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

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    ABC's "20/20" - 2012

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And finally tonight, a look back at the work, the life and the impact of one of the pioneers for women in comedy, Joan Rivers.

    Flowers and remembrances continued to pile up from outside her New York home to her star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame for the tart-tongued, quick-witted comedian who refused to accept and blew right past many boundaries.

    Last night, David Letterman recalled Joan Rivers’ resolve.

    DAVID LETTERMAN: And talk about guts. She would come out here and sit in this chair and say some things that were unbelievable.

    PAUL SHAFFER: Yes.

    DAVID LETTERMAN: Just where you would have to swallow pretty hard, and twice.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID LETTERMAN: But it was hilarious. And she stood behind her jokes and, to my knowledge, would say these things and never apologize.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Others took to Twitter, including comedian Sarah Silverman, who wrote: “My heart is torn in half. She wasn’t done.”

    Wanda Sykes tweeted: “We have lost a true legend. Thank you, Joan, for paving the way for broads like me.”

    Barbara Walters, a friend of Rivers, spoke by phone with us today.

    BARBARA WALTERS: What made her special was that she loved what she did. There are a lot of comedians and there are actors who don’t really enjoy the performing, public part of their lives.

    She did. She would perform for three people in a room. We had been saying to each other, the friends, that she would be thrilled with the outpouring from all over the world. She was the consummate performer. She loved it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Joan Rivers was born Joan Alexandra Molinsky in Brooklyn in 1933 to Russian Jewish immigrants. After rising up through the comedy scene in Greenwich Village, in the early 1960s, she performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

    JOHNNY CARSON: Who not only writes funny. She is funny, herself. Would you welcome please Joan Rivers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And alongside Johnny Carson, when he was guest host of “The Sammy Davis Jr. Show.”  Their relationship would prove crucial to Rivers’ career, yielding many laughs over many years for Carson and his “Tonight Show” audience.

    JOHNNY CARSON: Don’t you think men really like intelligence more when it comes right down to it?

    JOAN RIVERS: Oh, please. Are we going to go back to that?  Are you kidding?

    (LAUGHTER)

    JOHNNY CARSON: No, sure. I mean, it’s a brain, you know.

    JOAN RIVERS: No man has ever put his hand up a woman’s dress looking for a library card. I am sorry.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MAN: Here’s Joan Rivers.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In 1983, Rivers became the first permanent guest host for Carson on NBC, which led to her own late-night show in 1986 on rival network FOX.

    JOAN RIVERS: I am just so, so happy to be here, and I thank you all so much.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But she and Carson fell out over the move. The two never reconciled.

    And her show was canceled after a brief run. Only months later, her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, the show’s producer, committed suicide. Despite the heartache, Rivers bounced back, reinventing herself as an Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show host. All the while, she continued to tour comedy clubs and became an acerbic red carpet critic alongside daughter Melissa.

    Rivers herself was often criticized for her dependence on cosmetic surgery, which she didn’t hide.

    JOAN RIVERS: And I always recommend doing a little at a time, a little bit at a time. Otherwise, you’re going to look like you have been through a wind tunnel.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In her later years Rivers maintained a breakneck work pace, as she toured hundreds of comedy clubs a year and appeared on reality TV shows.

    In this 2010 documentary about her life, Rivers described the importance of continuing to work.

    JOAN RIVERS: If my book ever looked like this, it would mean that nobody wants me, that everything I ever tried to do in life didn’t work, nobody cared, and I have been totally forgotten.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two years later, she looked back at her career, playing herself on Louis C.K.’s show, “Louie.”

    JOAN RIVERS: I wish I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn’t get better. You get better. It isn’t easy. I have gone up, I have gone down, I have been bankrupt, I have been broke. But you do it, and you do it because — because we love it more than anything else.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And for all of her bite, Walters said Joan Rivers was a true friend.

    BARBARA WALTERS: What I will miss most was when we had dinners, Joan and myself and another friend or two, the humor, the honesty, the self-deprecating part of her life. She was great company. And I was fortunate to see that, not only on camera, but privately, and I will — I will really miss her. A lot of us will.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last week, Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York after her heart stopped during routine vocal cord surgery at an outpatient facility. She died after being taken off life support Thursday afternoon. Joan Rivers was 81 years old.

    Online, you can watch more videos of Joan Rivers, including her appearance on the PBS documentary film “Pioneers of Television.”

    The post Barbara Walters praises Joan Rivers, the ‘consummate performer’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Economists had predicted a solid month of hiring in August. But the latest jobs report came in below expectations and proved a bit confounding again. There were just 142,000 jobs added last month, and, yes, the unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent, but it wasn’t because of great strength in the labor market.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has the story, part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: After months of upbeat jobs reports, is the recovery losing steam?  That’s the question posed by the latest jobs numbers, which were less than encouraging.

    Georgetown University’s Harry Holzer is a former Labor Department chief economist.

    HARRY HOLZER, Georgetown University: The payroll numbers were disappointing. They’re the lowest we have seen in eight months, first time in over six months that they have dropped below 200,000. On the other hand, I never put too much stock in any one month’s numbers. It could be a blip. It could be a correction for too high numbers the last few months because of seasonal adjustment quirks. So, a little disappointing, but presumably we’re still on track.

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s because of buoyant sectors like business services and health care, which between them added over 80,000 jobs. And the number of long-term unemployed, those jobless for 27 weeks or more, continued to decline.

    And for those who are working, average hourly earnings finally rose above the rate of inflation. But let’s not get too excited, says Holzer.

    HARRY HOLZER: Wages have been flat for at least seven years, and in fact haven’t grown much at all since the year 2000. And inequality is growing dramatically.

    I think there are people in that very low-wage labor market that are getting upset and that are getting tired of these low wages.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Upset, indeed, like the thousands of fast food workers, making about $9 an hour on average, clamoring Thursday nationwide for higher pay. Hundreds were arrested. And what about the profusion of part-time jobs?

    ONIEKA O’KIEFFE: I would like a full-time job.

    PAUL SOLMAN: On Monday, we profiled New York part-timer Onieka O’Kieffe, who earns $8 an hour stocking shelves at American Eagle in Times Square by night, by day, another stockroom gig at Crocs, more than 50 hours a week, and yet no full-time job.

    ONIEKA O’KIEFFE:  They’re very few and far between, like, at least in retail, and maybe anywhere else really, because like there’s — apparently, there’s a trend going on with, like, part-time work, so it — it’d be really hard to find something.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Thus, she and some seven million other Americans worked multiple jobs last month, suggesting that the 142,000 headline number this morning were total jobs added to the economy, not total workers, since many of the jobs were presumably part-time, with some workers doing more than one of them.

    Two final notes on the downside of today’s numbers, the jobs for June were revised downward by a substantial 30,000, and while the country grew at its usual pace, the work force didn’t.

    What struck me, looking at the numbers, were 200,000 more people in the American population, but no more people in the work force.

    HARRY HOLZER: We were starting to hope that a lot of these people that had dropped out of the labor force maybe were coming back in, and this month’s numbers suggest maybe not.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In fact, the official unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent, but partly because of people dropping out, driving the proportion of Americans working or looking for work last month to the lowest level since the late 1970s.

    But isn’t that because of all the retiring baby boomers?

    HARRY HOLZER: We have seen several million people drop out of the labor force, of the potential labor force. Only about half of them seem to be doing it for retirement reasons. The other half, close to four million people, are well below retirement age, and we still don’t know what their future plans are and why so many of them are leaving.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Because so many new jobs are part-time?  Low-paid?  Just hard to find?  Could be any and all of the above.

    The post New job growth doesn’t indicate a strong labor market appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    gunpoetry2

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was a shocking accident. A 9-year old girl at a gun range in Arizona shot and killed her instructor last week while he was teaching her how to use an Uzi machine gun.

    Among the questions it’s raised, how do people, especially young children, cope with the consequences of a fatal accident?  And can their loved ones help them understand what has transpired?

    Jeff is back with that part of the story and a conversation he recorded yesterday.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When he was 12 years ago old, Gregory Orr accidentally killed his younger brother in a hunting accident near their home in Upstate New York. It was many years ago. Orr grew up to become a professor of English at the University of Virginia and an acclaimed poet, author of 12 books of poetry and a memoir titled “The Blessing.”

    But the experience of course stayed with him in his writing, in his life, and it returned after the recent shooting near Las Vegas.

    Gregory Orr joins us now from Charlottesville, Virginia.

    And thank you so much for joining us.

    First, tell us a little more about what happened when you were 12.

    GREGORY ORR, University of Virginia: Well, in a sense, it’s hard to say what happened.

    I went hunting, deer hunting, with my father and my older brother and two younger brothers. We killed a deer. And in the excited aftermath of that, my gun went off. I didn’t even know it was loaded. And my younger brother, standing near me, fell to the ground, dead.

    So that happened, and then there is aftermath, grief, guilt, isolation, silence, as everybody retreats into their own horror and grief and guilt. So that accident basically shattered my world, shattered my sense that the world meant anything.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It shattered all of that, but you have also written how it ultimately led in some way to what you became, a poet, the person that you are now.

    GREGORY ORR: Well, I think that’s true, and it’s because — I think it goes something like Trauma, violence is a huge — death is a huge challenge to meaning. And one of the things that that can result in is, it calls out of us a human response, some struggle to affirm meaning in a world that seems random and sometimes, as in cases like this, terrifying. So, in some sense, out of that terror and despair comes the affirmation of art.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I want you to ask to read a poem that you wrote about the shooting and aftermath.

    It’s called “A Litany.”  Could you read that for us now?

    GREGORY ORR: Certainly.

    “A Litany.”

    “I remember him falling beside me, the dark stain already seeping across his parka hood. I remember screaming and running the half-mile to our house. I remember hiding in my room. I remember that it was hard to breathe and that I kept the door shut in terror that someone would enter.

    “I remember pressing my knuckles into my eyes. I remember looking out the window once at where an ambulance had backed up over the lawn to the front door. I remember someone hung from a tree near the barn the deer we’d killed just before I shot my brother. I remember toward evening someone came with soup. I slurped it down, unable to look up. In the bowl, among the vegetable chunks, pale shapes of the alphabet bobbed at random or lay in the shallow spoon.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Those last line about the soup, the alphabet soup, something so normal, so much of a childhood, and yet suddenly nothing was normal anymore.

    GREGORY ORR: Yes.

    And, also, there is a kind of cultural mythology out of alphabet soup. I’m sure people my age and younger remember that Campbell’s Soup ad in which two smiling children’s faces look down at a bowl of soup, and the letters rise up out of the bowl and spell, “Mmm Good,” you know, this kind of affirmation of the world, of comfort and security and stuff.

    And, of course, alphabets and words are what create meaning in our world. For me, the meaning was shattered. The letters bob at random or they lie like — lie in the spoon the way I saw my brother lying in the field.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me just ask you briefly about this — bring it back to the case of the girl recently. What would you say to her or to those around you?  What would you want the rest of us to know?

    GREGORY ORR: I think it’s extremely hard to step forward and offer anything in this regard, but I’m going to try.

    One thing I know from my own experience is that well-meaning, premature consolation can even be harmful. People told me it was part of somebody’s plan, it was part of God’s plan, and stuff like this right away, well-meaning adults.

    And that — that wasn’t credible to me as a child, and it made the world only more terrifying. And yet — so I worry about premature consolation, but, also, of course, silence is not the answer either, because silence and isolation and guilt are what become so unbearable for the child and even for — and for the parents as well, of course.

    So there has to be some possibility of speech and of listening. And I think also what I — what I know from my own experience is, if someone can hold the child and just make them feel safe, that can matter a great deal, because, for them, the world is no longer safe, and it’s become a world of grief and confusion.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Gregory Orr, poet and professor at the University of Virginia, thank you so much.

    GREGORY ORR: Thank you.

    The post After fatal gun accidents, children can find comfort in poetry appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Caught between competing political demands over immigration, President Barack Obama will now wait until after the November election to take executive action that could shield millions of immigrants from deportation and ignite a clash over the extent of his presidential authority.

    Obama’s decision abandons a pledge he made June 30 to act quickly after summer’s end, and it prompted an immediate and furious backlash from immigration advocates. But in the past several weeks, the pressure for swift measures from pro-immigration groups ran up against fears from Democrats that acting now would energize Republican opposition against vulnerable Senate Democrats

    Two White House officials said Obama concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul. They said he fully intends to act before the end of the year.

    Reflecting the passion behind the threat of deportations, however, immigration advocacy groups that have criticized Republicans for not passing an immigration overhaul instantly turned their anger on Obama.

    Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, said the decision was “another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community.”

    “Where we have demanded leadership and courage from both Democrats and the president, we’ve received nothing but broken promises and a lack of political backbone,” she said.

    The White House officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s decision before it was announced, said Obama made his decision Friday as he returned to Washington from a NATO summit in Wales.

    They said Obama called a few allies from Air Force One to inform them of his decision, and that the president made more calls from the White House on Saturday.

    Obama went to the White House Rose Garden on June 30 to angrily declare that House Speaker John Boehner had informed him that the Republican-controlled House would not be taking up any measures to overhaul the immigration system. As a result, he said, he had directed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to give him recommendations for executive action by the end of summer. Obama also pledged to “adopt those recommendations without further delay.”

    By delaying, the White House weighed the benefits of acting now and running the risk of immigration getting blamed for any Democratic losses, especially in the Senate where Democratic control hangs in the balance.

    Among those considered most at risk were Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

    Obama advisers were not convinced that any presidential action would affect the elections. But the officials said the discussions around timing grew more pronounced within the past few weeks.

    Ultimately, the advisers drew a lesson from 1994 when Democratic losses were blamed on votes for gun-control legislation, undermining any interest in passing future gun measures.

    White House officials said aides realized that if Obama’s immigration action was deemed responsible for Democratic losses this year, it could hurt any attempt to pass a broad overhaul later on.

    “We are bitterly disappointed in the president and we are bitterly disappointed in the Senate Democrats,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “We advocates didn’t make the reform promise; we just made the mistake of believing it. The president and Senate Democrats have chosen politics over people, the status quo over solving real problems.”

    Republican leaders in Congress also criticized the president, calling his decision a cynical ploy.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama’s move amounted to “Washington politics at its worst.”

    “What’s so cynical about today’s immigration announcement is that the president isn’t saying he’ll follow the law, he’s just saying he’ll go around the law once it’s too late for Americans to hold his party accountable in the November elections,” McConnell said. “This is clearly not decision-making designed around the best policy.”

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement on Saturday, said the decision to delay, rather than abandon, the idea of executive action on immigration “smacks of raw politics.”

    “Any unilateral action will only further strain the bonds of trust between the White House and the people they are supposed to serve,” Boehner said.

    Partisan fighting erupted recently over how to address the increased flow of unaccompanied minors from Central America at the U.S. border with Mexico. The officials said the White House had not envisioned such a battle when Obama made his pledge June 30.

    Since then, the number of minors caught alone illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States has been declining. That decrease and Congress’ absence from Washington during August has taken attention away from the border for now.

    Still, the dispute over how to deal with the surge of Central American border crossers threatened to spill over into the larger debate over immigration and the fate of 11 million immigrants in the United States who either entered illegally or overstayed their visas and have been in the U.S. for some time.

    The Democratic-led Senate last year passed a broad overhaul of immigration that boosted border security, increased visas for legal immigrants and a provided a path to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the country.

    But the Republican-controlled House balked at acting on any broad measure.

    During a news conference Friday in Wales, Obama reiterated his determination to act on his own even as he avoided making a commitment on timing. He also spelled out ambitious objectives for his executive actions.

    Obama said that without legislation from Congress, he would take steps to increase border security, upgrade the processing of border crossers and encourage legal immigration. He also said he would offer immigrants who have been illegally in the United States for some time a way to become legal residents, pay taxes, pay a fine and learn English.

    By delaying his executive action, Obama increases the pressure for him to take the broadest measures that he believes his authority allows, perhaps freeing a sizable portion of the 11 million immigrants illegally in the United States from the fear of deportation.

    “I want to be very clear: My intention is, in the absence of … action by Congress, I’m going to do what I can do within the legal constraints of my office, because it’s the right thing to do for the country,” he said Friday.

    The post White House: Obama to delay action on immigration reform appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    cancerdogsextra

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    PAT KAYNAROGLU: So a typical day for a working dog here at Penn Vet working dog center- they start out at home with their fosters — which is a very important part of our program so that the dogs are experiencing life in a home, and getting manners and getting out to different places with our fosters.

    Then, when they come in, they’re assigned different tasks from our curriculum. And that might be anything from obedience to agility to searches to impulse control and fit to work program as well. Their trainer would then be taking them out to do an obedience exercise, to do a search and rescue exercise — she’ll do building searches as well up in our warehouse building in old classrooms we have on campus. She thoroughly enjoys that.

    We do little puppy runaways and just do a lot of play, get them engaged with their special trainer and the volunteers that are here, and that people are just a lot of fun to be with. And we get them engaged with our reward systems.

    We really fill their day pretty well so that when they head back with our fosters at night, our goal is that they sleep well and we get reports back that: ‘wow you must have done a lot today with our puppy because they slept really well and were really quiet.’

     

    The post From obedience to agility: A day in the life of a service dog-in-training appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    supremecourtWASHINGTON — It’s not easy to prevent the Supreme Court from deciding an issue once the justices have agreed to hear a case.

    But over the past two years, civil rights advocates have managed to do just that by coaxing settlements in a pair of high-profile housing discrimination cases weeks before the court was set to hear oral arguments.

    The advocates’ goal was to remove any chance that court conservatives might undermine a powerful legal doctrine the Obama administration and others have used increasingly to enforce the Fair Housing Act.

    While those last-minute settlements pushed the issue down the road, the Supreme Court could decide as early as this month whether to take up yet another case challenging so-called “disparate impact” lawsuits.

    In disparate impact cases, plaintiffs rely on statistics to show that seemingly neutral housing or lending practices can disproportionately harm racial minorities, even if there is no proof of intent to discriminate. The theory has been used for years to show bias in employment cases, but Texas officials are urging the justices to find that it doesn’t apply in housing discrimination cases.

    The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is seeking to overturn a lower court ruling that found disparate impact could be used to show the agency illegally steered low-income housing into mostly black neighborhoods.

    If the high court doesn’t take up the Texas case, at least two other cases are also moving through federal courts challenging the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s adoption last year of regulations that specifically recognize disparate impact claims in housing cases.

    “It became clear early on in the (Chief Justice John) Roberts court era that the best way for liberal groups to win before the Supreme Court on issues aside from gay rights is not to play,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California-Irvine School of Law.

    But Hasen said he doesn’t expect the game of keep away to last on the housing issue because opponents keep bringing legal challenges and the justices clearly are interested.

    Disparate impact has been used for more than four decades since the Supreme Court embraced it in a landmark employment discrimination case in 1971. But the theory has emerged in recent years as a centerpiece of the Justice Department’s effort to crack down on illegal housing practices.

    In 2011, the government won a record $335 million settlement from Bank of America to resolve allegations that its Countrywide unit discriminated against black and Hispanic customers by charging them higher fees and steering them into higher-risk subprime loans.

    The lawsuits have drawn the ire of banks and mortgage companies, which contend that federal housing laws should punish only intentional acts of discrimination. Civil rights groups say the disparate impact argument is needed to counter forms of discrimination that are less overt but still have the effect of hurting racial minorities.

    In the Texas case, a fair housing group alleged that the state’s system for handing out low-income housing tax credits had a disparate impact on racial minorities. A federal appeals court agreed that the group could use statistics to show the state was approving more low-income housing in black neighborhoods than in white areas. Such policies perpetuate segregated neighborhoods, fair housing advocates say.

    The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs says allowing disparate impact claims would open nearly every housing decision, from zoning rules to use of credit scores, to potential litigation. The agency also says it puts housing officials in the awkward position of seeking out race-neutral results without actually taking race into account.

    In 2012 the justices were poised to take on the housing issue in a Minnesota case questioning whether the city of St. Paul’s aggressive enforcement of housing code violations in low-income properties disproportionately affected black residents. But Justice Department lawyer Thomas Perez, now labor secretary, persuaded the city to drop its appeal.

    Perez has said the case, Magner v. Gallagher, contained “bad facts” because landlords of run-down apartments were trying to use the law to keep their tenants in squalor. Critics suggested the case revealed the flaws of disparate impact, making it a perfect vehicle to overturn use of the theory in housing cases.

    Last year, the court was set to hear another disparate impact case from New Jersey in which residents of a mostly black and Hispanic neighborhood sued the township of Mount Holly over a redevelopment plan that would have forced them to move. A last-minute settlement resulted in the case being dismissed.

    There is no indication so far of any settlement talks in the Texas dispute, though that could change if the Supreme Court decides at its Sept. 29 conference to hear the case. The Obama administration has not weighed in on the case. Gordon Anderson, spokesman for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, referred questions to the state attorney general’s office, which declined comment.

    Betsy Julian, president of the Texas-based Inclusive Communities Project Inc., which brought the case, also declined comment. In court filings, the group says the court should wait for one of the other cases challenging the new HUD regulations.

    While the court often takes up cases where there is a split among appeals courts, every appeals court to address the issue has held that the housing law does allow disparate impact claims.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Mortgage Bankers Association and other groups representing the finance and lending industry have urged the justices to take up the Texas case.

    “Lenders don’t want to face the risk of being sued,” said Paul Hancock, an attorney who filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the business groups. “This standard makes them have to justify normal business practices that don’t facially discriminate.”

    But John Henneberger, co-director of the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, said disparate impact is essential to address problems of systemic discrimination that have existed for decades in Texas and elsewhere.

    “When you look at a map and you look at where the state made apartments available, the pattern is crystal clear,” he said. “Whether the state wants to say they did it deliberately or not, the effect is the same.”

    The post Texas housing bias suit may make it to Supreme Court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PAKISTAN-WEATHER-FLOOD

    Pakistani residents cross a damaged bridge on Saturday after monsoon floods struck the area in Islamabad. Credit: Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images

    More than 200 people have died in Pakistan and India after heavy monsoon rains and floods swept through the region, the Associated Press reports.

    The floods are said to be a result of the region’s annual monsoon season, with officials stating the current floods are some of the worst they have seen in decades.

    Officials believe most people died after the roofs of their homes collapsed. About 4,000 homes across Pakistan reportedly collapsed partially or completely, leaving thousands of people homeless.

    Forecasters warn for more rain to come in the upcoming days and authorities have issued a flood warning across the region.

    Ahmad Kamal, a spokesman for Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, told the AP in an interview that rescue crews are working to evacuate people from flood-affected areas and have set up about 50 relief camps so far.

    An estimated 300 federal rescue workers have joined state police and soldiers to try to rescue thousands who have been stranded by the floods across the region.

    The post Monsoon flooding kills hundreds across Pakistan and India appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An estimated 11 percent of individuals aged 12 or older with alcohol or drug addictions received treatment in 2013, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

    The survey, released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reported that of the 22.7 million people with substance use disorder in 2013, only 2.5 million received treatment at specialty facilities.

    These facilities include rehabilitation centers offering inpatient and outpatient services and inpatient services at hospitals, and exclude treatment received in an emergency room, self-help group or private doctor’s office.

    The total number of individuals reporting a dependency on alcohol and drugs was up slightly from 22.2 million recorded in 2012.

    The top two reasons why individuals said they did not receive treatment remained the same: Not having health coverage or not being able to afford the cost (37.3 percent) and not being ready to stop using (24.5 percent).

    Other reasons individuals reported not seeking treatment included not knowing where to go for treatment and not having transportation to a facility.

    The survey is released annually in September to coincide with National Recovery Month, which is in its 25th year.

    The post Report: Most Americans with drug or alcohol addictions don’t get treatment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tourists pass the US Capitol building on a tour bus July 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Congress has been on break for the month of August. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

    Tourists pass the US Capitol building on a tour bus July 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Congress has been on break for the month of August. Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Congress returns to work Monday with a basic task – act fast to keep the government open and then race home to campaign.

    After a five-week summer break, lawmakers face a shortened September session with a tight must-do list: pass a temporary spending bill to fund federal departments and agencies through mid-December and extend the freeze on taxing access to the Internet.

    Votes also are set on largely futile measures designed to pack a political punch eight weeks before an election that will determine control of Congress.

    Wasting no time, the House is scheduled to vote Thursday on the spending bill.

    Several lawmakers have clamored for giving President Barack Obama new authority to use military force against Islamic State militants who have seized parts of Iraq, terrorizing religious minorities and threatening the central government in Baghdad.

    The militants beheaded two American journalists in Syria, prompting calls for military airstrikes in that country.

    But the Obama administration has not indicated that it wants a congressional vote and there is little consensus in Congress on any legislation, or even if it’s necessary.

    Sen. Jeff Sessions, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Obama can use force against the militants in Iraq or Syria based on the military doctrine that if someone “is attacking you or your ally you can respond.”

    The president ordering airstrikes or taking other military steps without a vote is “within the realm of his power,” Sessions, R-Ala., said in an interview.

    Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee, has drafted a resolution authorizing Obama to use military force against Islamic State militants in Iraq, Syria and wherever else they threaten U.S. interests.

    Some Republicans are reluctant to give the president any new powers in the absence of a detailed strategy.

    Obama has pledged to degrade and destroy Islamic militants, but has not come out with a strategy for dealing with the group. Republicans and some Democrats have seized on that concession, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., alluding to it in a campaign ad.

    Committee hearings and briefings from administration officials will be part of the September agenda. During the week of Sept. 15, Secretary of State John Kerry is set to testify before Congress about the Islamic threat.

    That same week, administration policies will receive further scrutiny as a special House committee investigating the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, holds its first public hearing.

    The high-profile session will focus on whether the State Department has put in place recommendations for improving security at U.S. embassies and diplomatic outposts worldwide.

    With an eye toward the midterm elections, House Republicans have scheduled a vote this coming week on a resolution that condemns Obama for failing to notify Congress in advance about the May swap of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held prisoner in Afghanistan for five years, for five Taliban leaders.

    Congressional investigators said last month that the administration broke the law with the deal.

    The administration has defended the swap and its decision to keep Congress in the dark, saying concern about Bergdahl’s health and safety required speedy action.

    Faced with fast-moving crises overseas, leading Democrats and Republicans have called for the U.S. to arm Ukraine as it struggles with Russian aggression, but it is unclear whether Congress will act.

    The House has scheduled just 12 days in Washington. The Senate plans to stay until Sept. 23.

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who told the rank and file that the agenda will be “brief, but busy,” said lawmakers will vote on legislation that will “paint a stark contrast” with the Democrats who control the White House and Senate.

    House votes are planned on health care, energy and the economy in political messaging ahead of the Nov. 4 election when the GOP hopes to increase its majority.

    In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is determined to spare his most vulnerable Democrats from Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina and Louisiana from tough votes and give them plenty of political fodder for the fall campaign.

    Senate votes are planned on raising the minimum wage and a constitutional amendment to stop the flow of unlimited, unregulated campaign money.

    Unresolved is whether the spending bill will include an extension of the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps foreign buyers purchase U.S. exports. The administration is pushing for its inclusion but conservatives are resisting.

    Congress also plans hearings on the program that supplies surplus military equipment to local police forces after a white policeman fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old, touching off protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

    The post Congress will vote on spending bill Monday to keep government open appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    unemployment

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We wanted to follow up tonight on yesterday’s unemployment report.

    The government reported that 142,000 jobs were created last month, well below most expectations.

    Even so, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.2 percent to 6.1 percent, in large part, because what’s known as the participation rate fell.

    In other words, even more Americans dropped out of the workforce. For more about all this, we’re joined from Washington by Sudeep Reddy, an economics editor at the Wall Street Journal.

    So, one of the articles in the Journal said that 60,000 people dropped out of the labor force last month.

    Put that into perspective for us.

    SUDEEP REDDY: That’s right, we’ve seen over the course of the recovery millions of people just giving up hope, dropping out.

    The vast majority of people appear to be dropping out just because they can’t find good jobs and it’s not worth staying in.

    So to see that many pull out. Right now the labor force participation rate is right around 63 percent.

    That means there are millions of people who were in the labor force before, before the recession started in 2007, who aren’t coming back in, even when we see improvement in the overall economy and improvement in the labor market.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So what are some of the long-term consequences of this low participation rate?

    SUDEEP REDDY: For individuals they are really quite tragic.

    It means that if you are not in the labor force, in a job that suits your skills, that means you’re going to spend decades down the line probably earning less than you would have earned otherwise.

    Because you start out at a lower base, you’re not getting the kinds of increases you would expect in pay, and in job quality.

    That could stunt you and there is research that shows that that could stunt your children as well.

    That’s why it is a big risk that way. It hurts the overall economy in much broader ways. An economy relies on people working at their full potential.

    It relies on people being particularly educated, people being involved in the labor force, looking for good opportunities, looking for good jobs.

    And you see in plenty of economies around the world, when you don’t have people working at their full potential it’s a degradation of the economy that reduces the potential to grow and the potential for job creation and for entrepreneurship, for all the things that you would expect to see in a vibrant, thriving economy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright and about those who are working, are their wages rising?

    Are they turning around and spending more?

    SUDEEP REDDY: Unfortunately, their wages are not raising very much. We’re seeing a very two track economy right now.

    On one hand you see the wealthiest Americans and there have been some reports this week with new data showing that the people who have been making the most gains, the top one percent to three percent, they’re doing quite well.

    Partly because the stock market has been going up so strongly over the last couple of years.

    Everyone else, the other 97 percent of Americans are generally seeing stagnant wages, that is why you are not seeing consumer spending take off.

    You see an economy that on the surface looks like it’s improving based on all of the numbers, but the way everyone’s reacting to it, it really isn’t gaining that much traction.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sudeep Reddy of the Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    SUDEEP REDDY: Thank you.

    The post U.S. unemployment decrease reflects more workforce dropouts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    cordesman

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about efforts to defeat the Islamic State, we’re joined now from Washington by Anthony Cordesman. He’s with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and was the director of intelligence assessment in the office of the secretary of defense.

    Mr. Cordesman, the president of the United States has said that we need a ground game, a partial response from the region might be you and what army? So, who are the people who would actually be on the ground and help tackle ISIS?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: The Iraqi forces are relatively large compared to any estimate of what the Islamic State’s forces are. If you provide the capability and training to make those Iraqi forces more effective, if you give the Kurdish Peshmerga better arms, you really have a force on the ground that’s significantly superior to what the Islamic State has.

    If you throw into that U.S. air power, or that of some other country supplied not only Iraq but in Syria, you have a divisive amount of fire-power. And if you add to this the ability to seal off the Islamic State on the borders of the areas it occupies to cut off its economic structure and reduce its flow of volunteers – in combination that’s a lot of leverage.

    It’s also a lot of ‘if’s,’ but the problem is not so much the ground game, the problem is to create a structure in Iraq where the Sunnis and Kurds can cooperate with the Shi’ite forces. Where you can rebuild the Iraqi forces without having them take sides in an ethnic, or sectarian civil war.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are we confident that the Iraqi security forces can be trained up and not walk off the battlefield like they have in previous occasions?]

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, we have to be careful, they didn’t exactly walk off the battlefield, they fled. And part of it was their leadership is leadership Malaki chose on the basis of loyalty, by sect, and used in ways which abused the local population. Are we confident we can change that?

    No, we’re not, nobody can be. This is up to the Iraqis and the Iraqi government, but so far there has been enough progress to at least offer hope. And we have seen cooperation between the Kurdish forces and the Shi’ite forces as well as the Iraqi forces. We have seen U.S. advisors help the Iraqi forces, at least try to take back territory in areas like Tikrit.

    So, there are some positive signs. There are certainly no guarantees.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there any amount of religious pressure that the leadership in the region can bring to bare on ISIS?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, that’s a critical question. The answer is not pressure, but the problem is we in the West, whether it’s the United States or its European allies, can never make an argument that we’re either an Islamic State, or that we’re Arabs.

    Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, can, Turkey can make an argument and it can join in this. So, one of the key issues is to have the clerics in the states that are around the Islamic State. To have them make the case as to just how extreme the Islamic State is, how much it is departed from the real values of Islam.

    The ideological dimension here is as critical as the military, or the political, or the economic dimension.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Would any of those countries in the neighborhood send in ground troops?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think the answer is, it would be very difficult. It’s not clear what would happen if you send in Saudi, or Jordanian forces. And certainly Turkish forces would not be an element that would really contribute to stability.

    The problem in Iraq essentially is you need to have Iraqis on the ground. They don’t have to be Sunni, but they have to be part of a government that Sunnis can trust, and the same is true of the Kurds.

    When it comes down to Syria, the fact is walking into that particular mess we’re not simply talking about the Islamic State, or al-Nusra, or the so-called moderate rebels, but you have more than seventy fragmented elements, is not something that can easily be done from the outside.

    It’s even more difficult for the United States to send in ground troops.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Anthony Cordesman joining us from Washington. Thanks so much.

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Thank you.

    The post Who would make up Obama’s ‘ground game’ to fight the Islamic State? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    yearroundschool

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    ALISON STEWART: When Bryan and Laura cooper moved to Charleston from Beckley, West Virginia two years ago with their young sons, they were apprehensive about the local school in their new neighborhood. It was on a year-round calendar, where kids start school just after July 4th.

    LAURA COOPER: It sounded to me like the kids were in school constantly, you know, with maybe just three-day weekends here and there.

    RYAN COOPER: I wanted to stay away from a school district that involved year-round.

    ALISON STEWART: Why did you want to stay away?

    BRYAN COOPER: I thought the kids wouldn’t like it.  I thought that, you know, me thinking back as a child, I thought, “Man, I woulda hated to be in school all year round.”  I woulda missed summer, hanging out with my friends, doing those activities.

    ALISON STEWART: But once the Coopers – who both work full-time – learned more about the calendar at Piedmont Elementary School, they quickly became converts.

    Here’s how the schedule works: instead of one extended summer break, the same 180 days of school are divided into 9 week quarters, which are then followed by three week breaks in fall, winter, and spring. There’s also about a month off for summer.

    It’s sometimes called a modified or balanced calendar. And here at piedmont elementary school in Charleston, West Virginia, year-round schooling has been the norm for almost 20 years.

    LAURA COOPER: Once we got a sense of what the schedule actually is we just thought, “Man, that’s great.” We can go on vacation in September instead of in the middle of summer.

    BRYAN COOPER: They never get that feeling of, “Oh, I’m so sick of being at school,” because they get so many breaks that they’re always refreshed and ready to go back to school. So that was the wakeup call to me. To see how different they felt about it.

    BETH STURGILL: Hi… have a good day.

    ALISON STEWART: Principal Beth Sturgill is a big believer.

    She says in addition to preventing student and teacher burnout, less time is needed for re-teaching at the beginning of the year. And for Piedmont, which is a diverse inner-city school with a high poverty rate, having shorter breaks throughout the year can provide more stability for at-risk students.

    BETH STURGILL: There’s lots of families that sometimes we have concerns about and we like to check in with and make sure everything’s going well.  And just to have that consistent flow without having that long, summer break helps them.

    ALISON STEWART: Practically, the calendar also gives the school flexibility to make up snow days during spring break before annual standardized testing, instead of waiting until the end of the year.

    KIM LANDERS: I need everybody facing me and listening.

    ALISON STEWART: But the biggest benefit to running on a year-round schedule according to Principal Sturgill and other educators we spoke to is the possibility of adding more time in school by bringing kids back during the first week of each three week break.

    It’s called intersession.

    ALISON STEWART: What is intersession?  What’s its purpose?

    BETH STURGILL: So it’s a variety of– review and re-teach for those kids that need it. A little, extra boost and it’s also some enrichment activities just to give them some fun things to do.

    ALISON STEWART: The extra week is optional – and paid for at Piedmont using federal money known as Title I funds, which are designated for schools with high populations of low-income students.

    The Coopers’s kids, seven-year-old Zene and nine-year-old Tayan have always attended the “intersessions,” which are also weeks that their parents don’t have to worry about childcare.

    BRYAN COOPER: Finding childcare for them for a whole summer is a lot different than finding childcare for them three weeks at a time throughout the year.

    LAURA COOPER: It makes for an– a very expensive summer to have three entire months straight where you’re paying for childcare.

    ALISON STEWART: Despite the benefits of the year-round calendar that parents and teachers cite, it’s not clear that it has helped Piedmont’s academic performance. In 2013, only 38.1% of children scored at or above mastery on reading. And only 38.9% scored at or above mastery at math, below the levels from a decade ago when the state first started using this standard to evaluate students.

    HARRIS COOPER: What the research suggests about the actual positive effect is that if it’s positive, it’s not great overall.

    ALISON STEWART: Harris Cooper is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. While research has documented how long summers can cause students to lose, on average, one month of instruction, he says shifting around the calendar to be year-round is not a definitive way to increase student performance.

    But where it has shown an impact he says is with lower-income students. And he also suggests that it could help children with learning disabilities, and those for whom English is a second language.

    But Cooper cautions even programs like intersessions that can add extra days to the school year are not necessarily going to boost achievement.

    HARRIS COOPER: We shouldn’t ever lose sight of the fact that (SLAP) time in school is a black box. Working with the school calendar can– influence– a child’s learning.  But what’s most important is how you fill the time that they’re in school.

    ALISON STEWART: People are stuck on test scores.

    BETH STURGILL: Oh, they are. Yes. They are.

    ALISON STEWART: Until a balanced calendar can say, look, we make test scores better, you’re gonna have some resistance. What do you think?

    BETH STURGILL: I think that’s a legitimate comment. But can we say the traditional calendar makes test scores better? I don’t know. I don’t know that that’s the case either. So I think you need the look at the whole child and the impact that year-round education can have on the whole child, and not just does it make your test scores higher.

    ALISON STEWART: In West Virginia there is only one other school using a year-round calendar, Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School, across town from Piedmont. There, administrators are experimenting with two week intersessions and making the extra time mandatory.

    And around the state, year-round schools have recently become a topic of discussion. This fall a new law went into effect that mandated 180 days of school, but granted local school districts more flexibility about how to set the calendar…

    So that if a district wanted to adopt year round schooling it could. But not one did.

    CHRISTINE CAMPBELL: I think people are really saying out loud, “Show me how this is gonna help my school system and the students in our school system.

    ALISON STEWART: Christine Campbell is the President of the American Federation of Teachers for West Virginia, a teachers union. And she’s not sold on the idea.

    In addition to the new state law granting school districts more options on the calendar, she says schools in West Virginia are in the midst of other major reforms: implementing common core, new statewide testing, and a new teacher evaluation system.

    CHRISTINE CAMPBELL: I think people are overwhelmed with all the other changes that they’re just not ready to take on that that much change or one more thing until they– we wrap our arms around all the other things that are happening in the state and the education system.

    ALISON STEWART: While Campbell acknowledges that districts should have the flexibility to try a year-round calendar if they want, she says there are logistical complications such as lack of air conditioning in many schools and scheduling issues for older students.

    CHRISTINE CAMPBELL: Sports is a huge thing when you talk about a balanced calendar because if you have one county that is, you know, in the system, they all play each other in their sporting events. So what does that look like when you go from this county to play this county and their calendar is completely different?

    ALISON STEWART: So for people–

    CHRISTINE CAMPBELL: The–

    ALISON STEWART: –who say, “Sports will adjust,” you have to think about it bigger than just– it’s not just sports.  It’s the social aspect–

    CHRISTINE CAMPBELL: –I mean, that’s part of–

    ALISON STEWART: –and the importance of–

    CHRISTINE CAMPBELL: –a child’s development is being involved in those things.  And it’s a big part of our culture.  Let’s– let’s (LAUGH) be realistic here.

    ALISON STEWART: She is also concerned year-round school would mean service personnel and teachers would be unable to keep second jobs, a necessity for many in West Virginia, which ranks 47th in the country in teacher pay. But one of the biggest issues is that providing programs like intersession costs money, and despite federal funding for some lower income schools, it’s not always clear who would have to foot the bill.

    CHRISTINE CAMPBELL: Does the community have to provide those services? Is the state department going to provide services for the intercessions? If we’re gonna talk to– talk about how to bridge that gap in student achievement, what does that look like?

    ALISON STEWART: For the Coopers, the lack of year-round options for older kids is a big concern – in Charleston there’s not a single middle or high school on a balanced calendar.

    Is there going to be a period for you guys when one of your kids is in a traditional school and one is on this “balanced calendar”?

    BRYAN COOPER: Yeah.  I dread it. And I’m very curious to see how that’s gonna work out.

    ALISON STEWART: What are you concerned about?

    BRYAN COOPER: I d– I just– Tayan will have days that he has to school that Zene doesn’t.  Zene’ll have days off that Tayan has to go to school (SIC).  So I– I’m sure there’ll be, you know, animosity both ways (LAUGHTER) of who gets to do what.

    ALISON STEWART: One of the concerns we heard from parents was that there’s no middle school to go to–

    BETH STURGILL: Yes.  Correct.

    ALISON STEWART: –on this calendar.  There’s no high school to go to–

    BETH STURGILL: Right.

    ALISON STEWART: –on this calendar.  What do you think about that?

    BETH STURGILL: Well, I would love to see– my personal opinion is I would love to see all of Kanawha County schools go to the year-round calendar.

    ALISON STEWART: All of ‘em?

    BETH STURGILL: Yes, I think it would be very beneficial for students.

    ALISON STEWART: For Piedmont students Tayan and Zene Cooper, their first break will be next week.

    ZENE COOPER: …one thing of this year’s intercession…

    ALISON STEWART: And while many schools are just getting underway; they’ve already got nine weeks of learning under their belts.

    The post ‘Always ready to go back’: Could students benefit from year-round school? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney says there is no question in his mind that he would have been more effective in the White House than President Barack Obama. But he reiterates he has no plans to run again.

    My time has come and gone, Romney told Fox News Sunday.

    Romney cited continuing high U.S. unemployment and growing troubles abroad, and that some of those who voted for Obama might now have some buyer’s remorse.

    Yet he said he didn’t want to dwell on the past, while admitting he had made mistakes in his campaign – and that the Obama campaign did a good job on picking up on them.

    Romney said, “I’m not running and not planning on running.”

    The post Romney: I would have done a better job than Obama appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Children hoeing on farm near Mt. Vernon, Ky., in 1916. Credit: Library of Congress

    Children working on a farm near Mt. Vernon, Ky., in 1916. Credit: Library of Congress

    It’s an image that many remember of America’s agrarian past: Kids toiling away on family farms during the long, hot summer break between school years.

    So it’s perhaps unsurprising that the origin of the school calendar is often linked to these images — by policy makers and in the media.

    In a story about achievement gaps caused by summer vacation, Time Magazine called the school calendar “a legacy of the farm economy.” In a segment on summer programs for low-income kids, NPR reported that the school year was based on an “agrarian calendar that dates back to farm cycles and harvests.” While advocating that kids spend more time in school, Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan told The New York Times that the long summer break was “based on the agrarian economy.”

    And while there may be a kernel of truth to this theory, its mostly wrong.

    “What school on the agrarian calendar actually looked like was a short winter term and a short summer term” said Kenneth Gold, a historian at the College of Staten Island. “And if you think about farming needs, that’s actually what makes sense.”

    Kids in rural, agricultural areas were most needed in the spring, when most crops had to be planted, and in the fall, when crops were harvested and sold. Historically, many attended school in the summer when there was comparatively less need for them on the farm.

    “The whole idea of an agrarian calendar makes it sound like it was an unthinking decision but the current school year was really a conscious creation,” said Gold, who is the author of “School’s In: The History of Summer Education in American Public Schools.”

    Urban schools had a very different school schedule, but also included summer. School was essentially open year round, but was not mandatory, and children came when they could. In 1842, New York City schools were open 248 days a year, dramatically more than the 180 or so that they are open today.

    In the days before air conditioning, schools and entire cities could be sweltering places during the hot summer months. Wealthy and eventually middle-class urbanites usually made plans to flee the city, making those months the logical time in cities to suspend school.

    By the late 19th century, school reformers started pushing for standardization of the school calendar across urban and rural areas. So a compromise was struck that created the modern school calendar.

    A long break would give teachers needed time to train and give kids a break. And while summer was the logical time to take off, the cycles of farming had nothing to do with it, Gold said.

    And none of the reasons for creating the current school calendar related to student achievement. “The conversations that we’re having today about creating a context for academic achievement just weren’t there.”

    But today, researchers are considering that exact question.

    Long summer breaks have been shown to cause children, especially lower-income children, to lose ground academically. It’s a phenomenon known as “summer slide,” where students return to school in the fall having lost a full month of learning, on average.

    Researchers have studied enriching summer programs, summer school, and even year-round school to combat this summer learning loss. One school district in West Virginia has had a year-round calendar for more than two decades. Watch the video below to learn more.

    The post Agrarian roots? Think again. Debunking the myth of summer vacation’s origins appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Iraqi army vehicles are seen on a road in the town of Samarra, in Salaheddin province in July 2014, after beating back an assault by Sunni militants on the town of Haditha, strategic for its large dam and oil refinery. The U.S. began airstrikes against the Islamic State around Haditha Dam on Sunday, Sept. 7. Credit: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images.

    Iraqi army vehicles are seen on a road in the town of Samarra, in Salaheddin province in July 2014, after beating back an assault by Sunni militants on the town of Haditha, strategic for its large dam and oil refinery. The U.S. launched airstrikes against the Islamic State around Haditha Dam on Sunday, Sept. 7. Credit: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images.

    TBILISI, Georgia  – The U.S. military said Sunday it launched airstrikes around Haditha Dam in western Iraq, targeting Islamic State insurgents there for the first time in a move to prevent the group from capturing the vital dam.

    The strikes represented a broadening of the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State militants, moving the military operations closer to the border of Syria, where the group also has been operating.

    Speaking in Georgia where he’s meeting with government and defense officials, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that if the dam were to fall into the militant’s hands “or if that dam would be destroyed, the damage that that would cause would be very significant and it would put a significant additional and big risk into the mix in Iraq” including U.S. interests there.

    At the same time, however, Hagel rejected the suggestion that the Haditha strikes opened up a new front in the war against the Islamic State group or that it represented an escalation of the U.S. military operations. He spoke at a press conference with Georgia Defense Minister Irakli Alasania.

    Alasania, meanwhile, said Georgia expects to provide some assistance in the campaign against the Islamic State, saying that training and carrying out military exercises with the Iraqi forces are “things that come to our mind.” He said Georgia can play a supporting role and there are plans to discuss the matter further.

    U.S. officials said that while the Anbar Province dam remains in control of the Iraqis, the U.S. offensive was an effort to beat back militants who have been trying to take over key dams across the country, including the Haditha complex. Hagel said the Iraqi government had asked the U.S. to launch the airstrikes and that Iraqi forces on the ground conceived the operation.

    Anbar has for some time been a contested region between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants backed by allied Sunni tribes. The situation deteriorated significantly in late December, and the militants took over parts of Ramadi and Fallujah.

    The Iraqi government and allied tribes launched an offensive on Jan. 26 to wrest control of the cities back from the militants and sporadic clashes have continued around Fallujah and in some parts of Ramadi, with only limited success by Iraqi security forces. U.S. airstrikes could greatly boost their hand now.

    “The dam is a critically important facility for Iraq,” Hagel said, adding that the U.S. is continuing to explore all options for expanding the battle against the Islamic State into Syria.

    Hagel spoke after a meeting with Alasania, the first of several sessions with government leaders. His visit comes on the heels of the two-day NATO summit in Wales.

    “We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam, which remains under control of Iraqi Security Forces, with support from Sunni tribes,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

    The dam is a major source of water and electrical power.

    The military said a mix of fighter and bomber aircraft conducted four airstrikes, destroying five Islamic State Humvees, another armed vehicle, a checkpoint and damaged a militant bunker. The U.S. aircraft safely exited the strike area.

    “We will continue to conduct operations as needed in support of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Sunni tribes, working with those forces securing Haditha Dam,” Kirby said.

    Last month Islamic State fighters were battling to capture the Haditha Dam, which has six power generators located alongside Iraq’s second-largest reservoir. But, despite their attacks, Iraqi forces there backed up by local Sunni tribes have been able to hold them off.

    The group was able to take control of the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq last month, but persistent U.S. airstrikes dislodged the militants. And while fighters have been trying to take it back, the U.S. has continued to use strikes to keep them at bay.

    The military said Sunday it had also launched a fresh air attack against militants near the Mosul Dam.

    U.S. officials have expressed concerns that militants could flood Baghdad and other large swaths of the country if they control the dams. It also would give the group control over electricity, which they could use to strengthen their control over residents.

    Earlier this year, the group gained control of the Fallujah Dam on the Euphrates River and the militants used it as a weapon, opening it to flood downriver when government forces moved in on the city.

    Water is a precious commodity in Iraq, a largely desert country of 32.5 million people. The decline of water levels in the Euphrates over recent years has led to electricity shortages in towns south of Baghdad, where steam-powered generators depend entirely on water levels.

    On Friday and Saturday, the U.S. used a mix of attack aircraft, fighter jets and drones to conduct two airstrikes around Irbil. The strikes hit trucks and armored vehicles. Those operations brought the total number of airstrikes to 133 since early August.

    The airstrikes are aimed at protecting U.S. personnel and facilities, as well protecting critical infrastructure and aiding refugees fleeing the militants.

    The post US widens campaign against Islamic State, strikes targets in western Iraq appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will begin laying out a strategy this week to defeat Islamic State militants in the Middle East, meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday and giving a speech Wednesday, the eve of the 13th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

    Obama disclosed his plans during an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    “I just want the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we’re going to deal with it and to have confidence that we’ll be able to deal with it,” he said in the interview conducted Saturday at the White House shortly after his return from a NATO summit in Wales where the Islamic State threat was a key topic of discussion.

    Obama restated his opposition to sending U.S. ground troops to engage in direct combat with the militants, who have laid claim to large swaths of territory in Iraq, targeted religious and ethnic minority groups, and threatened U.S. personnel and interests in the region.

    At Obama’s direction, the U.S. military has conducted more than 130 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq in the past month. In retaliation, the group recently beheaded two American journalists it had been holding hostage in Syria, where the organization also operates.

    Lawmakers have pressed Obama to expand the airstrikes into Syria. He has resisted so far, but said he has asked his military advisers for options for pursuing the group there.

    In the interview, Obama said the U.S. would not go after the Islamic State group alone, but would operate as part of an international coalition and continue airstrikes to support ground efforts that would be carried out by Iraqi and Kurdish troops.

    At the NATO summit, the U.S. and nine allies agreed to take on the militants because of the threat they pose to member countries.

    “Clearly, he’s put together a coalition of the willing – we have heard that before – to tackle this problem. That’s good,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

    At the same time, the president “needs to engage Congress, the American people, on what exactly we’re going to do here,” said Rogers, R-Mich.

    Make the case why the extremists are a threat of the U.S. and lay out the strategy, Rogers said. But, he said, “We need to have an endgame.”

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wants to hear what the diplomatic and military parts of Obama’s plan are.

    “Time’s a wasting, because we have now said that we’re going to go on the offensive. And it’s time for America to project power and strength,” said Feinstein, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee and joined Rogers on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    Obama’s emerging strategy depends on the formation of a new government in Iraq, as well as cooperation and contributions from regional partners, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey. Obama said he expected the Iraqi government to be formed this week.

    “What I want people to understand … is that over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL,” he said, using an alternate name for the group. “We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we’re going to defeat them.”

    The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, appealed to its member states to confront “militarily and politically” Islamic State insurgents. Support from the Arab League could provide Obama with the international coalition he hoped to create.

    It wasn’t immediately clear what steps the Arab League might take.

    Elaraby said Sunday on Cairo that what is needed from Arab countries is a “clear and firm decision for a comprehensive confrontation” to what he called “cancerous and terrorist” groups.

    Obama said his administration has seen no intelligence that suggests an immediate threat to the U.S. from the Islamic State group. But he said the militants can become a serious threat to the homeland if they are allowed to control even more territory and amass more financial and other resources, including foreign fighters.

    Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter.

    The post Obama will lay out American strategy to defeat Islamic State this week appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The killing of an unarmed black 18-year-old by an officer in a nearly all-white police department in suburban St. Louis refocused the country on the racial balance between police forces and the communities they protect.

    But an analysis by The Associated Press found that the racial gap between black police officers and the communities where they work has narrowed over the last generation, particularly in departments that once were the least diverse.

    A much larger disparity, however, is now seen in the low number of Hispanic officers in police departments. In Waco, Texas, for example, the community is more than 30 percent Hispanic, but the police department of 231 full-time sworn officers has only 27 Hispanics.

    Across the United States, there are police departments that still look like Ferguson, Missouri, a largely white police force protecting a mostly black community.

    After rioting followed the shooting of Michael Brown there, Attorney General Eric Holder noted the lack of black police on the city’s payroll. “Police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve,” Holder said.

    Holder on Thursday announced a Justice Department investigation into the practices of the city’s police department. Holder said he and his department had heard numerous concerns from people in Ferguson about police practices, a history of “deep mistrust” and a lack of diversity on the police force.

    “If we have a basis to believe that part of the issues out there, should we find any, is a lack of diversity on the police force, that is something clearly that we will look at, make recommendations with regard to,” Holder said.

    But the situation in Ferguson is less common than it was 20 years ago. In most cases now, underrepresented minority populations in police departments are found in places such as Anaheim, California, West Valley City, Utah, and Providence, Rhode Island, where there are large Hispanic populations, yet few Hispanic officers.

    Less common today are the circumstances in cities such as Ferguson, Chester, Pennsylvania, and Maple Heights, Ohio, where most of the sworn officers are white and are protecting largely black communities.

    In Anaheim, for instance, where the police department is among the least racially balanced in the nation, the police killings of two Latino men in 2012 set off weeks of angry protests. While more than half the community is Hispanic, only 23 percent of the sworn police officers are.

    “There’s a huge gap between community and police,” said Theresa Smith, a member of the Anaheim Community Coalition, which aims to improve police oversight. Police shot and killed Smith’s son in 2009. “You can’t bridge that gap if people don’t trust you.”

    The AP compared Census Bureau data about a community’s racial and ethnic makeup with staffing surveys by the Justice Department for more than 1,400 police departments from 1987 and 2007, the most recent year for which the data are available. The AP then analyzed how different a department’s racial makeup was from the population it served.

    The AP found that since 1987, black representation on police forces has improved, such as in New Orleans and in East Orange and Plainfield, New Jersey.

    At least 49 departments had a majority Hispanic population, yet more than half of the police department was white. That’s nearly five times as many departments than in 1987, when the largest disparities disproportionately involved black police officers and residents.

    Efforts to improve relationships between police departments and communities date to the 1950s and 1960s, when some departments started creating community relations units.

    Among the most balanced police departments in diverse cities are in Miami Beach, Florida, Oak Park Village, Illinois, Pasadena City, California, Bexar County, Texas, Cambridge, Massachusetts, New Orleans, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

    One benefit of diversity is to avoid the perception of discrimination, said Anthony Chapa, executive director of the Hispanic American Police Command Officer Association.

    But a diversified police force does not solve all problems.

    The AP found that even in cities where police departments reflect the communities they protect, there still are issues with racial discrimination. Police may not be able to hire their way out of problems.

    New Orleans, for example, is among the most racially balanced departments in the country. Yet in 2011, the Justice Department found that it discriminated against African-Americans. There are similar concerns in the Hispanic community.

    The executive director of Puentes New Orleans, Carolina Hernandez, said her group has been working with local police to bridge the divide between officers and the Latino community. “If you’re here to protect and serve,” she said, “it’s hard to accomplish that when the community automatically doesn’t trust you.”

    The U.S. government recognized the importance of recruiting more minority police officers as early as 1968, with that recommendation from the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, convened by President Lyndon Johnson after deadly riots in a series of cities the previous year. But it would be years before police departments made real efforts. Some departments still struggle with it today.

    “It is one of the challenges that I inherited,” said Adrian Garcia, the sheriff in Harris County, Texas. The first Hispanic sheriff of the sprawling county that includes Houston, Garcia said his department is not representative of the community. But he’s trying to change that.

    “I call myself the chief recruiter,” Garcia said. “I have to talk to the community and let them know what we want their sons and daughters to serve the community.”

    Garcia said he does not think a police department that does not look like the community it protects is more prone to discrimination than more racially diverse departments.

    “But it leaves that perception,” Garcia said. “As long as the community can point and say, `There’s no one that looks like me, and as a result, I feel like I was treated unjustly,’ it opens up the argument that maybe the policies are shortsighted in how you work with a diverse community.”

    This report was written by Eileen Sullivan and Jack Gillum for the Associated Press.

    Associated Press writers Michael Melia in Hartford, Connecticut and Russell Contreras in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and researcher Monika Mathur in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post AP analysis: Police across country short on Hispanic officers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap_bokoharam

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: While the world’s attention has been focused recently on gains by Islamic extremists in Iraq and other radical groups, Boko Haram has been launching new attacks in Africa. To update us about that, we’re joined now via Skype from Ghana by Drew Hinshaw of the Wall Street Journal.

    So, Drew, we heard just yesterday again about more attacks in parts of Nigeria, instead of the hit and run attacks from these guys, they’re now capturing territory and flying their flags.

    DREW HINSHAW: That’s right. What they’ve been able to do here is empty out an entire countryside. The very far northeast part of Nigeria. Town after town after town is abandoned and Boko Haram has been able to do that just by sort of constantly, like you said, starting with hit and run attacks and eventually moving entire units into these towns scaring lots of people out.

    You hear over and over again when you talk to people from these towns, the only people left in those towns are basically the elderly people, who don’t really want to move, or can’t move and don’t really pose a threat to Boko Haram. What’s interesting is they are raising their flags in some places, not all places. They’re not really sticking around and governing them, like you had in northern Mali.

    They kind of go in, they make some weak effort to impose Sharia law, they tell women how to dress and then they go back into the caves and mountains and forests where they’re camped out. They don’t want to be sitting ducks in these towns.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this part of a larger strategy to form another caliphate, or at least a Boko Haram state in Africa?

    DREW HINSHAW: That’s right. You know, people have constantly misread what Boko Haram is about. I think the government still uses them as an Islamic insurgency that’s bent on denying the president the election. Boko Haram has said for years what they want. They want to create this Islamic kingdom in the northeast of Nigeria.

    People don’t really take them at their word, but that’s exactly what they’re going about doing on the ground there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Any update on the missing girls that captured the attention of the West a few months ago?

    DREW HINSHAW: US surveillance planes did spot about seventy girls in one field. When they came back, they were gone. Also saw a group of about forty girls, when they came back, they were gone again. It’s important to say this: Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds and hundreds of girls, not just those school girls, they’ve also kidnapped hundreds of boys. Those girls were of political importance to Boko Haram.

    I don’t think they knew that when they kidnapped them, but quite early on they realized that they had something that was a negotiating chip. So, it looks like Boko Haram is still holding those girls as a potential negotiating tool. I talked to some other girls, who had been briefly kidnapped by Boko Haram in July and described to me hearing these arguments among Boko Haram members about those girls they kidnapped – the school girls – haven’t been good for anything.

    They haven’t gotten any political concessions from them, the girls themselves aren’t made for life in the woods. It’s a burden carrying around hundreds of traumatized school girls for Boko Haram. So, basically you have the ear and a stalemate, the government can’t seem to get the girls out and Boko Haram can’t seem to get anything for the girls either.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Drew Hinshaw of the Wall Street Journal, joining us via Skype from Accra, Ghana, thanks so much.

    DREW HINSHAW: Thank you too.

    The post Boko Haram ‘empties out entire countryside’ in new Nigeria attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BRAZIL-RUSSIA-PUTIN

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more about the situation in Ukraine, we’re joined now by Kimberly Marten. She is a political science professor at Barnard College and Columbia University.

    So, Putin was able to send in forces right before this cease-fire and this create this kind of, almost no man’s land. There weren’t any new rounds of economic sanctions this week. It almost seems like he was in a much better position coming out of it.

    KIMBERLY MARTEN: I think everybody recognizes that whatever kind of political settlement is eventually reached is going to be one that favors Putin’s interests. Russia just has stronger military forces. Russia has the ability to control Ukraine’s economic future because of the natural gas pipeline link. And as a result, that means that Russia has just all along been in a  stronger bargaining position.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, have we created another kind of protracted, frozen conflict? I mean, in the region, in Georgia there’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia and then in Moldova, we saw Transnistria. And now are we going to basically see eastern Ukraine as this longstanding conflict?

    KIMBERLY MARTEN: People have been saying that for a number of months — that that’s probably what the end result is going to be. And that certainly is something that again is in Putin’s interest because he would like to have more influence in Ukraine. He would like to have Ukraine always knocked slightly off balance so that they don’t know what he might do next. He would like to demonstrate that he has more power than the Ukrainians do.

    And so certainly by making it a frozen conflict situation where Ukraine never really has a definitive sense of sovereignty over its own territory, that’s in Putin’s interest.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And Ukraine has no incentive to try to keep this as the status quo, and they’re in a weaker bargaining position.

    KIMBERLY MARTEN: And we’ve already seen that the cease-fire has been broken. And it seems from the news reports that it’s probably being broken on both sides, and that’s not surprising because both sides really have an incentive to try to get more from the military situation before they sign a final peace agreement.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Have the sanctions created any sort of disincentive, a strong enough disincentive for Putin?

    KIMBERLY MARTEN: I don’t think so. The sanctions will probably have some long-term negative economic impacts on the Russian economy. We’ve already seen that happening a little bit. But I think the general sense is that the sanctions were put into place because nobody could figure out anything else to do.

    And so it was showing that the United States and its European allies were angry and were not going to let this pass, but in fact have very limited ability to have much influence over what Russia does.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And Europe has a much stronger trading relationship with Russia than the US, right?

    KIMBERLY MARTEN: Yes, they do, no question. Both on the natural gas level and then just on general exports and imports and all kinds of consumer goods.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: When we look at the longer arc, considering what we saw with the protests on the street from the initial decision on whether Ukraine wanted to ally with the European Union and NATO or not, who’s gotten what out of this?

    KIMBERLY MARTEN: I think that Putin is going to come out being the victor who’s gotten the most. What he obviously has is Crimea, which he didn’t have beforehand. It has not yet been recognized by anybody else. NATO made it very clear in the statement that it release a couple of days ago that it is not going to recognize Crimea. And so that limits Putin’s gains.

    For example, a lot of people have talked about the oil deposits that are located off the shore of Crimea. But Putin needs western technology in order to develop those oil fields, and so as long as there’s no recognition, that doesn’t bring him any economic gain.

    He doesn’t really gain anything economically from this. It’s more a gain of power. It’s a gain of what he can say to his home population about what he’s accomplished as president. And so it’s really much more an individual gain for Putin politically than for Russia as a state, because over the long term, Russia is not going to particularly benefit from this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the former Russian territories that are now part of NATO? How do they see this? Is Ukraine likely to be able to join ever?

    KIMBERLY MARTEN: I’m not sure about whether Ukraine will ever be joining. As long as there’s a frozen conflict on Ukrainian territory, they can’t possibly join. And that’s probably one of the reasons why Putin is interested in having a frozen conflict there, so that there is no border security.

    But in a sense, the other members of NATO may have actually gained from this, because Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in particular had always been very concerned about the possibility of Russian aggression at some point in the future.

    And Putin’s actions toward Ukraine have actually made the NATO alliance more focused on those areas and more desirous of showing that they are, in fact, NATO member states that will be protected, in this case, by a new rapid-reaction force that will be a sub-group of NATO members states that will rotate around the territory and be prepared to intervene at any time it’s necessary.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Kimberly Marten from Columbia and Barnard, thanks so much.

    KIMBERLY MARTEN: Thank you so much for having me on.

    The post Could nearby NATO member states benefit from the Ukraine crisis? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, performs maintenance and retrieves science experiment packages during a spacewalk on Aug. 18. Skvortsov, along with two other astronauts return to Earth on Sept. 10. Credit: NASA

    Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, performs maintenance and retrieves science experiment packages during a spacewalk on Aug. 18. Skvortsov, along with two other astronauts return to Earth on Sept. 10. Credit: NASA

    Three astronauts will return to Earth next week, capping off a six-month stay on the International Space Station.

    The members of ISS Expedition 40, including NASA Commander Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts and flight engineers, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, will land in Kazakhstan on Sept. 10, NASA officials said in a press release.

    The parachute-assisted landing will happen on a landscape similar to the US’s Great Plains region.

    The trio spent six months doing maintenance on the orbiting laboratory, collecting data and conducting experiments in hopes of advancing technologies from weather forecasting to human medicine, according to the expedition’s mission.

    Crew members also performed in-flight experiments, including evaluating the XSENS ForceShoe system as a possible way to measure the impact of exercise on specific joints in the body. The data collected will be used to shape exercise regimens created for astronauts to help stave off bone and muscle mass loss during missions. It can also be used to create exercise routines for people who have been restricted from exercise due to age, injury or other factors.

    When living in space, astronauts must maintain a consistent exercise routine to avoid muscle atrophy. Studies have shown that microgravity causes astronauts to experience up to a 20 percent loss of muscle mass on spaceflights lasting five to 11 days, NASA said.

    To exercise, astronauts do strength training with Advanced Resistive Exercise Devices (AREDs), which simulate the experience of lifting weights on Earth and allows astronauts to do squats, bench and shoulder presses in space.

    Cycle ergometers and treadmills on the spacecraft also allow astronauts to do leg exercises and work on cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance.

    Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft, headed for the International Space Station, on Mar. 25.

    The spacecraft’s landing will be broadcast online by NASA Television from 9:15 p.m. to 11 p.m. (EST) on Sept. 10.

    The post Astronaut trio to return after six months on International Space Station appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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