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

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    WASHINGTON — Nearly 60,000 veterans were triple dippers last year, drawing a total of $3.5 billion in military retirement pay plus veterans and Social Security disability benefits at the same time, congressional auditors report.

    It’s all legal.

    The average payment was about $59,000, but about 2,300 veterans, or 4 percent of the total, received concurrent payments of $100,000 or more, the Government Accountability Office said.

    The highest payment was to a veteran who received $208,757 in combined payments in 2013.

    Some lawmakers say the report shows the need for better coordination among government programs that are facing severe financial constraints. The Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund could run out of money in as soon as two years, government officials say.

    “We should fulfill our promises to the men and women who serve, but we need to streamline these duplicative programs,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who requested the study.

    Veterans groups disagree. They say the retirement money was earned for years of service in the military, while disability payments are compensation for service-related injuries and wounds.

    In most cases, veterans who receive a combination of benefits are severely disabled. About 4 in 5 veterans who got triple payments had a disability rating of at least 50 percent, the GAO said. Nearly half of those receiving triple payments were at least 60 years old.

    Louis Celli Jr., a Washington representative for the American Legion, said critics of the multiple benefits are “misguided and uninformed.” He said the report “should simply be filed in the category of one of Sen. Coburn’s parting shots to loyal upstanding American patriots who have sacrificed so much for this country.”

    Coburn, a longtime critic of government spending, is retiring at the end of the year. He said in an interview that the report raises legitimate questions about whether disability benefits are getting to those who truly need them.

    “This is billions of dollars a year in duplicative payments,” Coburn said. “We ought to reassess and say, `Are we doing more than take care of people in need?’ I’m not against the military. I don’t think they should be triple dipping.”

    Most Americans would find it hard to understand how someone making $86,000 a year in tax-exempt VA income qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance, when civilian workers are disqualified from the program if they make as little as $13,000 a year, Coburn said.

    Only 17 percent of those who received multiple forms of compensation had suffered a combat-related disability, according to the GAO.

    Veterans have long been exempted from rules that deny Social Security benefits to anyone with other income exceeding $13,000 a year.

    But until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, veterans were barred from receiving both military retirement pay and Department of Veterans Affairs’ disability benefits. Under a Civil War-era statute, the Pentagon docked retirement pay dollar-for-dollar up to the amount of disability benefits from the VA.

    With bipartisan support, Congress changed that law in 2002, gradually restoring military retirement pay to veterans also drawing disability benefits from the VA.

    “Our nation’s status as the world’s only superpower is largely due to the sacrifices our veterans made in the last century,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in March 2002 when the bill was being debated.

    “Rather than honoring their commitment and bravery by fulfilling our obligations, the federal government has chosen to perpetuate this longstanding injustice,” Reid said. “Quite simply, this is disgraceful and we must correct it.”

    At the time, then-Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a former Navy secretary, posed a question to fellow senators: “How can we ask the men and women who have so faithfully served to sacrifice a portion of their retirement because they are also receiving compensation for an injury suffered while serving their country?”

    Warner acknowledged that the change would have “significant cost,” but added; “Is the cost too high? I think not.”

    About 3 percent of the nation’s 1.9 million military retirees collect all three benefits, the GAO said.

    The report did not recommend changes to the program. The VA said in a response that it “generally agrees” with the report’s conclusions. Social Security officials did not comment.

     

    The post Report: 60,000 veterans got triple benefits last year — legally appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Terry Burnham remains confident the bubble will burst and that Dow 5,000 is more likely than Dow 20,000. Photo by Flickr user ecstaticist.

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Stock prices just keep going up and up. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a record high yesterday, and so did a closely watched broader index, the S&P 500.

    To help explain what’s behind the latest surge on Wall Street, we are joined now via Skype from Richmond, Virginia by Roben Farzad. He is the host of the radio program “Full Disclosure.”

    So, a lot of people on Wall Street are talking about the latest buying events in Japan. Their stock index, the Nikkei, was up nearly 5 percent just yesterday after their government there announced a new stimulus program. So what did it do, and why does that matter here?

    ROBEN FARZAD, HOST, “FULL DISCLOSURE”: Because we’re so connected at this point. All these central banks across the globe are flooding the plane with money to get people to go out and take risks, take chances. The Bank of Japan actually goes out and buys equities in the Japanese stock market, which has been moribund for so long.

    Here in the United States, the Federal Reserve has kept interest rates near zero for the better part of six years now. And on top of that, they have $3.5 trillion of emergency bond buying measures. So, there’s a lot of cheap money going around stoking people to get into real estate and riskier bonds and riskier assets like stocks.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, this week we learned our own economy grew 3.5 percent during the third quarter of 2014. So, how much of a factor is that in the market’s recent rise?

    ROBEN FARZAD: The markets really right now are looking at the big intervening variable, which is the Federal Reserve’s largesse. Like I said, six years of emergency low interest rates – can anybody remember when it cost 6 percent or 7 percent to take out a mortgage or when you could get a little over four pointd on a government bond or a treasury bond? It’s just not really in the institutional memory.

    So, when you get not too hot but not too cold economic indicators, and by extension the Federal Reserve is telegraphing that it’s going to sit on its hands, maybe well into 2015, there’s this perception there’s– that there’s more room to run for the market.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: October was a pretty wild ride on Wall Street. Earlier last month, the Dow had the biggest weekly decline in more than two years. Then it came roaring back. What’s behind all this volatility?

    ROBEN FARZAD: Again, what’s behind the lack of volatility over the past three or four years? We have dodged so many bullets from 2008 and 2009 where there was an outright collapse. I believe the market peak to trough fell 55 – 57 percent. And then Greece collapses. And then we have the debt showdown and debt debacle here, and the fiscal cliff. And now you have worries about electoral uncertainty, and there are whispers of global deflation.

    There are lots of things at play, and I think investors have developed a person amount of scar tissue, the ones that are still in the market realize that it’s — when you see something approaching a correction– and we didn’t even hit a full correction — that there are people that are going to step in and buy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Speaking of participation, we came across some interesting numbers showing a specifically lower percentage of Americans own stock now than they did a dozen years ago. So who dropped out, and what are the bigger repercussions?

    ROBEN FARZAD: You worry about the solvency of Social Security and people’s retirements in general in an era where government debts maybe are not sustainable. People really en masse looked at what happened in 2000 with Y2K. They got their hearts broken with the tech crash.

    And then again in 2007, when they hesitatingly came back to the market, we get the mother of all economic collapses with the Great Recession and the market getting cut in half. And so, it’s kind of a like a case of fool me thrice; I’m not going to be that sucker.

    And so even with the numbers being as spectacular as they are in this five-plus-year bull market, you’re getting a lot of people that are saying no, I’m not going back to that asset class.

    You’re going to have to show me much more security and much better risk reward for me to get my money back. And that’s not helping their case. They’re going to need the market to help them into retirement.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Roben Farzad, the host of the radio program “Full Disclosure.” Thanks so much.

    ROBEN FARZAD: My pleasure.

    The post What’s behind the latest surge on Wall Street? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BokoHaramVideoNov1A man identifying himself as the leader of Boko Haram, contradicted reports of a truce with the Nigerian government, saying instead that the more than 200 girls kidnapped from Chibok, have been married off to the group’s fighters.

    “We have married them off and they are all in their husbands’ houses,”  said the man claiming to be Abubakar Shekau, in the video, Reuters reported Saturday.

    It was not possible to independently verify the video, according to Reuters; however, the video was distributed to local journalists in the same manner that previous videos have been released.

    The claims in the video go against the truce announced by the Nigerian government nearly two weeks ago.

    “Therefore I tell you (that) we have not made ceasefire with anyone,” said the man, who identified himself as Shekau. “Only battle, hitting, striking and killing with guns which we long for like a tasty meal.”

    At a #bringbackourgirls rally on Saturday in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja, participants pleaded for the return of the girls, who were taken from their school in April. One of the abducted girls was found in Abuja, freed, at the end of September.

    The post Boko Haram leader denies truce, says girls ‘married off’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    STEPHEN FEE: Like millions of Americans, Oregonian Pam Wald was riveted by the video of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman suffering from brain cancer who moved here to end her own life.

    PAM WALD: “I looked at that video. I studied, especially the last time I saw that video, I don’t think I left her eyes.”

    STEPHEN FEE: Maynard lived in California but relocated to take advantage of Oregon’s Death With Dignity law that permits what’s commonly known as physician assisted suicide.

    BRITTANY MAYNARD: “I will die upstairs in my bedroom that I share with my husband, with my mother and my husband by my side.”

    STEPHEN FEE: She was featured in a media campaign by a group called Compassion and Choices — twenty years earlier, its predecessor group played a key role in advocating for Oregon’s first-in-the-nation right-to-die bill.

    In 1994, Pam Wald considered herself a supporter of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.

    “So you voted for it, but you never thought, ‘This has to do with me.’”

    PAM WALD: “No, no. It was kind of like out of compassion. The idea that, you know, someone gets in this situation, they deserve a right, you know, to choose. You know, it’s important to choose how we live our lives and how we die.”

    STEPHEN FEE: “But then you found yourself in this situation.”

    PAM WALD: “Yes.”

    STEPHEN FEE: “Where you — where it’s, now it’s the story’s about you.”

    PAM WALD: “Yeah. This is my husband.”

    STEPHEN FEE: In 2011, Pam’s husband of 43 years, Ben Wald, discovered an earlier bout of cancer had returned — soon after, the disease began taking a lethal toll. Pam and daughter Bonnie watched as the once robust Ben rapidly lost weight. As the cancer spread to his bones, the pain became intolerable.

    PAM WALD: “Ben woke me up in the middle of the night and he said, ‘Pam, we gotta talk. I don’t want to keep, you know — I’m dying, Pam. I’ve had a good life with you and Bonnie. I really don’t want to just keep living like this. I want to explore Oregon’s Death With Dignity law.’”

    STEPHEN FEE: Under Oregon’s law, a doctor must determine a terminally ill patient has six months or fewer to live. The physician can write a life-ending prescription only after a second doctor signs on and both agree the patient is of sound mind. The patient must request the drug again 15 days after the initial request. But once the patient has it, the doctors’ role is over.

    STEPHEN FEE: Since the law went into effect in 1997, nearly 1,200 people have received life-ending prescriptions — but just 752 have actually taken them and died. Others died sooner and some changed their minds.

    As Ben’s health deteriorated, he and Pam sought help from Compassion and Choices, the group supporting Brittany Maynard. In 2012, the group connected them with two doctors who signed off on Ben’s wishes.

    PAM WALD: “Monday, Ben got the order for the prescription so it meant we could pick it up on Wednesday. And I thought at that point we would have it and then we would just kind of see. I thought I had more time with him. But he said to me, ‘Pam, I want to take it on Friday of that week.’”

    STEPHEN FEE: Portland physician Bill Toffler has also followed the case of Brittany Maynard — Brittany’s story strikes a chord with him, too.

    Toffler’s wife of 40 years was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

    DR. BILL TOFFLER, PHYSICIANS FOR COMPASSIONATE CARE EDUCATION FOUNDATION: “We were blessed with five years after the diagnosis was made. And she died just four and a half months ago.”

    STEPHEN FEE: For Dr. Toffler and his wife, assisted suicide was never an option. He leads a group, Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation, that opposes prescribing lethal drugs to terminal patients.

    DR. BILL TOFFLER: “Every day we lived differently because we knew that we had a limited amount of time in a way that I never perceived before I had a wife what that clear diagnosis. And I’d hope patients recognize that I value them as a doctor, regardless of how disabled they are, regardless of how sick they are, that their life still has meaning and value. And I want to reflect that, even when they don’t see it themselves.”

    STEPHEN FEE: But what about the fear and the pain that can surround dying? Why not help, I asked Dr. Toffler, if a patient asks?

    DR. BILL TOFFLER: “It is a very scary time. And at that time, I want to come around the person. I want to walk alongside them. I want to be the best doctor I can be. I’m called to be more of a doctor than ever. I’m not supposed to be the person who helps her to kill herself. That’s all too easy.”

    STEPHEN FEE: In a policy opinion, the American Medical Association says “physician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” And some religious groups, most notably the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, have strongly opposed the practice.

    According to the Gallup polling organization, a slim majority of Americans supports assisted suicide, but it’s only legal in three
    states — Oregon, of course, along with Washington and Vermont. And court decisions have opened the door for assisted suicide in New Mexico and Montana.

    Bioethicist Arthur Caplan — who was an opponent of the practice but now supports it — says the terms of the debate haven’t really changed over the past 20 years, even with the publicity surrounding Brittany Maynard’s case.

    ARTHUR CAPLAN, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: “I think what’s different in this debate is that Brittany Maynard is 29, attractive, articulate, almost– passionate about her right to choose here. That’s making the debate focus for a group that didn’t pay attention, younger people.”

    Caplan says fears of figures like Dr. Jack Kevorkian helped derail the right-to-die movement in the 1990s — and that improvements in end-of-life care have eased Americans’ concerns over suffering at death.

    BRITTANY MAYNARD: “I can’t even tell you the amount of relief it provides me…”

    But he says Brittany Maynard’s case may provide new momentum for supporters of assisted suicide.

    ARTHUR CAPLAN: “I think she’s shifting the politics in a way that we may see some of the folks who got tied up in say, trying to broaden marriage laws and trying to see homosexuality gain wider acceptance move to say this is a choice I want. This is
    something I care about because it’s her.”

    STEPHEN FEE: On May 4, 2012, Pam and Ben Wald gathered their closest friends in the living room. They sang songs together, and afterward, in the bedroom they shared, Pam handed Ben the medication that would end his life. He took it without hesitating.

    PAM WALD: “Early on when I got together with my husband and we were first together, we’d be laying in bed together and he was thinking, he’d go like this with his hands. His hands were always moving. It’s kind of like, it’s when he was thinking kind of thing and everything. But what I’ve never forgotten is his hands were like this on his chest, and I held my hands on top of his. But his hands never went like that and they just stayed, because he was just at peace. And his last words were, ‘Thank you.’ And he died in two hours.”

    STEPHEN FEE: Ben Wald was 75 years old.

    So what can we learn from Oregon’s experience?

    Katrina Hedberg of the state health authority — who’s neutral on the issue — tracks statistics on Oregon’s Death With Dignity law.

    KATRINA HEDBERG, OREGON HEALTH AUTHORITY: “Initially there were a number of concerns that people had around would this be disproportionately used by people who were disenfranchised, so uneducated or people who might have had disabilities or those kinds of things. And we’ve really found that the people who are participating are people who really want to control the timing and manner surrounding their death.”

    Still, Dr. Toffler says those final months and days should never be cut short, as he learned from experience with his own wife.

    DR. BILL TOFFLER: “We were married for 40 years. And in the last five years I think we had the best years of our life — when she actually had a terminal diagnosis. And I wouldn’t trade those five years for anything.”

    STEPHEN FEE: As for Pam, she’s now volunteering for Compassion and Choices, guiding other families through a process she now knows firsthand.

    PAM WALD: “Nobody wants to talk about dying and death. But once we get into that, it really becomes an act of love. It really does.”

    The post Beyond Oregon: Should terminally ill patients be allowed to choose death? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    It’s been 20 years since Oregon voters approved the country’s first assisted suicide law, but the controversial practice returned to the headlines this fall with the story of Brittany Maynard.

    The 29-year-old Californian was featured in an online video, outlining her plans to move to Oregon and take her own life under the state’s Death With Dignity Act. Maynard has an aggressive and fatal form of brain cancer.

    On Sunday’s PBS NewsHour Weekend, I report on how Oregon’s law has been implemented since it went into effect — and whether Brittany’s case changes the debate, especially since assisted suicide is only legal in three states (with court decisions opening the door to the practice in New Mexico and Montana). You can watch our full report in the video above.

    I won’t give away everything we found out — you’ll have to watch the piece for that — but we did discover that the debate is far from over, even in Oregon.

    Just a few weeks ago, NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown invited Compassion & Choice’s Barbara Coombs Lee and Dr. Ira Byock to discuss Brittany’s case.

    The issue’s been on the mind’s of our producers for years. My colleague, Lee Hochberg, reported on the legal and courtroom tussle that Oregon faced in the wake of the Death With Dignity law’s passage in 1994. It all resulted in yet another referendum reaffirming the law in 1997 and eventually a Supreme Court decision.

    It’s a conversation that’s on many Americans’ minds as well. As our population ages and our medical advances improve, there are questions about how far we’re willing to go to prolong our lives.

    A few weeks ago, leading health care expert Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel penned an Atlantic magazine piece, ‘Why I Want to Die at 75.’ He explained his rationale to NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff.

    This all leads to a single question — how do we want to die?

    Many Americans have a long time to answer that question, but Brittany’s case makes it very real for a much younger demographic. It’s not quite clear yet what impact she’ll have on the right-to-die movement, but she has certainly sparked a crucial conversation.

    The post Brittany Maynard case spotlights crucial conversation of how we want to die appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The first time Menachem Zivotofsky’s case was before the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer laid out why courts should stay out of a dispute between Congress and the president over whether Americans born in Jerusalem may list Israel as their place of birth on passports.

    The case, Breyer wrote in March 2012, poses a serious risk that intervention by the courts “will bring about embarrassment, show lack of respect for the other branches (of government), and potentially disrupt sound foreign policy decision-making.”

    Breyer’s view got just one vote – his own – on the nine-member court. The justices ruled then that courts could referee the dispute between the legislative and executive branches.

    Now the case, nearly as old as the 12-year-old Menachem, is back at the high court for argument Monday at a time of acute Palestinian-Israeli tension over Jerusalem and significant strain in Israeli-American relations.

    Menachem and his U.S.-born parents want the court to uphold a law passed in 2002 that gives Jerusalem-born Americans the right to have Israel listed as their place of birth on passports. Administrations of both parties have declined to enforce the law because they say it is contrary to long-held U.S. policy that refuses to recognize any nation’s sovereignty over Jerusalem until the Israelis and Palestinians resolve the city’s status through negotiations.

    Mirroring the divide, many American Jewish organizations are supporting the family, while the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee backs the Obama administration.

    Israel proclaims a united Jerusalem as its eternal capital. The Palestinians say their independent state will have east Jerusalem as its capital. The thorny issue of control of Jerusalem does not look like it will be resolved anytime soon.

    East Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967, has experienced unrest since the summer, with Palestinian youths throwing stones and firebombs at motorists and clashing frequently with Israeli police.

    Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said it was advancing construction plans to build about 1,000 housing units in that part of the city, setting off strong international criticism. Later in the week, a gunman wounded a prominent Jewish religious activist in an assassination attempt, Israeli police killed his suspected Palestinian assailant and Israel closed all access to Jerusalem’s most sensitive religious site, increasing tensions even more.

    At the same time, anonymous criticism of Netanyahu by an administration official underscored the sour state of relations between President Barack Obama and the Israeli leader.

    Against this backdrop, the Supreme Court is about to weigh in on an argument that has raged for nearly 20 years.

    In 1995 Congress essentially adopted the Israeli position, saying the U.S. should recognize a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Shortly before Menachem’s birth in 2002, lawmakers passed new provisions urging the president to take steps to move the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and allowing Americans born in Jerusalem to have their place of birth listed as Israel.

    President George W. Bush signed the 2002 provisions into law as part of broader foreign affairs legislation, but noted that that “U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed.”

    Obama has followed suit. “The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive flash points in the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., Obama’s top Supreme Court lawyer, wrote in court papers.

    Allowing the affected passports to list Israel as the place of birth would be regarded internationally as a reversal of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, Verrilli said.

    Backed by the Senate and members of the House of Representatives, the Zivotofskys called the passport policy “unjust and discriminatory” and said changing it would not impair America’s foreign policy.

    The state of Texas and advocacy groups that worry about excessive power in the hands of the president also are on Congress’ side. True Torah Jews, a group of anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews, is supporting the administration.

    The Zivotofskys sued in 2003 after they were refused a passport for Menachem listing Israel as his place of birth. Lower courts followed the path Breyer described, calling the matter a political question for Congress and the president to resolve without the help of the courts.

    But Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion rejecting that outcome. “The courts are fully capable of determining whether this statute may be given effect, or instead must be struck down in light of authority conferred on the executive by the Constitution,” Roberts said.

    The federal appeals court in Washington then struck down the law as unconstitutional because it intruded on the president’s authority in foreign relations. That might have been the end of the legal fight, except that the Supreme Court almost always has the last word when a court invalidates a federal law.

    The post US Supreme Court to hear Jerusalem passport case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — He is not on the ballot, but President Barack Obama was the focus in a final-weekend clash between candidates and party leaders as an increasingly confident Republican Party eyes control of Congress two days before Election Day.

    “I’m very proud of this president,” head of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said on Sunday while predicting victory despite disappointing polls.

    “I think we’re going to win the Senate,” she said.

    The Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, blamed Obama for weakness abroad and an economy that has not recovered as quickly as it should have.

    “This is really the last chance for America to pass judgment on the Obama administration and on its policies,” Romney said in a message echoed by Republicans – and even some Democrats – across the country this weekend.

    The midterm elections will determine which party controls of the House, Senate and 36 governors’ seats for Obama’s final two years in office. Republicans, who need to net six seats to take the Senate, appear certain of at least three – in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota.

    There are nine other competitive Senate contests, six of them for seats in Democratic hands.

    The campaigns shifted toward voter turnout as each side encourages its supporters to get to the polls on Tuesday in a midterm campaign expected to draw roughly 40 percent of the voting-age population. Large percentages of younger voters and minorities are expected to sit out the elections altogether.

    Early voting has been strong, however.

    At least 16.4 million people have voted so far across 31 states, according to early voting data monitored by the AP. Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina and Wisconsin already surpassed their 2010 advance totals.

    “The problem they have is that their message isn’t working and our ground game is whipping their ground game,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said on Sunday, asserting early voting advantages in Colorado, Arkansas and Iowa.

    “The Democrats are going to have a terrible night. We’re going to have a great night,” he said. “And it’s because Barack Obama’s policies and Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s policies and Harry Reid’s policies are on the ballot.”

    The final Sunday before the election was bringing out big names, including some who aren’t on the ballot now but could be in 2016.

    Obama, saddled by low approval ratings, has avoided the nation’s most competitive Senate contests. But he was placing his ability to energize voters to the test in two high-profile governor races on Sunday, trying to save a Democrat in Connecticut and unseat a Republican in Pennsylvania.

    During a Detroit rally Saturday, Obama pitched an economic message to middle-class Americans, particularly women.

    Possible Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was scheduled to visit New Hampshire on Sunday.

    In the Florida governor’s contest Vice President Joe Biden was to join Republican-turned-Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist for events in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, while former Gov. Jeb Bush campaigns with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

    On the Republican side, Romney, who reiterated on Sunday that he would not make a third White House run, was campaigning in Alaska with Senate candidate Dan Sullivan and Gov. Sean Parnell, who is seeking another term.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is expected to enter the 2016 Republican presidential primary, was to stop in South Carolina, Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania. And Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was campaigning across Kentucky.

    “This is going to be a repudiation of the president’s policies,” Paul said on Sunday. “The president is on the ballot in a way.”

    Wasserman Schultz and Priebus appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” Paul spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” while Romney was interviewed on Fox News Sunday.

    The post Confident Republicans slam Obama on final Sunday before election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Virgin Galactic test flight that crashed in California’s Mojave desert last week began breaking apart mid-air, according to officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, which launched its investigation Saturday.

    Wreckage from Friday’s SpaceShipTwo crash, including the aircraft’s fusilage, was found dispersed over a five-mile area stretching northeast to southwest in the desert.

    “That spread of the data of the debris field tells us that it was an in-flight separation, and of course the question is why did that happen, so that’s what we are exploring, that’s what are investigators are examining,” NTSB Acting Chairman, Christopher Hart, said in a press conference Saturday night.

    The crash resulted in the death of one pilot, identified as 39-year-old Michael Alsbury, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in a statement Saturday.

    Another pilot, 43-year-old Peter Siebold, sustained moderate to major injuries from the crash, according to the KCSO. Siebold is being treated at Antelope Valley Hospital.

    Hart said in his press conference that doctors deemed Siebold not yet medically fit to be interviewed by crash investigators.

    According to Hart, the on-site investigation of the crash will take about four to seven days; the investigation in total may last up to a full year.

    In a statement Friday from Virgin Galactic, the company said that its partner, Scaled Composites, was conducting a powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo, when the vehicle experienced a “serious anomaly.” The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, used to aid SpaceShipTwo in its launch, landed safely.

    Four hundred engineers work at Virgin Galactic, according to its founder, Richard Branson. Scaled Composites, an air vehicle design and manufacturing company, was responsible for the first private manned spacecraft mission in 2004.

    Both pilots involved in the crash were employees of Scaled Composites. Branson mentioned that he had never met Alsbury, but praised the work of all test pilots during a press conference Branson held on Saturday morning.

    Virgin Galactic had sold more than 700 tickets for the space flight at $250,000 each as of the end of April 2014, according to Mashable.

    A ticket entitles the holder to a two- to three-hour journey – a little over 62 miles – from Earth, in a spaceship along with five other passengers, The Wall Street Journal reported in November of 2013.

    “Once we’ve found out what went wrong, if we can overcome it,” Branson said at Saturday’s press conference. “We’ll make absolutely certain that the dream lives on.”

    The post Virgin Galactic’s ‘SpaceshipTwo’ had ‘in-flight separation’ before crash appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    calder

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    LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN: The notion that you could stand in front of something and wait to see if it moves, how it moves, just automatically slows you down. It means that you have to take a lot of time to look carefully.

    JARED BOWEN: By working in movement, Calder near single-handedly changed the definition of sculpture—rejecting tradition and those carved masses for which his own prominent family of sculptors was known.

    LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN: Calder is one of these people who was in the right place at the right time.

    JARED BOWEN: Lynda Roscoe Hartigan has overseen this installation of Calder’s work at the Peabody Essex Museum. It traces his career beginning with his search for the new which took him to Paris. Throughout the 1920s and 30s he immersed himself in that city’s avant-garde group.

    LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN: That’s where all this ferment was happening. You know, how do you write differently, how do you creative different kinds of music, how do you creative a new kind of art. He really knew how to connect with people and really got involved with artists like Marcel Duchamp and Mondrian.

    JARED BOWEN: That led to Calder’s lifelong fascination with movement and form—what many an observer has deemed his own ballets.

    LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN: When you think about how a dancer moves, so much of it is about balance. Also, I think when you go through this exhibition you begin to see that there are conversations, there are partnerships among some of the works and so, you could say that it’s like choreography. You could also say it’s theatrical because its performative.

    JARED BOWEN: It certainly helped that the mathematically-minded Calder brought a hefty engineering prowess to his Connecticut studio where he made all of his own pieces using simple hand tools.

    LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN: He had a degree in mechanical engineering. Just the notion of where you would attach weight or release weight, how far you can extend before it goes woppy-jawed in way that you don’t want. Sophisticated yet simple and basic principles of physics.

    JARED BOWEN: Along with a very limited color palette. Calder loved black and white, Hartigan says for it’s impact and contrast. Although the show is punctuated with color.

    LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN: Red is the color he felt could really stand up to the black and white. Yellow and blue, the other two primaries, become the colors he thought had good opportunities for accent points. Apparently, absolutely detested the color green.

    JARED BOWEN: Throughout his lifetime, Calder remained a hugely popular artist. He began making large-scale public art—interacting with audiences just as his mobiles and stabiles had, but in a grand way.

    LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN: He really felt like he could make large outdoor sculpture that could engage people’s appreciation of space and architecture, that that could enhance their lives.

    JARED BOWEN: Calder died in 1976. His work has been much debated in the intervening years with critics targeting him perhaps because of his popularity. But Hartigan says nearly 40 years after Calder’s death, there’s no question that he remains one of the 20th century’s most profound creators.

    LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN: The reason for his popularity is also the reason for his actual success as an artist because he was so committed to change. I mean, you cannot engage with space now without understanding with what he’s helped us interact with as sculpture.

    The post ‘It’s like choreography:’ Calder’s sculpture continues to captivate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Kenyans Wilson Kipsang and Mary Keitany won the men’s and women’s races at the 2014 New York City Marathon Sunday, both just a few seconds ahead of their competition.

    Kipsang’s win at an unofficial time of 2 hours, 10 minutes and 59 seconds, on a chilly and windy Sunday, secured his first trifecta after he previously won marathons in London and Berlin in a little over a year. He beat out Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa, who was four seconds behind him. Desisa’s fellow countryman, Gebre Gebremariam came in third.

    “I sprinted very much in the last 200 meter, I saved energy for that. That’s why I won,” Kipsang said in a post on his website following the race.

    His compatriot, Mary Keitany, was in an even closer race. Keitany won with an unofficial time of 2 hours and 25 minutes, a mere three seconds ahead of another Kenyan, Jemima Sumgong.

    First-time NYC Marathoner, Sara Moreira from Portugal, came in third.

    Tatyana McFadden of the United States, was the first to cross the finish line in the women’s wheelchair division, becoming the only person to win all four major marathons in one year in London, Boston, Chicago and New York City.  Australia’s Kurt Feanley took the men’s title.

    Geoffrey Mutai, who sought his third straight NYC Marathon win, finished the race in sixth place.

    More than 50,000 runners took part in Sunday’s marathon. The men’s and women’s champions will each receive $100,000.

    The post Kenyans sweep New York City Marathon for second straight year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: This week marked the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. And here in New York City, the recovery has been very uneven.

    It’s something that photographer Nathan Kensiger has documented in a series of photo essays for the website, Curbed.

    In this waterfront community in southern Queens, flooding caused a fire that burned more than 100 homes.

    NATHAN KENSINGER: It was kind of a wasteland, it had really just burned out a huge section of this neighborhood. All around you, you were surrounded just by the smoking remains of these homes that had been completely destroyed by the storm.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This is what it looked like a year ago. And this is what it looks like today.

    NATHAN KENSINGER: It was a shock to see how much they had rebuilt, it was pretty amazing to see. It had gone from being completely burned out and nothing there, to row upon row of houses.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But several other shore communities here in Staten Island have gone in the opposite direction. Right after the storm, Kensinger met Jean Laurie.

    NATHAN KENSINGER: Her house had been very damaged by the storm, but she had set up out front of her home this whole station to help give people food and water and warm clothes. She really wanted to bring her neighborhood back, even though Sandy had just happened.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But two years later, her home site is nothing but this patch of grass and dirt. The state offered her and other homeowners the pre-storm value of their home, plus a 5-10 percent incentive with the idea that the area would be converted to a natural buffer zone against future storms.

    Jean Laurie accepted the offer.

    Kensinger has documented that while some New Yorkers who live by the shore have moved away from the water that did them such harm, not everyone has.

    NATHAN KENSINGER: Geographically, they are all right there on the water, and they’re going to flood again. And so some of them have chosen to come back and face that. And some of them, you know, the decision was like, we can’t live here anymore. We know we’re going to flood soon and we don’t want to face that again.

    The post Photographer documents uneven Sandy recovery in hardest-hit neighborhoods appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Much of the analysis after the 2012 presidential election focused on how the Obama campaign had made better use of technology than the Romney campaign to get its supporters to the polls.

    Tonight, we look at what both major parties are doing this time around in the days leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections.

    Ashley Parker co-authored an article this weekend in The New York Times, and joins us now from Washington.

    So, it seems that the advantage goes between one party to another party, given which election cycle.  And there’s kind of a game of catchup that happens.

    ASHLEY PARKER, The New York Times:  Yes, absolutely.

    And, this time, Republicans are definitely playing catchup.  The Obama campaign really gave Democrats an advantage both in 2008 and 2012.  And, as you said, the Romney campaign didn’t really make the best of their digital team and their data and analytics.  So, you have Republicans who are really trying to catch up this cycle to be prepared for 2016.  And they’re actually taking a lot of pages out, not surprisingly, of the Obama playbook.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  So give us an example of how digital advertising can be targeted vs. a television spot.

    ASHLEY PARKER:  Sure.

    Well, on television, you place your ads on a TV show during the commercial break.  So, for instance, if you place ads on ABC’s “Scandal” because you want to reach female viewers, you get those female viewers, but you also get male viewers who you maybe don’t want, or you maybe don’t get male viewers who are forced to watch the show with their girlfriends.

    With digital advertising, you can basically, this cycle, target someone’s actual device, their cell phone, their tablet.  And it follows them whenever they are.  So, when they’re looking at their phone when they wake in the morning, you can serve them an ad.

    If they’re a congressional district and you’re a congressional campaign, not only can you serve them an ad when they’re at home.  But if you are serving them an ad on their tablet, you can — you can basically target them when they leave their district, while they’re commuting to work, while they’re at work, while they’re on their commute home, and when they’re in their kitchen cooking dinner and checking their phones.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  OK.

    So, these big companies, say, for example, YouTube or Facebook, are they selling the tastes and preferences — preferences that we are essentially exhibiting and telling them about?

    ASHLEY PARKER:  Yes, they absolutely are.

    Facebook, for instance, offers a menu of options to campaigns, from very basic, a campaign could, say, just target female users of Facebook or users who live in a certain zip code on Facebook or users who have liked certain Facebook pages, say, Rachel Maddow and “The Nation” magazine, or Facebook offers a far more sophisticated option, where a campaign can basically upload its voter file, which is the universe of voters they want to target to get out and vote.

    And they can literally serve ads to all those exact people who are users of Facebook.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  OK.

    So how much money are we talking about campaigns spending in the grand scheme of things?  Is more of it shifting to digital, to targeting like this?

    ASHLEY PARKER:  Yes.

    So, you know, each cycle, we’re seeing a larger portion of the overall budget going to digital.  For instance, there are some groups to ensure that digital gets a fair shake who will say, for every TV buy we make, 20 percent or 15 percent of that goes to a digital buy.

    But compared to television, it’s still a very small portion.  So it’s increasing rapidly, but television is still sort of the 800-pound gorilla.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  All right, Ashley Parker from The New York Times joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

    ASHLEY PARKER:  Thank you.

    The post Campaigning through the cloud: How politicians target voters with digital ads appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The United Nations warned Sunday that the world must get most of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, or increase the likelihood of what it called “severe, pervasive and irreversible damage.”

    “Science has spoken, there is no ambiguity in their message,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Copenhagen, Denmark on Sunday. ”Leaders must act, time is not on our side.”

    The 40-page report, which evaluated around 30,000 scientific publications, found that there was more than a 95 percent chance that humans have been the leading cause of global warming since the 1940s and 50s.

    Another key finding: Each of the last three decades have been warmer than the one that came before it. More than 90 percent of that heat, or energy, has been accumulated by the world’s oceans between 1971 and 2010, which seem to be bear the brunt of climate change, the report detailed.

    Another concern was emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which grew faster between 2000 and 2010 than in previous decades.

    By cutting greenhouse gases to zero by 2100, the world would limit the risks of irreversible damage caused by climate change, the report said.

    In December, world leaders will meet in Lima, Peru, as part of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to discuss the global response to the IPCC report.

    In late September, Ki-moon brought together government leaders, finance officials and others for a one-day UN Climate Summit.

    Ahead of the summit, hundreds of thousands of people participated in climate marches in New York City and in cities throughout the world where organizers highlighted scientific findings.

    In March, PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Professor Georffrey Dabelko, one of the authors of the latest IPCC report on climate change and its impacts on human security. You can watch the discussion here.

    The post UN report: Without action, climate change effects will be ‘irreversible’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Pew Research Center found that more Americans are relying on social media and mobile devices to keep up with Election 2014 coverage than during the midterms of 2010.

    Twenty-five percent of registered voters use their cellphones to get their political news, a 13 percent increase from 2010. And more than twice as many Americans follow political candidates on social media than during the 2010 midterms.

    The spike in social media and cell phone use to stay politically informed makes sense, given that more people are using these technologies than four years prior. The question is, are the major parties paying attention?

    On Sunday, New York Times reporter Ashley Parker told PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Hari Sreenivasan that both the GOP and Democratic Party are taking notice of the trend. Both parties are utilitizing digital advertising, serving ads directly to people’s phones, and tapping into the likes of Facebook’s advertising features to target voters based on interests and locations.

    “But compared to television, it’s still a very small portion,” said Parker. “So [digital advertising] is increasing rapidly, but television is still sort of the 800-pound gorilla.”

    The post Technologically speaking, how different are midterms 2014 from 2010? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user mikecogh.

    Photo by Flickr user mikecogh.

    Larry Kotlikoff’s Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we now feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. We are determined to continue it until the queries stop or we run through the particular problems of all 78 million Baby Boomers, whichever comes first. Let us know your Social Security questions. Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version.


    Question: So far, all of your Social Security questions-and-answers pertain to people who have been married. Is there information that people who have never been married need to know? I am currently 69 and waiting until 70 and I’ve worked for about 50 years with no lapses or unusual circumstances even while changing jobs or careers. It all seems pretty straight-forward. Am I wrong in assuming this?

    Larry Kotlikoff: For never married people I suggest four things.

    GOT SOCIAL SECURITY QUESTIONS?

    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    • First, they should file for their retirement benefit at full retirement age and immediately suspend its collection. The suspension of retirement benefits will permit the accumulation of delayed retirement credits while providing the option, as needed in an emergency, to take all suspended benefits in a one-time lump-sum payment.
    • Second, they should wait until age 70 to restart their retirement benefit.
    • Third, they should determine if working longer will ​raise their benefits through Social Security’s recomputation of benefits, which replaces the lowest of 35 years of indexed-covered earnings with current earnings if current earnings are higher. If working longer will raise their benefits materially, it may lead them to do so.
    • And fourth, in the event that unmarried boomers find a mate later in life who’s a higher earner and older, they might want to marry. In the event that they do, and the older spouse dies first (and if that happens after nine months of marriage), the previously unmarried younger spouse could collect a widow(er) benefit that may exceed his or her own retirement benefit.

      Question: I received disability after having cancer while a working widow. But I didn’t know I had to give up widows benefits while getting employment disability. My lawyer never mentioned it. I don’t know what to do. They want $21,000 back. I sent in a check for a 60-month payment plan, but my local office has closed and I haven’t heard anything. Should I be OK as long as I’ve given them a payment plan?

      Larry Kotlikoff: Very sorry to hear about your troubles. I’m not sure I understand exactly what’s happened, but it sounds like you first applied for widows benefits at or after age 60 and then became disabled and applied for disability benefits. I’m very surprised that Social Security would send you both a widows benefit and a disability benefit rather than what they should send you — namely the larger of the two. But given the chaos in this overworked, underfunded and understaffed agency, I guess it’s possible. If Social Security provided you with a payment plan, your sending checks by certified mail should be fine. But if you established your own payment plan, don’t expect them to go for it. Try to call an office in a different town or city and see if you can find out what’s going on.


      Nancy — Oceanside, Calif.: I am getting married in September. I was told that I would loose my Social Security if I got married. I am 64 and my fiance is 58. When I reach 66 I will want to retire. Can I collect my own Social Security? What happens when he retires and wants to collect Social Security? Can we each collect our own Social Security without penalty?

      Larry Kotlikoff: You can collect your full retirement benefit starting at age 66, or you can collect a 32 percent inflation-adjusted larger retirement benefit starting at age 70.

      You won’t lose your own ​Social Security retirement benefit by getting married. On the contrary, after one year of marriage, you’ll be eligible to collect a spousal benefit once your husband files for his retirement benefit. And if he dies after you’ve been married for nine months, you’ll be eligible to collect widows benefits based on his earnings record.

      The Catch-22 here is that if you do try to collect spousal or widows benefits on your husband-to-be’s work record after having filed for your retirement benefit (even if you suspend it), you won’t get both benefits. Instead, you’ll get what is, roughly speaking, the larger of the two. Social Security describes this as you receiving your retirement benefit plus an excess spousal or excess widows benefit if one or both of them is positive.

      So don’t worry about getting married unless you are divorced after having been married for 10 years. In that case, you’d lose your ability to receive a divorced spousal benefit based on your ex’s work record.

      On the other hand, since you’d be marrying after age 60, you could still collect divorced widows benefits based on your ex’s work record. Again, Social Security looks at all the benefits to which you are eligible and gives you the largest. In other words, you can’t collect on both your ex-spouse’s and your current spouse’s work records at the same time.


      Lila — New York: I already made $17,000 this year and cannot receive my
      unemployment benefits at this time. Am I still eligible to collect Social Security at this time? Otherwise I will have no other income.

      Larry Kotlikoff: ​Yes, Lila, provided you are 62 or over, you can collect reduced retirement benefits based on your work record.


      Question: I had to take early retirement at age 62 for health reasons — regular Social Security, not disability. I currently receive $1,652 a month from Social Security. I am separated from my wife, who only worked briefly outside the home and so is not entitled to any Social Security benefits. How much can my wife receive by drawing on my Social Security account at age 62?

      Larry Kotlikoff: If you were married for 10 or more years, your ex-wife can receive a reduced spousal benefit starting at age 62 based on your work record. It will equal ​half of your full retirement benefit times a reduction factor of .70 if she was born between 1943 and 1954.


      Question — Santa Clara, Calif.: I am 70 years old and I collect approximately $2,300 per month in Social Security benefits. In addition, I am still self-employed with a modest income. My wife is 54 years old and is self-employed. Two years ago we took legal custody of two of our grandchildren who were 7 and 10 at the time. Does this situation qualify the boys for Social Security benefits? My wife is their biological grandmother.

      Larry Kotlikoff: In order for minor children to qualify for benefits on a grandparent’s record, they must either be adopted, or both of their natural parents must be deceased or disabled. If this is the case, I believe your two grandchildren qualify to collect child benefits until they are 18 or 19, or if they are still in primary or secondary school, and if your wife qualifies to collect child-in-care spousal benefits until the youngest child reaches age 16. Each of these benefits will be equal to 50 percent of your full retirement benefit (not necessarily equal to your actual benefit).

      But now for two Social Security gotchas. Your wife’s child-in-care spousal benefit may be reduced or wiped out by the Social Security earnings test. Next year, for example, she’ll lose 50 cents of every dollar of her spousal benefit for every dollar she earns above $15,720. Social Security has the following statement on its website:

      It is important to note that any benefits withheld while you continue to work are not “lost”. Once you reach [Full Retirement Age] FRA, your monthly benefit will be increased permanently to account for the months in which benefits were withheld.

      This is true for retirement benefits, non child-in-care spousal benefits, and widow(er) benefits lost to the earnings test. This does not apply to child-in-care spousal benefits that your wife loses due to the earnings test. They are not recouped when she reaches full retirement age.

      The second nasty gotcha arises from Social Security’s family benefit maximum, which will limit the total benefits that your grandchildren and wife can receive to somewhere between 50 percent and 87 percent of your full retirement benefit. Since each child and your spouse can, before the family benefit maximum and earnings test are applied, receive 50 percent of your full retirement benefit while you are alive (but higher amounts when you die), you will, I believe, use up all your available family benefits by just filing for child benefits on behalf of your grandchildren. Once one of the children is no longer eligible for a child benefit, you’ll want to explore having your wife file for child-in-care benefits.

      A very careful software program can sort all this out and tell you exactly when to apply for what.

      The post 4 Social Security tips for boomers who never married appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Scientists have discovered a new, low-stress way to study penguins: send undercover rovers dressed as their babies.

    A new report published Sunday in the journal Nature Methods found that studying penguins with small, remotely-operated rovers not only inflict less stress on the animals than a human visit, but also allow more accurate data to be collected.

    “Approaching animals with a rover can reduce impact, as measured by heart rates and behaviour of king penguins,” the authors wrote in the study, “thus allowing such animals to be considered as undisturbed.”

    In order to study the rover’s effect on the birds, a research team, led by the University of Strasbourg’s Yvon Le Maho, fitted 34 king penguins in Antarctica with external heart rate monitors and data recorders designed to measure reaction to the rover. When the team sent a plain rover in, they found that the penguins would react to it, sometimes hostilely, but allowed the instrument to get close enough to record readings. Upon observation, the birds’ heart rates were significantly lower and recovered more quickly compared to when a human was nearby.

    The undercover side of the equation came in when the researchers turned to study the much more skittish emperor penguins. The rover, camouflaged as a penguin chick, drew no reaction from close to half of the normally shy population, while a quarter of the penguins curiously investigated the visitor. The rover was able to hide in a huddle of chicks and several adults even sang “a very special song like a trumpet” to the faux-penguin, Le Maho told the Associated Press.

    The researchers believe that these findings can be used to equip future rovers to perform numerous other studies on penguins, other animals and climate change’s effect on them.

    The post Undercover rover allows up close and personal observations with penguins appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Brittany Maynard

    Brittany Maynard took her life under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act.

    On Saturday, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard took her own life. The move was not unexpected — Maynard suffered from terminal brain cancer and had publicly stated that she planned to end her life on Nov. 1, but following through on the decision has once again put the national spotlight on assisted suicide.

    A statement released by Compassion & Choices, an organization that has supported Maynard’s initiative, read, in part:

    “Brittany suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms. As symptoms grew more severe she chose to abbreviate the dying process by taking the aid-in-dying medication she had received months ago. This choice is authorized under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. She died as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.”

    Maynard first expressed her intention to die in an early Oct. YouTube video, which has now been viewed more than 10 million times. Since posting the video, Maynard has checked items off of her bucket list (such as visiting the Grand Canyon), said goodbye to loved ones and advocated for Death with Dignity (DWD) laws.

    According to an obituary released by her family, she believed “the freedom is in the choice. If the option of DWD is unappealing to anyone for any reason, they can simply choose not to avail themselves of it.”

    In a second video message released days before her death, Maynard indicated that she herself might delay taking the lethal medication.

    “I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now,” she said. Ultimately though, she chose to end her life as scheduled.

    On Sunday, PBS NewsHour Weekend reported on the “right to die” movement.

    What impact Maynard’s very public death will have on policy remains to be seen. There is certainly potential for change — more than half of Americans support physician-assisted suicide while only three states other than Oregon (Montana, Washington, and Vermont) currently allow the practice. But the topic has not been prominent in the current election cycle. There are no ballot initiatives directly addressing the issue and only one related “right to try” proposal being taken up in Arizona.

    That said, Maynard’s campaign has undoubtedly renewed the debate about so called “right to die” provisions in the U.S. Reactions have poured in from all sides.

    Maynard’s family, however, appears to fully support the decision, calling it “well thought out and informed.” They add that, “[Brittany] left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places been, or people she loved in her 29 years.”

    The post Right-to-die advocate Brittany Maynard ends life ‘in the arms of her loved ones’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jericho Brown

    Winner of the American Book Award for his first book “Please,” Jericho Brown is also a recipient of the Whiting Writers Awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University and the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland.

    As a child, poet Jericho Brown went to church on Wednesdays and Sundays and “every day in between if we could.” He grew up in an evangelical, fundamentalist family and often sang with the church choir.

    “My mother and father were very interested in their children being ‘churched’ children. That was a phrase that they would use,” Brown told Art Beat. “Being ‘churched’ people in that way meant that I came away with an understanding of the Bible and of scripture.”

    It’s through that lens that the poet approaches his new book, “The New Testament,” which hit shelves in September.

    Brown, who won the American Book Award for his first collection “Please,” which was set against the backdrop of his passion for music, uses his new collection to question the scriptures he learned during his childhood.

    “As I got older, I started thinking about, well if there is a god, then what? How do I fill in that blank when I have to start thinking these things for myself? Do I completely disavow the existence of that god when I look at what’s going on in this world, what do I understand about the soul? What do I understand about the divine?” said Brown. “Part of what the book is doing is trying to search out those questions and in some cases trying to figure out answers to those questions.”

    He does that with “a lot of testifying” and “a lot of rewriting of biblical scriptures.” One way he draws on the Bible is through familial relationships. In the book, the speaker has a brother and their sibling rivalry mirrors that of biblical siblings, Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, and Rachel and Leah to name a few.

    “These were relationships between brothers or relationships between sisters where all is not well and I really wanted to create an allegory that followed those Bible stories.”


    Listen to Jericho Brown read “Heart Condition” from his new collection, “The New Testament.”

    Heart Condition
    I don’t want to hurt a man, but I like to hear one beg.
    Two people touch twice a month in ten hotels, and
    We call it long distance. He holds down one coast.
    I wander the other like any African American, Africa
    With its condition and America with its condition
    And black folk born in this nation content to carry
    Half of each. I shoulder my share. My man flies
    To touch me. Sky on our side. Sky above his world
    I wish to write. Which is where I go wrong. Words
    Are a sense of sound. I get smart. My mother shakes
    Her head. My grandmother sighs: He ain’t got no
    Sense. My grandmother is dead. She lives with me.
    I hear my mother shake her head over the phone.
    Somebody cut the cord. We have a long distance
    Relationship. I lost half of her to a stroke. God gives
    To each a body. God gives every body its pains.
    When pain mounts in my body, I try thinking
    Of my white forefathers who hurt their black bastards
    Quite legally. I hate to say it, but one pain can ease
    Another. Doctors rather I take pills. My man wants me
    To see a doctor. What are you when you leave your man
    Wanting? What am I now that I think so fondly
    Of airplanes? What’s my name, whose is it, while we
    Make love. My lover leaves me with words I wish
    To write. Flies from one side of a nation to the outside
    Of our world. I don’t want the world. I only want
    African sense of American sound. Him. Touching.
    This body. Aware of its pains. Greetings, Earthlings.
    My name is Slow And Stumbling. I come from planet
    Trouble. I am here to love you uncomfortable.
    Brown remembers when he first read the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes.

    “It was as if I could hear someone speaking to me. Nobody else was in the room, but I could hear the words.”

    It’s with that in mind that Brown sits down to write his own work.

    “One way you know you’re in the middle of reading a really good poem is that the sounds of the poem almost come off the page as if someone is reading the poem to you or you find that when you read a poem, your lips are moving. You can’t help but want to hear what it sounds like,” said Brown. “I want readers of my poems to be hearers of my poems even if they do not ever hear the poems aloud.”

    He equates it to the way we think about rhyming poetry and form. Even if no one is reading it out loud, you know there is a rhyme or it follows a certain structure. For Brown, it doesn’t matter if the poem doesn’t have those elements, “it still has to do that same kind of work” and that tone and rhythm can give voice to a new deeper meaning.

    “The music of language actually makes all the points we need to make and the music of language can indeed be much more accurate than any fact. The music of language brings us toward a kind of truth that is much more accurate than any fact could ever be.”

    “Heart Condition” from “The New Testament” by Jericho Brown. Published in 2014 by Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission from Copper Canyon Press.

    The post Weekly Poem: Jericho Brown revists ‘The New Testament’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    blair

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    GWEN IFILL: On this election eve, we end our broadcast with an unusual profile.

    Political editor Lisa Desjardins introduces us to a first-time candidate and front-runner who is only 18 years old.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Sunday afternoon, and the Blair family’s dining table is a tiny battleground.

    SAIRA BLAIR, Republican State Representative Candidate: We’re doing another round that will go out that will hit right before the election to the district, about 4,000 of them this time.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Four thousand handwritten campaign letters, handwritten by a person whose age group communicates mostly with keyboards.

    This is why 18-year-old Saira Blair may become the youngest person ever to serve in the West Virginia state legislature and one of the youngest ever in U.S. history.

    SAIRA BLAIR: They will probably throw it away 15 seconds late, but at least they have seen that I put the work in and that I really do care about their vote and making sure that they get out to vote.

    Would you guys want to do the elementary school, like you did for the primary?

    MAN: I don’t care.

    SAIRA BLAIR: OK.

    (LAUGHTER)

    LISA DESJARDINS: Saira and her homegrown team scored a huge win the spring. She won state the Republican primary for state delicate by 144 votes, beating the incumbent by actually touting her age.

    SAIRA BLAIR: West Virginia has had the same population since about 1980. We’re the only state that is going to end up decreasing population soon.

    And one of the biggest problems is people my age, they get their high school education here, they get their college education here, and then they leave, because they find a good-paying job. And so I want to be a part of making sure that my generation stays in West Virginia, and we help to cultivate economic growth that right now isn’t there.

    CRAIG BLAIR, Father/Campaign Manager: She knew full well what she was getting into when she stepped into the arena. No, I’m not concerned about any of that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Craig Blair is father and campaign manager both. Oh, and he’s also the area’s state senator. So, Saira grew up in his campaigns, watching him win. Then, this spring, he watched her.

    CRAIG BLAIR: I had been doing radio commentary that night on the election, so I couldn’t actually be there. But I was able to be the one that proclaimed that she had won her race on the radio. And I asked — I said, can I make the call on this?  And they said, you sure can. And I called the election for Saira Blair.

    SAIRA BLAIR: I wasn’t running because I thought he had done a poor job. I was running because I wanted to represent my generation and I wanted to represent the people of Berkeley and Morgan County.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The two counties are a mix of needs. They’re on the eastern edge of West Virginia. Maryland is down the road in one direction and the Appalachian Mountains in the other. Those in the eastern part of this district earn incomes well above state average. Those near the mountains earn well below.

    In all, Saira would represent about 18,000 people. Her campaign is run on free help from friends and a roughly $17,000 budget; $3,600 of that came from Saira’s college fund, maybe earned from working on the family’s apple orchard.

    SAIRA BLAIR: So, I was kind of taking a gamble with it when I put it into my campaign. But I think it was well worth it.

    And I received a lot of scholarships for college. So, I was able to still manage to pay for both.

    AMBER FEMI, Volunteer: I think it just — not makes you grow up faster, but it just puts your, like, life in perspective. Like, I would rather be doing this than be out with my friends.

    LISA DESJARDINS: You may wonder how Saira plans to be a lawmaker and full-time student. If she wins, she will only attend college in fall semesters, reserving the springs for lawmaking. That’s when the legislature is in session.

    SAIRA BLAIR: Amber, it’s your time to get involved.

    AMBER FEMI: I know.

    LISA DESJARDINS: She doesn’t always sound like it, but this is a teenager. Just over a year ago, this kind of command wasn’t there for Saira.

    SAIRA BLAIR: Up until really my junior year of high school, I was terrified of public speaking, absolutely terrified of it. I couldn’t do three sentences without actually getting a panic attack and sweating and turning red. And it so was nerve-racking every time that I had to go in front of a crowd. It has definitely helped me grow as a person. I have gotten better at it. And it’s not quite as difficult as it was ever used to be.

    LISA DESJARDINS: She will get plenty more practice if she wins. And Saira is the front-runner in her delegate race, an 18-year-old front-runner who has one more surprise to her. You can be skeptical, but she insists that, after college, she doesn’t want to be a politician.

    SAIRA BLAIR: I’m only worried about November 4 at the moment. It’s too soon to say. But I’m going to school for a major in economics. And I would like to be a financial adviser. That’s where I see myself in 10 years, not on the steps of Washington, D.C., by any means.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Lisa Desjardins, “PBS NewsHour.”

     

    The post This West Virginia candidate has never voted in an election (she’s too young) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    bobdylan

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bob Dylan’s been one of the most influential voices in music for more than five decades now and an artist frequently considered an enigma all his own.

    One of the big mysteries surrounding his work and biography is a series of recordings he made that were never fully made public, the so-called Basement Tapes. Now they’re about to be released in their entirety.

    Jeffrey Brown looks at what they tell us about Dylan and the era…

    JEFFREY BROWN: By 1967, Bob Dylan had dropped from public view, retreating to a house near the town of Woodstock, New York, to recover from a motorcycle accident and the sheer exhaustion of years of touring and, it seemed, to regain a sense of mission in his life and music.

    He was already credited with altering the course of popular music at least twice, first popularizing the folk and protest songs of the early ’60s, then turning electric, helping to launch the folk rock era.

    In the basement of house called Big Pink, joined by a group of musicians who later came to be known as The Band, Dylan recorded songs that have intrigued fans and critics ever since.

    (MUSIC)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Until now, only limited, often bootlegged portions of the sessions have been able, but, tomorrow, Sony’s Legacy Recordings will release “The Basement Tapes Complete,” containing 138 remastered tracks, along with a companion book.

    And we turn to Anthony DeCurtis, contributing editor at “Rolling Stone” magazine, who has written widely on Bob Dylan.

    Anthony DeCurtis, thanks for joining us.

    So, what are the Basement Tapes exactly?

    ANTHONY DECURTIS, Rolling Stone: The Basement Tapes are a series of recordings that Bob Dylan made in 1967 and into the beginning of 1968.

    When he retreated to Woodstock, New York, there was a sense in which, you know, Dylan had so much cultural heat around him. And he went up to this area. He went 90 miles north of New York City and disappeared. But who disappeared along with him were the members of his backing group, and in the basement, they would just record.

    They would record old folk songs. They would record new songs that Dylan was working on. They would record really anything that came to mind. And that sense of relaxation and fun and just the sheer enjoyment of making music with your friends in a casual way is something that really comes through on the Basement Tapes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And why have they come to be considered so important?

    ANTHONY DECURTIS: The Basement Tapes are important because they reveal a side of Dylan that really is impossible to find anywhere else, which is Dylan just relaxing and making music.

    You know, ever since — you know, certainly after he made “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” in 1963, he was a figure, the voice of a generation, somebody who was looked at all the time, whose every move was analyzed.

    Well, this is a situation where, because he was essentially in hiding, there was a — he was just doing what he wanted to do. And so that element of getting a peek behind the screen, getting a look at this iconic figure just having fun with music is something that is — simultaneously seems very down to earth and extremely mysterious.

    The nature of the music, the nature of the types of songs he was writing, their meaning is very hard to pin down, but it was also very different from what was going on at the time. I mean, the Beatles were doing “Sergeant Pepper” at this time, whereas Bob Dylan is in somebody’s basement in Upstate New York recording old folk songs and new songs that sound like old folk songs.

    It couldn’t possibly have been more out of tune with the times, and consequently has only gained meaning as time has gone on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, there’s a lot of music on these tapes. What do we hear?  What kind of music?  What does it sound like?

    ANTHONY DECURTIS: Well, the music that’s on the Basement Tapes, in a certain way, it’s unlike anything else throughout Dylan’s career.

    Some of it is — are traditional folk songs that he and members of the band would try out. They would play some of them, they would start them, they would stop them, they would do variations on them. But then Dylan started writing a lot. He started writing with members of the band.

    And so that’s when you start getting songs like “Tears of Rage, “The Mighty Quinn,” “This Wheel’s on Fire.”  Now, these aren’t necessarily — casual Dylan fans might not know all these songs. But for people following Dylan’s career, there’s a kind of antic element that is going on in the Basement Tapes, a sense of fun.

    Dylan is restoring himself, in part by turning back to folk music and by music that is informed by the traditions of folk music. And that’s what really comes across in these recordings. It’s a sense of mood and fun and just sheer delight both in your own talent and in the joys that music can bring.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, you know, to this day, Bob Dylan remains I guess this enigmatic figure of rock ‘n’ roll. And every aspect of his history, all these transitions are looked at, right, still to this day.

    ANTHONY DECURTIS: Exactly.

    Oh, yes, absolutely, and very much hidden in plain sight. Dylan tours every year, does between 120 and 125 dates. He’s out there all the time. But, still, like, what’s motivating him, what’s driving him, what he’s thinking about, what he’s going to do, even now as he’s well into his 70s, there’s a sense in which none of those questions can really be definitively answered.

    And back to the Basement Tapes, that was really one of the most mysterious. The songs themselves are very mysterious. There’s a kind of genial surrealism about them. They have a fun, mysterious aspect that’s very difficult to pin down, but that’s of course one of their joys. It’s the kind of thing that Dylan fans revel in, is interpreting all these songs.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Anthony DeCurtis on Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes, thanks so much.

    ANTHONY DECURTIS: Thank you.

    The post Bob Dylan’s complete ‘Basement Tapes’ surface for the first time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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