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

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    Be a man. Man up. Don’t cry.

    parenting now logoPhrases boys hear their whole lives. They’re echoed in the opening lines of “The Mask You Live In,” a new documentary from filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom that examines the mixed messages we send our boys on what it means to be a man. With so much attention given to the idea of feminism and how women are portrayed in the media — the subject of her first documentary, “Miss Representation” — Newsom decided to turn her focus on the idea of masculinity.

    “As I traveled around the world with our first film, ‘Miss Representation,’ I heard the same refrain over and over again, ‘But what about our boys? Isn’t there a boys crisis going on? And, how can we help our boys be part of the (gender equity) solution instead of the problem?’” Newsom told the NewsHour. “Having just given birth to a son, I was beginning to understand the challenges unique to our boys and men and knew I needed to dig deeper into unraveling the damaging masculinity narrative that is fed to our boys and men.”

    Newsom isn’t the only one who has expressed concern about this, but still there has been relatively little attention paid to boys’ well-being, and particularly to their academic performance. It’s not only their ability to sit still and pay attention for long periods of time, she said, though that is a factor. Newsom thinks the problem is deeper and there needs to be more attention on all factors contributing to the gender gap.

    "The Mask You Live In" director Jennifer Siebel Newsom shoots a scene in California. Photo courtesy of The Representation Project

    “The Mask You Live In” director Jennifer Siebel Newsom shoots a scene in California. Photo courtesy of @MaskYouLiveIn

    “Certainly having less physical outlets during the school day and so few male teachers doesn’t help young men aspire and excel in the school environment. … The problem lies in the larger culture in which we reside and raise our children, purporting that a man’s value lies in his power, dominance and control at the expense of his empathy, care and collaboration. There is still a huge cultural stigma around boys’ and mens’ emotions and personal struggles.”

    A lot of this stigma comes from the imagery we surround boys with on what it means to be a man: pictures of strong, often aggressive athletes and music videos with men flaunting money and scantily clad women.

    But home life has an impact as well, she said.

    “Outside of the classroom, one in three boys go to bed at night without a father in the house. Healthy male role models in many boys’ immediate lives are few and far between.”

    “The Mask You Live In” tries to address this cultural stigma and possibly even turn it around. Newsom said what surprised her the most while making the film is how much friendships — that emotional connection — meant to boys and how much joy they get out of being with their friends. That is followed by the loss and sadness they felt when they disconnected from those deep friendships to become “real men.”

    The film features an after school group for young men, the Ever Forward Club, that discusses all of these issues. The founder, Ashanti Branch, said he was blown away when he realized how much these “tough” guys needed to talk about their emotions, their anger and their desire to be a good man. Branch tries to help these boys learn how to cope with situations without anger or aggression.

    “I tell them all — you have a hammer in your toolbox, but what if you need to build something? You can’t build something with just a hammer and sometimes you don’t even need a hammer. When your teacher tells you to sit up or pay attention, you don’t need a hammer in that situation. So how can we create the tools that you do need so that not every situation ends up with you yelling and being kicked out of class?” Branch said.

    It’s not just up to men though. Newsom sites the role feminism has played in challenging these unhealthy gender norms where men are taught to be dominant and aggressive.

    “Since men have been at the helms of creating this unhealthy culture, it’s really critical that men be a part of the solution,” she said. “Parity in particular is not possible without the buy-in and healthy engagement of all men.”

    “The Mask You Live In” will be released later this year.

    The post ‘But what about our boys?’ The other gender equity crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Coast Guard combat photographer came upon this monument to a dead American soldier somewhere on the shell-blasted shore of Normandy in June, 1944. U.S. National Archives

    A Coast Guard combat photographer came upon this monument to a dead American soldier somewhere on the shell-blasted shore of Normandy in June, 1944. U.S. National Archives

    WASHINGTON — Complicating the West’s efforts to isolate Russia, the Kremlin announced Thursday that Vladimir Putin will join President Barack Obama and European leaders in France next month for a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that hastened the end of World War II.

    The June 6 commemoration would mark the first time Putin and Western leaders have come face-to-face since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine. The U.S. and Europe have condemned Russia’s provocations, ordering sanctions on Putin’s inner circle and cutting Russia’s ties to some international organizations.

    Still, leaders from Germany and France publicly welcomed Putin’s decision to attend the observance at Normandy, raising questions about the effectiveness of recent efforts to ostracize the Russian president over Ukraine. And while the White House said Obama would not meet one-on-one with Putin, U.S. officials did not appear to be seeking to stop him from attending.

    “We would not expect France to dis-invite Russia from this historic event commemorating World War II because of what’s taking place in Ukraine,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “The events in Normandy on June 6 are focused on remembering the sacrifices of all our World War II veterans.” Millions of Russian lives were lost in the war against Nazi Germany.

    Yet Putin’s presence is sure to intrude on, if not overshadow, the commemorations of the Normandy landings by allied forces. Even without a formal meeting between Putin and Western leaders, there will be heightened interest in their interactions, particularly between Obama and Putin, who have a history of tense public encounters.

    “If this goes forward, this is not going to be about Normandy and the second world war,” said Heather Conley, a Europe scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We’re just going to be watching the body language.”

    International gatherings like the D-Day anniversary are often occasions where world leaders find themselves in the presence of their foes. Obama shook hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a regional summit in 2009. He also exchanged a handshake and brief pleasantries with Cuban leader Raul Castro last year while both attended a memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela.

    French officials began inviting world leaders to Normandy months ago, well before Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and positioned 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s border with the former Soviet republic. The guest list also includes Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, the leaders of other European countries on both sides of World War II, and the heads of former African colonies whose soldiers took part in the war.

    The U.S. and Europe were largely in agreement about allowing Putin to attend and felt it was appropriate to separate the war commemorations from the current geopolitical conflict, according to a Western diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the diplomat was not authorized to discuss the Ukraine crisis publicly.

    Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said details of the Russian leader’s visit were still being worked out. Most of the international leaders in attendance are expected to attend a lunch and formal ceremony on June 6, with other events scheduled throughout the week.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the news of Putin’s visit, saying she “had hoped that despite the different opinions and the great conflict we have right now, a joint remembrance of a difficult time — of World War II — is possible.”

    Merkel’s comments were echoed by French President Francois Hollande. He told a French television station Thursday that while he has differences with Putin, he has not forgotten the millions of Russian lives that were lost in the war.

    The victory over Nazi Germany remains a source of great pride in Russia.

    Putin’s decision to attend the D-Day commemoration could undermine what was supposed to be a strong show of U.S. and European unity against Russia that same week. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Western allies canceled plans to attend a Group of Eight Summit that Putin was scheduled to host in early June in Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    Instead, the seven other nations in the international economic forum will gather without Russia in Brussels before heading to Normandy.

    Despite efforts to deepen Russia’s isolation, U.S. and European officials acknowledge that it would be almost impossible to fully cut off ties with Russia. European nations have deep economic connections, particularly with Russia’s robust energy sector. Russia is also closely involved with several of Obama’s top foreign policy priorities, even negotiating alongside Washington in talks aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Lynn Berry in Moscow contributed to this report.

    ___

    Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

    The post Putin plans to attend D-Day ceremony alongside Western leaders appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is pushing back against calls for him to resign. This comes after allegations that dozens of patients have died because of delayed treatment at an agency hospital.

    Jeffrey Brown reports.

    REP. JEFF MILLER, R, Chair, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: All those in favor of the motion to issue the subpoena will say aye.

    MEN: Aye.

    REP. JEFF MILLER: All those opposed, no.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted overwhelmingly this morning to subpoena communications between Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and his colleagues, the focus, allegations that employees at VA facilities in Phoenix, Arizona, and Fort Collins, Colorado falsified records on delays in treating patients.

    A retired doctor in Phoenix who had worked at the hospital came forward with allegations that up to 40 VA patients died while awaiting care.

    On Monday, the head of nation’s largest veterans group, the American Legion, called for Shinseki’s resignation.

    DANNY DELLINGER, National Commander, The American Legion: There needs to be a change, and that change needs to occur at the top. The administration needs to take steps now. This is long overdue. They should have taken steps months ago.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Three Republican senators, including John Cornyn of Texas, quickly joined that call.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R, Texas: The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness and back to providing the service that our veterans deserve.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But House Speaker John Boehner said today the real priority is making it easier for Shinseki to fire people.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R, Speaker of the House, Speaker of the House: I’m not ready to join the chorus of people calling for him to step down. The problems at the VA are systemic. And I don’t believe that just changing someone at the top is going to actually get to the solutions that many of us are looking for.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Democrats have generally defended the secretary, while demanding improvements in care for the nine million people in the VA medical system.

    For his part, Shinseki insists he won’t step down.

    He told The Wall Street Journal yesterday: “I serve at the pleasure of the president. I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do.”

    The VA inspector general is now investigating the allegations of falsifying records.

    And White House spokesman Jay Carney says President Obama is standing by the secretary.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: The president remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the I.G.’s findings.

    Pending those findings, Shinseki has now ordered a nationwide review of access to care at all VA clinics.

    We invited Veteran Affairs Secretary Shinseki to appear on tonight’s program. He declined.

    So, to tell us more about what happened in Phoenix and the wider implications, we turn to Associated Press reporter Brian Skoloff. And Phillip Carter, he’s a senior fellow with the Center for a New American Security. He’s a former Army officer who writes often on issues involving veterans.

    Brian Skoloff, let me start with you. Tell us more first about the specific allegations here. The VA was falsifying records of appointments with patients?

    BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press: Yes, those are the allegations.

    We had a doctor who retired, longtime physician with the VA after about 20 years of service, retired in December, and then came public with these allegations that administrations at the VA hospital had instructed staff to keep this secret waiting list to hid wait times. Sometimes, patients were waiting six to nine months to get in there.

    But the wait list was showing that they were getting appointments within two weeks. He also claims that, because of this wait list, up to 40 patients may have died while awaiting this care.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, explain that, Brian, because the allegations — it doesn’t — it’s not necessarily that 40 people who died because they weren’t seen, but they died during that waiting time.

    BRIAN SKOLOFF: Exactly.

    And we also have to make perfectly clear here that these are all still allegations. As you noted, the inspector general’s office has investigators here in Phoenix poring over records, interviewing staff, trying to get to the truth.

    Right now, what we have is this doctor and two other former VA employees making these claims. And you are exactly correct. The claims are that up to 40 patients may have died while awaiting care.

    But, you know, first of all, VA Administration here in Phoenix deny any of these allegations. But they also point out that if there were deaths while patients were awaiting doctor’s appointments, they very well may could have happened from a heart attack, or a car accident, things unrelated to the care that they were seeking.

    So, again, the inspector general is down here. And we will have to wait to see what the probe fills up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, well, Phil Carter, there is a larger context here, right? The VA has been under pressure and criticized for systemic problems and not keeping up with demand of the wars we have been fighting.

    PHILLIP CARTER, Center for a New American Security: That’s right.

    These allegations strike a chord, because even though there is widespread patient satisfaction with the VA’s massive hospital system, there are also repeated allegations like this.

    And, in fact, the Government Accountability Office, the GAO, substantiated many of these a couple of years ago with a series of reports on how unreliable the VA’s wait time systems were. And that’s been a known problem within the VA that, even though they have known about it, they have not fixed it in the years since.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and, in fact, presumably, it is that very thing that may have caused the pressure in Phoenix and other places to falsify the documents, I assume.

    PHILLIP CARTER: That’s part of it. And part of it is also the potential linkage between performance incentives and wait times.

    That is, if the reported wait times or the targets for those wait times are part of the employment contracts for certain VA officials, they are also very visible metrics of success for VA medical centers. And there is an allegation at least that the VA personnel may have tweaked the stats in order to look better on those measures.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So we have allegations in Phoenix, in Fort Collins.

    Are you hearing — does it look like we’re going to be hearing about this in other places as well, these practices?

    PHILLIP CARTER: There are also reports coming out of Austin and San Antonio.

    You have to remember the VA is a massive health care system, 151 hospitals, 800-plus clinics. And so if these conditions existed at the Phoenix Center, which I should say is also home to the second largest veterans community in the country, they may exist in other large facilities or small facilities too.

    It is, as Speaker Boehner said, most likely a systemic issue.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Brian Skoloff, you said that there in Phoenix, the VA people at the hospital have denied these allegations. Tell us a little bit more about the reaction so far.

    BRIAN SKOLOFF: Yes, I mean, a good point was raised there. These allegations are very, very serious.

    And they — Dr. Foote, the former VA employee who came out with them first, claims exactly what your guest just said, that the reason the administrators were having these wait times fabricated was so that they could pad their pockets with bonus checks.

    Director Sharon Helman, who is the director at the VA health care system here in Phoenix, prior to her being placed on administrative leave last week, told me that she flat-out denies this. She makes roughly $169,000, $170,000 a year. Her bonus last year was about $9,300.

    She scoffs at the notion that she would sit back and watch veterans die to make an extra $9,000 in bonus money. Again, though, these are all allegations, but if proven true, they are very serious allegations. But the chief of staff and the hospital administrator vehemently deny that any secret waiting list was created, that they ever told staff to create the secret waiting list, and that staff is really just confused with a changeover from paperwork, actual paperwork, to an electronic waiting list.

    But, again, you know, at this point, it is a he said/she said until investigators get to the truth.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Phil Carter, at the national level, though, there is a lot of pressure now on General Shinseki.

    PHILLIP CARTER: There’s an awful lot of pressure, and a lot of folks are analogizing this now to the Walter Reed scandal from six years ago, where there were reports of terrible living conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is not a VA facility, and those led to the downfall of the Army’s medical leadership as a result.

    But folks are trying to figure out here in Washington, where do you fix responsibility within the chain of command? Is it at the secretarial level? Is it below that at the regional level, the hospital level, or down below? And I think that there’s a consensus building, at least — and Speaker Boehner’s comments illustrate that — to wait for the investigation before we fix accountability for these issues.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Secretary Shinseki announced this face-to-face audit, right, yesterday at all the facilities across the country. Do we know what that will entail? Do we know how long it will take?

    PHILLIP CARTER: No, we don’t know the details of that.

    We do know that it was announced earlier in April, and that that was part of the effort to understand how much of an issue this is throughout the VA’s massive health care system — Secretary Shinseki trying to get ahead of the story as much as possible, while also fighting the perception that he is not doing enough.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Brian Skoloff, do you have any more on how that is going to work there in Phoenix?

    BRIAN SKOLOFF: Well, it could be weeks down here trying to get to the truth of things. But a good point was raised there.

    It is no secret that the VA is overwhelmed with veterans seeking care, either from previous wars, more recent wars. There are a lot of veterans seeking care. And they are really swarming these hospitals. Look, the VA has already acknowledged that 23 patients in recent years have died due to delayed care. So there is no — there is no secret that there is an issue with delayed care.

    The allegations made here in Phoenix, though, are very serious that there was a cover-up in order for these administrators to make money and get bonus checks. So I guess we will wait and see. But, again, as your guest noted, there’s no secret that the VA has some issues it needs to deal with.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Brian Skoloff, Phil Carter, thank you both very much.

    PHILLIP CARTER: Thank you.

    BRIAN SKOLOFF: Thank you.

    The post Under scrutiny in the past, VA clinic delay allegations strike a chord appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user khrawlings

    Photo by Flickr user khrawlings

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Koch group to drop $125 million in 2014
    • House approves formation of Benghazi committee
    • New Jersey budget issues raise questions for Christie
    • 2016 name to watch: Mike Pence

    Kochs plan to spend big: To the surprise of no one, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s repeated attacks against Charles and David Koch have failed to dissuade the conservative billionaires from investing heavily in the 2014 midterm elections. Politico’s Ken Vogel reports that Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the Koch brothers, plans to spend more than $125 million “on an aggressive ground, air and data operation” to help boost conservative candidates. That sum would “exceed the total 2012 fundraising hauls of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or the National Republican Senatorial Committee,” Vogel writes. The $125 million projection comes after the Kochs’ political network raised more than $400 million trying to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012.

    Aiming for the red-state Democrats in the South: This time their aim will be vulnerable Senate Democrats in red states such as Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. By the end of March AFP had already spent $7 million targeting Hagan. AFP has so far dropped more money than any other outside group on the right, and Friday’s headline signals that spending is only going to continue — and likely escalate — as the calendar moves closer to November.

    GOP turns to Steyer: As Democrats continue to call out the Kochs, Republicans are hitting environmental activist Tom Steyer, a former hedge-fund manager who has pledged to spend $100 million of his own to raise the issue of climate change. The Republican National Committee put out a research memo on Steyer yesterday blaming him for the Keystone XL pipeline not yet being approved, and a conservative web site looked at his hedge fund’s former ties to a Russian oil company later sanctioned by the U.S. It’s that time of year. By the way, speaking of climate change, President Obama is making an announcement on new executive actions on climate policy as well as private groups’ investments at 1 p.m. ET in California.

    Benghazi panel sparks partisan fight: The House voted 232 to 186 Thursday night to form a special committee to investigate the September 2012 terror attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, with seven Democrats voting with Republicans. The list, per NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman: Arizona’s Ron Barber and Kyrsten Sinema, Georgia’s John Barrow, North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre, Florida’s Patrick Murphy, Minnesota’s Collin Peterson and West Virginia’s Nick Rahall. Democrats meet Friday morning to decide whether to boycott or participate in the committee. Roll Call reports that Democrats are undecided between boycotting completely, going with all five members (of the 12 members allowed to the minority) to be able to check Republicans and try to negotiate for more power over things like subpoenas, or go with just one member to make a symbolic gesture but also so they have access what Republicans are trying to do. The New York Times editorial page says Democrats shouldn’t participate so they don’t lend “legitimacy.” It also dismissed the House GOP’s new Benghazi push, saying the White House email released last week wasn’t more than “a routine attempt to spin the news in the most favorable way to the White House.” The Washington Post’s Robert Costa was on NewsHour Thursday night reporting on Republicans’ motivation for the new Benghazi panel.

    From Bridge-gate to budget woes: The leader of the “Jersey Comeback” tour faces an $807 million budget shortfall. With two months to go until the end of the fiscal year, the state’s treasurer told a budget panel that Gov. Chris Christie may delay pension payments until the first week of July to help close the gap. But that could spark another downgrade from Wall Street credit rating agencies. There have already been five since Christie took office in 2010. Bloomberg notes that Democrat Jim McGreevey, who served as governor from 2002 to 2004, had six. Budget analysts cite the administration’s consistently overly optimistic revenue forecasts and the failure to implement long-term revenue solutions (like raising property taxes above 2 percent). The state’s fiscal hole is a political problem for Christie beyond the Garden State — arguably more so than the George Washington Bridge scandal — because it represents a crack in the “Jersey miracle” story of fiscally conservative leadership Christie has sold in speeches to the Republican National Convention in 2012 and as head of Republican Governors Association.

    Pence in 2016?: While much of the focus for 2016 on the Republican side centers on Christie or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, other potential contenders are quietly making moves to set up a run without much public fanfare. Among them: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, whose possible presidential ambitions were the subject of a piece Thursday by the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa. The pair report on Pence’s travel schedule and effort to cultivate conservative leaders, moves that could signal a potential bid. They write that “some GOP leaders have begun talking up Pence as an under-the-radar standard-bearer who could return the party to the White House.” In an interview with the Post Pence acknowledged that “people have reached out” and indicated he was “listening” to what they had to say. Given Christie’s recent struggles and the uncertainty surrounding a Bush run, the GOP field appears to be much more up for grabs than the Democratic side, where things are seemingly on hold until former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes a decision.

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1974, The House Judiciary Committee began formal hearings on President Nixon’s impeachment. How many American presidents have been impeached? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed yesterday’s trivia correctly. The answer was: Reims, France.

    LINE ITEMS

    • Politics are wading into the Nigeria story with conservatives now pushing that Hillary Clinton’s State Department declined to designate Boko Haram a terrorist group.

    • As more U.S. military officials are expected in Nigeria Friday to try and help with the search of the more than 200 kidnapped girls, President Obama acknowledged that the United States, despite its superpower status, is limited in what it can do.

    • The Republican National Committee leaders took steps Thursday to reduce the number of GOP primary debates to possibly fewer than half of the 20 held in 2012.

    • The Federal Elections Committee ruled Thursday that political action committees can accept bitcoin contributions for federal elections as long as donors identify themselves.

    • A new directive from the Office of the Director of National Security prohibits government employees from referring to leaked information when speaking publicly, writing for publications or producing any other unofficial works.

    • Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the president’s nominee to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, faced a “surprisingly cordial” confirmation hearing Thursday, garnering praise from several Republican lawmakers. Here’s the NewsHour’s report.

    • Gov. Tom Corbett announced Thursday that he will not appeal the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling that overturned the state’s photo ID requirement when voting.

    • United States Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that public schools cannot deny enrollment for children in the U.S. illegally.

    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

    TOP TWEETS

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    The post Koch group plans to spend $125 million on midterms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Divided House Democrats are weighing whether to participate in a new investigation of the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, or boycott the election-year inquiry of a tragedy they accuse Republicans of politicizing.

    Party leaders will meet with rank-and-file members Friday to decide the next step after Republicans the day before rammed through a resolution creating a special select committee to examine the Sept. 11, 2012, assault. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed when militants stormed the diplomatic outpost.

    The vote Thursday to create the special committee was 232-186. Seven Democrats, many of whom face tough re-elections in November, broke ranks and joined the GOP majority.

    The panel’s investigation will be the eighth on Benghazi and means high-profile hearings in the months leading up to the elections, with Republicans grilling current and former Obama administration officials. Certain to be called to testify is former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrats’ potential 2016 presidential candidate.

    Democrats are split over whether to boycott the select committee, which will have a 7-5 Republican edge in membership. They are concerned that their participation would grant legitimacy to what they believe will be a partisan forum. But they also worry that if they avoid it they won’t have the chance to counter GOP claims and defend potential witnesses.

    “This doesn’t need to be, shouldn’t be and will not be a partisan process,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a speech on the House floor promising pursuit of the truth.

    Democrats have their doubts.

    “This is 100 percent pure politics,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said Friday. She charged that Republicans are exploiting the families of the four victims of the Benghazi attack by keeping the issue alive.

    Wasserman Schultz accused Republicans of doing all in their power “to keep this in the news,” saying the GOP is returning its focus to Benghazi now because its staunch opposition to the Affordable Care Act “has lost its luster.”

    Said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.: “It’s hard to trust what Speaker Boehner is doing with this new select committee.” Becerra, D-Calif., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, pointed to Boehner’s comments a month ago that a special panel was unnecessary.

    After the vote, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was noncommittal about whether Democrats would participate on the special committee, but assailed the new probe. “Our nation deserves better than yet another deeply partisan and political review,” she said.

    Boehner’s legislation creates the special committee through the end of the year. It will have to be reapproved when a new Congress begins in January or go out of existence. The select committee has no explicit financial constraints. The speaker was expected to announce the Republican members on Friday.

    House Democrats have issued several demands if they are to participate in the select committee. Rebuffed on their request for an equal split in membership, Democrats are seeking guarantees they’ll have equal access to documents, say on subpoenas and the right to question witnesses.

    In the 20 months since the attack, multiple independent, bipartisan and GOP-led probes already have faulted the State Department for inadequate security at the outpost, leading to four demotions. No attacker has yet been brought to justice.

    Republicans say they’re unsatisfied with explanations so far, and they have leveled a range of accusations against President Barack Obama, Clinton and other senior administration officials. Chief among them is that the administration misled the American people about the nature of the attack during a presidential election campaign and stonewalled congressional investigators.

    Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., criticized the “song and dance” she said came from Clinton when House members wanted to question her about Benghazi a few months after the attack. Clinton’s testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee was delayed when she missed a month of work toward the end of her tenure after suffering a virus, then a fall and a concussion, and then brief hospitalization for a blood clot near her brain.

    Benghazi has produced 13 public hearings, the release of 25,000 pages of documents and 50 separate briefings. The select committee won’t be the only inquiry, as other GOP-led congressional panels continue their investigations, including a House Oversight probe which just last week took the extraordinary step of subpoenaing a Cabinet member, Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry hasn’t said when he might testify.

    Democrats deride the effort as a conservative campaign designed to energize Republican voters in typically low-turnout midterm elections.

    Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., accused Republicans of perpetuating “myths and conspiracies” and remaining obsessed with “recycling tired and worn talking points in a cynical attempt to fire up the GOP base in the run-up to an election year.”

    Earlier this week, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent an email vowing that “no one will get away” from the committee’s investigation and asking people for donations.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the former prosecutor tapped by Boehner to head the panel, has signaled he would re-examine the entirety of the Benghazi attack, including questions Democrats and some senior Republicans consider settled.

    Some Democrats dismiss the notion that the public will pay attention.

    “I think the American people are not interested in Benghazi,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “It appeals to the narrow base of the Republican Party.”

    Wasserman Schultz’s remarks were made in an interview Friday on CNN.


    Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

    The post House Democrats consider boycotting new probe on Benghazi attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Workers install solar panels on top of a Walmart in Chula Vista, California. Photo by Walmart/Flickr

    Workers install solar panels on top of a Walmart in Chula Vista, California. Wal-Mart plans to double solar energy projects at its stores, a commitment which President Barack Obama plans to highlight on Friday. Photo by Walmart/Flickr

    SAN JOSE, Calif. — President Barack Obama is showcasing Wal-Mart, often a target of labor groups and other Democratic constituencies, to promote advances in energy efficiency in his broader campaign to confront climate change.

    Obama on Friday was to announce commitments from more than 300 companies and local and state governments to use solar energy technology. He also was announcing executive actions aimed at increasing energy efficiency in buildings and appliances. The White House says the solar effort will power the equivalent of 130,000 homes and the administrative actions could reduce carbon pollution in an amount equal to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year.

    The White House chose Wal-Mart because the company has committed to doubling the number of solar energy projects at its stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers.

    But in choosing the giant retailer as the backdrop for his announcement, Obama triggered a backlash from labor unions and pay equity advocates who say Wal-Mart pays low wages and who archly noted that Obama has made pay equity a central issue of his presidency.

    “What numbskull in the White House arranged this?” former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served in the Bill Clinton administration, said in a posting on Facebook on Thursday.

    “While he’s in California, I would hope President Obama would speak directly to Wal-Mart employees and hear from them about their daily struggles to pay the rent and put food on the table,” said Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

    Wal-Mart says it pays wages that are competitive in the retail industry.

    The clashing energy vs. jobs message is not new to the White House. Labor unions, for example, have pressed the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the U.S. because it would create jobs. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline, and the administration recently put off a decision on whether to approve it, likely until after the November congressional elections.

    Obama was wrapping up a three-day trip mostly devoted to raising money for the Democratic Party.

    Complicating things for the White House, Obama on Thursday attended a fundraiser hosted by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who sits on Wal-Mart’s board of directors.

    In promoting the energy efficiency announcement ahead of Friday’s event, the White House said solar energy prices have dropped markedly in four years, with solar panels now costing about 60 percent less.

    “All of this means more jobs in the industry, which is now supporting more than 140,000 good-paying American jobs and that are increasing at a rate of 20 percent per year,” said Dan Utech, a special assistant to Obama on energy and climate change.

    The White House said Obama also would announce completion of energy efficiency standards for walk-in coolers and freezers typically used in grocery stores.

    The rule on walk-in freezers was proposed last August under an agreement with attorneys general from 10 states and New York City. The states, along with House and Senate Democrats, have been urging Obama to move faster to implement proposed efficiency standards, including those for commercial walk-in coolers and freezers, which were due in 2012.


    Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Obama angers labor groups by promoting Wal-Mart’s solar projects appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Connecticut lawmakers voted this week to make sure that all police in the state receive mental heath training. Photo by Jim Bowen/Flickr

    Connecticut lawmakers voted this week to make sure that all police in the state receive mental heath training. Photo by Jim Bowen/Flickr

    How do you tell the difference between someone who needs to be taken to jail and someone who needs to be taken to the hospital?

    That’s a big concern in Connecticut, where the intersection of law enforcement and mental health has been a huge issue since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown in 2012.

    Lance Newkirchen is a regular patrol officer in the nearby town of Fairfield. But he’s also an officer who is specifically trained to respond to mental health calls. On a recent weekday, he headed in his patrol car on a follow-up call.

    “We’re going to go meet with a father whose 21-year-old son, two days earlier, at three o’clock in the morning, through his depressive disorder, was having suicidal thoughts,” Newkirchen explains.

    Fairfield has 107 officers, and 18 are trained like Newkirchen. They’re part of what’s called a Crisis Intervention Team. It’s a program that began in Fairfield about three years ago, and the department’s target is to train 20 percent of its force. The Fairfield team is one of about 2,700 nationwide, a fraction of the 18,000 state and local law enforcement jurisdictions in the country.

    In Fairfield, police say they want to make sure families have as much support as they can. They also want to make sure police have as much information as they can, in case they ever have to go back.

    “They know they’re dealing with someone who is depressed,” Newkirchen says. For instance, officers might know “that they’re dealing with someone who may have a samurai sword collection in their basement. They know that they’re dealing with someone whose parents are divorced and the father is very anti-police and the mother is pro-police.”

    It’s the kind of information that makes it easier for cops like Newkirchen to do their jobs. “There’s all these things that will get somebody — an officer responding, as he’s walking up the front walk — get him 90 percent of the information he needs to be effective,” he says.

    The family of the depressed man, who had been hospitalized, agreed to let NPR attend the interview — but they didn’t want to be identified. Inside their home, Newkirchen talked through a brochure of services — people and agencies that could help them out if they needed it, and went through a two-page list of questions about their son’s diagnosis.

    Newkirchen says doing this job means being a good listener. But it doesn’t mean being soft or forgetting police tactics. It just means adding to them.

    “It’s easy to interview and to get the person who just stole four tires from BJ’s to really tell you what’s going on,” he says. “And it’s incredibly difficult to get someone who believes they have an assignment from the FBI to really admit that they don’t and they do need help and it’s time to go and talk to somebody at the hospital. So that’s the skills set.”

    A few weeks ago, Newkirchen along with 50 or so officers from across the state gathered for the first day of a five-day seminar.. It touched on everything from making suicide assessments to talking to people who may fall on the autism spectrum. They also discuss forging partnerships with community mental health providers and understanding de-escalation techniques.

    “The characteristic of your work that sets you apart from every other professional is that you never know what you’re walking into,” says Madelon Baranoski. She’s with the Yale School of Medicine. Her first goal is to give the officers an understanding of various types of behavioral health issues. Psychotic illnesses, for instance, are the ones that make a person unable to tell the difference between thought and reality.

    To illustrate, she confesses something many people feel when giving a public talk — she’s nervous, and worried about how people will react. But she knows those are her thoughts — and no one else’s.

    “As long as I know I’m thinking it, I have a choice on how to change my behavior. But if I were mentally ill, particularly if I had a mental illness that interfered with what we call reality testing, I think, ‘Because you’re staring at me, you’re thinking I’m stupid.’”

    This training is an eye opener for third-year Fairfield Officer John McGrath.

    “You know, protocol for a police officer is always, ‘Protect yourself,’” McGrath says. “To be able to learn what they’re thinking and what’s going on in their mind, kind of gives you a better perspective of what’s going on and what you’re able to do to further protect yourself and to protect them to not hurt themselves.”

    Officer Newkirchen says that the training these officers are getting is extremely practical. He probably gets two or three mental health-related calls in an eight-hour shift.

    Back in the cruiser, he says not all calls go as well as the visit with the family of the man who was suicidal. But a lot of them do.

    “I would say 50 percent of the time are calls like this, where we are making, I think, a huge difference… that family has a very different sense of what we do as police officers.

    Late Wednesday night, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill ensuring that all police in the state can get some kind of training like Newkirchen’s.


    This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes NPR, WNPR and Kaiser Health News.

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

    The post Conn. cops train in mental health 101 for better crisis interventions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Aranami

    Photo by Flickr user Aranami

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service reported a $1.9 billion loss for the first three months of this year and pleaded again Friday for reforms to its troubled financial system.

    The agency said the loss for the quarter that ended March 31 matched the $1.9 billion in red ink in the same period last year and marked the 20th time of the last 22 quarters that it posted a loss.

    It came despite a 2.3 percent rise in its operating revenue and continued cost-cutting efforts. Postal officials have said repeatedly that they need comprehensive legislation that includes more control over its personnel and benefit costs and more flexibility in pricing and products. Though various legislative proposals have been advanced, Congress has not passed a bill with the requested changes.

    “The Postal Service is working diligently to improve its finances by streamlining our network to improve efficiency, reduce operating costs and increase revenue, which was up $379 million over the same period last year — the third straight quarter of revenue increase,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement. “However, we will still incur annual inflationary cost increases … and first-class mail volume continues to decline.”

    Details in the report for the second quarter of the budget year, compared to the same period last year, included:

    • Operating revenue was $16.7 billion, an increase of $379 million or 2.3 percent.
    • Operating expenses before non-cash workers’ compensation expenses were cut to $17.9 billion from $18.1 billion, a 1.1 percent improvement.
    • Total mail volume fell to 38.1 billion pieces from 38.8 billion pieces.
    • Volume in shipping and packages rose 7.3 percent.
    • First-class mail declined 4.1 percent.

    The Postal Service is an independent agency that receives no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control. It has asked to end most Saturday deliveries, a move it says could save about $2 billion annually. And it’s seeking to reduce its congressionally mandated $5.6 billion annual payment for future retiree health benefits.

    The pre-funding requirement for future retiree health benefits accounts for the brunt of the agency’s red ink and the agency has defaulted on a number of the congressionally-mandated payments. Officials note the solution to their financial problems is much larger than just addressing the retiree issue.

    “Some comments in recent news reports suggest that all we need from Congress is help with restructuring our retiree health benefit plan,” chief financial officer Joseph Corbett said. “Nothing can be further from the truth. Our liabilities exceed our assets by $42 billion and we have a need for more than $10 billion to invest in new delivery vehicles, package sortation equipment, and other deferred investments.

    “We haven’t been making the retiree health benefit prefunding payments because we can’t,” Corbett said, adding that if the retiree requirement was reduced, it still wouldn’t give the agency any more cash to pay down its debt or put needed capital into the business.

    “Only comprehensive postal legislation … will provide the necessary cash flows,” Corbett said.

    The post Postal Service reports $1.9 billion loss in first quarter of 2014 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Firefighters extinguish a fire that erupted in a building following fierce fighting in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on May 9, 2014. Fierce fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels broke out in Mariupol, killing at least 21 people, all but one of them insurgents, according to the interior minister. Photo by Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

    Firefighters extinguish a fire that erupted in a building following fierce fighting in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on May 9. Fierce fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels broke out in Mariupol, killing at least 21 people, all but one of them insurgents, according to the interior minister. Photo by Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

    Fighting broke out in the city of Mariupol, Ukraine, between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.

    The violence erupted Friday when pro-Russian separatists attempted to seize police headquarters in Mariupol, an important industrial town of 500,000 on the Sea of Azov, which lies on the main road between Russia and Crimea.

    Accounts of casualties vary widely. According to Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, at least 20 “terrorists” and one police officer were killed, with at least 25 others wounded. The Associated Press can only independently confirm three killed. The Donetsk regional administration said that three people were killed and 25 wounded during the fighting.

    The city has been the sight of many recent clashes in the lead up to the secessionist referendum scheduled for Sunday, May 11 in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

    Earlier Friday in Moscow, Russians celebrated the anniversary of the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945 with the largest Victory Day parade in years. The event was marked by huge crowds across Red Square that included about 11, 000 Russian troops marching with tanks and rocket launchers to patriotic songs.

    A nearly identical celebration greeted Russian President Vladimir Putin upon his arrival to the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. Tens of thousands showed up to watch the spectacle and herald the Russian leader’s first trip to the Black Sea peninsula since its annexation by Russia in March. Putin praised the annexation of Crimea calling it a “return to the Motherland,” while NATO, EU, and American officials reiterated the illegitimacy of the occupation and called Putin’s visit inappropriate.

    Back in Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk criticized the current Victory Day celebrations and ongoing pro-Russian uprisings. “Sixty-nine years ago, we together with Russia, fought against fascism and won.”

    He added that now, “history is repeating itself but in a different form.”

    The post Fighting erupts in Mariupol amid Victory Day celebrations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    parenting now logoHe’s just an ordinary dad with a smartphone … and a cape. And he’s using them for good. Meet Blake Wilson, the real guy behind the Batman mask and the husky voice for which his character “Batdad” is famous.

    With more than 2.2 million followers on a social video-sharing app called Vine, “BatDad” has become a social media celeb as the father of four who wears a Batman mask and makes six-second videos chronicling his adventures in parenting.

    The videos don’t contain much that any parent would find unusual, but they have Wilson’s signature Batman impersonation. Most are shot in the family minivan as they ride to school, or at home while Batdad and his trusty wife Jen get the children to eat their vegetables, go to bed on time, brush their teeth and leave the house without making a giant mess. The videos are goofy and hilarious, and they’re relatable to every parent who has had to juggle children, work and home life.

    “We’re no different than any family out there with young children,” said Wilson, who is 30. “That’s why these little jokes on Vine resonate with people, because I poke fun at the tough stuff.”

    Still, Wilson had no idea that what started as a family joke during a trip to Target would end up attracting millions of fans and viewers. When he first started making the Vine videos, it was an outlet for him to unleash his creative side while poking fun at some of the mundane parenting struggles every mom and dad has to go through.

    “The whole thing’s supposed to be for fun — we’re really grateful for people who enjoy the videos, but it does get a little overwhelming,” Wilson said.

    Despite the fame and huge fanbase, Wilson stressed that he’s an ordinary dad first, Batdad second. While making the videos with his kids and involving them in social media is a great way to engage them and spend time with them, it’s not exactly a parenting technique, Wilson said.

    Wilson said his real “superpowers” are scheduling and organization. And of course all superheros have a “sidekick,” or a reliable partner to lean on. And for Wilson, his wife Jen is just as heroic when it comes to parenting their four children.

    “You know, to be honest, I can’t really say I have a great superpower — it really takes two,” Wilson said. “I think the superpower, if there is one, is being able to read your partner. Reading what they’re feeling. Being able to recognize the signals and knowing when your partner needs a little more help than normal. That’s huge when you’re raising a family.”

    When asked for some helpful tips for other parents, he emphasized the importance of humor, along with positive attitude.

    “Bottom line is, you gotta be able to laugh at the tough stuff. Yes, you’re gonna get stressed out, yes you’re gonna get upset, but sometimes you’ve got to have a humor. You’ve got to be able to laugh at some of the most ridiculous moments your kids put you through.”

    For more, visit BatDad‘s Vine account or watch the YouTube compilation:

    The post ‘Batdad’ fights to put humor into parenting with a mask and a smartphone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    meaningless work. Photo by John McBride & Company Inc./The Image Bank.

    Do you actually perform meaningful work all day or are you paid to look busy, asks anthropologist David Graeber. Photo by John McBride & Company Inc./The Image Bank.

    Editor’s Note: If you’re reading this at work, you’re probably not all that busy. Don’t you ever wish you could just fit your “work” into fewer hours, then go home to do your own thing instead of being paid to look busy all day?

    John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1930 that technological advancement would make that possible by the turn of the century. He foresaw a 15-hour workweek. Instead, Americans are now working more and more hours. But what are they actually doing, asks American anthropologist David Graeber? “It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working,” Graeber wrote in a summer 2013 essay in Strike Magazine that we’ll call “BS Jobs.”

    For one thing, he writes, we’ve created entirely new jobs to accommodate the workaday world. Administrators (think telemarketing and financial services) and the growing number of human resources and public relations professionals can’t pick up their own pizzas or walk their dogs. That’s why, Graeber says, we have all-night pizza delivery men and dog-walkers.

    Graeber’s (rather rank) vision of hell captures the cycle of meaningless work he’s criticizing:

    Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. [...]There’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does.

    Graeber is a professor at the London School of Economics. So isn’t that a classic example of frying fish (i.e., meaningless work)? He welcomes that question, but quickly dismisses it, saying he wouldn’t dare tell anyone who truly believes in their work that it’s not meaningful. It’s those workers who are already cognizant of the futility of their day that he’s after — like his friend, the poet-musician-turned-corporate lawyer, whom he told us about in his previous Making Sen$e post on the guaranteed basic income. Those are his fish-fryers, resenting the cabinet-makers for doing “real” work.

    Paul Solman interviewed Graeber for our broadcast segment on the basic income (watch below). That conversation led to a discussion of Graeber’s theory that many jobs shouldn’t exist.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    You had an article recently, the name of which I can’t say on television, so let’s call it “BS Jobs.” What was the point?

    So, all my life, there’s people, you meet them at parties, you run into them, you ask them what they do, and they kind of look sheepish and don’t want to admit it, you know? They say, well, it’s not really very interesting. It’s like, well, I’m a human resource consultant; I work at a computer firm where I fill out forms of a certain kind to make it faster for somebody else to do this, or I’m a middle man among seven layers of middlemen in this sort of outsourcing… They’re always embarrassed; they don’t look like they do anything. All those people out there who have these jobs that you don’t think they’re really doing anything, they must be suffering, they must know that their jobs are essentially made up. Imagine going to work every day knowing you’re not really doing anything. What must that do to someone’s soul?

    How could you have dignity in labor if you secretly believe your job shouldn’t exist? But, of course, you’re not going to tell your boss that. So I thought, you know, there must be enormous moral and spiritual damage done to our society. And then I thought, well, maybe that explains some other things, like why is it there’s this deep, popular resentment against people who have real jobs? They can get people so angry at auto-workers, just because they make 30 bucks an hour, which is like nowhere near what corporate lawyers make, but nobody seems to resent them. They get angry at the auto-workers; they get angry at teachers. They don’t get angry at school administrators, who actually make more money. Most of the problems people blame on teachers, and I think on some level, that’s resentment: all these people with meaningless jobs are saying, but, you guys get to teach kids, you get to make cars; that’s real work. We don’t get to do real work; you want benefits, too? That’s not reasonable.

    You mean that the resentment is born of envy?

    It’s envy of people who get to have meaningful jobs that actually produce something. I think that’s a major political force in America, and other places as well. It seems to operate to the benefit of the people running the society. I don’t think they set it up as a conspiracy, but they let it happen, because if you think about it, that’s exactly what’s not supposed to happen in a capitalist system. You know, we all made fun of the Soviet Union because they would just make up these meaningless jobs because well, we have full employment. So they just make up jobs, moving things from one side to another. Or there’d be three different people to buy a piece of bread — you have to get a ticket from one, you have to go over here.

    But we’re doing the same thing, except instead of making up meaningless proletarian jobs, we’re making up meaningless office jobs, and these guys are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.

    We used to think work was valuable because it produces something. Now we think that work is just valuable itself. If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person, and that’s exactly the sort of logic that basic income would get rid of.

    What percentage of jobs do you think of these days, very ballpark estimate, as “BS jobs”?

    I’d say 20 percent. But it’s hard for me to say. The last thing I want to do is come in and say, you, your job is BS, while you, you’re okay. The whole idea is that people should decide for themselves what’s valuable. But if you talk about jobs where the people who actually are working at them secretly feel that they really don’t produce anything, or don’t do anything, I’d say about 20 percent has been my experience. But, of course, you know, we’d have to do extensive research to see if that’s really true.

    After you wrote the article, what kind of response did you get?

    Oh, that was what was remarkable. I mean if ever there was a hypothesis that was confirmed by the response… I wrote this in a very obscure British lefty magazine called Strike Magazine, going out on the Internet, and within three or four weeks, I think it had been translated into 14 different languages, including Catalan, Estonian, Korean. It was circulated around the world, and I got all these messages from people saying, oh, people in the financial services industry have been passing this back and forth — I got this five times in the last week sent to me from different friends — and then people would start writing these blogs, these confessionals. There was one I saw in Australia, where people were writing things like, it’s true, I’m a corporate lawyer, I contribute nothing to society, I’m miserable all the time, I just do this for my children, otherwise I’d get out. Over and over again, people saying yes, it’s true, my job does nothing.

    Graeber appears in Paul’s Making Sen$e segment on the guaranteed income, below.


    The post Ask yourself, says a notorious ‘Occupy’ academic, should your job exist? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney came out in favor of raising the minimum wage Thursday. Photo by Paul Marotta/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

    Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney came out in favor of raising the minimum wage Thursday. Photo by Paul Marotta/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

    A week after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour nationwide, 2012 GOP presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came out in support of a minimum wage increase.

    “I, for instance, as you know, part company with many of the conservatives in my party on the issue of the minimum wage. I think we ought to raise it,” he said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.”

    Romney supported a minimum wage increase as governor, and during the beginning of his 2012 presidential campaign, but changed his position amid conservative criticism in the lead up to Super Tuesday.

    His comments on Thursday are in opposition with the vast majority of the Republican Party, though he does join a short list of former GOP presidential candidates who have come out in support of the increase to $10.10. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum both recently spoke in favor of a minimum wage increase.

    Pawlenty cited the GOP’s history of support for blue-collar workers, while Santorum spoke of the support the proposed increase has garnered from the American people.

    Romney added, “I also believe the key for our party is to be able to convince the people who are in the working population — particularly in the Hispanic community — that our party will help them get better jobs and wages. And that’s what our party’s beliefs do.”

    One Republican — Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee — voted for the minimum wage bill in the Democrat-held Senate last week, where it failed to garner the necessary 60 votes.

    The post Former GOP leaders speak in favor of minimum wage hike appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This photo is unrelated to the missing Nigerian girls.

    What if your face was used to represent something vastly disconnected from yourself?

    That’s the case with three photos that have been shared thousands of times on Twitter in connection with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The photos portray girls in Guinea-Bissau — more than 1,000 miles away from Nigeria — who are completely unrelated to more than 250 girls that Boko Haram kidnapped.

    Ami Vitale, the photographer of the images, spoke with New York Times’ James Estrin on Thursday. Vitale said that the photos were meant to portray a beautiful side of Africa, one separate from the stories of famine and abduction.

    “This is misrepresentation … We can’t pick up any photo and use it out of context,” said Vitale.

    One of the images was created by Emmanuel Hephzibah, a Nigerian creative director, and was widely shared when singer Chris Brown posted it to his Twitter account.


    Interactive map shows when #BringBackOurGirls popped up in countries outside of Nigeria.

    The #BringBackOurGirls campaign began on April 23 when Nigerian Ibrahim Abdullahi tweeted out the plea. Soon after, Oby Ezekwesili did the same. Since that time, the hashtag has been tweeted out more than 2.1 million times.

    It’s true that Twitter can be used as a rallying cry for change. But it can also fall within the realm of armchair activism. If you share something without fully understanding what it is you’re sharing, does it count?

    Correction: This article originally had an incorrect description below a tweet.

    The post ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ photos on Twitter are not of missing Nigerians appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters calling for the release of a group of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls gather outside Nigeria House in London. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

    Protesters calling for the release of a group of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls gather outside Nigeria House in London. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

    The Internet makes it so easy. You see a compelling picture, you retweet it, Instagram it, or post it to your Facebook page. Instantly, you have joined a movement and signaled to everyone you know (or kind of know) that this topic is worth paying attention to.

    In this manner, Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin became household names. Depressing videos about Joseph Kony and happy ones from Pharrell Williams took off like lightning.

    This week, it was all about the Nigerian school girls. Michelle Obama posted this late Wednesday, and had collected more than 45,000 retweets in less than a day. But before she joined the debate, Hollywood celebrities, world leaders, artists and writers had weighed in.

    Simply attaching the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag to anything on Twitter guarantees a huge response. In the few minutes it took me to write these four paragraphs, my Twitter feed logged 350 hits. And in public remarks, Hillary Clinton linked the campaign to longstanding efforts to raise the profile of issues like human trafficking and sexual slavery.

    And quietly, backlash began to unfold.

    “Remember,” writer Teju Cole tweeted, “#bringbackourgirls, a vital moment for Nigerian democracy, is not the same as #bringbackourgirls, a wave of global sentimentality.”

    The problem with this story, as is often the case with campaigns that catch fire all of a sudden, is that — as horrible as the abduction is — the underlying issues that led to this moment are complicated.

    Some now worry that calls for U.S. intervention will backfire, leading to militaristic overreaction.

    Others argue that Western observers are trying so hard to squeeze this issue into their boxes — linking the abduction to feminism, terrorism and access to education — that they overlook its underpinnings.

    The story is about all those things. But it is also about the little-understood rise of Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group which attacks not only school girls, but also United Nations facilities, local churches, and representatives of the Nigerian government. The war they wage is less religious than sectarian – Muslims are on both sides of the battle lines. Hostage-taking is common. None of this is easily explained in 140 characters.

    But it is hard to resist when emotions are involved. And the sight of mothers crying and blurry images of armed men claiming girls as spoils of war are hard to turn away from. Even the president said the story broke his heart and made him think of his own daughters.

    The first U.S. response was to send 10 military advisers. The next wave, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, would total “dozens.” But there are limits to what outsiders can do. The best example can probably be found at Invisible Children, the organization that was created two years ago to flush out warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The goal was to make him famous, shame the international community into action and — ultimately — capture Kony.

    Two out of three of those things happened. The results are posted on their website.

    The popular hashtag for the capture Kony movement was #Kony2012. It is 2014. Joseph Kony is still at large.

    The post Gwen’s Take: The perils of keyboard activism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Student snap a 'selfie' at a ceremony at Duke University in 2013. Photo by Flickr user Duke University School of Nursing

    Student snap a ‘selfie’ at a ceremony at Duke University in 2013. Photo by Flickr user Duke University School of Nursing

    With graduation season upon us, many students across the country will be proudly accepting their diplomas — but only under the condition that they will refrain from snapping any ‘selfies.’

    Some university officials have said they will not tolerate students who pull out their smartphones to capture a quick photo of themselves while on stage.

    Elizabeth O’Neil, university relations director at Bryant University in Rhode Island, said she “didn’t want the ceremony to become longer than [the] 3-1/2 hours it already is by having students pause to take photos.” Bowing to the popularity of social media, Bryant University said anything posted online with the hashtag “commencement” will be shown on a screen before the event for family and friends to see.

    Administrators at the University of South Florida are less amused by the ‘selfie’ phenomena and have told potential graduates that if they cannot abstain from using their smartphones, the University has the right to withhold their degrees until further notice.

    Other U.S. Universities have taken a less stringent stance on their ‘selfie’ policy. Kent State University in Ohio has created a ‘selfie zone’ during the commencement that will allow students to snap and flash as many shots as they need in expectation that graduates will wait until the ceremony is over.

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    Fewer American babies are getting the most popular names, as individuality wins out over a desire to fit in. Photo by Dave Herholz/Flickr

    Fewer American babies are getting the most popular names, as individuality wins out over a desire to fit in. Photo by Dave Herholz/Flickr

    WASHINGTON — When it comes to baby names, blending in is out, and standing out is in.

    Noah and Sophia top the Social Security Administration’s list of most popular American baby names for 2013, but they don’t begin to approach the popularity of past generation favorites like John and Mary.

    Noah sailed past Jacob to claim the top spot for boys, ending Jacob’s 14-year reign. Sophia was No. 1 for the third straight year in the list released Friday.

    Noah was followed by Liam, Jacob, Mason and William. Sophia was followed by Emma, Olivia, Isabella and Ava.

    Chart by Social Security Administration

    Chart by Social Security Administration

    But none of these names is nearly as popular as the top names were a generation ago. Why? Because more and more parents are looking to give their children names that will set them apart, instead of worrying about whether they will fit in.

    “Names have more widely become seen as a personal brand, a statement of individual style and personality, and so people are looking for a name that’s different from what other people have,” said Pamela Redmond Satran, co-founder of Nameberry.com. “In the 1950s, everybody was looking to blend in.”

    Last year, a little more than 18,000 newborns were named Noah. Twenty years ago, almost 50,000 newborns were named Michael, the top name that year. In 1950, when James was No. 1, there were more than 86,000 newborns with that name.

    It’s the same story for the girls.

    “Literally for hundreds of years, the English royal names dominated. You had John and Mary and James and Elizabeth.”About 21,000 newborns were named Sophia last year. Twenty years ago, 35,000 babies were named Jessica. In 1950, more than 80,000 were named Linda, the top name for girls that year.

    “In the past, most parents were picking from a pretty well-defined set of names,” said Laura Wattenberg, creator of Babynamewizard.com. “Literally for hundreds of years, the English royal names dominated. You had John and Mary and James and Elizabeth.”

    “Today,” she said, “we get names everywhere.”

    Jacob first rose to No. 1 in 1999. In the 45 years before that, Michael was king for all but one.

    There has been more variety among the girls. Mary dominated the first half of the 20th century. But in the past two decades, Emily, Emma, Isabella and Jessica have all spent time at the top.

    “People are not as creative with boys’ names,” said Jennifer Moss, founder of Babynames.com. “I find that when I’m working with parents, the father tends to be more conservative about boys names. His No. 1 concern is always, ‘Oh, I don’t want it to be too crazy or he’ll be teased on the playground.’”

    The Social Security Administration’s website provides lists of the top 1,000 baby names for each year, dating to 1880. The top baby names that year were John and Mary. John is now No. 27 and Mary has fallen to No. 121.

    Social Security also charts the fastest-rising names each year. These names may not be in the top 10 or even the top 100, but they moved up more spots than any other.

    For girls, the runaway winner was Daleyza, which jumped a whopping 3,130 spots, to No. 585. Daleyza is the name of the young daughter of Larry Hernandez, a singer who stars in a Spanish-language reality TV show called “Larrymania.”

    “Reality TV is one of the biggest style makers today because it gives us a constant new stream of names from all over the place,” Wattenberg said.

    Among the other top risers for girls: Marjorie, Lennon and Jurnee. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is an actress who starred in the TV show “Friday Night Lights.”

    For boys, the fastest rising name was Jayceon, which jumped 845 spots, to No. 206. Two hip hop artists are named Jayceon. One simply goes by the name Jayceon. The other, Jayceon Terrell Taylor, is a rapper who goes by the stage name The Game.

    Among the other top risers for boys: Milan, Atlas, Jayse and Duke.

    ___

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    What’s a parent to do when a child misbehaves? Take away the toys or let the behavior’s natural consequences serve as punishment? Enforce a time out or encourage self calming? Positive reinforcement or bribery?

    We’ve turned to three experts with different backgrounds and asked them how they’d deal with a variety of real-world scenarios.

    Kathryn Kvols is founder of the International Network of Children and Families and has spent 30 years teaching classes on parenting and discipline.

    Dr. Lis Guthrie is a child psychiatrist, who is also board certified in pediatric neurodevelopmental disabilities.

    Scott Brown is an expert in conflict management, a founding member of the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School, and an author of the book, “How to Negotiate with Kids … Even if You Think You Shouldn’t: 7 Essential Skills to End Conflict and Bring More Joy into Your Family”

    Photo by Jani Bryson/Getty Images

    Photo by Jani Bryson/Getty Images

    1Two-year-old Benji wants to stick his pacifier in the electric socket. Dad says no.

    Kathryn Kvols: We recommend that he empathize with him by saying, “I know you are mad. You wanted to play with the socket. Sockets are not toys,” while comforting him. Redirect him to something equally fun.

    If the child keeps going over to the plug, put something heavy in front of it or take him to another room or outside to play. We do not recommend repeatedly saying, “No” or giving lengthy explanations. Reasoning with a child at this age is fruitless. Threatening the child with a timeout is equally ineffective.

    Elisabeth Guthrie: This could be dangerous. And Benji is a toddler. “Act don’t yak.” If Benji is actually trying to put his pacifier in an electric socket Dad needs to physically pick him up and move him away; if Benji persists then remove pacifier (leading, yes, to greater tantrum).

    Dad should ignore Benji and the tantrum (as long as he knows Benji cannot get his pacifier in the socket). Once Benji stops crying Dad should direct his attention at him and say something along the lines of “I like the way you stopped crying.”

    Once Benji is calmer Dad might want to revisit that only grownups touch sockets because they can hurt/are dangerous/cause a boo boo depending on language level. And make sure all those baby proof socket covers are firmly in place!

    Scott Brown: When the safety of your child is involved, there is no negotiation. You need to safeguard your child effectively. On the other hand, most of us react to an unsafe situation in an emotional way that may trigger emotions in our child. When my four-year-old daughter jumped off the curb into the street to retrieve a toy, I reacted with such a shout that she broke into tears. I meant to safeguard her rather than scare her, but I did both. In that situation I sat down with her and explained why I had shouted. We both needed time to calm our emotions.

    A young child’s brain has not yet developed the capacity to manage their emotions. We need to recognize these natural limitations, not blame them, and help our children develop methods for control through our example.

    Photo by Getty Images

    Photo by Getty Images

    2Mom, dad and their 5-year-old daughter Mia are on a beach vacation. As they walk along the boardwalk on their way to breakfast, they pass an ice cream shop. Mia says she wants ice cream. Mom says “Not before breakfast.” Mia throws a tantrum.

    Kvols: It may be helpful to check the reason why she is throwing a tantrum. Is she upset because she is not getting her way or is she hungry (often children at this age get upset when they are hungry)? If she is hungry, simply feed her as quickly as possible.

    If she is not hungry, Mom could ask, “What do you think needs to happen before you can have ice cream?” Or she can give her daughter in fantasy what she doesn’t want to give her in reality. She could say, “You can’t have ice cream before breakfast but if you could have ice cream for breakfast, what kind would you get? Then indulge her in fantasy what you are unwilling to give her in reality and maybe even add your fantasy by saying, “I would have black cherry ice cream with chocolate on top!” Sometimes this makes the child feel like mom is on her side even if she is unwilling to give me what I want right now.

    Guthrie: Keep walking. Ignore the tantrum. She’s probably hungry, which may be why she’s cranky, and will follow parents to breakfast. If not Mom could say “Who wants pancakes?” and see if that settles her down. If not then continue to ignore, keep an indirect eye on her and when she calms down, give her a tissue and take her to breakfast. Comment specifically on her compliance, with things like “I like the way you blew your nose” or “thanks for holding my hand” to reinforce her good behavior.

    Brown: This is a good opportunity for rule-setting AND negotiation. Parents sometimes say to me, “Kids need rules. Parents shouldn’t negotiate over the rules.” Perhaps, but the way we establish rules will help children understand and respect them. It is also true that rules must change over time, and are often open to exceptions. We all know that bedtimes sometimes flex with our own schedules, that rules bend when friends or relatives visit, etc. We need to explain the purpose of a rule, and explain why we bend them. These kinds of discussions are opportunities to teach problem-solving skills. Don’t let them pass by just because it’s easier to set the rules and forget them.

    The “no ice cream before breakfast rule” is not one that you should be willing to bend for a five year old, and certainly not in the face of a power tantrum. But this is a good opportunity — a vacation with no morning rush, an outdoor setting where you may not disturb others — to help Mia manage her emotions. A harsh “no” and a spank in response to the tantrum is not likely to calm the situation, or help Mia learn how to manage herself. Be firm but calm. Sit down and wait. Explain the rule again to reinforce it, and explain why it makes sense for her health. Use a quiet voice. Mia won’t agree, and she may not fully understand. That’s not the point. You are demonstrating how to manage emotions, how to reason with others, and that you can disagree without being disagreeable.

    Photo by Getty Images

    Photo by Getty Images

    3Mom and dad get an email from son Peter’s 7th-grade science teacher, informing them that Peter has been scoring low on tests, doesn’t seem to be paying attention in class and has been turning in late or incomplete assignments. He seems to be doing well in his other classes.

    Kvols: Ask him what grade he would like to be getting in that class instead of imposing your opinion on him. Discuss with Peter what is going on in that class. Perhaps he is struggling with the teacher, may he needs to be moved from the back of the room to the front of the room. Perhaps there is something distracting going on in the room. Once you know what his goal is, ask him how you can best support him. Hiring a college tutor can often inspire a teen. They like being with older kids. Pick one that you would like to have as a good role model.

    Make sure the child has the skill you are requiring of him. One mom had a 13 year-old son who was getting a C in a subject. Mother thought he was just being lazy. However, she discovered that her son was really smart and had up until this time gotten good grades without studying. Mother, through non-judgmental query found out that he didn’t know how to study. So she taught him some study skills and her son is now getting an A in that subject.

    Guthrie It would be important to have more information regarding Peter’s behavior in general and past academic performance, changes in 7th grade as well as specific information about Science class. If there are other issues regarding his behavior that are worrisome (skipping curfew, sullenness, hygiene, etc) this could be indicative or a larger problem then that is important but at first blush I would not be too worried. If Peter acts like he does not care, I would not accept that at face value. Most kids want to do well. If Peter is not doing well I doubt it is by choice. It is a mistake to “get moral about motivation” — we are motivated to do things that we are good at and less motivated to attempt more challenging tasks. So I would not think of discipline as my first step but approach this situation from a neutral point of view, like a detective, in hopes of learning more.

    Having a conversation with Peter is probably a good place to start, asking him how he thinks school in general is going what he thinks make be making it difficult for him to do as well in Science as he is doing in other subjects. Parents and Peter need to figure out if it is this teacher, the time of day (right before or after lunch, or just before end of school are especially hard times to pay attention), structural or curricular changes, peers or something else that may be more challenging for Peter.

    After talking to their son, parents may want to meet with Peter’s advisor and even the science teacher (with or without Peter, depending) to explore this issue further, and learn how they could help support Peter with this work.

    Homework supports and structure (Peter may leave Science assignments, his least favorite subject, to do last, when he is tired and therefore never completes it. If he started his homework with science he might finish it more quickly) may be all that is needed. If Peter shows improvements he can be praised and rewarded with something reasonable. If he continues to struggle further investigation may be warranted.

    Brown: Before you talk with Peter, think about your purpose. You want to support his education, not undermine it. Don’t turn this into a conflict between parent and child and think about how to raise the issue without triggering a defensive reaction. There may be many reasons for Peter’s lack of attention in class, and you are more likely to help him if you understand those reasons before jumping to solutions. Does he dislike the teacher? Does he not understand the material? Does he get distracted by friends in the classroom? Is the class before lunch when his blood sugar is low? Is it early in the morning when he is tired?

    This is a good opportunity to demonstrate how to raise a sensitive and difficult topic. Ask questions. Listen actively. Don’t lecture. Once you understand what may be causing the issue, THEN you can enlist Peter’s help in finding a solution. Can he change the time of his class? Will a snack before class help? Will a tutor be more engaging? You are more likely to change Peter’s approach to the class if you work WITH him, not AGAINST him, and if he feels both your support and your interest in his success.

    Photo by Jamie Grill/Getty Images

    Photo by Jamie Grill/Getty Images

    4Early in the morning, while the parents are still sleeping, 7-year-old Katie and her 5-year-old brother Jacob sneak into the kitchen and climb onto the counter, where they remove a box of cookies and a bag of Halloween candy from an “out-of-reach” shelf in the pantry. They proceed to consume two Milky Way bars, seven Twizzlers and the remainder of a family-size pack of Double Stuf Oreos. When Mom and Dad confront them, they lie.

    Kvols: Five and 7 year olds still frequently lie. This is to be expected developmentally. Sometimes children lie because they are afraid that they will get into trouble or be punished. It is helpful to explain that they aren’t going to get in trouble if they tell the truth.

    Don’t ask a questions you know the answer to, this sets your child up to lie. Instead of asking, “Did you eat the candy?” you may want to say, “This is not OK that you guys ate this candy without asking.”Don’t ask a questions you know the answer to, this sets your child up to lie. Instead of asking, “Did you eat the candy?” you may want to say, “This is not OK that you guys ate this candy without asking.” Then go on to ask how their tummies feel and explain what eating that much candy does to their bodies. Allowing the children experience the natural consequence of having tummy aches can be more powerful than any discipline measure you could give them. What a great lesson for them to learn: if I eat junk food, my body feels jittery or my tummy aches.

    Guthrie: Young children will often “lie” when they know they have done something wrong or are worried about getting into trouble. And most kids love sweets which are manufactured with the main intent of creating craving.

    If parents KNOW their kids did something I would not even waste time getting them to admit it — that is more of a power play and invites a struggle.

    In this case I would suggest saying “You ate all those treats before breakfast? That is not OK. Bet you have a stomach ache from all that junk. No more sweets today (or this week depending on parent).” If the kids feel really nauseous then that alone may serve to modify their behavior in the future. The punishment (no more sweets for a day or a week) is not immediate but may work. Alternatively the parent could throw all the junk into the garbage in front of the kids and not buy it for a while … or ever again! If parents want to eat it themselves later then they’ll need to find a better hiding place for their stash!

    Brown: In our household, “Don’t lie” is an almost unbreakable rule. I say “almost” because all of us shade the truth for different reasons, often to avoid hurting another’s feelings. Children lie for different reasons, too, but usually to avoid disappointing or angering a parent. A lie is a signal that your child is afraid to tell the truth. Learn from that signal. The wrong kind of punishment can make lies more likely rather than less. Good discipline both educates and discourages bad behavior. I always tried to make it clear that I would be more angry about a lie than the truth, no matter what the truth might be.

    Katie and Jacob are at good teachable ages and lies about eating are common (I hid peas in my cheeks until I could spit them in the toilet, claiming all the while that I had eaten them.) Remember that the purpose of discipline is teaching. If you know your child well, you will know how to teach them. The seriousness of your tone of voice may be more effective than sending them to their rooms where they may think about how to avoid getting caught the next time.

    Photo illustration by Nicki Pardo/Getty Images

    Photo illustration by Nicki Pardo/Getty Images

    5Siblings Sonia, 11 and Jackson, 9, fight constantly on the car ride home from school.

    Kvols: At a friendly time, tell your child that it is not safe for you to drive when there is commotions going on in the car. Ask them what they think mom should do when they fight? Help them to brain storm solutions. One Dad and kids decided to learn Portuguese on their way home. Another mom discovered that her children were hungry after school so they decided to keep healthy snacks in the car.

    If all else fails, mother might tell her children that if they choose to fight, that she will pull over to the side of the road and wait until they stop. Mom should not threaten to do this. Her action will speak much louder than her words. Caution: Don’t do this on the way to work!

    Guthrie: Almost all siblings fight in the car. I consider it a developmental rite of passage. Ignore. If it is so distracting as to be dangerous to the driver than pull over, turn around and say they have to stop because you cannot pay attention to driving. Say if they do not stop then they cannot watch TV/computer or whatever they like to do when you get home, and then resume driving. If they continue to fight, stop the car remind them there will be no TV/computer, etc., then resume. When you get home NO TV/COMPUTER, etc.

    Brown: Despite the fact that your first reaction may be to drop the cone of silence, this is a good time to teach problem-solving by being a mediator. First calm them down so they can listen. Set a reasonable tone. Say something that will reduce their level of defensiveness so they can hear each other: “You don’t have anything scheduled today, so we’re going to sit here quietly and talk about this for a few minutes. I used to fight with my sister all the time, and I wish I hadn’t. Sometimes you two get along really well, but sometimes you don’t. I really want to understand what goes off track.”

    Look for the underlying issues so they can address the problems rather than attack each other: “I want you to each think for a minute about what bugs you about each other. None of us is perfect. I bug your dad and he bugs me sometimes, but we deal with it. Sonia, what bothers you?” Ask them for ideas: “Jacob, what do you think you could do differently to avoid bugging Sonia?” Hear their ideas before suggesting your own.

    Ask for a commitment at the end of the discussion: “Now you each know what bothers each other, and you each know a few things you can do differently to avoid problems. Can you agree to practice those ideas for the next week? I’m going to call you out if I see you slipping.”

    A good mediation is like therapy. We learn about others and ourselves, and a third party can help raise and resolve issues in ways that we find hard to do on our own.

    Photo illustration by Getty Images

    Photo illustration by Getty Images


    6Brandon, 15, has, in the past three months, broken an arm and lost a front tooth performing dangerous and unsupervised stunts on his skateboard.

    Kvols: Research has found that the teen brain has a need for taking risks. Help Brandon find less dangerous forms of risk taking like high board diving or fencing.

    Guthrie: This is dangerous. I care about Brandon’s arm and tooth but I care even more about his brain. I would want to know first if he is wearing a helmet — actually wearing it.

    Risk taking behavior may be limited to one specific activity, in this case skate boarding, but is more commonly associated with multiple risks. I would want to be certain that Brandon is not taking other risks such as smoking, drinking, exposing himself to potentially dangerous social situations, ignoring his school work, etc. If risk taking is limited only to skate boarding I’d share my concerns with Brandon, discuss the “cost” to his health and your families functioning as well as finances and see if there was a solution that you all could arrive at (is there a skate park near by?). If that goes nowhere or if these are not isolated risks (as I suspect), I would share my concerns with Brandon, maybe meet with him and his pediatrician or adolescent medicine specialist and perhaps seek a consultation with a behavioral specialist. I would be inclined to confiscate Brandon’s skateboard until he was assessed, explaining that if you learn that he has been using other kids he will be grounded, and follow through.

    Brown: Once your children reach their teenage years, you should be working with them more than you are directing them. This is a hard transition for parents to make. They are still your children and you think you know best. They are living in your house, so you think you have a right to direct them. But you are also hoping that they will learn what is best for themselves, and that they will learn to direct themselves. It’s time to let them make some mistakes and take some risks. It’s time to let them fail and learn to recover. Brandon is learning his limits. You want him to be safe, but you don’t want to drive him away. Negotiate some rules with him. You will let him keep the skateboard if he agrees to wear a helmet. Make sure he knows that his accidents have consequences for you as well — medical care is expensive, insurance deductibles are going up. Does he think he should share the cost? If not, why not? You want Brandon to begin thinking about the longer term consequences of his behavior. This is one more opportunity to help him do that.

    Photo illustration by Getty Images

    Photo illustration by Getty Images

    7Monica, 16, says she’s spending the night at her friend Lisa’s house. Lisa says she’s spending the night at Monica’s. Monica and Lisa’s mothers accidentally run into each other in sporting goods section of Target the following morning and uncover the lie. After some digging, they learn that Monica and Lisa were at a party with no supervision and underage drinking.

    Kvols: Building trust is a very important life skill that teens need to learn. Teens respond better to a short discussion about useful life skills than they are to being lectured to. Rather than punishing or taking away privileges (which only makes teens angry and revengeful), we recommend talking to her about the consequence of her sneaking out are that she has lost her parents trust and will need to re-earn their trust. Then create a list together with her on ways she can earn their trust back.

    Going forward, let your teen know that you will check sporadically to make sure that they are where they said they will be. In this way, the teen never knows when her parents will check up on her so she can’t play any tricks on her parents.

    Relationship is everything with teens. When parents take time to be with them, ask their opinion, listen to them, teens will be do less misbehavior because they love and respect their parents.

    ­Guthrie: This is dangerous and willfully misleading behavior that requires firm and prompt parental response. When parents are frightened they often get angry. It is usually best to wait until that anger diminishes before addressing this behavior directly with Monica.

    Effective punishments for this age include taking away car keys, being grounded, additional chores.

    Parents should sit with Monica and ask her what happened. Parents should listen then ask her if she thought it was “dangerous.” Adolescents are often very poor at assessing risk. Then I would ask her what made her lie about it. It might be helpful for parents tell Monica how upset and disappointed they are not only because she but herself in this situation, but also because she lied. Parents might also want to figure out who hosted the party and speak to the parent. I would ask Monica what she thinks would be appropriate punishment for this behavior that you, Monica and parents can discuss. But there has to be some consequence as this was dangerous and devious. Hopefully this conversation will be an opportunity to improve communication that may help diminish future risk taking.

    Also, many parents have an amnesty policy — i.e. that their child can call them at any time if they are at a party and feel unsafe and there will be no disciplinary consequences. I think that this is generally a good thing and helps keep kids safe. Especially if it involves drinking and driving.

    Brown: Breaking the law is another behavior that should not be open to negotiation, but it is one notch below their safety in my book. Monica and Lisa lied because they knew their mothers would disapprove, and they should disapprove. On the other hand, we want our children to tell us the truth. And we want them to be safe. Personally, I would rather have my children tell me they may be at a party with alcohol than have them lie and go anyway. I have always told my kids that I will pick them up anywhere, anytime, with no questions asked, but if they die while driving drunk I’ll kill them. I’m quite sure they have not told me the whole truth about the parties they have attended, but I also know they will call if they need a ride.

    By the time your children are 16, you want to be able to work with them, but you can’t work with them if they won’t talk to you. If you have modeled and taught them the skills they need to manage their emotions, listen with empathy, talk in ways that others will hear, and work together with others to solve problems, then you have been a great parent!

    How would you handle these situations? Tell us in the comments below.

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    Amnesty International Holds Vigil For Abducted Nigerian School Girls

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The United Nations Security Council today condemned the Islamist militant group Boko Haram over the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls. This came as more criticism mounted against the government for not doing more to rescue the students.

    Jeffrey Brown has our report.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Frustrated Nigerians were out again today, protesting in Lagos. They demanded action to find the missing girls, even as U.S. and British teams arrived to help.

    That effort will be limited at best, as Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby pointed out today.

    REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: We’re not talking about U.S. military operations in Nigeria to go find these girls. That’s not the focus here. The president was clear he wants to help in any way we can. This is the — this is the help that Nigeria has accepted, and we believe it’s the appropriate step right now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s been almost a month since the Islamist group Boko Haram attacked Chibok village in the northeast, and made off with more than 300 girls. Roughly 50 managed to escape, but, this week, Boko Haram’s leader declared the rest are slaves and will be sold.

    Today, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said he believes the girls are still in the country and have not been sold across the border. Nigeria’s government and military have been criticized for failing to do more to get the girls back. And, today, Amnesty International reported officials failed to prevent the attack, despite a four-hour warning.

    SUSANNA FLOOD, Spokeswoman, Amnesty International: We have had people in the military in northeast Nigeria telling us that there is a war-weariness and a fear among the soldiers who were not there. It’s hard to say why the help didn’t come. But the reality is, they had warning that this school was under threat, and nothing was done to save these girls.

    PROTESTERS: Enough is enough! Enough is enough!

    JEFFREY BROWN: The incident has now become an international cause, in large due part due to a social media campaign titled Bring Back Our Girls. This time-lapse map from TIME.com shows the online conversation began in Nigeria and slowly spread abroad.

    Then, last week, Bring Back Our Girls began trending online in the West. By now, more than one million people have mentioned the campaign via Twitter, from first lady Michelle Obama to the Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai and talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

    MAN: We have to make it the biggest story in the world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The online effort is being compared to #Kony2012. That social media campaign was started two years ago by the Western group Invisible Children to raise awareness of alleged war crimes by Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony.

    But the drive to save the Nigerian girls has also been criticized as being overly simplistic and ultimately ineffective. And in a further twist, it turns out the young woman in this photo is not Nigerian. In fact, she is from Guinea-Bissau. Her photo was taken in 2011 for a reporting project unrelated to Nigeria.

    All the same, the mass abduction is being widely condemned, including by Islamic leaders. Today, the top religious official in Saudi Arabia charged Boko Haram is — quote — “misguided” and should be made to reject its path.

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    jerrybrown

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: California Governor Jerry Brown is embarking on what is likely the final campaign of a political career that spans nearly half-a-century. He is seeking a fourth term 40 years after he first won the job.

    And at every turn in this electoral twilight, Brown is embracing something he famously rejected in the 1970s, tradition and the long view of California, the nation’s most populous state.

    KQED senior political editor John Myers reports from Sacramento.

    JOHN MYERS, KQED: It is part of California’s rich political history, the house that served for more than six decades as a governor’s mansion. To the public, it’s a museum. To Jerry Brown, it was a home, briefly.

    Brown was 20 years old and in seminary school when his father, the late Pat Brown, took office and moved the family into the Sacramento mansion. But the younger Brown refused an official home when he first became governor in 1975, a campaign he ran thumbing his nose at tradition.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN, D, Calif.: I needed a more modest apartment, which I got.

    JOHN MYERS: But it also fit it with the times for you.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: It fit in with the times.

    JOHN MYERS: But times have changed, and so has Jerry Brown.

    Now 76, he seems to take comfort in tradition and history, and the old mansion has become a favorite hangout, from private dinners with legislators to inviting in distant relatives to help celebrate his birthday.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: I find a certain strength, orientation and clarity by thinking about where we came from.

    JOHN MYERS: Brown has made the long view of California a focus of his governing philosophy. The state was facing a $25 billion budget deficit when he took office in 2011. When he offers a new plan in a few days, it’s expected to include a multibillion-dollar surplus. Brown is pushing to put extra tax revenue in the new, more robust rainy-day fund.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: There’s a tendency when the money is here then to think it’s going to be here in the succeeding years. And that’s proved to be untrue. So, in order to maintain a fiscal balance, you do need a reserve, and that’s the purpose of the rainy day fund that I’m proposing to the legislature.

    JOHN MYERS: Many of Jerry Brown’s fellow Democrats in the California legislature want to restore programs that were cut. Republicans say he hasn’t done enough to erase long-term government debts. The Jerry Brown of the past would have fired back in an instant.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: I haven’t seen too many good suggestions come my way.

    MAN: Because, in cutting government, in reducing government…

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: You don’t help poor people when you cut government. You don’t hurt them…

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: People in government are people who have gotten through the system and are collecting a paycheck, oftentimes purporting to help the people. But they’re just helping themselves.

    JOHN MYERS: Much of Jerry Brown’s first go-around as governor in the 1970s was that of a politician in a hurry. His presidential ambitions left little time for governing. Now Brown’s political pace is slower.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: It changes because we are changed, and the world is changing. Those pillars that I certainly endeavored to pull down to some degree have already fallen down. And now I need that we have got to build them up and to create structures and foundations on which we can build this ever-changing, ever-complex, diverse world.

    JOHN MYERS: Building and planning make this version of Jerry Brown sound a lot like his father. The late Pat Brown led epic endeavors to modernize California, schools, roads and a water aqueduct from north to South. Jerry Brown has big plans, too, ones that could make or break his legacy.

    He’s pushing his own massive water project, a $25 billion plan, as well as a high-speed rail project, a $68 billion effort that, if completed, would be the first of its kind in the country. Brown has also pushed the nation’s largest expansion of health care under the Affordable Care Act and he has continued California’s efforts on climate change.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: So, there’s a lot of change out there, and I’m managing it in a way that I think makes sense to me. But it’s — these are tall hills to climb. But I feel exuberant, excited. And I’m certainly ready to go forward.

    JOHN MYERS: Critics, though, say California isn’t going forward, as much as it is stuck. Unemployment remains fourth highest in the nation, and last month Toyota announced it’s moving 3,000 jobs from Southern California to Texas.

    Republicans say the state is unfriendly to business. Others say it remains unfriendly to the working poor. Protests in the San Francisco Bay area are frequent and critics see the chartered buses that drive tech workers to their Silicon Valley jobs as a symbol of the growing gap between rich and poor.

    What do you make of all of that? Do those protesters have a point?

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: They have a point because inequality, the return on assets is better than the return on labor and people’s ability to make salaries. But it also is part of the economy, and part of the prosperity and part of the tax system, so it’s a matter of taking reasonable steps, and I think we’re doing that.

    We have raised the minimum wage. We’re giving driver’s licenses to undocumented people. That certainly is going to help. We have the local funding formula which directs significant, billions of dollars to schools to help them cope with low-income families, with non-English-speaking families, with foster care kids, but to try to close the gap. One little state can’t do that.

    PROTESTERS: End fracking now!

    JOHN MYERS: Jerry Brown has befuddled his supporters in environmental circles with what they see as an embrace of fracking.

    Last year, he signed a law to study its effects, but to allow fracking to continue.

    They believe that you are in denial about the dangers of fracking. They want a moratorium. You know that.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: Some form — yes, I understand that.

    And some cities want a moratorium on oil drilling and production in California. And, yet, I haven’t heard a moratorium on driving. Californians own 32 million vehicles, and they travel in one year over 330 billion miles. And most of that is fed by petroleum. So if it doesn’t come out of the ground in California, it’s got to come on a boat or it’s got to come on a train, and that causes pollution, and has dangers. So we need a balance.

    JOHN MYERS: Balance is one of Jerry Brown’s favorite phrases in his political twilight. Gone is the demand for political revolution, in its place, an appreciation for political evolution.

    GOV. JERRY BROWN: When you’re 76, you’re not as excited about change as when you’re 26.

    But, now, I know everybody wants change, but we also like continuity. Tradition does have a value. What is California? Just the idea of the gold rush. What brought people here is still bringing people here, the — Google and Internet and Apple, and California is still kind of a gold rush. So I think it’s good to view the present through the lens of the past, but open to this incredible future that the state still very much possesses, and I feel very blessed to be a part of.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: On Tuesday, Governor Brown will present his new budget with events in Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego.

    The post Considering the long view for California’s future, Gov. Jerry Brown embraces continuity appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now: how we watch over our children and whether the balance has tipped.

    It’s the last installment in our series on Parenting Now. Throughout the week, we have looked at a wide variety of issues that mothers and fathers contend with, including their changing roles, the way we raise kids, and the costs of child care.

    Judy taped this conversation earlier in the week about how we deal with risks and safety concerns when it comes to our children.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A generation ago, children walked to school by themselves and enjoyed hours of unsupervised play. Well, times have changed considerably, and so have attitudes about the way we raise our children.

    Journalist and author Hanna Rosin explored these issues in a recent cover story for “The Atlantic,” “The Overprotected Kid.” It has sparked a wide conversation about how we keep our children safe, perhaps too safe.

    And Hanna joins me.

    Welcome to the program.

    HANNA ROSIN, The Atlantic: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, overprotected kid, I think I know what you mean by that, but what — what did you mean?

    HANNA ROSIN: What I mean, is that we have become so preoccupied with safety, that we’re basically robbing our children of the chance to take risks, the kind of physical risks, emotional risks, the kind of risks they need to become independent adults, basically. And so I tried to explore why. Why did that happen? How did we change in one generation so drastically the norms of childhood.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you start out visiting this really extraordinary — it’s a playground, but it’s kind of a non-playground in England, which is — it’s dirt, and mud. It’s all tires. It’s on a creek. The kids can build fires. Why did you go to this place?

    HANNA ROSIN: I heard about it. And I was so excited because it’s so different than the kinds of playgrounds we have today in the U.S.

    It is basically a junkyard. And it really looks like a junkyard. Kids build fires. That’s the most shocking thing. They play with tools. They play with sharp things. And they’re supervised by these people called play workers who are hired by the government.

    But, basically, the idea is to let them learn on their own how to manage things that feel dangerous to them, not that are dangerous, but that feel dangerous, so that they can feel mastery over them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But this was all part of point of saying that we had gotten too far, we have gone too far in trying to keep kids  safe, and this is an effort to pull back.

    HANNA ROSIN: Yes, the playgrounds are meant for people just to read as a shock to the system, to think, oh, my gosh, there are places like this and children are allowed to do such things? So, I started the story that way just so people could see there’s an alternative way that feels so far that children adore. I mean, they can’t wait for this place.

    I took my own son and he still talks about it every day, when can we go back there, because there really is no place like that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But this was a reaction to what? What’s happened?

    HANNA ROSIN: This was a reaction to how fearful we are of letting children take physical risks.

    So, take playgrounds. Over the last 30 years, I describe how playgrounds have shifted towards the norm of safety, almost to an extreme, the rubber padding. Everything’s been lowered. Everything’s been homogenized. So there’s no sense from the children that they are doing things which are a little bit scary and which they can master.

    They can pretty much already do everything even before they have gotten there. And the same thing for emotional risks. We like to protect our children. To kind of basically intervene before anything bad happens, I think, is what’s considered a good parent these days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as you write, of course, it wasn’t always like this. My generation, we went out in the afternoon after school and we didn’t come back for hours. What happened along the way? Why did it turn out the way it has been lately?

    HANNA ROSIN: Well, that was the impetus for me writing this story is just thinking, how is it that my daughter’s life is so different from mine? I have three children, but all of them.

    How is that I used to do things like most parents my age, play in the streets, play cops and robbers? My mom didn’t really know where I was. I just had to be home for dinner. And that would be shocking and unthinkable now for children of this generation.

    I think it’s because we have this sense that the world has become a dangerous place. That’s what people say when you ask them. Are you crazy? Why would I let my kid be out on the street on his or her own? They might get abducted.

    So we have this feeling that the world is a more dangerous place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But is it really more dangerous? You looked at some statistics on what’s happened to kids.

    HANNA ROSIN: Yes.

    In 2004, the world is definitely not a more dangerous place, because our crime rates are so incredibly low. But thing we are most afraid of, which is child abduction, those terrible, horrible stories — we read about it in the news — is just as rare now as it was in the 1970s.

    Telling your kids not to talk to strangers is in some ways a funny thing to do, even though it has become the norm, because it’s not a common crime. If abductions have increased, it’s because of divorce. So neighborhoods have changed. The world has become a different place, but not a more dangerous place.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You go on to write about that this overprotectiveness has had consequences for kids and that they’re growing up to be people who can’t cope in some ways.

    HANNA ROSIN: That’s some of them. That’s what I want people to think about after reading this story.

    We all go along with the tide. We do what other parents do. We think of it as, oh, we’re being a good parent. But, in fact, there are consequences to protecting your children in this way. There’s a lot of psychologists and sociologists doing research that show the benefits of taking risk and mastering risk.

    It’s basically used to be thought of as going through the stages of childhood. I am going to do this thing I’m afraid of, and then I’m going to master this thing, and that’s where confidence comes from, and also the ability to take risks, think outside the box.

    There are measures, for example, of creativity which have gone down in this generation, and creativity, what they mean by that is being able to think in ways that are different, that are not necessarily accepted, that are not approved necessarily by the people around you, to be an independent thinker, essentially.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what do you say to — I can just hear some parents out there listening to this and saying, but I really do have to be careful. I can’t imagine letting my child go off on his or her own for a long time unsupervised.

    HANNA ROSIN: Yes. And that’s common sense.

    You should keep your kids safe, but you shouldn’t optimize — every single decision you make shouldn’t be in order to optimize safety. That’s what I’m saying. I also don’t think we should go back to the ’70s. I think a lot of people might say, I was unhappy, my parents never paid any attention to me. And I really sympathize with that.

    That’s not what I’m advocating for, because people felt neglected in the ’70s. And I think it’s really nice that people have close relationships with their children now, so that’s not what I would want parents to take from this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is there advice that parents should think about? That’s a heavy burden to put on you, but what should parents think today?

    HANNA ROSIN: In my mind, I think of it as slightly shifting the definition of what it means to be a good parent.

    So, instead of saying, what a good parent is keep your child safe, add to that job description what a good parent does is create opportunities for your child to think independently, or take risks, or what we used to call in the old-fashioned days build character, you know, that failing will build their character, and think to yourself, that’s part of being a great parent.

    I’m not failing or neglecting my child by doing that. I’m actually doing something great for their future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s a remarkable article. I recommend it to everybody, “Overprotected Kid.”

    Hanna Rosin, thank you very much.

    HANNA ROSIN: Thank you so much.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We continue the discussion online, where we asked three experts to weigh in on how to discipline your child, from toddler to teenager. Find the story on our home page. We’d love to hear your advice as well, which you can leave in the comments section.

    The post Should parents let their kids take more risks? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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