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

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  • 02/02/14--16:38: Sunday, February 2, 2014
  • On Sunday’s program, new conciliatory signals emerge from a private meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. We take a look at what’s behind the global market turmoil. And, in our signature segment, we profile an innovative program that is beating the statistics in keeping probationers out of prison.

    The post Sunday, February 2, 2014 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    The controversy over lane closures last September at the George Washington Bridge have turned into a game of he said, he said, involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Port Authority appointee David Wildstein. The war of words has reignited the scandal, threatening to stymie Christie’s efforts to recover from the episode and preserve his future political prospects.

    The Morning Line

    The latest allegations surfaced Friday when the New York Times reported on a letter from Wildstein’s lawyer that claimed “evidence exists” that Christie knew about the lane closures as they were happening.

    Christie’s office initially responded with a statement that said the letter “confirms what the Governor has said all along – he had absolutely no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein’s motivations were for closing them to begin with.”

    But his office followed up with a tougher missive on Saturday, sending an email to friends and allies blasting the Times’ reporting and going after Wildstein personally. Politico’s Mike Allen and Maggie Haberman detail the contents of the memo, including charges that Wildstein sued over a local school board election as a 16-year-old and had been accused by a high school social studies teacher of “deceptive behavior.”

    The combative nature of the message reflects Christie’s style, but also signals the importance to the governor’s political career that the claims he made during last month’s two-hour news conference that he had no advance knowledge of the lane closures continue to hold up to scrutiny.

    “I don’t know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over,” Christie said at the Jan. 9 event in Trenton. “And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study. And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday that was brought to my attention or anybody else’s attention.”

    The Los Angeles Times’ Chris Megerian and Joseph Tanfani report that Christie could face more questions down the road about his handling of the Port Authority:

    Problems at the Port Authority run deeper than the ongoing scandal, critics say. They say that Christie, a potential Republican presidential contender who rose to prominence as a corruption-fighting U.S. attorney and pledged as governor to reel in arcane government commissions, has used the agency to reward his friends and allies.

    The troubled organization is the largest of its kind in the country, with a $7-billion budget, more than 7,000 employees, a dysfunctional management structure and a reputation as a secretive patronage haven.

    As the bridge scandal drags on, there have been growing calls for Christie to step down as chair of the Republican Governors Association to focus on the challenges in his state.

    Two top Republicans came to Christie’s defense on Sunday, saying they believed Christie should continue to lead the organization.

    “I don’t think he should step down, I think he should stay there,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    On ABC’s “This Week,” Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan added: “I don’t think he should step down because nothing has been proven, and you always give a person the benefit of the doubt in those kinds of situations, in my judgment.”

    And, one year after being snubbed, Christie also scored an invitation to this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, another sign that conservatives are rallying to his side as he battles allegations over the bridge controversy.

    A note to our readers: Starting next week the Morning Line will be published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The reduced schedule is only temporary, and we expect to be back up to five days a week soon.

    LINE ITEMS

    • Janet Yellen will be sworn in Monday as the first woman chair of the Federal Reserve.
    • The House GOP left their annual retreat without a plan for extracting votes for raising the debt ceiling from conservative members. The debt ceiling hits Friday.
    • The State Department released a report Friday that raised no major environmental objections to construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
    • Roughly 22,000 Americans have filed appeals with the government because of enrollment errors from Healthcare.gov, but they’re being told the government can’t yet fix the overcharges, or in some cases, outright denials of coverage.
    • President Barack Obama and Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly butted heads in a live interview before the Super Bowl aired Sunday. In a 10-minute segment, O’Reilly questioned Obama on the most controversial moments of his presidency, including the attack on Americans in Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service scandal and the rollout of Healthcare.gov.
    • The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet reported Friday on the launch of a foundation tasked with selecting a site for Mr. Obama’s presidential library and museum. The process will be run by Martin Nesbitt, a close friend of the president; Julianna Smoot, who served as co-chair of the president’s 2012 re-election bid; and J. Kevin Poorman, a Chicago-area businessman.
    • In a memorandum Friday, the president instructed federal agencies not to discriminate against the long-term unemployed, and the White House annouced commitments from 300 companies not to do so either.
    • Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell outraised his Democrat challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, in the fourth quarter of 2013. National Journal’s Hotline rounds up the Senate fundraising winners and losers.
    • David Wasson of the Spokesman-Review tracked down the “Bette in Spokane” mentioned by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the GOP response to the State of the Union as an example of the problems with the Affordable Care Act. It turns out the $700-per-month increase cited by McMorris Rodgers was based on a pricier alternative, and that the woman, Bette Grenier, and her husband decided to go without coverage instead of enroll in one of the ACA plans.
    • Former Florida GOP Rep. Trey Radel, who resigned in the wake of a cocaine scandal, will be replaced in a special election beginning with a primary on April 22 and ending with a general election on June 24. So far, candidates include former state representative Paige Kreegal and retired CEO of Hayes Lemmerz International, Curt Clawson.
    • National Journal’s Beth Reinhard looks at the gap in Hillary Clinton’s public record between her first presidential campaign and a second potential bid. In a letter sent to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., late last month, obtained by Politico, she made clear she supports Mr. Obama’s position on Iran.
    • Former Los Angeles city controller Wendy Gruel announced her run for Henry Waxman’s senate seat after he retires from 20 terms in Congress.
    • Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner has invested $1 million of his personal wealth to challenge Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, in his re-election campaign. Rauner joins three other candidates for the Republican nomination and is the only one without experience in public office.
    • “Juliette Kayyem might be the most unlikely Democratic contender for governor of Massachusetts since, well, Deval Patrick,” writes Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker in his column about the contender who’s built a field organization to rival experienced candidates.
    • New York Magazine’s Benjamin Wallace profiles Ezra Klein.

    NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

    • NewsHour Economics Correspondent Paul Solman looked at outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s legacy. On Making Sen$e, Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker reviewed what he sees as Bernanke’s checkered tenure.
    • Mark Shields and David Brooks weighed in on allegations that Christie knew about lane closures while they were happening and the State Department’s Keystone Pipeline report.
    • And over the weekend, Hari Sreenivasan got the Jersey perspective on the bridge scandal’s latest from NJTV’s Michael Aron.
    • Hari spoke with The Hill’s Molly Hooper about bipartisan support for cutting public funding for political conventions.
    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    TOP TWEETS

     

     

     

     

     

    Ruth Tam contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

     

    The post War of words reignites bridge scandal for Christie appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Department of transportation will announce today their decision on requiring auto makers to include communication technology in new cars that could reduce accidents by up to 80 percent. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

    The Department of transportation will announce today their decision on requiring auto makers to include communication technology in new cars that could reduce accidents by up to 80 percent. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

    WASHINGTON — Federal officials are planning to announce Monday whether automakers should be required to equip new cars and light trucks with technology that enables vehicles to communicate with each other to prevent collisions. Such vehicle-to-vehicle communication could eventually transform traffic safety.

    The Department of Transportation scheduled an announcement for midday. Transportation officials estimate the technology could prevent up to 80 percent of accidents that don’t involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure.

    A transponder would continually transmit the vehicle’s position, heading, speed and other information 10 times per second in all directions using radio signals similar to Wi-Fi. Cars would receive the same information back from other vehicles. A vehicle’s computer would alert the driver to an impending collision. Some systems could automatically brake to avoid an accident.

    “It will change driving as we know it over time,” said Scott Belcher, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. “Over time, we’ll see a reduction in crashes. Automobile makers will rethink how they design and construct cars because they will no longer be constructing cars to survive a crash, but building them to avoid a crash.”

    The group says the technology would add about $100 to $200 to the cost of a new car.

    The safety benefits can’t be achieved until there is a critical mass of cars and trucks on the road using the technology, and it’s not clear what that level of market penetration is. It takes many years to turn over the nation’s entire vehicle fleet, but the technology could start preventing accidents long before that. Research indicates safety benefits can be seen with as few at 7 percent to 10 percent of vehicles in a given area similarly equipped, said Paul Feenstra, a spokesman for the transportation society, an umbrella organization for the research and development of new transportation technologies.

    Once automakers start adding the technology to all new cars, it would take 15 years or more for half the cars on the nation’s roads to be equipped, according to the communications technology company Qualcomm. There are about 5 million to 6 million new cars sold each year.

    There may be a way to speed things up. About 45 percent of Americans use smartphones, and that share is growing. The average lifetime of a smartphone is two years. If smartphones, which already have GPS, came equipped with a radio chip they could be used to retrofit vehicles already on the road so that they can talk to each other. The phone would be put in a cradle to sync with the car’s computers. That would help make it possible to achieve a 50 percent market penetration in less than five years, according to Qualcomm.

    Using cellphones could also extend the safety benefits of connected-car technology to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. Drivers would be alerted to a possible collision with a pedestrian carrying a smartphone that continually sends out information to cars in the vicinity, even if it’s too dark to see the person or if the pedestrian darts suddenly into traffic. More than 4,700 pedestrians were killed by vehicles and 76,000 injured in 2012.

    But there are significant technical and standardization hurdles to using cellphones to support connected car technology. Cellphone batteries typically last only about three hours if used continually. They would need antennas, there are issues with what radio frequencies would be used and their GPS functions may not be as precise as those in a vehicle manufactured with connected car technology, for example.

    By Joan Lowy, Associated Press

    The post Feds to announce decision on new automobile safety technology appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ask headhunter Nick Corcodilos your job questions Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST, during a reddit AMA.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley 34 years ago. Over the past decade, he’s answered more than 30,000 job questions — including yours –from his “Ask the Headhunter” community.

    In his weekly column on NewsHour’s “Making Sense” blog, Nick has told you how to leave an abusive job interview , write an eye-catching resume and negotiate a higher salary offer.

    On Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST, Nick will answer even more of your pressing job questions during a reddit “Ask Me Anything.”

    Stay tuned for the link to that live chat. And don’t hold back.

    The post Got job questions? Ask headhunter Nick Corcodilos Tuesday during a Reddit AMA appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Alan Blinder, center, thanks Ben Bernanke for a stronger Federal Reserve and more transparent central bank. Above, Blinder and Bernanke speak on a panel entitled "Transition from Academic to Policymaker" during the Allied Social Sciences Associations meeting in 2005. Photo by Mike Mergen/Bloomberg News via Getty Images.

    Alan Blinder, center, thanks Ben Bernanke for a stronger Federal Reserve and more transparent central bank. Above, Blinder and Bernanke speak on a panel entitled “Transition from Academic to Policymaker” during the Allied Social Sciences Association’s meeting in 2005. Photo by Mike Mergen/Bloomberg News via Getty Images.

    Paul Solman: For a close-up and yet critical look at Ben Bernanke, we interviewed eminent economist Alan Blinder for a NewsHour story Friday, balanced by Columbia University’s Charles Calomiris. You can watch the story below.

    [Watch Video]

    It was Blinder who played a major role in recruiting Bernanke to Princeton in the 1980s and preceded him at the Fed as its vice-chairman in the mid-1990s. Blinder quit because the man in charge, Alan Greenspan, “just ran everything,” as Blinder told Zachary Goldfarb in the Princeton Alumni Weekly in 2011. “It sort of didn’t matter what Alan Blinder thought about anything. At the time, I felt I accomplished nothing or next to nothing.” The main effort? To make the Fed more transparent to the public.

    Bernanke managed to accomplish what Blinder didn’t once he assumed the Fed’s chairmanship exactly eight years ago Saturday: Feb. 1, 2006. He opened up the Fed, ran a TV town meeting with the NewsHour in 2009, appeared on “60 Minutes,” spoke in public regularly and openly — or as openly as a Federal Reserve chair can speak without roiling world markets.

    As I say, Blinder had his say on the show Friday. But with his bestselling book “After the Music Stopped” just coming out in paperback, we asked him if he would expand on his remarks for Making Sense. He was gracious enough to agree, and he’s even given his former colleague a grade, A-, though grade inflation being what it is in the Ivy League, Bernanke might well be disappointed.

    “We’re a little tougher than most of the rest of the Ivy League,” says Blinder: “It’s not quite the average grade, but you’re right, it’s not extraordinary; I use the grade A+ for my students for a really extraordinary performance.”

    Here’s why Bernanke fails to get that A+ from Princeton pal Blinder for his tenure at the Fed.

    Alan Blinder: The retirement of a chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is a momentous event in the financial world. The Fed has had only 13 chairmen over its 100-year history. Two of them (William McChesney Martin and Alan Greenspan) served over 18 years each; two of them have buildings at the Fed’s headquarters in Washington named after them (Martin and Marriner Eccles); one of them (Paul Volcker) is justly regarded as nearly a saint.

    When Volcker approached the end of his term in August 1987, and when Greenspan approached the end of his term in February 2006, the financial markets veritably quaked in their boots, wondering if the coming transition (to a too-political Greenspan or a too-academic Ben Bernanke) would mark the end of western civilization. (Happily, neither did.) It is a tribute to Janet Yellen that nothing like that is happening now, as she replaces Bernanke.

    As the initial histories of the Bernanke era begin to be written, what stands out?

    I think you must start with the heroic — that is the right word — efforts, beginning in the frightening fall of 2008 — first, to save the economy from a second Great Depression, then to end the Great Recession as quickly as possible, and then to add some much-needed juice to the languid recovery. (The latter continues to this day.) Did every step the Bernanke Fed took work? No. But enough did. The nation is forever in his debt.

    In devising and promulgating a variety of these measures, Bernanke, once a quiet (but brilliant) academic economist, showed himself to be not only clever and imaginative — if you knew him before, you knew that — but also bold, and even brave. More than once, he put his head on the chopping block, fully aware that people were lining up to chop it off. Here are a few examples:

  • The decision to “save” the failing investment bank Bear Stearns by taking a variety of dodgy assets as collateral for loans.
  • The virtual nationalization of the giant insurance company AIG — even though the Fed had never been responsible for insurance companies.
  • The invention of unprecedented ways for the Fed to lend to endangered financial institutions and markets.
  • The multiple experiments with “quantitative easing” — different ways for the Fed to boost asset values and inject liquidity into the economy.

    There were others.

    You may notice one conspicuous omission from this list: the decision, made jointly with then-Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, to let Lehman Brothers fail. Historians will long debate the wisdom of this decision. But to my mind, it stands as the one big blot on the Bernanke record.

    Bernanke, I know, disputes this judgment on the grounds that the Fed lacked the legal authority to do what he thought best: to “save” Lehman with a big loan, much as it had done with Bear Stearns six months earlier. (Remember, the Lehman decision came before the Troubled Asset Relief Program [TARP] provided the Treasury with $700 billion to save the financial system.) Maybe so — if you construed the law narrowly and evaluated the quality of Lehman’s collateral with green eyeshades. But were those Bear Stearns assets, which JP Morgan Chase had refused to accept, really of such fabulous quality? And can’t you always find lawyers who will say yes, rather than no? After all, just days after the Lehman failure, the U.S. Treasury suddenly discovered $50 billion that it could use — legally, according to Treasury lawyers! — to save the money market mutual funds. No one sued Paulson.

    The Lehman episode is the reason I grade the performance of the Bernanke Fed A-. If you start the marking period a few days later, I’d give the Fed a flat A.

    But that’s not all. Ben Bernanke has ended the mystery that used to surround our central bank, and opened the Fed both to greater understanding and greater scrutiny as never before. The process of clearing away the traditional blue smoke and mirrors actually began, if grudgingly, under Greenspan. But Bernanke sped it up and took the process much further than even transparency hawks like me thought possible eight years ago. Some examples:

  • Embracing specific numerical targets for inflation and unemployment instead of hiding behind the vague phrases in the law: “stable prices” and “maximum employment.”
  • Giving extensive and detailed “forward guidance” indicating what the Fed is likely to do next — and why.
  • Answering questions at regular, televised press conferences.

    With these and other communication innovations, Bernanke leaves the Fed a vastly more open and democratically accountable place than it was when he walked in the door.

    The Fed also emerged — almost miraculously — from the tumultuous years of 2008-2010 pretty much unscathed as an institution. That was quite an accomplishment, one that took political skills that probably even Bernanke circa 2006 did not know he had.

    The Fed took a lot of abuse for its actions before and during the crisis, some of it well-deserved. It’s easy to forget now that as the Dodd-Frank Act was wending its way through Congress in 2009-2010, many senators and members of the House made legislative proposals for clipping the Fed’s wings (i.e., taking away its regulatory authority) and/or for making it more politically accountable (i.e., making Federal Reserve Bank presidents political appointees).

    With precious few exceptions, Bernanke quietly but effectively fended them all off. In what was a minor political miracle, the egghead Princeton professor managed to run the Federal Reserve System through the legislative gauntlet, helping the Fed emerge more powerful than when it went in. As I write these words, I can barely believe that he pulled it off. But he did.

    Add it all up. The Bernanke legacy includes a substantially less severe recession and better recovery than we might otherwise have had, a stronger Federal Reserve in the end, and a more open and transparent central bank. That’s a pretty good eight years’ work.

    Thanks, Ben. We will miss you.

    The post Princeton’s Alan Blinder gives old friend Ben Bernanke an A- appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    CHINA-LIFESTYLE-NEW YEAR-WILDLIFE-RIGHTSTwo male horses battle on Sunday as part of Tiantou’s Chinese New Year celebration. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

    In several small villages throughout the southern regions of China, a grisly 500-year-old tradition kicked off the Chinese New Year last week.

    According to a report from l’Agence France-Presse, members of the Miao ethnic group have been holding horse fighting competitions for more than five centuries. These tournaments, which offer prizes of up to 10,000 yuan (around $1,650), are held year-round, but are occurring more frequently as the Year of the Horse begins.

    CHINA-LIFESTYLE-NEW YEAR-WILDLIFE-RIGHTSThe horses are pushed to kick and bite each other by the presence of a female. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

    “We used to hold horse fights just once a year, but now we do it more often. Because this is the Year of the Horse, we are even more happy,” Zhou Tingyi, who presided over the fights in Tiantou — a village in the Guangxi region — said this weekend.

    Two male horses are encouraged to fight over a mare, which, according to the AFP, is “kept metres away from the clashing pairs by a villager armed with little more than a stick.”

    The winning stallion is the one that “successfully defends its position close to the female.”

    CHINA-LIFESTYLE-LUNAR-NEW YEARHundreds of spectators gather to watch the fights, with little separating them from the action. Above, two trainers attempt to corral a stallion. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

    At Tiantou’s New Year competition — which also features costumes, dances and other forms of pageantry — barriers don’t separate attending villagers and tourists from the clashing beasts.

    “Without horse fighting, it wouldn’t feel like a new year,” said trainer Pan Jianming, whose horse Little Black won a competition this weekend.

    CHINA-LIFESTYLE-LUNAR-NEW YEARMembers of the Miao minority group dress as spirits as part of the traditional New Year events. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

    Animals Asia — a Hong Kong-based foundation — has condemned the practice, calling the fighting a “horrific spectacle” that causes “abuse and suffering to animals in the name of entertainment.”

    CHINA-LIFESTYLE-LUNAR-NEW YEARTiantou’s villagers, dressed in traditional costumes, dance on Sunday during the New Year celebrations. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

    A video of the fighting is available on YouTube.

    The post Villages in southern China ring in Chinese New Year with horse fighting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    [Watch Video]
    Carolyn Forché, co-editor of “Poetry of Witness,” reads “A Letter from Aragon,” written by English poet Rupert John Cornford.

    A Letter from Aragon

    This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.

    We buried Ruiz in a new pine coffin,
    But the shroud was too small and his washed feet stuck out.
    The stink of his corpse came through the clean pine boards
    And some of the bearers wrapped handkerchiefs round their faces.
    Death was not dignified.
    We hacked a ragged grave in the unfriendly earth
    And fired a ragged volley over the grave.

    You could tell from our listlessness, no one much missed him.

    This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.
    There is no poison gas and no H. E.

    But when they shelled the other end of the village
    And the streets were choked with dust
    Women came screaming out of the crumbling houses,
    Clutched under one arm the naked rump of an infant.
    I thought: how ugly fear is.

    This is a quiet sector of a quiet front.
    Our nerves are steady; we all sleep soundly.

    In the clean hospital bed, my eyes were so heavy
    Sleep easily blotted out one ugly picture,
    A wounded militiaman moaning on a stretcher,
    Now out of danger, but still crying for water,
    Strong against death, but unprepared for such pain.

    This on a quiet front.

    But when I shook hands to leave, an Anarchist worker
    Said: ‘Tell the workers of England
    This was a war not of our own making
    We did not seek it.
    But if ever the Fascists again rule Barcelona
    It will be as a heap of ruins with us workers beneath it.’

    “Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500 – 2001″ is a collection of works by poets who have experiences war, torture, censorship, and other extreme phenomena. Carolyn Forché, a co-editor of the anthology, is also herself a poet, as well as a translator and a human rights advocate. She has published four collections of her own poetry, including “Blue Hour (HarperCollins, 2003), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and “Gathering the Tribes” (Yale University Press, 1976) which won the Yale Younger Poets Award. Forche is the director of the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University.

    The post Weekly Poem: ‘Poetry of Witness’ co-editor Carolyn Forché reads ‘A Letter from Aragon’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new study says common colds that mothers experience during pregnancy may lead to their child’s development of asthma. Photo by Mike Fritz/PBS NewsHour.

    Mothers-to-be can add one more thing to their list of worries. Scientists now say that exposure to the common cold during pregnancy may lead to an increased risk of asthma or allergies in children.

    According to a new study published in the February issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), the more common colds and viral infections a mother experiences during pregnancy, the greater her child’s risk may be to developing asthma or allergies.

    These colds and infections shape the baby’s utero environment and can have lasting effects through childhood development.

    “We know that allergy and asthma can develop in the womb since genetics play a factor in both diseases,” said ACAAI president and allergist Michael Foggs. “But this study sheds light about how a mother’s environment during pregnancy can begin affecting the child before birth.”

    Allergist Mitch Grayson — deputy editor of ACAAI — says that likewise, utero exposure to allergens can increase the risk of childhood allergies to those substances.

    “In addition, these same children that had early exposure to allergens, such as house dust and pet dander, had increased odds of becoming sensitized by age five. When dust mites from the mother and child’s mattresses were examined, children with high dust mite exposure yet low bacteria exposure were more likely to be allergic to dust mites than those with low mite exposure and high bacteria contact.”

    The study, conducted in Germany, included 513 pregnant women and their 526 children. Questionnaires were completed over the course of pregnancy and through the fifth year of the children’s lives.

    ACAAI says asthma and allergies can also be hereditary.

    The post Common cold during pregnancy may lead to risk of childhood asthma, study says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday that it will enable automobiles to be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle technology. Photo by buzrael, FlickrM

    The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday that it will enable automobiles to be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle technology. Photo by buzrael, Flickr

    The U.S. Department of Transportation, or DOT along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, announced Monday that it will allow automobiles to become equipped with a new vehicle safety communication system called V2V. Using wireless sensors, V2V technology can track a car’s speed and position every ten seconds. Vehicles exchange this information with one another, which can alert drivers to a nearby vehicle, thereby preventing a potential crash.

    The DOT and NHTSA will now enable vehicles to have V2V technology and could eventually require the system to be included in all new vehicles. The NHTSA will conduct a report on V2V effectiveness, privacy, security, and cost. Once the report is filed in the “coming weeks,” the organization will then develop proposals to regulate V2V technology, which would be “consistent with applicable legal requirements, Executive Orders, and guidance,” according to the statement.

    The DOT and NHTSA also insisted that the communication technology does not involve any exchange of personal information nor does it identify or track specific vehicles. V2V would only transmit “basic safety data.” The system would also not automatically operate the vehicle to avoid a crash, but would rather provide warnings to the driver.

    “Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we’ve already seen with safety belts and air bags,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry.”

    The post U.S. Department of Transportation will allow vehicle-to-vehicle safety technology appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    AP Testing In Progress sign, Neuqua Valley High, Chicago. Photo by Flickr User Cory Doctorow.

    AP Testing In Progress sign, Neuqua Valley High, Chicago. Photo by Flickr User Cory Doctorow.

    Silicon Valley business woman Sheryl Sandberg has popularized a movement to get professional women to “lean in” and fight for their positions at the top of their fields. With no female equivalent of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates in tech, the Facebook COO saw that women were underrepresented in the industry and encouraged them to step up.

    But tech’s diversity problem may start much earlier than that – maybe even as early as high school.

    Statistics from the 2013 Advanced Placement, or AP, exam in computer science show that three U.S. states had no female students participate in the high school test, according to data released by the College Board last month. And in states where women did take the exam, female participation ranged from as low as about 4 percent in Utah to only as high as 29 percent in Tennessee.

    And the diversity gap didn’t stop there. The same report revealed that 11 states had no black students take the exam and another 8 states had no Hispanic participation.

    Female employment in science, technology, engineering and math—known as STEM jobs — has actually declined since the 1990s according to the United States Census Bureau. Women made up around 27 percent of STEM employees in 2011, according to their study. But that was down from 34 percent in 1990.

    With women holding nearly half of the jobs in the U.S. economy, the disproportionate numbers in tech are troubling to many.

    Chief Economist for the United States Department of Commerce Mark Doms called women in tech “key to America’s innovation and competitiveness,” following the release of the Census Bureau numbers.

    “It’s important for women and for America’s future that we leverage this under-tapped resource, by encouraging from an early age women’s access to education as well as workforce opportunities in STEM,” he went on.

    College Board has stepped up efforts to make sure underserved populations have access to AP testing and resources.

    But much is left to be done to improve STEM diversity and competitiveness.

    AP courses are college-level curriculums for outstanding students. The advanced courses can help high school students get into colleges and can transfer into college credits.

    The post Even at an early age, women underrepresented in tech appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new study reveals that simply increasing access to food in underserved areas may not be enough to change the diet and health of those who live there. Photo courtesy of Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    A new study reveals that simply increasing access to food in underserved areas may not be enough to change the diet and health of those who live there. Photo courtesy of Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    “Our goal is ambitious. It’s to eliminate food deserts in America completely in seven years.”

    Michelle Obama spoke these words almost four years ago to students at Philadelphia’s Fairhill Elementary School, as part of her Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity in the United States. But the topic of her speech went beyond the issues of child health and nutrition to focus on a related — and just as critical — issue: 23.5 million Americans live in areas without supermarkets or other places where they can access fresh, nutritious foods. To change the situation in these areas — known as “food deserts” — Mrs. Obama called for action.

    Health Affairs“This is happening all across the country. We’re setting people up for failure if we don’t fix this.”

    Fast forward to 2014, though, and the problem of food deserts — and their effect on diet and health — still persists. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has mapped thousands of locations across the country where residents continue to live in low-income, low-access areas. Those who live in these areas are often subject to poor diets as a result, and are at a greater risk of becoming obese or developing chronic diseases.

    So why hasn’t there been more drastic change? It’s not for lack of initiative. For example, Pennsylvania has launched a program whereby 88 new or expanded food retail outlets have been created, giving healthy food access to around 500,000 children and adults. And in fact, when the House passed the long-awaited farm bill on Wednesday, it included a provision for the HealthyFood Financing Initiative, which would allocate $125 million for expanding food resources in underserved communities across the nation.

    The problem may not lie solely with food accessibility; it could also be due to people’s shopping and eating habits. Steven Cummins, a professor of population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, suggests that merely adding a new grocery store to a neighborhood won’t be enough to motivate individuals to shop there for healthier foods.

    “If you think about Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams — ‘If you build it, they will come’ — I guess that’s the kind of logic model that underpins these interventions. But that doesn’t do everything it’s supposed to do,” says Cummins. “It can improve perceptions of food access, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into a behavior change.”

    Could that be why more food deserts haven’t truly been eliminated? In his new study, published in the journal Health Affairs, Cummins examines how adding a supermarket to a food desert can change — or not change — the shopping habits and diet of those who live there. Surveying hundreds of residents in the grocery store’s neighborhood, Cummins and his team sought to determine the impact that the store had on individuals’ fruit and vegetable intake, BMI, and perceptions of food access.

    Cummins sat down with the NewsHour last week to talk more about the study and its possible implications.

    Steven Cummins is a professor of population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

    Steven Cummins is a professor of population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

    PBS NEWSHOUR: Steven, thanks very much for speaking with us today. First off, give us some background. What’s the current policy surrounding food access in underserved communities?

    STEVEN CUMMINS: In the last 15 to 20 years, particularly in the U.S., there’s been a lot of debate among researchers and policymakers about what to do about things called “food deserts” in underserved or low-income communities throughout the U.S. There’s lots of good research out there that tells us that a lack of access to food resources in a neighborhood is associated with a range of diet-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. So it’s very plausible and entirely reasonable that people come up with interventions to promote food access in deprived communities.

    The issue is, though, that despite the loads of policy over the past few years both from local initiatives, such as in Pennsylvania and New York City, as well as national policies — like those promoted in the Let’s Move! campaign for childhood obesity — we don’t know whether these kinds of interventions are effective. What I mean by interventions is increasing food access by encouraging supermarkets to locate to underserved communities, usually through packages of tax incentives. So that’s the context. And our study is essentially an evaluation of what happens when you put a new food supermarket in one of these underserved communities.

    PBS NEWSHOUR On that note, explain a little more about your study — what were you aiming for, and what did you find? :

    CUMMINS: We focused on a supermarket in Philadelphia, which was funded under something called the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative — a statewide scheme whereby around 88 new stores have opened up in underserved communities throughout Pennsylvania. They’ve had financial support through grants and other types of financial incentives to relocate to these areas. With that in mind, we undertook an evaluation to see whether actually locating these kinds of stores in these kinds of places makes a difference to diets. In our study, the “headline” finding is that we don’t really find any direct impacts on diets, as measured by fruit and vegetable consumption as well as obesity. But we do find improvements in people’s perceptions of their access in their food environment. They think that things have gotten better in their neighborhood, but haven’t necessarily turned their awareness into a change of behavior. So that’s the main finding. But the second finding, which I actually think is more interesting, is that when given the opportunity, very few people try and switch to using newer or better provisions within their local community.

    PBS NEWSHOUR: And why do you think so few people switched, or changed their diet habits, when the new grocery store opened?

    CUMMINS: We didn’t actually collect information about this in our study, but we have done some other work related to this in the UK. And it’s kind of very interesting, actually. When you go and interview people about how they shop, you tend to find that they have routine places to shop that they’re familiar and comfortable with. We had a woman in one of our UK studies who actually lived next door to a brand new supermarket, but still traveled to an area over three miles away because that’s where she was born, that’s where she grew up — it was a place she had a connection to. So there are all sorts of other reasons apart from the rational ones around cost when people make these decisions.

    I guess it’s also to do with the fact that these kinds of stores might not always sell cheaper food. People who are on low incomes tend to be very savvy shoppers, and they often shop around, using multiple stores to get the best deals on a range of items. So you tend to find that people who are on low incomes move around the neighborhood a lot, even if there is a time cost.

    Another insight to be had is that when you shop in a modern supermarket, you’re assaulted — your senses are assaulted. There’s a greater range of choice that can tempt some families to overspend or purchase foods that don’t comprise elements of a healthy meal. So if you’re trying to avoid all those other temptations or incentives to not spend money in the way that you would like, then you often avoid those kinds of opportunities to purchase food.

    PBS NEWSHOUR: In that case, do you think researchers and the media may have jumped the gun when reporting on food deserts?

    CUMMINS: Well no, not really, actually. I think the evidence is well established. It tells us that firstly, food deserts do exist in many urban and rural areas of the U.S. They are a reality for many people who live in disadvantaged circumstances, either in low-income communities or other kinds of communities that might have poor access to neighborhood resources. Also, the evidence does tell us very strongly that those who live in these kinds of neighborhoods do tend to have poorer diets and are at an increased risk of chronic conditions. So that’s not in dispute. The issue here is that actually, very little research evaluates the effectiveness of interventions. We know that an association exists, but we don’t know much about what happens when you try to change the environment. As often is the case in politics, policies are made from the best available evidence and with the best intentions. So in this case, policy has been made from the wider body of evidence that supports an association — since when it comes to looking at the effectiveness of intervention, the evidence base is incomplete.

    And clearly, I think it’s worth mentioning that people do need to be able to access a reasonable range of healthy food at a reasonable cost. My message is that just building supermarkets to increase access will only take you half of the way in improving diet. If you think about Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams – “If you build it, they will come” — I guess that’s the kind of logic model that underpins these interventions. But that doesn’t do everything it’s supposed to do. It can improve perceptions of food access, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into a behavior change.

    PBS NEWSHOUR: How strong is your message, though, considering that your study only looked at one grocery store in one community for just six months?

    CUMMINS: When we were funded to do this work, it was actually intended to be a pilot study with the idea of generating some interesting findings that could then be used to essentially run a definitive study further down the line. That didn’t happen for various reasons – one of which is that the recession happened, and the supermarket opened three years later than it was supposed to. So the opportunity passed, I guess. But you’re right – this is a pilot study, and it’s a small one at that. We also know from looking at business literature that stores often take a fair bit of time to bed into the local community. In some cases there might be an uptick in usage, which then tails off; in other places, it may be that it takes a very long time for people to become used to the store and see it as a routine place to go. It may be that our study, which only lasted six months, is not enough time for people to really realize that it’s there and use it for their main food shop. So if we took a look at this one, two, or three years down the line, we might see a greater amount of people who have adopted this store as their main store.

    I wouldn’t want to hang my hat on the findings, but we need larger studies in more diverse communities that follow people for longer. But I guess the strength is that even though the work that does exist in this area has been quite small scale, it’s remarkably consistent in its findings.

    PBS NEWSHOUR: So what will be more effective in helping improve people’s diet and health in these regions? And what should future policies focus on?

    CUMMINS: At a basic level, people need to have good access to food. But good access does not necessarily mean you have to have access to a supermarket, such as a Walmart or Kroger or somewhere similar. It can also include other kinds of food outlets, such as farmers’ markets, community food initiatives, and actually, even convenience stores. I think there should be better support for the convenience store sector. Poor neighborhoods in the U.S. and other countries tend to have a very large and diverse convenience store sector, and many people do their shopping there. So trying to get good food in those kinds of places might be an additional way of thinking about improving the food environment in those neighborhoods.

    In addition to improving physical access to food in disadvantaged neighborhoods, you also need to think about policies that help bridge this gap between perception and action. These might include things such as economic initiatives — like taxes or subsidies for healthy foods — but could also include harnessing in-store marketing to promote the purchase of healthy foods as opposed to unhealthy foods.

    There’s also evidence that suggests you need good health education programs that teach the skills needed for buying and cooking healthy foods. We’ve done some work here in the UK where we’ve followed consumers around the store as they actually buy food. Even though all of them were from low-income communities, they all had different strategies about how they decide what to put in their shopping baskets. Some people are incredibly good — one woman used to put her total budget on her mobile phone’s calculator, and every time she purchased something she would take that amount of money off the total. When it reached zero, that was it — she was very disciplined. But others have more chaotic approaches — shopping by offers like 2-for-1 deals. And at the end of the day, once they spent their total amount of money, they would look in their basket and realize they had a bunch of items that they couldn’t construct a meal from. So even though people from disadvantaged neighborhoods are tagged in the same way, there’s a real diversity in how people behave when it comes to buying and cooking food. We have to think very carefully about giving people the skills to make better decisions when they’re in stores, as well as providing access to the stores in the first place.

    PBS NEWSHOUR: What do you want people to take away most from your study?

    CUMMINS: I want to stress that supermarket interventions — even though I don’t think they’re necessarily effective in the way people think they’ll be effective — are very important, and I am actually quite supportive of them. Access at the basic level is something you need to have before you have anything else. But the key message I want to get across is that they’re just not successful on their own. We need them plus a range of other things that might make a difference to improve people’s diet. You’ve got to think about the culture around shopping and eating food, too.

    PBS NEWSHOUR: Steven Cummins, thanks so much for joining us.

    CUMMINS: Thank you.

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides grants to help alleviate the problem of food deserts, and they are a funder of our health coverage.

    The post Why it takes more than a grocery store to eliminate a ‘food desert’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video The calving front of the Jakobshavn Glacier in western Greenland, as seen from NASA’s P-3B aircraft on April 21, 2012. Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

    Traveling just over 6 mph would hardly break any speed record. But for a glacier, it is a pace that is considered unprecedented.

    In fact, the most recent summer speed of Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier, according to a new study published by The Cryosphere, has more than quadrupled its summer speed since the 1990s. The study claims that the glacier, which is believed to have spawned the iceberg that sunk the Titanic, set speed records faster than any previously recorded for glaciers or ice streams in both Greenland or Antarctica.

    The increase in speed means that more ice is being added to the ocean at a quicker pace, which contributes to a rise in the global sea level. From 2000 to 2011, the Jakobshavn Glacier alone has contributed a sea level increase of about 0.04 inches.

    The study says that though the average speedup over the past several years increased within factors of three, researchers estimate the speed can rise by more than 10 times the average within a few decades.

    The post Greenland glacier hits record speeds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The majority of Europeans say their countries are plagued by corruption. Photo by Flickr User Images Money.

    The majority of Europeans say their countries are plagued by corruption. Photo by Flickr User Images Money.

    Public perception of corruption has reached new heights in Europe, according to a new poll by the European Commission.

    In Europe, “three quarters of responders (76 percent) think that corruption is widespread in their own country,” read the accompanying report.

    Respondents from Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Spain and the Czech Republic all said they believe overwhelmingly that corruption in their countries is widespread. In contrast, respondents from Finland, Denmark, Malta and the UK said they believe corruption doesn’t have a significant impact on their countries.

    The report identified “deficient” control mechanisms and risk management as precursors for corruption among EU member states, despite an increase in visibility of anti-corruption policies.

    The World Bank estimates that annual worldwide bribes amount to $1 trillion . But the World Bank calls the approach to this measurement “conservative,” explaining that the figure does not include embezzlement of public funds of theft of public assets, and many other acts.

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    GWEN IFILL: The sell-off on Wall Street picked up today where it left off Friday, on worries about sluggish growth. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 326 points to close at 15,372. The Nasdaq fell 106 points to close under 3,997.

    Amid the downturn, Janet Yellen was sworn in as chair of the Federal Reserve. She’s the first woman to lead the Central Bank in its 100-year history.

    Frigid weather cut into the car business in January, as buyers stayed away from showrooms. Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and Volkswagen all reported today their sales were down from a year ago. Chrysler, Nissan and Subaru bucked that trend, reporting increased sales.

    In a few years, all new cars and light trucks may come with technology that can prevent most wrecks. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced today he expects to make that proposal before the end of the Obama administration. It involves special transponders that link vehicles with each other. We will take a closer look later in the program.

    Thousands of people who signed up for insurance on healthcare.gov are getting nowhere when they try to fix overcharges and other enrollment errors. The Washington Post reports 22,000 appeals are sitting untouched in a computer. Others are being rebuffed over the phone. So far, the Web site has no way to handle appeals.

    Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney counseled patience.

    PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY, White House: We are talking here about a very small percentage of the number of people who have applied for coverage. We believe that many of the issues that caused people to file appeals are left over from when the Web site wasn’t working well, and many of those problems have since been fixed.

    Later, officials in charge of Medicare and Medicaid announced they’re beginning a manual appeals process, until the Web site can do the job.

    The abortion rate in the U.S. has dropped to its lowest since 1973. A private research organization, the Guttmacher Institute, reported today a 13 percent decline in abortions between 2008 and 2011. That coincides with a large decline in overall pregnancy rates. The study found no evidence that new state curbs on abortion are affecting the numbers.

    In Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych returned to work after four days of sick leave. At a public appearance today, he warned against radicalism among those protesting his move toward closer ties with Russia. In turn, protest leaders said, in a parliamentary session tomorrow, they will seek changes to weaken the president’s powers.

    Al-Qaida has disavowed its powerful affiliate in Syria. In a statement today, the terror network’s leaders said they will have no further ties with the Islamic Front in Iraq and Syria. The statement also condemned rebel infighting as — quote — “sedition that is occurring in Syria between factions of jihadists.”

    Olympic organizers in Sochi, Russia faced questions today about unfinished hotel rooms five days before the opening ceremonies. As of Saturday, three of the nine hotels reserved for thousands of journalists were not fully operational.

    Still, the president of the International Olympic Committee insisted today most accommodations are ready.

    THOMAS BACH, International Olympic Committee: There are 24,000 rooms that have been delivered and 97 percent of them without any problem. For the remaining 3 percent, there are still some issues to be settled.

    GWEN IFILL: Also today, there was word that Russian authorities have hired a pest control firm to exterminate thousands of stray dogs around Sochi. It’s unclear how the dogs are being killed or what’s being done with the carcasses.

    The Seattle Seahawks today relished their first Super Bowl victory in what turned into the most-watched television event ever, with more than 111 million viewers. The team captured the title last night, blowing out the Denver Broncos 43-8 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. A celebratory parade is slated for Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, fans struggled to get home today as a new storm dumped up to eight inches of snow in the Northeast. Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed.

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    heroin2

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    GWEN IFILL: The sudden, shocking death of Oscar wing actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has brought fresh attention to the source of the addiction that apparently killed him, heroin. The use of the drug has been on the rise in states like Maryland, where 37 deaths have been reported since September, and in Vermont, where the governor devoted his state of the state address to the topic.

    But its use is spreading across the nation.

    Jeffrey Brown has that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Heroin may not be the most commonly used illegal drug, but a national survey shows its use has doubled since 2007. We look at the changing faces and places of addiction, as well as the reasons for it, with Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the nation’s so-called drug czar, and Sam Quinones, an author and reporter at The Los Angeles Times. He is currently writing a book on the recent heroin surge in the U.S.

    And let me start with you, Gil Kerlikowske.

    Are we seeing — to what extent are we seeing a new surge and how serious a problem is it?

    GIL KERLIKOWSKE, U.S. Drug Policy Director: It is a serious problem.

    We are seeing an increase. I think the concern is always that data usually lacks one or two or sometimes three years, depending on what the survey or what the measure is. But I can tell you, in my travels across the country, and I spoke to the national narcotics officers today at lunch, there is no question we are seeing a resurgence of heroin.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And seeing it where and in what kind of populations?

    GIL KERLIKOWSKE: Well, it’s very different.

    And two issues come up. One is, of course, if prescription drugs are more tightly regulated or less accessible or more expensive, people can turn to heroin because they are already addicted. They suffer the disease of addiction to these opioids. Heroin in less expensive.

    But there is a second part, and that is that we see a group of young people who are very naive and believe that heroin, and used in certain ways, they won’t become addicted. It’s edgy. And what of course happens is, it is incredibly dangerous.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sam Quinones, what — what — you have been looking at this all around the country. Where do you see it, what kind of populations, and how perhaps has it changed over time?

    SAM QUINONES, The Los Angeles Times: I have been all over the country.

    And I would say, largely, this is a white problem. I don’t find opiate addiction too much in black or Latino populations. This is very different from the way heroin spread 40 years ago in the 1970s, where a lot of black or Latino communities were really badly hit.

    Heroin today and prescription pill addiction today is almost entirely a white phenomenon. And it’s in rural America. It’s in largely in suburban America, places that have done fairly well, middle-class, upper-middle-class areas. And it’s in towns that really never had a problem with heroin before this, Charlotte, Salt Lake, Columbus, Cincinnati, Albuquerque, places like that where you just didn’t really see it so much.

    Now it has become a very, very big problem. And, as Gil Kerlikowske said, it’s mostly related to the use of — the gateway drug in all this is — are these prescription pills.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, explain that a little bit more.

    Sam, you start, the tie between these prescription drugs and heroin.

    SAM QUINONES: Well, many of these prescription painkillers are virtually identical molecularly to heroin.

    Oxycodone is very, very similar. Almost identical to heroin. The problem is that there is a black market in these pills now, because they have been so widely prescribed. There was a revolution in medicine in the United States back in the ’80s and ’90s that said these pills are nonaddictive ones prescribed to pain patients, chronic pain patients.

    So we had this kind of rising sea level of pills all across — all across the country. A very deep black market developed in which these pills now cost a dollar a milligram. Most of these pills come in 30, 40, 80 milligram doses. That means you are having to pay 30, 40, 80 bucks a pill, and a lot of people getting addicted. Their tolerance rises.

    They cannot — they end up using three, four, five of these pills. I have met people who had $300-, $400-a-day addictions. Heroin comes in and it is a fifth to a 10th cheaper than that. And if you are already, a lot of these folks, getting addicted to the pills, have already begun injecting.

    And when they start injecting, it’s kind of like you crossed the Rubicon in a sense. And so heroin, injecting heroin isn’t much different from injecting these pills. It just happens to be far cheaper.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And where — Gil Kerlikowske, where does the heroin come from? And how has that changed?

    GIL KERLIKOWSKE: Sure. Almost — and it really hadn’t changed. Almost all of the heroin that enters the United States enters at the southwest border.

    And it is a significant increase in seizures that Customs and Border Protection has been making. So we do know the cartels can market and they can market to younger people. So we are seeing that increase. And we are seeing this concern that young people don’t recognize that this is incredibly dangerous and powerful. And they think using it in other ways, they won’t become addicted. Unfortunately, they do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Philip Seymour Hoffman is said to have a heroin with the logo of ace of spades, a brand name, so to speak. What do you make of that? Are there different strains, different power? What is that?

    GIL KERLIKOWSKE: It’s very common for these folks to label or put some type of tag. But you never really know what you’re getting.

    Just because it has that heart or that ace of spades on it doesn’t mean that that is what you are getting the next week or the week after. And if you look right now in Western Pennsylvania, I think we’re up to something like 22 deaths with heroin that is laced with another pharmaceutical painkiller, Fentanyl.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sam Quinones, the other thing we know about the Hoffman story is that he had gone into rehab many years ago. He was essentially said to be clean for several decades, in fact. That tells us something clearly about the nature of this kind of addiction.

    SAM QUINONES: It tells us that this is an enormously difficult addiction to kick.

    People have to relapse six to eight, nine, 10 times before they’re actually able to kick the heroin habit. Once you get down, once you start down that slope, it is very difficult. It also has this horribly mangling effect on the families surrounding the people who use it.

    I have been talking with lots of families, people around the country who have lost loved ones to this. And the death sometimes is even almost like a relief, because for so many years, it’s just been this horrible, horrible problem dealing with this one kid who cheats, who lies, who steals. And that is a big part of the addiction.

    Can I say also that in my view heroin is like — it’s a commodity. Whatever they stamp on these things, or however they sell it, the only way it differs from — heroin differs from each other is literally by the way it’s cut. And so it’s like aspirin. You know, it’s like, everywhere, you can find it. It is just measured differently.

    And I think that this is a key to all this, because heroin traffickers have learned to market — they’re expert marketers. They have to market because that’s the only way they can differentiate between their drug and others.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    SAM QUINONES: And so, to me, that’s really a big part of this. These guys have learned to market expertly all across the country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is there one — just in our last 30 seconds here, Gil Kerlikowske…

    GIL KERLIKOWSKE: Sure.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … is there one policy prescription that you are most focused on to stem this?

    GIL KERLIKOWSKE: You know, for heroin, it is going to have to be the education.

    At one time, the Office of National Drug Control Policy had $190 million to do prevention programs. That has been zeroed out for the last couple of years by Congress, even though the president has asked for about $20 million. Kids get plenty of pro-drug messages. We need to give them anti-drug messages, particularly around heroin, that work.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Gil Kerlikowske and Sam Quinones, thank you both very much.

    SAM QUINONES: Thank you.

    The post Why more Americans are getting high — and overdosing — on heroin appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dow Jones plummets to its worst performance since 2009. Photo by Getty Images.

    Dow Jones plummets to its worst January performance since 2009. Photo by Getty Images.

    The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled more than 320 points Monday, continuing a downward trend after its worst January performance since 2009.

    The AP reported that investors were deterred by reports of slow U.S. growth and declines in European and Japanese indexes, including a private survey that showed January’s cold temperatures curbed U.S. manufacturing expansion during the month.

    Monday’s drop has Dow down more than 7 percent for the year.

    The post Dow Jones continues 2014 slide with large drop appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    car tech

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    GWEN IFILL: For years, carmakers have been adding advanced automated safety features to their increasingly high-tech vehicles. Now the federal government is considering turning some of those options into industry standards.

    ACTOR: This is unreal.

    LAURENCE FISHBURNE, actor: No, it’s very real.

    GWEN IFILL: In a Super Bowl broadcast packed with car commercials, this Hyundai ad focused not on speed or style, but on how to avoid an accident. In it, an ever-attentive dad does his best to protect his son from a collision, including the perils of mixing teenaged hormones with learner’s permits.

    NARRATOR: Remember when only dad could save the day? Auto emergency braking on the all new Genesis.

    GWEN IFILL: In fact, automatic braking is becoming an option on models around the world. The vehicles use radar, video and sensors to monitor their surroundings, give early warnings to drivers and even engage the brakes.

    NARRATOR: The technology may be hard to imagine, but why you would want it is not.

    GWEN IFILL: Now Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants similar enhancements on all new vehicles.

    TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY ANTHONY FOXX: We have the ability, through technology now, to develop a regime in which the safety advances actually kick in before an accident occurs, and we actually avoid the unfortunate event itself.

    GWEN IFILL: Foxx says cars would use radio transponders, allowing vehicle-to-vehicle communication to relay critical information and, thus, revolutionize auto safety.

    ANTHONY FOXX: We have 30,000 vehicle fatalities a year in the U.S., and the prospect of being able to cut, according to research, perhaps 70 percent to 80 percent of the collisions and accidents that are happening around the country.

    GWEN IFILL: The department plans to propose the requirement before President Obama leaves office in early 2017.

    Dan Neil is an auto columnist for The Wall Street Journal who has been following these developments and perhaps driving some of these cars.

    Dan Neil, welcome.

    DAN NEIL, The Wall Street Journal: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: So, what is that the government likely to propose or is considering here that would be different from what we experience now or have available to us now?

    DAN NEIL: Well, what’s in play is the development of the intelligent highway system and vehicle system so that cars using sort of airplane like-transponders communicate with one another, anticipate each other’s movements and ideally stay out of each other’s way.

    The government set aside a spectrum, an electronic spectrum for that purpose a couple of years ago, and the manufacturers will be researching how cars can best talk to each other. But it’s important to note that, for example, in the commercial trucking industry, transponders are a common thing.

    And with these devices, carmakers and whoever else, the interested parties, whoever is creating the infrastructure around these vehicles will have very precise data on a car’s location, direction, speed, and that information will be shared among the vehicles on the road.

     

    GWEN IFILL: When I — when I think about this, I feel like drivers will feel a sense of a loss of control, and that might be a disincentive for actually getting behind the wheel of one of these cars.

    Are you taking the onus off the driver? Does it feel that way when you’re driving one of these cars?

    DAN NEIL: I have been very surprised. The public doesn’t seem to mind the lessened driver workload in these cars with these increasingly sophisticated autonomous and semiautonomous systems.

    For instance, lane keeping, this is active lane keeping. The car will stay between the lines. And, you know, a driver can do that, but it’s a routine road function, and the car can do it better with, as you mentioned in your lead-up, stereoscopic vision and various sensors.

    So there doesn’t seem to be a concern among the driving public of a loss of these — of autonomy. And here is the other thing. It’s really important for an aging population to get ahold of this issue, because these technologies will extend the driving career of older Americans in such a way that it will be very beneficial.

    You know, losing your driving privileges is really tough on old people. And this technology promises to keep people on the road and maintain their independence for a long time. That’s just one of many reasons why the government and the automakers are interested in it.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you this, Dan. Does it work if the government doesn’t mandate this in every vehicle, because if some vehicles are equipped with this, and others aren’t, does the idea come together?

    DAN NEIL: Yes, this is an interesting issue, because there are actually two approaches to in. One, you might say the technology is independently autonomous.

    Each vehicle has an array of sensors that can respond to everything it sees around it. These systems will eventually be programmed with vast archives of, you would say, algorithmic recognition. So they have never see anything they haven’t seen before. They respond quicker, better. Call that better than human.

    The other way that you can do this is what the federal government is talking about now, which is a vehicle-to-vehicle, V-to-V or V-to-I, vehicle to infrastructure, regime. And in this way, vehicles will coordinate their movements and with the infrastructure.

    What’s interesting about that is that especially in the mega-cities of Asia, managing traffic, that is, being able to platoon vehicles on highways where there is very little carrying capacity left, this is a problem that V-to-V and especially V-to-I can address.

    GWEN IFILL: It sounds…

    DAN NEIL: Yes, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

    GWEN IFILL: I was just going to say, it sounds expensive, though. Are auto manufacturers prepared to do this?

    DAN NEIL: Auto manufacturers love these technologies. They are a point of differentiation in sales. And, ultimately, if you do this right, if you electronically crash-proof automobiles, you can begin taking weight out of the vehicles.

    And weight, mass is one of the things that drives fuel economy down. So you are going to have lighter vehicles that won’t have to be these big steel boxes to survive crashes. And they will become more fuel-efficient.

    GWEN IFILL: Final question, briefly, it sounds like Big Brother might have better access now to your information. They know where you are going, where you are coming from, how fast you are going. Isn’t that a disincentive there?

    DAN NEIL: Big Brother, more like Target and Wal-Mart and H&M. You know, when commercial interests have a good idea of where you are in your car, they can advertise to you, much like they do on the Internet. This is — the connected car and the connected Internet are going to have the same death of privacy issues.

    GWEN IFILL: Oh, joy. Dan Neil, Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    DAN NEIL: All right, thank you.

    The post ‘Talking cars’ could prevent accidents before they happen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    sc_medicaid

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    GWEN IFILL: Now a look at new efforts in South Carolina to provide health care for those in need, but who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

    The NewsHour’s Mary Jo Brooks has our report.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Sixty-year-old Walter Durst had hoped the Affordable Care Act meant he could finally get health insurance. Laid off from a retail job six years ago, he now makes less $1,000 a month working odd jobs.

    WALTER DURST, South Carolina resident: Its like stepping on eggshells. You’re just afraid all the time of catching something. There are a few things that I know I need done, like a colonoscopy, that I can’t — I can’t do.

    MARY JO BROOKS: But Durst isn’t getting coverage any time soon, since he falls into a gap: He can’t afford plans on the health exchange, but also isn’t eligible for Medicaid in South Carolina. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid was to be expanded to include anyone under 65 who made up to 133 percent of the poverty level. That’s basically $15,000 a year for an individual.

    However, the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out. And South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was among the first to announce that her state would do just that.

    WOMAN: We’re fighting for justice and rights.

    MARY JO BROOKS: It’s a decision that has stirred up political activity on both ends of the political spectrum. Activists on the left recently rallied at the state capitol, urging lawmakers to reverse the decision. They say some 250,000 people don’t have health coverage because Medicaid wasn’t expanded.

    They brought forward a coffin to symbolize the lives that will be lost if people don’t have access to preventive care.

    ANITRA JOHNSON, U.S. Air Force Veteran: I’m a student at South Carolina State University. I’m doing my — I’m doing my thing. But, yet, I don’t have coverage.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Forty-six-year old Anitra Johnson can’t get coverage since she isn’t disabled and doesn’t have young children, the two main criteria for qualifying for Medicaid in South Carolina. An Air Force veteran who’s gone back to college, she’s currently unemployed.

    ANITRA JOHNSON: Not to be able to go to the doctor and take advantage of the preventative care that they have for a woman my age is pretty bad.

    MAN: We’re showing the rest of the country that South Carolina knows what is right.

    MARY JO BROOKS: But just hours before Johnson rallied at the Capitol, activists from the Tea Party were on the other side of the building rallying against Medicaid expansion.

    Rally organizer Jesse Granston says it’s very simple.

    JESSE GRANSTON, tea party activist: Every time we take a federal dollar that is attached to the Affordable Care Act or attached to our Medicaid rolls, were giving up our sovereignty, and we’re giving up our own ability to take care of ourselves.

    MARY JO BROOKS: The federal government would have paid the states’ costs for Medicaid expansion for the first three years and paid 90 percent after that. Twenty-six states so far have signed on. But South Carolina, led by a Republican governor and legislature, has stood firm in opposition.

    Still, Granston worries that, long-term, lawmakers in his state may find that kind of money difficult to refuse.

    JESSE GRANSTON: We understand that that’s going to be a tremendous battle to win, because when we have a legislature that has been addicted to sucking at the federal teat, if you will, for their entire life, it’s the equivalent of taking away crack cocaine from somebody that smoked it their entire life.

    MARY JO BROOKS: While the political debate continues, the current Medicaid program has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, even without expanding the definition of who qualifies.

    TONY KECK, South Carolina Director of Health and Human Services: I think our biggest success has been with children.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Tony Keck is the state’s director of health and human services.

    TONY KECK: We have invested in getting everybody who’s currently eligible but unenrolled in the system.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Thanks to an aggressive outreach program, his department has enrolled 100,000 children who were previously eligible for Medicaid, but didn’t take advantage of it. That increase has earned the state a bonus of $17 million from the federal government.

    Keck is happy to take that money, but he doesn’t want the state to expand Medicaid any more, since he thinks the system is flawed.

    TONY KECK: My fear is, in the states where there’s Medicaid expansion that hospitals and doctors and other health care providers take the path of least resistance, which is instead of going and finding the people who need the most help, they take the healthy folks who just come on into their door, easy dollars, easy to treat. And it’s not really solving the big problems that a state like South Carolina needs to focus on.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Keck has launched a pilot program that he thinks could do just that. It’s called the Healthy Outcomes Plan, and it’s really a series of 40 different experiments, each one developed by hospitals in the state to reach out to uninsured people who are chronic users of their emergency rooms.

    The aim is to connect them with primary care physicians and social services, including mental health counseling and even access to food banks, all to keep people healthier.

    Dr. Jamee Steen is a family practice physician with the program devised by Palmetto Hospital in Columbia.

    DR. JAMEE STEEN, Palmetto Cares: Palmetto Cares really looks at more than just the physician visit. It’s, what can we get from social work? What can we get from pharmacy as well? Oftentimes, we do a tremendous amount around transportation. It sounds crazy. I’m not a bus driver. I’m not a cab, but that’s what patients need in order to get to the visits, because they walk.

    So if I don’t have a provider around where they are, how am I going to get them consistently to their visits?

    WOMAN: Hi. I’m here to see nurse Bridget.

    MARY JO BROOKS: The primary care visits are free of charge. The hospitals are paid from a pot of money totaling nearly a half-billion dollars, mostly federal money allocated for indigent health care.

    WOMAN: OK. Thank you.

    BRIDGET EDWARDS, Palmetto Cares: Hey, Mrs. William. How are you?

    MARY JO BROOKS: Right now, the program is small. The aim was to reach 8,500 patients in this first year. But three months into it, only about 1,500 have enrolled.

    BRIDGET EDWARDS: When was your last time you saw your primary care doctor?

    MARY JO BROOKS: Bridget Edwards, a nurse and care coordinator, says it’s often difficult to track these patients down and engage in a system that previously all but excluded them.

    BRIDGET EDWARDS: The problem with a lot of them is, they don’t feel they have that person to connect with. They don’t have anyone that’s there to guide them and lead them and help them in managing their care. So it’s a matter of building their trust, reaching out to them.

    MARY JO BROOKS: That was exactly the case of uninsured 46-year-old Tammy Moody, who suffers from hypertension and depression and frequently used the emergency room. Three months ago, she began participating in the pilot program and she says her health has already improved.

    TAMMY MOODY, South Carolina resident: I’m encouraged to get up, take my meds. To be honest, they have actually gave me the will to want to live. They have given the mental ability to get up and move and help yourself, because we have given you the tools to do this.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Although Moody is a big fan, she still wishes her state had expanded Medicaid, since this isn’t the same as insurance, and there’s no guarantee how long it will last.

    Dr. Steen agrees, but she’s hopeful the pilot program will convince policy-makers of the need for preventive care.

    DR. JAMEE STEEN: If looking at healthy outcomes programs, Palmetto Cares, is a way that they can glean some of that data, and say, wow, there really are people — they changed. They were using the E.R. 25 times. They have now they have used the E.R. once in the last six months because they’re now hooked into the system.

    If that then allows the next discussion to be how can we expand services, I’m all right there, which is why I’m right here.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Secretary Keck, of course, believes the program will deliver results more cheaply and effectively than Medicaid ever could.

    TONY KECK: We think, with very little money, relatively speaking, to a $7 billion Medicaid budget, we can actually get that type of access to those 250,000 people, 200,000 people, so that we can identify, you’re somebody who might have a problem in the future, let’s get you connected to a health system now.

    MARY JO BROOKS: While health care advocates wait to see what kind of results the program will bring, political activists in South Carolina will continue to argue it’s a matter of money, either more…

    MAN: The unchecked power of Washington, D.C.

    MARY JO BROOKS: … or less federal spending on people without health insurance.

    The post In a state without Medicaid expansion, uninsured South Carolinians mind the gap appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    new journalism models

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    GWEN IFILL: Now: how journalism on the Web, and created specifically for the Web, is disrupting traditional models and creating new ones.

    Judy Woodruff has our conversation, which she recorded recently.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: These days, online ventures are attracting big names from what was the traditional world of news media, and the landscape is shifting ever more quickly.

    The most recent move, Ezra Klein, formerly of The Washington Post, and his popular Wonkblog site, is developing a new website for deep and explanatory-style journalism. That follows Nate Silver taking his popular 538 blog to ESPN from The New York Times, and the founders of the Wall Street journal’s All Things Digital brand creating their own new site, Re/code, backed by NBC Universal and others. And this is just to name a handful.

    We look at what this means for journalism and what’s behind it with Jim Bankoff. He is the chairman and CEO of Vox Media, which will publish the new Ezra Klein Project X, Walter Mossberg, who co-launched the new venture Re/code, and Tom Rosenstiel, the executive director of the American Press Institute.

    And we welcome you all to the “NewsHour.”

    Walt Mossberg, I’m going to start with you.

    Why would someone who is working in traditional media want to — and I’m sure there are a lot of reasons, but what is the main reason we should know that you would want to take that and go to an online-only home?

    WALTER MOSSBERG, Re/code: Well, Judy, just speaking for myself and my co-founder, Kara Swisher, first of all, we wrote about — we write about technology, and because we write about technology, we’re already largely read online.

    And, secondly, it wasn’t sort of fleeing anything. It was trying to have the opportunity to build and expand and grow and develop the brand and the kind of content that we have been doing already. So it isn’t really print vs. online so much. It’s more independence and kind of the freedom to move nimbly and grow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Bankoff, is that how you see it, that it’s not really about online vs. other kinds of media?

    JIM BANKOFF, Vox Media: Well, I don’t know if I would say it exactly like that.

    I agree with Walt and Kara. They’re building something great. And I would pick up on that and say there are people like Ezra or Josh Topolsky, who is our editor at our site called The Verge, a lot of people like him who want to do something bold and ambitious and create a new media brand that was expressly made for the Web.

    And I think some folks lose sight that this is a different medium. It’s not print, it’s not television, of course. It has its own craft, its own opportunity. And you see a lot of talented people who get that and want to pursue it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you mean that it’s not — it’s just different? By virtue of the technology?

    JIM BANKOFF: Well, there are certain things that remain constant, of course, good storytelling, a strong voice, facts. It will never change, of course. But the medium is different.

    It’s there are new tools at your disposal. They call it multimedia for a reason. It weaves in video. It weaves in new things too, though, like location, like social. It does it across new devices and the people who consume the new media do so in different ways. And that’s obvious.

    And so the way that it’s produced, the way that it’s distributed, the way that it is consumed, while keeping some virtues of good storytelling and journalism, embraces new opportunity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tom Rosenstiel, as somebody who has looked at media old and new for a long time, how do you see the difference in these two ways of connecting with an audience?

    TOM ROSENSTIEL, American Press Institute: Well, the old way that lot of people looked at the emerging technology was to say we don’t care where we deliver it; we’re platform-agnostic.

    And I think what Jim’s talking about is being platform-orthodox, trying to understand the potential and the new ways that are endemic to the new technology and really exploit them, because that’s what consumers are doing. They’re discovering the ways of doing this.

    Now, one thing about this that is not entirely new is legacy media always had stars. There were sports columnists. There were tentpole personalities at publications. And I remember David Halberstam, the great book writer who started at The New York Times and won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Vietnam. He said at a certain point, you outgrow those publications and you want to do different things than you can do in newspapers.

    What’s different now is many of these folks are doing the same thing as they were doing at their legacy institution, but they want to have freedom to do it slightly differently. But it’s not going from newspapers to book writing. It’s the same product.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Walt Mossberg, you talked about reaching a different audience. I mean, who — what are you talking about — what are you speaking about? Because you were at The Wall Street Journal. That is a publication that reaches a lot of people.

    WALTER MOSSBERG: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Who do you reach now? Who do you want to reach?

    WALTER MOSSBERG: Well, we want to reach a wide audience, both people — because our subjects are tech and media primarily, we obviously want to reach kind of the people in those industries and who are interested in those industries.

    But we want to watch — we want to reach everybody that uses technology, everybody that is interested in the topic, the junction of tech and media. And one of our first hires when we became independent, which was just 30 days ago, was a reporter to do science and biotech and kind of, you know, kind of, much more cutting-edge things than just the next smartphone or the next laptop or something.

    So it is a broader audience, and it just depends on your strategy. I would also agree with Jim that there’s a lot more you can do online than in print. But while I was at The Journal, we were already running a fairly autonomous online site.

    We just needed to be able to be nimbler and to move faster and to take advantage more quickly of everything the Web offered.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Bankoff, how profitable can these ventures be? Can they — can they be a business model that others will want to replicate?

    JIM BANKOFF: I certainly think so. You have to have faith that there’s a big opportunity here.

    You have to have faith that journalism and storytelling will continue to matter as it transitions into a new medium. Looking at it historically, we have seen a lot of disruption, of course, migration from magazines to cable networks and broadcast. Every generation, it seems, has had its own media properties that have been built into large, sustainable and highly profitable businesses. I see no reason why that can’t be the case here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that, Tom Rosenstiel? Again, you have looked a lot of different efforts to do something like this.

    TOM ROSENSTIEL: I think we don’t know what the potential is for all of these, what you might call the individual as brand, the individual journalist as brand.

    I think it depends on a couple of things. What’s the nature of the topic, how broad is it, or is there a sustainable business model for it. All Things D. that Walt and Kara built derives a lot of revenue from events. And there is a proven business model that they have sustained over 12 years.

    With Ezra, it’s about economic policy. My guess is the model is going to be different. And there’s probably a limit on how many of these can be out there. There’s some element of convenience for consumers to go to one place and still see a lot of things collected.

    I remember sort of in the early days of the Internet, when Matt Drudge came to the Press Club in Washington and said — this was the time when people were talking about citizen journalists, and maybe journalists would become obsolete and citizens would do the reporting. And he said, there is no need for a million of me. There is only room for a few.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Walt Mossberg, could you have done this if you hadn’t already established a big identity with what you were doing with All Things Digital?

    WALTER MOSSBERG: I’m not sure we could have raised the money without the identity.

    But I do want to say, I have had been lucky enough to have a following and to be known. Kara Swisher, my partner, had a following and was known. We had 15 other journalists who were working for us who also all had followings in their beats. And they all came with us. So we were able to hit the ground running.

    And it is a great question, Judy, of whether somebody completely unknown, even somebody twice as talented as those of us who are better known, if you are not known at all, could you have raised money and go do this? That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer to that.

    JIM BANKOFF: Well, the great thing about the medium is that there is equal access to the platform.

    Of course, you know, it seems obvious now, but gone are the days where you need a broadcast tower or a printing press to express your views or to conduct and print and publish yourself. So that’s wonderful. Now, the talent will rise. And I do agree, not everyone is going to be able to scale it into a large enterprise, but what’s clear is all of this opportunity, all of this choice is great for consumers of the news.

    They have to sift through it and we hopefully will provide great context for them to help them make sense of everything that is coming at them. But there has really never been a better time, I believe, to be a consumer of news and information, with all the choices that are out there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you all, Jim Bankoff, Walt Mossberg, Tom Rosenstiel.

    The post New media models disrupt traditional journalism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Thousands of protesters descend upon the Spanish Parliament as it considers a much stricter abortion law.

    A Guttmacher Institute report released Monday showed the U.S. abortion rate reached its lowest level in 40 years . The abortion rate in Spain also recently fell following a 2010 law that allowed abortions until the 14th week of the pregnancy.

    Despite the decrease, the Spanish Parliament is considering a proposal to ban all abortions except in cases of rape or if the mother’s health is in danger. The proposal caused tens of thousands to descend upon the parliament in protest Saturday.

    The reignited debate over abortion highlights Spain’s cultural changes in the past five decades.

    “We are here to protest against a government that wants to take us back to the times of Franco,” said one protester , referring to the Spanish dictator. “We are stepping backwards with this law.”

    However, pro-life advocates argue that they are moving the country forward.

    Fernando Gotazar of the pro-life organization the Spanish Family Forum, said, “The main point is not to punish those causing abortion, it’s to make a social climate in favour of life.”

    The Guardian’s Ashifa Kassam reported that the parliament is likely to pass the bill in the spring.

    The post Spain considers strict abortion law amid protests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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