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

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    WASHINGTON — The admiral fired last year as No. 2 commander of U.S. nuclear forces may have made his own counterfeit $500 poker chips with paint and stickers to feed a gambling habit that eventually saw him banned from an entire network of casinos, according to a criminal investigative report obtained by The Associated Press.

    Although Rear Adm. Timothy M. Giardina’s removal as deputy head of U.S. Strategic Command was announced last year, evidence of his possible role in manufacturing the counterfeit chips has not previously been revealed. Investigators said they found his DNA on the underside of an adhesive sticker used to alter genuine $1 poker chips to make them look like $500 chips.

    Nor had the Navy disclosed how extensively he gambled.

    The case is among numerous embarrassing setbacks for the nuclear force. Disciplinary problems, security flaws, weak morale and leadership lapses documented by The Associated Press over the past two years prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Nov. 14 to announce top-to-bottom changes in how the nuclear force is managed that will cost up to $10 billion.

    The records obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show Giardina was a habitual poker player, spending a total of 1,096 hours – or an average of 15 hours per week – at the tables at the Horseshoe casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the 18 months before being caught using three phony chips in June 2013.

    He was such a familiar figure at the casino, across the Missouri River from his office near Omaha, Nebraska, that some there knew him as “Navy Tim.” But they may not have known he was a three-star admiral and second-in-charge at Strategic Command, the military’s nuclear war-fighting headquarters. Strategic Command also plays key roles in missile defense, cyberdefense, space operations and other functions.

    A career submarine officer, Giardina is a 1979 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

    Such was Giardina’s affection for poker that even after he was caught he “continued to come in and gamble on a regular basis” at Harrah’s casino, also located in Council Bluffs, according to an account by an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent that was turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after NCIS took over the case in August 2013.

    On July 18 Giardina was banned from both the Horseshoe and Harrah’s for 90 days, but he returned at least twice to play poker at the Horseshoe before the ban expired. The second time, in October, he was given a lifetime ban from all gambling establishments run by the Horseshoe’s owner, Caesar’s Entertainment Corp.

    The report included Giardina’s remarks to a casino security agent about the polygraphs given at Strategic Command to officers holding security clearances.

    “(What) they’re really trying to do is find out if you got, you know, if you’re having sex with animals or something really crazy or you’ve got this wild life that you could be blackmailed into giving military secrets out,” he was quoted as saying.

    At Strategic Command, Giardina was privy to highly sensitive national security secrets. Legal gambling by Strategic Command officers with security clearances is not prohibited or limited by policy, although if they incur excessive debt they are required to report it, according to the command’s chief spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze.

    Six days after he received the lifetime Caesar’s ban, Giardina was kicked out of the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, according to the NCIS records that gave no reason for that expulsion. That casino is not a Caesar’s property.

    The state investigator’s report also said a review of surveillance footage revealed “odd behaviors” by Giardina at the Horseshoe.

    “Giardina was observed taking cigarette butts out of public ash trays and smoking them,” it said.

    Giardina, who remains on the Navy payroll as a staff officer in Washington, was never charged with counterfeiting. Instead he was found guilty in May 2014 of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer – lying to an investigator and passing fake gambling chips. He was given a written reprimand and ordered to forfeit $4,000 in pay.

    The Navy chose not to pursue a court martial because they were uncertain they could get a conviction with the evidence they had, officials said.

    In early September 2013 Giardina was quietly suspended from his post at Strategic Command, which he had assumed in December 2011. One month later he was fired and reduced in rank from three-star to two-star admiral.

    Giardina did not respond to an AP email request Friday for comment on the investigation report. In May, after the Navy announced his punishment, Giardina told the AP he had no comment.

    NCIS denied AP’s original request for the investigation records but released them this month after granting an AP appeal.

    The case against Giardina opened in the wee hours of June 16, 2013, when an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent responded to calls from the Horseshoe reporting the discovery of three counterfeit $500 poker chips. Casino surveillance video showed Giardina had played them. Interviewed two days later, Giardina admitted using them but claimed to be an innocent victim.

    Giardina said he had purchased $2,000 in chips, including three $500 chips, from a person in a casino bathroom transaction for $1,975 in cash. He said he could not identify the person.

    In his interview with casino security on June 18, Giardina said, “I guarantee you I did not do anything wrong,” according to a casino transcript. Trying to pass off $1,500 in counterfeit chips is “not something that even would tempt me,” he said, adding, “It’s not worth risking your whole career over.”

    Later, Giardina told the Pottawattamie County, Iowa, attorney in a letter that he misled investigators.

    “During the interview I was not forthright in my response about how I came into the possession of the chips in question,” he wrote, according to an NCIS affidavit.

    The Army lab that tested the chips and the DNA concluded that the center section of a genuine $500 chip had been photocopied or scanned and then printed onto adhesive stickers. The stickers were then applied to the front and back of genuine $1 chips to make them appear to be real $500 chips. One of the problems, however, was that the adhesive stickers covered up a security feature embedded in the chips and visible only with ultraviolet light.

    The counterfeiter also apparently hand painted the $1 chips to try to simulate the color scheme of a genuine $500 chip. Security officials were able to scratch off the paint.

    The Army lab that tested the chips confirmed in January 2014 that Giardina’s DNA was a match for the DNA found on the adhesive sticker used to cover the $1 marking on the center inlay of a legitimate chip.

    Six days later Giardina’s lawyer notified NCIS that the admiral would not participate in an NCIS interview.

    The post Fired nuke commander now linked to counterfeit poker chips appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Via @small_realm on Flickr.

    Following a report in Rolling Stone magazine in which a student alleges she was gang raped in 2012, University of Virginia announced on Saturday the suspension of activities for the school’s fraternal organizations until Jan. 9. Credit: Flickr user small_realm.

    The President of the University of Virginia announced on Saturday the suspension of activities for the school’s fraternal organizations until Jan. 9, 2015, following reactions within the school community to the recent recounting of an alleged 2012 sexual assault in Rolling Stone magazine.

    “The wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community,” wrote UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan in a statement posted on the University’s website.

    “Rape is an abhorrent crime that has no place in the world, let alone on the campuses and grounds of our nation’s colleges and universities.”

    On Saturday morning, UVA’s Inter-Fraternity Council announced that social activities planned for the weekend had been called off voluntarily by campus fraternities.

    “This is an important first step, but our challenges will extend beyond this weekend,” Sullivan wrote, explaining that social activities will be postponed until the start of the spring semester.

    The fall semester at UVA runs until Dec. 16, when the school’s examination period ends.

    In the statement, Sullivan said she has also requested the local police department investigate the allegations.

    “There are individuals in our community who know what happened that night, and I am calling on them to come forward to the police to report the facts,” she said. “Only you can shed light on the truth, and it is your responsibility to do so.”

    The Rolling Stone article, which describes the gang rape of a female student at a campus fraternity house, was published online and written by journalist Sabrina Erdely, who joined Judy Woodruff on Friday to discuss the article as well as issues of sexual assault on campuses across the country.

    On Tuesday, UVA’s Board, which is charged with approving the school’s policies and budgets, in addition to upholding its Honor System, will convene to determine next steps in addressing sexual assault on campus, and more specifically, how to tackle the recent allegations.

    The post UVa suspends fraternal activities until Jan. 9 amid sexual assault allegations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. The capture of an alleged leader of the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, gave U.S. officials a rare moment of good news. Now, they are preparing to try the captured Libyan in the U.S. court system. File photo from the scene of the explosion by STR/AFP/GettyImages

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Read Ken Dilanian’s article for the Associated Press on the new Benghazi report in full, here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Late yesterday, there were new findings about the attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, that led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

    Ken Dilanian of The Associated Press wrote about it, joins us now from Washington.

    So, Ken, what were the findings?

    KEN DILANIAN: Well, Hari, this report essentially debunked almost every criticism that had been leveled at the Obama administration over this incident.

    It basically said that there was no intent to mislead the American public about it, that the CIA and the military acted appropriately, and that many of the conspiracy theories that have been out there about cover-ups and dark forces at work were not accurate.

    And, principally, the most interesting finding for me is that after the — the weekend after the attack, the then-ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, went on the Sunday shows — many viewers may remember — and said that the attack had evolved from a peaceful protest.

    That turned out to be wrong, and she and the administration took a lot of flak as a result of that error. This report by the House Intelligence Committee, which is a Republican-controlled committee, essentially says that Rice was relying on intelligence that was provided to her from the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

    And in fact, points out that there were 21 intelligence reports that said that there had been a protest at this diplomatic facility. Those turned out to be wrong, but the intelligence picture was incredibly confused.

    And so, the report found there was no intent to mislead by anybody in the government about what happened here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So, what makes this particular committee or this particular finding different? There have been previous investigations, right?

    KEN DILANIAN: Yes, this is the — this is the seventh congressional investigation, I believe, and the eighth overall. And this, essentially, mirrored some of the findings of the other investigations, particularly on the role of the military.

    But this one — the House Intelligence Committee has access to classified intelligence and CIA personnel that other committees don’t have.

    And so, this report got the deepest into what the intelligence said, you know, who carried out the attack, what their motivations were. In fact, it pointed out that to this day, that’s not — that’s not completely clear.

    And what was also significant about this is that it’s a Republican-controlled committee. The chairman is Mike Rogers, outgoing retiring member from Michigan, a very partisan Republican.

    But he concluded and his colleagues concluded, that many of the charges against the Obama administration, which have been leveled by Republicans — this has been a big political issue — many of those charges just simply — they just — they don’t hold up.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So, what are the repercussions now? Does this change — there’s — I think there’s one more committee that could have findings?

    KEN DILANIAN: Well, there is a — there is a select committee that is supposed to continue an investigation into this issue. And they have said they will take this latest finding into account, but some of the key Republicans on that committee have come out and said, look, this House Intelligence Committee report debunks a lot of the questions you guys have been raising.

    So, let’s focus on what we all agree was a shortcoming in this incident, which is that facility was not well protected, the State Department part of the facility, in particular, was not well-protected. The people guarding it knew that and they had asked for more better security from Washington, and that was not granted.

    Everyone agrees that that was a shortcoming and the hope is that this — at least among Democrats — that this committee can focus on that shortcoming and rectifying it, and better protecting diplomatic facilities around the world.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Any idea how many dollars all these investigations cost?

    KEN DILANIAN: You know, I don’t know, but it’s got to be tens of millions. I mean — I mean, there’s document gathering that takes place — this probe alone, there were 20 hearings or events by the House Intelligence Committee and they talked to dozens of people and reviewed thousands of documents. It’s been an enormous undertaking.

    I think — and we’ll never know how much time executive branch personnel have spent responding to these inquiries.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Ken Dilanian of The Associated Press, thanks so much for joining us.

    KEN DILANIAN: Thanks for having me, Hari.

    The post New report rejects conspiracies surrounding Benghazi attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31:  President Bil Clinton campaigns with Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn at Paschal's on October 31, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

    Former Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry attends a campaign rally for Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn with President Bill Clinton at Paschal’s on October 31, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Barry died on Sunday. He was 78 years old. Credit: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Divisive and flamboyant, maddening and beloved, Marion Barry outshone every politician in the 40-year history of District of Columbia self-rule. But for many, his legacy was not defined by the accomplishments and failures of his four terms as mayor and long service on the D.C. Council.

    Instead, Barry will be remembered for a single night in a downtown Washington hotel room and the grainy video that showed him lighting a crack pipe in the company of a much-younger woman. When FBI agents burst in, he referred to her with an expletive. She “set me up,” Barry said.

    Barry died Sunday at 78. His family said in statement that Barry died shortly after midnight at the United Medical Center, after having been released from Howard University Hospital on Saturday. No cause of death was given, but his spokeswoman LaToya Foster said he collapsed outside his home.

    Speaking at a 4 a.m. press conference at United Medical Center, the city’s mayor-elect Muriel Bowser called Barry an “inspiration to so many people and a fighter for people.”

    “Mr. Barry, I can say this, lived up until the minute the way he wanted to live,” said Bowser, who had served with Barry on the D.C. Council.

    The year was 1990, and crack cocaine had exploded in the district, turning it into the nation’s murder capital. In his third term, the man known as the “Mayor for Life” became a symbol of a foundering city.

    Federal authorities had been investigating him for years for his alleged ties to drug suspects, and while he denied using drugs, his late-night partying was taking a toll on his job performance.

    The arrest and subsequent conviction – a jury deadlocked on most counts, convicting him of a single count of drug possession – was a turning point for Barry. He had been elected to his first term as mayor in 1978 with broad support from across the city. With his good looks, charisma and background in the civil rights movement, he was embraced the dynamic leader the city’s young government needed. The Washington Post endorsed him in each of his first three mayoral runs, although the 1986 endorsement was unenthusiastic.

    Barry’s six-month term in federal prison was hardly the end of his political career. But it forever changed how it was perceived. To some, he was a pariah and an embarrassment. But to many district residents, particularly lower-income blacks, he was still a hero, someone unfairly persecuted for personal failures.

    Barry returned to the D.C. Council in 1992, representing the poorest of the city’s eight wards. Two years later, he won his fourth and final term as mayor. The electorate was starkly divided along racial lines, and Barry advised those who had not supported his candidacy to “get over it.”

    “Marion Barry changed America with his unmitigated gall to stand up in the ashes of where he had fallen and come back to win,” poet Maya Angelou said in 1999.

    Barry’s triumph, though, was short-lived. In 1995, with the city flirting with bankruptcy from years of bloated, unaccountable government, much of it under Barry, Congress stripped him of much of his power and installed a financial control board. Barry held authority over little more than the city’s parks, libraries and community access cable TV station. He decided against seeking a fifth term.

    Barry spent a few years working as a municipal bond consultant, but he couldn’t stay away from politics. In 2004, he returned to the council, again representing Ward 8, where he remained beloved. Many constituents still referred to him as “Mayor Barry,” and he was re-elected in 2008 and 2012.

    Barry was born March 6, 1936, to Marion and Mattie Barry, in the small Mississippi delta town of Itta Bena, and was raised in Memphis, Tenn., after the death of his father, a sharecropper.

    While an undergraduate at LeMoyne College (now LeMoyne-Owen College), Barry picked up the nickname “Shep” in reference to Soviet propagandist Dmitri Shepilov for his ardent support of the civil rights movement. Barry began using Shepilov as his middle name.

    Barry did graduate work in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., earning a master’s degree. He left school short of a doctorate to work in the civil rights movement.

    His political rise began in 1960, when he became the first national chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, which sent young people into the South to register black voters and became known as one of the most militant civil rights groups of that era.

    Barry’s work with the committee brought him to Washington, where he became immersed in local issues, joining boycotts of the bus system and leading rallies in support of the city’s fledgling home rule efforts.

    In 1970, The Post wrote: “Four years ago widely considered a young Black Power Militant with almost no constituency, (Barry) has become a man who is listened to – if not fully accepted – on all sides.”

    Barry’s activism propelled him into local politics, first as a member of the Board of Education and then in 1974 as a member of the first elected city council organized under home rule legislation.

    In 1977, he was wounded by a shotgun blast in the Hanafi Muslim takeover of D.C.’s city hall. A young reporter was killed. The shooting was credited with strengthening him politically.

    In 1978, he defeated incumbent Mayor Walter Washington – the city’s first home rule mayor – in the Democratic primary and went on to easily win the general election.

    Barry’s early years in office were marked by improvement in many city services and a dramatic expansion of the government payroll, creating a thriving black middle class in the nation’s capital. Barry established a summer jobs program that gave many young people their first work experience and earned him political capital.

    In his second term, the district’s finances were rockier, and some of his appointees were caught up in corruption scandals.

    The city’s drug-fueled decline mirrored Barry’s battles with his personal demons, leading to the infamous hotel room arrest on Jan. 19, 1990. The video of Barry was widely distributed to the media and made him infamous worldwide.

    A few months after his arrest, long-time civil rights advocate and educator Roger Wilkins, a past supporter, wrote in The Post: “Marion Barry used the elders and lied to the young. He has manipulated thousands of others with his cynical use of charges of racism to defend his malodorous personal failures.”

    Even after his comeback, controversy continued to dog Barry. Several times after his 1990 arrest, Barry sought treatment or counseling for problems with prescription medications or other substances. In 2002, he made an attempt to seek an at-large seat on the D.C. Council but abandoned his bid amid allegations of renewed illegal drug use.

    In 2006, Barry was given three years of probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges for failing to file tax returns from 1999 to 2004. As part of a plea bargain, he agreed to file future federal and local tax returns annually, a promise prosecutors later said he had failed to keep.

    In 2010, he was censured by the council and stripped of his committee assignments for steering a government contract to a former girlfriend. The council censured him again in 2013 for accepting cash gifts from city contractors.

    Barry played the role of elder statesman in his later years on the council, but he sometimes exasperated his colleagues with his wavering attention at meetings and frequent, rambling references to his tenure as mayor.

    He suffered numerous health problems over the years. In addition to kidney failure, he survived prostate cancer, undergoing surgery in 1995 and a follow-up procedure in 2000. In late 2011, he underwent minor surgery on his urinary tract. In early 2014, he spent several weeks in hospitals and a rehabilitation center battling infections and related complications.

    In a statement Sunday, current Mayor Vincent C. Gray expressed deep sadness after learning about Barry’s death. Gray spoke with Barry’s wife, Cora Masters Barry, late Saturday and shared his condolences and sympathies with her. The couple was long estranged but never divorced.

    “Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city,” Gray said. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.”

    Mayor Gray said that he would work with Barry’s family and the Council to plan official ceremonies “worthy of a true statesman of the District of Columbia.”

    Barry was married four times and is survived by his wife, Cora, and one son, Marion Christopher Barry.

    The post Former mayor of Washington Marion Barry is dead at 78 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A remarkable amount of the time, all these buses and taxis, cars and bicycles, joggers and walkers, manage to coexist on the streets of New York, but when something goes wrong, it can be horrible, leaving families devastated.

    Listen to what happened in front of Dana Lerner’s home last January.

    DANA LERNER: “I got a call from our doorman. I didn’t know what the hell I was gonna find. So I ran down there. And I saw my husband, you know, just screaming, lying in the — lying in the road. But he was — I could see he wasn’t horribly hurt. And I looked over and my son was, you know, lying there.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lerner’s 9-year-old son, Cooper, had been walking across the street, hand-in-hand with his father. They were in the crosswalk with the light on their side, when a cab turning left hit her husband and their son.

    DANA LERNER: “He was lying completely still. There was blood coming of his ears. And I’m a real optimist. And I kept saying — and my husband’s kept saying, “It’s bad. It’s bad. It’s bad.” I was like, “No, he’ll be okay. He’ll be okay.” And, and he wasn’t.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Months earlier while running for Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio had made traffic safety a top priority. Just weeks after being inaugurated and following the deaths of several pedestrians, including Cooper, the mayor, a father of two himself, launched what was known as Vision Zero at a press conference, surrounded by parents who had lost loved ones to traffic collisions.

    MAYOR DE BLASIO: “When I read about these horrible moments, when I read about these tragedies, and this loss of life it’s very personal for me because I can see it through the eyes through my fellow parents. And of course every one of us thinks what if that was my child. And the goal is literally to reduce fatalities on our roadways to zero.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The mayor said zero, that includes all traffic deaths. 178 pedestrians died in the city last year.

    Now given, New York City streets are dramatically safer than they were 25 years ago, but traffic fatalities, including motorists and pedestrians, have started to tick back up since a low in 2011.

    BILL DE BLASIO: “Some people here the phrase ‘Vision Zero’ and they ask what’s really possible. They ask if these are new ideas, speculative ideas. But we want to emphasize today is that these are tried and tested ideas. Ideas that work. They have been working in other parts of the country, they have been working around the world.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Most notably in Sweden.

    MATTS BELIN: “So it’s going from very safe to something much, much safer.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Matts Belin helped design the Vision Zero approach in Sweden. We caught up with him when he was in New York for a symposium on the Swedish innovation. Belin says the initiative starts with the idea that it’s not acceptable for a single person to die on the roads and that engineering, not enforcement, is where the emphasis should be.

    MATTS BELIN: “In Vision Zero, we put the major, the first responsibility on the system designer. And, of course, the road users still have a responsibility. But it goes back to the system designer.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Belin points to the example of a busy intersection without a traffic light.

    The traditional approach is to put one up. But Belin says that’s flawed. Collisions would go down dramatically, but those that still occur would likely be at high speeds and severe.

    Belin says, the better approach would be to create a rotary or roundabout, forcing drivers to slow down.

    MATTS BELIN: “The crashes will probably increase because it becomes a little bit more complicated for the traffic. But those that will happen will be less severe. And actually the roundabout might be the difference between life and death.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As part of Vision Zero in Sweden, the country added thousands of miles of dividers, added Breathalyzer in many cars, and runs one of the largest speed camera systems in the world, not to make money, Belin says, but to slow drivers down.

    Sweden rolled out its Vision in 1997 when seven people per 100,000 died in traffic. In ten years, Sweden cut its rate in half, and today the US’s rate is more than three times as high.

    And other people outside New York have noticed Sweden’s success: Minnesota, Utah and Washington State have all implemented Vision Zero-style programs and seen reductions in fatalities fall faster than in states without them. And many other cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, have joined New York in recently implementing Vision Zero-style initiatives.

    Here in New York, the plan calls for increased public education. Vision Zero street teams made up of police and transportation workers have raised awareness handing out pamphlets and PSAs have been produced about the impact of reckless driving.

    And like Sweden, New York’s Vision Zero called for more changes in infrastructure, beyond those made in the previous administration, which had already seen decreases in fatalities.

    The city has put aside more than $40 million dollars for the plan this fiscal year.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: “As part of Vision Zero, the Department of Transportation pledged to make safety improvements at 50 locations each year, some of those changes are already here, the intersection where Cooper was struck and killed. The DOT installed pedestrian islands, added time to the walk signals, and took out the parking spaces on the corner to increase visibility.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The plan also called for changes in laws, including one that would change how taxi drivers who kill or seriously injure someone are treated. Like the one that struck Cooper.

    DANA LERNER: “After a few days, when I was sort of getting a little bit more, you know, sort of wits about me, I thought, ‘Where’s the guy that killed him? What happened to this guy?’ And then I found out that you can kill someone in New York City and you don’t get charged with anything. So in other words, this cab driver literally could’ve killed my son, stayed on his shift and gone on, made — taken another fare.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: “How is that possible?”

    DANA LERNER: “It was possible then because there was absolutely no law that said that that didn’t have to happen.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lerner and other activists helped push for New York City to adopt proposed legislation. In April, Lerner testified before the City Council in favor of a bill dubbed Cooper’s law. It would suspend licenses of taxi drivers pending an investigation. And Lerner was looking on in June as the mayor signed it into law, along with 10 other bills related to traffic safety.

    And just this month, the newest law related to Vision Zero went into effect.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: “New York City recently changed its speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour, unless otherwise posted. That might not seem like much, but studies show that that tiny decrease actually doubles the chance of survival, if a pedestrian is hit by a car.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But asking New Yorkers to slow down isn’t without detractors.

    Darkuah Adigun-Bomani is a New York City cab driver, as a mother of three, she sympathizes with the desire for safe streets, but says that for cab drivers like her, being forced to slow down literally costs her money.

    DARKUAH ADIGUN-BOMANI: “The more you pick-up the more money you make, so when it’s pretty busy, we just can’t move with a 25 miles per hour, we just can’t move.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And Adigun-Bomani says that her customers, famously impatient New Yorkers, want her to step on it.

    DARKUAH ADIGUN-BOMANI: “They pretty much, pick it up, pick it up because, you know, the customers are used to, you know, speeding up, make up this light.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But if she does, a lead foot might mean a better chance of getting a ticket.

    That’s because in New York, unlike in Sweden, Vision Zero does include stepping up enforcement, for instance, more aggressive ticketing by police.

    The number of tickets issued for speeding and failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians is up 50 percent compared to last year.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: “It’s been 10 months since Cooper died at this intersection and Mayor de Blasio launched Version Zero.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: From January through the end of October here in New York City, 209 people have died in traffic crashes, including 101 pedestrians. That’s a decrease from last year, but still a long way from zero.

    The post ‘A long way from zero’: NYC takes on traffic fatalities appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, public health officials are girding for the next health disaster.

    “It’s really urgent that we address the weak links and blind spots around the world,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press. “Ebola is a powerful reminder that a health threat anywhere can affect us.”

    Ebola sprang from one of those blind spots, in an area that lacks the health systems needed to detect an outbreak before it becomes a crisis. Now the Obama administration has requested $600 million for the CDC to implement what it calls the Global Health Security Agenda, working with an international coalition to shore up disease detection in high-risk countries and guard against the next contagion.

    There’s little doubt there will be a next time. Just in recent years, the world has seen bird flu sicken people in Southeast Asia, the respiratory killer SARS spread from China, the 2009 flu pandemic, growing threats from antibiotic-resistant germs, and SARS’ new cousin in the Middle East named MERS.

    And what if the next bug spills across borders even more easily than Ebola?

    If bird flu ever mutates to spread between people, “we better look out. It will make Ebola look like a picnic,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, warned a recent Senate Appropriations Committee as he questioned whether $600 million was enough to do the job.

    After all, less than 20 percent of countries have reported meeting World Health Organization requirements showing they are adequately prepared to respond to emerging infectious threats.

    The Obama administration kicked off the global health security project in February at a White House meeting with representatives of more than two dozen countries – unaware that Ebola already was quietly brewing in Guinea. Additional countries signed on in later meetings in Finland and Indonesia, and again at the White House in September, where President Barack Obama declared the world must “make sure we’re not caught flat-footed” in future outbreaks.

    For its part in the international collaboration, the U.S. plans to assist at least 30 countries over the next five years to bolster local disease prevention and monitoring, improve laboratory diagnosis of pathogens and strengthen emergency response to outbreaks.

    Consider Uganda, where in 2010 a lack of a good laboratory system was one reason it took “a shockingly long” 40 days to determine a mysterious outbreak was yellow fever, said CDC scientist Jeff Borchert.

    Last year, CDC began a pilot project to improve Uganda’s disease detection by piggybacking on a small program that tested babies born to HIV-positive mothers. Now, in a larger swath of the country, motorcycles race samples from sick patients to provincial capitals where they’re shipped overnight to a central lab to test for a variety of diseases. The health ministry also set up an emergency operations center to oversee potential outbreaks.

    In March, Uganda’s new system proved itself, Borchert said, as the country fought an outbreak of nearly 200 cases of meningitis, using that network for testing of patients in remote areas. And last month, in an another example of its overall preparedness, Ugandan officials rapidly tracked down contacts of a health worker who died of Marburg virus, an Ebola relative, a case that fortunately didn’t spread.

    CDC has long trained public health workers in various countries to be disease detectives, but the international collaboration is supposed to be more comprehensive. Even before receiving any new funding, CDC started some additional small projects in countries such as India, Thailand, Jordan, Vietnam and Georgia, to expand outbreak-fighting capabilities.

    Then came Ebola. While the outbreak stalled work on broader global health security, it also increased awareness of the ripple effect that one unprepared country can have.

    Lawmakers want to know if the U.S. will leave Ebola-ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea with health systems more capable of responding to future outbreaks.

    “Liberia is a country where they tell me that their electricity output is such that it would have trouble powering the Jumbotron at Dallas stadium,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark. “Is this going to be something that we put in and it’s going to be an ongoing cost for us, you know, forever?”

    CDC will expand its Ebola-specific work, such as training rapid response teams to investigate cases, “so they’re better able to detect and respond to not only Ebola but other pathogens,” said Dr. Jordan Tappero, CDC’s director of global health protection. “It’s our intention to be there for the long-term to really build that public health capacity.”

    Learning to tackle one disease can pay off against another: Nearby Nigeria beat back Ebola thanks in part to its polio-fighting program that included labs and CDC-trained disease detectives who quickly switched gears to the new threat.

    Scary outbreaks often spark calls for better global preparedness that fade as the disease does.

    “We should avoid a cycle in which we let our guard down once the immediate public health crisis passes,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said last week.

    CDC’s Frieden offered hindsight: “The world would be a very different place today if Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone had had those systems in place a year ago. They could have contained this outbreak.”

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    HENDERSON, Nev. — President Barack Obama is shrugging off Republican criticism of his actions to lift the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States.

    In an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Obama said it was important that he act unilaterally to prioritize the deportation of criminals and recent arrivals and spare those who have lived here illegally for at least five years and have roots, including children who are American citizens.

    “Why we would prefer a system in which they’re in the shadows, potentially taking advantage of living here but not contributing?” Obama said in the interview, which was taped Friday in Las Vegas after Obama delivered an immigration speech there.

    The president pointed to executive orders issued by Democratic and Republican predecessors and said presidents exercise “prosecutorial discretion all the time.”

    Obama’s executive actions, which he announced Thursday, have drawn a withering response from Republicans, but also has laid bare divisions within the GOP over how to deal with immigration.

    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, rejected Obama’s claim of prosecutorial discretion. “Essentially he’s gotten in the job of counterfeiting immigration papers, because there’s no legal authority to do what he’s doing,” Cruz said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    A second Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said his party shares the blame for failing to get an immigration bill through the House of Representatives.

    “Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that is national security, it’s cultural and it’s economic. The Senate has done this three times,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    Indeed, Obama cast his decision as the result of the Republican-led House’s failure to act on a comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed with bipartisan support in June 2013, or advance legislation of its own.

    He said Republicans still could pass an immigration bill.

    Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said he had pressed the Republican leadership to start passing legislation two weeks ago on the immigration issue.

    “We are going to pass legislation, but it is not going to be the legislation the president is asking for,” Labrador said.  “We as Republicans don’t believe you should give amnesty first and talk about security later, which is what the Senate bill did.” Labrador spoke on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

    Obama spent the weekend in Nevada, mostly playing golf, after the speech and was returning to the White House on Sunday evening.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: This week, the United States returned hundreds of ancient artifacts to Thailand. American officials say were looted decades ago from a 5,000 year old UNESCO World Heritage. archaeological site.

    The collection of bronze items, pottery, stone tools, beads, and sandstone molds was returned Wednesday, during a ceremony at Thailand’s National Museum in Bangkok.

    The artifacts were found in 2008, during a raid on the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, after a five-year undercover federal investigation. The museum agreed to return the items in exchange for amnesty for its staff.

    But when US Chargé d’Affaires, W. Patrick Murphy, handed over the artifacts to Thailand, he assured reporters that the people allegedly involved antiquity smuggling will face criminal charges.

    W. PATRICK MURPHY: The theft, the fraudulent trade of cultural artefacts, therefore, erodes national identity. All of our countries are subject to this international crime and it is our priority to end this kind of crime.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This is not the first time a reputable museum has returned stolen objects from its collection.

    Just last year, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art returned two large statues to Cambodia, after Cambodian officials provided evidence that the artifacts were looted from an ancient temple in that country. And in 2007 The J. Paul Getty museum near Malibu, California, returned 40 artifacts to Italy, including a large statue thought to be a likeness of the goddess Aphrodite that the museum purchased for $18 million in 1988.

    Identifying museum objects that were stolen, and then returning them to their countries of origin remains a difficult process in a market in which the Archeological institute of America estimates 85-90% of artifacts do not have documented provenance.

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    PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The federal government shelled out billions of dollars to get health insurance marketplaces going in the 14 states that opted to run their own. Now they must act like true marketplaces and start paying for themselves.

    Under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, state-run health insurance exchanges need to be financially self-sustaining starting in January. Some appear to be on that path, while others have shaky funding models or even none at all.

    Some states, prohibited from using state money, are imposing fees on plans sold on the marketplaces. Others are spreading costs more widely – which, in one instance, has drawn a federal lawsuit.

    Rhode Island received high marks for the smooth rollout of HealthSource RI amid last year’s stumbles by the federal government, and the agency director says the state’s health care reform “revolution” has begun. But the state does not have a way to pay for the exchange’s long-term operations, and some lawmakers in the state General Assembly have suggested shifting to the federal exchange.

    The cost to operate Rhode Island’s exchange is estimated at $17 million a year, although an earlier estimate pegged the cost at $24 million. Republican state Rep. Patricia Morgan introduced a bill last session to transfer its operations to the federal government, but the legislation was held for further study.

    “Think of what we can do with $24 million,” she said.

    Some states have decided to tap existing revenue.

    New York is relying on two agencies’ general revenue, while Maryland is using money from an existing 2 percent tax on insurance plans. Republican Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, a critic of Maryland’s decision to create its own exchange, said he continues to question its sustainability. He said last week that he is concerned “about the entire structure and that it may collapse of its own weight.”

    To cut costs, Colorado’s state-run exchange has reduced overall spending 18 percent, including on technology and marketing. It’s imposing a 1.4 percent fee on monthly premiums for its plans but also approved charging a $1.25-a-month “general market” fee on all individual and small group policies, including those sold outside the state exchange.

    Some lawmakers called the fee unfair, and one board member voted against it. It is expected to raise an estimated $13 million a year before it expires in 2016.

    In the District of Columbia, which also is operating its own marketplace, the exchange’s budget is being funded by a new 1 percent tax on all health insurance policies. The American Council of Life Insurers is suing, arguing it unfairly taxes insurance products that cannot be purchased on the exchange.

    Taxing only plans offered on the exchange would have required a 17 percent tax to cover costs, officials said, reducing the benefit to low-income residents.

    Earlier this year, California’s exchange said it was setting aside $184 million in federal money to fight off projected budget shortfalls through 2016. About 1.1 million people enrolled in the first year, exceeding projections, and officials hope to grow that to 1.7 million during the second round of open enrollment.

    Officials with Covered California, as the exchange is known, express confidence about its financial health. The agency’s board has projected a $250 million reserve for the coming year, built partly from a $13.95 monthly surcharge on individual policies.

    “We do not have a deficit; our enrollment is sufficient to fund ongoing operations through 2015-16,” Covered California spokesman James Scullary said. “We remain committed to managing our resources prudently.”

    The Vermont marketplace, which is being funded by the state’s health care provider tax, is on shakier ground. Officials there acknowledged it could face a $20 million shortfall by year’s end. The state hopes pending federal grants will fill the gap.

    In Rhode Island, HealthSource’s individual market enrollment of more than 26,000 heading into the second sign-up period exceeded unofficial federal projections. Officials plan to continue using federal money through 2015. Beyond that, the funding mechanism is unclear.

    “There’s time, but there’s not that much time, so these decisions need to be made,” exchange Director Christine Ferguson said during a recent briefing.

    She has called abandoning HealthSource short-sighted and warned that doing so could come with its own costs.

    Democratic Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo wants to keep HealthSource local and has pledged to scrutinize its budget and get “creative.” But the top House Democrat, Nicholas Mattiello, remains skeptical about its cost and value.

    “At this point, Speaker Mattiello isn’t satisfied that the exchange has made its case,” spokesman Larry Berman said.

    This report was written by Erika Niedowski of the Associated Press.

    Associated Press writers David Gram in Montpelier, Vermont; Judy Lin in Sacramento, California; Ben Nuckols in Washington, D.C.; Michael Virtanen in Albany, New York; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: As we said earlier, that deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran is tomorrow.

    For more about the state of the negotiations, we are joined now by my colleague William Brangham, who reported earlier this year from Iran, and by David Sanger of The New York Times. He’s in Vienna covering the talks and joins us now via Skype — William.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Thanks, Hari. David, thanks for joining us.

    The president this morning said there are still some significant gaps in the negotiations. What can we likely expect in the next day as these negotiations wrap up?

    DAVID SANGER: Well, I think you can expect that these negotiations are not going to wrap up, that what’s going to happen here is that you will get an extension that may well be wrapped in some kind of description of the progress they have made so far.

    You know, William, they have very extensive drafts and annexes of an agreement, but they don’t have political decisions from the supreme leader in Iran or from President Obama on some of the main issues of dispute, including how many centrifuges Iran could be left with, the fuel stockpiles, how large they would be, which ones would be sent to Russia, and the question of sanctions.

    And all of these require decisions that nobody’s been willing to make, even though this negotiation has been going on for a year.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, how do you foresee us ever getting to an agreement?

    DAVID SANGER: Well, I’m not sure that we ever will get to a complete agreement.

    I know that many people on both sides hope that they will. But it’s also possible that, to the United States, this could be a manageable issue if you keep rolling it forward, to some degree. Now, to the Iranians, that’s not completely the case, because it’s their oil that is being kept off the market. And they want to have the normal banking relationships and the normal relationship with the West.

    I think that’s the reason that President Obama’s team is calculating that time is probably on their side. But that could backfire as well if people in Iran begin to pick up a narrative that, in the end, the United States doesn’t — won’t take yes for an answer or won’t even take a partial yes for an answer.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The — the West’s concern here, obviously, is about Iran’s ability to — to build a nuclear bomb.

    What in the negotiations right now are the stumbling blocks about what the Iranians are actually doing in that regard?

    DAVID SANGER: Well, the concern is that, since Iran says it has no intention of building a weapon, you have to design a system that would lengthen what’s called breakout time, the amount of time it would take to produce one weapon’s worth of fuel.

    Now, right now, that’s down to a few months, the way they have constructed this. And what the United States and the European allies, Russia, and China want to do is to extend that so that if anybody in Iran, even in a different regime, decided to race for a bomb, you would have plenty of warning and time to act, either diplomatically, economically, or militarily.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Western officials believe that it’s the sanctions that they have imposed that are keeping the Iranians at the negotiating table. And certainly, when I was in Iran earlier this year, I saw how those sanctions were squeezing the economy.

    How much pressure are the Iranians really under?

    DAVID SANGER: Different Iranians are under different pressure.

    So, President Rouhani certainly got elected to get this problem solved, and I think feels very acutely that those sanctions have to come off. But it’s the supreme leader who is making the final decision here. And he’s got a different constituency, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and others, who have invested very heavily in the nuclear program.

    So he’s under some very competing influences here on the question of whether it’s better to live with the sanctions and keep a bigger part of the nuclear program or get rid of the sanctions, but at a cost that many in the Iranian military may view as too high.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: David, if the negotiations don’t bear some fruit, is the — is the military option on behalf of the West still on the table?

    DAVID SANGER: No one in the Obama administration that I have spoken to ever — has ever expressed the view that the military solution is more than a temporary solution.

    You could bomb the facilities and certainly set them back a year or two years or maybe even three years. But you might also redouble Iran’s determination to rebuild those facilities deep underground in a place you couldn’t get at them.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: OK. David Sanger from The New York Times, thank you very much.

    DAVID SANGER: Thank you, William. Good to be with you.

    The post Inside the nuclear deal negotiations with Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hold a news conference at the Pentagon Oct. 30, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hold a news conference at the Pentagon Oct. 30, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, senior administration officials said Monday, following a tenure in which he has struggled to break through the White House’s insular foreign policy team.

    Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

    President Obama is expected to announce Secretary Hagel’s resignation in an 11:10 a.m. ET press conference. Watch Live here.

    Hagel is the first senior Obama adviser to leave the administration following the sweeping losses for Obama’s party in the midterm elections. It also comes as the president’s national security team has been battered by multiple foreign policy crises, include the rise of the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

    While Obama has sought to consolidate foreign policy decision-making within the White House, advisers have privately criticized Hagel for not being more proactive and engaged in Cabinet meetings and other national security discussions. Hagel also angered White House officials with a recent letter to national security adviser Susan Rice in which he said Obama needed to articulate a clearer view on the administration’s approach to dealing with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

    A senior defense official said that Hagel submitted his resignation letter to Obama on Monday morning and the president accepted it. Hagel, 68, agreed to remain in office until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, the official said.

    The official said both Hagel and Obama “determined that it was time for new leadership in the Pentagon,” adding that they had been discussing the matter over a period of several weeks.

    Obama was to announce Hagel’s resignation Monday. The president is not expected to nominate a new Pentagon chief Monday, according to a second official.

    The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name ahead of Obama’s official announcement.

    Among the leading contenders to replace Hagel is Michele Flournoy, who served as the Pentagon’s policy chief for the first three years of Obama’s first term. Flournoy, who would be the first woman to head the Pentagon, is now chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security, a think tank that she co-founded.

    Hagel is a Republican who served as senator from Nebraska and became a critic of U.S. involvement in Iraq. After Obama nominated him to succeed Leon Panetta as Defense Secretary in his second term, Hagel struggled through a disastrous confirmation hearing that raised early concerns about him within the White House.

    Recent questions about Hagel’s future at the Pentagon were prompted in part by his decision to postpone a long-planned trip this month to Vietnam. At the time, officials said he needed to remain in Washington for congressional consultations, but that did not stop speculation that the White House might be looking for a replacement for the final two years of Obama’s term.

    Just last week Hagel was asked about the speculation during an interview on the Charlie Rose show. He was asked whether he’s concerned by the speculation.

    “No. First of all, I serve at the pleasure of the president,” Hagel said. “I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had the last two years to work every day for the country and for the men and women who serve this country. I don’t get up in the morning and worry about my job. It’s not unusual by the way, to change teams at different times.”

    Hagel was the first enlisted military member to become secretary of defense. He served in the Vietnam War and received two Purple Hearts.

    Hagel forged a strong personal relationship with Obama in the Senate, including overseas trips they took together. He carved out a reputation as an independent thinker and blunt speaker, and Obama said he came to admire his courage and willingness to speak his mind.

    When Obama nominated Hagel, he said he was sending the U.S. military “one of its own.” Hagel was the first enlisted military member to become secretary of defense.

    He was an Army infantry sergeant who risked his life to pull his younger brother to safety while both were serving in Vietnam.

    Wounded himself in Vietnam, Hagel initially backed the invasion of Iraq, but later became a credible critic of the wars, making routine trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. He opposed President George W. Bush’s plan to send an additional 30,000 troops into Iraq — a move that has been credited with stabilizing the chaotic country — as “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it’s carried out.”

    While Hagel supported the Afghanistan war resolution, over time he has become more critical of the decade-plus conflict, with its complex nation-building effort.

    The New York Times reports Hagel is stepping down “under pressure” after the outcome of the midterm elections.

    The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

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    Rear Adm. Timothy Giardina is accused of counterfeiting casino chips to support a gambling habit.

    Rear Adm. Timothy Giardina is accused of counterfeiting casino chips to support a gambling habit.

    WASHINGTON — An admiral linked by Navy investigators to counterfeit casino chips has denied he played any role in making them.

    Investigation records say his DNA was found on the underside of an adhesive sticker used to alter one of the phony chips, but previously undisclosed emails indicate that the presence of his DNA is not conclusive evidence that he was involved in the fakery.

    Rear Adm. Timothy M. Giardina, who was fired last year as No. 2 commander of U.S. nuclear forces at an early stage of a Navy criminal investigation into the counterfeit chips, acknowledged to The Associated Press that he played the fake chips at a poker table in the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in June 2013.

    But on Sunday he denied any involvement in the counterfeiting or even knowing the chips were fakes at the time he used them.

    The three chips in question were altered with paint and stickers to make genuine $1 casino chips look like $500 chips. The three chips in question were altered with paint and stickers to make genuine $1 casino chips look like $500 chips.

    Giardina declined to discuss details. He said he stands behind a detailed written statement he submitted in April 2014 to Adm. Bill Gortney, who at the time was determining disciplinary action against Giardina in light of the months-long probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The AP on Sunday obtained a copy of that statement, which has not been publicly released and was not included in NCIS records of the Giardina case that the AP obtained last week under the Freedom of Information Act.

    In the statement, Giardina said he deeply regretted having not immediately surrendered to security officers the four chips which he said he found in a toilet stall at the Horseshoe. He said it was an “error of judgment” that he put three of the chips in play at a poker table, and said he was sorry that he subsequently lied in saying he had purchased them from a man in the bathroom.

    “I should have either told the truth or remained silent instead of lying about the events when questioned” by an Iowa state investigator on June 18, 2013, he wrote. That was two days after he played the fake chips and casino officials determined they were counterfeits.

    He added, “This lapse in judgment does not make me a thief and a criminal.”

    Giardina also wrote that he does not have a gambling problem. At the time of the casino incident, Giardina was deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, which has responsibility for the nation’s entire nuclear weapons force and is based near Omaha, Nebraska.

    Giardina wrote that in discussing his case with the commander of Strategic Command at the time, Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, as well as Navy officers and law enforcement officials in Iowa, “the common opinion is that I have a ‘gambling problem’ and that this gambling problem was my motive” in the counterfeiting. He added that Kehler, who has since retired from the military, felt Giardina had an “obvious gambling problem.”

    Giardina wrote that he does not have a gambling problem and does not consider poker a form of gambling.

    “Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the matter, disapproval of the legal manner in which I spent portions of my off-duty time is not adequate grounds to allege criminal misconduct,” Giardina wrote.

    Giardina had been at risk of being prosecuted by the Navy for counterfeiting the chips, but Gortney chose instead to give him what the military calls non-judicial punishment — in this case a letter of reprimand and the loss of $4,000 in salary. Navy officials have said no court martial was sought because the available DNA evidence against Giardina might not hold up in court.

    Doubts about the DNA evidence are summarized in an email exchange between a Giardina lawyer and an examiner at the Army laboratory that tested the DNA. In the emails obtained Sunday by the AP, the examiner affirmed to the lawyer that while the “major contributor” of the DNA found on the underside of the adhesive sticker that had been affixed by the counterfeiter was Giardina’s, this did not necessarily mean he had touched the adhesive.

    The examiner indicated it was possible that the Giardina DNA had migrated onto the adhesive when an Iowa state investigator removed the sticker to confirm that the chip was phony. Giardina had handled the chip during the poker game, so his DNA would have been on the outside of the chip and possibly along the edges of the sticker.

    The examiner said either explanation — that Giardina had, indeed, touched the underside of the sticker, or that his DNA had migrated to the sticker while others were handling the chip — was equally possible.

    In his April 2014 statement to Gortney, Giardina wrote that he suspects the chip counterfeiter left them in the bathroom stall “for a reason,” possibly to observe casino security’s reaction when the finder either turned them in or put them in play.

    “I do not believe I was singled out to find them, but believe that I was a patsy for someone who wanted the chips to be found,” he wrote.

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    Sunday night, protesters marched peacefully through several neighborhoods across St. Louis, as the national guard and police stood on standby. The demonstrators were anticipating a decision from the grand jury in the shooting of teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. But, on Sunday, no decision came.

    PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Stephen Fee spoke to city Alderman Antonio French, who has observed and marched in protests since Brown’s shooting. “I’m expecting large crowds of people in the streets…some may engage in civil disobedience.” French feels confident the majority of protesters will be peaceful but

    But those who are marching aren’t only there to speak out about Michael Brown. Many say they’re marching for all victims of police shootings. “There are far too many names that have become hashtags,” said Ashley Yates, of Millennial Activists United. “There are far too many names that we have to learn after they are lost.”

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    The Federal Reserve is still engaging in what economist Terry Burnham calls "stealth quantitative easing." Photo by Flickr user Paul Nicholson.

    The Federal Reserve is still engaging in what economist Terry Burnham calls “stealth quantitative easing.” Photo by Flickr user Paul Nicholson.

    Editor’s Note: By all accounts, the Federal Reserve ended its bond buying program, known as quantitative easing, at its policy meeting at the end of last month. Over six years, the central bank bought $4.5 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bonds. But since the beginning of this year, the Fed has been gradually drawing down its purchases by $10 billion a month to now, zero.

    It’s not that simple, though, says economist Terry Burnham. The Fed is continuing what he calls “Stealth QE,” or the purchase of more bonds with the interest the Fed earns on the bonds it has already purchased. In order to stop that, he writes, the Fed would need to shrink its balance sheet by the amount of interest that it earns.

    Burnham, a long-time critic of the Fed’s bond-buying program, is a former Goldman Sachs trader, biotech entrepreneur, money manager and economics professor at Harvard’s Business School and Kennedy School of Government. He now teaches at Chapman College. A frequent contributor to this page, he’s most famous for his prediction that the Dow will hit 5,000 before it hits 20,000.

    – Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    Oct. 29, 2014 marked the end of the Federal Reserve’s historic program of quantitative easing, or QE, which created more new money in the past six years than in the entire history of the Republic. Easy-money has caused the U.S. stock market to soar. Beginning in December of last year, the Fed gradually retreated from its monetary generosity by tapering its purchases of Treasury and mortgage bonds to the point that quantitative easing is, at long last, now over.

    The preceding paragraph reflects the conventional wisdom; the global financial media have printed hundreds of similar paragraphs over the last few months.

    But there’s a problem — actually mutiple — with that narrative. The conventional wisdom contains one false statement, one misleading statement, and one myth:

    What’s false? QE is over.

    And what’s misleading? The monetary tightening of the QE “taper’ was gradual and has ended.

    And the myth? QE causes the stock market to rise.

    Image courtesy of Terry Burnham.

    Image courtesy of Terry Burnham.

    The Backdrop: Three hurdles to prosperity and Dow 20,000

    We are in the midst of an historic macroeconomic experiment. The U.S. government is pursuing three highly unusual policies: creating extra money, holding interest rates low, and spending far more than it collects. (Read my piece “The Dow may be above 17,000 but not for long” to understand the historic nature of current policies).

    Imagine the termination of these macroeconomic policies as economic hurdles, which, if cleared without stumbling, could lead to a robust economy and further stock market gains.

    • Hurdle #1: End Quantitative Easing

      Under quantitative easing, the Federal Reserve has purchased almost $4.5 trillion in Treasury and mortgage bonds. The Fed uses electronic money that it creates from nothing to make these purchases. To say that QE has been unprecedented is to understate the case, as the Fed bought less than $1 trillion in bonds between its creation in 1913 and the start of QE in 2008.

    • Hurdle #2: End the Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP)

      If you put your money in a standard “interest-bearing” bank account you will earn $0 in interest. This is because the Federal Reserve controls a key, short-term interest rate, known as the Fed Funds rate. Short-term rates of all kinds are low because they have been influenced by the Fed’s zero interest rate policy. By comparison with the current 0 percent, the post World War II average for the Fed Funds rate is 5.2 percent.

    • Hurdle #3: Control Federal Government Debt

      The U.S. federal government has added $10 trillion in additional debt in the last decade. This more than doubles the $8 trillion accumulated in the entire history of the country.

    The combination of loose money and massive federal spending has never before occurred in the U.S., not even during the 20th century’s two World Wars or the Great Depression.

    The end of QE will be important for two reasons. First, it will begin the process of unwinding these unusual policies — a significant event in itself. And second, it will be momentous precisely because no one knows what will happen.

    With this backdrop, let us return to the falsehood, misconception, and myth contained in QE conventional wisdom.

    False: QE Is Over

    Google “Fed ends QE,” and you’ll get 7.8 million hits, including:

    “Fed Closes Chapter on Easy Money” — Wall Street Journal

    “Dollar jumps as hawkish Fed ends QE” — Financial Times

    “[China’s Finance Minister] Lou cautions of risks linked to Fed’s plan” — China Daily

    “Federal Reserve Ends QE” — Bloomberg TV

    “US Fed set for Post-QE era” — New Straits Times (Singapore)

    These headlines proclaim QE done and gone. But they’re wrong.

    “Stealth QE” continues. Stealth QE is the purchase of more bonds with the interest the Fed earns on the bonds it has already purchased.

    The Fed earns about $100 billion a year in interest on its holdings. But in its recent statements, the Fed is silent about these interest payments. For example, the Oct. 29, 2014 FOMC statement — the one announcing an end to the asset purchases program — includes, “The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction.” The word “interest” is nowhere in the statement.

    The New York Federal Reserve implements the central bank’s policy, and it also omits mention of the interest earned by stating, “As directed by the FOMC, the Desk is rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction.”

    But stealth QE occurs regardless of what the Fed does with the interest it earns. If the Fed reinvests the interest it earns to buy additional bonds, then QE continues directly in the standard manner with an increase in the Fed’s balance sheet. If the Fed does not reinvest the interest, it simply sends the interest to the U.S. Treasury. The U.S. Treasury will then issue fewer new Treasury bonds. In either case, the interest on the Fed’s current bond holdings decreases the supply of bonds in the market.

    In order to stop stealth QE, the Fed would need to shrink its balance sheet by the amount of interest that it earns.

    Alternate history headline: Federal Reserve begins MASSIVE bond buying program.

    Consider what would have happened in 2005, for example, If the Fed had introduced a $100-billion-a-year program to buy bonds. We would have seen headlines announcing the historic event. Former Rep. Ron Paul, and other elected officials, would have excoriated the Federal Reserve chair in public hearings.

    But now it’s 2014, and stealth QE isn’t likely to elicit much more than a yawn from the public because these ongoing purchases are so small compared with recent purchase amounts.

    “So stealth QE has Fed activity running at 10 times its historical average.”

    However, stealth QE is massive compared to Fed purchases up through 2007. For the first 94 years of its existence, the Fed bought an average of under $10 billion in bonds per year. So stealth QE has Fed activity running at 10 times its historical average.

    Furthermore, stealth QE isn’t completely different in size from the second round of quantitative easing, begun in 2011. Under QE2, the Fed bought a total of $600 billion in additional bonds. It would take about five to six years for the Fed to amass that amount of bonds under stealth QE.

    So, QE has not ended. Stealth QE continues, and it is significant.

    The Misconception: The Impact of Taper Tightening Is Over

    Conventional wisdom argues that “taper tightening” began in December 2013 and is now over. Further monetary tightening, this thinking suggests, is on hold until sometime in 2015 when the Fed will likely raise the Fed funds rate for the first time since the crisis.

    But this view ignores the lag in monetary policy. The Fed believes, for example, that low interest rates stimulate the housing sector and create housing-related jobs. However, jobs that arise from low rates may be created months or years after an interest rate decline; it takes time for people to make a decision, close a mortgage, sell a prior home, etc.

    Milton Friedman’s seminal article, “The Lag In Effect of Monetary Policy,” states that such lags are long and variable. Ben Bernanke argued that lags suggest tightening monetary policy before seeing actual inflation. In remarks before the National Economists Club in 2004, he said, “In recognition of the lag in monetary policy’s impact on economic activity, a preemptive response to the potential for building inflationary pressures was made an even more important feature of policy.”

    When it comes to monetary policy we must always consider the lags. In the case of QE, the lagged effects are important because the recent purchases of bonds under the program have been massive. On Nov. 12, 2014 the Fed’s balance sheet was $4.49 trillion, up $600 billion from a year earlier.

    “There is a Mt. Everest-sized bolus of QE bond buys still working their way through the system with a lag.”

    Remember that the new bond buys in the past 12 months almost equal all Federal Reserve bond purchases between 1913 and 2007. There is a Mt. Everest-sized bolus of QE bond buys still working their way through the system with a lag.

    Because monetary policy operates with a lag, many of any tightening effects caused by the reduction in QE have yet to come. Depending on the length of the lag, we may be less than halfway through the taper tightening.

    The Myth: QE Causes the Stock Market to Rise

    There is broad agreement that QE helped the stock market. The Wall Street Journal wrote, “QE3 clearly was a boon for financial markets. Since the Fed announced a third round of quantitative easing in September 2012, the Dow has risen 26%.” Similarly, Bloomberg ran a video segment entitled, “Fed-Fueled Stock Market Rally: A Bull Built on QE.”

    The belief that QE supports the stock market extends beyond the media. In 2010, billionaire David Tepper invested a literal fortune in the stock market, arguing that if the economy slumped, the Fed would rescue the stock market through QE. Tepper shortened his rationale to, “The Fed will make everything go up.”

    The public has mixed feelings about QE. Gallup reports that only rich people have a favorable view of the Federal Reserve and former Chair Ben Bernanke. This may reflect the public’s belief that QE increases the stock market more than the real economy.

    Beyond beliefs, what evidence do we have that QE causes the stock market to climb? Well, you do not need a Ph.D. to recognize the correlation between QE and the U.S. stock market:

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Every sales pitch for a successful financial product includes the line “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Less well known, but equally important, is that “correlation is not causation.”

    QE has been correlated with stock market gains. I believe, however, that any causal relationship is a myth. The first definition of myth in an online dictionary is, “a traditional or legendary story … with or without a determinable basis of fact.” Many people believe that QE supports the stock market, but there is no proof or disproof.

    What is the relationship between quantitative easing and the level of the stock market? The mythical explanation is: With quantitative easing, the Fed buys more bonds from individuals and institutions. The sellers of these bonds receive cash from the Fed. Some of that cash gets re-invested in the stock market. These additional stock purchases cause the stock market to rally.

    Employing this logic, Ben Bernanke has written that QE was designed, in part, to pump up asset markets to encourage people to spend more. “Higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending.”

    QE does not cause commodity prices to rise

    The real world, however, may not work with mythical simplicity. While the stock market continues to exhibit a strong correlation with the Fed’s balance sheet, gold, oil and other commodities tell a different story.

    The argument that QE increases the price of gold works exactly the same as the one for stocks. Because of QE, investors have more cash in their accounts; some of that cash gets invested in gold, causing gold prices to rise.

    Indeed, gold prices were highly correlated with quantitative easing from 2009 to 2011. This strong correlation led many to argue that the gold price was rising because of Fed policy. In May 2011, one of the hundreds of articles to claim this causal relationship states, “Gold prices set to go higher due to expansionary monetary policies of US Federal Reserve.”

    Beginning in 2011, however, gold prices and the Fed’s policy decoupled in a dramatic fashion. The Fed’s QE pace accelerated significantly yet gold prices plummeted. In rough terms, the Fed’s balance sheet has doubled while the price of gold has halved. Correlation is not golden causation.

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Looking beyond gold, other commodity prices, like that of oil, demonstrate the same decoupling from the Fed’s balance sheet. Again, the simple logic argues that more QE leads to commodity inflation. However, commodity prices have fallen broadly, and dramatically, during the Fed’s most aggressive phase of QE.

    Oil prices have been in the news recently as the price declines to under $80 per barrel — roughly half of its peak price above $140 per barrel. The decline in other commodities has been quite sharp as well:

    Image courtesy of the author.

    Image courtesy of the author.

    Since 2011, the CRB index, a broad measure of commodity prices, has dropped by 25 percent.

    Gold, oil and other commodity prices were positively correlated with QE for years but fell dramatically even while the Fed was in the midst of a QE bond-buying bonanza. QE does not cause commodity prices to rise.

    QE does not cause bond prices to rise either

    Perhaps commodities are a special case, whose price declines are explained by increases in supply and a slowdown in China.

    Let us next consider Treasury bonds. In March 2011, Bill Gross, then leading PIMCO, predicted that bond prices would drop after the Fed ended QE2, the second round of bond purchases.

    In the March 2011 Investment Outlook, Bill Gross wrote, “the withdrawal of nearly $1.5 trillion in annualized check writing may have dramatic consequences …. By eliminating QE II, the Fed would be ripping a Band-Aid off a partially healed scab. Ouch!”

    What could be more obvious. Under QE2 the Fed had been a HUGE purchaser of Treasury bonds. When demand plunges, it is reasonable to predict that prices will decline.

    Was Bill Gross right?

    Absolutely not. Rather than falling, bond prices rose sharply after QE2 ended. This caused Mr. Gross’s fund to perform poorly in 2011. Writing about his disastrous prediction, Gross wrote under the title of Mea Culpa, “I’m just having a bad year…. This year is a stinker. PIMCO’s centerfielder has lost a few fly balls in the sun.”

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Financial markets are tricky because people set prices not economic models. Bill Gross’s QE2 call was reasonable, but it turned out to be 100 percent wrong (the fallout from this 2011 situation continues today with the anointing of a new bond king, Jeff Gundlach, to replace Bill Gross).

    In summary, there is no simple relationship between QE and asset prices. Commodities, including oil and gold, have plummeted during the most sustained, aggressive phase of QE. Even bonds, the asset purchased by the Fed under QE, show no clear relationship with the Fed’s behavior. So that leaves us with one question.

    Does QE cause stock prices to rise?

    The logic that people use to explain a causal relationship between QE and stock prices does not work in other markets. We are left with no theory — just a correlation. Without a clear answer we are each free to come up with our own opinions.

    I believe that the idea that the Fed is supporting stock prices is a myth that will be dispelled over time as stock prices and the Fed’s balance sheet diverge.

    What will a divergence look like? Optimists believe that the stock market can continue to go up, even as the Fed dramatically slows QE. However, I continue to predict that the stock market will decline, and that this decline will persist even if the Fed restarts QE at even higher levels.

    I do not have a complex model to support my prediction. I remained adamant that creating money via an electronic printing press cannot be the source of a nation’s wealth. (If Fed largesse creates real economic growth, that will be amazing and great. It is so much easier to create money than reform our educational system or make other structural changes.)

    Final Thoughts

    “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” So said Winston Churchill in 1940. We could rewrite this today as, “Never in the field of monetary policy, was so much printed with so little known about its impact.”

    We are in the midst of the greatest macroeconomic experiment in the history of the Republic. “The End of QE” is symptomatic of the fog in which we live. Even issues that ought be clear are surrounded by myth, misconception and falsehood.

    The post So you thought quantitative easing was over? Think again appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch the award presentations live at 2:15 p.m. ET.

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is presenting the nation’s highest civilian honor to 19 artists, activists, public servants and others.

    The distinguished group receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom includes actress Meryl Streep, Ethel Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder and Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and the longest-serving member of Congress. Dingell is retiring at the end of the year.

    Others being recognized at a White House ceremony Monday are composer Stephen Sondheim, NBC journalist Tom Brokaw and author Isabel Allende.

    The list also includes Native American activist Suzan Harjo, actress Marlo Thomas, economist Robert Solow, golfer Charles Sifford, former Rep. Abner Mikva of Illinois and physicist Mildred Dresselhaus.

    Posthumous medals will go to six individuals, among them civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were slain in 1964 as they participated in a historic voter registration drive in Mississippi.

    Other posthumous awards will go to choreographer Alvin Ailey and Reps. Patsy Mink of Hawaii and Edward Roybal of California, founder of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is reserved for individuals who have made “meritorious contributions” to U.S. security, world peace or cultural endeavors.

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    With growing health care demand, will the U.S. have enough doctors in the future? A doctor checks a patient during an examination at the St. John's Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles, California, in Sept., 2013. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    With growing health care demand, will the U.S. have enough doctors in the future? A doctor checks a patient during an examination at the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles, California, in Sept., 2013. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    You hear it so often it’s almost a cliché: The nation is facing a serious shortage of doctors, particularly doctors who practice primary care, in the coming years.

    But is that really the case?

    Many medical groups, led by the Association of American Medical Colleges, say there’s little doubt. “We think the shortage is going to be close to 130,000 in the next 10 to 12 years,” says Atul Grover, the group’s chief public policy officer.

    But others, particularly health care economists, are less convinced. “Concerns that the nation faces a looming physician shortage, particularly in primary care specialties, are common,” wrote an expert panel of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in a report on the financing of graduate medical education in July. “The committee did not find credible evidence to support such claims.”

    Gail Wilensky, a health economist and co-chair of the IOM panel, says previous predictions of impending shortages “haven’t even been directionally correct sometimes. Which is we thought we were going into a surplus and we ended up in a shortage, or vice versa.”

    Those warning of a shortage have a strong case. Not only are millions of Americans gaining coverage through the Affordable Care Act, but 10,000 baby boomers are becoming eligible for Medicare every day. And older people tend to have more medical needs.

    “We know essentially with the doubling of the population over the age of 65 over the course of a couple of decades, they’re driving the demand for services,” says Grover.

    In addition to a numerical shortage, there’s also a mismatch between what kind of doctors the nation is producing and the kind of doctors it needs, says Andrew Bazemore, a family physician with the Robert Graham Center.In addition to a numerical shortage, there’s also a mismatch between what kind of doctors the nation is producing and the kind of doctors it needs, says Andrew Bazemore, a family physician with the Robert Graham Center, an independent project of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

    “We do a lot of our training in the northeastern part of our country, and it’s not surprising that the largest ratio of physicians and other providers, in general, also appear in those areas,” says Bazemore. “We have shown again and again that where you train matters an awful lot to where you practice.” That ends up resulting in an oversupply in urban centers in the Northeast and an undersupply elsewhere.

    Even aside from geography, there are other questions, he says, such as “do the providers reflect the populations they serve? And that means by their race and ethnicity, by their age, by their gender?”

    While few dispute the idea that there will be a growing need for primary care in the coming years, it is not at all clear whether all those primary care services have to be provided by doctors.

    “There are a lot of services that can be provided by a lot of people other than primary care doctors,” says Wilensky. That includes physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and even pharmacists and social workers.

    “How many physicians we ‘need’ depends entirely on how the delivery system is organized,” Wilensky says. “What we allow other health care professionals to do; whether they are reimbursed in a reasonable way that will increase the interest in having people go into those professions.”

    Currently, physicians who are specialists make considerably more than those who practice primary care, which many experts say is a huge deterrent to doctors becoming generalists, particularly when they have large medical school loans to pay off.

    At the same time, “team-based care,” in which a physician oversees a group of health professionals, is considered by many to be not only more cost-effective, but also a way to lower the number of doctors the nation needs to train.

    “All of the efforts to the future…are to mold and morph our medical system into one that is less ‘single-combat warriors’ practicing medicine here and there, and physicians and others practicing in efficient systems,” says Fitzhugh Mullan, a professor of medicine and health policy at George Washington University.

    Until that happens, though, Atul Grover of the AAMC says the nation needs to be training far more physicians.

    “We don’t think we should put patients at risk by saying ‘Let’s not train enough doctors just in case everything lines up perfectly and we don’t need them,’” Grover said in a recent appearance on C-SPAN.

    Wilensky is among those who find that attitude wasteful. “Are you really serious?” she says. “You’re talking about somebody who is potentially 12 to 15 years post high school, to invest in a skill set that we’re not sure we’re going to need?”

    And it’s not just the individuals who could be at risk for wasteful spending. “Training another doctor isn’t cheap,” says Mullan. “Isn’t cheap for the individual doing the training, isn’t cheap for the institution providing the education, and ultimately isn’t cheap for the health system. Because the more doctors we have, the more activity there will be.”

    Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt points out that groups like the AAMC have a self-interest in saying there’s a shortage, to move more money towards the medical schools and hospitals it represents.

    “Anything that would move money their way they would favor,” he says.

    Reinhardt also says that a small shortage of physicians would probably be preferable to a surplus, because it would spur innovative ways to provide care.

    “My view is whatever the physician supply is, the system will adjust. And cope with it,” he says. “And if it gets really tight, we will invent stuff to deal with it.”

    This article was produced by Kaiser Health News with support from The SCAN Foundation.

    The post Is the U.S. really facing a serious doctor shortage? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Back in 2001, technical writer Annik Stahl read her favorite poem, “Lamentations” by Louise Glück, for the NewsHour in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday. You can find the full text of the poem below.

    Thanksgiving might not be the first thing you think of when you read Louise Glück’s poem “Lamentations.” But Annik Stahl would disagree.

    “Every year since about, I would say, 1989, I write out a copy of this poem and I put it up somewhere near the Thanksgiving table. If it’s at my house or at somebody else’s house … I’ve always brought it with me,” said Stahl.

    Stalh is a technical writer who started her career in Seattle and now lives in Denver. Back in 2001, she read “Lamentations” for the NewsHour as part of a series started by former poet laureate Robert Pinksy that asked Americans to read their favorite poems.

    It’s also a fitting time to honor Glück, who won a 2014 National Book Award on Nov. 19 for her book of poetry “Faithful and Virtuous Night.”

    by Louise Glück

    1. The Logos

    They were both still,
    the woman mournful, the man
    branching into her body.

    But God was watching.
    They felt his gold eye
    projecting flowers on the landscape.

    Who knew what He wanted?
    He was God, and a monster.
    So they waited. And the world
    filled with His radiance,
    as though He wanted to be understood.

    Far away, in the void that He had shaped,
    he turned to his angels.

    2. Nocturne

    A forest rose from the earth.
    O pitiful, so needing
    God’s furious love—

    Together they were beasts.
    They lay in the fixed
    dusk of His negligence;
    from the hills, wolves came, mechanically
    drawn to their human warmth,
    their panic.

    Then the angels saw
    how He divided them:
    the man, the woman, and the woman’s body.

    Above the churned reeds, the leaves let go
    a slow moan of silver.

    3. The Covenant

    Out of fear, they built a dwelling place.
    But a child grew between them
    as they slept, as they tried
    to feed themselves.

    They set it on a pile of leaves,
    the small discarded body
    wrapped in the clean skin
    of an animal. Against the black sky
    they saw the massive argument of light.

    Sometimes it woke. As it reached its hands
    they understood they were the mother and father,
    there was no authority above them.

    4. The Clearing

    Gradually, over many years,
    the fur disappeared from their bodies
    until they stood in the bright light
    strange to one another.
    Nothing was as before.
    Their hands trembled, seeking
    the familiar.

    Nor could they keep their eyes
    from the white flesh
    on which wounds would show clearly
    like words on a page.

    And from the meaningless browns and greens
    at last God arose, His great shadow
    darkening the sleeping bodies of His children,
    and leapt into heaven.

    How beautiful it must have been,
    the earth, that first time
    seen from the air.

    “Lamentations” from “Descending Figures” by Louise Glück. Courtesy of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

    The post Weekly Poem: Setting the Thanksgiving table with a poem by Louise Glück appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet at the Palais Coburg in Vienna on Nov. 23. Photo by Ute Grabowsky/Photothek via Getty Images

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet at the Palais Coburg in Vienna on Nov. 23. Photo by Ute Grabowsky/Photothek via Getty Images

    Negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program failed to achieve a permanent agreement by Monday’s deadline, but Secretary of State John Kerry said some “new ideas surfaced” in the past few days and “we would be fools to walk away.”

    Negotiators with the U.S. and Iran, along with Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia agreed after six days of talks in Vienna to lay out by March 1 what Iran and the other six world powers need to do, and to decide on a final agreement four months later. The talks will resume in December, though a location was not announced.

    While the negotiations continue, an interim deal will remain in place and Iran will continue to receive $700 million per month in formerly frozen funds.

    Western countries are concerned Iran is using its nuclear program to build a bomb, but Tehran insists the program is for civilian purposes only.

    The post Talks to continue on limiting Iran’s nuclear program appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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