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

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    Graphic by Ashley vonClausburg.

    NewsHour Extra, the NewsHour’s educational resource site, is challenging students with its annual #MyZeitgeist contest to create digital projects about the most important news events of 2014. Inspired by Google’s annual Zeitgeist year-in-review montage,  #MyZeitgeist encourages innovation in the classroom, news and media literacy and an understanding of how current events interact with history.

    Our mobile partner, Trio, allows students to combine news clips, gifs, Instagram or Vine posts and other media to tell the story of 2014. Students who prefer to use laptops can create on Meograph’s mashup platform.

    Last year, winner Heneeya Myrick from St. Paul, Minn., showed us how global news events affected her life.

    #MyZeitgeist is open for submissions until Dec. 12, and finalists will be notified on Dec. 15 with further instructions. We will announce the winner on Dec. 31, and they will receive a Nexus tablet from Google.

    Classes can participate in a Twitter chat with KQED Do Now from Dec. 5-12 or join the conversation on Twitter at the hashtag #MyZeitgeist to share their take on the news from this year.

    The post NewsHour Extra’s #MyZeitgeist contest opens for entries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In this file photo, children as young as 12 mine for gold in the Philippines. Globally, 168 million children are still engaged in some form of child labor. Photo by Larry C. Price/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

    In this file photo, children as young as 12 mine for gold in the Philippines. Globally, 168 million children are still engaged in some form of child labor. Photo by Larry C. Price/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

    Thursday marks the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The treaty outlines international standards for children’s rights in areas ranging from health to education to child labor and marriage laws. One hundred and ninety UN countries have ratified the treaty. Only three have not- Somalia, South Sudan and the United States.

    In spite of the overwhelming support for the treaty, some of the numbers concerning the implementation of the standards outlined in the CRC are startling. According to the WORLD Policy Analysis Center’s online resource bank on the treaty, approximately 57 million children around the world are not enrolled in primary school. Another 69 million children are not enrolled in secondary school. Only 19 percent of the countries that ratified the CRC protect disabled children’s right to education. Child labor is a practice that still affects 168 million children worldwide, and just 49 percent of the nations that ratified the CRC prohibit child marriage without exception.

    Where has the most progress been made in terms of protecting children’s rights, and what areas are most in need of improvement? How have obstacles to ensuring children’s rights changed in the last 25 years, and what are the most effective ways of protecting children’s rights today? Join the conversation on Twitter this Thursday, Nov. 20, from 1-2 p.m. EST. Dr. Jody Heymann (@WPolicyForum), Dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center will share her expertise along with several of the center’s analysts. Follow the conversation and weigh in using #NewsHourChats.

    The post Twitter chat: Are children’s rights better protected today than they were 25 years ago? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pope Francis surprised many observers of the Roman Catholic Church when he installed Blase Cupich, a humble bishop from Spokane, Wash., to be the next archbishop of Chicago. Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images

    Pope Francis surprised many observers of the Roman Catholic Church when he installed Blase Cupich, a humble bishop from Spokane, Wash., to be the next archbishop of Chicago. Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images

    The Archdiocese of Chicago is transferring powers today to Blase Cupich, a humble bishop from Spokane, Washington. Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Francis George in September and surprised many by appointing Cupich instead of several others in more prominent positions. This is Pope Francis’ first major appointment in the hierarchy of the U.S. Catholic Church. Bishop Cupich will be the first Archbishop of Chicago’s 2.2 million Catholics who was not already an archbishop elsewhere.

    After knocking three times on the doors of Holy Name Cathedral on Monday night to signal his arrival, Bishop Cupich addressed the crowd and laid out his vision for Chicago. He stayed away from lofty rhetoric and focused on issues in the lives of “real people”. He made strong statements in support of immigration reform:

    “The work of comprehensive immigration reform is not important because it is on my agenda, but because it is on God’s,” Cupich said.

    He also addressed the city’s drug and violence problems, particularly among the youth population.

    “But, there are others who feel little sense of belonging and stability,” he said. “Many youth have no dreams, no real aspirations, no sustaining hope.”

    When he arrived in Chicago, Cupich told reporters his approach to dealing with social issues may be different from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s. The two are scheduled to have breakfast on Nov. 20.

    Cupich has never met Pope Francis, and in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said he had no idea why he chose him. He also doesn’t plan on asking why.

    “Go up to him and ask, “Why did you pick me?” I don’t think I’m going to ask him,” Bishop Cupich said. “Maybe he’ll offer to tell me, which would take the pressure off.”

    They may have never met, but the mannerism and approaches of both leaders are similar. Many church observers see this appointment as a clear sign of Pope Francis extending his humble, open tone to the Catholic Church within the United States. For example, Bishop Cupich has decided to live in a suite of rooms in the cathedral rectory instead of the traditional residence since 1885 — a mansion with 19 chimneys on Chicago’s Gold Coast.

    The Francis papacy has caused a slight division between Catholic leaders in the United States. Last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops held their general assembly in Baltimore. Pope Francis’ recent comments on same-sex marriage, evolution, and communion for people who have been divorced unsettled some bishops while encouraging others. Bishop Cupich is excited about Pope Francis’ message.
    “The pope is saying some very challenging things for people,” Bishop Cupich told The New York Times. “He’s not saying, ‘This is the law, and you follow it and you get to heaven.’ He’s saying, ‘We have to do something about our world today that’s suffering, people are being excluded, neglected. We have a responsibility and he’s calling to task.’”

    Chicago is the third largest U.S. diocese by population. It includes 17 hospitals and five Catholic colleges and universities.

    The post Chicago’s new archbishop sets a humble tone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democrats re-elected Nancy Pelosi as minority leader for another two years in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Democrats re-elected Nancy Pelosi as minority leader for another two years in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Democrats re-elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi to another two-year term as House minority leader on Tuesday, two weeks after elections in which the party lost at least a dozen seats in the chamber.

    In a closed-door meeting of House Democrats, Pelosi was re-elected by voice vote in a race in which she faced no challenger. The California Democrat has been party leader in the chamber since 2003, including four years in which she was the first female House speaker.

    No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland and the party’s other top leaders also were re-elected without a challenge.

    “What we want are initiatives that help the American people, that reduce the anxiety because it reduces the income disparity,” Pelosi told reporters after her election.

    But touching on the need that Democrats see to improve their message to voters, she said that while it’s important to address people’s needs, “It’s another thing, also, to make sure the public understands what is going on.”

    Pelosi, 74, was victorious despite some grumbling that the leadership needs fresh blood and that the party did an inadequate job of selling its policies to voters. Pelosi told her colleagues that Democrats need to do a better job of focusing on helping the middle-class, Democrats said.

    “We need a full-blown discussion of who we are, where we’re going, what are our priorities. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. “It’s all of our faults, not just the leadership.”

    Many Democrats also blamed their recent losses on an unfriendly political climate beyond their control, including President Barack Obama’s unpopularity.

    “Nancy did as good a job as she could do in this situation. It’s very hard in an off-year, when people don’t come out to vote,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., who also cited big campaign spending by Republican allies.

    Pelosi is deeply popular with liberals. Countless Republican campaign ads have sought to make her their symbol of a profligate government that doesn’t know how to say no to spending proposals or interest groups.

    Pelosi and Hoyer, 75, have led House Democrats for the past dozen years, eight of them in the minority. Democrats controlled the chamber from 2007 through 2010 but lost a disastrous 63 seats in that year’s elections and have been in the minority ever since.

    In this month’s elections, Democrats lost at least a dozen House seats, with three races undecided. Republicans will hold at least 246 House seats, the most since the 1940s.

    Democrats consider Pelosi a tough leader and tremendous financial asset.

    Her aides say she’s raised over $101 million over the past two years for House Democrats, appearing at 750 campaign events in 115 cities. That’s about the same amount raised by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, making Pelosi’s total impressive because she was collecting cash for a party that no one expected to capture a House majority.

    Some Democratic senators expressed displeasure with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., after they lost at least eight Senate seats, costing them control of that chamber next year. Reid was nonetheless re-elected.

    The post Nancy Pelosi re-elected as House Democrat minority leader appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new report observes an increase in laws that criminalize homelessness in U.S. cities. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    Two recent reports define homelessness in different terms. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    On Monday, the National Center on Family Homelessness released a report that said one in 30 children, or roughly 2.5 million kids, are homeless in America. That’s an increase of 8 percent from their 2012-2013 findings.

    But on Oct. 30, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report saying that on a given night in January, more than 578,000 people had experienced homelessness, with nearly 136,000 of those being children. HUD labels these numbers as a decline from the prior year’s study.

    Why the discrepancy in findings? For that you’ll have to take a look at each report’s methodology for collecting information.

    The National Center on Family Homelessness pulls their data from the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Census. According to Carmela DeCandia, one of the report’s authors, this data encompasses the broadest form of homelessness to includes children of families who are not able to afford their own place to live, those who double-up with others and students who couch-surf. Three-quarters of children included in the study are in doubled-up living situations.

    HUD’s numbers, on the other hand, are a snapshot of what homelessness in America looks like on one single night. Each year since 2007, during the third week of January, volunteers from 300,000 cities and counties nationwide have gone out and physically counted the number of homeless people on the streets and in shelters.

    According to HUD’s Brian Sullivan, it’s a “a picture — a point-in-time measure” of the “undeniably homeless.”

    So, which study is more accurate? That depends on what you define as homeless.

    The post How do you define ‘homeless’ in America? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HACKING AWAY monitor internet

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Major U.S. government agencies have been the target of cyber-attacks of late. The State Department is the latest. During the past week, officials had to temporarily shut down an unclassified e-mail system after a suspected hacking. In recent months, the White House, the Postal Service and the National Weather Service all have been targeted.

    Meanwhile, as the holiday season approaches, retailers and the business world are on the lookout for breaches.

    A new book breaks down the pervasiveness of what’s happening.

    Jeffrey Brown has our conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Hardly a week goes by anymore without a report of some major cyber-breach, whether it’s targeting retailers, the government, or any and all of us. The attacks are generated in a new netherworld of crime, some of it individualized, even chaotic, other parts of it extremely well-organized.

    Writer and journalist Brian Krebs has uncovered some major breaches, including the one on Target that compromised the credit card data of tens of millions of people. He writes about all of this on his blog Krebs on Security and now in his new book, “Spam Nation.”

    And welcome to you.

    BRIAN KREBS, Author, “Spam Nation”: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You are peering a world of cyber-crime that few of us ever see. What does it look like?

    BRIAN KREBS: It’s a pretty dark place.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It is?

    BRIAN KREBS: Yes, absolutely.

    But it’s not as dark as you might imagine. If you’re somebody who doesn’t know their way around, there are plenty of people willing to show you the way. They might take a cut of the action to help you do that, but it’s not as dark…

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re smiling as you say that.

    I mean, there’s a lot of give and take, interplay, let me help you out. This is how you develop your sources in your work?

    BRIAN KREBS: Absolutely, absolutely, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. So, who are — you’re dealing with the bad guys here. Who are they? Do you see them changing, whether in terms of who they are or in their level of sophistication?

    BRIAN KREBS: Sure.

    So, I think, at a very basic level, a lot of these guys don’t see themselves as bad guys. So some of the individuals that I profile in the book “Spam Nation” that we have got coming out, it — it — these guys generally see themselves as a provider of service or product that people want.

    And the stuff that they are advertising, say, in spam for the most part, they view this as something — it might be — violates some laws, some Western laws about things, but, at the end of the day, somebody’s going to buy their product and they’re going to make some money off it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So they’re providing the service which would be the service that somebody nefarious wants to use it, right, the services providing — are my data for example, your data.

    BRIAN KREBS: Well, it’s really interesting to look at the dichotomy of spam.

    Depending on where you are in the world, your experience of spam is probably going to be radically different. So, for instance, one of the individuals that I profile in this book was responsible for running one of the most sophisticated crime machines ever built, the Cutwail spam botnet.

    And we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of computers that are infected with malicious software to infect other machines with malicious software and to send advertising via spam. If you’re an American and you get spam from Cutwail, there’s a very good chance it’s going to contain malicious software to turn your system into a spambot.

    If you’re Russian and you get e-mail from — spam e-mail from Cutwail, there’s almost no chance it’s going to contain malware. It’s going to contain a commercial solicitation for a business near you. And, by the way, there will be a link at the bottom that says, hey, if you like this solicitation, if you want to advertise your own business this way, visit this link or call this phone number, and we can set that up for you. So…

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the issues that you write about here is companies, they’re not up front enough when things happen, often for very good reasons, right? Because the publicity of what happens can be worse than the crime itself.

    But what do you see from companies these days? Are they changing?

    BRIAN KREBS: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Are they reacting differently, better?

    BRIAN KREBS: No, and for one reason. And that is, there are more ways to tell when organizations have had a breach now.

    So, if you look at the Target breach, the Home Depot breach, Sally Beauty, Michaels, the others that I have been able to break over the last year, the reason is, is because when that information hits the black market, when they go to sell 40 million credit cards, you can’t really hide that under a bucket.

    You want to tell the world about this, right, because those cards, the things you’re trying to sell, they don’t get better with age. So they’re putting this out there. Once they put it out for sale, the race is on. So law enforcement knows immediately. Anybody who is looking hard enough, the banks, sometimes reporters, can find out pretty quickly who got breached.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How do you — how do you find out?

    BRIAN KREBS: Well, in the case of — in the case of Target and Home Depot, it was a matter of some crooks are basically saying, hey, look, we have got a whole bunch of these cards that we’re going to push out there in the next couple of days. Get your budgets ready, get your — fill up your balances, get ready to shop.

    And when they do that, you just pay attention. And then I start reaching out to banks that I have developed resources with — sources with and saying, hey, look, we — there are 10,000 of your customers’ cards that just hit this network overnight.

    You got any clue if there’s a common — commonality in these transactions? And they will come back to me and they will say, yes, they were all used at this organization between this time frame and that time frame. And you get that from enough organizations, enough different banks, the same thing, you feel pretty good about calling that organization up — organization up and saying, looks like you had a bad day.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, the main question, I guess, for most of us, the main question still very much out there, is data protectable? Is that a sort of — is it ownable?

    You know, are credit cards securable? I mean, we’re entering — we’re hearing more about this age of exchanges without cash, right, all kinds of electronic exchanges.

    BRIAN KREBS: I think if — I think if the consumer — if the consumers and the business world has heard anything loud and clear — or I hope they have heard anything loud and clear over the last year, both from the revelations with the Edward Snowden scandal and the attacks on personal and financial information vis-a-vis major companies that hold this information, I hope it’s that, if you’re not encrypting this information, it’s as good as stolen, because, increasingly, these companies have to — they have to change their mind-set, but they haven’t yet.

    That mind-set shift has to shift from one of, well, we have put all this stuff in place to keep them out. Let’s make sure we keep them out to, well, there’s no way we can keep them out. So, let’s — let’s make our defenses so that we realize they’re going to get in. How do we protect the data that we’re responsible for protecting when they get in? Not if, but when.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so what’s the — I mean, from all the work you have done over the years looking into this world, what’s the advice? Or has it changed your own habits or what’s the advice you give your loved ones?

    BRIAN KREBS: Oh, my loved ones. Well, that’s quite a bit different.

    (LAUGHTER)

    BRIAN KREBS: It’s pretty simple, but it hasn’t really changed much over the years.

    So it’s — it starts with the basic hygiene, security hygiene. And the stuff is not super sexy. It’s — unfortunately, it’s a pain. You know, keeping your operating system up to date with the latest software updates. Actually, almost as important, if not more important, is keeping your browser up to date.

    So, all those — increasingly, the way companies and individuals get hacked is through the browser. So, they browse to a site that is malicious or itself is hacked. And if they’re not browsing that site with the latest, say, Adobe flash player, Java, PDF reader, whatever it is — there are updates for these things like once a month — if they’re not up to date, they’re going to have a bad day, and their computer’s not going to belong to them anymore.

    So, I always tell people, if you installed it, update it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    BRIAN KREBS: And if you didn’t go looking for it, don’t install it. Those two things keep most people out of a lot of trouble.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, you know what? We’re going to continue this discussion online.

    BRIAN KREBS: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I’m going to ask you about some bad days that you have had, because you have been — you have been the target yourself.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: For now, the book is “Spam Nation.”

    Brian Krebs, thank you very much.

    BRIAN KREBS: Thanks a lot.

    The post Your outdated Internet browser is a gateway for cyber attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    science_health

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    GWEN IFILL: When it comes to global health, much attention is now focused on Ebola. But more routine diseases take a toll on the world’s poorest people every day.

    In Seattle, there’s a not-for-profit group trying to develop new tools and medicines to combat them.

    The “NewsHour”‘s Cat Wise has the story, another report in our Breakthroughs series, which explores inventions and innovation both here and abroad.

    GLENN AUSTIN, Group Leader, PATH: All we need is salt, water, and electricity to make this product work.

    CAT WISE: With just those three ingredients, this small device produces concentrated chlorine, a powerful disinfectant. The man behind the product, Glenn Austin, says it took years to develop, but now there is a greater need for chlorine in parts of West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak, and this device may one day soon be helping to meet that demand.

    GLENN AUSTIN: We are really thinking about how quickly we can move, because there’s a sense of urgency here. Chlorine is probably the most widely accepted universal disinfectant. It’s great. You can treat water with it and you can treat surfaces with it. And that is the preferred application for infection control and disease outbreak control.

    CAT WISE: The Electrochlorinator is just one of the many products turned out by a global health nonprofit in Seattle, Washington, called PATH. For more than 30 years, the organization has been developing innovative medical devices, drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic equipment for use in low-income countries.

    STEVE DAVIS, President and CEO, PATH: The fact that some people have access to lifesaving devices and other people don’t is simply wrong, it’s unfair, and it’s correctable.

    CAT WISE: Steve Davis is president and CEO of PATH. He says one of the organization’s most successful products could come in handy in fighting the Ebola outbreak if a vaccine using a live virus, that has to be kept cold, is developed.

    It’s a tiny heat-sensing sticker that tells health workers if a vaccine is no longer effective. It’s been used on five billion vaccine vials over the past two decades.

    STEVE DAVIS: It turns out, in food, in frozen chicken, they have something on the package to show that if it had been thawed or unthawed. So we took that idea and now, by having a vaccine vial monitor, this little dot, we can actually tell whether that vaccine has got too hot, and therefore we wouldn’t use it if it’s changed colors.

    And so that’s — that’s been really critical, saved literally millions of lives.

    CAT WISE: PATH got its start in the 1970s bringing reproductive health technology to rural China. Today, the organization has 1,200 employees, a mix of scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, and health policy experts.

    They work in more than 70 countries on issues such as clean water and sanitation, maternal and newborn health and neglected diseases. They often collaborate with public and private sector partners on the development, funding and distribution of products.

    MIKE EISENSTEIN, Shop Manager, PATH: So, welcome, this is PATH’s product development shop.

    CAT WISE: Mike Eisenstein manages the workshop where many of PATH’s health tools have emerged after months, sometimes years of research, development, testing, and old-fashioned tinkering.

    MIKE EISENSTEIN: We’re looking for solutions that are sustainable, that are easy to use. They’re low-cost, very sturdy, very affordable. So we try and mimic all the settings where they will be used, how are the technologies we develop going to react to dust, to high humidity, to temperature, things like that.

    CAT WISE: Eisenstein says the end users, often women and children, are what drive the inventions and designs. He showed us how that played out during the development of a new version of a decades-old female contraceptive.

    MIKE EISENSTEIN: The challenge in this particular case was, really, diaphragms come in many different sizes, and in developing countries, it’s especially hard, you know, finding a doctor and then getting sized for a specific diaphragm.

    What we did was, we designed a diaphragm with the idea of it fits most of the female population.

    CAT WISE: Another tool developed in the workshop project is the Uniject, aimed at low-skilled health workers administering shots. Steve Brooke was one of the product developers.

    STEVE BROOKE, Commercialization Advisor, PATH: It’s unique in that its completely self-contained. The dose of vaccine or the lifesaving medicine is already filled in this little bubble.

    So the health care worker doesn’t have to measure the dose, take the time to find a different syringe. Once you have made the injection, it’s designed such that you cannot refill it, because reuse of syringes is a significant problem in developing countries.

    CAT WISE: Down the hall from the workshop is PATH’s lab, where scientist Manjari Lal is developing methods to freeze-dry certain vaccines and drugs. The resulting tablets, which would eliminate the need for refrigeration and skilled health workers to administer shots or I.V.s, could be a game-changer, according to Lal.

    MANJARI LAL, Technical Officer, PATH: We need to conduct some clinical studies to really demonstrate if this technology has value. But, yes, I mean, this is easy, packaging-wise, administration-wise, and storage, especially in places like sub-Saharan Africa or Africa in general, where the temperatures run so high, if we have a product which is stable, heat-stable, I mean, it can indeed save a lot of lives.

    CAT WISE: Saving through the use of innovation was a big theme at a recent PATH event honoring supporters and donors.

    During his speech, CEO Steve Davis spoke about the need for better health systems in the world’s poorest countries.

    STEVE DAVIS: Health inequity is generating all sorts of challenges to economic development and it’s generating a lot of political instability, and we have to address that. And certainly the situation in West Africa in Ebola is demonstrating that very, very much.

    CAT WISE: But while Davis says the Ebola outbreak deserves attention and better resources from the international community, he worries that other longstanding global health problems will be overshadowed.

    STEVE DAVIS: We have to keep in mind that far, far more children and women and families will suffer from and die from other diseases far more than Ebola. And that’s because malaria and diarrhea and pneumonia and other things are killing far more people in that region.

    A lot of the work to support and help all those other conditions has come to almost a complete stop.

    CAT WISE: Over the coming months, Davis says PATH will continue to stay engaged in the Ebola outbreak, while launching a major new effort to eliminate malaria, a disease that kills hundreds of thousands each year.

    CAT WISE for the “PBS NewsHour” in Seattle.

    GWEN IFILL: Online, see PATH CEO Steve Davis’ idea for another medical breakthrough. That video is on the Rundown.

     

     

     

    The post Turning technology into easy medical lifesavers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ISLAMIS STATE FINANCING monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, stopping the rapid rise of the Islamic State group by addressing a main engine driving the militants, money, a lot of it.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner explains.

    MARGARET WARNER: While media attention to the battle against the Islamic State group has focused on the U.S.-led military campaign of airstrikes and helping local forces opposing it, an equally important part of U.S. strategy has been waged beyond the scenes, targeting the group’s fat pocketbook.

    But it’s tough. Islamic militant groups like al-Qaida relied largely on donations from wealthy sympathizers in the Gulf and elsewhere. But I.S. largely pays its own way through criminal activities in the territories it controls in Iraq and Syria.

    Late last month, the U.S. Treasury Department reported the group was earning $1 million a day selling oil from seized fields and refineries, $20 million so far in 2014 in ransom payments for captured Westerners, millions more in extortion and theft from local populations and businesses, and millions more looting and selling antiquities.

    The point man trying to rein in all these sources of revenue is David Cohen, the treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

    I spoke to him earlier today.

    Undersecretary Cohen, thank you for having us.

    DAVID COHEN, U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence: Pleasure to be here.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, how does this Islamic State group, ISIS or ISIL, stack up financially against other independent terrorist groups that the U.S. has ever faced?

    DAVID COHEN: Today, probably the best funded terrorist organization that we have confronted outside of state-sponsored terrorist organizations.

    MARGARET WARNER: And have you been able to make yet a real significant dent in its ability to finance itself, enough that you see an impact on its ability to operate?

    DAVID COHEN: One of the ways that ISIL has raised funds is through the sale of stolen oil. And I think we have seen over the past several months some reduction in ISIL’s ability to sell oil on the black market.

    MARGARET WARNER: Can you give me an example?

    DAVID COHEN: Our estimate over the summer was that ISIL was earning something on the order of something around $1 million a day from these black market oil sales.

    I think, today, in the aftermath of some of the airstrikes that have been taken, as well as some of the efforts that have been undertaken to restrict ISIL’s ability to use these smuggling networks, our estimate is that ISIL is now earning something on the order of a couple million dollars a week.

    It’s still an enormous amount of money, but it is movement in the right direction.

    MARGARET WARNER: These are essentially fixed assets, the oil fields they have taken over, the refineries they have taken over in Iraq and Syria. Why can’t you just bomb them out completely?

    DAVID COHEN: I’m not a military targeter, so I don’t…

    MARGARET WARNER: You have enough on your plate.

    DAVID COHEN: I have enough on my plate without selecting specific targets to hit.

    But it is absolutely the case that we’re working very closely with the Department of Defense and — in thinking about going after some of their oil resources.

    MARGARET WARNER: You said in a speech that Iraqi Kurds are buying this stolen oil and then smuggling it out through Turkey. Now, the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government is our ally, supposedly, against ISIS.

    DAVID COHEN: Right, absolutely, absolutely.

    MARGARET WARNER: They are doing that?

    DAVID COHEN: The point I was making is that the oil smuggling networks that ISIL has now taken over are longstanding smuggling networks that existed for many years before ISIL came into Syria, came into Iraq.

    What we’re working on is to cut off those avenues. And the Kurdish regional government is very much our ally in this and are working with us to cut off the oil sales into Kurdistan.

    MARGARET WARNER: With any success?

    DAVID COHEN: I think we’re seeing some success there.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, what does I.S. spend all this money on and how rapid a rate?

    DAVID COHEN: It’s important to think not just about their funding, but their expenses, what they are spending money on.

    So, ISIL pays its fighters upwards of $300 million, $400 million a year just in the fees for their fighters. They’re also trying to portray themselves as if they were a state, and trying to the deliver social services. That is also very expensive.

    If you just compare what the Iraq government had budgeted for social services in the area where ISIL is currently operating, it was well over $2 billion for this year. Even the effort to try and do that is going to outstrip the resources that ISIL has been able to amass.

    MARGARET WARNER: Can they do this all through a self-contained network? Don’t they at some point have to have a point of access into the global financial system, where you then can sanction the institutions that do business with them?

    DAVID COHEN: If they want to purchase whatever it is, whether it’s weaponry or other material to try to continue to hold this territory, having access to the financial system is enormously important to them.

    And we do have the ability, working with private financial institutions around the world, to isolate ISIL and to prevent them from being able to access the international financial system. And that’s one way to undermine their financial strength.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, what about ransom payments, obviously a big issue this week?

    As we know, most Western European governments allow or even engage in ransom payments to get their citizens back. The U.S. and U.K. refuse. You have said it’s a major source of revenue for I.S. Has there been any progress in getting the Western European governments to stop playing that game?

    DAVID COHEN: What we have been doing is everything in our power to try and free the Americans who are held hostages — held hostage and to work with others to have their hostages free, short of paying ransom.

    It not only fuels additional hostage-taking, because it rewards the hostage-taking by paying ransoms, but it also fuels these terrorist organizations so that they can conduct other — other terrorist activity. And so we are working with our partners around the world to translate what is now an accepted norm, which is that ransom payments shouldn’t be made to terrorist organizations, into more of a reality.

    MARGARET WARNER: And is that working at all?

    DAVID COHEN: I think we’re making some progress on this.

    But the numbers speak for themselves. If ISIL has received $20 million in ransom payments this year, someone’s paying those ransoms.

    MARGARET WARNER: Your job before this one was to formulate the economic sanctions against Iran to try to force them to the negotiating table over their nuclear program. Which is tougher?

    DAVID COHEN: Iran presents a different set of challenges than ISIL. They both are hard tasks, but ones where I think we’re making progress on both of them.

    MARGARET WARNER: Undersecretary David Cohen, thank you.

    DAVID COHEN: Thank you.

    The post Targeting the Islamic State’s money supply appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protest in Ferguson ahead of grand jury decision

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    GWEN IFILL: The Saint Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, and the country is awaiting word from a grand jury on whether it will indict the police officer who shot teenager Michael Brown.

    In anticipation of the decision, and the potential for violence, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon yesterday declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. Today, declaring the — quote — “status quo unacceptable,” in his words, the governor announced the creation of a 16-member Ferguson commission made up of local civic leaders and law enforcement officials, among them, education reform activist Rich McClure and the Reverend Starsky Wilson, a local pastor.

    REV. STARSKY WILSON, Co-Chair, Ferguson Commission: We have got heavy lifting to do as a region. And we have got to do it together. So I invite you to participate in the process, but most of all, I invite you to pray for it.

    RICH MCCLURE, Co-Chair, Ferguson Commission: Our region must and can begin to reconcile and to heal. You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk arm in arm. And we have had too much of you and them, and not enough of we and us.

    GWEN IFILL: We look now at the legal and social questions raised in Ferguson with Danielle Belton, a freelance journalist and editor at large for “Clutch,” an online magazine targeting young black women. She is a native of Saint Louis. And Susan McGraugh, a law professor at Saint Louis university, she’s also a practicing defense attorney.

    There seems to be a tipping point, Danielle Belton, which we have reached where the discussion is either about police accountability or community accountability, and this Ferguson Commission sounded like it was trying to bridge that gap.

    Where is that tipping pointed landing today?

    DANIELLE BELTON, Clutch Magazine Online: Well, it’s a nice step.

    It comes in conjunction with the whole state of emergency, though, which feels very reactionary and almost a step back in some regards. It feels like an indictment of the community, where we’re concerned that the community of Ferguson and the people who are surrounding these protests somehow are going to create the same amount of emergency you would see around a flood or an earthquake or some form of natural disaster.

    And so that what is more concerning for me. So, it’s like, the commission sounds nice. That sounds like a good step in the direction. I wish I would have heard more of that from the governor than something that could possibly cause more heightened tensions than are already there.

    GWEN IFILL: Susan McGraugh, let’s talk about where that tipping point is and also whether this extended grand jury process has fed into it.

    SUSAN MCGRAUGH, Saint Louis University: Yes, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this extended jury process has made people more anxious about what’s going on in Ferguson.

    It’s taken several months. It was hot when this started. There’s snow on the ground right now. And the fact that this is a different grand jury process than the one that prosecutor McCulloch normally uses has really added to the sense of frustration.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, explain it to those of us who pay attention intermittently to this story. This grand jury process is not like something we see in a procedural crime drama. It’s not like “Law & Order,” somebody gets accused, someone gets indicted, and there’s a trial.

    This has been almost a trial in advance of the trial.

    SUSAN MCGRAUGH: Yes, it really almost has been, with a couple of notable exceptions.

    You know, this is the only time this specific grand jury procedure has been used by prosecutor McCulloch. And it’s different than the one we would normally see here in Saint Louis. For example, officer Wilson wasn’t arrested before his case went to grand jury.

    That is something that normally happens in the course of someone’s involvement in the criminal justice system. And I think that’s really heightened people’s sense of frustration. Additionally, the jury’s going to see all the evidence.

    Normally, in a grand jury, the prosecutor will only show one side or the state’s side of the evidence. In this case, the grand jury is going to hear all of the evidence.

    GWEN IFILL: Danielle Belton, there was also, in addition to the state of emergency that the governor declared, an FBI warning that went out nationally about this.

    As — is there some legitimate concern that, as activists come from around the country and fly into Ferguson, to Saint Louis, and go to Ferguson preparing to protest or protest in cities around the country, that there is reason to be concerned?

    DANIELLE BELTON: I can see that there might be a few bad actors. There might be a few people who want to take advantage of the situation in order to get out of their own animus they have towards law enforcement and the — and power structures within our society.

    But the vast majority of protesters and activists who have come together around Ferguson have come around it peacefully, they have organized peacefully. They helped young people who this is their first introduction to organization in many cases here in Saint Louis, who have never been involved in any political activism or movement, and they have helped guide them and nurture them to get them to this positive place where they are right now.

    GWEN IFILL: But it takes just a couple knuckleheads to throw all of that into a shadow.

    DANIELLE BELTON: Well, I mean, it took a couple knuckleheads in Keene that caused college students to riot and messed up their town. So, it’s one of those things where a bunch of…

    GWEN IFILL: Keene, New Hampshire, you’re talking about.

    DANIELLE BELTON: Yes. Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    DANIELLE BELTON: But you don’t necessarily declare a state of emergency over rioting college students. I feel like it’s an overreaction.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, I wonder — and I will ask you this, Susan McGraugh, and then I will come back to you, Danielle — which is whether the promise of transparency after the fact, after the grand jury has been convened and reach its conclusion, they said they are going to make everything available for everyone to see, is that promise enough to perhaps head off some of the impatience?

    SUSAN MCGRAUGH: You know, I don’t think it’s going to be.

    I think that what people would have liked to have seen is that a different process like a preliminary hearing being used. That would have allowed an open courtroom, presentation of evidence. It would have allowed people to have seen the witnesses as they appeared in front of a judge.

    I think, unfortunately, that showing people what the evidence was after a decision’s been made isn’t going to be satisfying.

    GWEN IFILL: Danielle Belton, is this about the prospect of an indictment of Daniel Wilson, or is it about something larger that we’re discussing in this country, and the Michael Brown situation has become a proxy for that?

    DANIELLE BELTON: I feel like it’s about something larger.

    Michael Brown isn’t the first young black man to get shot in Saint Louis in the back.  He’s not the first young black man in America to get shot by police in the back. So, this is really a larger referendum on how people have already been upset about these issues and already feel like there’s a lack of transparency in the society when it comes to police accountability.

    And they have used this as a way to catapult that issue to the forefront.

    GWEN IFILL: But are there lessons that have been learned? As we pointed out, it’s been 101 days since this has happened. This has played out in a lot of different directions. Have there any — been lessons that you have learned or you have seen people take from this process?

    DANIELLE BELTON: I feel what I have learned, that people aren’t as cynical as I thought they were.

    GWEN IFILL: Really?

    DANIELLE BELTON: Like, I can be pretty cynical. I grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri.

    And, as I said, Michael Brown is not the first young black man to get shot by police in Saint Louis who was unarmed. And so I eventually became cynical about the process. Some of the feelings that I felt growing up in Saint Louis as a woman of color made me want to leave the city. It made me feel negative about it.

    And to see so many young people who, when I was their age, all I could think about was getting out of Saint Louis, and they are making the effort to actually change the city and the county for the better, that’s been the biggest learning lesson for me.

    GWEN IFILL: How about you, Susan McGraugh? Are there lessons that have been learned that you have picked up on, either from in the community or also in the legal process, that informs what we will see happen next in the next few days?

    SUSAN MCGRAUGH: I think what’s been most surprising to me is how little the general public knows about how our criminal justice works, ho little most of understand about the grand jury system and how charges are brought.

    But I have been really encouraged by the amount of young leaders that I have met in this movement, by people’s passion for finding justice in the criminal justice system, by their willingness to learn and their willingness to become involved in what could be some really powerful systemic change.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, we will be watching, obviously, very closely in the next several days to see what kind of change we actually see.

    Susan McGraugh, Danielle Belton, thank you both very much.

    DANIELLE BELTON: Thank you.

    SUSAN MCGRAUGH: Thank you.

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    Israelis Killed In Synagogue Attack

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We now turn to two longtime Palestinian-Israeli watchers. Dennis Ross was a U.S. diplomat and Middle East envoy who served in the George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations. He’s now a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And Shibley Telhami is the Anwar Sadat professor of peace and development at the University of Maryland. He’s also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the author of the book “The World Through Arab Eyes.”

    We welcome you both.

    Shibley Telhami, to you first.

    Worst violence in Jerusalem in six years. Why has the situation deteriorated?

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI, University of Maryland: You know, we were talking about this just before the Gaza war, and I suggested that we’re maybe upon a third intifada.

    I think we’re there already. This is the third intifada. And Jerusalem is really the most potent mobilizer, not just among Palestinians, but beyond Palestine in the Arab world and Muslim world. It’s there. We see it. It’s been awful.

    Now, what we see is really horrific. Obviously. what happened ought to be condemned by anyone, leaders and public. But what we need to understand is when you lose hope, when there’s nothing there, both on the Israeli and Palestinian side, hearts harden.

    And in polling I did among Palestinians, among Israelis how they react to civilian casualties in conflict, the first reaction is not empathy with the other. The first reaction is, they brought it upon themselves, when they don’t think peace is going to happen and conflict is coming. It’s really a function of the loss of hope.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dennis Ross, how do you see it? Why do you think the situation has gotten to this point?

    DENNIS ROSS, Former U.S. Envoy to Middle East: Well, I do think there’s not just a loss of hope. I think there’s actually a disbelief on each side that peace is even a possibility.

    I also think there’s been an ongoing demonization, and it’s — it’s simply unrealistic to assume that you can have ongoing demonization, and not have a consequence of it. So, I do think there’s been more incitement of late, and that incitement I think creates a context.

    Look, what we saw today was an attack on a religious site where people were praying. They were attacked because they were Jews who were praying. And it’s simply unacceptable. But it also highlights specifically this kind of demonization. And steps have to be taken to stop the demonizations. Steps have to be taken to defuse the reality.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean by demonization? Who is doing the demonization and whom are they demonizing?

    DENNIS ROSS: Well, certainly there is. What Secretary Kerry referred to was incitement on the Palestinian side.

    There’s no doubt that’s taken place. When you, in a sense, as President Abbas did — even though he condemned this action, President Abbas also gave a speech where he spoke about the possibility of a holy war because of contamination, Jewish contamination of the Noble Sanctuary. That’s not the sort of thing that’s going to defuse tensions.

    And I would say when you pay people who are terrorists, that sort of contributes, I think, to a certain reality where this is somehow condoned, even while you criticize the act. It isn’t to say that the Israelis haven’t done things as well as it relates to those who want to go up and change the status quo on the Temple Mount or what the Arabs see as the Noble Sanctuary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Shibley Telhami, a couple of things that were raised there, but what about his statement that there’s been incitement on the Palestinian side and that President Abbas is blaming the wrong people?

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: First of all, When have you a horrific attack, it ought to be condemned, no ifs and buts. This is absolutely unacceptable under any circumstances.

    Put that aside for a minute. The question is whether what the Palestinians are doing or saying is really — or the Palestinian leaders or Abu Mazen is saying is really the reason for why these things happen.

    There’s no connection whatsoever, in my opinion. Here’s why. For one thing, people aren’t even listening to him anymore. And we don’t understand that incitement — and I served on an anti-incitement committee, as Dennis would remember, during the negotiations in the 1990s on the American side, trying to reduce incitement.

    Incitement itself is a function of how much belief there is in the possibility of peace or conflict. People essentially incite when they think conflict is coming. It’s not a function of what people say. People will disregard Mahmoud Abbas, regardless of whether he says — what he says is right or wrong.

    This is not a function of it. And people who are carrying these out are people who don’t even care about Mahmoud Abbas, whether they’re on — Islamists or ultra-leftists.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dennis Ross, he’s saying that it doesn’t matter what the leaders are saying, that it’s what people feel at street level.

    DENNIS ROSS: Look, A, there’s a context that exists. B, leaders contribute to that context. C, the fact is, when there’s a constant demonization, when you watch Palestinian TV, or when you listen to Palestinian radio, as your report indicated, that the Palestinian radio was lauding what had taken place, when there’s that kind of a context that is perpetuated, it creates a reality.

    Yes, there’s a lot of anger out there. And that anger is obviously contributing to this. But the fact is, you have leaders who have to step in — step up and say, this is wrong. There’s no justification for this kind of action. And you have to deal with what I think is a reality where the effort to demonize and dehumanize the other side makes it a lot more — makes it a lot more plausible than in fact these kind of actions take place and somehow are accepted.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you want to respond?

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Well, you know, first of all, if I were a leader, I would condemn it with no ifs and buts, undoubtedly. Put that aside.

    But to think that what that leader’s going to say is going to be the reason why people are going to do or not do the thing, when they’re facing settlements in Jerusalem that they think are illegitimate and illegal, in comparison to what Mahmoud Abbas will say or not say, the weight here is — is in the wrong place.

    The weight is — their anger is not derived from what the Palestinian leader is going to say. It’s derived from what they live every single day. That’s what the anger is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying what the Israelis are doing.

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: What the Israelis are doing and how Palestinians see it in East Jerusalem in particular.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask both of you…

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: And let’s just remember one more thing, that this is taking place in East Jerusalem. And the Palestinian president doesn’t have really hardly any control over issues. It’s under Israeli control.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In just the little time that we have left, Dennis Ross, what is it going to take to stop this? Is it intervention from the outside or are we spiraling to a — spiraling to a third intifada, as Shibley said a few minutes ago?

    DENNIS ROSS: Well, I’m worried that this is taking on a life of its own, and I am worried as well that these are East Jerusalemites.

    If you go back to the second intifada, there were bombings in Jerusalem, but they were not carried out by East Jerusalemites. It’s worrisome that you see that they’re doing this. There’s a climate and there’s frustration. I think what’s required, it’s not so much external intervention, although I do think what Secretary Kerry did last week, meeting President Abbas separately in Amman, seeing the prime minister of Israel and the king of Jordan, and trying to ensure that actions that were being taken and what was being said about the actions that were being taken on the Temple Mount or on the Noble Sanctuary, that you defuse this, you take steps to try to reduce the tensions.

    I think right now leaders on both sides have a responsibility to do everything they can to avoid what are provocative acts. To assume that leaders can’t have an impact is to ignore that the role that leaders have is to affect what the realities are.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Shibley Telhami, your response.

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Well, I think we have it a third intifada under way.

    And I think a lot of people don’t understand it because it doesn’t look like 1987, it doesn’t look like 2000. This is going to be a hybrid. We are going to have the lone wolf attack. We’re going to have the militant Islamists. We might have extremists on the left.

    And it’s going to combine, unfortunately, violence, but also peaceful attempts by a lot of the mainstream. But it’s here. I don’t think it’s going to go away.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s grim.

    Shibley Telhami, Dennis Ross, we thank you.

    SHIBLEY TELHAMI: My pleasure.

    DENNIS ROSS: Thank you.

     

     

     

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    JERUSALEM ATTACK  monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s deadliest attack in Jerusalem since 2008. Four people were brutally murdered at a synagogue today, before their Palestinian attackers were shot dead. Later, an Israeli police officer died of his wounds. The attack built on growing violence in the region.

    Israeli soldiers and police swarmed to the synagogue in West Jerusalem moments after two Palestinian men burst into morning prayers, shooting and hacking their victims with meat cleavers.

    Witnesses told of terror and blood.

    MAN (through interpreter): It was horrific. I can’t imagine such attacks would occur to our community.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Three of the dead were Americans with dual Israeli citizenship, including a rabbi from a renowned Hasidic family.

    From Washington, President Obama condemned the killings.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a tragedy for both nations, Israel, as well as the United States. And our hearts go out to the families who obviously are undergoing enormous grief right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Within hours, thousands of Israelis gathered for the victims’ funerals.

    In East Jerusalem, clashes erupted, as Israeli police fired tear gas and arrested relatives of the attackers. They turned out to be cousins, and members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered their homes demolished, as he vowed to respond with a heavy hand

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): As a nation, we will settle the score with every terrorist and their dispatchers. There are some who want to uproot us from our state and capital. They will not succeed. We are in a battle over Jerusalem, our eternal capital.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Netanyahu blamed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for inciting the violence.

    And, in London, Secretary of State John Kerry also had stern words for the Palestinians.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: They must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Palestinian radio described the attackers as martyrs. And, in Gaza, loudspeakers at mosques called out congratulations.

    President Abbas criticized today’s violence, but he put some of the blame on Israeli actions.

    PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian National Authority (through interpreter): While we condemn this action, we also condemn the Israeli aggression on the holy sites, like burning mosques and churches. All of these actions are not helping the Palestinian and Israeli interests to establish a Palestinian state and live side by side in peace.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The militant group Hamas called the attack a natural reaction to the death of a Palestinian bus driver found hanged in his bus on Monday. Many Palestinians charged he was killed by Jewish assailants. Israeli police ruled it a suicide.

    Tensions have been rising for weeks, with a series of other attacks on Israelis. They have been fueled by a renewed dispute over Jerusalem’s holiest site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

    All of this follows last summer’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, and it’s raised Israeli concerns that a new Palestinian uprising, or intifada, may be coming.

     

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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Senate faced a moment of truth this evening, on the Keystone XL pipeline. Supporters needed 60 votes to advance the project. Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu pushed the issue. She’s in a runoff next month with Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy, whose identical bill passed the House last week

    Minority Leader Mitch McConnell led all 45 Republicans in backing the Senate version

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Minority Leader: Republicans are committed to getting Keystone approved. We want to see those jobs created as soon as possible. That’s what the people want. So, I would urge a yes-vote on the legislation to send Congressman Cassidy’s Keystone bill to the president and create more American jobs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A dozen or so Democrats joined Landrieu in backing the bill, but most Democrats were opposed. California’s Barbara Boxer said the real issue is the potential for pollution.

    SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) California: This isn’t about the building of a pipeline. It’s what’s going in it, the filthiest, dirtiest oil. But to stand here and say that this is the absolute job producer is phony. It is phony baloney.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House had issued veiled threats of a presidential veto.

    GWEN IFILL: On the House side of the Capitol, Democrats reelected California’s Nancy Pelosi as minority leader. And Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer was reelected as minority whip. Last week, House Republicans voted to keep John Boehner as speaker.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Japan’s leader today called for a snap election next month, putting his own job on the line. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the move one day after news that Japan has fallen back into recession. Some fault Abe’s economic policies. He responded by postponing a planned tax increase. Abe also said that he will resign if his party loses its majority in the election.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama has ordered a review of how to respond to Americans being taken hostage overseas. The White House confirmed the existence of the review, which it said began last summer, after news of the latest beheading of an American by Islamic State militants.

    But spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. will not change its policy of refusing to pay ransom.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: The reason for that is simple. We don’t want to put other American citizens at even greater risk when they’re around the globe, and that knowing that terrorist organizations can extract ransom from the United States if they take a hostage only puts American citizens at a greater risk.

    GWEN IFILL: Some relatives of beheading victims have urged the government to do more. The review may consider whether to let the families offer to pay the ransoms themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The National Football League today suspended Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season, without pay. He’s pleaded no contest to a Texas misdemeanor charge of striking and injuring his son with a wooden switch. The running back has not played in a game in two months, and today’s announcement means he can’t be reinstated until April, at the earliest. The Players Union plans to appeal.

    GWEN IFILL: The Forest Service will permit limited fracking to search for oil and gas in the largest national forest in the Eastern United States. The compromise plan was unveiled today. It allows the process formally known as hydraulic fracturing to be used in the George Washington National Forest, which covers parts of Virginia and West Virginia. The plan also puts most of the forest off limits to oil and gas leases.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Federal safety regulators called late today for a nationwide auto air bag recall. The target? Air bags made by Takata Corporation that can explode with too much force, spewing metal shards. Takata limited previous recalls to high-humidity areas along the Gulf Coast, but now there’s been an incident in North Carolina.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, stocks edged higher, partly due to an improved outlook for homebuilding. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 40 points to close at 17687. The Nasdaq rose 31 points to close at 4702. And the S&P 500 added 10 to finish at 2051.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Capitol dome marked a milestone today in its $60 million face-lift. Workers have completed the task of wrapping the structure in 52 miles of scaffolding. That clears the way to repair 1,300 cracks in the cast-iron surface and remove old paint. They will also replace Civil War-era windows and fix damaged cast-iron ornaments. The restoration is expected to be finished in time for the 2017 presidential inauguration

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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

    The Keystone pipeline bill failed by one vote in the Senate on Tuesday night. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Proponents of a measure that would approve the construction of a section of a pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico failed to get enough votes in the U.S. Senate to pass it, marking another chapter in years-long debate that put the Obama White House on the defensive.

    The pipeline measure needed 60 votes for approval — the final vote Tuesday was 59 yeas and 41 nos.

    Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu led the charge for passage, joined by all Senate Republicans. Democrats and Republicans agreed to hold a vote on the issue after the recent midterm elections. Senate Democrats attempted to hold a Keystone vote earlier this year, but Republicans blocked an agreement that would have led to that vote.

    Neither Landrieu nor her Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, got enough votes to prevent a Dec. 6 runoff. Approval of the pipeline is widely seen as a bid to boost Landrieu’s chances at winning the runoff, in which she is currently trailing in polls.

    While the White House didn’t commit to a decision on vetoing the bill had it passed the Senate (it passed the House last week), the Obama administration has not been eager to approve the pipeline. Because the pipeline crosses the border with Canada, the State Department and the White House have authority over approving its construction. That approval process has been in the works for six years.

    Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made it clear Congress isn’t done with the issue.

    “Once the 114th Congress convenes, the Senate will act again on this important legislation, and I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the New Year,” he said in a statement immediately following the vote.

    NPR has a great rundown on the details of the Keystone issue here. Polling shows the issue is broadly popular in the U.S.

    The debate over whether the president will allow the construction of one section of this pipeline through several Great Plains states has become a big topic on Capitol Hill. The House, led by Republicans, has voted nine times to approve the project. While Republicans and some Democrats like Landrieu cite the pipeline as a jobs project, Democrats are largely opposed; many fear the negative environmental impact of the use of the tar sands oil that will travel through the pipe.

    Some of the big claims from the supporters and detractors don’t stand up to some of the research done by the government on the project.

    A State Department review found that the project would create 42,000 jobs during a hypothetical two-year construction period. But afterward, just 50 permanent jobs would be created from its construction.

    The Washington Post points out that the U.S. economy produces about 7,000 jobs a day.

    And the State Department found in its environmental analysis that construction of this particular pipe section would have little impact on climate change because the tar sands oil in Canada would be extracted and delivered one way or another.

    But on Capitol Hill, politics often matters most. So while the project, if eventually approved by the president, won’t likely create many permanent jobs or make a big difference to climate change — it has been useful as a political vehicle for Democrats and Republicans alike.

    The post Keystone pipeline bill fails by one vote in Senate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    Many immigrants are baffled why there is no clear way to upload a copy of their green card to HealthCare.gov. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Like other HealthCare.gov customers, immigrants are relieved that the government’s health insurance website is working fairly well this year. They’re baffled, though, by what looks like an obvious lapse: There is no clear way to upload a copy of their green card, the government identification document that shows they are legal U.S. residents and therefore entitled to benefits under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

    “It doesn’t list the green card as an option to upload,” said Elizabeth Colvin of Foundation Communities, an Austin, Texas, group that serves low-income people, including many immigrants. There’s a way to upload copies of other types of documentation, Colvin said, but not green cards.

    “The limited list of documents is confusing people and needs to be updated to include all accepted documents to verify identity,” she added.

    Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said a fix was in the works. “We are working to make it clear that consumers with any type of immigration issue can upload any form that is requested, including a copy of their green card,” he said.

    Reaching immigrants, particularly Hispanics and Asians, is a priority as the administration seeks to increase the number of people signed up for subsidized private health insurance through federal and state exchanges. Latinos are the largest pool of immigrant applicants, and many hesitated to sign up last year.

    A total of about 7 million people are now enrolled, and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell has set a target of 9.1 million for 2015. Though that would represent a 30 percent enrollment increase, it’s well below the 13 million that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had forecast for 2015. The markets are for people who don’t have access to coverage on the job.

    Compared with last year’s website dysfunction, the green card glitch is just an irritant, something that requires extra effort from certain applicants and that may cause additional anxiety.

    “Last year, people were getting kicked out; the system was constantly being shut down,” said Colvin. “We welcome the changes and improvements.”

    Immigrants can enter their green card number on the website. But what happens next is creating confusion.

    Some applicants say they have been told by the HealthCare.gov call center to mail in copies of their green cards. But that’s a worry, since there were widespread complaints this year that copies of immigration documents sent in the mail got lost.

    In some cases, people are uploading green cards anyway under website labels for other types of documentation, and hoping the government will notice.

    It’s not the only way that immigrants will have to jump through hoops to get covered.

    HealthCare.gov’s new, simpler online application cut 76 screens down to 16 for most consumers. But it can’t be used by legal immigrants and naturalized U.S. citizens because of extra steps required for verification.

    While immigrants living in the country illegally cannot get coverage under the law, millions who are lawfully present are entitled to benefits, as well as people who were born overseas and later became U.S. citizens.

    About half of Latino adults were born abroad, according to research from the Pew Hispanic Center. Of those who have become U.S. citizens, 21 percent lack health insurance. That’s well above the 15 percent uninsured rate among naturalized U.S. citizens who are not of Hispanic origin. Latinos are also more likely to be married to an immigrant.

    Burwell has been traveling this week to promote the new sign-up period, including stops in two immigrant-rich states, Florida and Texas, which are among the 37 served by the federal website. She also tweeted that Spanish-speaking representatives at HealthCare.gov’s call center got 20,000 calls over the weekend.

    Sign-up season runs through Feb. 15.

    The post Many frustrated by HealthCare.gov’s missing green card option appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Though the Keystone pipeline legislation failed by one vote Tuesday, Senate Republicans are promising to push the legislation again once their party take the majority next year. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.

    “I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the new year,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday, shortly after the bill fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed to advance. He was joined by incoming Senate Energy Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who said the fight wasn’t over.

    The vote was a blow to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who had forced the issue onto the Senate agenda, and who faces difficult odds in a Dec. 6 runoff election against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. “I’m going to fight for the people of my state until the day that I leave, and I hope that will not be soon,” she said.

    Republicans are likely to have enough votes to assure the bill’s passage in January, when they will have at least 53 seats — 54 if Cassidy wins the Louisiana runoff.

    “If you look at new Congress, you can count four more (GOP seats) right away, and there may be others,” Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, the lead sponsor of the bill, said after the 59-41 vote Tuesday. “You can see we’re well over 60.”

    Hoeven acknowledged that Republicans would need 67 votes to override a veto, but said one possibility is to include Keystone in a larger energy package that may not prompt a veto threat.

    The vote was one of the last acts of this Senate controlled by the Democrats. It is expected to complete its work by mid-December.

    Cassidy, Landrieu’s Republican opponent, said Louisiana families “need better jobs, better wages and better benefits,” and the pipeline would provide them.

    Democratic divisions were on vivid display in a bill that pitted environmentalists against energy advocates.

    While Obama opposes the measure, likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has repeatedly refused to take a position. Most recently, her spokesman did not respond to two requests over the weekend to do so.

    The project would move oil from Canada into the United States and eventually to the Texas Gulf Coast. Supporters say it would create jobs and ease American dependence on Middle East oil. A government environmental impact statement also predicts that a pipeline would result in less damage to the climate than moving the same oil by rail.

    Critics argue that the drilling itself is environmentally harmful, and said much of the Canadian crude would be exported with little or no impact on America’s drive for energy stability.

    At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the measure is something “the president doesn’t support because the president believes that this is something that should be determined through the State Department and the regular process that is in place to evaluate projects like this.”

    After the vote, five people were handcuffed and led off by Capitol police outside the Senate chamber after breaking into loud yowls. One was wearing what appeared to be Native American beads and feathers in his hair.

    The post Republicans promise new GOP majority will push Keystone pipeline bill forward appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    Being in the spotlight has lowered the morale of Secret Service agents, says the agency director. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The acting director of the Secret Service is warning lawmakers of “potentially dire consequences” from lowered morale and operational security at the agency.

    Joseph Clancy offered the sobering assessment in written testimony presented to the House Judiciary Committee ahead of a hearing Wednesday.

    Clancy was making his first appearance on Capitol Hill since his appointment last month to lead the embattled agency. The Secret Service has suffered a string of embarrassments, including a fence jumper who made it into the White House, which led to the resignation of its previous director.

    Clancy acknowledged that the agency has fallen short of its goal of perfection. He said that being in the spotlight has had detrimental effects on employee morale and operational security, “both with potentially dire consequences.”


    In October, the PBS NewsHour examined the state of the Secret Service in the wake of the White House fence jumper incident:

    The post Low Secret Service morale could have ‘dire consequences,’ says agency director appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Check the all the costs of the Medicare plan you're considering, not just the premiums. Photo by Flickr user 401(k) 2012.

    Check all of the costs of the Medicare drug plan you’re considering, not just the premiums. Photo by Flickr user 401(k) 2012.

    Editor’s Note: Medicare open enrollment extends to Dec. 7 this year, but questions about this complicated program do not end then. Making Sen$e has turned to journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, to answer your Medicare questions in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.

    Medicare rules and private insurance plans can affect people differently depending on where they live. To make sure the answers here are as accurate as possible, Phil is working with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). It is funded by the government but is otherwise independent and trains volunteers to provide consumer Medicare counseling in state and local offices around the country.

    Moeller is a research fellow at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and co-author of “How to Live to 100.” Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoeller or e-mail him at medicarephil@gmail.com.


    Betty – Ohio: If I am quoted a $0 monthly premium for a MA [Medicare Advantage] plan, can that premium change during 2015?

    A “free” premium may be a false economy if a plan’s other charges are steeper than those of competing policies with higher premiums.

    Phil Moeller: Nope. You’re good for the year. Your plan will be free to change its monthly premium for 2016. But if it makes any changes to its premium or benefits, it is supposed to notify you of those changes through an Annual Notice of Change document it must send you each fall. One word of caution: please look at total plan costs: co-pays, deductibles and individual drug charges. A “free” premium may be a false economy if a plan’s other charges are steeper than those of competing policies with higher premiums.


    Betty – Calif.: I have Medicare Part D with United Healthcare insurance. Are there different types of Part D that pay more than others toward medications?

    Phil Moeller: Yes. Drug plans negotiate separately with pharmaceutical companies, so their costs for drugs aren’t the same. But even if they were, they would be free to charge you different prices. They also are free to charge you prices for premiums, deductibles and co-pays that differ from other plans.

    GOT MEDICARE QUESTIONS?

    Ask Phil Here

    In your area, you may have “basic” Part D plans that offer standard coverage, as well as “enhanced” plans that offer a somewhat greater level of coverage, generally in exchange for a higher monthly premium.

    Many consumers are wowed by lower monthly premiums and don’t look at other plan details that will affect their total out-of-pocket expenses for the plan. But this is the bottom line that counts, and it should reflect your actual drug and health needs. You can use the Medicare Plan Finder to find this information. Using this website, you can see which plans cover your medications and get an estimate of how much you’d pay before choosing and enrolling in a Part D plan.


    J. — Va.: If I drop my Part D for a year, is there a penalty for rejoining? What are the advantages of retaining a Part D prescription drug plan if I find that I can acquire my meds for less money without it?

    Phil Moeller: If you drop your Part D plan for a year, you may have to pay a penalty if you rejoin later. The penalty is an extra amount that’s added to your monthly Part D premium. Roughly speaking, it could add 1 percent of your monthly premium charge for each month you are without coverage, and the penalty could be imposed for the rest of your life. So, if you were without coverage for a year, you might face a 12 percent premium penalty. With monthly premiums averaging about $33 a month, your penalty could be about $4 a month or nearly $50 a year.

    Also, you may owe a late enrollment penalty if, at any time after your initial enrollment period is over, there’s a period of 63 or more consecutive days when you don’t have Part D or other creditable prescription drug coverage (creditable, in Medicare-speak, means other coverage that’s as good as Medicare Part D coverage).This late enrollment penalty would not apply if you get Extra Help subsidies to help pay for your Medicare prescription drug coverage. More than 10 million people do, so it’s no big deal and it may be easier to qualify than you think.

    I’m all for being a savvy consumer, but you need to be careful here. Even granting that you have Superwoman (or Man) genes, you may not be in control of when you need a very expensive drug. Life does get in the way. So do strokes, heart attacks, auto accidents and other health events. Should you suspend Part D coverage, you may have to wait until the next year to get a policy. Not only would you pay penalties then but you’d be on the hook in the meantime for what could be financially crippling drug costs.

    Insurance is, well, insurance. Your main goal here should be protection, not financial gain.


    Pat — Fla.: Is it true that Medicare D has stopped covering Synthroid and will only cover generics? I had a bad reaction to a generic.

    Phil Moeller: I am sorry to hear of your adverse reaction to a generic. Simply Googling “Synthroid” and “adverse reactions” is a recipe for insomnia if not worse. As to your question, I checked the Medicare site, and Synthroid is covered. However, that does not mean an individual drug plan has to include it.

    Each Medicare Part D plan has its own formulary, or list of covered prescription drugs. Whether Synthroid is covered will depend on whether a Part D plan has included Synthroid as a covered drug on its formulary. In some cases, your plan may have a coverage rule that requires you to try a similar, lower cost drug (such as a generic) before the plan will cover a prescribed drug (for example, Synthroid). This is known as “step therapy.”

    If you or your doctor believe you need a drug that isn’t on your plan’s formulary or think a coverage rule should be waived, you can ask your plan for an exception. When you request an exception, your doctor must provide a statement explaining the medical reason why the exception should be approved. In my mind, your adverse reaction to a generic is compelling. But my tendency to say yes to pretty much any person’s health needs makes me a bad candidate to be an insurance company representative.

    The post Don’t be fooled by Medicare drug plans with low premiums appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

    Secretary of State John Kerry met with a top Arab mediator as Monday’s fast-approaching nuclear deadline approaches. Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

    LONDON — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held an unexpected second meeting in two days with a key Arab mediator in the Iran nuclear talks, part of a last-minute push to meet a Monday deadline for a deal that would ease the threat of the Islamic republic reaching the capability to produce atomic weapons.

    Despite the diplomatic efforts, signs increasingly pointed to a further extension in negotiations.

    Kerry met Wednesday at his hotel with Yusuf bin Alawi, the foreign minister of Oman, a key go-between in discussions between Washington and Tehran, a senior U.S. official said. Bin Alawi was in Tehran last weekend and met with Kerry Tuesday. Their follow-up meeting was unannounced, confirmed only after an Associated Press reporter saw the foreign minister in the hotel.

    Oman, unique among the Gulf Arab states for the close ties it maintains with Iran, hosted high-level nuclear talks earlier this month and was the site of secret U.S.-Iranian gatherings dating back to 2012. Those discussions laid the groundwork for an interim nuclear agreement reached a year ago, which world powers and Iran are now trying to cement in Vienna with a comprehensive pact by Monday.

    In Washington, Obama administration officials, congressional aides and independent experts who’ve closely monitored the discussions said an extension of the talks was most likely. In a twist, many opponents of the diplomacy now see a prolonging of the negotiations as more preferable than an accord.

    Even though many lawmakers opposed an extension when the last one was announced in June, aides in both parties said an agreement now would be viewed as a sign of the administration’s desperation to secure a diplomatic breakthrough at any cost.

    Republicans in particular want more time so that they can attempt to pass new sanctions legislation that would pressure Iran into greater concessions. The Senate’s plan is to bring up a package of conditional penalties after January, when Republicans take the majority, according to aides who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

    Some Democrats are on board with that effort, though Obama has threatened to veto any new sanctions threatening the diplomacy.

    The midterm elections have others, too, weighing their approaches. The powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, issued a statement after the last extension urging the U.S. government to “make clear that Iran can expect no further extension of the talks.”

    But it currently is taking no stance on whether another extension or a deal is preferable, given the parameters of the potential agreement are unknown. Also, a prolonging of talks could entail a new set of questions if accompanied by a framework for a future deal, an agreement of principles or some other understanding to guide the diplomacy going forward.

    With Obama expected this week to issue an executive order on immigration, several aides pointed to the political unlikelihood of a nuclear deal coinciding with that effort. Both would demand the administration make a vigorous defense of policies with questionable public backing, fierce Republican opposition and mixed support even among Democrats.

    Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, last month put the chances of a deal at less than even.

    David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who advises the U.S. government on Iran’s nuclear program, said this week the interim deal would likely need to be extended again. Among the outstanding issues he outlined were the lack of progress in opening up Iran’s military sites, gaps on the number of uranium centrifuges it should be allowed to maintain and its continued failure to come clean on all military aspects of its nuclear program.

    Iran insists the program is solely for peaceful energy production and medical research purposes. The U.S., its Arab and European partners, and Israel fear it may be a covert effort to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal.


    Klapper reported from Washington. AP National Security reporter Lara Jakes contributed to this report.

    The post Kerry meets with Arab mediator ahead of Iran nuclear deadline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    obamaWASHINGTON (AP) — Sidestepping Congress, President Barack Obama on Thursday will announce steps he will take to shield up to 5 million immigrants illegally in the United States from deportation, defying Republican lawmakers who say such a step would poison relations with the new GOP led legislature.

    Obama, in a video released on Facebook, said he would make his announcement from the White House at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday, then would travel to Las Vegas to promote the plan Friday.

    He said while everyone agrees the immigration system is broken, Washington has allowed the problem “to fester for too long.”

    “What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem,” Obama said.

    As many as 5 million people in the country illegally would be spared from deportation and made eligible for work permits. But the eligible immigrants would not be entitled to federal benefits — including health care tax credits — under the plan, officials said Wednesday.

    Obama was to speak at Las Vegas’ Del Sol High School, a school with a large population of non-English speaking students where Obama unveiled his blueprint for comprehensive immigration legislation in 2013.

    Republicans are vehemently opposed to the president’s likely actions, with some conservative members threatening to pursue a government shutdown if Obama follows through on his promises to act before the end of the year.

    A wide-ranging immigration bill passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the Republican-led House. Obama vowed this summer to instead pursue changes to the immigration system using his own authority but delayed the measures until after the midterm elections, in part because of concerns from some Democrats facing tough races.

    Democrats still lost control of the Senate in the midterm balloting.

    One official familiar with the administration’s planning said the beneficiaries of Obama’s new executive action would be treated in the same manner as those immigrants who were shielded from deportation and who became eligible for work permits under an Obama directive in 2012. The 2012 executive action deferred deportations for immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. The official discussed the limits of Obama’s action on the condition of anonymity, lacking authority to speak on the record at this point.

    Those immigrants covered by the 2012 action, called Dreamers by their advocates, can obtain work permits but are not eligible for food stamps, federal welfare benefits or disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program. They also are ineligible for tax credits under Obama’s health care law, though they can buy health coverage at full price on the exchanges created by the law. They may be eligible for public benefits provided by some states, however.

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that Obama’s executive actions will be comprehensive and include border security measures. He said he believes that immigration changes that Obama will announce are not only legal but needed in light of inaction by Congress on immigration.

    Johnson spoke briefly about the president’s plan during an event at the National Press Club on Wednesday, but he didn’t provide any details.

    House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman criticized Obama’s plans, noting that the president himself has said in the past that he is not “emperor” and is limited in his ability to act on his own.

    “If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for congressional action on this issue – and many others,” the spokesman, Michael Steel, said.

    Astrid Silva, an organizer for the group Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said the president “has a duty to keep his promise and use his full legal authority to take action where Congress has failed.” The group said the White House has been in touch with Nevada activists about the trip.

    Republicans on Capitol Hill are deeply divided and have spent much of the week intensely debating how to respond. By timing his announcement for the Friday before Thanksgiving, with Congress on recess all of next week, Obama gives the public some time to react to his announcement before Congress has a chance to respond.

    The post Obama to announce immigration plan Thursday appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. In the background from right to left: Senator Edward V. Long, an unidentified man, Lady Bird Johnson, Senator Mike Mansfield, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Bess Truman. Archive photo from the White House Press Office

    President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, with President Truman seated next to him. Twenty years earlier, President Truman proposed his idea for nationwide health care. Archive photo from the White House Press Office

    This past July 30, we celebrated the 49th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid. Readers of this column will recall it was on that date in 1965 when President Lyndon Baines Johnson formally signed these two programs into law in Independence, Missouri, as former president Harry S. Truman and his steadfast wife, Bess, looked on with pride. As LBJ handed “Give ‘Em Hell Harry” and Bess the pens he used to affix his signature to the document, the President proclaimed Mr. Truman as “the real daddy of Medicare.”

    "Harry S Truman, bw half-length photo portrait, facing front, 1945" by Edmonston Studio - The Library of Congress, http://loc.gov. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

    President Harry S. Truman proposed a universal health care program in 1945. Photo by Edmonston Studio — The Library of Congress

    Today marks the reason why LBJ bestowed such presidential credit to Harry Truman.

    Back in 1945 — a mere seven months into a presidency he inherited from Franklin D. Roosevelt — Truman proposed a “universal” national health insurance program. In his remarks to Congress, he declared, “Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.”

    69 years ago, President Truman outlined five critical goals of national health.

    The first was to address the number and disparity of physicians, nurses and other health professionals, especially in low-income and rural communities where there were “no adequate facilities for the practice of medicine” and “the earning capacity of the people in some communities makes it difficult if not impossible for doctors who practice there to make a living.” To begin to correct this problem, Truman wanted the federal government to construct modern, quality hospital across the nation—especially where they did not yet exist.

    The second issue was the need to develop and bolster public health services (both to control the spread of infectious diseases and improve sanitary conditions across the nation) and maternal and child health care. With respect to the latter, Harry Truman reminded Congress, “the health of American children, like their education, should be recognized as a definite public responsibility.”

    Third, he sought to increase the nation’s investment in both medical research and medical education.

    The fourth problem addressed the high cost of individual medical care. “The principal reason why people do not receive the care they need,” Truman noted, “is that they cannot afford to pay for it on an individual basis at the time they need it. This is true not only for needy persons. It is also true for a large proportion of normally self-supporting persons.”

    And fifth, he focused on the lost earnings that inevitably occur when serious illness strikes. “Sickness,” Truman cogently explained, “not only brings doctor bills; it also cuts off income.

    Not surprisingly, it was President Truman’s proposal to fix the 4th and 5th problems with a national health insurance plan that provoked the loudest opposition. Truman proposed that every wage earning American pay monthly fees or taxes to cover the cost of all medical expenses in time of illness. The plan also called for a cash balance to be paid to policyholders, in the event of injury or illness, to replace the income those individuals lost.

    His measured and careful description of the plan merits quoting:

    “Under the plan I suggest, our people would continue to get medical and hospital services just as they do now — on the basis of their own voluntary decisions and choices. Our doctors and hospitals would continue to deal with disease with the same professional freedom as now. There would, however, be this all-important difference: whether or not patients get the services they need would not depend on how much they can afford to pay at the time…None of this is really new. The American people are the most insurance-minded people in the world. They will not be frightened off from health insurance because some people have misnamed it ‘socialized medicine.’ I repeat — what I am recommending is not socialized medicine. Socialized medicine means that all doctors work as employees of government. The American people want no such system. No such system is here proposed.”

    The Truman plan was quickly converted into a Social Security expansion bill sponsored by Sens. Robert Wagner (D-NY) and James Murray (D-MT) and Rep. John Dingell Sr. (D-MI). A version of this bill had been proposed in 1943, when FDR was still president, but died in committee both because of the pressures of the war and the lack of presidential pressure on Congress.

    At first, things looked somewhat rosy for the reinvigorated 1945 bill: the Democrats still controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate and a number of prominent Americans vociferously supported it. Still, the nation was weary from war, the high taxes necessary to pay for FDR’s New Deal, and what many Americans perceived to be a too intrusive federal government.

    Almost as soon as the reinvigorated bill was announced, the once-powerful American Medical Association (AMA) capitalized on the nation’s paranoia over the threat of Communism and, despite Truman’s assertions to the contrary, attacked the bill as “socialized medicine.” Even more outrageous, the AMA derided the Truman administration as “followers of the Moscow party line.” During congressional hearings in 1946, the AMA proposed its own plan emphasizing private insurance options, which actually represented a political shift from its previous position opposing any third party members in the delivery of health care.

    Another historical actor entering the fray was Senator Robert Taft (R-OH), who introduced the Taft-Smith-Ball bill, which called for matching grants to states to subsidize private health insurance for the needy. Although the AMA supported this bill, Truman was against it because he believed it would halt the political progress he had made in guaranteeing every American health insurance.

    Hearings and politics continued through 1946 but little progress was made. During the midterm elections of 1946, the Republicans regained control of both the Senate and the House for the first time since 1929, making the bill a dead issue.

    Harry Truman continued to make health insurance a major issue of his campaign platform in 1948 and specifically castigated the AMA for calling his plan “un-American”:

    “I put it to you, it is un-American to visit the sick, aid the afflicted or comfort the dying? I thought that was simple Christianity.”

    Truman famously fooled the pollsters by winning re-election in 1948 and even the Congress was restored to Democratic control that fall. But this political power was no match for the AMA’s redoubled lobbying and advertising efforts, which were endorsed by more than 1,800 national organizations, including the American Bar Association, the American Legion and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Public support waned — and the bill quietly died (again) — as the middle class purchased private health insurance plans, labor unions began collectively bargaining for their members’ health benefits, and the advent of the Korean War.

    Truman later called the failure to pass a national health insurance program one of the most bitter and troubling disappointments in his presidency. He must have been overjoyed in 1965 to watch Lyndon Johnson enact a health insurance plan for the elderly and the needy. Nevertheless, the nation would have to wait another 45 years before the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, a law that remains in jeopardy after Nov. 7, when the U.S. Supreme Court took on still another legal challenge to its constitutionality. That said, many would insist there remains a great more work to do to make health care affordable and accessible for all Americans.


    Dr. Howard Markel

    Dr. Howard Markel

    Dr. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS NewsHour, highlighting the anniversary of a momentous event that continues to shape modern medicine. He is the director of the Center for the History of Medicine, the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan, and editor-in-chief of the Milbank Quarterly.

    He is the author or editor of 10 books, including “Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892,” “When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed” and “An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine.”

    The post Harry Truman’s vision of a national health insurance program appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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