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

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    kerrymideast

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    GWEN IFILL: The fighting between Hamas and Israel continued today, as America’s top diplomat shuttled between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, attempting to broker a cease-fire. More than 680 Palestinians and 34 Israelis have now been killed since the fighting began July 8.

    Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Tel Aviv, his Air Force jet exempt from the FAA ban shutting down U.S. flights there. He met first with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and suggested there’s been some progress toward a cease-fire.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We’re working hard. And I’m not going to get into the characterizing, but we have certainly made some steps forward.

    GWEN IFILL: From there, he headed to the West Bank, and talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

    JOHN KERRY: We’re doing this for one simple reason. The people in the Palestinian territories, the people in Israel are all living under the threat or reality of immediate violence. And this needs to end for everybody.

    GWEN IFILL: And then back to Tel Aviv for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Amid all the shuttling — even Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Netanyahu by phone today — hundreds of Palestinians were also on the move, pouring out of the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis. They were fleeing heavy Israeli air and artillery strikes, and there were reports of many people still trapped.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): They were firing from tanks next to our house. We were stuck in the house. We called the ambulance and the firefighters. None came to help us.

    GWEN IFILL: In Rafah, hundreds took part in a funeral procession for five Palestinians killed by overnight airstrikes.

    And, in Jerusalem, thousands attended the funeral of Israeli soldier Max Steinberg. The 24-year-old man from California was killed in fighting on Sunday. Violence also spread to the West Bank, where a Palestinian man was killed in fighting with Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem.

    Meanwhile, Hamas rocket fire killed a foreign worker near Ashkelon in Southern Israel. The rocket threat prompted more airlines to call off flights into Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

    President Shimon Peres urged them to reconsider.

    PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES, Israel: May I say I regret that airlines have suspended flights. The real answer to the danger of flying is not to stop the flights, but to stop the rockets which are endangering the flight.

    GWEN IFILL: But the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, held both sides responsible for the rapidly rising death toll.

    NAVI PILLAY, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: I unequivocally reiterate to all actors in this conflict that civilians must not be targeted. Not abiding by these principles may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    GWEN IFILL: Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni answered the allegation with two words on her Facebook page: “Get lost.”

    Late today, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called for the world to force an end to the Israeli offensive and to the economic blockade of Gaza.

    The post Kerry resumes attempts to broker Mideast cease-fire, both sides mourn losses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Graph by Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

    Graph by Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

    The number of teens obtaining and abusing human growth hormones has doubled in one year, according to a survey published Wednesday by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

    The finding was part of a confidential yearly investigation in which 3,705 high school students were surveyed. With 11 percent reporting using some form of HGH at least once, the rate is up from five percent in the last four annual surveys.

    Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-doping Agency, partly blamed the aggressive promotion of performance enhancing substances in a largely unregulated marketplace both online and in store. He also noted that teenagers are especially vulnerable to such marketing and promises of improved body image.

    Steve Pasierb, the President of the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, claimed that high school coaches have a key role in combating doping. He hinted that up to a third of the coaches are prepared to overlook the problem in the interests of winning.

    The Mayo Clinic openly lists the hazards and side effects of taking non-prescribed human growth hormones by pubescent teens. The symptoms associated with injecting the substance include stunted growth, acne, liver problems, shrunken testicles for boys and excess facial hair for girls. There is also the danger of not knowing exactly where the drugs come from the unregulated, unmonitored market.

    The post Teen use of human growth hormones doubles, survey finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    unicef_mideast

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    GWEN IFILL: Pernille Ironside of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, has been on the ground in Gaza since the conflict began. I spoke with her via Skype earlier today.

    Pernille Ironside, as you travel around in Gaza, tell us, what are you seeing?

    PERNILLE IRONSIDE, UNICEF: Well, the conflict has been getting steadily worse by the day, and we’re now into our 15th day here.

    And with each one, the civilian casualty rate has only mounted. Amongst those, children are bearing the greatest brunt of this terrible conflict at the moment. There’s over 168 children who have died already. And we’re now over 1,100 children who have been seriously injured, maimed and even terribly burned.

    The physical and psychological toll that this is having on people is — it’s truly — it’s almost indescribable. I have met with, for example, the three surviving Bakr boys who, one moment, they were on the beach playing with their cousins and the next moment, they saw pieces of four of their friends and cousins strewn around them.

    These are lasting emotional and physical scars that children are bearing across Gaza Strip. I also met 4-year-old Shima in the hospital the other day. And she was longing for her mother and her siblings, all of whom died as they were seeking shelter, leaving their home in search of a safer place, and only Shima and her father survived.

    The fact of the matter is, there is no safe place here. Even in the public schools and compounds and UNRWA shelters, there are no guarantees for safety.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that’s actually what I wanted to ask you, which is, where do people go when they go seeking shelter?

    PERNILLE IRONSIDE: Well, they’re gathering around the main emergency hospital in Gaza, al-Shifa. They’re gathering in mosques, in the orthodox church here in Gaza.

    And they’re also gathering in school compounds, both U.N. schools and now, as those have basically reached their capacity with over 120,000 people in them, people are also pouring into public school compounds.

    I visited two of these public schools today just to see how people were coping. The vast majority of nearly 1,400 people in each compound were children. I would say about 70 percent. In one alone, I checked. There were 152 children were under the age of 2.

    This is an enormous civilian impact and upheaval in terms of all these lives who have literally had to flee, not knowing if they’re going to survive or not. In fact, one grandmother today said to me, 40 of them, all they could do was pray at that moment because they didn’t know — as their five-story building came crashing down around them, they didn’t know if they would live.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the condition of the infrastructure, whether it’s water, electricity, even the roofs over people’s heads?  What is your sense of how damaged that all is?

    PERNILLE IRONSIDE: I have been visiting a number of the most critical water and sanitation installations around Gaza.

    I can say that 70 percent of the population is now without access to safe water. The main sewage pumping station has been hit directly. And 40 percent of Gaza’s sewage is flowing directly into the Mediterranean now. Just down the road from there the primary sewage treatment plant was also directly hit. And the sewage flowed down the street into the neighborhoods and fields, contaminating a huge amount of area.

    Water wells have been directly hit. There is at least 50 percent of all of the water and sanitation infrastructure is no longer functioning at this moment. And even when some urgent repairs could be made to reestablish some of the connections, it’s been rendered impossible, because there is no safe humanitarian access for the municipal workers to be able to make these repairs.

    And, already, three of them have been killed while on duty. Beyond water and hygiene, the emotional toll — and so we have the emergency psychosocial teams who are reaching out to all the families who have lost loved ones in order to provide them with some immediate coping skills. And this is really just the first step of a very long process of healing and recovery that Gaza is going to need to undergo.

    GWEN IFILL: It sounds like a long process in every possible case.

    Pernille Ironside, the Gaza field office of UNICEF, thank you very much.

    PERNILLE IRONSIDE: Thank you.

    The post ‘There are no safe places’ for children in Gaza, UNICEF officer says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ga_senaterace

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to politics: Yesterday in Georgia, voters chose the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in what turned out to be a tight primary election.

    It sets the stage for what will be one of the closest watched races of the year, a contest that could help decide control of the Senate.

    With us to talk about this race and the broader Senate landscape is our political editor, Domenico Montanaro.

    So, welcome back to being on air.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Domenico, the Republicans have now — it was a tight race. It was the runoff, but they have their candidate now. Tell us about him. His name is David Perdue. Who is he?

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: David Perdue is the former CEO of Dollar General and the sneaker company Reebok, which everybody knows.

    Jack Kingston is who he defeated 51-49, Kingston, a member of Congress. It shouldn’t be lost that David Perdue in this race was the only person who ran in this primary who wasn’t either a member of Congress or a former elected official, so he really played that outsider card.

    He ran this ad depicting babies on the lawn in front of Congress crying, depicting all the lawmakers are crybabies, essentially. So he really tried to play that card, hit Kingston with being on that insider status. And that’s what part of what did help him. He also poured in about $3 million of his own money, which was certainly helpful.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Didn’t hurt.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, now Perdue faces a well-organized Democrat. And, normally, this is Deep South, not fertile territory for Democrats, but in this case, she is the daughter of a well-known former senator.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: That’s right.

    And Democrats have some hope that Michelle Nunn, who is the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, will do fairly well in this race, and appears tied in most polling at this point with Perdue, because, one, her legacy and the name, but also because of the changing demographics of the state.

    So I think that this is a state that the Democrats are starting to feel a little bit better about. And given the fact Perdue is kind of a political novice, has never run before, Nunn is in a similar situation, but she also has tried to play this outsider card.

    Now you are going to see Republicans — and we have already seen Republicans take strong aim at Michelle Nunn. We know the Democrats are already picking apart David Perdue’s business experience, trying to reopen the Mitt Romney playbook, to say this is someone who cost jobs and who shipped jobs overseas.

    The real question is going to be over the next two months, can Michelle Nunn withstand the barrage that comes her way?  If we look on Labor Day or two weeks after Labor Day and this race is still tied, this is going to be an actual potential pickup for Democrats.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this race, as you and I were talking earlier, especially important to Democrats, because the overall — the national Senate landscape for them is not very friendly.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: That’s right. And that’s why we care about this race, because there are 12 races in the country that we should all be looking at right now.

    But you can see from our map that 10 of those states are seats held by Democrats — well, or are Republican targets. Only two of those races are in places that are held by Republicans, Kentucky with Mitch McConnell, who is the minority leader, who could become majority leader, and this race in Georgia.

    Well, if Georgia is on the board for Democrats, then the ability for Republicans to take back the Senate, to net the six seats they need out of this landscape, makes it much, much more difficult. There are already three states on this map that we have seen are likely heading toward Republicans in Montana, West Virginia and one other.

    And you see that because of that, if Republicans aren’t able to hold Georgia, then the landscape becomes much more difficult for them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats start out with a disadvantage, and it’s just tough.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Well, it is. But right now in Alaska and Arkansas, Mark Pryor and Mark Begich are doing very well and probably better than most Republicans thought they would.

    And they may be a little bit of gum in the dam, so to speak, because if they can hold, then you see Democrats likely holding a one- or two-seat majority. If they lose, you could see a much broader wave come the Republicans’ way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I like that metaphor, the gum in the dam.

    But the other thing, finally, I want to ask you about, Domenico, is this report came out yesterday from the — respected organization, saying that the turnout in this year’s primaries so far is not only down, but in most of the states where there have been primaries, it’s at historic lows.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yes, 15 of the 25 states so far have seen historic lows.

    And this is a trend, the pattern that we have seen since the 1960s, when there was a high in primary of about mid-30s of eligible population turning out from the study from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. But now only 14.7 percent so far have turned out.

    And there’s a lot of reasons for this. People are upset with almost everything. Pessimism reins. They are upset with the president. They are upset with Congress. They are upset with Republicans, who they feel are blocking the president. They are upset with the president, who they feel is using too much executive authority.

    And it goes back and forth. People aren’t feeling much better about the economy, despite the headline economic numbers. And what it all leads to is a large disinterest, frankly, in what we’re seeing in politics, but it does have consequence. Elections have consequences, as we’re talking about whether or not the — who holds control of the Senate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s pretty depressing, and maybe people watching and all over the country will, you know, take notice and pay more attention to those races.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: I think anybody can be in favor of more engagement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Domenico Montanaro, we thank you.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: Thank you.

    The post Why winning Georgia is crucial for the GOP’s Senate hopes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    As a part of President Barack Obama’s push to make college more affordable, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that it will launch a new initiative to test innovative practices aimed at providing nontraditional, low-income and struggling students with better, faster and more flexible paths to academic and career success.

    Nontraditional students, including those enrolled part-time, taking more than a year off from school after graduating from high school or working full-time, make up 85 percent of the country’s undergraduates, according to the American Council on Education.

    By starting the Experimental Sites Initiative, federal education officials hope to open more paths for the nontraditional students to successfully complete degrees and help others pursue higher education for the first time. This will provide participating colleges with more flexibility in awarding federal financial aid to those participating in competency-based education programs.

    Competency-based learning, also known as personalized learning, allows students to demonstrate mastery of academic content through a wider range of assessments at their own pace as opposed to solely measuring progress by the number of credit hours they accrue.

    “At a time when a college degree matters more than ever, we have to provide a flexible, innovative experience that can meet the needs of every American,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the announcement. “This initiative will enable institutions to try some of their best ideas and most promising practices to provide more students with the opportunity to pursue a higher education and become equipped for success in today’s workforce.”

    “The House is expected to pass the bill, but it’s less likely the U.S. Senate will follow suit,” reports Inside Higher Ed, “in part because of top Senate Democrats’ desire to deal with the issue as part of the broad set of proposed legislation relating to the Higher Education Act,”which will soon be up for re-authorization since 2008.

    Lawmakers are considering bills that could promote the same kind of innovation at colleges and universities, but it’s unclear whether those efforts will go anywhere, according to Inside Higher Ed.

    Stay tuned for more on competency-based learning practices during our special week of higher education reports coming up in August.

    The post Dept. of Education encourages colleges to experiment with flexible credit systems appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    fruitflies

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: trying to better understand what’s happening in the brain of a fruit fly, a dragonfly, or a zebra fish, all part of a larger puzzle to learn more about how our own brains work.

    NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien has the first in our three-part series on the science of the brain.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the Basic Research Facility scientist consider nirvana. You might see a Nobel Prize in the making or you might be subjected to this, the fruit fly version of a scary movie, the rapidly growing shadow of a predator homing in for the kill.

    GWYNETH CARD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Janelia Farm Research Campus: My lab is really interested in how flies make decisions.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Neuroscientist Gwyneth Card runs a laboratory at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Janelia Farm Research Campus near Washington, D.C. She films fruit flies at 6,000 frames per second to better see what they do and eventually she hopes understand how their brains issue commands and their bodies turn that into lifesaving action.

    GWYNETH CARD: One of the interesting things we have discovered is that if you show a fly one of these scary movies, they actually don’t do one particular thing knee-jerk reflex. They actually do a whole sequence of behaviors that’s quite flexible and quite varied.

    MILES O’BRIEN: This is why we can’t swat a fly.

    GWYNETH CARD: This is exactly why it’s really hard to swat a fly.

    MILES O’BRIEN: This is the kind of question that bugs a neuroscientist in another lab here, Gerry Rubin. He has spent his entire career studying fruit flies, also known as Drosophila.

    GERRY RUBIN, Executive Director: Fruit flies have a very distinguished and long career in biomedical research, mainly because they breed like flies.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But the bugs are more than rapidly prolific. They can do a lot of very interesting things and, compared to humans, are much easier neuroscience test subjects.

    GERRY RUBIN: These are very complicated calculations done by a very small biological computational device. If — we feel, if we could understand how those actually work, then we would know something important about how every brain works, including our own brains.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Rubin not only runs a lab here, but the overall facility as well.

    In fact, it’s his baby. He hatched the idea in 2002, the doors opened in 2006, and right now it houses 350 scientists working in 42 labs and on five collaborative teams. It is a well-oiled machine, to be sure, robotic efficiency. They feed, breed, bar code and house more than a million insects here, hoping they might hold answers to some of the most challenging problems in basic biomedical research.

    It is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for the record, also a NewsHour underwriter. HHMI plans to spend $50 million to $100 million a year for at least 20 years here, giving the best and the brightest scientists what amounts to a blank check to do their work as they see fit.

    GERRY RUBIN: So, we could bring together an unusual group of people, protect them from the real world, put them in a place where they just had to focus on their science, encourage them to work together, encourage them to work on challenging problems, and give them the freedom to do it, and see what happened.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Rubin modeled Janelia after a workplace on his resume, the legendary Bell Laboratories founded by AT&T and Western Electric in 1925. It attracted the best scientists from virtually every discipline, encouraged them to collaborate and gave them the freedom and funding to conduct basic research, even if there was no obvious profit-making application evident.

    Over the years, Bell researchers made big strides in the realm of basic science. They discovered cosmic background radiation, and thus the Big Bang theory, but they also invented some game-changers in the marketplace, including the transistor, the laser and the charged couple device. The lab garnered seven Nobel Prizes in all.

    But in recent years, corporate funding of fundamental science with long-term goals has all but vanished, and federal funding for basic science has dropped precipitously.

    GERRY RUBIN: I think there’s a broad recognition that there is a way the federal government chooses projects to fund, the way it supports them is — tends to cut out the most creative work.

    MILES O’BRIEN: To pursue a greater understanding of neuroscience, Janelia scientists and engineers work in close collaboration to build new tools of discovery.

    Developmental biologist and neuroscientist Philipp Keller showed me his amazing light sheet microscope.

    PHILIPP KELLER, Group Leader, Janelia: So, this is a setup that is designed to basically minimally interfere with the normal development, the normal function of the biological sample.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Living samples are bathed in laser light and recorded by two fast digital cameras to generate three-dimensional movies of biological processes. This is a Drosophila embryo from three hours after fertilization until it hatches 24 hours later.

    PHILIPP KELLER: Every single little blob in this movie is one cell. We have tens of thousands of cells at this point in development. You can in fact now see these rapid movements. These are muscle contractions, so…

    MILES O’BRIEN: This is one embryo from two angles, right?

    PHILIPP KELLER: Exactly.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There’s something fishy in Keller’s lab as well, zebra fish, here waiting for their closeup, an extreme closeup. Keller’s groundbreaking movie shows a zebra fish larva brain in action. Each of these blips is a single neuron lighting up.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Whoa. What happened there just now in that big flash?  It’s like a thunderstorm.

    PHILIPP KELLER: We don’t quite know what the zebra fish was thinking at that point, but these types of experiments are aimed at trying to find out what exactly it is that….

    MILES O’BRIEN: He was thinking about something good or something really bad, right? It was one or the other, right?

    PHILIPP KELLER: We tried our best to make sure that he does not have to think about something bad.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MILES O’BRIEN: Nicely done. True professional.

    ANTHONY LEONARDO, Group Leader, Janelia: True professional.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Neuroscientist Anthony Leonardo uses that collaborative approach as he studies another insect, the dragonfly.

    He captures them capturing fruit flies, rolling at 1,000 frames per second. He is focused on what 28 muscles controlled by four neurons each do in the span of 14 wing strokes.

    ANTHONY LEONARDO: So, none of it is learned. It gets better with practice, but they understand how to do it from the start. They…

    MILES O’BRIEN: What’s amazing is he starts with his back to the fruit fly.

    ANTHONY LEONARDO: Exactly.

    MILES O’BRIEN: How is…

    ANTHONY LEONARDO: And this is a really significant thing, right?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Leonardo is focused on how our brains coordinate complex behaviors in split-second real time, like catching a ball.

    To get a better look at the problem, he and a Janelia engineer have outfitted some dragonflies with 60-milligram backpacks. They capture and transmit signals from 10 neurons linked to four muscles.

    ANTHONY LEONARDO: What we’re trying to do is measure essentially all the relevant knobs it’s controlling to steer its body when it flies. So, then, by looking at all those things together, we can slowly build up a model of how the nervous system has solved this problem.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Leonardo says the tiny backpack is an example of how Janelia collaborations can streamline scientific research.

    But there’s a big catch. There’s no such thing as tenure here. Even though long-term funding is not a worry, the scientists themselves work on five-year contracts, and can be asked to leave if they don’t measure up. And, as we spoke, Anthony Leonardo’s contract was up for renewal.

    ANTHONY LEONARDO: So, the way this was put to me when I was interviewing here that resonated a lot with me, though we don’t say it anymore, is the ethos of the place was, we will bet these massive resources on you, on your ideas, and you bet your career in exchange. And that was the gamble.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Whether they’re studying dragonflies, fruit flies, or zebra fish, researchers here are keeping long-term basic research afloat at a time when it finds very few safe harbors.

    GWYNETH CARD: It can be a tough sell because, of course, not every avenue of research works out. You don’t know exactly where it’s going and you don’t know exactly what you’re going to learn. That is the beauty of it. We don’t know what the truth is, or we wouldn’t need to pursue it. So, sometimes, it turns out as you expect. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There are no guarantees the research at Janelia will pay off with new Nobel-class discoveries. But that’s precisely the idea. The sure thing need not apply.

    GWEN IFILL: Tomorrow, Judy explores new findings on genetics and schizophrenia.

    The post How studying fruit flies and zebrafish might unlock secrets of the human brain appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Arizona inmate Joseph R. Wood, whose drawn-out execution lasted for an hour and 57 minutes. Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Corrections

    Arizona inmate Joseph R. Wood, whose drawn-out execution lasted for an hour and 57 minutes. Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Corrections

    The execution of an Arizona man on death row lasted for nearly two hours on Wednesday, before he took his final breath.

    According to an AP reporter’s witness account, convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood III started gasping 10 minutes after the lethal injection was administered, with the gasps repeating every five to 12 seconds.

    When the gasps continued, Wood’s lawyers filed a legal appeal to federal and state courts, demanding them to halt the execution.

    “At 1:57 p.m. [officials] reported that Mr. Wood was sedated, but at 2:02 he began to breathe,” the legal filing read. “At 2:03 his mouth moved. Mr. Wood has continued to breathe since that time. He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour. At 3:02 p.m. … staff rechecked for sedation. He is still alive.”

    The execution began at 1:52 p.m. One hour and 57 minutes later, Wood was declared dead at 3:49 p.m.

    The botched execution at the Arizona State Prison Complex raised questions again about the lethal injection procedure to execute death row inmates. In January, Ohio used the same two-drug combination for the execution of Dennis McGuire, which took more than 25 minutes.

    The post Arizona execution lasts nearly two hours appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New research suggests the figurative revolving door between regulatory agencies and banks may not be as harmful as they're made out to be, and that shutting those doors would actually hurt the regulatory sector. Photo by Flickr user Valerie Everett.

    The revolving door is a popular scapegoat for regulatory inefficiency, but new research from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests it shouldn’t be blamed. Photo by Flickr user Valerie Everett.

    From K Street to Wall Street, it’s the career move everyone loves to hate but makes anyway: the revolving door.

    Consider Sheila Bair, former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Before she accepted a position as a director of the Spanish bank Banco Santander earlier this year, she had been a vocal critic.

    In her 2012 book “Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself,” she had this to say about the phenomenon so common in finance that the New York Times’ Dealbook blog has an entire section called “Revolving Door”:

    “I would like to see financial regulation be viewed as a lifelong career choice — similar to the Foreign Service — rather than a revolving door to a better-paying job in the private sector. There should be a lifetime ban on regulators working for financial institutions they have regulated.”

    Bair captured the conventional fear: that the revolving door encourages laxity among regulators who later reap big bucks at the institutions they were charged with regulating. Why offend potential employers?

    There’s an attitude among the media and policymakers, especially in the wake of the recent financial crisis, says the University of Chicago’s Amit Seru, “that all regulation would work great if we could somehow fix the revolving door.”

    But in a recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, Seru and his co-authors David Lucca of the New York Fed and Francesco Trebbi of the University of British Columbia, beg to differ; they aren’t convinced the revolving door is, in itself, to blame for ineffective regulation.

    The bigger problem is that the regulatory sector has a retention challenge, especially when it comes to holding on to top talent, their research finds. The highest educated regulators have the shortest regulatory tenures, and the average regulatory stint has shrunk over the last 25 years.

    Eliminating the revolving door seems like an easy fix to trap that top talent in their regulatory gigs. But that logic, the authors argue, ignores the revolving door’s benefits — like “its potential to enhance the ability of regulatory agencies to hire better quality workers.”

    Analyzing the career paths of more than 35,000 former and current regulators from the Fed banks, the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller and Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and state banking regulators, the authors wanted to investigate the incidence and the drivers of the revolving door. Why did workers rotate from one side to the other, and when?

    What Seru found most surprising about the results of their study is that the rotation between regulatory agencies and banks — like movement in any other industry — is a reflection of the business cycle and supply and demand for jobs.

    When the economy is booming, regulators head to Wall Street. When times are bad, bankers flow back to the government because there is more demand for regulators, and presumably also because banking jobs are eliminated, or they just become less lucrative.

    If regulators were soft on banks to improve their own chances of getting hired in the private sector (what the authors call the “quid pro quo” view of the revolving door), Seru and his co-authors would have expected to see lower gross outflows from regulatory agencies to the banks during periods of high enforcement activity. Would-be bankers wouldn’t want to get into the private sector just when the public sector was about to crack down, right?

    Not necessarily. Seru and his colleagues found that gross inflows into regulation and gross outflows from regulation were both higher during periods of intense regulatory enforcement.

    So why would workers want to move into banking during periods of higher enforcement? The quid pro quo interpretation doesn’t explain that pattern, the authors conclude.

    Instead, they introduce an alternative theory to explain the trends in their dataset: the “regulatory schooling” view. Workers flow into regulatory agencies during periods of regulatory activity so they can learn the rules. When those rules are being enforced, they flow into banking, where their regulatory knowledge becomes more valuable. During periods of higher enforcement, a bank wants employees who know the ins and outs of those complex regulations, and naturally, who better than former regulators?

    And so, far from compromising their independence, the prospect of a future banking job may actually incentivize regulators to develop more complex rules because their knowledge of them will make them more attractive hires in the private sector. Should they rotate into a bank, they can, as the authors put it, “earn their return from regulatory schooling.”

    So yes, the phenomenon of regulatory inefficiency exists, say the authors. But it is due to the complexity of new rules, not the laxity associated with quid pro quo and the revolving door.

    The fact that the authors thank their editor for suggesting a name for this alternative “regulatory schooling” view underscores that this idea hasn’t been talked about all that much, and it’s certainly not part of the conventional wisdom about the revolving door.

    That’s a problem, as far as Seru is concerned, because the quid pro quo interpretation of the revolving door paints it in such a negative light that it encourages locking it shut, which, given regulatory agencies’ retention challenges, Seru says, would be devastating for a sector that depends on a pipeline of talent.

    After punching their final government time cards, regulators would swivel into banking, leaving the rules without any skilled enforcers, Seru says. “You can make as many rules as you want, but you need to skill people in implementing them.”

    The new study is not intended to be the final word on the revolving door, and it’s not to say that quid pro quo isn’t happening anywhere, Seru cautions. The dataset he and his co-authors constructed, for example, consists of CVs in the database of a “leading social network site for professionals” (he can’t disclose which one, Seru says, if he wants to continue his research). Specifically, it’s a study of anyone who worked at a bank regulating institution starting in the 1980s. But how much of the top talent in either the public or private sector really uses professional job sites to land their next corner office? When last checked, Sheila Bair’s LinkedIn profile, for example, hadn’t even been updated with her new role, nor did it include much of a CV.

    But while Bair (who’s not identified in this paper) took heat for returning to the private sector after speaking out against the revolving door, this new research suggests that her ability to do so may not be a bad thing. More significantly, curtailing that movement might put our nation’s regulatory system in worse shape than it is.

    The post Why regulators should go to work on Wall Street appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivers brief remarks and introduces Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (L) and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina (R) as the three speak on the topic of the ongoing influx of unaccompanied Central American children into the US across the Mexican border. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

    US House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivers brief remarks and introduces Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (L) and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina (R) as the three speak on the topic of the ongoing influx of unaccompanied Central American children into the US across the Mexican border. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The presidents of Honduras and Guatemala are meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill amid a stalemate over the immigration crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Before meeting privately with House Democrats, President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala expressed hope of finding a solution to benefit all the countries involved.

    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is urging Congress to pass an emergency spending bill to address the crisis involving tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

    But a solution looks unlikely with Democrats and Republicans divided over proposals to send them home more quickly. Republicans say they won’t agree to any money without policy changes that Democrats say would violate the kids’ due process.

    The post Central American leaders seek solution to child migrant crisis in U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Syrians walk in the once rebel-held neighbourhood of Baba Amro in the central Syrian city of Homs on March 15, 2014. Photo by Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

    Syrians walk in the once rebel-held neighbourhood of Baba Amro in the central Syrian city of Homs on March 15, 2014. Photo by Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

    Syria’s foreign ministry welcomed a newly appointed U.N. peace envoy but demanded he show “objectivity and integrity” while pursuing his mission in the troubled country.

    Veteran Italian-Syrian diplomat, Staffan de Mistura, replaced Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi who resigned in May over the lack of progress between the Syrian government and the rebels.

    Observers in Syria have announced that more than 700 people were killed within a 48 hour period just last week. Human rights activists are calling it the “bloodiest fighting” since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

    According to reports released this week from the Britain-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the radical Islamic State, IS, clashed with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad after they captured a gas field located east of Homs.

    IS has gained notoriety in recent months for carrying out a string of deadly attacks against the Iraqi government, as well as seizing control of territories in eastern Syria and enforcing its extremist interpretation of Islamic law in those territories.

    The group declared it had formed an Islamic caliphate between the Iraqi and Syrian border last month and established headquarters in Raqqa province, home to nearly 1 million people.

    The post Syria welcomes new UN envoy as violence continues in the country appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Diesel fuel, used for trucks, jets and other heavy-duty machinery, can be made from just about anything — coal, crude oil, natural gas, plants. And fuel made with a process called Fischer Tropsch burns cleaner than traditional diesel. But the process leaves a lot of waste, and it’s expensive.

    Scientists working with the Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis are trying to develop a lower-cost, low waste version of the fuel with a dual catalyst process, which turns carbon monoxide and hydrogen into the liquid hydrocarbons. The long-chain molecules from the process can be turned into fuel. The short chain molecules left over are typically discarded as waste.

    But those leftovers don’t need to be wasted. Richard Schrock, a chemist at MIT and Nobel prize winner, developed the second catalyst, which pieces the leftover waste chemicals together to make more fuel.

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

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

    The post Making a cheaper, cleaner diesel fuel to do industry’s heavy lifting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Updated July 24 at 2:54 p.m. EDT

    Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced shortly before 2p.m. EST that the wreckage of flight AH5017 had been found in the northern desert region of Mali.

    “I have just been informed that the wreckage has been found between Aguelhoc and Kidal,” said Keita during a formal meeting. No other information has been released.

    Updated July 24 at 2:30 p.m. EDT

    Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro, was not on board Flight AH5017, as originally reported by Ouagadougou airport on their Facebook page. The post has since been deleted.

    Castro told television network TeleSUR she was “at a meeting, happy and healthy.’

    Original report July 24, 12:53 p.m. EDT
    Flight AH5017, an Air Algerie airliner chartered by Spain’s Swiftair, has gone missing. It left Burkina Fasso’s capital Ouagadougou, destined for Algiers, Algeria, with 116 passengers on board. The plane was 18 years old, and one of five MD-83s owned by the Madrid-based airline.

    The flight was carrying 50 French citizens. The provisional passenger list also named 24 people from Burkina Faso, eight Lebanese, four Algerians, two from Luxembourg, one Belgian, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian, one Ukrainian, and one Romanian.

    The Ouagadougou airport posted on their Facebook page (in French) that Mariela Castro, daughter of current Cuban president Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, was on board the flight. An LGBT activist, Mariela is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana.

    A tweet released from Air Algerie (in French) at 10:15 EST claims they believe the flight would have crashed in the Tilemsi region, 70 kilometers from Gao in northeastern Mali.

    As of 10:52 EST the French foreign minister said in a statement that the Air Algerie plane has “probably crashed.” French jets are part of the effort scouring the area for the missing plane.

    Crew members of flight AH5017 reportedly radioed to request a change in flight plan due to storms, shortly before contact was lost. The National Weather Service reports there were thunderstorms on the route the plane is believed to have taken.

    This is the fourth passenger plane disaster to make headlines recently. Malaysian airlines flight MH17 was shot down exactly a week ago while flying over the Donetsk region of the Ukraine. On Wednesday at least 48 people were killed and several more were injured when a Taiwanese plane made an emergency landing. Malaysian airlines flight MH370 went missing in March near the Indian Ocean and has still not been found.

    The post Missing Air Algerie plane disappears from radar, believed to have crashed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user e-Magine Art

    Photo by Flickr user e-Magine Art

    A new study claims pharmaceutical companies may be misusing FDA safety guidelines to block generic drugs from market, costing the health care system more than $5 billion dollars a year.

    The FDA requires that pharmaceutical companies develop Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, or REMS, to ensure the safety of higher-risk products. In some cases, the guidelines restrict access to the brand drugs.

    In order to develop and test less costly generics, manufacturers must obtain samples of the brand drug, typically by buying them through wholesalers. Both the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the Federal Trade Commission allege that in recent years, brand companies have been increasingly misusing REMS to block generic makers from accessing the samples they need, in some cases, applying restricted-access programs to drugs where it isn’t required.

    The GPhA study, conducted by Matrix Global Advisors, looked at 40 drugs that generic manufacturers claim are currently delayed because of a REMS issue. The survey estimates the lost savings total $5.4 billion year, with the federal government overpaying $1.8 billion, and consumers paying almost $1 billion more out-of-pocket.

    Several generic makers have filed lawsuits against brand drug companies over the access issue. Last month, the FTC issued an amicus brief in a lawsuit in which a generic drug maker has sued Celgene over two drugs used to treat cancer, Thalomid and Revlimid. The FTC contends the behavior could violate antitrust law.

    The GPhA study also said once the FDA gives the go-ahead for generic versions of biologic drugs, called biosimilars, the REMS issue could mean lost savings of $140 million for every $1 billion in sales. A recent PBS NewsHour report explored why less-expensive biosimilars aren’t yet available in the United States.

    In an email to NewsHour, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said the group is reviewing the study and has no comment at this time.

    The post Are drug companies using safety rules to block generic competition? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    John Németh says he fell in love with the blues as a teenager growing up in Idaho. Decades later, he’s touring to promote his new album, “Memphis Grease.” Video by Frank Carlson and Ariel Min. 

    The first gigs that blues musician John Németh played were not in darkened, smoke-filled dives near the muddy banks of the Mississippi River, but at bright luncheons in Boise, Idaho for the religious group Catholic Daughters of America.

    As a teenager growing up in Boise, Németh connected to the “raw feeling” of the blues, and by age 16 had a regular gig at the Grub Steak Saloon in Horseshoe Bend, playing for mostly loggers.

    From there he continued performing while working odd jobs, including driving a delivery truck. That left him plenty of time to discover new records while honing his harmonica skills. It’s not a strategy he suggests to other aspiring musicians.

    “I don’t recommend anyone driving with their elbows,” he said.

    In the early 2000s, Németh was discovered in Idaho by blues guitarist Junior Watson and he’s been touring since. Last year Nemeth relocated from Oakland, Ca, to Memphis, where he recorded his new album, “Memphis Grease,” with backing band The Bo-Keys.

    John Németh plays “Sooner or Later,” a song from his new album, “Memphis Grease.”

    Art Beat recently sat down with Németh before a show at Gypsy Sally’s in Washington, D.C. to talk about the blues.

    Video by Frank Carlson and Ariel Min.  

     

    The post Blues musician John Németh gets ‘greasy’ in Memphis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Image by Twitter

    Image by Twitter

    Twitter released the gender and ethnicity make-up of employees Wednesday, and by their admission, there is room for improvement.

    Men make up for 70 percent of Twitter’s staff. In terms of ethnicity, whites account for 59 percent of the staff, Asians for 29 percent.

    Image by Twitter

    Image by Twitter

    “… we are joining some peer companies by sharing our ethnic and gender diversity data,” the social media network said. “And like our peers, we have a lot of work to do.”

    Peers include Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, all of which recently released their diversity numbers, revealing similarities to Twitter in terms of representation by gender and ethnicity.

    So what’s Twitter planning to do about their lack of workplace diversity? The social media network says it has employee-led groups in place who are efforting the cause to include more women and minorities in Twitter’s expansion.

    Time will tell if these attempts prove fruitful.

    The post Twitter has ‘a lot of work to do’ when it comes to diversity in the workplace appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — With Congress scheduled to recess in a week, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees offered competing proposals Thursday to fix a veterans’ health care program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up the delays.

    Both proposals would scale back separate House- and Senate-passed bills after lawmakers in both parties expressed shock at price tags totaling more than $35 billion. The new proposals would still allow veterans to go to private doctors if they face long waits for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics, or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA site.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate panel, made the first move, announcing a proposal that would cost about $25 billion over three years to lease new clinics, hire thousands of doctors and nurses, and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

    The proposed price tag is $10 billion less than a bill passed by the Senate last month and nearly $20 billion less than a House-backed measure.

    Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House veterans panel, countered hours later with a proposal that would require only $10 billion in emergency spending, with a promise of more spending in future years under the normal congressional budget process. Miller’s bill would keep most of the provisions in the Senate-passed bill and also would authorize about $100 for the Department of Veterans Affairs to address shortfalls in the current budget year.

    Miller announced his plan at a hastily scheduled meeting of House and Senate negotiators who have been working on the veterans bill for more than a month. Sanders skipped the meeting, as did all Democrats on the negotiating committee except one, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.

    House Speaker John Boehner called Democrats’ nonappearance at the meeting “shameful” and said that if President Barack Obama cares about America’s veterans, “he needs to pick up his phone out in California and tell Senate Democrats to get to work.”

    Despite the partisan divide, Miller said talks on the veterans had not collapsed and that he remains optimistic a deal can be reached before Congress adjourns next week until September.

    Sanders called Miller’s proposal a “take-it-or-leave-it gambit” that showed a lack of good faith.

    “We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations — 24/7 if necessary — to resolve our differences in order to pass critical legislation,” Sanders said.

    Miller said his proposal was merely “a public offer” that allows everyone to see what negotiators have been discussing in private for weeks.

    “I am prepared keep negotiating for as long as it takes to reach a deal, and I hope Senate Democrats will work with me to address VA’s delays in care and accountability crises,” Miller said

    The Obama administration says it needs about $17.6 billion to hire thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals, lease new facilities and upgrade its computers to reduce a backlog of veterans awaiting care at VA hospitals and clinics. The administration’s request does not include money to allow more veterans to go to private doctors to avoid long waits for VA care. Expansion of private care was the biggest cost in the bills approved by Congress.

    Republicans complained that Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson’s budget request was thinly documented. Miller told Gibson on Thursday he was surprised that such a large request was made in a slim, three-page memo.

    The request “makes it very difficult for us to do our job” Miller told Gibson at a hearing of the House veterans’ panel.

    Gibson said the request reflected his judgment about what the department needs to address current problems.

    The VA request includes $8.2 billion to hire 1,500 doctors and thousands of nurses and other medical and mental health professionals; $6 billion for construction projects to improve safety or patient access; $1.2 billion for computer enhancements; and $400 million for more staff to deal with the agency’s backlog of benefits claims.

    The post House, Senate VA committees offer competing veteran health bills appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo shows Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport in Schiphol, the Netherlands, on July 17, 2014. Photo by  Fred Neeleman/AFP/Getty Images

    Photo shows Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport in Schiphol, the Netherlands, on July 17, 2014. Photo by Fred Neeleman/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel’s largest airport after rocket attacks. An airliner crashes during a storm, and yet another disappears. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory, a cluster of disasters spanning three continents.

    Industry analysts and safety experts shake their heads at the seeming randomness of the tragedies, saying they can find no common themes. Nor do they think the events indicate that flying is suddenly becoming less safe.

    Less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident in which the plane was damaged beyond repair, according to the International Air Transport Association. That includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines as well as scheduled passenger flights.

    “One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type event or same root cause then you would say there’s a systemic problem here, but each event is unique in its own way,” said Jon Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, an airline industry-supported nonprofit in Alexandria, Virginia, that promotes global aviation safety.

    But Beatty said he also finds the disaster cluster “a cold reminder” that airline accidents are likely to increase because the industry is growing, especially in developing countries. The more flights there are, the more potential for accidents, he noted.

    Less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident in which the plane was damaged beyond repair, according to the International Air Transport Association. That includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines as well as scheduled passenger flights.The misfortunes began July 18 when Malaysia flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board. It’s still uncertain who fired the missile that destroyed the plane, but Ukrainian officials have blamed ethnic Russian rebels and U.S. officials have pointed to circumstantial evidence that suggests that may be the case.

    The shootdown doubled Malaysia Airlines’ misfortunes this year. The mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 with 239 people on board in March combined with the destruction of Flight 17 added up to more than twice the total global airline fatalities in all of last year, which was the industry’s safest year on record. Ascend, a global aviation industry consulting firm headquartered in London, counted 163 fatalities in 2013 involving airliners with 14 seats or more.

    On Wednesday, a mere seven days after the shootdown over Ukraine, a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in Taiwan in stormy weather trailing a typhoon, killing 48 passengers, injuring 10 others and crew, and injuring five more people on the ground. The next day an Air Algerie flight with 116 passengers and crew disappeared in a rainstorm over Mali while en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria’s capital. The plane was operated for the airline by Swiftair, a Spanish carrier.

    Together, the disasters have the potential to push airline fatalities this year to more than 700 — the most since 2010. And 2014 is still barely half over.

    Aviation industry analyst Robert W. Mann Jr. said he doesn’t expect the recent events to deter travelers from flying.

    “They’re all tragic, but the global air travel consumer has a very short memory and it’s highly localized to their home markets where they fly,” he said. “The places where these things are happening, 99 percent of passengers never go to or fly to. … This isn’t a headline issue for most people, and that’s why people continue to fly despite the headlines.”

    Airline passengers interviewed by The Associated Press said they weren’t overly concerned about their safety.

    “It could be happening every day or never again,” said Bram Holshoff, a Netherlands traveler at Berlin’s Tegel Airport. “It’s a bit much that it happened three times this week, but for me nothing will change.”

    Lam Nguyen, 52, of Tahiti, who was headed to Los Angeles from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, said he considers flying “a very safe mode of transportation.”

    “And if it has to happen, it will happen. … It doesn’t prevent me from taking planes,” he said.

    The shootdown of flight 17 has raised questions about whether airlines — and the aviation authorities in their home countries — are adjusting flight routes quickly enough when unrest in troubled parts of the world threatens the safety of planes. But aviation safety consultant John Cox, a former airline pilot and accident investigator, said he sees no connection between that event and the other disasters.

    “I don’t know how you could respond to anything when there is not a commonality of events,” he said. “We don’t have a full understanding of the Taiwan accident and certainly not on the” Air Algerie plane.

    Cox attributed the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision Tuesday to prohibit flights to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to “hypersensitivity” to the possibility of another shootdown. The FAA issued the order after a Hamas rocket exploded about a mile from the airport. The prohibition was lifted 36 hours later.

    Aviation is “fundamentally safe and getting safer, but can it can always fall prey to the mistakes or ill will of man,” said former FAA chief counsel Kenneth Quinn, a partner in the Pillsbury law firm in Washington. “We sometimes forget the magic of flight, or the fragility of life, but this week has brought home the need to appreciate this more and protect both better.”

    The post Aviation’s terrible week doesn’t mean flying is less safe, say experts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new report observes an increase in laws that criminalize homelessness in U.S. cities. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    “Imagine a world where it is illegal to sit down. Could you survive if there were no place you were allowed to fall asleep, to store your belongings or to stand still?” These are the questions asked in a new report released last week by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty on laws targeting the homeless in U.S. cities.

    Over the weekend, PBS NewsHour reported on the Law Center’s findings, which were based on an analysis of laws in 187 U.S. cities from 2009 to present.

    The report goes into detail on why the Law Center believes such laws are ineffective. Citing research comparing the cost of homelessness (including law enforcement and medical expenses) with the cost of affordable housing, the report suggests that laws targeting the behaviors of homeless people ultimately cost cities more than providing shelter. It also states that “criminal convictions — even for minor crimes — can create barriers to obtaining critical public benefits … making homelessness more difficult to escape.”

    Are laws against loitering, sitting and sleeping in public ethical? What can U.S. cities do to end chronic homelessness? We hosted a Twitter chat to explore some of the questions raised by the report. We were joined by the National Law Center on Homeless and Poverty (@NLCHPhomeless) and the National Coalition for the Homeless (@Ntl_Homeless). Read a transcript of the discussion below.

    The post Twitter Chat: Should homelessness be a crime? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is weighing giving refugee status to young people from Honduras as part of a plan to slow the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, White House officials said Thursday.

    The plan would involve screening youths in Honduras, one of the world’s most violent nations, to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. Similar in-country screening programs were set up in East Asia after the Vietnam War and in Haiti in the 1990s.

    The officials cautioned that no final decision on the matter had been made and said the proposal was among a range of ideas the White House was considering. The officials briefed reporters ahead of President Barack Obama’s meeting Friday with Central American leaders on the condition they not be identified by name.

    The United Nations has been pushing the U.S. to treat children arriving at the southern border from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as refugees displaced by armed conflict.The United Nations has been pushing the U.S. to treat children arriving at the southern border from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as refugees displaced by armed conflict. The trio of nations has become one of the most violent regions in the world in recent years, with swathes of all three countries under the control of drug traffickers and street gangs who rob, rape and extort ordinary citizens with impunity.

    Since last fall, the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in the number of migrants from these three countries arriving at the southern border, particularly children traveling without any adult guardian.

    Since Oct. 1, more than 16,000 unaccompanied children from Honduras have been caught crossing the Mexican border illegally. At the same time, more than 30,300 Hondurans traveling as families have also been arrested.

    The U.S. has resisted calling the situation a refugee crisis, though Obama and top officials have called it a “humanitarian crisis.”

    It is unclear what would happen to children and families who have already made the dangerous trek to the United States if the refugee plan is implemented. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has repeatedly said that there is no free pass for immigrants who come to the United States illegally and that those who are caught crossing the border would be sent home.

    The administration would also have to outline what the refugee proposal would mean for Honduran immigrants already in the United States. In 1999, the U.S. government granted Temporary Protective Status to Hondurans living in the country illegally in the wake of Hurricane Mitch. The status has been renewed several times since then, and according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about 60,000 Honduran living in the United States have received the protective status.

    Immigrants from El Salvador received the protection in 2001 and USCIS says about 202,000 Salvadorans remain the U.S. under TPS.

    Newly arriving immigrants from countries granted TPS are not eligible for the protection from deportation. TPS is used from time to time by the government to stop deportations to specific countries when authorities deem it is unsafe to return immigrants.

    The New York Times first reported that the White House was considering the refugee program for young people in Honduras.

    Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.

    The post Obama considers refugee status for immigrant minors from Honduras appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Violence broke out in the West Bank late Thursday when 10,000 marched to protest the Israeli incursion of Gaza. Two protesters were reported killed and dozens injured when the crowd clashed with police at a checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

    Protesters threw moltov cocktails, rocks and fireworks and police responded with tear gas, stun grenades and gunfire.

    Thursday marks the 17th day of the conflict, which has claimed the lives of at least 788 Palestinians, 32 Israeli soldiers, 2 Israeli citizens and an immigrant worker.

    The post Two killed as 10,000 clash with police in the West Bank appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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