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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: A new film explores the theme of war and art, the quest to save great works of art during World War II.

    Jeffrey Brown recently sat down with the author of the book that the movie is based on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was systematic looting on a huge scale: Nazis targeting art works from all over Europe. One response came from a small and in many ways unlikely group that came to be called the Monuments Men.

    Robert Edsel told their story in his 2009 book by that name. He continued the tale in “Saving Italy,” which came out last year. And he joins us now.

    Welcome to you.

    ROBERT EDSEL, Author, “The Monuments Men”: Thank you, Jeff.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For those who don’t know, remind us, what were the Monuments Men?

    ROBERT EDSEL: This is a group of middle-aged museum directors, curators, art historians, men and women, who walked away from having life made.

    Many had families. Some had kids. And they put on a military uniform to become a new kind of soldier during World War II, one charged with saving, rather than destroying. It was an incredible effort, never been done before or since, and their efforts in saving some five million cultural objects from theft and destruction during World War II stands.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Because the scale of the looting, as I said, was quite, quite — it was systematic and huge.

    ROBERT EDSEL: It was.

    And we live with the altered legacy today because there’s still hundreds of thousands of cultural treasures missing. Our effort with The Monuments Men Foundation continues to try and illuminate the path home for some of these missing objects.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I referred to them as an unlikely group. Right? Tell us a little bit about some of the individuals.

    ROBERT EDSEL: Well, you have kind of the father of the idea, George Stout, who’s a pioneer in the conservation of works of art, who works at the Harvard Fogg Museum.

    Stout’s so old, he fought the last year of World War I, and has the vision to see that the United States is going to be drawn into another war and the great risk being that, in the process of trying to defeat Nazism, we destroy so much of Western Civilization’s heritage unintentionally.

    So he pursues this idea. It includes people like Jim Rorimer, who becomes the sixth director of Metropolitan Museum of Art after the war, Lincoln Kirstein, who is the founder of the New York City Ballet. And there are women involved, one of whom is one of the great heroines of World War II, a lady named Rose Valland, who worked for four years under the eyes of the Nazis, keeping information and records of their looting activities.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And were they — we referred to systematic looting. How systematic were they able to be? They were feeling their way to figure this out. Right?

    ROBERT EDSEL: Yes, you’re right.

    At the beginning, the focus of the monuments wasn’t as art detectives, as it later would become. It was to try and prevent Allied damage to churches and monuments.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From aerial bombing.

    ROBERT EDSEL: From aerial bombing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, because that’s important to say, right? This isn’t just about the combat, the ground war. This was about the aerial bombing.

    ROBERT EDSEL: Absolutely right.

    And in “Saving Italy,” I start the book off describing how a British bomb landed 88 feet away from the building housing Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, and obliterates the east wall of the building. The roof collapses. And the painting is exposed to the elements for almost two years before it can all be reassembled, so, you know, a very, very close call in the case of something that we all know about.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you document — there are a lot of successes. Where — what did they succeed at? What did they — what were they not able to do?

    ROBERT EDSEL: Well, the — I think the monuments officers succeeded in so many ways.

    I mean, these are men and women that weren’t just sitting in an office somewhere. They were out there in combat. Two monuments officers were killed in Northern Europe in the process of trying to recover works of art.

    I suppose the biggest mistake or shortcoming was that the Army wanted to get out of this restitution business and wanted to close down their effort. The world had moved on. A cold war was upon us. And yet we know today from recent announcements and ongoing discoveries, some not so dramatic, that there are still many, many works of art and cultural treasures missing, and it’s one of the ongoing legacies that we’re trying to solve.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have written two books on this. And I know you have devoted a lot of your life and many years, recent years. What was it like to see it put on film, made into a film?

    ROBERT EDSEL: Well, it’s a pinch-me moment.

    You have a hope that at some point in time, others will see the bigness of this story and the great dramatic element to it to make a feature film of it. It seems remarkable that, all these years after the war, with the whole history of World War II movies that we have, that no one’s taken on the telling of this heroic group of men and women and the role that they had.

    George Clooney, to his great credit, and Grant Heslov, his business partner, had the vision to see that it is a great story and a dramatic story. And George thinks no small thoughts. They were willing to tackle it and invest some three years of their life in bringing it to the big screen.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you, finally, the problem of culture at risk or harmed in wars of course has not gone away.


    JEFFREY BROWN: We’re watching it in Syria. We’re watching it in many places.

    ROBERT EDSEL: Absolutely. You all report on it regularly.

    JEFFREY BROWN:  We do.

    ROBERT EDSEL: Syria, Mali. Cairo the other day, the effort to blow up the Egyptian police office ends up damaging the Islamic museum.

    So this is a problem that we’re going to have to live with. And I think, in the past, the history of the monuments officers and one of the reasons to honor their legacy is to reestablish the protection, the high bar for protection of cultural treasures. And the lessons that we need to know in the future reside there in the past.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Robert Edsel is author of “The Monuments Men” and “Saving Italy.”  Thanks so much.

    ROBERT EDSEL: Thank you, Jeff.

    The post Telling the story of ‘Monuments Men,’ soldiers who helped save Western civilization’s treasures appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Tom Brokaw spent 21 years as the anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News." He is currently a special correspondent for NBC News.

    Tom Brokaw spent 21 years as the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News.” He is currently a special correspondent for NBC News.

    Legendary broadcaster Tom Brokaw has been diagnosed with cancer, NBC announced Tuesday.

    Brokaw, who has worked at NBC News since 1966, said he and his physicians are “very encouraged” with the progress he is making. NBC reports he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a cancer affecting blood cells in bone marrow — after a visit to the Mayo Clinic in August.

    NBC’s report includes this statement from Brokaw:

    “With the exceptional support of my family, medical team and friends, I am very optimistic about the future and look forward to continuing my life, my work and adventures still to come.

    “I remain the luckiest guy I know.

    “I am very grateful for the interest in my condition but I also hope everyone understands I wish to keep this a private matter.”

    The post NBC’s Tom Brokaw diagnosed with cancer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that his administration would issue a reprieve on all death sentences. Photo by Flickr user Shawn Murphy

    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that his administration would issue a reprieve on all death sentences. Photo by Flickr user Shawn Murphy

    The death penalty will be suspended in Washington state for at least the next three years, first-term governor Jay Inslee announced Tuesday.

    “During my term, we will not be executing people,” Inslee said during a news conference. The governor stated that he intends to issue a reprieve whenever a case comes to his office throughout the remainder of his term. However, he was clear that the reprieve would only keep the inmate in prison — not pardon the individual or commute their sentence. “Nobody is getting out of prison,” Inslee said. “Period.”

    The governor’s decision came after he spent several months meeting with family members of victims, prosecutors and law enforcement, the AP reported. Other reasons for the governor’s declaration included high trial and appeal costs, the “apparent randomness” in whether or not prosecutors seek the death penalty and the questionable effectiveness of capital punishment as a crime deterrent, according to The Seattle Times.

    “Equal justice under the law is the state’s primary responsibility,” Inslee said, “and in death penalty cases, I’m not convinced equal justice is being served.”

    Inslee also said that he would support a permanent ban of the death penalty if the legislation was approved. Nine men are currently on Washington’s death row.

    Capital punishment is legal in Washington and 31 other states.

    H/T Zachary Treu

    The post Washington’s governor: ‘During my term, we will not be executing people’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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  • 02/11/14--17:45: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
  • The post Tuesday, February 11, 2014 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    What would Jim Lehrer do?

    That’s Steve Goldbloom’s mantra in PBS Digital Studios’ latest creation, “Everything But the News” — the show that gives you a real (or is it fake? No, it’s real. But wait, is it really?) behind-the-scenes look at the making of a PBS NewsHour segment.

    Episode one follows “cub reporter” and NewsHour alum Goldbloom as he makes his way through the throng of screaming fans at VidCon in Anaheim, Calif. There, he talks with the likes of YouTube stars Phil DeFranco (known best to the Internet world as Philly D) and uncovers one of NewsHour’s biggest downfalls: We talk. Too slow. For the Internet.

    It’s an outrage, really. The time we take for analysis and in-depth reports means we can’t match the supersonic speeds of YouTube superstars. Luckily, Goldbloom thinks he’s found a solution.

    “Everything But the News” airs on Wednesdays. No need to check your local listings since the show’s on YouTube, for viewers like you.

    The post PBS Digital Studios launches ‘Everything But the News’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    What can a glowing green worm can teach us about our immune systems? Researchers at MIT hope to find out. Photograph by Rebecca Jacobson/NewsHour

    What can a glowing green worm can teach us about our immune systems? Researchers at MIT hope to find out. Photograph by Rebecca Jacobson/NewsHour

    Long hours in the lab are the foundation of so many discoveries. PBS NewsHour recently launched a new series on basic research that tries to capture the excitement of those discoveries and the reasons why scientists have chosen their fields.

    We’ve reported on the search for dark matter and what microscopic worms can teach us about immunity. Now we want to hear from you.

    We want to know more about why students engaged in basic research have made that decision. What about it excites you? Frustrates you? Keeps you awake — or makes you want to stay awake — all night? Whether it’s an aspect of your research, your mice, your lab, your teammates, your professors, tell us — and show us — why it matters to you.

    Here’s how:

    • Show us in a 6-second Vine video and tag @NewsHour.
    • Share with us in an Instagram video and tag @NewsHour, or send us a direct message with your video.
    • Upload a short video to YouTube (no more than 1:00) and title it “Hey NewsHour, this is why I chose basic research.”

    We’ll post the best entries on the PBS NewsHour website. And if your video looks interesting, who knows, we may even come to your lab to visit and write a story about your research.

    Deadline is March 14.

    The post Science students, why did you choose basic research? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON (AP) — Must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills has cleared Congress for President Barack Obama’s signature.

    The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the “aye” votes came from Obama’s Democratic allies.

    But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally – held open for more than an hour – in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by tea party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas.

    The Senate’s top two Republicans – both facing tea party challenges in their GOP primaries this year – provided crucial momentum after a group of Republicans were clearly reluctant to walk the plank. Several other Republicans then switched their votes in solidarity.

    THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

    Must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills is on the brink or clearing Congress for President Barack Obama’s signature.

    Senate passage of the measure is guaranteed after the chamber voted 67-31 to advance the legislation over a filibuster hurdle insisted upon by Texas Republican Ted Cruz that forced five Republicans to vote to advance the legislation. A final vote is underway.

    The measure appeared in danger until the Senate’s top two Republicans – each facing a tea party challenge – cast aye votes. Several other Republicans then switched their votes to yes in solidarity.

    The legislation would permit the Treasury Department to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government’s borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

    THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

    Congress appears on track to send President Barack Obama must-do legislation to extend Treasury’s borrowing authority without any concessions from the White House.

    Senate leaders scheduled a vote Wednesday afternoon before an expected snowstorm hits the capital. The GOP-controlled House passed the measure Tuesday, 221-201, with Republicans supplying only a handful of votes.

    The measure would permit the Treasury Department to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government’s borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

    Quick action on the debt limit bill stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election, and Wednesday’s legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

    Republicans have been less confrontational after October’s 16-day partial government shutdown sent GOP poll numbers skidding and chastened the party’s tea party faction. Republicans have instead sought to focus voters’ attention on the implementation and effects of Obama’s health care law.

    The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills, including Social Security benefits, federal salaries, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers and interest on the accumulated debt. Congress has never failed to act to prevent a default on U.S. obligations, which most experts say would spook financial markets and spike interest rates.

    The measure is likely to squeak through the Senate, where most Republicans say any increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by cuts to the spiraling costs of costly benefit programs like Medicare.

    “We need some reform before we raise the debt ceiling. We need to demonstrate that we are taking steps that will reduce the accumulation of debt in the future,” said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Budget Committee. “And the president and the Democratic Senate have just flatly refused. So they’ve just said, `We’ll accept no restraint on spending’.”

    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a tea party favorite, forced the chamber to overcome a 60-vote filibuster threshold in order to pass the bill. That’s irking some Republicans since it’ll require at least five GOP votes to advance the bill.

    “I’m not going to talk about that,” said Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

    “In my view, every Republican should stand together against raising the debt ceiling without meaningful structural reforms to rein in our out of control spending,” Cruz said.

    Passage of the debt limit measure without any extraneous issues comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find a formula to pass a version of their own that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of an element of the health care law. But a sizable faction of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government’s borrowing abilities, which forced House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to turn to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to pass the measure on the strength of Democrats.

    The debt measure permits Treasury to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to handle next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they’re likely to insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts and other GOP agenda items, but for now at least, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent president being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way.

    “I think we will go back to the responsible way of making sure that our country does not default,” said Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

    Senate action Wednesday would safely clear the debt issue off of Washington’s plate weeks in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline set last week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The debt limit was reset to $17.2 trillion after a four-month suspension of the prior, $16.7 trillion limit expired last Friday. Lew promptly began employing accounting maneuvers to buy time for Congress to act.

    The post Senate passes debt limit bill for Obama appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Civilians wait to be evacuated by United Nations staff from the central Syrian city of Homs on Feb. 9, 2014. Photo by Bassel Tawil/AFP/Getty Images

    Civilians wait to be evacuated by United Nations staff from the central Syrian city of Homs on Feb. 9, 2014. Photo by Bassel Tawil/AFP/Getty Images

    For more than two years Syria has been in the midst of a civil war. The conflict has been in and out of the news since peaceful protests during the Arab Spring of 2011 triggered a violent backlash against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. In the new series “Trendlines,” PBS NewsHour and Al-Monitor examine the prospects of ending the civil war in “Syria After Geneva 2,” which premieres on the NewsHour website Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. EST.

    Before the debut of “Trendlines,” Ali Hashem, a contributor to Al-Mointor.com and chief correspondent for Al-Mayadeen TV network, Edward Dark, a Syrian columnist for Al-Monitor and Joshua Landis, director of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma will take questions during the weekly Twitter Chat on Feb. 13 from 1 to 2 p.m. EST. Tweet us questions using the #newshourchats or by leaving them in the comments below and join us on Twitter for the discussion or by watching the conversation below.

    The post Twitter Chat: Where does the conflict in Syria stand? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was found guilty Wednesday of 20 corruptions charges including bribery, wire fraud and conspiring to launder money.

    The guilty verdict concluded a seven-day trial of over 30 witnesses, including Nagin himself who strongly rejected accusations pinning him for exchanging city work contracts for personal gifts and favors. Nagin, who ran a granite countertop business with his two sons Jeremy and Jarin, claimed that the money his company received for city contracts were honest investments.

    But witnesses relayed Nagin’s long list of gifts, including tropical vacations and complimentary cell phone service.

    In his testimony, Nagin washed his hands clean of the contracting process and pointed to special selection committees who hired city contractors. But in distancing himself from the city’s contracting process, he deepened the resentment of New Orleans residents who viewed him as increasingly apathetic during his second term following Hurricane Katrina.

    After the jury read their verdicts, Nagin remained seated next to his wife Seletha while the courtroom cleared. Nagin remains free on bond until sentencing, which could be up to 20 years under federal guidelines.

    The post Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin found guilty of corruption appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Winter Storm

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    GWEN IFILL: There was no rest for the winter-weary across the South today. The latest storm to hit the region sent power outages heading toward the half-million mark.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The stinging sleet started falling in Georgia overnight, and by morning, everything was crusted with a coat of ice, just what many across the South were dreading.

    WOMAN: Getting ready for the ice, because we’re — that’s what we’re concerned with, not the snow.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Ice already was weighing down tree limbs and power lines, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in Georgia and elsewhere.

    And that number was expected to rise steadily. As the storm kept moving, freezing rain, sleet and snow were forecast to cover a wide swathe of the South, from west of the Mississippi, across Georgia and up the coast through the Carolinas.

    In North Carolina, black ice already was wreaking havoc on the roads, with cars in the Raleigh area spinning out.

    GOV. PAT MCCRORY, R-N.C.: Don’t put your stupid hat on at this point in time.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The state’s governor, Pat McCrory, warned residents to prepare now, not later.

    GOV. PAT MCCRORY: Right now is the time to get your batteries out, to get your flashlights out, and get warm clothing on. I hope we’re overprepared and underwhelmed by this storm. We are not anticipating to be underwhelmed by this storm. I hope the forecasters are wrong, but that map doesn’t show they’re wrong at this point in time. It’s coming.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Snow accumulations were expected to range from an inch all the way up to a foot-and-a-half in some places. In Alabama, the last round of storms forced officials to buy more salt and spreaders to deal with the snow.

    MAN: I think we’re as well-prepared as a small Southern town could be for weather like this. And there are predictions that it will get worse before it gets better still.

    KWAME HOLMAN: The warnings sent people to grocery stores in droves to stock up on the basics.

    WOMAN: I have just got bread, cereal, crackers, soup, just things that you can make pretty easily.

    KWAME HOLMAN: And for air travelers, the storm meant widespread cancellations, more than 3,000 today alone, and the number expected to be even higher tomorrow.

    GWEN IFILL: Another major storm struck parts of Great Britain, fueling more of the extreme flooding that began a month ago. The storm pummeled Southern England with heavy rains and winds gusting over 100 miles an hour. It added more misery in a region where hundreds of homes are inundated and more are threatened by the River Thames overflowing its banks.

    Under growing pressure, Prime Minister David Cameron vowed today to spare no expense on recovery.

    DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: When it comes to this relief effort, money is no object. We will spend what is necessary to help families, to help people, to help communities get through this very difficult time.

    I have to say, things are likely to get worse before they get better because of the very high levels of rainfall we have seen, and we see very serious high winds as we speak here in this house today. But whatever can be done to help will be done.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s already estimated the flood damage will top $800 million.

    The weather’s become an issue at the Winter Olympics as well. It was 63 degrees in Sochi today, so warm and sunny that people hit the beach, sunbathing. Some even went swimming in the Black Sea. As for the results, a spoiler alert: Tune out for a moment, if you don’t want to know what happened just yet.

    In snowboarding, American Kaitlyn Farrington captured the women’s halfpipe. And in a first, skiers from Switzerland and Slovenia tied for the gold in the women’s downhill. We will get more on the Games later in the program.

    A study 25 years in the making has cast new doubt on the value of mammograms. Canadian researchers studied nearly 90,000 women. They reported today in the British journal “BMJ” that the screening had no effect on breast cancer death rates. We will take a closer look right after this news summary.

    The Senate gave final approval today to raising the national debt ceiling, after Republican leaders cast crucial votes to overcome a filibuster. The measure passed the House yesterday. Also today, the Senate followed the House’s lead and repealed cuts in cost-of-living adjustments for military retirees.

    President Obama has signed an executive order raising the minimum wage on federal contracts. At today’s White House ceremony, he officially hiked the wage from $7.25 cents an hour to $10.10. A group of minimum wage workers joined him for the occasion.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let’s not forgot, not only is it good for the economy; it’s the right thing to do. There’s a simple moral principle at stake.


    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you take responsibility and you work as hard as these folks work, you work full-time, you shouldn’t be living in poverty, not in America. We believe that.


    GWEN IFILL: The increase affects several hundred thousand federal contract workers, out of more than 2 million.

    Another one million people enrolled for health care coverage last month under the Affordable Care Act. That brings total enrollment to 3.3 million. The Obama administration originally hoped to sign up seven million by the end of March.

    In Afghanistan, a firefight broke out today between NATO troops and Afghan soldiers, killing two from each side. Officials said it happened in a province east of Kabul after a heated argument turned violent. It was unclear what triggered the argument.

    North and South Korea have held their first high-level talks in seven years. Delegates from the communist state crossed the demarcation line to meet with their South Korean counterparts on the armed border. The meeting came at the North’s request, but no agenda was disclosed.

    The opposing sides in the Syrian peace talks stalled again today. So far, the Assad government and the opposition Syrian National Coalition have failed even to agree on the agenda. The SNC appealed today to Russia to help force a political transition, which the regime rejected out of hand.

    LOUAY SAFI, Spokesman, Syrian National Coalition (through translator): This is what we are demanding from Russia, to respect the Syrian people and to stand with them and to prevent any effort to disable a political solution and to go into side negotiations that are not in the interests of the Syrian people.

    FAISAL AL MEKDAD, Deputy Foreign Minister, Syria: They misused the agenda, started with raising the issue of the transitional government, in contradiction with the main priorities as identified by the Geneva I paper.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, the opposition said nearly 5,000 people have been killed in the three-week period since peace talks began last month.

    Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was convicted today on 20 counts of taking bribes, free trips and other gifts from contractors. A federal jury found that, in return, he steered them millions of dollars in city work. Nagin was mayor during Hurricane Katrina. He left office in 2010.

    Auto giant Toyota is recalling 1.9 million of its Prius hybrids made since March of 2009. The company says a software glitch can cause the vehicles to stall. The recall affects more than 700,000 cars in North America.

    Wall Street mostly idled today after a four-day rally. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 31 points to close below 15964. The Nasdaq rose 10 points to close at 4201.

    Pioneering TV comedian Sid Caesar died today at his home in Los Angeles. He was best known for “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar’s Hour” in the 1950s. His work with Imogene Coca in dozens of sketches virtually created comedy on TV. A number of writers on those shows, including Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen, went on to even greater fame. Sid Caesar was 91 years old.

    The post News Wrap: Winter storm knocks out power, leaves South under a layer of ice appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Heather Charles/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s new fuel in the long-running debate about the value of mammograms for some women, and whether too many are being overdiagnosed.

    The research, done over more than two decades, found annual screenings didn’t reduce the risk of death among women between the ages of 40 and 59. It also found more than 20 percent of breast cancers detected through those mammograms would have been found otherwise and were not life-threatening.

    The study comes amid questions about who should be screened and how frequently. A government panel recommended most women under 50 could skip yearly mammograms. But several professional societies recommend them for women 40 and above.

    We assess these latest findings with Dr. Gilbert Welch of the Dartmouth Institute. He writes about these issues. He’s the author of “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health.”  And Dr. Carol Lee of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, she’s on the Breast Imaging Committee of the American College of Radiology, which criticized the study.

    Welcome to you both to the NewsHour.

    Dr. Welch, to you first. In brief, what did this study find?

    DR. GILBERT WELCH, The Dartmouth Institute: Well, Judy, I think there’s two things that are really important about this study.

    And first is that it’s about screening mammography, not diagnostic mammography. And a diagnostic mammogram is when a woman finds a new breast lump, goes to a doctor, and her doctor orders a mammogram to figure out what the lump is.

    We all agree diagnostic mammography is a useful tool. The second thing to know about the study is that it compared mammography plus a very careful physical exam done by nurses to a group that just got the careful physical exam. So, in other words, it was testing the value of finding things that could not be felt, really small abnormalities.

    And that’s its major finding, that there’s no point in finding the really small abnormalities that mammography can find. And that’s a very important thing for everyone to recognize.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, beyond that, it found that there were problems with these screening mammograms?

    DR. GILBERT WELCH: Absolutely.

    Screening, all screening tests come with some potential for benefit, but they also come with some known harms. And the most familiar to people is the problem of false alarms, worrisome findings that have to go through biopsy and multiple tests before they’re put at rest, or maybe they are never put at rest. You’re just told, you don’t have cancer but you’re still abnormal.

    But there’s also this new problem we’re recognizing, which is finding cancers that will ultimately never matter to the patients. And we call that overdiagnosis. It’s an unusual idea, where you have cellular abnormalities that meet the pathologic definition of cancer, and yet they never go forward. They never grow. They regress. They disappear.

    And yet we don’t know which ones they are, so we end up treating everybody. And so one of the side effects of screening mammography is, it leads more women to be treated for cancer, some of whom didn’t need treatment in the first place. And this study, a long-term follow-up with a randomized trial of screening, is the best way to reduce how often that happens.

    And as you said in your open, about one in five invasive breast cancers detected by mammography turn out to be overdiagnosed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s take these one at the time.

    Let me turn to you, Dr. Carol Lee, because, as we said, the American College of Radiology critical of this study. What about the first finding, that screening mammographies overall don’t have a benefit?

    DR. CAROL LEE, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Well, this study wasn’t actually a new study. This was just an update of a study that was first reported about nearly 25 years ago that was — that showed no benefit 25 years ago, and so it’s not surprising that it showed no benefit on the updated analysis.

    I think what needs to be recognized is that there are a number of other large randomized prospective studies of screening mammography that do indeed show a benefit in terms of reducing deaths from breast cancer among women who get screened — screening mammography.

    So this is just one study that was really an outlier. And there were several criticisms of the study in terms of how it was designed, how it was conducted 25 years ago, and those same problems were not corrected in the re-analysis, obviously. And so I’m not surprised that these results were similar.

    I think it’s very important for women to understand that there are a number of other studies that do show decreased deaths among women who get screened.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me turn back to Dr. Welch.

    And it’s a lot to ask you to address, but, number one, her reference to the fact that there’s a problem with the methodology…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: …, and number two, the fact that there are many other studies that don’t find these problems.

    DR. GILBERT WELCH: Yes, let’s deal with those one at a time.

    And there’s been a long history by very few people to try to discredit this study, in part because they don’t like the result. And the problem has been that they are suggesting that the randomization wasn’t good, that somehow sicker patients got in the mammography group. And the long-term follow-up actually proves that is not right.

    In fact, it’s very hard to select 80,000 people into two groups purposefully and then get exactly the same death rate in each year in each group. That’s actually a pretty good finding that this was a very well-randomized study.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask Dr. Lee to respond to that point.


    DR. CAROL LEE: Well, actually, there were an excess of advanced breast cancers in the screening arm of the trial early on, suggesting that more women with preexisting advanced breast cancers got placed into the screening arm of the study, as compared to the control arm.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you want to respond to that, Dr. Welch?

    DR. GILBERT WELCH: Well, I think the simplest thing to say is to suggest everyone look at figure two in the article, which is prima facie evidence that you had pretty good randomization.

    And 25 years later, each year, the death rate in the two groups is exactly the same. That’s a pretty good argument for randomization.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Dr. Welch, then what about the other point that she made, though, that there are many other studies that show there is a benefit?

    DR. GILBERT WELCH: There are not — we should be clear, there are not many other studies. Depending on how you count, there are eight or nine randomized trials of screening mammography.

    There’s no study like this. And that’s why I started to be clear with what the comparison was. The comparison was in the intervention group. It was a mammogram, a screening mammogram, plus this very careful physical exam. No other study did that.

    The control is just the physical exam. So what is being tested here is the question of, what is the value of finding small abnormalities?  And that’s the important lesson.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, let’s…

    DR. GILBERT WELCH: There’s no value to it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

    And, Dr. Lee, do you want to respond there that?  And then I have a final question for both of you.

    DR. CAROL LEE: Yes, I do. I do.

    It’s been shown that the death rate from breast cancer in this country has declined, whereas it had been rising steadily up until the mid-’80s. It declined with the introduction of regular screening mammography. And since the mid-80′s, the death rate in this country from breast cancer has been reduced by about 30 percent.

    Now, some people will argue that that is because of improvements in treatment. But we know, all of us who take care of women with breast cancer know that it is much more likely that treatment will be successful in achieving a cure when the cancers are caught early in their most treatable stage, than as opposed to when they are advanced and have spread, and mammography can achieve that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just finally ask both of you, what should women listening to this debate take away from this?  How should they think about mammography going forward, Dr. Welch?

    DR. GILBERT WELCH: I would say that they should take away there’s a lot of professional disagreement. And I think that, in itself, contains some information.

    We don’t disagree about the value of treating really high blood pressure. The professional disagreement tells you that this is a really close call. And I’m not suggesting women shouldn’t have mammograms. They should just have the choice. It’s a genuine choice. It’s a close call. It has probably some benefits, but it also has some harms.


    DR. CAROL LEE: I think the — the evidence speaks for itself. The decline in breast cancer deaths in this country over the past 30 years has been due in large part to earlier detections by screening mammography.

    And so certainly having a mammogram or not having a mammogram is an individual choice. Nobody is ever forced to have a mammogram. But I think it’s important to recognize that, in actual practice, mammography over the years has saved lives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Carol Lee, Dr. Gilbert Welch.

    And I know women will continue to pay close attention to all of this. Thank you.

    DR. GILBERT WELCH: Thank you.

    The post Debating the value and effectiveness of mammograms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Before there was Saturday Night Live, there was “Your Show of Shows,” and Sid Caesar was its featured star. With writers like Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Carl Reiner, Caesar had the best material to entertain American television audiences every Saturday evening.

    Caesar died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 91 years old. A family spokesman, the AP reported, confirmed the comedian and actor’s death.

    He was born Isaac Sidney Caesar on Sept. 8, 1922 in Yonkers, N.Y., to immigrant parents. If fate had taken a different turn, he may have become a musician. During his youth, he studied saxophone and clarinet and attended Julliard School of Music.

    Caesar enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II and would entertain his friends with musical revues and sketches. Upon discharge, he was cast in his first film and began performing comedy in New York City.

    In 1950, he was cast opposite Imogene Coca as the co-star of the variety show that would launch his career. “Your Show of Shows” was one of the most popular TV shows during the 50s. At its peak, the program had 60 million viewers at a time, when only 44 million American households had televisions.

    Caesar said that the key to his success as a comedian depended upon keeping his material close to real life.

    “When I did comedy I made fun of myself. If there was a buffoon, I played the buffoon. And people looked at me and said, ‘Gee, that’s like Uncle David,’ or ‘That’s like a friend of mine.’ And they related through that. I didn’t make fun of them. I made fun of me.”

    The show’s life was short lived, broadcast from 1950-54. After being re-named, “Caesar’s Hour” in 1954, the show was taken off the air in 1957 because of declining ratings and competition from other TV variety shows.

    Still, Caesar’s legacy and contributions to American comedy will be remembered. Mel Brooks said, “I know of no other comedian, including Chaplin, who could have done nearly 10 years of live television.”

    The post Comedy legend Sid Caesar dies at 91 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill sat down with Sen. Marco Rubio to talk about the latest developments for overhauling immigration reform. Video still by PBS NewsHour

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    GWEN IFILL: What are the chances, you think, that we’re going to get an immigration bill of any kind through the House or the Senate this year?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, it depends what you mean by an immigration bill. I think we can pass – I think we can pass bills that reform our legal immigration system, which is completely broken. I think there’s an emerging consensus that we need to have an immigration system that is more based on economics and job skill and merit and less on family connection, not totally discard family, but it has to be less of a factor.

    I think there has to be a consensus, and I think there is, that the enforcement mechanisms we have in place don’t — we don’t — we don’t work. We don’t have a viable entry/exit tracking system for visitors. We don’t have — there are sectors of the border that remain highly insecure. And we don’t have an electronic system for employers to verify.

    GWEN IFILL: What — am I missing the consensus part? I heard the speaker of the House say there are things that everyone agrees on, but they don’t trust the president.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: No, no, on those issues, I think there’s a consensus. Here’s where the trust factor comes in, the third aspect of the problem, right? We have to modernize legal immigration. I don’t think that’s controversial. We have to have better enforcement mechanisms. That in and of itself is not controversial. And then the third question, which is the toughest: What do you do with 12 million human beings that are here now, who are illegally here in the country today? What do you do with them?

    So no one is advocating you round them up and deport them. Nobody reasonable is advocating that. And no one’s saying we should — or blanket amnesty either. So what the emerging consensus has been is we understand we have to deal with that. We understand we have to create a system to somehow accommodate the people that are here already, but we’re only willing to do that if we can ensure that this problem never happens again. And they push – and they point back to 1986, when in fact 3 million people were given status, but then the enforcement measures didn’t happen, and that led to 12 million.

    So the trust factor that the speaker’s talking about is the argument that I got last year when we were pushing on this. People would say to me, we agree with the outline of what you’ve put forth, but we don’t believe that — we think the president will simply ignore the enforcement aspects of the law –

    GWEN IFILL: In the way that Ronald Reagan did? Is that what you’re saying?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Yeah, they’d say that. They’ll say that even under Reagan, they didn’t enforce the law and that this president wouldn’t either, and as a result, you’ll have the legalization, but you’ll never get the enforcement. So we came up with a — the idea of a trigger. First the enforcement happens, and that would trigger the legalization process. Again, people didn’t trust that because they believe that the trigger is in the eye of the beholder –

    GWEN IFILL: Is it that they don’t trust the way of getting to it, or they just don’t trust the president?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: I think there’s a general mistrust of the federal government given the historical reality that neither party has effectively enforced immigration laws. You don’t get to 12 million people without — across four presidencies if you don’t have some level of, you know, both sides having some responsibility for it.

    And then it goes beyond that. It goes to a distrust of this president. And the reason why is they’ll say — and rightfully so — look at “Obamacare,” his own signature law. He is unilaterally picking and choosing which parts of it go into effect and which parts do not. So once again, just a few days ago, he waives another requirement of “Obamacare.” What if he does that to the entry/exit tracking system? What if he does that to the border security?

    GWEN IFILL: So that’s an argument to do nothing?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: That’s an argument that’s being used to say it’s undoable under this president. My argument is, and continues to be — and this was my preference from the beginning. Now, the Senate began to work on a comprehensive approach, and I decided to work on that because I wanted to influence what it looked like and hopefully use that to create momentum to solve the problem. And I still want us to solve the problem. But the argument that I make is why don’t we start working on the things we agree on?

    And I — so people who resist that say, well, then you’ll only do that stuff, and you’ll never get to the legalization part. But my argument is if we start to do some of these things, I believe we can create the space, the confidence and the momentum to finish the job. I don’t know if that’ll take one year or two years. I can tell you this issue’s been out there now for 12 years. And I can tell you this all-or-nothing approach has not worked for 12 years. Now, we can continue the all-or-nothing attitude towards this, but I think you’re going to wind up with nothing.

    And the problem gets harder to solve every year that goes by. It truly does. These kids, when they first started debating this, the kids that were brought here as youngsters — they’re not kids anymore. They’ve grown up now. They’ve started lives and families, perhaps gotten married. The human part of this gets harder to solve as well because of these factors. So these are all things that we need to take into consideration.

    GWEN IFILL: Senator Marco Rubio, thank you.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Thank you.

    The post Rubio: U.S. immigration should be based more on economics, less on family connection appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Sen. Marco Rubio

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    GWEN IFILL: In recent months, the stubborn prosperity divide between the rich and poor in this country has gained the attention of both Democrats and Republicans. The issue is also the focus of our ongoing series Closing the Gap.

    Last week, Judy spoke with Democratic Congressman George Miller of California about how he believes the problem should be tackled.

    Today, I spoke earlier today with Sen. Marco Rubio in his Capitol Hill office. The Florida Republican recently unveiled his own anti-poverty agenda.

    Senator Rubio, thank you for joining us for this discussion.

    Everyone seems to be talking about inequality, but they’re also talking about opportunity, different — different definitions for economic growth. Are these all part of the same economic argument for you?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-Fla.: They can be. And here is why.

    So, we look at, what is the thing that has distinguished us from the world? It’s the idea that, no matter where you’re born in life or what the circumstances are when you’re born, like your parents being poor or not connected to power, you have a chance in this country to go as far as your talent and your work will take you.

    We pride ourselves on that, and rightfully so. It made us exceptional. What troubles us now is that there are — research now shows that there are other countries where the circumstances of your birth matter less than they do here. It’s mattering more here than it is in other places. And we don’t want to accept that and we shouldn’t accept that.

    So second question is: Why is that happening?  Why is there an emerging opportunity gap?  And the primary answer is because this new economy that we now live in, which is not an industrial economy, it’s a post-industrial economy, is a knowledge-based one.

    In order to have middle-income, middle-paying jobs, the kinds of jobs that allow people to get ahead, you have to have higher level of training and skill acquisition and education than ever before. And we have too many people that don’t have those skills. And, in fact, the people who would most benefit from acquiring those skills are the ones least likely to get it because of its cost or because of the way the system is structured.

    GWEN IFILL: Last week on the NewsHour, George Miller, liberal congressman from California, said that the secret to this, or at least the foundation, is raising the minimum wage. And the president today is signing his executive order, which would at least raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contractors.

    Is that the foundation of…

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: That’s certainly not the foundation of it.

    So, I understand they may support that policy initiative. But to argue that raising the minimum wage is going to create upward mobility is, quite frankly, silly. I mean, $10.10 is not the American dream. The way you’re — the best way to look at it is to think about a person.

    For example, someone who I know is a receptionist at a medical clinic. She makes very little money, maybe more than minimum wage, but not a lot. She’s a single mother who has two children to raise. So her life goes like this. She wakes up early in the morning, drops them off at school, works nine hours, picks them up from after-care, which costs a lot of money, takes them hope, helps them with homework, puts them to dinner — gives them dinner, and puts them to bed. It’s 10:00 at night.

    That’s her life. The only way she’s ever going to increase how much money she makes is if she can become an ultrasound technician or a lab technician or a pharmacy assistant, not just the receptionist at the medical clinic.

    To do that, she needs higher education. But how is she going to get higher education if she has to work and raise a family?  The system we have in place now doesn’t allow her to do that. That’s the answer to the problem.

    GWEN IFILL: How does she benefit — stay with her for a moment — from your proposal to take federal anti-poverty spending, whatever it is, and put it in a block grant kind of flex fund and give to it the states to administer? How would that affect her life?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, first of all, she actually isn’t on poverty programs.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: She is employed, but she’s a low-income person, but probably makes too much for any of the poverty programs.

    What she would benefit from is the wage enhancement program that I have talked about, which is taking the Earned Income Tax Credit and converting it to a wage enhancement, where the same benefit is delivered through the paycheck.

    The other way she would benefit is through our education initiatives that now say you should be able to get the equivalent of a degree or an educational certificate by packaging together your work experience — so, clearly, she doing work now that should count toward something — free online course work, paid or unpaid internships, testing in proficiency.

    For example, she could probably get six to eight credit hours in Spanish because she can speak it already. She doesn’t need to take courses to do that. And then create a mechanism, an alternative accrediting mechanism where you could package all those sorts of things together into a degree program that would give her the equivalent of a college degree at a much more flexible and affordable way.

    GWEN IFILL: Who pays for this? Who pays for this wage enhancements, if not the federal government?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, it is. It’s the Earned Income Tax Credit. The money is there now.

    And the question is that — all I’m arguing is not do away with it. What I’m saying it is, let’s transform it into a new way of delivering the same benefit.

    GWEN IFILL: But a wage enhancement is a subsidy. That’s additional money in addition to…

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Correct, toward your paycheck.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: But it’s determined by how much you make, from the same money we’re using for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    Now, the argument is, if you expand it so that it covers only single workers — I’m sorry — so it not — doesn’t just cover parents with children, but also single workers, would you have to put more money into it, and that’s what we’re working through as we prepare to file the legislation.

    But the bottom line, it already is there. That money is already being used. The only problem is, it’s being delivered once a year, early in the year, when you get your tax refund. What I’m arguing is, a better way to deliver it is on biweekly — bimonthly basis, into your paycheck, as opposed to one lump sum at the beginning of the year.

    GWEN IFILL: You said in your speech on this topic a couple of weeks ago that the war on poverty, the Johnson era war on poverty failed. Explain why you say that.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Because it’s incomplete.

    The war on poverty programs help address the pain of poverty. So, they alleviate the suffering of poverty. And that’s important. You do have to do that. But they don’t do the second step, which is help people emerge from the poverty.

    To help people emerge from the poverty, you have to understand, what are the structural causes of it?  And the structural causes are partially cultural. We know that, the breakdown of families, destabilized neighborhoods, broken communities. And there are some things government can do about that, but a lot of that is on us as people. We have got to recognize that that’s a real factor.

    GWEN IFILL: When you talk about the cultural piece of this, marriage in particular, and that that is — that there’s a correlation between marriage and people’s ability to succeed or at least to be mobile, economically mobile, what role does government play in that?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, that’s — first of all, we shouldn’t penalize marriage. We do have safety net programs that disqualify you when the two incomes come together. You get kicked out of the program. So, we shouldn’t be doing that.

    As far as the impact that marriage has on children, the two reasons. One of them, from a practical perspective, two paychecks allow a family to have more buying power and more stability. And the other is, there’s real value in raising children in a strong and stable home. By the same token, it doesn’t mean that say, and the people that don’t have that, we give up on.

    On the contrary, I think we recognize, as I have for a long time — and I have talked about this since I was in the state legislature — if you are a child, oftentimes being raised by your grandmother, because your mom is working full-time, your dad has never been around, you live in a dangerous neighborhood in substandard housing, and the school that you’re zoned into is not doing a good job, you have five strikes against you.

    How are you going to — how are you going to make it unless something dramatic happens to change that perspective?

    GWEN IFILL: As you know, we’re suddenly all talking about this. In the past, Democrats were the ones who talked about poverty, and Republicans were the ones who talked about, I don’t know, opportunity.

    Now it seems as if the two arguments are coming together.


    GWEN IFILL: Am I right about that?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: I think so.

    GWEN IFILL: You, Mike Lee, Paul Ryan all giving speeches about it and the president.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: It could.

    See, but perhaps there’s a difference. And I don’t — I hope this issue doesn’t have to be partisan or, quite frankly, highly political. I think we can agree that we want this to be a country of equality, of opportunity, and upward mobility.

    I believe that a vibrant free enterprise economy creates those sorts of opportunities. But I believe that there are barriers, educational barriers, cultural barriers, societal barriers, that are keeping people from accessing the promise of a vibrant free enterprise economy.

    GWEN IFILL: You say you don’t want this to be partisan, but are you getting a lot of support from people in your party for this argument?

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Sure. So, it’s — I am.

    I mean, so, some of the ideas are coming from think tanks like American Enterprise Institute. But I have always…

    GWEN IFILL: The Heritage Foundation didn’t…

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Sure, as well. Well, they do. I mean, they have been helpful as well in some of the ideas that we have worked on.

    And I think there is a drive towards that sort of reform notion that, look, we do have a growing opportunity gap in America. It’s hard to ignore that. And the question is, what solves it?  And there may be two schools of thought, right?

    We hear from the left that the school of thought is, well, let’s just pour more money into 20th century programs. And my argument is, that is not going to work. We need 21st century programs. We have to change the dynamic because the world — we’re not in the Industrial Revolution anymore, where you could leave high school, go work at the town factory for 50 years, and retire with a pension.

    The 21st century looks different. It’s been very disruptive. It has created a lot of insecurity. We have to adjust to that, because the 21st century has real promise. Now, the higher-paying jobs of this new century are fantastic. The problem is, you have to have some level of higher education, maybe not a four-year degree, but some level of higher education, to get those jobs.

    And the people who most need those jobs are the least likely to have that education.

    GWEN IFILL: Sen. Marco Rubio, thank you.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: We have more with Sen. Rubio on what he calls the all-or-nothing political challenge facing another critical issue he has championed: immigration reform. You can watch that video online.

    The post Closing the Gap: Sen. Marco Rubio on how more education, fewer broken families can change income inequality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    3D printed materials

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There is yet another technological transformation underfoot. And this one turns ideas into physical realities right before your eyes.

    Science correspondent Miles O’Brien has the story.

    MILES O’BRIEN: At Hod Lipson’s lab, they are on the leading edge of a method of printing that presses the process into a whole new dimension, the third dimension.

    HOD LIPSON, engineering professor, Cornell University: This is a real revolution. It can really change things forever, how we even think about design.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Lipson is an engineering professor at Cornell University. His lab is a toy box and a playground for a new generation of designers.

    Undergrad Jenna Witzleben is designing and printing some ballet shoes.

    JENNA WITZLEBEN, undergraduate student, Cornell University: This is actually a scan of the shoe itself subtracted the — the scan of my foot.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Grad student Robert MacCurdy is working on what they call bit blocks, small circuit boards.

    ROBERT MACCURDY, Cornell University: This gives us kind of a quick way of incorporating electrical functionality into 3-D printing

    MILES O’BRIEN: And Apoorva Kiran is priming the pump for projects that print in more than one material.

    APOORVA KIRAN, Cornell University: This ink is strontium ferrite. It’s a kind of iron (INAUDIBLE)

    MILES O’BRIEN: 3-D printing was invented 30 years ago, but it’s now coming of age. The devices can print in all kinds of metals, produce food and even human tissue. And the technology is coming home, just as computers did in the early 1980s.

    HOD LIPSON: We are a little bit after the transition from the mainframe to the desktop. We are at the early days of the home computers. We aren’t quite at the point where we have an IBM P.C.

    MILES O’BRIEN: San Francisco artist Micah Scott is on the leading edge of this migration into widespread usage.

    MICAH SCOTT, San Francisco artist: This 3-D printer was originally a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic, which was a kit that I think was released in like late 2010 or early 2011.

    MILES O’BRIEN: A machine like this, which costs about $1,500, extrudes molten plastic in thin layers, like a precision hot glue gun. And like 2-D ink-jet printers, the real cost is in the pricey refills.

    MICAH SCOTT: This is sort of an experimental shape that I am working on for an LED art project.

    MILES O’BRIEN: I watched as Micah used some software to create a 3-D design, and then hit print. We waited, and then waited, and then waited some more. Printing this piece took 18 hours, from start to finish.

    But Micah believes it is well worth the wait.

    MICAH SCOTT: With 3-D printers, I have definitely been in that position where I’m kind of astounded to be holding this physical object that I had just designed hours ago.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Micah used to be a Silicon Valley hardware and software designer. That experience comes in handy frequently. Without her left-brain skills, her quirky printer wouldn’t be able to deliver her right-brain creations.

    MICAH SCOTT: I do sometimes wish so I could just push a button and have my print work without sort of agonizing over this thing for a couple of hours.

    MAN: These are from a third-party Web site, people taking pictures of their pets.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The problems and the promise of this emerging technology are key ingredients driving the rapid growth of a company called Shapeways.

    PETER WEIJMARSHAUSEN, Shapeways: So, we have roughly 15 printers here right now and we’re expanding that number all the time.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen co-founded the company in 2009. Based in New York, Shapeways turns customer designs into intricate reality, using big precise 3-D printers like this one.

    PETER WEIJMARSHAUSEN: Mounted lights heats up the powder, so it almost melts.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Which uses a laser to fuse powdered plastic into the desired shape layer by layer.

    PETER WEIJMARSHAUSEN: These ones are about a half-million dollars, and then the big one is about a million dollars.

    MILES O’BRIEN: That one over there, you mean?


    MILES O’BRIEN: Armchair designers upload about 100,000 3-D print projects to Shapeways each month. Engineers here insure they can be feasibly printed, arrange various projects cheek to jowl to maximize efficiency, and then print, clean, polish, and ship the finished products, which cost anywhere from a few to a few thousand dollars, depending on how much material is used.

    PETER WEIJMARSHAUSEN: At Shapeways, we give people the access to make whatever they want, and whatever they want, they do make. And what it is sometimes puzzles us, sometimes amazes us. It’s really cool to see.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But Shapeways is not just for people who want a tricked-out custom iPhone cover. Customers with clever ideas can become sellers, offering their curios for sale on the Shapeways Web site.

    There are now 12,000 shopkeepers in this virtual bazaar of the bizarre. The better ones are printing money.

    PETER WEIJMARSHAUSEN: The barriers to bring a product to market are going to be almost zero. As a result, anyone with a great idea can launch a product.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Even if they are in eighth grade. These students at the Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Virginia, are building speakers using 3-D printers and laser cutters.

    For Lamia West, it is an entry to a whole new world.

    LAMIA WEST, student, Buford Middle School: This is like what I want to do to see what I want to do with my future, if I want to be engineer or do I want to go into something else?

    MILES O’BRIEN: That is music to her teacher’s ears.

    STEPHANIE GRADY, teacher, Buford Middle School: I’m going to take this out. And right now, it is on three.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Stephanie Grady is an engineer-turned-educator and an alumna of this school.

    STEPHANIE GRADY: But if we don’t teach our students now and encourage them to take these classes in college, there’s going to be a lot of missed opportunities.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But educators warn these machines cannot print silver bullets to fire up interest in technology and engineering in classrooms. For one thing, teachers need a lot of training and support to make the magic happen.

    At Buford, they have the perfect help desk nearby: faculty at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Glen Bull is a professor there.

    GLEN BULL, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia: Keep in mind that no teacher today has really been prepared or trained to use these technologies in the curriculum. Putting this equipment in schools and having it change how kids learn requires a whole infrastructure to support it. That can’t be done overnight.

    MILES O’BRIEN: And what about real bullets?  3-D printers make it possible for people to build unregistered and undetectable weapons at home. ATF agents tested the idea. Using a design found on the Internet, they printed a gun using two types of materials. One worked. The other exploded. This is what worries Hod Lipson.

    HOD LIPSON: I don’t think they’re concerned in terms sort of criminal activity or terrorist activity, which is what seems to be driving a lot of discussion. The plastic guns are of a concern to me because they bring about the issue of safety and quality assurance.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Lipson is more worried about pushing the technology over the next big hurdle: refining machines that can print multiple materials at once.

    Believe it or not, this crude speaker is a big step. The entire thing, magnet, conductor, membrane and all, was completely 3-D printed, no prefabricated parts, no assembly required.

    HOD LIPSON: I think this is just the beginning. There are — once, you know, we can master that, we can start making more sophisticated things. And I really think that within a few years, being able to print a complete integrated electronic system or even a robot will be within reach.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But Lipson believes that robot will be designed by a robot. Get a load of this idea designed by software. Lipson calls it artificial creativity. With machines doing the designing, I guess we all need to stay on our toes.

    I had to leave before Jenna’s ballet shoe inserts came off the printer, but she sent these pictures, and she clearly is on her toes for whatever is next in this revolution.

    The post From ballet shoes to human tissue, printing ideas into 3-D reality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Nuclear fusion — the process that occurs in the heart of stars to fuel them — is now one step closer to being harnessed as a new source of energy.

    Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California published a paper Wednesday in the journal Nature that detailed how fusion experiments have finally gotten more energy out of fusion fuel than was put into the experiment.

    The experiments involve shooting 192 lasers from an apparatus the length of three football fields into a half-inch-long gold cylinder. Inside the cylinder is a tiny ball that contains a layer of fuel containing two types of hydrogen — deuterium and tritium. The energy from the lasers compresses the ball, creating extremely high pressure that gets the hydrogen atoms to fuse into helium.

    Scientists have observed increased “bootstrapping” in their results, where the alpha particles — the fused helium nuclei created in the fusion– deposit their energy back into the fuel, instead of escaping. This heats the hydrogen fuel and increases the rate of fusion reactions, creating more alpha particles and continuing the trend. The end results showed the achievement of a long-term goal: more energy was released from the hydrogen fuel than absorbed from the lasers.

    How much energy? The equivalent of the energy a downhill skier has while moving 36 mph. It isn’t much, but it’s a milestone in the long path to achieving “ignition” — the point at which nuclear fusion becomes self-sustaining. At ignition, the energy generated equals or exceeds the energy deposited into the process.

    Despite the increased energy yield, the experiments are still far from producing more energy than required to operate, with the hydrogen fuel only managing to absorb one percent of the energy that the lasers produced.

    Nuclear fusion has long been a goal of scientists in the hopes of achieving a clean, almost infinite energy. Deuterium is found in seawater, providing an almost unlimited supply compared to the more rare uranium. With fusion, there would also be no need for long-term storage of radioactive waste.

    “There is more work to do and physics problems that need to be addressed before we get to the end,” said Omar Hurricane, lead author of the study. “But our team is working to address all the challenges, and that’s what a scientific team thrives on.”

    The post Nuclear fusion as power source is one step closer to reality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Previews - Winter Olympics Day -4

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    GWEN IFILL: Time now for an update from Sochi, where it’s not just the winners and the losers, but the conditions themselves, that are becoming a part of the story.

    I caught up earlier today with sportswriter Christine Brennan, who’s covering the Olympics for USA Today and ABC News.

    Chris Brennan from Sochi, thanks again for joining us.

    First, a warning for our audience. We have some spoilers coming up.

    But I can’t help by starting by talking about this great competition in women’s hockey between the U.S. and Canada.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: That’s right, Gwen. It was a great game. Canada won this round. Canada won 3-2 over the United States. They’re bitter rivals. They all know each other, the two best teams in the world.

    And it really is, to me, the best rivalry and the best competition going, for the U.S. anyway, is this great, great rivalry and battle between these two countries. And the reality is, though, they’re the two best teams. They have won all of the gold medals in Olympic competition dating back to 1998 in Nagano, when women’s ice hockey did start in the Olympics.

    And so I think they will be seeing each other again. And my guest is they will be seeing each other again for the gold medal in about a week. And it’s terrific and it’s a great step forward for women’s sports, because this is not the way it looked when they started in ’98 or even moving on to 2002.

    This is a quick, fast, crisp game. They look terrific out there. And I think women’s sports took a big step forward as Canada did beat the U.S. today.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about women’s ski jumping, another big deal.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, that’s right.

    And I think the Olympic Games gives us this, Gwen, in many ways because this is the Super Bowl for women’s sports. The men have the Super Bowl. The men have the World Series. They have the NBA finals. For most women, the best you can do is the Olympic Games.

    Should be no surprise then that we do see the best female athletes at the Olympic Games, whether it’s women’s soccer, women’s swimming, gymnastics in the Summer Games, and here at the Winter Games, of course, many sports, a new sport, this time around, women’s ski jumping.

    It took them a while. They had to sue the Vancouver organizing committee four years ago. In many ways, these women are the Johnny Appleseeds of the sport. A woman named Lindsey Van who — not Lindsey Vonn, Lindsey Van — who was competing has been one of — really the face of this pioneering effort.

    Now, unfortunately for the United States, none of the women, the three women from America won medals. But the victory was in participation, the fact that they actually got on that hill and jumped off for the first time ever. It was really a historic moment. I was thrilled to be there as a journalist. And I think it certainly portends great things going forward for women’s ski jumping.

    GWEN IFILL: From a casual viewer’s point of view, the biggest surprise so far in the Olympics seems to be the premature flame-out of snowboarder Shaun White.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Oh, without a doubt, the flying tomato, although he’s no longer the flying tomato, because he cut his hair, 27 years old.

    Folks might remember him of course from 2006. He won the gold and in 2010 he won the gold there. Here he was again, the gold medal favorite, had a bad run. He fell twice and he just couldn’t come back in his final run. That great story of coming back at the very end, that wasn’t to be for Shaun White. Now, Shaun White is much more than just an athlete, Gwen.

    He is a brand. And I think that may be part of the issue for him. He is still excellent. He’s got so many things going on. He has got a band. He owns his own course. He has business ventures galore. And I think what we’re seeing is very much like we see with Tiger Woods or even Michael Phelps.

    When an athlete starts to get distracted, when they have so many other things going, it’s great for them as they move into adulthood, but it might not be so great for the on-the-field performance. And that’s what happened with Shaun White.

    GWEN IFILL: Chris, in the lead-up to these Olympics, there was a lot of talk about security and a lot of talk about potential protests. Have any of these things materialized into being a big drag on these Games?

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: I think the biggest upset here by far is that there has been no big news.

    If you think about it, thinking, going back six months ago, three months ago, even a few weeks ago, the thought of going to Sochi, my goodness, family and friends, for me, you and I have talked about, really, you’re going to go? And, of course, as a journalist, yes, of course you’re going.

    But the thought that there would be nothing happening at the opening ceremonies except a snowflake malfunction, that that would be the big news, that’s just stunning. And I think it’s important to kind of — what are we now, five, six days into the Games, seven days, to really step back and say they’re going well.

    And the concerns about security, knock on wood, have not come to the fore. And things are — seem to be moving along just fine. Now, having said that, you never know. The protest issue, especially over Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law, there have been a few protests in Moscow and here. We don’t see those, being in the secure zone.

    But the interesting thing to me is several American athletes past and present who are speaking out against the anti-gay law when they hit Russian soil, which I think is a pretty dramatic move and a very courageous move, the figure skater Ashley Wagner continuing to talk about her anger with the law and human rights and equal rights. Brian Boitano and Caitlin Cahow were two members of the U.S. delegation sent by President Obama who are openly gay.

    They got here and immediately spoke out against the law. So, we are seeing these profiles in courage from some athletes, Ashley Wagner currently participating, and two former Olympians. And I think that is a very newsworthy thing to discuss.

    GWEN IFILL: Finally, Chris, we’re bracing for a big storm here on the East Coast. It seems like it’s a lot warmer in Sochi than here. What is going on?  

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Absolutely, 60 degrees today. It was like a spring day, beautiful walking to the women’s ice hockey, Gwen.

    But there’s a very serious part of this. It’s great weather, much different than you would expect for a Winter Olympics, except really the last few Olympics have had this moderate, temperate climate. Vancouver, we had these issues with snowboarding. The consistency of the snow, we saw that again here, the snowboarders complaining about the quality of the snow.

    I think the reality is, as long as the International Olympic Committee picks these temperate, moderate climates, these cities to host the Games, you’re going to get these issues. And the shame of it is, you have got the athletes at the peak of their training. This is the pinnacle of their careers. And then to not have great conditions, that is a shame.

    But that’s the International Olympic Committee going for different climates. And I think it’s going to continue.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Christine Brennan of USA Today, thanks again for joining us.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Gwen, my pleasure. Thanks very much.

    The post Sochi’s springlike weather puts damper on conditions for Olympic athletes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Switzerland immigration voting

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a new referendum in Switzerland to limit immigration is threatening the country’s economic ties with Europe. And it’s raising questions about the rise of anti-immigrant groups across the continent.

    By a razor-thin margin, just over 50 percent, Swiss voters on Sunday supported imposing quotas on how many foreigners are allowed to enter the country.

    MAN (through interpreter): I am for it because I think we need to start to control the arrival of foreigners. Other countries do it, the United States, Australia. So, I think we should do the same thing.

    JEREMY SAITI (through interpreter): Everything is about the economy because people are afraid that immigrants will come here en masse and take their jobs, which, in my opinion, is wrong.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The “stop mass immigration” initiative was launched by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party, or SVP, which holds a quarter of the seats in Parliament. The group focused heavily on fears of overpopulation and a rising number of Muslim immigrants.

    It also complicates relations with the European Union. Switzerland is not a member, but does have trade pacts with the 28-nation bloc.

    In a radio interview Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned the vote jeopardizes those arrangements.

    LAURENT FABIUS, Foreign Minister, France (through interpreter): In concrete terms, since 1999, there have been agreements with Switzerland with regards to free movement of workers mainly, but also to many elements, such that if one element comes under question, in this case the free movement of workers, everything collapses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, the influence of anti-immigrant factions has been rising across Europe, from Greece, to Italy, Spain, Britain, and the Netherlands.

    Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore.

    EAMON GILMORE, Foreign Minister, Ireland: I think this is a very disturbing vote. I think we have seen throughout Europe a growth in what I can only call an extreme right agenda, which is quite xenophobic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Swiss vote could also signal greater support for anti-immigrant candidates running in European Parliament elections this May.

    The post Swiss referendum to limit immigration complicates economic relations with EU appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Euro Immigration

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: So what is the significance of the recent vote in Switzerland?

    For that, we turn to Heather Conley. She’s director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And Charles Kupchan, he’s a professor of international relations at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He also served on the National Security Council staff during the Clinton administration.

    Welcome back to the NewsHour to you both.

    Heather Conley, to you first. Just tell us in brief, what were these — what were Swiss voters asked to vote on? What was this referendum?

    HEATHER CONLEY, Center for Strategic and International Studies: In a nutshell, they were asked to curb or seek quotas for immigration.

    Switzerland, population of eight million, has approximately a foreign-born population that represents 23 percent of the Swiss population. This is something that the Swiss People’s Party, a far-right political party in Switzerland, had been pushing. And Switzerland has a form of very direct representation, direct democracy. And they put this issue to a referendum: Do you want to see limits to the immigration levels that enter Switzerland?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Charles Kupchan, what’s your best understanding of why the public voted as it did? It was a narrow win, as we said, just over 50 percent.

    CHARLES KUPCHAN, Georgetown University: I think there are two basic things going on.

    One is anti-immigration sentiment that we see all over Europe and we see in the United States, people living next door who were not born here, who may be vying for jobs, who may not look like you. And the second is what I would call something akin to the libertarian sentiment in the United States, sovereignty, taking back the rights of the nation from globalization, from European integration. Our borders are being penetrated. We have lost a certain amount of control over our destiny.

    Those two things are running together, the anti-immigrant and the sovereignty. And that is why this is somewhat threatening to Europe, because it has an anti-E.U. tinge to it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Heather Conley, what would you add to that about why people ultimately voted, why over 50 percent voted as they did?

    HEATHER CONLEY: Yes, it was — it was a squeaker. The government, the business community, the important Swiss financial community were all saying, don’t vote, don’t vote this way.

    And yet the people said, you know, we are very anxious. We’re frightened by this immigration. We’re concerned about it eroding into our jobs, our economy. We’re uncomfortable.

    In 2009, there was a referendum that banned construction of minarets. So, this is been a steady issue in Switzerland, but it really came to a head with this referendum. And, to Charles’ point, this is a critical pillar of European integration. There are four pillars, the free movement of people, of capital, of goods and services.

    Now, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but they are a member of the European free trade area. This is going to be a major obstacle with this referendum. So, we will see how the European Union officials react.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why an — why an obstacle?

    CHARLES KUPCHAN: Because the Swiss have negotiated these agreements with the E.U., even though they’re not a member.


    CHARLES KUPCHAN: And the E.U. is going to say, you don’t want free movement of goods, we’re not going to let you — free movement of people — we’re not going to let you have goods, not going to let you have access to our market.

    And then it sort of spills over. And the British are going to say, well, if the Swiss are going to back out on this, we want to renegotiate. And then you get a fragmentation of the European Union, the solidarity, the open borders, and who knows where it goes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Charles Kupchan, can you tease out how much of this is economic and some of the things that you described a moment ago, and how much of it is related to the ethnic identity of immigrants, the religious identity of these immigrants?

    CHARLES KUPCHAN: Well, it’s not fundamentally — fundamentally economic. And that’s because Switzerland actually has pretty good numbers. Employment is — unemployment is below 5 percent. The economy is doing well.

    Most of the people who are working in Switzerland who are non-Swiss are in banks, in pharmaceuticals. They are not out there competing for service jobs. And, furthermore, the people who voted against immigration come from cantons with few immigrants. They come from small towns and rural areas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: These are the political divisions in the country.


    And the urban areas voted against limiting immigrants. And so this is much more of a visceral reaction to what is happening to Swiss nationhood, who are these people, more than it is an economic issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this something, Heather Conley, something you see growing across Europe or not? Where do you see this headed?

    HEATHER CONLEY: It’s growing.

    And the timing of this is very interesting. It comes three months before very important European Parliament elections at the end of May. This is the only European Union body that is democratically elected, Pan-European, democratically elected. We know groups, far-right political groups like Front National in France, the United Kingdom Independence Party in the U.K., polls tell us that they are going to do extremely well for these elections.

    So what the — what Europeans may be telling the European Union is, we don’t want more Europe. We don’t want the free movement of people, not only immigrants that may be coming from North Africa, from the Middle East, but peoples that are coming from other E.U. member states, like Romania, Bulgaria, the Roma. This is building an enormous case of anxiety, anti-Europeanism, anti-immigrant. And it can turn violent, like it has in Greece.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Charles Kupchan, what do you see the consequences of this being? You mentioned the economic trade discussion going on, but what about for people in Europe?

    CHARLES KUPCHAN: You know, the good news is that in most countries in Europe, center-left and center-right are still pro-immigration and pro-Europe, pro-integration.

    But these smaller parties on the left and right are getting greater and greater market share. And as Heather was just saying, they could get up to 25 percent of the seats in the European Parliament. If that happens and this backlash continues, then the European project is called into question.

    It may stumble. We may be at the high watermark of an integrated Europe.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I’m so glad the two of you are here to talk with us about it. Charles Kupchan and Heather Conley, thank you.

    HEATHER CONLEY: Thank you.

    The post What’s behind an anti-immigrant tide rising in Europe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video by Slooh.com

    An asteroid the size of three football fields is expected to zip by Earth at a close, but safe distance on Monday.

    Traveling at 27,000 mph, the celestial object 2000 EM26 will be approximately 2 million miles from the Earth’s surface at its closest approach, Space.com reports. The asteroid is also nearly 885 feet in diameter.

    Skywatching website Slooh.com will live stream the asteroid’s pass at 9 p.m. EST as it is captured by Slooh’s telescopes located on Mount Teide in the Canary Islands.

    Two near-Earth events occurred a little more than a year ago: asteroid DA14 missed the planet by 17,150 miles, and a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring more than 1,000 people and damaging nearby buildings.

    The post Watch a massive asteroid pass by Earth, beginning at 9 p.m. EST appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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