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

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    marcusgerson2

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the analysis of Marcus and Gerson. That’s Washington Post columnists Ruth Marcus and Michael Gerson. Both Mark Shields and David Brooks are away.

    And we welcome you both.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Good to be here.

    RUTH MARCUS: Hi.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So this has been a tough week for news, both in this country and overseas.

    But let’s start, Michael, with Ferguson, Missouri, the aftermath of the shooting of this young teenage — teenage black young man. It’s only — we’re not even two weeks since it happened. Are there already lessons that come to us from this?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, we’re two weeks out, but we still actually don’t know some of the basic facts. And we need to take that seriously.

    It’s hard to interpret events when you don’t know all the facts. And so put that aside. But there are some context issues that surround this that we do need to take seriously. One of them is really, this was a police force that was in over its head, five different agencies trying to cooperate, not cooperating very well.

    We have got serious questions about the militarization of policing. That a serious set of issues. I think it also makes the point that that trust between a community and a police department, which is so essential, can’t be summoned in an emergency if it hasn’t been built up over years.

    And that contrast between the composition of the community and the composition of the police force added to the tensions when the strains came. And that’s something you have to deal with over a long time. I have got one more thing. It also points out that there are some communities that really have been isolated from American prosperity, some communities like African-American males that feel disconnected from the promise of the country.

    Right now, we deal with a lot of that through criminal justice, but we need other ways to deal with that and do outreach to communities in America, rather than just through police action.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in a way, they’re right before our eyes, but we don’t see them.

    RUTH MARCUS: Agreed.

    And I would just take two additional — I agree with everything Michael said. I take two additional lessons here. And they’re really lessons in what not to do in situations like that.

    Number one, you have got to — you make an important point. We still don’t have really basic facts about what happened. This — one of the reasons for the ferocious, angry response of the community was the lack of information, the failure to get out really basic information, what happened, how many shots were fired, why was his body allowed to stay there for so long, get out some information quickly to tamp down some of the anger, even if the anger is justified.

    And number two, which is related, it’s a lot harder to contain a wildfire once it erupts. If you have people speaking to the community in a way that can calm them down early on, it’s a lot easier to contain that anger than when it starts to mushroom and spread.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Should people in the community, should people nationally, Michael, expect justice to be done in this situation? What should the expectation be, and especially now that you have got the federal government? You had the attorney general, Eric Holder, there a day this week.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, they should expect justice to be done.

    The problem in these cases is that justice is not always done quickly. Sometimes, it takes a long time. The primary actors in this as far as justice are concerned are an elected local prosecutor and a grand jury that’s begun to receive information. That’s where the criminal case is taking place.

    The Justice Department — I think Eric Holder played a good role in coming in and being reassuring in the community that the federal government was focused, in sending FBI agents. There were dozens on the ground to try to make sure that the information, the witnesses were all surveyed. All that was good.

    He can’t be seen, though, in my view, as trying to elbow out the local authorities. There may be a civil rights case here eventually, but the primary action right now is really the local.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the justice question?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, in terms of the Justice Department question, the Justice Department really traditionally has come in when local processes have failed.

    We don’t want local processes to fail. The case that people will most remember is, after the Rodney King beating, a state jury acquitted the officers. Then the Justice Department, many years later, after the rioting that ensued, came in.

    That was an example of the state system failing. We would all be much better off if the state system worked here.

    MICHAEL GERSON: And that took five years, five years to work itself through the system.

    RUTH MARCUS: Many — yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But that was only after there was failure at the local…

    RUTH MARCUS: But the question of whether justice is done will really depend on what facts are brought forward.

    It is hard to imagine a situation in which an unarmed young man is shot justifiably by an officer six or more times. However, we don’t know exactly what happened there. And there are cases where officers are in reasonable fear for their safety. There have been allegations that he was charged at.

    Justice may be bringing the case. Justice may potentially be not bringing a case. And that’s where you really have questions about the trust of this community in its prosecution. We need to know more facts.

    But it’s obviously — thank goodness this week was a quieter week, but it’s obviously still a very volatile situation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The community has quieted down, but you’re right, so many questions still out there.

    But let’s turn overseas to, I guess, the story that dismayed everybody this week, and, Michael, the terrible, horrible murder of the American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State group, a man standing there with a black costume, uniform on, British accent.

    What more do we now know about this group, ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State, based on this?

    MICHAEL GERSON: I think we feel it more directly because of the images, but we knew it, for months, that ISIL has been murdering people broadly wherever they gain control, and sometimes even reportedly putting their heads on pikes.

    And this is the most brutal and evil type of group that you could imagine. And the British accent here, by the way, points to a reality. There are hundreds of Western recruits to ISIL that have gone to Syria and perhaps to Iraq in this. And there are people that have Western passports.

    Because of our visa system, they can get back in the United States. And American intelligence is very, very concerned about this prospect.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right. I mean, Ruth, everyone knew this was a serious threat, but now it’s even more serious? I mean, how many more levels of serious is it?

    RUTH MARCUS: It’s not a more serious threat, but in a sad, horrific way, perhaps it’s a threat that we as a country and as an administration, as the Obama administration, will now be taking more seriously, be empowered to take more seriously, because this group is not going away.

    It is only getting bigger, getting stronger, getting fiercer. There is this strange competition among terrorists to show who’s got the most street cred — I’m actually stealing a line of Mike’s — to show their bona fides in terms of terrorism, which incentivizes them, in fact, to be thinking about and plotting to send people to — look at all the attention that they have gotten with this beheading.

    Imagine how much attention they would get with a terrorist incident in Europe or, God forbid, in the United States. And we need to bring some good out of this horrible, savage act, which is to take it seriously and respond with appropriate seriousness.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the administration is talking tougher, the president certainly talking tougher. But what does that mean? Are we hearing that the administration, that the president, that they now know how far they want to take the fight?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, no. They have made serious tactical shifts. We have had over 90 air attacks since the beginning of this campaign. They’re defending Irbil. They’re defending Baghdad.

    But we don’t know if they have made a strategic shift. The strategic shift would be that we’re going to end the ISIS safe haven, which is now as large as New England across two countries, and we’re going to build a regional coalition over many years in order to end this safe haven. We really haven’t heard that.

    The administration — high-level administration people talked about containing the threat. They talk about defeating the threat. They talk about destroying the threat. These are all different things. They’re not the same thing. There could be a serious internal argument being — happening right now in the administration about what the strategy should be.

    RUTH MARCUS: But you do see the shift from talking — the president just a few months ago was talking about this group as a kind of J.V. team. No one’s talking about them as a J.V. team anymore.

    The president just this week talked about extricating the cancer, as if you can just pluck it out. I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. But I thought the most interesting commentary this week came from General Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was very clear that if you want to get rid of this group, it is going to require being in Syria, a place that the president has not wanted to be.

    But you could see with both General Dempsey’s comments and the comments of the policy-makers and the political appointees about the dangers that this group poses that they’re getting ready, I think, to prepare the American public and the American Congress for the need to do way more than what we have been doing previously.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, are you saying — are you saying that the president himself has shifted on this as a result of this one terrible murder of this journalist?

    RUTH MARCUS: No, I think that the shift from J.V. to, oh, my goodness, we’re in the big leagues now, happened before this murder.

    It happened as the…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Iraq…

    RUTH MARCUS: … State just metastasized, to continue with that metaphor, and they were able to have such victories on the ground that it was clear this was going to be a big problem, and then came this horrible act.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Right.

    Well, I think we right now — we will see where the policy goes, but right now, there’s a serious gap between the scale of the diagnosis of the problem, which Chuck Hagel, for example, called a problem like one we have never seen, where Eric Holder says it’s the most frightening he’s seen as attorney general, the terrorist threat, and the scale of the response, which right now is not equal to that threat, but seems to be moving in that direction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you still have an American public that is war-weary, by all accounts. And so how do you bring them along if you’re going to do something more? Or do you? Or do you?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, I want to say this in a way that reflects the horror that the Foley family has had inflicted on them, but, in an odd way, having this quasi-public beheading actually helps move the American people, because we’re not going to tolerate that. And it really does underscore the seriousness of the threat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see the public moving?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think the president, for example, didn’t act in Syria because he said the public would oppose this.

    We have now had a bombing campaign in Iraq against a very serious threat, and the public has not risen up in public opinion against this. In fact, the political class, Republicans and Democrats have been very supportive.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we — it’s been a terrible week. And let’s hope there aren’t many more like this.

    Ruth Marcus, Michael Gerson, we thank you.

    RUTH MARCUS: Thank you.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

    The post Marcus and Gerson on lessons from Ferguson, Islamic State threat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hari Sreenivasan posed your questions to author of “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison” Piper Kerman.

    Piper Kerman
    , author of “Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” sat down with Hari Sreenivasan to talk about her best-selling book and the award-winning Netflix series adaptation by the same name.

    After the broadcast segment, Hari posed your questions, submitted through Twitter and Reddit about her real life marriage to Larry and her ex-lovers’ forthcoming memoir.

    “Clearly [Wolters] has a very interesting life and an interesting story of her own. She was much more involved in narcotics trafficking than I was; she served a lot more time in prison then I did. I think that her story will definitely be an interesting one to hear,” said Kerman.

    ‘Orange is the New Black’ has already won three Emmys and is nominated for nine more this year.

    The post Piper Kerman of ‘Orange is the New Black’ answers your questions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    summerlearningloss2

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As the new school year approaches, teachers have come to expect that many of their students will have forgotten some of what they learned earlier. It’s called summer learning loss, and some teachers believe it’s inevitable. Are they right?

    Special correspondent for education John Merrow of Learning Matters reports.

    SARAH PISANO, Springboard Teacher: Everyone, turn to page three, please.

    JOHN MERROW: The traditional educator’s remedy for summer learning loss is more of the same, more hours and more days of classes and, of course, summer school.

    SARAH PISANO: Now we’re on page four.

    JOHN MERROW: But suppose there is another solution.

    SARAH PISANO: Good morning, Springboard families. Please sign in.

    JOHN MERROW: What if schools enlisted family members as partners to help teach the children? That’s what’s happening here at Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. For five weeks this summer, Sarah Pisano helps 6- and 7-year-olds get better at reading.

    SARAH PISANO: We are going to talk about our new reading tip, which is making predictions.

    JOHN MERROW: While also teaching their parents or other family members ways they could help.

    SARAH PISANO: We are coaches. OK? I’m a coach when they’re here and you’re their coach when you’re at home.

    The parents come in on Wednesday mornings. And whatever skills we have been working on in class, I get to not only share that with the parents, but then have them practice it with the child.

    Just to look at this one for an example.

    JOHN MERROW: Pisano passes along techniques parents can use to get their kids interested in books.

    SARAH PISANO: If we were looking at the picture, I would ask them first, what do you see?

    The overlying arch of all of the workshops is asking effective questions while you’re reading with your child.

    JOHN MERROW: Taking what she calls picture walks is one technique. Before reading, look at the pictures and talk about them.

    SARAH PISANO: Hey, let’s look at this traffic light. Which one of those colors do we see on there?

    CHILD: Red.

    JOHN MERROW: She also teaches parents techniques for sounding out words.

    SARAH PISANO: Can you practice the word sofa for me? Ready and go.

    CHILDREN: Sofa.

    SARAH PISANO: Again.

    CHILDREN: Sofa.

    JOHN MERROW: Amani Addison’s father, Christopher, joined her every Wednesday for the one-hour parent workshop.

    What did they say, they’re going to make you teachers?

    CHRISTOPHER ADDISON: Well, it was like a partnership. I guess it was a learning process for me and my daughter.

    ALEJANDRO GAC-ARTIGAS, Springboard Collaborative: The love a parent has for their child is the single greatest and most underutilized natural resource in education.

    JOHN MERROW: Alejandro Gac-Artigas is the Founder of Springboard Collaborative, the nonprofit organization that manages this summer reading program. Springboard serves kindergarten through third graders in low-income communities. This summer, it operated in 17 schools in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey.

    The program was inspired by Gac-Artigas’ discovery in October 2009, just two months into his teaching career, that his first graders had lost ground over the summer.

    ALEJANDRO GAC-ARTIGAS: I had assumed, as a first grade teacher without a scrap of confidence, that I was somehow un-teaching and damaging these children.

    So, and I go to other teachers and I ask, what is going on? Why are they further behind? And everybody told me in this really matter-of-fact way, that’s just the summer slide. They spoke about it as if it were inevitable, that growing up poor, for every two steps forward you take during the year, you are going to take one step back.

    JOHN MERROW: But Gac-Artigas, a 21-year-old rookie unschooled in the conventional wisdom about summer slide, didn’t buy it.

    ALEJANDRO GAC-ARTIGAS: And, ultimately, I began to realize that summer learning loss is a symptom of an even deeper problem, which is that low-income parents have been left out of the process of educating their kids. We approached their families as liabilities, rather than as assets.

    JOHN MERROW: Determined to test his belief that parents and teachers should be partners, Gac-Artigas quit teaching and raised enough money for a pilot program in 2012. The results were promising and Springboard was launched.

    ALEJANDRO GAC-ARTIGAS: We had 94 percent of parents attend every single weekly workshop, learn how to teach their kids to read at home. Kids ended up not only avoiding the three-month regression, but making 2.8 months of reading progress during the summer.

    JOHN MERROW: According to Gac-Artigas, the second year produced equally positive results.

    ALEJANDRO GAC-ARTIGAS: By tracking our kids over the course of a full calendar year, we have more than doubled their annual reading progress.

    JOHN MERROW: Springboard Collaborative just finished its third summer. The schools select the students and assign teachers from their own staff to teach the classes. Springboard trains the teachers and manages the program, charging fees of up to $550 a student.

    Making parents and teachers partners, giving parents reading strategies they can use at home, this may be unconventional, but according to these families, it works.

    Do you find you actually use these strategies at home?

    GREGORY HILL: Yes.

    SOUTEAR POY: Yes, we do always.

    JOHN MERROW: You both said, yes, yes.

    GREGORY HILL: Yes, we do.

    SOUTEAR POY: Yes. Yes, we do.

    GREGORY HILL: Because — it helps because we try to use our old strategies that we had. They’re like, dad, we don’t do that no more.

    DAWN ROBINSON: Look at the picture. Look at the picture if you don’t know it. Look.

    CHILD: Clouds?

    DAWN ROBINSON: Yes.

    I have never been in a partnership like this before. It’s given me a lot to take back and teach my other grandchildren.

    JOHN MERROW: It’s also helped Amani Addison. After her second year with Springboard, she has become a much better reader.

    SARAH PISANO: She was struggling a lot with letter sounds. And what I noticed the most about her was, it was really hindering her confidence. She came back this year, and it is a different kid. The confidence she has is unbelievable.

    JOHN MERROW: In addition to reading together, the program encourages parents to let the kids see them reading on their own.

    CHRISTOPHER ADDISON: Right now, I’m reading a book about Obama. I haven’t read in a long time, so it was kind of actually fun for me to pick up a book and start reading, too.

    SARAH PISANO: This is something fun that we have been doing in class.

    JOHN MERROW: Gac-Artigas hopes to expand Springboard beyond the current number of schools and even offer it as a year-round program, but he face as tough challenges.

    If I’m a school principal watching the program, maybe I say, hey, you know, I could do most of this stuff. I don’t have to bother with Springboard. Would that be OK with you?

    ALEJANDRO GAC-ARTIGAS: It would be fine with me. I want our national conversation around education to include families. Whether or not that includes Springboard is secondary. I want it to include families.

    The reality, though, is that we have been able to amass kind of institutional knowledge about how to do this effectively in a way that most principals don’t want to worry about it at the end of a long school year.

    JOHN MERROW: Nevertheless, Russell Byers’ new principle says the school may be better served by dropping Springboard. She told the NewsHour the school may run its own program next year to reach more students and cover more subjects, not just reading.

    The post Turning parents into teachers to fight the ‘summer slide’ in reading appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    billgates_icebucket

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a fund-raising and Internet phenomenon that is sweeping the country, the ALS ice bucket challenge.

    We start with a little background.

    STEVEN SPIELBERG: I’m Steven Spielberg, and I’m accepting the ice bucket challenge.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: From award-winning movie directors, to LeBron James and other all-star athletes.

    LEBRON JAMES: ALS challenge.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: From former President George W. Bush and wife, Laura.

    FMR. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: To you all who challenged me, I do not think it’s presidential for me to be splashed with ice water, so I’m simply going to write you a check.

    FMR. FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: That check is from me. I don’t want to ruin my hairstyle.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: To even Kermit the Frog.

    ACTOR: Three, two, one.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Scores of celebrities and thousands of others have posted videos of ice water being dumped over their heads.

    It’s all to raise money to battle ALS, a disease that destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and generally proves fatal within three to five years. There is no cure. Credit for the idea goes to 29-year-old Pete Frates, a former star athlete at Boston College who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012.

    But not everyone approves. Officials in drought-stricken California are urging people to use good judgment on whether it’s a wise use of water. And one mass challenge event turned tragic yesterday. Two firefighters in Campbellsville, Kentucky, had just sprayed water on a college band when their ladder got too close to a high-voltage power line. The two were badly burned, with one in critical condition.

    Still, the social media craze has raised more than $53 million for the ALS Association since the end of July. That’s up from $2 million in the same period last year.

    For a look at the challenge and the charity at its center, I’m joined by Barbara Newhouse. She’s president and CEO of the ALS Association.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE, President and CEO, ALS Association: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, did you — this has taken off like a storm. Did you have any idea when Pete Frates and his family issued this challenge that it was going to lead to this?

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: No. No, there’s no way that — I don’t think anybody could have predicted what happened with this. It’s a new age with social networking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think has made the difference?  How do you explain it?

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: You know, I believe with all my heart that what makes the difference is, this started so organically, because it started with families and people with ALS, and it took off from there.

    I don’t think that you could come in and bring your development staff and your marketing staff and come up with something that is going to do what this did. It had to come from the heart and the families.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so how much has your association been pushing it since it started, or has it all been out there?

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Well, it’s all been out there.

    We did one e-mail to — and that was very early on. So, like, back on August 6, we did one e-mail.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just a few days ago.

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Yes. Well, it seems like it.

    One e-mail on August 6 to 60,000 people, and that was it, and we have had to do nothing since then. It has just had a life of its own.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And as we have been — as you and I were just discussing, it’s now raised over $53 million.

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What will this money go toward?  How will it make a difference in the lives of people with ALS?

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: First of all, the mission of the ALS Association is three-pronged. So, research is a part of our mission. Care service is a part of our mission for quality of life while people are living with ALS, and then advocacy.

    So this money is going to make a big difference. We will be doing a lot on the research front, but we will also be recognizing that we have got people who have needs every day, and we will be looking to meet those, too, working through our 38 chapters across the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, prevention, the research that would lead down the line, down the road potentially to prevention, a cure, is part of it, but you’re saying also to treat those who have ALS and will have it…

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Right.

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Right now, we have — we don’t have any good treatments, really, and we certainly don’t have a cure.

    So we do want to make sure that we are being very thoughtful about how these dollars are spent on the research front as well, because whatever we do in research, care services, and even advocacy has to be sustainable, has to be sustainable. And so we need to be very thoughtful about that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So when you say you need money for treatment, that there’s no good treatment right now, what would treatment consist of?

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Well, we’re looking — part of our research is around drug therapies, to see what kinds of drugs would be helpful to an individual with ALS.

    So those are the kinds of treatments we’re talking about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there relief at this point for someone who is diagnosed with ALS?

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Throughout the country, we have ALS-certified clinics.

    And those are partnered with large research institutions, also large — very large hospitals. And individuals with ALS can come in. And they have what I would call an integrated approach to their health care, including not only meeting with a neurologist, but a P.T., O.T., nutritionist, social worker.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So some of this money will of course go to improving all that.

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s been a firestorm, but a firestorm in a good way.

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Barbara Newhouse, president of the ALS Association, we thank you.

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And congratulations on what’s happened.

    BARBARA NEWHOUSE: Thank you. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And one note before we leave the subject.

    Earlier today, Gwen and I had our own encounter with the ice bucket challenge. Here’s a look.

    GWEN IFILL: And here to join us are some other members of our PBS family who are really only too happy to do this, our staff.

    Hats off.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hats off.

    Here we go.

    (SCREAMING)

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was cold. But it was, as you heard, for a good cause.

    You can see the complete video of that dousing. It’s on our Web site PBS.org/NewsHour.

    And I have to say, our staff also posted it in slow-motion because they enjoyed watching our reaction so much.

    The post How will ALS Ice Bucket Challenge money be spent? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    From freshmen leaving home for the first time to seniors anticipating their next steps after graduation to part-time students and those pursuing degrees online — students around the country are preparing for the fall semester. Many will have more than midterms to worry about as they face rising tuition, student debt and an uncertain job market. In an effort to address these issues, educators, administrators and policy makers are all “Rethinking College.” In a week-long series, PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan reports on various innovations and initiatives aimed at making college more accessible and affordable.

    Watch this coverage as it airs on the program all next week, watch it in advance online, or watch the complete series as a mini-documentary, available through the PBS apps in Apple TV, Roku and Xbox. Visit our website for additional features and reporting on higher education, appearing throughout the week. @NewsHour will also be hosting a series of three Twitter chats — Tuesday, August 26th -Wednesday, August 28th. Join us, along with an assortment of experts, to discuss several issues currently being debated both in and outside of the education system. All chats will take place from 1-2 p.m. EDT. Please chime in using the hashtag #NewsHourChats.

    The High Cost of Education – Tuesday

    On Tuesday, August 26th, we will look at the high cost of higher education, and whether or not it is practical to pursue a degree in the current economic climate. Beth Akers (@BethAkersEd) and Matthew Chingos (@chingos) from the Brookings Institution (@BrookingsEd) will discuss their research on the true impact of student loan debt. Jon Marcus of the Hechinger Report (@hechingerreport) and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (@CAELnews) will discuss how apprenticeships and technical training could be integrated into the current system to provide a practical alternative.

    What Makes a Degree Valuable? – Wednesday

    On Wednesday, August 27th, we will explore what makes a college degree “valuable.” Should students pursue degrees in business, math and science, the most likely fields to yield a job offer immediately after graduation? Is there value in a liberal arts degree, if it teaches a student to become a lifelong learner? Temple University economics professor Douglas Webber (@TU_Economics) will discuss his recent paper, in which he simulated earnings trajectories for individuals with different college majors. Chief Data Strategist for U.S. News Education, Bob Morse (@Bob_Morse), will discuss U.S. News’ methodology and criteria in deciding their annual college rankings. Jon Marcus (@hechingerreport) will also share his insights.

    Should Colleges be Run Like Businesses? – Thursday

    On Thursday, August 28th we ask whether colleges should be run more like businesses. Is it beneficial to have a CEO with managerial and administrative background, rather than a dean who rose up through the ranks of academia? Would students gain if they were thought of as “customers”? What are the potential drawbacks? Jon Marcus (@hechingerreport) recently wrote an article on Rio Salado Community College in Arizona, which has become increasingly entrepreneurial in response to funding pressures. He will join the conversation, along with Rio Salado’s vice president of academic affairs, Dr. Jennifer McGrath (@RioSaladoOnline). David Attis (@TheAdvisoryBd), the senior director of academic research with the Education Advisory Board — a company that provides research and consulting to higher education institutions — will weigh in as well.

    The post Help us ‘Rethink College’ in 3 Twitter chats appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    3696386615_2e5538e680_oIn the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA collecting massive amounts of user meta-data, many people went in search of safer, more secure ways to use the internet anonymously. Once thought to be something only used by the tech-savvy, increased interest in end-to-end e-mail encryption has prompted both Google and Yahoo to develop user-friendly versions of the protocol that would, in theory, make personal messages exceedingly difficult to intercept.

    GeeksPhone, a Spanish hardware manufacturer, and Silent Circle, U.S. communication firm, promise to provide the same kind of privacy with Blackphone, the first fully encrypted smartphone meant for the average consumer. While technically an Android device, Blackphone runs a forked version of the operating system called PrivatOS that rids the phone of any and all connections to Google’s servers.

    Encrypting e-mail is effective, but requires that both the sender and recipient of a message use the same specific encryption protocol to maintain privacy. Blackphone, for all of the protection that it provides, cuts users off from most of the services–like games, maps, and other functions–so as to make sure that there are absolutely no gaps through which information might be extracted.

    The Onion Router also known as Tor, a browser designed keep users entirely anonymous, is something of a happy medium, and the NSA is actively trying to scare people away from it. Tor guides its internet traffic through complex networks of layered encryption that hide a computer’s physical location and make it nearly impossible to monitor the IP addresses that it visits.

    Post-Snowden, Tor saw a substantial increase in the number of people using its browser and network, undoubtedly in-part due to privacy concerns. Documents published by The Guardian revealed that the NSA were actively engaged with attempting to infiltrate Tor’s network, and considered the browser to be “the king of high-secure, low-latency anonymity.” Following widespread, successful-attempts at tracking Tor users’ activity, the FBI openly admitted to exploiting a loophole in Tor’s infrastructure as a part of a larger operation in pursuit of a child pornography ring.

    Authorities have justified their pushes into the “anonymous internet,” asserting that by and large, much of Tor’s traffic is related to illegal activities, but that seems to be changing. Richard David James, better known by his stage name Aphex Twin, is a fixture in the electronic music scene. Earlier this week James announced his latest album using a website that could only be accessed using Tor, drawing in a significant number of pageviews in a single day.

    The attention, says Tor executive director Andrew Lewman, is both a blessing and a curse. While Tor’s network was able to handle the 133,000 visits that Aphex Twin drew, he doubts whether it could withstand the kinds of gargantuan traffic that Facebook sees on a daily basis. Tor users, comparatively speaking, are rare–a fact that Lewman asserts is what makes them targets for governmental organizations.

    “It’s been co-opted by GCHQ and the NSA that if you’re using Tor, you must be a criminal,” Lewman explained to The Guardian. “I know the NSA and GCHQ want you to believe that Tor users are already suspect, because, you know, god forbid who would want their privacy online, they must be terrorists.”

    Proponents of Tor and other forms of ubiquitous encryption have called for the public to adopt the technologies on a larger scale, logic stating that if everyone is using encryption, then no one can be singled out for it. Rather than adopting the small, experimental proofs of concept like Tor, Lewman says, true privacy on the internet will come when internet juggernauts like Facebook, Twitter, and Google incorporate the technology into their platforms, making them the standard rather than the exception.

    The post As governments invade privacy, tools for encryption grow more popular appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MARK LITKE: It’s 8 a.m. at the Jose Favella hospital in the Philippine capital, Manila. In the past 12 hours there have been about 40 births, a fairly average night for one of the world’s busiest maternity wards.

    DR. SYLVIA DE LA PAZ: As you can see, there’s more patients than there are resources for them.

    MARK LITKE: Dr. Silvia de la Paz, the chief obstetrician here, says they manage the crush as best they can. Often putting two beds together as a tandem bed for four mothers and four newborns.

    And from these overcrowded hospital wards, out into the teeming slums of the city, it’s easy to see this country is in the midst of a population explosion, what some are calling a crisis. The Philippines today has one of the highest birth rates in Asia with a population that has more than doubled over the last three decades from 45 million to 100 million.

    Once the mothers and their newborns leave the maternity hospital, many are going to return to places like, Tondo — this gritty neighborhood right on the edge of Manila. It’s a place where families struggle to get by on $1 or $2 a day at best. Here, very young children scavenge through garbage in search of something to sell for a few dollars to help support their families.

    Families in Asia’s most Catholic country that have had little or no access to contraception or family planning advice. Families that often get larger by the year.

    Vilma Lopez has ten children, ages 1 to 20. She had her first child at 19.

    VILMA LOPEZ: We didn’t plan it, it just happened every year. It’s just easy for me to get pregnant.

    MARK LITKE: Manila is now one of the most densely populated urban area on earth, so congested some are forced to seek refuge in local cemeteries, where they eat and sleep on tombs and mausoleums.

    ESPERANZA CABRAL: In the Philippines, there is family planning, but it is available only to the rich, to those who are able to afford to go see doctors, to buy pills.

    MARK LITKE: Esperanza Cabral, a former Health Secretary of the Philippines, has been sounding the alarm on the population crisis here, a population growing fastest among the poorest Filipinos — those whose need for birth control is the greatest.

    ESPERANZA CABRAL: For the poor among us, it is often an aspiration, something we want to do but are not able to do.

    MARK LITKE: Dr. Silvia de La Paz says teen pregnancies are at an all-time high.

    DR SYLVIA DE LA PAZ: With the lack of contraceptives, so what else will they do? Have babies– more and more babies, you know. So it’s– it’s a sad picture.

    MARK LITKE: For years the UN has urged the Philippine government to take action, to provide free contraception and family planning for the poor. Recent surveys indicate eight in 10 Filipinos now agree.

    But the Philippines most powerful institution, the Roman Catholic Church, has fought family planning policies every time they are raised. In a country where more than 80 percent are practicing Catholics, the church has dominated nearly every aspect of life in the Philippines for more than 400 years —  it’s moral authority and political power rarely challenged, especially when it comes to reproduction.

    Abortion here is strictly illegal, although rare exceptions are made if the health of the mother is at risk. Outside the Vatican it is the only country in the world where divorce is still not allowed. And while the Philippine church says it is not opposed to natural family planning — avoiding intercourse when a woman is most fertile — it remains opposed to all forms of artificial contraception.

    Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz:

    MARK LITKE: Contraception in the eyes of the church is still immoral?

    ARCHBISHOP OSCAR CRUZ: Yes.

    MARK LITKE: You do believe it leads to promiscuity among other things?

    ARCHBISHOP OSCAR CRUZ: Yes.

    MARK LITKE: If the people of the Philippines are in support of– of population control and contraception, and they want their children to learn– in school– proper family planning education, why would the church oppose any of that?

    ARCHBISHOP: The church promotes parenthood. Only let it be responsible parenthood. The church has never said, “Go ahead, multiply as– as much as you like or that– and let the good lord provide.” No, no, no, no, no. The church preaches responsible parenthood through natural family planning.

    MARK LITKE: But changes are now underway in the Philippines that could help slow the population boom. This past spring, after a 15-year battle that went all the way to the Filipino Supreme Court, a new reproductive health care law took effect. It requires the Philippine government to fund family planning health clinics, provide affordable contraception, and launch comprehensive sex education in schools.

    Former Health Secretary Cabral, one of the most prominent supporters of the new law, says it’s about time.

    ESPARANZA CABRAL: It’s a victory for all Filipinos, especially women and children. The law can make a very big dent in our problem with poverty and population.

    MARK LITKE: So is this a defeat for the Catholic Church?

    ESPARANZA CABRAL: I think so.

    MARK LITKE: The fight went on for 15 years and with all due respect, Archbishop, the church lost.

    ARCHBISHOP CRUZ: Yes, yes, what’s new? The church teaches, the world does not listen. If the church teaches and the world listens that would be a first-class miracle.

    MARK LITKE: But before the bill was implemented, the church and it supporters won some major concessions from the Supreme Court, effectively diluting the law: private hospitals owned by religious institutions will not have to provide family planning options or even refer patients to hospitals that will provide the services. Minors seeking birth control pills or condoms will require parental consent. And married women will have to have their husbands consent if they want to undergo a fertility procedure like inserting an IUD.

    KLAUS BECK: Our main concern is that we’re looking at women and– and young– girls have the right to choose, you know, freely and responsibly the number of children they want and when they want them.

    MARK LITKE: Klaus Beck is the head of the United Nations Population Fund in the Philippines. While he cheers the passage of the reproductive health care law here, he says that for the law to be effective it must empower women to make their own choices, which the current law now limits.

    Without those choices many women may still feel the need to seek out abortions. Here in Manila, that means a visit to what could be described as an abortion black market, right outside the 400-year-old church of the Black Nazerene, right alongside the rosary beads and statues of saints, shopkeepers openly offer a variety of herbs and potions, promising to induce menstruation as a way to end unwanted pregnancies.

    For the equivalent of $5, we were able to buy this concoction, what the vendor described as an herbal remedy, a brew that’s supposed induce miscarriages in the first trimester of pregnancy.

    Others may find it necessary to find someone in these back alleys to perform an abortion. We met up with a woman called Rose, who did not want to be identified on camera. Rose says she has assisted doctors performing hundreds of abortions.

    ROSE: Every day we had three to five patients, because it would only take 15 minutes for each procedure.

    MARK LITKE: According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, there are more than 500,000 illegal abortions in the Philippines every year; an estimated 1,000 women die every year of complications from those procedures. While the limitations of the new Reproductive Health Care Law are clear, former Health Secretary Cabral is optimistic that it will eventually lower the number of unwanted pregnancies and eventually slow the population growth.

    ESPERANZA CABRAL: Even though the pragmatic purpose of the bill is not population control, as we know from other countries, if you give mothers a chance, what actually happens is the population rates go down.

    MARK LITKE: For Cabral and many others in the Philippines failure is not an option. The need to control this country’s population growth is becoming a matter of survival for Filipinos today.

    A matter of survival from the cradle to those graveyards, where people are now living as squatters, because they have nowhere else to live.

    The post Amid population explosion, birth control access roils the Philippines appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Obama makes a statement about the execution of American journalist James Foley at the press filing center at the Edgartown School Wednesday in Martha's Vineyard. Photo by Rick Friedman-Pool/Getty Images

    President Obama spoke on the execution of American journalist James Foley at the press filing center at the Edgartown School Wednesday in Martha’s Vineyard. Photo by Rick Friedman-Pool/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — For three years, President Barack Obama has resisted the pull of potential U.S. military action in Syria.

    He has held firm even as the civil war’s death toll climbed toward 200,000, the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians and Islamic State militants strengthened amid the chaos.

    Now Obama must decide whether the extremist group’s murder of American journalist James Foley, as well as the broader threat the group could pose to U.S. interests, should change his cautious calculus.

    Pressure is coming from his own military leaders to go after the Islamic State inside Syria. But he must weigh that against his aversion to the risks that could come with plunging the United States into a country torn apart by an intractable internal conflict.

    White House officials have suggested that airstrikes in Syria are an option, though the officials say specific military proposals has not yet been presented to the president.

    “We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat, and we’re not going to be restricted by borders,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. “We’ve shown time and again that if there’s a counterterrorism threat, we’ll take direct action against that threat, if necessary.”

    Even before Foley’s murder, Obama found himself on far different footing in the Middle East than he probably expected in the sixth year of his presidency.

    After running for the White House on a pledge to end the Iraq war and then making good on that promise in late 2011, Obama thrust the U.S. military back into Iraq this month with a limited airstrike campaign against Islamic State targets.

    Obama has said he will not send U.S. combat troops to another ground war in the Mideast. But expanding the airstrikes in Iraq and broadening them to include Syria could mean a lengthy American military commitment in the region that could consume much of Obama’s remaining time in office.

    “What we should have learned over the past dozen years in that part of the world is that the use of military power is very unpredictable,” said Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

    That may be particularly true in Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s government is warring with opposition forces. Unlike in Iraq, the battle lines are more clearly drawn. Syria has a host of military players in close proximity to each other, including the Islamic State, the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, mainstream Western-backed rebels and pro-government forces.

    The Islamic State is among the groups fighting Assad, meaning a U.S. campaign to weaken the extremists could actually strengthen a leader the White House has sought to push from office.

    Obama could try to counteract that uncomfortable dynamic by also taking strikes against Assad, though that could put the U.S. on the hook for the kind of long-term commitment to rebuilding Syria that he has tried to avoid.

    The risks are no less troubling if Obama allows the Islamic State to continue having unfettered access to a safe haven in Syria. Politically, it could bolster the argument from his critics that he is overseeing an American retreat on the world stage. It also could give the militants space to strengthen and become a threat not just to U.S. interests in the region, but also to the U.S. at home.

    Obama’s own military leadership made clear in recent days that the threat from the Islamic State cannot be fully eliminated without going after the group in Syria, as well as Iraq.

    “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated,” said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border.”

    To White House critics, the unappetizing options are the result of Obama’s own foreign policy missteps. They argue that he gave extremists an opening in Iraq by not doing more to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government to leave U.S. forces in the country after 2011. They say his decision to not provide heavy weaponry to more moderate rebel groups in Syria also helped facilitate the Islamic State’s rise.

    Without a course correction, Obama’s critics argue, the U.S. will be at greater risk.

    “If we do not do more to assist our Iraqi partners and those moderate Syrians who are fighting ISIL and directly target ISIL’s leadership and networks in Iraq and Syria, I fear that James Foley will not be the only American to die at their hands,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State.

    Obama’s advisers say the responsibility for stemming the rise of the Islamic State does not rest solely with the United States. The White House has been imploring Sunni states in the region – Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates in particular – to wield their influence with tribal leaders in Iraq and get them to push the Islamic State out of areas they have occupied.

    The U.S. also has been discussing ways that allies such as Britain, France, Australia and Canada can become involved through intelligence sharing, military assistance for Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition forces in Syria, and if necessary, joining the U.S. in military action.

    The post After Foley murder, will Obama change stance on Syria? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MEGAN THOMPSON: In 2012, Kevin a. Jones applied for a part-time job as a doorman in New York City. He was soon called in for an interview at the large property management company, Halstead.

    KEVIN JONES: The interview actually went very well. I hand him my resume. We talked about my background. And he basically ended the interview by saying, “We would love to have you work for us.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Great news for the divorced 58-year-old father and professional driver who needed the extra money to help pay child support. Jones filled out the paperwork, submitted a drug test and waited to hear when he could start. Instead, he got a different kind of call.

    KEVIN JONES: And Human Resources said, “There’s a problem with your background check.” And I said, “What problem?” “Yeah, there’s some criminal stuff going on. You need to talk to
    them.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: It turned out the background check – conducted by a company now called Sterling BackCheck – showed convictions for drunk driving, attempted petit larceny and forgery, and two stints in jail. A few days later, Jones got a letter in the mail saying unless he could clear the matter up, his job offer was being revoked.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Do you have any kind of criminal history?

    KEVIN JONES: None. Never. Ever. I was upset. And of course, embarrassed. You know. I’m thinking this is not right. You guys have made a major mistake and this needs to be fixed.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Jones says after months of phone calls with no resolution, he had to get a lawyer to sort it out. But by then, the damage had been done. So earlier this year, he became lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Sterling, accusing it of “systematically failing to use reasonable procedures” to ensure accuracy, as required by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Jones also sued his would-be employers, Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens, alleging they denied him adequate opportunity to dispute the report, his right under federal law.

    JIM FRANCIS: These companies are getting thousands of disputes a year from consumers who are claiming that there’s an inaccuracy on their background check.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Jim Francis is one of Jones’s attorneys, whose firm specializes in cases of botched background checks.

    JIM FRANCIS: It’s a very, very troubling problem. And one that I don’t see abating at any time in the near future.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Since 9/11, the background screening industry has grown dramatically. Today, almost 90% of employers screen their applicants meaning millions of checks are done every year. The idea is to avoid problems and keep the workplace safe. But critics say the sources some screeners get their information from–bulk databases or other companies called data brokers–can be flawed. And the volume and speed at which it’s all compiled can mean mistakes are made, jobs lost and reputations ruined.

    JIM FRANCIS: What is the cause of it is a business model from the background screening industry that promotes speed and value of sales over accuracy and care.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In recent years, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against background check companies, some are resulting in multi-million dollar class action settlements. In the last two years, the Federal Trade Commission has also stepped up its enforcement–issuing hefty fines against major screeners and data brokers. What’s more, the burden can fall on the job applicant to get a mistake fixed and most don’t know where to begin.

    KEVIN JONES: I was disagreeing vehemently, but they- they weren’t listening. And- and no one was helping. It wasn’t like there was a suggestion, “Well, why don’t you try this?” You know.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In the case of his client, Kevin A. Jones, Jim Francis contacted the local courthouses and pulled the actual records. He found all those convictions belonged to a man in upstate New York with the same first and last name, and birthday. But all the records showed this man had a different middle initial–M. He also had completely different home addresses than the other Kevin Jones.

    JIM FRANCIS: There was plenty of information available in the actual public record that would be been able to prove that he was not the person who was the subject of these criminal records. But, they didn’t get these records.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: There is no central government database that contains criminal history information from the thousands of local jurisdictions across the U.S. and Francis says the massive databases background screeners compile themselves or get from outside data brokers can be incomplete and out of date.

    MANEESHA MITHAL: You have to see that if there’s some information that doesn’t match, if there are multiple fields that don’t match, you have to ask more questions.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Maneesha Mithal is the associate director of The Division of Privacy and Identity Protection at the Federal Trade Commission which enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It requires that background screeners use “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy.” It also guarantees a free copy of the background report and requires the screener to reinvestigate if a job applicant disputes something in their report.

    MANEESHA MITHAL: If you have a sex offender applying for a job at a daycare, you don’t want to require necessarily that every piece of information matches. Because you want to be able to catch people who might have a transposed middle initial, but actually are the sex offenders.
    At the same time, you don’t want people who are not sex offenders to be denied that job based on erroneous information. So, what we’ve told companies is that you have to have reasonable procedures. You have to do some due diligence. You have to do some checking.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Is there any requirement that these background screening companies have to register with anyone? Or is there any kind of national sort of list of these companies?

    MANEESHA MITHAL: No, there isn’t.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: So, we don’t know how many com- of these companies are even out there?

    MANEESHA MITHAL: No, we don’t. And I think that’s one of the challenges.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: We asked for a statement from Sterling Backcheck, the company that issued Kevin Jones’s background report. It declined comment. But in a court filing, the company denied the allegations and any liability to jones or other plaintiffs. Jones’s would-be employers, Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens, said in a statement they engage an independent, third party provider to complete background checks and “if there was a case of mistaken identity by our screening company, we are nonetheless sympathetic to Mr. Jones’s situation and have so informed his council We support the fair credit reporting act and believe that we are fully compliant with its requirements.”

    MELISSA SORENSON: Certainly the- one or two that come through that ha- may have a potential issue are the ones that become more noteworthy and noticeable. What you don’t necessarily hear about are the millions of successful screens that are happening each and every day.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Melissa Sorenson is the executive director of The National Association of Professional Background Screeners, an industry group with about 700 members, including many of the biggest screening companies. It launched its own accreditation program four years ago and says about 10 percent of its members have gone through it. But Sorenson says there is no information publicly available about the accuracy rate in the industry. But Sorenson says, anecdotally, the error rate is very low.

    MELISSA SORENSON: For all of our members, accuracy is key to the product that they’re providing. It’s key not only because it’s critical and mandatory under federal law/. But their customers demand an end product that’s accurate and that they can use in making a hiring decision.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Sorenson says if a screener finds something questionable, The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires it either check the original source, or give notice to the employer and job applicant.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: So, you’re saying that the screener can then just send a letter to the employer and the consumer saying, “Hey, we found this. / I mean, hasn’t the damage then already been done?

    MELISSA SORENSON: With that initial notice that comes out, you then have the opportunity as a consumer to dispute that information.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Sorenson says screeners have a duty to reinvestigate if a dispute is made, but there are no requirements about what a reinvestigation entails. And, if a job applicant does get a mistake fixed, that information isn’t necessarily shared among the other companies.

    MELISSA SORENSON: Background screening companies operate independently.
    It’s possible that if a background screen show- something came back on a background screen for a particular individual and then another screening company performed a screen, the same information could show up.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: And that’s exactly what Kevin Jones says he’s worried about.

    KEVIN JONES: If it happened once, it could happen again. If- It’s unfortunate to feel that way, but it happened. So, I- I have to feel that way.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Jones is now working full-time and says he hopes his lawsuits will help prevent this from happening to someone else. His cases are currently pending in New York District Court.

    The post Mistaken identity in background checks can cost applicants job offers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In the last decade, the number of employers that run criminal background checks on job applicants has increased dramatically. Today, almost 90 percent of employers run a check on at least some of their applicants.

    Employers and screeners say the checks are an important tool for reducing liability for negligent hiring. Advocates for background checks also say these screenings help keep the workplace safe – preventing, for example, a sex offender from being hired at a nursery school.

    But the practice has come under fire from those who say it can lead to discrimination and decreased job opportunities for the 70 million Americans who have some type of criminal conviction. Advocates argue that a past infraction doesn’t automatically mean someone is not qualified, and hiring more people with a conviction could reduce crime and recidivism.

    In a related movement, this month New Jersey became the latest state to pass a “Ban the Box” law. Thirteen states, along with 70 cities and counties now prohibit employers from asking about criminal convictions on job applications. Instead they must wait to inquire about an applicant’s record later in the hiring process.

    On Saturday, PBS NewsHour Weekend reports on a related issue – background checks that come back with mistakes, and may cost an individual a job opportunity. You can watch the full report in the video above.

    Do you think employers should use background checks? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments below. Or, join the conversation on Facebook.

    The post POLL: Do you think employers should use background checks? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    he Reverend Al Sharpton (C) marches with protesters at a rally against police brutality in memory of Eric Garner August 23, 2014 in Staten Island, New York. The New York City medical examiner's office ruled that Garner, the 43-year-old father of six, died from a chokehold and chest compressions while being arrested by the police on July 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

    The Reverend Al Sharpton marches with protesters at a rally against police brutality in memory of Eric Garner Aug. 23 in Staten Island, New York City. Credit: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

    In the borough of Staten Island in New York City on Saturday, thousands marched to seek justice in the death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, who was killed by police on July 17.

    In a case that has provoked widespread public outcry, a New York City Police Department officer used a chokehold to subdue the 43-year-old after detaining him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner later died as a result of the chokehold, a maneuver banned by the NYPD.

    In an eyewitness video of the incident, Garner repeatedly says “I can’t breathe,” as one officer pulls Garner down to the ground.

    Some marchers at the “We Will Not Go Back” rally carried “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” signs, in reference to the events surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot by police earlier this month in Ferguson, Missouri.

    Brown, an African-American teenager, was also killed by a white police officer. His death sparked violent protests in the area for more than a week.

    The Reverend Al Sharpton asked attendees at the Staten Island protest to remain nonviolent as he appealed for justice in Garner’s death.

    “If you can do it to him, then you can do it to any citizen and we are not going to be silent when that happens,” Sharpton said at a pre-rally speech. “If you are too angry to be nonviolent, stay here at the church or go home.”

    Esaw Garner, the widow of Eric Garner, echoed Sharpton’s call for peace.

    “Let’s make this a peaceful march and get justice for my husband so that this doesn’t happen to anybody else,” she said.

    The post Thousands march in New York City to protest police killings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Congress asks Target to testify on data breach

    The Department of Homeland Security says that more than 1,000 U.S. businesses have fallen victim to hacker malware that steals financial and personal information from customers after they swipe their credit cards. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    The data of millions of shoppers could be in the hands of hackers as cyber attacks on American retail stores become more widespread, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Friday.

    In an advisory, the DHS said that more than 1,000 U.S. businesses have fallen victim to hacker malware that targets cash register systems and steals financial and personal information from customers after they swipe their credit cards.

    Specifically, the DHS warned retailers about a type of malware called Backoff, which was discovered last October and most recently infected computer systems in 51 United Parcel Service (UPS) stores throughout the country.

    The breach compromised data on 105,000 customer transactions in UPS stores between January and August, and while the company doesn’t believe that any customers have been affected by fraud due to the malware infection, it fears hackers may have stolen shoppers’ names, email addresses and payment information.

    As a result, the company has offered free identity protection for customers who made transactions in its 51 affected stores.

    The U.S. grocery chain, Supervalu, was also the victim of a cyber attack this summer when 200 of the chain’s grocery and liquor stores were infected with malware between June 22 and July 17.

    Up until this month, Backoff was undetectable by antivirus software, which is how it stole information from companies for long periods of time.

    Jerome Segura, a senior security researcher at Malware Bytes, a cyber security software firm, said that Backoff isn’t much different than other malware, except that it’s designed to target high-value computer systems.

    “Once the bad guys realized they were able to penetrate larger networks, they saw the opportunity to develop malware that’s specifically for credit cards and can evade antivirus programs,” Segura told The Associated Press.

    Hackers have been able to go undetected using Backoff, partially because it hasn’t been widely distributed over the Internet.

    That’s how the massive holiday-season data breach at retailer giant Target, which compromised 40 million debit and credit card accounts in late 2013, was able to go on for weeks.

    But now, companies, including Target, are taking steps to defend against these attacks.

    Banks and businesses are encouraging retailers to update their payment systems so that they can accept chip-based credit cards, which allow for more secure transactions.

    “The weakness is the magnetic stripe,” said Avivah Litan, a security analyst for Gartner Research told The New York Times. “I can buy a mag stripe reader on eBay and easily read all the data from your credit card. It’s an antiquated technology from the ’60s.”

    Some credit card companies have set an October 2015 deadline for retailers to upgrade to this new payment system.

    But in the meantime, DHS is recommending that all retailers scour their computer systems for the malware that may be hiding within.

    The post Report: More than 1,000 U.S. companies targeted by cyber attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rebel soldiers walk through the rubble of building in the northern Syrian city Aleppo on December 6, 2012. Fighting erupted in the Aleppo district of Bustan al-Basha as troops advanced for the first time into the stronghold of Islamist militants, a military source and resident told AFP. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN        (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening, thanks for joining us.

    We begin tonight with Syria where the extremist militant group ISIS has increased its control in parts of that country and in neighboring Iraq. The Syrian government continues to battle the militants who have taken control of three military bases in recent weeks.

    Late this week the government sent in reinforcements to maintain control of the Tabqa air base in Eastern Syria, the government’s last stronghold in the region. After ISIS released a video on Tuesday showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, the Obama Administration announced that it is reconsidering its military strategy including the possibility of airstrikes in Syria.

    This following a new United Nations report which puts the death toll from the conflict in Syria at more than 191,000. In the last year the number of casualties has more than doubled.

    For some analysis of the Syrian situation as the United States considers its options against ISIS, we are joined from Washington by Douglas Ollivant. He is a Senior National Security Studies Fellow at The New America Foundation and a partner at Mantid International.

    Doug, let me start with that U.N. report: 191,000 dead just to put that into perspective that’s the entire population of Salt Lake City, gone.

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Syria just continues to bleed. This civil war goes on and on. New reinforcements seem to be coming to each side and there does seem to be no end in sight. It’s a continuing humanitarian disaster.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so how significant is it if they gain control of this airbase?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, anytime you lose a piece of infrastructure, it’s very serious. And this appears to be the government’s real last stronghold in the east and they’re directly confronting ISIS for control of this key terrain.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what kind of control does ISIS have in the entire country? Is it just basically the entire northern end that they’ve taken control over, similar to Iraq?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, they certainly have loose control over much of the northeastern part, everything between the regime and the Kurds, with occasional smatterings of Free Syrian Army controlled areas and Islamic Front controlled areas, but in short, they have some contiguous territory in Syria that adjoins that that they control in Iraq.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what are some of the options here for the U.S.? Airstrikes have beensomething that’s been considered and we are hearing conversations now of trying to ask Congress for the authorization of unlimited uses of force.

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, I think as the administration looks at the problem as a whole, the ISIS threat in both Iraq and Syria, you start to realize that if you only attack them in Iraq and leave them a safe haven in Syria that’s just not going to work.

    We have precedents for this: the Taliban and the Haqqanis having their safe havens in Pakistan and going back further the Viet Kong with their safe havens in Cambodia.

    You just strike them on one side of the border and leave them a place where they can rest and refit and be safe, your chances of success are very slim.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, yesterday Ben Rhodes made this quote he said “We are not going to be restricted by borders,” which is a fairly aggressive foreign policy stance.

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Well, that’s certainly the first time we’ve heard that and I think the administration is starting to recalculate exactly what’s involved and some of its internal preferences it may have to overcome to effectively confront the ISIS threat.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, and here’s how it gets a little tricky in the Middle East in the sense that last year there wasn’t enough support by the international community to go after the Assad Regime, and now, if we essentially attack an enemy of our enemy are we essentially helping Bashar Al Assad?

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: The short answer is yes, and that’s what makes this so complicated.

    This is why we’ve not struck ISIS in Syria is no one has wanted to give the appearance of giving aid and support to the Assad Regime.

    I think we’re now coming to a reluctant acceptance of the fact that as bad as the Assad Regime is–and no one is downplaying how awful the Assad Regime is–the ISIS threat is both worse and a more real danger to the United States and it’s interests.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Douglas Ollivant joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

    DOUGLAS OLLIVANT: Thank you.

    The post ‘No end in sight’: More than 191,000 have died from conflict in Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    For days, police in the St. Louis suburb wore camouflage, riot gear and helmets and carried assault rifles and ammunition. Photo by Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    For days, police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., wore camouflage, riot gear and helmets and carried assault rifles and ammunition. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

    EDGARTOWN, Mass. — The White House is conducting a review of programs that have equipped local police departments with military gear from the Pentagon, urged by President Barack Obama’s call for more separation between the nation’s armed forces and civilian law enforcement.

    The examination comes in the aftermath of the police response to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of an unarmed black man.

    Two senior administration officials say the review will examine whether the programs are appropriate; the amount of training provided for using military equipment, and how well the government audits the use of the money and equipment by local police departments.

    The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the review by name.

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    Activist Malala Yousafzai talks with Hari Sreenivasan for PBS NewsHour Weekend

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: What do you say to young women and girls in developed countries who have this opportunity? How do you inspire them to get the same fire in the belly about education that you have, or people from developing countries who have never seen it have?

    MALALA YOUSAFZAI: So the first thing is that in the developing countries, there are so many children, so many girls who are raising their voices, who are speaking up for education and they want to go to school. This is their dream. They do not dream for an iPad or for a PlayStation or for an Xbox, their only dream is just to go to school.

    And here children, in the UK, in the USA, in the developed countries, they have got this opportunity to go to good schools and they get free education, so I think they should be very thankful for it and they should continue, because when I went to Kenya, the Malala fund, we built a school, and I heard that there were so many girls who were deprived of education and only one out of 10 girls get the opportunity to go to school.

    So it’s quite difficult in many countries for girls to go forward and even for boys it is quite difficult to go forward and make their dreams come true, because they also wish to become doctors, to become teachers and engineers. But because of the difficulties they cannot achieve their dreams and they can not be what they want to be.

    So here if you’ve got this good opportunity, then you can fulfill your dreams and you can contribute to society by becoming what you really want.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Petro Poroshenko is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk on Tuesday for their first encounter since June.

    For more, we’re joined by Steve Sestanovich, a senior fellow from the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. and author of the book “Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama.”

    So, did Vladimir Putin win in the world or war of perception so to speak, or did he back down?

    STEVE SESTANOVICH: He certainly did something that was unexpected. Yesterday, everybody was predicting that maybe we were finally going over the cliff to war that this time the Russians were serious about an invasion and all hell was going to break loose.

    Today they are taking the troops back and Putin has not done the big thing that he seemed to be threatening, which was to make his troops, his men, his trucks a shield for the separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

    And the same landscape is really there now that was there before this truck convoy story.

    Putin has to figure out how to support the separatists, who are basically going down, without over involvement that will excite too much opposition from the West and embroil him in a big mess that he wants to stay out of.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What does The West do about it?

    STEVE SESTANOVICH: Well, one of the things that The West did yesterday, European and American governments, were really loud in their criticism of what Russia did and made it clear that there was going to be new trouble ahead if he persisted and tried to really interpose Russian forces into this fight in Eastern Ukraine. I think that’s got to be one of the reasons that made it such a quick roundtrip for these trucks in and out of Luhansk.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what does President Poroshenko do on Tuesday when he meets with Putin?

    STEVE SESTANOVICH: Well, what he said is that he wants to talk peace. He said you know we’ve had enough of war, but he’s laid out some important conditions in his conversations today with Chancellor Merkel of Germany who is visiting, giving him a show of support.

    He said he wants to have an opportunity to, for dialogue with Eastern Ukrainians, but he wants all the mercenaries out, meaning the Russian military intelligence officers and soldiers of fortune who have shown up in Eastern Ukraine.

    He’s demanding that Putin pull back and stop meddling, stop the flow of arms and men into Eastern Ukraine.

    He’s got the wind at his back in some ways, he’s had a military offensive in Eastern Ukraine that’s been pretty successful. So, he deals with Putin on a stronger footing than many would have expected a few weeks ago.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What’s the end game for Putin here?

    STEVE SESTANOVICH: This is a little hard to say. There’s a range of possibilities. He could be looking at a kind of permanent ferment in Eastern Ukraine, something like the support that Russia’s given over many years to separatists in Moldova, in Georgia and elsewhere.

    That’s not a really good outcome because it doesn’t get him off the hook with The West, it means a lot of these sanctions will probably stay in place for a long time.

    A better outcome would be one in which he gets some kind of concessions from Poroshenko about the structure of Ukrainian politics, some kind of acknowledgement that there has to be decentralization.

    Poroshenko has offered all of that, but he hasn’t offered to do it in a way that looks enough to Putin like a real victory.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Steve Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, joining us from Washington, D.C. Thanks so much.

    STEVE SESTANOVICH: A pleasure.

    The post What will shape the upcoming meeting between Poroshenko and Putin? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24:  A building is seen destroyed following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California.  A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3:00 am on Sunday morning.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    A building is seen destroyed following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24 in Napa, California. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Twenty thousand of Napa’s 80,000 households are without power following a 6.0 magnitude earthquake which hit Northern California on Sunday. The quake centered about nine miles south of Napa.​

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake was located at the eastern shore of San Pablo Bay, between two major active fault systems.

    Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Southern Napa.

    At least 120 people were sent to the hospital following the quake, the Associated Press reports. Most of the injuries were reportedly minor. Three people were admitted with broken bones and two for heart attacks.

    In a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Napa Fire Department Operations Chief John Callanan urged people to stay away from parts of downtown, where there has been building damage. He said a team of inspectors is on the way to evaluate buildings there.

    Napa City Manager Mike Parness said at later press conference that 15 to 16 buildings were red-tagged and are uninhabitable.

    Barry Martin, community outreach coordinator for the City of Napa told Reuters that there are no reported fatalities.

    A worker looks at a pile of wine bottles that were thrown from the shelves at Van's Liquors following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3:00 am on Sunday morning causing damage to buildings and sending at least 70 people to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    A worker looks at a pile of wine bottles that were thrown from the shelves at Van’s Liquors following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24 in Napa, California. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    There will be a high police presence over the next few days to provide support to residents and store owners, and several streets downtown have been closed due to broken glass and fallen debris.

    This is the first major quake to strike the Bay Area since 1989.

    We’ll continue to update this story as new information becomes available. 

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    WASHINGTON — Calling Hillary Rodham Clinton “a war hawk,” Sen. Rand Paul says that if the former secretary of state seeks the presidency, some voters will worry that she will get the U.S. involved in another Mideast war.

    Paul is a leading anti-interventionist in the GOP and is considering running for president. Last year he opposed President Barack Obama’s call for military action in Syria.

    In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Paul predicted a “transformational election” if the Democrats nominate “a war hawk like Hillary Clinton.”

    “I think that’s what scares the Democrats the most, is that in a general election, were I to run, there’s gonna be a lot of independents and even some Democrats who say, `You know what? We are tired of war,’” Paul said. “We’re worried that Hillary Clinton will get us involved in another Middle Eastern war, because she’s so gung-ho.”

    As a senator in 2002, Clinton voted in favor of giving President George W. Bush the broad authority to invade Iraq. She has said over the years that she regrets that vote, and in her new book “Hard Choices” wrote that “I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

    On the events that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Paul said he found the war-like images disturbing.

    “When I see things like that, and I see, like, a warzone, and I see bazookas and tanks and all of this stuff in American city, it offends me, because many of these people, some are rioting, and they need to be arrested,” he said. “If you’re committing a crime, arrest people. But if you’re standing up, and you wanna voice dissent, you know, it is really what America is about, is being able to dissent.”

    Paul also suggested that race might not be a factor in the events in Ferguson and linked the unrest to the war on drugs.

    “Let’s say you’re African-American and you live there, let’s say none of this has to do with race. It might not, but the belief – if you’re African-American and you live in Ferguson, the belief is, you see people in prison and they’re mostly black and brown, that somehow it is racial, even if the thoughts that were going on at that time had nothing to do with race.

    “So it’s a very good chance that had this had nothing to do with race, but because of all of the arrest and the way people were arrested, that everybody perceives it as, `My goodness, the police are out to get us,’ you know? And so that’s why you have to change the whole war on drugs. It’s not just this one instance.”

    The post Sen. Rand Paul calls Hillary Clinton ‘a war hawk’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Grappling with a population boom, the maternity ward at the Jose Favella Hospital in the Philippine capital of Manila is one of the busiest in the world, with an average of 60 births per day. No other hospital in the country has a higher birth rate.

    To ensure that mothers are given the right child after giving birth, nurses attach two identification tags to newborns on their ankles and wrists. In the past three decades, the country’s population has more than doubled from 45 million to 100 million.

    maternityward1

    Because of the staggering birth rate in the Philippines, there are typically more patients in the maternity ward at the Jose Favella Hospital than there are resources to treat them, the hospital’s chief obstetrician, Dr. Silvia de La Paz said. Credit: Mark Litke/NewsHour

    philmaternityward

    Because families in the Philippines, Asia’s most Catholic country, have had little or no access to contraception or family planning advice, they often get larger every year, experts note. Credit: Mark Litke/NewsHour

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    The population is growing fastest among the poorest Filipinos who can’t afford contraception, officials say. Credit: Mark Litke/NewsHour

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    Because so many give birth daily at the hospital, nurses are forced to put to beds together for four mothers and four newborns, called a “tandem bed.” Credit: Mark Litke/NewsHour

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    Mothers rest with their newborns on tandem beds in the maternity ward of the Jose Favella Hospital in Manila. Credit: Mark Litke/NewsHour

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    Janice Dario, 19, just had her second baby. A third of all 19-year-olds in the Philippines already have a child or are pregnant with their first, according to the United Nations Population Fund. Credit: Mark Litke/NewsHour

    maternityward

    Overpopulation in the Philippines means many new mothers will go from a short stay in overcrowded hospital wards back to life in the teeming slums of the city. Credit: Mark Litke/NewsHour

    Watch our full broadcast report on reproductive health from the Philippines:

     

     

    The post Photos: Inside one of the world’s busiest maternity wards appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Paul Ryan was No. 2 on the Republicans’ presidential ballot in 2012, and the Wisconsin congressman is thinking about whether he’ll try to move to the top of his party’s ticket in 2016.

    When asked on Sunday about the possibility of running, Ryan said he and his family will “take very seriously and weigh” the decision next year. Ryan has said he is not eager to spend even more time away from his small Wisconsin hometown where he and his wife, Janna, have raised their own family.

    Ryan tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” his new book is designed to unify conservatives about tackling the nation’s most critical problems.

    Ryan says the 2012 ticket lost for many reasons, but he wishes that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would run again.

    The post Paul Ryan weighing possible 2016 presidential run appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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