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

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    Protesters took to the streets in Caracas, Venezuela on Feb. 15, 2014. Photo by Flickr user andresAzp

    Protesters took to the streets in Caracas, Venezuela on Feb. 15, 2014. Photo by Flickr user andresAzp

    A 47-year-old student and mother of four became the first foreign fatality of Venezuela’s ongoing civil unrest Monday, more than a month after demonstrators first took to the streets seeking seeking economic reform and decrying the policies of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

    Gisela Rubilar, a Chilean native, was reportedly clearing a barricade in the western Venezuelan city of Mérida when she was shot in the eye and killed, said Alexis Ramírez, Mérida’s governor.

    Chilean President Sebastián Piñera called for an investigation, while Ramírez and President Maduro blamed right-wing opposition groups for Rubilar’s death.

    Tensions between government forces and students exploded in early February when the National Guard cracked down on a campus protest in the university city of San Cristóbal, near the Colombian border. The ranks of the protesters have since swelled and spread across the country as members of the country’s middle class have joined near-daily demonstrations against high crime and rampant inflation.

    Street barricades, which protesters say shield them from “colectivos,” or pro-government paramilitaries, have frequently been the site of violent conflict between the demonstrators and security forces. Late Monday night student leader Daniel Tinoco was shot dead manning one such structure in San Cristóbal, that city’s mayor reported, in a crackdown that left at least one other student seriously wounded.

    The deaths of Rubilar and Tinoco bring the fatality count from this conflict up to at least 21.

    The post First foreign fatality in Venezuelan conflict appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters head to Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey in June, 2013. Photo by Flickr user Alan Hilditch

    Protesters head to Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey in June, 2013. Photo by Flickr user Alan Hilditch

    Protests erupted across Turkey Tuesday afternoon after it was reported that a teenager hurt in Istanbul street protests last summer had died from his injuries.

    Berkin Elvan, 15, had been on his way to buy bread last June when he was struck by a teargas canister aimed at demonstrators in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. He had remained in a coma in the months since.

    His family announced his death via Twitter Tuesday morning. Protesters took to the streets in Istanbul and in the capital city of Ankara in response as riot police and demonstrators clashed outside the hospital where the boy died.

    This is the eighth death to come out of last summer’s anti-government protests, which began as a sit-in at one of Istanbul’s last remaining parks but quickly escalated into a series of nationwide demonstrations against the ruling AKP party.

    The post Teenager injured in Turkish uprising dies, sparking protests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Obamacare Expedited Bid Process Limited Who Could Build WebsiteAbout 4.2 million Americans have enrolled in private health plans through the end of February via the online insurance marketplaces established by the federal health law — with enrollment jumping by nearly 1 million people last month, the Obama administration said Tuesday.

    “As more Americans are finding affordable marketplace coverage, more are signing up,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on a telephone briefing.

    She said 83 percent of enrollees received subsidies to lower their monthly premiums.

    But the number of young adults signing up over the last five months continues to lag expectations, which could impact insurance premiums next year. Insurance industry officials have been closely watching the mix of customers to make sure they get enough healthy people to balance the cost of covering older Americans who generally require more medical care.

    About 25 percent of people signing up for coverage through February were between the ages of 18 and 34 in the 36 states served by the federal marketplace— the same percentage as in the January enrollment report, officials said. That compares to a benchmark of 40 percent on which insurers based their premiums for policies sold in the exchanges this year.

    Obamacare supporters are counting on a huge spurt in sign-ups this month before open enrollment for 2014 closes in three weeks on March 31. Both the president and first lady are doing interviews on television and radio, and ads targeted to young people are running on popular television shows.

    Overall, enrollment is up 90 percent in the first two months of this year, but that rate varies widely by state. Florida saw a 180 percent increase. Texas saw a 149 percent increase. California had a 74 percent increase. New York saw a 56 percent increase.

    The marketplaces — a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act —were created so that Americans unable to get coverage through their jobs could select among plans that offer a basic set of benefits. Americans making up to four times the federal poverty level, or $46,000 for an individual, qualify for government subsidies to offset the cost of their premiums.

    After a disastrous start in October due to malfunctioning websites, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revised downward its expectations on how many would enroll in the first year. Instead of 7 million, CBO now expects 6 million.

    The administration had announced passing the 4 million enrollment mark about two weeks ago but did not break out the figures.

    California, which is running its own marketplace, has enrolled nearly 900,000 people —twice as many as any other state, according to the February enrollment report. Florida, which is relying on the federal exchange, has enrolled more than 440,000. New York, which has its own marketplace, has the third highest enrollment at just over 244,000.

    The percentage of people between 18 and 34 enrolling ranged from 18 percent in West Virginia, to 31 percent in Utah, to 45 percent in the District of Columbia. The variation reflects states’ demographics, among other things, federal officials said.

    An additional 4.4 million people have been deemed eligible for Medicaid, according to the report. There is no deadline on when people can enroll in the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

    In addition, more than 544,000 people have purchased standalone dental plans in the federal marketplace, the report said. Dental enrollment figures were not available for the state marketplaces.

    Enrollment data from individual states are available on the HHS website.


    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

    The post Health care marketplace enrollments reach 4.2 million in February appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Associated Press reports that the head of the Malaysian Air Force says his agency uncovered radar evidence that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 nearly reversed course before vanishing on Saturday. The evidence suggests the airliner traveled back across Malaysia and vanished as it approached the Strait of Malacca.

    Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that there is disagreement among Malaysian officials about the evidence, citing a statement from a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office:

    Adding to the confusion, Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, spokesman for the prime minister’s office, said in a telephone interview that he had checked with senior military officials, who told him there was no evidence that the plane had recrossed the Malaysian peninsula, only that it may have attempted to turn back.

    “As far as they know, except for the air turn-back, there is no new development,” Mr. Tengku Sariffuddin, adding that the reported remarks by the air force chief were “not true.”

    The Malaysian-led search effort for the plane’s wreckage has been expanded and shifted to the west to encompass the new area of interest.

    Tonight on the PBS NewsHour Judy Woodruff will speak with Peter Goelz, former director of the U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board, about the latest efforts to find the missing airliner.

    The post Conflicting reports indicate flight 370 changed course before disappearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    VIETNAM-MALAYSIA-MALAYSIAAIRLINE-CHINA-TRANSPORT-ACCIDENT

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The search for that missing Malaysian Airlines flight took an unexpected turn today. It now develops that the plane was spotted hundreds of miles from where it was supposed to be.

    John Sparks of Independent Television News has this report from Kuala Lumpur.

    JOHN SPARKS: It’s got to be there, but no one knows where. For the fourth day in a row, a small armada of ships, planes and helicopters scoured the waters around Malaysia, looking for the jetliner and its passengers and crew, and for the fourth day in a row, they found nothing.

    Here’s a member of the Vietnamese rescue team.

    MAN (through interpreter): Some objects were spotted in this area, so we came right here, but we haven’t found a thing.

    JOHN SPARKS: They have got little to go on, and what they do have is contradictory. Today, a Malaysian military source said the plane wasn’t headed to Beijing, its intended destination. Instead, it changed course.

    On Saturday morning, Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur, and we were told that civilian radar lost contact with it here, near the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand. However, military radar shows the aircraft veering west, then flying over the Malacca Straits for an hour. It’s a big discrepancy for those trying to find it.

    Still, Malaysian police eliminated one line of inquiry today. They provided new details about the identities of two men who boarded the flight with stolen passports.

    Here’s the first.

    INSPECTOR GEN. KHALID ABU BAKAR, Royal Malaysian Police: He is 19 years old. And he’s an Iranian. We believe that he is an Iranian.

    JOHN SPARKS: His name, Pouria Nour Mohammed Mehrdad, and police said his journey had nothing to do with terror.

    KHALID ABU BAKAR: We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group, and we believe that he is trying to migrate to Germany.

    JOHN SPARKS: The second man later identified as Delavar Syed Mohammad Reza.

    The press conference was another raucous affair with journalists scrapping for a picture of the two men. Interest in the plane’s disappearance is intense, and the media has had little until now to pass on.

    At a Beijing hotel, friends and relatives of those on board continue their vigil. But the fourth day has brought them little. A small number have decided to travel to Malaysia, better to do something, perhaps, than sit and wait.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on today’s surprising news about the missing flight, we turn to Peter Goelz in Washington. He’s a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board.

    Peter Goelz, thank you very much for joining us.

    And I just want to point out that, at this hour, there are still conflicting accounts of where the plane was when it was last heard from. But, having said that, it does appear the transponder on the plane was either turned off or stopped working at the same point the plane took a sharp turn.

    Tell us just quickly, remind us, what is a transponder and what would be the explanations for it being turned off?

    PETER GOELZ, Former Managing Director, NTSB: Well, the transponder is a critical piece of electronics on every airplane.

    And when the aircraft is painted by a radar signal, it responds back and says, I’m aircraft 427, I have got — I’m at this altitude, I’m going at this speed. So it identifies the aircraft for air traffic controllers and for other aircraft in the area.

    There is little reason to ever turn off your transponder, because it is essential that the controllers see you, that other aircraft see you, that you are identified in the sky. Now, even in an emergency situation, the transponder uses very little electrical power. It would be one of the last items you would shut down in some sort of inexplicable electrical malfunction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So…

    PETER GOELZ: This is very troubling.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, would it require a human gesture to turn it off or some — you’re saying some sort of mechanical or electrical failure?

    PETER GOELZ: Well, it could — you know, it would most likely take a human gesture, a human action to turn it off. It could be done from the flight deck. It could be done by a circuit breaker.

    But the idea that a malfunction would take place is very unusual.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what are the pilots’ options in this case? Because there are reports that the plane continued flying for at least another hour before apparently they lost contact altogether. What does that tell you?

    PETER GOELZ: Well, I mean, it tells you that something was going on in the flight deck, in the cockpit that shouldn’t have. There was something happening.

    Either there was a — some sort of takeover of the cockpit. There was some sort of decision made by the flight crew that was outside the norm. And it’s — it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one of the flight crew members took over the aircraft.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just very quickly, does this — does this new piece of information in your mind make it more or less likely that there was foul play of some kind?

    PETER GOELZ: Oh, I think you have got to — I think it moves the issue of foul play up. You have got consider it more strongly now.

    And I think, I mean, on a broader case, the Malaysian government, this investigation appears to be being managed by the military. And it has not gone to the civil aviation authorities. They have not started an accident investigation, so the U.S. is not fully participating yet or other countries. It’s very troubling on how the information is being managed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Many questions still remain.

    Peter Goelz, we thank you.

    PETER GOELZ: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Ukraine, Crimea’s parliament voted today to declare independence, if its people vote in favor of joining Russia.

    A referendum is scheduled for Sunday. Meanwhile, the prime minister of Ukraine appealed to Russia, the U.S. and Britain to abide by a 1994 treaty. It guaranteed Ukraine’s security in exchange for giving up Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Prime Minister, Ukraine (through interpreter): We are not asking anyone for anything extraordinary. We are asking for just one thing. Military aggression has been used against our country. Those who guaranteed that this aggression will not take place must from the one side pull out troops and from the other side must defend our independent, sovereign state. This is the demand of our country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Ukrainian prime minister is traveling to Washington to meet with President Obama tomorrow.

    The top U.S. and Russian diplomats talked again today, but made no progress toward resolving the Ukrainian crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The State Department said it wasn’t satisfied with the Russian’s responses. Moscow said the two sides will keep talking.

    A student leader in Venezuela was shot and killed last night, amid the growing protests in that country. It happened in San Cristobal, where anti-government demonstrations first erupted last month. National Guardsmen battled students in residential neighborhoods, firing tear gas and plastic pellets.

    A dispute between the CIA and the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee blew up publicly today. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein accused the agency of improperly searching a computer network set up for senators to review classified material. It was part of a probe into interrogations of terror suspects.

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-Calif., Senate Intelligence Committee Chair: The CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the speech and debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The head of the CIA, John Brennan, later disputed any claim that the agency tried to obstruct the Senate investigation. He spoke at an event in Washington.

    JOHN BRENNAN, CIA Director: We are not trying at all to prevent its release. As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that.

    When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The issue has now been referred to the Justice Department to determine if there were any criminal wrongdoing.

    Japan today marked the third anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed 19,000 people and triggered a nuclear plant meltdown. The quake was the strongest in Japan’s history, and the massive tsunami wave wiped out entire coastal communities with little warning. Three years later, 270,000 people are still displaced. Today, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to do more to rebuild.

    On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 67 points to close at 16,351. The Nasdaq fell 27 points to close at 4,307. And the Standard & Poor’s 500 was down nine points to finish at 1,867.

    The post News Wrap: Military radar shows missing Malaysian flight veered off-course appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    crimea1

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    GWEN IFILL: The crisis in the Ukraine, which has pitted Europe and the U.S. against a re-expanding Russia, entered a new phase today.

    War games began in Poland today, as U.S. and Polish forces performed joint air and naval exercises. They were long-planned, but have now become part of the U.S. response to Russia’s seizing much of Crimea, a Ukrainian region where ethnic Russians predominate.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested last week he could intervene elsewhere as well.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): If we see that lawlessness starting in eastern regions too, if people ask us for help, we reserve the right to use all options at our disposal to protect those citizens.

    GWEN IFILL: On Friday’s NewsHour, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said such action would be dangerous.

    GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: If Russia is allowed to do this, which is to say move into a sovereign country under the guise of protecting ethnic Russians in — in Ukraine, it exposes Eastern Europe to some significant risk, because there are ethnic enclaves all over Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

    GWEN IFILL: Indeed, much of Eastern Ukraine does have sizable Russian-speaking populations.

    And other nations in the region, including Moldova, Belarus, and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, are also home to large numbers of ethnic Russians. This isn’t the first time Moscow has moved to annex regions beyond its borders. During the Five Days War in 2008, Russia effectively gained control over portions of neighboring Georgia.

    Estonia’s foreign minister said today the entire continent should be concerned.

    URMAS PAET, Foreign Minister, Estonia (through interpreter): Russian aggression changes the situation for the whole of Europe. It influences Europe’s security. And the fact that Russia uses its power to protect Russians living abroad affects all European countries, as Russians live all over Europe.

    GWEN IFILL: In the face of that prospect, the European Union is talking sanctions. The U.S. has already imposed some penalties and travel bans.

    And starting Thursday, a dozen more American F-16 fighter jets will arrive in Poland. F-15s are headed to Lithuania, and NATO is stepping up reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania.

    The post Eastern Europe expresses concern about Russian aggression appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A cheese shop at Pike Place in Seattle. Photo by Flickr user Bari Bookout

    A cheese shop at Pike Place in Seattle. Photo by Flickr user Bari Bookout

    WASHINGTON — Would Parmesan by any other name be as tasty atop your pasta? A ripening trade battle might put that to the test.

    As part of trade talks, the European Union wants to ban the use of European names like Parmesan, feta and Gorgonzola on cheese made in the United States.

    The argument is that the American-made cheeses are shadows of the original European varieties and cut into sales and identity of the European cheeses. The Europeans say Parmesan should only come from Parma, Italy, not those familiar green cylinders that American companies sell. Feta should only be from Greece, even though feta isn’t a place. The EU argues it “is so closely connected to Greece as to be identified as an inherently Greek product.”

    So, a little “hard-grated cheese” for your pasta? It doesn’t have quite the same ring as Parmesan.

    U.S. dairy producers, cheesemakers and food companies are all fighting the idea, which they say would hurt the $4 billion domestic cheese industry and endlessly confuse consumers.

    “It’s really stunning that the Europeans are trying to claw back products made popular in other countries,” says Jim Mulhern, president of the National Milk Producers Federation, which represents U.S. dairy farmers.

    The European Union would not say exactly what it is proposing or even whether it will be discussed this week as a new round of talks on an EU-United States free trade agreement opens in Brussels.

    European Commission spokesman Roger Waite would only say that the question “is an important issue for the EU.”

    That’s clear from recent agreements with Canada and Central America, where certain cheese names were restricted unless the cheese came from Europe. Under the Canadian agreement, for example, new feta products manufactured in Canada can only be marketed as feta-like or feta-style, and they can’t use Greek letters or other symbols that evoke Greece.

    Though they have not laid out a public proposal, the EU is expected to make similar attempts to restrict marketing of U.S.-made cheeses, possibly including Parmesan, Asiago, Gorgonzola, feta, fontina, grana, Muenster, Neufchatel and Romano.

    And it may not be just cheese. Other products could include bologna, Black Forest ham, Greek yogurt, Valencia oranges and prosciutto, among other foods.

    The trade negotiations are important for the EU as Europe has tried to protect its share of agricultural exports and pull itself out of recession. The ability to exclusively sell some of the continent’s most famous and traditional products would prevent others from cutting into those markets.

    Concerned about the possible impact of changing the label on those popular foods, a bipartisan group of 55 senators wrote U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week asking them not to agree to any such proposals by the EU.

    Led by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., the members wrote that in the states they represent, “many small- or medium-sized, family owned businesses could have their businesses unfairly restricted” and that export businesses could be gravely hurt.

    Schumer said artisanal cheese production is a growing industry across New York.

    “Muenster is Muenster, no matter how you slice it,” he said.

    Trevor Kinkaid, a spokesman for the U.S. trade representative, said conversations on the issue are in the early stages but that the U.S. and E.U. have “different points of view” on the topic.

    The agency wouldn’t disclose details of the negotiations, but Kinkaid said the U.S. government is “committed to increasing opportunity for U.S. businesses, farmers and workers through trade.”

    Large food companies that mass-produce the cheeses are also fighting the idea. Kraft, closely identified with its grated Parmesan cheese, says the cheese names have long been considered generic in the United States.

    “Such restrictions could not only be costly to food makers, but also potentially confusing for consumers if the labels of their favorite products using these generic names were required to change,” says Kraft spokesman Basil Maglaris.

    Some producers say they are incensed because it was Europeans who originally brought the cheeses here, and the American companies have made them more popular and profitable in a huge market. Errico Auricchio, president of the Green Bay, Wis., company BelGioioso Cheese Inc., produced cheese with his family in Italy until he brought his trade to the United States in 1979.

    “We have invested years and years making these cheeses,” Auricchio says. “You cannot stop the spreading of culture, especially in the global economy.”

    He says that companies who make certain cheeses would have to come together and figure out new names for them, which would be almost impossible to do.

    His suggestion for Parmesan? “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Parmesan,” he jokes.

    Jaime Castaneda works for the U.S. Dairy Export Council and is the director of a group formed to fight the EU changes, the Consortium for Common Food Names. He says the idea that only great cheese can come from Europe “is just not the case anymore.”

    He points out that artisanal and locally produced foods are more popular than ever here and says some consumers may actually prefer the American brands. European producers can still lay claim to more place-specific names, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, he says.

    “This is about rural America and jobs,” he said.

    ___

    The post Trade battle ferments over European cheeses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Obamacare Expedited Bid Process Limited Who Could Build Website

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For some further insight into the selling of the exchanges, and how it may impact the insurance pool, we turn to two people who are watching this closely.

    Joanne Kenen is the health care editor at Politico. And Larry Levitt is a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    We welcome you both.

    Larry Levitt, give us a description of the people who have signed up for these exchanges so far in terms of, are they women, men, age, income level, and so forth?

    LARRY LEVITT, Kaiser Family Foundation: Well, as your piece mentioned, a total of 4.2 million people have signed up for health insurance so far.

    They are mostly women, slightly more likely to be women, mostly low-income. About 80 percent of them qualify for tax credits that are available to low- and middle-income people to help them pay — help them pay their premiums. And they’re disproportionally older.

    Young people, those 18 to 34, represent about 14 percent of the target population, but only about a quarter of them have enrolled so far.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, who haven’t been signing up? You mentioned the young. And why haven’t these other groups been signing up?

    LARRY LEVITT: Well, young people aren’t signing up.

    Insurance is a tough sell for young people to begin with. And, as your piece mentioned, they do pay higher premiums than they tend to use in health care. So it’s not as good a deal for them as it is for older people. And enrollment among Latinos a lagging as well. Out here in California, they represent about half of the eligible uninsured, but only about one in five of enrollees. So it’s been a tough sell for the Latino market.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Joanne Kenen, is there a sense — does the administration know why these other groups aren’t signing up?

    JOANNE KENEN, Politico: They have always known that young people were going to be a hard sell. They have known that from the beginning.

    But Latinos, I think Obama really talked very specifically to address one of the fears, because these benefits are only available to legal — people who are here legally. They’re not available to the illegals. But if you have a relative who’s undocumented, some people feel that there is a perception that if you give your information to the government, they may use that to find family members.

    And the president on that Latino town hall last week was very explicit: This is about health care. We’re not using it to track down illegals.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if they knew they were going to have a problem with younger people, the sense is that they’re just now really working hard to get them to sign up. Why didn’t they start sooner? Or we just didn’t see it?

    JOANNE KENEN: Well, I think — I think they have been reaching out to the young people. I mean, obviously, you’re going to have the most intense push in this last month. We’re in the last three weeks. You are going to see an intense push.

    And you saw an intense push right around the end of December, when the Web site was working and there was that first set of deadlines. I mean, it’s — but they haven’t gotten a lot of their message across. People are very, very confused about this law. And young people are hearing mixed messages. Right?

    You’re hearing the administration message. You’re also hearing the critics of the law, who say it’s too expensive, it’s big government, on and on. It’s very hard for people. And young people tend to not think — you know, it’s — that’s why they keep addressing the moms, right?

    You know, I have a young, invincible kid. He doesn’t worry about getting appendicitis. I’m up half the night worrying about it. Yes, he’s insured. He’s on my plan. But that’s why this messaging to moms has been going on. They want the mom to get the kid to sign up.

    The post Deadline approaching, Obama administration takes creative approach to push ACA enrollment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    book

    GWEN IFILL: Now Jeffrey Brown talks to a fiction writer, as he imagines where the world is heading next.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We’re in the future after much of the globe has become an environmental wasteland and the U.S. is divided into labor settlements, where workers toil to produce food and much else, privileged few live in charter villages, and everyone else inhabits the wild, often violent colonies beyond.

    A teenage girl named Fan makes her way through this world searching for a lost love.

    The novel is entitled “On Such a Full Sea.” And it’s quite a departure for author Chang-rae Lee, whose previous books include “Native Speaker” and “The Surrendered.”

    And welcome to you.

    CHANG-RAE LEE, Author, “On Such a Full Sea”: Great to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I read that the original idea — your original idea was to write a novel of social realism…

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … about Chinese labor. So how did that evolve into a — this futuristic story?

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Well, I had over gone to China to Shenzhen, to the villages there, where there are lots of factories, and visited a factory, and had this — you know, big idea to write this broad social novel about workers, owners, you know, all their struggles.

    But when I got back to my writing desk, I felt as if I didn’t have a special angle on the material, that it was going to be good journalism. But I think, for novels, you need the extra perspective or other layers of approach that make the story, you know, come alive in a different way.

    And so I dropped that novel. And, at the same time, you know, looking for something else, I came upon a premise about setting a novel in the future. And I had to set the novel in the future, because the premise involved bringing over en masse Chinese laborers to the United States, which I knew couldn’t happen now, but perhaps could in a very different future.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so they come because of the environment, what happens in China. And they end up in the U.S.

    There is, of course, a great tradition of writers drawn to this kind of looking at the future, which is sort of like our own, but not quite. Right?

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Right. Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Was it exciting or difficult or what grabbed you about it?

    CHANG-RAE LEE: It was liberating — it was liberating in one sense, of course, because you have, you know, at your fingertips anything and everything to, you know, imagine and think about.

    The problem, of course, is that, sometimes, you’re trapped by your own premise, and that — and I think that’s the fun part about it, is to try to defy the premise that you have come up with and to take it into different directions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And your past work is more observed of — in our time. Here, I guess it was wide-open, right?

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Yes.

    I mean, my previous novels, I would say, are psychologically realistic, very close in views of people who — immigrants sometimes, others who are sort of, you know, at a crossroads in terms of how they feel about themselves in their families or in their communities. In some sense, this novel is not that different.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Once you get into it.

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Once you get into it, the work itself is not actually all that radical.

    What is radical is that, once you change the context around these figures — and they’re still human beings, of course — once you change that context or circumstance radically, you realize that things inside change. Morality changes. Practices and beliefs change. And, suddenly, people are formed and deformed in very interesting ways.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what also we begin to realize and, for me, because on this — we spend a lot of time on this program looking at social issues, obviously, and economic divisions in the society — and then here it’s notable that you have created this world of deep divisions of class, society, industrial, everything’s run down, right? The world is sort of ground down economically, in a sense.

    So did you have this world in mind as well?

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Well, one of the things that I was interested in that original novel about China set in contemporary times was Chinese ascendancy.

    But the flip side of that was a sense of American stagnation and perhaps decline. And that’s one of the things that I brought over from that original research, an idea that certain trends in this — in our society, both socio and political, were obviously things that I have anxiety about, that I was worried about.

    And I think all speculative fiction has as its origin point present concerns, and those concerns about class entrenchment, about income inequality, about environmental contamination, about health care being so precarious in our society, I think those are things that I have, you know, been mulling for the last 10, 15 years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I read — I didn’t know this about you, but that before you became a writer, you actually worked on Wall Street for a year.

    CHANG-RAE LEE: I did. I had a job very…

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: There’s something about this is — is all in the past, right, thinking about wealth and poverty and…

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Well, yes.

    You know, I took a job on Wall Street. I’m glad I did, because it was my only really — you know, my one true day job that I ever had. But that was a job as an immigrant kid from a family who had struggled to — and worked hard to put me through a good American education. It was a little payback for that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you one more thing, because I’m curious about your choice of main characters. It’s a 16-year-old girl, Fan, or Fan. Why tell the story through — through her?

    CHANG-RAE LEE: I wanted someone who was an innocent, and a true innocent, and she’s probably not a lot like — a lot like 16-year-olds today.

    I think she’s purer than that, more innocent than that. I wanted someone who could almost be a vessel for the imagination of those who are telling her story, so that she’s this sort of elemental force going out into the world, into this adventure, and that we would be drawn by, not her psychology or her philosophy or her leadership even, but by her — this kind of pure and fierce persistence that she has.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We’re not going to give away what happens here, but do you in the end see this as kind of warning, or is it — did it just become a good story to tell for you?

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Well, in the process of it, I was just enjoying the storytelling.

    I think what begins to accrue and what began to accrue, and almost surprised me as I went along, was how much of my concerns came out in the book. I never intended to write a political novel. And I don’t think I will ever intend to write a political novel, but perhaps, out of all my books, this one is more pointedly looking at issues of our time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, “On Such a Full Sea.”

    Chang-rae Lee, thank you so much.

    CHANG-RAE LEE: Great to be here.

    The post Chang-rae Lee on the fun of writing about the future for ‘On Such a Full Sea’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Nobody to turn to when you’re scared? Reach for [insert product name here]™ to make everything better!

    A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research may be music to the ears of businesses. It finds that when someone is put into a fearful situation without another person to turn to, they will turn to a brand to provide that missing support.

    Researchers conducted separate studies in which participants watched different genres of movies, including horror. For each of the movies, the participant was given an unfamiliar brand of juice. At the end, the study showed that those who had watched the horror movie were revealed to have grown an emotional connection to the juice:

    In one study, participants were asked to watch a movie and drink a new brand of sparkling juice. Movie choices were horror, action, or a documentary. Participants were asked to drink the juice during the movie, asked to wait, or given a choice to drink at leisure. Study results showed the most increase in emotional attachment to the juice in participants who viewed the horror movie and who were allowed to drink at leisure or asked to wait until the end of the movie.

    The study’s authors claim that a product’s presence –even an unfamiliar one — can successfully curb fear the consumer is experiencing at the time. In turn, that success will create the emotional attachment that will drive the person towards that product in the future.

    “When consumers are scared, they will reach out to an available brand for comfort,” study authors Lea Dunn and JoAndrea Hoegg write. “In this act of reaching out to share the experience, brands help relieve a consumer’s sense of fear. In turn, this shared experience leads to stronger emotional attachment.”

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    WASHINGTON — Add pay equity to President Barack Obama’s 2014 do-it-himself wish list.

    The White House is launching a campaign to promote a host of economic issues facing women, a key voting bloc in this year’s midterm election.

    Obama is hosting at least 10 Democratic female lawmakers at the White House Wednesday as his Council of Economic Advisers issues a report decrying a gender wage gap. The report highlights that full-time working women continue to earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the workforce, despite surpassing men in obtaining college degrees and making inroads into traditionally male-dominated occupations.

    The White House said the economic issues facing women and families will be addressed at a Working Families Summit the president will headline on June 23 at Washington’s Omni Shoreham hotel, co-hosted by the administration and the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. The summit was announced as part of Obama’s State of the Union address in January, when he declared “when women succeed, America succeeds.”

    The White House says ballots cast this fall by single women in particular will help determine which party performs best in the election. They argue the president’s focus on raising the minimum wage, which faces opposition in Congress, is particularly important for those voters, especially those trying to support a family.

    “That will help so many women participate as they’re increasingly breadwinners in families,” Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.” “In the 21st Century, why aren’t women earning equal pay? So how can we close that pay gap?”

    Republicans point out that the White House has its own pay gap — an analysis of staff salaries done last fall by the conservative American Enterprise Institute found the president’s female aides were that paid 88 cents for every dollar paid to men, about $65,000 to $73,729 annually. The White House responds that men and women in equivalent roles at the White House earn the same amount and that a majority of department heads are women. However, the 77-cent gender gap that Obama is criticizing is calculated workforce-wide, and does not represent a comparison of equivalent positions.

    The report by the White House Council on Economic Advisers says Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 would shrink the gender wage gap by nearly 5 percent, since women are more likely to earn minimum wage. The report says women account for a rising share of family income, with married women’s earnings on average nearly 45 percent of total family earnings in 2013.

    The report says although women have increasingly entered traditionally male-dominated fields like medicine, law, management and science, even those women with advanced degrees begin to fall behind their male colleagues in earnings by their late 30s. And women are still concentrated in low-wage sectors of the workforce like health care support and personal care, the report says.

    Jarrett said workplaces need to be restructured to attract and retain women, including working mothers and those caring for aging parents. She said the White House is looking at how to support employers that provide flexibility for workers, especially those with children.

    “What do we do to restructure our work environment so that we can be competitive, so that businesses can attract and retain talent, so that women don’t just participate for a short period of time and peel off? We want them fully engaged. We are not going to be able to be globally competitive if half of our population is on the sidelines,” she said.

    The White House says this summit’s summit will address workplace flexibility, along with paid leave, equal pay, family and medical leave, sick days, workplace discrimination, career advancement, worker retention and promotion, opportunities for low-wage workers, elder care, childcare and early childhood education. Companies with family-friendly policies will be highlighted as an example.

    The post White House promotes economic issues facing women appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New York City Fire Department firefighters at the scene of an explosion and building collapse at Park Avenue and East 116th Street March 12, 2014 in the Harlem section of New York. A residential building exploded and collapsed on Wednesday, sparking a serious fire and engulfing the area in thick smoke, officials said. Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

    New York City Fire Department firefighters at the scene of an explosion and building collapse at Park Avenue and East 116th Street March 12, 2014 in the Harlem section of New York. A residential building exploded and collapsed on Wednesday, sparking a serious fire and engulfing the area in thick smoke, officials said. Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

    An explosion and subsequent collapse of two apartment buildings Wednesday morning in New York City has left at least two dead and more than a dozen more injured.

    Residents near the apartment buildings — located near Park Avenue at East 116th Street in East Harlem — reported hearing an explosion around 9:30 a.m. EDT. Firefighters were on scene by 9:33 a.m.

    New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference shortly after noon that a gas leak was the believed cause of the explosion. Con Edison spokesperson Bob McGee told the AP that a resident of a nearby building had smelled gas prior to the incident. De Blasio added that workers are in the process of shutting down all the gas lines that run into the buildings.

    The mayor said that 250 firefighters are battling what is now considered a five-alarm fire at the scene. Once the fire is put out, FDNY crews will begin a search for missing persons. “We’re spending every effort to locate each and every loved one,” de Blasio said.

    “This is a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication of time,” the mayor said. “We’ve lost two people already.

    The explosion also sent debris hurtling onto nearby Metro North railroad tracks, causing all trains to and from Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal to be halted.

    The post New York City explosion leaves at least two dead, more than a dozen injured appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Exercising presents a significant time cost for many Americans. But happens when you do your workout during your workday? Photo by Megan Maloy/Photodisc/Getty Images.

    Exercising presents a significant time cost for many Americans. But what happens to your productivity when you do your workout while you work? Photo by Megan Maloy/Photodisc/Getty Images.

    If you’re reading this at work, stand up. Move your feet. Pace around your cubicle before you consume one paragraph more. Seriously.

    Why? Taking a turn around the office will help clear your mind — perhaps even more than this post will — so you can get back to that project you’re stalling on with renewed vigor.

    Moving in the office, between stints glued to the computer, is good for us — that’s obvious. More and more companies are beginning to realize that encouraging physical activity is good for their insurance premiums too. But an economist hypothesized that walking while working would also be good for the work itself — boosting both quality and quantity.

    A St. Paul student loan company was willing to test this out by participating in a year-long study, led by a good friend of Making Sen$e, University of Minnesota professor Avner Ben-Ner. The company purchased treadmill desks for 40 of their 400 employees who volunteered to participate.

    What would happen to their work done while walking?

    Previous research about the connection between physical activity and productivity had been inconclusive. Ben-Ner’s longitudinal study hoped to get a more definitive answer.

    Initial results weren’t very persuasive. At no point was there a net loss in performance, but the gain of working on the treadmill varied. (Employees and their supervisors rated their work performance in weekly surveys.) After an initial bump associated with receiving the treadmill, gains started to decline.

    Ben-Ner guesses that the slump represented an adjustment period — employees learning how to hold their wrists to type standing up or how to hold a gaze to read while moving. And sure enough, once they’d gained experience working on the treadmill, employees stepped up their performance once again.

    "The Contribution of Experience to Employee Performance" -- or the treadmill workstation learning curve -- shows how workers perform work on treadmills once they adapt to using them.

    “The Contribution of Experience to Employee Performance” — or the treadmill workstation learning curve — shows how workers perform work on treadmills once they adapt to using them.

    And it’s not just work performance that increased: walking while working also had a positive effect on overall physical activity. Workers who used treadmill workstations expended about 74 more calories a day, the result of about an hour less of sedentary downtime and increase in light and active walking.

    Too good to be true? One potential concern about installing treadmill workstations was that they’d be an excuse for the habitually inactive to be even less active outside of work. But that wasn’t the case. Taking physical measurements with an accelerometer, researchers found an overall positive effect on physical activity, both during and after work. On average, Ben-Ner says, participants expended 63 more calories from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 21 more calories from 5 to 11 p.m.

    That there was an increase in caloric expenditure during office hours is significant, he stresses. Despite employer-issued incentives for hitting the gym and public services (think bike lanes) that make it easier for us to bookend our work days with physical activity, many of us are still couch potatoes.

    And that’s because, Ben-Ner and his co-authors explain, physical activity is not free. Echoing Ben Franklin’s famous observation that time is money, there’s a time cost involved — what economists call an “opportunity cost” — and so “for most people,” they write, “it [physical activity] is a source of direct disutility.”

    But then how about working out, however mildly, during the work day, given the association between sedentariness and general lack of physical activity? This kind of workplace intervention is an effective way of targeting general indolence, says Ben-Ner.

    In fact, he hypothesizes that treadmill workstations are most effective for more inactive people — people with higher real or perceived costs of physical activity. And in part, based on his own experience — he has three standing desks and a detached treadmill — Ben-Ner thinks that complex cognitive activity, like thinking through a problem, is best suited for physical activity.

    Anyone who’s ever pounded the pavement to sweat out anxiety or weigh a difficult decision understands that logic. But are the kind of performance gains seen at this one Minnesota office necessarily indicative of a larger truth? There may be other mechanisms at play.

    Recall that the “walking workers” — 10 percent of the company’s staff — volunteered to participate. This self-selecting population didn’t differ from the rest of the office in any statistically significant way except that they were more likely to perceive themselves as overweight (even though their body mass indexes weren’t any higher). They might simply have been working harder and walking more to justify their participation in the study.

    It’s possible they were more motivated, Ben-Ner concedes, but is it likely that what worked for them wouldn’t work for the other 90 percent of the company? No, he says, probably not.

    Recall also that the company paid for the treadmills and the installation of the workstations. So it’s reasonable to assume that at least some of employees’ increased productivity stemmed not from walking but from a motivation to reciprocate their employer’s investment. This is the “efficiency wage” hypothesis: better compensated employees (in this case, with a treadmill) will be better workers.

    That’s not out of the question, says Ben-Ner, but the fact that there’s such a significant learning curve for working on the treadmill suggests that the efficiency wage theory isn’t the main story. An efficiency wage, he said, while it might have boosted productivity, wouldn’t have had the time profile seen in the learning curve — productivity would have dropped after a while, not dropped and then increased.

    But it’s not just about workplaces for Ben-Ner. When his six-year-old daughter asks him to fetch something from her room, he asks, why not do it yourself? It isn’t that he wouldn’t gladly fetch it; he wants her to see that the benefits of physical activity are not so distant and the present costs are not so burdensome. As a society, Ben-Ner says, we’re myopic: we let the thought of heaving ourselves off the couch deter us from getting what we need.

    We need exercise. Endless scientific research shows that movement helps humans lead healthier, longer and happier lives. If we’re not sick and in a better mood, chances are that we’ll be better workers too.

    “We have more agency than our restrictive workplaces offer,” Ben-Ner says. “But we just have to be convinced of that.” His study seems a stride in the right direction.

    The post The secret to improving health and productivity at work appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Scrabble will soon be adding a new word – one suggested by fans. Photo by Flickr user Emerson Posadas.

    Scrabble will soon be adding a new word – one suggested by fans. Photo by Flickr user Emerson Posadas

    Tired of staring blankly at six consonants and a “U” during family game night while your little brother just adds an “S” to everything and your great-aunt Ruth spells out “IS” and “AM” three times each? It’s time to give yourself the upper hand.

    Hasbro announced Wednesday that a new word will soon be added to the official Scrabble players’ dictionary — and Scrabble aficionados will have the opportunity to choose which one.

    Sixteen words will advance via fan vote through a March Madness-style bracket that goes live April 2. Selections will be culled from suggestions posted to Hasbro Game Night’s official Facebook page before March 28.

    The word, along with others that have recently entered the English lexicon, is to be included in August’s update to the Scrabble dictionary — the first in nine years.

    So go submit your favorite word, whatever that may be. We suggest looking at the NewsHour’s science articles for some tricky words with unusual spellings.

    The post Want to add a word to the official Scrabble dictionary? Now’s your chance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne. Photo by Flickr user Widhi Rachmanto

    A new anti-protest law passed by the Victoria Parliament in Melbourne has drawn criticism from citizens and politicians.
    Credit: Photo by Flickr user Widhi Rachmanto

    The Victoria state government in Australia passed a law Tuesday that will give unprecedented amounts of power to police to suppress protests. The Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill passed through the Victorian parliament despite heavy opposition within the general population. During the legislative proceedings alone, police arrested four protesters in the legislative chamber’s public viewing chamber for causing disturbances.

    Under the new law, police can order protesters to disperse if they are blocking the entrance to a building, obstructing people or traffic, or most notably, if the police expect the protesters to turn violent. The penalty for violating orders to move ranges from a $720 fine to arrest and imprisonment. Under the new law, police would also be able to obtain exclusion orders banning protesters from certain public places for a period of 12 months; the violation of which carries a maximum jail sentence of two years.

    While supporters of the new law say it will help to prevent anti-abortion protesters from regularly gathering outside of fertility clinics, detractors say the law goes too far and allows the government far too much power, especially in the affairs of labor disputes.

    Sue Pennicuik, one of the members of Australia’s Green Party, protested the bill’s passage. “This bill is an absolute assault on the democratic right of Victorians to protest – whether it be on the streets or on public land – about issues of concern to them.”

    Victoria, one of Australia’s five states and three territories, is the country’s second-most populous state. Located in the southeast corner of Australia, it plays home to Melbourne, a city with a population of over 4 million.

    The post New anti-protest law in Australia draws public ire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Most colors of newborn stool are perfectly normal, doctors say. Photo by Stephanie Neal Photography.

    Most colors of newborn stool are perfectly normal, doctors say. Photo by Stephanie Neal Photography.

    I’d like to say that our conversations in the early months of parenthood focused on how to contribute most effectively to the college fund, establish healthy sleep habits and encourage muscle-building activities like tummy time. They didn’t. They were about poop.

    We thought we were prepared. We’d set up the diaper pail and bought the wipes. We’d diapered dolls and teddy bears and on one occasion, a bike helmet.

    What we couldn’t have prepared for were the colors. The glorious prism of colors existing in a single day’s worth of newborn poop. Yellow in one diaper, bright orange in another, and then… bright green?

    How is it, I wondered, while googling “baby poop green is it normal,” for the third time that day, that something as pure and unsullied as milk goes in, and this wild feast of color comes out. And to be clear, it’s not as if mom eats carrots, and the poop turns orange, or mom eats spinach, and it goes green. No, something much more mysterious was going in our baby’s bowels.

    So I turned to the experts for some answers. Jenifer Lightdale is a pediatric gastroenterologist at UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center — a glorified plumber, she jokes. As such, she spends a lot of professional time talking to parents about poop.

    “We call it stool-gazing instead of stargazing,” she said.

    science-wednesday

    No parent will ever forget meconium — the black, tarry sludge — that just pours out like liquid asphalt during the first few days of life. Meconium is a combination of the many secretions that have been building up inside the infant’s intestines while in utero. This includes swallowed amniotic fluid, cellular debris and some blood.

    “It’s a distinct stool that one never has again,” Lightdale said.

    Its thickness and sticky consistency are believed to help seal fluids inside the baby until birth. But this doesn’t always go as planned. In some cases, babies excrete meconium during labor. When this happens, the baby is in danger of inhaling the substance, which can result in damage to the lungs. Often this will prompt doctors to make efforts to speed up the delivery using medication or surgery.

    A few days after birth, the poop starts to change. Here’s where the color comes in. Healthy newborn poop colors can range between yellow, yellow-orange, yellow-green, green and various shades of brown.

    babypoopitisThe gastrointestinal tract runs from the baby’s mouth to its anus. Milk, once swallowed, travels to the sink of the stomach, where digestive juices begin the process of breaking it down. The smaller, digested pieces then migrate to the small intestine.

    “That’s where all the absorption — the nutrients — are taken in,” explained Mark Gilger, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital San Antonio. “Then whatever nutrients are not needed are passed on into the large intestine or the colon.”

    Enter bile. Bile is a substance that’s made in the liver, stored in the gallbladder and then secreted into the small intestine. One of its main functions is to neutralize acid in the stomach, Lightdale said. It also aids in digesting fatty foods. It’s the bile that gives the poop the yellow or green color. Also contributing to the color is bacteria that lives in the baby’s gut.

    Formula-fed infants more commonly have light brown, pasty poop, according to the Mayo Clinic, with a consistency that’s been compared to peanut butter.

    And orange? “It probably is a combination of that particular baby’s bile, plus the bacteria, plus the milk,” Lightdale said. “Some of that may be this somewhat undefinable thing.”

    To sum up, color is a good thing. Of concern to doctors is the poop without color. A pale, clay or ivory-colored stool can mean a lack of bile. Known as “acholic stool,” this can indicate certain kinds of liver disease, in which the bile is not getting secreted effectively into the small intestine, or a narrowing of the system that carries bile down that path.

    Red or black stool can also be cause for concern. Either may indicate injury. If the injury comes from higher in the gastrointestinal tract — the stomach for example — the blood may have turned black by the time it reaches the diaper. And blood from injury occurring farther down in the small intestine or colon might come out looking bright red.

    “The classic cause would be an ulcer,” Gilger said. “A sore in the lining of the intestine. That’s probably the most common.”

    Allergies can also cause some bleeding, Lightdale said: “It could be that the baby’s immune system isn’t handling proteins in the diet very well, and they’re having an improper reaction. That can cause inflammation, and may be why you’re seeing blood there.”

    Sometimes green poop can raise a red flag too, particularly if it’s watery like diarrhea. This can also indicate a milk allergy, as can mucus in the stool. Note: most baby poop is watery. We’re talking so watery that it soaks right into a disposable diaper.

    Poop changes — a lot — in the first year of a person’s life. Newborns will have as many as 12 bowel movements a day, but that starts to slow down, drastically in some babies, by about two months. This is because the gut learns to absorb more and more over time, which produces stool that’s nice and firm.

    Now that Kai is four months, we’re practically poop veterans. In less than two months, he’ll be eating solids. Which means a whole new color spectrum in which to delight: dark browns, blues and chunks of undigested food, we’re told. But that’s an entirely different post. When it comes to newborns, Gilger has a “take home message for Mom:”

    “Stools can be many, many different colors,” he said. “In general, they really don’t worry me at all.”

    The post Why is my baby’s poop this color? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A funeral procession for a 15-year-old boy attracted tens of thousands to the streets of Istanbul Wednesday morning, with mourners calling for the resignation of a prime minister whose policies they blame for the teenager’s death.

    Berkin Elvan — who had been in a coma since June after being struck in the head by a teargas canister aimed at anti-government activists — died Tuesday. His death sparked demonstrations across Turkey that continued after the boy’s funeral.

    With chants of “Government, resign,” mourners expressed anger at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crackdown on demonstrators in Istanbul’s Gezi Park last summer.

    Erdoğan has been the subject of frequent demonstrations over allegations of corruption and authoritarian behavior. This latest round comes less than three weeks before Turkish municipal elections. At a campaign rally, Erdoğan called on citizens to make their voices heard at the ballot box, not on the streets.

    “Trying to set fire to the streets 18 days before elections is not a democratic stance,” he said.

    Meanwhile, members of the European Parliament met in Strasbourg Tuesday and denounced what they saw as faults of Erdoğan’s rule, including restrictions on Internet use, the imprisonment of journalists, and political control of judges.

    At least three protesters have been reported injured in skirmishes with riot police, who have appeared across the country with water cannons and tear gas.

    The post Tens of thousands march after funeral for teenager injured in Istanbul protests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    INDONESIA-MALAYSIA-MALAYSIAAIRLINES-CHINA-TRANSPORT-ACCIDENT

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: China now says one of it satellites has spotted possible debris in the sea near where that missing Malaysian airliner vanished. Beijing today released this image and two others taken Sunday over the South China Sea. It came after another day of fruitless searching.

    John Sparks of Independent Television News reports from Kuala Lumpur.

    JOHN SPARKS: After five days of confusion, the location of a sophisticated jet is still unknown, and it’s the sort of thing that makes people nervous.

    MAN (through interpreter): Obviously, I’m a bit — a bit — a bit concerned, a bit anxious.

    JOHN SPARKS: So, the Malaysian government put their cards on the table today before a large group of international journalists.

    Firstly, said the transport minister, they needed more help.

    DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, Transport Minister, Malaysia: The way forward, ladies and gentlemen, is to bring more experts to analyze both the civilian and the military data in the east or in the west, on land or in the water. And it is exactly what we are doing today.

    JOHN SPARKS: They need more help, because they just don’t know where Flight 370 is. Here’s what they said. At 12:41 a.m. on Saturday, it left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. The authorities say they lost contact with it 50 minutes later.

    The aircraft’s transponder, which sends out information about direction and speed, also stopped working. But, after reviewing military radar, officials saw an aircraft alter course. It may have been Flight 370, but they’re not sure. It was tracked 200 miles off the coast and disappeared at 2:15 a.m. as it headed out to sea.

    GEN. ZULKIFELI MOHD ZIN, Chief of Armed Forces, Malaysia: There’s a possibility that — that this aircraft made a turn back, but we are not sure whether it is the same aircraft.

    JOHN SPARKS: With little to go on, the Malaysians have expanded the search area, although there seems little chance of finding anyone left alive.

    But, to understand what’s happened, they have to find the aircraft’s black box. While the government tries to clarify, the public have been offering their prayers to the relatives and friends of the missing, because nobody needs an explanation more than them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At a White House mini-summit, Ukraine’s embattled interim government got a vote of American support today. President Obama warned that U.S. and other major democracies will not recognize any vote in Crimea to break free of Ukraine. Hari Sreenivasan looks at the U.S. role in the crisis right after the news summary.

    The president also made ready today to order beefed-up overtime protection for millions of American workers. It’s aimed at salaried workers, such as fast food supervisors and store managers, who now work more than 40 hours a week without getting overtime.

    Betsey Stevenson is with the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.

    BETSEY STEVENSON, Council of Economic Advisers: Without overtime and minimum wage protections, there are many people who aren’t able to get that basic promise, which is that, when you work hard, you get a fair wage. And what he’s going to do is to make sure that we modernize this rule, so that people are able to get treated fairly in the labor force and that they’re rewarded for a hard day’s work with fair pay.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the White House issued a report aimed at the gender wage gap. It said women who work full-time still earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. That’s even though women have surpassed men in earning college degrees, and made inroads into male-dominated occupations.

    Snow and bitter cold are back in the Midwest and Northeast, after a hint of spring. A new storm swept across the country’s midsection today. Chicago and Detroit saw six and eight inches of snow, respectively. In Detroit, the total for the entire winter could top a record set 133 years ago.

    A thunderous explosion blew apart two apartment buildings in New York City today, killing two people and injuring more than 20. More a dozen others were unaccounted for. The fiery blast ripped through an East Harlem neighborhood amid reports of a possible gas leak. It touched off a five-alarm fire that more than 250 firefighters battled.

    Meanwhile, crews in San Francisco mopped up one of the largest fires there in recent years. It burned through the night at a construction site.

    In Turkey, riot police battled demonstrators again today after a night of protests triggered by a teenager’s death. Thousands turned out in Istanbul and other cities to mourn a 15-year-old-boy who was hit by a tear gas canister last summer, and never regained consciousness. Police fired water cannon and smoke grenades today, while protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails.

    The Israeli Parliament has voted to induct ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military. They’d been largely exempted to pursue their religious studies, but that’s become a sore point with other Israelis. Today, lawmakers approved limits on the exemptions from compulsory military service. And a number of ultra-Orthodox lawmakers walked out, calling it a — quote — “black day.”

    A man who spent 26 years on Louisiana’s death row enjoyed his first full day of freedom today; 64-year-old Glenn Ford walked out of prison last evening, after a judge voided his conviction in a 1983 murder. New evidence backed up his claim that he wasn’t involved.

    Ford said it feels good to be free, but he resents all the years he lost.

    GLENN FORD: I can’t go back and do anything I should be doing when I was like 35, 38, 40, stuff like that. My sons, when I left, was babies. Now they’re grown men.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Under Louisiana state law, Ford may be eligible for a total of $320,000 in compensation for being wrongly jailed.

    In economic news, average cash bonuses at Wall Street securities firms rose 15 percent last year, to $164,000. That’s the highest since 2008. Meanwhile, the markets were little changed today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 11 points to close at 16,340. The Nasdaq rose 16 points to close at 4,323. The Standard & Poor’s 500 also rose half-a-point to finish at 1,868.

    The post News Wrap: China spots possible debris in Malaysian jet search appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Obama Meets With Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk At The White House

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As tensions with Russia continue to rise over Crimea, one of Ukraine’s new leaders arrived at the White House, seeking assurances from President Obama.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports.

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Prime Minister, Ukraine: Well, we highly appreciate the support of the United States.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It was a public show of solidarity meant to bolster Ukraine and deter Russia. The interim Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, used it to appeal again for U.S. and Western backing.

    ARSENIY YATSENYUK: Mr. President, it’s all about the freedom. We fight for our freedom. We fight for our independence. We fight for our sovereignty, and we will never surrender.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The president said Washington does stand ready to aid Ukraine with a billion dollars in loan guarantees. And he insisted again, the U.S. will not accept Russia’s takeover of Crimea.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There’s another path available, and we hope that President Putin is willing to seize that path. But if he does not, I am very confident that the international community will stand strongly behind the Ukrainian government in preserving its unity and its territorial integrity.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The White House meeting unfolded as the U.S. Navy began joint exercises with the navies of Bulgaria and Romania in the Black Sea, just across from Crimea.

    Russia continues to hold Ukrainian military bases there, and says it’s acting to protect ethnic Russians. But Ukraine argues a 1994 agreement obligated Russia, the U.S. and Britain to protect its territorial integrity, after Ukraine gave up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

    The Russians have so far ignored such claims, and Crimea plans to vote Sunday in a referendum on whether to leave Ukraine and become part of Russia. Today, the G7 countries, the U.S., plus Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, warned, “Any such referendum would have no legal effect,” and they said, “We would not recognize the outcome.”

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: It can get ugly fast if the wrong choices are made. And it can get ugly in multiple directions.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ahead of the Crimea vote, Secretary of State John Kerry announced he will meet with the Russian foreign minister in London on Friday. He spoke at a House hearing.

    JOHN KERRY: We do not seek a world in which we have to apply additional costs to the choices that have been made thus far. But we will do what we have to do, if Russia cannot find the way to make the right choices here.

    SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, D-N.J.: Fourteen to three, the legislation is favorably reported to the Senate.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Any additional costs could come in the form of sanctions, endorsed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. They would target Russian officials deemed responsible for the Crimea incursion.

    The post Ukraine’s interim prime minister appeals for aid during U.S. visit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tensions Grow In Crimea As Diplomatic Talks Continue

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how much should the White House support Ukraine’s new government?  And how far should it go to extract costs for Moscow’s actions?

    For that, we get two views. Adrian Karatnycky is a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council, and Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University.

    Adrian, I want to start with you.

    You met with the interim minister later this afternoon. Is he satisfied with the support that President Obama said that we would lay out?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, The Atlantic Council: I think this is all a work in progress.

    And from the point of view that he is getting reassurances of very deep and significant engagement on the part, especially of Europe and the United States, both in dealing with the economic travails and problems that face Ukraine and trying to come up with a muscular or assertive response, not a military response, but an assertive response to the Russian invasion incursion into Crimea, I think he is satisfied.

    But I would say that everyone is now waiting to see how far Mr. Putin will go. And I think that the types of responses that will come will be commensurate to the game that Mr. Putin plays out in the coming weeks and months.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Stephen Walt, you have seen what the president said. Any more insight into what the administration is willing to do?

    STEPHEN WALT, Harvard University: Well, I thought what President Obama said is actually fairly restrained. One billion dollars in loan guarantees is really not a very substantial pledge, and he didn’t make any military commitments, commitments to use force to try and reverse what has happened.

    I think the key thing to understand here is the United States wants to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but it also needs to start issuing some reassurances about Ukraine’s future geopolitical alignment. Our interest is for Ukraine to remain a neutral state between East and West with good relations on both sides, not — not to become something that Russia regards as a bulwark of the West against it.

    That’s the taproot of this crisis, and the one thing that’s been missing so far is an attempt to play that card back at Putin and try and work this out diplomatically as soon as possible.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Stephen — is it possible that events like today, the photo-op, the shaking of hands, the solidarity and the show of support actually backfires and that we look like we’re clearly on one side of this?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: You know, Russia kept moving the goalposts. Russia initially was opposed to Ukraine’s movement towards NATO. There’s no national consensus in Ukraine. There’s overwhelming public opposition to Ukraine having a military alliance inside — being a part of a military alliance.

    But there was support, a majority support for joining the European Union. If Russia keeps moving the goalposts and suggesting that somehow an economic free trade agreement with the European Union is a sign of some sort of a threatening security issue for Russia, then I think the problem is with the Russian side, not with the Ukrainian side or with the West.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Stephen Walt, let’s a little bit talk about those economic sanctions and about those possibilities here.

    Do we have enough leverage over Russia, where economic sanctions would act as a deterrent for what they’re doing in Crimea right now?

    STEPHEN WALT: I think we probably don’t.

    Remember, the United States has various sanctions we could impose, but Russia has various ways to retaliate against that. For example, they can start cut off — cutting off energy supplies to Ukraine and also to other states in Europe, which gets about 30 percent of its energy now from Russia.

    So, in a sense, as we start down that particular road, we have to recognize it’s going to impose significant costs on us and significant coasts on our allies. Most important of all, this is an issue that matters far more to Russia than it does to us, because of where Ukraine is located, because of the historic ties there, and because of Russian perceptions that we have been expanding our geopolitical influence into what they regard as a vital security sphere.

    They’re going to be willing to pay a much bigger price than we’re likely to be willing to pay, and that’s why we need to be starting to look to ways — for ways to diffuse this, get it resolved as quickly as possible, preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but also reestablish its neutral status.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Adrian, what about that?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: Well, first of all, there are historical ties that Poland has had.

    You know, Right-bank Ukraine was historically integrated into Polish life for many centuries as well. There are cultural ties between Romania and the south — the southwest of Ukraine. So, this idea that Ukraine is simply some kind of an appendage state of Russia is just not borne out by the facts. Ukraine is a European state.

    You know, Odessa is on the border very close to Romania, so it borders Hungary and it borders a lot of the Central European countries. It’s really not a country that’s in the sphere of Russian influence. It’s also in this cultural sphere of Central and Eastern — Eastern Europe and should be perceived that way.

    And as to the cost, yes, Russia may be willing to bear more costs. But we have to remember that the GDP of Russia is the GDP of Italy, full-stop. Yes, it has some disproportionate influences through nuclear weapons, through military might, and through energy. But as an economic power, it has very little to play. And if it is jostled by sanctions, it could have a very debilitating effect.

    And Mr. Putin may, if there is a firm response, pay a price, a political price several years down the line for this reckless action.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Adrian, you’re actually in favor of Ukraine showing more teeth, actually ramping up the National Guard and possibly even creating guerrilla groups?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: They have to prepare, because we don’t what kind of — I’m not encouraging the West to be a party to this.

    What I’m saying is that Ukraine has to have a very vigorous deterrent. And I think, over time, the West, if things stabilize, should help quietly Ukraine to improve its military capability. That’s the reality. If you have been invaded and that invasion is an accomplished fact several years down the line, you cannot ignore it. Ukraine will have to change its posture, its defense posture.

    It has been reducing very substantially. It reduced — it got rid of its nuclear weapons, presumably on Russian assurances. It’s made all sorts of steps. And its military today is behaving and its people with great, great restraint. I think it’s to be admired.

    And I think — but I fully agree with Stephen Walt that this has to be handled, and we should try to handle the territorial integrity diplomatically. But, if we fail at that, the West really has to have a backup plan. And that backup plan is sanctions, building up Ukraine’s deterrent capability, and helping the country survives an eastern outpost of a new — of a newly-divided — of a newly-divided Europe at Russia’s — at Ukraine’s eastern border.

    That’s the regrettable result of Mr. Putin’s folly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Stephen, what are the options here about trying to build up Ukraine’s deterrent ability?

    STEPHEN WALT: Well, we have — I think those are not very effective options.

    The United States is not going to commit itself militarily to defend Ukraine at this stage. If Russia were to do more, say, go into Eastern Ukraine, that, I think, would be a huge blunder on their part, because then the western part of Ukraine would gravitate towards NATO, and we would have the United States, NATO, and Russia at odds over a now divided Ukraine. That’s not in Russia’s interest, but that’s also not in our interest either.

    Our interest is, again, for a unified Ukraine that gets its economy and its dysfunctional political system back in order, but also one that reassures Russia that it’s not going to be a bulwark of Western influence right next door to the Russian borders, that reaffirms that neutrality, and then tries to go and have good relations with both sides.

    That’s the one part of this that has been missing in the way the United States has talked about it, and I’m afraid the way that Prime Minister Yatsenyuk spoke about it today in Washington.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard, and Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council, thank you both.

    STEPHEN WALT: Thank you.

    The post Can U.S. balance deterrence and diplomacy in responding to Russia’s move in Ukraine? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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