguishing those from those that are slow-growing and may not cause a man a problem during his lifetime.

    And since most men who get diagnosed end up getting treated, those men are then subjected to the harms of treatment, which are important, and include impotence and incontinence, harms that happen in most men.

    We’re fortunate that the task force has new evidence. We have new evidence that led to the change in our grade. And the new evidence is both about the benefits, but also about approaches that can be used to allow some men to reduce some of these harms.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, let’s just say I’m one of these men, I get the test, and the PSA test indicates that I have cancer. What’s next?

    DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO: So, after the PSA test, you would have to have a prostate biopsy. That’s what would be important for us to really determine whether you have cancer.

    The strategy called active surveillance was one of those new strategies that we reviewed evidence for in the update. If you have low-risk prostate cancer, this might allow you to — active surveillance might allow you to avoid or delay treatment, because we watch you over time to see if the cancer is progressing, and only treat those men whose cancer is progressing.

    And so that was what allowed us to say that, for some men, the harms might be reduced.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, if I understand correctly, the new evidence that has helped you change your minds was that this testing saves more lives than it hurts in these ancillary side effects?

    DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO: Well, I think the most important thing to say is that there are benefits and there are harms, and what that balance looks like for any given man depends on how he values those benefits and harms.

    So, some men might say, I want to reduce my chance of dying of prostate cancer no matter what. I don’t care about the risks that you’re talking about. Let’s go ahead.

    There are other men who might say, the likelihood of benefiting from screening is so small. It’s only about one or two men in 1,000 screened who actually are prevented from dying. That man might say, that likelihood is too low, and I’m not willing to be — to subject myself to the potential risks associated with screening.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And there’s a lot of urologists — and I know the American cancer society has come out. They are very happy with your new guidelines.

    There are other doctors who have said this is a complicated conversation that you’re asking people to have with their doctors, doctors don’t have a lot of time to talk their patients, and that they worry that these guidelines will be blanket everybody get a PSA test, and that then we will see all of these negative side effects.

    How do you weigh that concern?

    DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO: Well, it’s definitely true that these are complex discussions. These are complex decisions.

    We do think that every man deserves to really understand what the science is telling them. And that’s why we really emphasize that these discussions are important ones to be had between doctors and patients to really understand, for any given man, what is the right choice for him?

    We are happy that many have engaged in the conversation. And it’s rally important that we get the right input and have the discussion about our draft recommendation. But, in the end, the most important thing for a given man is that he is aware that the science is telling us about benefits and harms, and that he uses that together to make the right decision for himself.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, the recommendations are, 55 to 69, strongly consider the test, talk to your doctor about it, men over 70, not necessary.

    What about younger men under 55?

    DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO: So, there are definite gaps in our evidence right now.

    We’d like to have better research about the types of tests that we could use to screen for prostate cancer. I told you PSA test is not a great test. We’d like to have more research on high-risk men. We know that African-American men have higher risks of prostate cancer. So do men with a family history.

    A lot of times, these are the types of cancer that occur in men earlier in life. We just don’t have enough evidence about how we can screen those men effectively, what’s the best age to start, how often to screen. We really need evidence for these men.

    In the absence of that evidence, I would say that our recommendations definitely apply to these high-risk men. That’s important to get out there. But we also need more research.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, thank you very much.

    DR. KIRSTEN BIBBINS-DOMINGO: Thank you.

    The post Why this prostate cancer screening guideline just got reversed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, part of what the attorney general called the Trump era includes speeding up the deportation process, but what happens to those who are deported?

    Special correspondent Nick Schifrin traveled to Mexico to try to answer that question.

    He begins in Mexico City.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In Mexico City’s airport, the recently deported arrive by the planeload. This is the country of their birth, but most have been gone so long, it feels foreign.

    FELIZIO GONZALES, (through interpreter): You come back here knowing nothing about your future.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Fifty-two-year-old Felizio Gonzales was arrested last year in Seattle for running a stop sign. He’s been living in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant installing carpets for the last 20 years.

    FELIZIO GONZALES (through interpreter): I had a girlfriend I was living with, but now it’s all over. She stayed there, and I came back to Mexico.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Gonzales and every deportee arriving from the U.S. is greeted by city government workers and local aid groups.

    RUDY LOPEZ, Immigration Activist: When you’re coming here, you’re coming broken.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Rudy Lopez leads an organization that provides basic immediate assistance. He says he feels recent arrivals’ pain. He was deported for traffic tickets and getting in a fight a year-and-a-half ago. His two American children still live in Las Vegas.

    RUDY LOPEZ: I fight because I don’t like families being destroyed, you know? I miss my boy. I miss my daughter.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Is the government helping recent deportees?

    RUDY LOPEZ: Really, really, it’s a little bit, the help. Our government is — I’m sorry for the word — it’s (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

    Mexico got a lot of money, but not for everybody, only for the government.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, Lopez is the deportees’ only source of help. He hands Gonzales a little spending cash and leads him outside the airport. Gonzales carries only what U.S. immigration allowed him to take: a mesh bag, the clothes on his back.

    They lead him into Mexico City’s sprawling metro system. Gonzales is almost immediately lost. He gets off the metro. He hopes it’s the right stop. He looks for a bus to take him an hour out of town to his ex-wife’s House, but he hasn’t talked to her in four years.

    He decides that she’s a long shot, and there is only one remaining sanctuary.

    FELIZIO GONZALES (through interpreter): All I can do is ask God to make it a little easier.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Why can’t you help these people more?

    CARLOS SADA SOLANA, Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister: It’s a huge challenge, I would say.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Carlos Sada Solana is Mexico’s deputy foreign minister. He admits the government is overwhelmed by the recent arrivals.

    CARLOS SADA SOLANA: We still have to make it better, so that people feel really welcome and protected by the institutions of Mexico, and also offering some alternatives for jobs. And that is what we are trying to improve.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Many people here blame President Trump. But his predecessor, President Barack Obama, was dubbed by his pro-immigrant rights critics the deporter-in-chief. And according to Mexican statistics, the Trump administration deported slightly fewer Mexicans in February compared to last year.

    Mexico says what has changed is that the Trump administration is moving undocumented Mexicans through the deportation steps faster, and is deporting more undocumented Mexicans from cities far from the Mexican border.

    CARLOS SADA SOLANA: We are very concerned, because it has extended the expedited removal, not only from the border area, to the whole territory of the United States, including Alaska, and that this could provoke also violations of human rights, not giving the due process to the people.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Eleven hundred miles north, on the Arizona-Mexico border, the two towns divided by a fence are both called Nogales. The deportees in Nogales, Mexico, arrive from the U.S. by the busload. The U.S. and Mexico coordinates their arrival. They have just a few days to plan their next steps.

    JOSE MESA: This is my first day over here in Mexico. I feel, like, weird, because I don’t know nothing about over here.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: For the last 15 years, 29-year-old Jose Mesa lived in Phoenix and worked as a caregiver. He says he was arrested for driving under the influence, and then deported.

    Is there a lot of fear in immigrant communities in the United States about getting deported today?

    JOSE MESA: Yes. Basically, yes, they got a lot of fear.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Because the administration doesn’t want you?

    JOSE MESA: Yes, administration of Trump is getting more worse, yes.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: He says, since the inauguration, immigration agents are more aggressive, and his neighbors are more prejudiced.

    JOSE MESA: They don’t give you respect. I mean, they treat me like trash.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Nearby, the deported find sanctuary at the San Juan Bosco shelter. This has been housing recent arrivals for more than 30 years. Some will try and cross again. But others are preparing to travel south to their homes in Mexico. They say the border has gotten too difficult to cross.

    Jorge Rivera Uribe is only 19. His American dream was to provide money for his two sisters, his wife, his daughter, and his mother, who has diabetes.

    JORGE RIVERA URIBE, (through interpreter): I don’t have money to take care of them. So, I wanted to see if I could earn more money to give them all a better life, so they don’t have to suffer.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In the U.S., he was building homes, making in one day what it takes a week to make in Mexico. But the border is now much more dangerous. Last month, he tried to sneak into the U.S. without paying the $500 charged by local drug cartels. They almost beat him to death.

    JORGE RIVERA URIBE (through interpreter): They told me, if they find me crossing again, they will blow my head off. They don’t know I’m alive. If they did, they would have come for me. That’s why I want to leave here. I won’t let them kill me.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Uribe and the others are allowed to spend three nights here. It’s comfortable, but they know they need to move on soon. The next morning, they wait to be transported to other locations that offer help.

    Thirty-two-year-old Sergio Guererro has four American children in California.

    What’s changed for you since Donald Trump was elected president?

    SERGIO GUERERRO, (through interpreter): It’s gotten more difficult. If you go nowadays, it’s scarier.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Their reticence reflects a recent trend. U.S. Border Patrol says, in March, compared to last year, the number of people apprehended or turned away at the border dropped by 64 percent.

    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly takes credit for that decrease, and says the administration’s policies discourage would-be crossers.

    JOHN KELLY, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary: What we’re doing on the border, what we intend to do on the border has added to that deterrent effect.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But that has left some of the deported in no man’s land, too scared to try and cross back to their American lives, forsaken by their birth country that feels alien.

    Martin Lopez is 48. He was born in Tijuana, but spent 44 years in California. He worked in restaurants and says he paid taxes. He was deported three months ago after he says he took the rap for his American wife’s welfare fraud.

    MARTIN LOPEZ: I had to, because I didn’t want my kids taken away from her.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: He left Mexico when he was 4, and doesn’t have his birth certificate. He never got any American documentation. He feels like a John Doe. He’s run out of money and hope.

    MARTIN LOPEZ: It’s difficult, very difficult. I never suffered this much like I have in a month, two months. I mean, it comes down to the point where you just don’t want to live no more. That’s all it is. It’s very difficult. I have to survive, you know? There’s not much to say. My kids hold me up.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: You talk to them?

    MARTIN LOPEZ: Oh, yes, I talk to them.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: What do they tell you?

    MARTIN LOPEZ: Oh, they say just not to lose hope, not to lose hope, and hang in there. But they’re kids. They don’t — there’s not much they can say.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: When he first arrived, he could sleep and eat in local shelters. But there’s a time limit on their assistance. So, today, he’s on his own. He tried to cross back into the U.S., but fell and hurt his back.

    He too turns to God. He feels trapped between two countries, neither of which offers help.

    MARTIN LOPEZ: Well, this is my sleeping area. Here is where I sleep ever since I got deported. And when I’m not working, I mean, this is where I’m at right here, as you can see my blankets here. Not much of a comfort.

    It’s very sad, sleeping like this. You go through a lot of thinking. I don’t have that support where I can pay and get across. And I just think, for the next day, how am I going to make it, how am I going to live, what am I going to do? Going to sleep with an empty stomach, waking up very sad.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: He sleeps now among the dead. They are his neighbors of necessity, and, from them, despite everything he’s been through, he takes resilience.

    MARTIN LOPEZ: I will overcome this. I have to. There’s no life here, no life.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nick Schifrin in Nogales, Mexico.

    The post Deported to Mexico, these men feel lost in a country they no longer know appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Attorney General Jeff Sessions today outlined the Trump administration’s tough approach on immigration during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona.

    He credited President Trump with the decline in border apprehensions and he urged federal prosecutors to focus on smugglers and immigrants who reenter the U.S. after deportation.

    JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. Attorney General: For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned. This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our laws and the catch-and-release policies of the past are over.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And for more on all of this, we are joined from Tucson by Nancy Montoya. She’s senior reporter on immigration and border issues for Arizona Public Media.

    Nancy Montoya, welcome back to the program.

    You have been covering border issues for many years. What struck you the most about what the attorney general had to say today?

    NANCY MONTOYA, Arizona Public Media: I think it was more what he didn’t say, Judy.

    One of the things that has been happening on a regular basis with the Trump administration is, officials come into the border, they spend a couple of hours, they talk to CBP, which is Customs and Border Protection, they talk to Border Patrol, they talk to officials, but they never talk to community members, to some of the civil rights groups, to some of the human rights groups who have really been protesting a lot of the strategies and policies of the Trump administration.

    So, that was one of the things that really caught me off-guard, is that there was no conversation with those on the other side of the controversy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you hearing from this administration that differs from Obama administration policy?

    NANCY MONTOYA: I think it is the types of people who they are targeting for deportation.

    Under the Obama administration, yes, it was true he was dubbed the deporter in chief for deporting more people than the past three administrations put together, but there was also a targeted group they were deporting, Obama administration was deporting. And those were people with felonies. Those were people who were involved in drug trafficking, dangerous people, people who had committed murder or assault.

    Those were the people who were being targeted. What’s different here is that you are now considered illegal if you cross the border once, and you’re considered to have broken the law. So, one time will get you a possible prosecution. Two times where you’re caught crossing the border illegally will get you a felony. And that’s one of the biggest differences.

    Also, anybody who is caught up in a net in any kind of a raid are eligible for deportation immediately.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there was also — we noticed the march today seemed to be addressed to parents of children, parents who had come across the border, had children born in the U.S., but the vulnerability that those parents still find themselves in.

    NANCY MONTOYA: Yes, that was also one of the things that struck me as difficult to hear, as someone who has lived and worked along the border for 30 years, is that, in many cases, you have people have crossed the border 20, 30 years ago. They had their children here. They have grandchildren.

    And now they, too, if they are not citizens and didn’t cross into this country legally, they are subject to deportation. And that has already happened, where U.S.-born children are being separated from their parents. Parents are being deported.

    There is no safety net anymore. And you are — if you are here and you cross the border illegally, the Trump administration is putting you on warning that you could be next.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the things the attorney general, Nancy Montoya, referred to was the administration’s plan to hire, I think he said 50 more immigration judges this year, 75 more next year.

    How much of a difference could that make in the processing of immigration cases?

    NANCY MONTOYA: That’s very unclear.

    And there’s actually two things to consider here. First of all, the backlog with immigration court cases is about 500,000 people, half-a-million people backlogged in the immigration system.

    It’s unclear whether these 25 to 50 to 75 new judges will be handling only the new cases coming in, or will they be spread out throughout the entire system? That’s still unclear.

    There is also a lot of worry that you won’t get these judges up to speed. I know that Attorney General Sessions said we’re going to streamline the process, we’re going to push people through, but it still takes up to a year to get a new judge in place. And we still have no evidence that streamlining is going to mean faster.

    So, in the meantime, you will be arresting more people and putting more people into the system, more people into private prisons and some of the public prisons, and further overloading an already overwhelmed immigration court system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just in a couple seconds, the status of the border wall that we have heard so much about?

    NANCY MONTOYA: Border wall, no go. Mexico will not pay for it. And Congress needs to appropriate the money. So far, they don’t appear to be willing to do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we will certainly see about it.

    Nancy Montoya with Arizona Public Media, thank you.

    NANCY MONTOYA: Thank you, Judy.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news, North Korea issued a fiery new warning to the United States.

    State TV threatened nuclear strikes on American military bases in South Korea and elsewhere, if the U.S. makes any aggressive move. The report noted that a U.S. aircraft carrier group is moving toward the region for military exercises with the South.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): The United States’ dispatching of its nuclear carrier task group in the waters off the peninsula proves that its reckless moves for invading North Korea have reached a serious phase. If the U.S. dares opt for military action, then North Korea is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, President Trump used Twitter to send his own warning to Pyongyang and to China. He tweeted — quote — “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them.”

    Democrats were hoping for an upset today in the first congressional election since President Trump’s November victory. It’s a race to fill the Kansas seat vacated when Representative Mike Pompeo was named director of the CIA. Democrat James Thompson is challenging Republican Ron Estes. The president tweeted his support for Estes today.

    The state of Texas must decide how to proceed after a federal judge ruled for a second time that a voter I.D. law discriminates against minorities. In a previous ruling, the judge likened the law to a poll tax. A federal appeals court asked her to reexamine the case, which she did, before reaffirming her finding on Monday. A separate court has found that Texas racially gerrymandered several congressional districts.

    On Wall Street today, stocks struggled to make any headway. The Dow Jones industrial average gave up six points to close at 20651. The Nasdaq fell 14 points, and the S&P 500 slipped three.

    And in Thailand, they have begun festivities to ring in the Buddhist new year, starting with elephants spraying people with water. The animals marched through the country’s ancient capital today, dousing revelers and tourists alike. The tradition is said to wash away bad luck and usher in prosperity for the new year.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump’s top diplomat is now in Russia at a moment of high tension. It centers on last week’s U.S. military strike on Syria, after the regime launched a chemical weapons attack against its own people.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports on this day’s events.

    MARGARET WARNER: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow this evening on the heels of some tough talk about Syria at the Group of 7 meeting in Italy.

    REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah. Is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia’s interest? Or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other Western countries and Middle East countries who are seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis?

    MARGARET WARNER: U.S.-Russian tensions surged after last Tuesday’s chemical attack, which killed more than 80 people in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province. The U.S. responded with cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base Thursday.

    Tillerson again today faulted Russia for failing to enforce a deal it helped negotiate in 2013 to rid Syria of all chemical weapons. In their communique today, the G7 ministers said they were shocked and horrified by the attack, but they decided against further actions for now.

    Speaking in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin likened the allegations about Syria to false U.S. claims in 2003 that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He said he expects more such incidents.

    VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russian President (through interpreter): We have intelligence from various sources that similar provocations are being prepared in other regions of Syria, including the southern suburbs of Damascus, where they are planning to plant chemicals and blame the Syrian government for using them.

    MARGARET WARNER: Hours later, White House officials accused Moscow of attempting to cover up Syria’s culpability with — quote — “false narratives.” They said satellite and open source imagery establishes Syria was responsible, and disproves Russia’s claims that the gas was released by a government strike on a rebel depot.

    A senior U.S. official had said Monday there’s evidence Russia knew ahead of time about the chemical attack, but White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer walked that back today.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: There’s no consensus within the intelligence community that there was involvement.

    MARGARET WARNER: At the same time, Spicer’s own words proved a distraction for the White House.

    SEAN SPICER: We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a — you know, someone as despicable of Hitler who didn’t even sink to the — to using chemical weapons.

    MARGARET WARNER: When challenged, he acknowledged that Hitler gassed millions of Jews and others in death camps. And Spicer later clarified his remarks in a statement, saying he was in no way trying to minimize the Holocaust.

    Meantime, at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Central Command’s top general, Joseph Votel, reiterated that the U.S. focus would be the fight against ISIS.

    Mattis was asked why the U.S. acted after the chemical attack, but not after conventional strikes that kill Syrian civilians.

    JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: There is a limit, I think, to what we can do. We knew that we could not stand passive on this, but it was not a statement that we could enter full-fledged, full-bore into the most complex civil war probably raging on the planet.

    MARGARET WARNER: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

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    Fret no longer children of planet Earth, as new research from the University of California, Berkeley, has figured out the physics behind why the knots fail and why some shoelaces are more prone to the mistake. Photo by yellowsarah/via Getty Images

    Fret no longer children of planet Earth, as new research from the University of California, Berkeley, has figured out the physics behind why shoelace knots fail and why some shoelaces are more prone to the mistake. Photo by yellowsarah/via Getty Images

    No matter how tight you tug, it feels like some shoelaces are doomed to come untied.

    Fret no longer, as new research from the University of California, Berkeley, has figured out the physics behind why the knots fail and why some shoelaces are more prone to the mistake.

    While the poetic inevitability of the slipup may provide comfort to those afflicted by wayward shoelaces, the research published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A may also provide clues for building soft, lifelike robots.

    Mechanical engineer Oliver O’Reilly began looking into this telltale problem three years ago, after trying to teach his young daughter to tie her shoes.

    “I went online and found all these helpful videos about how to tie your shoelaces,” O’Reilly said. “They were wonderful and very helpful, but I also noticed there were no videos online about why your shoelaces become untied.”

    Images from high-speed camera observation of shoelace knot failure. Researchers found as the knot loosens, a ‘whipping’ motion of the lace strands and loops help to pull apart the knot. Once this begins to happen, force imbalances develop between the bowtie loops and free strands which eventually, and suddenly, lead to runaway untying. The final failure of the knot happens in a matter of seconds, and with little visual warning. Image by Christopher Daily-Diamond, Christine Gregg, and Oliver M. O’Reilly/University of California, Berkeley

    Images from a high-speed camera observation of shoelace knot failure. Researchers found as the knot loosens, a ‘whipping’ motion of the lace strands and loops help to pull apart the knot. Once this begins to happen, force imbalances develop between the bowtie loops and free strands which eventually, and suddenly, lead to runaway untying. The final failure of the knot happens in a matter of seconds, and with little visual warning. Image by Christopher Daily-Diamond, Christine Gregg, and Oliver M. O’Reilly/University of California, Berkeley

    This dearth of information pinged O’Reilly’s attention because he studies dynamics — the science of motion — in flexible materials for soft robots. While Disney’s “Big Hero 6” might look cool on the big screen, a lot of mathematical models on how and when materials deform would be needed to build such a robot. So, O’Reilly handed off this investigation into shoelaces as a side project for two of his graduate students, Christopher Daily-Diamond and Christine Gregg.

    Right off the bat, they found shoelaces didn’t untie when a person just swung their foot nor when they only stamped the ground. The combination of the two activities, which define walking and running, appeared responsible.

    The team acquired a high-speed camera and pointed it at Gregg’s shoes as she ran on a treadmill. Gregg had tied her laces with one of two knots: square (strong) knot or a granary (weak) knot. Here’s how O’Reilly described the difference between the two:

    You tie the laces first. That’s where you loop the strands together, one around the other. Next, you form the “bunny” knots. If you loop the bunny knots together the same direction that you tied the first knot together, that’s a weak knot.

    But if you do the opposite. Instead of putting one over the other, you switch the order, then you get the strong knot.

    An overhead view of the tying of a weak knot and a strong knot (a-c: step-by step). Image courtesy of Daily-Diamond CA, Gregg CE, O’Reilly OM., Proc. R. Soc. A, 2017

    An overhead view of the tying of a weak knot and a strong knot (a-c: step-by step). Image courtesy of Daily-Diamond CA, Gregg CE, O’Reilly OM., Proc. R. Soc. A, 2017

    What the team noticed in the videos was nothing happened for a long time, and then — all of the sudden — the laces came untied, typically over the course of two strides. It didn’t matter if Gregg had used a strong knot or a weak knot.

    To break down the physics of the phenomena, the researchers attached a small device to the free end of the laces that measured acceleration, and then Gregg went for a walk or a jog. This acceleration creates inertia, which is the tendency for an object to keep moving once it is in motion.

    “We were surprised that the accelerations were so high. They’re like 7 g [units of acceleration] ,” O’Reilly said. “By way of comparison, the highest g on a roller coaster are 6.3. Your foot is experiencing these really high g-forces as you’re running all the time. It’s a biomechanical miracle that all of that impact is absorbed through your body and spine.”

    The knot itself is under pressure too. The videos showed as the shoelaces bounce up and down with each footfall, the main knot begins to deform. Once the knot opens sufficiently, then the free end of the lace, which is being tugged by inertia, begins to slip out.

    As the leg is swung backwards to impact the ground, the inertia of the free ends and loops pull open the center of the knot. If the free end and loops are approximately the same length, these forces will be comparable. If the knot center is tightened, frictional forces will somewhat ameliorate the inertial force imbalance. Repeated impact causes the center of the knot to incrementally loosen which reduces frictional effects and magnifies the effects of the inertial imbalance between the free ends and loops. Image and caption courtesy of Daily-Diamond CA, Gregg CE, O’Reilly OM., Proc. R. Soc. A, 2017

    As the leg is swung backwards to impact the ground, the inertia of the free ends and loops pull open the center of the knot. If the free end and loops are approximately the same length, these forces will be comparable. If the knot center is tightened, frictional forces will somewhat ameliorate the inertial force imbalance. Repeated impact causes the center of the knot to incrementally loosen which reduces frictional effects and magnifies the effects of the inertial imbalance between the free ends and loops. Image and caption courtesy of Daily-Diamond CA, Gregg CE, O’Reilly OM., Proc. R. Soc. A, 2017

    The team built a robotic pendulum to examine the math on a deeper level. They found the knot’s failure intensifies over time. As the length of the loose end increases, so too does its weight relative to the other strand. This trend adds to the inertial forces, until total shoelace failure. Moreover, the bows of your shoelace are not exempt for this flaw.

    “Some people will have very long free ends relative to the bow, in that case, the free ends will go first and the bow will just vanish,” O’Reilly said. “The bow can increase in size, and the free ends will vanish.”

    A pendulum experiment was used to study the effects of impact and lace dynamics on a knot. Image by Christopher Daily-Diamond, Christine Gregg, and Oliver M. O’Reilly/University of California, Berkeley

    A pendulum experiment was used to study the effects of impact and lace dynamics on a knot. Image by Christopher Daily-Diamond, Christine Gregg, and Oliver M. O’Reilly/University of California, Berkeley

    When the team added little weights — ranging from 1 to 3 grams — to the free ends of the laces, they found heavier weights caused the shoelace knots to fail at a higher rate. This result suggests laces made from heavier materials may be more prone to screwing up, because unless you’re phenomenally gifted at tying even knots, one free end will likely be longer than the other.

    Though the amount of time before a failure varied, the researchers argued these basic knots will eventually slack off. Also, you can try tying a tighter knot, but even those may break your heart.

    “We didn’t specifically study double knots, but we know from anecdotal evidence that they sometimes still fail, though less frequently than single knots,” Gregg said.

    The post The science behind why your shoelace knot is doomed to fail appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Carter Page, one-time advisor of president-elect Donald Trump, addresses the audience during a 2016 presentation in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

    Carter Page, one-time advisor of president-elect Donald Trump, addresses the audience during a 2016 presentation in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A published report says the FBI obtained a court order to monitor communications of an adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump last summer.

    The Washington Post reported Tuesday the application to a special court to monitor Carter Page was part of the investigation into potential links between the Republican’s presidential campaign and Russia. The newspaper cited unnamed law enforcement and other U.S. officials.

    READ MORE: In a reversal, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page now says he did have contact with Russia

    Page tells The Associated Press he believes the basis for the court order was “unjustified” and blames the Obama administration for suppressing “dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy.”

    An FBI spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment from The AP.

    The application for surveillance explained why investigators believed Page was an agent of Russia, officials told the newspaper.

    In February, former Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour that he had “no meetings” with Russian officials last year. But Page later said that he did not deny meeting with the Russian ambassador last summer in Cleveland, in an apparent contradiction.

    Watch our interview with Page from earlier this year:

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    Florida has entered a state of emergency as firefighters battle more than 100 wildfires that are raging throughout more than 20,000 acres in the state — from the northern border, to the Panhandle, to the southern tip.

    Gov. Rick Scott issued the state of emergency order Tuesday, allowing regional and local agencies to redirect their personnel to fight the wildfires and enlisting the help of the Florida National Guard. The order also puts Florida in a position to receive assistance from the federal government.

    State officials say less than a month into the spring season, large swaths of South and Central Florida are approaching drought-like conditions.

    “This may only get worse as we enter the hotter summer months, and it is crucial that we take every action right now to be prepared,” Scott said Tuesday in a statement.

    The state has not seen such active wildfires since 2011, according to the governor’s office.

    More than 1,494 wildfires have burned 79,629 acres in Florida so far this year, according to the Florida Forest Service. That is five times the number of acres burned in the same period last year.

    The largest active area — the Parliament fire — has damaged the Big Cypress National Preserve in the southern part of the state, burning 41 square miles. This fire started March 18 and is 95 percent contained. The Cowbell fire, also in the Big Cypress National Preserve, has burned nearly 16,000 acres, according to the National Parks Service. That fire, which started March 30, is still growing and is only 11 percent contained.

    Florida State Forester Jim Karels told the Tallahassee Democrat that about 90 percent of the fires this have been caused by humans and there is “no end in sight” as they continue to battle the fires. The unusually dry conditions are raising fears there could be a repeat of the historic 1998 wildfires that swept through the state, destroying at least 342 homes and causing an estimated $393 million in damage.

    State fire officials said that since then, they have improved their management of controlled burns in a way that reduces the risk of wildfires.

    Karels told the NewsHour that fires in urban areas, not the remote Parliament or Cowbell fires, pose the greatest concern because they have the potential to damage critical infrastructure like roads and homes. “The real struggles are in the urban interface areas like in Hernando County, Franklin County, Naples and Martin County. Fires that are threatening evacuation of homes,” he said.

    The post Worst wildfire season in years prompts a state of emergency in Florida appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    American politician and Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes greets supporters as he celebrates his Congressional special election victory, Wichita Kansas, April 11, 2017. (Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

    Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes greets supporters on April 11, 2017, as he celebrates his Congressional special election victory, in Wichita, Kansas. (Photo: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON — Republicans escaped a special House election in Kansas with a single-digit victory in a district where they have romped in the past, an early warning sign for the GOP at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency.

    The narrow win in Kansas, where CIA Director Mike Pompeo prevailed by 31 percentage points last fall, emboldened Democrats ahead of a more competitive special congressional election in Georgia next week that could serve as a test of their ability to marshal anti-Trump forces.

    “Democrats are showing up and Republicans have to energize their base,” said Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman who once led the GOP’s House campaign arm. “A win is a win but this should have been relatively simple and it wasn’t.”

    The special election was the first major contest since Trump’s inauguration and could be an early indicator of Democrats’ ability to mobilize against the president’s policies and whether Republican failure to overhaul health care policy might sap party enthusiasm. Trump’s job approval ratings have hovered around 40 percent, creating unease among Republicans looking to maintain their congressional majorities.

    [READ MORE: These special elections will be first test of political climate under Trump]

    Republicans have had a difficult stretch, with the health care debacle, federal and congressional probes into Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials and contentious town halls in congressional districts. On Monday, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who shouted “You Lie!” at President Barack Obama during a 2009 health care speech, heard chants of the same phrase at a town hall from constituents angry about health care and his voting record on violence against women.

    In a tweet, Trump praised Republican Ron Estes’ “great win” and for “easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!”

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    But that was hardly the case. The seven-percentage point margin was closer than initially expected in a district that Trump won handily last November and Republicans have held since 1994. The Democratic candidate, James Thompson, was a political novice who couldn’t attract big-dollar donations from Democrats around the nation.

    In a sign of concern for Republicans, Thompson edged Estes in the district’s most populous county surrounding Wichita, a county Trump won by 18 points last November. Wichita is home to Koch Industries, the company led by conservative billionaire political donors Charles and David Koch.

    Fearing potential fallout, Republicans injected last-minute money to help Estes while Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded get-out-the-vote phone calls on the candidate’s behalf. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned with Estes on Monday, warning of complacency.

    In Kansas, one factor was Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who remains unpopular because the state has faced serious budget problems since the governor and GOP lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013. Thompson portrayed Estes, the state’s treasurer, as a close Brownback ally even though the governor never publicly endorsed Estes.

    Republicans, who hold a 237-193 majority, will be defending seats in special elections in Georgia, South Carolina and Montana, where Donald Trump Jr. is planning to campaign for a GOP candidate next week. Democrats are expected to maintain a California seat vacated by former Rep. Xavier Becerra, now the state’s attorney general. Races for governor in Virginia and New Jersey next fall could also provide a window into Trump’s popularity.

    Georgia’s April 18 contest to replace former Rep. Tom Price, who is serving as Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, is expected to be more competitive than Kansas. Trump barely edged out Democrat Hillary Clinton in the district last year.

    [READ MORE: What special election upsets would mean for Democrats]

    Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide and investigative filmmaker, has raised more than $8 million, a massive amount for a special election, and has tried to galvanize Democrats who hope to turn it into a referendum on Trump’s performance.

    Next week’s outcome could be significant in a field of 18 candidates from both parties on the primary ballot. Polls have shown Ossoff leading in the first round of balloting but Republicans are hoping to keep him below the majority needed to win outright, which would create a two-person runoff on June 20.

    Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, who leads the House Republicans’ campaign arm, said Ossoff’s best chance of claiming the seat is to win outright next week, “and he knows that. That’s why he’s raising expectations on himself.”

    Karen Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, has led the Republican field but the race has turned nasty, with GOP rivals accusing her of being a political opportunist and the conservative Club for Growth spending six figures on ads to defeat her.

    The suburban Atlanta district is the type of place where Democrats are pinning their hopes on recapturing the House next year.

    “Republicans in the era of Trump have a problem even with Trump voters in the suburbs,” said Jesse Ferguson, a former strategist for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “That doesn’t predict or guarantee victory for Democrats in 2018 but it’s a road map.”

    __

    Associated Press writers John Hannah in Topeka, Kansas, and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed.

    The post Republicans’ narrow win for Kansas seat embolden Democrats appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump says the U.S. is “not getting along with Russia at all” and relations between the two global powers are at an “all-time low.”

    Trump said in a White House news conference that he’s hopeful he can improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin but “we’re going to see what happens.”

    The president spoke alongside the secretary-general of NATO shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Putin in Moscow. Tillerson told reporters the two countries have reached a “low point” in relations in the aftermath of a chemical attack in Syria.

    The conference came as part of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visit to the White House, just more than a month before a meeting of NATO leaders May 25 in Brussels — Trump’s first foreign trip as president.

    Watch Trump and Stoltenberg’s full remarks in the video above.

    The post WATCH: Trump says relations between U.S. and Russia at an ‘all-time low’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Auto mechanic at a service center

    Why are so many Americans still feeling so financially insecure? Economists Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider followed 235 low- and moderate-income households for a full year to understand why. File photo by Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Would you prefer financial stability or economic mobility?

    The story of the American Dream in the United States has always been one about mobility. But in 2014, when the Pew Charitable Trusts asked this question to 7,000 Americans, 92 percent chose stability.

    Why is this happening, and why are so many Americans still feeling so financially insecure — almost eight years after the Great Recession?

    In the U.S. Financial Diaries study, economists Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider followed 235 low- and moderate-income households for a full year to understand why. Their new book “The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty,” presents their findings, revealing true American stories and identifying policy-based solutions. The following is an excerpt from their book, on sale April 11.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    The afternoon was perfect — 75 degrees and clear, not too hot and not too cold. But Becky Moore was complaining about the weather. This was the kind of weather she said was “killer” on her husband Jeremy’s paycheck. Jeremy, 38, worked full time as a mechanic, repairing long-haul trucks on the evening shift at a service center on the interstate north of their Ohio town, earning a commission for each truck he fixed. Their children were still at school when Jeremy — usually dressed in a pair of Levi’s, a western shirt and steel-toed boots — pulled his pickup out of the driveway to get to work by 2 pm. The children, and sometimes Becky, were fast asleep by the time Jeremy got back after midnight.

    "The Financial Diaries"

    “The Financial Diaries”

    Jeremy’s biggest paychecks came during the hot weeks of summer, when the tar bubbles on the roads and the pavement is too hot to walk on with bare feet. The heat burns out truck tires, and Jeremy spent most of his summer shifts patching them. Icy chills weaken batteries and alternators, and the winter months brought big paychecks too. But during the fall and spring, Jeremy’s take-home pay could be as low as $600 for two weeks of full-time work. The mechanics on the day shift kept busier, and Jeremy complained that there often wasn’t much left to do when he arrived at 2. Some mild-weather days, Jeremy had only one truck to work on during his entire eight-hour shift. For Becky, 34, the uncertainty of that weighed heavily, and it was only October. “I’m thinking that two weeks from now it will be crap,” she said, imagining Jeremy’s next paycheck.

    For Jeremy, having a full-time job did not mean having a steady income. Like many of their friends, and a third of Ohio adults, neither Jeremy nor Becky has more than a high school diploma. But finishing high school used to be enough to land a solid factory job in southwest Ohio, one that came with guaranteed pay, benefits and a pension. General Motors had built cars in Norwood, about an hour away, since 1923, and for decades Norwood proudly turned out Camaros and Firebirds, America’s muscle cars. When Jeremy was 12, though, GM shut the Norwood plant along with 10 others across the country, citing high costs and foreign competition. It’s now more than a decade since Procter and Gamble closed the local plants that made Tide detergent, Crisco shortening, Crest toothpaste, Secret deodorant and Head & Shoulders shampoo. This is not just an Ohio story. In August 1987, the month the last Camaro rolled off the Norwood line, about 18 percent of Americans nationwide worked in manufacturing. Since then, the percentage has been halved, as has the rate of union membership. Office jobs and clerical jobs have given way to automation too, part of America’s shift toward a service economy.

    Fixing trucks on commission means that Jeremy, and not just his employer, bears the risks of weather, slow days and business ups and downs. In the heat of July, Jeremy took home $3,400 after taxes—in March he took home about half that, $1,800. Now, October was threatening to be as bad as March.

    READ MORE: Why the Fed’s policy on interest rates is key to fighting poverty

    Becky stood at the kitchen table, dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and flip-flops, folding laundry in neat stacks as she talked. Her time was tight with Jeremy working the evening shift since she had to manage the household by herself. “It’s hard on me mentally because I’m doing the sports, meals, school. So I have to do everything. And,” Becky paused with a tight smile, “it’s hard on him.”

    While the kids were at school, Becky also volunteered at a local animal shelter and sometimes worked cleaning neighbors’ houses.

    Most of the family budgeting fell to her, and her large green wallet was stuffed with receipts. Given the uncertainties of Jeremy’s paychecks, Becky wasn’t sure whether to pay her mortgage yet. The payment was not due for three weeks, but Becky already had the money in hand. Still, she was wavering. “I want to make sure I have enough money on hand, and I don’t know what my husband will bring home this paycheck.” She started talking herself into writing the check: “I just want to get it done.” But then she decided to wait. Becky knew her bank account was almost empty. If she spent her remaining cash on the mortgage and Jeremy’s next paycheck turned out to be as small as she feared, she would have to borrow from her older sister to make ends meet. Becky had borrowed $200 from her not long before when Jeremy’s paycheck was short and they had needed gas for their minivan. “That right there was $75 alone,” she said.

    “I’m blessed with a sister with a guaranteed paycheck,” Becky boasted, with a look that betrayed some envy. Her sister is unmarried and can usually help when money is tight. Becky pays off the debt by cleaning and doing yardwork for her. Becky knows that many others have to turn to payday lenders and other loan companies whose business models depend on trapping customers in cycles of debt. “Oh Lord no,” she exclaimed when asked about those options. “I’ve seen so many people get in trouble.”

    The long arc

    The story often told about financial success in America is that slow and steady saving over a lifetime, combined with consistent hard work and a little luck, will ensure financial security, a comfortable retirement and better opportunities for one’s children. But that is not Becky and Jeremy Moore’s experience. The 2016 elections brought to the fore how frustrated so many Americans are about the fact that this is no longer, or never was, their experience either.

    Without basic economic stability, their choices are often difficult, and they’re forced to make them frequently. Short-term imperatives undermine long-term goals.

    The often-told story is rooted in a world in which the norm is to gain education, move to better jobs, reach peak income in middle age and then retire. Researchers call this basic arc the “life cycle,” and it captures the life stages for which teachers and financial educators try to prepare students. The idea underpins nearly all advice on managing wealth and how families should save and invest over time. It is the backbone of the life-cycle theory of saving, a framework so fundamental to economics that in 1985 the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics was awarded to Franco Modigliani, the MIT professor who elaborated its consequences for families’ financial choices.  The advice to young families like that of Becky and Jeremy is to prepare for major life events early on: to start saving for a down payment on a house and to begin steadily saving for retirement. Later, as earnings rise, people should pay down their mortgages and set aside more for retirement. In this world, slow, steady, disciplined adherence to a budget and savings plan promises to conquer financial challenges. In the past 50 years, mastering the stages of the life cycle has become synonymous with being financially literate in America. And helping families achieve life-cycle goals drives hundreds of billions of dollars of government support for housing, education and retirement.

    Assuming that everyone can follow this trajectory is dangerous. Becky and Jeremy don’t have the luxury to focus much on long-term plans. Without basic economic stability, their choices are often difficult, and they’re forced to make them frequently. Short-term imperatives undermine long-term goals. Saving and borrowing need to be recalibrated with the spikes and dips of their income. The consequences of bad decisions can compound, and quickly. Stress and anxiety make it all harder. Seeing that, it’s hard not to question basic assumptions about financial literacy and what governments and businesses should be doing to serve working families.

    READ MORE: Poverty makes financial decisions harder. Behavioral economics can help

    Even if Becky and Jeremy were expert financial planners trained in the life-cycle model, they still would have found it nearly impossible to follow its prescriptions. In the past, Jeremy would contribute part of each paycheck to a 401(k) retirement plan, hoping he could keep it invested. Each time Jeremy switched jobs, however, he pulled all their money from the retirement plan, even though that meant extra taxes and penalties for early withdrawal. They simply needed the money sooner than at age 65. Becky and Jeremy are in a position that’s increasingly common in America. Why are so many families forced to make such costly — and some might say self-destructive — choices? Why do so many families feel so financially insecure?

    The post Column: Why do so many American families feel so financially insecure? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, arrives at Trump Tower in New York City, U.S. January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith - RTSW3Z3

    Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, speaking in New York City in January, 2017. Credit: REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law Wednesday providing free tuition to students attending the state’s public colleges and universities, making New York the first state to offer free four-year college.

    The New York legislature greenlit the program last week as a part of the state budget. With the stroke of his pen, Cuomo made the program official Wednesday at a ceremony attended by supporters of the measure, including Former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

    “We are restoring the promise of the American Dream for the next generation and forging a bold path forward of access and opportunity for the rest of the nation to follow,” Cuomo said, surrounded by supporters, including students from New York’s public universities.

    “With a college education now a necessity to succeed in today’s economy, I am proud to sign this first-in-the-nation legislation that will make college accessible,” he said.

    Funds from the program will be available exclusively for tuition purposes, meaning that students will still need to find other resources to pay for room, board and other indirect fees. Like programs in other states, New York students will only receive tuition subsidies to cover costs that are not paid for by other grants.

    Students in New York whose families make less than $100,000 per year — an income limit that will be raised to $125,000 in two years — will be eligible for the grant if they enroll full-time at any community college or public university in the state.

    San Francisco became the first city earlier this year to offer free community college tuition to its residents.

    And Rhode Island is now considering a similar measure, which would make two years of college free for in-state students. The scholarship would cover tuition for students regardless of income at public colleges. Like the New York program, it would only apply to full-time students, but it would cover either the first two years of community college or the last two years of university.

    Other states already offer their own tuition subsidies, including Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee and Minnesota. These programs cover remaining tuition fees after state and federal grant aid, with varying eligibility requirements.

    Republicans in the New York state senate also successfully lobbied to force students to live and work in the state of New York for as many years as they received aid. If they do not, their grant will turn into a loan. Moreover, only students enrolled full-time will be eligible, even though about one-third of students in New York public universities are enrolled part-time, according to the most recent data available.

    Some professors argue that forcing beneficiaries to stay in the state after graduation will cost them more money.

    Meanwhile, others note that the full-time enrollment requirement will make many ineligible.

    But some education advocates are commending that part of the bill.

    “The program’s 30-credit requirement [a full course load in the state] – which has been criticized by some – is a research-proven strategy to raise GPAs, increase retention rates and ultimately boost college completion in the state,” Tom Sugar, president of Complete College America, said in a statement posted online.

    Restrictions aside, New York’s program has been hailed as an example for other states looking to promote higher education. Sanders made free college a central message of his presidential campaign last year and has been a strong proponent of New York’s law.

    Last week, Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state introduced bills to the Senate and House to make public higher education free for students whose families make up to $125,000. But the bill has no Republican support and is unlikely to get a hearing.

    The post New York becomes first state to offer free four-year college tuition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the latest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    It’s “The Refugees,” a short story collection from last year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

    Jeffrey Brown talked with Viet Thanh Nguyen at this year’s Conference of the Association of American Writers and writing programs here in Washington, D.C.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I wanted to start with — maybe it’s a basic question, but it’s the word refugees, because it’s an important one to you.

    VIET THANH NGUYEN, Author, “The Refugees”: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What does it mean?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: To be a refugee, especially in our contemporary moment, is to be different than an immigrant.

    I think immigrants are somewhat acceptable to Europe and the United States, but refugees are the unwanted from wherever they come from. And they’re often unwanted where they come to, and especially in the United States. I think Americans think it’s un-American to be a refugee.

    So, it’s actually really important for me to continually assert, I am a refugee, I write about refugees, and that we need to think about the necessity of opening our doors and welcoming refugees in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Living between worlds, never leaving one behind fully, why is that so much harder for the refugee than other — than the immigrant or others?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: I think immigrants do feel some of that attachment to wherever they came from, but they usually made a choice to go somewhere, and they have decided to look forward to some extent.

    But refugees are often compelled to leave by violent circumstance. They’re really still attached to wherever they came from. So, that’s where I think refugees oftentimes have a hard time adjusting, at least psychologically.

    They may adjust culturally and economically, but, psychologically, half of them is still somewhere else.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, in the first story in this new collection, “Black-Eyed Women,” the main character is a woman who’s a Vietnamese American ghostwriter, right? So she’s actually there, but not there, literally.

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: Right.

    And so I wanted to make it sort of a story that was about ghosts in many different ways. She’s a ghostwriter, but she’s actually haunted by a real ghost.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: And that ghost is of her dead brother, who she thought had died on the escape from Vietnam on a boat.

    And then, one night, he comes knocking on the door. He’s literally a ghost who swam thousands of miles to get to her door. And it’s about the figurative and the literal hauntings that so many people who have escaped through traumatic circumstances continue to live with.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    But the emphasis is on the real ghost, right?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, real, as in these people are alive for your characters?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: Yes.

    And I think, for many people — many cultures, ghosts really exist. I mean, literally, Vietnamese people, for example, often recount being visited by people who have just died, not to haunt them, but to come and say goodbye.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As I read through the stories in this book, you have got characters who have lived here in the U.S. for a long time. You have stories set in Vietnam. You have Americans going back. What are you exploring through these stories?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: I think that, when I say Vietnamese to Americans or to other people, there might be this idea that there’s only one Vietnamese kind of culture or one Vietnamese kind of people, and I’m going to speak for them.

    But Vietnamese are just like everybody else. And they’re diverse. So this is a collection where I wanted to talk about the young and the old, the straight and the gay, the conservative and the radicals, the ones who stayed and ones who went back, to give people a sense of how heterogeneous and contradictory these people are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Are you aware, as the readers are aware, of the newness of this voice in our literature? I mean, do you feel that?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: I think so, because, in order to be a writer, you need to read a lot in the traditions in which you write.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: So, I have read a lot of Vietnamese writing, Asian-American writing, and American writing.

    And the novel is explicitly designed to provoke all these different categories and do things that I don’t think has been done before in those categories, including in contemporary American fiction.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I want to ask you about you and your ghosts, because you say, I was born in Vietnam, but made in America. To what extent do you feel yourself of two worlds?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: Well, when I was growing up, I felt myself to be a spy in my parents’ household, because they were Vietnamese, and I was being Americanized.

    And then, when I went outside, I was a Vietnamese spying on Americans. And that sense of always being an observer, always being a spy has continued to stay with me. And it’s been influenced by this refugee past, the sense of being haunted by what has impacted my parents and my Vietnamese community.

    And it’s been productive, in the sense that it has made me into a writer, to always be able to see things from the inside and the outside, to always be observing, to always be spying on people. That’s really enormously useful for a writer.

    But it means I have to allow myself to not forget that sense of haunting and displacement.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But that means you don’t want to leave that behind, in other words. I mean, you have to live in this world, but you also have to hold onto something.

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: I think I have to be willing to be unsettled and to be uncomfortable.

    And most people don’t want that. Most people want to be in one place. They want to feel settled and happy. They want to feel comfortable. That’s not a good condition for a writer, usually.

    So, it means I have to be willing to tolerate that, to cultivate that, in order to get the kinds of insights that I can, and then make other people uncomfortable with those insights as a result.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, when you — if we fast-forward to today’s world, and this discussion of refugees and immigrants, do you feel a responsibility as a writer or as citizen to address these things even more?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: I do feel that as an individual. I’m a politically, like, aware person, but I also feel that, as a writer, that I think one of the writer’s most urgent tasks is to say something about what is happening in the world today.

    And I think that the sharpening of the political division has really made other writers much more cognizant of that also, that we need to address the urgent political controversies of our time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, how are you doing that?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: Well, I think “The Refugees” was my way of doing that.

    And it just happened to be that the refugee problem, which has always been with us, has come to a head. And now, outside of that, I take the opportunity outside of this platform as a writer to write op-eds, to speak out in public, to go on the Seth Meyers show, and not just to talk about happy things, but also to talk about our history and refugees and immigrants to a late-night audience.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    Do you get a sense that the culture is listening?

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: I think so. Either they’re listening because they hate refugees and immigrants, or they’re listening because they think we should embrace and welcome refugees and immigrants.

    But people are listening, one way or the other.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the new story collection is “The Refugees.”

    Viet Thanh Nguyen, thank you very much.

    VIET THANH NGUYEN: Thanks, Jeffrey.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we thank him for talking with us.

    The post This ‘Refugee’ author explains what it’s like to live between worlds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The ISIS campaign of terror, murder and conquest has been well-documented, but the group has also used its particular interpretation of Islam to justify the destruction of historical treasures in what is known as the Fertile Crescent, the area in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where the earliest recorded civilizations began.

    From the ancient ruins of Nimrud in Northern Iraq, special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports.

    It’s part of our ongoing coverage of Culture at Risk.

    MARCIA BIGGS: The road to the cradle of civilization is finally accessible. We’re making our way there to see what’s left of a 3,000-year-old city after only 2.5 years under ISIS.

    With us, two archaeologists, Leila Salih, originally from nearby Mosul, and Tobin Hartnell, an Australian teaching at a local Kurdish university.

    It takes us four hours to travel the roughly 35 miles, through checkpoint after checkpoint controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Shia militias.

    Sheik Khalid Al-Sabah Al-Jabbouri commands the Shia militia controlling the area. He grew up in this village, and treasures memories of picnics at Nimrud and the buses full of tourists.

    KHALID AL-JABBOURI, Militia Commander (through interpreter): For us in this village, Nimrud is one of the first things we saw when we were born. This ancient city and its antiques it’s a part of our life.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Nimrud is the ancient city known as Calah in the Bible, capital of the Assyrian empire, known for its famous lamassu, winged bulls guarding the gates of the palace. It was destroyed in the seventh century B.C.

    Its ruins buried in time, archaeologists unearthed it 2,500 years later. When the Islamic State captured parts of Northern Iraq in 2014, it declared war on the ruins of Nimrud, releasing this video of ISIS militants taking sledgehammers to the ancient site, drilling holes in its carvings, and finally blowing the entire place up.

    When ISIS took the town, they also destroyed Sheik Khalid’s home and killed 40 of his family members, including two brothers. But he says he rarely cried, until he saw this ISIS video.

    KHALID AL-JABBOURI (through interpreter): I lost something priceless. My sorrow lies in the fact that we lost something that we were so proud of when tourists came to our country. The pride we felt for them and our civilization, what our forefathers made for our country, it’s a subject that’s part of our soul.

    When the Saddam regime fell in 2003, we and our clans protected those monuments because there was no central Iraqi government. We were able to protect the palace from looting. But ISIS, ISIS did something we were not expecting.

    MARCIA BIGGS: The area was taken back by Iraqi forces last November, but it was forever changed. When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was that the pyramid-like structure, the famous ziggurat of the Ishtar Temple, was erased from its skyline, and the temple once at its feet the victim of a massive explosion.

    TOBIN HARTNELL, Archaeologist: Every photograph, every view I have ever seen of Nimrud has that temple, that ziggurat. And it’s gone. That’s the thing that is the most devastating, is to see it just bulldozed, just — it’s gone. The iconic image of Nimrud is with the ziggurat.

    MARCIA BIGGS: For Tobin Hartnell, this was an experience he’d waited for. He studied Assyria and its ancient capital for 15 years, yet he had never seen it.

    He took a job teaching at the American University of Iraq in 2014 and was just about to move his family when ISIS swept through the region.

    TOBIN HARTNELL: We got basically the e-mail or a call, in my case, an e-mail, saying, well, you don’t have to accept the job because ISIS has just taken Mosul.

    My wife and I, we talked about it, we’re going, because, as archaeologists, this is where the work needs to be.

    MARCIA BIGGS: And how does it feel to be walking down these steps for the first time?

    TOBIN HARTNELL: I mean, it’s bittersweet. This is an incredible site that I have been looking forward to going to for over 20 years. And look at it. I mean, walking over rubble, the destruction that ISIS has left has turned one of the most magnificent palaces of Assyria into a disaster zone.

    MARCIA BIGGS: The gates of the famous Northwest Palace, once the home of magnificent winged bulls, reduced to rubble, its walls bare.

    TOBIN HARTNELL: I never got to see the gate as it should be seen, that these bulls welcomed you to the palace.

    LEILA SALIH, Archaeologist: Every Assyrian gates have a couple of winged bulls, so we cannot imagine the gates without them.

    MARCIA BIGGS: It wasn’t Leila Salih’s first time here. She was 14 years old when she first visited Nimrud.

    LEILA SALIH: To be honest with you, at that time, we didn’t care about historical things or ancient civilization things. We just would like to escape out of school. But what I can remember, the huge figure of lamassu and the facade of that palace.

    MARCIA BIGGS: But this was a happy place for you to come with friends and family?

    LEILA SALIH: Of course. It’s a very happy and wonderful, amazing place for us.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Salih is from nearby Mosul, much of it still controlled by ISIS. She fled in 2014 with only a handbag. She was the curator for the Mosul Museum, which ISIS was seen destroying in these videos.

    Yet, even with the widespread damage, both she and Hartnell say there is still hope for Nimrud.

    LEILA SALIH: I thought we lost everything, as you see in the video. But after I visited Nimrud, yes, there are some positive signs for us.

    TOBIN HARTNELL: You can see the wings of the bull here.

    MARCIA BIGGS: One source of hope, large chunks of the rubble still exist, which makes restoration easier. And several of the original lamassu bulls excavated in the 19th century have been living for decades in museums in London and New York.

    While the displaying of Iraq’s antiquities abroad may have been controversial, for the man whose childhood was spent among the ruins, this actually provides some comfort.

    KHALID AL-JABBOURI (through interpreter): Maybe we Iraqis felt hurt when we saw our monuments displayed outside of Iraq. We get hurt because it’s our civilization.

    But when ISIS occupied the city, I felt relieved that Nimrud monuments had been transported outside of Iraq and remain protected. And we are proud of them wherever they are.

    MARCIA BIGGS: And after over 100 years of excavation, Hartnell says less than a quarter of the ancient city was actually unearthed.

    TOBIN HARTNELL: There’s still 1,000, 2,000 years of history underneath that palace. The whole city is waiting to be discovered.

    MARCIA BIGGS: So, in some ways, this being razed will allow archaeologists to see what’s underneath?

    TOBIN HARTNELL: If, when we’re doing our cleanup and restoration, we take some more time to dig down, we will find many more discoveries from what happened before the empire, what happened in the 10th, 11th, 12th centuries, which are also great periods in Mesopotamian history. And yet we know almost nothing.

    MARCIA BIGGS: For Hartnell, amidst the sobering reality of finally checking Nimrud off his bucket list, comfort in determining what needs be done.

    TOBIN HARTNELL: You have to see, be there, see the destruction to start to formulate a plan. Archaeologists need to be on the ground.

    So, I won’t say a dream comes true, but it was on my dream list before it was destroyed, and for very good reason. This is a fantastic place, and I think it will be again.

    MARCIA BIGGS: As the sun sets on Nimrud, it’s a promise that a new day will come.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Marcia Biggs in Nimrud, Northern Iraq.

    The post Reduced to rubble by ISIS, archaeologists see a new day for ancient city of Nimrud appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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