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

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    From the earliest days of Egypt’s uprising in 2011, director Jehane Noujaim, producer Karim Amer and their team shouldered cameras on the streets of Cairo as a revolution unfolded. The famous “18 days” — centered on central Cairo’s Tahrir Square — led to the downfall of a dictator, Hosni Mubarak. They were days of elation and terror, promise and peril, and above all, there was a newfound sense of agency for Egyptians long-stripped of their human and political rights; many were finding them for the first time.

    But those days were just the beginning. The ensuing two-and-a-half years, chronicled in the film “The Square” were — and are — much more complicated. Military government was supplanted by elected, Islamist governance by the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi. Morsi was, in turn, deposed — like Mubarak — by the military in July. Now, the leader of the Armed Forces General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is the country’s preeminent, un-elected leader. But it is likely he will try to remove that undemocratic moniker by running for president later this year.

    PBS NewsHour chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner sat down with Noujaim and Amer, whose film is nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. They discuss the project, the hopes of the people in it and their wishes for the ancient land they know so well.

    The post Filmmakers record a revolution in Oscar nominated ‘The Square’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    At 4.4 billion years old, a tiny zircon crystal about twice the size of a human hair is the oldest known piece of the Earth’s crust.

    Found on a sheep ranch in western Australia over a dozen years ago, the findings about the speck suggest new possibilities about how early life existed on the planet.

    A light-optical microscope image of a zircon. Photo by Wikimedia user Chd

    A light-optical microscope image of a zircon. Photo by Wikimedia user Chd

    Scientists used two different dating techniques to confirm the gem’s age, and published their findings Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience. Given the Earth formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago, researchers believe that this finding suggests that the Earth’s crust formed relatively soon after the formation of the planet.

    With the idea that the Earth went from a molten rock to possibly habitable within the course of 100 million years, scientists on the project believe that the conditions on young Earth may not have been as harsh as previously predicted. With calmer conditions, life on Earth may have been possible earlier than previously thought.

    John Valley, a geoscience professor at the University of Wisconsin and lead researcher on the crystal, suggests that Earth was capable of sustaining oceans, and even microbial life, around 4.3 billion years ago.

    “We have no evidence that life existed then. We have no evidence that it didn’t,” Valley told Reuters. “But there is no reason why life could not have existed on Earth 4.3 billion years ago.”

    The post Crystal found in Australia confirmed as oldest known piece of the Earth appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    During a competition to celebrate the Defenders of the Fatherland Day, a Belarusian soldier takes a severe blow. Also known as “Men’s Day” — somewhat similar to Father’s Day — the late-February Russian holiday is celebrated in several former Republics, including Ukraine and Belarus.

    The post ‘Men’s Day’ celebrated in Russia, several former Soviet Republics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    State Governors Speak To Media After Meeting With President Obama

    Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, center, speaks while flanked by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, left, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (D-LA), second to the left, and other members of the National Governors Association, after a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House Feb. 24, 2014. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    The nation’s governors emerged from a meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday claiming harmony, only to immediately break into an on-camera partisan feud in front of the West Wing.

    Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out first, saying if Obama were serious about growing the economy he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline project and take other executive actions.

    Instead, Jindal said, Obama “seems to be waving the white flag of surrender” on the economy by focusing on raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10, up from $7.25. “The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that,” Jindal said.

    Jindal’s statements were the kind that Republicans often make on television appearances or at partisan events, but don’t usually come from potential presidential candidates standing yards from the Oval Office. Other governors had been instead expressing wide agreement and appreciation for the president’s time. As Jindal spoke, some of his colleagues began shaking their heads, and Hawaii Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie began audibly mumbling to others around him.

    Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy took over the microphone from Jindal and responded sharply, “Wait a second, until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road. So let me just say that we don’t all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United States is necessarily the best thing for the United States economy.”

    Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who chairs the National Governors Association and supports Keystone, earlier said she asked Obama when the administration would decide whether to allow it and he told her there would be an answer in the next couple months.

    Malloy said Jindal’s “white flag statement” was the most partisan of their weekend conference and that many governors support a minimum wage increase.

    “What the heck was a reference to white flag when it comes to people making $404 a week?” Malloy snapped. “I mean, that’s the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”

    Jindal did not the back down.

    “If that’s the most partisan thing he’s heard all weekend, I want to make sure he hears a more partisan statement,” the Louisiana governor responded. “I think we can grow the economy more if we would delay more of these Obamacare mandates.”

    But Malloy was already walking away from the news conference. He called Jindal a “cheap shot artist” as he departed the White House grounds.

    The public dispute came after Obama appealed to the governors for their help to advance his economic policies that stand little chance of winning passage on Capitol Hill.

    “Even when there’s little appetite in Congress to move on some of these priories, on the state level you guys are governed by practical considerations,” Obama told the governors during remarks in the State Dining Room. “You want to do right by your people.”

    The president pressed in particular for states to act on their own to raise the minimum wage and expand access to early childhood education, two initiatives that have gained little traction in Congress since Obama first introduced them last year.

    Several governors are seen as potential presidential candidates in 2016. Obama made light of the speculation about the race to replace him, saying he “enjoyed watching some of you with your eyes on higher office size up the drapes, and each other.”

    Not every governor met Monday with the president.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left the NGA meeting early to attend his daughter’s birthday and prepare for a budget address.

    Facing multiple investigations in a political-retribution probe in New Jersey, the Republican leader also skipped a Monday news conference by the Republican Governors Association, which he leads.

    Jindal shrugged off Christie’s absence from the news conference, declaring that the RGA is “more important than just any one governor.”

    Asked about his own presidential ambitions, Jindal responded, “My honest answer is I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in 2016.”

    Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

    The post Governors devolve to partisan bickering in front of White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    News Wrap

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    GWEN IFILL: The interim leaders in Ukraine issued a warrant today for ousted President Viktor Yanukovych for the killings of protesters. Yanukovych fled Kiev over the weekend for the eastern pro-Russian half of the country.

    We have a report from James Mates of Independent Television News.

    JAMES MATES: The city of Sevastopol is in Ukraine, but as its now daily demonstrations show, the flag its people show allegiance to is the Russian one.

    It’s here the fugitive former President Yanukovych is now believed to have sought sanctuary at a Russian naval base. If true, Russia’s President Putin is unlikely ever to hand him over. Still celebrating the end of his Sochi Olympic party, his prime minister today made Russia’s anger at what’s happened abundantly clear.

    “Some of our Western partners,” he said, “think there’s a legitimate government there. It’s strange to call a government legitimate when it’s the result of an armed uprising.”

    The closest the Ukrainians may now get to Yanukovych is the treasure trove of documents he left behind, many dumped in a river now being meticulously dried and sorted, damning evidence for a trial that will probably never happen.

    OLEG KHOMENOK, investigator: We have part of the financial documents revealing the whole system of the money laundering that was established here to supply Yanukovych’s regime with the money and to provide the money for construction of these whole luxury palaces.

    JAMES MATES: More worrying is the continued lack of any visible authority in the capital, Kiev, any group with a grievance now taking to the streets demanding they get what they want.

    This is what happens when you go several days without proper police forces. Here, you have a group of football supporters trying to force their way into Parliament demanding the release of one of their own from jail. Over here, the so-called self-defense forces, a ragtag army with clubs and improvised helmets waiting to secure Parliament, not really knowing who gives them orders.

    Two politicians promised an immediate vote in Parliament, and within half-an-hour, two men convicted of murder under the old regime were ordered to be freed. The euphoria of revolution can wane very quickly. What comes next is not always an improvement.

    GWEN IFILL: Russia’s suspended an economic bailout agreement with Ukraine, but the White House says the U.S. is ready to step in. The new authorities in Kiev are seeking $35 billion over the next two years. We will have much more on the fast-moving developments there right after the news summary.

    In Venezuela, protesters blocked off streets in the capital, Caracas, as opposition to President Nicolas Maduro intensified. The demonstrators erected barricades of trash and other debris across major thoroughfares, bring traffic to a halt. But there were no reports of violence. There have been nationwide protests since February 12 and at least 11 deaths.

    The interim prime minister of Egypt has announced the resignation of his Cabinet. It could pave the way for military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for president. The announcement came amid strikes by public transport workers and garbage collectors. Egypt has seen political turmoil since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military last July.

    A new anti-gay law in Uganda took effect today, imposing sentences of up to life in prison for engaging in homosexual relations. President Yoweri Museveni signed the measure into law in Kampala. He said it’s needed because the West is promoting homosexuality in Africa.

    PRESIDENT YOWERI MUSEVENI, Uganda: No study has shown that you can be homosexual purely by nature. Society can do something about it, to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the bill.

    GWEN IFILL: Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda. Gay activists have vowed to challenge this new law in court. And President Obama has warned the statute will harm relations with the U.S.

    The Pentagon served notice today that it wants to downsize the U.S. Army, to the smallest it’s been in 74 years. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed reducing active-duty levels by roughly 80,000 and cutting several major weapons systems. We will explore the proposal in detail, later in the program.

    The longest serving member of Congress ever is calling it a career. Michigan Democrat John Dingell has announced he won’t run for reelection. During 57 years in the House, he became a powerful deal-maker and committee chair, and helped pass everything from the Endangered Species Act to Medicare to the Affordable Care Act.

    But, at 87, he said today he’s ready to step down.

    REP. JOHN DINGELL, D-Mich.: I put myself to the test. And I want to know when the time comes whether I can live up to my own personal standards as a member of Congress. I’m going to give the last that I can assuredly give and the last that I can proudly to my people.

    GWEN IFILL: Dingell was first elected in 1955 to the seat his father had held since 1933. The elder Dingell died in office.

    Pope Francis has announced the first major overhaul of the Vatican bureaucracy in 25 years. He unveiled plans today for a new secretariat to control economic, administrative, personnel and procurement policies. Francis was elected pope pledging sweeping reforms.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 104 points to close at 16,207. The Nasdaq rose 29 points to close just short of 4,293.

    One of the comedy stars of the ’70s and ’80s, Harold Ramis, died today at his Chicago-area home. He helped write and starred in “Ghostbusters,” co-wrote and directed “Caddyshack,” and also co-wrote “Animal House.”  Ramis had battled an autoimmune disease for four years. He was 69 years old.

    The post News Wrap: Ukraine’s interim leaders issue warrant for Yanukovych appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ukraine square

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The scene in the heart of Ukraine’s capital has shifted from chaos and carnage to mourning, with questions of what’s next for the country.

    We begin with this report from Matt Frei of Independent Television News.

    MATT FREI: Kiev is back in business, the business of flowers and grief.

    The city center around Maidan is a shrine amongst barricades that became scenes of trench warfare from a different era. The vestiges of normality have returned. Here, a supermarket at the barricades has opened its doors again. The metro is operating again, if mainly in the service of pilgrimage to the place where dozens of mostly unarmed protesters were picked off by sniper rifles and Kalashnikovs only four days ago.

    It’s astonishing how quickly a crime scene has been transformed into a shrine, guarded by the custodians of the revolution, haunted by the images and sounds that have barely had time to become memories. It’s the down payment in blood that has made this revolution so different to the Orange one in 2004. It demands a more solemn level of respect and revenge.

    This is Antony, a neurosurgeon and his 5-year-old daughter and his pregnant musician wife. She’s expecting in a fortnight.

    MATT FREI: What should happen to President Yanukovych?

    MAN: I think that, for Ukrainians, it’s not enough to find him and to judge him. I think that and I believe and I see that most of us want him dead.

    MATT FREI: You want him dead?

    MAN: Yes, because the man who do this — those horrible things, he doesn’t live. He must die. He must die. For him — it is better for him.

    WOMAN: It’s a disaster really. I have been here from the first day of Maidan.

    MATT FREI: Alessia owns a travel company and summed up what’s really at stake here.

    What’s the most important thing that needs to change?

    WOMAN: The most important thing? It has already changed. It’s in the mind of people. It’s here. It’s inside. We have to make the changes — we have to start from ourselves. We don’t have to look for politicians or for someone else to save our country. We have to start from ourselves.

    MATT FREI: But someone does need to run the country, and the leaders from the last revolution are no longer as appealing as they once were.

    So the man without a face standing guard outside the central bank summed up a very common refrain.

    “Ukraine needs completely new faces,” he told me. “No Tymoshenko, no Poroshenko, no Arseli, no Klitschko, none of them.”

    A blank slate, a power vacuum, and, according to the central bank, a whole of 35 billion euros just to cover the next two years. The revolution may be over but, there’s no shortage of demons.

    The post Paying respect and seeking revenge, Ukrainians look forward to uncertain future appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Arrest Warrant Issued For Former Ukrainian Leader As Square Becomes Shrine To Dead

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We explore what’s next for the country with Steven Pifer, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000. He’s now with the Brookings Institution. And Adrian Karatnycky, he’s a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    Welcome to the program — back to the program, both of you.

    Adrian Karatnycky, let me begin with you. How stable is the situation right now in Ukraine? What do you hear?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, The Atlantic Council: I think that if a government takes shape, and assuming that there is some wisdom in the shaping of the government, that it is regionally inclusive, that it is not just packed with the old pols, but there is some room for competent people, and if they hear the voices of the Maidan, of the square, in the selection of the personnel tomorrow, that can help considerably to move the country towards stability.

    But, at the moment, the people who went out into the square have questions about their leaders. They realize there’s a lot of horse-trading going on, and people are just fighting for poses. They’re not really looking for the greater good. And I think the public is expecting these leaders to do something different for the first time in the 23 years of Ukraine’s history.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It sounds unsettled. What are you hearing?

    STEVEN PIFER, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine: Well, the same thing.

    I mean, there are a lot of challenges that the new government’s going to face. First of all, can it be inclusive in a way that makes particularly those people in Eastern Ukraine, which was Viktor Yanukovych’s power base, feel that they have some stake in the government, that the government’s listening to them?

    You have a number of opposition leaders that have worked together fairly well over the last three months. But Yulia Tymoshenko is released from prison. She’s back now. Can they continue to work together in a cooperative way when you are going to have the pressure of a presidential election in May, and some of those people may find themselves working against one another in that election?

    So, can they begin to do things and work together in fairly difficult circumstances?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we saw those Russian flags in the Eastern and southern — Crimea, the southern part of the country. I think a lot of people are questioning, can the country hold together?

    How strong is the pro-Russian sentiment?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Well, I think you have to understand that Sevastopol is a very unique place. It’s a place where many of the people who retired from the Soviet military, many of them ethnic Russians. Crimea is the only place of Ukraine which has an ethnic Russian majority.

    There are Russian-speaking majorities in Eastern Ukraine, but they have a very different consciousness. And the Black Sea fleet is there, the Russian part of the Black Sea fleet. So, it’s basically a Russian town. So I don’t think that this is a particularly disturbing thing to see, either Sevastopol or some of those places.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you would expect…

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Right. I don’t think that there is great sentiment for Russia.

    But I think a fear of the values and the politics of the central and west Ukrainians, partly because the last few years Mr. Yanukovych used this as a wedge issue. Cultural politics is not just something between red states and blue states. It’s also on a massive scale in Ukraine and on a dangerous scale, as opposed to our more settled system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any question Yanukovych is out of the picture now?

    STEVEN PIFER: All the ports have him hiding somewhere in Crimea.

    He’s been moving around since he disappeared on Friday, even reports in Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, then Donetsk, one report saying that he actually in Donetsk tried to leave to depart for Russia and border guards wouldn’t let him leave.

    But the fact that he’s been hiding and really running for the last few days, he’s pretty much become irrelevant to what’s going on in Kiev. He’s thoroughly discredited himself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the Russians? We heard the critical comment from Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, saying this isn’t a legitimate government. What should one expect from the Russians?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Well, I think that the U.S. and the international community and especially Europe should work very closely to get a consensus not just among the West, but of the entire international community, to recognize the transition has occurred in the Ukraine and that this is a legitimate government.

    That would box the Russians in. And I think I’m very worried that if there are people who are sort of sitting on the fence, that this may encourage the Russians to be a little more aggressive in trying to question the legitimacy of the new authorities. And that would be potentially destabilizing. It would open questions and I think it would raise the political temperature and the geopolitical temperature in Europe.

    STEVEN PIFER: And you can make the case, you should be able to make the case that a Ukraine that has a growing relationship with Europe, through an association group, but still has good relations with Russia, and Ukraine has a compelling reason to have good relations with Russia, shouldn’t be a threat.

    And I think that’s one reason why President Obama spent a long time talking to President Putin over the weekend, Chancellor Merkel, is they are trying to get Russia to be part of the solution, rather than problem. But I’m not sure we’re going to be able to change Mr. Putin’s world view. And he still sees what’s happened over the last five days as a setback for his interpretation of Russian interests.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But we don’t know yet what that means or what it could mean?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Well, we do know he’s cutting off assistance at the moment and it’s not flowing.

    But Russia could be asked to be part of a deal with an international consortium to help save the Ukrainian economy, if they were willing to continue with their assistance program that they promised, which was quite general generous.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are leaders emerging? I know it’s — we’re in the immediate aftermath of this, but are leading internally in Ukraine? You heard the ordinary folks saying, Tymoshenko, they don’t like any of the folks who have been in power.

    STEVEN PIFER: I think there are leaders that have emerged. But the question is how much credibility are they going to have with the Maidan and the street?

    Where — there’s a certain amount, I think, skepticism of all politicians, and so there’s a look to say you need to prove to us that you’re different, that you’re not going to repeat the old habits of closed, nontransparent politics that are really conducted just among elites, that you’re not going to engage in the sort of corrupt behavior which has been just epitomized by the revelations coming about, about Mr. Yanukovych’s residence.

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: You need money to win an election in Ukraine. They’re extremely expensive processes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For legitimate or corrupt reasons?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: For any regime.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of them.

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: It’s a very expensive proposition.

    There’s a lot of money throw in. Even, I think, the legitimate politicians have to get a lot of backers who may have origins for their capital. But the problem is there’s not enough time between now and May for the Maidan to have some new charismatic leader to emerge.

    But I do think that the people who went out on the square, these new generation of civic activists who have been out there for three months who have put their bodies on the line, they will probably get involved in the political process. And when there is a parliamentary election, I think we will see some new political forces in the parliament, and I think we will have some sort of gadfly movement that may keep the rest of the elite — and the Ukraine parliament is a parliament of billionaires and multimillionaires and millionaires. It’s incredibly corrupt.

    As soon as we can get a new parliament going, the better for Ukraine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you looking for just in the next few days?

    STEVEN PIFER: I think it’s important that they get a government that is established tomorrow that begins to begin to make things work, that begins to create a sense of confidence that there’s going to be a restoration of normalcy.

    I also hope that the government appears inclusive. It maybe doesn’t have to include members of regions in the cabinet, but some people who can say, yes, we speak for the interests of Eastern and Southern Ukraine, again, so that that part of Ukraine where we worry about possible separatist tendencies, which shouldn’t be overstated, but we want them to feel that, yes, this government is going to be listening to their concerns and responsive to their concerns.

    And then they’re going to have to deal with some very difficult financial challenges with some big bills coming due really quick, and they will need outside help for that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we are going to leave it there, but clearly continue to watch this story.

    Ambassador Steven Pifer, Adrian Karatnycky, we thank you.

    STEVEN PIFER: Thank you.

    The post Money, inclusivity concerns may challenge Ukraine political transition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    El Chapo

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    GWEN IFILL: The arrest over the weekend of the head of one of the world’s most sophisticated narcotics networks proved a major victory for both U.S. and Mexican law enforcement.

    But both sides now want to prosecute him.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mexican marines led Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman away in handcuffs on Saturday, thus ending a 13-year hunt for one of the world’s most dangerous men.

    JESUS MURILLO KARAM, Attorney General, Mexico (through interpreter): This arrest is the product of an operation that’s been worked on for several months in coordination with all federal government agencies. And the arrest was impeccably achieved.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Only two days earlier, Guzman was surrounded by troops at his ex-wife’s home in the western city of Culiacan, capital of the Mexican state of Sinaloa. He got away through a trapdoor under the bathtub, and managed to escape through a network of tunnels and the city’s sewer system.

    U.S. drug agents and Mexican troops, acting on wiretaps and other information, pursued him 135 miles South, to this luxury condominium in the seaside resort of Mazatlan. There, just before dawn Saturday, they stormed into Guzman’s room and captured him without firing a shot.

    In Washington today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney praised the joint effort.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: This is a significant achievement in our shared fight against transnational organized crime, violence, and drug trafficking. The U.S. and Mexico have a strong security partnership and we will continue to support Mexico in its efforts to ensure that cartel leaders are put out of business.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Guzman was formally charged Sunday with drug trafficking in Mexico. He faces indictments in the U.S. as well, and federal prosecutors in New York and Chicago already are asking for his extradition.

    It’s not the first time behind bars for the 56-year-old Guzman, nicknamed El Chapo, or Shorty. In 2001, he escaped from a high-security Mexican prison before he was halfway through a 20-year sentence for drug trafficking and murder.

    Over the years, he built the Sinaloa cartel into Mexico’s most powerful drug operation, wiping out rivals in a reign of brutality that killed tens of thousands of people. In Mexico City this weekend, word of his capture brought both hope and skepticism.

    FRANCISCO ALCOCER, (through interpreter): I think that it’s something very good. I think it’s an excellent achievement from this government that is giving us results. I think not just for Mexico, but for many countries, it’s an important arrest.

    RAMON TORRES, (through interpreter): It’s very difficult. The cartel is quite organized and has a presence in many states in the country, so it’s difficult to say that just with the capture of El Chapo the cartel will fall apart.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Guzman now joins Miguel Angel Trevino, who was head of the Zetas, a rival cartel, and was arrested last summer. Those are major gets for President Enrique Pena Nieto, who had said he’d rebalance the all-out war against cartels with a new emphasis on the economy and education.

    The post Mexicans express hope and skepticism about significance of ‘El Chapo’ arrest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    El Chapo arrest

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    JEFFREY BROWN: So, what does this mean for the drug trade?

    We turn to Alejandro Hope, formerly with Mexico’s National Intelligence Agency and now a private security analyst. He joins us from Mexico City. And Sam Quinones, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times and author of several books on Mexico.

    Alejandro Hope, was this a surprise that he was captured without a shot being fired, and how were Mexican and U.S. forces able to do that? What do we know?

    ALEJANDRO HOPE, Former Mexican Intelligence Official: Well, I mean, this is the end result of a long process of accumulation of intelligence about Guzman and about the environment where he worked and where he lived.

    This is not the first major arrest that happens without a shot being fired. Several of those happened under the administration and also under the administration of President Calderon. It was surprising that probably that El Chapo Guzman didn’t put up much more of a fight, but it does prove that there are far more capacities now than when this whole process started seven, eight years ago.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sam Quinones, tell us a little bit more about Guzman himself, his history, his reputation, his importance.

    SAM QUINONES, The Los Angeles Times: I think his story and the story of the Sinaloans in drug trafficking is one of the most fascinating in all of the history of organized crime.

    These are guys who started out in the country of Badiraguato, which is a small hillside mountain county in the state of Sinaloa. From there, they used their machismo, violence, as well as political connections during the reign of the PRI, which ran the country for about 70 years, to expand their power.

    And in time, Sinaloans grew to control 1,500 miles roughly of the 1,900-mile border between the United States and Mexico. So they controlled areas as far away as Juarez and Tijuana and the Arizona border. Chapo Guzman grew up in this poor community.

    He became through ruthless violence and I think also a fair amount of expertise kind of that he developed in logistics, in organizational capacity, began to expand this cartel until he kind of rubbed — he’s kind of basically rubbed out the other two. The Juarez cartel is not what it once was. The Tijuana cartel especially has disintegrated.

    And so he’s now kind of left to be the lone guy on much of the border along Mexico. That’s why it was such a big coup. He started as a small nobody, a hillbilly basically. All these guys started as hillbillies, most of them anyway, and now he’s the most wanted guy in the United States as well as in Mexico.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, let me ask Alejandro Hope, how important is this there in Mexico?  And in this long fight that Mexico’s had against the cartels, where does this fit in and what does it tell us about where that fight is right now?

    ALEJANDRO HOPE: Well, I think this is very important both I would say ethically, strategically and politically.

    Ethically, because Guzman was, El Chapo Guzman was face of Mexican impunity. He had mocked Mexican law enforcement agencies for 13 years. He had successfully waged war in two major cities. He brought bloodshed to most of the border mostly unimpeded.

    It’s an important message that this guy can be brought, was brought to justice. Secondly, strategically, because this is pushing, this accelerated the — an ongoing concession from large-scale drug trafficking organization to smaller gangs, more local in scope, but more diverse fighting activities, i.e., more involved in things like extortion, kidnapping, theft.

    So this is in some ways, this is the end of an era. Chapo Guzman is one of a dying breed of Mexican gangsters as mostly smugglers. And this certainly changes the chessboard of the Mexican criminal underworld. And politically it’s important because President Pena Nieto can send two important messages.

    One is that it’s effective in the fight against these large-scale mafias and, secondly, they can put to rest the rumors that had been going on for quite some time that the new administration would try to accommodate the cartels and would try to exchange peace for tolerance. I think that that should put that to rest.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Sam Quinones, of course the big question is what does his capture mean for the flow of drugs in the United States and elsewhere? We heard that U.S. officials want to extradite Guzman himself. But what does his capture mean? Might it impede the flow? Might it have any impact at all?

    SAM QUINONES: I suspect it will probably have some significance impact for a while.

    You know, I was asked earlier, is this an important thing and are there people to replace him? Yes, yes to both questions. There are people to replace him and this is still a very, very important coup. I agree with Alejandro Hope in all of what he just said.

    I would say, though, that just because he might easily be replaced does not mean that people should not — that these guys should not be brought to justice. There is the idea that this guy was kind of the poster child for Mexican impunity. But also in these cartels, very often the guys who run these cartels, these are meritocracies in a certain sense.

    They are guys who combine certain capacities, first of all, of course, wanton murder, the ability to kill at the drop of a hat. That’s number one. But also they involved, they embody kind of great organizational capacity and great logistical capacity. This guy was moving tons of drugs across a well-armed border, using criminals and other folks, ragtag army kind of folks.

    That is not easy to do. And so if he’s taken down, I think we can suspect that there probably are not a whole lot of other people there who have the same capacity or charisma that he does. And so that may lead to fracturing. I very much agree with Alejandro Hope that think what’s happening in the cartels nowadays is that they are really fracturing. There were a few large ones. Now they are just totally fracturing and this is going to be one more step towards that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Sam Quinones, just in a word, if you could in our last 30, seconds do you expect him to be extradited to the U.S. or would he be tried in Mexico?

    SAM QUINONES: No, we have got — our federal prison system is becoming the depository for numerous legendary Mexican narcos. I suspect he will be right there pretty soon.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, Sam Quinones, Alejandro Hope, thank you both very much.

    SAM QUINONES: Thank you.

    ALEJANDRO HOPE: Thank you very much.

    The post Arrest of cartel leader Guzman, ‘face of Mexican impunity,’ sends message appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Military

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    GWEN IFILL: Now: striking the balance between national security and budget reality.

    CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: Good afternoon.

    GWEN IFILL: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid out plans this afternoon to cut troops and close bases, reshaping the nation’s military after more than a decade of war. 

    CHUCK HAGEL: We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power, and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States.

    GWEN IFILL: A key part of that repositioning, shrinking the Army from 522,000 active-duty soldiers to between 440,000-450,000, the fewest since World War II.

    The Army National Guard would be reduced as well, but Hagel said it can be done without compromising national defense.

    CHUCK HAGEL: Our analysis showed that this force would be capable of decisively defeating aggression in one major combat theater — as it must be — while also defending the homeland and supporting air and naval forces engaged in another theater.

    GWEN IFILL: The budget also calls for eliminating the venerable A-10 Warthog aircraft, used for close air support of ground troops, and for replacing the iconic U-2 spy plane with a force of Global Hawk drones.

    Among the other recommendations: increasing health insurance deductibles and co-pays for military families and retirees, reducing subsidies to military commissaries, and closing more military bases.

    Hagel also proposes freezing salaries of generals and admirals and limiting pay raises for military personnel to 1 percent. He said delaying such decisions actually hurts morale.

    CHUCK HAGEL: It needs to be done once so that our men and women and their families in uniform, those who have served and those who are thinking about serving don’t constantly live under this cloud of uncertainty and threat, of, well, what are they going to do next year?  Are they going to take this out next year? I don’t want that. We can’t have that.

    GWEN IFILL: The Pentagon budget proposal goes to Congress next week.

    Today’s announcement was just the first salvo in what is likely to be a prolonged battle about policy and priorities.

    Here to weigh those choices are Thomas Donnelly, a defense and security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, and Gordon Adams, a top White House budget official for national security during the Clinton administration. He now teaches at American University.

    Gordon Adams, how significant are Chuck Hagel’s proposals today and how necessary are they?

    GORDON ADAMS, Former National Security Official: Well, I think they are certainly necessary. Gwen, I call this 50 percent towards reality. They have recognized that the budget is not going to grow the way they projected it would last year when they looked at the future.

    This year, they’re saying, well, we will come down a bit. But it’s only 50 percent towards the reality because they still aren’t quite prepared to budget at the level that’s in the Budget Control Act of August 2011. And I think that’s the best they’re likely to do.

    So, in a sense, it’s 50 percent towards the goal, but they’re not quite at the goal line yet in realistic budgeting terms.

    GWEN IFILL: Are they cutting about right or are they cutting too deeply, Thomas Donnelly?

    THOMAS DONNELLY, American Enterprise Institute: Well, Gordon’s quite right about the numbers.

    They matched the numbers that was in the budget deal, the Ryan-Patty Murray budget deal for this year, but then they bumped the numbers up for the subsequent years above levels indicated in the budget control legislation. So they have got about $120 billion to $150 billion more to go to reach that level.

    GWEN IFILL: OK, for people who don’t follow the budget…

    THOMAS DONNELLY: That’s a lot. That’s a lot.

    GWEN IFILL: … how necessary is it and how deep is it?

    THOMAS DONNELLY: It’s deep.

    It’s necessary budgetarily, but it’s a huge mistake strategically and for the health of the U.S. military services, I would say.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. He just threw that in the middle.

    GORDON ADAMS: Just threw that in the middle.

    GWEN IFILL: Strategically. Why?

    GORDON ADAMS: I will tell you something.

    Bernard Brodie, who was one of the great strategic theorists of the 1950s and ’60s wrote a book on nuclear strategy and planning in which he had a chapter called “Strategy Wears a Dollar Sign.”  The reality is that strategy and money are always related. They always will be. They always have been.

    We’re coming down right now in the defense budget at about a pace like other drawdowns that we have done after Korea, after Vietnam, at the end of the Cold War. We have always come down somewhere around 30 percent in constant dollars from the top of spending to the way we reached the bottom. And we’re at the shallow end of that right now.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, Thomas Donnelly, what does this strategy then tell us after where we are after 10 years of war and whether we’re going to continue to draw down?

    THOMAS DONNELLY: The money quote in the clip you played from Secretary Hagel was that we are sizing the force for a one-war strategy, essentially.

    For the United States and for any global power, two has always been the right number. Nobody wants to use all the force they have got in a single contingency, particularly for a global power, lest something else happens. We have accepted essentially a step backward from the traditional measure of what it means to be a great power.

    GWEN IFILL: Even when some of the things that will get a lot of attention, but which are not necessarily the biggest ticket items, involve things like taking away the subsidy for commissaries and changing military benefits, is that separate in your mind, or are you thinking mostly of closing bases and hardware?

    THOMAS DONNELLY: Well, all those things which really won’t immediately save that much money are going to be the most politically contentious, as we saw from the adjustment to health care co-pays in the budget deal.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    THOMAS DONNELLY: So, that’s going to mobilize the veterans groups to take to the streets. Not going to save that much money, and it’s not going to focus on these larger strategic and force sizing questions.

    GWEN IFILL: And Secretary Hagel also raised the specter that there may be further sequestration down, across-the-board budget cuts.

    GORDON ADAMS: Well, there may be, but I will tell you something, Gwen. I think what realistically the Pentagon needs to be planning to is the reality of the levels in the Budget Control Act, because I think that’s the best they’re going to do in the Pentagon over the next five years.

    Instead of doing that, frankly…

    GWEN IFILL: Does it do that?

    GORDON ADAMS: It doesn’t do that.

    Instead of doing that, what the secretary did was say let’s assume we have got $115 billion more over the next five years than the Budget Control Act would provide. What that does for the planning process in the Pentagon is mislead them, because if they’re only really going to get at Budget Control Act levels, but they start planning programs and force sizes and hardware choices at a higher level of spending, we will get out there in the next two or three years and they will suddenly discover they have got to cut things out that they have built into the plan. They baked it in. Now they got to bake it out.

    GWEN IFILL: But is it even politically possible to even get what he’s asking for, let alone cutting even more deeply?

    GORDON ADAMS: Well, as I said, I think the Budget Control Act level is about the best they will do, not the worst.

    THOMAS DONNELLY: Predicting what the defense budget will be five years from now is always a recipe for tears.

    So, who knows whether the politics and the domestic politics will change. But Gordon’s right. I mean, if the Budget Control Act is the ceiling, then they have got more homework to do. The question I would ask is not about inputs, about what we pay, but what we get back in terms of security. And that is going to go down too.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that’s the question. Are we — if we shift our focus from aircraft carriers and outdated, some people say, airplanes, and we shift them to cyber operations, special ops, is that the reality of where we’re heading now?

    GORDON ADAMS: Well, I think that’s — it comes to a point that Tom made earlier that — when he said a planning scenario usually involves two big wars.

    The reality is, I don’t think that’s the real world that we’re going into. As we have seen, you know, setting aside Iraq, which was a war of choice, not a war that we were thrown into, the reality is, if we’re going to use the forces, we’re going to be using them in smaller packages, smaller combats, different types of support, training operations, things that you can in fact, if you do it right, do well.

    The problem that they have is they got a point-of-the-spear back office issue. They’re buying a lot of back office in this budget and in the past budgets, which is the administration and the Pentagon. If they want to be able the combat point of the spear, I think they have to tackle that back office more seriously than they have.

    GWEN IFILL: The president — the secretary of defense today described this as a modest and necessary series of proposals. But a lot of oxes are going to be gored. You have been through this before.

    What is your sense based on what — these kinds of debates that we have seen unfold, especially talking about shrinking, rather than adding, how realistic any of this is?

    THOMAS DONNELLY: If they get the personnel measures through, I will buy Gordon a six-pack or something like that.

    GORDON ADAMS: And I will accept.

    (LAUGHTER)

    THOMAS DONNELLY: That’s not going to happen.

    GWEN IFILL: Not going to happen?

    THOMAS DONNELLY: That’s not going to happen, no.

    GORDON ADAMS: No, I agree with Tom on that. The personnel staff is the third rail of defense budgeting. You don’t go in there lightly and you go in well-armed.

    Ryan-Murray said military retirees under 62 who are working full-time ought to get a pension COLA 1 percent less than the cost of the consumer price index. Within six weeks, that was deader than a doornail on the Hill, because the groups came up on the net. Congress people said, we’re not going to vote for that. Personnel is tough.

    GWEN IFILL: But how about the hardware or the base closings?

    GORDON ADAMS: Hardware is the easiest thing.

    GWEN IFILL: That’s the easiest thing?

    GORDON ADAMS: Yes.

    THOMAS DONNELLY: But they’re not really cutting that much. The A-10, it’s a great airplane, but it’s been around a really long time.

    And the things that they’re — and there’s not that much that’s new left to cut. So it’s very difficult to really get the dollar savings that they’re looking for. The big dollar savings are coming from the cuts in end strength.

    GORDON ADAMS: That’s absolutely right.

    We will go down in procurement due, because we always do in a drawdown. But there’s not — Tom is right — there’s not a lot there that you can find to take out.

    GWEN IFILL: So, the battle just begins, at least on the budget.

    GORDON ADAMS: We’re at the first stage.

    GWEN IFILL: Gordon Adams, Thomas Donnelly, thank you both very much.

    GORDON ADAMS: Thank you.

    THOMAS DONNELLY: Thank you.

    The post How will proposed military savings affect strategy and security? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Money and saving

    Creative commons image by 401(K) 2013

    For every parent who has ever railed that children no longer understand the value of a dollar, the Oklahoma state legislature has come up with a response: as of this May, all public high school students in the state will be required to show they have a working understanding of 14 areas of personal finance in order to graduate.

    The bill, which originally passed in 2007, is the toughest ever attempted and will require students to become adept in areas of personal finance like banking, loans, taxes, identity theft and investing.

    “We’re basically teaching them how to live on their own,” Joe Griese, a junior high school physical education teacher, told The Oklahoman newspaper.

    Yet despite the law’s broadly positive implications, some educators are troubled by the fact that the legislation provides no funding for school districts to hire dedicated financial literacy teachers, according to Amy Lee, executive director of the Oklahoma Council on Economic Education.

    The post Oklahoma requires students learn personal finance to graduate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    "The Square"

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The resignation of the Cabinet from Egypt’s interim government today was just the latest turn in the tumultuous three years since the downfall of Hosni Mubarak. Two Egyptian-American filmmakers charted much of that journey.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner sat down with them recently.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Oscar nominated documentary “The Square” tracks two and-a-half years of tumult in Egypt, from Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in 2011 through the 2012 end of direct military rule and the 2013 removal of elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi.

    The film, which can’t we shown publicly in Egypt, tells the tale through six characters who met in Tahrir Square, especially Ahmed Hassan, a poor secular young revolutionary, and Magdy Ashour, a Muslim Brotherhood father of four.

    We sat down with director Jehane Noujaim and producer Karim Amer in Washington.

    Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, thank you so much and congratulations for being nominated.

    JEHANE NOUJAIM, director, “The Square”: Thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, when this uprising against Mubarak started in early 2011, what did you see in that moment that just impelled you to rush to the square and start filming?

    JEHANE NOUJAIM: It was a magical moment.

    And this is why I make films, because I see people that inspire me, surprise me, take me to a place I have never been before, and I want to share them with the world immediately. And we grew up in an Egypt where people were afraid to talk about how they felt about politics for fear of repercussion.

    But here you had men, women, people of all different classes talking about and sharing dreams of the future for the very first time.

    MARGARET WARNER: And, Karim, what is it that attracted you all particularly to two of your main characters, Ahmed Hassan, and Magdy Ashour, the young revolutionary and Muslim Brotherhood member?

    KARIM AMER, producer, “The Square”: When I went down originally, I went down actually as a skeptic.

    But when you meet people like Ahmed, who is so representative of so many young Egyptians who have lived all their lives feeling like their story had already been written for them, that they had no sense of empowerment, they had no sense of authorship for their future, and to feel that for the first time they could pen that future, that they could build the country of their dreams was an unbelievable feeling.

    When you’re making a film like this that is a verite film, you don’t know what’s going to pan out. So their actions actually in the events is what ended up making them the characters. So it was Magdy, and when the Battle of Mohamed Mahmoud, which is one of the kind of main scene you see in the film where the Brotherhood didn’t participate and Magdy went against Brotherhood orders and joined the protest movement.

    MARGARET WARNER: And he said, I’m staying here.

    KARIM AMER: And he said, I’m staying here.

    That moment made him much more compelling as a character, because, all of a sudden, he became someone who was conflicted between two sides.

    MARGARET WARNER: I have to say at the end of the movie, I was left with a feeling of sadness, because the characters got on this sort of endless loop of unity and solidarity and expectation.

    And they would topple a ruler, only to make room for the next despot. And then they would be angry and then they would rail and they would say, well, we’re going back to the streets. But it didn’t really get better.

    JEHANE NOUJAIM:  I actually am left with a feeling of optimism.

    And I will tell you why. Even though we’re in this very dark time in Egypt, and there are people being addressed — we have friends of ours in jail now — it’s one of the worst time for journalists — people on the ground, all of the characters will say, we have had to go through these mistakes. We had to go through the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, and the pendulum has swung the complete other direction now towards the military, right?

    And ultimately I feel and I hope — and this is what our characters feel — that we will get to a point where we will be able to have a healthy country. I mean, I feel like it’s the civil rights movement of our time. And our characters are still on the front lines struggling for it.

    KARIM AMER: We, as a society in Egypt, and the characters, we felt, all have to kind of free ourselves from this fairy tale story of change, that in 18 days people can go down for the first time in their lives, do the unbelievable, topple the dictator, and then democracy is just going to flourish.

    And I think that we suffered from a problem that a lot of problem around the world actually are trapped in, which is this kind of story has changed that we’re told, which is more like change’s greatest hits, where we see kind of like the highlights of change throughout history.

    So we see Gandhi liberating India, and we see Mandela ending apartheid, and we see Martin Luther King saying I have a dream, but we’re not willing to spend 20 years in jail with Mandela when he’s hopeless and no one believes in him. And what keeps me optimistic is that people like Ahmed and others in that square are no longer to be trapped, are unwilling to go back to the old narrative, the old story of Egypt.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yet doesn’t the success also depend on this generation of revolutionaries being willing to go the next step and do that hard, gritty of building political parties, running for office?

    JEHANE NOUJAIM:  This was a time when we didn’t have a judiciary, we didn’t have a freedom of press, we didn’t have these pillars of democracy. Democracy is not only the ballot box. We didn’t have — and so people felt their only way of reaching people was the streets.

    And I think that’s where they felt their role was at that time.

    KARIM AMER: And for us as filmmakers, the climax happens in the first two minutes. The dictator fell.

    Where are you going to go from there, you know? So I think that there is a lot of activity happening in Egypt. It may not all be manifesting itself into the political continuum, but there’s a lot of other spaces that are helping shape the future.

    MARGARET WARNER: Jehane and Karim, thank you so much.

    JEHANE NOUJAIM:  Thank you.

    KARIM AMER: Thank you so much for having us. Thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: And good luck.

    JEHANE NOUJAIM:  Thank you so much.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret also asked the filmmakers about a next chapter for the characters in the documentary, and you can see that extended interview on our home page.

    The post Filmmakers try to shake ‘fairy tale story of change’ in documenting Egypt’s revolution appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    poetryrichmond2

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, a story about storytelling.

    Our colleagues at KQED in San Francisco are the television leg of an unusual reporting partnership that includes The San Francisco Chronicle, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the residents of a public housing project in Richmond, California.

    Jeffrey Brown looks at what they produced.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In many ways, it was a traditional hard-hitting news investigation.

    WOMAN: He hasn’t had heat for more than a year. The housing authority says it fixed the problem in October.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It took months of digging, combing through stacks of documents and interviewing sources, for the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Amy Julia Harris and her colleagues to flesh out myriad problems at the Richmond Housing Authority.

    But this investigation had a twist, one that offered a different way of reporting the news, and describing what’s going on, through poetry.

    DEANDRE EVANS: This is where rodents and roaches are like family because we share the same meals. We feel 30 below air from cracked windows. No heat from when Richmond wind blows.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Deandre Evans, Will Hartfield and Donte Clark, all in their early 20s, grew up in Richmond. Last fall, they joined CIR’s Harris as she interviewed residents and documented living conditions at two dilapidated public housing projects.

    What they heard and saw, the cockroaches, mold and other squalor, inspired the three to write a poem called “This Is Home.”

    WILL HARTFIELD: I see barren hallways, broken cameras, uninvited guests. There’s no service here, as if a sea of people were cast away on an island to fend for themselves. The weather outside is frightening.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s all part of a new effort called the Off/Page Project, a collaboration between CIR, a nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism organization, and the San Francisco-based Youth Speaks, which promotes writing and education and hosts a yearly poetry slam competition for young people.

    Jose Vadi directs the Off/Page Project.

    JOSE VADI, Off/Page Project: It’s trying to find new ways to tell investigative journalism in a new light, in a new form of storytelling, and also wanted to reach a younger audience and to have them kind of — have a conversation centered around them, around some issues that are affecting their lives and their day-to-day.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Who’s it for? I mean, is it for the journalists or is it for the young poets?

    JOSE VADI: I think it’s for both, you know? I think, with the reaction from our initial work, journalists and young people alike are kind of able to find a common ground through a platform like Off/Page.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Vadi himself bridges the two worlds.

    JOSE VADI: I know the twinge that exists in the doldrums of my soul exhausted by sitting on asphalt with a pepper-sprayed face and calling this social change.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He’s a two-time NATIONAL POETRY SLAM champion and a playwright, who now has a desk in a newsroom.

    JOSE VADI: There was that initial hesitation of, you know, here’s this poet coming into a newsroom, dealing with some hard-core investigations. Is this poet going to come in here and wear a beret and just write couplets all day? I think that was a fear. But I think when they realized that, myself, I come from a background where a lot of my art is informed by everything that goes on around, you know, my daily life and what I read in the paper and what I see on the streets.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Richmond housing story is actually the fifth journalism/poetry collaboration for Off/Page. Previous investigations looked at sexual abuse of female farm workers.

    WOMAN: I have seen these supervisors kiss and hug their wives and kids with the same hands and mouths they force on these women.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And bankruptcy problems in Stockton, California, where teens were given access to CIR reports on the city’s financial mismanagement.

    WOMAN: It will cost the city $1 million a year over 30 years to pay back the $10.9 million it raided for the arena complex.

    WOMAN: I never even knew that.

    MAN: It’s dangerous up in here. The murder rate is a murder rate in here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In reporting the Richmond story, CIR’s Amy Julia Harris says the perspective of the young poets brought something extra to her journalism.

    AMY JULIA HARRIS, Center for Investigative Reporting: When I found out I was going to be working with poets, I had no idea how that was going to work.

    And I took the poets in to talk to people that I had been talking to, and they were asking very poignant questions and said, you know, how are you able to live like this, and were asking really good questions that kind of helped inform my reporting. I thought the poets did an amazing job of just capturing the sentiment of residents, and contextualizing it in broader issues of neglect.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Editors at The San Francisco Chronicle seem to agree. In addition to running Harris’ article in the paper, they have posted a link to a video of the poets performing their work.

    MAN: I see Juanita, a double amputee bound to a chair, hand scarred by not by surgery or disease, but by a room and a door that a wheelchair wasn’t made for.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For their part, Evans, Hartfield, and Clark say they learned from the experience.

    WILL HARTFIELD: You can use news as a way to connect everybody to what’s really going on. You all live in the same community, but you don’t know what’s going on in that house next door to you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How does this connect to your poetry, your own writing?

    DEANDRE EVANS: I’m bringing the people’s perspective. See, when you hear our poem, it is like you are listening to the people who actually have to live in these conditions. It’s one thing for you to hear a person talking about it, but to hear a person who is living it is something else.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The three are now working with Jose Vadi to turn their poem into a theatrical production, which they plan to perform next month in San Francisco. And they say they’re hopeful the investigation they were part of will lead to changes in Richmond’s public housing projects, a sentiment Donte Clark wrote about in the final verse of, “This Is Home.”

    DONTE CLARK: Got to protest, raid the government, shake their pockets and make them fix these projects, huh? Because, if not here, then where? Where do we go next, huh? Because left is cemetery.

    But, until tomorrow, before my thoughts will manifest kingdom and we feast in an abundance of wealth, we will break bread, share what leftover scraps we have and find communion in our struggle. This is tomorrow.

    GWEN IFILL: The story on the Richmond housing investigation aired Friday on KQED in San Francisco. And, online, you can watch the poets perform “This Is Home.”  The entire KQED/CIR report is posted on Art Beat.

    The post Bay Area poets turn reporters to tell story of vulnerable public housing residents appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Reuters reports that the worst violence in a decade lead to 13 deaths Monday as anti-government demonstrators in the Venezuelan capital Caracas protested scarcity, crime and other issues the country faces. According to the government, 45 have been arrested, 150 have been injured and 529 people have been charged over the unrest.

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    Is marriage the best way to collect the highest Social Security benefits? Photo by Juanmonino/E+ via Getty Images.

    Is marriage the best way to collect the highest Social Security benefits? Photo by Juanmonino/E+ via Getty Images.

    Larry Kotlikoff’s Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version.


    Ginger — Olympia, Wash.: I am in my late 50s, a few weeks older than my boyfriend. He was married for 17 years, and his ex-wife will, I’m sure, wish to collect on his Social Security. Should we marry after a certain age? What’s the best way for me to increase my Social Security? I won’t earn that much on my own and I wasn’t married long enough to my ex to collect on his record. I do not want to marry my boyfriend for that reason — I do love him, but I might as well know the best scenario for myself. It is so complicated and you apparently know this stuff, so I hope you will answer me?

    Larry Kotlikoff: First, congratulations on being in love. But being and staying in love doesn’t require getting married. In Sweden, very few people get married, but they seem to fall and stay in love at the same pace as we Americans. This said, getting married may help you get more from Social Security or it may mean getting less Social Security income.

    You said you were married. If you were married for more than 10 years to your ex, you can collect benefits on your ex’s earnings record. That won’t take away from his current wife’s ability to collect benefits on his earnings record.

    Indeed, if a hypothetical person, call him Joe, were 100 today and married a new wife every 10 years, starting at age 20, he’d have seven ex-wives plus the current wife — all of whom could collect spousal benefits on his earnings record. This presumes the exes didn’t remarry. If Joe dies, all eight former wives could collect survivor benefits on Joe’s earnings record provided the exes don’t remarry before age 60.

    If your boyfriend — I’ll call him John — is and was a higher-earner than your ex, you’ll likely do better in terms of spousal and survivor benefits to marry him. You only need to be married for one year (nine months) before you become eligible to collect spousal (survivor) benefits on John’s earnings record.

    The best strategy for you to get the highest lifetime benefits from Social Security, assuming you don’t get married, is to wait until 70 to collect your retirement benefit and to collect just your divorcée spousal benefit starting at your full retirement age (assuming your ex is at least 62 when you hit full retirement age).

    The best strategy if you marry John is more complicated and depends on your age, John’s age and your respective earnings records. It’s likely that this strategy would entail both of you waiting until 70 to collect your retirement benefits and one of you collecting a full spousal benefit (for example, half of John’s full retirement benefit) between full retirement age and age 70. Only carefully crafted software can help you find the best strategy because what benefits you collect and when you collect them will affect what John can do and vice versa.


    Eve — Lexington: I was previously married to a man for seven years. I am 60 and drawing Social Security now. The man I was married to for seven years was previously married to someone else for 25 years. In the event of his death — because he is a lot older than I am — can I draw from his Social Security? Or does his previous wife draw? Or can we both draw off his Social Security?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Unfortunately, you need to have been married for at least 10 years to collect either divorcée spousal or divorcée survivor benefits. I have no idea why this length of marriage requirement was put into place. But it seems very unfair to people like you.


    Leda Mitchell — Akeley, Minn. I am 58 years old. I was married in 1977, but my husband unfortunately was an alcoholic and decided he wanted to drink more than be married, so I left him and fended for myself. He disappeared so he wouldn’t have to pay child support. I moved to California so I wouldn’t freeze to death walking to the store for milk and supplies for my children.

    I finally divorced him in 1984. I never remarried. He did, but his wife died in 2006, and he finally drank himself to death in 2009. My question is, might I be able to collect survivor benefits since I never remarried? Iff he hadn’t been an alcoholic, I would have gladly spent my life with him because I loved him; I just couldn’t let alcohol run my world.

    Larry Kotlikoff: Unfortunately, you cannot because, like Eve, above, you weren’t married for 10 years.


    Kathy Yost — Montpelier, Vt.: I am getting laid off and would like to collect my ex-husband’s Social Security when I am 66. I am 64 now, and am not remarried. My ex is still alive.

    I am also considering marriage to my civil union partner; if I should marry her, can I still collect his benefits at 66 and delay mine until 70?

    Larry Kotlikoff: No, I’m sorry, but you can’t collect spousal benefits from an ex while being married. You can collect survivor benefits if you remarry after 60, which would be your case. So, short of doing your ex in, which we don’t advise, or his passing away, remarriage will mean you’ll need to look to your partner for a spousal benefit.

    You can file just for a spousal benefit at full retirement age (66 for you) and collect half of your partner’s full retirement benefit every month through age 70 if she files for her retirement benefit either at the same time or before you apply for your spousal benefit. (If she’s over 66 when you reach 66 and hasn’t yet filed, she can file for and suspend her retirement benefit and start it up at 70.)

    At 70, you can apply for your own retirement benefit, which will start at its highest possible value and will likely exceed your spousal benefit. In this case, you’ll collect a “free” spousal benefit for four years. I use the word “free” because although you forgo taking your own retirement benefit for fours, it will grow by 32 percent (after inflation) for those four years due to the delayed retirement credit.


    Catherine De Los Reyes — Nashville, Tenn.: I am 73, and my soon-to-be husband is 44 years old. He will be retiring after 15 years in the Army when we get married. How will that affect my check of $770.00 that I receive each month?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Congratulations on your marriage. Your check won’t be affected as long as it’s not in full or in part arising from spousal benefits from an ex-spouse. When your husband reaches 62, he’ll be able to collect a reduced spousal benefit on your work record. If you pass away, he’ll be able to collect a reduced survivor benefit starting at age 60.


    Jo — Westlake, Ohio: I am 61 and have been retired for 10 years from a company where I earned a yearly salary for 20 years. I have just married a man who has been retired for 12 years and has been collecting Social Security checks since age 62. If I elect to collect my Social Security benefits next year when I will be 62, and we will have been married for more than one year, how will my benefit(s) be calculated?

    Larry Kotlikoff You’ll get your own reduced retirement benefit plus, after you have been married a full year, what’s called an excess spousal benefit equal to half your new husband’s full retirement benefit less 100 percent of your own full retirement benefit. This excess spousal benefit is likely to be small or negative, in which case it will be set to zero. If you wait until 66, you can file just for your unreduced full spousal benefit, which will equal half of your husband’s full retirement benefit. And at 70, you can apply for your largest possible retirement benefit. After 70, you’ll get this retirement benefit plus your excess spousal benefit.

    The post You’re in love: Now how do you maximize your Social Security? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Children stand next to burnt vehicles after an attack by Boko Haram Islamists on Feb. 20, 2014 in the northeast Nigerian town of Bama. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

    Children stand next to burnt vehicles after an attack by Boko Haram Islamists on Feb. 20, 2014 in the northeast Nigerian town of Bama. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

    Suspected members of the hardline Islamist group Boko Haram attacked a school in Damaturu, Nigeria, early Tuesday morning, burning or shooting 29 boys, but sparing the female students, news outlets reported. The Council on Foreign Relations offers this backgrounder on the extremist group.

    By Toni Johnson of the Council on Foreign Relations

    Introduction

    Boko Haram, a Sunni Islamist sect, has targeted Nigeria’s police, rival clerics, politicians, and public institutions with increasing violence since 2009. Some experts view the group as an armed revolt against government corruption, abusive security forces, and widening regional economic disparity in an already impoverished country. They argue that Abuja should do more to address the strife between the disaffected Muslim north and the Christian south.

    But Boko Haram’s increasingly violent campaign, including a suicide attack on a UN building in Abuja in 2011 and the murder of dozens of students in their sleep in 2013, as well as its ties to regional terror groups, led the U.S. Department of State to designate it a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO). The designation, which included the splinter group Ansaru, may spark a stronger international response that makes it harder for Boko Haram to address the north’s alienation.

    The Road to Radicalization

    Mohammad Yusuf, a radical Islamist cleric, created Boko Haram in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno. The group aims to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria, including the implementation of criminal sharia courts across the country. Paul Lubeck, a University of California professor studying Muslim societies in Africa, says Yusuf was a trained salafist (a school of thought often associated with jihad), and was strongly influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah, a fourteenth-century legal scholar who preached Islamic fundamentalism and is considered a “major theorist” for radical groups in the Middle East.

    Boko Haram colloquially translates into “Western education is sin,” which experts say is a name assigned by the state. The sect calls itself Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, or “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad.” Some analysts say the movement is an outgrowth of the Maitatsine riots of the 1980s and the religious and ethnic tensions that followed in the late 1990s. Many Nigerians believe Yusuf rejected all things Western, but Lubeck argues that Yusuf, who embraced technology, believed Western education should be “mediated through Islamic scholarship,” such as rejecting the theory of evolution and Western-style banking.

    Before 2009, the group did not aim to violently overthrow the government. Yusuf criticized northern Muslims for participating in what he saw as an illegitimate, non-Islamic state and preached a doctrine of withdrawal. But violence between Christians and Muslims and harsh government treatment, including pervasive police brutality, encouraged the group’s radicalization. Boko Haram’s hundreds of followers, also called Yusuffiya, consist largely of impoverished northern Islamic students and clerics, as well as university students and professionals, many of whom are unemployed. Some followers may also be members of Nigeria’s elite.

    In July 2009, Boko Haram members refused to follow a motorbike helmet law, leading to heavy-handed police tactics that set off an armed uprising in the northern state of Bauchi and spread into the states of Borno, Yobe, and Kano. The incident was suppressed by the army and left more than eight hundred dead. It also led to the televised execution of Yusuf, as well as the deaths of his father-in-law and other sect members, which human rights advocates consider to be extrajudicial killings. In the aftermath of the 2009 unrest, “an Islamist insurrection under a splintered leadership” emerged, says Lubeck. Boko Haram began to carry out a number of suicide bombings and assassinations, from Maiduguri to Abuja, and staged an ambitious prison break in Bauchi, freeing more than seven hundred inmates in 2010.

    Attacks continued to escalate, and by 2013 some analysts began to see greater influence by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Boko Haram operations. Terrorist acts against civilians, like the murder of sixty-five students while they slept at the agricultural college in Yobe state in September 2013, chain-saw beheadings of truck drivers, and the killing of hundreds on the roads of northern Nigeria raised doubts about the central government’s ability to control territory and amplified fears of protracted violence in the country.

    Fighters with Boko Haram, a diffuse group, don’t necessarily follow salafi doctrine. Manyfoot soldiers are drawn from impoverished, religiously uneducated youth, according to Jacob Zenn, an analyst on African affairs at the Jamestown Foundation. Some fighters claim to have been trained in Iran and are part of a Shiite Muslim group, Zenn writes, while others were involved in other conflicts in Nigeria and the region, and are now caught up in the latest violent extremist group.

    Rising Against the State

    CFR Senior Fellow John Campbell notes that “the context of Boko Haram is easier to talk about than Boko Haram itself.” Injustice and poverty, as well as the belief that the West is a corrupting influence in governance, are root causes of both the desire to implement sharia and Boko Haram’s pursuit of an Islamic state, say experts. “The emergence of Boko Haram signifies the maturation of long-festering extremist impulses that run deep in the social reality of northern Nigeria,” writes Nigerian analyst Chris Ngwodo. “But the group itself is an effect and not a cause; it is a symptom of decades of failed government and elite delinquency finally ripening into social chaos.”

    The reintroduction of sharia criminal courts was originally proposed by the governor of the state of Zamfara in 1999, but the proposal quickly became a grassroots movement that led to its adoption in twelve states. Experts say there was widespread “disillusionment” with the way sharia was implemented, and that Boko Haram has tapped into this dissatisfaction, promoting the idea that an Islamic state would eliminate the inconsistencies. “You punish somebody for stealing a goat or less—but a governor steals billions of naira, and gets off scot-free,” says Jean Herskovits, an expert on Nigerian politics.

    In an August 2011 report, Human Rights Watch noted, “corruption is so pervasive in Nigeria that it has turned public service for many into a kind of criminal enterprise. Graft has fueled political violence, denied millions of Nigerians access to even the most basic health and education services, and reinforced police abuses and other widespread patterns of human rights violations.”

    A 2009 Amnesty International report (PDF) points out that the Nigerian police force is responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial killings and disappearances each year across the country that largely “go uninvestigated and unpunished.” The group said that nearly one thousand people, mostly Islamist militants, died in military custody in the first half of 2013. Human rights advocates note that Nigerian authorities are rarely, if ever, held criminally accountable for the public executions of Boko Haram followers. In 2011, the government began to try five police officers connected to Yusuf’s killing, and began thecourt martial of a military commander responsible for troops that allegedly killed forty-two sect members in 2009, but both proceedings weren’t concluded as of November 2013.

    The North-South Divide

    Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with more than 160 million people and nearly 350 ethnic groups speaking 250 languages. The country is about 50 percent Muslim, 40 percent Christian, and 10 percent indigenous sects. The country has long grappled with how to govern a diverse nation in which religion is one of the most important features of identity. Some experts argue that the ongoing struggle between Christians and Muslims over political power is a significant factor in the country’s ongoing unrest. This sectarian violence, particularly in the central part of the country where the north and south collide, has killed more than twenty-five thousand people since 1999, according to Human Rights Watch and the CFR Nigeria Security Tracker.

    Others note that Boko Haram has killed more Muslims than Christians. “In a country with a history of polarization between the majority-Muslim north and the majority-Christian south, Boko Haram’s message is a polarizing one at the national level and within the Muslim community,” writes Alex Thurston in Foreign Policy. Experts also note that though the northern unrest has been portrayed in a context of extreme religiosity, religious extremism is evident throughout Nigeria, including among Christians.

    Despite a per capita income of more than $2,700 and annual GDP growth of 7 percent, Nigeria has one of the world’s poorest populations. An estimated 70 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Economic disparities between the north and the rest of the country are particularly stark. In the north, 72 percent of people live in poverty, compared to 27 percent in the south and 35 percent in the Niger Delta.

    Another crucial factor in economic inequality is oil. In his book Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink, Campbell writes that the “formal politics” of northern Nigeria are “overwhelmingly dominated by Muslim elites, who have, like their counterparts across the country, benefited from oil wealth at the expense of regional development.” He says that the central purpose of the Nigerian state is to divide up the country’s oil wealth among elites, making Nigeria’s politics a “zero sum game.” In the oil-producing delta, for example, groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)—which has attacked oil infrastructure—are largely an outgrowth of the feeling that the south should get more revenue than it already does.

    Although these elites still have access to oil wealth, northern Nigerians fear their political influence in the country is waning. “The Nigerian voices heard most loudly around the world, and in Nigeria itself, are Christian and secular, reinforcing the sense among Nigeria’s Muslims that they are invisible,” G. Pascal Zachary writes in the Atlantic.

    The dispute over 2011 election results, which led to over eight hundred deaths, also has played a role in Boko Haram’s escalating violence. Experts say many northern Nigerians view the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, as illegitimate, arguing that he ignored an informal power-rotation agreement that should have kept a Muslim as president this round. (Muslim president Umar Musa Yar’dua died in 2010, two years into his four-year term.)

    Terror Ties and Policy Prescriptions

    Experts say the 2010 prison break, use of propaganda, and the bombing of police headquarters in June 2011 indicated an increasing level of sophistication and organization, which could point to outside help. In August 2011, U.S. officials claimed the group has ties toal-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in northwest Africa, andSomalia’s al-Shabab, another militant Islamist group.

    Security officials in Nigeria and around the world are concerned that the group has splintered into two factions: one that is focused on local grievances and another that is seeking external contacts. “What is most worrying at present is, at least in my view, a clearly stated intent by Boko Haram and by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to coordinate and synchronize their efforts,” said General Carter Ham, head of U.S. military operations in Africa, noting that such a relationship would be “the most dangerous thing to happen” to Africans and to U.S. interests in the region. A 2011 State Department report observes the Nigerian National Police Force has limited capacity to conduct antiterror operations.

    Other experts, such as Lubeck and CFR’s Campbell, question the extent of the sect’s regional terror ties and say it is unclear which attacks are actually the work of Boko Haram. There is concern that some of the acts may be the work of criminals looking to capitalize on the mayhem (some of the targets supposedly attacked by Boko Haram have been banks, for instance) or perpetrated by other groups hostile to the state. They also argue that the group has a legitimate grievance against the country’s security forces and that international intervention could distract from policy actions needed to address the underlying issues.

    Before the UN bombing in August 2011, the Nigerian government started to look at solutions similar to its quelling of unrest in the Niger Delta, including negotiation and amnesty. MEND leaders were “bought off” by the government and accepted a ceasefire in 2010. But experts say such a solution is unlikely for a group like Boko Haram. “The grievances Boko Haram expresses are more diverse, less material, and are explicitly articulated as religious politics,” writes Thurston in his blog.

    Analyst Chris Ngwodo argues some kind of federal intervention may be needed, especially in education and healthcare, and greater pressure may need to be exerted on northern elites to develop the region. CFR’s Campbell argues that President Jonathan needs to address northern disaffection with gestures such as naming prominent northern Muslims to his cabinet.

    President Jonathan appears to be set on quelling the insurrection by force, declaring a “state of emergency” in three northeast states in May 2013, although it isn’t clear if the Nigerian military has enough troops to defeat Boko Haram. The U.S. designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations will allow Washington to investigate and prosecute suspects, but the State Department urged Nigeria to counter these extremist groups “through a combination of law enforcement, political, and development efforts, as well as military engagement.”

    A version of this backgrounder first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations’ website. We’ll have more on the attack on Tuesday’s PBS NewsHour.

    The post Background Briefing: What Is Boko Haram? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bitcoins

    Creative Commons image of bitcoins by antanacoins

    The world’s largest Bitcoin exchange went offline Monday amid a series of setbacks — including a reported theft of hundreds of millions of dollars — that have raised concerns about the virtual currency’s legitimacy in the marketplace.

    Bitcoin entrepreneur Ryan Selkis published an 11-page “crisis strategy draft” revealing that the Tokyo-based Mt. Gox had lost 744,408 bitcoins — worth roughly $365 million at Monday’s prices. The apparent hacking that “went unnoticed for several years” caused about six percent of the 12.4 bitcoins in existence to disappear.

    The draft, which has yet to be verified, says that Mt. Gox “can go bankrupt at any moment.”

    “At the risk of appearing hyperbolic, this could be the end of Bitcoin, at least for most of the public.”

    In a blog post Selkis wrote that “several sources close to Mt. Gox” confirmed the authenticity of the document. It remains unclear whether Mt. Gox’s customers will get their assets back.

    Several bitcoin community members, including Coinbase, Kraken and Chinese exchange BTC China, released a joint statement Tuesday that chastised Mt. Gox for its “abhorrent actions” and abuse of its users’ trust.

    “As with any new industry, there are certain bad actors that need to be weeded out, and that is what we are seeing today,” the statement said.

    Mt. Gox has not responded to several media requests for comment and the company’s website has halted all bitcoin transactions. The website only displays the following message:

    “In the event of recent news reports and the potential repercussions on MtGox’s operations and the market, a decision was taken to close all transactions for the time being in order to protect the site and our users. We will be closely monitoring the situation and will react accordingly.”

    On Sunday, Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles resigned from the board of the Bitcoin Foundation. USA Today reports that the virtual currency’s value fell to $490 from an opening value of $545 on Tuesday.

    This follows the late-January arrest of U.S. bitcoin exchanger Bitinstant CEO Charlie Shrem on money laundering charges via the underground ‘Silk Road’ drug site.

    The post Mt. Gox goes offline amid allegations of largest-ever bitcoin heist appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer singing back-up in "20 Feet From Stardom." Courtesy: RADiUS-TWC

    Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer singing back-up in “20 Feet From Stardom.” Courtesy: RADiUS-TWC

    It was the middle of the night in 1969. Merry Clayton, a respected back-up singer, receives a call to help the Rolling Stones. Donning her robe and curlers, Clayton trots over to the studio and records the now-famous screaming vocals on “Gimme Shelter.” In three takes.

    Back-up singer Merry Clayton is featured in the documentary "20 Feet from Stardom." Photo courtesy of RADiUS-TWC

    Back-up singer Merry Clayton is featured in the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom.” Photo courtesy of RADiUS-TWC

    “That is probably the greatest back-up performance of all time … that song has such energy and anger — the screaming voice of Merry,” said Morgan Neville, who directed the Oscar-nominated documentary “20 Feet from Stardom.” Clayton is one of the back-up singers heavily featured.

    “In the film, we get her isolated vocal track and you actually understand how much she helped that song … even though I heard that song my entire life, I never thought about it.”

    That was Neville’s goal for his film: to hear from the voices you recognize, but the names you don’t know.

    Listen to Morgan Neville’s entire conversation with Jeffrey Brown:

    He got the idea from Gil Friesen, the former president of A&M records and the film’s producer. So Neville started to learn about the industry.

    “I started to research it and I couldn’t because there was nothing out there on back-up singers … it was truly invisible and that excited me.”

    After some 80 interviews with back-up singers, he began to learn about their world.

    Watch the trailer for “20 Feet from Stardom.”

    “I had this misconception that back-up singers weren’t as good as lead singers and that was completely wrong. They’re so good, they’re better than lead singers because they have to be perfect all the time.”

    And Neville isn’t the only one that recognizes their talent. He spoke to some of the biggest names in the music industry to find out how they felt. Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Mick Jagger and Stevie Wonder, to name a few, all had a deep-seated respect for the Clayton, Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer and others.

    Lisa Fischer sings in "20 Feet from Stardom." Courtesy: RADiUS-TWC

    Lisa Fischer sings in “20 Feet from Stardom.” Courtesy: RADiUS-TWC

    “The (back-up) singers themselves appreciated the adoration they got from the English rock stars because they helped liberate them and said we want to work with you, we want to feature you and we want to let you be yourself,” Neville said.

    Heading into Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, Neville feels proud and knows that the singers do as well. In fact, he’s bringing with him all of the back-up singers featured in “20 Feet from Stardom.”

    The post Oscar-nominated ’20 Feet from Stardom’ gives voice to back-up singers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In an appearance on The Tonight Show, former President George W. Bush gifted Jay Leno with a portrait of the late night host. Photo by NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    In an appearance on The Tonight Show, former President George W. Bush gifted Jay Leno with a portrait of the late night host. Photo by NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas announced Monday that it plans to unveil in April more than two dozen never-before-displayed portraits painted by the 43rd U.S. president.

    George W. Bush Presidential Center

    Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center

    The press release announcing the exhibit, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” made no mention of the subjects in the portraits, however they are likely to include several recognizable faces. The presidential center stated it hopes that visitors of the exhibit will walk away with “an insider’s view into President Bush’s unique relationships with other world leaders.”

    President George W. Bush told Diane Sawyer in 2013, that he paints every day, a creative habit that was first inspired by Winston Churchill’s “Painting as a Pastime.”

    “It’s a way to create,” Bush told the Dallas Morning News. “I enjoy creating … You can express yourself in a way that’s unique.”

    New York magazine reported in 2012 that the former president’s paintings primarily featured arid Texas landscapes and portraits of dogs. Then in 2013, a hacker revealed he had intercepted images of self-portraits of Bush in the shower and in a bathtub.

    The post George W. Bush to exhibit artwork at presidential library appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration, schools will not be allowed to promote sugary drinks and junk food. Photo by Flickr user Zac Zellers

    Under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration, schools will not be allowed to promote sugary drinks and junk food. Photo by Flickr user Zac Zellers

    WASHINGTON — Even the scoreboards in high school gyms will have to advertise only healthy foods under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.

    Promotion of sugary drinks and junk foods around campuses during the school day will be phased out under the rules, intended to ensure that such marketing is brought in line with health standards that already apply to school foods.

    That means a scoreboard at a high school football or basketball game eventually wouldn’t be allowed to advertise Coca-Cola, for example, but it could advertise Diet Coke or Dasani water, which is also owned by Coca-Cola Co. Same with the front of a vending machine. Cups, posters and menu boards which promote foods that don’t meet the standards would also be phased out.

    Ninety-three percent of such marketing in schools is related to beverages, and many soda companies already have started to transition their sales and advertising in schools from sugary sodas and sports drinks to their own healthier products. Still, companies are spending $149 million a year on marketing to kids in schools, according to USDA.

    The proposed rules are part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to combat child obesity, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary this week. Mrs. Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new rules at a White House event.

    “The idea here is simple — our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” the first lady said. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

    The rules also would allow more children access to free lunches and ensure that schools have wellness policies in place.

    The proposed rules come on the heels of USDA regulations that are now requiring foods in the school lunch line to be healthier.

    Rules set to go into effect next school year will make other foods around school healthier as well, including in vending machines and separate “a la carte” lines in the lunch room. Calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits will have to be met on almost every food and beverage sold during the school day at 100,000 schools. Concessions sold at afterschool sports games would be exempt.

    The healthier food rules have come under fire from conservatives who think the government shouldn’t dictate what kids eat — and from some students who don’t like the healthier foods.

    At the White House event, Mrs. Obama defended herself against critics, saying that “I didn’t create this issue.”

    “This new approach to eating and activity is not just a fad, and it’s not just a movement,” she said. “Nowhere is this more clear than in our schools.”

    Aware of the backlash, the USDA is allowing schools to make some of their own decisions on what constitutes marketing and asking for comments on some options. For example, the proposal asks for comments on initiatives like Pizza Hut’s “Book It” program, which coordinates with schools to reward kids with pizza for reading.

    Rules for other school fundraisers, like bake sales and marketing for those events, would be left up to schools or states.

    Off-campus fundraisers, like an event at a local fast-food outlet that benefits a school, still would be permitted. But posters advertising the fast food may not be allowed in school hallways. An email to parents — with or without the advertising — would have to suffice. The idea is to market to the parents, not the kids.

    The rule also makes allowances for major infrastructure costs — that scoreboard advertising Coca-Cola, for example, wouldn’t have to be immediately torn down. But the school would have to get one with a healthier message the next time it was replaced.

    The beverage industry — led by Coca-Cola Co., Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and PepsiCo — is on board with the move. American Beverage Association President and CEO Susan Neely said in a statement that aligning signage with the healthier drinks that will be offered in schools is the “logical next step.”

    “Mrs. Obama’s efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren,” Neely said.

    Although Mrs. Obama lobbied Congress to pass the school nutrition bill in 2010, most of her efforts in recent years have been focused on the private sector, building partnerships with food companies and retailers to sell healthier foods.

    The child nutrition law also expanded feeding programs for hungry students. The rules being proposed Tuesday would increase that even further by allowing the highest-poverty schools to serve lunch and breakfast to all students for free. According to the USDA and the White House, that initiative would allow 9 million children in 22,000 schools to receive free lunches.

    The USDA has already tested the program, which is designed to increase participation for students and reduce paperwork and applications for schools, in 11 states.

    The Obama administration will also announce new guidelines for school wellness policies. Schools have been required to have general wellness policies that set their own general standards for foods, physical activity and other wellness activities since 2004. But the new rules would require parents and others in the school community to be involved in those decisions.

    The post New rules limit junk food advertising in schools appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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