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

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    South Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells at North Korean waters in response to North Korea’s live-fire drills on Monday, Associated Press reports.

    North Korea first fired 500 rounds of artillery shells for more than three hours after a last minute announcement that it would conduct military drills in areas north of the Koreas’ disputed maritime bounty. When 100 of the shells fell into the South Korean waters, Seoul responded by firing 300 rounds into the northern waters.

    Although there were no shells fired at any land, military camps or naval and fishing boats, the fire exchange forced residents of five first-line islands to evacuate to a bomb shelter and closed down ferry services to the islands.

    South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters that North Korea could have been testing South Korea’s security posture. The New York Times called Monday’s event “the most serious episode along that border since an artillery duel in 2010.”

    The post South and North Korea exchange fire across sea borders in Yellow Sea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A poster hanging in a migrant shelter in Nogales, Mexico. The text reads "I have the right to be respected physically, sexually and psychologically," in Spanish. Photo by Jude Joffe-Block/Fronteras Desk.

    A poster hanging in a migrant shelter in Nogales, Mexico. The text reads “I have the right to be respected physically, sexually and psychologically,” in Spanish. Photo by Jude Joffe-Block/Fronteras Desk.

    ALTAR, Sonora, Mexico – The Santa Maria pharmacy in the northern Mexico smuggling town of Altar is often a last stop for migrants before they embark on the dangerous trek across the Sonoran desert into Arizona.

    Here they buy caffeine pills, electrolyte packets and other supplies they will need for the trip. And pharmacist Maria Jaime Peña said women often come in with a common question.

    “What can I do in case I’m raped, and I don’t want to get pregnant?,” Peña repeated in Spanish from behind the counter. “What can I use?”

    Peña recommends an injection for 48 pesos, or less than $4, that protects women from pregnancy for a month. In Mexico, women can buy these products without a prescription.

    Peña said sometimes it is the guides — also called coyotes — who advise their female clients to go on birth control. That was the case for Maria Salinas, a petite 43-year-old who recently tried crossing with her 18-year-old daughter.

    Salinas said at first she was confused when a guide at the start of the trip offered her and other women pills he said would prevent pregnancy. Later, it made more sense.

    Once Salinas started walking with the group, she couldn’t keep up. One coyote said he’d help – on one condition.

    “If I gave him my daughter, then he’d wait for me,” Salinas said. Meaning, if she let him have sex with her daughter. She refused, and he abandoned them. They only survived because they found Border Patrol.

    “It’s awful,” Salinas said about making this trip as a woman. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

    And when a woman is raped in remote stretches of the border region, it almost always goes unpunished. Almost always.

    A 14-year-old was raped last winter in this remote spot east of Arivaca, Ariz. Photo by Jude Joffe-Block/Fronteras Desk

    A 14-year-old was raped last winter in this remote spot east of Arivaca, Ariz. Photo by Jude Joffe-Block/Fronteras Desk

    Border Patrol agents found a group of nine migrants in a remote spot east of Arivaca, Ariz. last winter and learned that a 14-year-old girl in the group had been raped.

    Peter Bidegain, the public information officer for Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, showed Fronteras Desk the site.

    “If a migrant is walking through this area, they have walked for four or five days from the border to get to here, through extremely rugged terrain in the Atascosa and Tumacacori mountains,” Bidegain said.

    Most groups begin walking for days on the Mexican side before they even reach the border.

    This particular group had been walking for nine days. It was almost all men, save for a young woman and the 14-year old girl. The girl came from the southern state of Oaxaca and was crossing to meet her parents in the U.S. Since she is a minor, we will identify her only by her first initial, L.

    When agents arrested the group they tried to load everyone into a truck for processing. But L. hesitated.

    “The young girl seemed pretty scared to get in the vehicle with everyone,” Bidegain said. “One of the members of the group pulled an agent aside and told him the story about how this girl had been raped by one of the guys in the group.”

    Her alleged rapist is also believed to be the group’s coyote. L. just knew him by the nickname “El Viboro,” or The Snake, according to records from the local sheriff’s office. Because of where the group was walking, authorities say L. was assaulted twice in Arizona, meaning law enforcement on this side of the border has jurisdiction to prosecute.

    And now the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s office is doing just that.

    Bidegain says what happened to L. wasn’t unique, but the outcome was.

    “We have a brave young girl who was able to speak up, we have members of the group who witnessed the crime, and we have this alleged rapist in our custody,” Bidegain said. “So everything lined up for us in this case.”

    Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada has been trying for years to get justice for migrants who have been raped.

    “Finally, finally we were able to be successful and hopefully catch someone we could hold accountable,” Estrada said.

    El Viboro, who is 23 and whose real name is Jose Ramon Mancinas-Flores, has been charged with two counts of sex with a minor under 15. He could face decades in prison.

    Jose Ramon Mancinas-Flores. Image courtesy of Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office

    Jose Ramon Mancinas-Flores. Image courtesy of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office

    Estrada said it’s rare for migrants to report violent crimes to his office.

    “They will continue in spite of having been assaulted, having been robbed, having been shot at, and having been raped,” Estrada said. “Because it has been a real long journey, a very dangerous expensive one. And for them to report it to the authorities would mean they will more than likely be deported.”

    Because of this, reliable statistics on border rapes don’t exist. But Estrada believes the numbers have increased since amped-up border security has funneled migrants into remote areas of the desert, and organized crime has taken over the smuggling routes.

    Before this most recent case, six women in Border Patrol custody had reported sexual assaults to Estrada’s office since 2010. The victims ranged in age from 17 to 38 and came from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Raoul Rodriguez said officers verified that the crimes happened on the Arizona side of the border by asking the women about the landmarks they saw when the crime occurred.

    There are still no suspects in any of those cases.

    In cases where a rapist’s identity is unknown, the sheriff’s office submits DNA to a national database in hopes that the assailant can eventually be identified if he winds up in the prison system for another offense.

    Recently, the sheriff’s office got a DNA match on a cold border rape case, Rodriguez said. The next step in pursuing a criminal case against the suspect is to notify the victim so she can press charges. But it can be nearly impossible to get in touch with victims after they have been deported.

    “They could live in a small, little town where there are just shacks and they don’t have running water or phones. They have to go to another town that may be an hour’s drive away just to get information that someone is looking for them or to get messages relayed to them,” Rodriguez said.

    Back across the border in the Nogales soup kitchen, migrant Maria Salinas said she would be wary of reporting any crimes that happen to her on the border, out of fear of retaliation from organized crime.

    “Even if they don’t do anything to you right then, you worry they could do something to your family,” Salinas said. “That’s the fear.”

    Fronteras is a multimedia collaboration among seven public radio stations that produce stories from across the southwest and along the U.S.-Mexico border. It is led by KJZZ in Phoenix and KPBS in San Diego, Calif., and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of its Local Journalism Center initiative.

    The post Women crossing the U.S. border face sexual assault with little protection appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user porchlife

    Problems for North Dakota infrastructure have occurred after an oil train derailed and exploded in the town of Casselton. Photo by Flickr user porchlife

    The oil boom in North Dakota has caused major problems for the state’s roads, railways and housing, Financial Times reports.

    North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said keeping up with the speed of the industry is a “big challenge every day.” North Dakota’s economy is growing faster than any other state in the nation, but it has some of the highest comparable rents in the country. And as trucks and equipment flow to the Bakken shale rock formation for oil extraction, the region’s roads are crumbling.

    “There are strains there just from the pace of growth. For many people who have lived their whole life in western North Dakota, when it was a very, very quiet place, this is a change they would not have wished for,” Dalrymple told Financial Times.

    The issues come after an oil train derailed and exploded on Dec. 30 in the North Dakota town of Casselton.

    According to Prairie Business, officials in the state are now considering hiring their own inspectors to examine the safety of tracks, tank cars and rail-loading facilities. That job has so far been left to federal regulators.

    Dalrymple said officials will explore the idea in the next few months.

    The post North Dakota oil industry wreaks havoc on state’s roads appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    D.C. Democratic Mayoral Candidate Muriel Bowser during debate live at News Channel 8 in Arlington, VA on March 13, 2014. Attending were Tommy Wells, Vincent Gray, Jack Evans, and Muriel Bowser. Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images.

    D.C. councilmember Muriel Bowser faces Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Jack Evans and Mayor Vincent Gray during a March 13 live debate on News Channel 8 in Arlington, VA. Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images.

    A cloud of ethics is once again hanging over a race for mayor of the nation’s capitol.

    Now, a day before the Democratic primary, which often decides the outcome of Washington, D.C., mayors’ races, that cloud threatens to imperil the hopes of sitting Mayor Vincent Gray. Upstart challenger, Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, 30 years Gray’s junior, has overtaken him in the polls this past week, as she hopes to capitalize on the changing demographics of the city.

    Earlier this month new details emerged regarding Mayor Gray’s 2010 election bid and a shadow campaign that helped fund it. Federal prosecutors have alleged that Gray was aware of and participated in the illegal fundraising operation that pumped $660,000 into his campaign.

    Although Gray, 71, has denied any involvement, the news has already tainted the mayor’s reputation in the city and given Bowser a bump in the polls. A week after the news broke of Gray’s purported hand in the shadow campaign, a Washington Post poll showed Bowser surging to a 30-27 percent lead over Gray. That’s more than double her support from a previous Washington Post poll in January. Similarly, Bowser jumped to a 28-26 percent lead in an NBC4/Marist poll.

    Councilmember and Mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser, left, makes remarks while incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray listens, right, at the Southwest Wharf project groundbreaking on March, 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

    Councilmember and Mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser, left, makes remarks while incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray listens, right, at the Southwest Wharf project groundbreaking on March, 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

    D.C. is no stranger to scandal. During his third term in office, former Mayor Marion Barry was convicted of possession of crack cocaine and served six months in federal prison. Two years after his release, Barry was elected again for his fourth term as mayor.

    Barry, who currently serves on the D.C. City Council, endorsed Gray in this race.

    “I know Vince Gray is a man of integrity,” Barry said on March 19. “I know that Vince Gray is not about breaking the law. And so I feel comfortable sitting here beside him.”

    The issue of race is never too far beneath the surface in this place that was once dubbed a “chocolate city,” but has seen an influx of white residents. Whites now comprise 42 percent of the city’s population, the highest proportion ever. At the same time, gentrification has become a major issue, with new restaurants and trendy neighborhoods popping up in what were once traditionally African-American neighborhoods.

    “I think it’s up to white people to be more open-minded,” Barry said during his endorsement of Gray. “Blacks are more open-minded than they are. Simple as that.”

    Gray dismissed the comment, telling the New York Times, “I think everybody needs to have an open mind.”

    The cast of characters fighting to unseat Gray includes four D.C. councilmembers, a musician/promoter, an attorney and a businessman, but the real race appears to be between Gray and Bowser.

    Bowser has tried to build a coalition of white voters in the Northwestern part of the city and black voters elsewhere, along with women and young voters, who have been disaffected by the ethics allegations against Gray. Gray’s base is in the solidly black communities, particularly in Southeast, across the Anacostia River.

    Normally, the winner of the Democratic primary is a shoo-in to become mayor because nine out of 10 voters in D.C. are Democrats. But this year, if Gray ekes out the win Tuesday, it could be a little different.

    Sixteen-year D.C. councilmember David Catania, a gay former Republican-turned-independent, has filed for the ballot in September. And early polls show it could be a close race between Catania and Gray.

    The Post poll found Catania and Gray tied at 41 percent. But Bowser led Catania by a whopping 33 points, 56-23 percent.

    Polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

    The post Will cloud of ethics determine D.C. Mayor’s race? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr Creative Commons User Tzipi Livni

    Ehud Olmert is Israel’s first convicted prime minister. Photo by Flickr Creative Commons User Tzipi Livni

    Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted Monday on bribery charges.

    Judge David Rozen of the Tel Aviv District Court issued his ruling after nearly two years of what the Jerusalem Post said may be the “trial of the century.”

    Olmert becomes the country’s first convicted prime minister. He was accused of accepting around $430,000 in bribes to “smooth over various legal and zoning obstacles,” according to the Jerusalem Post. The case stems from a period between 1993 and the mid-2000s, when Olmert was the mayor of Jerusalem and the Minister of Infrastructure, Trade and Industry.

    Sentencing arguments begin on April 28. The maximum sentence for bribery was changed recently from seven years to 10 years, but the Jerusalem Post says precedent suggests the state will consider the maximum sentence from the time the crime was committed.

    The post Former Israeli PM convicted in bribery case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Mary-Faith Cerasoli protests the conditions of adjunct professors outside the New York State Department of Education in Albany on Friday, March 28. Photo by Lee Koromvokis.

    Mary-Faith Cerasoli protests the conditions of adjunct professors outside the New York State Department of Education in Albany on Friday, March 28. Photo by Lee Koromvokis.

    Mary-Faith Cerasoli is an adjunct professor of Spanish and Italian. She has a master’s degree from Middlebury College. She’s also homeless.

    The 53-year-old staged a one-woman protest Friday afternoon in front of the New York State Department of Education to bring attention to what she calls the “abusive job” of being an adjunct professor.

    As the Making Sen$e series “Adjunctivitis” chronicled, adjuncts, who make up half of all college and university faculties, often drive hundreds of miles a week in between teaching gigs for an average pay of $2,000 to $3,000 per course. Medical insurance and benefits are luxuries unavailable to most of them.

    That’s a problem for Cerasoli. She suffers from what she says is a life-threatening thyroid disease that has dug her financial hole ever deeper, adding unpaid medical bills to her student loans.

    “The colleges are very disorganized and they are always demanding more,” Cerasoli told PBS NewsHour during her Friday demonstration. “I almost died last semester because I was working six days a week, and with all the traveling and putting out fires, I would forget to take my medication.”

    Before taxes, her annual salary is $22,000, but because she teaches what’s considered a full course load, she’s been told she’s ineligible for public assistance. Since she can’t afford a place to live, she’s lived off the generosity of others, crashing in friends’ basements and driving an old Pontiac a car dealer gave her to commute to the Bronx and Manhattan campuses of Mercy and Nassau Community Colleges.

    Cerasoli wasn’t always an adjunct. She taught Advanced Placement language courses in New York City high schools for 10 years. But when a student accidentally hit her in the eye in the shuffle of a chaotic classroom, causing a detached retina, her eye doctor told her to find a different career. That was 2006. Before starting as an adjunct in 2010, she bounced on and off unemployment, sold Acuras for a car dealer and jewelry on Madison Avenue. “Teachers,” she said chuckling, “are great sellers because we know how to talk.”

    How does she feel about her work? “Adjuncting is the bridge to nowhere,” she said. “I would never recommend becoming a professor to my students.”

    The New York State Department of Education wasn’t aware on Friday afternoon that Cerasoli was protesting outside their headquarters. Spokesman Dennis Tompkins said the guards typically alert him if anyone is protesting and he hadn’t seen Cerasoli on his trips in-and-out of the building.

    The driving rain forced Cerasoli off the steps several times, but she says no one from the Department of Education approached her. She chose their headquarters, which also house the state’s office of higher education, as the backdrop for her protest because, she said, “it’s just so colossal… It represents a large, stark institution.”

    Beyond the building’s looming columns and Albany’s Friday drizzle, Cerasoli’s protest sparked a weekend Twitter movement among adjuncts around the country, with many more emailing photos of themselves to adjunct union organizers. Some of their photos are below.

    For more from Arik Greenberg, read the testimonial he wrote for Making Sen$e about being an adjunct: “How One Professor’s American Dream Turned Into the American Nightmare.”




    Watch Paul Solman’s story about the plight of underpaid adjuncts below:

    Lee Koromvokis contributed to this report.

    The post Homeless professor protests conditions of adjuncts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    As Major League Baseball opens up Monday, most MLB ball clubs across the United States will be suiting up to take to the field for the first season games in five months. But, as fans turn on their televisions or flock to the ballpark to watch their favorite teams, which colors will they be wearing?

    Facebook Data Science has answered the question with a new map that breaks down the most “liked” teams on Facebook by county. From a Red Sox-dominated New England and a Giants-Dodgers split in California to a Yankees fandom that not only captures New York, but large areas across the country — each team captures at least a little part of the country.

    That is, unless you’re the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays or Oakland Athletics — which did not capture any particular U.S. county. Never fear, a World Series victory could always change that — after all, there’s only 162 games to play before the playoffs.

    The post Facebook data reveals baseball territories across the United States appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Eavan Boland reads her poem “A Soldier in the 28th Massachusetts” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

    A Soldier in the 28th Massachusetts

    If his cause is American
    and his gun British –

    a muzzle-loading musket
    made in Enfield –

    the features underneath
    the blue forage cap art

    Irish: a rough-cut intaglio
    incised in a hidden history

    of a shoreline receding
    into a rainy distance

    that eased out in the end
    to reveal another coast

    whose leaves are turning
    this September evening

    by the green incline
    of Antietam Creek.

    And if this soldier in
    the 28th Massachusetts is

    to hold himself in readiness
    for the reckoning

    with his new countrymen,
    let him not remember,

    not once,
    hid old ones. Better to forget

    the deep-water harbor,
    the ship waiting, his father

    on the dock with a contract
    ticket for his wife and son,

    weeping helplessly,
    in the arms of his brother.

    Eavan Boland’s poem “A Soldier in the 28th Massachusetts” is published in “Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration: Poems and Photographs, Past and Present.” In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Smithsonian’s National Poetry Gallery commissioned 12 modern poets to reflect on our contemporary understanding of the war.

    The post Weekly Poem: Eavan Boland reads ‘A Soldier in the 28th Massachusetts’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor

    Photo by Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor

    Updated March 31 at 5:17 p.m. EDT
    Washington Mayor Vincent Gray signed into law Monday a bill that decriminalizes marijuana possession of an ounce or less in the District of Columbia.

    Possession of pot, previously a misdemeanor, will now be a civil violation under the law and draw a penalty of $25.


    Original post, from March 4, follows:

    In the near future, the use of marijuana in the privacy of one’s home may no longer draw criminal charges in the nation’s capital.

    The bill, passed Tuesday by a 10 to 1 vote by the Washington D.C. Council, would also drop criminal offenses for marijuana possession and focus on civil fines, with a fine of only $25 for possession of up to one ounce — the second lowest penalty in the U.S. Smoking marijuana in public would remain a criminal offense, but would draw only a misdemeanor charge.

    The measure’s next stop is Washington Mayor Vincent Gray’s office; Gray is expected to sign it.

    But a possible hurdle for the bill remains. Any signed bill would have to travel to Congress, which has veto power over local laws in Washington — though that authority has only seen use three times since 1979, according to The Washington Post’s reporting.

    If the bill passes its next hurdles, D.C. would join 17 states that have partially decriminalized marijuana. While those states have broken federal drug laws, the Justice Department under President Barack Obama has not pursued any action against them.

    The post DC looks to decriminalize marijuana appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Jennifer Johnson and her parents, Gail and Ron Thompson, attend a candlelight vigil for mudslide victims on March 25, 2014 in Arlington, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

    Jennifer Johnson and her parents, Gail and Ron Thompson, attend a candlelight vigil for mudslide victims on March 25, 2014 in Arlington, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images

    Updated March 31 at 6:00 p.m. EST| A total of 24 bodies have been recovered from the Washington mudslide, Washington officials reported Monday. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office has identified 17 of the victims.

    Scores more are missing and two dozen homes were destroyed in the landslide that swept through a small riverside community 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency that could bring in supplemental federal money beyond the assistance President Barack Obama ordered last week to aid local rescue efforts.

    The Red Cross is taking donations to benefit those affected by the mudslide. People can call 800-733-2767 to donate or text “RedCross” to 90999 and $10 will be charged to their phone bill.

    The post UPDATE: Death toll rises to 24 in Washington mudslide appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo courtesy of Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

    Photo courtesy of Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

    General Motors Company recalled 1.3 million vehicles Monday for defects in the electric power steering assist, bringing the total of vehicles the automaker has recalled since February to 6.1 million, the Associated Press reports.

    The new recall includes the Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx, Chevrolet Cobalt and the Pontiac G6, among others, in model years ranging from 2004 to 2010 — as well as some models reappearing from an earlier recall.

    The company announced Saturday that it expanded the initial recall in January 2014 for an ignition switch defect, increasing that total from 1.6 million to 2.6 million cars. The ignition problems have been linked to 13 deaths and 31 crashes over a 10-year period.

    Video by PBS NewsHour

    CEO Mary Barra is expected to testify in front of a House subcommittee Tuesday to explain why the company had a late response to 10 years’ worth of ignition problems.

    “More than a decade ago, GM embarked on a small car program,” Barra says in her written testimony for Tuesday. “Sitting here today, I cannot tell
    you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in that program, but I can tell you that we will find out.”

    The automaker expects to lose $750 million in the first quarter to cover the recall-related costs, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    The post GM recalls 1.3 million vehicles for power steering failure appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The price of gas for Ukraine jumped more than 40 percent Tuesday as Russian natural gas provider Gazprom announced an increase from a deal made with the country in December.

    Citing Ukraine’s gas debt of $1.7 billion as justification, Gazprom said that Ukraine will now pay $385.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gasoline — the equivalent of more than 264,000 gallons — instead of an agreed December price discount of $268.50.

    “The discount will no longer apply,” Gazprom chief executive and vice-chairman Alexei Miller said. “This is due to the inability of the Ukrainian side to pay for debts from 2013 and realize full payments for current deliveries.”

    The original deal was part of an economic package offered to Ukraine by Russia, which sparked protests in Kiev that led to the ousting of then-president Viktor Yanukovych. Before December’s deal, Ukraine was paying around $400 for the same amount.

    The post Ukraine hit with spike in Russian gas prices appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A DUI doesn't have to end your job prospects. Photo by Chris Ryan/Caiaimage via Getty Images.

    A DUI doesn’t have to end your job prospects. Photo by Chris Ryan/Caiaimage via Getty Images.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: I’d like to know whether a background check is going to cost me a job. I have an old driving under the influence (DUI) conviction that might interfere with an opportunity. I have good qualifications for the job, so how can I convince the employer to give me a chance if the DUI turns up?

    Nick Corcodilos: You can count on the DUI turning up. Employers routinely do background checks. Be ready to deal with it. (Whether an employer handles this properly under the law is another matter, but this is not legal advice — my goal is to help you win the job anyway.)

    We’re going to try something different this week — video Ask The Headhunter. Another reader recently asked me a similar question, but the DUI in that case was compounded by a bankruptcy that resulted from unemployment. (Sound familiar, folks? For every disaster there’s one worse.) I produced my reply as a short video. Since my advice is the same, I hope you’ll watch. Below are some additional notes. I hope you find the video a helpful addition to this column.

    1. Avoid job hunting tools that can’t defend you.

    Your resume cannot defend you when a manager sees a problem and wonders how it would affect his business. Nor can an online application form. Only someone who knows you can defend you and override legitimate concerns by emphasizing how you’ll deliver benefits to an employer.

    So the answer is clear: Invest most of your time in a strong referral. Arrange for someone who is credible and who respects you to contact the employer and recommend you. It’s not easy. But it’s the best tactic. A reference doesn’t have to be your former boss. It might be another manager from your old company who knows your work ethic, or even a customer or consultant. But it must be someone who will make the call and stick their neck out for you.

    I know it might be painful to make such a request. But you’re in a painful situation, and like I said in the video, you have to have the stomach for this.

    2. Help the employer focus on what matters most.

    The employer is right to be worried. Any red flags pose a risk to his business. So it’s up to you to help the employer stop worrying. Be honest and candid about your DUI. But don’t dwell on it. Quickly focus the employer on your clear commitment to help him make his operation more successful. In other words, distract him from your problems in a way that engages him in what matters: his success. Show him that you’re worth taking a chance on.

    Just remember: The manager who hires you needs convincing. He won’t ask you to do it. You must volunteer. The economy is still lousy, and losing a job opportunity because you’ve got problems in your personal or work history makes it even worse for you. If you’re qualified and you have a solid work ethic, it’s up to you to help an employer get past objections. (Sure, there’s a chance the employer isn’t going to do a reference or background check — but that would make him a dummy.)

    Some might argue that it’s not fair to expect the job seeker to take such measures to prove he or she is worthy, and that employers should always be fair and reasonable. That’s all well and good, but if you’re going to wait for a fair world, you’ll still be waiting for a job. My purpose is to help you take control when things go south.

    Dear readers: How would you handle problems in your background when trying to win a job?

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: Will a DUI in my background cost me a job? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, American students performed just above average on a new, international test of problem-solving skills given to 15-year-olds. And an Annie E. Casey Foundation report cautions that there are wide racial disparities in educational opportunity across the country. Photo by Getty Images

    According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, American students performed just above average on a new, international test of problem-solving skills given to 15-year-olds. And an Annie E. Casey Foundation report cautions that there are wide racial disparities in educational opportunity across the country. Photo by Getty Images

    According to the first report from the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, American students performed just above average on a new, international test of problem-solving skills given to 15-year-olds. Students in Singapore and Korea had the highest average scores, while U.S. students scored similarly to those in Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, England and the Netherlands.

    The test was taken along with the traditional math, science and reading exams that are part of PISA. Students in 60 countries take the exams every three years and Education Secretary Arne Duncan called U.S. students’ middling results on the traditional exams a sign of the country’s “educational stagnation,” according to Politico. Far fewer students took the first-ever problem solving test, just 85,000 in 44 countries compared to more than 19 million in those same countries who took the math, science and reading tests. Just 1,273 American students took the exam.

    Analysts from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the group that administers PISA, said U.S. students performed better than expected on the problem solving exams, given their scores on the other subject tests, which some see as a silver lining.

    The test gave students open-ended interactive problems where they had to explore material without direction to discover solutions to problems. Performing well on tasks like these is becoming increasingly important, according to the OECD, as the number of jobs where workers have to problem-solve independently is growing in the developed world.

    While the PISA results show U.S. students having slightly above-average problem solving skills, another report out Tuesday cautions that there are wide racial disparities in educational opportunity across the country.

    Each year the Annie E. Casey Foundation takes a snapshot of children’s well-being in every state. Now, the nonprofit has released its first report that measures educational access and attainment by race. The group developed a 1,000-point scale combing a dozen indicators that span early life. The indicators included the percentage of babies born at normal birth weight, family income, fourth and eighth grade reading score, teen pregnancy and high school graduation rates and the percentage achieving an associate’s degree or higher before age 30. Across the country, Asian children fare best on the index, they have a score of 776. White children were the next best off at 704. Then scores fell off dramatically, Latinos scored 404, American Indians were at 387 and African-Americans had the lowest opportunity score, 345. The scoring was based on data from 2012.

    “This first-time index shows that many in our next generation, especially kids of color, are off track in many issue areas and in nearly every region of the country,” Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said in a written statement released with the report.

    Persistent educational disparities also threaten the country’s economic future. By 2018 children of color will be the majority in the United States, according to census projections cited in the report. And by 2030 people of color will make up a majority of the country’s workforce.

    The post Mixed messages on whether U.S. students will be well-prepared for the workforce appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A damaged car and destroyed shops are seen in the An-Nabk District of Damascus on December 12, 2013. Photo by Ali Demir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    A damaged car and destroyed shops are seen in the An-Nabk District of Damascus on December 12, 2013. Photo by Ali Demir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    More than 150,000 have died during Syria’s ongoing civil war, a Britain-based monitor group said Tuesday.

    Relying on a network of sources on the ground, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 150,344 people, including 51,212 civilians, have died in the three-year war since March 2011; adding that the actual toll was probably closer to 220,000.

    The United Nations announced in January that its officials would stop reporting the Syrian death toll because it was difficult to maintain accurate statistics, despite using different sources including several NGOs and the Syrian government. The UN’s last estimates, released in July 2013, put the death toll at more than 100,000.

    As the Syrian conflict enters its fourth year, peace talks between President Bashar Assad’s government and the opposition have achieved little progress in Geneva. On March 24, UN peace mediator for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said it was “unlikely at the current time” that peace talks would resume.

    The post Death toll in Syria’s civil war surpasses 150,000, human rights monitor says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan officially released his budget blueprint for the 2015 fiscal year Tuesday morning.

    The document bears close resemblance to the proposals put forward the last few years by the Wisconsin Republican.

    Democrats are already sharpening their knives, hoping to use the familiar plan to go after Republicans this year in hopes of mitigating potential midterm election losses.

    The plan, among other things, would:

    • Cut $5.1 trillion in spending over the next decade
    • Repeal the Affordable Care Act. It proposes the law is replaced by a plan is not specified
    • Consolidate the number of tax brackets from seven to two, lowering the top bracket to 25 percent. Lower-income earners would pay 10 percent
    • Reduce the corporate tax rate from about 39 percent to 25 percent
    • Convert Medicaid into a block-grant program, giving states allotments to provide health coverage for low-income residents how they see fit
    • Transition Medicare to a voucher-like program for workers 54 years old and younger
    • Change other social safety-net programs, reducing funding for food stamps and expand welfare’s work requirements.
    • Avoid cuts to Social Security in the short term
    • Cut Pell Grants for low-income students
    • Cut federal workers’ pensions

    On whether Ryan’s plan would balance the budget, The Associated Press notes it “claims balance by 2024, but relies on $74 billion in savings in that year from the macroeconomic effects of cutting deficits, which CBO says would have a long-term positive effect because it would free up savings and investment capital. Democrats are sure to seize on the maneuver as phony math; without these projections, however, Ryan’s budget plan would fall almost $70 billion short of balance.”

    Unlike past years, the document is not being trumpeted by Republicans — or even Ryan himself. Short of a press release and Twitter announcement, there is no major press conference designed to drive the conversation.

    Ryan did put out a statement. “As the House majority, we have a responsibility to lay out a long-term vision for the country, and this budget shows how we will solve our nation’s biggest challenges,” he said.

    Predictably, Democrats had a different take on the proposal.

    Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the budget committee, called it “reckless” and said it “casts a dark shadow over the American Dream.”

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement that the plan did nothing for the “middle class” and took aim at its Medicare reforms. “It would end Medicare as we know it,” Carney wrote, echoing a familiar 2012 campaign charge, “turning it into a voucher program and risking a death spiral in traditional Medicare.”

    The post New Ryan budget same as the old Ryan budgets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Sgt. John Pacarello, a member of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division rests along a ridgeline following a patrol up a mountainside near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank on March 31 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan. The Pentagon reports there were no military deaths in March in Afghanistan. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says there were no U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan in March — the first zero-fatality month there since January 2007.

    American casualties in Afghanistan have declined as the number of U.S. forces has grown smaller and their role has shifted away from combat. U.S. troops are focused on training and advising Afghan forces.

    The Pentagon says there are about 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a 2011 peak of about 100,000.

    The international combat mission is scheduled to end in December; whether a new mission to train Afghans is undertaken in January has yet to be decided.

    Pentagon statistics show there were 132 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan in 2013, compared with 313 the year before and 415 in 2011.

    The post Pentagon: No American military deaths in Afghanistan in March appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video by the Associated Press

    Maple syrup production has just become a whole lot sweeter for producers looking to minimize problems during their harvest, which only lasts for about one month.

    New monitoring systems are allowing maple syrup producers to keep watch on the tubes that draw sap from trees and deliver them to the sugar houses. If a tube is damaged, the technology can immediately detect the affected lines. The process is saving producers from losing valuable sap, typically lost because of damage from animals and falling tree limbs, as well as numerous hours spent searching lines for leaks.

    With 40 gallons of sap required to make one gallon of syrup, the less lost, the better.

    Solar-powered radio units strapped to trees monitor the pressure in each tube and transmit data to computers and smartphones. With a simple check of whether a particular area is green or red — green signaling all good, red indicating a problem — users can quickly identify problems in specific places. Text messages can even be programmed and sent in case a situation arises.

    The United States produced a total of 3.25 million gallons of maple syrup in 2013.

    The post Maple syrup producers rely on new technology to fix sticky situations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Leading Insurance Agency in Miami, Fla. offers enrollment services for Affordable Care Act plans. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Leading Insurance Agency in Miami, Fla. offers enrollment services for Affordable Care Act plans. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that 7.1 million Americans have signed up for health care through insurance exchanges before the March 31 deadline.

    A Center for Medicaid Services official confirmed reports to PBS NewsHour’s Morning Line that they are “on track” to hit 7 million enrollments. And a government official told The Associated Press that the 7 million mark had been crossed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss developments by name before Obama’s announcement.

    The 7 million target was thought to be out of reach by most experts after computer glitches slowed sign-ups on deadline day Monday. A surge of consumer interest propelled sign-ups.

    Obama plans to speak at 4:15 p.m.

    The administration has not said how many of those who signed up closed the deal by paying their first month’s premiums.

    People who started applying but were unable to finish before the deadline can have extra time.

    The post Obama: 7.1 million Americans have signed up for health care appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    General Motors CEO Mary Barra answered questions before a House subcommittee about her knowledge of a faulty ignition switch installed in 2.6 million cars.

    General Motors CEO Mary Barra answered questions before a House subcommittee about her knowledge of a faulty ignition switch installed in 2.6 million cars.

    WASHINGTON — The piece needed to fix a defective ignition switch linked to 13 traffic deaths would have cost just 57 cents, according to documents submitted by General Motors to lawmakers investigating why the company took 10 years to recall cars with the flaw.

    At a hearing Tuesday, members of a House subcommittee demanded answers from new GM CEO Mary Barra about why the automaker used the switch in small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion even though it knew the part didn’t meet GM’s own specifications.

    Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., held up a switch for one of the cars and said a small spring inside it failed to provide enough force, causing car engines to turn off when they went over a bump.

    DeGette showed how easy it was for a light set of keys to move the ignition out of the “run” position. That can cause the engine to stall and the driver to lose power steering and power brakes.

    Since February, GM has recalled 2.6 million cars over the faulty switch. The automaker said new switches should be available starting April 7. Owners can ask dealers for a loaner car while waiting for the replacement part. Barra said GM has provided more than 13,000 loaner vehicles.

    General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared in front of congressional committee on Tuesday to testify about defective ignition switches in small cars that are linked to 13 deaths.

    GM has said that in 2005 company engineers proposed solutions to the switch problem but that the automaker concluded that none represented “an acceptable business case.”

    “Documents provided by GM show that this unacceptable cost increase was only 57 cents,” DeGette said.

    In her prepared statement, Barra said she doesn’t know “why it took years for a safety defect to be announced,” but “we will find out.”

    In an exchange with Tim Rep. Murphy, R-Pa., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Barra acknowledged that the switch didn’t meet the company’s own specifications.

    Murphy also read from an e-mail exchange between GM employees and those at Delphi, which made the switch. One said that the Cobalt is “blowing up in their face in regards to the car turning off.”

    Murphy asked why, if the problem was so big, GM didn’t replace all of them in cars already on the road.

    “Clearly there were a lot of things happening” at that time, Barra said.

    Barra repeatedly said the answer to lawmakers’ questions would be part of GM’s internal investigation.

    In his prepared remarks, David Friedman, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pointed the finger at GM, saying the automaker had information last decade that could have led to a recall, but shared it only last month.

    Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said GM and government regulators got complaints about the switches 10 years ago, and GM submitted reports to the agency. Upton questioned why it took so long to recall the cars.

    Committee member Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said that committee staff members found 133 warranty claims filed with GM over 10 years detailing customer complaints of sudden engine stalling when they drove over a bump or brushed keys with their knees.

    The claims were filed between June 2003 and June 2012.

    Waxman said that because GM didn’t undertake a simple fix when it learned of the problem, “at least a dozen people have died in defective GM vehicles.”

    Some current GM car owners and relatives of those who died in crashes were also in Washington seeking answers. The group attended the hearing after holding a news conference demanding action against GM and stiffer legislation.

    Dee-Ann Durbin reported from Detroit. Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Congress demands answers on delay in GM recall appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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