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

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    teensmoking

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tarnished teeth, prematurely wrinkled skin on teenage faces, and students subjected to bullying, those are the images of a new multimedia anti-smoking campaign being launched by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s a $115 million campaign that will run in 200 markets over the course of a year, beginning next week, the goal, use ads like these to get through to younger Americans about the personal costs of cigarettes.

    Kathy Crosby is the director of health communication and education at the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, making her a point person on this campaign.

    And she joins me now. Welcome to the program.

    KATHY CROSBY, Center for Tobacco Products, Food and Drug Administration: Thank you so much for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So these ads are designed to get to these teenagers. Different from ads that have run before. How?

    KATHY CROSBY: Well, we did comprehensive research to understand what would really make a difference to these at-risk teens.

    And through the evaluation of the research, we understood that there were certain message platforms that spoke really personally and relevantly to these kids. One is the notion of loss of control, and another is the understanding that there are health costs associated with every single cigarette, but not necessarily the ones that you think of from a long-term standpoint, like death or emphysema.

    The kids who are most at-risk for smoking don’t consider themselves to be smokers. They don’t ever believe they will be addicted. And even if they think they’re addicted, they think they can quit at any time. And so we had to focus in on health consequences that we knew would really matter to them more in the short-term.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s take a look at just one of the ads the FDA is running. We are going to show this right now.

    ACTOR: Hey, buddy, let’s take a little walk. When I say go outside, we go outside.

    When I say fork it over, you fork it over. Hey, when I say pause the movie, we pause the movie. So long, big boy. Pucker up.

    NARRATOR: Cigarettes are bullies. Don’t let tobacco control you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned loss of control.

    KATHY CROSBY: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s what that’s about.

    KATHY CROSBY: It is. And it’s very important to these youth, because they’re just starting to experience control in their life, and the last thing they want to do is think that an unhealthy relationship, in this case, nicotine addiction, could take that control away from them.

    And we know that these ads, through the research, have been found to be very powerful.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re also running ads — and we showed a little bit of one before — I guess this was a photograph of teeth.

    KATHY CROSBY: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re showing, one, a model with perfectly white teeth, and then another picture of the same young woman with very yellow, almost brownish teeth.

    KATHY CROSBY: Yes.

    We’re really focusing on some of the consequences that matter to youth, not that obviously the more serious ones don’t, but when you think about the notion of your appeal of — that you could be less than appealing, that’s a really relevant and motivating thing to especially a young woman

    So in the case of the ad you’re talking about, showing that the real effects that smoking has on your teeth or your skin, it’s motivating.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you know these messages will get through?

    KATHY CROSBY: Yes. Well, we did comprehensive research.

    As a regulatory agency, everything we do is steeped in research. And we took these ads and we talked to over 1,600 youth about them in terms of their perceived ad effectiveness. Were they relevant, were they meaningful, did they break through, do they make kids really think? Because, ultimately, our goal is to change their attitudes towards tobacco products, and ultimately change their behaviors

    And from the research, we know that these ads did very well in delivering new news in compelling and persuasive ways.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I saw a couple of quotes today from tobacco companies saying, essentially, well, we agree that teen smoking is a problem.

    KATHY CROSBY: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What role are they playing in all of this?

    KATHY CROSBY: Well, these are actually funded by tobacco user fees, so not taxpayer dollars.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. This was a result of a judge’s ruling, a court ruling some time ago. Is that right?

    KATHY CROSBY: Well, the Congress through the Tobacco Control Act gave FDA the authority to regulate the products.

    So as part of that authority, we have the ability to educate on the dangers of the product. And that’s what these ads are about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how many — how are you reaching these young people? What kinds of places are they going to see them or hear them?

    KATHY CROSBY: Right. Basically, anywhere where a teen engages in media, we hope to be there. So it’s kind of like fish where the fish are, so everything from MTV and Viacom programs, television, radio, print, out of home, and an extensive opportunity to engage with them in social media through key platforms where youth really engage, like Twitter, YouTube.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Online.

    KATHY CROSBY: Online.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Web sites.

    KATHY CROSBY: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so forth.

    KATHY CROSBY: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How, Kathy Crosby, do you measure whether this is successful? What do you do to go and find out if this is changing teen behaviors?

    KATHY CROSBY: Right. Yes.

    So, we have established a very comprehensive benchmark tracking study. So we just concluded interviews with 8,000 youth across the U.S. in 75 markets. And we will follow these same 8,000 youth over the next two years to understand how the campaign has affected their attitudes towards the product and their behaviors towards the product.

    So, hopefully, at the end of this time — we believe that we have done our job right. We believe that the messages are inspiring, they’re relevant, they’re credible, they’re meaningful and memorable, and we believe, over time, we will be able to see how effective we have been.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you will go back and have some hard data on whether or not that was the case?

    KATHY CROSBY: Oh, yes, absolutely. Yes. FDA is regulatory and everything is steeped in data.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kathy Crosby with the Food and Drug Administration, we thank you.

    KATHY CROSBY: Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me

    The post FDA designs new smoking prevention ad strategy to target teens appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Kids_NewPhoto-1024x571

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    PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happena public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    GWEN IFILL: Now to our continuing look at education.

    As schools days grow longer, so do the academic burdens being imposed on students. But, at the same time, school systems are cutting back on the arts, physical education and even recess. Some researchers say that is counterproductive, depriving students of exercise that can help them learn.

    The NewsHour’s April Brown reports for our American Graduate project.

    APRIL BROWN: The kids in Katie McLiver’s first grade class at Fox Hill Elementary School are no strangers to the dance floor. Short brain breaks like this are part of regular, purposeful physical activities that take place every day at this suburban Indianapolis school, both inside the classroom and out.

    TOM O’NEILL, Playworks: As a grown man, playing games is a dream job.

    APRIL BROWN: Tom O’Neill is known as Coach Tom around here, the man who has a slew of games for every grade and helps make sure all Fox Hill kids have a chance to move and play during the day.

    O’Neill is the school’s coordinator for Playworks, a national nonprofit that helps fund positions for coaches like him in low-income schools.

    TOM O’NEILL: By playing games, we learn how to socialize with each other. We learn about fair play and respecting each other. If we don’t play those games, how are we supposed go out and have a conversation with somebody if we can’t even play a game with them?

    SEAN TAYLOR, principal, Fox Hill Elementary School: I can remember when we had two to three recesses a day. Our students don’t get that anymore.

    APRIL BROWN: Principal Sean Taylor heard about Playworks from a parent, and found out the nonprofit would pay for half of Coach Tom’s salary. While there were many things his school needed, Principal Taylor decided picking up the other half would be a good investment. That’s because life at Fox Hill Elementary is not all fun and games.

    There is a big focus academics at this school, which has many English-language learners and where 80 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. But, despite great expectations, Principal Taylor believes there must be balance.

    SEAN TAYLOR: We understand the stakes are high, and we welcome those stakes. We want the best for our students here as well, but we know that in order to get the best, we have to educate the whole child, which means we have to always take into account their physical health, their mental health, as well as their ability to read, write and do math

    JAYNE GREENBERG, Miami-Dade County Public Schools: In the past, where principals have said, well, it’s a frill, we can take it out of the schools, they are now rethinking that and putting physical education and physical activity, in particular the physical activity breaks and recess, back into the schools.

    APRIL BROWN: As the district director for physical education and health literacy in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, Jayne Greenberg has seen the struggle to balance exercise with educational achievement.

    Greenberg was a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine Committee, which recently published a report revealing how shortsighted cutting recess and P.E. programs has been.

    JAYNE GREENBERG: We know now we’re seeing in various states that, in looking at correlations, that there is a high correlation between physical fitness and academic performance on standardized tests.

    Play is a child’s world. That’s their work world. I have always told adults, I can’t sit for seven hours a day. Why would we expect a 5-year-old to be able to?

    APRIL BROWN: Fourth grader Lizzy Maze would agree it’s much easier to concentrate after recess or a couple of games.

    LIZZY MAZE, Student: You have to get all the wiggles out. Just kind of have a little fun, so now you’re really tired, so you are ready to do some work.

    KIM MORROW, teacher: It’s like a different class. You can tell they have had a good time. They have expended a lot of energy and they are ready to focus and settle down.

    APRIL BROWN: And even though you wouldn’t know it today, third grade teacher Kim Morrow used to absolutely dread recess.

    KIM MORROW: I just didn’t look forward to kids coming out and just getting in arguments. It was very stressful. But now that never happens. It’s like you go out, the kids are having fun. We can have fun with them and it’s just a positive time.

    APRIL BROWN: There are days when it is simply too cold and too icy for the children to play safely outside. That means that Coach Tom has to get creative in the classroom.

    One of the popular indoor activities is the guard dog game. The child sitting in the middle must use every sense but sight to figure out who’s trying to take the toy from under the chair.

    TOM O’NEILL: We have to be quiet. We are inside. We are not outside running around. So it also teaches us patience, that, all right, it’s not our turn yet, so we’re going to be quiet, we’re going to enjoy what’s happening, and we can have fun still. Even though if we’re not participating, we can have fun.

    APRIL BROWN: Students are learning plenty of other soft skills from Coach Tom’s games, too, like kindness, inclusiveness, and good sportsmanship. They are skills not all children can pick up at home, according to Playworks Indiana’s executive director Marc McAleavey:

    MARC MCALEAVEY, Playworks Indiana: But we know that those soft skills have tremendous value in the development of kids. They use positive language. They — when they lose, they lose well. When they win, they win well. They take that beyond elementary school to high school and college.

    APRIL BROWN: And perhaps unexpectedly, this kind of play has introduced a popular conflict resolution tool called roshambo, as fifth grader Ahonsti Morrow explains.

    AHONSTI MORROW, student: It’s basically like rock, paper, scissors. If someone wants to sit next to their teacher, you have to roshambo. And if the other persons gets — gets it, then that’s the person that gets to sit by the teacher.

    APRIL BROWN: James Valdez, a fourth grade teacher at Fox Hill, says having students be able to quickly solve problems themselves allows more time for learning.

    JAMES VALDEZ, teacher, Fox Hill Elementary School: The activities that they do in Playworks promotes that conflict resolution, that piece that is really important that allows them to either solve an argument quickly or allows them to even be OK with sitting next to somebody, so that they can focus on the assignment that — that they have.

    APRIL BROWN: But the games and activities with Coach Tom provide something special for some students, a leadership opportunity. A group of kids in the older grades are chosen to be junior coaches. The purple shirts they wear indicate their job is to help the younger peers with new games.

    Fifth grader Chyla Glover is one of Fox Hill’s junior coaches, and she says this is the first time younger students have ever looked up to her. She and other junior coaches learn new activities to share after school. And for Chyla, getting extra time with Coach Tom has been very meaningful.

    CHYLA GLOVER, student: He’s kind of like my best friend because he truly understands me and he listens to me.

    APRIL BROWN: Clearly, for many kids, Coach Tom has a special role at Fox Hill. He’s a caring adult they see every day who has absolutely no bearing on their grades.

    According to Playworks’ Marc McAleavey, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Coach Tom’s primary job is to help the children have fun.

    MARC MCALEAVEY: It makes school kind of delicious. And so when kids wake up and they know they are going to play that day, and they have had this positive experience or multiple positive experiences, daily positive experiences at school, they want to go there.

    APRIL BROWN: Playworks operates in 300 schools around the country, and serves about 3,000 children in Indiana alone.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Learn more about the link between physical activity and academic performance on our Web site. There, we also posted some of Coach Tom’s favorite recess activities, plus a lesson plan for teachers on physical activity and the brain.

    American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Schools reprioritize playtime to boost concentration and teach social skills appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Karzai

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    GWEN IFILL: Now we turn to Afghanistan, and another potential snag, as the U.S. struggles to reach a security deal with President Hamid Karzai.

    Presidential campaign season has begun in earnest in Kabul, with banners and billboards touting candidates for the April 5 election. One issue looms especially large over it all: whether to sign a security agreement allowing some U.S. and NATO troops to remain beyond the end of this year, mainly in a training capacity.

    President Hamid Karzai has balked at signing the agreement, insisting he will leave it to his successor.

    PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan (through interpreter): Afghanistan will never sign the security agreement under pressure. No pressure, no threat, no psychological operation against our people can force us to sign the security agreement. If they want to leave, they should leave today.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, The New York Times reports, and a Karzai spokesman confirms, the Afghan president has begun secret peace talks with the Taliban. The spokesman says the two sides met in Dubai three weeks ago. And he notes relations with the Taliban have improved since Karzai refused to sign the security pact.

    In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn’t address the report of peace talks. Instead, he warned again time is running short.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: This agreement was negotiated after a prolonged process, a good-faith process, and endorsed by the Afghan elders represented by the loya jirga, and it ought to be signed.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, President Obama met this afternoon with his top military commanders to discuss the future of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

    Joining me now is one of the reporters who wrote that New York Times story, Matthew Rosenberg.

    Why is Hamid Karzai meeting with the Taliban?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG, The New York Times: He wants to make peace. And I think Americans want to make peace, too. Everybody does. Everybody — if they could create a peace deal with the Taliban, everybody would be overjoyed about this.

    The question is how and are the Taliban really interested?

    GWEN IFILL: Well, when you say peace, what we have heard all along is that this security agreement which we have been trying to get them to sign, that that’s the ingredient for peace. Is this a separate side deal that he’s trying to cut?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: I think that’s what he thought it was. He thought there was this contact or he had this opportunity, and then he would kind of push off the Americans.

    I think the American telling of this, and to a lot of other Afghans as well, they would say, well, what’s the Taliban’s incentive? If the Americans get up and leave, they take all their troops and all their money, why would they make peace now?

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that’s — I guess that’s my question. What would peace look like with the Taliban?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: It’s an incredibly good question.

    And I think the Americans and the Afghan government have all said they need to accept the Afghan government, they need to come into the system, accept the constitution, accept the rights that have been granted to a variety of people who didn’t really have them under the Taliban.

    Now, accepting that constitution can be mean a lot of things. And that can be amended and that can be changed, but it’s not going to look like a separate Taliban state somewhere in the country.

    GWEN IFILL: Right. So the secret meetings that he has been conducting, is that why he’s been so hesitant to sign the security agreement with the U.S. and its allies?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: It certainly looks like one of the — one of the main factors there, that he thought he had something else going on here, so what does he need the U.S. for?

    The problem here is that the Americans would be more than happy if he could go out and cut his own deal and make peace. Everybody would be pleased. Everybody could go home. It’s that the behavior engendered by his idea, his thought that he had peace talks going, between going after us with fake evidence of — of war crimes, trying to release more Taliban from prison, a lot of kind of deeper issues in that relationship really came out in ways that I think everybody has found pretty unhelpful.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    Who do we think initiated the contact, made the first olive branch, as it were?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: It’s hard to say. Most of our sources said it came from the Taliban, but also coming from the Taliban is a hard thing to judge.

    GWEN IFILL: I was going to say, what is — who is that?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: That’s always been the issue, which is, how do you find that person who is connected back to Mullah Omar? You don’t know where he is.

    The Americans and the Germans developed one kind of channel, but it kind of fell apart, partly because of Karzai’s objections back in, I guess it was June. And now it’s like, you know, how serious was this entreaty? Were they just trying to string him along? It certainly looks that way, because it’s gone nowhere.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s gone nowhere.

    What would he want from them? Just an agreement to what?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: I think he wants — he has this grand idea that they’re brothers, they’re Afghans like him and they can all be brought back together and they can all be brought in peacefully.

    It sometimes can be a little — it can come across as sometimes naive.

    GWEN IFILL: This isn’t the first time. Maybe this was naive as well. But this isn’t the first time there have been efforts to reach out to the Taliban. American diplomats have tried to do the same thing, haven’t they?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: They have.

    And, you know, they came very close. I mean, they have been in touch with people who they believed and had evidence were doing this with the blessing of Mullah Omar. It just hasn’t gone anywhere. The Taliban have not seemed particularly willing to sit down and talk peace. They haven’t seen it in their interests at this point.

    GWEN IFILL: So, let’s look at where things stand right now. Right now, there is an effort that has been made by him on this as a side deal to reach out to the Taliban. There’s the effort to get him to sign the security agreement in advance of the elections, which is looking less and less likely.

    Is there a renewed pressure from the U.S. or from someone else to try to get that back on track?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: I think there is.

    The pressure from the U.S. has been pretty enormous, but it’s also every week there seems to be a new deadline. Like, this is the week it has to get done or this is the month. And then the deadline slips. So, in Karzai’s — and I think most of the Afghan government, they see the U.S. saying sign now or lose it, and then they don’t sign now and they don’t lose it.

    GWEN IFILL: We just saw Karzai say, well, just take it away if you’re going to take our money away, if you’re going to take our deal away.

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: But that hasn’t quite happened.

    What are the options available or on the table now for the U.S. to act in all of this or to get Karzai off the dime?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: I mean, it’s a tough spot for the U.S., because I think they really don’t want to just walk away. You don’t want a repeat of what’s happening in Iraq right now.

    On the other hand, you know, you need to have a partner there, and right now they don’t feel they do have a partner. So, what do you do?

    GWEN IFILL: Is the U.S. in the position to withhold — there’s billions of dollars of aid on the table. Is that something that perhaps Congress is pressuring U.S. diplomats to do?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: There’s definitely pressure in Congress when it comes to the economic aid. The military aid, everybody is a little more sacrosanct.

    But Afghanistan is entirely dependent on foreign aid. This isn’t Iraq, where money just comes out of the ground. They have no money. If we take away the aid, that country will collapse. There’s just no way to — it cannot support itself.

    GWEN IFILL: So there are not a lot of options right now?

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: Not many.

    GWEN IFILL: And everybody’s just waiting for the elections to roll out.

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: Pretty much.

    GWEN IFILL: Matthew Rosenberg of The New York Times, thanks a lot.

    MATTHEW ROSENBERG: Thank you.

    The post Afghanistan’s Karzai reportedly engaged in secret peace talks with Taliban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    olympics1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: another look at the Olympic Games which start later this week in Sochi, and the blowback surrounding a controversial Russian law.

    Jeff is back with that story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The fanfare at a ceremony for the International Olympic Committee in Sochi had scarcely faded today when sharp words came from Thomas Bach, IOC president.

    THOMAS BACH, International Olympic Committee: That sport can only contribute to development and peace if it’s not used as a stage for political dissent or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue, and not on the backs of the athletes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was a clear shot at national leaders who’ve shunned the Games over Russia’s ban on so-called gay propaganda.

    THOMAS BACH: In the extreme, we had to see a few politicians whose contribution to the fight for a good cause consisted of publicly declining invitations they had not even received.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Bach didn’t name names, but President Obama is among those staying away. Instead, he’s sending three openly gay athletes, tennis star Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and hockey player Caitlin Cahow.

    The furor began last June, when Russian lawmakers adopted a law they said was essential to protect the young.

    ELENA MIZULINA, State Duma Deputy (through translator): It outlaws the spreading of information aimed at forming nontraditional sexual attitudes among children, attractiveness of nontraditional sexual relations, and a distorted perception of social equality between traditional and nontraditional sexual relations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The statute sparked outrage around the world. In Paris, demonstrators formed Olympic rings, holding images of alleged human rights abuses in Russia. And in Sweden, 2,000 people gathered to sing Russia’s national anthem under rainbow flags.

    The video went viral on the Internet. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted no athlete at the Games will be mistreated.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through translator): Of course, the Olympic Games will be held in full compliance with the Olympic Charter, without any discrimination on any basis.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But Putin also raised hackles again in mid-January when he said this:

    VLADIMIR PUTIN (through translator): We don’t hold detain people on the street. We don’t hold anyone responsible for those relations, but leave children in peace, please.

    JEFFREY BROWN: IOC President Bach said today that Putin has again promised to observe Olympic values during the Games. They officially begin on Friday.

    The post International Olympic Committee speaks out against using Sochi as ‘stage for political dissent’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Neal Jennings

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And we pick up on all this now with Andranik Migranyan, director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a nongovernmental organization that has close ties to Russia’s leadership. And Brian Moulton is the legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

    And, Brian Moulton, let me start with you.

    How serious a problem do you see Russia for gays and lesbians?

    BRIAN MOULTON, Human Rights Campaign: Sure. It’s a very serious problem.

    We both have the law that was passed last fall that really restricts the ability of LGBT people to be public about who they are, to speak out in favor of equality at the risk of fines. And then there’s just a culture, a growing culture of harassment and violence against LGBT people that’s really been generated and exacerbated by this law.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Andranik Migranyan, how do you see the situation in Russia? What’s the impetus, for example, behind this new law?

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN, Institute for Democracy and Cooperation: Well, you know, I think that in Western media, this problem concerning LGBT community is grossly exaggerated.

    I don’t think that we have a serious problem concerning this issue. But, you know, what is the problem at this moment, I think that Russian government and authorities, they are trying to consolidate Russian state and Russian society around some values after collapse of Soviet Union and communist ideology.

    And because, unfortunately, in ’90s, liberal values were discredited as a result of that wild capitalism and grabbing by oligarchs of state property and creating the chaos and poverty in the society, now Russian society is consolidating around conservative and traditional values, which, you know, includes respect to family values, to the church, to state, valuing very highly patriotism and other conservative values.

    This is — then, on top of that, we had another problem. Russia was declining — had declining population, demographic problems. And on top of that, the state authorities, they want to encourage the birthrate. And that’s why they are pushing forward the problem of family values and strengthening the family ties.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Brian Moulton, what do you respond to that?

    BRIAN MOULTON: Well, I think it’s very unfortunate that a response to adopting stronger values in the country means adopting values of discrimination against a group of people in that country.

    And it’s sad to see the arguments that we have heard in the United States for many years about LGBT equality, that it’s harmful to families, ignoring the fact that these are people who have their own families, are raising children in many instances, exported and used by even American advocates in the country to hurt our community abroad.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Have you seen the new law translate into direct actions, and is it also fear of what’s coming with the athletes? Do you fear that something might, I don’t know, discrimination against particular athletes?

    BRIAN MOULTON: Well, we have certainly and seen the law applied, and we have seen — we have seen advocates fined. We just saw at the end of last month a newspaper editor fined for running an article about a gay man who lost his job as a teacher because of his sexual orientation.

    So the law is being used to restrict the ability of individuals to express positive messages about LGBT people. Certainly, we worry that athletes, openly LGBT athletes in particular, who go to the Games and want to express their support for the LGBT community in Russia may be in danger.

    You heard in the segment the mixed messages that Putin and other officials in Russia have given. I’m certainly hopeful that people will not be prosecuted in the Games, but we shouldn’t just focus on the Games. What happens to LGBT Russians when the international community’s attention turns away when the Games are over?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Mr. Migranyan, what do you — do you hear mixed messages in what we just heard from Vladimir Putin and other officials?

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN: No, I haven’t seen and heard any mixed messages.

    The problem is that, today, New York Times mentioned that 75 countries in the world, they criminalize same-sex relations. Russia repealed the law in 1994, and we had these very severe laws under Soviet rule. And that’s why we don’t have any discrimination.

    The only problem is — which we would really like to make clear for everybody in the world, this is the law against propaganda in presence of kids. That’s the only problem. Otherwise, you know, we have the position that: We will leave you alone. Leave us alone. We protect and we respect the minority rules. Respect the majority rights and majority way of life.

    And this is the reality. That’s why I think that, again, there is, unfortunately, the situation when some minorities are becoming very active, and, in some cases, unfortunately, aggressive. They would like to impose their way of life and to impose on majority their perception how people must live and act.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN: This is not right. And we need to have tolerance on both sides.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I just want to ask you before we have to end here about the response, starting with you, Brian Moulton.

    Are you satisfied with President Obama’s action and the people that he sent? Are you satisfied with the IOC’s response and companies?

    BRIAN MOULTON: Well, we’re certainly very pleased that the president has taken the opportunity to send openly LGBT athletes as part of the delegation and to speak out against the Russian law, and our own State Department that has done a lot to make sure that people traveling to Russia for the Games are aware of the issues facing LGBT people.

    Certainly, we would like to see the International Olympic Committee do more. We would like to see the corporate sponsors of the Olympics speak out against the law. There’s much more that needs to be done to raise awareness about what is going on in Russia.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Mr. Migranyan, we just have about 30 seconds because we’re near the end of the program. So, let me just ask you, what’s been the response from this outside pressure in Russia? What do you make of that?

    ANDRANIK MIGRANYAN: I don’t think that, in Russia, this is a real problem.

    And I’m very glad that Billie Jean King is in American delegation. When I was a student, I was very happy, as a tennis fan, to see her in Soviet Union in Moscow in early ’70s. And that time, Soviet Union had very strict law against LGBT community, but she came to Soviet Union. She didn’t have any problem.

    And I hope now she will enjoy her stay in Sochi. And I think everybody will be welcome over there independently to their sexual orientation, because Sochi is a place and Olympics is a place not to show their sexual orientation, but to show good results in sports.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Andranik Migranyan and Brian Moulton, thank you both very much.

    BRIAN MOULTON: Thank you.

    The post Debating how issues of sexual orientation will play at the Sochi games appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video still by PBS NewsHour

    Video still by PBS NewsHour

    President Obama announced Tuesday that several U.S. companies have pledged more than $750 million in contributions to equip American students with access to better technology, such as high-speed Internet, in the classroom.

    “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools,” Mr. Obama said, speaking from a middle school in Adelphi, Md.

    AT&T and Sprint have offered free, wireless Internet access through their networks, expanding on the Federal Communications Commission’s plan, announced in February, to reallocate $2 billion to connect 15,000 disadvantaged schools with faster broadband speeds.

    Other companies have pledged hardware and software. Apple is contributing $100 million in iPads and laptops, while Microsoft is offering discounted Windows software and free copies of Microsoft Office. Autodesk and O’Reilly Media have also pledged free software, and companies such as Verizon are helping with teacher training to better handle the new technology.

    These companies have supported the president’s 5-year ConnectED initiative, announced last summer, to bolster connectivity for 99 percent of students across the country. The move, the president has said, is a much-needed push for learning to adapt in the digital age.

    Links to PBS NewsHour coverage:

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    Supporters of the Affordable Care Act march in Los Angeles Jan. 20.  Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

    Supporters of the Affordable Care Act march in Los Angeles Jan. 20. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    The finding in the economic report released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the Affordable Care Act will shrink the workforce by more than 2 million full-time positions touched off a fresh round of political warfare over the health care law and put to rest any doubt that the program would be a driving force in this year’s midterm elections.

    Top Republicans on Capitol Hill pointed to the CBO analysis as further evidence the health care law was a job killer.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “not a surprising report.”

    “All the anecdotes you hear all across the country are that premiums are going up and jobs are being lost,” he added.

    House Speaker John Boehner followed suit.

    “For years, Republicans have said that the president’s health care law creates uncertainty for small businesses, hurts take-home pay, and makes it harder to invest in new workers. The middle class is getting squeezed in this economy, and this CBO report confirms that ObamaCare is making it worse,” Boehner said in a statement.

    The National Republican Congressional Committee blasted out a release targeting about two dozen House Democrats for their continued support of the health care law.

    The New York Times’ Annie Lowrey and Jonathan Weisman noted that the CBO’s projections were “far more complicated” than the criticism leveled by GOP lawmakers:

    The report did say that the law would reduce hours worked and full-time employment, but not because of a crippling impact on private-sector job creation. With the expansion of insurance coverage, the budget office predicted, more people will choose not to work, and others will choose to work fewer hours than they might have otherwise to obtain employer-provided insurance. The cumulative reduction of hours is large: the equivalent of 2.5 million fewer full-time positions by 2024, the budget office said.

    The Obama administration and congressional Democrats scrambled to frame the numbers in a more positive light with public skepticism of the health care law already high following the botched rollout of the online federal exchange last year.

    Jason Furman, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, told reporters at the White House Tuesday that CBO’s job projections were based on Americans having more choices when it comes to employment and how much they’ll work and not businesses cutting back on positions.

    “It refutes some of the arguments about how it has hurt the labor market today or will hurt it in the future,” Furman said of the report. “And it confirms what we’ve all known, which is when you do something like that it gives people new choices and new options, and people will sometimes make different choices in the face of new choices and new options.”

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put a similar spin on the CBO’s findings.

    “What they’re saying here is — and the fact-checkers have already done this — the Republicans’ talk about losing millions of jobs simply isn’t true,” Reid told reporters Tuesday. “It allows people to get out of a job they’re locked into because of they have health care in their job.”

    When it comes to campaign politics, however, Republicans will have a much easier time fitting their critique into a 30-second television spot than Democrats will trying to condense their explanation of the ACA’s impact on the jobs market.

    Democrats seeking re-election in 2014 were already facing a tough challenge given the president’s low approval ratings and polls showing the country sharply divided over the health care law. With Tuesday’s release by the CBO that task is likely to grow more difficult.

    The conservative group Americans for Prosperity announced Tuesday it planned to begin running an ad in Arkansas attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor for his support of the health care law.

    For his part, Pryor released two new campaign ads hitting his likely challenger, GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, for voting “to change Medicare into a voucher system.”

    President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Senate Democrats Wednesday at their issues conference in Washington, where he should expect to find himself on the receiving end of venting from lawmakers similar to what followed after the initial health care launch.

    While much of talk Tuesday centered on the jobs number, the CBO also updated its projections for enrollment in the health care law in the aftermath of the rocky rollout. Gwen Ifill looked at those figures with NPR’s Julie Rovner.

    “They had been aiming for seven million, which was the seven million estimated by the CBO. Now the CBO has rolled that back to six million. That’s just how much they estimate,” Rovner said of the enrollment numbers. “They’re also estimating a million fewer on Medicaid. That’s going to be eight million instead of nine million.”

    She added: “However, the CBO is also estimating that those numbers — that we will catch up in future years, so that even though this year, rather than getting seven million people signed up in the exchanges, there will only be six million, that in 2015 and 2016, they will catch up to their estimates for those years.”

    [Watch Video]

    LINE ITEMS

    • The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Ed O’Keefe report that House Republicans are still struggling to “find consensus” on how to approach negotiations with the White House to raise the debt ceiling.
    • The Senate approved a five-year, $1 trillion farm bill Tuesday on a 68-32 vote. The president is expected to sign the measure into law Friday during an event at Michigan State University, the alma mater of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow.
    • Women’s activist Sandra Fluke declined calls from supporters to run for Rep. Henry Waxman’s congressional seat and announced her plans to run for the state Senate.
    • “American Idol” star Clay Aiken released a video announcing his run for Congress against incumbent GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers. In a recent radio interview, Ellmers dismissed the challenge.
    • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a cloture vote for Thursday on Democrats’ latest effort to reauthorize unemployment insurance benefits for three months.
    • Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., announced Tuesday that he will retire from office amid an ethics investigation. In his 23 years in Congress, Andrews wrote more than 640 bills, yet none of them were signed into law.
    • The Huffington Post found some support in the Senate for Mr. Obama to use an executive order to ban workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal contractors.
    • The Tampa Bay Times reports that a “misleading” website drew an Alex Sink supporter to unknowingly donate to the NRCC. Sink is running against Republican Dave Jolly to replace the late GOP Rep. Bill Young. An earlier version mistakenly said Sink was seeking the seat held by former Rep. Trey Radel.
    • Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told Roll Call that Speaker Boehner should lose his speakership if he pursues an immigration rehaul this year.
    • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, got outraised by one of her potential Democratic challengers last quarter. And while that hardly puts her seat on the line, if opponent Shenna Bellows, whose main issue is the unconstitutionality of NSA surveillance programs, continues posting strong fundraising numbers, it could push Collins further to the center.
    • Four same-sex couples sued Wisconsin public officials, including Gov. Scott Walker, in an effort to overturn the state’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
    • Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn profiled the president’s nominee for surgeon general, 36-year-old Vivek Murthy, who had his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday.
    • Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., argued in a hearing on the administration’s marijuana policy that the federal government is implicated in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death because they focus on enforcing marijuana laws at the expense of cracking down on heroin. Across the rotunda, Reid called heroin a national affliction and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he’ll call for a hearing on law enforcement.
    • The snowy owl who graced D.C. with its presence is a she — and she’s on the mend at City Wildlife in Northwest Washington.

    NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

    • In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death from an apparent heroin overdose, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Sam Quinones of The Los Angeles Times spoke with Jeffrey Brown on Monday about why heroin use has doubled in America since 2007.
    [Watch Video]
    • The federal government is allowing cars to be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle communication technologies and could require such technologies in the coming years. Dan Neil, an auto columnist for The Wall Street Journal, broke down the announcement on Monday’s NewsHour.
    [Watch Video]
    • Russia doesn’t have the best track record on gay rights, but President Vladimir Putin has promised that his country will uphold the Olympic Charter and no one will be mistreated. Jeffrey Brown spoke with Brian Moulton of the Human Rights Campaign and Andranik Migranyan of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation about what gay athletes will face in Sochi.
    [Watch Video]

    TOP TWEETS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Simone Pathe and Bridget Bowman 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:

     

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    Photo by Deanna LeBlanc/WAVY TV 10 AM Reporter

    A federal court in Norfolk, Va. heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether the state’s ban on same-sex marriage should be struck down. Lawyers representing two gay couples argued that the ban is discriminatory and a violation of their clients’ right to marry, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

    In addition to the ban on gay marriage, Virginia passed an amendment to the state constitution in 2006 that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

    The attorney for the plaintiffs, Theodore Olson, is well-versed in fighting bans on gay marriage, after serving on the team that challenged California’s Proposition 8 heard by the Supreme Court last summer.

    The push for marriage equality was recently endorsed by Attorney General Mark Herring, when he announced that he believes that the ban is in violation of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Herring sat in on the hearing today.

    One attorney for the defense, Austin Nimock, argued that marriage is a traditional institution, adding that, “citizens of Virginia have continuously chosen to celebrate the unique differences between a man and a woman.”

    The original suit was filed last summer by Old Dominion University professor Timothy Bostic and Navy veteran and real estate agent Tony C. London, a couple from the Norfolk area whose marriage license was denied. In addition, Mary Townley and Carol Schall, a couple from the metro Richmond area, have joined the suit as co-plaintiffs.

    U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen promised a decision on the state gay marriage ban “soon.” Lawyers on both sides have said they would appeal any loss to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the New York Times writes that if the ban was struck down in Virginia and the ruling upheld by the Court of Appeals, any amendments that limit the definition of marriage to between a man and a woman would likely be repealed in the other states of the Fourth Circuit, which include West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

    The post Challenge to Virginia marriage ban brought to federal court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Extreme weather, like the drought that setttled over Texas in 2011 to 2012, takes a toll on rural communities. A new effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer resources for communities dealing with the negative effects of climate change. Photo by Sasika de Melker.

    Extreme weather, like the drought that setttled over Texas in 2011 to 2012, takes a toll on rural communities. A new effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer resources for communities dealing with the negative effects of climate change. Photo by Sasika de Melker.

    WASHINGTON — Aiming to help rural communities deal with climate change, the Obama administration is creating seven regional “climate hubs” that will serve as clearinghouses for information and outreach about extreme weather across the U.S.

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was to announce the new hubs Wednesday at the White House. The hubs fulfill one aspect of a broader climate change plan that President Barack Obama unveiled last year.

    Based at existing Agriculture Department facilities, the hubs aim to help farmers and rural communities fight climate change and adapt to weather changes. The hubs will assess local climate risks, such as drought and wildfire, then develop plans for dealing with them, such as improved irrigation techniques.

    Citing environmental changes such as longer fire seasons and intense droughts, the Agriculture Department said the hubs would help mitigate the unique implications that climate change poses for rural areas and the people who live there. The goal is to synchronize the federal government’s preparation and resources with what other entities, such as universities, tribal communities and state governments, are doing to prepare for shifting temperatures.

    The seven regional hubs will be housed in forest service stations or government research labs in Ames, Iowa; Durham, N.H.; Raleigh, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; El Reno, Okla.; Corvallis, Ore.; and Las Cruces, N.M. Three smaller, additional “sub-hubs” will be created in Houghton, Mich.; Davis, Calif.; and Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.

    The post New climate hubs aim to help communities cope with extreme weather appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    CVS Caremark will stop selling tobacco products in all of its CVS/pharmacy stores this year. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Calmon1

    CVS Caremark will stop selling tobacco products in all of its CVS/pharmacy stores this year. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Calmon1

    CVS/pharmacy stores across the country will cease the sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products by Oct. 1, parent company CVS Caremark announced this morning with the headline “This is the right thing to do.”

    “Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” said CVS Caremark’s president and CEO, Larry J. Merlo. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

    The decision will remove tobacco from approximately 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores and is expected to cost the company around $2 billion in yearly revenues. The company claims, however, in a press release that they have “identified incremental opportunities that are expected to offset the profitability impact.”

    What these offsets will entail is unclear, but CVS’s chief medical officer Troyen Brennan believes that dropping tobacco will give the chain a “competitive advantage” when it comes to making deals with physicians, according to Forbes.

    Also, CVS says they will launch a program later this spring to help customers quit smoking.

    How much will this impact the company’s profits? Forbes says that it’s up in the air:

    “The $2 billion in annual sales lost is only 1.6% of total revenue. In turn, CVS says that this will pressure earnings by 17 cents per share, or 40%, on an annual basis. But because the removal won’t have fully happened until October, that will only hit this year’s earnings by 6 to 9 cents per share. And CVS says it can make up those costs, maintaining its guidance, although that earnings coverage has to come from somewhere. The company is making a bold bet on rebranding itself as being not just a store, but a healthcare company.”

    President Obama lauded the move in a statement, saying that “today’s decision will help advance my Administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs – ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.”

    For more on the country’s cigarette habits, watch Judy Woodruff’s conversation with the FDA’s Kathy Crosby about a new ad campaign that hopes to curb teen smoking, which aired Tuesday on the PBS NewsHour. Also, Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak spoke to Hari Sreenivasan on PBS NewsHour Weekend in January about the state of smoking in America.

    The post CVS pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products by October appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user ep_jhu

    Photo by Flickr user ep_jhu

    Ten rival pharmaceutical companies have joined forces with the National Institutes of Health in a new initiative to research Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The unlikely pact between the competing firms — which includes big names like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — will allow them to pool their resources and accelerate the discovery of new treatments for the diseases.

    The five-year-long, $230 million collaboration, called the Accelerating Medicines Partnership, brings the companies and the NIH together with a variety of non-profit organizations who will help fund the research. NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins believes the partnership serves as a key example of how the biomedical community must come together in order to develop better treatments.

    “Currently, we are investing a great deal of money and time in avenues with high failure rates, while patients and their families wait. All sectors of the biomedical enterprise agree that new approaches are sorely needed,” Dr. Francis said in a statement. “But this challenge is beyond the scope of any one of us and it’s time to work together in new ways to increase our collective odds of success. We believe this partnership is an important first step and represents the most sweeping effort to date to tackle this vital issue.”

    A groundbreaking feature of the initiative is that all of the information gleaned from the research will be made available to the public. This will allow anyone to use the data for their own experiments. David Wholley, director of research partnerships of the Foundation for the NIH, says the game will change once the findings are released:

    “The moment the project results are out,” Wholley says, “all-out competition resumes to develop the winning drug. And that’s what the patients want.”

    The post Drug companies team up with NIH to develop new treatments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Infographic by TheStreet

    Infographic by TheStreet

    Even as the use and price of Bitcoin has increased, 76 percent of Americans are still unfamiliar with the digital currency and nearly 80 percent of consumers have never and would never consider using an alternative currency. That’s according to a nationwide survey from TheStreet.

    Also noteworthy is the age breakdown of American public opinion of Bitcoin. Thirty-eight percent of Americans think that Bitcoin hurts the U.S. dollar. But when asked differently, broken down by age, it appears that younger folks have a much more positive view of the alternative currency. Among 18-24 year olds, 57 percent think Bitcoin helps the global economy compared to 14 percent of those over 65.

    While 80 percent of Americans would prefer to have gold over Bitcoin, not surprisingly, the percentage of younger people who would rather own Bitcoin (15 percent) is higher than the percentage of older people who feel the same way (4 percent).

    In October, Making Sense looked at the rise of Bitcoin’s mainstream appeal and who exactly is using the coin.

    [Watch Video]

    The post Most Americans unfamiliar with and won’t use Bitcoin appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video still by PBS NewsHour

    Video still by PBS NewsHour

    Syria on Wednesday failed to meet yet another deadline in the handover of its chemical weapons arsenal.

    The internationally brokered disarmament agreement is now several weeks behind schedule, threatening an established June 30 deadline.

    The Syrian government was to entirely surrender its weapons stockpile under mandate of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, by February 5.

    To date, Syria has relinquished less than five percent of the complete stockpile, sending only two shipments so far.

    The weapons deal was reached after a diplomatic row between the United States and Russia last October, sidelining U.S. threats of a missile strike against government targets in Syria. The military threats followed international cries for action in the fallout of a massive chemical strike in the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds.

    Russia announced Tuesday that ally Damascus would ship more chemical weapons soon.

    But Western diplomats see no indication of movement. Last week, the OPCW said Syria must “pick up the pace.”

    “Ways and means must be found to establish continuity and predictability of shipments to assure States Parties that the program, while delayed, is not deferred,” said OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü.

    There have been no weapons shipments since January 27.

    In an interview with Syrian state television on Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad said the United States was to blame for the delay because of its “support for terrorists” who are blocking weapons transports to the port city of Latakia.

    Faisal said Syria would comply with the June 30 deadline.

    The post Syria misses deadline for chemical weapons handover appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters in Madrid rally against Russian anti-gay laws in August, in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. On Wednesday U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor AT&T published a blog condemning the Russian law. Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Protesters in Madrid rally against Russian anti-gay laws in August, in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. On Wednesday U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor AT&T published a blog condemning the Russian law. Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images


    Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assurances that gay and lesbian athletes and fans should feel welcome in Sochi, human rights groups continue to voice concerns about the anti-gay propaganda law Putin signed last July.

    Human Rights Watch recently released a video highlighting the violence that gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people are subjected to in Russia. The video accompanied an HRW report explaining that members of the Russian LGBT community have been “attacked, abducted, beaten, harassed, threatened and psychologically abused” in public places in multiple Russian cities. HRW says that many victims are afraid to report the attacks due to a lack of action on the part of Russian police and fear of further harassment.

    Another human rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, announced today that they will be closely following NBC’s reporting of LGBT issues in Russia during the network’s 17-day coverage of the Winter Olympic Games, with daily reports being posted at HRC.org/Russia. According to HRC, NBC has already committed to reporting on the daily harassment, discrimination and violence LGBT Russians are subjected to.

    HRC has also reached out to the corporate sponsors of the International Olympic Committee, the IOC, urging them to “act now to … halt the rising tide of discrimination, harassment and threats against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.” HRC President Chad Griffin called on sponsors such as Coca-Cola, GE and McDonalds to denounce the violence against the LGBT community in Russia, use their marketing resources to build awareness of LGBT equality and urge the IOC to reject future bids from countries that have laws restricting the freedom of LGBT citizens and their supporters.

    U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors are also speaking out, with AT&T condemning the Russian law Wednesday in a blog post. In response to HRC’s open letter to IOC sponsors, the telecommunications giant said that they “support HRC’s principles and … stand against Russia’s anti-LGBT law.” AT&T is not an IOC sponsor.

    The post Human rights groups urge NBC, Olympic sponsors to shine light on LGBT hostility in Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Being an adjunct isn't what most part-time university faculty had in mind when they envisioned being a professor. Photo by Marlboro College Graduate School.

    Being an adjunct isn’t what most part-time university faculty had in mind when they envisioned being a professor. Photo by Marlboro College Graduate School.

    Adjunct professors now make up half of all college faculties, and 76 percent of instructional positions are filled on a contingent basis, according to the American Association of University Professors’ annual report on the “economic status of the profession.” There’s no starker way to consider adjuncts’ economic status than to hear that they’re paid an average of $2,000-$3,000 per class, with few to no benefits. At SUNY New Paltz, for example, between 1979 and 2008, adjunct pay has fallen 49 percent, while salaries for college presidents have increased 35 percent. The plight of adjuncts — what we’re calling “adjunctivitis” — is the subject on our upcoming Making Sense report, slated to air on the NewsHour Wednesday.

    One of the adjuncts in the broadcast segment is Arik Greenberg, who teaches theology at Loyola Marymount University. He’s been active in the movement to unionize adjuncts, and, at the invitation of the Service Employees International Union and the New Faculty Majority Foundation, recently took his case to the Rayburn building in Washington, DC, where he briefed congressional staffers on the working conditions of these part-time faculty. We wanted to share some adjuncts’ more personal struggles with our readers, and Greenberg was willing to adapt his testimony for the Making Sense page.

    Arik Greenberg: I am an adjunct professor of theology at Loyola Marymount University, a major, private U.S. university. I have worked there for over 11 years, teaching consistently almost every semester. Despite the fact that I have the same credentials as my tenured colleagues, there is no opportunity for advancement. There are no full-time tenure-line positions that have opened or been established in my particular discipline at LMU for many years. However, they always seem to have more than enough classes that need to be taught in those very same disciplines, so they hire numerous part-timers to teach them.

    As adjunct faculty members, we receive no benefits of any sort. I have never received a merit-based raise or a “promotion” (whatever that is), only the occasional cost-of-living adjustments that everyone else at LMU receives every few years. I have no job security, no assurance of academic freedom, no dedicated office space other than a small designated room that I share with four to five other adjuncts. I am also institutionally ineligible for the grants and professional development monies that tenure-line faculty have access to.

    Working numerous jobs, some in the classroom and some in other segments of higher education, such as consulting and low level administrative work for small startup colleges, I have no time to contribute to research and publication in my chosen field. While I have done my best to publish, that part of my dossier is underdeveloped compared to others who hold tenure-line jobs. Their positions allow them to devote time to this; they are paid to do so. But when I should be researching and writing, I have to drive to another job. It has been this way with me for years. So even if a tenure-line job were to arise that I am eligible for, that gap in my dossier would hold me back, even though I have over a decade of highly successful teaching experience.

    And even though I give my all to my teaching, my ability to grade and prepare for classes in a timely manner is hindered by the fact that I have to rush to another job. I could be offering more office hours or spending more time developing more effective courses and teaching methods.

    Almost immediately after I first began teaching at my school, they hired me for a short-term “visiting” position, which was full-time, non-tenure track. But after two years of this full-time position, they deliberately let my contract lapse so that they would not be in danger of my suing them for tenure — a risk that universities face when employing a short-term contract employee for several consecutive years in a full-time position. This is common practice at our school and elsewhere.

    But there was no evidence of my incompetence or lack of excellence in teaching. I had rave reviews from all my students and had wonderful relationships with all my colleagues, several of whom supported my candidacy for a full-time, tenure-track position. In fact, as evidence of my demonstrated prowess, after a short while they brought me back as a part-timer, and I have been employed there every semester since as an adjunct lecturer. I’m good enough to teach their students every semester for many years, but I’m not good enough to hire permanently?

    After taking out nearly $140,000 in student loans to pay for grad school, and after years of financial hardship deferments, accrued interest has brought these loans to over $190,000. And on an adjunct lecturer’s salary, even augmented with other side jobs, I can neither support my family nor pay my student loans. My wife and I cannot afford to raise a child on our combined income, so we have waited to raise a family. Now at the age of 43, it may be too late.

    And when my parents became ill, I couldn’t afford to move them in with me, arrange proper medical care or take enough family leave to be at my father’s side when he died. With the massive debts that my parents have left me, I risk losing the family home that I grew up in — that my grandfather built for us with his own hands — all because I am living on part-time wages.

    Now that my parents are gone, I want to honor them by helping to change academia for the better. University administrations have failed to safeguard their hallowed halls against greed and the service of short-term savings, going the way of big business. And the accrediting bodies have failed to guide and censure them as well. If this situation continues unchecked, it will signal the destruction and disintegration of higher education as we know it, though many tenured faculty still do not recognize the inevitable, morbid outcome if this current trend is not immediately reversed.

    I have no intention of letting that happen. My father was a grade school teacher. And he used to say that if not for the unions, teachers would have starved. Now, as an adjunct, I am experiencing what it would have been like for grade school teachers to be unsupported by the unions.

    There is a growing movement of adjuncts who are willing to stand together to stem the tide of the avalanche. So when the union came to our campus in the fall of 2013, I took out my lucky pen and asked, “Where do I sign?” Our grassroots movement will prove to be the best thing that happened to higher education since the advent of the erstwhile tenure model, despite the common public opinion about unions fostering greed and mediocrity.

    I’m fully educated; I stayed in school. Two masters and a Ph.D. I’ve published a book. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve followed the rules to realize the American dream, but I am now living the American nightmare. And I am not alone in this. I’m ready to work. All I want to do is contribute to the scholarship in my field and to teach my students effectively and passionately. But I need to earn a decent wage in order to do so.

    The post How one professor’s American dream — teaching — turned into the American nightmare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Director Woody Allen attends “The Revisionist” opening night on Feb. 28, 2013, in New York City. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

    Director Woody Allen attends “The Revisionist” opening night on Feb. 28, 2013, in New York City. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

    The New York Times said Wednesday it may publish an op-ed by famed movie maker Woody Allen that responds to allegations of sexual assault from Dylan Farrow, his adopted daughter.

    Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that Allen has asked for a chance to respond to the allegations and editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal reportedly told Allen to send the column. The newspaper does not usually publish direct responses to columns as full op-eds, Rosenthal said.

    “In this case, it was so personal, we thought that we should,” Rosenthal said, adding the piece could appear within the next few days.

    On Saturday, the Times published “An Open Letter from Dylan Farrow,” which included her account of the alleged abuse.

    “Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse,” she wrote.

    In a statement Sunday, Allen’s spokeswoman Leslee Dart wrote that Allen called the allegations “untrue and disgraceful.”

    The post Times may publish Woody Allen’s rebuttal to Dylan Farrow appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sochi OlympicsTwo U.S Navy ships have entered the Black Sea in the event that American athletes need to be evacuated from the Sochi games.

    Two U.S. Navy ships entered the Black Sea Wednesday as part of a Pentagon security plan ahead of the Sochi Olympics. The ships will be on standby to assist in the evacuation of American athletes and spectators in the event that threats are made to the 2014 Games.

    The U.S.S. Mount Whitney arrived Wednesday morning with a crew of 300, and the U.S.S. Taylor is slated to arrive later in the day with another 200 sailors.

    Navy officials said the ship will “perform routine operations” while on standby.

    Islamist separatist militants from Russia’s North Caucasus region have vowed to attack the Games. Russia suffered two deadly suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd last December.

    Pentagon officials have expressed willingness to help Russia if necessary, but Moscow has made no request for military backup so far and has promised that the Sochi events will be safe.

    The post U.S. Navy warships enter Black Sea ahead of Sochi Games appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Promotional still from Charlie Chaplin's 1952 film "Limelight"

    66 years later, you’ll finally get to read Charlie Chaplin’s novel. Publicity still by United Artists.”

    The world has known Charlie Chaplin the actor, director, composer and comedian. Soon, you’ll be able to experience Chaplin the novelist for the first time — while getting a look inside the actor’s mind.

    “Footlights,” the only prose fiction ever written by the legendary actor, will soon be made public after remaining unpublished for almost 66 years. The 1948 34,000-word novella, which Chaplin later turned into a script for his 1952 film “Limelight,” depicts a once famous-turned-washed up stage clown named Calvero, who saves a dancer from suicide — an act that inspires him to attempt a comeback with her encouragement.

    Chaplin’s Calvero — written during a time when the U.S. government accused the comedic actor of being a communist sympathizer — reflected Chaplin’s state of mind as his film career was dwindling and the American public had turned against him:

    “A great star once … hissed off the stage, and then I realized, that could happen to me. You know, as a comedian gets older and loses his exuberance, he has to think analytically about his work – that is, if he wants to continue in the funny business … And about the audience, then I began to fear them … ruthless, unpredictable … like a monster without a head; you never know which way it’s going to turn – it can be prodded in any direction. That’s why I had to take a drink before I could face them. It got to be torture every performance. I never really liked drink, but I couldn’t be funny without it, and the more I drank” he shrugged. ” … well, it became a vicious circle.”

    Chaplin’s biographer Robinson compiled the novella from drafts found during extensive Chaplin archive digitization at the Italian film restoration institute Cineteca di Bologna. Cineteca will publish “Footlights” as part of a larger book called “The World of Limelight,” also compiled by Robinson.

    The post Charlie Chaplin’s only novel to see ‘light’ of day after six decades appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    [Watch Video]

    Irish writer Roddy Doyle reads an excerpt from his latest novel “The Guts.” Doyle spoke with chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown. That conversation airs Wednesday night on the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Roddy Doyle reads an excerpt from ‘The Guts’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    othernews

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Millions of winter-weary Americans got no relief today. Instead, a new system knocked out power, grounded flights and sent cars careening.

    The second major storm this week dumped snow, sleet and freezing rain from the Midwest to New England, causing delays for thousands of commuters at airports and on the road.

    WOMAN: I’m waiting for the summer. I have had enough. Please, no more snow.

    GWEN IFILL: More than a million homes and businesses lost power, most of them in Pennsylvania. And the governors of New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency.

    In the Midwest, Indianapolis began trying to dig out from eight inches of snow that fell Tuesday. At one point, a Southwest jet arriving in Kansas City, Mo., had to be towed off a snowbound runway.

    MAN: I came here because I thought I would be going south and it would be warmer. And it’s really not.

    GWEN IFILL: Even so, many judged it safe enough to take to the streets.

    RYAN CURTIS, traveler: The roads aren’t bad. I mean, if you have got four-wheel drive, you can get around in this.

    GWEN IFILL: Others found out the hard way just how dangerous the roads could be.

    LT. JERRY WILLIAMS, Indiana State Police: We have had a situation where people thought that, because they were in a four-wheel drive vehicle, that they were in invincible.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, more and more cities and counties reported they’re running short on rock salt and the funds to pay for street plowing and cleanup.

    School districts have their own troubles: Many are running out of snow days, which may force them to make up the lost time when the weather finally warms up.

    The nation’s second largest drugstore chain will no longer sell tobacco products beginning in October. CVS made the announcement today, citing its new emphasis on working with doctors and hospitals to improve public health. We will explore the health and business implications of that decision right after the news summary.

    The United Nations has documented new horror in the Syrian civil war, the torture and killing of children. A U.N. report, released overnight, charges government forces have tortured children they suspect of having ties to rebel groups. Some were as young as 10 years old. It also accuses the rebels of executing some children and recruiting others to fight.

    Meanwhile, the Syrian government missed another deadline today for destroying its chemical weapons. The regime was to have handed over its entire arsenal by now. Instead, U.S. officials estimate only a fraction have actually been surrendered.

    Still, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today the agreement is still alive.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: We have heard from the Russian government that it is their expectation that the Assad regime will be delivering a substantial portion of its chemical weapons supplies and equipment in the relatively near future.

    GWEN IFILL: The Syrian foreign minister insisted today his government intends to meet the June 30 deadline to complete the process.

    In Iraq, multiple bombings rocked Baghdad today, killing at least 34 people and wounding scores more. The worst was near the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, where two car bombs exploded. Other bombs hit commercial districts, and a suicide attacker blew himself up near the entrance to the Green Zone that houses foreign embassies.

    The U.S. has sharply reduced drone strikes in Pakistan, as the government there seeks peace talks with the Taliban. The Washington Post reported today, Pakistani officials asked for restraint, and the lull began in December. The report said the Obama administration will still carry out strikes against senior al-Qaida targets if the opportunity arises.

    A United Nations committee lambasted the Vatican today over its handling of priests who sexually abused children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child condemned what it called the Roman Catholic Church’s code of silence. It demanded disclosure of all files on pedophile clergy and bishops who concealed their crimes.

    KIRSTEN SANDBERG, U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child: The Holy See has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators. The Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests.

    GWEN IFILL: The committee also criticized church teachings against homosexuality, contraception and abortion. The Vatican shot back that the report is distorted, and it accused the U.N. panel of interfering with religious freedom. We will take a closer look at the report, and the response, later in the program.

    Google agreed today to display competitors’ links more prominently in Europe to settle a major antitrust action. The search giant entered a deal with the European Union, ending a three-year investigation, and avoiding a fine of up to $5 billion. Google has a 90 percent market share in Europe, compared with about 70 percent in the U.S.

    Wall Street spent the day looking for direction and, mostly, didn’t find any. The Dow Jones industrial average lost five points to close at 15,440. The Nasdaq fell almost 20 points to close at 4,011.

    The Olympic torch arrived in Sochi, Russia, today setting the stage for the Winter Games to open on Friday. Spectators lined the streets to watch the flame paraded through the host city. It was one of the last legs on a nearly 40,000-mile trip that’s taken the torch around the world, underwater, and even into space.

    Also today, the Homeland Security Department warned airlines flying to Russia that terror groups might try to smuggle explosives on board in toothpaste tubes. There were no other details.

    The post News Wrap: UN report details Syrian civil war child abuses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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