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

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    A bill that would curb sexual assault in the military goes in front of the Senate Thursday. Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images

    A bill that would curb sexual assault in the military goes in front of the Senate Thursday. Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Legislation to curb sexual assaults in the military by stripping senior commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses is headed for a highly anticipated vote in the Senate.

    The bill, which is expected to come up for a vote Thursday afternoon, is firmly opposed by the Pentagon’s leadership, which argues officers should have more responsibility, not less, for the conduct of the troops they lead.

    A solid majority of the Senate backs the bill, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., illustrating the deep frustration among Republicans and Democrats over the military’s failure to stem the epidemic of sexual assaults in the ranks. Gillibrand, however, will likely need 60 votes to prevent a filibuster that would block the bill’s passage.

    Gillibrand’s spokesman, Glen Caplin, said Wednesday the senator is “optimistic there will be enough senators to break the filibuster and provide our brave men and women the fair shot at justice they deserve.”

    The Pentagon came under pressure last month to disclose more information about how sexual assault cases are adjudicated following an Associated Press investigation that found a pattern of inconsistent judgments and light penalties for sexual assaults at U.S. bases in Japan.

    Gillibrand, who chairs the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee, called on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a Feb. 10 letter to turn over case information from four major U.S. bases: Fort Hood in Texas, Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base in California and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Such records would shed more light on how military commanders make decisions about courts-martial and punishments in sexual assault cases and whether the inconsistent judgments seen in Japan are more widespread.

    The AP’s investigation, which was based on hundreds of internal military documents it first began requesting in 2009, found that what appeared to be strong cases were often reduced to lesser charges. Suspects were unlikely to serve time even when military authorities agreed a crime had been committed. In two rape cases, commanders overruled recommendations to court-martial the accused and dropped the charges instead.

    The military has struggled increasingly in recent years with the sexual assault issue.

    Just Wednesday, for instance, a lawyer for a U.S. Army general accused of sexual assault said his client was set to plead guilty to three lesser charges.

    Attorney Richard Scheff said that Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair plans to enter the plea before opening statements scheduled for Thursday morning in his court martial at Fort Bragg, N.C. The primary accuser in the case is a female captain who claims Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about their three-year affair. Sinclair still faces five charges including sexual assault in his trial before a jury of five two-star generals. The former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted on the most serious charges.

    After much debate, Congress late last year passed numerous changes to the military’s legal system. But the reforms didn’t go far enough for many lawmakers.

    Under Gillibrand’s proposal, the decision to take serious crimes to courts-martial would be taken away from commanders and given to seasoned military trial lawyers who have prosecutorial experience and would operate out of a newly established office independent of the chain of command.

    The legislation, she said in a recent AP interview, would spark the cultural shift needed to create a climate in which victims have the confidence to step forward and report sex crimes without the fear of retaliation.

    With commanders making the call, there’s the chance a personal bias may influence the decision, proponents of Gillibrand’s bill have argued.

    “If we measured any other mission that our military has set zero tolerance for, compared to how they’ve done on sexual assault, there would be an outcry louder than we can imagine,” Gillibrand said. “But in this case, they have failed over and over and over again.”

    The Defense Department is staunchly against Gillibrand’s plan, as are key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the personnel subcommittee, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

    The dispute hinges on the pivotal role senior military commanders play. Formally known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Defense Department’s system is completely separate from the civilian courts. Within the military’s code, commanders are vested with substantial authority to decide when and how to deal with crimes committed by service members.

    That power to punish or pardon has been a principal tenet of military law dating back more than two centuries. It’s rooted in the military’s conviction that commanders must have the ability to discipline the troops they lead in peacetime and war. Undercutting that role, top Defense Department officials have warned, would send a message that there is lack of faith in the officer corps, and that in turn will undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of the armed forces.

    Air Force Col. Alan Metzler, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said the changes in military law and policy that have already been made are building an environment where victims trust that their allegations will be taken seriously and perpetrators will be punished.

    “Every commander I’ve talked to wants to solve this problem,” Metzler said. “They want the authority. They want the ability to lead this solution.”

    But Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, said losing the ability to muster courts-martial for sexual assaults will actually help commanders.

    “It’s really giving the commanders more ability to command in the areas in which they have expertise,” Campbell said.


    The PBS NewsHour looked at the culture of sexual assault against female service members as well as the beginning of Congressional action in 2013.

    The post Senate to vote on military sexual assault bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Updated March 6 at 10:15 a.m. | U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday in a continued effort to diffuse tensions in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

    Following an initial meeting in Paris on Wednesday, the two consulted in Rome while attending an international conference on Libya.

    If Kerry decides to make a statement, the NewsHour will live stream the secretary’s remarks.


    Video by PBS NewsHour

    Updated March 5 at 4:00 p.m. EST |

    After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other European counterparts in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said they all agreed to continue “intense discussions” over the coming days to reach a resolution in Ukraine.

    In a news conference held Wednesday, Kerry said that the U.S. will not allow Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty to go “unanswered.”

    “Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has actually united the world in support of the Ukrainian people,” Kerry said.

    “Russia made a choice, and we have clearly stated that we believe it is the wrong choice, that is the choice to move troops into Crimea.”

    Kerry added that he had “zero expectation” that Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers would engage in talks in Paris today. Kerry is expected to meet with Lavrov again in Rome on Thursday.


    Russia did not attend a meeting in Paris on Wednesday morning to discuss the Budapest Memorandum that the U.S., UK, Ukraine and Russia signed in 1994, promising to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty after the country gave up what was the third largest nuclear arsenal.

    Following the morning’s meeting, the State Department released a statement, saying that the U.S., U.K. and Ukraine have respected the treaty “with utmost seriousness, and expect Russia to as well,” adding that Russia has acted “unilaterally and militarily.”

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the unmarked troops seen in the Crimea peninsula are “local self-defense forces” and not Russian soldiers. He also said that it was not necessary to send Russian troops into Ukraine.

    Andrii Deshchytsia, acting Ukranian foreign minister, and William Hague, British foreign secretary, met with Secretary of State John Kerry, noting the absence of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who Kerry is expected to see later today at a scheduled bilateral meeting to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

    Despite the missing signatory, Deshchytsia said that Ukraine would be willing to consult with Russia, “bilaterally and multilaterally.”

    The post Kerry and Russia’s Lavrov continue Ukraine talks in Rome appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    It’s been an interesting week in the field of AIDS research.

    There’s been talk about potentially giving people quarterly shots or injections instead of daily pills, gene therapy to fight off HIV, and an infected baby that was treated so aggressively with AIDS drugs within hours of its birth that HIV can no longer be detected. Scientists in Boston have been meeting at an annual conference and have been discussing these early, but important new findings.

    Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, talks with Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown about those developments, the promise and possible limitations.

    When we spoke with Dr. Fauci earlier today, he particularly saw real promise with the idea of people being able to take shots in the arm someday, instead of oral medication. The idea is to change the way so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis works. Currently, people take smaller doses of anti-retroviral drugs to prevent infections, but there’s a problem with making sure people do it all the time. And that’s what excited Fauci about the new work:

    “We know from a couple of years of experience that when you give pre-exposure prophylaxis, it works 90 percent of the time at protecting against infection,” he said. “But when you do follow-up and look at the data over time, it only looks like 44 percent effective. Why is that the case? Because adherence is critical. The issue is many people don’t take their medicine every day. So, if you can do this so that people don’t have to take daily pills, that you can give them an injectable drug or drugs every few months instead, you could have a phenomenal impact on the prevention of HIV infection. It could be a real game changer.”

    The post Tonight on the NewsHour: Dr. Anthony Fauci on revelations for HIV treatment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video of Lydia’s capture and release by OCEARCH

    A satellite-tagged great white shark named Lydia is on the verge of making history as the first of her species to be seen crossing the Atlantic.

    As of Thursday morning, the 14.4 foot-long female was swimming above the mid-Atlantic ridge — 1,000 miles from the coasts of County Cork in Ireland and Cornwall in Britain and nearly 3,000 miles from where she was tagged by scientists off the coast of Florida as part of the OCEARCH scientific project in March 2013.

    “Although Lydia is closer to Europe than North America, she technically does not cross the Atlantic until she crosses the mid-Atlantic ridge, which she has yet to do,” Dr. Gregory Skomal, senior fisheries biologist with Massachusetts Marine Fisheries, told BBC News. “She would be the first documented white shark to cross from east to west.”

    The largest predatory fish on earth, these torpedo-shaped swimmers are known for their migrations of thousands of kilometers. However, there is no reliable data on the endangered species’ population.

    According to the organization’s website, the OCEARCH project is being used “to generate previously unattainable data on the movement, biology and health of sharks to protect their future while enhancing public safety and education.”

    The post The great white shark Lydia and her historic journey across the Atlantic appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Although 17 percent of U.S. public schools had major repairs for the 2012-13 school year, a new survey released Thursday found that more than half of the country's schools need renovation work. Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

    Although 17 percent of U.S. public schools had major repairs for the 2012-13 school year, a new survey released Thursday found that more than half of the country’s schools need renovation work. Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

    More than half of the nation’s public school facilities are in desperate need of repairs or modernization, according to a new survey released Thursday.

    On average, school buildings were at least 44 years old, and the renovations would cost roughly $197 billion to improve those schools, researchers from the National Center for Education Statistics said.

    Conducted during the 2012-13 school year, the survey found that many school districts have grappled with major budget cuts in recent years, forcing them to delay much-needed maintenance and construction projects.

    Reggie Felton, the interim associate executive director of the National School Boards Association, told the Associated Press that school officials are having to think outside the box to find creative ways to save money for repairs. For instance, some are opting to share school libraries or athletic fields.

    But as the economy is showing signs of improvement, researchers said that nearly 40 percent of public schools are planning renovations over the next two years.

    The post More than half of U.S. public schools need repairs, survey finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pro-Russian volunteers stand guard in front of Crimea's parliament building during a rally in Simferopol Thursday. Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The breakup of Ukraine moved a step closer to reality today. The parliament in Crimea scheduled a vote on whether it will stay part of Ukraine or return to Russia. That action drew a swift response, as the U.S. and its European partners announced sanctions against Russia.

    Hari Sreenivasan begins our coverage.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: At midday, the president discussed the visa restrictions and financial sanctions announced early this morning on Russians behind the Ukraine invasion.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The president also voiced strong opposition to the Crimean parliament’s vote to leave Ukraine. It announced a March 16 referendum to let its citizens decide on whether to join Russia or remain part of Ukraine.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law. Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That sentiment was echoed in Brussels, as European leaders met to impose the E.U.’s own set of visa bans and a suspension of trade talks.

    French President Francois Hollande:

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): If there is an attempt at splitting, dividing or, even worse, of capturing Crimea, it wouldn’t be in line with international law. Ukraine is Ukraine. It is all of Ukraine.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The pro-Moscow parliament set a March 16 date for the vote, just 10 days off. But the government in Kiev pushed back, blocking the referendum.

    Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov:

    OLEKSANDR TURCHYNOV, Acting President, Ukraine (through interpreter): It is not a referendum. It is a farce, a fake and a crime against the state which is organized by the Russian Federation’s military.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, the international police agency Interpol said it was reviewing a request by Ukrainian authorities to arrest ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. The red notice called for the former leader to be held on charges, including abuse of power and murder.

    Back in Washington, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held the first congressional hearing devoted solely to Ukraine, with talk swirling in some quarter of Capitol Hill of a new Cold War.

    Republican Michael McCaul of Texas warned the State Department’s Eric Rubin that the administration’s sanctions may not be enough to stop what he called a Russian act of war.

    REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, R-Texas: Does this administration believe that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is an act of war?

    ERIC RUBIN, State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs: Well, Congressman, we have said very clearly that we know what we have seen, which is military aggression, intervention in the affairs of a sovereign country, a violation of legal commitments, a violation of international law. That is what we see. That is what we’re calling it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, as the U.S. continues to discuss financial support for Ukraine, the House voted today to provide loan guarantees to the new Ukrainian government.

    Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke of military moves in states closest to Russia.

    CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: These include stepping up our joint training through our aviation detachment in Poland. And I was advised this morning that that continues to move forward.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Reports from Poland said the U.S. military is sending 12 F-16 fighter jets there for a training exercise, in light of the crisis in Ukraine. And the USS Truxtun, a Navy warship, is scheduled to pass through the Bosphorus tomorrow, en route to the Black Sea. That move is part of a previously scheduled port call in Romania.

    On the diplomatic front, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Rome today, and met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. No tangible progress was made toward a resolution. Kerry said further penalties against Russia are an option, but:

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: Our preference is to get back to a normality and get back to a place where the rights of the people of Ukraine will be respected and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation will be respected.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: On the ground in Ukraine, the situation remains tense.

    PBS Frontline’s James Jones has been there on assignment there. He was recently in the eastern city of Kharkiv and obtained cell phone footage shot by Russian activists. It shows Maidan supporters began dragged out of a government building they were occupying and beaten by pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian citizens who were bussed in over the border in a show of force, one more sign of the challenges of keeping this country together.

    The post Crimean call for vote on splitting from Ukraine prompts international opposition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Female Marines Take On Challenges in Afghanistan

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    GWEN IFILL: The Senate blocked a bipartisan bill on military sexual assaults today. It would have removed commanders from decisions about prosecuting sexual assault cases. Supporters of the measure, sponsored by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, argued far-reaching changes are needed to curb the number of rapes and sexual assaults.

    Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono.

    SEN. MAZIE HIRONO, D-Hawaii: This bill has nothing to do with taking commanders and telling commanders they are fired or that they are morally bankrupt. They should continue to be held accountable for creating a command climate where sexual assaults do not occur, or certainly not occur by the tens of thousands.

    GWEN IFILL: The legislation was strongly opposed by the top brass at the Pentagon. Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham agreed with the military leaders that they should have more, not less, responsibility for the conduct of their troops.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: The person we choose as a nation to run the finest military in the world, the commander, has the absolute authority to maintain that unit for readiness, and if you don’t give that commander the tools and hold them accountable, that unit will fall apart right in front of her eyes, because some lawyer somewhere is no substitute for the commander who is there every day.

    GWEN IFILL: A majority of senators supported the measure, but it fell five votes short of the 60 votes it needed to advance. Another bill that would impose automatic reviews of a commander’s decision not to prosecute passed. A final vote is scheduled for Monday.

    Meanwhile, at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the most senior military member ever to face trial for sexual assault pleaded guilty on three counts today. Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair still faces five additional, more serious charges, including sexual assault. A jury of five generals presiding over the court-martial will decide his fate. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

    A NATO airstrike killed five Afghan soldiers today. Coalition officials, who said their deaths were accidental, offered their condolences. The incident happened early this morning in eastern Logar province.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai said a probe is under way to determine why the soldiers were targeted. He spoke during a visit to Sri Lanka.

    PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan: We are investigating the nature of this attack on our — on Afghan troops, where, unfortunately, five of our soldiers lost their lives. This attack, NATO has admitted to and has said that they did it mistakenly. We will investigate the issue and then speak about it.

    GWEN IFILL: The strike comes as the U.S. and Afghanistan are negotiating a bilateral security agreement to keep limited U.S. forces in the country beyond 2014.

    Bombs and clashes hit five cities in Iraq today, killing at least 42 people. Most were explosive devices in parked cars. They went off in commercial areas, including an outdoor market. Bombings have been on the rise across Iraq since last year, as al-Qaida and Sunni insurgents have upped their battle to undermine the Shiite-led government.

    Moammar Gadhafi’s son Saadi arrived in Libya today after being extradited from Niger. He’d been under house arrest in the West African nation since his father’s regime collapsed in 2011. Libyan government officials said Saadi is now being held at this prison in Tripoli, where a group of Libyans gathered to celebrate today. Libya wants to try the 40-year-old for using force against protesters opposing his father’s rule.

    More than half of American public schools need repairs or modernization, the price tag, nearly $200 billion. That’s according to a new survey out today from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Many school districts, laboring under slashed budgets during the recession, have been forced to delay building improvements.

    President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to help young men of color got a major boost today with a billion-dollar investment. It comes from the Opportunity Finance Network, a national group of community development financial institutions. The pledge is to originate a billion dollars each year in new financing to invest in low-income disadvantaged communities, particular opportunities for black and Latino young men.

    The office supply chain Staples is closing 225 of its stores in North America by the end of next year. The closings will affect more than 10 percent of its 1,500 stores in the U.S. Staples now makes about half of its overall sales online. The move is designed to save $500 million.

    There was upbeat data today about the state of the nation’s labor market. The number of people filing for jobless benefits dropped to its lowest level in three months. Stocks on Wall Street reacted mostly favorably. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 61 points to close at 16,421. The Nasdaq fell more than five points to close at 4,352. The Standard & Poor’s index had its third all-time high this week, rising three points to close at 1,877.

    The post News Wrap: Senate blocks bill removing commanders from military sexual assault decisions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: For all of the progress made in the fight against AIDS, it still takes a terrible toll. More than 35 million people are infected with HIV around the world. More than two million people are newly infected each year. And well over a million die from it annually.

    But research released at an AIDS conference this week is raising hope about new inroads into treating it and preventing infections.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Three reports attracted attention. One involved injections of drugs into monkeys that helped stop infections. A second revealed promising news of a baby born with the virus and given aggressive treatment. A third concerned so-called gene editing, altering cells to resist HIV.

    The NIH’s Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has been funding much of this work. Dr. Anthony Fauci is its longtime director, and he joins me now.

    And welcome back.

    So, let’s walk through some of this. First, the injections of long-lasting drugs into monkeys, explain the work and why it’s so important.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, National Institutes of Health: Well, the reason — the reason the work is important is that we know, in human studies, several human studies, that if you give a drug to an uninfected person who’s practicing risk behavior, we call it preexposure prophylaxis, that if they take the drug every day, it absolutely works and prevents infection in over 90 percent of the people.

    The problem with the approach is that people don’t like to take medicine every day or before or after a sexual encounter. So, a modality of prevention that you know works 90-plus percent doesn’t work that well, purely because people don’t adhere.

    The experiments that have been reported recently now show that, in a monkey model, if you take a long-acting drug, a drug that’s used in a different form to treat HIV infection, in a monkey model, and give an injection every so often, like every couple of months, you can actually prevent challenging that monkey with infection with the monkey version of HIV by exposing them rectally or vaginally.

    It works in a very highly effective way. The extrapolation of that, is we now move that into human studies, we can take prevention in a way that people would adhere to it, because they don’t have to come for maybe three or so injections a year, and then be protected throughout the year.

    So this addresses the real stumbling block of adherence in people with a drug that you know works. So, it’s really quite an important study.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, I know we have talked about this several times over the years, about this problem of people taking the drugs regularly enough.

    The key question, of course, now moving from monkeys to humans. What — where are we on that continuum?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, they’re going to go right into studies now, in phase one studies in humans to determine if it works.

    And the data in the monkey, Jeff, strongly, strongly suggests that it’s going to work in humans, but the proof of the pudding would be to do it and to see, in fact, if it does. So we’re right now gearing up to going into human studies.


    The second report, a lot of attention to this. There was a second case really of a baby born with HIV given aggressive treatment right away with great impact. So, tell us about that.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, everyone remembers the story around the Mississippi baby from a few years ago, where a baby came in with a mother who was infected, but not treated during pregnancy, and the pediatricians immediately treated the baby within 30 hours.

    And then the baby was treated for months, but the mother stopped therapy because she was lost to follow-up. And when the baby came back, the baby had been off therapy for many months, and there was no evidence at all of virus, which would indicate that the baby was cured.

    What’s recently been reported now is a second baby that again came from an infected mother, but who didn’t have any anti-HIV treatment during pregnancy. The pediatricians treated the baby within the first four hours of birth. And now, eight, nine months later, there’s no indication of infection in the baby by trying to examine the cells.

    What the investigators haven’t done is, they haven’t discontinued the drug yet, so it hasn’t been proven definitively that the baby’s cured, but it’s highly suggestive that you now have a second baby, because, even though the baby’s still on therapy, there’s no way of looking for the virus. It’s just not there. They have looked in the cells, and they can’t find it, strongly suggesting the baby is cured.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I understand, in this case, there’s going to be a new trial that will determine whether and how to apply this to all babies born with the virus?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Exactly.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Exactly.

    In order to have a real widespread utilization of this approach, you have got to prove its safety and the fact that it’s effective in a large number of babies. And the trial that will start in April or the beginning of May is going to do just that, look at babies who are born of infected mothers who aren’t treated and immediately, within the period of 48 hours, to treat them aggressively with anti-HIV drugs and to see if you can duplicate what we have seen in these two children.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, and, finally, and this ones sounds — I think I’m right that it’s a little further away perhaps scientifically — but gene therapy, explaining — explain this idea of gene editing. The idea really is to make cells resistant to the HIV virus, right?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, exactly.

    What it is, you have someone who’s HIV-infected, who’s on therapy, suppressing the virus very well, and you want to ask the question, can you get the person off therapy or can you cure the person? One of the ways that’s been tried now in 12 patients is to take the blood out of the patient, take their cells, and in the test tube modify it, genetically manipulate it, so that it cannot be infected with HIV, grow it up in large amounts, and re-infuse it back into the person, with the hope that those modified cells will ultimately replace the normal, unmodified cells, and the body will be left with cells that are incapable of being infected with HIV.

    So they have shown now, that, A., it’s safe, B., they have successfully modified the cells, they successful re-infuse them, and the cells seem to be surviving. We haven’t gotten to the endgame of showing that you have actually cured the person, but it’s a very important incremental step in that attempt to ultimately be able to protect people from the virus that’s in them, so that you don’t have to treat them with antiretroviral drug. It’s an important proof of concept.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, well, it’s a very exciting week in AIDS research.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Good to be with you.

    The post Injections, gene therapy and treatment for infants raise hope for fighting AIDS appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Every month, we bring you news of the latest jobs report, generally interpreted as a sign of economic health or more. We will tell you about the latest of that tomorrow, but how useful are these numbers, really?

    NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman wondered that too. The answer is part of Paul’s ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    WOMAN: Breaking news: We have a new jobs report that missed expectations by quite a lot.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The monthly jobs report — it’s released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics the first Friday of every month — is big news.

    WOMAN: The market took off this morning, after a far better April jobs report than anyone expected.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The report moves financial markets, prompts instant analysis.

    MAN: It wasn’t a great report, but it was not a terrible report.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it spawns spin from the right and left.

    REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va., House Majority Leader: These job numbers are pathetic. And, you know, the American people really deserve better.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We welcome today’s news that our businesses created another 121,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate ticked down.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The actual numbers so sought after, BLS economists like Karen Kosanovich are quarantined in the days and hours leading up to the Friday 8:30 a.m. release.

    KAREN KOSANOVICH, Bureau of Labor Statistics: We’re in a secure location. Different parts of the office are physically isolated while production is involved. The suites are actually locked. There’s no trash collection or recycling that occurs during that time. The economists have to take out their own trash. And access to those work areas is limited to people with a definitely need to get in.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But economic analyst and money manager Zachary Karabell a question: Should these numbers matter so much, or matter at all?

    ZACHARY KARABELL, Author, “The Leading Indicators”: We have the desire, an understandable desire, to understand us, understand the world. Numbers are a convenient peg to hang our understanding. The question we should be asking is, is our complicated reality well-served by these kind of simple statistical numbers?

    PAUL SOLMAN: In a new book, “The Leading Indicators,” Karabell argues that we over-rely on official data, like the GDP, inflation and overall jobs figure.

    ZACHARY KARABELL: The unemployment number is a synthetic average that treats the nation as unitary, so it acts like we have one unemployment rate in California and it’s the same in Nebraska and it’s the same in Massachusetts. And it’s not. Nebraska hasn’t had an unemployment rate above 5 percent throughout this entire crisis, recession and recovery.

    Central California, Central Florida, parts of Detroit have had employment rates well into the teens for much of this time. So just saying, well, there’s an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent is not going to get you to this very complicated and very variegated reality.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, one objection is that unemployment varies based on where you are and also on your education, as we have found in our own reporting. The job market looked great for college-educated Joe Gellis, whom we met last month in suburban D.C. He was schooled in information security.

    MAN: There seems to be a lot of availability out there. I have had at least 10 interviews to date.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But employers were blowing off Zakira Thomas, with just a high school diploma, when we talked to her last summer in inner-city Boston.

    WOMAN: You don’t have the experience we need. You don’t have the degree we want you to have. You don’t have the things that’s required to have this job.

    PAUL SOLMAN: At the time, economist Andrew Sum gave us the stunning statistics for Thomas’ male counterparts.

    ANDREW SUM, Northeastern University: Take a young black high school dropout, low-income male, you’re talking 5 percent employment.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s a 95 percent jobless rate.

    Economist Kosanovich points out the BLS produces lots of data. Not only is that where Andrew Sum got his numbers.

    KAREN KOSANOVICH: We prepare a 40-page report with 25 tables and lots of detailed, well-thought-out analysis that doesn’t make it into a headline.

    We produce about 30,000 data series that go online, dozens of online tables, and a few weeks after the national report comes out, we release a report that has state and local area data.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yet, the monthly national employment number, along with the tally of jobs added or lost, gets all the attention, for better or worse.

    BLS economist Julie Hatch Maxfield.

    JULIE HATCH MAXFIELD, Bureau of Labor Statistics: There’s a level of frustration for us, because we take time to craft our message, and sometimes we are called to validate things that — that either are not the truth or not out there.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The government, under President Herbert Hoover, began collecting national unemployment data during the Great Depression.

    ZACHARY KARABELL: The reason we have an unemployment rate was because of 1929. And it was because there was a crisis that was clearly unfolding, but there was no sense of just how bad things were, that Hoover himself, who was kind of an apostle of scientific management of government, said, OK, fine, let’s fund the Bureau of Labor Statistics sufficiently to create this — to create a number that gives some sense of how bad things are.

    Lo and behold, that number was quite bad. And Franklin Roosevelt used those preliminary numbers as a way of defeating Hoover in 1932.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Quite bad turned out to be an unemployment rate of 25 percent, which only dropped to single digits with the huge industrial outlays of World War II.

    Yet today, though survey methods have evolved, essentially, the same data still guide us, says Karabell, at our peril.

    ZACHARY KARABELL: They’re meant to measure industrial labor forces that worked in factories. They’re not really well-suited to a kind of 21st century, high-service economy, fluid labor force that’s moving a lot, that isn’t working in large factories for large companies. And those numbers bear the stamp of the time they were invented.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But addressing unemployment today, Karabell says, may require spending in particular ways and places on people with particular backgrounds. That may have been the problem with President Obama’s 2009 stimulus, for example.

    ZACHARY KARABELL: One of the promises of that bill was that $800 billion of spending would translate into 3.5 million jobs created or saved. Now, to be fair, we may have saved 3.5 million jobs, because we will never quite know how many jobs wouldn’t have been — you know what, would have been lost if we hadn’t spent the money.

    But I think one of the reasons that there was a mismatch between that promise and the outcome is simply that the formulas of macroeconomics that said, if you spend X, companies will hire Y, that’s clearly breaking down.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, your objection is to people who say, hey, look, all we have to do is pump up aggregate demand, more spending, as opposed to specific demand to hire the people who are currently unemployed? 


    It may have been true when you had a closed economic system, where you couldn’t outsource labor, where you didn’t have robotics, and all these things, that, if you simply spent more or you boosted demand, companies would then hire more workers. And it would be this virtuous circle of employment and output and consumption and demand.

    But if all this is going on, on kind of a three-dimensional chess level globally, and if part of it’s robotics, part of it’s labor, part of it is just changing industries, then those correlations don’t need to exist.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It’s a new world, says Karabell, and the longer we obsess over the monthly unemployment rate…

    MAN: It’s definitely weaker, but not a disaster.

    PAUL SOLMAN: … the longer it may take to help put millions of Americans back to work.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now: a candid guide for patients, friends and caregivers to coping with cancer.

    Judy Woodruff recently recorded this book conversation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Getting a diagnosis of breast cancer is something no woman wants to hear, but, in December 2010, Madhulika Sikka, the executive editor of NPR News, became one of the 250,000 American women who every year get just that word.

    Her new book, “A Breast Cancer Alphabet,” is an A-Z primer full of personal and practical advice for women with breast cancer and their families and friends.

    And, Madhulika Sikka, welcome to the program.

    MADHULIKA SIKKA, Author, “A Breast Cancer Alphabet”: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, as we said, you were diagnosed just over three years ago. You went through surgery, chemotherapy. Now you’re just leading as busy a life as you ever did.


    And that’s — you don’t think that that can happen when you first get diagnosed, but, for a lot of women, that does happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you also say in the introduction, you said, no one told you that it was OK to cry uncontrollably or OK to be angry or even to acknowledge out loud that it’s a real bummer.

    You said — I’m going to quote here — you said that women with breast cancer are expected to be upbeat, but — quote — “hard-assed and martial in their attitude” about the disease.

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: I think there is something that has been built up around the culture of breast cancer that focuses on that.

    And, for me, the implication of that is that, is if you struggle through it, or if, unfortunately, you don’t make it through, that somehow you didn’t give it your all, that it’s your fault. And I just don’t subscribe to that.

    It’s a horrible disease with really horrible treatment. And it’s OK to say that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s part of the reason you wrote the book. You — I mean, with all the literature out there about breast cancer, you thought there was some — this — there was a need for this?

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: Yes. I started writing mostly for myself. It was sort of cathartic for me to write how I felt.

    And as I talked to other people and I talked to other friends who had gone through breast cancer, we felt the same about a lot of things. And there is a sort of camaraderie in being able to share that. And it’s not a medical book. I’m not a doctor. It’s about my real experience that many people I have spoken to have felt some resonance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You start — it’s literally A to Z. You start with anxiety, which, it turns out, is a really big part of this.

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: It is, and it starts even before you’re diagnosed. It starts when you get that call or that letter that says, come back, let’s look at your mammogram again, or other efforts before you even get there.

    And anxiety is different from fear. It just lives with you all the time. And, sometimes, it’s at the forefront and, sometimes, it’s at the back. And you have to calibrate it and you have to sort of figure out how you deal with it at different turns in your treatment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: B is for breast.

    You say, all of a sudden, you find yourself engaging in matter-of-fact conversation with your brother, your male colleagues, maybe even your neighbors, about a part of your body you never, ever would have discussed with them before.


    It’s the funny thing about breast cancer. Even though, in our society, I think breasts are sort of fetishized, in your daily life, you’re not really talking about your breasts. But here you have a disease that’s all about your breasts. And people know what is going to happen to you.

    If you are going to have surgery, they know that you are going to go through something disfiguring with regard to your breasts, not something I talked a lot about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There is so much I want to ask you about, but you really are, Madhulika, brutally open about — there is one — I is for indignities about what one goes through.

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: There’s a lot that you have to go through. And lots of women who don’t have breast cancer have at least gone through a mammogram.

    That’s not very pleasant. The amount of poking and prodding, and when you have surgery, you are disfigured in a very painful way. It all hurts. And it all makes you feel angry and upset, and it’s OK to feel that way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you also write — you write about many aspects of this, but you also write about the importance of the people around you and what they can do with you, for you and how that makes a difference.

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: I wrote K is for kindness, because kindness abounds.


    MADHULIKA SIKKA: And I think the most important thing to do is, when people ask you, what can I do to help, stop and think, not too long and not too hard, figure out what you need, and ask them to do it for you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: G for guilt. I guess I was surprised at that one.

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: There are multi-facets to guilt, because first — the first thing you think about is, I did this. I did something wrong that caused my breast cancer.

    And, you know, most of the time, you didn’t. And it’s — you have to work your way through that. So I was surprised that chapter has actually — a lot of people have really reacted strongly to that chapter.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But there is also a lot of humor in here, Madhulika.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: There are great stories about people you have talked to, what it meant for your hair, looks, makeup, all those things that are just a very practical part of going through…

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: And they are a real part of breast cancer in a way that they aren’t for other cancers for men.

    And I have had friends who have gone through — male friends who have gone through cancer. And, you know, whether we like it or not, hair, makeup, looks, all those things matter for women.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you said even your doctors are thanking you for writing this book.

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: Yes. My doctors have been amazing. And it made them think about a few things that they hadn’t thought about before. So, I hope it — it continues to do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Madhulika Sikka, setting a good example for so, so many American women, women everywhere, thank you.

    MADHULIKA SIKKA: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Finding the right words in ‘A Breast Cancer Alphabet’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    United Nations Security Council Debates The Escalating Situation With Russia And Ukraine

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    GWEN IFILL: Threats, sanctions and dire predictions moved to center stage today, as the crisis in Ukraine showed no sign of abating.

    For more on what the U.S., the U.N. and their European partners can do to prevent the country from splitting apart, I spoke a short time ago with Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

    Ambassador Power, thank you for joining us.

    The administration has been talking about economic isolation when it comes to Russia as a response to what’s happening in Crimea. Could you give us a sense of what that really means?

    SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.: Well, Russia has made clear in recent years how much it is interested in economic integration with the West and enhanced commercial ties.

    And as a result of its military maneuvers and its illegal actions in Crimea, Ukraine, that entire process, the possibilities have been suspended, pending a decision by them to pull back from the brink. And so our goal now is to get them to pull back from the brink, get them to recognize the territorial integrity of Ukraine. And our leverage involves something that they have made clear really has mattered to them over time.

    GWEN IFILL: You talked about pulling back from the brink. You have talked about de-escalation. It’s a word both you and Senator — Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama have all used.

    Why do you think you have the leverage to make them de-escalate, to go — to take — send their troops back to their barracks, as you have said?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, again, Russia has said that it wants enhanced economic ties. Putin has prided himself on steps that he’s taken to shore up the Russian economy.

    It’s not doing that well right now. The ruble has depreciated substantially in recent months. A lot of Russia’s export market goes west, so Europe and Ukraine are very important markets for it. But also visa bans and economic sanctions, where U.S. persons are prohibited from doing business with certain individuals in Russia, we think this can have a deterrent effect.

    But we don’t know. I mean, at this point, we are putting in place a set of measures, in the hopes that he pulls back from the brink, in the hopes that we don’t have to go all the way to full-on political and economic isolation, because the goal here, again, is to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

    But we think that we have a series of levers, particularly when reinforced by our European partners, that will very much get his attention.

    GWEN IFILL: If there is a vote for Crimea to go back to Russia, if that referendum were to come to pass, what would be the penalty in international law?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, first, you would see the broad, I think, condemnation and establishment of the illegality and illegitimacy of such a vote by the international community.

    I have just come from the Security Council. And, again, with exception of Russia, virtually all council members made clear that this was inappropriate, that you have to operate in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution, which would require any such referendum that would affect the territorial integrity of Ukraine to be a referendum that would be carried out across Ukraine, and not just one subregion.

    So, I think you would see condemnation. And the kinds of costs that President Obama laid out today would be the kinds, I think, that other countries would likely bring to bear. But, again, our hope is not to get to that, but rather to lay down those sanctions, as President Obama did today, in the hopes of getting Putin to pull back.

    GWEN IFILL: Another off-ramp you have suggested is sending in international monitors. If you had an envoy in Crimea yesterday, Robert Serry, who was forced to leave, why do you think these monitors would be allowed in or allowed to stay?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, this, again, is an off-ramp.

    Both the U.N. and the OSCE have made clear that they’re more than happy to go and address the allegations that Russia has made about the treatment of ethnic Russians, again, allegations that we believe are baseless, that we have seen no evidence of.

    And it’s clear, I think, on the basis of Russian behavior and the behavior of Russian-speaking thugs in Crimea, that Russia doesn’t want monitors in, that they don’t want to actually expose the baselessness of their allegations.

    So, of course this is very disturbing, the treatment of a U.N. enjoy sent by the entire international community, sent by the secretary-general on behalf of all the member states of the U.N. To be treated like that is just deplorable.

    GWEN IFILL: So, why…

    SAMANTHA POWER: And OSCE monitors today — sorry — also faced, as you know, similar obstructionism in Crimea.

    GWEN IFILL: So you don’t really have any hopes that international monitors is a real off-ramp?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, it is, in the sense that it is available.

    Right now, there are two pathways. Russia is looking at the path of political and economical isolation that we have spoken about, including a whole series of economic sanctions that — you know, where individuals will be named and penalized severely. That’s one pathway.

    The other pathway is to allow monitors in, to allow mediation. Former Minister Lavrov has told Secretary Kerry that he is going to take some of these back to President Putin. And we still believe, again, in the cost-benefit analysis that Putin needs to do for himself, that the cost of going down the path that he is going, denying monitors, denying mediation, refusing to engage seriously with the Ukrainian authorities, is far more costly than pulling back and allowing the spirit of compromise to prevail.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s just talk about what you have had to say this week.

    On Monday, speaking to the Security Council, you said, these are the facts, that there were troop and ship movements which put Russians in Crimea, that there were — it was blocked cell phone service, that there was — there were Russian jets in Ukrainian airspace. These were all the things you listed as proof that Russia has overstepped its bounds.

    Has anything changed between the time you said that and today which leads you to believe that there is sort of movement toward a compromise?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Other than the high-level diplomatic engagement between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov, and the fact that there are discussions of an international contact group, no, the situation in Crimea, if anything, has deteriorated, in the sense that you now see the so-called deputy prime minister of Crimea referring to Ukrainian forces as occupying troops, which, of course, is not true and is an illegitimate claim.

    You see the Crimea parliament acting as it did today. So, no, we’re very worried. And, again, I don’t mean to sound in any way Pollyannish about this moment in history. This is a moment that could turn south in a hurry and could escalate in a hurry, which is why we’re trying to give the Russians the off-ramp and to encourage them and to have the entire international community speak in one voice, to get them to take the path of de-escalation.

    GWEN IFILL: Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, was quoted — wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post this week that the test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.

    How do you see this ending?

    SAMANTHA POWER: Well, all I can say is what needs to happen in order for this to end.

    Russia needs to make clear to the world and to the people of Ukraine that it is prepared to work with the international community, with monitors who are independent and credible, in order to pursue its legitimate interests, both in Crimea and in Ukraine proper.

    That is what needs to happen. And if that doesn’t happen, unfortunately, we’re going to need to continue to move down this path of political and economic isolation.

    GWEN IFILL: United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, thank you very much.

    SAMANTHA POWER: Thanks, Gwen.

    The post UN Ambassador Power: ‘Russia is looking at the path of political and economic isolation’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video by PBS NewsHour

    Updated 6:45 p.m. ET | The White House released a readout late Thursday of President Obama’s hour-long phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the crisis in Ukraine. The full release is below:

    President Obama spoke for an hour this afternoon with President Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners. President Obama indicated that there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community. As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May. President Obama indicated that Secretary Kerry would continue discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov, the government of Ukraine, and other international partners in the days to come to advance those objectives.

    Original post follows:

    President Barack Obama made remarks Thursday, saying that the proposed referendum that would allow Crimea region, where most residents are ethnically Russian, to formally separate from Ukraine and join Russia would “violate the Ukrainian constitution and international law.”

    The Crimean parliament unanimously approved a March 16 referendum vote that would also give voters the option to remain a part of Ukraine.

    Obama joined other international voices — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Union Council President Herman Van Rompuy — in deeming the Crimean referendum a violation of the Ukrainian constitution.

    Referring to the “international unity on display at this moment,” Mr. Obama said that if Russia doesn’t reverse course, “the resolve of the United States and its allies will remain firm.”

    “In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders,” he said.

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    A woman, suffering from Alzheimer's dese

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    GWEN IFILL: We have reported often on how the number of Americans coping with Alzheimer’s disease will grow in coming years. Now a new study finds Alzheimer’s may already account for many more deaths than realized.

    Hari Sreenivasan, reporting from our New York studio, gets the details.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The CDC ranks Alzheimer’s as the sixth-leading killer in the U.S., accounting for nearly 85,000 deaths a year. But the study in the journal “Neurology” puts the annual death toll around half-a-million, making it the third-leading cause of death, just behind heart disease and cancer, and ahead of chronic lung disease and strokes.

    Dr. Bryan James, an epidemiologist with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, led the research. He joins us now.

    So, what’s responsible for this discrepancy? They say 85,000. You say half-a-million. That’s a big gap.

    DR. BRYAN JAMES, Rush University Medical Center: It is a big gap.

    It’s about six times the numbers. And the reason for this, it’s — it’s very well documented that Alzheimer’s disease is underreported on death certificates. When people are filling out death certificates, they usually focus on the more immediate causes of death. And they have the opportunity to write the underlying causes, but Alzheimer’s disease is usually left off.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, when we look at the research here, how did you find this discrepancy?

    DR. BRYAN JAMES: Right.

    So, rather than look at what’s written on people’s death certificates, knowing that it’s left off so often, we actually followed, you know, 2,500 older adults over time, and we saw who developed Alzheimer’s disease, and we saw the risk of death in the people who developed Alzheimer’s compared to those who didn’t.

    And that’s how we developed an estimate of the excess deaths that we can attribute to Alzheimer’s. And then we extrapolated it to all deaths in the United States, and we came up with this number of half-a-million deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, give me an example of how Alzheimer’s is the underlying cause of death, if a heart attack is what’s listed on the death certificate.

    DR. BRYAN JAMES: Right.

    Yes, I think many people don’t realize that Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal disease. It leads to death very slowly over many years. It starts in the part of your brain that controls your memory and your thinking, and we’re all pretty much aware of that. But what people don’t know is that, over time, it slowly spreads to the parts of your brain that control your more basic functions, like swallowing and breathing and your heart rate.

    And this can lead to fatal conditions such as pneumonia and heart failure.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how significant is this finding? Is this changing the way we’re thinking about the burden of the disease?

    DR. BRYAN JAMES: I think that’s exactly right.

    I mean, we already know that five million people are living with this disease in the country and that this number is going up and up and up. We’re paying over $200 billion a year to care for people with Alzheimer’s disease. And this is just a third statistic to wake people up, you know, open their eyes that the burden on our society is a lot greater than we’re giving it credit for, and perhaps we need to allocate more resources, more funding to research and treatment in this area.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there a difference in how the government, say, supports funding of Alzheimer’s vs. cancer?

    DR. BRYAN JAMES: Well, there is a discrepancy in funding.

    I mean, I would never say that cancer should be funded any less than it is, but cancer is funded at about 10 times the rate that Alzheimer’s is. And that’s including the $100 million that the current administration just gave to Alzheimer’s disease, which is fantastic, but it’s just a first step. And there are only three times as many people with cancer as in Alzheimer’s disease.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so what does this mean for funding? Is this the type of information that changes policy?

    DR. BRYAN JAMES: Well, we certainly hope it is.

    You know, we know that diseases that kill people get a lot of attention, as they should, that we want to bring down the amount of suffering that people have while they’re living with this disease, but also we wanted people to acknowledge that this will ultimately lead to people passing away.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: I’m also thinking, beyond Alzheimer’s, does this call into question other diseases that death certificates may be underreporting?

    DR. BRYAN JAMES: You know, most of the other major killers, we think that the death certificates are pretty accurate.

    If you die of cancer in this country, for example, it’s pretty accurately going to be marked on your death certificate. It’s just that Alzheimer’s takes so long, through such a long chain of events, a long cascade that can take up to a decade or more for some people, that it’s so often left off of the death certificate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what are the sort of next steps going forward?

    DR. BRYAN JAMES: Yes, the next steps going forward, well, we need other research, large cohorts of older people to corroborate these findings, support them.

    But, more, we just — policy-wise, we think that this hopefully can open the eyes of lawmakers and policy-makers and private and public funders, and just the public in general that this is, you know, a very burdensome disease on our society.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Already, Dr. Bryan James from Rush University, thanks so much.

    DR. BRYAN JAMES: Thank you very much.

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    Republican campaign buttons are seen during the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

    Republican campaign buttons are seen during the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    By the time Saturday rolls around the thousands of conservative activists gathered outside the nation’s capital for the latest installment of the Conservative Political Action Conference will have gotten to kick the tires on many of the leading Republican contenders for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

    The subject of most intrigue on the first day of the event was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who did not receive an invite last year after he praised President Barack Obama in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, much to the dismay of some conservatives. Looking to rebuild his national profile in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal and bolster his support among conservatives wary of his blue-state pedigree, Christie used his speech Thursday to forcefully rebuke the president’s leadership, deride Washington dysfunction and blast the media for misrepresenting the GOP.

    But the Garden State governor also offered a small dose of his usual brand of straight-talk, telling the crowd that Republicans need to “start talking about what we’re for and not what we’re against.”

    “I’ll remind you of just one simple truth in this democracy: we don’t get to govern if we don’t win,” Christie added. “Let’s come out of here not only resolved to stand for our principles, but let’s come out of this conference resolved to win elections again.”

    The Washington Post’s Dan Balz writes how Christie looked to “roll back the clock” with his remarks Thursday.

    Last year’s CPAC came with the president’s re-election victory still fresh in the minds of conservatives and resulted in a good deal of debate about the future direction of the Republican Party. Given the differences between the speakers Thursday, it’s clear that the party is still in the process of determining the road back to electoral success at the national level.

    Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, said the way forward involved finding solutions to the country’s problems.

    “We have to offer a vision. We have to explain where we want to take the country and how we want to get there,” the House Budget Committee chairman said. “Now, there’s a fine line between being pragmatic and being unprincipled. And sometimes, sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s here to start a career and who’s here to serve a cause.”

    Ryan added that he believed the talk of “a great divide” in the GOP was overblown.

    “This is how it always is. You fight it out. You figure out what works. You come together. Then, you win. It’s messy. It’s noisy. And it’s a little bit uncomfortable. But the center of gravity is shifting,” he said.

    There appeared to be little disagreement among the speakers about the need to draw a clear contrast with Democrats. What remains unsettled is the strategy for accomplishing that goal.

    Texas Sen. Ted Cruz argued Republicans need to be more aggressive in highlighting their differences and questioned those in the party who advocate for a more conciliatory approach.

    “They say if you stand for principle you lose elections: the way to do it — the smart way, the Washington way — is don’t stand against ‘Obamacare,’ don’t stand against the debt ceiling, don’t stand against nothing,” he said.

    “I want to tell you something: That is a false dichotomy. You want to lose elections? Stand for nothing.”

    For his part Florida Sen. Marco Rubio largely stayed clear of the intra-party debate and focused instead on foreign policy, taking aim at the president’s leadership.

    “We cannot ignore the global importance of this nation. And we cannot ignore the implications to our future if we fail to step up to this call,” he said. “If you think high taxes and regulations are bad for our economy, so is global instability and the spread of totalitarianism.”

    Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, meanwhile, swiped at Mr. Obama by declaring him the “worst president” of his lifetime.

    Still on tap at CPAC: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Govs. Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

    Amid the early posturing for 2016, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that more GOP voters would “definitely” vote against all of the leading Republicans for president in 2016 than would vote for them.

    For those GOP leaders looking at a possible run, that means they not only have their work cut out for them when it comes to taking on the Democrats, but much more work to do in winning over voters in their own party.


    • The Senate voted Thursday to turn back legislation from New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand that would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute sexual assault cases. Supporters fell five votes short of the 60 needed to move forward with the measure. Lawmakers did advance a separate proposal offered by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., that limits the use of the “good soldier defense,” which permits those accused to introduce good conduct as evidence of innocence. But there’s a silver lining for Gillibrand, notes the Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe.

    • House lawmakers declined to censure Rep. Darrell Issa Thursday after the Congressional Black Caucus introduced a resolution demanding that Speaker John Boehner strip the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee of his gavel. The push by CBC members came after Issa cut off the microphone of Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., during a hearing on Wednesday. Issa has said he apologized to Cummings, but in an interview with Fox News, the California Republican accused his Democratic colleague of staging a “hissy fit.”

    • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tells the Nation’s John Nichols that he is “prepared to run for president of the United States.”

    • A new Suffolk University poll puts Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., up 13 points on potential GOP challenger Scott Brown.

    • Senate Republicans, with the help of several Democrats, succeeded Wednesday in blocking the nomination of Debo Adegbile, the president’s choice to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

    • Ahead of Tuesday’s special election in Florida’s 13th district, national Republicans are growing increasingly angry at GOP nominee David Jolly.

    • Americans support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline by a nearly 3 to 1 margin, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. And while 85 percent think the project would create jobs, 47 percent think it will pose a significant risk to the environment.

    • Wisconsin Democrat Mary Burke slams Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s record on jobs in her first TV ad of the gubernatorial campaign. A Walker spokesperson responded that the spot signaled that Burke’s campaign would be “based on outright fabrications and distortions of the truth.”

    • Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins gets the lowdown on Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s impromptu foreign policy speech that went viral last month.

    • The New York Times editorial board is calling for a “major housecleaning” at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — starting with David Samson, whom Christie appointed as chair.

    • Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will be the featured speaker at the Republican Party of Iowa’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner next month.

    • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., will travel to the Hawkeye State this month as part of an effort to raise climate change as a key issue for voters to consider heading into 2016.

    • Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., is just the latest candidate to cast his daughters in his Senate campaign spot. Roll Call’s Abby Livingston looks at the trend over the past decade.

    • Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney endorsed Joni Ernst in Iowa’s GOP Senate primary contest. The Idaho Statesman, meanwhile, reports that Romney will campaign in Idaho later this month for Gov. Butch Otter, Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Mike Simpson.

    • National Journal’s Ron Brownstein explains how the demographic realignment that hurt the GOP in 2012’s presidential election could doom Democrats in this year’s midterms.

    • Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, announced Wednesday he would run for governor of New York this fall.


    • Gwen Ifill spoke with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power about new sanctions against Russia and efforts to persuade Russia “to pull back from the brink” by emphasizing close economic ties.

    • Economics correspondent Paul Solman explores why statistics used to measure the health of our economy — like Friday’s jobs numbers — may not actually tell us that much. On Making Sen$e, author Zachary Karabell examines how measuring the unemployed grew out of a progressive reform movement.

    • Judy Woodruff spoke with special correspondent for education John Merrow about the College Board’s decision to overhaul the SAT.


    Simone Pathe and Ruth Tam contributed to this report.

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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

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    We’ll have more on today’s job report later today on Making Sen$e. In the meantime, watch Paul Solman’s report last night on whether or not we overvalue economic indicators like today’s jobs report.

    The post Jobs report: economy adds 175,000 jobs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    126314316WASHINGTON — Young adults like to think of themselves as independent, but when it comes to politics, they’re more likely than not to lean to the left.

    Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.

    In addition, young adults tend to be single and churchless — turning away from their predecessors’ proclivity for religion and marriage, according the Pew Research Center survey. Almost two-thirds don’t classify themselves as “a religious person.” And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age.

    The new survey shows how the millennial adults are “forging a distinctive path into adulthood,” said Paul Taylor, Pew’s executive vice president and co-author of the report.

    This can especially be seen when it comes to politics. Fifty percent of the millennials identify themselves as political independents, while only 27 percent said Democrat and 17 percent said Republican. The independent identification for millenials is an increase from 38 percent back in 2004.

    “It’s not that they don’t have strong political opinions, they do,” Taylor said. “It’s simply that they choose not to identify themselves with either political party.”

    The number of self-described independents is lower among their predecessors. Only 39 percent of those in Generation X said they were independents, along with 37 percent of the boomers and 32 percent of the Silent Generation.

    Pew describes Gen Xers as those from age 34-49, boomers as 50-68 and the Silent Generation as those 69-86.

    When the self-identified Democratic millennials combined with the self-described independents who lean Democratic, half — 50 percent — of the millennials are Democrats or Democratic-leaning while 34 percent are Republicans or Republican-leaning.

    “They don’t choose to identify, but they have strong views and their views are views that most people conventionally associate with the Democratic Party,” Taylor said. “They believe in a big activist government on some of the social issues of the day — gay marriage, marijuana legalization, immigration. Their views are much more aligned with the Democratic Party.”

    Taylor said they don’t know whether millennial voting trends will stay the same as they get older.

    “People can change over the course of their lifetimes,” Taylor said. “At the same time, the behaviors, attitudes, the voting patterns and experiences that generations sort of encounter as they come of age in their late teens and early 20s are important and this generation as political actors has come in three or four national elections in a row now as distinctively Democratic and liberal despite the fact they don’t want to identify that way.”

    Millennials also haven’t bought into the idea that they should go to church or get married early.

    Only 36 percent of the millennials said the phrase “a religious person” described them very well, compared with 52 percent of the Gen Xers, 55 percent of the baby boomers and 61 percent of the Silent Generation. And they’re significantly less religious than their immediately predecessors, the Gen Xers. When they were the same age, almost half of the Gen Xers — 47 percent — identified themselves as religious.

    The 64 percent of the millennials who say that they are not religious “is the highest for any age group we’ve ever measured,” Taylor said.

    The millennials were far less inclined toward marriage than the groups that preceded them. Only 26 percent of the millennial adults are married. When they were the same age, 36 percent of the Gen Xers, 48 percent of baby boomers and 65 percent of the Silent Generation were married.

    The Pew study was based on interviews with 1,821 adults by cellphone or landline from Feb. 14-23. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

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    A hobbyist drone flies over an open field. Photo by Michael MK Khor

    A hobbyist drone flies over an open field. Photo by Michael MK Khor

    WASHINGTON — A federal judge has dismissed the Federal Aviation Administration’s only fine against a commercial drone user on the grounds that the small drone was no different than a model aircraft, a decision that appears to undermine the agency’s power to keep a burgeoning civilian drone industry out of the skies.

    Patrick Geraghty, a National Transportation Safety Board administrative law judge, said in his order dismissing the $10,000 fine that the FAA has no regulations governing model aircraft flights or for classifying model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft.

    FAA officials said they were reviewing the decision and had no further comment. The agency can appeal the decision to the full five-member safety board.

    The FAA levied the fine against aerial photographer Raphael Pirker for flying the small drone near the University of Virginia to make a commercial video in October 2011. Pirker appealed the fine to the safety board, which hears challenges to FAA decisions.

    FAA officials have long taken the position that the agency regulates access to the national airspace, and therefore it has the power to bar drone flights, even when the drone weighs no more than a few pounds.

    “There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations,” the agency says on its website. “Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft —manned or unmanned —in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval.”

    FAA officials have been working for a decade on regulations to give commercial drones access to the national airspace without endangering manned aircraft and the public. Fed up with the agency’s slow progress, Congress passed legislation in 2012 directing the FAA to safely integrate drones of all sizes into U.S. skies by September 2015. However, it’s clear the agency won’t meet that deadline. Regulations that would permit greater use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds have been repeatedly delayed, and are not expected to be proposed until November. It takes at least months, and often years, before proposed regulations are made final.

    Regulations governing medium and large-sized drones are also in the works, but are even farther off.

    There is increasing demand to use small drones for a wide array of commercial purposes. The FAA has identified the dividing line between a model aircraft and a small drone as more one of intent, rather than of technology. If it is used for commercial purposes, it’s a drone. If it’s used purely for recreational purposes, it’s a model aircraft.

    The agency has issued guidelines for model aircraft operators, but they are voluntary and therefore cannot be enforced, Geraghty said.

    The post Commercial drones cleared for takeoff by federal judge’s ruling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday the U.S. is pushing “aggressively” for a diplomatic resolution to the Ukrainian Crimea tug-of-war with Russia and that he’s been in touch with his Russian counterpart daily.

    He warned, however, of the consequences of a Russian takeover of Crimea.

    “If Russia is allowed to do this, which is to say move into a sovereign country under the guise of protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine, it exposes Eastern Europe to some significant risk, because there are ethnic enclaves all over Eastern Europe and the Balkans,” he said.

    Dempsey spoke to PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff in an interview airing on Friday’s broadcast.

    “We’re trying to tell [the Russians] not to escalate this thing further into Eastern Ukraine, and allow the conditions to be set for some kind of resolution in the Crimea,” he said. “We’re seeking aggressively to resolve this diplomatically before we would reach the point where there could be a miscalculation.”

    Dempsey said by sending additional military aircraft and warships to the region, the United States is aiming to reassure its NATO and other European allies that the U.S. will back up its NATO obligations if necessary.

    “Remember, we do have treaty obligations with our NATO allies. And I have assured them that if that treaty obligation is triggered, we would respond.”

    He also described calling his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, twice in the last two days to keep him abreast of the U.S. military’s moves. “Everything that we’ve done, I tell them, here’s what we’re doing. Here’s why we’re doing it, you know we disagree fundamentally about your claim of legitimacy, but as militaries, let’s try to avoid escalating this thing.”

    There is a chance for military escalation, he acknowledged. When asked by Woodruff if the U.S. was prepared for that to happen, Dempsey responded: “That’s a question that I think deserves to be assessed and reassessed and refreshed as things evolve.”

    View all of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter.

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    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Flickr user Gage Skidmore

    Returning to CPAC, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie criticized Democrats to build his base with more conservative supporters. Photo by Flickr user Gage Skidmore

    At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave attendees the aggressive red meat speech they were hungry for.

    “Our ideas are better than their ideas and that’s what we have to stand up for,” he said to applause.

    Launching criticism of President Barack Obama, who Christie embraced during Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, and Democrats — saying “They’re the party of intolerance. Not us.” — Christie gave no mention of the bipartisan credentials he’s touted in the past.

    “We’ve got to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for,” he said — alluding to the media’s coverage of the George Washington Bridge lane closures that stemmed from his office. “The fact is that we have to take these guys on directly.”

    Christie ended his address with a harsh truism.

    “We don’t get to govern if we don’t win,” he said. “…what’s worse is they do.”

    Often using the word “they” in reference to Democrats, Christie’s speech represented a departure from his inclusive message from the time before the lane closure controversy. Many in the audience stood to applaud his efforts — and several were relatively optimistic on how close Christie could get to the White House.

    “He may be seen as more moderate but if you listen to his record and his speech, I don’t see why,” said Bill Saracino, 62, who traveled to the conference from Glendale, Calif.

    “I think there are any number of people who are [capable],” he said. “[Christie’s] one of them and that’s why I liked his combativeness.”

    “If he doesn’t get beat up in the primaries too bad, he’d probably be able to carry it,” said Doug Kolling, who traveled to the conference from Greenville, Ohio after watching CPAC on TV for the previous two years.

    But lingering in voters’ minds is the governor’s image as a bipartisan player, which received differing levels of approval.

    While Kolling is comfortable with “any Republican” and his wife, Jana, would support “whoever can beat Hillary,” Saracino’s bar is slightly higher.

    “[Christie’s bipartisan image] is not something that appeals to me as a conservative,” said the self-proclaimed “Reagan Republican.”

    “Bipartisanship is as phony concept. It’s never existed. People fight for their beliefs and that’s called partisanship. That’s not terrible; it’s how you decide between two opposing views.”

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    Even though a bill changing the way the military would handle sexual assault cases failed in the Senate, it showed a lack of confidence in the military to solve the problem, as the president directed, said Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Friday.

    “The president of the United States said to us in December, you know what, you’ve got about a year to review this thing and show me you can make a difference,” said Dempsey. “If we haven’t been able to demonstrate we’re making a difference, you know, then we deserve to be held to the scrutiny and standard.”

    His comments came in an interview with PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff, airing Friday.

    The Senate voted 55-45 on Thursday to block the bill from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would remove sexual assault prosecutorial decisions from military commanders.  An alternative from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., that would require a civilian review if there were a disagreement over litigating a sexual assault case, advanced instead.

    “We understand that … just because Senator Gillibrand’s vote was defeated yesterday doesn’t mean that a year from now it may not be reintroduced,” Dempsey said.

    View all of our Military coverage and follow us on Twitter.

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