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

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    According to The Associated Press, the Syria state news agency on Wednesday said that two car bombs in central city of Homs have killed 25 people and wounded 107.

    The post Car bombs in Syria kills 25, wounds 107 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Astronauts have already gotten used to the idea of drinking their recycled urine. A new device could potentially use waste water for both drinking and for fuel. Photo by Flickr user European Space Agency

    Astronauts have already gotten used to the idea of drinking their recycled urine. A new device could potentially use waste water for both drinking and for fuel. Photo by Flickr user European Space Agency

    Recycled urine is something astronauts are already psychologically prepared to consume when they go to outer space. But a new report published in the ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering journal suggests that rather than releasing wasted urine into space, scientist are working on a new technique that can convert the urine into drinking water and fuel.

    The reasoning behind this? Cost. Due to the high cost of delivering supplies to space, the recovery of potable water from spacecraft wastewater is critical for life support of crewmembers, the report said.

    The report’s authors Eduardo Nicolau, Carlos R. Cabrera and colleagues used their new Urea Bioreactors Electrochemical System, or UBE, to collect urine and shower wastewater and filtered out urea and water using forward osmosis.

    Potable water isn’t the only value of the waste. It can be used as fuel, too.

    A bioreactor that can recover urea from the wastewater converts it into ammonia, which is used to feed an electrochemical cell that can generate electrical energy.

    The system was designed with space missions in mind, but “the results showed that the UBE system could be used in any wastewater treatment systems containing urea and/or ammonia,” the researchers wrote.

    The post In space, recycled urine has many uses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A recently discovered flaw in encryption technology may be compromising your online data.

    A recently discovered flaw in encryption technology may be compromising your online data.

    On Monday, security researchers at Codenomicon and Google discovered a flaw in the encryption technology meant to protect your passwords, online files and valuable online information. They’re calling the bug “Heartbleed.”

    What is it?

    The bug leaves a server’s memory vulnerable to attack, compromising OpenSSL software — the technology behind that little padlock next to the web address of any site that requires a log-in.

    If your information has been compromised, there’s no way of knowing.

    “We have tested some of our own services from attacker’s perspective,” Codenomicon wrote on heartbleed.com — a site meant to address questions about the bug. “We attacked ourselves from outside, without leaving a trace. Without using any privileged information or credentials we were able steal from ourselves the secret keys used for our X.509 certificates, user names and passwords, instant messages, emails and business critical documents and communication.”

    What action is being taken?

    The flaw prompted the Department of Homeland Security to advise businesses to check whether they’re using a vulnerable version of Open SSL. A fix has been released for any site that has been affected.

    What should you do?

    Tumblr warned users Tuesday to reset their passwords, but don’t be too quick to change every online account’s log-in. At the moment, waiting might be the best option for protecting yourself.

    According to CNET, “security experts suggest waiting for confirmation of a fix because further activity on a vulnerable site could exacerbate the problem.”

    In the meantime, keep an eye on your financial statements and online information. You can check whether a site is vulnerable here.

    The post How could encryption flaw ‘Heartbleed’ affect you? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user ep_jhu

    Photo by Flickr user ep_jhu

    Offering a first glimpse of the health care needs of Americans who bought coverage through federal and state marketplaces, an analysis of the first two months of claims data shows the new enrollees are more likely to use expensive specialty drugs to treat conditions like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C than those with job-based insurance.

    The sample of claims data — considered a preliminary look at whether new enrollees are sicker-than-average — also found that prescriptions for treating pain, seizures and depression are also proportionally higher in exchange plans, according to Express Scripts, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit management companies.

    Whether that trend holds true across all insurers – and continues to be the case with the millions who signed up after the first two months of the year – will answer one of the biggest questions facing insurers and proponents of the health law: What is the proportion of sick versus healthy enrollees? The answer is key to whether premiums rise in coming years because insurers need a large number of healthy enrollees to offset the costs of treating the sick.

    Experts caution that the findings are limited to two months’ data and don’t reflect the surge in enrollment which occurred in March and April.

    “This is a snapshot of the population early on,” said Julie Huppert, Express Scripts’ vice president of health care reform. “The hope is the young and healthy come into the system in the later weeks of the enrollment period.”

    In the past, people with health problems were often unable to buy coverage in the individual market, or were charged prohibitive rates – practices barred under the health law.

    As a result, insurers anticipated a sicker-than-average group enrolling the first year and built that assumption into this year’s premiums. But if they guessed wrong — and costs are higher — that could push up next year’s rates. If costs are lower, some might have to give rebates to consumers, under a provision in the health law requiring insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care.

    “We all expected that the people who signed up by January and February would be a lot sicker than anyone else,” said Robert Lazsewski, a consultant to the insurance industry.

    The consensus among insurers, he said, is that “it will be a year before we know what we’ve got.”

    The St. Louis, Mo.-based firm analyzed more than 650,000 claims filed in January and February with 25 insurers, and compared them to claims filed by a subset of employer-based plans that Express Scripts oversees. The analysis was based on total drug spending, including the portion paid by insurers and patients.

    The Ryan White Act also helps cover some patients’ copayments for HIV drugs.

    The findings, released Wednesday, bolster the assumption that the sick were more motivated to endure the hassles of the websites’ troubled launch than others.

    “One has to be cautious in interpreting these results,” said Dan Mendelson, founder and chief executive of Avalere Health, a private consulting firm in Washington, D.C. “There was a rush of young, relatively healthy people who signed up in March and April]. Having said that, it seems to imply that if you have HIV, you will sign up for this benefit.”

    While there are many caveats about interpreting the results — including that the job-based plans used as a comparison may have different drug coverage – the study found that on the exchange plans:

    • More than 6 in every 1,000 prescriptions were for an HIV drug, a rate four times that of employer plans.
    • HIV/AIDS drugs Atripla and Truvada ranked in the top 10 for total amounts spent on drugs but did not hit the top 10 in spending among the comparison group.
    • Sovaldi, an $84,000 treatment approved in December to treat hepatitis C, came in second for total spending, while it ranked No. 8 in the comparison group.
    • The volume of pain medication was 35 percent higher; drugs to control seizures were 27 percent higher and antidepressants were 14 percent higher. Conversely, birth control prescriptions were 31 percent lower.

    A definitive answer about whether claims will continue higher won’t be known for many months. But in most states, insurers have to submit premium rates for next year before the end of June. They are analyzing their own claims data, not just for drugs, but also for other medical care, including hospitalizations, which represent a larger share of spending. Most insurers won’t have a full picture because many new enrollees signed up in late March and early April, and their coverage doesn’t start until May 1.

    “They will be operating on imperfect information and data like this will be one piece of the puzzle,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research and education group. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) “There are clearly some people with expensive conditions enrolled, but it’s not clear yet what proportion they represent.”


    This story was produced by Kaiser Health News in partnership with The Daily Beast.

    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 Current enrollees on insurance exchanges are sicker than average Americans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The leader of the Swiss movement for a guaranteed basic income explains why even if the Swiss people vote against the referendum, the basic income will still have won. Photo by Flickr user Kopf oder Zahl.

    The leader of the Swiss movement for a guaranteed basic income explains why even if the Swiss people vote against the referendum, the basic income can still claim a victory. Above, Generation Basic Income activists pose with the 8 million coins they dumped in front of the Swiss parliament last fall. Photo by Flickr user Kopf oder Zahl.

    Editor’s Note: As Making Sen$e reported Monday night on the NewsHour, Switzerland will soon vote on a referendum to guarantee every citizen a basic income of 30,000 Francs. The referendum won’t pass. The leader of the movement advocating for the unconditional income, artist Enno Schmidt, admits that. But, he says, that’s not the point.

    When activists dumped 8 million coins (one for each citizen) outside the Swiss parliament last fall, they were starting a national debate, and that, according to Schmidt, is what matters. The initiative to get the referendum on the ballot garnered more than 120,000 signatures, but signing on, Schmidt explains, doesn’t necessarily mean that you support the proposal; it just means you want it discussed and put to the population for a vote.

    In our extended conversation with Schmidt, below, he explains what that national conversation is and why it’s worth having — even if the Swiss people don’t approve the referendum. This transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity. Watch the full Making Sen$e report below.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    Paul Solman: What’s the basic idea behind the basic income?

    Enno Schmidt: The basic idea is to develop social life. Not because things are so bad, but because we can [live in a better society.] We’ve had this odd thought that work and income are combined, and that’s not the truth.

    Paul Solman: But historically, work and income have been linked, haven’t they? The more productive you are, the more income you get. Are you trying to lessen the importance of money in the economy?

    Enno Schmidt: Yes, that’s what I want. There’s too much misunderstanding of what an economy is. An economy is about working together, or working and doing something for other people. We have to go back to bringing work and living more closely together. We need more and more work, but it’s not linked exactly to getting an income.

    We are for a free market, much more free of a market than we have today. An unconditional basic income is a basis to become rich, to become successful, or to do things that are important but that you don’t have money for. The basic income is given so you can act free. There are incentives but no compulsion.

    Like Soviet Style?

    Paul Solman: But don’t we need compulsion? Hasn’t the failure of the Soviet Union, for example, shown that without the incentive of getting income for work, people will not work?

    Enno Schmidt: The Soviet Union and the real socialist countries showed that it is stupid to bring work and income so close together. The unconditional basic income is the opposite of Communism. An unconditional basic income sets you free to do the things you want. The success of countries like us in Europe, you in the United States, comes not from compulsion; It comes from being inspired and engaged. This is our success. Compulsion is not successful — it is unproductive; it makes people ill.

    Paul Solman: It makes the people ill, but it gets them out of bed in the morning, doesn’t it?

    Enno Schmidt: We asked a lot of people, what would you do with an unconditional basic income? And nearly 80 percent said they would continue to work. And 10 percent said, “Oh, I would sleep longer and then look at what I do.” And in the next five minutes of talking with them, they would say they wanted to study or do more for their old mother. People are blind to all the problems in the world because of this ideology that to work is to earn money.

    Paul Solman: So this concept isn’t born of compassion for people, but is more about reconfiguring the relationship of income to work?

    Enno Schmidt: We need more productivity, and that’s only possible if we set the people free — allow them to have more initiative and self-responsibility.

    What Kind of Freedom Are We Talking About?

    Paul Solman: You’ve said this is similar to the anti-slavery movement?

    Enno Schmidt: It’s similar because the argument against stopping slavery was “it is bad for business.” Everybody said, “We will have four million people on the street who need structure.” And that’s the same mentality when we say today that there are [other] people who need compulsion to work, [and that giving them an unconditional income will mean they do nothing]. “Not me, not you, you are my friend,” we say; “it’s another kind of population in the world that [needs that compulsion.]” Today, we don’t pay these people enough because we think they do dirty work. The truth is they do work that is very valuable in society, but we think that because they have no possibility of fighting [for another job] or negotiating [their freedom], it’s dirty work. The freedom that comes with the unconditional basic income is the ability to say no to a low-paying job.

    Paul Solman: So in a sense, this is a critique of the market system in the year 2014, that the market, the global market, is not getting people to do what they could be doing, or even should be doing.

    Enno Schmidt: An unconditional basic income will make it so you cannot pay so little for this valuable work because the people are sovereign to say no. It’s a civil right that your existence is not negotiable by the market.

    Paul Solman: But why would I ever clean the toilets if I didn’t have to? if I’m getting a basic income, I’d rather do something useful like take care of my mother or my grandkids.

    Enno Schmidt: The toilet cleaner earns more money, and a basic income is only a basic income, you know? That’s not so much money to live on, so most people want to have more.

    And look, talk with the people who are cleaning toilets or sitting at the cashiers at the supermarkets; this is valuable work. You become more aware of the value of this work with an unconditional basic income.

    Paul Solman: Why would I become any more respectful of a toilet cleaner?

    Enno Schmidt: Because a toilet cleaner gets, for example, $2,000 to do that, plus his basic income. The toilet cleaner is a very important job, and very well paid.

    Paul Solman: So you expect that companies will now have to pay more to get someone to clean their toilets?

    Enno Schmidt: Yes, that could be, and that’s an important point, but on the other hand, it could be that you change the way you deal with these people if you don’t have a dirty image of their job.

    Paul Solman: Because there’s a narrower gap between the people at the top and the people at the bottom?

    Enno Schmidt: Yes, because everybody is free.

    How Would It Actually Work?

    Paul Solman: If you do this, won’t every poor person in the world flood into Switzerland?

    Enno Schmidt: You can’t go to Switzerland and live there, and then get an unconditional basic income. You have to have an address to get it. It’s not so easy.

    Paul Solman: Isn’t this going to be incredibly expensive?

    Enno Schmidt: What will happen is the other incomes from work, salaries, wages and social security benefits can and will go down.

    Paul Solman: Why are prices going to go down?

    Enno Schmidt: Because work is cheaper. So for example, let’s say you earn $2,000, and then with an unconditional basic income, let’s say it’s $3,000. So your director will ask you to work for $1,000 now. It’s the same [pay] in your pocket. You’d say yes, and then the price of your work for the company is less.

    Paul Solman: But I can imagine saying no, no, you’ve got to pay me at least as much as you did before because I don’t need the job the way I used to.

    Enno Schmidt: I talk with so many people, so often, and mostly, at first, they say, “I’m working for money,” and then they realize, no, that’s not really it. Then they realize that they like doing the work and would like to do it better. A lot of engineers said to me that with an unconditional basic income they’d be much more free to be responsible. “We are so quick in the moment, there are so many stresses,” they say, “it’s not responsible what we are doing, and I want to do this work, but more responsibly.”

    Will It Pass?

    Paul Solman: Will the referendum get voted in?

    Enno Schmidt: No. We’ve had 120,000 people who have said, yes, we want to discuss this initiative. They haven’t said yes, we are for an unconditional basic income.

    Paul Solman: So this is the beginning of a process for you?

    Enno Schmidt: Yes, this is the main important point — that it’s not a new, ready, fixed model. It’s an idea.

    In the 1980s, there was a referendum in Switzerland to abolish the army. The army was of paramount importance in Switzerland, so for many, this idea was like high treason. So when 36 percent of the Swiss people voted to abolish the army, people were astonished. Even though the majority had voted against it, because the minority was so great, the importance of the army fell sharply. After that, the army played a much smaller role. And so, by that I mean that even if only 30 percent vote for our initiative, a few things will change. And then we will start the next initiative.

    Where Will the Movement Go?

    Enno Schmidt: I’ve done a lot of interviews in the United States, and the American people, from my experience, they taste the idea. They don’t want to know what this idea exactly is. Then they go around and are very quick to say it’s more efficient, it’s more fair to the people, it’s good to the people. But “Hey,” they ask, “should every American live like this stupid painter from Switzerland?”

    Paul Solman: Are you a stupid painter from Switzerland?

    Enno Schmidt: Yes, this is what the Australians wrote.

    Paul Solman: You seem like you’re not embarrassed or ashamed by that?

    Enno Schmidt: No, I’m proud of this because to do something good, you have to be a bit stupid in that moment. Being a bit stupid [allows] you to see more. Don’t be too intelligent because then you can think of every possible objection [to doing something like advocating for the basic income.]

    The post How a ‘stupid painter from Switzerland’ is revolutionizing work appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Jeffrey Browns conversation with Stern:

    On Wednesday night the Poetry Society of America will honor poet Gerald Stern with the Frost Medal, the organization’s highest award, given for lifetime achievement. The medal has previously been awarded to poets such as Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore and Allen Ginsberg.

    In January 2013, chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke to Stern about his book “In Beauty Bright.” The 87-year-old writer had recently been awarded the prestigious Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress for his collection “Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992.” That prize is given to the most distinguished book of verse published in the previous two years.

    You can also watch Stern read his poem “The One Thing in Life:”

    The award ceremony will take place at the National Arts Club in New York.

    The post Poet Gerald Stern to receive the Poetry Society of America’s prestigious Frost Medal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    After getting hit with a $1.2 million fine for its mishandling of safety issues in 2009 and 2010, Toyota is learning to be more proactive about customers' safety.  Photo by Michael Brunk/Flickr

    After getting hit with a $1.2 million fine for its mishandling of safety issues in 2009 and 2010, Toyota is taking proactive measures to its latest recalls. Photo by Michael Brunk/Flickr

    Toyota announced a recall of 6.4 million vehicles globally, including 1.77 million of its vehicles in the U.S., for five potential safety faults. Only two of the flaws, USA Today reports, apply to U.S. models.

    Automobile recalls may be on the uptick because automakers want to be proactive in order to avoid government scrutiny similar to that which GM currently faces for not disclosing its cars’ defects quick enough.

    Toyota itself just came to a $1.2 million settlement with the Department of Justice in March, which found fault in how the company handled safety problems with their vehicles from 2009 to 2010.

    The post Toyota recalls 6.4 million vehicles for five separate defects appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hewlett Packard’s bribing schemes to secure and retain public contracts will cost the company more than $108 million. Photo by Flickr user user wlodi

    Hewlett Packard’s bribing schemes to secure and retain public contracts will cost the company more than $108 million. Photo by Flickr user user wlodi

    Hewlett-Packard will pay more than $108 million in a settlement agreement after the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the company Tuesday with bribing government officials to obtain public contracts.

    In their order, the SEC says Hewlett-Packard’s subsidiaries violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by making “unlawful payments to various foreign government officials to obtain business” in Russia, Poland and Mexico, as well as falsely recording the gifts in the books as “legitimate consulting and service contracts, commissions, or travel expenses.” An SEC press release states that the subsidiaries paid more than $3.5 million to obtain and retain contracts:

    The SEC’s order instituting settled administrative proceedings finds that the Palo Alto, Calif.-based technology company’s subsidiary in Russia paid more than $2 million through agents and various shell companies to a Russian government official to retain a multi-million dollar contract with the federal prosecutor’s office. In Poland, Hewlett-Packard’s subsidiary provided gifts and cash bribes worth more than $600,000 to a Polish government official to obtain contracts with the national police agency. And as part of its bid to win a software sale to Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, Hewlett-Packard’s subsidiary in Mexico paid more than $1 million in inflated commissions to a consultant with close ties to company officials, and money was funneled to one of those officials.

    The post SEC charges Hewlett-Packard for international bribes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new innovation from Land Rover will, quite literally, let you see through tough obstacles on your course.

    The British manufacturer plans to unveil the technology it calls a “Transparent Hood” at the 2014 New York Auto Show, which begins April 18. It uses camera images and virtual imaging technology to display what is underneath and directly in front of the vehicle.

    Cameras mounted on the vehicle’s grille enable drivers to see obstacles under the car as it moves along and then projects the captured images on a display just under the windshield. It also reports angles of approach and lean and even the vehicle speed.

    “We are developing new technologies, including the Transparent Hood, to give drivers an augmented view of reality to help them tackle anything from the toughest off-road route to the tight confines of urban parking,” said Dr. Wolfgang Epple, director of research and technology for Jaguar Land Rover on the company website.

    This concept will be showcased in the Land Rover Discovery Vision vehicle, which the company hopes will redefine the future cars it makes.

    The post Land Rover concept car allows drivers to see through a ‘transparent’ hood appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch President Obama’s full remarks at the Ft. Hood memorial service

    President Barack Obama eulogized the victims of Fort Hood shooting spree Wednesday, returning to the site where just over five years prior he mourned with families and comrades of the 13 killed in another on-post attack.

    “It was love for their comrades, for all of you, that defined their last moments,” the president said.

    “Today, four American soldiers are gone. Four Army families are devastated,” he said. “As Commander-in-Chief, I’m determined that we will continue to step up our efforts — to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver to them the care that they need, and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help.”

    This second Ft. Hood memorial service marks at least the fifteenth time the president has delivered remarks following a tragedy in just five years as president.

    “Part of what makes this so painful is that we have been here before. This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago.”

    Watch the singing of Amazing Grace, the chaplain’s prayer, the honorary roll call and Taps from Wednesday’s ceremony.

    The full remarks by the president follow:

    In our lives — in our joys and in our sorrows — we’ve learned that there is “a time for every matter under heaven.” We laugh and we weep. We celebrate and we mourn. We serve in war and we pray for peace. But Scripture also teaches that, alongside the temporal, one thing is eternal. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

    Deputy Secretary Fox; General Dempsey; Secretary McHugh; Generals Odierno and Milley; and most of all, the families of the soldiers who have been taken from us; the wounded — those who have returned to duty and those still recovering; and the entire community of Fort Hood, this “Great Place”: It is love, tested by tragedy, that brings us together again.

    It was love for country that inspired these three Americans to put on the uniform and join the greatest Army that the world has ever known. Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson. Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez. Sergeant Timothy Owens.

    And Danny and Carlos joined two decades ago, in a time of peace, and stayed as the nation went to war. Timothy joined after 9/11, knowing he could be sent into harm’s way. Between them, they deployed nine times. Each served in Iraq. Danny came home from Afghanistan just last year. They lived those shining values — loyalty, duty, honor — that keep us strong and free.

    It was love for the Army that made them the soldiers they were. For Danny, said his fiancée, being in the Army “was his life.” Carlos, said a friend, was “the epitome of what you would want a leader to be in the Army.” Timothy helped counsel his fellow soldiers. Said a friend, “He was always the person you could go talk to.”

    And it was love for their comrades, for all of you, that defined their last moments. As we’ve heard, when the gunman tried to push his way into that room, Danny held the door shut, saving the lives of others while sacrificing his own. And it’s said that Timothy — the counselor, even then — gave his life, walking toward the gunman, trying to calm him down.

    For you, their families, no words are equal to your loss. We are here on behalf of the American people to honor your loved ones and to offer whatever comfort we can. But know this: We also draw strength from you. For even in your grief, even as your heart breaks, we see in you that eternal truth: “Love never ends.”

    To the parents of these men — as a father, I cannot begin to fathom your anguish. But I know that you poured your love and your hopes into your sons. I know that the men and soldiers they became — their sense of service and their patriotism — so much of that came from you. You gave your sons to America, and just as you will honor them always, so, too, will the nation that they served.

    To the loves of their lives — Timothy’s wife Billy and Danny’s fiancée Kristen — these soldiers cherished the Army, but their hearts belonged to you. And that’s a bond that no earthly power can ever break. They have slipped from your embrace, but know that you will never be alone. Because this Army and this nation stands with you for all the days to come.

    To their children — we live in a dangerous world, and your fathers served to keep you safe and us safe. They knew you have so much to give our country; that you’d make them proud. Timothy’s daughter Lori already has. Last Wednesday night, she posted this message online: “I just want everyone to think for a moment.” Love your family, she said, “because you never know when [they’re] gonna be taken from you. I love you, daddy.”

    And to the men and women of Fort Hood — as has already been mentioned, part of what makes this so painful is that we have been here before. This tragedy tears at wounds still raw from five years ago. Once more, soldiers who survived foreign warzones were struck down here at home, where they’re supposed to be safe. We still do not yet know exactly why, but we do know this: We must honor their lives, not “in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.”

    We must honor these men with a renewed commitment to keep our troops safe, not just in battle but on the home front, as well. In our open society, and at vast bases like this, we can never eliminate every risk. But as a nation, we can do more to help counsel those with mental health issues, to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are having such deep difficulties. As a military, we must continue to do everything in our power to secure our facilities and spare others this pain.

    We must honor these men by doing more to care for our fellow Americans living with mental illness, civilian and military. Today, four American soldiers are gone. Four Army families are devastated. As Commander-in-Chief, I’m determined that we will continue to step up our efforts — to reach our troops and veterans who are hurting, to deliver to them the care that they need, and to make sure we never stigmatize those who have the courage to seek help.

    And finally, we must honor these men by recognizing that they were members of a generation that has borne the burden of our security in more than a decade of war. Now our troops are coming home, and by the end of this year our war in Afghanistan will finally be over.

    In an era when fewer Americans know someone in uniform, every American must see these men and these women — our 9/11 Generation — as the extraordinary citizens that they are. They love their families. They excel at their jobs. They serve their communities. They are leaders. And when we truly welcome our veterans home, when we show them that we need them — not just to fight in other countries, but to build up our own — then our schools and our businesses, our communities and our nation will be more successful, and America will be stronger and more united for decades to come.

    Sergeant First Class Daniel Ferguson. Staff Sergeant Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez. Sergeant Timothy Owens. Like the 576 Fort Hood soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were taken from us much too soon. Like the 13 Americans we lost five years ago, their passing shakes our soul. And in moments such as this, we summon once more what we’ve learned in these hard years of war. We reach within our wounded hearts. We lean on each other. We hold each other up. We carry on. And with God’s amazing grace, we somehow bear what seems unbearable.

    “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” May God watch over these American soldiers, may He keep strong their families whose love endures, and may God continue to bless the United States of America with patriots such as these.

    The post Obama: Love defined Fort Hood victims’ last moments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    These cheetah cubs at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. may become foster siblings for a set of cubs that were injured, and nearly killed, by their mother. Photo by Victoria Fleischer/PBS NewsHour.

    These cheetah cubs at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. may become foster siblings for a set of cubs that were injured, and nearly killed, by their mother. Photo by Victoria Fleischer/PBS NewsHour.

    Stacey Tabellario and Mindy Babitz are like many new mothers. They are with the baby every second she’s awake. They watch her on a monitor while she sleeps. They prepare bottles, talk to her and carry her and get little sleep themselves.

    But the baby is a sloth bear (think Baloo from “The Jungle Book”), the only one of its kind born in captivity in the United States this year. And she is in Tabellario and Babitz’s care for a reason that’s simple and hard to dispute: when she was born, her mother ate her siblings.

    “Now we’re mom,” said Tabellario one of the six zookeepers caring for the cub. “It’s an amazing experience, and we’re learning a lot, but there is still that bittersweet tone to it, because we all know that the first choice for any animal is to be raised by their mother.”

    At first, zookeepers were thrilled when Khali, named for the Hindu goddess of destruction from the bears’ native India, gave birth to three cubs, an unusually large litter for a sloth bear.

    science-wednesdayBut the first was stillborn. She consumed that cub immediately. A week later, she ate the second and began neglecting the third.

    Tabellario says Khali’s reaction was normal, even healthy for a mother bear.

    “It sounds very shocking, but it’s not something that shocks us as keepers. That’s the natural history of carnivores.”

    This two-month-old sloth bear cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo is being raised by zookeepers after her mother ate her siblings.

    This two-month-old sloth bear cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo is being raised by zookeepers after her mother ate her siblings.

    It sounds counterintuitive to evolution, but infanticide in the wild is well-documented, said Doug Mock, professor of biology at the University of Oklahoma and author of a book on the subject. Animal parents have limited resources to dedicate to their offspring, he said, and if the baby is sick or weak, carnivores have been known to consume babies or abandon them. Cannibalism gives the mother the calories she needs to raise her healthy babies or get pregnant again.

    Sometimes it’s the mother or father that kills; sometimes it’s the siblings. Mock remembers watching a group of egret chicks peck their sibling to death, while their mother stood idly by, cleaning her feathers.That may have been the case for Khali, Tabellario said. A necropsy of her second cub revealed that the cub had a parasite in its intestines, which Khali may have sensed. When the keepers pulled the surviving cub from the den, she was ill too.

    Sometimes it’s the mother or father that kills; sometimes it’s the siblings. Mock remembers watching a group of egret chicks peck their sibling to death, while their mother stood idly by, cleaning her feathers.

    “It’s the most startling thing I’ve ever seen in the field,” he said. “I literally sat and watched and thought, ‘Any second, the parents will step in and stop this.’”

    When asked him how he felt witnessing this behavior: “My soul died,” he said.

    Mock has seen birds push their chicks from the nest, abandon them, even starve them. In the animal kingdom, he says, infanticide is not about pathology. It’s about ensuring that the strongest offspring survive.

    “It’s one of the less pleasant aspects of nature, something humans don’t like to think about. You want to think of nature as warm, cuddly and fuzzy,” he said. “We assume that other species look at offspring the same way we look at offspring… To us it seems as if (infanticide) must be some sick kind of thing, but it isn’t necessarily.”

    Infanticide can be accidental, too, said Susan Margulis, associate professor of biology at Canisius College.

    “The thing that people don’t realize is that most young animals die. Most die when they’re in infancy. Animals mostly raise two babies to adulthood. It’s just more noticeable in zoos,” she said.

    That’s because motherhood has a learning curve, she said, and it doesn’t come to all animals naturally the first time. She worked with primates in zoos, and found that new mothers must learn how to nurse their young, and how to properly care for them.

    “I’ve seen primate mothers that were good enough, but not great. Sometimes good enough is okay,” she said. “That first breeding attempt is a learning experience. You almost have to assume it’s not going to go well. In evolution, that very well could have been the case for humans ancestors as well.” She added, “Even human mothers need to work out details of how to do this new job that they may not have any experience with.”

    This two-month-old sloth bear cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo is being raised by zookeepers after her mother ate her siblings.

    This two-month-old sloth bear cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo is being raised by zookeepers after her mother ate her siblings.

    Zoos can’t always wait for mothers to figure it out. That was the case for Ally, a cheetah at the National Zoo. This winter she gave birth to a litter of four cubs. At first, keepers breathed a sigh of relief, said Copper Aitken-Palmer, chief veterinarian at the National Zoo. The new cheetah mom was nursing and grooming her cubs normally. But three weeks later, zookeepers noticed that Ally was carrying her cubs in and out of the den more than normal. The cubs became lethargic, but Ally continued to pace with them.

    Adrienne Crosier, who manages the cheetah breeding program at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, says the keepers typically leave cubs with their mothers for as long as possible, but something was clearly wrong.

    “She was carrying them because she was nervous and agitated, and we do see a lot of very nervous behavior in first-time cheetah moms,” she said. “It was kind of a difficult situation because every time we tried to treat them it made Ally more agitated, which then made her want to carry them more, which then exasperated the injuries.”

    Ally had bitten down on the scruffs of their necks too roughly, causing deep wounds which had become infected, Aitken-Palmer said. She estimates the zoo had a few hours to save the cheetah cubs. On Christmas Day, keepers made the decision to take the cubs away from Ally.

    Ally had bitten down on the scruffs of their necks too roughly, causing deep wounds which had become infected, Aitken-Palmer said. She estimates the zoo had a few hours to save the cheetah cubs.“She went from a nervous mom to inadvertently doing mortal damage to these cubs,” Aitken-Palmer said. “We pretty quickly figured out that these cubs weren’t going back to their mom. And they may not make it at all. They were septic with very low glucose, which is blood sugar. The female actually came in seizuring, her blood sugar was so low. Frankly, I’ve not turned around a lot of neonates that were in that condition.”

    One of the cubs died. The other three underwent three major surgeries each and hundreds of stitches over the following weeks. The cubs weren’t weaned, so they still needed milk and multiple feedings every day.

    The cheetah cubs were critically injured when their mother became nervous. They went through three major surgeries, hundreds of stitches, and nearly died from the infected wounds. Now the keepers hope that another cheetah at the zoo will adopt them.

    The cheetah cubs were critically injured when their mother became nervous. They went through three major surgeries, hundreds of stitches, and nearly died from the infected wounds. Now the keepers hope that another cheetah at the zoo will adopt them.

    When animal mothers neglect or try to kill their own young in captivity, hand-rearing is one option, Margulis said, one that zoos utilize less than they did 30 years ago. Though in some cases, animal parents are so notoriously neglectful or the species is so rare, hand-raising becomes the first option.

    At the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, the Micronesian kingfisher, a rare bird with fewer than 130 individuals left in the world, is an “always-hand-raise” chick, said Dave Bernier, general curator for the Lincoln Park Zoo. Kingfishers, like many birds, are notoriously neglectful parents, he said, and the species is so endangered that each chick is valuable. But overall, as scientists have learned more about how animals behave in the wild, zoos have tried to minimize the amount of contact they have with young animals, and if they can, return them to their social groups.

    “We did more hand-raising of animals in the past. At the time, it was a lack of understanding of the needs of the animals, which has changed. The time that the infant spends with their species is critical,” he said. “You might be providing all the nutrients but having the animal live with their group is more important, all the time.”

    For the sloth bear cub, they do their best to recreate the care she would get from her mother. Early on, zookeepers wore the newborn cub in slings across their chests, because sloth bear mothers carry their newborns to keep the baby warm.

    These bears may have Baloo’s laid-back attitude, but they are still dangerous, wild animals. The zoo stocks “emergency honey” in various locations around the facility. In the event of a bear escape, the emergency honey is thrown in one direction, while the keepers run in the other. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    These bears may have Baloo’s laid-back attitude, but they are still dangerous, wild animals. The zoo stocks “emergency honey” in various locations around the facility. In the event of a bear escape, the emergency honey is thrown in one direction, while the keepers run in the other. Photo by Rebecca Jacobson

    Feeding her was also a new challenge for the keepers. As a baby, she needed to be fed eight times a day. There are no sloth bear-specific formulas, so keepers mixed puppy formula and human formula for her bottles. The sloth bears’ refrigerator is stocked with mealworms, their favorite food, jams and fruits, which they started serving to the cub.

    These bears may have Baloo’s laid-back attitude, but they are still dangerous, wild animals. She pointed to a jar of “emergency honey” on top of the refrigerator, which they save in the event of a bear escape. The emergency honey is thrown in one direction, while the keepers run in the other.

    Now that the cub is two-and-a-half months old, she’s a toddler, and the keepers let her climb on them the way she would with her mother. Raising the cub is a new experience for all the keepers, so they’re constantly trying new methods for interacting with her, Tabellario said.

    “We’re kind of just putting pieces together from other zoos, from books we’ve read about behavior, from what we know about natural history,” she said. “There is not a lot of information out there, so a lot of it is us learning as we are going, but so far we are on a good path. So far she’s a very confident bear. We have high hopes for her.”

    The challenge, Tabellario said, will be reintroducing her to other sloth bears and teaching her to socialize with her own species — the sooner the better. That’s because hand-raised animals have a harder time mothering their own babies, Margulis said. Margulis has published studies on mice showing that pups that were raised in the same cages as their mothers were more successful mothers than mice raised alone. And in the primates she worked with, some hand-raised gorillas had to be taught to nurse and care for a baby.

    “You can get into that vicious cycle. You have an adult that hasn’t been raised by mother, that hasn’t had experience with siblings or littermates, and they often aren’t good mothers as a result,” Margulis explained.

    Bernier disagrees. Maternal care in animals is so varied, even among individuals in a zoo collection, that there isn’t enough evidence to say that hand-raising has a negative effect, he said.

    “I’ve seen the same species where the females all treat their young differently. Some are very protective; some are lackadaisical,” Bernier said. Their personality is very wide-ranging, and what they’re willing to tolerate is myriad. I think it’s a pretty natural process, and we let them go through the normal steps until they reject offspring.”

    There the cheetahs have an advantage, Crosier said, because adoption is an option. It hasn’t been tried often in zoos, she said, but cheetahs in the wild occasionally adopt cubs whose mothers have been killed. She’s hopeful that Mitty, a cheetah at the zoo with six cubs of her own, will foster Ally’s litter.

    “We are very hopeful that one of our females that is currently raising six of her own cubs will at some level accept these other three cubs,” Crosier said. “Every cheetah cub that is born in this population is critical for the future of the population. And we are at a point with our cheetah population in North America where if we don’t start producing a certain number of animals every year, we are going to not have cheetahs in the next 50 years in North America.”

    The post When baby animals must be rescued from their own mothers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable in an all-stock $45-billion deal announced Thursday that will allow the company more control over the U.S. market's television, broadband Internet and phone services.

    Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable in an all-stock $45-billion deal that will allow the company more control over the U.S. market’s television, broadband Internet and phone services.

    Comcast is making moves to finalize the proposed $45 billion deal that will allow it to buy rival Time Warner Cable. After the cable giants filed their joint Applications and Public Interest Statement with the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen defended the deal in a Senate hearing Wednesday.

    “The transaction will not lead to any reduction in competition or consumer choice in any market,” Cohen said to a skeptical Senate Judiciary Committee. “While this transaction will make us bigger, that’s a good thing, not a problem.”

    Comcast cites the growth of non-traditional media companies like Google, Apple, Netflix, and Amazon — each of which Comcast already competes with in the video content marketplace alongside other traditional cable and satellite companies — as one of the reasons they are looking to grow. Cohen said he hopes the merger will give his company the “scale and reach” to make larger investments and more readily compete in a rapidly changing global media market.

    Lawmakers, however, are concerned that the merger would give Comcast too much power over what consumers can view on TV and online, and that it will lead to a spike in cable and Internet prices.

    “As Comcast continues to get bigger, it will have even more power to exercise its leverage and squeeze consumers,” Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, said during the hearing.

    Cohen struck back, saying “there is absolutely nothing in this transaction that will result in an increase in prices for Comcast customers.” He also said the merger would not eliminate consumer choice because Comcast and Time Warner Cable do not directly compete with each other in any U.S. market.

    Others joined Sen. Franken in condemning the merger. “If we want more innovative, low-price Internet-delivered services, this merger must be rejected,” said Gene Kimmelman of Public Knowledge, a public interest group.

    The Department of Justice is expected to review the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger for violation of antitrust laws, while the FCC will look at the deal from a public-interest point of view. A decision isn’t expected for at least a few months.

    The post Comcast defends Time Warner Cable merger to Congress: ‘Bigger is good’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The National Labor Relations Board ruled on Wednesday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees and can unionize.

    Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter — shown here rolling out to pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during a 2012 game — testified on behalf of the College Athletes Players Association, which brought the case. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Northwestern University is asking the National Labor Relations Board to overturn a regional director’s ruling that the school’s football players are employees under federal law and thus entitled to unionize.

    The university filed a formal appeal board Wednesday, saying it had presented “overwhelming evidence” that its athletic program “is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first.”

    The players are set to vote by secret ballot April 25 on whether to form a union after petitioning for the ability to do so in late January.

    Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and Ramogi Huma of the College Athletes Players Association met in Washington with members of Congress earlier this month to press their case for unionization.

    The post Northwestern appeals NLRB ruling that athletes are employees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    D.C. 4th-grade student Sky Jabali-Rainey dressed as Marian Anderson on Wednesday for an event commemorating the African-American singer's 1939 performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. #onassignment for @newshour #washingtondc #vscocam #vsco

    Instagram photo by PBS NewsHour reporter and producer Joshua Barajas

    Sky Jabali-Rainey, a 4th-grade student from Washington, D.C., dressed as contralto Marian Anderson Wednesday for an event commemorating the African-American singer’s April 9, 1939, performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

    Anderson had been invited to sing in Washington 75 years ago by Howard University. With a large audience expected given her international reputation, the university originally wanted to host her at the Daughters of the American Revolution hall, but she was barred from performing there because of her race. So she instead sang outdoors at the Lincoln Memorial, beginning with “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” to a crowd of 75,000.

    On the NewsHour Wednesday, we take a look at youth who are commemorating Anderson’s legacy on the 75th anniversary of her performance at the Lincoln Memorial.

    The post ‘Of thee I sing:’ A tribute to a 20th-century great appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    jailtime

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    Timothy Fugatt, the minister of music at this church near Childersburg, Alabama, says that it’s his deep faith in God that got him through some tough times. His son, Cole, was born with a rare brain disease.

    TIM FUGATT: The spheres in his brain didn’t divide properly. So pretty much when you look through a CT scan, it was nothin’ but fluid.

    But life got even tougher after a seemingly minor incident in December of 2010 when he was pulled over by police and ticketed for an expired license plate tag.

    TIM FUGATT: I was coming from the hospital where had been staying with Cole there in the hospital. And as I come into town, they had– a traffic checkpoint.

    Timothy’s wife, Kristy, had also gotten tickets for two traffic infractions and both were ordered to appear in the Childersburg municipal court. The Fugatts told the judge about their hospitalized son and were both found “not guilty”, as these court documents show. But the judge ruled that the two still had to pay “court costs” of about $500.

    During this period, Timothy Fugatt says he was spending so much time at the hospital with his son that he couldn’t hold down a job, and with his wife also not working, they couldn’t afford to pay the court costs… so their case was turned over to Judicial Corrections Services, a private company that collects fines for the city.

    Fugatt says that Judicial Corrections Services, known as JCS, told him that he and his wife could be jailed if they didn’t pay what they owed.

    TIM FUGATT: They would just plain out say, you know, // “If– if you can’t pay then they’ll issue you a warrant for your arrest.”

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Did that scare you?

    TIM FUGATT: Of course.

    Fugatt says he did the best he could to pay off his family’s fines, but says when he couldn’t continue to pay and he and his wife missed at least one court date, they were arrested and jailed.

    TIM FUGATT: I felt completely like a criminal. I mean I didn’t sell drugs. I didn’t break into anyone’s home. I didn’t kill anybody. I had an expired tag.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: So you and your wife were found not guilty of the traffic violations. But still you were being arrested.

    TIM FUGATT: We were being arrested, yes. I was very upset, very angry

    They were released several hours later when a relative paid a portion of what they owed.

    That incident contributed to the Fugatt’s decision to become part of a lawsuit against Judicial Corrections Services and the town of Childersburg. The suit alleges that incarcerating people who can’t pay their fines violates the constitution. Though some experts argue that jail time is legal for those who don’t make a good faith effort to pay their fines, In 1971 The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution prohibits imposing “a jail term solely because the defendant is indigent and cannot forthwith pay the fine in full.”

    DAVID DINELLI: That’s exactly what’s happening here.

    David Dinelli is the deputy legal directory of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights organization that is not involved in the Fugatt’s lawsuit but has represented others in similar situations. Dinelli estimates a 1,000 people every month are going to jail in Alabama because they cannot afford to pay a fine.

    DAVID DINELLI: Everyone thinks that debtor’s prison is over. It’s behind us. It isn’t. As a matter of practice, and in some cases, policy, the courts ask one question, “Can you pay the fine.” If you can’t then you have to what’s called “sit it out in jail.” That is unconstitutional unless the court first conducts an inquiry into whether they’re indigent and the causes for their inability to pay the fine. Routinely what’s happening here is that no such inquiry is undertaken.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Did anyone in the court every try and assess whether or not you could afford the pay the fees?

    private probation

    TIM FUGATT: No, Sir. It was just pass and go. It was really fast. It was really fast.

    Collecting fines is more important than ever because many cities face budget shortfalls. But these same cities don’t have the personnel to collect the fines. So increasingly they turn to what are known as private probation companies. That’s where Judicial Corrections Services comes in.

    STEVEN BOONE: We were approached by the– the probation service. They found a niche.

    Childersburg officials declined to speak with us, so we met with Steven Boone, the finance director for Mountain Brook, a city neighboring Childersburg that also hired Judicial Correction Services. Its court is one of over a 1,000, in at least 12 states across the country, that’s hired a private probation company, according to Human Rights Watch.

    Judicial Correction Services collects fines at no cost to the cities it works for.

    STEVEN BOONE: They’re helping us to become more efficient, and they’re helping us to ensure that we don’t get a backlog of delinquent accounts that may ultimately get so old and people move away that we’ll never collect it. So it’s– I think it’s a win/win.

    SENATOR CAM WARD: I think private probation has a role.

    Republican state senator Cam Ward is the chairman of the judiciary committee and has been following the growing trend of private probation. Not only does Ward support the use of such companies, he believes the industry will continue to grow.

    SENATOR CAM WARD: Now, I will tell you this, I think the trend to privatization in– in the area of collections, I think that will continue all across the country until you see a concentrated effort to put more money into the collection services that the state runs.

    But these private debt collectors are by definition in business to make money. And even though they don’t charge the city anything, they charge offenders, like Timothy Fugatt, $45 a month plus a $10 start-up fee, until a debt is fully paid off. This on top of the $500 in court costs that Fugatt already owed.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Can you tell me if you were making an effort to pay these off?

    TIM FUGATT: We were. Yes, Sir. Even though, you know, I was makin’ the effort, I wasn’t gettin’ very far with it. It was– it was till all these fees adding up. So I wasn’t gaining much ground.

    Still, 4 months after their initial court date, documents show that the Fugatt’s scraped together enough to pay off almost $300 of the $500 they owed in court costs.

    But then things went from bad to worse.. in June of 2011, their son, Cole, died. A month later their house that had been in the family for generations was foreclosed upon. At this point the Fugatts say they were consumed with grief and were missing their appointments with JCS. Timothy says he explained the difficult circumstances his family was under, but he says the JCS probation officer wouldn’t work with him at all.

    TIM FUGATT: It was all at one time, just– just hit us all at once. And I explained it all to them. But we– you know, it was either pay or go to jail.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: Being threatened with a jail sentence, did that help you to come up with the money?

    TIM FUGATT: It helped to try a little harder. But, you know, still. I mean, as the old saying goes, you know, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.

    Over the next 8 months with JCS monthly fees adding up, the couple missed at least one court date each and were fined additional fees for failure to appear. Then a warrant for their arrest was issued. By the time of their arrest in February of 2012, the Fugatt’s had racked up $2,500 in additional court fines. Remember all this began with three traffic violations for which they were found not guilty.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: If– if you would’ve come up with the money that you owed Judicial Correction Services and you would’ve shown up for all of your appointments with them and to the courts, none of this would have ever happened?

    TIM FUGATT: You’re right. It– it wouldn’t have happened. But, you know, the situation I was in, I was doin’ what I could do, you know? I had– a dying child, // no steady job at that point because we were back and forth to the hospital, I was doin’ what I could do.

    David Dinelli of the Southern Poverty Law center says that people like the Fugatts end up paying JCS off for years because of all the additional fees and added fines that they often accrue.

    DAVID DINELLI: They’re in a system in which all they are doing is paying JCS, Judicial Collection Services on a monthly basis for the privilege of staying out of jail.

    We asked legal scholar and Columbia Law professor Gillian Metzger to take a look at the lawsuit and to evaluate the constitutionality of private companies, like Judicial Correction Services, collecting fines for cities like Childersburg. She has no involvement in the case.

    GILLIAN METZGER: Part of what due process requires– is that you have an impartial decision maker. And if the company that is imposing the fees and continuing your supervision has a financial interest in your staying under supervision, then that really calls– calls their– impartiality into question. And they have a financial motive. So there is, I think, a real constitutional issue here simply on that arrangement.

    Metzger also says the court is obligated to provide alternative options for an individual to pay off a debt to society, such as community service, if he or she is indigent.

    GILLIAN METZGER: If you’re not paying because you’re just too poor to pay, then the court can’t automatically imprison you. They have to do an investigation about alternative arrangements in order to– to allow you to work off the fine in some other way.

    We reached out to JCS multiple times for an interview, but we never received a reply. But on its website JCS says the lawsuit is “baseless.” We also tried unsuccessfully several times to ask the mayor of Childersburg, “BJ” Meeks, if he was satisfied with the services JCS has been providing the city, but city hall never responded to our request. So we went to a city council meeting to ask.

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: After speaking to some of the residents here, they feel like they’ve been threatened with a jail sentence if they don’t pay their fines and I wonder if you had a comment.

    MAYOR MEEKS: Well Then that’s up to the court system. Is, you know..

    JOHN CARLOS FREY: I mean, is it not unconstitutional to jail somebody who cannot pay their fee?

    MAYOR MEEKS: I don’t know, again, if the court system is satisfied with it under state Supreme Court jurisdiction…I know that we contract, we are one of the many many cities in Alabama that uses contract service, and the reason being because of not having enough personnel, we have…
    Even State Senator Cam Ward, who supports the private probation industry, has concerns.

    STATE SENATOR CAM WARD: What’s currently in existence is almost like the Wild West. There is no regulation. If you’re gonna create a system that, quote/unquote, is a “debtors prison,” all you’re doing is inviting yourself to a federal lawsuit, is what you’re doing.

    As for the Fugatts, after being charged an initial court cost of about $500 for traffic violations of which they were found not guilty… court documents provided by the Fugatt’s lawyers show that they’ve paid almost $1,300 to the Childersburg Court. It’s a number that doesn’t even include all the additional monthly fees they paid to Judicial Correction Services… a figure the City of Childersburg declined to provide us due to pending litigation.

    Timothy Fugatt says that his family still owes more money to Judicial Corrections Services. How much? He’s not sure. He says JCS stopped contacting him after the lawsuit was filed.

    The post Without funds to pay fines, minor incidents can mean jail time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    America's social welfare system has denuded the civic culture that immigrants to America helped shape. That's according to libertarian economist Charles Murray, who thinks the guaranteed basic income is the way to restore that culture.

    America’s social welfare system has denuded the civic culture that immigrants to America helped shape. That’s according to libertarian economist Charles Murray, who thinks the guaranteed basic income can restore that culture.

    Editor’s Note: Switzerland is considering a ballot referendum on an unconditional income of 30,000 Francs for all Swiss citizens. As the leader of the Swiss movement for a basic income, artist Enno Schmidt, told us, a guaranteed basic income would deconstruct the link between work and income. An economy under this system, he said, would be more about working with and helping each other. That may be easy to dismiss as a Swiss, if not European, way of thinking. But even though the guaranteed basic income hasn’t generated the same mainstream buzz in the United States, it has plenty of American proponents on both sides of the political aisle.

    Perhaps most outspoken among them is libertarian economist Charles Murray, who argues that a guaranteed income administered by the government would take the government out of people’s lives, and consequently, restore the fabric of American culture — a culture where people are responsible for each other. Murray, a longtime friend of Making Sen$e, spoke to us about his last book, “Coming Apart,” in 2012 and is the architect of our popular “Bubble Quiz.”

    The following transcript of Paul Solman’s extended conversation with Murray about the guaranteed income has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. Murray also appears in our Making Sen$e segment about the basic income, which you can watch below.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    Paul Solman: What’s the case for a minimum income?

    Charles Murray: From a libertarian’s point of view, we’re going to be spending a lot of money on income transfers, no matter what.

    Paul Solman: Why?

    Charles Murray: The society is too rich to stand aside and say, “We aren’t going to do anything for people in need.” I understand that; I accept that; I sympathize with it.

    What I want is a grand compromise between the left and the right. We on the right say, “We will give you huge government, in terms of the amount of money we spend. You give us small government, in terms of the ability of government to mess around with people’s lives.”

    So you have a system whereby every month, a check goes into an electronic bank account for everybody over the age of 21, which they can use as they see fit. They can get together with other people and then combine their resources. But they live their own lives. We put their lives back in their hands.

    Paul Solman: So this has similarities with the voucher movement; that is, give the money to people because they will know better how to spend it.

    Charles Murray: In that sense, it’s similar to a voucher program, but my real goal with all of this is to revive civil society. Here’s what I mean by that: You have a guy who gets a check every month, alright. He is dissolute; he drinks it up and he’s got 10 days to go before the next check comes in and he’s destitute. He now has to go to friends, relatives, neighbors or the Salvation Army, and say, “I really need to survive.” He will get help.

    But under a guaranteed basic income, he can no longer portray himself as a victim who’s helpless to do anything about it. And you’ve got to set up feedback loops where people say, “Okay, we’re not going to let you starve on the streets, but it’s time for you to get your act together. And don’t tell us that you can’t do it because we know you’ve got another check coming in in a couple of days.”

    A guaranteed basic income has the potential for making civic organizations, families and neighborhoods much more vital, helpful and responsive than they have been in decades.

    Paul Solman: And that’s because it shifts the blame? Because it doesn’t give people an excuse?

    Charles Murray: Yeah. It doesn’t give people the excuse of being helpless. Right now, people can say, “What am I going to do? There’s no job out there. There’s this or that.” If you’re getting a check every month, you are not without resources, and that opens up a whole new dialogue between you and the other people around you.

    America’s always been very good at providing help to people in need. It hasn’t been perfect, but they’ve been very good at it. Those relationships have been undercut in recent years by a welfare state that has, in my view, denuded the civic culture.

    And a basic guaranteed income has the potential for making a big, positive difference in American life.

    Paul Solman: How much difference?

    Charles Murray: The first rule is that the basic guaranteed income has to replace everything else — it’s not an add-on. So there’s no more food stamps; there’s no more Medicaid; you just go down the whole list. None of that’s left. The government gives money; other human needs are dealt with by other human beings in the neighborhood, in the community, in the organizations. I think that’s great.

    How Would It Work?

    Paul Solman: So what would this income look like?

    Charles Murray: Back in 2004 when I wrote a book called “In Our Hands” advocating this, I made it 10 grand a year. Ten grand a year is not enough to live a really terrific life all by yourself.

    But here’s the point, Paul: you put two people together, that’s $20,000. You put three people together, that’s $30,000. You put four together and that’s $40,000.

    Paul Solman: So this is per person.

    Charles Murray: Per person. $10,000 is going to be enough to have a decent existence if you can cooperate with some of your fellow human beings, and if by cooperate, we mean getting married, that’s one choice. If by cooperate you mean room together, that’s another choice. But that kind of resource can be used to get on with life.

    Paul Solman: So 10 years ago, you advocated for $10,000…So today that would be?

    Charles Murray: $11,000 or $12,000 today.

    Paul Solman: The typical family in America is about 2.6 people, I’d say. That’s about $30,000 a year.

    Charles Murray: It’s for people over 21. So if you have two adults, that’s $20,000.
    I don’t want to do it for people under 21. I want to keep the government out of the business of giving incentives to have or not have kids, or incentives to marry or not marry. One of the advantages of the basic guaranteed income is the government is just cutting checks. Paul, it’s one of the very few things that the federal government does well. And I want to keep them out of all the other kinds of decisions about how people live their lives.

    But What About Work?

    Paul Solman: What was the most trenchant objection you heard when you came out with that book 10 years ago?

    Charles Murray: The ordinary objection to the guaranteed basic income is first, work disincentives. There are answers to that. You have a very high cutoff point, whereby people have to start losing their stipend. So I made the cutoff point $25,000 in income that you get to make or keep.

    It could be higher. This is a matter of the details. It’s absolutely essential that you allow people to get jobs and keep hold of their money for a substantial amount of money. Another important objection is that you’re just going to have people go out and use the money for a get-together and rent a house on a remote beach in California and surf their lives away.

    Paul Solman: And smoke dope.

    Charles Murray: My reaction to that is, so what? We have a huge problem with people dropping out of the workforce right now. It’s not going to be any worse [with a guaranteed income]. And in fact, it’ll be better because I think we’re going to make it much more visible to people that they can have a middle class life if they combine some work with the basic income.

    So there are lots of reasonable objections to a guaranteed basic income. There are lots of ways you can do it wrong, where it’ll make matters much, much worse than they are now. My argument is that you can do it right and avoid all the obvious pitfalls.

    What’s Wrong with the Current System?

    Paul Solman: What’s an example of doing it wrong?

    Charles Murray: Doing it wrong would be to add a guaranteed basic income onto the current system. Then you have all of the defects of the current system, all the ways the government stage manages people’s lives, all the ways in which they have incentives to game the system, and you add on just a whole bundle of cash to that.

    Paul Solman: And I know, having read you for years, that part of your objection to the current system is the sprawl of the bureaucracy and costs that don’t actually benefit anybody but the people who have the jobs.

    Charles Murray: In a sense, I’ve always taken the view that saving money isn’t a big deal with this. It’s nice if we don’t pay bureaucrats that aren’t doing anything useful. It’s nice if we save some of that money.

    But what I’m talking about is going to be expensive. It’s actually now not going to be as expensive as the current system. When I wrote “In Our Hands” in 2004, I calculated the cost of that system would cross with the costs of the existing system in 2011, and I was right. So right now, you could have a guaranteed basic income if you cashed out all the income transfer programs.

    Paul Solman: Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security, disability?

    Charles Murray: Everything. This is a substitute for all the income transfers, including, by the way, agricultural subsidies, corporate welfare and all those kinds of things.

    But Will This Actually Ever Happen in America?

    Paul Solman: I am a sometimes betting man. What odds could I make on this particular wager?

    Charles Murray: Over the next 10 years, you ought to get really good odds. At some point, you know, this calculation — we’re spending x number of dollars per poor person — that we’ve been hearing for a long time, it’s getting real high. At some point, it’s going to be ridiculous to everybody on the left, as well as everybody on the right. We can get rid of poverty for a lot less than we’re spending now. And at that point, you can lower the odds.

    Paul Solman: Do you think this will happen in your and my lifetime? I mean, assuming that we live a lot longer than perhaps we will.

    Charles Murray: Look, our lifetime? Maybe it won’t happen. But I’ll tell you this: it’s conceivable to me that if wealth continues to increase as it has increased over the last century, that 200 years from now, people are going to be saying that the way to deal with human needs is to have these gigantic bureaucracies filter money through and give it with all kinds of conditions. I think a much simpler kind of system has to eventually be implemented. Unfortunately, they will have forgotten those of us who thought it was a good idea.

    How Would It Change America?

    Paul Solman: Isn’t this sort of the Roman Empire bread and circuses approach?

    Charles Murray: No. It’s just the opposite. Look, we’re talking about a country – the United States — that was exceptional and seen by all the world as exceptional because of our civic culture.

    Starting with Tocqueville and going through the rest of the century, America was neighborly in a way that no other civic culture was, even including Britain, which was the closest cousin. Americans helped each other out in ways that were wonderful, and they created what I like to think of as valued places for people with a wide variety of skills and positions. It was a pretty great system. It’s close to disappeared over the last 50 years. A basic guaranteed income has a chance of revitalizing that, and if I can convince people of that, if others can convince people of that, there’s a possibility of restoring the America that is special. The guaranteed income restores the social glue that made things work in the past.

    Paul Solman: And how does it do that?

    Charles Murray: In 1850, let’s say, if you had somebody who had a human need, that person had no choice but to go to neighbors, friends, community, philanthropic agencies. That was the only thing he had, and as a result, you had a very rich network of such people responding to other people’s needs, whether it’s feeding the person next door, or whether it’s joining a church, or whatever. The welfare state gave all sorts of ways in which you didn’t have to do that any more; in which we took human needs and said, “This bureaucracy downtown will handle all that stuff.”

    And lo and behold, people said, “Oh, okay. If you’re going to handle it then I won’t bother anymore.” I’m saying we’re going to go to a system where that bureaucracy downtown is cutting a check, but the human needs in the community have to be dealt with. Those who are in the best position to do that are not bureaucrats but people who know the person that experiences those human needs. Government now serves a role that it didn’t have enough money to serve before, which is to provide the basic guaranteed income.

    Why It’s Not Just for Poor Americans

    Paul Solman: Is it, in a sense, a social security system for everyone?

    It’s a civic revitalization system for everybody. This is not something that’s only going to be good for these poor folks who need help. It is going to be something that’s good for all of us because one of the problems with this country now is that we’ve gotten very good at leading glossy lives, those of us who have enough money. Our lives aren’t very textured any more, in a lot of cases. We’ve got a really nice house and a two-acre lot out in the subdivision, and we’re pretty disconnected from a whole lot of the stuff of life. Well, I’m not going to say that everybody in the subdivisions is going to get re-engaged in civic life, but some of them are. It’s going to be a whole lot richer civic life than we’ve known for decades.

    Where Does Inequality Fit In?

    Paul Solman: You wrote the book “In Our Hands” 10 years ago, where you proposed a minimum income.

    More recently, you’ve done the book “Coming Apart,” which is about massive inequality just among whites in America. How much of your enthusiasm for this idea has been rekindled by the awareness on your part of the growing inequality in this country?

    Charles Murray: Every reason for having a minimum income that I saw in 2004 is more urgent now than it was then. You know, the separation, the isolation, the cultural isolation of the different classes in this country is getting worse day by day. It’s in many ways as bad within the middle classes as it is in the working class and below.

    I don’t know if a guaranteed minimum income is going to do much for the civic culture of the 1 percent of the really wealthy, of those who are really isolated. Maybe they won’t benefit much from it. But if you’re talking about everybody else, which is the vast majority of Americans, they’re going to be living in communities that, I think, look a lot more like communities than we’ve seen in a long time.

    Why the Basic Income Will Work Best in America

    Paul Solman: What about Switzerland, where the guaranteed income is being proposed now?

    Charles Murray: The difference between us and elsewhere in the world is that we have a different legacy than everywhere else. Everybody who came here simply had an exceptional civic culture. When America installs a minimum income, it’s going to be doing it in a very different historical context than Switzerland or Sweden or Germany, or any other country might do it. And we’re doing it in a context where it has the potential, I think, for much better consequences than in those other countries.

    Paul Solman: Because we’re so pluralistic and diverse?

    Charles Murray: No, I’m saying that American civic culture historically was quite different and it didn’t have too much to do with our diversity. It had to do with the exceptional circumstances under which the country was formed — where you had people who had to cross the north Atlantic, which made them risk-takers. And in order to survive once they got here, they had to cooperate with whomever was found next door. They didn’t have the option of doing anything else, and we began to take pride in it over time. A lot of self-segregation was involved in that, whether it was the Scots-Irish in Scots-Irish communities, or Puritans in Puritan communities, but the neighborliness – which is a weak word for the richness of the civic culture — took root in all of these different groups in the United States. And after a while it became an essential part of the American way of life.

    Paul Solman: This is what economic historians talk about as central to early American development — the low labor to land ratio, right?

    Charles Murray: That’s part of it. But also think about Tocqueville; he points out that the local nature of government in this country sort of forced the classes to interact, and he has this lovely line about how the more opulent members of American society stay close to the lower classes. They talked to them every day. So part of it was this very decentralized system we had, whereby it was the community that took action dealing with human problems.

    The post Libertarian Charles Murray: The welfare state has denuded our civic culture appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dairy Cow

    A dairy cow chews grass in a field. Photo by Tony C. French/Getty Images


    What does the “cow of the future” look like? Or rather smell like? If all goes according to a new plan set out by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, cows will be a lot more couth and emit a lot less methane gas by way of burps.

    U.S. cows are the biggest source of methane emissions in the U.S., which produce more gas than landfill sites, natural gas leaks or even fracking.

    The project seeks to raise environmentally friendly cattle by implementing a healthy diet of anti-methane gourmet grains for the cows to aid digestion.

    “Ninety-seven percent of all the methane gas is released by the front end through burps, not from the back end,” Juan Tricarico, director of the Cow of the Future project, told the Financial Times.

    There are more than 88 million cows in the U.S., and a typical animal emits 250-300 liters of methane a day.

    One goal of the project is to reduce the carbon footprint of dairy cows by 27 percent within six years.

    Cost is the greatest obstacle in the implementation of the project, especially the adoption of the necessary tools and resources. But researchers working on the project remain hopeful that this work in progress will result in a “greener cow” and a greener earth.

    The post Taking the burp out of the bovine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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  • 04/10/14--13:45: Was Jesus married?
  • Photo courtesy of Harvard Divinity School

    Photo courtesy of Harvard Divinity School

    A document that suggests Jesus may have been married is, in fact, authentic, according to an article by the Harvard professor who revealed the ancient papyrus last September. The existence of the papyrus was first announced at the International Coptic Congress in Rome.

    The article, released online today by the Harvard Theological Review, explained that while “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” “concerns an early Christian debate over whether women who are wives and mothers can be disciples of Jesus,” it does not definitively say the historical Jesus was married.

    The document was originally written in standard Sahidic. King’s translation, which caused a stir because of its fourth line, reads:

    1 ] “not [to] me. My mother gave me li[fe . . .”
    2 ] .” The disciples said to Jesus, “. [
    3 ] deny. Mary is (not?) worthy of it [
    4 ] . . .” Jesus said to them, “My wife . . [
    5 ] . . . she is able to be my disciple . . [
    6 ] . Let wicked people swell up . . . [
    7] . As for me, I am with her in order to . [
    8                     ] . an image . . . [

    1                                        ]my moth[er
    2                                        thr[ee
    3                                        ]. . . [
    4                                       ]forth . . . [
    5–6                                   ](untranslatable) [

    Critics have claimed that the document was forged in modern times, but King says the age of the papyrus has been scientifically proven and dates back to sometime between the seventh and eighth centuries. She and her colleagues write that fabrication is a possibility, but may not be so simple in practice.

    The post Was Jesus married? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Students attend a school run by the Citizens Foundation in the area of Qayyumabad in Karachi, Pakistan. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    Students attend a school run by the Citizens Foundation in the area of Qayyumabad in Karachi, Pakistan. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    The two girls who were sitting on either side of education advocate Malala Yousafzai when a Taliban gunman boarded their school bus in 2012 and tried to kill her, are now working side-by-side with her again to tout an equal education for all girls and boys.

    Shazia Ramzan, 16, and Kainat Riaz, 17, are two of the 500 “global youth ambassadors” advocating for an international campaign to enroll 57 million children in primary school by the end of 2015 — the target date of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

    Shazia Ramzan, 16, from Swat Valley in Pakistan, overcame injuries to become a promoter of global education. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    Shazia Ramzan, 16, from Swat Valley in Pakistan, overcame injuries from being shot by the Taliban to become a promoter of global education. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    During a visit to Washington, D.C., at the launch of the global youth ambassador program, they both said that even when the Taliban had taken over their hometown of Mingora, the scenic capital of the mountainous Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan, they knew education for girls was their right.

    “When the Taliban came to Swat, girls were not allowed to go outside, to the shopping mall, or school,” said Ramzan. “But we said no, this is our right and we must continue our studies.”

    The girls’ teachers and principal agreed, but cautioned them not to wear their uniforms to school or they would draw attention.

    They also told the young students, “’You have to cover your books with your scarf,’ like the one I’m wearing, ‘because it is dangerous,’” said Ramzan. “When you go to school without your uniform and you don’t bring your bag, you don’t feel like it’s school.”

    Their families and others were evacuated from Mingora for several months in 2009, while the Pakistani military flushed out the Taliban. When the girls returned three months later, they continued going to school with little thought of the Taliban or anyone else wanting to do them harm.

    Kainat Riaz, 17, is one of the global youth ambassadors working to promote education for all girls and boys. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    Kainat Riaz, 17, is one of the global youth ambassadors working to promote education for all girls and boys. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    Riaz remembered the day of the attack on her school bus. She had told her mother the night before that she wasn’t feeling well and felt unprepared for an upcoming exam. She went to school anyway, and on the ride home, the man boarded the school bus and shot Yousafzai in the head and neck, Ramzan in her left hand and shoulder, and Riaz in her upper right arm.

    She went home. “I was crying, ‘Malala has died. Malala has died,’” she recalled. “My sister-in-law asked me, ‘What happened to you, Kainat?’ I was bleeding and didn’t know what happened to me.”

    While her friend, Yousafzai, was recovering at a hospital in England, there was a bombing behind Riaz’s home. This time, her neighbors said, “Kainat, you are very dangerous, please go away. This is very dangerous for you and for us.”

    She and Ramzan got scholarships to attend an international school in Wales, where the principal said he and his staff had heard about the girls and wanted to help. They are both studying to become doctors and plan to return to Pakistan.

    Riaz said she wants to go back to her hometown of Mingora, because there are only male doctors and she would like to be the first female doctor.

    “In my city, some people don’t know education is important, but one day they will know, inshallah (God willing),” she said.

    On Thursday’s PBS NewsHour, co-anchor Judy Woodruff talks to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now a U.N. special envoy on global education, about progress on the development goal. View all of our World coverage.

    The post School chums of Malala Yousafzai add their voices for education equality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel signed a joint vision statement with Mongolian Defense Minister Dashdemberal Bat-Erdene Thursday at Mongolia’s Ministry of Defense in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. The agreement calls for more U.S. military exercises with Mongolia as the country seeks “to modernize its military in a transparent fashion.”

    “A strong US-Mongolia defense relationship is important as part of the American re-balance to the Asia-Pacific region,” said Hagel at a joint press conference.

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    As part of tradition, Secretary Hagel was also presented with a horse by the Defense Minister. With the tradition stipulating the horse be named after something of importance to its recipient, Hagel chose the name Shamrock, after the mascot of his high school, St. Bonaventure, in Columbus, Neb. “It was one of the most important times of my life,” he said.

    Hagel’s visit to Mongolia wraps up a 10-day trip to Asian countries. The horse, however, will be staying in Mongolia to serve in the country’s honor guard battalion.

    The post PHOTOS: Hagel visits Mongolia to sign agreement, receives horse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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