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

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    South Korean soldiers stand guard as a North Korean soldier is seen at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on November 12, 2014. Photo by Jung Yeon-Je/Getty Images.

    South Korean soldiers stand guard as a North Korean soldier is seen at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on November 12, 2014. Photo by Jung Yeon-Je/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — When U.S. spy chief James Clapper flew to North Korea on a mission to bring home two U.S. captives, he ran into a potential hitch. North Korean officials wanted a diplomatic concession of some sort in return for freeing the men and Clapper had none to offer.

    “I think they were disappointed,” Clapper said, fleshing out details of the secret trip a week after its completion.

    It was not until he was ushered into a hotel room for an “amnesty-granting ceremony” that he knew the release of Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller would proceed as planned.

    All told, the trip unfolded more smoothly than his first foray into North Korean air space, aboard a U.S. helicopter in December 1985.

    “They shot at us, and fortunately we made it back to the South,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” in an interview broadcast Sunday. At the time, Clapper was intelligence chief for U.S. forces in South Korea. This time, he was a presidential emissary with a deal in the works and permission to land.

    On PBS NewsHour Weekend, Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Adam Entous from The Wall Street Journal about the details of the prisoner release deal.

    Clapper arrived in Pyongyang in the dark, was taken to a guest house and met by a small party led by the state security minister and a translator. A “terse” dinner followed, hosted by the head of the Reconnaissance Guidance Bureau, which Clapper described as a combination intelligence unit and special operations force.

    North Korea “feels itself to be under siege,” he said. “There is a certain institutional paranoia and that was certainly reflected in a lot of things that he said.” Clapper heard complaints about the U.S. interfering with North Korea’s internal matters. “It wasn’t exactly a pleasant dinner.”

    He brought a short letter from President Barack Obama characterizing North Korea’s willingness to release the pair as a positive gesture. But the North Koreans wanted more.

    “I think the major message from them was their disappointment that there wasn’t some offer or some big — again, the term they used was ‘breakthrough.’”

    Afterward, Clapper waited hours until he got word that he had 20 minutes to pack his luggage for a drive to a downtown hotel. It was then he knew he would be leaving with Bae and Miller.

    At a ceremony, Clapper exchanged handshakes with his North Korean interlocutor, the prisoners changed clothes and they left for the flight back.

    The U.S. and North Korea have no formal diplomatic relations and a legacy of mutual hostility. Clapper sensed a “ray of optimism” about the future from his brief encounter with a younger generation — specifically, an official in his 40s who accompanied him to the airport and “professed interest in more dialogue, asked me if I’d be willing to come back to Pyongyang. Which I would.”

    In any event, said Clapper, visiting North Korea has “always been on my professional bucket list.”

    Bae was detained in 2012 while leading a tour group to a North Korean economic zone. Miller was jailed on espionage charges after he allegedly ripped up his tourist visa at Pyongyang’s airport in April and demanded asylum. They were the last two Americans held captive by North Korea.

    The post North Korea wanted a ‘breakthrough’ concession in exchange for prisoners, Clapper says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Counselor Diego Osorio helps Addie Whitaker shop for health insurance as the second round of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act opened today at the Greater Prince William Community Health Center in Manassas, VA on November 15, 2014.  Photo by Linda Davidson/Washington Post.

    Counselor Diego Osorio helps Addie Whitaker shop for health insurance as the second round of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act opened today at the Greater Prince William Community Health Center in Manassas, VA on November 15, 2014. Photo by Linda Davidson/Washington Post.

    A Los Angeles furniture store worker who had never had health insurance enrolled in a plan for $75 a month that will cover both him and his son.

    An unemployed accountant in Charlotte, N.C., who tried and failed to sign up last year found coverage for $11.75 a month.

    A self-employed house contractor from West Palm Beach, Fla., found a health plan that will cost him nothing.

    They were among more than 100,000 Americans who signed up for coverage Saturday through the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance exchanges, which launched this weekend with far fewer problems and less fanfare than last year. Many people qualified for federal subsidies that kept their monthly premiums well under $100.

    “The vast majority of people coming to the site were able to get on and do what they were intending to do,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylva Burwell said Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press, adding that 500,000 people had signed onto the website.

    By most accounts, the federal marketplace that handles enrollment for 37 states ran smoothly — a far cry from last year’s disastrous rollout that turned www.healthcare.gov into an embarrassment for President Barack Obama, spurred several staff departures and made the site virtually unusable for two months.

    State exchanges that had encountered big problems last year—including Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii—all reported no major issues this weekend.State exchanges that had encountered big problems last year — including Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii—all reported no major issues this weekend.

    Still, there were some hiccups, with consumers and enrollment counselors facing sporadic delays accessing the website to set up an account and buy coverage. Some of those who bought coverage last year had trouble getting into their accounts because they had forgotten their passwords.

    Meanwhile, the insurance exchanges run by 13 states and the District of Columbia functioned well — with the exception of the one in Washington state, which was shut down Saturday because it was giving out incorrect subsidy information. The site was fixed and back online Sunday morning.

    To give consumers assistance, enrollment events were held across the country over the weekend, at hospitals, clinics, churches, community centers, malls, libraries – even at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

    “It was awesome,” said Joy Floyd after she got help buying a plan for $11.75 a month at the Children and Family Services Center in Charlotte, N.C. She had tried and failed to sign up for coverage last year because of website problems.

    Like most enrollees, Floyd will face additional cost-sharing as a result of deductibles and co-pays when she sees doctors, gets tests or buys prescriptions.

    Uncertainties Ahead

    Despite this year’s far smoother opening, the enrollment process continues to face plenty of uncertainties, including the response of a confused and still uninformed public, among them 20 million uninsured who did not enroll the first year; a shorter enrollment period and premium increases that many of the 7 million people who bought coverage last year will face unless they shop around.

    Recent political and legal developments also cast a shadow, including a hostile GOP taking control of Congress in January and the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge to the subsidies that millions of people have relied upon to reduce the cost of their coverage.

    Ricot Telcy, 37, a West Palm Beach, Fla., security guard, knew nothing about the legal challenge, but was pleased to learn he and his wife could get coverage for about $300 a month—about the same price his wife had been paying for herself.

    Across town, at an event at a medical society office, Rick Pierre, 40, enrolled in about an hour in a plan that will cost him nothing in premiums because he qualifies for a large subsidy. “I’m very excited,” he said.

    The Obama administration expects about 9 million people to get coverage on the exchanges before open enrollment ends Feb. 15. The marketplaces are a cornerstone of the health law because they help expand health coverage to millions of Americans who do not get health coverage at their jobs. More than eight in 10 people buying policies last year received a government subsidy to lower their premiums.

    People must enroll by Dec. 15 if they want their coverage to start in January. In most states, those who bought coverage last year will be re-enrolled automatically if they do nothing by that date – a scenario that could result in higher costs since most premiums and benefits are changing.

    The exchanges and the publicity around them also spurred millions of people to sign up for Medicaid, which has expanded eligibility under the health law in 27 states.

    Some Wrestle With Higher Premiums, Confusion

    In Philadelphia, Joseph Krakauskas, a retired 62-year-old, showed up two hours early at an enrollment event to secure a place at the front of the line. He has just found out that his current premiums were going to triple next year and he needed help finding a new plan. “This is almost like a bait and switch,” he said of the rate increase. “I can’t believe they’re getting away with this.”

    Krakauskas wasn’t able to access his account through the website, however. Still, a counselor found him an HMO plan for $128 a month, higher than he was paying last year, but about half of what his old plan would cost in 2015.

    Despite the government’s efforts to streamline the application, confusion and difficulty navigating the website also brought in many people, including Sarah White of Philadelphia, a mother of two.

    “I have a doctoral degree,” she said. “The fact that this is so complicated for even someone with [her education] is ridiculous. But here I am trying to get help and I have hope.”

    Demand for coverage was particularly high in California, where 1.2 million residents signed up for coverage last year.

    By 9 a.m. Saturday, dozens had lined up for a festive enrollment event in Los Angeles sponsored by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. Most of the applicants came prepared – holding envelopes with pay stubs, birth certificates and Social Security cards. As each finished signing up, volunteers cheered, applauded and snapped photos.

    Alejandro Irigoyen, 45, said he missed the deadline last year and didn’t want to risk doing that again. When he injured his foot recently, he paid about $500 for a doctor’s visit, X-rays and medicine. With the help of an enrollment counselor, Irigoyen signed up for a plan which will cover both him and his 23-year-old son for about $75 a month.

    “I feel much more secure,” Irigoyen said.

    The enrollment event took place in a heavily Latino neighborhood, and most of the counselors spoke Spanish. California exchange officials had been heavily criticized last year for not doing enough to reach out to the state’s large Latino population. Several of the families at Saturday’s event said they hadn’t previously enrolled in coverage because they have family members who are in the country illegally and feared telling the government too much.

    After being reassured their information wouldn’t be given to immigration authorities, Crescencio Lorenzo, 48, a legal resident, came to the enrollment event with his daughter, Andrea, a U.S. citizen, and his wife, Susana Lorenzo, 48, who is in the country illegally. He and his daughter enrolled in Medicaid. “They told us not to worry,” about jeopardizing his wife, he said.

    Weather And Glitches Are Issues In Ohio, Washington

    Some enrollment events failed to draw consumers, including the “Rock Enroll” event at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Officials blamed snow flurries. By mid-afternoon, Barb Wynveen, a navigator with the Carmella Rose Health Foundation, said she’d had no walk-ins, and all of her half-dozen scheduled appointments had been a bust.

    There was more foot traffic at Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, a community health center primarily serving the poor. Counselor Khalil Ismail met with Prempal Kaur, a woman in her 50s who spoke mostly Punjabi, and her daughter, Ravinder Kaur, who translated.

    “She’s a citizen. She’s a widow, a single mother,” explained Ravinda Kaur, who had traveled from Chicago to help her mother apply for insurance coverage. “And she works at the Convenient Food Mart, where she makes minimum wage.”

    Before she left, Prempal Kaur was enrolled in Medicaid.

    In Washington state, meanwhile, the shutdown of the website to fix a glitch led people to start filling out applications the old-fashioned way — with paper and pen.

    “It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Gary Zablocki, a 51-year-old carpenter at an event at the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, a Seattle suburb.

    Joanna Richards at WCPN in Cleveland , Elana Gordon at WHYY in Philadelphia, Ann Doss Helms at The Charlotte Observer, Nick Nehamas at The Miami Herald, Lisa Stiffler and Patrick Marshall at The Seattle Times, Jordan Shapiro at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wes Venteicher at The Chicago Tribune and Robert Calandra at The Philadelphia Inquirer also contributed.

    Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit national health policy news service.

    The post Healthcare.gov is back for open enrollment. How’s it doing? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Rosetta's OSIRIS camera captured Philae's bumpy landing on Comet 67P. Over half an hour, the camera snapped photos of the lander drifting over the surface, bouncing and drifting away. Photo courtesy: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

    Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera captured Philae’s bumpy landing on Comet 67P. Over half an hour, the camera snapped photos of the lander drifting over the surface, bouncing and drifting away. Photo courtesy: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

    The European Space Agency released the first images of Philae’s bumpy landing today. Orbiting spacecraft Rosetta captured the lander drifting across the surface of Comet 67P for half an hour until its first bounce landing.

    The insets from left to right show Philae’s path, with time notations in GMT. After studying the images, scientists could confirm that the lander was heading east after its first landing. Scientists estimated it drifted for another hour and 50 minutes, traveling a little more than half a mile before touching down on the surface again.

    It bounced once more before coming to rest on a shady cliff on Wednesday, November 12, the ESA reports.

    The ESA lost contact with Philae Friday night when the lander’s batteries died. Scientists will have to wait until enough sunlight reaches Philae’s solar panels in its dark resting spot before it can wake up again.

    Rosetta and Philae’s mission is to understand how comets are formed and how they may contribute to forming planets. Scientists also hope to find out if comets were responsible for bringing water — and life — to Earth.

    Before it shut down, Philae sent data back to scientists on Earth. The landing and this early data makes it an already hugely successful mission, said Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist in a press release on Friday.

    “The data collected by Philae and Rosetta is set to make this mission a game-changer in cometary science,” he said.

    Miles O’Brien spoke with Judy Wooruff about the landing last week on the PBS NewsHour:

    The post New photos show Philae’s bumpy comet landing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An AP investigation last year documented dozens of eagle deaths at wind farms. Photo by Gary Rothstein/NASA via Wikimedia Commons WASHINGTON — A company that operates at least 13 wind-energy facilities across three states is suing in federal court to block the U.S. government from releasing information to The Associated Press about how many birds are found dead at its facilities.

    Pacificorp of Portland, Oregon, is seeking an injunction in U.S. District Court in Utah to prevent the Interior Department from releasing information it considers confidential. The Obama administration has said it planned to turn over the material to The Associated Press, which sought it from the Interior Department in March 2013 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The government concluded that the industry’s concerns were “insufficiently convincing” to keep the files secret.

    The information the AP sought was part of its larger investigation into bird and eagle deaths at wind farms and the administration’s reluctance to prosecute the cases as it advocated the pollution-free energy source. The AP asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for data collected under corporate permits about the companies’ efforts to collect the carcasses of protected bird species, including eagles and migratory birds, found dead at their facilities.

    Using documents, emails and interviews with former wildlife officials, the AP in articles published last year documented more than four dozen eagle deaths in Wyoming since 2009, and dozens more in California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Corporate surveys submitted to the federal government and obtained by AP showed at least 20 eagles found dead in recent years on Pacificorp wind farms in Wyoming.

    The wind energy industry has said more birds are killed by poisoning and collisions with cars, buildings and electrical wires.

    Wind energy companies objected to the AP’s efforts to uncover more information about the numbers of bird deaths. The companies said the information was confidential, submitted voluntarily and should not be revealed under the government’s open records law.

    Last month, the government informed Pacificorp and other companies that within days it intended to release some information to the AP. It said the harm the companies cited from the information’s release was “too general” and “insufficiently convincing” to prevent its release.

    The lawsuit, filed Oct. 17, said the disclosure will cause “irreparable harm” to Pacificorp, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. In the complaint, the company said withholding the information is in the public’s interest because it will ensure “open communication” between such companies and the government.

    A Pacificorp lawyer told the AP the company does not comment about pending litigation.

    Wind farms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet’s wingspan. Though the blades appear to move slowly, they can reach speeds up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.

    The post Wind energy firm sues to block bird death data release appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Dr. Martin Salia, a surgeon infected with the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone, arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center on November 15, 2014 in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Dr. Martin Salia, a surgeon infected with the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone, arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center on November 15, 2014 in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images

    An Ebola-stricken surgeon who was working in West Africa and was transported to a Nebraska hospital for treatment died early Monday, a hospital official confirmed.

    Dr. Martin Salia, 44, was in “extremely critical” condition when he was admitted to a biocontainment unit at the Nebraska Medical Center on Saturday. He had been working at the Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

    “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to save him,” said Dr. Phil Smith, in a statement. “We used every possible treatment available to give Dr. Salia every possible opportunity for survival.”

    “As we have learned, early treatment with these patients is essential,” he said. “In Dr. Salia’s case, his disease was already extremely advanced by the time he came here for treatment.”

    Salia died shortly after 4 a.m. Monday, hospital spokesman Taylor Wilson said. Salia is the second patient to die from Ebola in the United States. Thomas Eric Duncan was the country’s first patient who died in October at a Dallas hospital after being evacuated from Liberia.

    Advanced symptoms included kidney and respiratory failure, the statement said, adding that Salia was placed on kidney dialysis, and received a plasma transfusion from an Ebola survivor and a dose from experimental drug ZMapp. Salia was the third Ebola patient to be treated in the Omaha hospital.

    It’s not immediately clear how Salia contracted the deadly virus. As The New York Times notes, the five other doctors in Sierra Leone that have been infected with Ebola have died.

    To date, Ebola has claimed at least 5,000 people in West Africa, with most of the cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization reported. Salia, a Sierra Leone citizen and Maryland resident, was the United States’ 10th known patient, the Associated Press reported.

    The post Ebola-striken surgeon dies at Nebraska hospital appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user Photo Phiend.

    Photo by Flickr user Photo Phiend.

    WASHINGTON — A same-sex couple from Michigan is putting the question of the right to marry nationwide squarely before the Supreme Court.

    The couple’s plea to be allowed to marry was being filed Monday. It asks the justices to hold that state laws prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married violate “our nation’s most cherished and essential guarantees.”

    The appeal from Detroit-area hospital nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse calls on the court to overturn an appeals court ruling that upheld anti-gay marriage laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

    Michigan officials have said they would not oppose Supreme Court review, but would vigorously defend a provision of the state constitution that prohibits same-sex marriage.

    The justices also will consider appeals from gay and lesbian plaintiffs in the other three states.

    The legal landscape looks similar to what the court confronted when it took on earlier major civil rights cases. The Kentucky case also involves the right of sex-same couples to marry, but Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has declined to defend the state ban and Gov. Steve Beshear has hired private attorneys to represent the state. The Ohio appeal focuses on the state’s refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriages because of its own ban, while the Tennessee case is narrowly focused on the rights of three same-sex couples.

    Another reason the Michigan case could be attractive to the court is because it went through a full-blown trial. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit struck down the state ban in March.

    DeBoer and Rowse said they initially filed their federal lawsuit because they could not jointly adopt each other’s children. Joint adoption is reserved for married heterosexual couples in Michigan.

    They are raising three children, two of whom have special needs, DeBoer and Rowse told the Supreme Court.

    Same-sex couples can marry in 32 states, parts of Kansas and Missouri, and the District of Columbia.

    When DeBoer and Rowse filed their lawsuit in 2012, same-sex marriage was legal in just six states. The number had doubled to 12 by the time the Supreme Court struck down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013. Since then, judges across the country have used the opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the case of U.S. v. Windsor to support their rulings striking down state bans on same-sex marriage.

    Earlier this month, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati became the first federal appeals court to uphold state bans since the Windsor decision. The ruling is in conflict with decisions issued by federal appeals courts in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia. The split makes Supreme Court intervention more likely.

    The legal landscape looks similar to what the court confronted when it took on earlier major civil rights cases.

    Thirteen states still had laws against sodomy when the court said in 2003 that states have no right to intrude on the private, personal conduct of people, regardless of sexual orientation.

    Interracial marriage still was illegal in 16 states in 1967 before the high court outlawed race-based state marriage bans.

    In 1954, when the court issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 17 states had formally segregated school systems.

    Barring requests for delay on the part of the states, the court should have the legal filings it needs to schedule argument and decide the issue by late June.

    The post Supreme Court will likely rule on national gay marriage rights next year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images

    Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images

    More than 886,000 students came from foreign countries to study at U.S. colleges and universities during the 2013-14 school year, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.

    That included more than 274,400 students from China, who made up 31 percent of all international students studying in the U.S., according to the annual Open Doors report from the Institute for International Education (IIE.)

    Overall international students were 4.2 percent of those enrolled in the country’s post secondary institutions, a higher portion than ever before.

    While the number of internationals students coming to the U.S. has increased in most of the last dozen years, that growth picked up during the recession. Schools like the University of California’s campuses looked to other countries for students who pay the full sticker priceto attend.

    But Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president of the IIE, said the globalization of American classrooms has several benefits.

    “It’s not just the financial contribution international students make in U.S. classrooms,” she said during a conference call with reporters. “It’s about educating the U.S. students who sit next to them, who become their research partners, that’s how their contributions should be measured.”

    A recent report shows the use of agents to recruit foreign studentsmay be growing on U.S. campuses, according to Inside Higher Ed. Some educational consulting agencies have been tied to concerns about cheating on college entrance exams and falsified application materials of Chinese applicants.

    The growth in international students studying in the U.S. is unlikely to slow. While China sent the most students to the U.S. by far last year, the fastest growth was among students coming from Kuwait, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. Almost 43 percent more students came to the U.S. from Kuwait last year compared to the year before. There was a 22 percent increase among students from Brazil and a 21 percent increase of those from Saudi Arabia. All three countries offer national scholarships for students who want to study abroad, according to IIE.

    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.

    The post Number of international students on U.S. campuses at an all time high appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Dating site OkCupid is now giving queer and transgender users greater visibility with a change that allows users many more options in listing their gender and sexuality.

    The new sexuality options include queer, asexual, demisexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, pansexual and questioning. New gender options include genderqueer, agender, intersex, transgender, pangender, transmasculine, transfeminine and two spirit, among others. These are only available to some users, and OkCupid has not yet responded to a request for comment on when they will be open to everyone.

    Previously, OkCupid’s over 3.5 million users were limited to choosing between a male or female gender and a sexuality of straight, gay or bisexual. This left some individuals without an option that accurately described their gender or sexual identity.

    Benn Kessler, one such user, said he left OkCupid because it did not give him the option to properly describe his gender as transmasculine.

    “A lot of people would make assumptions about me, if I listed myself as a man, that were incorrect,” he said. “The first line of my profile would basically say ‘Hi, I’m a trans guy,’ but people would just completely ignore that.”

    Jamie Flez, who identifies as fluid agender and uses the pronoun “they,” said they were discouraged from using the site for the same reason. “This is the number one reason I disabled my account,” they said in a Facebook message. “It’s frustrating looking at my profile each time I log in and seeing that I’m a ‘man.’ according to OkCupid.”

    The new options will “greatly improve the online dating experience for many,” they said.

    The change could also help prevent violence against transgender people by partners who were not previously aware of their gender identity, Kessler said. Statistics show LGBTQ individuals experience violence, particularly sexual assault, at higher rates than many communities of non-LGBT people. And the gap is especially wide for transgender people; 64 percent of transgender people have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

    The transgender community has been increasingly visible in the media in the past several years, with several transgender celebrities such as Laverne Cox and Janet Mock publicly advocating for the community. This may have helped encourage the change, Kessler said. Online users also petitioned for more gender and sexuality options on a Change.org petition that received 1,300 signatures.

    OkCupid is not the only social network to recently change its policies on gender and sexuality. Facebook recently rolled out new gender options, with over 70 options now available to users. Those options include agender, cisgender female or male, genderfluid and bigender, among others. Users can select more than one option at once as well as specify their preferred gender pronouns (currently limited to “he,” “she” or “they”).

    The post OkCupid expands gender and sexuality options appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — The federal watchdog agency overseeing the nation’s pension protection system reported Monday that it’s running a $62 billion deficit — almost double last year’s shortfall — mostly due to the poor financial condition of a few large multi-employer pension plans.

    Despite a strengthening U.S. economy, plans that now protect the pensions of up to 1 million workers and retirees “are likely to run out of money” in the next 10 years, the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation said in a report.

    Overall, the agency insures the retirement pension benefits for more than 41 million individuals in private defined-benefit pension plans; 401(k) retirement accounts are not included.

    Agency officials called for Congress to enact legislation submitted by President Barack Obama designed to shore up the program’s finances.

    Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said fixing the problem is vital to the retirement security of the nation’s middle-class.

    The report said that multi-employer plans, which are collectively bargained retirement plans maintained by more than one employer, are most at risk of failing. Multi-employer plans cover more than 10 million people in over 1,400 plans, the agency said.

    “The deficit in our multi-employer program has increased dramatically because of ongoing financial challenges in a minority” of those plans, said Alice C. Maroni, acting director of the agency.

    The agency’s $62 billion deficit for fiscal 2014, which ended September 30, is up from $36 billion from the year before.

    The size of the deficit matches a projection the agency made in June.

    PBGC officials who briefed reporters on the report declined to publicly identify any of the at-risk pension plans it deems most likely to fail unless helped.

    Monday’s report showed that the deficit in the agency’s multi-employer insurance program increased by $8.3 billion in the past year to $42.4 billion. At the same time, the financial condition of the single-employer program improved over the same period, posting a $19.4 deficit for 2014, down from $27.4 in 2013.

    Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, called the multi-employer insurance program “a ticking time bomb that will inflict a lot of pain on workers, employers, taxpayers and retirees if Congress fails to act.”

    He said congressional leaders have been trying to reach consensus on a package for months so far to no avail.

    The post U.S. pension agency reports $62 billion deficit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The parents of Peter Kassig spoke Monday about the death of their son at the hands of the Islamic State group. “Peter’s life is evidence that he has been right all along,” they said. “One person does make a difference.”

    The post U.S. aid worker killed by IS believed in goodness of others, say parents appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The National Football League has been hit hard by controversial headlines recently, but TV ratings on game day haven’t suffered yet.

    Yesterday, after the action finished on the field, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration launched surprise raids to see if several teams were improperly using pain medication.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Washington Post respond that DEA agents conducted searches of at least three teams, the San Francisco 49ers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the reigning champions, the Seattle Seahawks. Agents were looking into the use and possible abuse of painkilling drugs, an investigation tied to a lawsuit brought by former players.

    Sally Jenkins helped break the story for The Post, and she joins me now.

    Well, thanks for joining us.

    So, first of all, what exactly were the agents looking for?

    SALLY JENKINS, The Washington Post: Well, they were looking for instances of inconsistencies in paperwork, improper paperwork, lack of paperwork.

    For instance, under the Controlled Substances Act, a physician in California has to have the proper registration in New York to dispense prescription drugs if he comes here and attempts to treat a parent and hand them narcotic painkillers, which is the sort of thing that the DEA is looking into with the NFL.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So they’re — as I said, they’re all tied to this class action lawsuit. What are the former players saying happened that led to this investigation?

    SALLY JENKINS: Well, what triggered the investigation was a lawsuit by about 1,300 former NFL players, some of them very recently retired, who allege in their lawsuit that the NFL has a pattern of prescription drug abuse, that doctors and trainers have prescribed medications in excessive amounts over excessive periods of time, that they have handed out medication without prescriptions, unlabeled, those sorts of things.

    There are stories — as one plaintiff attorney said, they have accused the NFL of handing out these narcotic painkillers like Halloween candy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, they picked certain teams, three that we know of. Do we know why and do we know if it’s limited to those teams or is this for the whole league?

    SALLY JENKINS: The Washington Post’s understanding, based on our reporting, is that it’s — they’re looking at the entire league. This is not restricted to the teams that were inspected yesterday.

    We can add the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions to that list, so we know of five teams. We believe there’s another team or two out there that may have been inspected or that are being looked at in this phase of the investigation, but we — we can’t name those.

    But the bottom line is that this is a piece or a step in a larger DEA investigation into prescription drug usage in the NFL.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This part of it though was a real surprise to the teams? Do you know how they — how did they respond?

    SALLY JENKINS: Well, I think it was intended as a surprise to the teams. Whether or not they got some sort of tip or had some sort of knowledge, I don’t know.

    But the DEA basically set out to pop quiz those teams and their medical staffs yesterday as they moved through stadiums and airports. The idea was to examine a group of teams that was actually traveling on a Sunday to look at their practices and their paperwork and see if they were in compliance.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have covered this…

    SALLY JENKINS: And, by the way…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, go ahead.

    SALLY JENKINS: Yes, let me just interject that the New Orleans — DEA spokesperson down in New Orleans issued a statement this afternoon that the Cincinnati Bengals were looked at and appeared to be in compliance.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have covered the league a long time. Anybody who watches knows it’s a real culture of violence and pain.

    It’s not a surprise that players are using these kind of drugs. And there’s been a lot of issues of getting back on the field too early. Is it — is it — in that context, is all of this a surprise or is this — this is really focusing on the legality of what’s done?

    SALLY JENKINS: I don’t think it’s a surprise that NFL players use narcotic painkillers.

    I don’t think it’s a surprise that there have been loose practices in the league. The DEA has looked at individual teams before yesterday. There was a case a couple of years ago with the San Diego Chargers where they looked into their prescription practices, the same with the New Orleans Saints.

    But the DEA up to this point had not conducted a comprehensive investigation into the league-wide practices concerning painkillers. So that’s what’s new here. You know, the interesting question is, you know, NFL physicians are confronted with a real dilemma.

    What is the difference and the fine line between treating an injury and masking an injury? What is the fine line between, you know, administering painkillers in order to relieve pain and administering narcotic painkillers in order to enable an injured player to go back out on the field and reinjure himself further?

    And the big question for the DEA that they’re concerned about is, is the NFL culture of drug use and narcotic painkiller, prescription drug use creating addicts? I think that’s the question that the DEA is the most interested in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And very briefly, if you would, what — is the NFL cooperating? What’s their attitude?

    SALLY JENKINS: Yes, the NFL issued a statement last night that their teams had cooperated with the DEA and that, to their knowledge, there were no irregularities that were found in the step that was conducted yesterday by the DEA.

    The DEA obviously is not tipping its hand to what it really was after yesterday or the overall, you know, scope of what it’s looking at or, you know, who it’s looking at in particular. They’re holding those cards pretty close to the vest.


    Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

    SALLY JENKINS: Thank you.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now one of the nation’s most famous veterans takes a look at American heroes from each of the nation’s conflicts, most largely unknown, in a new book, “Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War.”  The authors are Sen. John McCain and his longtime collaborator Mark Salter.

    I sat down today with the Arizona Republican to talk about the book and also about what to expect from the new Republican Senate majority.

    Sen. McCain, thank you for joining us.

    In your latest book, you decided to write about 13 soldiers, not yourself, and from the Revolutionary War to our latest enterprises in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is there a through-line of similarity between all of those?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) Arizona: I think there is a similarity, in that, no matter where they came from or what their gender or race was, that they were dedicated to serving the country, sometimes with honor and integrity, and sometimes maybe not so much, but they — courage.

    They served with courage, and I think they epitomized many aspects of that particular conflict. In other words, our first guy, Joseph Plumb Martin, who was in the Revolutionary War at 15, almost starved to death, literally almost starved to death.

    GWEN IFILL: And died in poverty.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Yes, and died in poverty without a pension. Well, actually, it took them 30 years before a pension.

    But compare that with Mike Monsoor, who was a man who sacrificed his life for the lives of others. It wasn’t a question or food. It wasn’t a question of equipment. It was a dramatic change, but each of them served and sacrificed, and ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

    GWEN IFILL: And Michael Monsoor, of course, threw himself on a grenade and got the Medal of Honor.

    But you remember a time, as a Vietnam veteran, when veterans weren’t treated with that kind of respect. Have you seen that evolve over time, or are we still, as Americans, basically stuck in a position where we say, thank you for your service, but don’t know what else to do with that?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I think we have come a long way from Joseph Martin, when they literally were discharged and given pieces of paper that they could convert into money or services, to today, where we do a great deal.

    But I think there’s been ups and downs, Gwen. After the Vietnam War, unfortunately, as you know, many people blamed the veteran and the young 18-, 19-year-old draftee. I think it’s really a shameful chapter.

    But I also think we’re trying to make up for that, and I think we are making up for it. I see companies and corporations stepping up. I’m proud of my home city of Phoenix, Arizona, where there are no homeless veterans. They have provided lodging for every homeless veteran in our city.

    GWEN IFILL: But there’s patriotism. There’s practicality. There’s certainly practicality in hiring veterans. And then there’s the politics of this whole thing.

    Do they contradict one another often when it comes to veterans?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Oh, I think sometimes it’s used for political gain.

    But I am happy that we have had now in this last election some veterans, including Joni Ernst, Dan Sullivan, and Tom Cotton, that have served recent conflicts. You don’t have to be a veteran to be a great senator and a great leader on military affairs, but it does help to have some veterans present, so that they can give us the perspective that only those with that kind of experience can provide.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, so then tell me, if you had to recommend one of these stories in this book, which one would you recommend?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I think I might recommend Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

    He came from the Boston Brahmin family. He joined the Harvard Regiment, which was a mixture of Harvard and Ivy League, Harvard graduates and German-speaking Americans. He learned the lessons of war. He was changed by the war, but yet he went on to serve as a justice of the United States Supreme Court.

    One little anecdote. Every day at work, he had a tin ammunition box that he would bring his lunch to work with, because always reminding him of the conflict. And, of course, it was the bloodiest, most fratricidal conflict by far we have ever been through, and it defined America.

    GWEN IFILL: When Congress returns in January, you are going to be chairman of the Armed Services Committee. And you will have a different kind of platform. We see playing out even today the U.S. strategy on ISIS, another beheading of an American aid worker.

    What, as the chairman of the committee and with this new platform, would you do that would be different than what’s being done right now?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: We are facing challenges unprecedented in my lifetime. We need to have hearings to start with from some of the wisest people in America.

    I want to get Henry Kissinger and Zbig Brzezinski and George Shultz and Jim Baker and people — and I also want to get some proven military leaders, like General Petraeus and many others, to come down and talk directly to the members of our committee in Congress so they can tell us what our challenges are.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the value in bringing people from past administrations to advise this administration? Because you don’t trust this administration?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I think they have learned the lessons.

    They have lived it from that side of the river and they know what their challenges are, but also they have a great grasp of the overall situation in the world. Many of these new members, particularly, have never been involved with the big-picture issues.

    GWEN IFILL: I guess what I’m curious about, the pushback that the White House offers is, the Republicans are critical, but they don’t have their own solution.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: You know, that’s interesting to hear, because everything that Lindsey Graham and I and Joe Lieberman said would happen would happen, we said long ago, we are going to need a lot more boots on the ground. Guess what? The president, just 1,500 more.

    And I guarantee they will need more and they will need to arm the Free Syrian Army and they will have to ignore the boundaries between the two countries. What we’re seeing is a gradual escalation, which then the escalation loses much of its impact.

    I mean, when we decided we were going to bomb ISIS, we gave them a week’s warning. I mean, it’s crazy. But everything that we have prescribed that needed to be done, if it had been done, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

    GWEN IFILL: Has the well truly been poisoned with the White House at this stage for the final two years of this presidency because of executive action or threats of executive action?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I think it’s hurt the environment and I think it should be challenged in court, because the president for months said that he didn’t have that kind of authority.

    And now he is exercising the kind of authority that he said he didn’t have. And I think it’s clearly unconstitutional. But, frankly, shutting down the government is not the answer.

    GWEN IFILL: But you are going to have to fight that government shutdown fight again, aren’t you?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Oh, I hope we will prevent it from happening. Both Sen. McConnell and Speaker Boehner have said that that is not the solution, so I hope we can prevail.

    GWEN IFILL: Sen. McCain, thank you very much.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Thank you, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: My conversation with Sen. McCain continues online, where we discuss the value of military, as well as civilian public service.

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    Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit March 10 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Military uniform items turned in must be burned to ensure they cannot be used by opposing forces. Photo by (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter

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    GWEN IFILL: Brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder are two well-known signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there is another injury, lung disease, that afflicts tens of thousands of veterans. Many blame a single defense contractor and have filed a class action lawsuit, a case that has now made its way to the Supreme Court.

    NewsHour producer Dan Sagalyn has been covering this, and Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    MAN: We have a burn pit down here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This shaky video of smoke from burning garbage was shot by an American soldier in Iraq in 2008. Throughout most of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military used so-called burn pits to dispose of virtually all waste.

    MAN: That is what we leave next to. Luckily, the wind is not blowing our way today.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All kinds of things went up in smoke, from batteries, paint, solvents and tires, to newspapers, plastic water bottles, styrofoam, electronic equipment, and shipping materials such as plastic wrap. Even whole vehicles were burned.

    At large bases, 30 to 40 of tons garbage were burned every day. At the gigantic logistical hubs, three to five times that amount was burned. Sometimes, jet fuel was even used to ignite the trash. According to the veterans we spoke to, the smoke from the burn pits permeated the living quarters and work spaces on base.

    SGT. 1ST CLASS STEVEN GARDNER, (RET), U.S. Army: There was really no place to escape. The smoke would blow across you, you would turn your back to it, and hope that the wind would change.

    LT. COL. RICK LAMBERTH, (RET.), U.S. Army: You have to breath, or you die. And, sometimes, even the soot would fly out of the burn pits and get on your uniform or on your vehicle.

    LT. COL. BRIAN BOWER (RET.), U.S. Marine Corps: At night, when the winds dropped, that’s when you didn’t want to the burn pits to be operating because it would blanket the base.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: These three officers, Army Sergeant 1st Class Steven Gardner, Army Lieutenant Colonel Rick Lamberth, and Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Brian Bower, were medically retired from the military. They say the burn pit smoke was toxic and made them sick.

    SGT. 1ST CLASS STEVEN GARDNER: I used to run five-minute miles. Now I can’t walk down the block without breathing real heavy. I can’t carry objects without getting out of breath. I have a tightness constantly in my chest.

    LT. COL. RICK LAMBERTH: I no longer can hold out to run. I don’t have the stamina. At one time, I could go run five or 6.6 miles at a time, a 10k at a time.

    A lot of times even during the day, I cough and people look at me like I’m a smoker. Sometimes it’s embarrassing.

    LT. COL. BRIAN BOWER: I believe that I have lung cancer as a result of exposure to the burn pits. I’m not a smoker. I was diagnosed within a year after leaving active duty. And the diagnosis came from the Veterans Administration. It was diagnosed as exposure to burn pits, and I had part of my lung removed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: These men are part of a class action lawsuit which has 250 named plaintiffs. But they represent a group of potentially up to 100,000 veterans and civilian contractors who could join suit.

    They’re suing Kellogg Brown & Root, or KBR, the company that used to be a subsidiary of Halliburton and was contracted to provide logistical support to the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was KBR’s job to truck in supplies, feed troops, and get rid of the garbage.

    SUSAN BURKE, Lead Attorney: We have outlawed burning of waste in this country for decades. You cannot go in your backyard and burn all your trash in a bucket. And the reason why is that it’s known to be harmful to human health.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Susan Burke is the lead attorney for the class action lawsuit. She says KBR was negligent and made the service members sick.

    SUSAN BURKE: One of the things that they promised to do was to take care of the waste, to dispose of the waste in a manner that wasn’t harmful to the troops. They didn’t do that. So, the complaint alleges that that open air burning, which violated the terms of the contract, caused these injuries.

    ROBERT MATTHEWS, Attorney, KBR: That’s completely false. We exactly lived up to our contractual promise.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Robert Matthews is the lead counsel for KBR. He points to a letter from the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, to Congress written in 2008.

    The letter says — quote — “There is and will continue to be a need for burn pits during contingency operations.”

    The Government Accountability Office issued a report confirming that the top military commanders approved the use of these open air fires.

    ROBERT MATTHEWS: The decisions to use burn pits were made by senior military rank across these war theaters.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Matthews says other alternatives were not feasible. Burying the refuse off base was too risky. Burying it on base, well, there wasn’t enough space. There was no recycling in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it was up to the military to decide if it wanted to bring in incinerators which burn cleanly. He says historically the Army always burned its garbage in war zones because it’s the least bad option.

    ROBERT MATTHEWS: More than 50 percent of the burn pits that are in play around Iraq and Afghanistan through that 10-year period were operated by the military itself, not by KBR or other contractors.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The class action lawsuit has been in the courts since 2008. Just earlier this year, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the case should go forward. But KBR has asked the Supreme Court to intervene. The company asserts that, just like the government, it should be immune from lawsuits.

    ROBERT MATTHEWS: Where the United States is at war on a battlefield engaged in combatant activities, the companies like KBR who are embedded with the forces, who are performing mission-critical services shouldn’t be subject to the kind of claims that have been made here. If the United States is immune from such claims, so too should KBR and those other contractor companies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Susan Burke disagrees.

    SUSAN BURKE: What they’re trying to say is that simply because they work for the government, they are the government. We know that’s not the case. This is a private company that’s making a huge profit margin. They are not the government and they don’t deserve the government immunities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: By 2010, the military eventually shipped in nearly 40 incinerators to Iraq and 20 to Afghanistan, although the veterans we spoke to said they often were not used.

    MAN: We don’t know if we’re receiving fire, but that’s exploding paint cans.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Besides these legal issues, there is debate over how much burn pits contributed to people’s illnesses.

    Craig Postlewaite is a top official in the Defense Department’s Public Health Division. He says it’s possible some soldiers got sick from inhaling burn pit smoke, but not likely that many were affected.

    CRAIG POSTLEWAITE, Department of Defense: It would be plausible for a specific individual maybe to acquire some kind of condition related to burn pit smoke depending on how close they were to the burn pit, how much smoke they breathed, individual susceptibilities and even exposure to other airborne particulates. We feel that if there are people who have been harmed by burn pit emissions, the numbers are fairly low.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Postlewaite points to many other pollutants in the air that could have caused veterans’ respiratory problems.

    CRAIG POSTLEWAITE: It’s a very, very dusty environment. Plus, the urban pollutants aren’t regulated well. The cars and trucks are not regulated, so there’s a lot of airborne material in the air that could be contributory towards long-term health effects.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But Dr. Anthony Szema sees a direct connection between sick veterans and the burn pits. At Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York, where he does research, he’s exposed mice to dust from military bases in Iraq that had burn pits.

    DR. ANTHONY SZEMA, Stony Brook School of Medicine: And this healthy mouse, we then gave dust from Camp Victory Iraq collected in 2007 at the time they had burn pits, and the dust induces a lung injury.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Szema has a private practice and is also a doctor at Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, although the views he expresses here are his own.

    DR. ANTHONY SZEMA: Humans exposed to particulate matter air pollution have a higher risk of death, premature death. They have higher risks of lung disease such as premature emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, even in the absence of smoking, as well as asthma. Benzene is a carcinogen, so if you burn your trash with jet fuel called JP-8, when you burn in a burn pit, it’s burning at low heat. At low heat, it generates more particles and has products of incomplete combustion.

    These products are dangerous. In addition, if you burn plastic water bottles, among the chemicals you can release include a neurotoxin called n-Hexane.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While the lawyers and the health professionals debate the legal and medical issues, the veterans we spoke to compare their experiences to soldiers exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. That’s the defoliant the Army used which caused cancer, nerve damage and respiratory injury in hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

    Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Brian Bower:

    LT. COL. BRIAN BOWER: Nobody went out to purposefully hurt, again, soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines. And so — but people are suffering from exposure to it afterwards. And the military response is very similar probably to Agent Orange, which was at first denial, assessment, acceptance of culpability, and treatment. We seem to be going through those same phases now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The veterans we spoke to say while they wish they weren’t sick, they’d still serve in Iraq and Afghanistan all over again.

    SGT. 1ST CLASS STEVEN GARDNER: I’m proud of my military service. I’m proud of what the military has done over there. If I had known that this would be my outcome, I still would have continued and done exactly the same thing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, KBR says if they and other battlefield defense contractors are allowed to be sued, it’s unlikely they would deploy with the military in the next war.

    ROBERT MATTHEWS: If they are exposed to these lawsuits for decades of litigation and potentially tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in liabilities, then it’s very likely that these companies are going to think twice about stepping forward the next time this country goes to war.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Supreme Court is now in the process of deciding whether or not to hear this case or send it back to a lower court, where it can go to trial.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If you would like more on this story, go to our Web site for extended interviews and a slide show of burn pit photos submitted to us by those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This weekend marked the start of a new round of enrollment for insurance coverage on the federal and state health care exchanges.

    But, even as the Obama administration heralded the much smoother opening of the healthcare.gov Web site, there was serious political blowback about the law. Last week, a year-old video came to light featuring an MIT economist, Jonathan Gruber, a former adviser to the administration, and a paid consultant who received $400,000 for his work during the creation and passage of the Affordable Care Act. He was an architect of the Massachusetts law that preceded the federal law.

    Gruber spoke at a conference in Pennsylvania in October 2013. Here’s a clip from that where he spoke about how Congress would pay for the law when it comes to mandates and taxes and how voters might see that.

    JONATHAN GRUBER, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO didn’t score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies, OK? So, it was written to do that.

    In terms — in terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said healthy people are going to pay in, it made explicit that healthy people pay in and sic people get money, it would have not passed, OK? Just like the people transparent — lack of transparency is a huge political advantage, and basically call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but, basically, that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday, President Obama was asked by a reporter about Gruber’s comments and the idea that the true intentions of the law were not transparent to voters. Here’s part of what he said in response while in Brisbane, Australia.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is no reflection on the actual process that was run.

    We had a year-long debate, Ed. I mean, go back and look at your stories. The one thing we can’t say is that we didn’t have a lengthy debate about health care in the United States of America or that it wasn’t adequately covered.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Many Republicans and other critics are not persuaded by this argument.

    Senator-elect James Lankford is from Oklahoma. Here’s a bit of what he said yesterday on “FOX News Sunday.”

    SEN.-ELECT JAMES LANKFORD, (R) Oklahoma: I think Gruber’s comments show what is consistent in Washington, D.C. It’s this arrogance of centralized government. This administration really believes they’re smarter than everyone else and they just need to create the policy and impose the policy, and states exist only to be able to carry out their wishes from the central government. I think that’s exactly backwards.

    The best thing that we can actually do is return health care decisions back to states, back to local authorities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s dive a little deeper into Jonathan Gruber’s history here, as well as how the opening weekend of year two in health insurance enrollment went.

    Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News and Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal join me.

    Welcome to you both.

    So, let — before we get to Mr. Gruber, let me ask you first about sign-up this weekend.

    Louise, how did it go? Overall, smoother than last year.

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY, The Wall Street Journal: Certainly smoother than last year, relatively smoothly overall, a few bumps, particularly for people who were returning to the site to log in again, some of which seem to have been ironed out over the weekend.

    There’s always the potential for new bumps to emerge in the next few days. Apparently, traffic on the site was higher today than it was over the weekend and that could present new challenges, but there’s also really big challenges to come a few weeks from now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Julie, what would you add? What kind of bumps happened this weekend?

    JULIE ROVNER, Kaiser Health News: Well, a lot of people who tried to sign either forgot their password. In some cases, apparently, they put in passwords or changed passwords and couldn’t get in.

    But it’s very important for people who already have coverage through the exchanges to go back in and go through the process again, particularly if their income has changed. They need to plug that in. Also, in many cases, the prices of plans have changed. So just being re-enrolled into their current plan in many cases will be bad for people who currently have coverage. They really need to look again at everything that is out there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Louise, you mentioned things will get more complicated in a few weeks. What are you referring to?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, one of the big problems actually stems from people doing exactly what they are being encouraged to do and going back to the site to shop.

    There are parts at healthcare.gov at the back end that consumers never see, but matter a lot.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And when you say the back end, you mean?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: The underlying infrastructure. So, what people see is a much smoother application process. But there are bits and pieces that are missing.

    And one piece that missing is the ability off the site to inform an insurer that a consumer is leaving and switching the another plan, which could lead to somebody being enrolled in two plans at the beginning of the year if they do what they’re being encouraged to do and shop around.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, they’re right now working to make sure a lot of that doesn’t happen?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: And the main advice to consumers that is being given is that they should contact the insurance company that they’re leaving to inform them of that in case the rest of the system doesn’t help them and make that information known.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Contact them directly, in other words.

    And to clarify, people have — it started on November 15. It goes until to February 15.

    JULIE ROVNER: It does.

    But, of course, if you want a new plan for January 1, you have to sign up by December 15. That’s what Louise was referring to, is this is a very condensed period of sign-up compared to last year, when there were six months. So, everybody who has current coverage really should finish their process by December 15. And anybody who wants coverage that starts January 1 also needs to finish by December 15.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, let’s talk about Jonathan Gruber. He’s the man we just heard the comments about — health economist at MIT.

    He did contract work for the Obama administration. He first worked, as we said, to develop the Massachusetts health care law under then Governor Mitt Romney.

    Julie, you covered — you have covered the Obama health care debate internally from the very beginning. What was his role here and how did it play off what he did in Massachusetts?

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, he obviously was integral to what happened in Massachusetts, but what his — his main role with the Affordable Care Act is that he has developed something called a micro-simulation model and that basically you can plug things in, possible policy changes, and see sort of how they might play out both in terms of the policy and in terms of how much they cost.

    And that’s what the administration contracted with him for. He also contracted that to several states to look at the same thing. That’s what he’s most known for is his micro-simulation model. There’s not the impression that he was in the room when all of the key decisions were made, but he certainly was involved.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s the question, because, Louise, some have called him an architect of the health care law. How central was he to all this?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: He’s certainly one of many, many central figures, which is not a very helpful explanation to people at this stage. But if you think about it, there were officials in each agency working on this from HHS to the White House. There were officials in many different congressional offices, and then there were outside experts as well, including some in academia.

    So there’s no shortage of people out there who were involved. And the precise degree of everybody’s involvement often rises when they’re in the spotlight.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Julie, what about sort of the substance of what he was saying, that the administration went to great pains to conceal from the public that this was going to be a tax, as the Supreme Court later found it to be?

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, there are a lot of interpretations of this.

    One of the things that I think he may have been referring to is that they didn’t want to call it a tax while it was being debated because there were so many of those so-called Blue Dog Democrats, those moderate Democrats who didn’t want to have sort of the tax label hung around them if they were going to vote for this.

    And remember the Republicans had taken a pass, so they needed all the Democrats in the Senate and almost all of them in the House, and they had those Blue Dogs, who were very, very concerned about voting for this. So there was — some of this I think was just semantic. They didn’t want to call it a tax. But, interestingly, in Gruber’s own book, he talks about how, with insurance, the sick have to pay for the healthy and the young have to pay for the old and that’s the idea of insurance, is that everybody pays, and then the people who need get.

    So it was sort of odd to see him say something like that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But whether he said it because it reflected what was going on, how much was that view, Louise, shared inside the administration based on your reporting on this?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, one of the key issues in what he’s saying is that it plays into fears of conservative opponents of the law like Senator Lankford that this was in some way a con or in some way passed without transparency or rammed down the throats of people without their involvement in it. And so that’s one part of it.

    Some of the Gruber’s comments that have caused problems in the past actually spoke more directly to the issue that’s before the Supreme Court right now, and that’s certainly caused consternation among the administration before, because, to that point, he’s actually talking about a substantive issue, rather than a framing issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re talking about the subsidy or tax credit issue which the court has said it’s going to take up.

    Julie, what’s your sense of how widely shared that view was that he expressed that, well, the voters, you know, they’re not going to understand this and, therefore, we don’t need to be completely transparent?

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, nobody in politics would say that, which shows why he’s an economist in academia and not a politician.

    And I think that’s why you see the president and yesterday we also saw Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell distance themselves from him and from those comments. It was just a very impolitic, in the literal sense of the word, thing to say.

    But I think the problem is that there was already sort of this pile of dry kindling among the Republicans trying to figure out what to try to do about this law that they don’t like and they perceive the public doesn’t like. And this basically lit a match and threw into that pile of dry kindling.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Louise Radnofsky, how many damage to you — additional damage? There’s already — we already see public opinion continuing to drop in support of the health care law. How much does this hurt what the administration is trying to do, do you think?

    LOUISE RADNOFSKY: Well, the timing is very, very particular to the open enrollment cycle.

    It had been building up all week, but really seemed to explode into more mainstream attention around the time that the exchanges opened, and that may or may not be an accident. At the same time, the administration is wrestling with the Supreme Court, which also pretty much launched itself into most people’s attention right before open enrollment. There’s a lot of different things to juggle, in addition to the healthcare.gov operation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot to keep an eye right now, besides the opening this weekend.

    Louise Radnofsky, Julie Rovner, we thank you.

    The post How does video of economist’s Affordable Care Act criticism hurt the law? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Another American family mourned today for a son slaughtered by Islamic State killers in Syria.

    Peter Kassig’s death was confirmed over the weekend.

    PAULA KASSIG, Mother of Peter Kassig: Our hearts are battered, but they will mend. The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end.

    GWEN IFILL: Ed and Paula Kassig appeared this afternoon in Indianapolis after learning of their son’s murder.

    Mrs. Kassig quoted one of his teachers.

    PAULA KASSIG: In 26 years, he has witnessed and experienced firsthand more of the harsh realities of life than most of us can imagine. But, rather than letting the darkness overwhelm him, he has chosen to believe in the good in himself and in others. Peter’s life is evidence that he has been right all along. One person makes a difference.

    GWEN IFILL: Islamic State fighters released a propaganda video yesterday showing the decapitated head of Peter Kassig.

    Later, President Obama confirmed and condemned Kassig’s killing in a statement, calling it — quote — “an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity.”

    But Secretary of State John Kerry insisted today, the group, also known as ISIL, has miscalculated.

    JOHN KERRY, U.S. Secretary of State: ISIL’s leaders assume that the world will be too intimidated to oppose them. Well, let us be clear. We are not intimidated.

    GWEN IFILL: Peter Kassig served in Iraq as an Army Ranger in 2007. After a medical discharge, he founded an aid group in Syria in 2012. He was taken captive in October of last year, and converted to Islam, as several other Western captives have done, taking the name Abdul-Rahman.

    Last month, his parents acknowledged his conversion and appealed for his release.

    PAULA KASSIG: We implore those who are holding you to show mercy and use their power to let you go.

    GWEN IFILL: But it was all for naught. In yesterday’s video, a black-hooded figure with a British accent, apparently the same man seen in previous beheadings, identified his new victim as Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen who fought against the Muslims in Iraq.

    Unlike past videos, this one didn’t show Kassig’s actual killing. But it did show more than a dozen captured Syrian soldiers being beheaded by militants, possibly including this man from an earlier video.

    MAN: You who believe, answer the call of Allah and his messenger when he calls you to what gives you life. (INAUDIBLE) says that what gives you life is jihad.

    GWEN IFILL: The father of Nasser Muthana, a British medical student, said his son resembles one of the militants in the latest video. And in Paris, officials said a 22-year-old Frenchman was likely among the executioners as well.

    All told, Islamic State forces have killed five Westerners since August. Syrian civilians have paid a far more fearsome toll. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported today more than 1,400 have been beheaded, stoned to death or had their throats cut since June.

    Islamic State militants still hold a British photojournalist, John Cantlie, and an American woman. U.S. officials have asked that she not be publicly identified.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared an emergency and activated the National Guard today. He acted before a grand jury decides whether to indict a white police officer in Ferguson in the death of Michael Brown. The August shooting sparked violent protests. The Saint Louis mayor said the guard will back up police, but will not engage directly with protesters.

    GWEN IFILL: Fresh off a major emissions-cutting deal with China, the Obama administration is turning to fighting climate change at the local level. Vice President Biden met today with governors, mayors and tribal leaders about coping with severe weather. White House officials also laid out measures to help local leaders get ready for rising sea levels, drought and other events.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A doctor who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone died today at a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. Martin Salia was flown to the U.S. from West Africa on Saturday. The 44-year-old surgeon initially tested negative for Ebola in Sierra Leone. By the time he tested positive and was sent to Omaha, the disease was far advanced.

    DR. DANIEL JOHNSON, University of Nebraska Medical Center: Dr. Salia was extremely critically ill when he arrived to our hospital. He had no kidney function. He was working extremely hard to breathe and he was unresponsive. We really, really gave it everything we could. All modern medical therapies were provided. And we wish there could have been a different outcome. But I’m also proud of the team for what they were able to try.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, U.S. airports began screening travelers arriving from Mali for symptoms of Ebola. Several cases have appeared there in recent days.

    GWEN IFILL: Efforts to stop an outbreak of bird flu ramped up in the Netherlands and Britain today. The Dutch government ordered the killing of 150,000 chickens on a farm where the disease was found; 6,000 ducks at a breeding farm in Northern England were to be destroyed and a restriction zone imposed. But officials said there’s little risk to public health. Separately, a woman in Egypt died of a more dangerous strain of bird flu. It’s the second fatality there this year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The first spacecraft to land on a comet has gone silent after running out of power. But European scientists said today they’re holding out hope that the small lander will eventually wake up. The lander ended up in the shadow of a cliff, where its solar panels can’t charge the battery. Mission scientists said today that as the comet races toward the sun, the battery may yet charge and let the spacecraft resume its work.

    GWEN IFILL: The world’s third largest economy, Japan, has unexpectedly fallen into a new recession. Officials in Tokyo announced today that overall economic output shrank in the third quarter at an annual rate of 1.6 percent. By comparison, the U.S. economy grew at a 3.5 percent pace.

    And, on Wall Street, stocks struggle to make much headway. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 13 points to close at 17,647; the Nasdaq fell 17 points to close at 4,671; and the S&P 500 gained just a point to finish at 2,041.

    The post News Wrap: U.S. not intimidated by Islamic State beheading, says Kerry appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    About nine out of 10 of global youth live in less developed nations, according to a new report released from the United Nations Population Fund Monday. Graphic by United Nations Population Fund

    About nine out of 10 of global youth live in less developed nations, according to a new report released from the United Nations Population Fund Monday. Graphic by United Nations Population Fund

    A United Nations report says that more young people between the ages of 10 and 24 are alive today than ever before, a demographic shift that both poses challenges and offers potential benefits.

    In its annual State of World Population report released Monday, the United Nations Population Fund said that out of the 7.3 billion people on the planet, 1.8 billion of them are young people. Of those young people, roughly nine out of 10 live in less developed nations, the report says. In fact, the report points out that “most people alive today have yet to reach age 30.”

    “The emergence of a large youth population of unprecedented size can have a profound effect on any country,” the report states. “Whether that effect is positive or negative depends largely on how well governments respond to young people’s needs and enable them to engage fully and meaningfully in civic and economic affairs.”

    According to the report, Asia holds the biggest portion of the world’s youth population. India supports 356 million people between the ages of 10 and 24, more than any other nation, followed by China with 269 million.

    The need for improved employment and educational opportunities is a common challenge that several developing nations face, with as many as 60 percent of young people having no regular job or classroom to call their own, the report said. With economic and human capital investment and access to financing, nations can address the risk of ballooning unemployment and unrest, the report suggests.

    Nations considered to be the least developed are expected to see their working age population more than double. This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the working age population is projected to increase by 150 percent by 2050, according to the report.

    Other challenges highlighted in the report included the need to stem the spread of HIV, which is the second leading cause of death within the youth population, as well as adolescent pregnancy. One recommendation for addressing these issues is improved access to and education about contraception.

    The post UN report: More young people alive today than ever before appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Born in the Mekong Delta and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Hoa Nguyen is the author of three books of poetry, including "As Long As Trees Last," "Hecate Lochia" and "Your Ancient See Through." Nguyen founded a small journal of poetry, Skanky Possum, with poet Dale Smith and has published contemporary poets such as Amiri Baraka, Alice Notley and Linh Dinh.

    Born in the Mekong Delta and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Hoa Nguyen is the author of three books of poetry, including “As Long As Trees Last,” “Hecate Lochia” and “Your Ancient See Through.”

    The ancient Greek goddess Hecate was extremely powerful. So much so that Zeus, father of the gods, gave the goddess a special position, says poet Hoa Nguyen, referencing Hesiod’s epic poem “The Theogeny.”

    “He honored her and ‘allowed’ her to have dominion over earth, sea, sky,” Nguyen said in an interview with three Advanced Placement poetry students at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts. back in January 2011.

    But, Nguyen, whose newest book “Red Juice” came out in September, says that Hecate later morphed from this prestigious, “mysterious and very old goddess” into something darker.

    “Even by Shakespeare’s time, she’s made into the crone, she’s evil,” she told Art Beat.

    It’s a fate that the poet doesn’t agree with, so in her book, Nguyen aims to “steal (her) back from patriarchy, from being vilified.” And Hecate isn’t the only one; others, like Mena, the Roman goddess of menstruation, make appearances.

    “The book is very interested in re-positioning the feminine in its appropriate and proper place of power.”

    “Red Juice” is really a re-issuing of her first two books, “Your Ancient See Through” and “Hecate Lochia,” combined with previously uncollected poems. All of the poems were composed before 2008, during a 10-year period in which Nguyen gave birth to her two sons. That experience plays heavily into themes in the book.

    “When you bring children into the world or you are around children, you realize ‘oh,’ now there’s a certain responsibility that one starts to feel,” she said.

    Many of the poems in “Red Juice” deal with a concern for globalization and sustainability.

    “You can see that progression in the book, that there is more and more urgency around the concern about financial collapse, concern about environmental collapse, concerns about disaster and surviving,” said the poet.

    Listen to Hoa Nguyen read “They Sell You What Disappears” from her collection “Red Juice.”

    They Sell You What Disappears
    They sell you what disappears       it’s a vague “they”
    maybe capital T               who are they and mostly
    poorly paid in China

    Why does this garlic come from China?
    It’s vague to me               shipping bulbous netted bulbs
    Cargo doused with fungicide and growth inhibitor

    What disappears is vague           I can’t trade for much
    I can cook           teach you cooking         ferment
    bread or poetry                 I can sell my plasma

    They are paid poorly in Florida
    picking tomatoes for tacos
    Some CEO is surely a demon
    in this poem

    Need capital to buy                        need to buy or else
    you are always paying rent         one month away
    from “the street”
    3 neighbors asked for money this week
                                     We are guilty
    bringing in sacks of food                              bought on credit

    Trademark this poem                 mark this poem with a scan code
    on the front and digitally store it somewhere
    not to be memorized “by heart”

    For Nguyen, concepts of sustainability, globalism and womanhood are linked. She points to outsourcing, saying that when production is removed from the local community, that community is not as strong and self-reliant.

    “But, if you have a resilient community, things reside right there. You are moving with the seasons and you are sharing resources in a way that makes sense. Here’s a river, let’s mill with water power from the grain that we grew over there and let’s collect pecans at this time. That to me is the old matrilineal.”

    “They Sell You What Disappears” from Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008. Copyright 2015 by Hoa Nguyen. Reprinted with permission of the author and Wave Books.

    The post Weekly Poem: Hoa Nguyen links globalization and goddesses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user huppypie.

    Photo by Flickr user huppypie.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: One of the vendors at the last job fair I attended was a “job-seeker marketing company.” I met with the representative a few days later. He gave me a rehearsed presentation about the benefits of using his service. At the conclusion of our meeting, he wanted to meet with me again. I asked questions about fees, contracts and guarantees. He stated that all those questions would be answered at our next meeting. I have discovered that the fee for the service is approximately $5,000, paid in advance. Is this type of service valuable? What about the large fee? How does this company compare to headhunters?

    Nick Corcodilos: Headhunters don’t charge fees to job candidates. Their company clients pay all fees. I wouldn’t spend five bucks on a “job-seeker marketing company,” much less $5,000.

    Many of these firms target executives (See “Executive Career Management Scams”), but all of them prey on desperate job hunters, and they provide little more than you could learn for free at your public library or on the Internet.

    There are legitimate career counselors out there. (But don’t confuse them with headhunters. See “Career Counselors Are Not Headhunters.”) They charge by the session, not all up front. That’s how you distinguish the legit ones from the hucksters. Check any firm carefully. Many such firms started out as a branches of Bernard Haldane, which have been shuttered by attorneys general around the U.S. (See “Bernard Haldane: Busting The Bad Boys.”)

    Your story reveals another sure signal of a career scam: Everything will be explained at the next meeting. It’s the oldest psychology trick. If you attend several meetings, you’re more likely to rationalize all the time you have invested by signing up. Another tip-off: They’ll ask you to bring your spouse along because they’d rather deal with both of your objections at once. They don’t want to risk “selling you,” only to have you go home and get talked out of wasting your money. (To see how this works, in a hidden-camera expose, see “Rip-Off Edition: Who’s trying to sell you a job?”)

    My advice: Never pay that kind of money up front. A legit practitioner will charge you as you go. That way, if you’re not satisfied, you can stop without risking more money.

    Be very, very careful. This is the oldest ongoing racket in the career world. There are many free resources you can use. Look up your local chamber of commerce. Attend the next breakfast. Then join professional and industry groups in your area related to the field you want to work in. This works whether you’re a lawyer, programmer, marketing executive, secretary, or production line worker. It’s not hard to meet people — just find out where they hang out and go there.

    Dear Readers: Have you ever paid to be “marketed” for a job? Have you ever encountered scams that purported to help you find a job? Share your experiences with us and help save other readers the cost and trouble.

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: The oldest ongoing racket in the career world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man prays at the scene of an attack, by two Palestinians, on Israeli worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem Tuesday. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Iages

    An Ultra-orthodox Jewish man prays at the scene of an attack, by two Palestinians, on Israeli worshippers at a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem Tuesday. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Iages

    LONDON — The U.S. State Department has identified three Americans among those killed in an attack Tuesday at a synagogue in Israel.

    Spokeswoman Jen Psaki named the three U.S. citizens as Mosheh Twersky, Aryeh Kupinsky and Cary William Levine.

    Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling in London, condemned the attack on “innocent people who had come to worship.”

    Kerry demanded that the Palestinian leadership take immediate steps to end incitement to violence as Israeli-Palestinian tensions soared.

    “This morning in Jerusalem, Palestinians attacked Jews who were praying in a synagogue,” he said shortly after Israeli authorities reported that two Palestinians had stormed the synagogue, attacking worshippers with knives, axes and guns, and killed four people before being killed in a shootout with police.

    Kerry spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express condolences and offer support. Following a meeting in London with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Kerry spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and expressed support for his statement condemning the attacks while urging him to do everything possible to de-escalate tension. He agreed to stay in close touch with both leaders.

    Last week, Kerry had traveled to the Jordanian capital and won commitments from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II, who serves as the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, to reduce tensions.

    The post U.S. official names Americans killed in Jerusalem synagogue attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A copy of S. 2280, a bill which would approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, is arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and other supporters of a bill to approve TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline are still one vote shy of the 60 needed as time runs short before tomorrow's vote. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Bill S. 2280 would approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Sen. Mary Landrieu and other supporters of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline are still one vote shy of the 60 needed as time runs short before tomorrow’s vote. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Republican leaders promised Tuesday to take up and pass a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline next year if the Senate fails to advance the measure this fall, or President Barack Obama vetoes it.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will become the majority leader in January, urged Democrats to vote Tuesday evening for the bill, which is supported by all 45 Senate Republicans. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was still searching for the last vote needed to advance the measure and said on the floor she knew “in her heart” she had the 60 votes.

    The House approved a bill last week spearheaded by her rival, Louisiana Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, the ninth time that chamber has tried to jumpstart the pipeline’s construction. Landrieu faces an uphill fight to hold on to her Senate seat in a Dec. 6 runoff against Cassidy.

    “I wish the Senate would have followed the lead of Congressman Cassidy and his House colleagues in approving Keystone years ago. It’s just common sense,” McConnell said. “And if not, a new majority will be taking this matter up and sending it to the president.”

    The issue has taken center stage in the waning days of this Congress as both parties hope to boost the prospects of their Senate runoff candidates in Louisiana.

    Supporters of the bill seemed to have 59 votes to advance it but were still looking for a 60th. Maine independent Angus King announced Tuesday that he would oppose the bill despite what he described as his frustration over Obama’s refusal to make a decision on it.

    “Congress is not — nor should it be — in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project,” King said in a statement. “I urge the president to make a decision soon, and, if he doesn’t, I look forward to working with Congress to put a timeframe on this decision.”

    The pending vote puts pressure on Obama to approve the pipeline, which he has resisted in the past. Environmentalists have pressed him to reject the pipeline as proof of his commitment to curb global warming, even though a State Department environmental review said it would not worsen the problem. The oil industry, labor unions and Republicans have called on Obama to approve it, arguing that it would create jobs and reduce oil imports from the Middle East.

    “Today we will have that debate again and I hope at the end of the day we will have 60 votes we need,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the lead sponsor of the bill as he opened debate on the bill Tuesday. “The time has come to act and that is what this legislation is all about.”

    The bill has fallen victim to Senate gridlock in the recent past, but Landrieu, with her political career at stake, launched an effort last week to find enough Democratic converts for passage.

    “Let the record be clear forever that this debate would not be before this body if not for Sen. Landrieu’s insistence,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who led the opposition to the bill Tuesday. Boxer will be replaced as chair of the environment committee by climate-change denier and pipeline supporter Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma next year.

    The vote offers a preview of what is ahead for Obama on energy and environmental issues when the Republicans take control of both houses of Congress.

    For six years, the fate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline has languished amid debates over global warming and the country’s energy security. The latest delay came after a lawsuit was filed in Nebraska over its route.

    The White House has issued veto threats of similar bills, and issued three veto threats on House bills targeting the Environmental Protection Agency that were slated for votes on Tuesday. But it did not issue a formal veto threat on the Keystone bill. Both administration officials and Obama have indicated a veto is likely. Landrieu said last week that neither the Senate nor House has the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a veto.

    The proposed crude-oil pipeline, which would run 1,179 miles from the Canadian tar sands to Gulf coast refineries, has been the subject of a fierce struggle between environmentalists and energy advocates ever since Calgary-based TransCanada proposed it in 2008.

    The Obama administration’s delays have caused friction between the U.S. and Canada, which needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production.

    AP Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.

    The post As GOP looks for deciding vote on Keystone, Sen. Angus King says not from him appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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