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

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    Man walks past anti-U.S. mural in Tehran

    A man walks past an anti-U.S. mural in Tehran, Iran, on October 13, 2017. Photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via Reuters

    TEHRAN, Iran — President Donald Trump’s refusal to certify the Iran nuclear deal has sparked a new war of words between the Islamic Republic and America, fueling growing mistrust and a sense of nationalism among Iranians.

    The speech has also served to unite Iranians across the political spectrum — from Trump’s declining to call the Persian Gulf, the waterway through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes, by its name, to undercutting those trying to change Iran’s clerically overseen government from within.

    That is also likely to strengthen the hand of hard-liners within Iran, who long have insisted that United States remains the same “Great Satan” denounced in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

    “Under the deal, it was supposed to be that we get concessions, not that we give more concessions,” the hard-line Kayhan newspaper raged.

    Iranian officials and media outlets on Saturday uniformly condemned Trump’s comments that angrily accused Iran of violating the spirit of the 2015 accord and demanded Congress toughen the law governing U.S. participation. Trump said he was not ready to pull out of the deal but warned he would do so if it were not improved.

    In a televised speech shortly after Trump made his announcement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country would remain in the deal, but criticized Trump’s words, referring to them as “curses.”

    Rouhani also said Iran would continue to build and test ballistic missiles, something allowed under the nuclear deal though Americans believe it violates the accord’s spirit.

    [Watch Video]

    “We have always been determined and today we are more determined,” Rouhani said. “We will double our efforts from now on.”

    The Iranian president also offered a list of moments that showed the United States could not be trusted by the average Iranian, dating back to the 1953 CIA-backed coup that cemented U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s power.

    Like many others in Iran, Rouhani focused on the fact that Trump used the term “Arabian Gulf” to refer to the Persian Gulf. Some traded online video clips of past American presidents calling it the Persian Gulf, while one semi-official news agency published a photo gallery with the title “Persian Gulf forever.”

    Posts with the hashtag PersianGulf and the Iranian flag circulated on social media.

    The name of the body of water has become an emotive issue for Iranians who embrace their country’s long history as the Persian Empire, especially as the U.S.′ Gulf Arab allies and the American military now call it the “Arabian Gulf.” Rouhani even suggested during his speech that Trump needed to “study geography.”

    “Everyone knew Trump’s friendship was for sale to the highest bidder. We now know that his geography is too,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

    Zarif went on, with sarcasm, to mention Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, all hereditarily ruled Gulf nations, saying: “No wonder supporters of Trump’s inane Iran speech are those bastions of democracy in the Persian Gulf.”

    Iran’s Education Minister Mohammad Bathai also suggested in a tweet that American teachers allocate more time toward teaching “history and geography” — another dig at Trump.

    Recent surveys have shown an increasing majority of Iranians are skeptical that the U.S. will live up to its obligations in the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, most have yet to see the benefits of the deal itself as Iran’s economy still struggles to overcome rampant inflation, few jobs and bad loans to its banks.

    “Iran has in no way violated the nuclear deal, and as far as we know it has always remained committed to its promises, but it has always been (the Americans) who have broken their promises and have had other options on the table,” Tehran resident Hamed Ghassemi said.

    The U.S. has also levied new sanctions against Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, whose forces fight the Islamic State group in Iraq, support embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, have tense encounters with U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and run the country’s ballistic missile program.

    However, the U.S. has balked at adding the Guard’s name to a formal State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations. That could have proven problematic, especially with the Guard’s vast economic holdings across Iran.

    Gen. Masoud Jazayeri , a Guard commander and spokesman for Iran’s joint armed forces staff, said late on Friday that the country’s military will continue boosting its power and influence.

    “We tell the corrupt and evil government of the U.S. that we will continue promoting defensive power of the country, more determined and with more motive than before,” Jazayeri was quoted as saying by the Guard’s news website. “We do not spare a while for defending suppressed people in any point of the world.”

    Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

    The post Trump’s speech sparks a new war of words between U.S., Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    On October 6, 2017, the American Flag hangs outside of Grubb’s Pharmacy in Northeast, Washington, D.C. Grubb’s Pharmacy, established in 1867, is the oldest pharmacy in D.C., and with its convenient location to The U.S. Capitol, services many Members of Congress. Photo By Eric Kruszewski/STAT

    WASHINGTON — If House Speaker Paul Ryan comes down with the flu this winter, he and his security detail won’t be screeching off toward the closest CVS for his Tamiflu.

    Instead, he can just walk downstairs and pick up the pills, part of a little-known perk open to every member of Congress, from Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell down to the newest freshman Democrat.

    Nearly every day for at least two decades pharmaceutical drugs have been brought by the carload to the Capitol — an arrangement so under the radar that even pharmacy lobbyists who regularly pitch Congress on their industry aren’t aware of it.

    The deliveries arrive at the secretive Office of the Attending Physician, an elaborate medical clinic where Navy doctors triage medical emergencies and provide basic health care for lawmakers who pay an annual fee of just over $600. Every one comes from Washington’s oldest community pharmacy, Grubb’s.

    READ MORE: ‘Crazy like a fox’: Mental health experts try to get inside Trump’s mind

    Mike Kim, the reserved pharmacist-turned-owner of the pharmacy, said he has gotten used to knowing the most sensitive details about some of the most famous people in Washington.

    “At first it’s cool, and then you realize, I’m filling some drugs that are for some pretty serious health problems as well. And these are the people that are running the country,” Kim said, listing treatments for conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

    “It makes you kind of sit back and say, ‘Wow, they’re making the highest laws of the land and they might not even remember what happened yesterday.’”

    pharmacy drugs

    On October 6, 2017, Dr. Michael Kim (center), a pharmacist and owner of Grubb’s Pharmacy, prepares medication in the compound of his Northeast, Washington, D.C. store with Ron Thompson (left, Compound Technician). Grubb’s Pharmacy, established in 1867, is the oldest pharmacy in D.C., and with its convenient location to The U.S. Capitol, services many Members of Congress. Photo By Eric Kruszewski/STAT

    Kim’s tiny pharmacy — which, at its busiest, sends as many as 100 prescriptions to members in a day — is nestled among Capitol Hill’s stateliest row houses, less than four blocks from the Capitol building itself. Founded in 1867 and named for a previous owner, the pharmacy predates penicillin, the American health insurance system, and even the Lincoln Memorial.

    The two-story shop, with its bay windows and wood counters, harkens back to that history, though the computer systems and supplements inside aren’t far removed from your typical Walgreens counter — if all of Walgreens’s inventory was shoved into the nooks and crannies of three small aisles and labeled with individual stickers. At Grubb’s, staff will even scoop Hershey’s ice cream into cones out of a small counter in the corner, a modern-day nod to the marble-topped soda fountain once popular with the neighborhood kids.

    The pharmacy mostly serves the staffers, lobbyists, and families who make their home in the quiet, leafy neighborhood just to the east of the Capitol building, though Grubb’s five drivers will deliver prescriptions across the entire city. Some 800 prescriptions leave its doors every day, filled by some three dozen pharmacists, technicians, and support staff.

    READ MORE: Would Amazon really succeed as a pharmacy benefits manager?

    The relationship between Grubb’s and the Capitol has gone nearly unchanged for decades, even as congressional leaders have pushed again and again to overhaul the nation’s broader health care system.

    For the most part, lawmakers get the same prescription delivery service that any other customer of Grubb’s does. The pharmacy still bills each lawmaker’s insurance plan, whether it’s Obamacare, Medicare, or a local plan back in their district. Grubb’s keeps credit card information on file for copays and other purchases. There aren’t any discounts, Kim said. No special treatment.

    Members of Congress do, however, sometimes get to skip the lines that other Grubb’s customers face — simply because of who they are.

    “The Capitol kind of takes somewhat of a precedence just because of who we’re servicing,” Kim said, glancing toward the stately building from the front window of his shop. “The member might be calling to say, ‘Hey, I’m about to leave in five minutes, where’s my drug? So [the clinicians at the Capitol] get into panic mode as well. I wouldn’t say they’ve ever gotten frustrated with us, but it’s more of a concern like, ‘Oh my gosh, the member just called us, we need to know where the drug is.’”

    Those busy moments are much more prevalent in winter, when lawmakers have been in session for a while and when they might be facing more late-night vote series, Kim said. During August recess, the Capitol pharmacy business — like much of the rest of Washington’s economy — slows considerably.

    Most lawmakers know far more about the Office of the Attending Physician than about Grubb’s or its arrangement with Congress. In a STAT survey of some two dozen House and Senate members from both parties, only one knew about the single pharmacy that delivers all their drugs: Congress’s only pharmacist, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.).

    “It’s a great opportunity for us as pharmacists, also, to showcase what we do, because that’s exactly what we do is take care of patients,” Carter told STAT. “This is another example of how we go above and beyond our call of duty to help people in health care.”

    Others were quick to praise the Navy doctors and nurses in the Office of the Attending Physician, which counts at least one pharmacist and several technicians on its staff, too.

    “If you have a vote and you can’t get home to your personal physician, you need to see somebody, and I’ll run over between votes and be able to keep my personal responsibilities going,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican. “It’s a convenience that definitely allows us to be more productive.”

    “They’re good people, they’re always courteous. It’s a very difficult job they had, never had anything but the utmost cooperation from them — but don’t tell them that! They’ve injured me on several occasions,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joked recently to STAT.

    grubb's pharmacy

    On October 6, 2017, a ticket dispenser hangs on the wall inside Grubb’s Pharmacy. Grubb’s Pharmacy, established in 1867, is the oldest pharmacy in D.C., and with its convenient location to The U.S. Capitol, services many Members of Congress. Photo By Eric Kruszewski/STAT

    Lawmakers describe the Office of the Attending Physician as a modern space much like a regular doctor’s office — though the $3.7 million budget it enjoyed for 2016 suggests a relatively well-furnished space. It’s strictly off-limits to reporters; staff there declined repeated requests for comment, and a spokesman for the House Administration Committee that helps oversee OAP declined multiple follow-up inquiries.

    That’s perhaps because the office is not without controversy. Its services — and the relatively low fees that members must pay for access — were thrust into a harsh spotlight in 2009, as Congress began to debate the Affordable Care Act and as reporters began to ask how lawmakers’ own care might color their perspectives on policy. The central issue is the cost: In 2016, lawmakers paid $611 for annual membership — a fee that, unlike most health care prices, has risen much slower than inflation. In 1992, the first year the office charged a fee, it was $520.

    The Office of the Attending Physician itself was formed in 1928, after three members of Congress died in their offices within months of one another — more than 50 years after Grubb’s first opened its doors.

    But the pharmacy services at the Capitol may go back even further — a 1911 text on senatorial privileges describes an “assortment of drugs and viands, tonics and recuperatives” on hand and “readily accessible” for lawmakers. Back then, reportedly, senators took tablet after tablet and vial after vial of quinine, pepsin, and calomel, “endless supplies of cough drops,” and something described as “dandruff cure.”

    It’s not clear how long Congress has contracted with Grubb’s to provide private prescriptions, but a 1992 review of the OAP — hastened after one senator threatened to make his colleagues pay market prices for the free care they got at OAP — decreed that prescription pharmaceuticals for lawmakers should be obtained through private pharmacies and paid for by the lawmakers themselves, according to a memo shared with STAT by the Senate historian.

    It’s not clear, either, just how many drugs the OAP keeps on hand, whether for members or emergencies. But Dr. Lee Mandel, a retired Navy physician who spent several years working for OAP in the 1980s, remembers a well-stocked pharmacy just off the main corridor under the speaker’s office.

    “We provided some pretty comprehensive service, to keep the members doing their jobs so they didn’t have to go look for a doctor,” he told STAT. “As far as all medications, I don’t know — maybe the more exotic ones we didn’t — but probably we did stock [most drugs] on their behalf.”

    Kim, 47, knows only that the OAP’s relationship with Grubb’s has existed since at least 1997, when he joined the staff part-time as he finished his training at Howard University.

    Not much has changed since then, though enhanced security protocols after 9/11 ended the pharmacy’s practice of driving each prescription to an individual member’s office and collecting cash in-person. Now, the drivers — all of whom have undergone a Capitol Police background check — head straight to OAP.

    After 20 years at Grubb’s, Kim himself isn’t nearly so starstruck by the lawmakers. Even when they stop by the shop in-person, he said they’re just like any other customer.


    On October 6, 2017, a sign on the window of Grubb’s Pharmacy indicates that the pharmacy is the oldest in Washington, D.C. The pharmacy, established in 1867, is conveniently located near The U.S. Capitol and services many Members of Congress. Photo By Eric Kruszewski/STAT

    “I still remember John Kerry — it was literally like the day after he lost [the 2004 presidential election], he came in and he was just standing in line with everybody else,” Kim recalled. “I just remember seeing him standing in line and almost feeling sorry for him — one day he’s a superstar, he’s got his entourage and security detail, and the next day he’s just by himself, he’s picking up his prescription.”

    Though Kim himself is active in the National Community Pharmacists Association that lobbies on behalf of the industry, he said he usually doesn’t push lawmakers to talk shop when they’re in line as customers.

    “You know, they gently push it aside and say, ‘Well, let’s set up a meeting,’” he said. “Unless they’re involved in one of the topics in pharmacy, they probably don’t know what’s going on. But they don’t want to say they don’t know, so they say, ‘Oh, I don’t have time right now.’”

    READ MORE: Ex-Obama officials begin health insurance sign-up campaign

    Although he isn’t lobbying Congress, Kim is still working to improve his relationship with OAP. He desperately wants the office to use an electronic system to route prescriptions to the pharmacy, rather than having their physicians call them in every time.

    The “back to back” calls are slowing down the rest of his business, and he thinks it’s important to have a clearer record of what prescriptions are ordered than a phone call can provide.

    Those frustrations aside, however, Kim is proud of the work he does for the powerful figures who dominate Washington’s attention.

    “It’s definitely a special arrangement that no other pharmacy in the country can say that they have,” he said. “In other states, [a community pharmacy] may fill prescriptions for maybe one or two members. But this location, you’re getting like every member from all across the country. It’s very cool.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Oct. 11, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post An old-school pharmacy hand-delivers drugs to Congress, a little-known perk for the powerful appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    north pole

    In “The North Pole,” residents of North Oakland live through changes in their neighborhood wrought by gentrification. Photo by Danny Telles

    In the opening scene of the new web series comedy “The North Pole,” three best friends, Nina, Marcus and Benny, go on a safari-like expedition through North Oakland, California, which has become increasingly unrecognizable to them thanks to a new species rapidly taking over: the “gentrifier.”

    One of them asks, “The question with all of these newcomers is, are they a welcomed addition to the local environment, or an invasive species?” Another points out a type that she calls the “golden state gopher,” observing, “A master farmer and strict vegan, the golden state gopher also has a slight superiority complex. Like he was the first motherf****r around here to grow an heirloom tomato.”

    The seven-part comedy, which premiered online in September, tells the story of the three friends who struggle to stay rooted in their historically black and Latino community as it faces increasing housing costs brought by gentrification and changing racial and class dynamics. With cameos by celebrities like comedian W. Kamau Bell and hip-hop artist Boots Riley, among others, the series pokes fun at some of what you might find in many of the nation’s gentrifying neighborhoods: new coffee shops and condo complexes, incoming residents ill-informed about the history of their new home, and, of course, gluten-free donuts.

    Yet the series also examines some of the more contentious aspects of gentrification, such as racial tensions and the emotional toll of displacement on longtime residents and business owners due to rent hikes and increased property taxes.

    The show’s title, “The North Pole,” is a colloquial term for the area created by young people of color. It also serves as a play on words, as the show also explores the intersections between gentrification and the effects of climate change in northern California, drawing parallels between the effects of both on displacing communities of color and destroying local environments.

    The series is produced by Movement Generation, an Oakland-based nonprofit that advocates for racial and climate justice. PBS NewsHour Weekend spoke with Josh Healey, the show’s writer and co-producer, and Reyna Amaya, who plays one of the series’ lead characters, Nina.

    north pole

    Photo by Danny Telles

    How would you describe the relationship between gentrification and climate change?

    Josh Healy: Gentrification and climate change are often seen as different but they both have roots in a similar system that is about inequality, that is rooted in institutional racism, and that is rooted in disrespect and degradation of the local environment. … When you’re talking about displacement, when you’re talking about climate change and these disasters that are happening, [developers] use these crises as an opportunity to come in and reshape and privatize and take over. Just like what they did in New Orleans after Katrina when they tore down public housing and built up condos. So the connection there is real.

    The polar bear itself plays a really important role in the series and serves as a metaphor for adapting to a changing environment. How did that idea come about?

    Reyna Amaya: When your iceberg is melting around you, how do you adapt to survive? And what do you need to do in order to survive and keep going? … It leaves you with this question of, you know what are you going to do? I think that’s really what, you know, the polar bear or the character is representing. These survival choices that we have to make.

    Reyna, why did you decide to sign on to the project and how did these themes speak to your own experiences?

    Amaya: I loved this project when I read the script. I felt like being an artist you know you hardly get to work on a project that’s actually about your hometown. That’s like amazing. And so being able to rep where you’re from and do it justice, not just in the language but also in what is actually happening in that environment.

    For me there’s plenty of people in the Bay, homies, friends I grew up with who can’t afford to live there anymore. Real stories of people getting pushed out. There was also that like social responsibility, like, we have to do this right and give our hometowns justice and really give people around the country justice. As we’ve been doing this East Coast tour, so many people in D.C. New York, we’re on our way to Boston, have just been like, “Thank you for telling our story.”

    I was also in love with the character Nina. She’s like a girl that I grew up with who I was in middle school with. She’s totally just like such a quintessential Bay chick. And she’s smart and she’s unapologetic and you know she says what she feels and a lot of us don’t really get to do that in real life.

    There are some really funny moments where you make fun of the sillier sides of gentrification, like the scene with the “trap yoga” session that the roommates come upon. Can you talk about the decision to talk about these really serious issues through the lens of comedy?

    north pole

    Photo by Danny Telles

    Healy: Doom and gloom ain’t going to get the job done and it’s not going to reach the people we want to talk to. Laughter is the way to bring people in. We want to acknowledge the reality of what’s going on and the pain and the anger and the sadness. Laughter is the way to deal with it and also to remind us of the joy and the humanity that we’re fighting for in the first place. And that these are human people. This is a story about three friends about Nina, Marcus and Benny. And they also make fun of themselves. I think that’s important because when it comes to a lot of these issues, self-righteousness doesn’t get the job done. Having some humility and humor go hand in hand.

    Amaya: There is this piece that really is an appropriation of culture. And that to me is being represented in the “trap yoga” scene, which, “trap yoga” is a real thing.

    Healy: The ridiculous things that we imagined in the show doesn’t compare to the reality or the ridiculousness of the real world. … The appropriation is disrespectful to the culture. But they also hurt real people. And so you know it’s like, people think this is just about your feelings here. Like, check the effect it has on real people. And like I say this as a white dude who is originally from Washington, D.C., a gentrifying city, who now lives in Oakland, a gentrifying city. If you move to a new city, you need to know about the place you call home. You need to learn. You need to be humble … There are many things I’m still learning and will continue to learn and will continue to be checked on by my friends.

    The fictional green start-up company “Green-go’s” also played a very important role in the series. What inspired that in real life and how would you say some businesses advance gentrification in these communities?

    Healy: We came up with the idea of something that combines two dominant features of Bay Area life, which is the tech world and the kind of green eco-capitalist world that often purports how they’re going to save the world. But if you look at the bottom line, it’s about their bottom line, about making money. “Green-Go’s” represents the false solution and the shortsightedness of a lot of the kind of so-called “green tech” industry. These kind of on- size-fix-fits-all technological solutions to climate change and environmental issues that end up like they try to solve one problem but cause three other problems in the process and it’s often this kind of savior mentality.

    Real solutions have to come from the communities that are being affected and know the best about their environment, about their neighborhoods, about their cultures and if they’re being done in this top-down way they’re going to recreate a lot the same problem that they started with.

    At the end of the season you give a really passionate speech in defense of a neighbor who is being evicted from her home, and you talk about how the people who are being pushed out of these communities are the same ones who worked to make the neighborhoods desirable in the first place. Can you expand on that?

    north pole

    Photo by Danny Telles

    Amaya: I think that it was what we were talking about with the appropriation of culture, trying to replicate these things that were already in existence. I’m from Oakland, but having family that’s out here in New York, you know Harlem, what happened to the Mission in San Francisco, all these places where you are going to have this certain kind of environment and people and language and culture. And when those people aren’t there anymore, then the culture and the place automatically shifts and changes it’s not the same. That’s not why people came to Harlem. That’s not [why] people came to Oakland. When the people aren’t there, you’ve shifted the entire culture.

    Anything else?

    Amaya: One of the things that is really rare about this project is, you hardly get to hear the perspectives of young people of color when it comes to topics of global warming, climate change, social justice, environmental issues, gentrification and how it relates to their neighborhood and their experience. And with that rarity. I just I want people who loved this series to share it. I think that this is a story that takes place in Oakland but is not just an Oakland story.

    Healy: We talk about all these issues, but this show is not that complicated. The show is about home. That’s kind of the unifying theme throughout the show. What do you do when your home is under attack and when you feel like you’re being displaced? Whether we’re talking about your neighborhood or we’re talking about global climate. People have a right and a responsibility to defend the place they call home and that’s all of us that all of us. So there’s a place for everyone in this show. There’s a place for everyone in this movement.

    The post Gentrification is awkward, painful and funny in this new web series on North Oakland appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Anita Hill, the subject of the film “Anita” poses for a photo during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, January 21, 2013. Jim Urquhart, Reuters.

    It’s been 26 years since Anita Hill, soft-spoken and deliberate in her bright blue suit, sat before a Senate panel and detailed the lurid sexual harassment charges that would transfix a nation. Clarence Thomas went on to the Supreme Court, but Hill’s testimony was a watershed moment that raised awareness in incalculable ways.

    Will the sordid Harvey Weinstein scandal be recalled as another one of those watershed moments, its reverberations spilling out of Hollywood into the everyday workplace? Hill is one of those who think it will.

    “I absolutely think we needed something to push the needle, and this has done it,” Hill said in an interview from Brandeis University, where she has led a quiet academic life since 1998.

    All along, Hill says, there have been bits and pieces that have moved that needle a bit. But the Weinstein story, with its ever-growing cascade of disturbing revelations, reminds her of her own ordeal. “I think one of the reasons 1991 was so impactful was how public it was — people had faces and voices, and it was almost like a long conversation about how these things play out. This Weinstein story feels like a long conversation too, with different parts getting developed and different people being brought into it.”

    Since the story broke more than a week ago, some 30 women, from lesser-known names to megastars like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have emerged to recount disturbing experiences with Weinstein, who has issued a blanket denial of nonconsensual sexual conduct. (In just the latest accusation, actress Eva Green said Saturday she once had to physically “push off” the powerful producer in a meeting.) Simultaneously, a growing chorus of public figures has been denouncing him.

    One of the latest public figures to weigh in: Gloria Steinem. In an email message to the Associated Press, Steinem said: “I hope and believe all the attention to Harvey Weinstein will encourage many more women — and men — to tell the firsthand truth about sexual assault, harassment and bullying. I remind the media and prosecutors that people who come forward in these cases are likely to be telling the truth because there is so little reward — and often punishment — for doing so. Please believe the accusers and investigate!”

    But Steinem added that not everyone should be expected to have known of Weinstein’s alleged misdeeds. “My one worry is that this case is being made to seem too obvious, with blame for people who didn’t know,” she said. “In fact, Weinstein also made great movies with and about powerful women he did not sexually harass, because like so many sexual abusers, he exploited powerlessness.” (Weinstein was among 425 donors to a chair in feminist studies at Rutgers University named after Steinem; Rutgers says it will keep that donation.)

    [Watch Video]

    While Hill, now 61 and a professor of social policy and gender studies, has been buoyed by the attention being paid to sexual harassment in light of the Weinstein story, she cautioned that progress is always incremental: “This case may be bigger than some in the past, but I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think that everything is going to change overnight from one episode, even as big as this one.”

    A key problem, she said, is that so many women still fear retaliation or that they won’t be believed. “When a person is a big Hollywood star, it’s easier for that person to be embraced and not feel the repercussions of speaking out,” she said. “But when they’re young … they have their lives to think about.”

    And so, many sexual harassment cases are never reported, Hill and others note, which makes it difficult to gauge the scope of the problem. Even when they are, many cite the huge role that both confidential settlements and mandatory arbitration play in keeping cases hidden from view.

    “It’s secrecy on secrecy,” says Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News Channel anchor whose allegations brought down late Fox chief Roger Ailes. Carlson says she’s now lobbying on Capitol Hill against mandatory arbitration clauses — in which employees, as a condition of employment, agree to resolve claims via arbitration, not the judicial system. “These clauses are one reason we don’t ever know about this, why it stays in the shadows,” she says. “And guess what else happens: the woman gets fired from her job and the perpetrator gets to stay in the workplace, and nobody knows about it. It’s outrageous!”

    “It’s a terrible system,” concurs Washington lawyer Debra Katz, who specializes in sexual harassment. “It conceals what happens … and you’re denied the opportunity to have your day in court with a jury of your peers.” She adds that arbitration strongly favors employers, “because the arbitrators want to be rehired.”

    Meanwhile, most cases that do reach the legal system end in settlements, which almost always involve confidentiality clauses. Some, like Carlson, say this further contributes to the veil of secrecy around sexual harassment. Others, like Katz, say it’s more complicated: Some women just want to move on, and fear their careers will be threatened if it’s known they filed a claim.

    Counsel Charles Ogeltree uses a legal pad to cover a microphone as he advises law professor Anita Hill during her testimony October 11, 1991 before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas. Hill testified she was sexually harassed by Thomas while she was his aide; Thomas has denied the charges. Photo By Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Even Hill is conflicted about the issue of confidentiality. On one hand, she says, it often benefits the perpetrator; Weinstein likely benefited from agreements “that allowed him to continue to behave badly, with no accountability.” On the other, when women do make complaints, the fact that they’ve made them can follow them. “And the reality is, most institutions and people in power aren’t looking positively on a person who has filed a complaint,” Hill says. “So there’s still a negative public reaction, even though we say it’s wrong.”

    Despite all this, Carlson feels change afoot. “I feel more buoyed than I have in the last 15 months about cultural change,” she says, pointing not just to Weinstein, but to harassment cases at Uber, at tech firms, at venture capitalist firms, and at Amazon Studios. “I feel like this is a tipping point, where women are saying we’re not putting up with this crap anymore.”

    As for Hill, many of whose young students now don’t even know about her 1991 ordeal, she notes wryly: “I certainly didn’t think that this is what I would be talking about 26 years later.”

    “I have to say that I didn’t appreciate how complicated it was, how entrenched it was,” she says. “And we’re going to have to just keep pushing it and engaging a new generation of people to bring their own sense of what’s right and wrong. I’m confident that inch by inch, we will make some change.”

    The post Nearly 3 decades later, Anita Hill sees the needle moving on sexual harassment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO: 89th Academy Awards - Oscars Red Carpet Arrivals

    Harvey Weinstein appears at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, on February 26, 2017. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 54-member board voted overwhelmingly to “immediately expel” big time Oscar player Harvey Weinstein from the governing body of the Academy Awards, according to The New York Times.

    The Academy said in a statement that the vote was “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority,” breaking a 90-year precedent for the elite club with about 8,400 members. Between his work at Miramax and The Weinstein Company, which he co-founded, Weinstein’s films have received more than 300 Oscar nominations and secured 81 wins for films like “Pulp Fiction,” “Sling Blade” and “Shakespeare in Love.”

    The Academy’s statement added, “We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over. What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society.”

    On Oct. 5, the Times published a report detailing years of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Weinstein from multiple women, including Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.

    The report, citing officials from The Weinstein Company, said that Weinstein had settled with at least eight different women. It detailed accounts from other women who described abuse and a culture that pressured them to stay silent at the risk of losing their jobs.

    [Watch Video]

    Three days after the Times’ report, Weinstein was fired from his role at The Weinstein Company. This week, a number of Democrats donated contributions they had received from Weinstein to charity.

    The report was explosive in Hollywood, bringing a flood of statements from other women who said they had also been harassed or assaulted by Weinstein and raising a larger conversation about the pervasive mistreatment of women in film and other industries.

    The Academy in its statement said it would “work to establish standards of conduct that all academy members will be expected to exemplify.”

    Scott Feinberg, awards columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, told the Times that this is the beginning of a “very tough chapter” for the Academy if it is planning to hold up its promises.

    “The next thing that is going to happen, rightly or wrongly, is that a wide variety of constituencies are going to demand that the Academy similarly address other problematic members,” Feinberg said.

    The only other person to have been permanently expelled from the Academy is Carmine Caridi, a character actor who is said to have violated an Academy rule involving Oscar voting, according to the Times. Yet Roman Polanski, who pleaded guilty in a sex crime case involving a 13-year-old girl in 1977, and Bill Cosby, who has also been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women, still remain members.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: Good evening and thanks for joining us. California officials say this week’s fast moving wildfires in the northern part of the state have killed at least 35 people, making them the deadliest in state history.

    The fires have destroyed close to 6,000 structures and forced the evacuation of 100,000 residents. Today, more than 10,000 firefighters battled 16 large wildfires that have burned more than 214,000 acres.

    California wine country has sustained the worst property damage, especially in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County, fires there are only 45 percent contained.

    NewsHour Weekend special correspondent Joanne Jennings went to the Sonoma hillside town of Kenwood, where most residents have evacuated, and others are scouring the ruins.

    JOANNE JENNINGS, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: Last Sunday night, Jim Perry went out for a night of dancing. He returned home exhausted and fell into a deep sleep.

    JIM PERRY: I’m a sound sleeper. I just smelled smoke; a terrible burning smell. That’s the only thing that woke me up.

    JENNINGS: By the time Perry awoke, all of his neighbors had evacuated, except one family.

    PERRY: I did hear their son scream, “the fire is coming in the back window,” and that’s all I heard

    JENNINGS: That family got out, but Perry, a machinist, decided to stay to protect the home his father built.

    PERRY: This whole field was on fire. Everything was on fire all at once all around me.

    JENNINGS: Armed with several garden hoses, rakes, and a leaf blower, Perry stayed up all night fighting the raging fire. He snapped a few photos.

    PERRY: Things were exploding. All the propane tanks exploded. It was like a war zone. I cannot describe it.

    JENNINGS: You could have died. Why did you stay?

    PERRY: Because it’s my house.

    JENNINGS: Perry’s friend Jay Gamel steps in to comfort him.

    JAY GAMEL: His dad build it.

    PERRY: I just couldn’t leave.

    JENNINGS: This once tranquil cul de sac is hard to recognize for those who knew it well. It’s now covered in ash, rubble, and the charred remains of vehicles. A stack of wheelchairs parked curbside in front of what was once a convalescent home. All eight elderly residents were evacuated safely. Though Kenwood is inside a mandatory evacuation zone, a handful of residents remained to help. In this rural, mountainside town, Shelly Lewis and Zach Power spend their days caring for animals left behind by evacuees.

    SHELLEY LEWIS: Here, kitty, kitty.

    JENNINGS: Their own home succumbed to the fires.

    LEWIS: Let’s turn there.

    JENNINGS: But they don’t want to dwell on what they’ve lost.

    LEWIS: As soon as I was done crying, I was like, “What can I do here?” And so this far outweighs my loss.

    After a little coaxing, they got these cows to come out of hiding and eat.

    LEWIS: The owner was really concerned about them. They haven’t had food or water for a few days.

    JENNINGS: Lewis has received dozens of requests from residents who fled in the middle of the night, leaving their animals behind.
    LEWIS: we are also the first eyes on the ground for individual homeowners like that. They are getting national news coverage of the general big picture, but they’re like what about my house, so we try to go to homes and send them back video and information.

    JENNINGS: At Kenwood Elementary school, a group of volunteers hastily clear brush and dried leaves from the building’s perimeter. Doug Zucker is leading the effort.

    DOUG ZUCKER: The Fire Department doesn’t have any time for preventative work like this, but if we lose the school, that’s the heart of the community. It’s almost more important than our homes.

    JENNINGS: The fire station is a hub for the volunteers and firefighting crews from every part of California and neighboring states. Capt Fernando Calderon and his crew drove 7 hours from Long Beach and worked 40 hours on the fire line.

    FERNANDO CALDERON: We’ve been working ever since, nonstop. Truly it’s a statewide effort to put this fire out. There is still lots of fire and lots of tragic devastation. It’s shocking. It’s really, really sad and hard for us to see. we are doing our best to keep the loss now to a minimum and just keep this fire from doing any more damage.

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    graduation cap

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    Chasing the Dream CtD-Logo21 This is part of an ongoing series of reports called ‘Chasing the Dream,’ which reports on poverty and opportunity in America.

    By Megan Thompson and Mori Rothman

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Nancy Kukay works at a community college in Maryland, coordinating technical education programs. She’s worked in education most of her career and loves her job. But at 65-years-old, she had imagined retiring by now.

    NANCY KUKAY: I can’t afford to retire. I could never make the payments.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Payments for student loans she took out for her son Andrew about a decade ago. She pays around $500 a month on the nearly $75,000 she owes on loans she took out, and others she co-signed with her son. By her math, she’ll probably be paying on her loans alone for another 11 years.

    NANCY KUKAY: Even if I started drawing on my retirement and Social Security together, I still wouldn’t have enough monthly to make those payments.

    It’s certainly not where I hoped to be at this stage in life.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The number of Americans age 60 and older with student loan debt quadrupled between 2005 and 2015 to nearly 3 million. And the average amount they owe has nearly doubled from 12-thousand dollars to almost 24-thousand.

    PERSIS YU: There’s a number of factors that contribute to why the number of older borrowers is increasing.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Attorney Persis Yu directs the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.

    PERSIS YU: Student loans are structured to be paid over a very long period of time. They have no statute of limitations, which means that they follow you. They can follow you till you die, literally. And so there are a lot of borrowers who are out there who still have their own student loan debts from the ’70s, from the ’80s.

    ANNETTE PELAEZ: I think originally it was, like, 27,000 dollars…

    MEGAN THOMPSON: 64-year-old Annette Pelaez of Boston is still paying about 300 dollars a month for the loan she took out 20 years ago to pursue graduate degrees in American Studies, a loan she expects to be paying for another 10 years. She worked for nonprofits serving children and the elderly, but her income never reached the level she had hoped.

    ANNETTE PELAEZ: I’m making now what I made in the ’80s. I’m making about $42,000 a year.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: So when you went back to grad school, you assumed you’d be making a lot more money than that?

    ANNETTE PELAEZ: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I mean if I was making that money with a bachelor’s degree in the ’80s, I assumed that, you know, with a Master’s I’d do a little bit better.

    PERSIS YU: Folks with student loan debt typically save less than folks without student loan debt. And then, once they’re in retirement, if they are repaying loans, certainly that is a liability that they wouldn’t otherwise have to pay for when they’re on a fixed and limited income.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Because of her debt and the high cost of living in Boston, Pelaez says, she has little retirement savings. She recently retired but can’t afford to keep living in Boston – so she moved New Mexico, where it’s cheaper to live. But even still, her expected 1,000 dollar a month social security check won’t cover her expenses.

    ANNETTE PELAEZ: Rent will be $620 plus utilities, and then there is the school loan, and there goes the $1,000. So I will be doing some part-time work.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: How do you feel about that? I mean, is this what you pictured retirement being?

    ANNETTE PELAEZ: Well, you know, at this point, I’m not so terribly concerned, because I’m still young enough to do so. What concerns me is that when I’m in my 70s or 80s, hopefully, if I get there, I may not be able to do that.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Like Pelaez, 27 percent of older Americans with student loans borrowed for their own education. But most, more than 70 percent, borrowed for their children’s or grandchildren’s education. People like Nancy Kukay. Kukay, who’s divorced, took out about $46,000 in her name and co-signed for around $34,000 more with her son Andrew, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2008.

    NANCY KUKAY: I entered into that, now as I, in hindsight, without nearly enough information. And didn’t know what I didn’t know about– financial aid. It’s vastly different from when I went to school. I didn’t have to borrow to go to school.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Kukay obtained about half of the 46-thousand dollars she borrowed for her son’s education through a federal loan program called “Parent Plus.” The number of Parent Plus borrowers has grown by 60 percent since 2005 to three-and-half million Americans.

    The National Consumer Law Center says some families can borrow more than they can afford under parent plus because the program lets them borrow as much as a college says they need without verifying their income.

    PERSIS YU: At no point is the school or the federal government seeing if the family can afford to repay this loan.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Is anyone along the way saying, ‘Hey, if you take out this amount of money, this is what it’s gonna mean for you.’ Is anybody kind of giving a warning to families?

    PERSIS YU: So, you know, there is some very minimal counseling that is required– when folks take out federal loans. The other component is a lot of these families don’t have a lot of other options. Because education is expensive. So a lot of families feel trapped, and they feel like they have to take out this, because they want to provide for their kids. And they want their kids to have a better future.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: And that’s exactly what Nancy Kukay wanted for her son. Kukay says she wasn’t too worried about his ability to pay off his loans once he graduated.

    NANCY KUKAY: I kept telling him, and I thought this would be true, is, “This degree will give you a career that you can pay that off. Turns out not to be the case. He graduated in 2008 in the depths of the Great Recession. And jobs were hard to come by.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: After graduating with a degree in sports management, Andrew has worked steadily — even taking on second jobs at night and on the weekends. But his earnings haven’t been enough to keep up with the 4-and 5 hundred dollar payments on the roughly 45-thousand dollars he took out, so Nancy’s been paying the loans she co-signed. I spoke to Andrew over Google Hangout.

    ANDREW KUKAY: I did not think that you would be this hard to pay student loans. I definitely went in to school thinking I’ll get a decent paying job.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Andrew recently landed a higher-paying job and wants to help pay the loans his mom co-signed.

    ANDREW KUKAY: I don’t want her to be suffering for any longer than she has to just for doing the nice thing and cosigning on a loan. Would I do it all over again? No. I would not do it again. I would stick around and stay home for a couple of years. And go to a community college. Near my house.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In the meantime, Nancy says, the loan payments are weighing her down.

    NANCY KUKAY: It governs everything I do, every decision I make. It all revolves around making sure that I have that money to make that payment every single month.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Nancy has consolidated, and has gotten slightly lower interest rates, on some of the loans. But she expects she’ll need to work part-time after she retires. And she’s also considering moving to Montana, where the cost of living is cheaper.

    NANCY KUKAY: My life isn’t going to be the way that I’d hoped that it would be. It just simply isn’t going to be.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: There’s also this catch with federal loans, and older borrowers who can’t pay them off. The U.S. treasury can garnish their Social Security benefits.

    In fact, between 2002 and 2015, the number of Americans having social security disability and retirements garnished because of unpaid loans increased almost 500 percent to 173-thousand.

    MANUEL ROBERTS: Who do I go and get this money back from?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: It happened to 55-year-old Manuel Roberts of Brooklyn, New York.
    He paid off most all of the 13,000 dollars he borrowed to attend the University of Southern California in the 1980’s. But after losing a job, he defaulted on the last three thousand dollars and then sustained a severe head injury in 2002.

    MANUEL ROBERTS: Then I was injured- street violence. I was a victim of a violent crime. I was in a coma for two weeks or so.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Roberts received Social Security disability checks for 1,300 dollars every month. But the government began deducting 200 dollars from every check for the defaulted loan.

    MANUEL ROBERTS: I was already in a bad situation. It’s plain to see they just made it worse.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The Social Security deductions pushed Roberts to the verge of the federal poverty line. It turns out, there’s a program for people disabled like Roberts to get their loans eliminated. But many people don’t know about it.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: So no one ever said, ‘Hey, we notice you’re getting disability income. You might be also eligible for a disability discharge. This could stop.’

    MANUEL ROBERTS: No, that never- that was never brought to me by anybody.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Roberts’ attorney helped him get the disability discharge…and is also helping him and six people with similar stories sue the heads of the federal Department of Education, Treasury, and the Social Security Administration- alleging that they don’t do enough to let people know about the Disability Discharge program.

    The federal Department of Education declined an on-camera interview with PBS NewsHour Weekend and did not respond to written questions. The Social Security administration and Treasury Department also did not comment.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: US senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are sponsoring legislation to eliminate the practice of garnishing social security benefits for unpaid loans… but the bill’s gone nowhere so far.

    Nancy Kukay’s Social Security checks are not at risk, because she keeps kept up with her monthly student loan payments. For other parents trying to figure out how to pay for college now, she has this advice.

    NANCY KUKAY: I would strongly encourage them to become educated in the– in every aspect of financial aid. Talk to the college financial aid people. I didn’t do that. That’s a huge mistake. I made assumptions that turned out not to be true. And mine is a cautionary tale.

    Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Guy Marzorati, a reporter for KQED in San Francisco. He’s been covering the wildfires and now joins me now via Skype. Guy what have you seen today?

    GUY MARZORATI: Well today, fire officials are a little more optimistic than they were yesterday based on the fact that they believe that the winds that really pushed these fires around Sonoma and Napa County started to die down this afternoon. They hope to remove the red flag warning later tonight and that’s allowed them to let a lot of folks move back into their homes last night. 26,000 people were repopulated. Obviously there’s a lot of work that goes into before that in terms of making sure the homes are safe and able to be re-energized possibly. But that was an optimistic note that was sound this morning.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about Santa Rosa where you’re standing now? We’ve heard reports that parts of that city are going to be evacuated or are being evacuated.

    GUY MARZORATI: That’s right. So there’s still tough work ahead this morning. Thousands of residents, 3,000 residents, were evacuated from Santa Rosa, 250 more from the city of Sonoma. That’s because of this nuns fire that started encroaching upon the city last night. Firefighters worked to make sure that it didn’t get into the city, but there were some buildings that burned on the outskirts of Sonoma. 250 residents had to be evacuated.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What are the firefighters you’re speaking with saying? How are they feeling now days after this? Are they getting replenishment? New troops coming in to help fight these blazes or are they taking double and triple shifts?

    GUY MARZORATI: Well I think both. The road that I’m on has trucks passing with city names emblazoned on them. These are trucks from all over California and the United States. But at the same time there is definitely fatigue sitting in with firefighters working long shifts. I had a briefing this morning where the fire captain tried to energize the firefighters by reminding them of the good work that has been done in repopulating these cities. But people are referring to the nuns fire here in Sonoma County as a big unwieldy beast. So there’s definitely going to be days ahead where they are going to try and make sure that this fire doesn’t get any closer to any of the cities in this region.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Can you please put it in perspective for someone who is perhaps unfamiliar with northern California or the region you’re in? When you go north of San Francisco, what do you see?

    GUY MARZORATI: We are used to seeing wildfires in California but in very rural areas and it can sometimes feel like you’re apart from where the actual fire is going on. But as I drove up from San Francisco up here this morning, smoke is around your car and the entire way you’re constantly reminded by the poor air quality that fires are happening in our region. So this definitely feels like a fire that’s much closer to home both in terms of the air quality and also as you see folks having to evacuate the cities around the Bay Area.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Guy Marzorati of KQED in San Francisco joining us via Skype today from Santa Rosa California. Thanks so much.

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    Rohingya refugees

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: During the past six weeks half a million Muslims from Myanmar known as the Rohingya have fled across their countries border into Bangladesh. The exodus comes after witnessing or experiencing horrific atrocities by government soldiers who rampaged in their villages as part of a crackdown on the long-persecuted ethnic minority. New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman has reported vividly on the range of refugees, the widespread burning of homes the systematic raping of women and brutal killings of men and children. Gettleman is a Pulitzer Prize winner and currently the South Asia bureau chief. He joins me now via Skype from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

    So first of all, for people who haven’t read your story, you end up helping us personalize this through one particular tale of a woman named Rajuma. Kind of summarize that for us.

    JEFFREY GETTLEMAN: Yeah, this was this was one of the most upsetting stories I’ve ever done and I’ve been covering conflicts for 20 years and I was deeply disturbed and felt really helpless working on this story.

    So I centered a piece on a young woman named Rajuma who had watched her village burn down in front of her eyes, was captured by government soldiers went back along with many other civilians and she told me that the soldiers separated the men from the women, they methodically executed all of the men and then began to rape the young women and Rajuma had a toddler boy in her arms and she said the soldiers ripped the little baby out of her arms, threw him into a fire, and killed him right in front of her and then proceeded to rape Rajuma and then left her in this burning house to die. And it was only a miracle when she woke up smelling smoke, ran out, naked, covered in blood, hid in a field and then kept running for the next three days until she got to the border of Bangladesh.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well what’s remarkable about your story is, besides the fact that you verified all this from other witnesses and so forth, is that unfortunately her story is not an anomaly. You’re kind of trying to describe something that’s on a scale that we haven’t really heard about.

    JEFFREY GETTLEMAN: Yes. This is just it. I mean I was I was in these camps in Bangladesh where half a million people have arrived nearly overnight fleeing these atrocities in Myanmar. And everywhere you go people have these stories to share, that are so disturbing. And the more you listen, the more you understand that the Rohingya have been demonized and dehumanized for decades. Like many people in Myanmar refer to them as insects or vermin. And then there was this official policy that they weren’t citizens, they didn’t really count. They were the most lowly people in the entire country. So then in August you had this attack by Rohingya militant groups against government positions and this became a long-awaited excuse for the military to just wipe out these people and they went village to village burning entire villages to the ground. More than 250 of them. And then they began to slaughter anybody they could get their hands on.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know as these stories get documented as people start keeping track of, whether you want to call it a humanitarian crisis, crimes against humanity, a war crime, etc., what has the government response been?

    JEFFREY GETTLEMAN: The Myanmar government has been denying that anything horrible happened and has called these clearance operations and said that the government troops were just trying to eliminate militants. But a half a million people fled. And they only did that because they felt like they would have been killed, had they stayed. And so many people told me these firsthand accounts, people from different villages, from hundreds of miles apart. And there was a distressing harmony to the accounts. And so you have this huge population that is now trapped in this border area not allowed to leave, not welcome by either side. When in these camps it was just this sea of plastic shelters as far as you could see to the horizon set up in these muddy hillsides, with just tons of people packed together, with very little food or shelter, and they all have been traumatized.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right Jeffrey Gettleman from the New York Times thanks so much.


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    A man takes part in a hacking contest during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas

    A man takes part in a hacking contest during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on July 29, 2017. Steve Marcus, Reuters

    You’ve probably been told it’s dangerous to open unexpected attachment files in your email – just like you shouldn’t open suspicious packages in your mailbox. But have you been warned against scanning unknown QR codes or just taking a picture with your phone? New research suggests that cyberattackers could exploit cameras and sensors in phones and other devices.

    As someone who researches 3-D modeling, including assessing 3-D printed objects to be sure they meet quality standards, I’m aware of being vulnerable to methods of storing malicious computer code in the physical world. Our group’s work is in the laboratory, and has not yet encountered malware hidden in 3-D printing instructions or encoded in the structure of an item being scanned. But we’re preparing for that possibility.

    At the moment, it’s not very likely for us: An attacker would need very specialized knowledge about our system’s functions to succeed in attacking it. But the day is coming when intrusions can happen through normal communications with or sensing performed by a computer or smartphone. Product designers and users alike need to be aware of the risks.

    Transmitting infection

    In order for a device to become infected or compromised, the nefarious party has to figure out some way to get the computer to store or process the malware. The human at the keyboard has been a common target. An attacker might send an email telling the user that he or she has won the lottery or is going to be in trouble for not responding to a work supervisor. In other cases, a virus is designed to be unwittingly triggered by routine software activities.

    Researchers at the University of Washington tested another possibility recently, embedding a computer virus in DNA. The good news is that most computers can’t catch an electronic virus from bad software – called malware – embedded in a biological one. The DNA infection was a test of the concept of attacking a computer equipped to read digital data stored in DNA.

    Similarly, when our team scans a 3-D printed object, we are both storing and processing the data from the imagery that we collect. If an attacker analyzed how we do this, they could – perhaps – identify a step in our process that would be vulnerable to a compromised or corrupted piece of data. Then, they would have to design an object for us to scan that would cause us to receive these data.


    People demonstrate a high security digital unit built by Motion Pay, that allows customers to pay in Chinese yuan renminbi using Chinese online money payment services “WeChat Pay”, and “Alipay” using a QR code, where payments get converted to Canadian dollars at point of sales locations in Canadian stores and businesses, in Toronto, Canada, May 24, 2017. Photo by Mark Blinch/Reuters

    Closer to home, when you scan a QR code, your computer or phone processes the data in the code and takes some action – perhaps sending an email or going to a specified URL. An attacker could find a bug in a code-reader app that allows certain precisely formatted text to be executed instead of just scanned and processed. Or there could be something designed to harm your phone waiting at the target website.

    Imprecision as protection

    The good news is that most sensors have less precision than DNA sequencers. For instance, two mobile phone cameras pointed at the same subject will collect somewhat different information, based on lighting, camera position and how closely it’s zoomed in. Even small variations could render encoded malware inoperable, because the sensed data would not always be accurate enough to translate into working software. So it’s unlikely that a person’s phone would be hacked just by taking a photo of something.

    But some systems, like QR code readers, include methods for correcting anomalies in sensed data. And when the sensing environment is highly controlled, like with our recent work to assess 3-D printing, it is easier for an attacker to affect the sensor readings more predictably.

    What is perhaps most problematic is the ability for sensing to provide a gateway into systems that are otherwise secure and difficult to attack. For example, to prevent the infection of our 3-D printing quality sensing system by a conventional attack, we proposed placing it on another computer, one disconnected from the internet and other sources of potential cyberattacks. But the system still must scan the 3-D printed object. A maliciously designed object could be a way to attack this otherwise disconnected system.

    Screening for prevention

    Many software developers don’t yet think about the potential for hackers to manipulate sensed data. But in 2011, Iranian government hackers were able to capture a U.S. spy drone in just this way. Programmers and computer administrators must ensure that sensed data are screened before processing, and handled securely, to prevent unexpected hijacking.

    In addition to developing secure software, another type of system can help: An intrusion detection system can look for common attacks, unusual behavior or even when things that are expected to happen don’t. They’re not perfect, of course, at times failing to detect attacks and at others misidentifying legitimate activities as attacks.

    Computer devices that both sense and modify the environment are becoming more common – in manufacturing robots, drones and self-driving cars, among many other examples. As that happens, the potential for attacks to include both physical and electronic elements grows significantly. Attackers may find it very attractive to embed malicious software in the physical world, just waiting for unsuspecting people to scan it with a smartphone or a more specialized device. Hidden in plain sight, the malicious software becomes a sort of “sleeper agent” that can avoid detection until it reaches its target – perhaps deep inside a secure government building, bank or hospital.

    The Conversation

    Jeremy Straub is the Associate Director of the NDSU Institute for Cyber Security Education and Research. Work referenced in this article has previously been funded by the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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    Simona Foltyn South Sudan

    Simona Foltyn walks down a mountain slope shortly after crossing into South Sudan. Photo by Jason Patinkin

    In August, fellow reporter Jason Patinkin and I crossed on foot from northern Uganda into rebel-held South Sudan. Over the course of four days, we walked more than 40 miles through the bush, escorted by rebel soldiers, to shed light on one of the world’s most underreported conflicts.

    Reporting on South Sudan’s war, which began in 2013, has always been a challenge due to the risk and logistical hurdles associated with accessing remote areas where fighting takes place. But over the past year, covering the war and its humanitarian fallout has become particularly difficult. Since the beginning of this year, South Sudan’s government has banned at least 20 foreign journalists in an apparent effort to silence reporters who had a track record of critically reporting on the government.

    The war has had a devastating impact on South Sudanese communities, but much of it has remained out of the limelight of international media.

    This systematic crackdown on the foreign press (South Sudanese journalists have long risked imprisonment and death for doing their work) coincided with two important developments. In November 2016, the United Nations warned that the violence being committed against civilians in the southern region of Equatoria risked spiraling into genocide. Then, in February, the UN declared a man-made famine, warning that 100,000 people were at risk of starving to death as a result of civil war.

    Journalists seeking to cover these events were left with two equally unsavory options: self-censorship or a risky trip to rebel-held parts of the country. Only a handful of journalists have attempted the latter since fighting escalated in July last year. For us, this was our second embed with the rebels this year.

    Martin Abucha (second from right) rests with his troops in rebel-held South Sudan.

    Martin Abucha (second from right) rests with his troops in rebel-held South Sudan. Photo by Jason Patinkin

    We set off from a town in northern Uganda at five in the morning, bouncing along a bumpy dirt track towards the South Sudan border. Crammed into our four-wheel drive were rebel commander Martin Abucha, a dual American and South Sudanese citizen who we planned to profile for our PBS NewsHour Weekend segment, a couple of guides, and several duffle bags stuffed with our tents, sleeping bags, emergency medical kits and provisions to last us four days.

    Just as the sun began to rise above a distant range of hills that we aimed to cross later that day, our car came to a halt in front of a stream. Because of the rainy reason, it carried more water than usual. It was time to disembark and start walking, or “footing,” as South Sudanese tend to call it.

    We took off our shoes and waded through the stream’s chilly waters. This was the first of a many rivers we’d have to cross along the way, either on foot or in small flimsy canoes dug out from tree trunks. Each time, we dreaded the idea of falling in with our camera gear.

    The first part of our journey in northern Uganda felt very much like a hike through a national park. Passing beautiful landscapes and idyllic farming villages, one could almost forget we were headed into a war zone — but we were about to get a reality check.

    We had just crossed into South Sudan when out of nowhere, two dozen armed men popped out of the tall grass and surrounded us at gunpoint.

    “Stop! Who are you and where are you going?” a soldier called out in Juba Arabic from his hideout no more than 20 yards away, pointing his AK47 at us. Another one next to him had a rocket-propelled grenade propped on his shoulder, also unequivocally aiming it in our direction.

    Instinctively, we threw our hands in the air and exchanged a baffled glance. Had we accidentally bumped into government soldiers? Or perhaps we had come onto the “wrong” rebels? Abucha’s group, called the Sudan People’s Liberation Army In Opposition, is the biggest but not the only armed group in Equatoria, an area rife with rival militia and bandits who exploit the security vacuum left by war.

    To our relief, and only after Abucha answered a series of questions, this routine security check quickly gave way to a warm welcome. The platoon would be our escort for the next four days as we trekked to their base and to Loa, Abucha’s hometown.

    Keeping up with the rebels was no easy task. Given the country’s pervasive lack of basic infrastructure, South Sudanese grow up walking for dozens of miles just to go about their daily lives. For sedentary Westerners, keeping the target pace of “two meters per second” (around five miles an hour) proved challenging amid 90-degree temperatures, all while filming and plowing our way through dense, itchy elephant grass.

    The upside of the cumbersome terrain was that it kept us safe. During our four-day trip, we didn’t cross a single road, instead walking along a dizzying network of narrow bush paths the rebels seemed to know like the backs of their hands. An unwanted encounter with government troops, who tended to stick to roads and move around in vehicles as opposed to on foot, was highly unlikely.

    The closest we got to government-controlled area was a visit to Loa, located just two kilometers away from a main road frequently patrolled by government soldiers. We couldn’t stay long, but the hour we spent on the ground offered us a glimpse into what villages must look like in many parts of Equatoria: burned mud huts, looted schools and clinics, fallow fields and – most strikingly – no civilians.

    The war has had a devastating impact on South Sudanese communities like the one in Loa, but much of it has remained out of the limelight of international media. Our four-day venture into rebel-held South Sudan offered us a rare opportunity to report ground truths, and we are thankful for that.

    The post Column: Why reporting from South Sudan is so difficult — and critically needed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO - A view shows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Silver Spring

    A view shows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, on August 14, 2012. Photo by Jason Reed/File Photo/Reuters

    Gene therapy has the potential to be a one-shot treatment that could reverse blindness, restore blood-clotting function to hemophiliacs, or even cure rare diseases outright. But what kind of price tag comes with that promise — and who will pay for it?

    The question is no longer academic: On Thursday, Spark Therapeutics won unanimous support from a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel for its gene therapy drug, Luxturna. It seems likely to win FDA approval in the coming months. But the cost will be hefty: Analysts estimate that Luxturna, which has been shown to restore vision in children with an inherited form of blindness, could cost $1 million per patient.

    Will private insurers be willing to pay? What about taxpayers, via Medicaid and Medicare? And, importantly: What happens if patients — or insurers — do foot a hefty bill, only to find out the drug simply did not work for them?

    “These one-shot cases are potentially transformative — but not every patient responds to the same extent with gene therapy,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, a former FDA commissioner who now leads the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. “We’re definitely not all the way there yet.”

    So McClellan has formed a consortium at Duke to brainstorm better ways to cover the costs. He’s bringing gene therapy companies like Spark, Bluebird Bio, and Pfizer to the table — along with insurers like Harvard Pilgrim and Anthem.

    “The fact is, we need to move our 20th-century health care system to meet 21st-century scientific and medical breakthroughs,” said Jeff Marrazzo, CEO of Spark Therapeutics.

    Gene therapies work by infusing a patient with engineered viruses armed with DNA that helps correct the molecular processes that go awry in an inherited disease. It’s costly, in part, because these viruses are more difficult and time-consuming to manufacture than a standard pharmaceutical drug.

    On top of that, companies typically spend years in costly research and development before finding an approach that works and can win FDA approval. And in most of these diseases, there’s just a relatively small patient pool.

    What’s more, when they work, the therapies can save patients and insurers big money down the road. Current hemophilia drugs, for instance, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. If a patient could be cured with a one-time infusion — even one that costs $1 million — that might actually be quite cost-effective.

    Given all that, companies do have good reason to charge a premium for their gene therapy products, McClellan said.

    On the other hand, scientific breakthroughs mean nothing if they’re not accessible to patients.

    “The concern is that if you get enough of these types of expensive therapies to hit the market, they’ll perhaps make the premiums unaffordable,” said Dr. Michael Sherman, chief medical officer of Boston-based insurer Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. “So we have to be creative to find the right balance of access and affordability.”

    The main concept the consortium is kicking around: value-based payments. They’re a form of money-back guarantee, in that patients or their insurers pay for the therapy only if it actually proves effective in reversing or managing their disease.

    And to make the cost burden lighter, one idea gaining steam is to break these costs into incremental payments over several years — and make those contingent on a patient’s sustained response. That way, if the treatment stops working for a given patient, he or she might not have to pay the full amount.

    Novartis is taking a baby step in this direction with its newly approved CAR-T cancer drug, Kymriah. It’s priced at $475,000, but Novartis struck a deal with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: It gets paid only if Kymriah appears to be sending a patient’s cancer into remission a month after treatment.

    “Paying for a gene therapy for as long as it’s working makes a tremendous amount of sense — but it comes with some challenges,” said Nick Leschly, CEO of Bluebird Bio, which is working on gene therapies for several rare diseases.

    Among those challenges: What if the patient changes insurance companies a couple years after her gene therapy? Who foots the bill for the remaining payments? Would she even be able to get a new insurance plan with that kind of bill following her around?

    Also: What if a patient fails to show up for checkups to determine if the drug is still working? That could be a way for him to evade the installment payments.

    “If a patient decides not to come in, who shoulders that payment?” Leschly said. “Is it on the insurer to make sure the patient shows up?”

    Still another challenge: What if a drug like Kymriah seems to be working after a month, triggering the insurer to pay the full amount — but then the next week, the patient’s cancer again gains the upper hand? Is there any mechanism for the insurer to claw back some of its payment?

    The overarching problem is systemic, experts said: There’s simply no mechanism now for a company to spool out a million-dollar bill over several years while assessing the patient’s health and response to therapy at regular intervals.

    “If we were to propose a model like this to a single commercial insurer, the financial penalties would be significant,” said Marrazzo, the Spark CEO. “The government’s existing price reporting mechanisms are too rigid — so we can’t financially make sense of doing it.”

    Marrazzo wouldn’t tip his hand as to the price Spark will set for Luxturna. Typically, that comes only after FDA approval. He also declined to give specifics on potential payment models. But some analysts are predicting a fairly old-school approach: a one-time charge in the high six or seven figures for a one-time treatment.

    As more gene therapies come on the market, experts say it will take a new level of cooperation between policy makers, drug companies, and insurers to come up with rational payment models.

    “But we’re confident we can figure it out,” Leschly said. “Because if someone has a very serious disease, and we can cure it, the system will find a way to reward that.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Oct. 13, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post We may soon have our first $1 million drug. Who will pay for it? And how? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participates in a meeting with the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WorkersÕ Party of Korea

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participates in a meeting with the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers Party of Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 4, 2017. Photo by KCNA via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis “will continue until the first bomb drops.”

    But it was only recently that President Donald Trump tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with the leader of the nuclear-armed nation.

    Tillerson says in a television interview that Trump “has made clear to me that he wants this solved diplomatically. He is not seeking to go to war.”

    Mixed messaging from Washington has raised concerns about the potential for miscalculation amid the increasingly bellicose exchange of words by Trump and Kim.

    North Korea has launched missiles that potentially can strike the U.S. mainland and recently conducted its largest ever underground nuclear explosion. It’s threatened to explode another nuclear bomb above the Pacific.

    The post Tillerson: North Korea diplomacy continues until 1st ‘bomb drops’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    mogadishu bombing

    Civilians evacuate from the scene of an explosion in KM4 street in the Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia October 14, 2017. Photo By Feisal Omar/Reuters

    At least 231 people were killed and hundreds more wounded after a massive truck bomb on Saturday struck Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu.

    The Somali government has blamed the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab for the attack, and called it the deadliest ever to hit the nation.

    The blast took place outside the Safari Hotel, where rescue workers dug through the rubble of collapsed buildings overnight in search of survivors. Witnesses described a devastating scene with large-scale carnage, as doctors worked feverishly to attend to the dead and injured, many badly burned.

    “The hospital is overwhelmed by both dead and wounded,” Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina hospital located near the blast, told the Associated Press. “We also received people whose limbs were cut away by the bomb. This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past.”

    Photos and videos of the bombing, which took place on a busy street near a section of the city housing foreign embassies, showed collapsed walls, twisted metal, and sporadic fires spewing smoke. The Qatari government said its embassy was “severely damaged” in the strike.

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

    Family members searched through the wreckage and waited at local hospitals with the hopes of finding relatives who survived the bombing.

    Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed announced three days of mourning. The attacks received international condemnation, including from the United States.

    The post Hundreds dead after massive truck bomb strikes Mogadishu appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting with members of his Cabinet at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Donald Trump talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting with members of his Cabinet at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

    The strained relationship between President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came under renewed focus Sunday, as the nation’s top diplomat insisted that Trump has not undermined him even as he again refused to deny calling the president “a moron.”

    Tensions between the two men have grown while the nation faces a series of high-stakes international crises, including the threat posed by North Korea and fate of the Iran nuclear deal, and threatens to sow doubt about American allies as to whether Tillerson can speak authoritatively for the United States. The secretary of state insisted that he has a strong working relationship with the president without any name-calling.

    “I call the president ‘Mr. President.’ He and I have a very, very open, frank and candid relationship. We have a very open exchange of views on policy,” Tillerson said during an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”At the end of the day, he makes decisions. I go out and do the best I can to execute those decisions successfully.

    “He has assembled a very, I think, unconventional team,” Tillerson continued. “He himself is an unconventional president. He’s assembled an unconventional Cabinet. I’m an unconventional pick for secretary of state.”

    But Tillerson would not answer repeated questions as to whether he called Trump, as has been reported, “a moron” after a tense meeting at the Pentagon in July during which the national security team stressed to a skeptical president the need for a robust American presence around the globe.

    First, Tillerson parried: “I’m not going to deal with that kind of petty stuff.”

    Then he stonewalled: “As I said, Jake, I’m not playing.”

    Then he side-stepped: “I’m not making a game out of it.”

    And then he danced around it: “I’m not dignifying the question with an answer, Jake.”

    [Watch Video]

    The firestorm around the “moron” comment, which was first reported by NBC, prompted Tillerson to hold a remarkable press conference at the State Department earlier this month during which he pledged fealty to Trump but did not deny using the word. A State Department spokeswoman later denied that Tillerson said it.

    But the reports infuriated Trump, who privately bashed his secretary of state to associates and publicly challenged Tillerson to an IQ test.

    “And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump told Forbes magazine. The White House later said he was joking.

    But despite Tillerson’s efforts to move beyond the story, it has created a perception among many in Washington that the clash with Trump has weakened the secretary of state’s voice on the world stage. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican who has recently become a vocal critic of the president, last week suggested that Tillerson had been “castrated” by the president.

    Tillerson, a ranch owner, joked that he had not been gelded.

    “I checked. I’m fully intact,” he said.

    The White House did not immediately respond to Tillerson’s interview. Trump visited his Virginia golf course for the second consecutive day on Sunday.

    People close to Trump say the president has grown increasingly dissatisfied with the former Exxon CEO, whom he views as holding a conventional view of America’s role in the world and lacking star power. Tillerson, meanwhile, is said to have grown weary of Trump contradicting his public pronouncements and of becoming increasingly isolated in a capital to which he has never warmed.

    Tillerson has been painted by some “America First” forces as a publicity-shy, slow-moving “globalist” who did not grasp the nationalist platform of Trump’s campaign. Trump himself has been irked by Tillerson’s advocacy of staying in both the Paris climate deal and the Iran nuclear pact, and has complained to associates that he does not like how Tillerson candidly voices his disapproval to the president in meetings, according to White House officials and outside advisers.

    They men also disagreed on the nation’s Afghanistan strategy, which was discussed in the July Pentagon meeting, though Trump was persuaded by Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis to maintain the United States’ presence in the region. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Sunday that was proof the relationship could work.

    “Well, at the end of the day, I think Secretary Tillerson gave a good overview of the relationship,” Graham told CBS. “I’m not here to beat up on Bob (Corker). I’m here to tell you that the president has changed his opinions when it came to Afghanistan by listening to the best national security team I’ve seen in 20 years.

    Trump empowered his son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, to spearhead the administration’s efforts at Middle East peace, stripping the State Department of what is usually a major priority. Trump also grew annoyed with what he perceived as Tillerson’s go-it-alone approach to diplomacy with North Korea, declaring in a scorching recent tweet that the secretary of state was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump’s nickname for Kim Jong Un.

    The president was also angry with remarks after Trump declared there were “fine people” on both sides of the clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators that left one person dead, according to two people familiar with the Trump’s beliefs but not authorized to discuss private conversations.

    “The president speaks for himself,” Tillerson said at the time.

    The post Amid crises, tensions between Trump, Tillerson persist appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    william wegman

    Photo courtesy of William Wegman

    For more than 40 years, artist William Wegman has been making portraits and videos of his beloved Weimaraner dogs, who have appeared in numerous publications and on television shows like Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live.

    And this month, he released a new career retrospective book, “William Wegman: Being Human.” The book features 300 images of his dogs from his countless collection of prints.

    NewsHour Weekend recently visited Wegman in his New York City home and studio, where he introduced us to his current canine models, Flo and Topper.

    william wegman

    William Wegman arranges clothing that will be worn by his dogs, Flo and Topper, with the help of a long-time assistant inside his New York City studio. Photo By Michael D. Regan/NewsHour Weekend

    Wegman lives and works in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan with his dogs. He keeps many of the props utilized for photo shoots in his downstairs basement, which are filled with decades’ worth of costumes and trinkets he uses to make elaborate scenes.

    He said Weimaraners are good at standing still because they were originally bred to hunt, and are capable of freezing and pointing at prey.

    William Wegman

    Wegman stores hundreds of prints inside his home and studio, some shown here. Michael D. Regan/NewsHour Weekend

    Most of Wegman’s photos were captured on a 20-by-24-inch Polaroid camera, which he said is the size of a “big refrigerator” kept inside a a wood base that’s “quite beautiful actually but very rickety and fragile.” When working outside, Wegman would haul it around in a truck.

    Wegman has taken about 15,000 photos with that Polaroid, but he has since moved on to digital cameras.

    Wegman said he’s worked with 14 Weimaraners in total, the first of which was named Man Ray, named after the artist. Yet, he didn’t initially plan on taking artistic portraits of them.

    “I took his picture, which you would do with your newborn, or whatever,” he said. “It was kind of magical how he became. He was kind of transformed by the act of photographing him.”

    william wegman

    Flo and Topper are a part of the family, Wegman said. The photos of his dogs can sell for thousands of dollars. Michael D. Regan/NewsHour Weekend

    Wegman was born in 1943 in Massachusetts and in the 1960s went on to receive fine arts degrees in Boston and Illinois, where he studied painting. He taught in Wisconsin and California, and by the 1970s his artwork was being exhibited in galleries around the world, about the same time he began taking photos of his first Weimaraner.

    Wegman’s photographs now sell for thousands of dollars and he has published 40 books, including 20 children’s books.

    At age 74, Wegman said he plans on continuing his work, including an extensive portfolio of paintings.

    williiam wegman

    Wegman also works with oil paintings, including this one shown here, which also incorporates post cards he’s collected. Michael D. Regan/NewsHour Weekend

    Wegman’s work is now being shown through Oct. 28 at the Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York. An exhibit of his images will take place from Jan. 17 through July at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with plans for an international showing next summer at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

    “William Wegman: Being Human,” released this month in collaboration with William A. Ewing, includes more than 300 photos, many of which have never been shown to the public. Here are some of those images:

    Courtesy of William Wegman

    Courtesy of William Wegman

    Courtesy of William Wegman

    Courtesy of William Wegman

    william wegman

    Courtesy of William Wegman

    The post Photos: Four decades of William Wegman’s Weimaraners appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Megan Thompson

    MEGAN THOMPSON: If you don’t immediately recognize this man walking his dogs down a New York city street you might recognize the dogs. This is William Wegman, the painter, photographer and filmmaker famous for the photos he takes of his beloved pets.

    The photographs are funny, beautiful, mysterious and always original. They’ve graced the pages of countless books and magazines and museum walls for more than 30 years. Wegman says even though he has always been a dog person he didn’t set out to photograph them.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: My first wife wanted a dog, and I didn’t. I was too busy as an artist, being an artist.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Wegman studied painting in college and grad school in the 60’s, and he still paints today- creating intricate paintings that incorporate found postcards. He didn’t take up the photography he’s become more well-known for until after grad school.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: I remember flipping a coin, ’cause I wasn’t really sure. Three out of five, tails we’ll get a dog. And it came up five out of five, it was tails. So, it was destined.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Wegman named his dog after the artist Man Ray. He was a large hunting breed called a Weimaraner.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: And so I took him to my studio, which was natural. And I took his picture, which you would do with your newborn, or whatever. And it was kind of magical how he became. He was kind of transformed by the act of photographing him.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: I was a little weary of photographing the dog because it’s sort of a gimmick. And it could be construed as being lazy or whatever. So, but I kept he kept giving me more ideas.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: And the ideas just kept coming. And so did the dogs. After Man Ray, there was Fay Ray, and then her offspring. Wegman has worked with 14 Weimaraners in all.

    His work became wildly popular. The photographs sell for thousands of dollars and are exhibited all over the world. He’s published almost 40 books, including more than 20 children’s books and a New York Times best-seller on puppies. His most recent book was published earlier this month: “William Wegman, Being Human”, the largest collection of his work ever published.

    There are videos and short films, too, starting with quirky conceptual art videos from the 70’s… like this one, where Wegman’s teaching Man Ray to spell.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: And you spelled O-U-T right. But when it came to beach, you spelled it B-E-E-C-H.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Wegman’s dogs have appeared on Saturday Night Live

    WILLIAM WEGMAN (to dogs): OK who wants to pitch?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: And they’ve appeared on Sesame Street. The world of high fashion has embraced the dogs- this past summer they appeared in French Vogue, modeling clothing by designers like Gucci.

    Wegman lives and works in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan with his dogs Flo and Topper.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: Well we’re downstairs in the basement where I keep the props.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: His basement is filled with decades worth of costumes, trinkets and props that he’s used to create his elaborate scenes.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: I believe this is the jacket that Batty wore when she was walking her mother Fay in a piece I titled “Dog Walker.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Where do you find all this stuff?

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: We have a place upstate and there’s stores there, Salvation Army’s and so forth, there’s yard sales.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In his studio upstairs Wegman and his long-time assistant Jason Burch prepare the set. To make it look like the dog’s actually wearing the pants, they shape them with plastic and foam and tape the pants down onto the stool.

    Wegman explains that dogs are naturally good at standing still because they are “pointers,” dogs bred to freeze and point to an animal being hunted. To get this shirt to fit right, Wegman cuts up the back. Burch provides the human hands and arms. Wegman has tricks for getting the dogs to look where he wants them to.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: I have photographed humans. Not probably my strength. I like looking at and touching dogs. Moving their head around, or giving them direction. They expect me to talk to them and move them around.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Do you think the dogs enjoy this work?

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: They love to work. They like to be picked. They wanna be the one up on- that you’re looking at and talking to.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: You did it. That’s a hard one. Super good.
    …In fact, I have to pretend- if I’m working with Topper, I have to put Flo nearby on a pedestal so she thinks she’s working. She’s probably wise to the fact that she’s just a stand-in. But, that second-best is okay, too, in that circumstance.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: You get really close to these dogs emotionally?

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: Oh yeah. Yeah. They’re in on everything, and I’m never with– without them.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: Even though Wegman now works with digital cameras, most of his career he worked exclusively with a 20- by 24-inch Polaroid camera.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: You say a Polaroid camera. We’re not talking about a Polaroid that somebody might have at home. Can you describe what the camera is like?

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: That camera is the size of a big refrigerator and it’s housed in wood and it’s quite beautiful actually but very rickety and fragile.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Only five such cameras were originally built. When Wegman worked outside, he hauled the huge camera in a truck. The large sheets of instant film could be viewed immediately. So Wegman could make then changes to his dogs or the set. The catch is that there’s no editing or touching up the photos later so if there was a blemish, Wegman either lived with it, or didn’t display the photo. Wegman took about 15-thousand photos with the Polaroid, many stored here in his studio. He recently went through every box, cataloguing and digitizing each image.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: And the process was pretty amazing because I’ve seen each dog get younger and younger. The next wave of dogs. And it was really moving.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The project took more than a year, and Wegman discovered photographs he’d completely forgotten about. Many had never been shown.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: Here’s something that I’m slightly embarrassed about, but.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Why are you embarrassed?

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: I don’t know dogs in sunglasses, it’s a cliche.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Do you try to avoid cliches- is that something you struggle with?

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: You know I was really tortured by the thought of doing those sort of Poker Playing dog kind of things that sort of kitsch. I wanted my dogs to be- they could be funny but they had also had to be beautiful and more mysterious even when I made them tall as people.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: This is kind of funny I just noticed that but there’s a reflection of a dog in that can you see that? That’s pretty amazing.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: You didn’t you didn’t notice that before.

    WILLIAM WEGMAN: No I never noticed that.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The rediscovery of these original Polaroids became the catalyst for Wegman’s latest book. Some of them are also on display in a New York gallery until the end of this month. More of his work will be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in January and a major international exhibition will launch next summer.

    The post Artist William Wegman and his Weimaraner muses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, introduces Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, not pictured, at the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Sessions will warn at his confirmation hearing Tuesday of a "dangerous trend" in violent crime and vow to better defend police while tackling accusations that he'll gut civil rights, as he seeks to become President-elect Donald Trump's attorney general. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Sen. Susan Collins appears in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — A key moderate Republican urged President Donald Trump on Sunday to back a bipartisan Senate effort to shield consumers from rising premiums after his abrupt decision to halt federal payments to insurers, calling the move “disruptive” and an immediate threat to access to health care.

    “What the president is doing is affecting people’s access and the cost of health care right now,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has cast pivotal votes on health care in the narrowly divided Senate. “This is not a bailout of the insurers. What this money is used for is to help low-income people afford their deductibles and their co-pays.”

    “Congress needs to step in and I hope that the president will take a look at what we’re doing,” she added.

    Her comments reflected an increasing focus Sunday on the bipartisan Senate effort led by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to at least temporarily reinstate the payments to avoid immediate turmoil in the insurance market, even as Trump signaled he wouldn’t back a deal without getting something he wants in return.

    The payments will be stopped beginning this week, with sign-up season for subsidized private insurance set to start Nov. 1.

    “The president is not going to continue to throw good money after bad, give $7 billion to insurance companies unless something changes about Obamacare that would justify it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who golfed with Trump Saturday at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.

    “It’s got to be a good deal,” Graham said.

    [Watch Video]

    In his decision last week, Trump derided the $7 billion in subsidies as bailouts to insurers and suggested he was trying to get Democrats to negotiate and agree to a broader effort to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law, a bid that repeatedly crashed in the GOP-run Senate this summer.

    The payments seek to lower out-of-pocket costs for insurers, which are required under Obama’s law to reduce poorer people’s expenses — about 6 million people. To recoup the lost money, carriers are likely to raise 2018 premiums for people buying their own health insurance policies.

    Alexander and Murray have been seeking a deal that the Tennessee Republican has said would reinstate the payments for two years. In exchange, Alexander said, Republicans want “meaningful flexibility for states” to offer lower-cost insurance policies with less coverage than Obama’s law mandates.

    Still, congressional Republicans are divided over that effort. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has suggested that Trump may oppose any agreement unless he gets something he wants — such as a repeal of Obamacare or funding of Trump’s promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    On Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., described Trump’s demand for a sit-down with congressional Democratic leaders as “a little far down the road.” She noted the bipartisan effort in the Senate and said ultimately it will be up to a Republican-controlled Congress and executive branch whether the federal government can avert a shutdown by year’s end.

    The government faces a Dec. 8 deadline on the debt limit and government spending.

    “We’re not about closing down government. The Republicans have the majority,” Pelosi said. “In terms of the health care, we’re saying ‘Let’s follow what Sen. Murray and Alexander are doing.”

    Collins praised the Senate effort so far, which included public hearings by the Senate health and education committee. Still, she acknowledged a potentially tough road in reaching broader agreement.

    “I hope we can proceed, but Democrats will have to step up to the plate and assist us,” said Collins, who is a member of the committee. “It’s a two-way street.”

    The scrapping of subsidies would affect millions more consumers in states won by Trump last year, including Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, than in states won by Democrat Hillary Clinton. Nearly 70 percent of the 6 million who benefit from the cost-sharing subsidies are in states that voted for the Republican.

    Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio said Sunday his state had anticipated that the insurer payments would be halted but not so quickly. He called for the payments to be reinstated right away, describing a hit to Ohio — a state also won by Trump last November — for at least the “first two or three months.”

    “Over time, this is going to have a dramatic impact,” Kasich said. “Who gets hurt? People. And it’s just outrageous.”

    Nineteen Democratic state attorneys general have announced plans to sue Trump over the stoppage. Attorneys generals from California, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York were among those saying they will file the lawsuit in federal court in California to stop Trump’s attempt “to gut the health and well-being of our country.”

    Collins appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union,” Pelosi also spoke on ABC, Graham appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and Kasich was on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    The post Collins urges Trump to back effort to restore health subsidy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The desire of the Kurds along Iraq’s northern border to govern themselves is receiving more resistance from Iraq’s central government. Iraqi army forces are demanding Kurdish troops withdraw from oil fields and military bases around Kirkuk, a city in the Kurdistan region that voted for independence last month. Kirkuk also has 10% of Iraq’s known oil reserves. Washington Post’s Loveday Morris is in Baghdad covering this standoff joins me now via Skype. First of all the significance of this. Why is it so important?

    LOVEDAY MORRIS: There’s been a longtime conflict between Baghdad and Kurdistan over these disputed territories. Most significant of which is Kirkuk because of the oil reserves. But the referendum last month has really sharpened these disputes because you have Baghdad opposing independence and so it feels like they have to restate its territorial claims these areas. So that’s why we’re seeing a lot of tension right now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And just to give people a little bit of a brief timeline – Iraqi forces control this area for a while and then in June ISIS took over the area and now it’s kind of back in Kurdish hands?

    LOVEDAY MORRIS: Right. So in June 2014 Iraq lost control of a lot of the areas and we have this huge collapse in the face of an ISIS offensive. Over 100,000 soldiers fled and Kurdish forces moved in some of these areas – some of them maybe took from ISIS and others just moved into into the vacuum. And so Iraqi forces have been in these areas since June 2014. And that’s their main demand that they return to the areas.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What’s the likelihood that this standoff right now turns violent? Into some sort of a civil war?

    LOVEDAY MORRIS:: I think at this point both sides don’t want violence. Al-Abadi, the prime minister, is really trying to defuse the situation by saying there’s going to be no military attack. But at the same time there is this buildup of forces so that I think they are trying to, in a way, intimidate the Kurds to withdraw from some areas but they don’t want to see a fight per say. But in this really tense situation there can be a small spark and things can turn violent quite easily.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Thank you.

    The post Iraqi, Kurdish forces in standoff, weeks after Kurdish vote for independence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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