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

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    Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo/U.S. Air Force

    Enlisted soldiers and officers will no longer have to recite “so help me God” in appointment oaths. Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo/U.S. Air Force

    Effective immediately, the United States Air Force will not require enlisted members and officers to say “So help me God” in appointment oaths.

    The military branch is making the policy change after an airman from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was unable to reenlist when he omitted the phrase in his paperwork and verbal oath, violating the Air Force rule against omissions. The airman’s lawyer threatened to sue, arguing that he should not be forced to swear an oath to God to be able to reenlist.

    “We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James in a statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”

    The ultimate decision was made by the Department of Defense General Counsel, who ruled that the phrase should be optional if it was against the members’ personal beliefs. The Air Force previously had allowed airmen to use alternate language but the option was removed last October based on the legal interpretation of the sections of U.S. Code which contain the oaths of office.

    According to the Associated Press, all the other military services have allowed members to omit the phrase or use alternate language for years.

    The post ‘So help me God’ now optional for Air Force oaths appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    By Beth Simmons/Getty Images

    Finding additional care for aging loved ones can be a daunting task for many families, but there are resources that can help. Photo by Beth Simmons/Getty Images

    Our first column on Care Options focused on moving a parent or other relative who was still fairly independent into a new living situation as he or she needed a little more help with everyday tasks.

    In this column, we’ll focus on more advanced care needs. You may be dealing with chronic or progressive conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or congestive heart failure, or a sudden crisis like a stroke. Care may be needed 24/7, and it might not be feasible for you to provide all the required care at home.

    Care may be needed 24/7, and it might not be feasible for you to provide all the required care at home. Before any decision is made about residential care, try to visit more than one care community with your parent and/or another family member. Ask to join the community for lunch and get a tour, view the activities schedule and menu, and take particular notice of how the staff interacts with the residents.

    Speak with as many residents as you can. If the community under consideration is required to be licensed, ask to view the facility’s history of compliance with minimum standards and the number and types of complaints that may have been filed against the facility.

    Costs: It’s important to understand that Medicare doesn’t generally cover the costs of long-term care, particularly when it’s provided at home or in an assisted living facility. Private long-term care insurance policies can help, but may have limitations and loopholes, and are quite expensive. They must be purchased before care is needed.

    Options for Residential Care:

    • Residential Care Facility (RCF): These facilities are small group homes (sometimes called board and care homes, residential care homes or adult foster homes) that provide supervision, meals and care for people who cannot be left alone but do not require skilled nursing care. Residential care facilities provide assistance with bathing, grooming, eating, using the toilet, and walking, and they also provide socialization, some recreational activities, and a more home-like atmosphere. Rooms may be private or shared.
    • Assisted Living Facility (ALF): Individuals who are somewhat independent but require daily oversight and assistance with housekeeping, medication management and personal care will want to consider an assisted living facility. Assisted living facilities offer rooms or apartment-style accommodations and, often, social activities. Meals are provided in a shared dining room. Staff is available to assist with care needs such as transportation, bathing, medication management, grooming, eating or using the toilet, and care is arranged as needed by the individual. Nursing staff may be on-site or on-call. The monthly charge for assisted living is determined by rent plus the amount of care a person requires and varies widely throughout the U.S.

      Some assisted living facilities are dedicated to — or include a separate wing for — those with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments. These dementia care or memory care units offer a special security-protected environment, and social and other activities designed for the abilities of the residents.
      There are several online guides to assisted living facilities to help find a unit in your geographic area, but the guides are not necessarily comprehensive. A little investigative work, along with personal recommendations, can help to find a facility that fits your family’s needs.

      There are also companies that will consult with you as you seek assisted living or an RCF, but keep in mind that although this service is generally offered at no cost to you, consultants are paid commissions by the facilities for referrals. Nonetheless, some of the consultants are very knowledgeable about resources in your community, and that’s another avenue to explore.

    • Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF): Commonly called nursing homes, these facilities provide nursing services 24 hours a day and are designed to provide high levels of personal and medical care, such as administering injections, monitoring blood pressure and managing ventilators and intravenous feedings. People living in skilled nursing facilities usually require help with the majority of their self-care needs; it would be very difficult to provide this level of care in a home environment.

      Medicare may pay for a time-limited stay in a nursing home after hospital discharge, on a doctor’s orders. Medicaid may help cover the costs if residents meet specific financial and medical requirements. Some families qualify for Medicaid assistance after they have “spent down” their assets to a minimal amount. An elder law attorney can help you sort through the complex rules.

      One source of information on facility quality is Medicare’s online Nursing Home Compare, which provides ratings of nursing homes. However, please keep in mind that the data is self-reported. Use that as one tool, but combine the information with visits to the facility, recommendations from friends and/or professionals in the field, and your own intuitive reaction during your visit.

    • The Eden (or Greenhouse) Alternative is a program in certain nursing facilities around the country to make the environment more elder-centered and less institutional. These are set up to encourage as much independence and interaction as possible for the residents, and to be more home-like. Contact with plants, animals and children is encouraged. For a listing of currently-certified Eden/Greenhouse facilities, visit www.edenalt.org.
    • The Program for All Inclusive Care (PACE) is designed for people 55 years or older certified by the state where they reside to be nursing-home-eligible, but who can remain at home with a wide-ranging complement of health and supportive services. Sometimes referred to as a “nursing home without walls,” this growing care option is available in many, but not all, parts of the country. Most participants are Medicaid-eligible.
    • Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) (sometimes called “Life Care”) offer independent, assisted and skilled nursing facilities all in one location. If a person’s health deteriorates, a disruptive move to a new community is not necessary. These communities often can be quite large and generally require a substantial entrance fee, in exchange for a guaranteed spot when higher levels of care are needed. Costs may increase as care levels increase.
    • Special note for Vets: Veterans’ Communities may be available in your state, and offer multiple levels of care. From independent living with supportive health and social services, to skilled nursing facilities, these communities permit a veteran (or their spouse) to live in the same community. If eligibility requirements are met, rates for certain facilities are highly subsidized or free.
    • Again, regardless of the type of facility you choose, be sure to visit each one. (A fancy lobby doesn’t necessarily mean that care is high-quality!) Don’t be shy about asking a lot of questions. Ask about fees, of course. Ask about ratios of staff to residents, and what the rate of staff turnover is. A preliminary visit should reveal a facility that is clean, smells pleasant, and has staff that is actively, gently and respectfully interacting with residents.

      As a caregiver, you’ll still have a fundamental role if your parent moves into residential care. While you’ll no longer be responsible for the hands-on tasks, you’ll serve as frequent visitor, liaison, and, especially, advocate. You’ll likely be involved with paying bills, arranging medical appointments, talking to health care practitioners, and ensuring appropriate follow-up care. You’ll get to know the staff, check that proper diet and medications are provided, that your parent is participating in social activities as much as possible, and that he or she gets attention when needed. And, because your parent may not be able to, you’ll be his or her voice to express gratitude or request changes in care. It’s an important — even indispensable — role to play.

      More Information & Resources

      Eden Alternative
      1900 So. Clinton Ave.
      Rochester, NY 14618
      (585) 461-3951

      Medicare and Medicaid
      (800) MEDICARE
      Nursing Home Compare
      Home Health Compare

      National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

      National Center for Assisted Living
      1201 L St., N.W.
      Washington, D.C. 20005
      (202) 842-4444
      Choosing an Assisted Living Residence: A Consumer’s Guide

      Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)

      VA Services
      US Department of Veterans Affairs
      (855) 260-3274

      Long-Term Care Options Explored on PBS NewsHour:

      About Family Caregiver Alliance

      National Center on Caregiving
      785 Market Street, Suite 750
      San Francisco, CA 94103
      (415) 434-3388
      (800) 445-8106
      Website: www.caregiver.org
      E-mail: info@caregiver.org

      Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) offers an extensive online library of free educational materials for caregivers. The publications, webinars and videos offer families the kind of straightforward, practical help they need as they care for relatives with chronic or disabling health conditions.

      Family Care Navigator is FCA’s online directory of resources for caregivers in all 50 states. It includes information on government health and disability programs, legal resources, disease-specific organizations and more.

      Residential Care Search: listings by geographic area.

      Helpful Publications from Family Caregiver Alliance:

      Founded in 1977, Family Caregiver Alliance was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the U.S. created to address the needs of caregivers. FCA and its National Center on Caregiving are nationally and internationally recognized for pioneering programs—information, education, research and advocacy—that support and sustain the important work of families and friends caring for loved ones with chronic, disabling health conditions. Visit www.caregiver.org or call (800) 445-8106 for more information.

      The post How to pick a long-term-care facility when your loved one can’t live alone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An adult elephant wanders through Amboseli National Parkin southern Kenya. Photo by Molly Raskin

    Just moments after this photo was taken of a male bull elephant in Amboseli National Park, we were told to get in the car; his menacing look meant that he might charge. Photo by Molly Raskin

    Senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown writes from Amboseli National Park, where he is reporting on elephants endangered by the rise in poaching. On Tuesday, he played with baby elephants in an orphanage in Nairobi National Park.

    Brown is also in Kenya to report on the Storymoja Festival, a week-long celebration of storytelling. The festival comes one year after the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, during which Ghanaian poet and author Kofi Awoonor was murdered. Awoonor was a speaker at least year’s festival.

    On a hunt for rhinos, senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown follows Big Life rangers in the bush in Amboseli National Park. Big Life rangers track animals in an effort to protect them from poachers. Photo by Molly Raskin

    On a hunt for rhinos, senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown follows Big Life rangers in the bush in Amboseli National Park. Big Life rangers track animals in an effort to protect them from poachers. Photo by Molly Raskin

    We are hiking through the bush in an area just outside Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya. Every so often we feel the sharp pinch of the thorns that bite into our clothes and skin; impossible to avoid altogether, the rangers we’re with are good about gently raising branches and brambles to clear a path. They are members of the Big Life Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting elephants and rhinos against poachers. We’ve joined an afternoon patrol of six rangers led by Joseph Kotoke Meikoki, who laughs as he tells us of the “short walk” we’ll be taking.

    Two adult elephants play in Amboseli National Parkin southern Kenya. Photo by Molly Raskin

    To these two elephants, this is playing, but to us, an elephant charging like this would be very dangerous. Photo by Molly Raskin

    These men, all local Maasai tribesmen, are part of a 300-strong group of Big Life rangers, who typically go out for eight hours at a time, tracking animals to monitor their movements, looking for signs of poachers intent on killing them for their tusks or horns and responding quickly when a report of danger – or worse, a killing – comes in.

    This particular area is one where rhinos roam. And the rangers know them all.

    After a half-hour or so, we come to a small clearing and Joseph tells me we’ve reached the boundary line marking the territories of two bull rhinos – “Lari” (“green” in Maasai) on one side, “Dixon” (named for a longtime ranger) on the other.

    Two adult elephants play in Amboseli National Parkin southern Kenya. Photo by Molly Raskin

    Elephants have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. They use their trunks, not just for eating, but for sensing what is and what is not a threat. Photo by Molly Raskin

    Today, Joseph decides, the rangers will look for Lari – or signs of danger to him. Along the way, Joseph shows us how what look like dry branches actually hold water in them, and how the rhinos bend and break them to drink. We find rhino dung – about two days old, the rangers say — and some openings in the brush that look recently cleared by a large animal. But no Lari, not on this day. Better news: We find no signs of danger for Lari.

    A herd of elephants wanders towards the mountains in southern Kenya. Photo by Molly Raskin

    Ambolesi National Park in southern Kenya is one of the few places in the world where elephants can be see in large herds. Photo by Molly Raskin

    On the way back, Joseph tells us it’s actually better that we didn’t run into Lari or another rhino. Apparently, when frightened they just might charge you. And that is not a pleasant experience. “Now you tell us,” we say. Joseph just laughs.

    It’s incredibly difficult and painstaking work these rangers do, but increasingly necessary as elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered all over Africa. Amboseli, we’re learning, is a small success story – requiring constant vigilance – in a much larger catastrophe.

    The post Tracking rhinos and elephants with Maasai rangers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The members only area at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews will now be open to women. Photo by Lorna Baldwin/PBS NewsHour

    The members-only area at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland will now be open to women. Photo by Lorna Baldwin/PBS NewsHour

    The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland voted to admit women today, by 85 percent of those who took part in the vote. Until now, the 260-year-old club was for men only.

    This ballot was a first for its 2,500 global members, both in content and because it’s the first time members were allowed to vote by postal ballot or proxy. The timing coincides exactly with Scotland’s referendum on independence. Scots are deciding whether to dissolve their 307-year-old union with the United Kingdom.

    The sun sets on all-male membership at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland. Photo by Lorna Baldwin/PBS NewsHour.

    The sun sets on all-male membership at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland. Photo by Lorna Baldwin/PBS NewsHour.

    Women are allowed to golf in the Old Course at St. Andrews, but they cannot enter the R&A clubhouse just off the 18th green.

    This vote paves the way for women to play a role in the governance of the sport, since the R&A also serves as golf’s rulemaking body everywhere except the United States and Mexico.

    Peter Dawson, secretary of the club, said in a statement that the membership has also agreed to fast-track a number of women for membership over the next few months.

    Thursday’s vote takes effect immediately, and the club is now considered mixed membership.

    The post The other Scottish vote — ‘Home of Golf’ to admit women appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    A hose sits on a dead lawn in front of a house on July 15, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Drought conditions continue to worsen across California with San Diego approaching 1,000 days of drought. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Despite Tuesday’s thunderstorms, San Diego is nearing a grim milestone of 1,000 days of drought. The conditions are taking a toll across the state.

    Since Jan. 1, 2011, the amount of statewide rainfall has been dismal. In the 3.5 years since a drought was declared, most regions in San Diego County have fallen more than a foot of rain below average, said Alex Tardy, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service San Diego.

    “So everything is stressed including the water supply, soil moisture is extremely dry, and fuel vegetation and fire weather is basically near record levels,” Tardy said.

    The last significant rain accumulation in San Diego County occurred in December 2010 when a rare atmospheric river system brought wave after wave of storms, dumping five inches in downtown, Tardy said.

    Record warm temperatures continue to fuel the drought. Tardy said 2014 has been the hottest year in San Diego County since temperatures began being recorded 120 years ago.

    More than half of the state is experiencing "exceptional" drought. Most of San Diego County falls in the "severe" drought category, Sept. 17, 2014. Image courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor

    More than half of the state is experiencing “exceptional” drought. Most of San Diego County falls in the “severe” drought category, Sept. 17, 2014. Image courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor

    “All things that could aggravate the drought and make it worse pretty much came into alignment this year,” Tardy said. “And that’s why almost the entire state is in the D4, which is the highest level of drought.

    The dryness has led to increased fires across the state. This year alone, 1,000 more wildfires than average have charred tinder dry hillsides.

    Hot and dry conditions have also decreased statewide water supplies to 33 percent of capacity. Southern California’s largest reservoir, Diamond Valley Lake, has dropped to 51 percent of capacity — a 30 percent decline since January.

    The conditions are on track to surpass the historic drought of 1976.

    “Last year was the exclamation mark, because not only did we have insignificant rainfall and runoff…our snowpack was the worst, or was easily tied with 1976-77,” Tardy said.

    Tardy said above average temperatures are expected to continue through the fall.

    KPBS San Diego has more coverage on the continuing California drought in 2014.

    The post San Diego nearing 1,000 days of drought appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

    The United States is providing $46 million in new security assistance to Ukraine’s military, but will not provide lethal aid against Russian separatists. Photo by Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The United States will provide $46 million in new security assistance to the Ukraine’s military but stop short of fulfilling an urgent request from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for lethal aid to help his country fight Russian-backed separatists.

    Poroshenko pleaded his case during remarks Thursday to a rare joint meeting of Congress. While he thanked the U.S. for the nonlethal equipment it is providing his country’s beleaguered military, he said more was needed to stop provocations near the Russian border.

    “Blankets and night vision goggles are important, but one cannot win a war with a blanket,” he said during a 40-minute address that was repeatedly interrupted by applause from lawmakers.

    Hours later, Poroshenko arrived at the White House for discussions with President Barack Obama, a meeting meant to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the West’s support for Ukraine.

    “The picture of President Poroshenko sitting in the Oval Office will be worth at least a thousand words — both in English and Russian,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

    Ukraine and Kremlin-backed separatists have been locked in a months-long fight for control of eastern Ukrainian cities that sit on Russia’s border, aggression that followed Russia’s annexation of the strategically important Crimean Peninsula.

    Ahead of Thursday’s White House meeting, U.S. officials said Obama would announce a security assistance packages that will provide Ukrainian forces with countermortar radar to help detect incoming artillery fire. The U.S. also will provide vehicles and patrol boats, body armor and heavy engineering equipment.

    Despite some support for Poroshenko’s request within the Obama administration, officials said the president continues to oppose lethal assistance and does not envision directly arming the Ukrainian military as an effective way to end the conflict.

    Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also pressed Obama to ramp up military aid to Ukraine. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was expected to vote Thursday afternoon on bipartisan legislation that would increase military and nonmilitary assistance, as well as impose broad sanctions on Russia’s defense, energy and financial sectors.

    “President Putin has upended the international order, and a slap on the wrist will not deter future Russian provocations,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said. “In the face of Russian aggression, Ukraine needs our steadfast and determined support, not an ambiguous response. We are left with no choice but to apply tough sanctions against Russia, coupled with military assistance to Ukraine.”

    The legislation would authorize $350 million in fiscal 2015 for military assistance, including anti-tank and anti-armor weapons, ammunition, counter-artillery radars and surveillance drones.

    The U.S. and Western allies have condemned Russia’s provocations in Ukraine, levying a series of economic sanctions and restricting Putin’s involvement in some international organizations. But the penalties have done little to shift Putin’s calculus. In recent weeks, the West has accused Russia of moving troops and equipment across its border with Ukraine, though the Kremlin denies such involvement.

    Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists inked a cease-fire agreement Sept. 5, though the deal has been violated repeatedly. On Wednesday, shelling in rebel-held parts of the east killed at least 12 civilians, as a top leader of pro-Russian rebels rejected Ukrainian legislation meant to end the unrest by granting self-rule to large swaths of the east.

    Poroshenko, a billionaire businessman, won Ukraine’s presidential election in May after his country’s Russian-backed leader fled amid popular protests. Western leaders have praised Poroshenko’s commitment to reform, and Obama will press him Thursday for more aggressive political and economic actions that can stabilize the fragile nation.

    At the heart of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia is the former Soviet republic’s desire to strengthen ties with Europe. Poroshenko has only deepened those efforts, making a high-profile appearance at the NATO summit this month and overseeing the backing of a deal this week to strengthen economic and political ties with Europe.

    The deal lowers trade tariffs between Europe and Ukraine, requires Ukrainian goods to meet European regulatory standards and forces the Kiev government to undertake major political and economic reforms.

    Following a vote by Ukrainian lawmakers, Poroshenko called the deal “a first but very decisive step” toward bringing Ukraine fully into the European Union.

    The post U.S. to provide security assistance, but not lethal aid, to Ukraine’s military appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Archaeologist Jerry Spangler brought senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown into Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon for a firsthand look at the ancient ruins.

    As a budding archaeologist in 1989, Jerry Spangler was amazed by what he saw in Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon.

    “I was unprepared,” Spangler said, for the unspoiled “secrets of its ancient inhabitants.” Thousands of archaeological sites and petroglyphs lined the canyon walls — more petroglyphs, it turned out, than anywhere in the lower 48 states.

    “What we have is a perfect storm of one of America’s richest archaeological districts sitting right next to one of America’s greatest natural gas reserves…”
    For Spangler, the visit was the beginning of a 25-year love affair with Nine Mile Canyon. Now, as the executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, Spangler continues to identify and preserve the canyon’s cultural history, which, he says, is at risk from industrial development and vandalism.

    Utah’s energy boom is driving Spangler’s current preservation efforts. In 2000, massive natural gas reserves were discovered on the plateau above Nine Mile Canyon. Developing those gas reserves means driving thousands of semi-trucks through the canyon’s dirt roads.

    “What we have is a perfect storm of one of America’s richest archaeological districts sitting right next to one of America’s greatest natural gas reserves,” said Jerry Spangler, “and a conflict happens when you have industrial development in a cultural landscape.”

    MoabSo far, Spangler and local preservation groups have been able to strike a deal to pave the canyon’s dirt roads, preventing damaging dust build-up on petroglyphs. The groups will continue to monitor ancient sites for industrial impacts.

    But there is also the age–old problem of vandalism. Each year, preservationists find new initials, names and dates carved randomly next to ancient rock art. Spangler says such seemingly innocent acts can have lasting damage. “Every time a site is vandalized, information about that culture is lost forever,” he said.

    Tune in to Thursday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour to see Jeffrey Brown’s report on Nine Mile Canyon. You can watch on our Ustream Channel at 6 p.m. EDT or check your local listings.

    The post Preserving the ancient ruins of Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user Sheep purple

    The White House ordered a national plan Thursday to fight the serious threat of antibiotic-resistant germs. Photo by Flickr user Sheep purple

    WASHINGTON — Signaling the seriousness of the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant germs, President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered the government to create a national plan to fight them by early 2015.

    “This is an urgent health threat and a threat to our economic stability as well,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as he joined two of Obama’s scientific advisers to announce the steps.

    Already the world is facing a situation where once-treatable germs can kill. Repeated exposure to antibiotics can lead germs to become resistant to the drug so that it is no longer effective in treating a particular illness.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant infections are linked to 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the United States annually. The impact to the U.S. economy is as high as $20 billion, the White House said, or more, if you count lost productivity from those who are sickened. And the problem is worsening.

    Obama signed an executive order Thursday that would form a government task force and presidential advisory council on the issue, and he called for new regulations to make sure there is appropriate oversight of the use of antibiotics in hospitals. The orders also encourage better tracking of antibiotic use and the development of new antibiotics and tests.

    Critics said they had hoped the White House would go further, particularly in terms of the antibiotics used in animals processed for meat. The Food and Drug Administration has already sucessfully encouraged many drug companies to phase out the use of antibiotics used for animal growth promotion, but advocacy groups have called on them to limit other uses of animal antibiotics as well, such as for disease prevention when holding animals in crowded conditions.

    “The overuse of antibiotics on the farm clearly affects human health, and substantial changes in the use of antibiotics in agricultural settings are necessary in order to preserve this precious resource for human medicine,” said Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, a longtime advocate for limiting the use of antibiotics.

    The executive order directs the FDA to “to continue taking steps to eliminate agricultural use of medically important antibiotics for growth-promotion purposes” but did not mention other uses.

    AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

    The post White House orders government plan to combat antibiotic resistance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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  • 09/18/14--13:12: How did life on Earth begin?
  • Scientists at the Center for Chemical Evolution are breaking apart early molecules to determine how RNA and DNA formed. Courtesy Science Nation/National Science Foundation

    Scientists at the Center for Chemical Evolution are breaking apart early molecules to determine how RNA and DNA formed. Courtesy Science Nation/National Science Foundation

    How did life on Earth begin? It’s one of the biggest unanswered questions in science. Nicholas Hud and the Center for Chemical Evolution are breaking apart RNA and DNA to determine how the chains of chemicals that make life came together.

    DNA is the blueprint for building life, but RNA carries out the DNA’s instructions. RNA helps build the proteins and other materials necessary for life. Their hypothesis is that chains of chemicals called polymers assembled to form RNA and DNA 3.5 billion to 4 billion years ago.

    “We’re thinking that on early Earth the molecules that gave rise to the first polymers of life RNA and DNA would have actually started with small molecules interacting with each other and forming very ordered structures,” Hud said.

    Hud’s team has been experimenting with chemicals that were present on Earth 3.5 billion years ago. So far, no one in the lab has been able to coax these molecules to self-assemble into RNA. But they’ve gotten something that looks pretty close, Hud says. And that may be our chemical ancestor.

    Miles O’Brien has more on the chemical genealogy of life in this special report from the National Science Foundation series “Science Nation.”*

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

    The post How did life on Earth begin? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Marijuana is a pungent plant.

    After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in January, cannabis growers and retailers who had previously only sold medical marijuana began to move into the recreational business. To learn more about how the industry is growing, NewsHour Weekend traveled to Denver.

    My crew and I had a first-hand olfactory buzz when we toured one of the largest cannabis grow and retail facilities in Denver. As we learned, the smell of the leaves and buds is stronger than when pot is burned.

    The tour took us through all stages of pot: from baby buds to pre-rolled joints.

    We started in an airy warehouse where workers mixed soil and nutrients in a large wooden box next to rows of matured marijuana plants. Tiny leaves were cut from the “mother” and then potted into small cubes of soil; the process is called cloning.


    Workers at Medicine Man in Denver, Colo., plant marijuana leaves into small cubed pots of soil. Credit: Hannah Yi/NewsHour Weekend

    Colorado law requires that marijuana be grown only indoors, so as the plants grow taller and fuller, they’re transferred to various rooms outfitted with industrial-sized ventilation systems and bright lights.


    Lamps that simulate natural light at various periods during the day shine on marijuana plants at Medicine Man in Denver. Credit: Hannah Yi/NewsHour Weekend


    Marijuana plants at Medicine Man in Denver are housed in large rooms equipped with industrial-sized ventilation systems to facilitate optimum growth. Credit: Hannah Yi/NewsHour Weekend

    The lights are set to imitate natural light at various hours of the day, which casts hues of green on the leaves that look unreal.


    Ambient lighting at the Medicine Man facility in Denver cast neon green hues on marijuana plants. Credit: Zach Green/NewsHour Weekend

    After the buds bloom large, they’re moved to the trim room. When we walked in to the trim room, rock music was blaring.

    Stacks of stems with full buds cluttered a long table lined with workers. Their fingers moved quickly as they trimmed leaves off the branches.


    Workers at Medicine Man in Denver trim marijuana leaves from the stems. Credit: Hannah Yi/NewsHour Weekend

    At this point in the tour, the smell of the buds was faint and only recognizable if you leaned in close to smell. But that quickly changed when we entered the cure room where rows and rows of branches heavy with buds were hung up to dry.

    The overwhelming odor of pot hit us like a wall.


    Rows of marijuana branches heavy with buds hang in the cure room at Medicine Man in Denver and emit a strong odor. Credit: Hannah Yi/NewsHour Weekend

    Here, workers nimbly cleaned and picked off the remaining leaves from the dried buds. These are stored in large air-tight bins, and some are cured with flavors, like sour cherry, a crowd-favorite, which smells tangy and sweet.


    Buds of marijuana are stored in air-tight containers at Medicine Man in Denver before they’re packaged and sold. Credit: Hannah Yi/NewsHour Weekend

    After the tour we headed to the car. When we unzipped our jackets and opened our cameras bags, a huge dose of the marijuana smell hit our faces. Everything was saturated with the smell of pot.

    None of us felt the buzz, but we were definitely hungry.

    Watch the full broadcast report on the thriving black market of the marijuana industry in Colorado below:

    The post What it’s like inside Colorado’s largest pot dispensary (Hint: It’s smelly) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    He observed that the majority of US adults are now single: 50.2% compared with 37.4% in 1976 http://to.pbs.org/1uoDujQ #NewsHourChats Q1:What social & economic factors may have contributed to this trend? #NewsHourChats

    According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary, the majority of U.S. adults are now single, or 50.2 percent, compared with 37.4 percent in 1976. Photo illustration by Getty Images

    Every month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases an “Employment Situation Summary” based on current employment and population statistics the agency collects. While looking over the August report, economist Edward Yardeni noticed something surprising — the majority, 50.2 percent, of U.S. adults are now single.

    At first glance, it appears this data could have an extreme economic impact. After all, fewer couples tying the knot could mean a decrease in home ownership and spending on things like childcare. Yardeni has also argued that an increase in the number of single-person households has exaggerated U.S. income inequality, stating that although these households have lower annual earnings, their expenses are fewer than those of a couple or a family.

    However, as Facebook user Brenda Hill was quick to point out, “Single doesn’t mean what it used to.” Another user commented on the original NewsHour article reporting Yardeni’s findings, “there is one area that the statistics cannot easily capture which I think slightly skews the data, namely a couple living together that chooses not to get married. They would both file their taxes as single.” Divorced and widowed individuals are also counted as single in the BLS data, meaning the nation’s aging population could be behind the steady increase.

    Still, many of our readers saw ways in which the younger generation might be contributing to the trend. Facebook user Chris Allen observed, “living at home with your parents after college while you work two minimum wage jobs to try to pay off your student debt isn’t conducive to getting married and having children.” And reader Villemar believes more people of all ages are isolating themselves socially. “Why go out and meet people on a night when you can wander around online or binge-watch an episodic series on Netflix?”

    Another factor skewing the data — “adult” in this case refers to anyone over the age of sixteen, meaning unmarried high schoolers are also included in the high percentage of U.S. singles. PBS NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman has previously reported on ways in which BLS data may fail to paint the full picture. In August 2013, he suggested that a drop in the percentage of unemployed individuals seen in the July jobs report, was in fact due to a shrinking workforce, the result of many baby boomers reaching retirement age. Paul also measures unemployment using the more inclusive, “Solman Scale,” which includes part-time workers seeking full-time work, and “discouraged” job hunters who have stopped looking but are still in need of work, two groups that are excluded in the BLS unemployment numbers.

    What do you think? Is the BLS data strong enough to support Yardeni’s findings? What social and economic factors are behind the decline in matrimony? Is this trend a result of the nation’s economic downturn? Will it contribute to it? We invited you to share your opinions in a Twitter chat. Economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Dean Baker (@DeanBaker13) also shared his insights. Read a full transcript of the conversation below.

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    President Barack Obama vowed to target the Islamic State with air strikes during a prime-time address on September 10 in Washington, DC.  Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama vowed to target the Islamic State militant group with air strikes during a prime-time address on September 10 in Washington, DC. Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

    As Congress prepares to authorize President Barack Obama to equip and arm Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State militant group — with a final Senate vote likely Thursday afternoon — some members of Congress and legal experts are raising questions about the president’s legal authority to wage a long-term battle against the Islamic State militant group.

    The Obama administration has cited the 2001 authorization of military force to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and the terrorist network al-Qaeda — passed by Congress in the days after the 9/11 attacks — as justification. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill even cited the 2003 authorization of force to invade Iraq.

    But prominent members of Congress — and of the president’s own party — disagree.

    For example, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a personal friend of Obama’s who served as his chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has been outspoken in demanding that the president seek some limited congressional authority.

    “If Congress isn’t willing to do the hard work — to debate and vote on an authorization — we should not be asking our service members to go into harm’s way,” Kaine said in a statement introducing authorization language in the Senate. His proposal would authorize airstrikes against IS for one year and bar the use of ground troops. “With airstrikes going on, it would be a good time to do this sooner rather than later.”

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who comes from the more libertarian, non-interventionist wing of his party, told Secretary of State John Kerry at a hearing Wednesday that he thinks President Obama is violating the constitution by acting without a vote from Congress.

    “Let’s be honest, politics are engaged here,” Paul said, alluding to the fact that several Democrats would rather not have a war vote during an election year. “People don’t want to have a vote before the election. They’re afraid of this vote. People are petrified not of the enemy, but petrified of the electorate. That’s why we’re not having this vote.”

    Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, said Wednesday that his committee would draft a new authorization to use military force specific to IS in the coming days.

    David Schanzer, a professor at Duke University and director of the Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security, said the question is whether the current conflict falls within the 2001 or 2002 authorizations for then-president George W. Bush to use force against al-Qaida and Iraq, respectively.

    If it doesn’t, he said, then there is a constitutional question as to whether President Obama has the authority to attack the Islamic State without more specific and current authorization from Congress.

    “I think it’s a stretch to say that [the Islamic State] is linked to al-Qaida in such a way to say that Congress back in 2001 authorized the president to use force to defeat it,” Schanzer said. “The further away we get and the more steps in logic you need to make to get from the language of the AUMF [authorization for use of military force], which talks about organizations that attacked us on 9/11, to [the Islamic State], the weaker the argument is.”

    Marty Lederman, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University, who served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama Department of Justice, argued that the president could be within his authority to act.

    “It is difficult to assess whether the reading of the 2001 AUMF to cover [the Islamic State] is valid, since it depends upon certain factual conclusions that the administration has not yet explained in detail — in particular, on the notion that [the Islamic State] adhered to al-Qaeda’s mission of attacking the United States even after its split from al-Qaeda,” he told the NewsHour in an email. “The argument is not, however, as patently implausible as many observers appear to assume and, perhaps more importantly, it is a much more constrained argument than the interpretations of the Constitution or the War Powers Act that many had anticipated — arguments that would have had a much more expansive impact on executive authority than the 2001 AUMF theory has.”

    But with Congress on its way out the door for a final month of campaigning, any debate or vote on an authorization is unlikely to take place before the midterm elections.

    Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Ca., has introduced his own authorization language in the House.

    “These are precisely the circumstances in which Congress must be called upon to exercise its Constitutional authority to ‘declare war’ by voting on an authorization to use force,” Schiff said in a statement to the NewsHour. “While there is increasing interest in doing so among members on both sides of the aisle, it looks likely that we will not have the opportunity to do so until the lame duck session weeks from now.”

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrat and Californian Sen. Barbara Boxer, however, both say they believe President Obama has the authority he needs to fight the Islamic State already.

    But Pelosi cautioned that she and other fellow Democrats would not support American ground troops being committed.

    “I will not vote for combat troops to be engaged in war,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday. “The sentiment of our caucus has been that we are not supporting combat troops in how we solve this problem.”

    The post Does Obama need permission to wage this war? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Home Depot sayr that 56 million credit and debit cards were leaked in a security breach between April and September of this year.

    Between April and September of this year, 56 million payment cards used at Home Depot were leaked in a security breach, the company confirmed today. The home-improvement retailer announced that the malware responsible for the breach has been removed from its U.S. and Canadian systems.

    Home Depot entered an investigation on September 2, when banks and law enforcement officials informed the company that its payment data system had been compromised.

    The investigation found that the criminals used a custom-built malware to invade the system. In a press release today, Home Depot stated no debit PIN data appears to be have been released by the cyber attack, and all online shopping transactions remained secure.

    The retailer has 2,266 stores in the U.S., 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico, but only the U.S. and Canadian systems were attacked, the company says. The company announced that new, enhanced encryption technology is now in place in its U.S. stores and will be in all Canadian outlets by the beginning of 2015.

    The retailer also promised customers that they would not be held responsible for fraudulent charges as a result of the breach.

    “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and anxiety this has caused, and want to reassure them that they will not be liable for fraudulent charges,” said Frank Blake, chairman and CEO of the company. “From the time this investigation began, our guiding principle has been to put our customers first, and we will continue to do so.”

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    Long-Term Care Steps

    Mom forgets her insulin shot. Dad loses the utility bills. A foot slides in the bathtub. The stove top is left burning. Too often, it’s the little slip-ups that end in disastrous consequences for aging relatives. And while the vast majority of Americans over the age of 40 say they would prefer to stay in their own homes as long as possible, a recent AP-NORC poll reveals that roughly 60 percent of them admit they haven’t discussed their preferences for future living assistance with relatives, let alone taken the time to map out financial arrangements with them. When those conversations finally take place – often in panic mode – the web of social service agencies, in-home care providers and assisted living arrangements can be dizzying.

    To help guide the conversation in your own family, and then connect with the appropriate resources in your community, PBS NewsHour has partnered with the nonprofit National Council on Aging to bring you this cheat sheet.


    Step 1: Have the conversation

    Step 2: Connect with community services

    Step 3: See if you’re eligible for benefits

    Step 4: Make the home safe

    Step 5: Find and compare long-term care providers

    Step 6: Start planning for your own long-term care

    The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization representing older adults and the community organizations that serve them.

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    Pro-union supporters celebrate as Scottish independence referendum results come in at a 'Better Together' event in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014. The question for voters at Scotland's more than 5,000 polling stations is "Should Scotland be an independent country?" and they are asked to mark either "Yes" or "No". The result is expected in the early hours of Friday. AFP PHOTO/ANDY BUCHANAN

    The ecstasy: Pro-union supporters celebrate as Scottish independence referendum results come in at a “Better Together” event in Glasgow. Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

    Scottish citizens awoke today — if they ever went to bed at all — to the news that their country will remain part of the United Kingdom.

    A record-breaking 85 percent of registered voters turned out at the polls Thursday to cast their ballots for or against independence, the Associated Press reports. This included a number of voters under the age of 18 — the referendum was the first time individuals as young as 16 were permitted to vote on a major matter of state in the United Kingdom. The majority of residents, 55 percent, voted against independence, while 45 percent voted for it.

    Pro-independence supporters console each other in George Square in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014, following a defeat in the referendum on Scottish independence. Scotland rejected independence on Friday in a referendum that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact but paved the way for a major transfer of powers away from London.  AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

    And the agony: Pro-independence supporters console each other in George Square in Glasgow following a defeat in the referendum on Scottish independence. Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

    EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Dejected Yes vote campaigners make their way home along the Royal Mile after the people of Scotland voted no to independence on September 19, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The majority of Scottish people have today voted 'No' in the referendum and Scotland will remain within the historic union of countries that make up the United Kingdom.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

    Dejected “Yes” vote campaigners make their way home along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    Across the nation, independence-seekers mourned their loss. The leader of the Yes Scotland movement, Alex Salmond, announced today that he will resign his position as Scotland’s first minister and the leader of the Scottish National Party, which has championed independence for decades.

    “We lost the referendum vote but can still carry the political initiative. More importantly Scotland can still emerge as the real winner,” Salmond said at the time of his resignation.

    Pro-Union supporters celebrate following the announcement of referendum polling results during a 'Better Together' event in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond on Friday conceded defeat in his party's campaign for independence from the rest of the United Kingdom, after all but one result from the historic referendum was declared.  AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

    Pro-Union supporters celebrate following the announcement of referendum polling results during a ‘Better Together’ event in Glasgow. Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

    Meanwhile, those who voted to remain part of the United Kingdom celebrated the results. In a victory speech, Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together movement said, “The people of Scotland have spoken. We have chosen unity over division, positive change rather than needless separation.” However, he did not discount the need for political change, adding, “Every political party must listen to (the) cry for change, which could be echoed in every part of our United Kingdom but had this opportunity to express itself in Scotland.”

    British prime minister David Cameron repeated this sentiment, saying the results were “clearly not a vote against change.”

    The political fallout remains to be seen, but individual reactions can be seen across the nation and around the web.

    The UK’s Telegraph has been live blogging from the time the polls opened. At 4 p.m. local time they reported on the referendum’s impact in the world of sports:

    Fans of Scotland’s national football team have decided there is little point in singing Flower of Scotland, their anthem, at Ibrox. One Scotland fan pointed out: “How can we possibly sing Flower of Scotland when it contains the ridiculous line of ‘But we can still rise now and be the nation again’?” Another admitted: “The anthem is completely redundant now.”

    Revelers wrapped in a St Andrew's or Saltire flag, the national flag of Scotland, sit on a bench following Scottish independence referendum result night celebrations in George Square in Glasgow, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Scotland voted to remain in the U.K. after an independence referendum that put the future of the 307-year-old union on a knife edge and risked years of political and financial turmoil. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Revelers wrapped in the national flag of Scotland sit on a bench following the announcement of the referendum result in George Square in Glasgow. Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    The news organization also reported that The Scotch Whisky Association welcomes the “stability” brought by the referendum result.

    A woman shows signs of fatigue as she counts ballot cards at the Royal Highland Centre counting hall in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 19, 2014, after ballot counting got underway in the referendum on Scottish independence. In counting centres, jam-packed pubs and living rooms across Scotland, voters were nervously waiting for the results of their historic vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom. AFP PHOTO/LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

    A woman shows signs of fatigue as she counts ballot cards at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh. Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

    Twitter was a buzz with cheeky memes featuring Mel Gibson as the Scottish hero “Braveheart” and photos of sad Scots wrapped in the Scottish flag:

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    Dalton Debrick died of alcohol before his first day of classes at Texas Tech University.

    Dalton Debrick died of alcohol poisoning before his first day of classes at Texas Tech University.

    Late last month, police responded to a noise complaint at an off-campus residence near Texas Tech University. Among the party-goers celebrating the start of a new school year was Dalton Debrick, a freshman rushing with the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. The police would return just a few hours later to find his body. The freshman died of alcohol poisoning 24 hours before his first day of college.

    “Dalton was a good kid with a very bright future helping others,” his family said in a statement. “He was still discovering himself, but he said he wanted to work with kids somehow. He talked about coaching or even youth ministry. What we know is that none of those possible futures will happen because he died because no one cared enough to stop it or take care of him.”

    The day before Debrick’s death, an international student at Michigan State University died after a night of drinking during the university’s “move-in weekend.” Two days later, a freshman at Pennsylvania State University committed suicide by jumping from a construction crane on campus. A week after that, a Towson University freshman died after falling into a glass door during a party.

    At least eight freshmen at U.S. colleges have died in the first few weeks of this school year. The deaths have cast a shadow over the campuses on which the students spent too little time, but they’re also a cross-section of the kinds of issues and decisions facing freshmen as they begin their college careers — and of the choices some young students may not be prepared to make. Even colleges with the best approaches to educating students about mental health issues may have very little time to reach those who may be vulnerable.

    “It’s a huge transition and all the support systems are different,” said Pete Goldsmith, dean of students at Indiana University at Bloomington. “For students who have lived in very structured situations and environments, going to a college campus when very suddenly they have this new kind of freedom and new choices to make, it can be pretty overwhelming.”

    IU, too, has recently lost students just beginning their time on campus. In a high-profile tragedy last year, a freshman died after falling down a flight of stairs during a party. Since then, the university has put a stronger emphasis on what’s called bystander intervention through its “Culture of Care” program. In many cases, a student’s life could be saved if his or her peers reacted more quickly in getting help, Goldsmith said. Like those at virtually all colleges, IU freshmen go through orientation programming, including watching a musical sketch about drinking and sexual assault.

    But there’s only so much a student can learn — and only so much a university can say — during a few hours of orientation, Goldsmith acknowledged. So the university tries to reach out to incoming students earlier and earlier, he said, so that they have a better understanding of what to expect before they even arrive on campus.

    “We urge parents to have conversations with students about drug and alcohol use,” Goldsmith said. “We encourage parents to think through what their own expectations are for this first year. Parents and students are so focused on getting into college, there’s not always a lot of attention given to what’s going to happen once they’re actually there.”

    Even the most prepared students can still fall victim to the high-risk behaviors that sometimes accompany the first few weeks and months of college, however. Amy Murphy, dean of students at Texas Tech University, said most students actually arrive at college with healthy attitudes and behaviors, but then fall under the spell of “the college effect.”

    Texas Tech began the new school year with campus flags at half-mast. Seven of its students have died in the last month, six of them in off-campus car accidents.

    “The ‘college effect’ is the idea that once students are on campus, they’re exposed to these higher-risk behaviors and are then more likely to participate in them,” Murphy said. “It’s this unhealthy minority that is somehow so influential on the healthy majority. Colleges have to work on better messaging to convey to new students that the majority of campus does actually have the same healthy attitudes as they do.”

    Murphy said this misconception comes from images in movies and television and even from older siblings’ memories of what college is supposed to be. When the freshmen arrive on campus, they see older students still attempting to live up to that image and they try to follow suit, particularly when it comes to alcohol consumption, said George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health.

    “Humans are copycat organisms,” Koob said. “There has to be a standard of appropriate behavior that can be conveyed by juniors and seniors who managed to get that far in college without any problems. I really think there has to be standards that kids can look up to in their peer groups, appropriate behavior that they can model.”

    Koob also said that today’s students generally tend to arrive on campus exhibiting healthy behaviors and attitudes about drinking. In fact, according to the institute, binge drinking has decreased among college students in recent years. But, at the same time, alcohol-related hospitalization has increased as much as 70 percent.

    While fewer students are binge drinking, Koob said, those who still do are drinking more than ever.

    “Anecdotally, we’re hearing about higher numbers of students, particularly freshmen, ending up in ER situations,” he said. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a fairly dramatic increase of alcohol-related hospitalizations in this age group. It does seem that there’s an attitude now to drink as fast as possible and as intensely as possible and that’s very dangerous.”

    Jiayi Dai, a Michigan State University student from China, died in August. Police said alcohol was likely involved in her death.

    Jiayi Dai, a Michigan State University student from China, died in August. Police said alcohol was likely involved in her death.

    In the case of Jiayi Dai, the Chinese student who died at Michigan State, the university acknowledged that it provides education about alcohol abuse during international student orientation, but not information on where students could seek help after drinking too much. “That’s probably what we will now do in the future,” Peter Briggs, director of the university’s office for international students and scholars, told the Lansing State Journal.

    Drugs and alcohol abuse are not the only issues that have college officials worried.

    The mental health of freshmen, and students in general, remains difficult to address. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for college students, according to a 2011 study, and is more prevalent than alcohol poisoning. Gwyn Ashcom, the health promotion chair at the American College Health Association, said it’s important for colleges to stress that it’s normal for students to feel “a whirlwind of emotions.” And colleges have to be careful that the advice they provide doesn’t get mixed into that same vortex and spat back out.

    “During those first few weeks students are bombarded with information, which can be overwhelming,” Ashcom said. “I think we do the best we can to educate students. I think not being afraid to have conversations with students as well as staff and faculty is important. Conversations need to be happening not just via the health and counseling centers and other typical routes, but in the classroom as well.”

    At Texas Tech, Murphy said, officials try to split the university’s population into “subgroups” like first-generation students or fraternity members so that specific issues common to certain types of students can more easily addressed. Speaking to smaller numbers of students at a time can also help the freshmen know who they can go to for help, she said.

    “The current generation of students may be less equipped for dealing with stress than previous ones, or at least equipped in different ways,” Murphy said. “Universities have to understand their students as they are now. There’s a combination of factors that are influencing these early behaviors. They’re freshmen. They’re seeking out ways to feel more comfortable in this new social environment. That’s the challenge we’re presented with. How do you help those students feel supported in a short amount of time?”

    Inside Higher Ed is a free, daily online publication covering the fast-changing world of higher education.

    PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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    WASHINGTON — Amid a new focus on violence against women, President Barack Obama kicked off a star-powered campaign Friday against campus sexual assault particularly targeted at encouraging men to take a stand.

    Jon Hamm of “Mad Men,” Kerry Washington of “Scandal” and NBA all-star Kevin Love are some of the familiar faces appearing in a public service announcement along with the president. The “It’s On Us” campaign encourages everyone to consider stopping sexual assault their personal responsibility and to intervene when they suspect a woman can’t or won’t consent.

    With an estimated 1 in 5 college women experiencing an attack, Obama decried “the quiet tolerance of sexual assault” and called it “an affront to our basic humanity.” Research has shown most victims know their attackers, alcohol or drugs are often involved and only 12 percent of college women report the attack to police.

    The White House has enlisted Hollywood stars to help fight campus sexual assault. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are unveiling the "It's On Us" campaign Friday at a White House event. A website that went live Friday morning, ItsOnUs.org, features a public service announcement with Obama, Biden and other familiar faces telling viewers it's their responsibility to stop sexual assault. The star power also includes NBA all-star Kevin Love, actresses Kerry Washington, Rose Byrne and Mayim Bialik, comedian Joel McHale and musicians Randy Jackson and Questlove. Screen shot from Itsonus.org

    The White House has enlisted Hollywood stars to help fight campus sexual assault.
    The “It’s On Us” campaign features stars from NBA all-star Kevin Love to actress Kerry Washington. Screen shot from Itsonus.org

    The Obama administration has been raising awareness of the problem this year, ahead of a midterm election in which Democrats are counting on a strong turnout by female voters. In January, Obama launched the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault that recommended action campuses could take to protect victims. The U.S. Department of Education for the first time publicly exposed the list of colleges under federal investigation for their handling of sexual assault complaints.

    The latest effort has a particular focus on reaching men on campus.

    “You don’t want to be the guy who stops a friend from taking a woman home,” Obama said, while arguing it is men’s responsibility to do so.

    Vice President Joe Biden was even more blunt in his message to men. “Step up!” he said. “Be responsible. Intervene. You have an obligation to make a pariah of those on campus who abuse another person.”

    Violence against women has taken on a new prominence recently amid controversy over the NFL’s handling of domestic assault involving its players. Obama said society, including sports leagues, too often sends the message that women aren’t valued. And with recent sexual assault scandals of their own, the nation’s military academies are among the collegiate partners in the campaign, Obama said.

    The campaign is supported by partners who plan to help spread the message, including the NCAA, several collegiate athletic conferences and media companies with reach among students.

    Visitors to the Itsonus.org website are asked to turn their social media profile pictures into the campaign logo badge. They are asked to use their name, email address and zip code to pledge “not to be a bystander to the problem but to be a part of the solution.” The information is collected by Generation Progress, the youth arm of the liberal Center for American Progress advocacy organization with close ties to the White House.

    Other celebrities appearing in the PSA are actresses Connie Britton , Rose Byrne and Mayim Bialik, comedian Joel McHale and musicians Randy Jackson and Questlove.

    The post Kerry Washington, John Hamm help White House unveil campaign against campus sexual assault appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A screen with Chinese online retail giant Alibaba's stock price is picrtured on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York on September 19, 2014. A buying frenzy sent Alibaba shares sharply higher Friday as the Chinese online giant made its historic Wall Street trading debut. In early trades after the record public share offering, Alibaba leapt from an opening price of $68 to nearly $100 and, while it dropped back, was still up some 38 percent at $94.08 after 10 minutes. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

    A screen with Chinese online retail giant Alibaba’s stock price is pictured on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday. A buying frenzy sent Alibaba shares sharply higher Friday as the Chinese online giant made its historic Wall Street trading debut. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

    Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba began trading on the New York Stock Exchange at noon EDT today, opening at $92.70 a share — a 40 percent raise from its $68/share pricing the night before. That’s a bigger increase than Amazon.com saw it opening day in 1997. The company is expected to raise more than $21.8 billion, making Alibaba the biggest IPO in U.S. history.

    Alibaba is the highest valued internet-based company at its debut on the public market, worth $168 billion. It beats Facebook ($104 billion at its opening in 2012) and Google ($23 billion in 2004).

    To mark its much-anticipated opening day, the Alibaba Group gifted a “Tao doll” to the New York Stock Exchange, an enamel-decorated sculpture based on the mascot of the Taobao marketplace.

    Hangzhou-based Alibaba is China’s version of eBay, founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, an English teacher turned businessman. Much like its American counterpart, the website sells everything from electronics to hair extensions. Alibaba also has investments in U.S.-based startups like Lyft and ShopRunner.

    Financial analysts believe the company can avoid a repeat of Facebook’s 2012 disastrous market opening. The social media company opened flopped on its much-hyped debut, closing at a 23 cents above from its offered price of $38 after a series of technical glitches.

    The post Alibaba IPO opens with a roar on the New York Stock Exchange appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user ep_jhu

    Photo by Flickr user ep_jhu

    Editor’s Note: For 29 years now, Paul Solman’s reports on the NewsHour have been trying to make sense of economic news and research for a general audience. Since 2007, our Making Sen$e page has striven to do the same, turning to leading academics and thinkers in the fields of business and economics to help explain what’s interesting and relevant about their work. That includes reports and interviews with economists affiliated with the esteemed National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Founded in 1920, NBER is a private nonprofit research organization devoted to objective study of the American economy in all its dazzling diversity, combining data with rigorous analysis to describe and explain the material world in which we live long before data analytics became fashionable. “Why Some Women Try to Have It All: New Research on Like Mother Like Daughter” and “Why Does the First Child Get the Gold? An Economics Answer” have been among our most popular posts on Making Sen$e, both of them largely based on NBER research. We thought our readership might benefit from a closer relationship.

    Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to begin featuring these summaries regularly on our page.

    When a drug’s U.S. patent expires, manufacturers other than the initial developer may take advantage of an abbreviated approval process to introduce lower-priced generic versions. In most uses, generics are clinically equivalent to the original branded drug. Some drugs are straightforward to imitate and produce at low cost. Others, particularly those requiring sterile manufacturing conditions or similarly complex production processes, are much more costly to copy.

    Graph courtesy of NBER.

    Graph courtesy of NBER.

    In “Specialty Drug Prices and Utilization after Loss of U.S. Patent Exclusivity, 2001-2007” (NBER Working Paper No. 20016), Rena Conti and Ernst Berndt use information from the IMS Health National Sales Perspectives database to study how generic introductions affected the pricing, sales, and use of the 41 cancer-related specialty drugs that lost patent protection between 2001 and 2007.

    The authors find clear evidence that competitors entered the market and prices fell after patent expiration. Typically, between three and five manufacturers applied to produce generic versions of complex-to-manufacture physician-administered drugs. There were more applicants, 6.3 on average, for oral drugs.

    “The average price of physician-administered drugs declined by between 38 and 48 percent following patent expiration.”

    Average drug prices dropped after expiration. The average price of physician-administered drugs declined by between 38 and 48 percent following patent expiration. The decline was more modest, about 25 percent, for oral drugs. For these drugs after generic entry, high and increasing brand prices partly offset low and decreasing generic prices.

    Sales volume appears to increase substantially following generic entry, consistent with the usual assumptions regarding the negative relationship between prices and quantity demanded. As a result, total revenue from sales of both categories of drugs increased after patent expiration. For physician-administered drugs, the average increase in total revenue was 57 percent, while for oral drugs the increase was 46 percent.

    Linda Gorman, National Bureau of Economic Research

    The post When will your prescriptions be cheaper? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    This photo shows the first French air strikes over Iraq on Friday. Photo by France’s Ministry of Defense

    This photo shows the first French air strikes over Iraq on Friday. Photo by France’s Ministry of Defense

    French attack planes on Friday destroyed fuel depots and ammunitions on an Iraqi military installation run by the Sunni extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State.

    Fighter jets accompanied by support planes carried out four airstrikes and managed to destroy the target in northern Iraq, the Associated Press reports. French president Francois Hollande said that other operations will continue in the coming days with the goal to “weaken this terrorist organization and come to the aid of the Iraqi authorities.”

    Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military said dozens of extremist fighters were killed by the airstrikes. French officials could not confirm the deaths.

    Al-Moussawi also said the airstrikes struck near the town of Zumar in Northern Iraq, located in an area held by IS militants. It has lately been a battleground for Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting to regain territories from the terrorist group.

    Aside from the U.S., France is the first Western country to provide military assistance to the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Just last week, president Obama outlined his plan to ramp up air strikes against the terrorist group and create an international coalition that would eventually “degrade and destroy” IS.

    Meanwhile in Syria, the U.S. senate approved a bill on Thursday that will arm, train and support Syrian rebels fighting IS.

    President Obama expressed his approval of the vote, saying that a bipartisan vote showed the world that Americans were united in combat against the militant group.

    “We are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together,” the president said.

    The post France launches first airstrike against Islamic militants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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