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

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    syria1_assad

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to today’s national elections in Syria, and an inside critical look at the Obama administration’s handling of that country’s crisis.

    Explosions sounded in the distance outside Damascus on this election day.  But voters came out in the thousands in state-controlled parts of the country. And in a dramatic show of support for President Bashar al-Assad, many of them pricked fingers to mark ballots with their own blood.

    YUSHA SALMAN (through interpreter): Assad is a symbolic leader who deserves to be elected by blood. He will lead the country to be better, safer and more stable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Assad himself appeared confident and smiling as he cast his own vote, alongside his wife, Asma. He’s expected to gain an overwhelming victory. The Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed opposition group, boycotted the election. And in the north and west of Syria, where rebels hold sway, voting didn’t even take place. Thousands of people had fled their cities to escape government bombing and insurgent warnings that they would try to disrupt the voting.

    Instead, in the Damascus suburb of Duma, controlled by rebels, people cast fake votes for those killed by the Syrian regime.

    MAN (through interpreter): We have prepared petitions and they have signatures of people who reject this rule. They are trying to strip it of its legitimacy. We don’t know how to convince that we don’t want him. We don’t want this president. This is a criminal, not a president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Across the border in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, Syrians dropped shoes in a trash can labeled ballot box to demonstrate their disgust. They’re among nearly three million people who’ve fled Syria in three years of civil war. Another 6.5 million are displaced internally.

    And the opposition estimates more than 160,000 have been killed. Now the tide of war has shifted somewhat in Assad’s favor, with pro-government forces recapturing key cities, and peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian National Coalition and the Syrian government collapsing in February. It’s all a far cry from President Obama’s longtime insistence that Assad has no future in Syria.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Assad needs to go. He needs to transfer power to a transitional body. That is the only way that we’re going to resolve this crisis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last year, the president did threaten military strikes, forcing the regime to give up its chemical weapons. But the U.S. has balked at giving heavy arms to the rebels, in part because Islamist militants have taken a lead role on the battlefield. Just last week, in his West Point commencement address, the president recommitted to aiding the opposition, without giving any details.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.

    And we will continue to coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab world to push for a political resolution of this crisis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One key figure in the administration’s Syria policy over the past few years has been Ambassador Robert Ford. The career diplomat was installed in Damascus just ahead of the uprising, and drew the regime’s ire by attending an opposition rally in 2011.

    Ultimately, he left Syria for safety reasons, but he remained critically involved, before he left government in February of this year.

    The post Syria holds presidential election widely condemned as rigged appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    syria2_robertford

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner sat down with Ford today, on the first day he has agreed to be interviewed on television since his departure, to discuss the election and what he sees as the failures of U.S. policy.

    MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Ford, thank you for joining us.

    ROBERT FORD, Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria: It’s my pleasure to be here.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, President Assad seems to be coasting to another victory in an election. What’s going to be the impact of that, both on the political situation and the battlefield situation?

    ROBERT FORD: I don’t think it will have much impact on the battlefield. I have no indication that the opposition and the armed opposition groups are going to stop fighting, so I think the election will have no result on that.

    Politically, it will cheer Assad’s supporters. I have seen pictures today of celebrations in Syria. But it really is simply a signal. The election is a signal to us to, to other countries in the region, to Europe, et cetera, that Assad is not leaving, he is staying, deeply entrenched in the capital in Syria, even as other parts of the country remain outside his control.

    MARGARET WARNER: And so is it time for us to recognize that, in fact, he’s going to be there a long time, that the whole strategy both of the opposition and the Western- and Gulf- and neighbor-backed efforts has not worked?

    ROBERT FORD: Well, certainly, the efforts we have made to date have not worked. They have not put enough pressure on the regime on the ground.

    And that’s why the peace talks that we tried to do in January and February in Geneva, when I was there, and the regime completely refused to discuss a political settlement. The policy has not brought them to the point where they feel they have to negotiate. They’re not under enough pressure. So, so we need to think about how to escalate pressure.

    MARGARET WARNER: And certainly not a transition that didn’t include Assad as a part of it?

    ROBERT FORD: Well, the message of the election today is that he’s not going anywhere.

    MARGARET WARNER: You left as ambassador in early 2012.

    ROBERT FORD: In February, right.

    MARGARET WARNER: Under fears for your own safety and the safety of the entire embassy.

    ROBERT FORD: Safety of the team, yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: But you stayed at the State Department. Why have you left now?

    ROBERT FORD: In the end, Margaret, I worked from Washington on the Syria issue for two years.

    Events on the ground were moving, and our policy wasn’t evolving very quickly. We were constantly behind the curve. And that’s why now we have extremist threats to our own country. We had a young man from Florida, apparently, who was involved in a suicide bombing, and there will be more problems like that, I fear.

    Our policy wasn’t evolving, and finally I got to the point where I could no longer defend it publicly. And as a professional career member of the U.S. diplomatic service, when I can no longer defend the policy in public, it is time for me to go.

    MARGARET WARNER: What was the biggest mistake you think the Obama administration, this government made?

    ROBERT FORD: We have consistently been behind the curve.

    The events on the ground are moving more rapidly than our policy has been adapting. And at the same time, Russia and Iran have been driving this by increasing and steadily increasing, increasing massively, especially the Iranians, their support to the Syrian regime.

    And the result of that has been more threats to us in this ungoverned space which Assad can’t retake. We need and we have long needed to help moderates in the Syrian opposition with both weapons and other nonlethal assistance. Had we done that a couple of years ago, had we ramped it up, frankly, the al-Qaida groups that have been winning adherents would have been unable to compete with the moderates, who, frankly, we have much in common with.

    But the moderates have been fighting constantly with arms tied behind their backs, because they don’t have the same resources that either Assad does or the al-Qaida groups in Syria do.

    MARGARET WARNER: But you know the arguments we all heard from many in the White House, which is, if we arm the opposition, we don’t know who will get ahold of these advanced weapons.

    ROBERT FORD: I have heard those arguments, Margaret.

    To be very frank, we have plenty of information on reliable groups, and we have long had that. It is a question of whether or not there’s a will to actually help people whose agenda is compatible with our national security interests, and then to make a decision and push forward. And that really is the question before the administration.

    MARGARET WARNER: And who lacks the will? Is it the president?

    ROBERT FORD: I’m simply going to say that I think it’s on record now that the State Department, for a long time, has advocated doing much more to help the moderates in the Syrian opposition, these moderates, by the way, who evolved directly from the peaceful protest movement that I saw with my own eyes in 2011.

    And those people need more help. And arguments that were worried things are going to trickle into bad hands or that it’s going to bring in American troops directly, nobody is asking for American troops to be sent there. I was in Iraq for five years. The last thing we want is to have a repeat of the Iraq experience.

    But there are other tools in our toolkit, and those are the things we need to work on, in conjunction with our allies in the region.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, President Obama in his West Point speech last week said he was going to ramp up support to the opposition, but it was left totally unspecified. What did that say to you? What does that mean?

    ROBERT FORD: It’s not clear to me yet if they are prepared to ramp it up in such a way that it will be meaningful on the ground, and that’s really what matters. This is a civil war.

    And we can’t get to a political negotiation until the balance on the ground compels — and I use that word precisely — compels Assad not to run sham elections, but rather to negotiate a political deal. But the situation on the ground is key.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do you think it’s too late at this point?

    ROBERT FORD: No, I absolutely don’t, but I do think that the way the policy has been moving has been so slow on our part.

    And that has caused frustration in the region. It’s caused huge frustration among large segments of the Syrian population. And so I’m hoping that the president’s speech signals that now we are getting more serious. But we will have to see what happens on the ground.

    MARGARET WARNER: And if this conflict continues for years as it is now, does that increase the terrorist threat here to the United States?

    ROBERT FORD: I think it can’t help but do that, because there’s large parts of Syria that are basically ungoverned.

    And just as happened in Afghanistan, just as happened in Somalia, just as has happened in Mali and Yemen, when you have large ungoverned spaces, groups especially like al-Qaida are quite skilled at setting up operations there, and then sending out people, sending out resources, sending out money, coordinating.

    It’s very dangerous. We warned about this years ago on the Syria team at the State Department. This is — we expected this was going to happen.

    MARGARET WARNER: But the warnings went unheeded?

    ROBERT FORD: The policy has evolved very slowly. And events on the ground have not evolved as slowly. Events on the ground, it’s a dynamic situation. It changes.

    MARGARET WARNER: Ambassador Robert Ford, thank you.

    ROBERT FORD: No, it was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This afternoon, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was asked about Ambassador Ford’s criticisms of the administration’s Syria policy and why it compelled him to leave government.

    Here is an excerpt of her response from the daily press briefing.

    MARIE HARF, State Department Spokeswoman: Ambassador Ford served a very long, distinguished career here, is now a private citizen, obviously entitled to his own views.

    The president was clear in his speech last week. We have all been clear that we’re frustrated by the situation in Syria. You heard the president at West Point say we’re going to increase our support to the moderate opposition, because we know more needs to be done.

    No one working on this issue can look at the situation on the ground — I mean, just look at today, the photos — disgusting photos of President Assad voting, acting like this is a real election. Nobody working on it is happy with where things are. We’re all frustrated, and I think you heard some of that in Ambassador Ford’s comments.

    GWEN IFILL: That was U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

    The post Syria’s moderate opposition needs more help on the ground, says former ambassador appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Vincent van Gogh cut off his own ear during a psychotic episode in 1888.

    Vincent van Gogh cut off his own ear during a psychotic episode in 1888.

    Vincent van Gogh’s severed ear has been revived — with the help of some van Gogh genetic material.

    A replica of the painter’s ear has been put on display at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. Lacking any DNA from Vincent directly, the appendage was grown using cells from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo van Gogh, who shares about 1/16th of the same genetic material. Once grown, the ear was shaped through a 3D-printer to recreate the infamous ear that the artist cut off himself in 1888.

    “I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint,” Diemut Strebe, the artist behind the project, told the Associated Press. The exhibit will remain in Germany through July 6.

    The post Vincent van Gogh’s severed ear becomes museum piece appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In Mississippi tonight, a veteran lawmaker could be knocked off by a rebel primary challenger. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is.

    Before Sen. Thad Cochran, 76, who is at risk of losing tonight, there was Sen. Richard Lugar in Indiana. Just two years ago, the then-34-year-serving Republican heavyweight lost to Richard Mourdock, a tea-party and outside group-backed conservative.

    Former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar supports his friend, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran . Photo from Lugar Center

    Former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar says he supports his friend, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. Photo from Lugar Center

    “I believe that it’s very important for the country to have the leadership of Thad Cochran,” Lugar, 82, told PBS NewsHour in a telephone interview.

    Lugar and Cochran represent what the Senate used to be — congenial lawmakers, who believed in taking care of their state with federal funding and governing, even if it meant trying to work with the other side. But the Senate is changing. And Lugar does not think it’s for the better.

    “Those with extreme views have no apology,” Lugar said. “Someone has to ‘save the country,’ as they see it. It’s very problematic, because it leads to no action and continued disillusionment of the public of the political process and adverse views of the rest of the world of the United States.”

    Lugar sees similarities between Cochran’s race — where his challenger is tea party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel — and his own.

    “I think there are many parallels,” he said, noting that “many of the same national groups” who were against him are spending big against Cochran, too; that he was willing to work with Democrats to get things like the Farm Bill passed; and that he was for “continuity.”

    “I always did favor keeping the government open,” he quipped. He called it “reckless to shut down the government to stop spending or take other actions that would influence the budget.”

    Lugar was elected to the Senate in 1976, just two years before Cochran. And they got to know each other well while serving together on the agriculture committee, a committee they both chaired at different points.

    “We were literally side-by-side,” Lugar described his old friend as a “person of common sense,” who was always “diplomatic and thoughtful.” “These are qualities that need to be supported,” he added.

    Lugar lamented that those qualities appear to be growing rarer in the Senate. Too often now debates are “mean-spirited,” he said, adding that there is “a tendency on the part of some Republican members of Congress to utilize an anti-Obama sentiment to attempt to defeat legislation.” It’s something, he said, that is “tactical” rather than thinking bigger.

    Lugar served as chairman of the foreign relations committee and was one of the top voices on foreign policy voices in Congress. And while understanding constituent needs and staying in touch with the people a senator represents is important, Lugar stressed being a senator also “requires a degree of scholarship and research and study that goes well beyond the needs of one’s own constituents.”

    Unfortunately for the likes of Lugar and Cochran, that is not what is being rewarded in recent GOP primaries.

    Mourdock, the man who defeated Lugar in that 2012 primary, went on to lose to current Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, in large measure because of controversial remarks Mourdock made about pregnancies from rape being something “God intended.”

    Washington establishment Republicans worry that McDaniel could suffer a similar fate and cost Republicans a shot at a Senate majority again.

    Lugar, for one, hopes history doesn’t repeat itself.

    “I’m very hopeful Thad will prevail,” he said, “and we’re keeping our fingers crossed tonight.”

    The post Lugar sees parallels between his fate and Cochran’s in Miss. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    bradleyportrait1

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: At the age of 65, he’s an up-and-coming singer and songwriter.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s the voice and the energy that grab you first, a new force in old-fashioned soul music that’s garnered a small, but growing following for Charles Bradley.

    Supported by a group of funk all-stars called the Menahan Street Band, he’s been on tour for a year to promote his album “Victim of Love,” packing intimate venues across North America, Europe and Down Under, the fans who come to bear witness to Bradley preach the gospel of soul.

    CHARLES BRADLEY: When I get on that stage, all I might do is open my heart and let the spirit run free and show you the love that God gave me within.

    Sometimes, when you hear me scream, I scream because it’s like 30 words coming to me at one time. I cannot sing those 30 words. I can’t, so I scream it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The intensity comes honestly. After a life of hard knocks, Bradley got his first big break at age 62, when Daptone, a record label helping him bring about a resurgence of soul music, release his first album, “No Time For Dreaming.”

    “Rolling Stone” magazine named it one of the best albums of 2011. But for Bradley, his recent success is the accumulation of life marked by adversity.

    Bradley grew up in New York City and spent most of his life on the cusp over poverty. As a young adult, he spent time living on the streets. With little education and few opportunities, he struggled to make ends meet.

    CHARLES BRADLEY: I left home when I was 14 years old. I had been on my own, hadn’t been home, and I was in the streets. And I done been through so many things in my life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was an opportunity with Job Corps, the vocational training program created in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, that led Bradley to his first real gig.

    CHARLES BRADLEY: When I turned 16, I went to Job Corps.

    And everybody was telling me, you look like that guy James Brown. And I learned two songs of his. And they had a rock ‘n’ roll band at Job Corps. And they asked me to join the band. They said, can you sing?

    I was afraid. So, they sneaked and gave me a little bit of gin, and I got a little popped up. I said, give me that mike. And I started singing, and never put the mike down.

    MAN: Put your hands together and meet and greet Black Velvet, James Brown Jr.!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Bradley’s uncanny resemblance to the godfather of soul wasn’t lost on him.

    In fact, when he was finally discovered by Daptone, Bradley was well into his 50s and making a living as a James Brown act known as Black Velvet.

    These days, Bradley’s songs reflect the story of his own past. One of the most heartbreaking, “Heartaches and Pain,” tells the story of the death of his brother, who was shot in his home in New York City.

    Band leader Tom Brenneck is Bradley’s writing partner.

    THOMAS BRENNECK: It’s impossible for Charles to sing something and for it not to be incredibly soulful. And I think that comes from all the pain that he — the place where he sings from is a place of pain and frustration.

    He doesn’t really particularly like to sing so much about the good times, as much as he likes to sing about the things that — you know, the trials and tribulations of his life and the struggle.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For Bradley, it’s a struggle worth fighting for many more years to come.

    CHARLES BRADLEY: All my life, I have always been looking for a dream, from the age of 14, and I don’t stop. I don’t stop. I keep going.

    (MUSIC)

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    The post Charles Bradley, new force in old fashioned soul, channels past heartaches for ‘Victim of Love’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Velociraptor-inspired robot, designed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, uses Achilles tendons to absorb shock and a "tail" to give it balance. Photo courtesy KAIST/Youtube

    Velociraptor-inspired robot, designed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, uses Achilles tendons to absorb shock and a “tail” to give it balance. Photo courtesy KAIST/Youtube

    Velociraptors, such as the ones as portrayed in “Jurassic Park,” were vicious hunters known for their speed and agility. The ancient reptiles died out 75 million years ago, but their anatomy has inspired modern-day robotics.

    Engineers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have designed a speedy robot on two legs that runs 28.5 mph — just fast enough to beat Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt in a race.

    The Raptor might move faster than Bolt, currently the world’s fastest human, whose record speed is 27.4 mph. However, the mechanical raptor is not the fastest robot in the world. Engineering company Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah, inspired by the world’s fastest feline, clocks a top speed of 29 mph.

    But Raptor is lighter, weighing just under 7 pounds. Its tough carbon fiber legs are designed with Achilles tendons, which act as shock absorbers. The robotic raptor also has a “tail,” a pole affixed to the robot’s side. It looks nothing like a dinosaur’s tail, but its function is the same, said Jongwon Park, one of the PhD students at KAIST. The tail acts as a counterweight, stabilizing the machine even as researchers throw styrofoam blocks in its path.

    These robots may be fast, but Raptor and Cheetah are attached to railings to keep them upright when they run, giving humans a significant advantage in a foot race.

    The post Robotic dinosaur could outrun Usain Bolt appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Warm up exercises in the Kariobangi community centre. Boxgirls will train together with professional male boxers from Kariobangi Slum. Photo by Mia Collis.

    Warm up exercises in the Kariobangi community centre. Boxgirls will train together with professional male boxers from Kariobangi Slum. Photo by Mia Collis.

    Kenyan photographer Mia Collis‘ first impression of Boxgirls, a Nairobi program that teaches young girls to box, was one of a “cacophony of sound.” Inside a tiny office in the heart of the dense Kariobangi slum, Boxgirls founder Alfred Analo and Collis fought to hear each other’s words over rock music and traffic noise from outside.

    “We had to shout at each other to hear each other … I couldn’t hear a thing,” Collis told Art Beat. But, Collis continued to learn about the organization from Analo, more commonly known as “Priest.”

    Alfred Analo

    Alfred “Priest” Analo — a women rights activist and boxing coach — is the founder of Boxgirls, an organization Kenya established in 2007. The organization started because of rapid increase in rape cases registered in the Eastlands, especially in the slums. Photo by Mia Collis

    “Quite often in the slums, everybody has a nickname and his is aptly called Priest. I think it’s because he’s a preacher of boxing and people really respect the guy.”

    Collis spoke with Priest in an office with four or five computers that the participating girls use to learn computer literacy. The office also offers girls access to counseling and sanitary towels, and the opportunity to participate in a small feeding program for those who can’t afford to buy food. The athletic component — the boxing — takes place in a different building.

    Boxgirls have a match at the Eastleigh Ring in Nairobi. Boxing gloves are very expensive to buy, therefore older ones will be used until they too tattered for another fight. Photo by Mia Collis

    Boxgirls hosts a competitive match at the Eastleigh Ring in Nairobi. Boxing gloves are very expensive to buy, therefore older ones will be used until they too tattered for another fight. Photo by Mia Collis

    “The boxing studio is a rundown center in the middle of this huge dustbowl of a field, which is where a lot of male boxers train. Once (the male boxers) finish, Priest brings the girls in and they take over the studio, which is a couple of very decrepit old punch bags in the middle of a room and they have maybe about a couple of pairs of gloves, which the girls share between them because there’s not enough to go around.”

    And thus begins the warm-up, an hour and half of running around the field, repetitions of push-ups and jumping jacks all before they start boxing.

    “It’s just the most intense warm up. For me, it would lay me down for about 3 days,” said Collis.

    Sonko, rigorously trains everyday.  Boxing has made her a confident and self-assured role model to the younger community. Photo by Mia Collis

    Sonko, rigorously trains everyday. Boxing has made her a confident and self assured role model to the younger community. Photo by Mia Collis

    All in all, the girls work out for three hours each day, sparring with each other or Priest when they don’t have access to a bag. After they finish, a group of girls designated as peer mentors helps teach life skills and confidence building.

    “Quite often the fight is outside the ring … it’s at home. They have a really tough time generally explaining to their families that they want to do something that is traditionally a boy’s thing. They should be going to hairdressing college or having babies and finding food for the home, but boxing is insane,” explained Collis.

    Sonko looks out through the window of her 1 bedroom home that she shares with her 2 sisters. The stereotypical ‘role’ expected of a girl or woman in Kenya is to cook, clean and bear children. When Sonko first asked her parents if she could box, they refused angrily, and sent her to a hairdressing college instead. Sonko, secretly went to train at Boxgirls. Photo by Mia Collis.

    Sonko looks out through the window of her 1 bedroom home that she shares with her 2 sisters. The stereotypical ‘role’ expected of a girl or woman in Kenya is to cook, clean and bear children. When Sonko first asked her parents if she could box, they refused angrily, and sent her to a hairdressing college instead. Sonko, secretly went to train at Boxgirls. Photo by Mia Collis.

    “Most of (the girls) come with such low self-esteem and they leave with high self-esteem because they’ve got these peers and mentors and they’ve got this very physical sport which is, chemically I suppose, changing things within their brain … When new girls come in, you can see the confidence in them just change.”

    Collis describes that change as total empowerment. They get physically stronger, they find a community, and they gain an emotional toolkit for fighting for themselves. Plus, many of their mentors are champion boxers who came out of the same program.

    “Boxgirls produced Kenya’s first woman Olympian, which is amazing. The current feather-weight champion came out of Boxgirls and these younger girls really look up to these women,” said Collis. “The relationship between the younger girls towards these older role models is massive. I think they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If they really are very good, they can be that. They can do that too.”

    Tabitha Njeri and Jane Atieno ‘Sonko’ chat after a training session.  Many of the younger girls look up to Sonko as their role model. Her confidence and success in the ring make her one of the most popular leaders and mentors at Boxgirls. Photo by Mia Collis

    Tabitha Njeri and Jane Atieno ‘Sonko’ chat after a training session. Many of the younger girls look up to Sonko as their role model. Her confidence and success in the ring make her one of the most popular leaders and mentors at Boxgirls. Photo by Mia Collis

    Not all the girls want to be boxing champions. One of the girls, a current peer leader and life skills trainer, told Collis that she wants to be a psychiatrist. Either way, they are learning skills they don’t have the opportunity to learn elsewhere.

    “I suppose one of the most fundamental things is the gender roles within their slum and how they are defying what women should be doing. That’s very empowering … Gender-based violence is so massive in Kenya, and in the world, and these girls certainly are born with the lower hand.They have a fight since birth. Generally what most women do is cower down and go with it and these ones are really amazing women. They are fighting back at it.”

    You can scroll through more of Mia Collis’ photographs of Boxgirls below:

    Sonko and her younger sister Diana make the 7 mile daily journey home after training. They walk through some of the most dangerous and desolate parts of the Eastlands slum area. Photo by Mia Collis

    Sonko and her younger sister Diana make the seven-mile journey home after training. They walk through some of the most dangerous and desolate parts of the Eastlands slum area. Photo by Mia Collis

    Priest gives a ‘Life Skills’ class after a training session in the community centre in Kariobangi. The silent story of torture and rape the women undergo, particularly in the slum areas, is a heavy matter he has heartedly sought to tackle. Photo by Mia Collis

    Priest gives a ‘Life Skills’ class after a training session in the community centre in Kariobangi. The silent story of torture and rape the women undergo, particularly in the slum areas, is a heavy matter he has heartedly sought to tackle. Photo by Mia Collis

    Sonko is very popular amongst the younger girls. “In the future, I’d like to be the one many people are talking about when they hear the word mentor or leader” (Jane Atieno ‘Sonko’). Photo by Mia Collis

    Sonko is very popular amongst the younger girls. “In the future, I’d like to be the one many people are talking about when they hear the word mentor or leader” (Jane Atieno ‘Sonko’). Photo by Mia Collis

    Boxgirls warm up in a field outside the community centre in Kariobangi slum. Photo by Mia Collis

    Boxgirls warm up in a field outside the community centre in Kariobangi slum. Photo by Mia Collis

    Participants prepare to spar at the Kariobangi Community Centre where Boxgirls train. Photo by Mia Collis

    Participants prepare to spar at the Kariobangi Community Centre where Boxgirls train. Photo by Mia Collis

    Sarah fights another professional boxer. Both are Box Girl graduates. Sarah is currently the feather-weight professional female boxing champion in East Africa. Photo by Mia Collis

    Sarah fights another professional boxer. Both are Boxgirl graduates. Sarah is currently the feather-weight professional female boxing champion in East Africa. Photo by Mia Collis

    At 13, Tabitha Njeri will lead the ‘Life Skills’ classes after training has finished. Amongst many things, ‘Life Skills’ involve confidence building, sexual health education and gender role debates. Priest, her boxing teacher, mentor and trainer spars in the background. Photo by Mia Collis

    At 13, Tabitha Njeri will lead the ‘Life Skills’ classes after training has finished. Amongst many things, ‘Life Skills’ involve confidence building, sexual health education and gender role debates. Priest, her boxing teacher, mentor and trainer spars in the background. Photo by Mia Collis

    The post In Nairobi slums, girl boxers learn how to fight for themselves appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Scientists at BICEP2 believed they had found gravitational waves, "smoking gun" evidence of the universe's rapid expansion after the Big Bang. But there is new evidence that what they found was really dust. Photo courtesy NASA/A. Fujii

    Scientists at BICEP2 believed they had found gravitational waves, “smoking gun” evidence of the universe’s rapid expansion after the Big Bang. But there is new evidence that what they found was really dust. Photo courtesy NASA/A. Fujii

    In March, astronomers announced that they had found gravitational waves, ripples in cosmic radiation left over from the explosion of Big Bang. The discovery was hailed as “smoking gun” evidence of the universe’s rapid expansion trillionths of a second after the Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago.

    Physicists celebrated. In this video from Stanford University, Andrei Linde, one of the founders of cosmic inflation theory, and his wife, physics professor Renata Kallosh, were overcome with joy when they received news of the discovery. Paul Steinhardt, professor of physics at Princeton University, said that the finding immediately changed the field of physics.

    “Nobel prizes were predicted and scores of theoretical models spawned. The announcement also influenced decisions about academic appointments and the rejections of papers and grants. It even had a role in governmental planning of large-scale projects,” he wrote yesterday in a column for Nature.

    Now it seems astronomers may have celebrated too soon. Two studies, one from Princeton University and one from the Institute for Advanced Study, say that the existing evidence is insufficient
    to claim that the gravitational waves have been found.
    .

    Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves more than 100 years ago. Major cosmic events, like black holes colliding or the creation of the universe, make waves in spacetime. Those waves continue to spread out like ripples on a pond, traveling at the speed of light.

    Finding those primordial waves would further confirm inflation theory, the idea that the universe expanded rapidly, immediately following the Big Bang. Einstein believed that after billions of years, the waves would be too spread out and distorted to find.

    But the ripples leave tracks in the “cosmic microwave background” of the universe, a soup of elementary particles leftover from the Big Bang. At BICEP2, a specialized radio telescope in Antarctica, a U.S.-led team of astronomers have been scanning a section of sky looking for specific “twists”, polarizations in the cosmic microwave background. At a press conference at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics this spring, scientists announced they had found a faint twist, the first testable evidence of the primordial waves.

    Now studies suggest that twist could be caused by dust in the Milky Way galaxy. Two separate analyses point to recently published data from the Planck satellite, and concluded that the signals picked up by BICEP2 were likely from dust, not the primordial waves.

    “Based on what we know right now… we have no evidence for or against gravitational waves,” said Uroš Seljak, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, a co-author of one of the latest studies.

    These studies raise some interesting points, but they don’t offer conclusive evidence that the polarizations are an exact match to dust either, said Marc Kamionkowski, theoretical physicist at Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in these studies. More information from the Planck satellite about the dust’s “fingerprint” in BICEP2’s region of the sky may determine whether the signal is dust or gravitational waves, he said.

    Currently, at least ten different research projects, including CLASS at Johns Hopkins University, ABS and SPIDER at Princeton, NASA Goddard’s PIPER and the Planck satellite, are scanning different regions of the sky looking for gravitational waves.

    “I believe that the scrutiny the BICEP2 results have received indicates what an exciting discovery this will be, if confirmed,” Kamionkowski said in an email. “Personally, I am looking forward to the information from Planck and other measurements that will hopefully shed light on whether we really have found a Rosetta Stone from the early Universe, or simply some unexpected interstellar dirt.”

    The post Gravitational waves discovery may flatline under new analysis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The family of a pregnant American woman who went missing in Afghanistan in late 2012 with her Canadian husband received two videos last year in which the couple asked the U.S. government to help free them and their child from Taliban captors, The Associated Press has learned.

    The videos offer the first and only clues about what happened to Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle after they lost touch with their families 20 months ago while traveling in a mountainous region near the capital, Kabul. U.S. law enforcement officials investigating the couple’s disappearance consider the videos authentic but say they hold limited investigative value since it’s not clear when or where they were made.

    The video files, which were provided to the AP, were emailed to Coleman’s father last July and September by an Afghan man who identified himself as having ties to the Taliban but who has been out of contact for several months. In one, a subdued Coleman — dressed in a conservative black garment that covers all but her face— appeals to “my president, Barack Obama” for help.

    “I would ask that my family and my government do everything that they can to bring my husband, child and I to safety and freedom,” the 28-year-old says in the other recording, talking into a wobbly camera while seated beside her husband, whose beard is long and untrimmed.

    Though Coleman mentions a child, no baby is shown in the videos. The families say they have no information about the name or gender of the child, who would be about 18 months old.

    The families decided to make the videos public now, in light of the publicity surrounding the weekend rescue of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed from Taliban custody in exchange for the release of five high-level Taliban suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The families say they are disappointed that their children and grandchild were not freed as part of the same deal but are appealing for help from anyone who can give it, including the couple’s captors or the government.

    “It would be no more appropriate to have our government turn their backs on their citizens than to turn their backs on those who serve,” Patrick Boyle, a Canadian judge and the father of Joshua Boyle, said in a telephone interview.

    State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined Wednesday to discuss specifics of the case because of privacy considerations.

    Republicans in Congress have criticized the Bergdahl agreement and complained about not being consulted, though Obama has defended it, citing a “sacred” obligation to not leave men and women in uniform behind. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., asked Obama in a letter this week why other Americans still in the custody of Afghan militants were not included in the negotiation. The families say their children, though without political or military ties to the government, are prisoners just as Bergdahl was and should be recognized as “innocent tourists” and not penalized further for venturing into dangerous territory.

    “It’s an event that just stands out. I think it cries to out to the world, ‘This can’t be. These people must be let go immediately,” said James Coleman, Coleman’s father.

    Relatives describe the couple, who wed in 2011 after meeting online, as well-intentioned but naive adventure seekers.

    They once spent months traveling through Latin America, where they lived among indigenous Guatemalans and where Boyle grew a long beard that led some children to call him “Santa Claus.” The couple set off again in the summer of 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan.

    “They really and truly believed that if people were loved and treated with respect that that would be given back to them in kind,” said Linda Boyle, Boyle’s mother. “So as odd it as it may seem to us that they were there, they truly believed with all their heart that if they treated people properly, they would be treated properly.”

    U.S. officials say the videos, in their low quality and lack of detail, bear some similarities to those the Taliban released about Bergdahl. With plans to return home in December ahead of Coleman’s due date, they checked in regularly via email during their travels — expressing in their writings an awareness of the perils they faced.

    The communication abruptly ended on Oct. 8, 2012, after Boyle emailed from an Internet cafe in what he called an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan. The last withdrawals from the couple’s bank account were made Oct. 8 and 9 in Kabul. Two months later, an Afghan official told the AP that the two had been abducted in Wardak Providence, a rugged, mountainous Taliban haven.

    New hope emerged last year when an Afghan man who said he had Taliban connections contacted James Coleman, offering first audio recordings and, later, the two email video files. Though the man said the recordings had been provided by the Taliban, he did not reveal what, if anything, the captors wanted and has not been in touch with the Colemans for months.

    Meanwhile, the Boyles and Colemans regularly send letters in an effort to reach their children through a non-governmental organization, but haven’t received a response. The Colemans live in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; the Boyles live outside Ottawa.

    The families have not received any ransom demands and there are no clear signs of motive for their being held, but officials say the mere fact they were Westerners in hostile territory may have been reason enough.

    Joshua Boyle was previously married to the sister of Omar Khadr, a Canadian man who spent 10 years at Guantanamo Bay after being captured in 2002 in a firefight at an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan, but U.S. officials discount any link between that previous family tie and his capture. One called it a mere coincidence.

    Two U.S. law enforcement officials described the investigation, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the probe is still underway.

    The videos, each under two minutes long and featuring the couple seated in spare settings before cloth-draped backgrounds, contain no apparent clues — such as distinctive ethnic music — that might help investigators identify captors or locale. The video files do contain time stamps — one says May 20, 2013, the other Aug. 20, 2013 — but officials say those notations can easily be manipulated.

    U.S. officials say the videos, in their low quality and lack of detail, bear some similarities to those the Taliban released about Bergdahl. They caution that while the videos establish beyond doubt that the couple were captured, they do not qualify as proof of life since there’s no mention of current events that could help establish the time.

    In addition to calling for government help in the videos, the couple recites names of family members and contact information.

    “Just seeing her and seeing her face and hearing her, while it was very difficult, it was also something that relieved a lot of ambiguous anxieties and the fears,” said Coleman’s mother, Lyn.

    Even as they hold out hope, the couples fret for their children’s safety and for a grandchild born into captivity in a foreign country.

    “We love them,” Lyn Coleman said, “and they’re needed here. And we need to get them back home.”

    The post Videos add to mystery of family missing in Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    AUSTIN, Texas — As he gears up for a possible second presidential run, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is crisscrossing the country extolling a business-first philosophy he says made his state’s economy white-hot — and can work for the rest of America too.

    But back home, members of Perry’s own party seem poised to dismantle key parts of his legacy. The longest-serving governor in state history isn’t seeking re-election and may see two of his achievements — distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to attract top employers to Texas and stockpiling a rainy day fund robust enough to bankroll infrastructure projects — swept away not long after he moves out of the governor’s mansion.

    Also likely doomed is a Perry-backed program extending in-state university tuition to the children of immigrants in the country illegally, a nod to Texas’ Hispanic population that’s long been championed by top business leaders clamoring for a softer approach to immigration.

    The rebuff to Perry, who was once known as one of America’s most conservative stalwarts, reflects the grassroots surge that has seen the tea party seize almost total control of the state’s political and social agenda in the last two years and push it to his right.

    “The young conservatives have completely moved on, but I think even some of the old guard are pretty tired of him,” said Don Zimmerman, an Austin-area tea party activist who was a delegate to the national GOP convention in 2012.

    The shift raises the awkward possibility that Perry — looking to bounce back from his short-lived, gaffe-marred 2012 White House campaign — could wind up running nationally on his record even as it’s being undone.

    Already, the snubs are evident in what was supposed to be his victory-lap year. The governor’s name barely came up during the recent Texas Republican primary campaign, which produced a near clean-sweep for top tea party-backed candidates. And the response at the state GOP convention Thursday may be muted when Perry addresses a gathering he once dominated.

    Perry’s departure could spell the official demise of a longstanding brand of Texas conservatism that avoided fiery immigration rhetoric and deferred to big-business even at the expense of some free market ideals and pledges to shrink government. That approach long buoyed Perry and his Texas gubernatorial predecessor, George W. Bush.

    “I don’t think he or his policies have changed,” said Cathie Adams, a former chairwoman of the state Republican Party. “But I do think the electorate is different.”

    Texas created a third of all net new jobs nationwide between 2003 and last year — and Perry’s pushing of low-tax, relaxed-regulation policies remains wildly popular among conservatives. But his support for using public seed money and incentives to boost the state economy aren’t as beloved.

    Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the favorite to succeed Perry because he’s successfully wooed both tea party activists and establishment conservatives, has expressed unease about the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund, the two pots of money Perry has used to lure job-creators to Texas. Abbott says the government should “get out of the business of picking winners and losers.”

    Tea-party champion Ted Cruz, who defeated Perry’s preferred candidate, David Dewhurst, for a U.S. Senate seat in 2012, suggested during a recent Austin visit that only the free market — not Republicans pulling economic strings — can create jobs.

    The GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, and Abbott both say they’d like to wipe out the in-state tuition law Perry signed in 2001. The governor passionately defended the policy during his 2012 presidential run.

    Meanwhile, Patrick, who will oversee legislation in the Texas Senate if he’s elected — which is likely — has said he wants to refund the about $8 billion left in the state’s rainy day fund to taxpayers rather than keep it on the government books.

    Last year, Perry, supported by leading business groups, campaigned hard to spend $2 billion from the reserves on infrastructure projects to boost state water resources — a move he and other proponents said was vital to keep Texas economically competitive for the future.

    Mark Miner, a veteran of Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign who’s helping him again raise his national profile, shrugged off the idea that the changed political climate would affect Perry should he run for president.

    “Texas continues to be the economic engine that’s driving this country and that’s the result of the work that Governor Perry has done,” Miner said.

    Adams, the ex-state GOP chairwoman and president of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum, said Perry remains popular among Texans, but maybe not like in years past.

    “There’s a lot of angst about those who have been there for a long time,” she said.

    The post Texas lawmakers likely to dismantle key parts of Rick Perry’s legacy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    Roughly a quarter of Americans who signed up for private health insurance under President Obama’s health care law has inconsistent data in their applications, which could lead to them potentially losing coverage, according to government officials.

    The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a new report identifying the discrepancies, which were first reported by
    the Associated Press. It showed that roughly 1.2 million enrollees filed applications with questionable income data, while roughly another million had problems with either their citizenship or immigration information.

    Officials with CMS, however, said the issue does not necessarily stem from people attempting to manipulate the system. Instead, they said in many cases data provided by consumers are simply more up to date than what the federal government has on record. It added it believes most of the problems will be resolved by the end of the summer.

    Still, many Republicans have pointed to the new data as evidence that the system is flawed. Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was one of them.

    “A 25 percent error rate is simply unacceptable when it comes to proper use of scarce taxpayer dollars,” he said. “Even worse, today’s announcement once again illustrates how the President’s bloated health care law has left American families and taxpayers in financial limbo.”

    All told, more than eight million people signed up for private health insurance between October and mid-April under the president’s health care law. As part of the approval process, applicants’ incomes must be verified to ensure that they meet the qualifying levels. They also must be U.S. citizens. If data errors go unaddressed, they could result in coverage cancellations.

    But CMS reassured that was unlikely to happen and said that nearly 60 percent of applications are within a 90-day window for fixing the discrepancy.

    “Two million consumers are not at risk of losing coverage,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said. “They simply need to work with us in good faith to provide additional information that supports their application for coverage and we are working through these cases expeditiously.

    All this comes just a day before the Senate is scheduled to take up a final confirmation vote on Sylvia Matthews Burwell , the president’s pick to take over as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

    If confirmed, Burwell will replace Kathleen Sebelius who resigned in April.

    The post Data discrepancies found in roughly one in four applications for Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    photos-2013-09-11-2014-world-cup-logo

    Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday rebuked critics of the costs associated with World Cup construction projects.

    According to United Press International, she spoke to journalists during a banquet in Brazil’s capital. Rousseff said fewer than $4 billion of the total $63 billion spent on infrastructure were for World Cup venues. The rest is “for Brazil,” she added.

    She also said the country’s “ambitious plans for improvement of infrastructure were not intended to be finished by the time of the World Cup,” UPI reported.

    The question of World Cup costs comes as FIFA, soccer’s governing body, announced it would not review new evidence of corruption surrounding Qatar’s winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

    Officials delivered that announcement after a London Sunday Times report that said FIFA’s former vice president, Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam, paid as much as $5 million to secure his own position and win the World Cup for Qatar.

    The post Brazilian president defends World Cup costs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Voters cast their ballots at Legend Elementary School during the U.S. presidential election in Newark, Ohio November 6, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Matt Sullivan

    Photo by REUTERS/Matt Sullivan

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — New laws requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls were enforced in two Southern primaries on Tuesday, but with mixed results.

    In Alabama, there were few hitches, but the count in a U.S. Senate race in Mississippi was slowed by provisional ballots cast by people who lacked identification under the new voter ID law. Ultimately, there weren’t enough provisional ballots in question to give either candidate a majority and a runoff will be held next month.

    Here are five things to know about voter ID laws:

    WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE PRIMARIES?

    No major problems were reported in Alabama, where Republicans control the Legislature and governor’s office, although a Democratic-led group said poll workers turned away an unspecified number of voters for not having the right ID, including a 93-year-old man who has been voting since World War II. In the Republican Senate primary in Mississippi, the provisional ballots slowed the vote tally in the race between incumbent Thad Cochran and tea party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel.

    Six other states held primaries Tuesday, but did not have voter ID laws.

    DID THE LAWS WORK BY CURBING ANY FRAUD?

    The absence of massive problems might mean the laws worked as intended, or it might mean nothing at all. Primary voters often are fully engaged in the political process, and their numbers are relatively small compared with general elections. The laws could have a different effect in November, when larger numbers of people could show up at polls without ID.

    HOW MANY STATES HAVE SOME FORM OF THE LAW?

    Thirty-four states have passed laws requiring some sort of identification from voters, but only 31 of them are in effect, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Courts have struck down voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and a law passed in North Carolina won’t take effect until 2016.

    WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE OR DISLIKE THE LAWS?

    Supporters say the Republican-backed laws prevent fraud by making it more difficult for people to cast ballots in the name of inactive or even dead voters. Critics say such problems are virtually nonexistent, and they maintain the laws suppress voting by making it tougher for people to cast ballots because some poor and elderly voters don’t have the right IDs.

    THE NEXT BIG TEST FOR THE LAWS

    Voter ID laws could come into play June 10 in Arkansas, where runoff elections are scheduled and early voting is underway. A county judge ruled the law was unconstitutional, but the state Supreme Court blocked the order from taking effect. The new law was enforced in primary voting last month, but officials said only a small number of voters were rejected. The Senate runoff in Mississippi will be June 24.

    The post 5 things to know about voter ID laws appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A total of 367 new species have been discovered in Southeast Asia, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Foundation.

    The species — which include 290 plants, 28 reptiles, 24 fish, 21 amphibians, three mammals and one bird — were found in the Greater Mekong region in 2012 and 2013. The area, which consists of the countries through which the Mekong River travels, is not new to such discoveries: 1,710 new organisms were found between 1997 and 2011 in the same region.

    The WWF provided images of several of the new species, which can be seen in their report.

    The Cambodian Tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk). Photo by James Eaton / Birdtour Asia

    Orthotomus chaktomuk. Scientists described the Cambodian Tailorbird as “hiding in plain sight” in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh. Photo by James Eaton / Birdtour Asia

    Biswamoyopterus laoensisl. Photo by Daosavanh Sanamxay

    Biswamoyopterus laoensisl. The Laotian Giant Flying Squirrel was discovered from an individual found in a local bush meat market in Ban Thongnami, Laos. Photo by Daosavanh Sanamxay

    Hipposideros griffini. Photo by Vu Dinh Thong / Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Hanoi

    Hipposideros griffini. Griffin’s Leaf-nosed bat was discovered in 2012 in Cat Ba National Park in northern Vietnam. It’s unique nose is believed to assist in echolocation. Photo by Vu Dinh Thong / Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Hanoi

    Lygosoma veunsaiensis. Photo by Gabor Csorba / Hungarian Natural History Museum

    Lygosoma veunsaiensis. Discovered in a remote rainforest in Cambodia, this species of “rainbow” lizard, which is a new type of skink, possesses scales that refract sunlight to create rainbow colors. Photo by Gabor Csorba / Hungarian Natural History Museum

    Rhacophorus helenae. Photo by Jodi J L Rowley / Australian Museum

    Rhacophorus helenae. Helen’s Flying Frog was discovered near Ho chi Minh City in Vietnam. The large frog possesses fully webbed feet and webbing on their arms that allow them to glide from trees. Photo by Jodi J L Rowley / Australian Museum

    Homalopsis mereljcoxi.  Photo by John C. Murphy

    Homalopsis mereljcoxi. This snake, which possesses a Zorro-like mask, was found in Ban Badan Reservoir in Thailand. The snakes are “nocturnal ambush predators” that feed on small fish. Photo by John C. Murphy

    Cyrtodactylus phuketensis.  Photo by Montri Sumontha

    Cyrtodactylus phuketensis. This gecko, adorned with zebra stripes, was found on Phuket Island in southwestern Thailand. Photo by Peter Jäger / Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt Photo by Montri Sumontha

     Blind huntsman spider, Sinopoda scurion.  Photo by Peter Jäger / Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt

    Sinopoda scurion. The blind huntsman spider was the first of its kind in the world to discovered to be without eyes. Museum of Research Institute for Aquaculture, Vietnam

    Dendrelaphis nigroserratus. Photo by Sjon Hauser

    Dendrelaphis nigroserratus. Found in Kaeng Krachan National Park in southern Thailand, this Sawtooth-necked Bronzeback snake possesses a thick black stripe that starts behind the eye and stretches down to the neck in a sawtooth pattern. Photo by Sjon Hauser

    The post More than 300 species discovered in Southeast Asia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap_bergdahl3

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Taliban released a video today showing the handover of POW Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl last Saturday. It came as questions continued over how he was captured in the first place.

    Clean-shaven and dressed in traditional Afghan garb, Bergdahl is first seen blinking rapidly in the sunlight as he awaits his transfer. At one point, a Taliban fighter tells him, in the local language, Pashto: “Don’t come back to Afghanistan. You won’t make it out alive next time.”

    Some of the words, misspelled, appear on the screen. Then, a U.S. military Black Hawk helicopter lands, and three men in civilian clothes quickly retrieve Bergdahl. One pats him down, possibly for explosives, and he gets aboard, ending nearly five years in captivity.

    A voice-over says the transfer took place in the Ali Sher district of Khost province, near the border with Pakistan.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in Belgium, said it is premature to assume that Bergdahl deserted in 2009, and that several U.S. soldiers died in the initial search for him.

    CHUCK HAGEL, Defense Secretary: I do not know of specific circumstances or details of U.S. soldiers dying as a result of efforts to find and rescue Sergeant Bergdahl. It’s not in the interests of anyone, and, certainly, I think, a bit unfair to Sergeant Bergdahl’s family and to him, to presume anything.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, the criticism continued. There was this from Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R, Ariz.: All of us are happy for his family and for him that he is returned to the United States. I also remember that, when I was in prison, our motto was home with honor. Home with honor was our motto.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House has said it acted quickly to free Bergdahl, without telling Congress that the deal was imminent, because of concerns about his health.

    And The Wall Street Journal reported today that secret videos chronicled his decline. For his part, Bergdahl spent a fourth day undergoing physical and mental assessments at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

    In another development, Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, canceled plans for a rally celebrating his release. The city administrator said the expected crowd would be too large to manage safely.

    GWEN IFILL: The Department of Veterans Affairs has now contacted all 1,700 patients who were left off a medical wait list in Phoenix, Arizona. The VA inspector general had reported they were omitted to cover up long wait times for care.

    Today, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said officials have begun scheduling appointments for those and other veterans.

    SLOAN GIBSON, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs: We are moving immediately to get veterans off of wait lists and into clinics, and we’re taking action to fix the systemic problems that allowed these unacceptable waits to occur.

    GWEN IFILL: Gibson took over the department last Friday, when Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned under fire. He spoke today at a White House event on homeless veterans hosted by first lady Michelle Obama. She said their numbers have dropped by 24 percent since 2010, and she called it a good news day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad was declared the winner of yesterday’s presidential vote, with nearly 89 percent of the vote. The country’s constitutional court reported turnout was 73 percent. But there was no voting in much of the north and the east, where rebels are in control.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, a sick-out by transit workers in San Francisco appeared to be easing after two days. Light rail trains and buses were mostly back on schedule, and officials hoped to resume service on the city’s famed cable cars. The sick-out began after transit workers rejected a contract proposal last Friday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 15 points to close at 16,737. The Nasdaq rose more than 17 points to close above 4,251. And the S&P 500 added more than three points to finish near 1,928.

    GWEN IFILL: The last of the original Navajo code talkers, Chester Nez, died today in New Mexico. He suffered kidney failure. Nez was in 10th grade when he lied about his age and enlisted in the Marine Corps to fight in World War II. He and 28 others were recruited to develop a code, based on the unwritten Navajo language that stumped the Japanese. Chester Nez was 93 years old.

    The post News Wrap: ‘Don’t come back to Afghanistan,’ Taliban fighter tells Bergdahl in video appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ukraine1_obama

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama was in Warsaw today, where he observed the anniversary of Polish democracy, and met with Ukraine’s president-elect, Petro Poroshenko. The events came as one NATO ally member is about to complete a military deal with Russia, causing many to wonder how close the U.S. and its European allies are in their approach to dealing with that country’s actions in recent months.

    The president pledged unwavering support for Ukraine and its incoming leader, as they battle an economic slide and a pro-Russian insurgency.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We had the opportunity to discuss president-elect Poroshenko’s plans for bringing peace and order to the east that is still experiencing conflict.

    We discussed his economic plans and the importance of rooting out corruption, increasing transparency and creating new models of economic growth.

    GWEN IFILL: Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate-maker, will take office this weekend. But it was President Obama who brought the sweeteners today: loan guarantees and $5 million in additional nonlethal military aid, plus training for troops and police.

    For his part, Poroshenko talked of peace, not war.

    PRESIDENT-ELECT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukraine: From the very beginning, from the very first day of inauguration, we are ready to present the plan for peaceful regulation with situation in the east, and we think that the next several days will be very important, crucial for the Ukrainian history and for the Ukrainian perspective.

    GWEN IFILL: Poroshenko later said his plan would include granting amnesty for some fighters and decentralizing power, a key demand of many in the east.

    As he spoke, heavy fighting continued in his homeland. Government forces near Slavyansk claimed 300 separatists were killed over the last two days. And rebels captured three government bases around Luhansk. Officials said six of the insurgents and three Ukrainian soldiers died in that fighting.

    Back in Warsaw, President Obama cited Poland as an example for Ukraine. He addressed thousands of Poles marking the 25th anniversary of their first free elections, even as the Iron Curtain was crumbling. The president also said NATO countries must reaffirm commitment to a common defense, as Russia flexes its muscles anew.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The days of empire and spheres of influence are over. Bigger nations must not be allowed to bully the small or impose their will at the barrel of a gun or with masked men taking over buildings, and the stroke of a pen can never legitimize the theft of a neighbor’s land.

    GWEN IFILL: In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reinforced that message with an additional, specific warning for Russia.

    CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, German (through interpreter): With Russia not securing its borders enough, large numbers of fighters and ammunition are reaching the southeast of Ukraine, which further contributes to the destabilization of its neighbor. If this doesn’t happen, we won’t shrink from imposing further sanctions.

    GWEN IFILL: But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov answered in Moscow, and he had a decidedly different take.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): The Western partners have promoted their own agenda, ignoring the interests of Russia, expanding NATO and seeking to move a geopolitical area under their control right to the Russian border.

    GWEN IFILL: In fact, it’s unclear just how much NATO will do. France says it will fulfill a multibillion-dollar contract with Russia to supply it with amphibious carrier ships.

    And while more U.S. troops have deployed to Poland, Slovakia joined the Czech Republic today in ruling out any NATO units on its soil. Both are members of the alliance, but retain close ties to Russia.

    President Obama has moved on to Brussels and a meeting of the G7 nations, what used to be the G8, until Russia was suspended over its invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea.

    The post Obama promises unwavering support for Ukraine on anniversary of democracy in Poland appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    POLAND-US-UKRAINE-POLITICS-CRISIS-OBAMA

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    GWEN IFILL: So, is Putin isolated? Is Europe united? And how well is President Obama walking that tightrope?

    For more on that, we turn to David Kramer, the president of Freedom House, an organization that monitors democracy movements around the world, and Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    So, hovering over all of this is Vladimir Putin, and whether he’s present or whether he’s absent. Does it matter? Does it cast a cloud, Heather Conley?

    HEATHER CONLEY, Center for Strategic and International Studies: It does.

    In fact, this trip for the president, just like his trip to Europe in March, has been shadowed by Putin and what he’s done in Ukraine. And the end of the trip in Normandy, where President Putin will be meeting with German Chancellor Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, and David Cameron, it seems like the isolation policy has come to an end, and it looks as if European leaders are unwilling to take more difficult steps like tougher sanctions.

    Even though they’re talking tough, taking that next step of harming European companies and European business just seems like a stretch too far, so the president has an enormous task on his hands in Brussels at the G7 and then in Normandy to keep European solidarity against Russian actions in Ukraine together. It’s going to be very difficult.

    GWEN IFILL: David Kramer, how do you see it?

    DAVID KRAMER, Freedom House: Putin is in the headlines. So, this is the story now.

    And the president of the United States, last week, at his West Point speech was talking about the U.S. has led on isolating Russia. Well, as Heather said, that isolation has come to an end.

    I do think a finger has to be pointed at the French leadership for inviting Putin to participate in the Normandy exercises as sanctions have been imposed against his regime, to have Russian forces in France this week to train to how to use those amphibious ships that France is going to go ahead and sell and to continue to say that they are going to sell them.

    It also doesn’t help for the president of the United States to talk about, if Russia shows more responsible behavior, we might be able to restore trust. Russia has annexed Crimea. It has forces in Eastern and Southern Ukraine. The top military commander of NATO confirmed that today.

    We’re not seeing a de-escalation. We’re seeing an escalation and I think there need to be consequences for that.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about that separately, just the part about what our allies are doing and whether we’re speaking with one voice.

    An administration official traveling with the press today briefed on this and said something like, well, you know, we all have different things we have to do in order to deal with Russia. We still have American companies, which are doing business with Russia, so it’s not a complete shutoff. And France needs to do what it needs to do. Germany needs to do what it needs to do. And we will all just do our part.

    You’re saying, that’s not enough?

    DAVID KRAMER: I think this is the time for U.S. leadership.

    We should forget trying to have U.S. and E.U. steps together. They are not going to happen. We are letting — a nice goal. I would like to see the U.S. and E.U. move forward with more sanctions against Russia. The E.U., in my view, is not going to do it. The E.U. is badly divided. And we have talked about Germany and France.

    Eastern and Central Europe is badly divided over this issue. The U.S. has to lead. It’s easier for the U.S. to do it and it should.

    GWEN IFILL: Heather Conley, let me put it this way. A couple of weeks ago, I guess it was, when Angela Merkel was here and they came out and they drew a new line in the sand. They said it is no longer about whether they’re going to annex further territory that would bring on the sectoral sanctions.

    HEATHER CONLEY: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s now about whether they will have stepped back, pulled the troops back from the border in time for the election, and by all indications, they did. So, why wasn’t that — why isn’t this just an outcome of that kind of line in the sand?

    HEATHER CONLEY: Part of the challenge has been, the strategy was to get to the May 25 Ukrainian election.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    HEATHER CONLEY: And in some ways, we have been too transparent in signaling to Putin what exactly we expect.

    So we wanted him to acknowledge and recognize and respect the legitimacy of Poroshenko’s election. We wanted him to remove Russian troops from the Ukrainian border and to — and stop destabilizing the situation.

    So President Putin knows what he needs to do just enough to keep this Europe deeply divided, as David said. We’re signaling, already, about where our sanctions threshold is for the next section. We have to stop doing that. We know that Russian weapons, Russian troops are going across the border. This is how these pro-Russian separatists are so incredibly armed and they’re being led by Russians.

    They’re not taking any steps. So, in some ways, Ukraine is more unstable than it was before May 25. We haven’t achieved those objectives.

    GWEN IFILL: Which is the opposite of what the administration says. I talked to John Kerry last week, and his response was, listen, we have succeeded in stopping Russia stepping forward.

    You don’t see that?

    HEATHER CONLEY: I see it’s the West that wants the off-ramp. It’s the West that wants to de-escalate this, because this is going to take an enormous amount of attention by European leaders and the United States to engage in this.

    This is going to be years of instability. This is going to require NATO to have a much more robust presence. That’s why the president announced yesterday in Warsaw a billion dollars for a European reassurance initiative. We are going to be in this region. We’re going to be engaged in…

    GWEN IFILL: Isn’t that good news?

    HEATHER CONLEY: It is good news because we need U.S. leadership in Europe, absolutely.

    Unfortunately, for many leaders that have strong domestic challenges — in the European Parliament elections last week, we know there’s incredible fragility in Europe. We have other things we want to focus on, Asia and elsewhere. I hope we’re ready for the long haul here, because this instability is not going away. It’s just deepening.

    GWEN IFILL: The president, David Kramer, is going to be in the same room with Vladimir Putin twice tomorrow at this meeting.

    Is that significant? Apparently, they’re not going to speak. Or at least they’re not telling us they’re going to speak.

    DAVID KRAMER: There’s no scheduled meeting between the two.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    DAVID KRAMER: I expect, since it won’t be a huge gathering, that they will have some exchange of some sort.

    Putin today denied that Russia is playing any role in Eastern Ukraine. You had the top NATO military commander saying Russia is continuing to destabilize Ukraine. Russian irregular forces are there. Russian back forces are there, contradicting what Secretary Kerry told you last week.

    The NATO military commander thinks Russia continues to destabilize Ukraine. I don’t know what quite we are going to talk about with President Putin. He continues to violate international norms, international agreements, OSCE commitments, Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

    GWEN IFILL: But Moscow’s not happy about this new money being spent to beef up Europe’s military alliance.

    HEATHER CONLEY: Moscow is not happy about anything.

    It always blames the West for the problems. NATO enlargement has provided Russia with its most secure, stable borders. NATO enlargement is not a threat to Russia, and yet Russia in its military doctrine in 2010 cited NATO enlargement as the greatest danger to Russia, which is absolute nonsense.

    GWEN IFILL: Go ahead.

    HEATHER CONLEY: Yes, make no mistake.

    Russia will respond to NATO as it continues to strengthen its eastern border. It has to. It has Article 5 obligations. An attack against one is an attack against all. We need to continue to provide reassurance to the Baltic states, to Poland and others that NATO is real and it will respond when an ally is threatened.

    But Russia will respond, so Russia is going to, in anticipation, build those forces. So, again, as I mentioned, the tension, the instability, it’s not de-escalating. We’re going to be in this period for quite some time, and I — as I said, I hope the White House is fully prepared for this. The president’s speech in Warsaw today was very strong. It was powerful.

    Now we need to see the follow-up, the implementation and the policy focus to fulfill that speech.

    GWEN IFILL: Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and David Kramer of Freedom House, thank you both very much.

    HEATHER CONLEY: Thank you.

    DAVID KRAMER: Thanks.

    The post Can Obama successfully defend Ukraine as unity wanes in Europe? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    apprenticships

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Friday, we’re going to get the latest snapshot from the federal government about the state of the job market. A separate payroll report issued today found private companies created almost 180,000 jobs in May, fewer than in April. The unemployment rate remains very high for those under the age of 25 — it’s in the double digits — and at higher rates for teens without degrees.

    The NewsHour’s economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has a report about one program from an auto manufacturer that offers possibilities for some of those workers.

    It’s part of his reporting on Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The BMW factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina, BMW’s only U.S. auto plant, built 20 years ago, mainly for access to the American market, it’s now the sole production facility for their popular X model line of luxury crossover SUVs, 1,200 vehicles a day.

    But BMWs, and the occasional Teutonic executive, aren’t the only German imports around here. There are also apprenticeships.

    WERNER EIKENBUSCH, Head of Work Force Development, Americas, BMW: I actually grew up in Germany in a little village, and my daddy and my mom were of a blue-collar background, so for them college wasn’t something that they had really envisioned for me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And so Werner Eikenbusch, BMW’s head of workforce development for the Americas, left high school in 10th grade for an apprenticeship, combining on-the-job training with vocational school.

    WERNER EIKENBUSCH: This German dual system has a long history in Europe. It goes back hundreds of years, so it’s really very much embedded and it is actually a recognized, you could call it educational pathway that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it over into the U.S.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Eikenbusch later became an engineer, rose through BMW’s ranks. A few years ago, unable to find enough skilled workers to fill jobs in the Spartanburg plant, he helped set up an apprenticeship program modeled on the ones back home.

    At first, it was far from an easy sell. For one thing, German apprenticeships are associated with unions, a no-no in this famously right-to-work state. For the record, the BMW plant is not unionized.

    For another thing:

    RYAN CHILDERS, Apprentice and Associate Training Manager, BMW: There’s a little bit of a stigma with going into a manufacturing-type career.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ryan Childers, a former production worker himself, now oversees the apprenticeship program.

    Where does this stigma come from, do you think?

    RYAN CHILDERS: Maybe 30 years ago, the textile industry, or industries of that nature, a pretty dark environment to work in, dirty environment.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Unlike modern auto plants.

    So Childers hit the recruiting road, and still does, nearly every week, pitching the program at community colleges and high schools. At Greenville High School’s career day, the main competition was the military, Wal-Mart, and a small local chain of funeral homes.

    The BMW program looked pretty good to these seniors.

    RYAN CHILDERS: It’s $12 starting out and goes up to $14.50.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Part-time work while getting an all-expenses-paid associates degree at one of three area technical colleges, with the near guarantee of a job and further education down the road.

    STUDENT: I really got in touch with BMW because I like the program they have.

    STUDENT: You don’t get too many jobs start at about $12. That’s great pay for kids our age.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It was a similar pitch that got Amanda Echols’ attention while attending a radiology program.

    AMANDA ECHOLS, Assembly Production Associate, BMW Manufacturing: They pay for your college, first of all, so you will get a degree when you’re done. You make good money while going to college. I just could not see anybody turning it down really.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But most people would turn it down.

    AMANDA ECHOLS: I don’t think they really understand what it is. I think when they hear manufacturing, they think dirty, sweaty, nasty. I mean, I keep my hands clean all day long. They don’t get dirty at all.

    PAUL SOLMAN: It’s the robots that get dirty here; 1,400 of them rule the roost, making much of the plant seem on automatic pilot. But there are also 8,000 jobs for humans, starting at $15 an hour, plus benefits.

    BRIAN ORDONEZ, Body Shop Production Associate, BMW Manufacturing: You get paid pretty good to be working on the line here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Apprentice Brian Ordonez hopes to make robotics his career, thinks it’s not so much threat as opportunity.

    BRIAN ORDONEZ: You need a person to tell that robot what to do. And you need that person to fix it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, maybe you will have robots that fix the other robots.

    BRIAN ORDONEZ: What robot are you going to have to fix that robot that’s fixing the other robots? No, you need people; you need people to fix it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, for the next few years anyway. Since even the robots still need to wear protective sleeves in the paint shop, I suited up.

    DUSTIN REID, Paint Shop Production Associate, BMW Manufacturing: You look just stunning.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Thank you. I have always wanted a white suit.

    Dustin Reid may be sartorially indiscriminate, but he knows from dirty jobs. After high school and the Marines, he spent two years working in a scrapyard, then four as a supervisor in a poultry processing plant he’d just as soon forget.

    DUSTIN REID: Manufacturing’s really, really growing right now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But isn’t the American dream to get a four-year college degree and then get a good job?

    DUSTIN REID: There’s a lot of students nowadays that graduate with a four-year degree and can’t find work. But with this two-year degree, I’m able to come and get a career for the rest of my life at a premier manufacturing company. It pretty much speaks for itself.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Economist Bob Lerman, who tagged along with us in South Carolina, has been studying youth unemployment for decades. Right now, even college grads under age 25 have a 50 percent chance of being un- or under-employed, and the long-term prospects are much worse for the one-third of young Americans without any college at all.

    Apprenticeships, Lerman thinks, provide a ray of hope.

    ROBERT LERMAN, American University: It’s the most promising thing I have seen for the broad problem of youth that are not succeeding in a four-year college.

    BRAD NEESE, Director, Apprenticeship Carolina: We talk all the time about people without jobs and jobs without people.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Brad Neese runs Apprenticeship Carolina, a state-funded office, founded in 2007, that helps employers set up registered apprenticeship programs. To sweeten the pot, South Carolina offers a $1,000-per-year tax credit per apprentice.

    But the companies bear most of the educational and training costs, which can run well over $50,000 a head.

    BRAD NEESE: We have built this thing from 777 apprentices to over 10,000 now. When we started it, we only had 90 companies. We now have 650 today. The reason we’re growing is because the businesses are saying, we need a pipeline of talent. We need to grow our own. We can no longer find talent in the open market.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Even as U.S. unemployment has remained stubbornly high, employers, especially in manufacturing, complain they can’t find enough qualified workers.

    So Apprenticeship South Carolina helps tailor the state technical college curriculum to each employer’s needs, like this mechatronics program at Greenville Tech used by BMW and others.

    Do you worry at all that with industry so specifically running the show, it’s somehow compromising the educational mission?

    BRAD NEESE: So what if they’re not reading Shakespeare? These guys want to work with their hands. They want to get into the theoretical knowledge, not of the iambic pentameter. They want to get into the theoretical knowledge of Ohm’s law.

    BRANDON RICHARDS, Apprentice, United Tool and Mold: I’m more of a hands-on person, not sitting in a desk, writing and looking at a computer screen.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Brandon Richards is an apprentice at United Tool and Mold in Easley, which supplies BMW and other German companies, has modeled its new apprenticeship program on theirs.

    MAN: It starts out with a paid associate’s degree, and we also pay for their time while they sit in the class. If their hourly rate at the shop is $10 an hour, then they’re going to make that $10 an hour while they’re sitting in school.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A third-generation tool and die maker, production manager Jeremy Arnett is a true believer in apprenticeships. When he started here 16 years ago:

    MAN: I didn’t know the difference between a drill and a reamer and an end mill. I see myself in those young kids and all they want is an opportunity, but don’t have the skill sets.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But why, if apprenticeships are booming in the Palmetto State, are they lagging everywhere else, down 40 percent nationwide in the last five years?

    WERNER EIKENBUSCH: I think a lot of it has to do with really the mind-set. Are you willing to think long-term and invest on the front end, because you’re going to have the return on investment through the career of a successful and productive employee? It’s just you have an up-front cost.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Bob Lerman suggests another reason.

    BOB LERMAN: Unless you allow everybody to do the same thing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Go to college, that is.

    BOB LERMAN: Yes — go to college — you are reducing equality. And people are very uncomfortable saying that my child will go to college, but your child might not go to college. And then there are people who don’t even start college. And what are their options? They’re not very good.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So perhaps apprenticeship should be one of them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Paul has more with BMW’s Werner Eikenbusch, who gives his unique perspective on management styles as a German working in the U.S. That’s on Making Sense.

    The post BMW apprenticeship program trains workers to rise through the ranks without 4-year degree appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Miss. State Senator Chris McDaniel and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran are locked in a tight race

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to politics.

    Primary elections took place in eight states last night, with results in key Senate races in Mississippi and Iowa. Both could determine control of the U.S. Senate, but in very different ways.

    Here to break it down for us again is our political editor, Domenico Montanaro.

    So, Domenico, let’s start with Mississippi, where you had a four-term incumbent, Thad Cochran, up against a Tea Party challenger, and Thad Cochran, who has sailed to reelection, finds himself in a runoff.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO, Political Editor: That’s right. He does.

    And I think you hit when you said four-term or — or four decades.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Four decades is what I meant to say.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: He’s been around for 42 years in Congress, and that’s been part of the problem.

    And what happened was a lot of these outside groups, Tea Party-backed, some of the more conservative groups, like Senate Conservatives Fund, decided they needed to find somebody who they felt like was a good target for them, kind of like Richard Lugar in Indiana in 2012.

    And they found it with Thad Cochran. They highlighted some of his votes. They outspent him on TV and really made his life very, very difficult. And now we’re in a position where we essentially have a do-over race.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a race where the Tea Party sees this may be their best chance, because they have had a rough ride trying to win some of these other Senate primaries.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: No question about it.

    This is the — this is kind of the last, best chance. I was talking to Haley Barbour today, the former governor of Mississippi, who said that people really need to be reminded that these outside groups are really there. They’re not concerned about Mississippi, that Chris McDaniel, who is the state senator going against Cochran, would be against all federal funding for education, for example.

    And they really feel like the ground game was part of the problem for Cochran. Only about 10 days ago, we learned that the National Republican Senate Committee was able to get into Mississippi to help out when they found that the ground game really was kind of nonexistent.

    And without that, you may have had Cochran lose last night. And we got to this point where he is just below — they’re just below 50 because a third candidate wound up with 1.5 percent. They have to get to 50 percent. So we are going to have three more weeks of this.

    And one operative tonight told me that they expect $5 million to $7 million more spent between both sides over just the next three weeks in Mississippi, which is a very inexpensive state to spend in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But are establishment Republicans going to be as excited about supporting Thad Cochran at this point now that he’s in this runoff?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, and that’s the $7 million question, let’s say, because the problem is that the Tea Party activists are going to be there.

    And you’re seeing now a lot of hand-wringing among establishment groups. Do they want to spend the money if they think McDaniel is going to win? The NRSC is all in, they say, on Cochran.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The National Republican Senate Committee.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Right.

    They won’t say that they will support McDaniel if he winds up winning. They want to put as many resources as possible into the ground game, knock on doors, remind people of McDaniel’s record, because they really see this as a race that could hinge on Senate control, could really determine Senate control, because they feel like past controversial statements that McDaniel has made really could wind up hurting other Republicans throughout the country, not just give Democrats a chance in Mississippi.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, a very different situation in Iowa, where you have an open seat, one of the most liberal Democrats in the country, Tom Harkin, retiring, leaving it open.

    The Republican race, you had a large number of candidates in the race, and the Republican with I guess the most memorable television ad is the one who won more than 50 percent of the vote.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Absolutely.

    You know, we were talking about whether or not she would get past the 35 percent threshold to avoid a state convention, where about 2,000 party activists would pick the nominee. But Joni Ernst blew away the field. You can see 56 percent of the vote over Sam Clovis, who wasn’t even expected to be in second place, a radio talk show host.

    Mark Jacobs, who was in third, was the guy who a lot of people in Washington, Republicans thought would be the person to emerge, but with that ad and with some really nimble campaigning, Joni Ernst was able to separate herself quite a bit from the rest of the field.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, she’s going up against Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley.

    What does she say? What kind of contest are people expecting?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, right now, Bruce Braley is up. Low single digits is what both sides see. He’s favored to replace Tom Harkin, who was one of the architects of President Obama’s health care law.

    Remember, this is a state that demographically favors Democrats a bit more, of course, than Mississippi. President Obama won the state twice. There’s 40 percent of the state though are independents, are unaffiliated with Democrats or Republicans.

    And that’s where this battle is going to be fought. Republicans feel like if Joni Ernst can use that message of conservative woman who was a soldier and a mom, that that can really win over some of those independents, and Braley at the same time hoping that some of the demographics of the state help him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s one we’re all going to be watching.

    Domenico Montanaro, thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: Thank you.

    The post In upcoming Miss. runoff, all eyes on tea-party’s McDaniel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    tiananmen1

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    GWEN IFILL: Twenty-five years ago, pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square were massacred in a government crackdown that captured the world’s attention.

    But inside China itself, the incident garnered little attention.

    And, as Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News reports, that hasn’t changed.

    MAN: Suddenly, the soldiers broke ranks, raking the students with automatic gunfire as they charged forward. The unarmed students had no hope. Many fell wounded or dead, their bicycles crashing beside them.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: It is an event the Chinese officially still call a counterrevolutionary riot, hundreds, if not thousands, shot or bayoneted or crushed by the People’s Liberation Army.

    And no image of that pro-democracy movement is as iconic as this, a defiant lone protester, never identified, his fate still unknown after 25 years. These days Tiananmen Square is the center of the world’s biggest consumer market, what happened here pretty much airbrushed from history.

    The scandal of corruption still threatens China’s one-party state, but not much else does. Even the cemeteries where the Tiananmen dead lie were blocked by police today. Try searching the massacre date online and access to information is denied. In this surveillance society, those who do remember know it is safer to forget.

    MAN (through interpreter): Making a fuss about it for such a long time is meaningless, because China’s system is different from the West. The population is huge, 1.4 billion. So if you want to govern it well, it is not easy.

    HU JIA, Chinese Dissident: I have been under house arrest for 99 days.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Hu Jia witnessed Tiananmen as a teenager. Now this notorious political activist is under house arrest again, sending Channel 4 news this video, despite the plainclothes policeman dozing outside his door. And though he can’t mark this anniversary in the square himself, he believes change will come.

    HU JIA (through interpreter): We have to go through what happened in the square, like what happened in the Soviet Union, like the Arab spring. The Communist Party is really worried. They have arrested a lot of people and they are under an incredible amount of pressure.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: In Hong Kong, though, freedom still manages to flower. Tonight’s annual vigil was attended by 100,000 or more, mainland Chinese flocking to the only city where a demonstration like this would be allowed.

    There’s been no official inquiry into what happened 25 years ago. But here, at least, the flame of remembrance burns brightly.

    The post In Tiananmen Square, silence blankets 25th anniversary of massacre appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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