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

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    President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews outside D.C. before traveling to New Jersey for the weekend. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in June before traveling to New Jersey for the weekend. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is heading to San Juan on Tuesday to meet with some of the 3.4 million Puerto Ricans struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, as criticism that the federal government’s response has been sluggish continues.

    The president is expected to spend more than five hours on the island, meeting with first responders, local officials and some of the residents struggling to recover from a hurricane that, in Trump’s words, left the island U.S. territory “flattened.”

    “There’s nothing left. It’s been wiped out,” Trump said last week. “Nobody has ever seen anything like it.”

    The trip will be Trump’s fourth to a region battered by storms during an unusually violent hurricane season that has also seen parts of Texas, Florida, Louisiana and the U.S. Virgin Islands inundated by floodwaters and whipped by winds.

    Trump and first lady Melania Trump are scheduled to attend briefings and meet with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, as well as the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. They’ll also meet with Navy and Marine Corps personnel on the flight Deck of the USS Kearsarge.

    Even before the storm hit on Sept. 20, Puerto Rico was in dire condition thanks to a decade-long economic recession that had left its infrastructure, including the island’s power lines, in a sorry state. Maria was the most powerful hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century and unleashed floods and mudslides that knocked out the island’s entire electrical grid and telecommunications, along with many roads.

    Nearly two weeks later, 95 percent of electricity customers remain without power, including some hospitals. And much of the countryside is still struggling to access basic necessities, including food, fresh water and cash.

    The road to recovery in Puerto Rico will be long and daunting, as electricity, fuel and transportation remain crippled in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Citizens who have lost everything to the storm are trying to rebuild, but continue to wait for assistance as the military surveys the damage. Special correspondent Monica Villamizar joins Hari Sreenivasan to offer an update from the ground.

    Trump and other administration officials have worked in recent days to reassure Americans that recovery efforts are going well and combat the perception that the president failed to fully grasp the magnitude of the storm’s destruction in its immediate aftermath.

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday the trip would focus on local recovery efforts, “which we’re fully committed to.”

    “The top priority for the federal government is certainly to protect the lives and the safety of those in affected areas and provide life-sustaining services as we work together to rebuild their lives,” she said.

    While early response efforts were hampered by logistical challenges, officials say that conditions, especially in the capital, have improved.

    According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there are now more than 10,000 federal officials on the ground on the island, and forty-five percent of customers now have access to drinking water. Businesses are also beginning to re-open, with 60 percent of retail gas stations now up and running.

    For many, however, that isn’t enough. On Monday, the nonprofit Oxfam announced that it would be taking the rare step of intervening in an American disaster, citing its outrage over what it called a “slow and inadequate response.”

    READ MORE: Trump dedicates golf tournament trophy to hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico

    The post Trump heads to Puerto Rico to survey hurricane damage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The former Equifax CEO will face three separate committees in the House and Senate this week, fielding questions over the credit reporting agency’s data breach last month that may have compromised the sensitive information of an estimated 143 million consumers.

    Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith’s first hearing on Capitol Hill will be before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on Tuesday. It is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET. Watch the hearing in the player above.

    Smith will first testify before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Smith will appear before the Senate Banking panel, and he will then field questions from the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday.

    Beyond possibly pushing for tighter control over consumers’ personal data, lawmakers are expected to press Smith over how the breach happened and the company’s response to the problem. A day before the first hearing began, Equifax said an additional 2.5 million Americans may have been affected by the hack.

    In his prepared testimony for Tuesday, Smith apologized for the breach, saying, “Equifax was entrusted with Americans’ private data, and we let them down.”

    Smith goes on to run down a series of events that eventually led to the breach, telling the panel what the “key facts” were as he understood them.

    The hack was notable for the far-reaching security lapses of consumers’ financial and personal information, including people’s names, home addresses and Social Security numbers.

    When Equifax publicly disclosed the hack in September, there was swift condemnation from lawmakers and especially from consumers who found the Atlanta-based agency’s response to the breach confusing or lackluster.

    What’s more, it was revealed that a handful of executives had sold $1.8 million of shares days after the hack was discovered and days before it was disclosed to the public. The executives maintain that they were unaware of the hack when they sold their shares.

    A week after the breach, two top-level officials at the company stepped down. Smith, who became Equifax’s chief executive in 2005, soon followed.

    While lawmakers grill Smith, there’s a question of whether the hearings will lead to tougher cybersecurity standards for storing customer data. However, as the Associated Press pointed out, despite the lawmakers’ ire over recent, similar data breaches at Target, Home Depot and Yahoo, among others, there was little traction in legislation that sought to better safeguard consumers.

    A Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to provide full-throated support to additional regulations, AP reported.

    READ MORE: After Equifax breach, Congress unlikely to pass new rules to protect consumer data

    The post WATCH LIVE: Former Equifax CEO faces House committee over massive data breach appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne (left to right) won the 2017 Nobel Prize for physics for leading the projects that discovered gravitational waves. Illustrations by the Nobel Media/Ill. N. Elmehed

    Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne (left to right) won the 2017 Nobel Prize for physics for leading the projects that discovered gravitational waves. Illustrations by the Nobel Media/Ill. N. Elmehed

    Two projects born a century ago in the mind of Albert Einstein, and the scientific leaders behind them, won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for detecting gravitational waves. Rainer Weiss won one half of the $1.1 million prize, while Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne split the second half.

    The initial detection by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in 2015 proved ripples course through and disrupt the fabric of spacetime, which can reveal “unseen worlds,” the Nobel Prize committee said.

    Who are the winners: Rainer Weiss, whose 85th birthday was last Friday, is a German-born American physicist and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1967, he was the first to develop the key device needed to detect gravitational waves: a laser interferometer capable of canceling out all background noise aside from that created by light particles. More on that later….

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

    Theoretical astrophysicist Kip Thorne, 77, engineered a similar interferometer prototype at the California Institute of Technology in the 1970s, and his group’s designs and discoveries laid the foundation for the LIGO. Planning for the MIT/Caltech observatory began in 1980s, backed by funding from the National Science Foundation.

    The NSF appointed experimental physicist Barry C. Barish, 81, as LIGO director in 1994. Over the next decade, Barish “transformed LIGO from a limited MIT/Caltech endeavour to a major international, gravitational-wave project,” Nobel Prize committee wrote. He led the construction of the two LIGO facilities — in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisiana — and oversaw the installation of the project’s interferometers.

    What they did: Ok, let’s talk about these interferometers. Wiess’ device was inspired by an invention in the late 1800s by physicist (and fellow Nobel Prize winner) Albert Michelson.

    A Michelson interferometer is two vacuum-sealed tubes positioned in an L-shape, with a laser set positioned where the two arms meet. A beam splitter — a type of mirror — also sits directly in this corner. As its name suggests, it splits light from the laser, sending two identical beams down each arm of the interferometer. Two regular mirrors are positioned at the ends of the arms, and they reflect the light beams back toward the beam splitter.

    Here’s the trick. When those two light waves return, they should be identical when they hit the final detector, unless the device’s arms been moved or interfered with. Get it? INTERFERometer.

    The world’s first captured gravitational waves were created in a violent collision between two black holes, 1.3 billion lightyears away. When these waves passed the Earth, 1.3 billion years later, they had weakened considerably: the disturbance in spacetime that LIGO measured was thousands of times smaller than an atomic nucleus. Caption and illustration by Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    The world’s first captured gravitational waves were created in a violent collision between two black holes, 1.3 billion lightyears away. When these waves passed the Earth, 1.3 billion years later, they had weakened considerably: the disturbance in spacetime that LIGO measured was thousands of times smaller than an atomic nucleus. Caption and illustration by Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Weiss devised an interferometer that blocked out or accounted for all types of earthly interference: seismic noise, gravitational field gradients, heat gradients, laser instabilities, on and on. The only thing left would be vibrations in the light itself that, if Einstein’s general theory of relativity could be trusted, had to be caused by cataclysmic physical shifts in spacetime (or gravitational waves). The gravitational waves literally moved one of the two interferometer arms.

    The disruption behind such a shift would need to be enormous, given it is creating waves that move at the speed of light and distort the physical makeup of the universe. Hence why the initial gravitational waves spotted by LIGO came from two massive black holes — both 30 times bigger than our sun — crashing into each other near the speed of light.

    Big waves require big detectors, and Weiss worked out that an interferometer would need to be miles long to catch such an event. LIGO’s interferometers have 2.5 mile-long vacuum tubes — about 144,000 times bigger than Michelson’s original instrument.

    The two black holes emitted gravitational waves for many million years as they rotated around each other. They got closer and closer, before merging to become one black hole in a few tenths of a second. The waves then reached a crescendo which, to us on Earth, 1.3 billion lightyears away, sounded like cosmic chirps that came to an abrupt stop. Caption and illustration by Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    The two black holes emitted gravitational waves for many million years as they rotated around each other. They got closer and closer, before merging to become one black hole in a few tenths of a second. The waves then reached a crescendo which, to us on Earth, 1.3 billion lightyears away, sounded like cosmic chirps that came to an abrupt stop. Caption and illustration by Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    The project relied on two facilities in the U.S. separated by 3,000 miles and a third in Italy (VIRGO) because it is unlikely that interferometers located far apart would feel the same local vibrations and the same time. But they could feel the same gravitational waves at the same time, given those vibrations are much bigger; and thus, instantly confirm a reading. Since their initial discovery two years ago, three more gravitational waves have been documented.

    Why it matters: On an interstellar scale, LIGO found that black holes create tsunamis in space that course across galaxies until they reach the three human-made detectors on Earth. But even you, dear reader, are creating changes in spacetime.

    “If you wave your hand and move your body, it will actually change a little bit of the shape of the space around it.” That’s how Robbert Dijkgraaf, director of the Institute for Advanced Study where Einstein worked, once described gravitational waves to me.

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

    The concept is somewhat awe-inspiring.On a small scale, every movement we’ve ever made has wiggled the physical Jell-o of spacetime that defines everything around us, propelling waves that stretch and squeeze space itself. Maybe one day, this knowledge will lead to hyperdrive transportation, uncover how black holes form or reveal the origins of the universe, but for now, it’s just kind of cool.

    The post LIGO gravitational wave discoverers win 2017 Nobel Prize in physics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. corporate offices are pictured in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Tami Chappell/Reuters

    Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. corporate offices are pictured in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Tami Chappell/Reuters

    In a prepared testimony ahead of his appearance before a congressional panel, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith said he was “deeply sorry” about a data breach last month that exposed the personal data of more than 143 million consumers, saying his company “failed to prevent sensitive information from falling into the hands of wrongdoers.”

    But how exactly did that happen? Smith, who had served as chairman and CEO of Equifax for 12 years before stepping down in light of the breach last month, will offer his own version of events in a Tuesday morning appearance before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection. But his prepared remarks offer a glimpse of what occurred.

    READ MORE: Affected by the Equifax hack? Here’s what to do now

    At the hearing, Smith will likely face more of the anger that followed the initial announcement of the breach — which compromised names, birth dates and social security numbers, among other sensitive data — last month. More than two dozen class-action lawsuits have been filed against Equifax over the hack. The state of Massachusetts has also filed a separate suit.

    On Monday, Equifax announced some 2.5 more million people were affected in the breach than it originally thought, bringing the total number of affected customers to 145.5 million, the Associated Press reported.

    An independent investigation of the hack conducted by Mandiant is also expected “promptly,” the Associated Press reported. Read Smith’s version of events below. You can read his full testimony on the committee’s website.

    Americans want to know how this happened and I am hopeful my testimony will help in that regard. As I will explain in greater detail below, the investigation continues, but it appears that the breach occurred because of both human error and technology failures. These mistakes – made in the same chain of security systems designed with redundancies – allowed criminals to access over 140 million Americans’ data.

    Upon learning of suspicious activity, I and many others at Equifax worked with outside experts to understand what had occurred and do everything possible to make this right. Ultimately we realized we had been the victim of a massive theft, and we set out to notify American consumers, protect against increased attacks, and remediate and protect against harm to consumers. We developed a robust package of remedial protections for each and every American consumer – not just those affected by the breach – to protect their credit information. The relief package includes: (1) monitoring of consumer credit files across all three bureaus, (2) access to Equifax credit files, (3) the ability to lock the Equifax credit file, (4) an insurance policy to cover out-of-pocket costs associated with identity theft; and (5) dark web scans for consumers’ social security numbers. All five of these services are free and without cost to all Americans. Equifax also recently announced an important new tool that has been under development for months that will allow consumers to lock and unlock their credit files repeatedly, for life, at no cost. This puts the control of consumers’ credit information where it belongs – with the consumer. We have also taken steps to better protect consumer data moving forward.

    We were disappointed with the rollout of our website and call centers, which in many cases added to the frustration of American consumers. The scale of this hack was enormous and we struggled with the initial effort to meet the challenges that effective remediation posed. The company dramatically increased the number of customer service representatives at the call centers and the website has been improved to handle the large number of visitors. Still, the rollout of these resources should have been far better, and I regret that the response exacerbated rather than alleviated matters for so many.

      How It Happened

    First and foremost, I want to respond to the question that is on everyone’s mind, which is, “How did this happen?” In my testimony, I will address both what I learned and did at key times in my role as CEO, and what I have since learned was occurring during those times, based on the company’s ongoing investigation. Chronologically, the key events are as follows:
    On March 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Computer Emergency Readiness Team (“U.S. CERT”) sent Equifax and many others a notice of the need to patch a particular vulnerability in certain versions of software used by other businesses. Equifax used that software, which is called “Apache Struts,” in its online disputes portal, a website where consumers can dispute items on their credit report.

    On March 9, Equifax disseminated the U.S. CERT notification internally by email requesting that applicable personnel responsible for an Apache Struts installation upgrade their software. Consistent with Equifax’s patching policy, the Equifax security department required that patching occur within a 48 hour time period. We now know that the vulnerable version of Apache Struts within Equifax was not identified or patched in response to the internal March 9 notification to information technology personnel.

    On March 15, Equifax’s information security department also ran scans that should have identified any systems that were vulnerable to the Apache Struts issue identified by U.S. CERT. Unfortunately, however, the scans did not identify the Apache Struts vulnerability. Equifax’s efforts undertaken in March 2017 did not identify any versions of Apache Struts that were subject to this vulnerability, and the vulnerability remained in an Equifax web application much longer than it should have. I understand that Equifax’s investigation into these issues is ongoing. The company knows, however, that it was this unpatched vulnerability that allowed hackers to access personal identifying information.
    Based on the investigation to date, it appears that the first date the attacker(s) accessed sensitive information may have been on May 13, 2017. The company was not aware of that access at the time. Between May 13 and July 30, there is evidence to suggest that the attacker(s) continued to access sensitive information, exploiting the same Apache Struts vulnerability. During that time, Equifax’s security tools did not detect this illegal access.
    On July 29, however, Equifax’s security department observed suspicious network traffic associated with the consumer dispute website (where consumers could investigate and contest issues with their credit reports). In response, the security department investigated and immediately blocked the suspicious traffic that was identified. The department continued to monitor network traffic and observed additional suspicious activity on July 30, 2017. In response, they took the web application completely offline that day. The criminal hack was over, but the hard work to figure out the nature, scope, and impact of it was just beginning.

    I was told about the suspicious activity the next day, on July 31, in a conversation with the Chief Information Officer. At that time, I was informed that there was evidence of suspicious activity on our dispute portal and that the portal had been taken offline to address the potential issues. I certainly did not know that personal identifying information (“PII”) had been stolen, or have any indication of the scope of this attack.
    On August 2, consistent with its security incident response procedures, the company: 1) retained the cybersecurity group at the law firm of King & Spalding LLP to guide the investigation and provide legal and regulatory advice; 2) reached out, though company counsel, to engage the independent cybersecurity forensic consulting firm, Mandiant, to investigate the suspicious activity; and 3) contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”).

    Over the next several weeks, working literally around the clock, Mandiant and Equifax’s security department analyzed forensic data seeking to identify and understand unauthorized activity on the network. Their task was to figure out what happened, what parts of the Equifax network were affected, how many consumers were affected, and what types of information was accessed or potentially acquired by the hackers. This effort included identifying and analyzing available forensic data to assess the attacker activity, determining the scope of the intrusion, and assessing whether the intrusion was ongoing (it was not; it had stopped on July 30 when the portal was taken offline). Mandiant also helped examine whether the data accessed contained personal identifying information; discover what data was exfiltrated from the company; and trace that data back to unique consumer information.

    By August 11, the forensic investigation had determined that, in addition to dispute documents from the online web portal, the hackers may have accessed a database table containing a large amount of consumers’ PII, and potentially other data tables.

    On August 15, I was informed that it appeared likely that consumer PII had been stolen. I requested a detailed briefing to determine how the company should proceed.

    On August 17, I held a senior leadership team meeting to receive the detailed briefing on the investigation. At that point, the forensic investigation had determined that there were large volumes of consumer data that had been compromised. Learning this information was deeply concerning to me, although the team needed to continue their analysis to understand the scope and specific consumers potentially affected. The company had expert forensic and legal advice, and was mindful of the FBI’s need to conduct its criminal investigation.

    A substantial complication was that the information stolen from Equifax had been stored in various data tables, so tracing the records back to individual consumers, given the volume of records involved, was extremely time consuming and difficult. To facilitate the forensic effort, I approved the use by the investigative team of additional computer resources that significantly reduced the time to analyze the data.

    On August 22, I notified Equifax’s lead member of the Board of Directors, Mark Feidler, of the data breach, as well as my direct reports who headed up our various business units. In special telephonic board meetings on August 24 and 25, the full Board of Directors was informed. We also began developing the remediation we would need to assist affected consumers, even as the investigation continued apace. From this point forward, I was updated on a daily – and sometimes hourly – basis on both the investigative progress and the notification and remediation development.

    On September 1, I convened a Board meeting where we discussed the scale of the breach and what we had learned so far, noting that the company was continuing to investigate. We also discussed our efforts to develop a notification and remediation program that would help consumers deal with the potential results of the incident. A mounting concern also was that when any notification is made, the experts informed us that we had to prepare our network for exponentially more attacks after the notification, because a notification would provoke “copycat” attempts and other criminal activity.

    By September 4, the investigative team had created a list of approximately 143 million consumers whose personal information we believed had been stolen, and we continued our planning for a public announcement of a breach of that magnitude, which included a rollout of a comprehensive support package for consumers. The team continued its work on a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, where consumers could learn whether they were impacted and find out more information, a dedicated call center to assist consumers with questions, and a free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection package for all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether they were impacted.

    I understand that Equifax kept the FBI informed of the progress and significant developments in our investigation, and felt it was important to notify the FBI before moving forward with any public announcement. We notified the FBI in advance of the impending notification.

    On September 7, 2017, Equifax publicly announced the breach through a nationwide press release. The release indicated that the breach impacted personal information relating to 143 million U.S. consumers, primarily including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.

    These are the key facts as I understand them. I also understand that the FBI’s investigation and Equifax’s own review and remediation are ongoing, as are, of course, numerous other investigations.

    READ MORE: After Equifax breach, Congress unlikely to pass new rules to protect consumer data

    The post How the Equifax hack happened, according to its CEO appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Afghanistan security forces are fully engaged in offensive military operations for the first time during the 16-year-old war.

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford are scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 10 a.m. ET today. Watch their remarks in the player above.

    During congressional testimony Tuesday, Mattis says the Afghan forces are suffering fewer casualties as they continue to improve.

    Mattis says more than 3,000 additional U.S. troops are being sent to Afghanistan to reinforce the roughly 8,400 American forces currently stationed there.

    President Donald Trump announced in August a plan to end America’s longest war and eliminate a rising extremist threat in Afghanistan.

    Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, lectured Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford at the opening of the hearing. McCain says the Trump administration has failed to inform Congress of the details of the strategy spelled out by Trump.

    READ MORE: Pentagon admits U.S. has more troops in Afghanistan than previously reported

    The post WATCH: Mattis says Afghan forces fully engaged for first time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders called for unity and prayer after the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, but offered no new legislation to tighten gun laws and said a bill to ease regulations on gun silencers would be shelved indefinitely.

    “We are all reeling from this horror in Las Vegas,” Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference on Tuesday. “This is just awful.”

    Ryan said there’s no plan for the House to act soon on a National Rifle Association-backed bill to ease regulations on gun silencers. A House panel had backed the bill last month and lawmakers were expected to move ahead on the measure.

    The bill is “not scheduled right now. I don’t know when it will be scheduled,” Ryan said.

    Instead, Ryan and other GOP leaders urged prayers to unify the country and said a positive way to respond to the shooting is to donate blood. Ryan said the actions of the gunman who killed at least 59 people and wounded hundreds more will not “define us as a country. It’s not who we are.”

    Ryan’s comments came as Democrats renewed calls for gun safety legislation.

    Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, pushed Congress to pass a universal background checks bill and “commonsense gun laws” to help prevent the next mass shooting.

    “Gun violence is a public health crisis. There is no single law or policy that would prevent every tragic shooting, but let’s start working together to do something,” Durbin said on the Senate floor. “We can’t stop the shootings that have already happened in Las Vegas, Chicago, Roseburg, Oregon, and across the nation. We failed to respond in time for those victims and their families. But if we work together, we can stop shootings in the future.”

    Besides the silencer measure, House GOP leaders had been moving forward with a bill to allow people with concealed-carry permits to take their weapons to other states. Republicans had been upbeat about prospects for legislation, but votes on both measures seemed unlikely.

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who favors gun control, said Monday it was “time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.” In an outdoor news conference Monday, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, grievously wounded in a 2011 attack, turned to the Capitol, raised her fist and said, “The nation is counting on you.”

    But no action was expected, as other mass shootings in Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida, and even attacks on lawmakers, failed to unite Congress on any legislative response. A bipartisan bill on background checks failed in the Senate four years ago, and since then Republicans have usually pointed to mental health legislation when questioned about the appropriate congressional response to gun violence.

    House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday asked Ryan to create a select committee on gun violence to recommend legislation. A group of Democratic lawmakers asked Ryan to remove the silencer bill from the House calendar indefinitely.

    In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Ryan said Congress needs to fund mental health reforms. “But if you’re saying that this Republican Congress is going to infringe upon Second Amendment rights, we’re not going to do that,” he said.

    Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

    WATCH: An outpouring of sorrow and help after Las Vegas shooting massacre

    The post WATCH: Ryan says no plan to act soon on easing gun regulations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is pledging to help Puerto Rico continue to recover from Hurricane Maria’s devastation. He is defending his administration’s handling of the disaster that knocked out power to the U.S. island’s 3.4 million people.

    In an airport hangar in Puerto Rico, Trump also sought praise from local officials. He repeated that they have to help with the recovery and scolded them for a longstanding budget crisis. Trump said, “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.”

    He was referring to Puerto $74 billion public debt load and a decade-old economic recession.

    Trump’s visit comes after what critics have said was a slow response.

    WATCH: Puerto Ricans who lost everything begin rebuilding as they wait for aid

    The post WATCH: Trump pledges help to Puerto Rico, says the island has ‘thrown our budget a little out of whack’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A students sits on the steps of Widener Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2009. Photo credit: Brian Snyder/REUTERS

    Students walking past Widener Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo by Brian Snyder/REUTERS

    In August, the Justice Department sought lawyers to investigate whether Harvard University discriminates against Asian Americans in favor of black and Latino applicants. Roger Clegg, a former official under Reagan and Bush in that same department, responded by noting that “it is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian-Americans are as well.”

    Aside from the government’s new initiative, right now Harvard is contending with an anti-affirmative action lawsuit on behalf of an Asian-American plaintiff that is funded and organized by conservative activist Edward Blum. Blum, the man behind the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, was also the organizer behind the Fisher v. University of Texas case, which upheld affirmative action. Abigail Fisher, a white Texan, argued that she experienced racial discrimination when University of Texas, Austin rejected her application. Blum has now turned to an Asian-American plaintiff to make the case against affirmative action.

    Why the sudden interest in Asian-American rights by conservatives who normally reject any mention of race or ethnicity as “identity politics,” especially when those mentions claim racial discrimination? Asian Americans are the latest vehicle for critiquing affirmative action. Blum, Clegg and others claim that providing an admissions boost to black and Latino applicants negatively affects Asian Americans.

    Related: Should affirmative action be based on socioeconomic status?

    The problem with this logic, however, is that it assumes that the number of seats for white students — the majority in most schools — must remain constant, while Asian Americans and black and Latino applicants vie for the remaining slots. So, under this faulty logic, giving to underrepresented minorities means taking away from Asian Americans. This slippery argument is how conservatives are co-opting Asian Americans in their mission to end affirmative action. As they do so, they assume the dominance of whites.

    But affirmative action cannot explain why Asian Americans seem to need higher achievement than whites to gain entrée into top colleges. Is this a form of affirmative action for whites amid Asian-American overachievement? Most Asian Americans support affirmative action, and, in my experience, also believe that elite colleges discriminate against Asian-American applicants, in favor of whites.

    A campus that is “too Asian” is seen as problematic, but one in which whites are the majority group is not.

    A campus that is “too Asian” is seen as problematic, but one in which whites are the majority group is not. Why? For many Americans, whiteness is the norm, so other ethnicities must define themselves in relationship to whiteness. So, majority white campus? No problem. Majority Asian? Problem.

    Affirmative action for blacks and Latinos differs from giving whites a leg up vis-à-vis Asian Americans. Affirmative action’s goal is to bring previously absent voices to campus and to address racial inequality, past and present. In contrast, colleges would be hard-pressed to make the case that Asian Americans have advantages over whites in the United States.

    The United States has a history of maintaining white supremacy in college admissions, though the very definition of whiteness has shifted over time. In the past Jews were not considered part of the dominant white group. During the 1920s, elite universities worried that their campuses would become overrun by Jewish students acing admissions exams, so they changed admissions processes accordingly to dramatically reduce the number of Jewish students admitted. Here, the fear that campuses would become “too Jewish” led the way.

    Eventually, of course, the anti-Semitism embedded in these concerns faded away, as Jews became part of a white American mainstream. Today, we don’t hear about the percentage of Jewish students at selective colleges, because it is no longer an issue. A burning question is whether Asian Americans will experience the same incorporation into the mainstream. I will believe it’s happening when no one balks at the possibility of more Asian Americans than white students at Harvard.

    Asian Americans, as well as white, black, and Latino Americans, need to understand the history of racial exclusion and the production of racial inequality in American society. When we do, it’s hard not to support affirmative action for underrepresented racial minorities.

    Still, we should not shy away from raising important questions about whether universities hold Asian Americans to higher standards than their white peers; little in U.S. history has privileged Asians over whites, so there is little unjust history to address in this case. When we disentangle the question of Asian-American discrimination from affirmative action, it’s easy to see how one could support affirmative action for black and Latino Americans yet critique a boost for whites over Asian Americans.

    The post Column: How conservative activists are using Asian Americans to argue against affirmative action appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Facebook logo as he poses with a Samsung S4 smartphone in this photo illustration August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo - RTS13XE0

    FILE PHOTO: A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Facebook logo. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo.

    ALBANY, N.Y. — New York would require political ads on Facebook or other social media platforms to contain the names of the people or groups paying for them under legislation proposed Tuesday amid growing scrutiny of the influence such ads had on the 2016 presidential election.

    Democratic state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, of Long Island, said his proposal would discourage false or misleading ads while informing citizens about those trying to influence their votes. He announced the legislation a day after Facebook turned 3,000 ads over to three congressional committees looking into Russian influence in the election, in which Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

    “Not another political ad should run on social media without voters knowing exactly who paid for it,” Kaminsky said. “It’s one thing to lie to a voter; it’s quite another to be able to do it anonymously, without any accountability. Political ads on television, in mail and new media platforms like Facebook should be transparent.”

    The proposed disclosure rules also would apply to mailed campaign advertisements.

    Kaminsky’s idea has yet to provoke an organized opposition, but efforts to impose state-specific regulations on particular industries often face opposition from industry groups worried about complying with a patchwork of conflicting laws.

    READ MORE: Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will cooperate with government on Russia investigation

    Facebook says it’s already working to provide users with more information about political ads on its site.

    “We are open to reviewing any reasonable proposals,” company spokesman Andy Stone said when asked about Kaminsky’s proposal.

    The proposal could be taken up when lawmakers begin their 2018 session in January.

    Trump, a Republican, has denied getting any help from Russia in beating Clinton, a Democrat, in the election and has called reports of Russian meddling in the election a hoax. Russia has denied hacking into the U.S. election.

    The post This New York bill would ban anonymous political ads on Facebook appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. corporate offices are pictured in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tami Chappell - RC1582EB03E0

    Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. corporate offices are pictured in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by REUTERS/Tami Chappell.

    WASHINGTON — The company at the center of the biggest breach of personal information just signed a contract with the federal government to provide, well, personal information.

    The Internal Revenue Service signed a $7.25 million contract with Equifax last month. The no-bid contract, first reported by Politico, is for Equifax to provide the IRS with taxpayer and personal identity verification services. The contract stated that Equifax was the only company capable of providing these services to the IRS, and it was deemed a “critical” service that couldn’t lapse.

    The news of the contract came on the same day that lawmakers heard from the company’s former chairman and chief executive on how hackers were able to access the information of 145 million Americans, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth. The executive, Richard Smith, apologized to a House panel for the data breach.

    WATCH: Former Equifax CEO says sale of company stock was unrelated to massive data breach

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen that he initially thought his staff was sharing a copy of the Onion, a humor newspaper, until he realized the story about the contract was true.

    “I am shocked that the IRS would contract with this firm for activities that they are clearly unfit to carry out,” Blumenauer wrote.

    Blumenauer said the news of the Equifax breach was public in early September, giving the agency time to re-evaluate its decision. He requested that the agency share with him the materials used to justify the awarding of the contract.

    READ MORE: How the Equifax hack happened, according to its CEO

    The post Equifax, under fire for data breach, wins $7.25 million contract from IRS appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Warning: Some of the footage included in the video below may be disturbing to viewers. Discretion advised.

    Las Vegas authorities released body camera footage from police officers trying to locate the source of the gunfire in Sunday’s mass shooting, which killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others.

    Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill narrated the three-minute video to reporters in Tuesday’s evening police briefing. The video is a compilation of several scenes from that night.

    In one scene, a handful of officers hunkering down behind a wall that faced the Mandalay Bay Resort, where the gunman (later identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock) was shooting from the 32nd floor.

    Officers are seen and heard yelling at bystanders to get down as sirens and gunshots and sirens rang out in the distance.

    “Go that way, get out of here! There’s gunshots coming from over there,” one officer is heard yelling on the footage.

    In another scene, heavy gunfire is heard as officers work to determine the source of the attack. Shortly after, one officer says the shots are coming from the windows of the Mandalay Bay.

    The video also shows officers staying low behind a police vehicle on Las Vegas Boulevard and telling uncooperative bystanders to get down and take shelter.

    READ MORE: What we’ve learned about the Las Vegas shooting so far

    Earlier Tuesday, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters that authorities were reviewing more than 67 body cameras from officers at the scene.

    Other highlights from late Tuesday’s police briefing:
    Warning: Some of the footage included in the video below may be disturbing to viewers. Discretion advised.

  • The first call of shots fired off the Las Vegas strip was received by police dispatchers at 10:08 p.m. local time.
  • The actual shooting lasted about nine to 11 minutes, McMahill said. The suspect fired at least a dozen volleys during that time. The firing stopped at 10:19 p.m. local time.
  • McMahill said the SWAT team had to arrive at the hotel before any patrol officers already at the building could take action. The undersheriff said this in response to a cited report that said it was 72 minutes before the SWAT team entered the room.
  • A “heroic” security guard helped officers locate the specific hotel room where the gunman was in. The guard went up to the room. The suspect fired through the door and struck him. “He was able to provide additional information to the police on exactly which room we were looking at,” McMahill said.
  • The suspect had installed two cameras in the hallway, right outside the room, allowing him to know when any officers approached. Another camera was found in the room’s peephole.
  • READ MORE: The Las Vegas shooter had a cheap modification that made his rifles more deadly

    The post Police release body camera footage of first response to Las Vegas shooting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People pray during a candlelight vigil for victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RC13BE38E200

    People pray during a candlelight vigil for victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson.

    Investigators are learning more about Sunday’s deadly shooting at a country music festival along the Las Vegas strip, which killed 59 and injured more than 500.

    The gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, killed himself before police could enter his 32nd-floor hotel room, where he had stockpiled 23 firearms to shoot down onto the crowd below. Here’s what we know about what’s now considered the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history.

    What happened the night of the shooting? Around 10:08 p.m. local time, as Jason Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, a gunman began to shoot onto the crowd of 22,000 below. Many concertgoers first thought the rapid gunfire was actually the sound of fireworks. The gunman fired into the crowd for nine to 11 minutes, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Tuesday.

    Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told reporters Tuesday night that a “heroic” security guard was able to help officers pinpoint Paddock’s location in the hotel. Paddock shot at the guard through the hotel room door, striking him. His actions allowed police to gather more information about the shooter’s location, McMahill said.

    A screen grab from body camera footage released by Las Vegas police officers.

    A screen grab from body camera footage released by Las Vegas police officers after Sunday’s deadly shooting.

    Late Tuesday, the department released body camera footage from officers as they approached the Mandalay Bay Resort after the gunfire began.

    “Go that way, get out of here! There’s gunshots coming from over there,” one officer is heard saying on the tape.

    PBS NewsHour’s Joshua Barajas has more on the body cam footage here.

    Police now say the gunman had also set up cameras inside his hotel suite, from the peep hole of his door and on a service cart outside, which offered a view of anyone who would have tried to approach the room. The sheriff said the shooting was “obviously premeditated.” Las Vegas authorities said Paddock killed himself before officers could gain entry into the hotel room. Along with multiple weapons, police found a computer in the hotel room. The shooter’s motive is still unknown.

    The weapons: Investigators have recovered nearly 50 firearms belonging to the suspect — 23 in the hotel room and 19 found at his Mesquite home about one hour away.

    In a third search — of another Reno, Nevada, home owned by Paddock — police found seven weapons, along with “a plethora of ammunition.”

    Experts believe one of the weapons Paddock used in Sunday’s shooting was manipulated with a “bump stock,” allowing him to fire some of his semi-automatic guns like automatic weapons.

    PBS NewsHour’s Gretchen Frazee explored how those weapons work, and what challenges they pose when responding to mass casualty situations.

    “It’s not a very difficult thing to do. Almost every semi-automatic weapon can be converted to a fully automatic weapon,” Joseph Vince, a former special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told her. “I have seen a firearm converted with a paper clip.”

    Read more of her reporting here: The Las Vegas shooter had a cheap modification that made his rifles more deadly


    PBS NewsHour’s William Brangham explains how these modifications work and how they get around the law.

    The victims: Earlier in the day, police had scaled back the number of victims in the attack from 59 to 58, removing the shooter from the count.

    By Tuesday night, the death toll was back up to 59, after one of those wounded died of their injuries in the hospital.

    Friends and families of the victims have started to come forward to pay tribute to those who died while attending the outdoor concert. Sonny Melton, 29, of Jackson, Tennessee. Susan Smith, 53, of Simi Valley, California. Adrian Murfitt, 35, of Alaska. Authorities have identified all but three victims, Lombardo told reporters. We’ve confirmed what we can here, and will update that list as we learn more.

    A woman leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial on the Las Vegas Strip for victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RC1664F313D0

    A woman leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial on the Las Vegas Strip for victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson.

    More than 500 people were injured in the shooting, though the total number of people injured has decreased slightly, Lombardo said, due to a “double count issue” at one of the local hospitals.

    Some of the injured were first responders. A local Las Vegas union told the Associated Press that 12 off-duty firefighters were injured during the event. Some of them immediately began to set up triage stations until more help could arrive on scene.

    Hospital officials told reporters this morning that dozens of victims remained in critical condition.

    The gunman
    Authorities say 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, rented a suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel on Thursday. Paddock has been described as a professional gambler and real estate investor who lived in a retirement community in Mesquite.

    He also worked “as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, an IRS agent and in an auditing department over a 10-year period,” The Associated Press reports. (Read more here).

    The Associated Press reported late Tuesday that Paddock had transferred $100,000 to an account in the Philippines before the shooting , citing an anonymous official briefed on the investigation. USA Today also reported that news, citing an unnamed official.

    What are police exploring now?:

    • Police are reviewing 67 body cameras, as well as other public space cameras.
    • The crime scene around the Mandalay Bay hotel is still active. The FBI is also combing the Las Vegas strip.
    • After initially calling off a search for Paddock’s girlfriend, Las Vegas officials said Tuesday they were interested in talking to her. Marilou Danley, 62, returned to the U.S. late Tuesday night after a weekslong trip in the Philippines. Officials have called her a “person of interest,” who was travelling in the Philippines at the time of the shooting.

    What’s next?
    President Donald Trump, who spent more than five hours surveying the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. The president called Sunday’s mass shooting an “act of pure evil.”

    The post What we’ve learned about the Las Vegas shooting so far appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Image released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department of Marilou Danley. Handout via Reuters

    Image released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department of Marilou Danley. Handout via Reuters

    LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas gunman’s girlfriend, back in the United States after a weekslong trip abroad, will be at the center of the investigation into the shooting deaths of 59 people as authorities try to determine why a man with no known record of violence or crime would open fire on a concert crowd from a high-rise hotel.

    Stephen Paddock’s girlfriend Marilou Danley, 62, who was in the Philippines at the time of the shooting, was met by FBI agents at the airport in Los Angeles late Tuesday night, according to a law enforcement official.

    The official wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

    Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, who has called Danley a “person of interest” in the attack, said that “we anticipate some information from her shortly,” and said he is “absolutely” confident authorities will find out what set off Paddock, a 64-year-old high-stakes gambler and retired accountant who killed himself before police stormed his 32nd-floor room.

    READ MORE: Gunman kills at least 59 people at concert in Las Vegas

    Danley first arrived in the Philippines on Sept. 15, according to immigration documents there. She departed on Sept. 22 then returned three days later on a flight from Hong Kong. She was traveling on an Australian passport.

    Philippines immigration bureau spokeswoman Antonette Mangrobang said authorities there had been working with U.S. officials.

    “From the very beginning, we have been providing them necessary information that would aid their investigation,” Mangrobang said.

    Danley’s Australia-based sisters say they believe Paddock sent her away so she wouldn’t interfere with his plans.

    Australia’s Channel 7 TV network interviewed the sisters with their faces obscured and their names withheld. They said they believe their sister couldn’t have known about his ideas.

    The woman said Danley is “a good person” who would’ve stopped Paddock had she been there.

    One of the sisters, who live near Brisbane, Queensland, said they believed Marilou knew Paddock had guns, but not as many as he had.

    “She probably was even (more) shocked than us because she is more closer to him than us,” her sister said.

    Paddock traveled at least twice to the Philippines, where his girlfriend was born, according to a Filipino official who was not authorized to discuss the trips publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    READ MORE: How Las Vegas’ trauma center went into disaster mode and helped wounded shooting victims

    The official said Paddock visited the Philippines in 2013 and 2014, around his birthday, staying for five to six days on both occasions. There were no immediate details available about those trips, according to the official.

    Paddock transferred $100,000 to the Philippines in the days before the shooting, a U.S. official briefed by law enforcement but not authorized to speak publicly because of the continuing investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

    Investigators are still trying to trace that money and also looking into a least a dozen financial reports over the past several weeks that said Paddock gambled more than $10,000 per day, the official said.

    As for what may have set Paddock off, retired FBI profiler Jim Clemente speculated that there was “some sort of major trigger in his life — a great loss, a breakup, or maybe he just found out he has a terminal disease.”

    Clemente said a “psychological autopsy” may be necessary to try to establish the motive. If the suicide didn’t destroy Paddock’s brain, experts may even find a neurological disorder or malformation, he said.

    He said there could be a genetic component to the slaughter: Paddock’s father was a bank robber who was on the FBI’s most-wanted list in the 1960s and was diagnosed a psychopath.

    “The genetics load the gun, personality and psychology aim it, and experiences pull the trigger, typically,” Clemente said.

    Paddock had a business degree from Cal State Northridge. In the 1970s and ’80s, he worked as a mail carrier and an IRS agent and held down a job in an auditing division of the Defense Department, according to the government. He later worked for a defense contractor.

    He had no known criminal record, and public records showed no signs of financial troubles.

    Nevada’s Gaming Control Board said it will pass along records compiled on Paddock and his girlfriend to investigators.

    His brother, Eric Paddock, said he was at a loss to explain the massacre.

    “No affiliation, no religion, no politics. He never cared about any of that stuff,” he said outside his Florida home.

    Eric Paddock said his brother did show a confrontational side at times: He apparently hated cigarette smoke so much that he carried around a cigar and blew smoke in people’s faces when they lit up around him.

    Lombardo said the investigation is proceeding cautiously in case criminal charges are warranted against someone else.

    “This investigation is not ended with the demise of Mr. Paddock,” the sheriff said. “Did this person get radicalized unbeknownst to us? And we want to identify that source.”

    On Wednesday, President Donald Trump is set to arrive in Las Vegas to meet with public officials, first responders and some of the 527 people injured in the attack. At least 45 patients at two hospitals remained in critical condition.

    All but three of the dead had been identified by Tuesday afternoon, Lombardo said.

    READ MORE: The lives of Las Vegas shooting victims, in the words of their loved ones

    Some investigators turned their focus Tuesday from the shooter’s perch to the festival grounds where his victims fell.

    A dozen investigators, most in FBI jackets and all wearing blue booties to avoid contaminating the scene, documented evidence at the site where gunfire rained down and country music gave way to screams of pain and terror.

    “Shoes, baby strollers, chairs, sunglasses, purses. The whole field was just littered with things,” said Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt after touring the site Monday. “There were bloodstains everywhere.”

    While Paddock’s motive has proved elusive, investigators have found no shortage of evidence of how Paddock carried out the elaborate attack.

    He planned the massacre so meticulously that he even set up cameras inside the peephole of his high-rise hotel room and on a service cart outside his door, apparently to spot anyone coming for him, authorities said.

    Investigators also found a computer and 23 guns with him at the hotel, along with 12 “bump stock” devices that can enable a rifle to fire continuously, like an automatic weapon, authorities said. Nineteen more guns were found at Paddock’s Mesquite home and seven at his Reno house.

    Two Las Vegas hotels temporarily stepped up screening of bags in response to the attack.

    Visitors at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore had bags checked by security employees with metal detectors upon entry beginning early Monday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

    A hotel spokesman said they’ve since returned to the practice of only scanning bags and guests when they “believe the need arises.”

    Authorities released police body camera video that showed the chaos of the attack as officers tried to figure out the location of the shooter and shuttle people to safety. Amid sirens and volleys of gunfire, people yelled “they’re shooting right at us” while officers shouted “go that way!”

    Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said the shooting spanned between nine and 11 minutes.

    The cameras Paddock set up at the Mandalay Bay hotel casino were part of his extensive preparations that included stockpiling nearly two dozen guns in his room before opening fire on the concert below. McMahill said the cameras included one in the peephole and two in the hallway.

    “I anticipate he was looking for anybody coming to take him into custody,” Lombardo said.

    During the Sunday night rampage, a hotel security guard who approached the room was shot through the door and wounded in the leg.

    “The fact that he had the type of weaponry and amount of weaponry in that room, it was preplanned extensively,” the sheriff said, “and I’m pretty sure he evaluated everything that he did and his actions, which is troublesome.”

    ___

    Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines; Brian Skoloff, Regina Garcia Cano and Sally Ho in Las Vegas; Brian Melley and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles; and Sadie Gurman and Tami Abdollah in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Las Vegas gunman’s girlfriend returns to U.S. for questioning appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of President Donald Trump walking to Air Force One. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    File photo of President Donald Trump walking to Air Force One. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday it was a “sad day” as he prepared to reckon with the aftermath of a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas and meet with survivors and law enforcement officials.

    Trump was heading to the city days after a gunman on the 32nd floor of a Vegas Strip hotel and casino opened fire on people at an outdoor country music festival below. The Sunday night rampage by Stephen Craig Paddock killed at least 59 people and injured 527, some from gunfire and some from a chaotic escape.

    “It’s a very sad thing. We are going to pay our respects and to see the police who have done really a fantastic job in a very short time,” Trump said. He told reporters before departing the White House that authorities were “learning a lot more” about Paddock and it would be “announced at an appropriate time. It’s a very, very sad day for me personally.”

    Trump was joined by first lady Melania Trump. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he and Rep. Mark Amodei, a Nevada Republican, also would make the trip.

    Trump’s trip to Las Vegas follows his Tuesday travel to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. During that trip, he highlighted Puerto Rico’s relatively low death toll compared with “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” when as many as 1,800 people died in 2005 as levees protecting New Orleans broke. He also focused on the best of the reviews he and his administration are getting rather than criticism of the federal response to Hurricane Maria.

    As he left the White House for Puerto Rico, Trump called the Las Vegas gunman “demented” and a “very, very sick individual.” Trump also praised Las Vegas police, saying they had done an “incredible job.”

    Asked about gun laws, the president said “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”

    Trump offered somber remarks about the shooting from the White House on Monday, saying “our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence.”

    __

    Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

    The post Trump says it’s a ‘sad day’ as he heads to Las Vegas appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a way to image our cells and biomolecules at cold temperatures. Illustration by Nobel Media. Ill. N. Elmehed

    Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a way to image our cells and biomolecules at cold temperatures. Illustration by Nobel Media. Ill. N. Elmehed

    Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a way to image biomolecules at cold temperatures.

    Cryo-electron microscopy — or cool microscopy — transformed biology and medicine because it can take snapshots of our body’s materials, like proteins, which are constantly moving at rapid speeds.

    The technique allowed scientists to figure out how drugs interact with components of our cells and exposed the most intimate corners of our cells on an atomic level.

    Who are the winners? Dubochet, 75, is a Swiss biophysicist who currently conducts his research at University of Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland. Frank, 77, is a German-born American biophysicist at Columbia University in New York City.

    Henderson, 72, is a Scottish biophysicist who has worked at or directed Cambridge University’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology since 1973. The Nobel committee stated Henderson is the 15th Nobel laureate from this lab.

    What they did: Early in the 20th century, scientists knew the key to understanding the fundamentals of biology — DNA, proteins — would be observing those molecules in 3-D. X-rays revealed the structure of DNA in the 1950s, but that’s because the DNA molecules can organize themselves into easily observable crystals. Many biological molecules lack this ability.

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    In the early 1930s, physicist Ernst Ruska and engineer Max Knoll invented the electron microscope that could view objects 400 times smaller than what was capable with the naked eye. Electrons have smaller wavelengths than light, so can squeak in-between ultrasmall structures and illuminate them.

    But these microscopes bombard their targets with high-energy electrons, which typically move biological structure or rip them apart entirely. Electron microscopy is also conducted in a vacuum, which is problematic for imaging cells in their natural state. Vacuum boils away water, which makes up 70 percent of a cell.

    For decades, biologists tried to ply electron microscopy to their trade, but the best attempts ended up taking 2D photos of objects — like viruses — and then using those to build 3D models.

    Henderson and his colleague Nigel Unwin made a breakthrough in the mid-1970s, when they were able to prepare protein specimens at room temperature. They swapped water with a sugar cocktail, which could withstand the vacuum and systematically tweaked the settings of their microscope to limit the damage caused by the electrons.

    Over the last few years, researchers have published atomic structures of numerous complicated protein complexes, such as this one that governs circadian rhythm (left), a pressure sensor pressure in the ear used for hearing (middle) and the Zika virus (right).  Image by Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Over the last few years, researchers have published atomic structures of numerous complicated protein complexes, such as this one that governs circadian rhythm (left), a pressure sensor pressure in the ear used for hearing (middle) and the Zika virus (right). Image by Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Their persistence paid off when they captured a 3D map of bacteriorhodopsin, a protein pump used by single-celled microorganisms, in 1975. The resolution was low — another hurdle inherent to biological material — but it was a start.

    Concurrently, others had been engineering better lenses and experimenting with rapidly cooling biospecimens with liquid nitrogen, which preserved the liquid’s interactions with proteins. Henderson spent years traveling the world to take images of bacteriorhodopsin with best electron microscopes, and finally in 1990, presented a picture of the protein with atomic resolution.

    But Henderson had an advantage the entire time. Bacteriorhodopsin packs itself into neat, organized groups. Most other proteins, by contrast, are disorderly, asymmetrical and filled with randomly positioned particles.

    Joachim Frank’s strategy built upon having a computer discriminate between the traces of randomly positioned proteins and their background in a fuzzy electron microscope image. Image and caption by Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Joachim Frank’s strategy built upon having a computer discriminate between the traces of randomly positioned proteins and their background in a fuzzy electron microscope image. Image and caption by Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Enter Joachim Frank: He used math and computers to decipher the randomness in protein structures. His algorithms captured thousands of angles and traces of individual proteins, spotting consistent patterns among the noise. The result was high-resolution 2D images, which could be adapted to make sharper 3-D models of biological structures. The image processing became a cornerstone of cryo-electron microscopy

    Dubochet entered the fray in the 1980s by creating a faster method for cooling water. Henderson’s sugar cocktail worked for things that dissolved readily in water, but less well for hydrophobic biomolecules like fats, lipids and some proteins. But water freezes at low temperatures, creating crystals that alter natural bioarchitecture.

    So Dubochet’s lab spread their water-based samples across a thin metal grid, leading individual droplets to fill each hole. Using a combination of ethane and liquid nitrogen, his team was able to vitrify the water — turn it into a glass — which has no crystals. This technique, which is still in use today, permitted cryo-electron microscopy on DNA, viruses and other biospecimens sitting in pure water.

    Why it matters: Cryo-electron microscopy is like a polaroid camera. Scientists and doctors have used the method to figure out when and where drugs interact with our cells. The technique revealed which proteins allow cancer cells to evade chemotherapy and identified the Zika virus.

    The electron microscope’s resolution has radically improved in the last few years, from mostly showing shapeless blobs to now being able to visualize proteins at atomic resolution. Image and caption by Martin Högbom/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    The electron microscope’s resolution has radically improved in the last few years, from mostly showing shapeless blobs to now being able to visualize proteins at atomic resolution. Image and caption by Martin Högbom/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Their work is also great example of the multifaceted nature of basic research. By calling on thermodynamics, biology, computer science, the collective work of Henderson, Frank, Dubochet and others turned cryo-electron microscopy into a pillar of modern biochemistry.

    The post 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to ‘cool’ 3D pictures of bioarchitecture appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to continue grilling Equifax’s former CEO Richard Smith on Wednesday over this year’s massive data breach that may have affected 145.5 million American consumers.

    Equifax’s former chief executive will face the Senate Banking Committee today at 10 a.m. EDT. Smith will then face the Senate Judiciary Committee at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Watch the hearings in the player above.

    After testifying before a House subcommittee, Smith is scheduled to field questions from Senate lawmakers today in two separate hearings. By the end of the week, Smith will have testified in four congressional hearings.

    On Monday, Smith told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that the data breach earlier this year could be traced back to the mistakes of a single employee that compromised the personal and financial information, including home addresses and Social Security numbers, of millions of consumers.

    Smith said the security lapse could have been prevented if the “individual” had properly administered the software fixes to protect the sensitive data from hackers, The New York Times reported.

    When the breach was originally disclosed to the public, the total number of affected consumers stood around 143 million people. On Monday, the credit reporting agency increased that number by 2.5 million people.

    During Monday’s hearing, Smith apologized for the breach but also downplayed the seriousness of the problem. Smith said there was no indication that the data, while hacked, wasn’t removed from their system. Lawmakers, however, said the company’s lackluster safeguards to consumer data was inadequate. A recap of that first hearing can be found here.

    Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey also honed in on the company’s response to the breach, saying its customer service was “confusing and unhelpful,” a common Equifax customer complaint in the wake of the hack.

    Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon asked how this could happen “when so much is at stake?”

    “I don’t think we can pass a law that, excuse me for saying this, fixes stupid. I can’t fix stupid,” he said.

    That last part is telling, a possible signal to what could — or could not happen — after this week’s hearings. The Associated Press has pointed out the historical narrative that tends to play out after every major breach in recent years, including those at Target, Home Depot and Yahoo, which announced Tuesday that all 3 billion of its accounts were affected by a 2013 hack. The company originally reported last year that 1 billion consumers were affected. Namely, despite the public angry on display from lawmakers, actual legislation to better safeguard consumer data doesn’t tend to follow.

    The AP said this is partly due to a lack of support from a Republican-controlled Congress.

    READ MORE: After Equifax breach, Congress unlikely to pass new rules to protect consumer data

    The post WATCH LIVE: Former Equifax CEO testifies before Senate committees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. at the U.S. Capitol by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    File photo of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. at the U.S. Capitol by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans in Congress of being “a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America” as she and other Democrats bemoaned the lack of action by the GOP majority to address gun violence after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

    The GOP’s failure to act “is about money,” Pelosi said after a rally Wednesday morning outside the Capitol.

    While House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders have asked Americans to donate blood in the wake of the shooting, Pelosi said Republicans “have to give some political blood. They think their political survival is more important than the survival of those 59 people” who died in the Las Vegas shooting, as well as the school children who died in Newtown, Connecticut, and club-goers killed in Orlando, Florida.

    “It isn’t,” she added.

    Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said at the rally that thoughts and prayers were not enough.

    “How many more dead bodies will it take to wake up this Congress?” Lewis asked. “This (gun violence) must stop and it must stop now.”

    Former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was grievously wounded in a 2011 shooting, urged lawmakers to “be bold, be courageous. The nation is counting on you.”

    READ MORE: Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, retired astronaut Mark Kelly call for stronger gun laws

    The Democratic rally, which included dozens of activists assembled near the Capitol steps, came after Republican leaders made it clear Congress will take no action on gun legislation in the wake of the massacre in Las Vegas.

    GOP leaders refused to entertain Democratic demands to expand background checks for gun purchases and tighten restrictions on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines — and they also shelved their own House bill that would have loosened access to gun silencers.

    “I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Tuesday.

    Ryan, R-Wis., said there is no plan for the House to act soon on the silencer bill, which a Republican-led House committee backed last month. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, said it would help hunters protect their hearing.

    The silencer bill is “not scheduled right now. I don’t know when it will be scheduled,” Ryan said Tuesday.

    The congressional inaction underscored the power of the National Rifle Association and the political stakes for lawmakers who maintain their support for the constitutional right to bear arms and fear any challenge to their fealty.

    Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said action on guns after Las Vegas was unnecessary. “We are not going to knee-jerk react to every situation,” he said.

    But Pelosi and other Democrats said the Las Vegas was merely the latest — and most horrific — in a long series of deadly shootings that occur nearly every day.

    “This isn’t just about what happened in Nevada, which is reason enough to do something, but it’s happening on the streets of our cities on a daily basis,” Pelosi said.

    READ MORE: A guide to the fight over gun silencers

    Four years ago, after the deadly school shooting in Newtown, a bipartisan bill on background checks failed in the Senate.

    The complicated politics of guns was personified by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat up for re-election next year in a state carried overwhelmingly by President Donald Trump.

    Manchin, who co-sponsored the failed bill that would have expanded background checks, said Tuesday, “I come from a gun state and I am a protector of Second Amendment rights and I understand these people’s fear.”

    West Virginia residents “cherish the right to be able to go hunting with their family … sport shooting and all the things we do enjoy,” Manchin said, adding that any potential legislation must be based on common sense.

    “It’s just common sense to say that if a person is such a risk to get on an airplane that they get (put) on the no-fly list, don’t you think there should be some concern and prevention from them being able to still buy a gun in America?” Manchin said, adding that any movement on the issue will depend on Trump.

    “The president could really take a lead on this. He really could,” Manchin said.

    Trump has called the Sunday night shooting at an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas an “act of pure evil” and declared the nation would unite behind the survivors.

    “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” Trump said Tuesday. Asked about the silencer bill, Trump said, “We’ll talk about that later.”

    Besides the silencer measure, House GOP leaders had been moving forward with a bill to allow people with concealed-carry permits to take their weapons to other states. A vote on that measure also seemed unlikely.

    The post Pelosi: GOP Congress beholden to NRA, other gun interests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch the senators’ announcement in the video player above.

    WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee said Wednesday the panel is continuing to investigate possible collusion between Russia and associates of the Trump campaign, but has not reached a conclusion yet.

    Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, gave an update on the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He was joined by the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.

    Burr said the committee has interviewed more than 100 witnesses as part of its investigation and that more work still needs to be done. “The issue of collusion is still open,” he said.

    Burr also said the panel won’t publicly release the contents of about 3,000 Facebook ads that were linked to Russia. Facebook turned the ads over to the committee earlier this month.

    The ads focused on divisive social and political messages and were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the election, Facebook has said.

    Warner said the Russian effort to sway the election also involved attempts to test the vulnerabilities of 21 states’ election systems.

    Burr said no vote counts were altered.

    The post WATCH: Senators discuss first findings in Russia probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    You can watch Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s full statement above.

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Wednesday that he never considered abandoning his job as President Donald Trump’s top diplomat, disputing what he called “erroneous” reports that he was on the verge of resigning earlier this year.

    Tillerson, however, didn’t deny a story that he had called the president a “moron” after a contentious July 20 meeting at the Pentagon.

    “We don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense,” Tillerson said. “I’m just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration.”

    The press-shy, former Exxon Mobil CEO addressed reporters at the State Department and fielded questions after an NBC News report appeared to throw his future into doubt.

    The story said Tillerson had been on the verge of resigning this summer amid mounting policy disputes with the White House. It said the tensions came to a head around the time President Donald Trump gave a politicized speech in July to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson once led.

    Citing three anonymous officials familiar with the incident, NBC also said Tillerson referred to Trump as a “moron” after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials.

    Minutes before Tillerson spoke, Trump seemed to give Tillerson his backing.

    “NBC news is #FakeNews and more dishonest than even CNN. They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

    The post WATCH: Tillerson says he never considered leaving his post appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Opioid pain medications pose hazards when left in the house or medicine cabinet. Here’s how to get rid of them. Photo by Getty Images.

    When opioids are not safely disposed, there’s the risk that they’ll get into the wrong hands. Leaving pain medication in the cupboard, the cabinet or elsewhere in the house increases the likelihood of the medication being ingested by children or pets. So how do you get rid of it?

    Some studies have found that flushing and unsafe disposal of strong painkillers like oxycodone and fentanyl can cause trace amounts of the drug to leach into soil and groundwater or make its way into rivers and lakes. One study, conducted by the United States Geological Survey and published in 2002, found trace amounts of medications in 139 streams in 30 states. But recent recommendations from the FDA advise getting them out of the house by any means possible, including flushing.

    From the FDA on risks of flushing medication down the toilet sink: “FDA is aware of reports of very low but measurable levels of medicines in surface waters such as rivers and streams, and to a lesser extent in drinking water. Disposal of these select few medicines by flushing would contribute only a small fraction of the total amount of medicine found in our surface and drinking water. The majority of medicines found in water are a result of the body’s natural routes of drug elimination (in urine or feces).”

    There are other ways to safely dispose of painkillers

    The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that opioid medications be disposed at specific take-back collection programs or medication drop box sites. Medication drop boxes are containers that come in various sizes, typically made of metal or plastic and often found at police stations, pharmacies, hospitals, or medical clinics.

    Disposal boxes in your area, can be found on this DEA webpage. The contents of the box are considered pharmaceutical waste, and either get incinerated or sent to a landfill.

    Pharmacist Courtney Chavis advises this: “Get a zip lock bag to put the pills in and add a small amount of water until the pills to start to dissolve. You want to mix a non-food item with it so that people or animals can’t get to it…like kitty litter, coffee grinds, dirt, shredded paper. When it’s all mixed up, it turns into a paste [within the bag] that you can put in the trash.”

    And coming soon: New technology allows people to deactivate drugs at home with drug deactivating pouches. In Kentucky, Attorney General Andy Beshear has distributed 50,000 pouches to Kentucky residents as part of a pilot program to test home disposal. The system has been proven to deactivate 99 percent of prescription medicationm according to the company, Deterra.

    To use the pouches, the unwanted medication is placed in a drug deactivating pouch with hot tap water. Within 30 seconds, deactivating chemicals inside the pouch bind to the unused medication to neutralize it,making the drug no longer effective. The pouch then can safely be placed in the trash. States with areas of high opioid use are beginning to provide these pouches at local pharmacies as well.

    The post How to safely dispose of pain medication appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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