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

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    When NASA blasts rockets into space, the engines kick out an inferno that would melt most metals. How do you make a material that withstands temperatures over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit?

    The answer may be in microwaves, says material scientist Holly Shulman. She and her colleagues at Ceralink are working on ultra high temperature ceramics, which can be used as nozzles on rockets and space shuttles. Normally, making materials like this requires high pressure and extremely high temperatures, both of which are expensive to generate. But using a microwave furnace, these durable materials may become cheaper and faster to make in a process called enhanced diffusion, Shulman said.

    “Instead of the way food heats, which is based on the water heating within the food, we can actually make that work in ceramic materials to heat them internally and cause them to densify very quickly and with huge energy savings,” she said.

    Science correspondent Miles O’Brien has more on this story for the National Science Foundation’s series “Science Nation.”*

    *For the record, the National Science Foundation is also an underwriter of the NewsHour.

    The post Making rocket parts in a giant microwave appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A 50-seat US Airways jet nearly collided with a remotely operated model airplane about seven weeks ago in Tallahassee, Florida, a Federal Aviation Administration official said Friday.

    The pilot told officials that he saw a small, camouflaged fixed-wing aircraft about 2,300 feet above the ground fly “so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it,” said Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s unmanned aircraft office.

    No damage was found after the plane landed, Williams said, speaking at a drone conference on Thursday. He added that the “risk for a small (drone) to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real.”

    The aircraft involved in the March incident was not a quad-copter, which is commonly referred to as a drone, but nevertheless raises questions about regulations on remotely-controlled and autonomous hobbyist and commercial aircraft.

    American Airlines, owner of US Airways, could not find evidence of the incident, which occurred near the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida on March 22, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    According to FAA guidelines, hobbyist aircraft should not fly higher than 400 feet and should steer clear of populated areas and large aircraft. The agency is expected to develop standards and guidelines for operating drones in U.S. airspace by September, 2015.


    The post Model aircraft nearly collided with U.S. airliner in March appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Let’s start talking first about the politics of the week. We had some primaries. We have got Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, 36 for 36 when it comes to the incumbents retaining their control.

    So I want to ask you first, is this a sign of things to come, especially in these Republican races? Have the Republicans learned something from the previous elections, where they were displaced by more conservative or Tea Party candidates?

    DAVID BROOKS: I think so.

    You have the dynamic of the establishment vs. the Tea Party type, not strictly Tea Party. There are sort of rogue elements. I guess that would be Sarah Palin’s word. But Palin will go in and campaign for somebody. Rand Paul will campaign, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, generally against the establishment candidate.

    And all those candidates lost this time. And so I think a couple of things have happened. The establishment has moved right to defang some of the criticism. Secondly, they’re better organized. And, third — and I just like to emphasize that a lot of the coverage has been, well, the money is flowing, the establishment has changed. Look at the voters. The voters make the decision.

    The voters are not idiots. And they don’t want to elect people who are not electable. And I think the voters have also decided, you know, we actually do have problems. We people who believe in governance. And that’s really the crucial difference here. It’s not more conservative, less conservative. It’s do we want to use government to govern or do we want to use it as a platform for a radio and TV show?

    And that to me is often the difference between the two kinds of candidates?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark, what about the impact of that?

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s an awesome, cosmic conclusion off of three families, but I stand in awe, I stand in awe. I really do.

    DAVID BROOKS: It’s part of a pattern, though. It’s part of a pattern and it’s been going on all year. And it’s also what I want to believe.


    MARK SHIELDS: It’s what you want to believe about the voters are reflective, introspective, and they didn’t scratch their mosquito bites, which voters often do in primaries, send a message. It’s a Western Union experience.

    I think that David’s point is very valid, that the Republican Party — Dick Lugar lost. Why did Dick Lugar lose in Indiana? Dick Lugar was clubbed over the head, that he had collaborated and worked with Barack Obama on nuclear nonproliferation.

    Why did Bob Bennett lose in Utah, a certified card-carrying conservative? Because he had consorted with Ron Wyden to come up with a more modest health care bill. And across the board, that was the case.

    So David is right. The establishment Republicans kind of preempted the insurgent move. That’s a pattern in American politics, that the populist movement, the progressive movement was preempted by the Democrats. It’s something. The Southern Dixiecrat movement was preempted by or co-opted by the Republican Party in this country.

    And that’s what they have done. They have moved to tamp down the differences between themselves and the Tea Party. I think the most important race in 2014, so far, was the congressional race in North Carolina, where Walter Jones, a 20-year incumbent, 100 percent conservative, 100 percent record with the NRA, National Rifle Association, National Right to Life Committee, voted against Obamacare, both the bailouts, everything else, was opposed.

    Two groups went in, Joe Ricketts, billionaire, founder of Ameritrade, and his political action committee, and the Emergency Committee for Israel. They spent $1.2 million in a congressional district where that can buy you eight months of television. And outspent 5-1, Walter Jones won.

    But I’m telling you, this is the future. Walter Jones, to his everlasting credit, voted for the war in Iraq, had a crisis of conscience, and has written a personal note of condolence to 14,000 people who have lost their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he’s become the most anti-war Republican in the House. That’s what they clubbed him over the head on.

    But that’s the future. They will be put $10 million, $12 million, $15 million into congressional districts. And I’m not simply saying it’s from the right. It will be the left or whatever. That’s how important money has become in 2014.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, there are two things here. First, Mark is right. Everybody is going to look at the race and think I don’t want to get $1.2 million spent against me by these guys, so it will have an effect.

    But he also won. He got outspent 5-1 and he won. Now, in part, he has deep roots in the district.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

    DAVID BROOKS: If you hadn’t been there 20 years, you’re not going to have those kind of roots.

    But it is a lesson. And people in Congress, especially in the House, are terrified, but they don’t need to be, that you can get outspent. The money is not determinative. And they just have to be braver, because there is case after case of people getting badly outspent and still going on to win if they have done their job.

    MARK SHIELDS: But, David, just point, not disagreement with David, but the natural inclination of saying I’m going to spend a million dollars against you, Hari, is, what do I have to do to make this go away? In other words, what vote do you want me to — in other words, do you want me to stop emphasizing this? And that’s a natural human inclination.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A chilling effect.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right, a chilling effect. Exactly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, this week, in Congress, it seems that the Republicans are pivoting back to the B-word, Benghazi. It seems that they’re actually not talking about the Affordable Care Act nearly as much. We were talking about we will probably the eighth inquiry in this.

    Is there merit to this and will it galvanize the base?

    DAVID BROOKS: There’s some merit to it.

    The administration did spin. And they’re not the first administration to spin, but on occasion they have had their foreign policy been overly influenced by messaging priorities. They’re not the first administration to do that, but they’re sometimes guilty. David Ignatius wrote a very good column that subject this week.

    Is it the subject the Republicans should be emphasizing? Well, of foreign policy subjects, I think it probably would rank 47th. There are just much bigger subjects. Why are they doing it? I have a theory.

    It is the voters don’t want to be interventionists abroad. The Republican natural tack is to attack the Democrats for not being strong and interventionist enough. Benghazi allows them to attack the Democrats for being either incompetent or weak, without the Republicans themselves having to commit to anything interventionist abroad. And so it’s a cheap way to score points without actually being for a foreign policy.

    MARK SHIELDS: Has the White House been transparent? Absolutely not.

    In this — two sentences in a four-page memo to Susan Rice, in which they said, just emphasize the Internet video was the primary cause of the outburst, that, I think, was the road or the mile, the bridge too far for John Boehner.

    John Boehner didn’t want these hearings, and he had 190 Republicans sign on that they did, and he held them off because it’s going to be a disaster. It will be a disaster. It won’t be good for the country.

    Running congressional hearings, the short list of successful congressional hearings have been run by exceptional legislators, people of great preparation, a thorough knowledge, a great staff of long time and of deep intelligence, John Dingell, Henry Waxman, Tom Davis, they did on baseball, Carl Levin, Sam Ervin.

    And the failures, where people just go out and grab a headline, get on cable news that night — and, you know, all they want to do is get Hillary Clinton up there. And each of them wants their tete-a-tete with Hillary Clinton. And I think she will knock their socks off.

    But I just think it’s not good for the country. It does sweeten the base for the Republican Party. The Tea Party is very energized on this. FOX News lives and dies with it. And so I think that’s basically why the hearings are being held.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, while we just talked about establishment gaining points at the polls, is this a sign that perhaps the Tea Party still has dominance when it comes to setting the agenda?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, the people who got the 190 votes, that’s lot more than the…

    DAVID BROOKS: … 43 Tea Partiers.

    It’s a lot of Republicans. And a lot of Republicans were offended that some e-mails came out which seemed to suggest some of the political spin. And then there’s just the momentum behind an investigation. You begin to believe.

    But I would go after the administration on Ukraine. I would go after them on Syria. There are big subjects to go after them on. But there is always a temptation, since Watergate, a very dysfunction in our politics to try to win ideological battles through scandal means. And it’s always bad for the country, I think.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the things that we notice from the left is that the administration is pushing back on their climate agenda.

    And the National Climate Assessment came out this week. I see a lot of responses to it, today President Obama making comments about solar energy, standing in front of a Wal-Mart, which didn’t do too well with a lot of his union-supporting base, but is that gaining any traction?

    MARK SHIELDS: It certainly is intellectually.

    I mean, I think the evidence is overwhelming, I will be frank about it, that climate change is real and that it’s human — the human cause and contribution to it is significant, and that the prospects are just absolutely daunting and terrifying.

    But I don’t think, politically — and I will be very cynical — we have big Senate races in West Virginia and Kentucky, the two or the three biggest coal-producing states, and Louisiana, a major energy state, and Mary Landrieu’s chair of the committee.

    I think the president will do what he can on executive orders, and that way. But I don’t see it becoming a political issue that leads to legislation and statute.

    DAVID BROOKS: I completely agree, for those reasons.

    And if you ask voters what they care about, it’s a very low-ranking issue. So if we want a solution, you almost think we have to wait for some technological advance, some scientific advance, some innovation. The political process is not even close to getting at this one.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there even the possibility that, away from just the climate conversation, just the fact of the optics of him standing in front of a Wal-Mart while the administration has been for a living wage?  And there’s quite a few people who feel like Wal-Mart is not paying that. Is this the right place…

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, it’s a good question. And they have gotten criticism.

    But Wal-Mart, you can’t just say there’s good and there’s bad guys. Wal-Mart has not certainly been an admirable employer when such a large percent of its work force is on Medicaid. But at the same time, they have been in the front in solar and on energy. And I think the president is trying to build support where he can build support, and not just going to his natural base and warming them up, no pun intended.


    DAVID BROOKS: America shops at Wal-Mart. This is not Anne Klein. So it’s a no-brainer. This is where America shops. If you reach some people, go to L.L. Bean. That’s fine. But America shops at Wal-Mart.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, this is — this would be the Doubleheader taking over the broadcast program, where we used to do this thing online, where we talked about the sport of politics and politics of sport, because most folks don’t know how such rabid sports fans you are.

    This week, it actually crossed over out of the arena of sports. This was the most valuable player of the National Basketball Association, Kevin Durant. This is a guy who averages 29.6 points per game, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Again, people gets get these awards every year, you never really hear about it.

    But we want to play a clip of the speech, especially because it’s Mother’s Day weekend. Let’s take a look.

    KEVIN DURANT, NBA MVP: You made us believe. You kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry, you sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: Obviously, we’re seeing pictures there of his mom.

    LeBron James, which is sort of a household name, he’s won four I think of the last five or so. Just to give you an idea of how massive the switch was in the votes, I think this guy got 119 votes to be the MVP, and LeBron James got six.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It really — but just the speech kind of seems to have crossed over. A lot more people than folks who pay attention to basketball paid attention to this.

    MARK SHIELDS: It’s a tribute. It’s such a testimonial, and it’s so real.

    What do we seek? We seek the authentic. We prize the real, the human, the humane, the unpretentious, the genuine. He was all of these things. And very few people knew about it. And it was just — it’s an absolutely touching exchange. And the NBA ought to buy time and show that instead of the next tattooed jerk who is threatening a referee.

    I mean, I just think it’s marvelous and Mother’s Day is the perfect time for it.

    DAVID BROOKS: People should go online and watch the whole thing. I defy them to get through it without crying.


    DAVID BROOKS: He used the word unconditional at one point in there.

    And it’s especially noteworthy because of the way sports have taken off among young people and the way parents put the pressure and all the travel teams. What he talked about wasn’t only his mom, but his brothers, his friends, on how they were with him win or lose, whether he was doing well or not.

    There was no withdrawal of affection if he wasn’t doing well. There was no extra cheering if he had a fantastic game. It was just unconditional support, I’m with you, I’m with you, I’m with you. And the love that he showed is a renunciation, a rebuttal of some of the pressures that are taking over youth sports and really is a model for all parents to see to remind them what the real priorities are.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You guys both are great sports. And thank you for being here. And Happy Mother’s Day to you all and your families as well.

    DAVID BROOKS: And maybe our mothers.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: Maybe your mothers.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    The post Shields and Brooks on primary points for GOP, politics of climate policy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Untitled (Woman and daughter with children) from Kitchen Table Series, 1990.  Photo by Carrie Mae Weems Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally tonight, an artist examining history and her own times through photography.

    Jeff is back with our report.

    A woman sitting at a kitchen table, an everyday snapshot, perhaps, but this is carefully constructed, part of the kitchen table series created in 1990 of scenes from a woman’s life.

    CARRIE MAE WEEMS, Photographer: What’s the life of a woman in relationship to a family, in relationship to a man, to children, to her friends and to herself?

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the woman, the subject, is the photographer herself, Carrie Mae Weems.

    CARRIE MAE WEEMS: Somehow, I sort of think of myself really sort of standing in for something more than me, that this character I have developed leads me through the world in a very interesting way and takes me to situations and places that probably Carrie wouldn’t ordinarily go.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you’re seeing yourself as kind of a character in these photographs that we’re looking at?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Absolutely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The artist who is Carrie Mae Weems is in the midst of a major moment, winning a MacArthur genius award last week, honored with a retrospective of her work that has traveled around the country, ending at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, where she was the first African-American woman ever given a solo exhibition.

    Among the work on display, a series of her extended family pushing back against the narratives of the breakdown of black families, other series that explore racial stereotypes, as in “Ain’t Jokin,” and links between the history of blacks in Africa and the American South.

    Born in Portland in 1953, Weems didn’t pick up a camera in a serious way until she was 20 years old.

    Did you understand the power of the image right away and the importance it would play for you in your life?

    JEFFREY BROWN: I didn’t know what it would play for me, I didn’t know what it would mean for me, but I knew something was really profound about it and I immediately loved it, you know?

    JEFFREY BROWN: What did you love?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Photography is a wonderful way of entering the world and of getting outside of oneself. It forces you to look at the world in a very particularly kind of way. And it asks you to look not at that, but at this.

    And it’s in that looking that you discover really the multiplicity of a single thing and the depth of a certain thing, not only of a certain thing, but your relationship to that thing and your relationship, therefore, with yourself is deepened.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of her best known series is “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried,” in which Weems took 19th century photographs, many slaves, tinted them a deep red and put text across them, “A Negroid Type,” “An Anthropological Debate,” “And Their Daughter,” in effect giving these objectified people a new life as subjects in their own right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I’m deeply fascinated with history and I have been for a long time.

    It’s a part of my DNA, trying to understand the historical context in which something is situated in. It’s within that context that then I’m allowed to play with other kinds of questions. What are we looking at within that context?

    Well, for me, of course, I’m always sort of peeling back what I understand to be power. I’m really fascinated with the hand of power and justice, the gestures of power, and how to penetrate it, understand it, rebuke it, challenge it, question it, but also understand it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In more recent work, Weems has brought herself into the frame once more, but now with her back to us, the viewers. Here she says he’s a silent witness of institutions and places.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I love that gesture. It’s a wonderful gesture, you know, of displacement. Right? Even as I’m in the center of the frame, there’s wonderful space for the audience to move past the subject, the body and towards the subject.

    I think that there’s a wonderful sense of discovery and transformation that happens there that excites me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At heart, Weems says she’s a storyteller, working with beautiful images that ask the viewer to look, and then look again, even at what on the surface seems familiar. And the story continues. She’s at work on a new project called “Swinging Into 60,” about women like her in their 60s who came of age in the 1960s.

    If each series of photographs is a kind of story, I asked, what larger tale emerges from her whole body of work?

    JEFFREY BROWN: I don’t know if it adds up to a story, but I do think that it adds up to a very particular kind of point of view. I take great joy in the idea of communicating, of expressing an idea, of challenging preexisting notions.

    So that’s an important way of living — of living my life, and I have heard that it’s actually a very courageous thing to do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Carrie Mae Weems, thanks for talking to us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

    The post Carrie Mae Weems on using photography to peel back the image of power appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Fujian's Jin River, seen from Quanzhou's Zitong Bridge, looking upstream. Authorities shut off tap water in the region due to pollution of an unknown origin. Photo from wikimedia commons

    Fujian’s Jin River, seen from Quanzhou’s Zitong Bridge, looking upstream. Authorities shut off tap water in the region due to pollution of an unknown origin. Photo from wikimedia commons

    Don’t drink the water in Jingjiang. Due to high levels of an unnamed contaminant, authorities have cut off the tap water in the Yangtze River city of about a half million people.

    “We don’t have the results yet and we don’t know the source of the pollution,” an employee at the local environment protection bureau told Financial Times. The area is home to several heavy industries, any of which could be responsible. China has seen water quality issues skyrocket in the last decade, caused by everything from oil contamination to dead farm animals.

    Unchecked development in China has led to so much water contamination that three-fiths of all underground water is unpotable, according to recent studies.

    China plans to release a national water pollution plan later in 2014.

    The post Chinese authorities cut off tap water in city of 500,000 over pollution fears appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Over the past decade, oil production in the state of North Dakota has increased nearly tenfold. The state’s oil boom has meant huge budget surpluses and robust economic growth, and crude production is reaching nearly a million barrels each day.

    But amid the boom, some logistic issues remain. As North Dakota is far from traditional pipeline infrastructure, 70 percent of the oil leaves the state by rail.

    After a series of fiery derailments over the past year — including a deadly incident in Quebec last summer — regulators and policy makers are asking questions about the safety of oil by rail.

    In our report this Sunday, we take you to Casselton, North Dakota, where a derailment last December has shaken residents and city leaders, and we explore the regulatory and other issues surrounding the oil by rail boom.

    For context, I spoke with the Wall Street Journal’s senior energy reporter Russell Gold. He’s the author of “The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World.”

    The post As oil booms in North Dakota, questions of rail safety linger appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    SARA JAMES: It’s just after dawn in one of the world’s most beautiful cities – this misty morning a picture perfect start to the day. And Damien Blumire looks the picture of health. But the image is deceptive.

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: I’ve been waiting for a kidney transplant and I need to keep myself as fit as possible to give myself the best chance of recovering from major surgery.

    SARA JAMES: Damien inherited a rare form of kidney disease from his mother. It claimed her life when he was just a boy. The fact that Damien’s kidneys don’t work affects the simplest of rituals – even his choice of morning coffee.

    Which country has the highest organ donation rates?

    Which country has the highest organ donation rates?

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: G’day, I’ll have a double espresso

    SARA JAMES: Cappuccino has too much milk – and he hasn’t had soup in a decade.

    Damien must ration all liquid because his body can’t get rid of fluid, putting him at risk of swelling, heart damage, or a stroke from high blood pressure.

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: You have to consider the amount of water that a bowl of rice consumes when it is cooking for example all those things get taken into account and because my body can’t get rid of those things I count all those things over a two day basis

    SARA JAMES: Damien’s unquenchable thirst also prompts a dream.

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: Just being able to go to the sink and drink a glass of water, fill my stomach with water. Of all the basic needs, that is it.

    SARA JAMES: So every other day Damien does what nearly 400,000 Americans do –

    SARA JAMES: So this is where you do dialysis–

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: It is. This is the dialysis room.

    SARA JAMES: Without dialysis he would be dead in a few weeks. The machine removes extra water, waste and salt from his body and keeps chemicals like potassium at a safe level in his blood.

    The software programmer is tethered to this machine an average of 25 hours a week.

    Australia has universal health care and Damien’s dialysis treatment – more than $50,000 a year – is covered by the government. It’s a life-saving procedure, but not a cheap or easy one.

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: The dialysis involves putting a couple of needles in your arm and the machine works as your artificial kidney for 5 hours – unfortunately putting needles in your arm gives your arm a bit of a beating and I’m not looking too pretty these days.

    SARA JAMES: But there’s another cost. For more than ten years – more than 3,800 days and nights – Damien has kept his cell phone within arm’s reach, hoping for a call instructing him to rush to the hospital because a compatible kidney has been found. But when we talked to him in February, the call still hadn’t come. The uncertainty is hard on him and his two young sons, and he says it is one reason his marriage floundered.

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: Living with someone who has a chronic illness is almost as difficult as having a chronic illness. It basically changed who we were as people over the ten years.

    SARA JAMES: Damien’s story is typical of those in the United States and Australia seeking organ transplants. In Australia, the average wait for a kidney is 4 years; in America it’s three to five years depending on blood type.

    But now a new Australian initiative has raised the donation and transplant rates here to the highest level in a quarter century.

    YAEL CASS: The key thing that we’ve done is that we’ve picked best practice from around the globe.

    SARA JAMES: Yael Cass is the CEO of the Organ and Tissue Authority – set up to oversee the 151 million dollar national reform package, which went into effect in 2009. The Organ and Tissue Authority has intensified efforts to increase community awareness across Australia.


    SARA JAMES: With public service announcements like this one to encourage more people to sign up as donors.

    PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Organ and tissue donation is very important to talk about with your family to know the wishes of your loved ones for when they’re not here so they can give someone a second chance like I got. Because being given the gift of life is the greatest gift.

    Screen shot 2014-05-10 at 11.14.04 AM

    SARA JAMES: The Australian government has also offered specialized new training to some 600 health professionals. They have the difficult role of talking to family members when the opportunity for organ donation arises as a loved one is dying.

    Created Australia’s first paired kidney exchange in 2010 to increase live donor kidney transplants. A sophisticated computer is used to identify matches between sets of would-be donors and would-be recipients.

    And instituted paid leave for living donors. The 1.3 million dollar initiative reimburses employers for giving donors time off work to recuperate from major surgery.

    The program began last year and Rosemary Wehbe was the first to sign up.

    A photography teacher at a Sydney Boys’ School, photos also reveal Rosemary’s greatest love – family. When her brother Simon learned he needed a kidney, she was delighted she proved a match.

    ROSEMARY WEHBE: Last year he had three operations and they were quite hard, and seeing your brother suffering I just thought if I can do something I will do it.

    DOCTOR: How are you going with the pain?

    ROSEMARY WEHBE: Oh getting much better.

    SARA JAMES: But it took time to recuperate from surgery – and Rosemary was thankful her time off was paid. She received just over $600 a week for six weeks. Her employer was reimbursed by the federal government.

    ROSEMARY WEHBE: I didn’t have to worry that I am using sick pay that I had saved up or using something that I don’t have.

    DR. JEREMY CHAPMAN: That’s pretty good kidney function – it’s working very well. That was good of your sister wasn’t it!”

    SARA JAMES: Initial signs suggest the new program is encouraging more people to be living donors – helping more people like Rosemary’s brother.

    SIMON WEHBE: What is it like to feel like someone saved your life? I owe her my life, really.

    SARA JAMES: While living donors are important, some organs can only come from deceased donors, who must register their consent. But since a potential donor’s decision can be overridden by distraught relatives, Cass says training staff for conversations with grieving families is key.

    YAEL CASS: Organ donation is actually an incredibly rare event. Less than 1 percent of people that die in hospital are potential for organ donors in Australia. Its’ a small number and we need circumstances to be absolutely perfect

    SARA JAMES: All this thinking and planning, Cass says, has contributed to a 60 percent leap in the number of donors in australia in the past four years. But she says much remains to be done.

    YAEL CASS: We are not resting on our laurels because we know we can continue to change the way we manage our donation practice in Australia and continue to provide more transplants for people who are waiting

    At Westmead hospital, the clinic is humming. Dr. Jeremy Chapman is a renal physician here and the past president of the International Transplantation Society.

    DR. JEREMY CHAPMAN: This January we did in a period of three weeks one quarter of the whole year’s transplants. On a daily basis we are busier. It’s quite clear you saw the clinic today, it’s chaos. That’s great. Love chaos. Organized chaos.

    SARA JAMES: If you were to give Australia a badge, what would you give it?

    DR. JEREMY CHAPMAN: I think we’d have to have the badge for most improved in the last couple of years.

    SARA JAMES: And Damien Blumire would agree. He’s indulging in what was for so long a forbidden pleasure.

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: It’s fantastic. It’s something I’ve dreamed about for 10 years!

    SARA JAMES: Just days ago, Damien received a call at 5:10 am — a kidney from a deceased donor was a perfect match. He is grateful to the family of that donor – and conscious of a debt he will do his best to repay.

    DAMIEN BLUMIRE: As much as i’ve benefited from you know the sadness in their life — it it’s just — I mean I’m only 40 years of age!

    So at 40 years old I’ve got so many years ahead of me and I’ve sort of been treading water for the last decade the last quarter of my life this has given me the opportunity to get over that hurdle and just go and grab life by the horns and ride it as hard as I can

    SARA JAMES: And he’s only just beginning to picture all the things he can and will do … in his new life.

    The post Can policy changes lead to an increase in organ donations? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Screen shot 2014-05-09 at 4.49.15 PM

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    BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP (performance): I love you so much, Bloopeekins. Oh, I am over the moon that we are finally married. Thank you, Minnesota. Thank you, Minnesota.

    LAUREN ANDERSON: Humor’s such a great tool to get things out.

    BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP (performance): It is so nice to see another loving couple finally getting married. Oh, no. No, we’re not getting married. We’re getting divorced.

    LAUREN ANDERSON: Once you’re laughing with people you have a shared experience with them, and people that have shared experiences relax a little bit. They calm down. They feel closer to each other. And when you feel closer and more connected you’re able to discus things in a way that you wouldn’t if you felt isolated.

    BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP (performance): Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. No, I disagree. Becker and I, we love each other. And we want to start our life together. Trust fall. Got ya!

    LAUREN ANDERSON: At the Brave New Workshop, we want you laughing in the theatre and then discussing, or arguing even, on the way home.

    CALEB MCEWAN: I think we’re unique in that we have comedy, but it’s comedy that has a point. There’s always a reason why we’re doing a sketch here. And that’s been the tradition since 1958.

    DUDLEY RIGGS: My first performance was as an infant in the grand parade of the Russell Brothers Circus. My father and my mother were for a number of years aerialists in the circus. So I grew up being a circus flier and then ran away from the circus to join a family and ended up in Minnesota.

    I think one of the reasons that I settled here was it was obvious there was an available, intelligent, underserved audience for comedy and for satire. The Brave New Workshop had the beauty of being able to do contemporary political social satire on a regular basis.

    BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP (performance): And I can’t stop this Prius anymore. I forgotten what I started stopping for.

    DUDLEY RIGGS: I’m really quite proud of the 500 or so actors who got their first paycheck from me. They learned their craft, they went off, and they’re doing good work elsewhere. I’m proud of those people.

    BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP (performance): : Michael (inaudible) was once the head of FEMA. But lost his job as (inaudible) Hurricane Katrina.

    LAUREN ANDERSON: One of my favorite shows I ever did here was called Saturday Night FEMA. And that was actually a really powerful show to be a part of. It was that really cool dance between trying to make it funny and having a serious thing to say.

    BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP (performance): You mean to tell me you’re just going to let someone tell you what to think without bothering to find out the truth. Duh, we’re Americans.

    LAUREN ANDERSON: When you can make somebody laugh about something that might be painful or hard to talk about, I think that’s a real powerful tool.

    BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP (performance): Obama Mia! Here we go again. I am starting to resist you.

    DUDLEY RIGGS: I believe that there are no subjects that we have not at one time or another tackled.

    BRAVE NEW WORKSHOP (performance): Simmons, secure the West Wing. Make sure the First Lady’s okay. Yes, sir.

    DUDLEY RIGGS: And at least for a time being the only voice in town talking about a particular sore point. When Minneapolis was having its third race riot, we were already doing our summer series called the Race Riot Revue.

    JOHN SWEENEY: One of the things that Dudley has instilled in us is that our shows should try to be ahead of the curve. Dudley can tell stories about how he would always go and get the first early edition of the paper the night before and be more educated than your audience.

    Well now, people are watching their phones to see what’s happening on CNN during the show. So this ability to kind of literally stay ahead of the crowd is tougher now because information is so available, but we still embrace the kind of, can we be ahead of the audience in the point of view of the sketch.

    The post Brave New Workshop takes satirical look at hot-button issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — The health care law has opened up an unusual opportunity for some mothers-to-be to save on medical bills for childbirth.


    Geoff Manasse by Getty Images

    Credit: Geoff Manasse/Getty Images

    Lower-income women who signed up for a private policy in the new insurance exchanges will have access to additional coverage from their state’s Medicaid program if they get pregnant. Some women could save hundreds of dollars on their share of hospital and doctor bills.

    Medicaid already pays for nearly half of U.S. births, but this would create a way for the safety-net program to supplement private insurance for many expectant mothers.

    Officials and advocates say the enhanced coverage will be available across the country, whether or not a state expands Medicaid under the health law. However, states have different income cutoffs for eligibility, ranging from near the poverty line to solid middle class.

    The main roadblock right now seems to be logistical: reprogramming state and federal computer systems to recognize that certain pregnant women have a legal right to coverage both from Medicaid and private plans on the insurance exchange. Technically, they can pick one or the other, or a combination.

    States and insurers will have to sort out who pays for what.

    Another big challenge will be educating the public about this latest health law wrinkle. It’s complicated for officials and policy experts, let alone the average consumer.

    “This is an issue where women are going to have to figure out, `I’m eligible for both, now how do I do that?’” said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, which represents state programs. “But what a wonderful problem to have. This is a great problem to have from the consumer’s perspective.”

    The cost impact for federal and state taxpayers is uncertain. Providing more generous coverage increases costs, but comprehensive prenatal care can save money by preventing premature births and birth defects.

    Cynthia Pellegrini, head of the March of Dimes’ Washington office, said many women might not have been thinking about maternity benefits when they signed up for coverage under the health law. After all, half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. Often consumers just focus on the monthly premium when they select a plan.

    The cost of normal uncomplicated childbirth averages $5,000, said Pellegrini, and preterm births can cost more than 10 times that. Copayments and deductibles add up fast.

    “A lot of women, particularly in a situation like childbirth, could end up with significant out-of-pocket costs,” Pellegrini said. “If they are eligible for Medicaid, they could be protected from costs ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.” Her group works to prevent birth defects by promoting healthy pregnancies.

    Existing Medicaid policies, subsidized private coverage under President Barack Obama’s law and an obscure Treasury Department ruling combined to produce the new options for pregnant women.

    Medicaid is a federal-state program that covers low-income and disabled people. Before the health law, states offered special, time-limited coverage to uninsured pregnant women until their children were born. That coverage is not only for poor women; some states provide benefits to middle-class women as well.

    Then came the Affordable Care Act, with federally subsidized private insurance for people who don’t have a health plan on the job. The law, however, drew a line between Medicaid and coverage through the exchanges: If you’re eligible for Medicaid you generally can’t get government-subsidized private insurance.

    That barrier fell away when the Treasury Department ruled that Medicaid’s targeted insurance for pregnant women did not meet the definition of “minimum essential coverage” required by the health law. That’s because the coverage is temporary and states can restrict the services the pay for.

    The ruling last summer opened the possibility for pregnant women to tap both benefit programs, said Dipti Singh, an attorney with the National Health Law Program in Los Angeles.

    “Usually you could only be in one or the other,” said Singh. “This is different in that pregnant women are eligible for both.”

    But the ruling apparently came too late to program into the computers.

    The option works differently depending on a woman’s circumstances, Singh said.

    Many women with low incomes would be better off sticking with Medicaid only because most states have opted to provide comprehensive services for expectant mothers.

    But a woman in an exchange plan would be able to limit her cost-sharing and gain access to enhanced maternity benefits if she opted into Medicaid as well. She would not have to worry about her coverage running out after the baby is born, as Medicaid’s maternity-only coverage does.

    The post Mothers-to-be gain new options under health care law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In the United States, there are currently 122,592 people waiting for an organ.

    According to Organdoner.gov, the government gateway for information on donation, 18 people die in the United States each day waiting for an organ.
    The United States stands midway among developed nations in donation rates with around 26 donors per million people.

    Spain has been the acknowledged leader in donations for number of years with 35.3 donors per million. Some of the difference in rates is due to an opt-out versus opt-in policy. In Spain you are considered a donor unless you make the effort to opt out of the donation system.

    In the U.S., people must choose, usually during the process of getting a driver’s license, to participate in the donation program.

    However, in Spain and countries who use similar programs, the medical establishment still seeks permission from family members routinely.

    Our PBS NewsHour Weekend piece illustrates some the of the steps Australia is taking to make organ donation a more common choice. Australia has created sophisticated systems to enable tissue matches. And, a new $1.3 million initiative reimburses employers for giving donors time off work to recuperate from the major surgery involved with organ donation.

    The post Which country has the highest organ donation rates? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    STEPHEN FEE: It was just after 2pm on December 30, 2013 when the calls began streaming in.

    Two trains had collided just half a mile outside Casselton, North Dakota, one loaded with grain, the other with crude oil.

    Volunteer fire chief Tim McLean headed straight to the scene.

    TIM MCLEAN, CASSELTON FIRE CHIEF: Then I kind of knew, this was going to be a big one, the way it was described on the pagers.

    STEPHEN FEE: Community banker Bernie Sinner was meeting with a client in his office. His window is just 50 feet from the rail track.

    BERNIE SINNER, FIRST STATE BANK OF NORTH DAKOTA: You could see plumes of black smoke rising pretty high above the tree line, above the buildings that are across the street from us.

    STEPHEN FEE: From the town’s main intersection, witnesses could hear explosions as the railcars blew apart, sending fireballs into the sky. Ed McConnell has been mayor of Casselton for sixteen years.

    MAYOR ED MCCONNELL, CASSELTON, ND: They evacuated the southwest corner of town, the part of the town that was most affected by it.

    STEPHEN FEE: But once the wind turned, officials put the entire town of 2,500 under a voluntary evacuation order. Some 400 thousand gallons of crude leaked from 18 ruptured cars. The fire burned for a full day.

    TIM MCLEAN, CASSELTON FIRE CHIEF: There’d be no battling this fire. Even if you had an endless supply of water.

    STEPHEN FEE: Both trains were operated by BNSF Railway — and for the record, BNSF is a NewsHour funder.

    No one was killed or injured. But the accident hit close to home for the state’s governor, Jack Dalrymple — he grew up in Casselton.

    GOV. JACK DALRYMPLE, NORTH DAKOTA: I couldn’t believe it. I was having dinner. And all of a sudden somebody sent me a video on my phone. And I said, ‘Casselton?’ I said, ‘I can’t believe that.’

    STEPHEN FEE: What did it tell you about what’s going on on the rails here in North Dakota?

    GOV. JACK DALRYMPLE, NORTH DAKOTA: Well, it tells me and I think everybody the same thing. You know, what if that happened you know in — in a city or even in the middle of a town? You know, it could be really catastrophic.

    STEPHEN FEE: As Mayor McConnell says, his town dodged a bullet. But months earlier, a community in Canada wasn’t nearly so lucky. On July 6, 2013, a similar train, also loaded with crude from the Bakken shale formation, derailed and exploded in the center of Lac Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying much of the town center.

    Six years ago, US railways carried just 9,500 carloads of crude each year. But today, as huge amounts of oil are produced in states like North Dakota far from traditional pipeline infrastructure, that figure has jumped to more than 400 thousand. And with oil train derailments in Alabama, Pennsylvania, and most recently downtown Lynchburg, Virginia, regulators and policymakers are growing concerned about the safety of moving oil by rail.


    STEPHEN FEE: Don Morrison runs the Dakota Resource Council, a consortium of 700 landowners, ranchers, and business people in the state.

    DON MORRISON, DAKOTA RESOURCE COUNCIL: They didn’t look down the road to figure out how are we going to get this to market in a safe way.

    STEPHEN FEE: Most of the seven and a half million barrels of oil produced each day in the US travels by pipeline– but 70 percent of the million barrels coming out of North Dakota each day goes by rail.

    That’s because most of the country’s refining capacity is far from North Dakota. That means North Dakota crude has to travel hundreds of miles to be processed into gasoline for cars or fuel for jet engines.

    And while pipelines require new construction and regulatory approval — the long-stalled Keystone XL a case in point — freight rail already crisscrosses North Dakota and the country.

    RON NESS, NORTH DAKOTA PETROLEUM COUNCIL: Historically, you would have never thought oil would travel by rail in this day and age.

    STEPHEN FEE: Ron Ness heads the North Dakota Petroleum Council. It’s a group that represents the state’s oil industry and supports hauling oil by rail.

    How safe is it?

    RON NESS, NORTH DAKOTA PETROLEUM COUNCIL: Well safety is certainly the number one aspect that I think all aspects of the transportation industry are focused on. And at 99.7 percent of the time, you know, rail movements get to their destinations safely.

    STEPHEN FEE: Actually, the rail industry says its safety record is even better — but just the tiny chance of a catastrophe makes policymakers like the governor uneasy, especially with North Dakota’s major cities and towns situated directly on the rails.

    GOV. JACK DALRYMPLE, NORTH DAKOTA: Where we you know never remembered any kind of an accident like this before, now if we’re sending ten or 20 or 30 times as much oil down the track, that obviously increases the chances of an accident occurring. And that becomes sort of a new reality that everybody has to get used to.

    STEPHEN FEE: And now, there are mounting concerns about the railcars predominantly used to haul oil across the nation.

    Since 1991 the National Transportation Safety Board has warned that railcars like these, DOT 111s, are more prone to rupture in the case of an accident. But it wasn’t until a 2009 derailment in Illinois that the railway industry began instituting its own, more robust safety standards to strengthen cars like these.

    But more than 80 percent of those types of cars used to haul hazardous materials in North America are older models that don’t meet those standards. And while the rail industry advocates tough federal rules for new cars, so far, there’s no timeline for getting rid of the older ones like those involved in the Casselton and Quebec derailments.

    Just this week, the Department of Transportation advised all carriers of oil from North Dakota and the Bakken shale ‘to avoid the use of older, legacy…tank cars.’ but only ‘to the extent reasonably practicable.’

    And it’s not just the cars that have critics concerned — the DOT has also warned North Dakota crude itself may be more flammable than other types of oil, potentially leading to more dangerous accidents.

    Again, Dakota Resource Council’s Don Morrison.

    DON MORRISON, DAKOTA RESOURCE COUNCIL: Going through people, right next to people’s houses and businesses. It’s, it’s dangerous. And they’ve got to be careful.

    STEPHEN FEE: With just 55 inspectors nationwide, the DOT’s hazardous materials regulator has launched routine and surprise inspections to ensure oil is being properly tested for flammability.

    As a result, this February the agency announced fines against three oil companies — Marathon, Hess, and Whiting — for allegedly assigning their oil to the wrong safety category. The DOT later dropped fines against Whiting, but is still pursuing enforcement actions against Hess and Marathon.

    What is it that — that is distinct about this kind of oil that’s coming out of the ground?

    RON NESS: Well, we don’t think the Bakken crude oil is that distinct from any other high-quality, light sweet crude oil across America like WTI or Louisiana Sweet.

    STEPHEN FEE: To prove that point, his organization will announce the findings of its own flammability tests later this month. And by this summer, the rail industry will have enacted a series of steps to make crude transit safer, like slower train speeds and enhanced braking systems.

    This January, North Dakota’s Republican Party chairman suggested oil development may be moving too quickly. Even with the fastest growing economy in the country, critics say it’s time for a slowdown in the state’s energy development. But the governor thinks that’s unwise.

    GOV. JACK DALRYMPLE, NORTH DAKOTA: Ultimately we do have to look at the statistics of everything. You know, we would not– shut down the airline industry because there was one airplane crash. And we don’t close our interstate highways because there’s a car accident.

    STEPHEN FEE: After years of discussion, this April the DOT submitted new rules for safer cars to the White House — but those rules likely won’t come into effect before 2015.

    Meanwhile mile-long oil trains rumble through towns like Casselton. And despite reassurances, Mayor Ed McConnell is worried.

    MAYOR ED MCCONNELL, CASSELTON, ND: It’s a mechanical system, and any time it’s used more, there’s going to be more failures. It’s just inevitable.

    STEPHEN FEE: Oil production in North Dakota is expected to climb 70 percent by 2020, and most of that oil will travel by rail.


    The post Crude oil brings boom times and safety concerns to North Dakota appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama on Saturday decried the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls who have been missing for nearly a month and used their plight to speak out for the rights of girls everywhere to get an education.

    Delivering the weekly presidential radio and Internet address on the eve of the U.S. holiday honoring mothers, the first lady and mother of two said that, like millions of people around the world, she and President Barack Obama are “outraged and heartbroken” over the April 15 abduction of nearly 300 girls from their dormitory.

    She asked the nation to pray for their safe return and stressed the importance of education.

    “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters,” Mrs. Obama said in the five-minute address, referring to Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12. “We see their hopes, their dreams, and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

    She said what happened more than three weeks ago in Nigeria was not an isolated incident, but “a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.”

    Mrs. Obama mentioned Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived a gunshot to the head as she traveled to school in 2012. Malala has become an outspoken advocate for the rights of all girls to get an education.

    More than 65 million girls worldwide do not attend school, even though educated women earn more money, have healthier families and provide a boost to their countries’ economies, the first lady noted.

    “So education is truly a girl’s best chance for a bright future, not just for herself, but for her family and her nation,” Mrs. Obama said.

    She expressed hope that events in Nigeria will inspire boys and girls across the U.S. to take getting an education seriously.

    “I hope that any young people in America who take school for granted, any young people who are slacking off or thinking of dropping out, I hope they will learn the story of these girls and recommit themselves to their education,” she said.

    Mrs. Obama recently launched a domestic initiative called “Reach Higher” to encourage kids to pursue education after high school.

    In Saturday’s address, she asked the nation to pray for the Nigerian girls’ safe return.

    “This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls,” the first lady said. “Let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time, and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright.”

    The kidnapped girls and their thirst for learning were also mentioned in a commencement speech Mrs. Obama delivered Saturday at Dillard University in New Orleans.

    The Nigerian government’s inability to find the girls, who were abducted by the Boko Haram organization, has sparked worldwide outrage, including protests and a social media campaign. The U.S. and other countries have sent military and other experts to assist the government’s search effort. President Obama has said the U.S. will do everything it can to help Nigerian authorities find them.

    Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful.” The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has claimed responsibility for the mass abduction and has threatened to sell the girls.

    Authorities have said more than 300 girls were kidnapped from their school in the country’s remote northeast. Fifty-three escaped and 276 remain captive.

    The post Michelle Obama speaks out on kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Speaking during the weekly presidential radio address, First Lady Michelle Obama said today she and the president are “outraged and heartbroken” about the abduction of 276 Nigerian school girls nearly four weeks ago.

    The Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility. The United States, France, Britain and China have all offered assistance to find the girls. Nearly 20 Americans and a small British team are already on the ground there aiding in the search.

For more about on this story about the missing girls, we are joined now from Lagos, Nigeria via Skype by Michelle Faul. She is a reporter for the Associated Press.

    We’ve heard about the international community sending some resources in. What are these international resources expected to do?

    MICHELLE FAUL: Well I think mainly help with intelligence gathering and coordination on the ground. There seems to have been a great failure on the part of Nigeria’s military in acting on information coming from villagers on the ground who say they’ve seen the girls and their abductors.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What are some of the challenges in this region? Is it geographic? Is it linguistic? What are some of the difficulties in finding these girls?

    MICHELLE FAUL:  Massive. They were initially taken into the Sambisa Forest. To give you an idea, that are is eight time the size of Yellowstone National Park. Very dense forest; family members who went in there to try to find the girls said it is so dense that it is actually dark there, the sunlight doesn’t come through.

    But we’ve heard that some of the places they’ve been taken to – including across the borders into Chad and Cameroon – now there you’re talking about semi-arid region it’s on the brink of the Sahara Desert. So you talking a massive, massive area and it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. And really I think everyone has agreed that the only way that they are going to find these girls is by acting on information from people who’ve seen them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there any working theories on how someone or some group could keep this large a group quiet or hidden for this long a time? Or have they broken this group up into small parts, do you think?

    MICHELLE FAUL: The reports that we have had, and of course these are all unverified I must make clear, are that they’ve been broken up into smaller groups because it would be pretty unmanageable. We’re talking about currently 276 girls – 53 escaped – there were more than 300 who were abducted in the first place. And Monday night will be the month-long anniversary of the kidnappings.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Do the authorities still think that the girls are alive?

    MICHELLE FAUL: President Jonathan raised a lot of eyebrows in a television program on Sunday when he said he was happy to know that the girls were unharmed. He was then unable to say how he would know that since he said that they had no contact with the abductors, did not know who the abductors are. So it was a rather strange thing to say.

    I have spoken with an intermediary who has negotiated hostage releases in the past. He’s an Islamic scholar up in the north, and he said he’s been getting messages from Boko Haram that included that two of the girls have died of snakebite and that about 20 of them are ill.

    If you can imagine, they are probably drinking water from rivers and wells, so not clean water. They are living out in the open. They are being moved about, we’re being told, two or three days, which means they are probably not eating properly. In the forest they would be dealing with malaria-carrying mosquitos and the in desert there is incredible heat.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So while we see bits and pieces of frustration from the parents mounting, is that frustration spread throughout the country? Is the whole country paying attention to this story right now?

    MICHELLE FAUL: Oh, it has grown over the past couple of weeks. The longer these girls are held without rescue the outrage has grown tremendously. Nigerians are social media addicts. There’s a massive campaign that has now gone international but was started at home with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls, I’m sure you’ve heard about it.

    There are daily protest in various capitols. The other day we had schoolchildren in Calabar state in the southeast protesting. There are daily protests in Abuja, the capitol, including some of the parents of the missing girls. In some of the other main cities Nigerians have made clear their huge disappointment in the failure of the government and the military in this case.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Does this disappointment have political consequences for the administration there?

    MICHELLE FAUL: I wonder if we’ll see that. President Jonathan hasn’t said that, he’s expected to be running for president again for election in 2015. Campaigning has already started. I’ll give you an example the kind of thing that has made people really angry in Nigeria. The girls were abducted several hours after a bomb blast in Abuja, the capital, killed at least 75 people and the nation was just reeling from this double whammy of attacks. And the next day President Jonathan went to Kano, a city in the north, and was photographed dancing at a party rally. Well, people couldn’t believe it. They thought the nation is in mourning and he is partying?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know there were reports from Amnesty International yesterday saying that the government had four hours warning. Is that gaining traction there? Are there ways to verify it? Are people hearing about that report?

    MICHELLE FAUL: I’m aware of the report. We have reported and quoted a local government official saying that he got a phone call of warning two hours before the attack. He makes the point that that would have been plenty of time for reinforcements to come from the nearest barracks, which is about 50 kilometers away and about an hour’s drive away along a dirt road. When he got that telephone warning Bana Lawal, the chairman, alerted the 15 soldiers who were guarding Chibok town. He said that those 15 soldiers fought valiantly.

    He said there were more than 200 fighters from Boko Haram who attacked the town. The soldiers held them off for two hours until they ran out of ammunition and one of the soldiers was killed. When they ran out of ammunition, the soldiers ran for their lives and that left the road open to the school where were abducted. And the Chairman says that those soldiers fought just believing that they were just holding off these people until the reinforcements came.

    Now the military came out with a statement last night in response to the Amnesty International report and they say in that statement that reinforcements were sent from Maiduguri, now that’s a good 120 kilometers from Chibok, not the nearest barracks. And they claim that those reinforcements were ambushed and there was a fierce firefight and that was why those reinforcements never made it to Chibok. So they are not denying that they didn’t get the warning.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Michelle Faul of the Associated Press joining us via Skype from Lagos Nigeria, thanks so much.

    MICHELLE FAUL: You are most welcome.

    The post Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls face serious risks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — The government has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination and other environmental damage, congressional investigators say.

    The report, obtained by The Associated Press before its public release, highlights substantial gaps in oversight by the agency that manages oil and gas development on federal and Indian lands.

    Investigators said weak control by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management resulted from policies based on outdated science and from incomplete monitoring data.

    The findings from the Government Accountability Office come amid an energy boom in the country and the increasing use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. That process involves pumping huge volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to split open rocks to allow oil and gas to flow. It has produced major economic benefits, but also raised fears that the chemicals could spread to water supplies.

    The audit also said the BLM did not coordinate effectively with state regulators in New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.

    The bureau has become a symbol of federal overreach to industry groups opposed to government regulations related to oil and gas drilling. Environmental groups say the Obama administration needs to do more to guard against environmental damage.

    In the coming months, the administration is expected to issue rules on fracking and methane gas emissions.

    The report said the agency “cannot accurately and efficiently identify whether federal and Indian resources are properly protected or that federal and Indian resources are at risk of being extracted without agency approval.”

    In response to the report, Tommy Beaudreau, a principal deputy assistant interior secretary, wrote that he generally agreed with the recommendations for improved state coordination and updated regulations.

    The report makes clear in many instances that the BLM’s failure to inspect high-priority oil and gas wells is due to limited money and staff. BLM officials said they were in the process of updating several of its policies later this year.

    Investigators reviewed 14 states in full or part: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. In Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, fracking has become increasingly prevalent.

    The report said the BLM had failed to conduct inspections on more than 2,100 of the 3,702 wells that it had specified as “high priority” and drilled from 2009 through 2012. The agency considers a well “high priority” based on a greater need to protect against possible water contamination and other environmental safety issues.

    The agency had yet to indicate whether another 1,784 wells were high priority or not.

    The BLM has developed agreements with some states, which also have jurisdiction over well inspections on federal lands. According to the GAO, it had reached agreements with regulators in California, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming.

    The report said BLM has not reviewed or updated many of its oil and gas rules to reflect technological advances, as required by a 2011 executive order. They include guidance on spacing of wells, which the report said could help maximize oil and gas production.

    The bureau acknowledged it had not updated its guidance on oil and gas drainage since 1999 or its guidance on mineral trespass – interference of drilling or mining activity – since 2003.

    Congressional investigators found the BLM did not monitor inspection activities at its state and field offices and thus could not provide “reasonable assurance” that those offices were completing the required inspections.

    In Pennsylvania, for instance, an Associated Press investigation found the state received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells. More than 100 cases of pollution were confirmed over the past five years.

    “This report reaffirms our concern that the government needs to pay attention to the environment and protect public health and drinking sources from the risks of oil and gas development,” said Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    But Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, a trade group representing energy companies, said the report’s findings show that states are better positioned to regulate oil and gas drilling.

    Associated Press reporter Hope Yen wrote this report. Follow her on Twitter.

    The post Thousands of oil and gas wells left unchecked by government inspectors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona Caption: Alfred McEwen

    This image was acquired by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Dec. 30, 2013.

    The resemblance is uncanny, but no, these aren’t Starfleet logos emblazoned on planet Vulcan. Perhaps fittingly, though, this NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image shows a section of an active dune field on Mars. Strong winds blowing in a single direction resulted in massive piles of basaltic sand about 200 meters wide and 20 meters tall that formed crescent-shaped “barchan dunes.” The imaging method—infrared shifted color—portrays them with a blue tint, but to the naked eye they would actually appear as neutral gray mounds sitting on the Red Planet’s signature colored backdrop.

    This group of barchans rests at 23° N latitude and just west of Mawrth Vallis, one of the oldest valleys on Mars, famous for its clay mineral deposits that form only in the presence of water. As outlandish as they may appear, these dunes are no stranger to Earth. Barchans commonly form in deserts here, in places such as New Mexico, Namibia or Turkistan, where Russian naturalist Alexander von Middendorf introduced them to the scientific literature as “barchans,” a word borrowed from a Central Asian language.

    This article was originally published on Scientific American on May 1, 2014.

    The post Dunes on Mars resemble Starfleet logos appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    May 11 marks the 120th anniversary of the birth Martha Graham, the mother of modern dance and the founder of one of the most influential dance schools in America.

    No artist is ahead of his time. He is his time; it is just that others are behind the times. –Martha Graham

    Graham numbered many of the 20th century’s most influential artists among her friends. Her collaboration with composer Aaron Copeland, “Appalachian Spring,” which debuted 70 years ago in 1944, is for many the quintessential expression of America in dance.

    The Martha Graham Dance Company compiled this video of three signature performances of Appalachian Spring to mark its 70th anniversary. Martha Graham herself performs in the black and white version from 1948.

    After she retired from performing, Graham continued to teach generations of the world’s top modern dance performers.

    Her company, The Martha Graham Dance Company continues to thrive.

    The post Celebrating spring with Martha Graham on her 120th birthday appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The demographics of motherhood in the U.S. have changed considerably over the last 20 years. American mothers are increasingly older and more educated than their predecessors.

    In this stock photo, a mother picks lemons with her daughter. Credit: AE Pictures Inc. via Getty Images

    A mother picks lemons with her daughter in this stock photo. Credit: AE Pictures Inc. via Getty Images

    According to Pew Research Center, in 2008, 10 percent of births were to teen mothers, while 14 percent of births were to women 35 and older.

    That same year, about 8,000 babies were born to women 45 or older, more than double the number in 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    And, New York Magazine reports one-quarter of adopted children in the U.S. have parents more than 45 years older than they are.

    Whos more educated

    Percentage based on married couples with children under 18. Credit: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend

    The number of U.S. births has been steadily falling for decades. The Pew Research Center’s Gretchen Livingston and D’Vera Cohn found that decrease to be particularly sharp among low-income women, between 2008 to 2011, coinciding with the economic turmoil of the Great Recession.

    Who Makes More

    Percentage based on married couples with children under 18. Credit: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend

    Pew’s 2011 study found mothers to be more educated than before. 66 percent of mothers in 2011 had some level of college education, up from 18 percent in 1960 and about 50 percent in 1990.

    The Pew report also stated that these changes in demographics have impacts on children. Children whose mothers have higher levels of education, for example, are more likely to have a healthier birth rate and achieve higher academically in school.

    Credit: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend

    Credit: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend

    Most Americans believe the higher number of out-of-wedlock marriages is an issue for society, according to a 2007 Pew report, but this assessment differs greatly among older and younger generations. In 2008, 41 percent of mothers were unmarried, up from 28 percent in 1990.

    About two-thirds of Americans ages 65 and older say unmarried women having children is always or almost always wrong.

    Across the globe, a Save the Children report names Finland as the best place to be a mother — followed by Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands. The U.S. ranked at 31 on the list, while Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mali were rated the most difficult countries to be a mother.

    The post New mothers are older, more educated than their predecessors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — The prohibition on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military “continually should be reviewed,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday.

    Hagel did not indicate whether he believes the policy should be overturned. However, he said “every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”

    A transgender individual is someone who has acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or presents themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

    A panel convened by a think tank at San Francisco State University recently estimated that about 15,450 transgender personnel serve in the military and in the National Guard and Reserve.

    In 2010, Congress passed legislation allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. Hagel said the issue of transgender serving in the military is more complicated. He said “these issues require medical attention” that at times cannot be provided in austere locations.

    The National Center for Transgender Equality said it welcomed Hagel’s comments, which were made on ABC’s “This Week.” The organization’s executive director, Mara Keisling, said the regulations that disqualify transgender recruits and service members are based on outdated prejudices and stereotypes.

    “If the secretary were able to meet and talk with the trans service members I’ve met, he’d understand the answer is self-evident. These are amazing people who serve even though they must hide a basic part of who they are,” Keisling said.

    SPART(asterisk)A, an advocacy group made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people who now serve or once served in the military, said a review was long overdue.

    “Many of our allies, including the UK, Australia and Israel, allow transgender people to serve with pride and honor in their armed forces. It’s time for the U.S. to join them,” said Allyson Robinson, the group’s policy director and a former Army captain.

    A military review of transgender issues could occur as it also deals with questions about how to treat transgender prisoners. Chelsea Manning, a former Army private serving a 35-year prison sentence for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks, is fighting to be treated as a woman. She is seeking a counselor who specializes in gender issues and also wants to get hormone replacement therapy, which the military has said it does not provide.

    The post Hagel: Military should review policy on transgender individuals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Athletics Oxfordshire, England. 6th May, 1954. Roger Bannister breaks the tape as he crosses the winning line to complete the historic four minute mile record.

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tonight, we look back at a moment sixty years ago this past week – a feat by a 25-year-old British runner who did what doctors had called impossible.

    As he crossed the finish line that day in Oxford, England, Roger Bannister’s anguished face told the story. He had just done what no man or woman had ever done before.

    He had run a mile in less than 4 minutes — 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds to be precise.

    The medical student had a little help that day. Two teammates purposely set a fast pace. And one of them still led as they reached the three-quarter mile mark, now slightly behind pace.

    ROGER BANNISTER: So the third lap was 62 (seconds) and that made 3:00.05, and then I had to decide whether to overtake him then, or just wait for another bend. Another bend meant I didn’t have to run wide and I didn’t want to run an extra six yards

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Bannister knew one of his chief American rivals had come close to doing a four-minute mile again and again before finally concluding it just couldn’t be done.

    ROGER BANNISTER: Six times, he ran around 4 minutes and 2 seconds in that previous year and that’s what led him to say it is insurmountable. It is like a cement wall. And I think he had slipped into the frame of mind of believing there was a physical barrier.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But Bannister was convinced the barrier was psychological not physical, and he had the willpower to succeed that day.

    He later described the last lap — the one that put him in the history books — this way: “I felt at that moment that it was my chance to do one thing supremely well. I drove on, impelled by a combination of fear and pride. Those last few seconds seemed an eternity. I leapt at the. Tape like a man taking his last desperate spring to save himself.”

    Roger Bannister is now 85 and battling Parkinson’s Disease — a condition he has treated in his many decades as a neurologist.

    The post Bannister recalls the day he conquered the four-minute mile appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There is important news in the fight against cancer. A study this week says scientists have devised a new approach that represents the blueprint for making immunotherapy available to treat common cancers and to target what is unique about each person’s cancer.

    For more, we are joined from Washington by Dr. Steven Rosenberg. He is the chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research and the senior author of the study.

    Thanks so much for joining us. So, in this experiment, the interesting thing is that there’s not any sort of miracle drug, you’ve found a way to supercharge a patient’s own immune systems to fight a cancer. How did you do that?

    STEVEN ROSENBERG: This is a way to take advantage of the patient’s own natural immune defense against the cancer. One of the major issues in all of cancer treatments is finding ways to attack the cancer without also attacking normal cells. Cancer becomes a cancer because a normal cell accumulates in its DNA a large number of mutations. That is, changes in the DNA sequence that results in new proteins.

    In this paper, we’ve worked out a way to target the exact mutations that result from making a normal cell into a cancer cell. And so in that sense it’s a very highly specific and highly unique treatment that has to be developed for each individual patient.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you really did the DNA sequencing of this specific tumor?

    STEVEN ROSENBERG: That’s right. So what one has to do in performing this new treatment is to sequence a patient’s cancer, identify all of the mutations, that is the differences from normal that exist in that patient’s DNA sequence, and then specifically target the individual mutations that have occurred among the three billions bases of DNA.

    We could target the single base change that results in making that normal cell a cancer cell. And in doing that, we can actually affect the cancer without affecting normal tissues. Now it’s a very experimental technique. It has to be developed individually for each patient.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right, so how long does that take if it’s something so specific to each patient?

    STEVEN ROSENBERG: Well, from the time that we actually resect the cancer and can begin to do the sequencing, one can have a treatment ready in about five to six weeks. But it’s a very complex kind of treatment. And in this first patient in which we demonstrated that this kind of approach can work, it took about two months to develop the treatment for that individual patient. But it represents a blueprint for how to do this for other individuals as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so you’ve only had one patient as you mentioned. So why is this so groundbreaking?

    STEVEN ROSENBERG: Well, one of the major problems we have in cancer is the fact that although we can cure about half of all patients that develop cancer in 2014, half of the patients that develop cancer will ultimately die of that disease. We don’t have cures for most solid cancers once they’ve spread throughout the body. And when we apply treatments like surgery or radiation or chemotherapy, we often attack the cancer but can non-discriminitely affect normal tissues as well.

    The unique aspect of this particular treatment that takes advantage of the exquisite specificity and sensitivity of the body’s own immune system is that we can target something that’s absolutely unique to the cancer, so that it has no impact at all on the patient’s normal tissues. Now this has been done in one patient, the patient that had 26 mutations inside their cancer. We were able to find the single one that we could target but since almost all cancers contain mutations as we continue to develop this, hopefully this kind of approach can be used to target the cancers that start in many different organs in the body.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So people are going to wonder that exact question. This is one specific cancer, one specific patient. How long til your research completes and this can be applied to other cancers and in a wider audience?

    STEVEN ROSENBERG: Well, we have some immunotherapies today, like Interleuken-2 that can stimulate the body’s immune system against melanoma. We have other drugs that can stimulate the immune system against kidney cancer, but we have not had immune based treatments that can join surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to attack the common cancers. Cancers that start in the colon and in the rectum and in the pancreas, the esophagus, the ovary, the prostate.

    This particular approach can work indiscriminately regardless of where the cancer arose. And in this particular patient, the cancer arose in the bile ducts in the liver and it spread throughout the liver and into the lung. And so again, I want to emphasize it’s a highly experimental treatment. The paper and science that was just published a few days ago shows that you can successfully attack an individual mutation inside a cancer. And we’re now working around the clock to try to simplify this procedure, so that we can bring it to additional people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Dr. Steven Rosenberg, joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.

    STEVEN ROSENBERG: You’re welcome.

    The post New study looks at immunotherapy to treat common cancers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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