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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: It might never have occurred to you, but a single round-trip flight between Chicago and Frankfurt, Germany burns about 3.5 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s- about what a medium-sized car in the United States burns for an entire year.

    This week, a couple of Swiss aviators announced another step to reduce the carbon footprint of flying.

    As students, they may have read the Greek myth about Icarus dying after flying too close to the sun. But that hardly has deterred these two men.

    After 12 years of research and testing….They finally unveiled Solar Impulse-2 in Switzerland earlier this week.

    It’s a huge solar-powered plane that has a wingspan wider than a 747’s. As big as it is, the new aircraft is actually no heavier than a large car, and it carries just the pilot. It’s covered in more than 17,000 solar cells.

    The designers and pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, have made several long trips on a previous version of the plane– including a flight across the Mediterranean — from Switzerland to Morocco. They say the new plane is even better.

    BERTRAND PICCARD: We have the best electrical motors, the best batteries, the lightest possible structure, the most efficient consuming electricity products in the airplane cockpit.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All this, Piccard predicts, will mean the plane’s thousands of solar cells can harness enough energy from the sun to keep the plane in the sky day and night.

    He better be right. Because he and his partner , are planning to fly the plane around the world sometime next year. A journey they expect will take 500 hours of flying- many of those over the world’s vast oceans.

    ANDRE BORSCHBERG: When we leave the coast of china, we don’t know what the weather looks like on the other side of the ocean.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It is that uncertainty which is both the risk and the adventure..

    The post Solar-powered plane revealed in Switzerland appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A new U.N. report on climate change released Sunday warns that humans have made little progress on environmental issues in recent years.

    Despite efforts by some countries to decrease carbon emission levels, “massive new policy changes are going to be needed,” said Dr. David Victor, who co-wrote the third installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report.

    In the last decade emissions have grown more rapidly than in any decade since 1970, he said.

    I spoke with Dr. Victor via Google+ Hangout about the concerns raised in the report and what governments need to do to address the effects of climate change.

    In a Google+ Hangout, Dr. Victor said he was “pretty impressed with the United States” in coming up with solutions to climate change, and added the U.S. has been part of the efforts to refocus the discussion so that both industrialized and developing countries are dealing with the problems associated with it.

    Note: Pardon my distraction during the first question in the above video — We’re on a street side at the studio, and several folks began pounding on the glass in front of me to get my attention (which they did). My initial summary of the first IPCC report should say that scientists found with 95 percent certainty that humans are responsible for these changes to our climate.

    The post New report warns of rapidly increasing carbon emission levels appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pro-Russian armed men stand guard while pro-Russian protesters gather near the police headquarters in Slaviansk

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about this intensifying crisis, we are joined via Skype by Peter Leonard of the Associated Press. So tell us, what are you hearing, what are you seeing right now?

    PETER LEONARD: Well earlier today I was in the town of Slovyansk which is about an hour and a half’s drive from here, which has been occupied as of yesterday by a group of armed gunmen.

    What was rather interesting about what we saw today as opposed to yesterday — yesterday we saw groups of men in camouflage, clearly well trained and well prepared for their seizure of the police station and later in the day the security services.

    But those people have since been replaced by what are jerkingly referred to as “concerned locals” — local people, many armed with guns.

    This is a pattern we have been seeing in Eastern Ukraine over the last week, that’s to say the seizure of government buildings and the consolidation of the occupation by local protestors.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So when you talk to the local people out there, what’s the mood? Do they think a showdown is imminent? Do they think they will be annexed by Russia?

    PETER LEONARD: Many of the locals who tend to gather around the seized buildings themselves tend to be very enthusiastic about the notion of autonomy first and then presumably annexation by Russia in the future.

    It’s very dangerous to assume that that reflects actually the general opinion in this part of the country, in fact polling suggests that the prospect of annexation by Russia is in fact not one that most people would welcome.

    The mood is I would say extremely tense. Journalists in particular — not to speak of Ukrainian journalists coming from the capitol– have faced consistent aggression, not only from the armed men who have seized these buildings but also from the local population who consider the Western media to be somehow complicit in what they deem to be a broad Western community’s attempt to undermine Ukraine.

    This is the outcome of essentially of very sustained Russian state television coverage of events in Ukraine which have basically painted the political crisis in Ukraine as the outcome of what they would describe as “Western meddling.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the prospects that there might be large-scale anti-terrorism action taken by Ukraine?

    PETER LEONARD: What this points to essentially is the fact that government seems to have lost control of parts of the east to the extent that they don’t really appear to have control over the police in any meaningful fashion. And as a result it would seem that as of today they would have to resort to deploying the army in order to regain full control over this part of the country.

    This obviously takes the whole situation from one of a law enforcement issue — which they’ve proven short of the task of actually coping with — to potentially a military offensive. And that seems like a very serious and worrying step indeed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Peter Leonard joining us from Donetsk tonight, thank you.

    PETER LEONARD: Thank you.

    The post Ukraine orders anti-terrorism action against separatist revolt appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    "The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown 1943-4." Maquette for plate V of the illustrated book "Jazz." Art by Henri Matisse/Image by Centre Pompidou

    “The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown 1943-4.” Maquette for plate V of the illustrated book “Jazz.” Art by Henri Matisse/Image by Centre Pompidou

    A battle with cancer in the 1940s left artist Henri Matisse confined to a wheelchair. Poor health prevented him from painting, but didn’t stop him from creating art. Instead of using a paintbrush, he began — as he described it — “painting with scissors.” Matisse cut shapes out of paper freehand, arranging and rearranging the forms until he was satisfied, then glued the compositions to paper, canvas and board.

    "Blue Nude (I) 1952." Gouache painted paper cut-outs on paper on canvas. Art by Henri Matisse/Photo by Robert Bayer, Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel

    “Blue Nude (I) 1952.” Gouache painted paper cut-outs on paper on canvas. Art by Henri Matisse/Photo by Robert Bayer, Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel

    Now, 120 of Matisse’s paper cut-outs — created between 1936 and 1954 — have been collected and will be on display at the Tate Modern in London. Tate director Nicholas Serota told Reuters that this is the first time many of these late works have been reunited for an exhibit.

    In the last 14 years of his life, Matisse designed and constructed the gouaches découpés on enormous scales.

    “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated,” Matisse said of his later work.

    "Icarus 1946" Art by Henri Matisse / Image by Centre Pompidou

    “Icarus 1946″ Art by Henri Matisse / Image by Centre Pompidou

    “They are more like installations or environments than paintings,” said Nicholas Cullinan, curator of “Henri Matisse: Cut Outs”. “They were a way of collapsing line and colour; at the same time they were a kind of sculpture — carving into pure colour.”

    The exhibit will move to the Museum of Modern Art in New York before the various works are returned to their respective galleries and private owners.

    "The Snail 1953." Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper mounted to canvas. Art by Henri Matisse / Image by Tate

    “The Snail 1953.” Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper mounted to canvas. Art by Henri Matisse / Image by Tate

    The post New exhibit of Matisse’s cut-outs shows how artist began ‘painting with scissors’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    For most of us, life was back to normal within days or weeks of the Boston Marathon bombings. But for hundreds of victims and their families, that will never be true.

    Among them are Paul and J.P. Norden, brothers from Stoneham, Mass. who both lost their right leg from the second explosion. The past 12 months have brought disappointment; they’d hoped to be back on the basketball court by now but aren’t quite ready. But there have been triumphs, too.

    Brothers J.P. and Paul Norden both lost their right leg from the second explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Photo courtesy of Twiceasstrong.com

    Brothers J.P. and Paul Norden both lost their right leg from the second explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Photo courtesy of Twiceasstrong.com

    The two co-wrote a book, “Twice as Strong,” which is due out this month. And they’re about to open a roofing business together. While the Nordens are anxious to move past the events of April, they recently sat down with WGBH host Emily Rooney to share their story.

    Watch the extended interview on YouTube. Also check out WGBH’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing anniversary.

    The post One year later, two brothers reflect on the marathon bombs that took their right legs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Social Security Administration has no idea who's in your family unless you tell them. That information can affect the benefits you collect. Photo by Flickr user Alex Proimos

    The Social Security Administration has no idea who’s in your family unless you tell them. That information can affect the benefits you collect. Photo by Flickr user Alex Proimos.

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

    Question: If my wife is collecting a spousal benefit based on a former husband’s earnings (not her own), may I as a spouse, file for a spousal benefit on her account or would I have to wait until she is collecting based on her own earnings? We are both at full retirement age.

    Larry Kotlikoff: Well, gee, this is a good question since, if I have the facts right, it seems like your wife is illegally collecting a benefit on her former husband. Once you get remarried, you can no longer collect a divorced spousal benefit.

    But perhaps her former ex died? If so, she’d be collecting a divorced widow’s benefit. And if you two got married after she turned 60, she’d be collecting this benefit legally.

    Social Security knows nothing about our families unless we tell them. So if you or your spouse gets remarried and doesn’t tell them, they may think you’re still single and keep sending the checks. If your wife’s ex didn’t die and she’s been collecting, she probably needs to repay her divorced spousal benefits to Social Security starting from the time you two got married.


    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    I hate to bear bad news, but there you go.

    The answer to your specific question is yes and no. Your wife needs to file for her retirement benefit in order for you to file for a spousal benefit. But she doesn’t need to collect her retirement benefit. In other words, if she is above full retirement age and below age 70, she can file for her retirement benefit and then suspend its collection.

    Question: First, I am not a baby boomer, but my question is important.

    I will be 74 in May 2014 and took Social Security retirement at 66 in 2006. I was divorced from my spouse in August 2006 after 21 years of marriage. My current Social Security retirement benefit in 2014 is $755. My spouse’s benefit at the time was about $200 a month more. Can I fix this? I receive no income from his higher benefit and I may be eligible. At the time, I was told there was nothing more coming to me. Is it too late? Your previous columns have indicated what I have always thought — Social Security people often give out inaccurate and untimely information. You have shown the complexities of the Social Security law, which is very helpful.

    Larry Kotlikoff: I’d triple check that they actually know to whom you were married. Also, if your ex has now passed away, you will be eligible for a divorced widow’s benefit, not a divorced spousal benefit (which is lower). So check if your ex is still alive and then head over to the local Social Security office and see if they owe you anything.

    Linda T.: I am 60 and collecting $2,400 in Social Security disability. My husband is nine months older than I am and retired. I was the higher wage earner. We estimate his Social Security payments, based on his earnings, to be $1,100 a month (plus cost-of-living adjustment increases) if taken at age 62 or $1,500 a month if taken at 66.

    How does he let the Social Security Administration know he wants to defer his claim on his own earnings until he is 66 and file a claim against mine at 62? My understanding is that he would receive a combination of his and mine at 62 that, in effect, pays him $1,200 a month. I understand that since I receive disability payments, my younger age is not a factor. The calculations would also be based on my full monthly payments, which are equivalent to age-66 benefits, when one is collecting disability.

    Do I have this all straight? Thank you!

    Larry Kotlikoff: Your husband can’t do what you suggest. He cannot apply just for a spousal benefit. If he does, he’ll be deemed to also be filing for his retirement benefit. And his own retirement benefit will likely exceed his spousal benefit, in which case he’ll receive it, not the spousal benefit. In other words, Social Security pays you the larger of two benefits if you try to take two benefits at once. (This is not strictly true, but it’s a close enough approximation for your case.)

    The rule for non-disabled spouses is that if spouse A files for his retirement benefit before full retirement age and spouse B has already filed for her retirement benefit, spouse A is deemed to be also filing for his spousal benefit. In your case, you aren’t formally collecting a retirement benefit, but for purposes of deeming, you are treated as if you were collecting a retirement benefit.

    No one can collect a spousal benefit by itself before full retirement age, and if one files for one’s retirement benefit early, even if one isn’t deemed to be filing for a spousal benefit (because one’s spouse hasn’t yet filed for a retirement benefit), the gig is still up. Just the fact of having filed for a retirement benefit prevents one from ever collecting a spousal benefit by itself in the future. This is true even if the retirement benefit filer suspends his retirement benefit starting at full retirement age and starts it up again, say, at 70.

    What’s best for you two? If you can swing it in terms of your cash flow and your maximum ages of life are pretty high (you need to plan to live to your maximum ages because you might), this is likely your best set of moves:

    A. Your husband should wait until he reaches full retirement age and then file just for his spousal benefit.

    B. When you reach full retirement age, you should suspend your retirement benefit (to which your disability benefit will automatically convert).

    C. When each of you reaches age 70, you should both start (restart in your case) your retirement benefits. They will begin at their largest possible values.

    Question: I am a self-employed male, age 65. I have never earned much, usually less than $10,000 a year. However, my income is quite flexible; I could earn much more. If my Social Security is based on my best years of income, would it be worthwhile to earn more in these last years before I start to collect my benefits? I don’t intend to start until I’m 70 and I have a family history of longevity.

    Larry Kotlikoff: Very good question. The answer is a big yes! I just ran your case through my company’s Maximize My Social Security software. I assumed you earned $10,000 per year, in today’s dollars, from age 20 on, but that you would earn $40,000 per year from now through age 70 (you’d retire the day you hit 70). With that increase in income, your lifetime benefits rise from $280,263 to $325,878. That’s a 16 percent increase. Your annual retirement benefit, measured in today’s dollars, would rise from $13,087 to $15,217.

    The extra Social Security payroll taxes you and your employer would need to pay over the next four years on the $40,000 would total $19,840. But your lifetime benefits would rise by $45,615. So you would clear over $25,000 in extra Social Security benefits net of extra Social Security taxes. If you have a spouse or young or disabled children who can collect benefits on your earnings record, the gain would be even larger compared to the extra taxes. Moreover, if you die, your spouse and qualifying children will receive 16 percent higher widow and survivor child benefits.

    Question: What is the best way to determine my wife’s Social Security benefit? I am 70 and drawing benefits and she is 56. We are both retired.

    Larry Kotlikoff: You can go online and retrieve her earnings record and then paste it into a software program that can calculate not just what she’ll collect if she starts collecting at a certain date, but also when it is best for her to start collecting.

    Joanne: I am a widow. I will be 65 this year. Until July 2013, I was working full time but am now working part time. Would I be able to collect my Social Security starting at 65 and then switch to my spousal benefit when I reach 66? Would my late husband’s continue to accrue in the meantime so that I can collect the full retirement benefit?

    Larry Kotlikoff: You can collect your retirement benefit starting now and your widow benefit starting at full retirement age (66 in your case). Or you can start collecting your widow’s benefit and let your retirement benefit grow through age 70. Only first-rate software can tell you which strategy is best.

    Since you are still working, you may lose some benefits (whichever you take) due to the earnings test, which is operational up to the day you reach full retirement age. But any benefits you lose via the earnings test ​are made up by receiving higher benefits after reaching full retirement age — thanks to what’s called the adjustment of the reduction factor.

    On the other hand, if you take your retirement benefit starting now, and lose some retirement benefits due to the earnings test and then switch to your widow’s benefit at 66, you will, at this point, get only your widow’s benefit. The adjustment of the reduction factor, which will raise your retirement benefit, won’t be able to undo your loss of retirement benefits due to the earnings test because you won’t be taking this higher retirement benefit. Instead, you’ll be taking your even larger widow’s benefit.

    The post Why we need to tell Social Security who our families are appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday, with 13 awards given to different categories under journalism and seven awarded under books, drama and music.

    Both The Guardian and The Washington Post staffs celebrate their joint Public Service Pulitzer Prizes

    For journalism, The Guardian U.S. and The Washington Post shared the Public Service Pulitzer for their reporting on the National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance. The Guardian was credited for “authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security” and the Post for helping to “spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.” Coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings earned the Boston Globe staff a Breaking News Reporting Pulitzer for its “exhaustive and empathetic” coverage of the aftermath and manhunt. No award was given for Feature Writing.

    The New York Times swept the photo awards, with Josh Haner’s photo essay about a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing attempting to rebuild his life after losing his legs in the event, and Tyler Hicks’ coverage of terrorist attacks at the Westgate Mall in Kenya winning the prizes.

    For books, drama and music, Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” — the story of a boy who is drawn to a small piece of art after the death of his mother — won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In its win, the book was hailed as “a book that stimulates the mind and touches the heart,” with “exquisitely drawn characters.”

    The full list of 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners, via Pulitzer.org, is below:


    PUBLIC SERVICE – Two Prizes: The Guardian US and The Washington Post

    BREAKING NEWS REPORTING – The Boston Globe Staff

    INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING – Chris Hamby of The Center for Public Integrity, Washington, D.C.

    EXPLANATORY REPORTING – Eli Saslow of The Washington Post

    LOCAL REPORTING – Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia of the Tampa Bay Times

    NATIONAL REPORTING – David Philipps of The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO

    INTERNATIONAL REPORTING – Jason Szep and Andrew R.C. Marshall of Reuters

    FEATURE WRITING – No award

    COMMENTARY – Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press

    CRITICISM – Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer

    EDITORIAL WRITING – The Editorial Staff of The Oregonian, Portland

    EDITORIAL CARTOONING – Kevin Siers of The Charlotte Observer

    BREAKING NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY – Tyler Hicks of The New York Times

    FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY – Josh Haner of The New York Times

    Books, Drama and Music

    FICTION – “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown)

    DRAMA – “The Flick” by Annie Baker

    HISTORY – “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832″ by Alan Taylor (W.W. Norton)

    BIOGRAPHY – “Margaret Fuller: A New American Life” by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

    POETRY – “3 Sections” by Vijay Seshadri (Graywolf Press)

    GENERAL NONFICTION – “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation” by Dan Fagin (Bantam Books)

    MUSIC – “Become Ocean” by John Luther Adams (Taiga Press/Theodore Front Musical Literature)

    The post 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners announced appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama shake hands in the White House's Oval Office on Feb. 22, 2013. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama shake hands in the White House’s Oval Office on Feb. 22, 2013. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

    TOKYO — In diplomacy, as in musical theater or opera, words go only so far before the music takes over. That proposition will be put to the test again when President Obama visits Japan later this month on a mission to America’s No. 1 ally in Asia that has gained new urgency since it was first planned months ago.

    What had been projected originally as a trip primarily to speed up negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership regional trade agreement has been transformed into a test of U.S. solidarity. Not only words but gestures and body language between Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be scrutinized by officials, analysts and an omnipresent Japanese media.

    According to officials and analysts in Tokyo, Abe’s administration is looking for yet another assertion of the primacy of the post-World War II U.S.-Japan alliance. And specifically from the president they want and expect a reaffirmation of statements already made by his secretaries of state and defense that the U.S.-Japan security treaty commits the U.S. to come to Japan’s aid if the growing tensions between Japan and China over the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea turn into a military conflict. The diplomatic wording for this is that Article 5 of the treaty covers the islands.

    Ever since President Richard Nixon’s 1972 opening to China, Japanese officials and analysts have worried that Washington would focus its attentions on Beijing and in the worst-case scenario would try to create a so-called G2 directorate in Asia that would leave Japan on the sidelines.

    Repeated assurances from Washington have done little to abate those fears in Tokyo, and they grow only more intense as China’s economy and military power expand and Beijing grows more assertive in describing its core interests and territorial claims. That rising power is often measured against two decades of relative Japanese economic decline and a nation slowly coping three years later from the tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukushima. (The economic decline is indeed relative. As a visiting British politician once famously remarked, “If this is a recession, I want one.” Japan and its 127 million people have created the world’s third largest economic power and to a visitor, Tokyo appears prosperous and adorned with fabulous restaurants.) Atop the local concerns, is tea-leaf reading of every possible indicator of relative American decline or diminished willingness to use or threaten military force.

    And while Japanese officials decline to speak of a post-Crimea world (“I won’t give you that headline,” said one), analysts talk more openly of an increasingly dangerous five to 10 years ahead in the Asia-Pacific region. Already a major league arms race is underway from India to Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia. As the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted in its Military Balance book last year, for the first time in modern history, Asian nations are spending more than European countries on their militaries.

    “We are going through a very painful process of creating a new type of world,” said one former diplomat. In this part of the world, that means dealing with China. And the pre-occupying question he raised: “Are the U.S. and Japan seeing eye-to-eye on China policy?” Japanese analysts see overwhelming strategic stakes in Asia and worry that the U.S. administration is more focused on merely managing the U.S.-China relationship.

    Beyond a more assertive China, the Obama administration is also dealing with Abe’s more assertive and nationalist Japanese government. The Abe administration has taken steps that have gained Washington’s approval, especially asserting the primacy of the American alliance after its short-lived predecessors tried and failed to make a tilt away from the U.S. to China.

    But in both Tokyo and Washington, there is agreement among analysts that Abe has created or exacerbated new tensions in the region that are complicating Japanese and American diplomacy. Foremost among them, the prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 World War II Class A war criminals are enshrined along with fallen Japanese military over the past century. Abe’s visit drew a rare public rebuke from the U.S. as well as new rounds of vitriol from both China and South Korea.

    As Yuki Tatsumi, a Stimson Center analyst wrote in the Japan Times, the visit reignited concerns in Washington “about Abe’s capacity to make decisions based on broad strategic calculations.”

    On the surface the shrine in central Tokyo, which is easily accessible on the city’s vast subway network, appears a placid place, drawing thousands of visitors of all ages amid blossoming cherry trees and vendors selling food for family picnics. At the shrine itself, visitors put coins in a fountain honoring war dead.

    A museum on the grounds is more problematic. For instance, one of the panels in English asserts that World War II was set off by the U.S. oil embargo against Japan, which preceded Pearl Harbor by several months. Another tries to draw a historical line between Japanese occupation of Asian nations and their eventual independence from European colonialism.

    As several analysts mentioned, the Abe visit to Yasukuni reflected his dueling instincts between pragmatism and nationalism. In a previous term as prime minister, he bolstered relations with Beijing. They are now in tatters and official dialogue between the region’s two major powers is minimal. Similarly, relations between Japan and South Korea have continued to deteriorate over territorial disputes and statements by some Japanese officials minimizing the issue of Korean women forced into prostitution by the Japanese army during the war.

    And as several analysts here mentioned, there is a growing Japanese popular backlash against continued criticism from China and South Korea on the “history” issue and a feeling Japan already has apologized and paid enough for war-time atrocities. But the problem, as one Western diplomat put it, is that the Japanese governing class has never absorbed the lesson now embedded in German politics and psychology, that there is no statute of limitations on remembrance and atonement.

    Indeed, the tricky part of President Obama’s trip, which also takes him to the Philippines and Malaysia, will continue when he goes from Japan to South Korea. The president did manage to organize a photo opportunity and brief meeting between Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye during the Hague nuclear summit, the first high level contact between the ostensible allies in months. Much remarked upon in Tokyo, though only barely noticed in Washington, is how South Korea under President Park is increasingly drifting into China’s political and economic orbit despite Seoul’s military alliance with the U.S.

    But for Tokyo, as one analyst put it, there will be one overriding issue in the presidential visit — that the United States remains committed to a strong military presence in Asia. Often forgotten in the United States is that Japan is the U.S. forward position in the Pacific, with more than 50,000 U.S. military personnel based on the home islands and Okinawa as well as the port for the Seventh Fleet.

    That analyst along with others asserted that psychology is as important as weaponry in deterrence, in this case dealing with China and what many here see as its push for regional supremacy and control of its neighborhood. The American president, he added, must show that “the U.S. commitment to Japan is a vital core U.S. interest.”

    The Japanese will be listening for both the words and the music.

    Michael D. Mosettig was the PBS NewsHour’s foreign affairs and defense editor from 1985 to 2012. He now watches wonks push policy in Washington’s multitude of think tanks and writes occasional dispatches on what those scholars and wannabe secretaries of state have in mind for Europe, Asia and Latin America.

    The post An anxious Japan awaits Obama visit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Wall Street got the week off to a good start, as stocks recovered ground lost in last week’s sell-off.  The Dow Jones industrial average gained 146 points to close at 16,173. The Nasdaq rose almost 23 points to close at 4,022. And the S&P 500 added nearly 15 to finish at 1,830.

    A powerful bomb ripped through a bus station in Nigeria today, killing 71 people and wounding 124. The blast in Abuja was the worst terrorist attack ever in the nation’s — in the African nation’s capital. It destroyed dozens of buses and cars, and left charred, mangled metal amid the blood stains.

    President Goodluck Jonathan visited the scene and blamed Boko Haram, the Islamist group that’s killed thousands in Nigeria’s Northeast.

    A wildfire burned for a third day in Valparaiso, Chile, as the military moved to evacuate 700 more families. The fire, which erupted Saturday, has killed 13 people, forced thousands to flee and destroyed 2,000 homes. Firefighters worked through the night to contain flames being whipped by Pacific Ocean winds.

    Today, air and ground crews tried to keep the blaze from consuming even more homes.

    JAQUELIN BRAVO, Valparaiso Resident (through interpreter): It is very hard to be in a place where you grew up, played, ran, and had a good time, and shared with so many people, and today no one has anything. To be burned like this, in ruins, it’s as if a war has happened.

    GWEN IFILL: The Chilean forestry agency warned it could take another 20 days to extinguish the fire.

    Syria has now shipped out about two-thirds of the raw materials for chemical weapons that it admits to having. But the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said today Damascus still has a long way to go to meet a June 30 deadline. A U.N. agreement mandates that Syria’s entire chemical stockpile be destroyed by that date.

    Exposes on government surveillance won Pulitzer Prizes today for The Washington Post and The Guardian in the public service category. Their stories were based on leaks by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency worker. The Boston Globe won for breaking news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. New York Times images of the Boston victim’s recovery took the feature photography prize. The Times also won for breaking news photos of the mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya. In the arts, Donna Tartt won the fiction prize for her novel “The Goldfinch.”

    We will have more on the continuing debate over those surveillance stories later in the program.

    Also ahead on the NewsHour: the widening unrest in Eastern Ukraine; a look at the deadly shootings near Kansas City; Myanmar tries to move on after years of rebellion; plus, the robot taking the search for the missing jetliner 15,000 feet under the sea.

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    Editor’s Note: On the PBS NewsHour Monday, we mistakenly referred to the man suspected of shooting and killing three people in Kansas as Franklin Glenn Cross. His name is Frazier Glenn Cross (or Frazier Glenn Miller). The transcript has been edited to reflect the correct name.

    GWEN IFILL: Federal and state authorities continued their investigation today into the shootings in Kansas that left three people dead.

    Federal authorities confirmed it today. They believe the Passover eve shootings at two Jewish community sites were motivated by hate.

    JOHN DOUGLASS, Overland Park, Kansas, Police Chief: We have unquestionably determined through the work of local and federal law enforcement agencies that this was a hate crime. We need the verification of some investigation to make this determination. It’s more than just an opinion; it’s actually a legal status.

    GWEN IFILL: The suspect in Sunday’s shootings, 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross, also faces state charges of first-degree murder.

    Police say that Cross is also known as Frazier Glenn Miller, a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. After his arrest, he yelled Nazi slogans from a patrol car.

    FRAZIER GLENN CROSS, Suspect: Heil Hitler!

    GWEN IFILL: The gunman’s first target was a popular Jewish community center, where two people died, a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather, who was dropping him off for a singing competition. They were not Jewish.

    Today, the boy’s mother, Mindy Corporon, spoke to reporters.

    MINDY CORPORON, Mother of Shooting Victim: People keep saying, how come you’re so strong? And I’m strong because I have family. I’m strong because I have faith. I know that God didn’t do this. I know that there are evil, evil actions.

    But what we do have is each other, and we have love and we have prayer and we have friends. He was with us for a wonderful 14 years. He had a really full life for a 14-year-old, and we were very blessed.

    GWEN IFILL: A theater coach says she huddled inside, in lockdown, for about 90 minutes with a group of children in her care.

    JENESSA WATKINS, Witness: It was really scary. I mean, people are calling their loved ones. And I thought that I was fine and under control, but — and when I called my mom and she started crying and then I started crying. And I kind of just couldn’t help but think about Sandy Hook, just looking around at these very young children. And I was really scared.

    GWEN IFILL: Minutes later, a third person was killed outside a Jewish assisted living center about a mile away. She, too, was Christian.

    In Washington this morning, President Obama joined in condemning the attack.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.

    And as a government, we’re going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation. As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims. We’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.

    GWEN IFILL: Cross has not yet appeared in court. Formal charges could come tomorrow.

    As it turns out, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, has been keeping its eye on the suspect in this latest crime for some time.

    Mark Potok of the center has more about his history and beliefs. He joins us from Montgomery, Alabama.


    So, the authorities said today — the federal authorities, U.S. attorney said — and the FBI — this was definitely a hate crime. So start off for us — for us defining what that means.

    MARK POTOK, Southern Poverty Law Center: Well, a hate crime simply means a crime that is motivated largely or in whole by a particular type of prejudice.

    It varies according to the state law, but generally it’s sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, those kinds of things. So — and the classic hate crime is where a person kills another person who he doesn’t know at all. And that is precisely what appears to have happened here. It seems that Cross allegedly murdered people simply because they were Jewish — or he thought they were Jewish, wrongly.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that’s — that’s an important point, actually. It doesn’t matter in this definition whether the victims were actually of the group that he was seeking to terrorize.

    MARK POTOK: That’s right. It has no legal meaning at all. It’s simply what he thought he was doing.

    GWEN IFILL: So tell us about Frazier Cross. What do you know?

    MARK POTOK: Well, we have known him as Frazier Glenn Miller before he apparently legally changed his name to Cross as a grand dragon of a group called the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan back in the early ’80s.

    He later formed a group called the White Patriot Party. Both of these groups were essentially Klan groups, but that were very paramilitary in orientation. They marched through the streets with guns. They wore fatigues, that kind of thing.

    We got involved because we sued the White Patriot Party in the Carolina Knights over their intimidation of black people in North Carolina, and also their operating of a paramilitary organization. It turned out they were actually being trained and supplied with stolen weapons by active-duty Marines at Fort Bragg. So it was quite a scandal at the time.

    Ultimately, Glenn Miller decided — agreed to break up his group, to stop operating as a paramilitary organization. He broke that agreement, was convicted of contempt, went on the lam and was a fugitive until the FBI found him in 1987 in a trailer filled with explosives, with grenades, with weapons and, as it happens, also a plan to murder, to assassinate the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, where I work, Morris Dees.

    GWEN IFILL: So if it turns out…

    MARK POTOK: But that was really our original encounter with Glenn Miller.

    GWEN IFILL: So if it turns out that he indeed is found guilty of a hate crime, what is the penalty? Is it a more severe penalty than if he was just found guilty of an attempted or committed murder?

    MARK POTOK: I don’t think so, because I think in this case he can be charged under state law with a capital crime.

    The federal hate crime statute doesn’t have a death penalty provision in any case. There are some civil rights laws that conceivably could bring the death penalty to bear. But I don’t think — you can’t get any worse than death. And that is what he is very likely going to be tried for in the state.

    GWEN IFILL: You know, it is easy to dismiss people who make these kinds of threats as simply being — maybe not so simple — unbalanced. How do you make the distinction about when they cross the line into being dangerous in a way that can help head off at the pass these kinds of attacks?

    MARK POTOK: Well, two things.

    One, I think it’s a mistake to describe all people on the extreme right or even most people as mentally ill. That is a way of kind of pushing it away and saying it really has nothing to do with what is going on in our society.

    The reality is, our society is changing. We are becoming less white, that, of course, very much represented in the election of a black president. And people like Glenn Miller are reacting. Now, Glenn Miller is a particularly vicious and violent man, certainly in his rhetoric over the years and the kinds of things he’s tried to do.

    You know, there really — but the reality, of course, about somebody like Glenn Miller is that when he says that the world would be a wonderful place if only we killed all the Jews, he is 100 percent protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. So it’s very hard to say — to look at someone like Glenn Miller, who didn’t do much for the last 20 years, other than publish propaganda, and say he looks like he is about to commit a mass shooting.

    I don’t think there was really any indication that that was coming.

    GWEN IFILL: For anybody watching who is a little confused, I want to be clear this man goes by a couple different names, Frazier Glenn Cross, Glenn Miller, Frazier Miller, just so everybody knows we’re talking about the same person.

    Are people like this always loners, individuals, or are there conspiracies out there we should be keeping — or that you are keeping an eye on?

    MARK POTOK: Much, much more often than not these days, they are loners, so-called lone wolves.

    And that is largely because conspiracies tend to be found out so very quickly, and often quite easily by law enforcement. And also conspiracies, when actually a whole group of people actually plan a crime or a domestic terrorist attack, they will very likely all go down if even only one of them is caught.

    So, today, almost all of these attacks, certainly the most dangerous attacks, come from lone wolves or people with operating with just one or two friends like, for instance, Timothy McVeigh in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995.

    GWEN IFILL: At what point — you mentioned Timothy McVeigh — that is an example. At what point do we begin to treat these kinds of attacks as domestic terrorism, not just as hate crimes or individual acts?

    MARK POTOK: Well, I mean, they are domestic terrorism. Let’s be plain.

    There is nothing to distinguish this from other forms of terrorism. It is a way in this case of terrorizing the Jewish community around Kansas City in particular, but around the country in general. And that’s what terrorism is. It’s a criminal act that is aimed at far more people than the immediate victims.

    You know, the law enforcement has been off and on about being candid about the terrorist nature of these attacks. But I think, today, by and large, American law enforcement is perfectly well aware that there is a very serious domestic radical right and some people within that milieu are, in fact, terrorists.

    GWEN IFILL: And we expect formal charges to be brought against him tomorrow.

    Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, thank you very much.

    MARK POTOK: A pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to Ukraine, where the government in Kiev appealed today for U.N. peacekeepers. That’s after pro-Russian gunmen defied demands to surrender. They now control key buildings in 10 eastern cities.

    We begin our coverage with a report from Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News. She’s in Ukraine.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: They may look like a disorganized mob, but the authorities in Kiev are sure that the men who attacked the police building in Horlivka today were acting on orders from Moscow.

    The crowd that gathered was enthusiastic, but Western journalists were not welcomed. The police inside didn’t get much choice. If they remained loyal to Kiev they would be beaten up. The crowd chanted, “Bring the real government.”

    MAN (through interpreter): We demand the people’s head of internal affairs in the region. This is our only demand, for that person to support the people. All the heads of regional administrations have switched to the size of the people and refuse to recognize the government in Kiev.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: One of the intruders raised a Russian flag and got rid of the Ukrainian colors.

    A few streets away, we saw a group of young men marching around town carrying the Russian flag. People seemed unsettled by the turn of events, but had no faith in the authorities in Kiev.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): For sure, they must consider the opinion of the people in the southeast, in Donbass. They put us down. We want them to hear our opinions. We want a referendum and Russian to be an official language.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: In the regional capital, a group calling itself the People’s Republic of Donetsk has controlled the municipal building for more than a week now.

    The pro-Russian groups occupying government buildings like this across the Donetsk region took absolutely no notice of the Ukrainian president’s deadline this morning. That makes the authorities in Kiev look weak. And if President Putin’s aim is to destabilize Eastern Ukraine, he’s succeeding.

    They’re calling for a referendum on Donetsk becoming independent, sort of.

    ALEKSANDER MALTSOV: I don’t want listen Kiev. I don’t want to listen Europe or United States. That’s why.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: What about Moscow?

    ALEKSANDER MALTSOV: Moscow, they are our brothers.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: At the entrance to the town of Slavyansk, seized by pro-Russian forces yesterday, they believe they have God on their side.

    But if prayer is not enough, behind the barricades of tires, they had Molotov cocktails at the ready. No need. There was no sign of the anti-terror operation to dislodge them promised by the Ukrainian government.

    The man in charge insisted that a local camera crew film us. “It would be evidence,” he said, if he took us to court for failing to tell the truth as he saw it.

    “MIKHAIL,” (through interpreter): I speak Russian. I live in Russ — no, I — I mean, in Ukraine. Look, the situation is as follows. There are too many provocateurs, and that’s why we duplicate the video of all the reporters who come here to film, so we can see if you change the information, and we will tell the whole world that yours is the worst channel.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Inside Slavyansk, crowds gathered, and the men in charge felt secure enough to hold a press conference.

    VYACHESLAV PONOMAREV, Pro-Russian Protest Leader (through interpreter): Dear president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. We ask you to look personally into the current situation and help us to the extent possible. In a sign of unity of the two brotherly nations, we will raise the flag of Donetsk Republic next to the flag of the Russian Federation.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Nothing disorganized about those in control here. They were professional soldiers with all the kit, and they looked uncannily like the men who seized government facilities in Crimea in February, just before a hastily organized referendum and annexation by Russia.

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    Pro-Russian Protesters Declare Federal Republic of Donbass

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama and Russian President Putin spoke by phone this afternoon, but the White House gave no details.

    Spokesman Jay Carney did say the U.S. is looking for ways to support Ukraine, but not with any kind of lethal aid.

    So who is behind these separatist takeovers in Eastern Ukraine?

    For an assessment of the situation there, we turn once again to Adrian Karatnycky. He’s a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He just returned from a trip to Ukraine earlier this month. And Michael McFaul, he was U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 until this past February. He’s now a professor of political science at Stanford University.

    Welcome to you both.

    Adrian Karatnycky, who are these people? They appear to be in camouflage uniforms, very well-armed. They seemed — it seems orchestrated. What is known?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, Atlantic Council: It is already known because of telephone intercepts and conversations on their internal communications that have been revealed by the Ukrainian security forces that these people are acting under the direction of Russian minders.

    In fact, the person who orchestrated — the political technologist who orchestrated the takeover of Crimea is now their point of contact. These people are perhaps, some of them, redeployed forces from Crimea. There are not very many of them as yet, probably less than a couple hundred. There are not — they are not deployed in all the cities where there have been these kinds of takeovers.

    But, generally, the typical pattern is 20 or so of these soldiers heavily armed, semiautomatic, automatic weapons, grenade launchers, move quickly, lightning bolt speed. They overwhelm local police, who basically are carrying pistols and light firearms. They immediately are followed by a group of 50 to 100 black-masked thugs who are also — who probably are people who were used in the violence against the protest movement that brought down Mr. Yanukovych, when thousands of these thugs and strongmen and groups from criminal gangs were used to suppress and actually to abduct and to kill protesters.

    And then the third layer is a combination of, I would say, fringe pro-Russian groups and fairly poor people, who apparently are being paid about $50 a day, which is a lot of money in Ukraine, to come out and protest. And there are phone numbers that have been revealed, and people have made phone calls, journalists, to a number of people who are organizing these groups.

    They are offering money for participation. Some people are participating legitimately, but, in most cases, if you look at the crowds, you’re talking about 500 people, 1,000 people. You don’t have kind of the groundswell of the masses of the population in any of these city centers.

    And, as importantly, in the main center in Donetsk, you don’t seem to have clearly the support of the political elites. The political elites are biding their time. I think they’re using these protests to negotiate a stronger bargain with Kiev. But I think they are playing with fire.

    But, basically, I would say there is a substantial Russian-coordinated military and paramilitary engagement. And I would believe that there may be a hand of Mr. Yanukovych and his former interior minister, who built these networks of thugs to suppress protests and now are across the border 100 miles or so from the Ukrainian border in Rostov.

    And they, I believe, are helping to coordinate or are in cooperation with Russian security services and the Russian military intelligence, helping to coordinate and to bring to bear all those assets in the service of this theater and of this what I would call in some cases acts of terrorism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Adrian Karatnycky, you answered several questions I had there about how well-organized it is and how much support there is among the general population.

    Michael McFaul, what does this say that Russia wants? There are troops on the border, but the Russian — the Russian leadership, we know Putin and others have talked about a federation. What — what system of government is Russia looking for in Ukraine?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL, Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia: Well, first and foremost, they’re not looking for a system of government. They’re looking for a weak government.

    They’re trying to undermine what they consider, what they call the illegitimate government in Kiev. And they’re being rather successful at it. As Adrian, I think, very eloquently and comprehensively, just described, this is a very effective campaign. And the government in Kiev now looks weak.

    People on the right are criticizing the government for being ineffective. And so what their long-term objective is may be unclear. But their short-term objectives are very clear. That is to destabilize the government of Ukraine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Michael McFaul, staying with you, but just to be — to drill in on this a little bit more, what is the difference between a government in Ukraine the Russians could live with and something they can’t and won’t live with?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL: You know, I don’t think Vladimir Putin knows the answer to that question himself right now.

    Let’s be clear that he pivoted after a different kind of strategy that he was following for years, where he thought he could economically dominate all of Ukraine. That fell through for him. And he then moved into Crimea. And that was a tactical reactionary move.

    And for him, it seems like it’s been pretty cost-free. So he is encouraged to go further. And I think that is what you are seeing in Eastern Ukraine right now. I don’t want to pretend that I know his final outcome, what he says. I know what he says, which is they want a federal system of government, they want a government that listens to the people that speak Russian and are ethnically Russian in Eastern Ukraine.

    But there are lots of ways that that could be done without military intervention, armed military intervention in Eastern Ukraine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Adrian Karatnycky, back to you. The government in Kiev has several times given deadlines, and those deadlines have passed. What ability do they have to stop what is going on?

    ADRIAN KARATNYCKY: I guess Ukrainians don’t have the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt, speak softly and carry a big stick. They seem to be on Facebook, and they seem to be posting and making all sorts of demands.

    And they are looking very weak. I do think that the Ukrainian government doesn’t want to have a bloodbath. I think they have already made — if they are capable of carrying out military and security operations in the coming days, I think they will only try to target people who are carrying weapons and take them out at points where there might not be large crowds of civilians.

    I think they are very — they’re trying to be very careful not to provoke a bloodbath that might turn the population, which at the moment is relatively passive in many of these places, very nervous, because you have to remember these guys are not just coming in and taking over. They’re creating their own governments. They’re actually getting rid of people who are elected and who seem to have in most of these places enjoyed the support of the local — you know, the local citizenry.

    And now there’s a sort of a breakdown of the delivery of services. There’s a question of whether money will be coming to banks, so people will not be able to cash their monthly pensions. And people are living marginally and for day-to-day. And people are, I think, basically hunkering down and — and, you know — and staying — and staying at home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then finally to you, Michael McFaul, what is — where is this headed?

    MICHAEL MCFAUL: Well, I think it’s a very dire situation.

    The government in Kiev doesn’t have good options, as Adrian just alluded to, because they’re damned if they do, they’re damned if they don’t. If they don’t use action, they look weak. If they do use action, that creates a pretext for further Russian intervention.

    I think we’re out for a very long, troubled standoff between Russia and Ukraine. I’m very pessimistic about what’s going on right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, on that note, we thank you both.

    Michael McFaul, Adrian Karatnycky, thank you.

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    Smart Highway -- Glowing Lines (courtesy of Flickr user Studio Roosegaarde)

    Smart Highway — Glowing Lines. Photo by Flickr user Studio Roosegaarde

    So long, streetlights — there’s a new technology lighting up the pavement in the Netherlands.

    On a 500-meter stretch of highway in the city of Oss, you can now find road markings that glow in the dark.

    The markings — which resemble something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie — are drawn with paint that contains a photoluminescent powder that absorbs sunlight during the day and releases a green glow at night. As the Netherlands Broadcasting Foundation described, “It looks like you are driving through a fairytale.”

    But the new road markings are more than just about aesthetics. This innovative project by interactive designer Daan Roosegaarde and Dutch civil engineering firm Heijmans serves a practical purpose as well: lighting up the road while reducing the need for inefficient and costly streetlights.

    “The government is shutting down streetlights at night to save money, energy is becoming much more important than we could have imagined 50 years ago,” Roosegaarde told the BBC last year. “This road is about safety and envisaging a more self-sustainable and more interactive world.”

    For Roosegaarde, glow-in-the-dark lines are just the beginning. His vision for a “Route 66 of the future” includes other innovations as well — for example, weather markings, such as snowflakes, that appear on the road when the temperature drops to a certain level.

    But for now, Roosegaarde and Heijmans are focused on testing their current product. The project is in its pilot stages and expected to launch in late April.

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    GWEN IFILL: In 2007, the world got a horrific peek inside the closed world of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, as the military regime brutally crushed the Saffron Revolution, led by monks and students demanding political freedom.

    In recent years, however, the government has signaled a new openness, promising democratic reforms, and proposing peace treaties with numerous ethnic groups in the country that have been at war with the government, in some cases since the end of World War II.

    Jeffrey Brown recently traveled to Myanmar for a look.

    Here’s the first of his reports.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It is a land long shrouded in mystery, kept isolated from the world for more than 50 years.

    Now, as Myanmar begins to open up, its wonders and beauties become clearer, but so do its complexities and huge difficulties. One place to see it all is here in Karen State in the southeastern part of the country, where signs of the past are a reminder of the tenuous political situation.

    Not long ago, this was an area of violence, home to what was called the world’s longest-running civil war, as ethnic Karen people battled the central government for independence. But there’s a cease-fire in place now, offering the potential for peace and a possible model for this long-closed-off country.

    For these young girls, their faces adorned with the traditional tree bark cream that women here use as sunblock, that means the possibility of coming to Pa-An, Karen’s capital city, to attend a government-accredited school.

    These are the children of rebels who long battled that same government. And these girls have spent their entire lives in an internationally sponsored refugee camp on the nearby border with Thailand.

    There was much fighting in the area where you live. Do you remember fighting? Did you see fighting?

    GIRL (through interpreter): I know they have signed a cease-fire.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Does that make you happy?

    GIRL (through interpreter): If people aren’t fighting and dying, that is much better.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The government is now seeking a permanent peace treaty here in Karen and throughout the country. It won’t be easy. Ethnic Burmans living in the central heartland make up the great majority of the country’s population.

    But all around are lands occupied by numerous other ethnic groups, more than 100 by some counts. Many have been in armed conflict with the government.

    Here in Karen, at least, the rebels say they’re ready to end that.

    MANN THEIN, Karen National Union (through interpreter): This fighting that has gone on until now has not benefited the people at all. Instead, the people of Karen have suffered. Their villages were destroyed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mann Thein is a deputy with the Karen National Union, the political wing of the rebel group. A former fighter himself, he smiles as he tells us of his days chasing his enemy, the military government.

    MANN THEIN (through interpreter): It wasn’t a game of chase like children play. It was one that involved guns and shooting.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But now Mann Thein sits across the negotiating table from the very general he once fought.

    Do you trust the Myanmar government and the Myanmar military?

    MANN THEIN (through interpreter): In order for there to be trust, the trust must be built. Just as we have to make them trust us, they have to do things to show that we can trust them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A continuing area of violence, a religious clash between Buddhists and Muslims living in the western state of Rakhine, has recently drawn international attention in the last several years.

    In January, the U.N. confirmed a riot that left 48 Rohingya Muslims dead. The government continues to deny the event occurred.

    Another very real issue here: Who gains from moves toward peace? While most people in Karen are very poor, the area is rich in natural resources. And there are widespread reports of land grabs by government cronies.

    This woman, who raises pigs and sells soap outside Pa-An, with aid from a micro-financing cooperative, was sure of one thing:

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Peace only benefits those people with money, not poor people like me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why not?

    WOMAN (through interpreter): From my perspective, peace means people with money just do business with each other, but it doesn’t affect me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It is, though, affecting many. In Yangon, the country’s largest city, there are signs of bustle and building, as foreign investors, sensing a new beginning for the country and new opportunities for themselves, pour in money.

    President U Thein Sein, himself a former general, has promised a — quote — “disciplined democracy.”  Under his tenure many, though not all, political prisoners have been released and restrictions on the media have been eased. The moves were enough to cause the U.S. to lift most sanctions and brought a visit by President Obama last year, the first ever by an American president.

    MIN ZAW OO, Myanmar Peace Center: Considering the very rigid and military rule in the last 25 years, the extent of reform and what has been achieved in the last two years is quite remarkable.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You, yourself, you for a number of years.

    Min Zaw Oo is a director at the Myanmar Peace Center in Yangon, a government-appointed committee negotiating a national peace treaty. But he’s also a former fighter against the government who left the country for many years and only returned 15 months ago, believing his former opponents are engaged in real change.

    MIN ZAW OO: What the current government is doing is opening up this process, so people can come and join the political opening and gradually steer the transition to broader participation and broader reform. This is the only opportunity in the last 50 years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is it?

    MIN ZAW OO: This is it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Will that road be taken by everyone? Will this one be taken by anyone?

    One of the stranger sights in this country, or perhaps anywhere, is this nearly empty 20-lane highway in Naypyidaw, the country’s new capital, built in the hinterlands in 2005 by the military government. The highway leads to the new parliament building, where another sign of Myanmar’s change is on display, the presence of Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The Nobel Peace Prize winner, held under house arrest for 15 years, is now a member of parliament. And her party, the National League for Democracy, has a chance to win a majority of seats in next year’s election.

    But huge barriers remain. The constitution mandates that 25 percent of seats be held for the military and bars Aung San Suu Kyi herself from being president because she has family members, two sons, who hold foreign citizenship. Her party wants the constitution amended.

    So this is where you live when parliament is in session?

    ZAW MYINT MAUNG, Parliament Member: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Zaw Myint Maung, who spent 18 years as a political prisoner, is today an NLD parliamentary member, now sitting across the aisle from the former interior minister who jailed thousands of dissidents like him.

    ZAW MYINT MAUNG: What they did to us, we can forgive them.


    ZAW MYINT MAUNG: But what they did to the country, this is important.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Well, what about the future? Are you hopeful about the future?


    ZAW MYINT MAUNG: I cannot say exactly about the future. But we will try our best. The future is progressing. But if they do not amend the 2008 constitution, some unrest or some uprising…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    ZAW MYINT MAUNG: Oh, I think so.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s possible again?

    ZAW MYINT MAUNG: It’s possible — possible again.

    MAN: So, if we now apply these relatively simple types of the changes and positions…

    JEFFREY BROWN: What will happen next? How does a country transition from closed to open, from dictatorship to democracy?

    These young students at the Yangon School of Political Science debated those questions recently. It was the first time in their lives, they told us afterwards, they could study politics freely.

    Has your life changed, do you think? Is it better now?

    TIN AUNG KO: Since — I’m a youth, so I can have more employment opportunities right now, because so many investments are coming.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is it exciting, that — an exciting time?

    DIM SIAN NEM: Yes. It is exciting. And at the same time, it’s also nervous. I think it has a lot of challenges now. I think it’s both exciting and it’s also — I’m also a bit nervous.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A country in a state of de-isolation, poor, ethnically divided, with a very troubled past, and a potentially booming future — exciting, but nervous.

    GWEN IFILL: Tomorrow, Jeff looks at what this new political openness means for Myanmar’s cultural heritage.

    And on our Art Beat page, you can read Jeff’s travel journal, which is part of his series Culture at Risk.

    The post Inside Myanmar’s transition from isolation to openness appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the search for that missing Malaysian airliner. It underwent a major shift today, as officials decided to give up listening for pings and start looking at the ocean floor.

    For days, crews on the Australian Navy vessel Ocean Shield had been preparing a U.S. Navy robot submersible to go deep in the Indian Ocean. Their chance came today, six days after the last known signal from what may be the plane’s recorders.

    ANGUS HOUSTON, Air Chief Marshal, Search Coordinator: Today is day 38 of the search. The guaranteed shelf life of the batteries on the aircraft black boxes is 30 days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Angus Houston is running the search off his country’s western coast.

    ANGUS HOUSTON: Despite the lack of further detections, the four signals previously acquired taken together constitute the most promising lead we have in the search for MH370. We need to pursue this lead as far as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As this animation shows, the submersible, Bluefin-21, can create a 3-D sonar map of any debris on the ocean floor, but it’s slow-going. Each mission can take up to 24 hours. And this first trip will cover only about 15 square miles in a search area that spans some 18,000 square miles.

    ANGUS HOUSTON: I would caution you against raising hopes that the deployment of the autonomous underwater vehicle will result in the detection of the aircraft wreckage. It may not. However, this is the best lead we have, and it must be pursued vigorously.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, an aerial search continues, although officials say the chance of spotting any debris is increasingly unlikely. Investigators are also analyzing a sample from an oil slick, but that process will take several days.

    Now that the search has shifted, there are new questions people have about the submersible vehicle and its role.

    David Kelly is the CEO of Bluefin Robotics, which makes the Bluefin-21

    David Kelly, welcome to the NewsHour.

    Give us a sense of the task that this robotic device is being asked to perform.

    DAVID KELLY, CEO, Bluefin Robotics: Well, Judy, the vehicle is rated to 4,500 meters in depth, which is two-and-a-half miles down, which is about the depth of the ocean in this area.

    And it will go on a series of dives to survey the ocean bottom and come back with imagery that can then be analyzed to see if there’s any objects of interest.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How does it go about doing its job? I mean, we showed some of the visual animation there. But once it gets to the bottom or close to the bottom, how does it operate?

    DAVID KELLY: Well, the vehicle is what is called autonomous. There is no operator in the loop. So it is programmed on the surface for the area to be surveyed. The vehicle will descend down the two-and-a-half miles. It has navigation instruments on board, so it knows where it is.

    As it approaches the bottom, it will stop about 50 meters above the bottom, which is a good surveying height, and it will turn on the sonars and it will image the area. And the sonars can image about a half-a-mile across. And it will run parallel lines, just like you are mowing your lawn, and it will go back and forth overlapping. And then that data will be collected on the vehicle.

    And when it returns to the surface, the data is off-loaded, the batteries on the vehicle are changed, another mission is programmed. The vehicle is relaunched, and, meanwhile, the data that has been recorded from the prior mission is processed and analyzed looking for objects.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, these are sonar images that it’s bringing back.

    DAVID KELLY: That’s correct. At that depth, it’s pitch-black. It’s slightly above freezing. There’s tremendous pressure, and the best sensor to scan a large area is a sonar. So these are images that are painted with sound, so the objects look slightly different than if you were looking at it with a camera.

    But the analysts can still see whether an object is manmade or part of the natural surroundings. And that is the key point that they would be looking for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean by the shape of it?

    DAVID KELLY: Correct. Most of the objects in nature are going to be rounded. You can tell the bottom, and most manmade objects will have some sharp edges or right angles, and those will show up on the sonar imagery.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How durable is this submersible? What do you worry about it running into — problems it could run into down there?

    DAVID KELLY: It’s a very harsh environment. And pressure is the biggest issue.

    At that depth, the pressure is about three-and-a-half tons per square inch. That would be the equivalent to having a Cadillac Escalade balanced on your thumbnail. So there is tremendous pressure on the vehicle and the equipment. It is a tough environment to operate in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have also read, David Kelly, that there is some silt in this area, very fine sand or something like that. What is known about that and how much of an issue is that?

    DAVID KELLY: We have run our vehicles around the globe in almost all the oceans across many bottom types. Silt is one type of bottom.

    There’s mud, there’s sand, there’s rocks. You will get different sonar returns from the different bottom types. You can adjust the equipment to deal with that. So, again, it’s environments we have seen before.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if something is under the silt or has sunk into the silt, it could still image it; is that what you’re saying?

    DAVID KELLY: Well, the sonars that are used would image on the surface of the silt. So if an object was down below the silt, it wouldn’t necessarily be imaged.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What happens next? I mean, if it comes back with an image that is interesting, that people, that the experts think could be something, what do you — what happens then?

    DAVID KELLY: Well, I think probably, most likely, the next step would be, go get a camera image of it.

    Now, this — the Bluefin-21 that is deployed does have a camera payload. It’s a high-definition still camera. Typically, when we image an area on the ocean bottom, we would reduce the size of the area to about 100 meters square, a hundred yards square. They also could send down an ROV, a remotely operated vehicle, with a camera.

    But most likely, they would want to get a camera image of an object to compare that with the sonar image to understand what they have.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But do I understand you to say they could be taking a picture, a photo at the same time it is down there doing the sound images?

    DAVID KELLY: No, those are two separate payloads. They’re swappable, they’re easily changed in the field on the ship. But only one of the payloads can operate at a time.

    And it has to do with the difference in height that the vehicle runs at. So when are you collecting sonar imagery, it would be higher off the bottom at about 150 feet. When are you taking a camera image, light doesn’t go very far at that depth and in that darkness, so you need to be much closer to the bottom, about 15 feet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Based on what you know, how realistic do you believe the odds are that they’re going to be — you’re going to be able to find what’s left of this aircraft?

    DAVID KELLY: Well, this is a tough challenge, and we salute the men and women that have been working for a month to resolve this mystery.

    They have — over time have worked to reduce the search area. They’re now focusing the vehicle on those areas that they think have the most promise. But I think, in reality, this is a — it’s a tough problem. It’s going to require persistence and tenacity, and I think people need to understand it’s going to take — could take weeks, could take months.

    It may be tedious on the outside, but you have to follow a regimented, well-planned search and just dogmatically execute it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, David Kelly with Bluefin Robotics, we thank you for helping us understand what is going on.

    DAVID KELLY: Thank you.

    The post Robot submersible takes technology to the bottom of the ocean in search of Flight 370 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Today’s Pulitzer award to The Washington Post and The Guardian renewed debate over journalism’s role and responsibility in reporting on domestic surveillance and national security. The coverage was based on a trove of documents leaked by national security contractor Edward Snowden, who now lives in Russia to escape prosecution.

    U.S. officials say Snowden’s revelations did real damage, while his defenders say he performed a public service.

    Geneva Overholser joins me now. She’s an independent journalist in New York and a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication, Leadership and Policy. She also served on the Pulitzer Prize Board for nine years, part of that as its chairman.

    Geneva, is the Pulitzer board basically settling the argument today by saying that they’re going to award this coverage?

    GENEVA OVERHOLSER, Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, USC: Well, I would say, Gwen, that the argument will not be over, at least in terms of many people’s continued discomfort with this reporting.

    But I do believe this is an extremely powerful affirmation of this important work.

    GWEN IFILL: You know, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, as you know, not happy with this important work. He was quoted just yesterday at the University of Georgia as saying, “This is potentially the most damaging theft of intelligence material in our country’s history.”

    So what is the correct balance between security, transparency and journalism?

    GENEVA OVERHOLSER: Well, there’s always a tension and always will be in a democracy, because even the most rabid of reporters understand that there are national security issues that cannot be aired.

    But we have been seeing the growth of government surveillance, of its own citizens, particularly of the growth of secrecy, for many years, particularly since 9/11. And what happened in this case is that journalism’s biggest prize went to a series of stories based on stolen documents, and certainly, as you said, the revelation of state secrets, decried by the White House, but I think, therefore, putting squarely behind these stories the American establishment of journalism and saying, this is in the public interest.

    GWEN IFILL: You mentioned the journalism based on stolen documents. Reminds me of the Daniel Ellsberg case.


    And, in 1972, the same thing happened. The Pulitzer Board very controversially — very controversially then gave the Pulitzer to the reporting by The New York Times on the Pentagon Papers. And, you know, that was the first time that had happened.

    So they have sort of already crossed that bridge about being willing to give the prize based on stolen documents.

    GWEN IFILL: What did journalists say to critics who say that Edward Snowden — or, actually, the Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian and Barton Gellman at The Washington Post basically acted as stenographers for Edward Snowden?

    GENEVA OVERHOLSER: Well, you know, I don’t find a whole lot of value in that charge.

    It is true that these documents came to them. They didn’t have to go out and do a lot of deep reporting. On the other hand, lots of good reporting is based on leaks, particularly in these areas like national security.

    So, if this report — I mean, if this prize were given only, you know, for really deep-digging reporting, then it would be misplaced.

    But it’s not. It was awarded to the most affecting story of this year, in my view. I mean, this story had enormous impact. There was a White House review. The president himself has said there need to be steps taken in terms of kind of reining in the National Security Agency.

    There have been legal decisions that what was revealed in these documents was unconstitutional. So I think that the story had plenty of impact. And to quibble about, well, did they dig enough reporting is just wrong. There was plenty of good journalism that went into this.

    A choice is made the way it was presented, and, very interestingly, the collaboration among journalists. As you know, this went to two news organizations and several individuals.

    GWEN IFILL: Can reporters ever be — you have been involved in giving out these kinds of prizes for some time. Can reporters ever be considered accomplices in a case like this, and is it something that even factors into your thinking?

    GENEVA OVERHOLSER: Well, that’s an interesting point.

    I mean, you know, reporters are accomplices, in that they are the ones who reveal this information. They, of course, are not criminally liable the same way that Edward Snowden, who shared the information, is. And many people think that a grave injustice. This could not have happened without Snowden, and many see this as a vindication of him. We will have to see what happens on that regard.

    But your point is interesting, particularly in terms of Glenn Greenwald, who, as you know, was involved in The Guardian story, and who is, frankly, a journalist who writes from a point of view. And I think that’s another of the interesting things about this story, that that kind of reporting has received an affirmation.

    It is an increasing presence in the journalism world now. We’re going to see more of it. And the Pulitzer included his work.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that reminds me of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and other ways of getting information into the public sphere which cause controversy.

    Is there a line anymore between activism and journalism?

    GENEVA OVERHOLSER: Well, many people would say this was activism.

    Some people would say all kinds of journalism are activism. I think that one reassurance here — I don’t know if there is a line, but in this case, what we saw was a collaboration, as I said, that included professional journalists operating at the highest standards, The Washington Post, The Guardian.

    These are very responsible news organizations. So…

    GWEN IFILL: Has a foreign-based news organization like The Guardian ever received a Pulitzer Prize before?

    GENEVA OVERHOLSER: Well, strictly speaking, this went to The Guardian U.S.


    GENEVA OVERHOLSER: That is how it fit the rules.

    But, as we all know, The Guardian, which is based in the United Kingdom, has been doing very aggressive journalism on this. And, you know, in some ways, interestingly, the collaboration helped it avoid censorship in the United States — I mean, in the U.K. — because the reach of this journalism has been so powerful.

    GWEN IFILL: So interesting.

    Geneva Overholser at USC Annenberg, thank you so much for helping us through this.

    GENEVA OVERHOLSER: Thank you so much, Gwen.

    The post Pulitzer Prize renews debate over controversial NSA surveillance reporting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by NASA

    Photo by NASA

    A rare “blood moon” eclipse will be visible in the North and South American skies tonight when the Earth’s shadow covers the full moon in an eerie red glow.

    These “blood moons” occur when the moon passes through the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. But instead of eclipsing into total darkness, sunlight passing around Earth’s edges will give the moon a coppery red color tonight. Phil Plait, astronomer and blogger for Slate, said at that moment the moon is being lit by all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth.

    In the next year and a half, there will be four blood moons, which is a rare phenomenon that astronomers have a name for: a tetrad. Tetrads come and go, according to NASA lunar eclipse expert Fred Espenak. Some centuries have several, and the 21st century will have eight.

    However, there were none between 1600 and 1900.

    “Neither Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, Queen Anne, George Washington, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln nor their contemporaries ever had a chance to see one. So, we’re in luck.” CNN writer Ben Brumfield said.

    The next four blood moons will be on these days: April 15, 2014; October 8, 2014; April 4, 2015, and September 28, 2015.

    Tonight’s lunar eclipse begins at 2:00 a.m. EDT, and the moon will be its reddest at approximately 3:00 a.m. EDT. NASA will be a hosting an online event at 1:00 a.m. EDT where stargazers can ask experts questions and view a livestream of eclipse.

    The post There will be a ‘blood moon’ eclipse tonight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The average single American is forking over about 25 percent of their paycheck for income tax and social safety taxes — which in the U.S. include programs like Social Security and unemployment insurance. But when compared to other high-income nations, Americans typically are taxed on the lower end of the scale: the U.S. ranks No. 25 out of the 34 developed nations according to new data released Friday. The U.S. average is a few points below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, average of just under 36 percent.

    Use our interactive to get an idea of how income and social safety-type taxes are factored into your paycheck, and how you’d fare if the U.S. had a wage tax structure similar to any of the 33 other OECD countries.

    Belgium’s has the OECD’s highest average tax rate at nearly 56 percent, while Chile has the lowest, at 7 percent.

    “Social security contributions, in Europe in particular, are very important. In Belgium you’ll see a clear example of that. That’s how they finance all of their pensions, all of their health care, more generous unemployment insurance and that shows up in substantially higher tax rates,” said Pierre LeBlanc of the OECD’s Center for Tax Policy and Administration.

    Meanwhile Chile has a couple factors at play, including the country’s standard deduction, which is high enough that people earning average wages don’t pay personal income tax. It only begins to kick in at higher incomes, LeBlanc said.

    “The other consideration is that a pretty big chunk of their pension plan is organized privately. You’re required to contribute to a fund. It’s a bit like, say, you had a mandatory 401(k) fund,” Leblanc said. Since that’s handled in the private versus the public sector, that tax isn’t included.

    Taxes are extraordinarily complicated, as anyone who’s ever filed knows too well. Given every tax situation is unique, the report’s authors made various assumptions to create a usable comparison across countries. For example, they only considered wage-based taxes, not taxes for non-wage income like net wealth taxes. State and local taxes were also not included.

    Something worth keeping in mind when looking at the comparisons is what’s included and what’s not and how the taxes are used.

    “Taxes and social security contributions are paying for different bundles of services in different countries. In the U.S., take health care for example. The payroll tax for Medicare would be covered,” LeBlanc said. “But any premiums that people have to pay through their workplace for health care coverage aren’t, because that’s in the private sector. In most, not all, but most other OECD countries, that’s covered through the public sector.”

    “There’s those sorts of decisions, there’s positives but those taxes are buying services that people value. So it’s about trade-offs. Each country will decide how to make those trade-offs.”

    (The OECD calculates average U.S. pre-tax income for a single person at $48,463.)

    The post Calculator: Compare the taxes you might pay in the U.S. to other developed nations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Two researchers look at data at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, Mass. Critics say that the biomedical research field has too many scientists and not enough jobs. Photo by Flickr user Novartis AG

    Two researchers look at data at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, Mass. Critics say that the biomedical research field has too many scientists and not enough jobs. Photo by Flickr user Novartis AG

    The U.S. biomedical research field is unsustainable, creating more scientists than there are jobs, according to an essay in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The essay’s four authors — Bruce Alberts, former president of the National Academy of Sciences and former editor-in-chief of Science magazine; Marc W. Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School; Shirley Tilghman, former president of Princeton University; and Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate and current director of the National Cancer Institute — ask the biomedical community to reorganize its training and funding.

    Their first recommendation is to cut the number of PhD students coming into the field each year.

    “The training pipeline produces more scientists than relevant positions in academia, government and the private sector are capable of absorbing,” they write.

    Others disagree. In September, Sally Rockey, the National Institutes of Health’s deputy director for extramural research, and NIH director Francis Collins commented on a blog post that “there is no definitive evidence that Ph.D. production exceeds current employment opportunities.”

    The majority of research work is performed by graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, but funding at universities for such research is unstable, the authors of the essay argue. Now lab chiefs and administrators feel the strain of budget cuts once shouldered by post-docs and graduate students, Alberts, Kirschner, Tilghman and Varmus write.

    In addition to improving funding and increasing grants for biomedical research, they propose giving graduate students better information about their career opportunities. Alberts et al. recommend using training grants to support graduate students instead of professors’ research grants, and increasing postdoc pay. The authors all call on Congress to develop means of “planning for predictable and stable funding of science,” rather than yo-yoing between funding increases and budget cuts.

    The post U.S. biomedical research is overcrowded and underfunded, critics say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    New political and economic freedoms in Myanmar have brought rapid changes to the city of Yangon.  The population of the city is expected to quadruple over the next 25 years and developers are eager to build new skyscrapers to accommodate the influx. But some people are concerned that all of this new construction could threaten the city's architectural heritage and historical identity. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    New political and economic freedoms in Myanmar have brought rapid changes to the city of Yangon. The population of the city is expected to quadruple over the next 25 years and developers are eager to build new skyscrapers to accommodate the influx. But some people are concerned that all of this new construction could threaten the city’s architectural heritage and historical identity. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    With political reforms underway in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), the once closed-off country is opening up to the world. That process is raising a new concern: How will economic development impact the country’s architectural and archaeological past?

    PBS NewsHour has launched a new series called “Culture at Risk,” with Jeffrey Brown reporting from around the globe about various threats to cultural sites, including development, war and climate change.

    In Yangon, the commercial hub of Myanmar, Jeff was given a tour by Thant Myint-U, a Harvard-educated historian who has returned to his native country to head up the Yangon Heritage Trust, an organization devoted to the preservation of colonial buildings.

    Jeffrey Brown takes an architectural tour of capital city Yangon with Thant Myint-U, director of the Yangon Heritage Trust.

    Three hundred miles northwest of Yangon lies the ancient city of Bagan, which faces a different set of challenges in this new economy. Learn about those challenges through the photos below.

    Bagan, the capital of a former Burmese Kingdom, is an archeological wonder dating back to the 11th century. It’s said to contain the highest concentration of Buddhist architecture in the world.  Several thousand pagodas and temples in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes dot the landscape. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Bagan, the capital of a former Burmese Kingdom, is an archeological wonder dating back to the 11th century. It’s said to contain the highest concentration of Buddhist architecture in the world. Several thousand pagodas and temples in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes dot the landscape. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Over the centuries, earthquakes and other natural disasters have taken their toll on the temples. Only about half of the original 4,000 structures are still standing, and many of those are heavily damaged.  Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Over the centuries, earthquakes and other natural disasters have taken their toll on the temples. Only about half of the original 4,000 structures are still standing, and many of those are heavily damaged. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Restoration of damaged temples has been done very piecemeal, often with shoddy workmanship and not according to international standards. “These are living places of worship,” Deputy Culture Minister Sanda Khin told the NewsHour. “Our ancestors just wanted to preserve their precious temples. They didn’t know about international standards.” Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Restoration of damaged temples has been done very piecemeal, often with shoddy workmanship and not according to international standards. “These are living places of worship,” Deputy Culture Minister Sanda Khin told the NewsHour. “Our ancestors just wanted to preserve their precious temples. They didn’t know about international standards.” Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Many members of the former military government built faux-historic pagodas to earn merit in the Buddhist religion. That practice, along with inferior restoration projects, led UNESCO to deny Bagan the much-coveted “world heritage site” designation. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Many members of the former military government built faux-historic pagodas to earn merit in the Buddhist religion. That practice, along with inferior restoration projects, led UNESCO to deny Bagan the much-coveted “world heritage site” designation. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Internationally sanctioned conservation work is now being done in Bagan. Here laborers scrub the harmful limestone coating off an archway at the Ananda Temple.  It’s part of a $22 million, five-year joint project between the governments of Myanmar and India. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Internationally-sanctioned conservation work is now being done in Bagan. Here laborers scrub the harmful limestone coating off an archway at the Ananda Temple. It’s part of a $22 million, five-year joint project between the governments of Myanmar and India. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Now that the Myanmar government has launched economic and political reforms, tourists have begun arriving by the busload in Bagan.  A favorite activity -- watching the sun rise or set from atop a pagoda -- has recently been limited to just a few sites. It’s part of the government’s plan to better preserve the monuments and control crowds. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Now that the Myanmar government has launched economic and political reforms, tourists have begun arriving by the busload in Bagan. A favorite activity — watching the sun rise or set from atop a pagoda — has recently been limited to just a few sites. It’s part of the government’s plan to better preserve the monuments and control crowds. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Floating over the temples at sunrise is another favorite tourist attraction. A 40-minute ride costs $350. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Floating over the temples at sunrise is another favorite tourist attraction. A 40-minute ride costs $350. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Villagers who formerly lived in the archeology zone of Bagan were moved by the government to a nearby town, in another effort to preserve the historic site.  Farmers, however, still harvest their crops in the fields that surround the pagodas. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Villagers who formerly lived in the archeology zone of Bagan were moved by the government to a nearby town, in another effort to preserve the historic site. Farmers, however, still harvest their crops in the fields that surround the pagodas. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Fifty-year-old Myo Han used to be a farmer, but switched to carriage driving several years ago.  He told the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown that he’s happier now because he makes much more money. The influx of tourists benefits his whole family. His oldest is also a carriage driver, his middle son works at a local hotel and his youngest will finish high school soon with the hope of becoming a tour guide.  Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Fifty-year-old Myo Han used to be a farmer, but switched to carriage driving several years ago. He told the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown that he’s happier now because he makes much more money. The influx of tourists benefits his whole family. His oldest is also a carriage driver, his middle son works at a local hotel and his youngest will finish high school soon with the hope of becoming a tour guide. Photo by Mary Jo Brooks/PBS NewsHour

    Tune in to the PBS NewsHour Tuesday to see chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown report on the impact of development on Myanmar’s architectural legacy. You can stream the NewsHour on our UStream channel at 6 p.m. EDT or check your local PBS listings.

    This story is the first in a new series called, “Culture at Risk.” The series looks at foreign and domestic artifacts, artworks, buildings, or whole communities at risk from war, environmental damage, neglect and development.

    The post What’s the future for Myanmar’s architectural past? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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