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

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    The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group in this file photo taken September 11, 2012. Photo by Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters

    The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group in this file photo taken September 11, 2012. Photo by Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters

    Updated May 6th, 10 a.m. | House Democrats are opening the door to participating in a select committee investigation of Benghazi. They are insisting, however, that they are represented equally with Republicans.

    Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says in a statement that the review can only be fair if it is bipartisan.

    She says the panel should be divided between the Republican majority and Democratic minority. The California Democrat also says information must be shared between the parties.

    House Speaker John Boehner has named a Republican chair but has yet to outline his full plan for the select committee. A vote to authorize the panel is expected this week.

    It is unlikely Republicans would accept the Democrats’ request for equal representation.

    Original story as follows:

    WASHINGTON — Republicans are sharpening their focus on the deadly 2012 Benghazi, Libya, attack as midterm elections loom closer, with a likely vote this week on establishing a select House committee to investigate the Obama administration’s response.

    Ongoing wrangling over a panel’s subpoena of Secretary of State John Kerry will further highlight Benghazi, as could multiple hearings ostensibly designed to examine other subjects.

    The GOP-led House is planning the vote sometime in the next several days to authorize the committee, which would provide Republicans with a high-profile forum to criticize President Barack Obama and his team over the next several months. The administration and House Democrats are undecided about whether to take part in or boycott the probe, which they see as partisan and unnecessary given several ongoing investigations in Congress.

    The two sides likely will lock horns in several other venues this week. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and the State Department are at odds over a subpoena for Kerry to appear before the panel on May 21, when America’s top diplomat has a scheduled trip to Mexico. A Kerry spokeswoman said Monday the secretary of state wouldn’t appear before Issa’s committee that day.

    Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday will examine Republican-backed legislation that would authorize U.S. military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic post that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

    And the House and Senate foreign relations committees will each get a chance this week to question the senior U.S. diplomat for Europe, Victoria Nuland, who played a role in the talking points created by the administration after the violence, even if those hearings are supposed to be about the crisis in Ukraine.

    The focus on Benghazi highlights a central plank in the Republicans’ strategy in the run-up to November’s elections, which could swing the Senate to GOP control.

    Republicans say the White House, concerned primarily with protecting Obama in the final weeks of his re-election campaign, misled the nation after Benghazi. They accuse the administration of stonewalling congressional investigators ever since, pointing specifically to emails written by administration officials in the days after the attack but only released last week.

    The Obama administration denies any wrongdoing, and Democrats in Congress say no evidence suggests officials did anything but try to provide the public with the best information available. They accuse the Republicans of trying to generate a scandal to drum up political support, and to target former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumed front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

    Asked about the select committee Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration cooperates with “legitimate” congressional oversight, including sending witnesses to hearings and providing bipartisan panels with documents. He declined to characterize whether a House select committee would be legitimate or not.

    Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2-ranked House Democrat, said he and his colleagues would first have to see the specifics of House Speaker John Boehner’s proposed committee before making a decision on whether to participate. Hoyer said he and other party leaders would vote against establishing the committee.

    “This has been seriously and thoroughly investigated,” said Hoyer, citing 13 public hearings on the Benghazi attack, 25,000 pages of documents handed over and 50 separate briefings. “There was nothing the military could have done in the time-frame available,” he told reporters Monday. He said all investigations thus far have produced “no smoking gun, no wrongdoing.”

    Boehner said Monday that Rep. Trey Gowdy, a second-term Republican congressman from South Carolina and former prosecutor, would head the special committee. Its establishment is almost a formality given the GOP’s control of the House.

    Democrats controlling the Senate have shown no interest in launching a similar probe.

    The post Democrats request equal representation on Benghazi committee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A weed grows through the dry earth at Marion Kujawa's pond which he uses to water the cattle on his farm on July 16, 2012 in Ashley, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    A weed grows through the dry earth at Marion Kujawa’s pond which he uses to water the cattle on his farm on July 16, 2012 in Ashley, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Global warming is rapidly turning America the beautiful into America the stormy, sneezy and dangerous, according to a new federal scientific report. And those shining seas? Rising and costly, the report says.

    Climate change’s assorted harms “are expected to become increasingly disruptive across the nation throughout this century and beyond,” the National Climate Assessment concluded Tuesday. The report emphasizes how warming and its all-too-wild weather are changing daily lives, even using the phrase “climate disruption” as another way of saying global warming.

    Still, it’s not too late to prevent the worst of climate change, says the 840-page report, which the White House is highlighting as it tries to jump-start often stalled efforts to curb heat-trapping gases.

    However, if the nation and the world don’t change the way they use energy, “we’re still on the pathway to more damage and danger of the type that are described in great detail in the rest of this report,” said study co-author Henry Jacoby, co-director of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jacoby, other scientists and White House officials said this is the most detailed and U.S.-focused scientific report on global warming.

    “For decades, we’ve been collecting the dots on climate change. Now we’re connecting those dots.” “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the report says. “Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience.”

    The report looks at regional and state-level effects of global warming, compared with recent reports from the United Nations that lumped all of North America together. A draft of the report was released in January 2013, but this version has been reviewed by more scientists, the National Academy of Science and 13 government agencies and had public comment. It is written in a bit more simple language so people could realize “that there’s a new source of risk in their lives,” said study lead author Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

    “For decades, we’ve been collecting the dots on climate change. Now we’re connecting those dots,” said Jerry Melillo, a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Chair.

    Even though the nation’s average temperature has risen by as much as 1.9 degrees since record keeping began in 1895, it’s in the big, wild weather where the average person feels climate change the most, said co-author Katharine Hayhoe, a Texas Tech University climate scientist. Extreme weather like droughts, storms and heat waves hit us in the pocketbooks and can be seen by our own eyes, she said.

    And it’s happening a lot more often lately.

    The report says the intensity, frequency and duration of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes have increased since the early 1980s, but it is still uncertain how much of that is from man-made warming. Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity and shifted northward since the 1950s, it says. Also, heavy downpours are increasing – by 71 percent in the Northeast. Heat waves, such as those in Texas in 2011 and the Midwest in 2012, are projected to intensify nationwide. Droughts in the Southwest are expected to get stronger. Sea level has risen 8 inches since 1880 and is projected to rise between 1 foot and 4 feet by 2100.

    Since January 2010, 43 of the lower 48 states have set at least one monthly record for heat, such as California having its warmest January on record this year. In the past 51 months, states have set 80 monthly records for heat, 33 records for being too wet, 12 for lack of rain and just three for cold, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal weather records.

    “We’re being hit hard,” Hayhoe said, comparing America to a boxer. “We’re holding steady, and we’re getting hit in the jaw. We’re starting to recover from one punch, and another punch comes.”

    The report also says “climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways.” Those include smoke-filled air from more wildfires, smoggy air from pollution, more diseases from tainted food, water, mosquitoes and ticks. And then there’s more pollen because of warming weather and the effects of carbon dioxide on plants. Ragweed pollen season has lengthened by 24 days in the Minnesota-North Dakota region between 1995 and 2011, the report says. In other parts of the Midwest, the pollen season has gotten longer by anywhere from 11 days to 20 days.

    And all this will come with a hefty cost, the report says.

    Flooding alone may cost $325 billion by the year 2100 in one of the worst-case scenarios, with $130 billion of that in Florida, the report says. Already the droughts and heat waves of 2011 and 2012 added about $10 billion to farm costs, the report says. Billion-dollar weather disasters have hit everywhere across the nation, but have hit Texas, Oklahoma and the Southeast most often, the report says.

    Rebecca Jacobson contributed to this report.

    The post Effects of climate change projected to worsen across the U.S., federal study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    If a potential employer is angry when you reveal that you're pregnant, you probably don't want to work for that organization anyway. Photo by Tetra Images/Brand X Pictures via Getty Images.

    If a potential employer is angry when you reveal that you’re pregnant, you probably don’t want to work for that organization anyway. Photo by Tetra Images/Brand X Pictures via Getty Images.

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

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

    Question: I’m looking at a great job with a really great company. However, I’m in the early stages of pregnancy and I’m concerned about how to handle it. I know it’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, but let’s face it — it happens. Should I risk rejection by telling the employer about my situation up front, or should I wait until I am settled in the job then lower the boom, but risk alienating my employer? I am only nine weeks along and can probably hide my condition for quite a while after they hire me.

    Nick Corcodilos: Pregnant women can work, and employers can manage a work schedule when a baby comes. The challenge is to plan together.

    My advice is to interview and win an offer on the basis of who you are and what you can do. (But don’t jump at an offer just because they make one. Think ahead. Please see “It’s the people, Stupid.”) Then, just before you give them a decision, be responsible and let the employer know you’re going to need time off when the baby comes. It won’t be so easy for them to rescind the offer at that point, and you’ll learn a lot from their reaction, too.

    If you plan to return to work after the baby comes, say so and provide details about the schedule you’d like to follow. Be ready to make a commitment. If they are surprised that you didn’t disclose your pregnancy before they made the offer, but they’re still eager to hire you, that’s a good sign.

    If they get really upset about it, I doubt you’d want to work there. They’re not going to be very supportive of a working mother. If you want to take legal action at that point, it’s up to you. I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. My job is to optimize your chances of getting an offer and of having a good relationship with your employer if you take the job.

    Having a baby is your business. Your ability to do the job properly is the employer’s business. “Tell ‘Em What They Need to Hear” — do it honestly, but don’t skew the odds against yourself imprudently. How you handle this is a sign of your integrity. And how the employer handles it reveals theirs. My advice is to act responsibly without putting yourself at a disadvantage, and to hold any employer to a similar standard.

    Dear Readers: Have any of you encountered this situation, either as a pregnant job seeker or as a hiring manager? How did you handle it?

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

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

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

    The post Should I reveal that I’m pregnant before accepting a job? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo courtesy of Wikimedia user  Atlantacitizen

    Photo courtesy of Wikimedia user Atlantacitizen

    WASHINGTON — Republicans controlling the House unveiled legislation on Tuesday that proposes a huge cut to a transportation grant program championed by President Barack Obama that funds road and bridge projects, light rail networks, port construction and bike paths.

    The so-called TIGER grant program dates to Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus bill and was funded at $600 million this year. Obama wants to nearly double the program’s budget, but the newly released spending bill covering federal transportation and housing programs offers the administration just $100 million, an 83 percent cut from current levels.

    The $52 billion measure maintains funding for community development block grants popular with local governments and fully funds an upgrade to the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen air traffic control system. But it proposes cuts to Amtrak capital construction and slices $1.2 billion from Obama’s request for housing subsidies for the poor.

    The transportation and housing measure is the fourth of 12 spending bills revealed by House Republicans for the 2015 budget year that begins Oct. 1. Lawmakers are trying to get the annual appropriations process back on track after it ran aground last year before a December budget deal eased automatic cuts known as sequestration.

    The legislation is free of earmarked spending, consistent with the GOP ban on such pet projects.

    It’s hardly free of parochialism however. For instance, it contains language by Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, blocking construction of a light rail line on Houston’s Richmond Avenue; lifts weight limits for trucks traveling on interstate highways in Idaho, Wisconsin and Mississippi; and continues a $150 million subsidy for the Metro rail system in Washington, District of Columbia and its suburbs.

    It maintains a $149 million appropriation for a program that subsidizes air fares to rural airports. Amtrak capital grants would be cut by $200 million and employees of the passenger railroad would generally be limited to $35,000 a year in overtime.

    The measure is part of the approximately $1 trillion portion of the federal budget that passes through Congress each year. The 2015 round of spending bills are essentially capped at current levels. But there’s actually less than that because of a $4 billion difference of opinion between the Congressional Budget Office and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget over how much revenue the government will reap next year from Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance premiums.

    This arcane dispute means that the transportation and housing measure faces a $1.8 billion cut in real terms, even though it appropriates $1.2 billion above current levels.

    A House Appropriations subcommittee is slated to approve the measure on Wednesday, and it faces a floor debate later this month.

    The post House GOP proposes cuts to highway grants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo of 2012 Vassar College commencement by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images.

    Photo of 2012 Vassar College commencement by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images.

    How happy college graduates are in their workplaces and with their lives doesn’t depend on where they got their degree, according to a national survey out Tuesday from Gallup and Purdue University.

    Instead of asking about annual earnings or net worth, The Gallup-Purdue Index Report asked 30,000 college graduates how engaged they are at work and how they’re faring in five areas of personal well-being. The idea, the report’s authors say, was to gauge whether colleges help their graduates live “great lives.”

    Thirty-nine percent of college grads, who are employed full-time, reported feeling engaged at work. That number was roughly the same whether they went to a public or private, nonprofit university. Whether the school they attended was considered selective didn’t move the needle either. Meanwhile, only 29 percent of graduates of four-year private, for-profit schools feel engaged at work.

    Things that do seem to matter for future workplace fulfillment include graduating in four years or less. Of those who took five and a half years or longer to complete their degrees, 34 percent reported work engagement compared to 40 percent of on-time degree completers. Feeling supported by professors on campus, working in an internships, participating in in-depth learning experiences and believing that college prepared them well for the workplace were all associated with higher levels of satisfaction at work.

    Outside the workplace, nine in 10 graduates reported being happy with their lives. The survey asked about feelings of purpose, finances, social connections, community and physical well-being. Again, the type of school graduates attended seems not to matter, unless they went to a private, for-profit institution.

    Similar to workplace engagement, grads’ likelihood of thriving, and the report puts it, in each of the five areas increased the more involved and supported they felt on campus. Their well-being also increased when they had less student debt.

    Among graduates with no student loans, 14 percent were thriving in all five areas of well-being, compared to only two percent of those with $40,000 or more in debt. The Project on Student Debt reports that in 2013, 70 percent of graduating college students had borrowed to pay for college; they carried an average of $29,400 in debt.

    PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Selective colleges no more likely to produce satisfied grads appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An Afghan woman carries her child in Herat on Aug. 14, 2013. Photo by Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images

    An Afghan woman carries her child in Herat on Aug. 14, 2013. Photo by Aref Karimi/AFP/Getty Images

    One of the bright spots in Save the Children’s 15th annual ranking of the best and worst countries to be a mother, released Monday, is the progress Afghanistan has made in the area of maternal health.

    Afghanistan, which spent years in the bottom 10 since the inception of the index in 2000, is now 33 places from the bottom at No. 146, due in large part to its reductions in maternal deaths by almost two-thirds, according to the report. It and a handful of other “fragile” countries — Angola, Eritrea, Timor-Leste and Yemen — are on track to meet the U.N. millennium development goals on maternal health, the report says.

    Helping the effort in Afghanistan is an army of unpaid community health workers, who provide a critical link to the formal health system in the country of 31.8 million.

    Afghan health workerMahbooba, 37, (pictured at right) who lives in the Pul-e-Charkhi area of Kabul city in eastern Afghanistan, is one of the thousands of volunteers trying to help families in communities throughout the country.

    She told us through an interpreter that when she was in seventh grade, she decided to become a doctor, “but due to the war and conflict in Afghanistan, I was unable to achieve the goal.” She still wanted to carry out basic health activities so she decided to become a community health worker.

    Mahbooba visits about 100 families during her rounds every month, educating them on hygiene and sanitation, breastfeeding babies and nutrition. She also counsels parents on family planning, including spacing out births and the types of contraception that are available. She said another key part of what she does is convincing families to get their children vaccinated.

    She recalled visiting one family, a remarried father of seven, whose two daughters-in-law were pregnant, and asking the mothers for their children’s vaccination cards. Mahbooba said she was distressed to learn the children hadn’t received any vaccinations, because their parents didn’t know which ones were needed or where to get them.

    She immediately directed them to the local clinic. During a follow-up visit to the family, she found that all of the children, even the newborns, had their vaccination cards. “I am very happy that I was able to change the behavior of this family and its members,” she said.

    The local health clinic, run by the nongovernmental organization Muslim Hands, was also where Mahbooba received her training as a health worker and given a standard medical kit to get started. “Whenever I send a referring sheet, the patient does not have to wait for a long time (at the clinic), which gives me authority and respect in the area that I serve,” she added.

    Dr. Zakia Maroof, nutrition specialist for UNICEF Afghanistan, said the community health workers are a low-cost asset in a country where there is a “chronic shortage of well-trained, motivated and equitably deployed health workers at all levels.” They are essential in rural areas where health resources are particularly scarce, she said.

    Existing medical schools can’t train enough workers to keep up with the increasing demand for health care services, so the community health workers fill in the gap, even providing services from their homes once they are designated as health posts, she said.

    According to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health’s Community Based Health Care Department, which trains the “master trainers” who then instruct and supervise the neighborhood health workers, there are a total of 27,831 community health workers: 14,217 male and 13,614 female. In very conservative areas of Afghanistan, only male health workers are allowed to deliver services, Maroof said.

    Despite the strides Afghanistan has made, particularly in the area of maternal deaths, it still has a way to go in providing more antenatal — or before-birth — care, skilled attendants at birth and access to emergency obstetric care in case there are any complications during childbirth, according to Maroof.

    There has been some talk of compensating the community health workers, who currently work for free, or providing performance-based payments in order to encourage more people to go into the field, she said.

    Another challenge in the country where only 43 percent of males and 12.6 percent of females are literate is how to educate the population about nutrition and other health basics when many cannot read. That’s part of what makes the home visits by the health workers so necessary, said Mahbooba in Kabul.

    She said she has encountered many mothers who didn’t understand they needed to eat a variety of food including fruits and vegetables during pregnancy or how to take care of their personal hygiene. “Because the majority of the women are illiterate here, if community health workers were not there, these families would have faced a lot of problems related to mother and child health.”

    The post Maternal deaths down in Afghanistan with help from community workers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) held a news conference at the east front of the U.S. Capitol March 11, 2014 to "demand that Congress and President Obama stop the senseless family-separation crisis that is gripping the immigrant community." Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) held a news conference at the east front of the U.S. Capitol March 11, 2014 to “demand that Congress and President Obama stop the senseless family-separation crisis that is gripping the immigrant community.” Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration wants to allow some spouses of high-skilled immigrants to work in the United States, the departments of Homeland Security and Commerce announced Tuesday.

    The rule change, which is set to be published in the Federal Register later this week, would affect spouses of as many as 100,000 holders of H-1B high-skilled visas.

    “The proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support U.S. businesses and the growth of the U.S. economy,” said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

    Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the rule change would help the U.S. attract and keep “world-class talent” working in the United States.

    The new rule is the latest in a series of administrative actions President Barack Obama has announced as efforts to win broad immigration reform in Congress have failed.

    Immigration advocates have been pushing Obama to make substantive changes to immigration laws, including halting all deportations until and unless Congress acts on a comprehensive immigration bill. The rule proposed Tuesday would not impact deportations, but could at least partially satisfy requests from the tech industry for the government to make it easier to attract and keep foreign workers trained in science, technology, engineering and math.

    The H-1B visas for high-skilled workers are among the most sought-after by high-tech firms. Earlier this year the 85,000 H-1B visas available for 2015 were gobbled up in just a week. The same thing happened last year.

    The post U.S. to let some high-skilled immigrant spouses work appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Park and Slide Bristol [OFFICIAL VIDEO] from Cinematica Media on Vimeo.

    How do you turn ordinary places into extraordinary works of art? For some, a flash mob is one way. For artist Luke Jerram, the answer was a giant water slide.

    In March, Jerram revealed his plan to turn a hilly and busy street in Bristol, England into a giant water slide — one that spanned 300 feet.

    Nearly 100,000 people entered a lottery for the chance to ride the slide and 360 people received the “golden ticket,” reminding many of Charlie’s good luck in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

    The crowdfunded project required a few thousand dollars to pay for the amount of soap, plastic and hay bales necessary to create the slide on Park Street.

    “I’m happy to take over a street,” Jerram told the BBC. “And this slide is an architectural intervention really.”

    The post Artist turns street into giant water slide appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Fear pervades Nigerian city at heart of Islamist insurgency by M.J. Smith  Female student stands in a burnt classroom at Maiduguri Experimental School, a private nursery, primary and secondary school burnt by the Islamist group Boko Haram to keep children away from school in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria  on May 12, 2012. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/GettyImages

    Female students stand in a doorway at Maiduguri Experimental School, which was burnt by the Islamist group Boko Haram last year to keep children from attending class in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria. Fear pervades this Nigerian city at heart of Islamist insurgency. Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/GettyImages

    Updated March 6th, 3 p.m. | White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that a U.S. team of military and law enforcement personnel will be sent to northeast Nigeria to help locate the nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped from their school on April 15.

    The team includes experts in intelligence, hostage negotiations and other skills to assist the Nigerian government in their search and rescue operation. The U.S. was not sending armed forces, Carney added.

    Secretary of State John Kerry has also extended the offer in his conversation with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Carney added.

    Original story as follows:

    Islamist extremists known as Boko Haram have kidnapped eight girls, aged 12 to 15, from a village in northeastern Nigeria, local police said Tuesday.

    The group’s raid of the village comes a day after they claimed responsibility for the mass abduction of more than 300 Nigerian schoolgirls in April. According to Nigeria police, while some of the girls were able to escape, 276 remain captured.

    In a video released Monday, Boko Haram leader Abukakar Shekau threatened to sell the girls “in the market.” In the video, Shekau ranted against democracy in addition to calling for Western education to end. Boko Haram, loosely translates to “Western education is forbidden” from the local Hausa language.

    Amnesty International said that violence connected to Boko Haram has left 1,500 people dead in Nigeria in the first three months of this year.

    The post U.S. will send team to Nigeria to help search for kidnapped girls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Applicants for food stamps wait in line in Rochester, New York. Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

    Applicants for food stamps wait in line in Rochester, New York. Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

    Although U.S. welfare spending has shot up in the last three decades, it is helping fewer of America’s poorest citizens, says a new study out of Johns Hopkins University.

    Welfare programs are increasingly geared toward slightly higher earners, as well as to two-parent families, the elderly and the disabled.

    The U.S. spends more on social assistance programs now than ever before in its history, with an increase of 74 percent (adjusted for inflation) over three decades.

    But between 1983 and 2004, aid levels to the lowest-earning single-parent families – some 2.5 million total across the country earning 50 percent below the poverty line – dropped 35 percent. Meanwhile, aid for families in slightly higher earning brackets rose 74 percent.

    That means, in 2014 dollars, “a family of four earning $11,925 a year likely got less aid than a same-sized family earning $47,700,” according to the report.

    This is due in part to the specialized nature of those welfare programs growing the most. For example, the Supplemental Security Income program, which only assists the elderly and disabled, and the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which only supports the employed, have expanded in the past thirty years, as opposed to programs that cast a broader net.

    Lead researcher Robert A. Moffitt, the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Economics at JHU, said this reflects a shift toward supporting Americans based on seeming merit, rather than direct numeric need.

    “The decline of support to families with non-employed members and to single parents seems to be rooted in the presumption that they have not taken personal responsibility for their own situation,” he said.

    The post Social safety net catching fewer of America’s neediest, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illustration by Getty Images

    The princess culture can be overwhelming to parents who worry about raising their girls to become strong and confident women. Illustrations by Getty Images

    Tutus, tiaras, princess dresses and storybooks selling “happily ever after” line the children’s aisles at every major retailer. The “Frozen” soundtrack from the latest Disney fantasy starring two sister princesses, has topped the charts for nearly three months. The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Belle and Snow White are bound to come calling at your door on Halloween. The princess culture — fueled by Disney’s multi-billion dollar stake in it — has a tight grip on mainstream girlhood and it’s not going away.

    parenting now logoParents may wonder how all of this will affect their daughters as they navigate the tricky path through to their teens and even beyond. Will they become fixated on looking perfect? Will they have unrealistic expectations for what it means to be a woman? Or is it all just a phase, leaving little long-term effects on their child’s self-image?

    Peggy Orenstein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture,” has written for several years about these questions and navigating the princess culture. She will be on the PBS NewsHour Tuesday and she’s shared some tips for parents of both girlie-girls and non-girlie-girls on how to approach the princess culture while raising healthy, confident daughters. — NewsHour reporter/producer Sarah McHaney

    Cinderella Ate My DaughterPeggy Orenstein: You will never convince your daughter that you are giving her more choices about how to be a girl by saying no to everything. So while it’s important to limit your daughter’s exposure to the princess culture, you must also find things you can say yes to: books, toys, clothing, activities that will broaden her idea of what it means to be female — and, ideally, unhook it from an obsession with appearance. Obviously, science, music, art and being outside are important. But to directly disrupt the princess industrial complex try some of the ideas below:

    • Take a break from “Frozen” and “Snow White” by watching the early films of Hiyao Miyazaki: “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” I guarantee they will become favorites. You might also try his films, “Nausica,” “Castle in the Sky,” “Ponyo” and “The Secret World of Arietty.”
    • Best Alternative-Princess Disney films: Mulan and Mulan 2, which contains the subversive, catchy, princess-questioning song, “I Want to Be Like Other Girls.” Shrek and its sequels also offer a fairyland world with a distinctly atypical princess.
    • illustration by Getty Images

      Don’t take away the pink tutus and tiaras just yet. There’s nothing wrong with loving the rosy color, but introduce other hues to your daughter’s wardrobe.

      Sick of pink clothing? Have a dye-in with your daughter: Get a package of cheap, white t-shirts and customize them. Dye them a rainbow of colors. Get a fake batik look using Elmer’s glue (look it up online). Extra points for tie-dye.
    • Check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder picture book collection and try some girl pioneer crafts: Melting and pouring soap is easy, not too messy and a big hit.
    • Attitude is all: Express a lot of enthusiasm about the choices for your daughter that excite you.
    • Early media literacy: Without condemning or belittling your daughter’s interests, start asking questions. “I wonder why they never show Cinderella when she’s in her rags or playing with her animals?” Point out that ads are trying to sell something. Children don’t know that. Notice that, at grocery stores, they have the Little Mermaid Dixie cups at eye level to a child in a grocery cart. I wonder why?
    • Have a pow-wow at the preschool: Talk as a community about broadening girls’ interests. Again, this is not about putting down the princess-obsessed. It’s about offering more. Sponsor a parent-education evening about princess culture and media literacy.
    • At the beginning of the school year, suggest that your preschool head send around a friendly list of birthday party ideas that are fun and inclusive of both boys and girls.
    • Got princess-obsessed grandparents? They just want their granddaughter to feel she’s special — and that they are, too. Try telling them in advance what she’d really like (hint: not more princess gear). Maybe a science kit? Or better yet, suggest special time with Grandma and Grandpa — at the zoo, at the beach, or an overnight.
    • Physical activity and girliness: Girls want to do ballet in preschool. And that can be fine. But most of them won’t want to do it anymore once it gets “real.” So in addition to (or instead of) ballet, how about yoga? Try the books “Babar’s Yoga for Elephants” and “Yoga Bear.” There are also some good DVDs for 3-6 year olds: “YogaKids,” “YogaKids ABCs” and “Rodney Yee’s Family Yoga.” Martial arts, especially for Mulan fans, is another option.
    • Praise your daughter for what she does and who she is, not just how she looks. That doesn’t mean you can never tell her she’s pretty. Just balance it out; be sure she knows that’s not the main thing you value.
    • Surround your girl with a wide array of images of women that expand her idea of beauty and strength. We know beauty comes in all shapes and sizes: be sure she does too.
    • Ladies, now’s the time to deal with your own body/beauty issues: Don’t run your own appearance down in front of your daughter (or, hey, how about at all?). If your thighs feel big today? Keep it to yourself. Your girl is watching you.
    • And guys, no commenting on women’s appearance or weight either! The men in a girl’s life have a special role in reinforcing that a woman’s value is in who they are, not in how they look.

    Peggy Orenstein is the author of The New York Times best-sellers “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture” and “Waiting for Daisy.” She is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. Her commentaries have also appeared on NPR.

    The post Tips for raising well-rounded girls in a princess dominated world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning profanity in media and the arts .  Photo by Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

    Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning profanity in media and the arts . Photo by Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a ban on swearing in Russian films, television, theater, concerts and other live entertainment.

    The law, slated to take effect on July 1, will fine individual offenders as much as 2,500 roubles ($70) and up to 50,000 roubles ($1,400) for organizations.

    The legislation left open the definition of “foul language,” but the New Yorker speculates that that the ban seeks to eliminate all forms of mat (strong, obscene Russian profanity) of which there are four key elements.

    Existing profanity in books, films and other media currently come with warning labels. To the Kremlin, this latest crackdown is a return to more “traditional values” but Western media outlets have described Putin’s latest move as a hardening of an anti-West, pro-Russia cultural conservatism.

    Though some artists have spoken against the law, calling it “excessive,” others respond with mere indifference.

    “I’ve lived awhile and laws have been different during this time, even money has changed, to my memory, four times,” said punk musician Sergei Shnurov in a recent interview with the newspaper Argumenty I Fakty. “Well, now they ban swearing, and tomorrow maybe they’ll allow it again. I treat these things calmly.”

    The post Put a rouble in the swear jar appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A bipartisan group of death penalty opponents and proponents can agree on this: when it comes to carrying out a death sentence, states should only use U.S. government-approved single-drug cocktails.

    That is just one of the several recommended reforms outlined in a report by the Constitution Project, a legal research nonprofit in Washington, D.C. In addition to adopting a one-drug protocol, the report’s authors also recommended only using drugs approved for use in humans and that executions be overseen by medical personnel.

    The Constitution Project’s Death Penalty Committee — which includes former governors, judges and state attorneys general, as well as faith and business leaders and activists — had not addressed legal issues about lethal injections in previous reports. They address it now because there are “serious concerns about the safety and efficacy of lethal injection as a method of execution.”

    “Due to foreign and some domestic drug manufacturers now refusing to provide drugs if they are to be used for executions, prisons have also encountered difficulty in obtaining some drugs previously relied on for this purpose, thus creating acute shortages. In light of these shortages, some states have proceeded with executions using drugs never before used to execute humans. They have also used drugs whose safety and effectiveness cannot be assured because they are manufactured by “compounding pharmacies,” which are not subject to FDA regulation.”

    The report has been released one week after Oklahoma state officials failed in their attempt to execute Clayton Lockett, a death row inmate, by lethal injection. Lockett died 40 minutes later from a heart attack. After the botched execution, President Barack Obama said that he would work with the Justice Department to investigate the implementation of capital punishment.

    The post Criminal justice experts recommend single drug for executions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Raids have targeted synthetic drug sellers across the U.S. Photo collage of the drug known as "bath salts" by NewsHour

    Raids have targeted synthetic drug sellers across the U.S. Photo collage of the drug known as “bath salts” by NewsHour

    WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday broadened its national crackdown on synthetic drug manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers as federal agents served hundreds of search and arrest warrants in at least 25 states.

    Agents served warrants at homes, warehouses and smoke shops beginning early morning, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said. The largest single operation was a statewide effort in Alabama. Agents also were active in Florida and New Mexico, among other states.

    The DEA has been cracking down on synthetic drugs, including so-called bath salts, spice and Molly, since the drugs first gained widespread popularity years ago.

    In late 2010, the agency responsible for enforcing federal drug laws moved to ban five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana blends, including K2, Spice and Blaze. Since then, drug manufacturers have continued to modify their formulas and develop new chemical mixtures.

    Ferdinand Large, staff coordinator for DEA’s Special Operations Division, said the agency is now broadly focused on Chinese chemical manufacturers and the distributors, wholesalers and retailers in the United States. There is also growing concern about where the money is going.

    Investigators have tracked hundreds of millions of dollars in drug proceeds being sent to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Large said.

    “The money is going there; where it stops we don’t know,” Large said. Large said it’s also unclear which criminal organizations may be profiting from the drug proceeds.

    U.S. authorities long have worried about criminal and terrorist groups in the Middle East using drug trafficking to fund illicit activities.

    In a November 2013 report on transnational organized crime, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said “drug trafficking organizations and terror networks are joined at the hip in many parts of the world.

    “DEA must relentlessly purse these dangerous individuals and criminal groups that attempt to use drug trafficking profits to fuel and fund terror networks, such as Hezbollah,” Leonhart said.

    Payne said Wednesday’s crackdown was focused strictly on U.S. targets and involved 33 DEA cases, seven investigations led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents and several others led by Customs and Border Protection that focused on express consignment shipments.

    Last year, the DEA and Customs and Border Protection wrapped up a 7-month investigation that ended in 150 arrests and the seizure of about a ton of drugs.

    Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter @acaldwellap.

    The post DEA takes aim at synthetic drugs with nationwide raids appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Nigerian Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade (center) speaks to civil society groups protesting the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April during a rally in Abuja on May 6, 2014. Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

    Nigerian Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, center, speaks to civil society groups protesting the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April during a rally in Abuja on Tuesday. Photo by Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

    Islamic militants attacked a town in northeastern Nigeria, killing hundreds, an official said Wednesday, while police offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to the release of nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls.

    The militant group Boko Haram is suspected of looting and setting ablaze buildings in the town of Gamboru Ngala, on the border with Cameroon, reported the Associated Press.

    Borno state information commissioner Mohammed Bulama said the death toll was in the hundreds, and local newspapers put it at 300. The militants reportedly fired into a crowd at a busy nighttime market and set homes on fire.

    Boko Haram also kidnapped 276 teenage girls from their boarding school in Chibok in Borno state on April 14. The militants threatened to sell them into slavery, launching an international appeal for their release.

    As parents and advocacy groups rallied for the government to help the girls, Nigerian police offered a $300,000 reward on Wednesday for information leading to their rescue. They listed six numbers for residents to call with information.

    The post Boko Haram attacks town in Nigeria; police offer reward for schoolgirls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    parenting now logoThis week on-air and online at PBS NewsHour, we’re exploring the world of modern-day parenting.

    Are you a parent? How do you balance work and family? With so many books and constantly changing parenting fads, whose advice do you follow?

    Join NewsHour and Jennifer Senior — author of “All Joy and No Fun” — on Twitter for a conversation about parenting at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday. Follow the discussion and chime in with your own thoughts and questions by using #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter Chat: What does it mean to be a parent? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Vladimir Putin told diplomats Wednesday that Russian troops have been pulled back from the Ukrainian border. Putin also called on Ukraine’s military to halt all operations against pro-Russia activists who have seized government buildings and police stations in at least a dozen towns in eastern Ukraine, reports the Associated Press.

    Reuters is reporting that the White House says there is no evidence that Russia has withdrawn troops from the border.

    Last week, Ukraine launched an offensive to take back towns from insurgents. At least 35 people, including many rebels, have died in that offensive, the government said.

    Pro-Russia insurgents had planned for a referendum on autonomy for eastern regions on Sunday, but Putin has urged a postponement.

    “We believe that the most important thing is to create direct, full-fledged dialogue between the Kiev authorities and representatives of southeast Ukraine,” Putin said. “Because of this, we ask that representatives of southeast Ukraine, supporters of federalization in the country, postpone the May 11 referendum in order to create the necessary conditions for such a dialogue.”

    Many fear that Sunday’s vote would be a flashpoint for further violence between the rebels and Ukrainian troops.

    Russia annexed Crimea in March after residents held a vote and overwhelmingly backed secession.

    The post Putin says Russian troops pull back from Ukraine border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told Congress’s Joint Economic Committee that she expects low borrowing rates will continue to be needed for a “considerable time.” Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    A week after the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee announced yet another reduction in their monetary stimulus, Fed chair Janet Yellen delivered an optimistic growth outlook before the congressional Joint Economic Committee Wednesday.

    Yellen acknowledged the economy had “paused” during the first quarter of 2014, but blamed most of that on a cold winter. “With the harsh winter behind us, many recent indicators suggest that a rebound in spending and production is already underway,” Yellen said in her prepared remarks.

    A weak labor market and inflation below the Fed’s 2 percent target, however, requires the Fed to continue their monetary stimulus program, Yellen said. But as long as the labor market improves, she expects to fully draw down asset purchases by the fall.

    Although the unemployment rate has declined, Yellen said she’s concerned about such a “substantial” drop in the labor force participation rate. Last month, the share of the population either working or searching for a job fell to 62.8 percent — the lowest since 1978. A good part of that decline is demographic, she said, referring to the baby boomers dropping out of the labor force when they retire. But the weak state of the labor market is a factor in that decline, too, she said.

    Yellen also outlined several risks to the recovery, namely the housing slowdown. Her comments, the Wall Street Journal points out, were more prominent than any other recent treatment of that sector by her Fed colleagues, and if housing is indeed a concern for the Fed, it’s possible they could hold interest rates lower for longer.

    As for the Fed’s impact on financial stability, Yellen said she was aware of some investors taking on extra risk because of lower interest rates, but she defended the Fed’s policies, saying that valuations in equity markets “remain within historical norms.”

    The post Yellen cautiously optimistic about future growth appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Maintaining the perfect work-life balance can be difficult, but according to a new survey, some states make it easier to be a working mom. Photo by Getty Images

    Maintaining the perfect work-life balance can be difficult, but according to a new survey, some states make it easier to be a working mom. Photo by Getty Images

    Parents have an increasing number of items to juggle, so striking the right work-life balance can be tricky. Women in particular seek balance — they comprise of half the workforce but still perform the majority of housework and child care.

    parenting now logoUsing a variety of measures including “day care and public school quality,” “child care costs,” “gender pay gap” and “the length of an average woman’s work day,” the personal finance website WalletHub has ranked the best and worst states for a mother to have a job outside of the home.

    According to the survey, Oregon is the most welcoming state for women divided between the office and home. It has strong rankings in both day care options and professional opportunities. On the other end, Louisiana ranked last along with neighbor, Mississippi. Both states had low-rated daycare systems and two of the highest gender pay gaps. In Louisiana a woman makes, on average, 72 percent of what a man makes.

    Both New York and the District of Columbia had highly ranked child care options, but they come at a steep cost. In New York child care costs 27.5 percent of the median income for a woman, in D.C. it’s 24.5 percent.

    As the survey shows, most women have advantages and disadvantages in every state. Alabama has one of the worst-ranked daycare systems (though one of the least expensive), but it also has the highest women-to-men ratio in executive positions.

    WalletHub asked several women about their findings, specifically whether striking the right balance is becoming easier for working moms. Jennifer Owens from the Working Mother Research Institute said, “In some ways it’s easier, with the rise of 24/7 technology, more access to workplace flexibility and increasing hands-on parenting by men. But 24/7 technology has also made it harder to step away from work, while parenting demands on women have also increased in the past decade.”

    Finding the balance isn’t easy, but as Mother’s Day approaches it might be a good time to thank your own working mom for trying.

    Top 10 states to be a working mom:

    1. Oregon
    2. District of Columbia
    3. Vermont
    4. Maine
    5. New York
    6. Delaware
    7. Rhode Island
    8. California
    9. Massachusetts
    10. Ohio

    See where all 50 states rank here.

    The post Best and worst states to be a working mom appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Recent research points to an academic gap between boys and girls, with a learning environment tipped to favor girls. Photo by Flickr user Lotus Carroll

    Data reveals an academic gap between boys and girls, with a learning environment tipped to favor girls. But there’s a lot parents can do to encourage their sons to achieve academic success. Photo by Flickr user Lotus Carroll

    Sit still. Read quietly to yourself. Stop fidgeting. Such warnings are often directed at boys, but you may as well be asking them to do advanced calculus.

    parenting now logoGirls are more attentive, more organized and perform better socially and academically, according to recent research published by the Third Way, a centrist policy institute. And the gap between girls and boys exceeds that of any other two groups.

    “The social and behavioral skills gap between boys and girls is considerably larger than the gap between children from poor families and middle class families or the gap between black and white children,” the study reads.

    Some attribute the growing divide to a learning environment structured to favor girls.

    “Girls have become the gold standard,” Michael Thompson, author of “It’s a Boy!” and “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys,” told NewsHour. “We, as parents, have decided that we need earlier reading scores. Then we’ve made kindergarten the new first grade. There is more emphasis on learning earlier and earlier. Boys just aren’t programmed like that — that’s obvious from a physical and psychological standpoint.”

    By the 8th grade, 48 percent of girls receive a mix of A and B grades compared to 31 percent of boys, the research shows. The gap remains through high school and in college. Nearly 60 percent of college graduates are women.

    The academic gap takes a psychological toll on boys too. Boys are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school, in fact they account for 71 percent of all school suspensions according to the U.S. Department of Education and the Schott Foundation Report.

    Boys are also far less likely to ask for help when they don’t understand a subject.

    “If you treat girls as the gold standards and boys as defective girls, that’s going to be demoralizing,” Thompson said. “What do elementary and junior high girls always say about boys their age? ‘You are so immature.’ If that’s the norm, then this system is just rigged against the boys.”

    So, how can parents help turn this around? We have tips from two experts on how to help boys keep up with their female counterparts and succeed in school.

    Marie Rocker-Jones founded “Raising Great Men” and is the senior editor at The Good Man Project.

    • Make sure your home encourages learning. Have books, learning materials and tools that support your son’s learning style. Create a learning environment at home that reflects what your son is learning at school. There needs to be a school-home-life-connection to make education appealing to your son.
    Create a safe, learning space in your home, one that would help make education appealing to your son. Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images

    Create a learning space in your home, one that would help make education appealing to your son. Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images

    • Set goals for the academic year. Work with your son at the beginning of the school year to set realistic academic goals. The goals should be fluid and adjusted as the school year progresses. Talk about expectations and plans for achieving academic success.
    • Create a partnership with your son’s school. Work with administrators and teachers as a team to ensure your son’s success. Let teachers know you are an active partner.
    • Create a safe space for your son to discuss challenges/concerns about school. Have weekly or monthly check-ins with your son to talk about how what is going on at school. Use this opportunity to listen more than speak. Provide guidance rather than criticism.
    • Help him to recognize his abilities. Focus on your son’s strengths and help him identify areas in need of improvement.
    • Bonus: Set guidelines and show him how to balance “work and play time.” Be consistent with helping him manage his time.

    Michael Thompson is the author of “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” among other books and is a psychologist specializing in the emotional development of boys.

    • Fathers need to spend more time reading to their children — both boys and girls — more time helping with homework and more time attending non-athletic school events. When boys see that their fathers only come to town sports, they conclude that school is not of great interest to men and therefore not a path to manhood. When fathers, even uneducated fathers, come to school and spend time on schoolwork with their sons, it has a huge positive impact.
    Fathers can help their son's development by being involved with the child's schoolwork, reading and other non-athletic activities. Photo by Cavan Images

    Fathers can help their son’s development by being involved with the child’s schoolwork, reading and supporting other non-athletic activities. Photo by Cavan Images

    • Parents need to allow their children to engage in free, undirected outdoor play as much as possible. When boys organize their own groups, play their own games and have their own adventures, it makes them more competent and confident, readier to tackle tasks in the more constrained world of school.
    • Teachers need to be taught that in the classroom boys respond favorably to lessons that involve movement, teamwork, competition, a public product (producing a video clip, reciting a poem or lines from a play) and some psychological hook: humor, a mystery, a puzzle. The steady diet of a quiet classroom with an emphasis on individual reading or paper-and—pencil work is designed to make boys feels they are in jail.
    • Schools are constantly interfering with boys’ play at recess and are constantly banning the kinds of stories they like to write in an un-scientific effort at violence prevention. There is no scientific basis for banning boys’ play or their so-called “violent stories” just because they are not to the teacher’s taste.
    • We must all recognize that boys, even more than girls, are relational learners. They only work hard for teachers who are interested in them as people, who are curious about a boy’s life outside school, and who have a sense of humor about some oppositional behavior on the part of boys. Boys work hard for teachers who trust boy development.
    • The post How do we help boys close the academic gender gap? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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