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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two teenage girls blew themselves up at a busy market in Nigeria today, leaving at least 30 people dead. It happened in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. One of the teenagers set off her bomb, and when a crowd gathered, the other one followed suit. Nigerian officials said they think it was the work of the Islamist group Boko Haram. The militants already control other towns in Borno state, where today’s attack took place.

    GWEN IFILL: The number of U.S. troops who remain deployed in Afghanistan past year’s end may increase; 9,800 are already scheduled to stay, and Reuters reported today another thousand may join them. A Pentagon spokesman didn’t rule out that possibility. President Obama has recently expanded the future mission beyond training Afghan forces, to include fighting the Taliban.

    Also today, former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy has asked the president not to consider her for secretary of defense. She led the list for potential replacements for Chuck Hagel, who is resigning. But she has told the board of a Washington think tank that she will stay there as CEO, citing family considerations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, activists report heavy government airstrikes against Islamic State forces killed at least 60 people today, more than half of them civilians. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the raids hit Raqqa in the northeastern part of the country. Other groups put the death toll higher.

    GWEN IFILL: The supreme leader of Iran gave tacit approval today to extending nuclear negotiations with the West for another seven months. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke publicly for the first time since Iran and six major powers agreed yesterday on a new schedule of talks. But in a nationwide broadcast, he also sounded a note of defiance.

    AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Supreme Leader, Iran (through interpreter): As you saw on the nuclear issue, the United States and the European colonialist countries gathered and applied their entire force to bring the Islamic republic to its knees, but they could not and they will not.

    GWEN IFILL: Iran wants sanctions against its economy lifted. The U.S. and five other powers want Tehran to stop enriching uranium and scale back its nuclear program.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thousands of North Koreans rallied today against U.N. criticism of their country’s human rights record. The demonstrators filled a square in Pyongyang, the capital, backing their communist leaders and denouncing the U.S. The rally was organized by the government. A U.N. commission has found North Korea’s abuse of human rights — quote — “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror.”  The issue could go to the International Criminal Court.

    GWEN IFILL: Pope Francis today called on the nations of Europe to help migrants struggling to get to the continent, usually by sea. The pontiff’s appeal came in his first-ever address before the European Parliament. He warned that too many migrants are dying as they try to reach the continent in rickety boats.

    POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): There needs to be a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery. The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.

    GWEN IFILL: The pope also said the absence of a coherent migration policy across Europe contributes to what he called slave labor and continuing social tensions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, the government reports the economy has been growing faster than initially estimated. It expanded at an annual rate of nearly 4 percent between July and September. Even so, a separate survey finds consumer confidence fell this month, after a big gain in October.

    GWEN IFILL: And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly three points to close just under 17815. The Nasdaq rose three points to close at 4758. And the S&P 500 lost two points to close at 2067.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two of Hollywood’s best-known pieces of memorabilia have new owners. The Cowardly Lion costume worn in “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939 sold at auction last night for nearly $3.1 million. And the upright piano from Rick’s Cafe Americain in “Casablanca” fetched $3.4 million. They went on the block at Bonhams auction house in New York.

    GWEN IFILL: Here’s looking at you, kid.

    The post News Wrap: Suicide bombing in Nigeria, Michele Flournoy out of Defense Secretary running appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user King Huang

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn to a different story on the domestic front today, one that could affect many Americans and their dietary habits.

    The Food and Drug Administration announced new rules that require chain restaurants to list calorie counts clearly and conspicuously on their menus and their displays. They will apply to — this will apply to chains that have 20 locations or more. But that’s not all. The requirements will also apply at coffee shops, bakeries, pizza places, movie theaters, vending machines, and prepared foods at grocery stores. And if alcohol’s on the menu, the calories per drink will be listed too.

    Americans get as much as a third of their calories from eating out. But several industry groups say they are disappointed with the rules and they contend they will affect what they offer and how much it costs.

    I spoke earlier today with FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

    Dr. Margaret Hamburg, welcome.

    This is a pretty sweeping set of requirements. It affects just about all the prepared food people buy. What was your goal here?

    MARGARET HAMBURG, Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration: Well, as you know, Congress passed a law in 2010 asking the FDA to put in place new requirements for menu and vending machine labeling.

    Obviously, this reflects the fact that overweight and obesity is a huge problem in this country affecting millions and millions of people, and that consumers have a very big interest in knowing more about the food that they eat and the food that they feed their families.

    So we’re trying to provide uniform, consistent information about calories in particular, but access to other nutritional information as well for consumers when they eat outside the home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But isn’t the research on this, on whether providing this kind of information actually leads to cutting calories, isn’t that research mixed?

    MARGARET HAMBURG: Well, the research is mixed. We need to learn more about it.

    Some studies have indicated that there are clear benefits, both to individuals and also that the companies, the restaurants involved may change their menus to offer more low-calorie food choices. But this is about giving people choices and information that we know consumers like to have.

    Right now, consumers do get access to clear, quality nutritional information on the packaged foods that they buy, thanks to the FDA nutrition facts panel that is present on the backs of — or on all food containers, packaged food.

    But when you go to a restaurant or similar food business, you can’t get that kind of information. And so what we’re doing, really, is filling a gap. And I think it matters because about — when you look at where Americans are eating, Americans eat about a third of their calories outside of the home, and often purchasing foods outside of the home have no idea whom calories are in that food or other important nutritional aspects of the food that they’re eating.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We know the National Restaurant Association is now supportive, but we know pizza chains and others have been seriously opposed to this. Why limit it to chains of 20 stores or 20 — 20 restaurants or more?

    MARGARET HAMBURG: Well, that was explicit in the law. So we’re building on the legislation that Congress gave us.

    But in defining restaurants and restaurant-like establishments, we spent a lot of time listening to stakeholders and looking at the different ways that foods are prepared and sold in this country and, you know, really tried to put forward rules that would make a difference in terms of giving consumers information that they want and need, but would reflect the realities of the marketplace.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have — we have seen today the National Grocers Association saying they’re disappointed. Quote — they say this imposes such a large and costly regulatory burden.

    And we know you’re saying that if the food is prepared for one individual, it’s to be labeled, but if it’s for more than one, it doesn’t have to be. Isn’t there going to be a good bit of confusion for people?

    MARGARET HAMBURG: Well, we’re going to work closely with industry, and certainly the grocery stores are going to be one important area of focus.

    There are a lot of questions right now. I think as people dig down into the rules, number one, the grocery stores will recognize that fewer of the products they’re concerned about actually will fall under our labeling requirement. It’s really the food that’s for immediate consumption, the salad bars, the hot food bars and the deli sandwiches that are prepared and are presented to consumers in much the same way that they would be in certain fast food restaurants.

    You know, it’s intended for immediate consumption or soon after you leave the premises. And there are menu boards and the calories will just have to be added to those menu boards.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So how soon does this take place?

    MARGARET HAMBURG: Well, for the menu labeling, there’s a year for implementation. We actually extended our original plan in the proposed rule in order to accommodate the needs and concerns of food businesses.

    For vending machines, which are also subject to this rule, if it’s part of a chain of 20 or more locations, for vending machines, it’s actually two years to implement the law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, we thank you.

    MARGARET HAMBURG: Thank you.

     

     

    The post Will labeling calorie counts on menus bring down America’s obesity rates? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now: an amazing scientific search pushing the limits of what we know about the cosmos, the quest to see a black hole.

    The “NewsHour”‘s Rebecca Jacobson went to Chile for this report.

    SHEP DOELEMAN, Principal investigator, Event Horizon Telescope: Black holes are some of the most exotic objects in the universe. They come about when matter gravitationally collapses in on itself, and everything becomes pulverized and crushed down into a single point.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: MIT astronomer Shep Doeleman is leading an international effort to understand black holes. These exotic objects are fundamental to our understanding of the universe. When stars, dust, and planets cross the event horizon surrounding the black hole, nothing, not even light, can escape. But no one has ever seen one.

    Doeleman is trying to change that.

    SHEP DOELEMAN: The Event Horizon Telescope project is really about seeing what we have always thought as unseeable.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: But to boldly go where no telescope has gone before, scientists have to drive up a 16,500 foot-high mountain. This is the Atacama Large Millimeter, or ALMA, in Northern Chile. ALMA’s 66 antennas form the most powerful radio telescope in the world.

    Each antenna weighs 100 tons, and they are so accurate, they can see a golf ball nine miles away. They will form the anchor for the Event Horizon Telescope, a worldwide network of observatories that will capture an image of a black hole for the first time.

    ALMA’s antennas sit just 400 feet lower in elevation than Mount Everest’s North Base Camp. Before going up the mountain, we had to undergo rigorous physical testing, because working at this altitude is dangerous.

    My blood pressure was a little too high, so we waited a few minutes to see if it would go down.

    Ivan Lopez is the safety manager at ALMA.

    IVAN LOPEZ, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array: If you don’t get to the minimum levels that we have for pressure and oxygen content in your blood, you’re not allowed to go up to the high site.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: What could happen to you if you did go to the high site and your blood pressure was too high?

    IVAN LOPEZ: You can get a stroke.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: And too little blood oxygen can swell the brain and cloud thinking. Oxygen tanks help scientists battle nausea, dizziness and fatigue, but it can still be hard to think straight.

    SHEP DOELEMAN: We have what we call summit moments. And what I can tell you is that, once, I spent about five minutes trying to screw in a screw, when, in reality, I was unscrewing it.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: And it’s not just the altitude that makes working here difficult. The Atacama is the world’s driest desert. Trucks haul thousands of gallons of water to the observatory every day. Add to that high winds, hot sun, and dangers below ground.

    DAVID RABANUS, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array: We have actually designed the ALMA antennas to withstand an earthquake of grade nine.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: But the tradeoff is worth it. Some say it’s the most beautiful view on Earth of the night sky.

    Richard Simon is an astronomer working at ALMA.

    RICHARD SIMON, National Radio Astronomy Observatory: The reason ALMA exists is that there is something about astronomy, about learning about our universe and reaching out into it that’s a very human and a very important thing to do.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: In 1916, Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity first predicted the existence of black holes. That was nearly 100 years ago, and that theory has not been disproven. But with no real visuals, it hasn’t been confirmed yet either.

    This year, a cloud of space dust is spiraling into the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. If it swallows that dust, as astronomers predict, the event horizon should light up, casting a shadow.

    SHEP DOELEMAN: First question is, do black holes exist? And if we see the shadow, that will be the most powerful evidence we have that they do exist. I hope we will see something transformative. I hope we’re going to see something that knocks our socks off, but whatever we see, it’s going to be new and it’s going to raise probably more questions than we have answers to.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: It’s a rare opportunity to find out if Einstein was right.

    RICHARD SIMON: We think we know the theory of black holes. This is a key test. It’s the — one of the only black holes that we can actually observe and make direct measurements of.

    It needs telescopes spread all across the globe to get the maximum separation between telescopes and the maximum resolution, the finest picture possible.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: Even ALMA’s powerful antennas can’t do it alone. ALMA will be the anchor for a worldwide network of telescopes. Scientists will link ALMA’s antennas with telescopes in Hawaii, California, Mexico, Arizona, Spain and the South Pole, and then piece together all of the information they collect.

    Synching all these telescopes means equipping each with the most precise atomic clock available. That means taking out ALMA’s clock, and replacing it with one that costs a quarter-of-a-million dollars that won’t lose a second in the next hundred million years.

    SHEP DOELEMAN: So, right now, we’re in the holiest of holies, the central reference room for all of ALMA. And these are where all the signals that are sent to all the antennas originate. What we have basically done is perform a heart transplant for ALMA.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: The Event Horizon project is estimated to cost between $10 million and $20 million over the course of 10 years. But Simon says its mission, and ALMA’s, is worth more.

    RICHARD SIMON: There is a deep curiosity that we all have. A hundred years from now, my name and what I have done for this project will probably not be remembered, but what this instrument does and what it means to everyone around the world is something that will be remembered.

    REBECCA JACOBSON: The Event Horizon Telescope is slated to begin observations in the spring.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Rebecca Jacobson in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

     

     

     

    The post How a global network of telescopes may give us first glimpse of a black hole appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This year’s winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction is an in-depth look at the dramatic changes under way in China today. The book is “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China.”  Its author, Evan Osnos, spent years there reporting for “The New Yorker” magazine.

    Jeffrey Brown talked with him this weekend at the Miami Book Fair.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This was, I know, the culmination of many years of your work in China for “The New Yorker.”

    What were you — what were you trying to come to terms with after those years there?

    EVAN OSNOS, Author, “Age of Ambition”: Trying to get my arms around it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: This is the challenge on China. It is this vast story.

    It’s this epical story, in the sense that you do sense, when you’re there, that one-fifth of humanity is going through a transformation. And how do you capture it and do it justice, that’s the challenge.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You had a sense of it while you were there, right, because these were the years of…

    EVAN OSNOS: Oh, you cannot have — you simply can’t escape it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: The overwhelming impression you have when you’re living there is that you feel like you’re living through history.

    And I have lived in other places. It’s not like just the fact that I was abroad gave me that impression. People’s lives around you go through these rapid changes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, what’s an example? Give us…

    EVAN OSNOS: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: I will give you an example.

    So, I met a woman, and she was just out of graduate school, named Gong Hayan. And she was trying to get married and she was sort of frustrated and trying to figure out how to meet the right kind of person because she was from a village, but had gone on and gotten a great education.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: And her parents couldn’t introduce her to the right kind of people. She started a company. The company succeeded. She made $77 million by the time that I had left China.

    (LAUGHTER)

    EVAN OSNOS: And in its own way, that’s a sort of — in some ways, it’s a kind of a familiar story as an American.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes. Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: It’s sort of what we have done in our own history.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    EVAN OSNOS: And yet it’s also not the whole story. It’s one tiny piece of a story. And there are all kinds of people in China who are trying to get on that train and are not getting on that train. They’re not getting that kind of piece of the big story.

    And so capturing both of those in one portrait was the goal of this book.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. And so that creates the kind of splits in a society that we’re familiar with more in our society, but you were seeing it happen real time, real fast.

    EVAN OSNOS: Hugely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: I mean, in China, of course — we talk about the gap between rich and poor in the United States. In China, they talk about it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: But the numbers are even larger in China. I mean, the difference between the poorest places and the richest places is the difference between Ghana and New York City.

    And this is the People’s Republic of China. This is the place that is, after all, still ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, and that creates a daily drumbeat of, at best, cognitive dissidence and, at worst, a sense that there’s something hypocritical going on and people are trying to kind of get their minds around that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When we have talked on the “NewsHour” over the years, it’s usually because of something that the government has done, right, at a high level. One — the subtitle is the — or the title, “Age of Ambition.”

    Now, what is the ambition, as you look back, or as you think about it now broadly, the ambition of China?

    EVAN OSNOS: Well, there’s a national ambition, a collective, in a sense, political ambition, which I think is the thing we see from far away. That’s the fact that China’s building roads and airports and extending its reaches out into the East China Sea and the South China Sea and in a way that’s putting it into some tension with its neighbors.

    That’s the thing I think we feel from far away. But I think that one of the interesting facts of living there — and this is certainly one of the things that’s essential to this book — is that there’s a second ambition, and it’s the one that is just beneath the surface, and it’s the one felt by 1.4 billion Chinese people.

    And each of them in their own way is defining what that aspiration is. So it’s interesting. Today, the Chinese government talks about the Chinese dream. This is the current slogan of the moment.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    EVAN OSNOS: And it sounds like, OK, I get what the Chinese dream — it sounds a little like the American dream.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a little like that, something we all grew up with. Right?

    EVAN OSNOS: Right. And there’s energy in that idea.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: The difference, however, is that when the Chinese government talks about the Chinese dream, they’re talking about a single idea that they’re offering to people.

    It’s about the renewal of the country, the return of China to greatness, but, actually, on an individual level all across the country, people are interpreting their own life trajectory on their own terms. And that’s an inherent contradiction in a way.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Are most of them interpreting in terms — in money terms, financial terms, economic terms, that kind of ambition?

    EVAN OSNOS: I think they start with it in financial terms.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: The first thing people want is, finally, after all these years of deprivation, they want to get rich.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    EVAN OSNOS: But once they get rich, they realize there’s all these other things that they need.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: So, they want information, for instance.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    EVAN OSNOS: And they don’t want information for abstract reasons.

    When you buy a house, and you get a car, and you finally get these things…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    EVAN OSNOS: … you realize they’re not really secure, they’re not safe. Somebody could knock down your house if you don’t understand who’s setting the rules in your society, who’s breaking the rules in your society.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    EVAN OSNOS: So, that creates…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Which is still happening all the time in China, yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: All the time.

    So that creates that appetite for information. And…

    JEFFREY BROWN: But the bargain that we have always talked about and heard about with China is that — is still that strong government, right? We will give the security in exchange — but we will not give you — and we will give you economic entitlement or empowerment, but not freedom of expression, say.

    EVAN OSNOS: Yes. Yes. Sure.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Or privacy.

    EVAN OSNOS: Right.

    And this gets harder.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: As people begin to get further away from the worst years — you know, it’s easy to forget that, in our lifetime, the Chinese people have suffered through terrible things.

    So, for the first years of the economic development, this period, this extraordinary economic development that began in the late ’70s, people were willing to mortgage a whole lot of other things, because they were finally, for the first time, feeling like they had enough food on the table, they could put their kids into a decent school.

    Those kinds of satisfactions no longer satisfy in a way, and people now say, well, what more? What else? What — I want a richer life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re now in Washington, right?

    EVAN OSNOS: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you — how do they compare? And do you look wistfully, do you look — you still cover it. You still follow what happens in China.

    EVAN OSNOS: It’s been harder than I thought, to be honest.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    EVAN OSNOS: I spent years overseas. I spent 11 years abroad.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    EVAN OSNOS: And on all these years, I would talk about, well, I know that we have got our sort of political problems at home, but have faith in the United States Congress. It will — it will prevail in the end.

    And then I come home, and the very first thing that happens, the very day of work in the U.S., was the day the government shut down last fall, and I sort of had to recalibrate the instruments right away.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Welcome home.

    EVAN OSNOS: Yes, exactly. I have a lot to learn.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the book is “Age of Ambition.”

    Evan Osnos, thanks so much.

    EVAN OSNOS: Thanks very much.

     

    The post Author Evan Osnos explores rapid changes underway in China in ‘Age of Ambition’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, we take a look at one South American city that’s gone from being one of the world’s most dangerous places to an urban success story.

    Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has our report from Medellin, Colombia. It’s part of our series Agents for Change.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For two decades, Martha Alvarez has held dance classes year-round seven days a week. For the 350-odd students who cram into her tiny studios, it’s an alternative, she says, in a city that offers few.

    MARTHA ALVAREZ, Dance Instructor (through interpreter): I started this is 1992 out of concern for the amount of drug use and prostitution in the neighborhood.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That was back when Medellin had become the world’s murder capital, the cocaine capital, home of the drug lord Pablo Escobar, who was killed by police in 1993.

    MARTHA ALVAREZ (through interpreter): It has changed a lot since then in terms of drug use, and the armed conflict has certainly diminished.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Medellin has seen a dramatic drop in violence. The murder rate is down from about 380 per 100,000 people to about 50. Experts credit a general calming trend in the country’s long-running civil war, also the efforts of new political leadership to bring people together in the city, says Alejandro Echeverri.

    ALEJANDRO ECHEVERRI, Architect (through interpreter): When we look at the narco-trafficking years of Pablo Escobar, people didn’t trust each other. They built barriers around themselves and they put walls up. So public space in this city takes on a far greater significance than anywhere else, because people didn’t look each other in the eye when they walked down the street.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Echeverri is an architect. He was part of the administration a decade ago that set out to create safe public spaces.

    We spoke in front of the Exploratorium he designed, a science museum that’s one of several distinctive new buildings.

    ALEJANDRO ECHEVERRI (through interpreter): This project right here is part of a broader narrative of social urbanism that the city started in 2003 and 2004. This place is symbolic because it connects the north of the city, which has a lot of poor neighborhoods and has traditionally been stigmatized, with the south. It’s not just the Exploratorium. It’s also the botanical gardens and the metro.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The metro is perhaps the most extraordinary of all the building projects here, with a system of escalators and gondolas you typically see at ski resorts. Here, they reach into the poorest neighborhoods. These barrios cling to the mountains that surround the city, an almost vertical hike that was a barrier that excluded the poor, Echeverri says.

    ALEJANDRO ECHEVERRI (through interpreter): All of these policies are geared towards trying to decrease inequality and include the poor and marginalized sectors, who today can now access transportation and other services.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Along the new transit routes are community centers, libraries where there’s everything from computer and Internet stations to loan programs for would-be entrepreneurs, like Fernando Posada.

    He was among winners in a city- run contest. He won money to buy the kitchen equipment to expand a business he runs out of his home. Today, Posada is expanding from two to four employees. His cookies and waffle chips look like professional products, he proudly says, and they are selling well.

    FERNANDO POSADA, Entrepreneur (through interpreter): Since I got training, I have been able to professionalize and mechanize our production to meet all the labeling requirements, so that we can sell in more stores.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The money for all this come from and unlikely source for a city.

    One of the biggest drivers of Medellin’s transformation is a company headquartered here called EPM. It’s one of Latin America’s most profitable electric utilities. This company is wholly owned by the city, but it’s run independently and privately. It pays taxes to the city, but it also sends it profits to the city. And last year, those amounted to nearly $600 million.

    EPM has expanded into six Latin American countries and seen record profits in recent years. The construction it’s fueled here has won Medellin international awards, says urban affairs scholar Catalina Ortiz. But, she adds, its not the whole story.

    CATALINA ORTIZ ARCINIEGAS, National University of Colombia, Medellin:  Don’t be fooled by — by the great marketing that has been done. Scratch a little bit more and you are going to find several things that usually are not really unveiled.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Not unveiled, she says, is a huge housing challenge. The city has seen an influx of hundreds of thousands of rural residents displaced in Colombia’s long-running conflict.

    CATALINA ORTIZ ARCINIEGAS: Housing to re-house the households that are located in risky areas, or try to break the segregation pattern, and try to have more mixed-income housing, for instance. And that is a very big part of the problem, because, if you are dealing with informality, you really need to think in terms of alternative ways of tenure, of land tenure.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Many newcomers are in informal settlements, ever higher up the mountains. Ortiz says they’re vulnerable to poor services, possible landslides and also extortion by criminal gangs that still have a major presence.

    Architect Echeverri agrees there’s still much to do in a city where crime, though lower, is sill high, by corruption, a city whose historic industries like textiles have gone away.

    ALEJANDRO ECHEVERRI (through interpreter): There still remains a profound level of inequality here and a lot of economic policies that exclude the poor, a lot of it due to globalization. I’m also concerned about politics. Things are very fragile and could change very quickly. But I’m optimistic because Medellin does have this spirit of social commitment and trust.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That optimism is also new, despite the challenges and complaints. Martha Alvarez says her neighborhood hasn’t seen a lot of new investment. It still lacks community meeting spaces, she says.

    MARTHA ALVAREZ (through interpreter): I would like the expand this space, because we could get 500 kids to attend every day.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Still, Alvarez says, her own business thriving, tiny tots to seasoned performers. Just the week before we visited, she told us, four of her senior students took jobs teaching dance in China, helping in their own way to make Medellin famous for a more wholesome kind of export.

    Fred de Sam Lazaro for “PBS NewsHour” in Medellin, Colombia.

    GWEN IFILL: A version of this story will air on the PBS program “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.”  Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

    The post New leadership in Medellin, Colombia, transforms former ‘world murder capital’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Smoke stacks from the NRG power plant outside of Jewett, Tx.  AP Photo/Nick Simonite

    The Obama administration set their sights on stricter ozone pollution thresholds, looking to fulfill one of President Obama’s original campaign promises. AP Photo/Nick Simonite

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration took steps Wednesday to cut levels of smog-forming pollution linked to asthma, lung damage and other health problems, making good on one of President Barack Obama’s original campaign promises while setting up a fresh confrontation with Republicans and the energy industry.

    In a long-awaited announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency said it prefers a new, lower threshold for ozone pollution of 65 to 70 parts per billion, but said it would take public comments on an even lower standard of 60 parts per billion sought by environmental groups. The current standard is 75 parts per billion, put in place by President George W. Bush in 2008.

    Pushing back on criticism that new regulations will damage the economy, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said lower ozone standards would actually spur more businesses, investment and jobs by making communities healthier. She said states would be given time to carefully design plans to meet the new standard over the coming decades.

    “Critics play a dangerous game when they denounce the science and law EPA has used to defend clean air for more than 40 years,” McCarthy wrote in an op-ed for CNN’s website. “The American people know better.”

    But business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers painted the government’s move as a roadblock that threatens to jeopardize manufacturing’s comeback in the U.S. They accused the administration of moving the goalposts, since states are still working to implement the previous standard put in place in 2008.

    “Tightening these standards could be the most expensive regulation ever imposed on the American public, with potentially enormous costs to the economy, jobs, and consumers,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute.

    Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who is to take over the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January, vowed “vigorous oversight” of the proposal in his new position.

    Under the Obama administration, the EPA has issued or proposed the first regulations to control heat-trapping carbon dioxide, mercury and air toxins from power plants. The administration also has doubled fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks and clamped down on industrial pollution that blows downwind and contaminates other states.

    The EPA was under a court-ordered Dec. 1 deadline to issue a new smog standard. But the proposal also fulfills a pledge Obama made during his first campaign for the White House and one of his first environmental actions as president: reversing Bush’s decision to set a limit weaker than scientists advised. In 2011, amid pressure from Republicans and industry, and facing a battle for re-election, Obama reneged on a plan by then-EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to lower the permissible level to be more protective of public health.

    The initial range of 60 to 70 parts per billion proposed by the EPA in January 2010 would have made it one of the most expensive regulations ever issued, with an estimated $19 billion to $90 billion price tag, and would have doubled the number of counties in violation. The agency will seek comment on 60 parts per billion as well as the current standard of 75 parts per billion.

    “Seldom do presidents get an opportunity to right a wrong,” said Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, one of numerous advocacy groups that were enraged by the White House’s decision to table the first proposal.

    In response to the new proposal, Becker said Tuesday night that Obama “has walked the walk on air.”

    Under the initial proposal, smog cities such as Los Angeles and Houston would have been joined by California’s Napa Valley and a county in Kansas with a population of 3,000. The higher range now sought would mean fewer counties would be out of compliance.

    Also, other air pollution rules will likely ease the burden on counties and states by reducing smog-forming ground-level ozone as a side effect. Ground-level ozone is created when pollutants from power plants, factories and automobiles react in sunlight.

    States would have up to 20 years to meet the new limits, or could face federal penalties.


    Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

    The post Obama administration aims to set stricter ozone emissions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Fifth grade science and math teacher Stephen Pham helps a student at Rocketship SI Se Puede, a charter, public elementary school, on February 18, 2014 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

    Proposed regulations from the Department of Education look to improve teacher preparation and interaction with students. Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

    Too many new teachers are under-prepared for the classroom and left figuring out how to reach students on their own. That’s the problem proposed regulations from the Department of Education mean to solve, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reports during a conference call.

    Under the proposed rules, states would develop systems to rate teacher training programs that rely on tracking factors, such as: how many teacher prep graduates go into the teaching profession and stay at least three years; how effective new teachers and their principals believe their training was; how much academic progress a teacher’s students make; and whether programs are accredited by an agency that specializes in evaluating teaching programs.

    By the 2020-21 school year, students in programs that states label as ineffective would lose eligibility for federal TEACH grants, which go to new teachers working in high-poverty, high-needs schools. The plan is the Obama administration’s effort to increase the rigor and perception of teacher preparation programs, which organizations like the National Council on Teacher Quality argue often have lower entry requirements and easier grading standards than other programs on the same campuses.

    The federal announcement pointed to states that have already begun efforts to improve teacher preparation and raise the bar for candidates applying to credentialing programs.

    Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters his state’s efforts to publish data on how well training programs’ graduates perform was key to Tennessee’s distinction as the state that saw the greatest improvement in students’ scores on national tests or reading and math.

    But skeptics argue the regulations would make placing teachers in high-needs schools even harder.

    “Due to the focus on K-12 test scores, the very programs preparing diverse teachers for our increasingly diverse classrooms will be penalized,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote in a statement about the proposal. “This will cause programs to reconsider placing their graduates in schools that serve our most vulnerable students. And aspiring teachers who come from disadvantaged backgrounds will find their opportunities closed down as accountability pressures rise without increased support.”

    The department’s plan would reward programs whose graduates teach and stay in low-income, high-needs schools, Duncan said.

    Deborah Koolbeck, director of government relations for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, considers telling states to develop rating systems at all an unfunded mandate from the federal government.

    With requirements like “surveying graduate and principals on the effectiveness of their training, the cost to track students across country school by school is the challenge,” Koolbeck said.

    Critics and supporters of the proposal have the next 60 days to comment. The final rules are slated for release by mid-2015.


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

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    Photo by  Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

    Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery Wednesday to clear coronary blockage. Photo by Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

    Updated 3:14 p.m.| WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a heart stent implanted on Wednesday, reviving talk about how long the 81-year-old liberal jurist will be staying on the court.

    Ginsburg was expected back at work on Monday, but her hospitalization — just three weeks after elections handed Republicans control of the Senate — raised anew the question whether President Barack Obama would be able to appoint a like-minded replacement.

    The situation “sends many, particularly on the left of the political spectrum, into a tizzy,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School.

    Ginsburg’s procedure came after a blockage was discovered in her right coronary artery, said court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg. The justice was taken to the hospital by ambulance at about 10 p.m. Tuesday after she “experienced discomfort” during routine exercise at the court with her personal trainer, Arberg said. The justice was expected to leave the hospital within 48 hours.

    “She expects to be on the bench on Monday” when the court next hears oral arguments, Arberg said.

    Ginsburg, who leads the court’s liberal wing, has for years been fending off questions about whether she should retire and give a Democratic president a chance to name her successor. She underwent operations for colon cancer in 1999 and for pancreatic cancer in 2009, was hospitalized after a bad reaction to medicine in 2009 and suffered broken ribs in a fall two years ago.

    But the court’s oldest justice has not missed any time on the job since President Bill Clinton appointed her in 1993.

    For several years, liberal academics have been calling on Ginsburg and, to a lesser extent, 76-year-old justice Stephen Breyer, to step down to ensure that Obama could nominate a younger justice with similar views. Lawyers who are close to the Obama administration have made the same argument, but more quietly.

    In one sense, it’s already late for that, since the Senate will be in Republican hands come January, making confirmation more difficult. Turley said that while some liberals had been urging Ginsburg to leave prior the GOP’s midterm election gains, “I doubt seriously that anyone would want to face a vacancy in this political environment, certainly not those on the left of the political spectrum.”

    Still, the picture would look worse yet for the Democrats if a Republican should win the presidential election in 2016. A retirement then by a liberal justice would allow the appointment of a more conservative justice and potentially flip the outcome in important 5-4 decisions in death penalty, abortion, even gay rights cases in which the liberal side sometimes prevails.

    The decision to leave the pinnacle of the legal world never is an easy one, even for justices with health problems.

    Chief Justice William Rehnquist remained even as he suffered through thyroid cancer. He died in September 2005, still chief justice.

    Rehnquist’s death allowed President George W. Bush to nominate another conservative, John Roberts, the current chief justice. The Roberts court has five justices appointed by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democrats.

    Ginsburg has repeatedly rebuffed suggestions that it’s time to step down. She remains one of the court’s fastest writers and she has continued to make frequent public appearances around the country.

    “So who do you think could be nominated now that would get through the Senate that you would rather see on the court than me?” she said in an Associated Press interview in August.

    And as for the next presidential election, she has said on more than one occasion, “I am hopeful about 2016.”

    Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard University, welcomed the news that Ginsburg plans to be back at the court next week, and he said she’d already hired one of his research assistants to clerk for her the year after next. “I expect her to still be there and thriving,” he added.

    He had harsh words for those liberals who were pushing for Ginsburg to retire,

    “With all respect to some of my liberal friends, I think they are being ridiculous,” he said. “She is not a quitter.”

    In 2005, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said nothing publicly when he had a stent inserted to keep an artery open after experiencing mild chest pain. The court revealed the procedure when Kennedy returned to the hospital to have the stent replaced ten months later.

    Stents are mesh scaffoldings inserted into about half a million people in the U.S. each year to prop open arteries clogged by years of cholesterol buildup. Doctors guide a narrow tube through a blood vessel in the groin or an arm, inflate a tiny balloon to flatten the blockage, and then push the stent into place.

    The post Justice Ginsburg expected to return to work Monday after heart surgery appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Dark Dwarf.

    Photo by Flickr user Dark Dwarf.

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

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

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


    Kathy – Ore.: I am turning 65 in a week but not retiring from work until 66 1/2. Do I have to file for Medicare? I have good insurance through work. Thanks!

    Phil Moeller: I am a great fan of “yes” or “no” answers – really I am! And I wish I could use them more often. But with Medicare (and most other government benefit programs), I have to begin my answer with, “It depends.”

    GOT MEDICARE QUESTIONS?

    Ask Phil Here

    People with group health policies through their employer generally do not have to sign up for Medicare when they turn 65. They, or you in this case, can keep your employer coverage until you retire. You will then have eight months within which to sign up for Medicare without facing any penalties for late enrollment.

    The “depends” part of my answer is linked to the size of your employer. If your employer has fewer than 20 employees and you are 65 or older, Medicare usually assumes what is called the “first payer” role. This means that you would need to sign up for Medicare. It would be your primary insurance and your employer plan would provide secondary coverage, kicking in where Medicare did not provide coverage. Your employer should be able to provide you more information on whether you need to do this and how to do so. Even at employers with fewer than 20 employers, there is an “it depends” aspect to this answer. Your employer may have pooled its coverage with other companies to form what’s called a multi-employer plan. This would permit you to avoid filing for Medicare when you turn 65. There are other “it depends” details here.

    And while you didn’t ask, the definition of signing up for Medicare in most cases means you need to sign up for Part B of Medicare, which covers certain doctor, outpatient and medical equipment expenses. If you’ve worked long enough to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits (at least 40 quarters of covered employment where you’ve paid Social Security payroll taxes) you automatically get Part A hospital coverage at no cost. You are not legally required to get Part D drug coverage, although you probably should get it or Medicare Advantage or Medigap.


    Richard — Mass.: How can I find out what medicines my Part D plan covers? What is the monthly cost for myself and my wife?

    Phil Moeller: To the Batcave, Robin. Or, in this case, to Medicare’s Plan Finder. You can find out which medications are covered by your Part D plan, and what they will cost, by looking at your plan’s formulary, or list of covered prescription drugs. You can also call your plan or 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY 1-877-486-2048).

    Once you’ve set up separate formularies for you and your wife, Plan Finder will tell you the projected out-of-pocket expenses for 2015 for all the plans offered in the ZIP code where you live. This is a powerful shopping tool but, yes, it will take some time.

    You may already have a Part D plan that you like. And you may be able to view its formulary on your plan’s website or get a printed copy from your plan. But this is, after all, Medicare open enrollment season (until Dec. 7), so I am pushing comparison shopping today. You might be surprised at how much money you could save by switching to another plan.

    Your monthly costs will depend, of course, on the precise drugs you and your wife need to take. There also could be what I call a convenience factor at work here. More and more drug plans are doing preferential deals with big drugstore chains. The insurer and, to a lesser extent, you, get better drug prices and the chain gets preferred access to consumers. Drug plans with these deals may charge higher prices if you get your prescriptions filled at a pharmacy that’s not part of its preferred network. Your favorite neighborhood pharmacy could be the odd man out here. You need to consider if that’s OK or if you’re willing to pay extra for convenience and to keep hearing your pharmacist laugh at your stale old jokes.


    Diane – R.I.: Do all drug manufacturers sell their drugs to Medicare Part D plans at the same price, or do Part D plans negotiate drug prices with manufacturers? In other words, is it possible to pay less for what is generally considered a Tier 3 drug (very expensive) by shopping around for a Part D plan? My script generally increases in price by more than $2,000 every three months. My most recent script for a three-month supply cost my Medicare Part D insurer $20,000. Thank you.

    Phil Moeller: Your drugs are so expensive they must be generics! Just a bit of Medicare Maven humor given the skyrocketing prices of many generics. Hey, I feel your pain — literally. I also get to pay an outrageous amount of money so I can stick a spring-loaded injector into my body. But enough of such fun. Part D plans are able to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. That means drug prices can vary by plan. However, it’s unusual for them to jump around a lot during a plan year. So, you might ask your insurer what’s up with that.

    Prices can also vary depending on which pharmacy you use in a plan’s network. As I told the previous questioner, spending time on Plan Finder might be very worth your while, especially during open enrollment. It’s possible you may be able to save money and pay less by shopping around. And you also can call 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY 1-877-486-2048) to get personalized assistance and cost-comparison details.


    Annie – Ariz.: I have just read your Oct. 15 NewsHour column, “Medicare’s open enrollment is health care’s Groundhog Day,” and I need clarification on Part A Medicare. This article states “the hospital deductible will be $1,260 for each benefit period… There is zero coinsurance for the first 60 days of a hospital stay.” I have a Medigap Plan G insurance with a policy from Columbian Mutual Insurance which picks up charges that Medicare does not pay. Does the above mean that my Columbian insurance will NOT pay that initial $1,260 charge should I have to have a hospital admit, and I would be responsible for it myself?

    Phil Moeller: Sorry for any confusion, Annie. You will not be on the hook for this deductible. The $1,260 figure assumes you have only Part A hospital coverage. But you have a Medigap policy; details of these plans were explained in an earlier Ask Phil column. In the case of Medigap Plan G, you won’t have to pay for the $1,260 Part A deductible if you’re admitted for inpatient care in a hospital. Your Medigap Plan G will pay that cost for you.

    The post If I’m turning 65 and still working, do I have to file for Medicare? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Many business leaders say they are disappointed President Obama's executive action didn't include items such as making allotted but unused green cards available for foreign workers.

    Many business leaders say they are disappointed President Obama’s executive action didn’t include items such as making allotted but unused green cards available for foreign workers.

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration left out some of the business community’s top priorities, disappointing business leaders who might have stepped up to defend his policies in the face of Republican attacks.

    Months of lobbying by high-tech businesses failed to persuade the administration to make allotted but unused green cards available for foreign workers — probably the top item on the executive action agenda for business.

    And the administration only partially answered pleas to increase the length of time foreign students can stay in the U.S. before or after graduating to work in their fields. The administration announced plans to expand the program at some point in the future, but it offered no details on timing or scope.

    Business lobbyists contended that these and other “asks” were fairly modest to begin with, since all acknowledged that the big-ticket items on their agenda — such as increasing the number of high-tech visas available for foreign workers — could only be done by Congress. Even so, they were deflated to find their priorities overlooked as Obama announced plans to curb deportations for 4.5 million people in the country illegally and make them eligible for work permits.

    “We didn’t ask for the moon to begin with. There’s just not an opportunity for the administration to deliver the moon for us — that’s a congressional action,” said Scott Corley, executive director of Compete America, which represents high-tech companies including Google, Intel and Microsoft. “But we asked for some terrestrial things, things within reach, and we didn’t see the detail we hoped for.”

    A White House spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who represents the Silicon Valley, said Obama was constrained by the legal advice he received.

    “There’s what you want, and what’s possible to do, and people do understand that what you might want him to do is constrained by the law,” Lofgren said.

    Lofgren had been among those saying Obama could take executive action to allow businesses to “recapture” permanent resident green cards that had been authorized by Congress but never issued. Obama can’t issue green cards on his own, but business officials say that more than 200,000 that have already been authorized by Congress never have been distributed, and the administration could redistribute them.

    The administration did not take that step. Instead, Obama directed the secretaries of the State and Homeland Security departments to come up with recommendations within 120 days to ensure that all the green card visas allotted by Congress get used.

    A senior administration official briefing reporters on the announcement last week said the White House and Homeland Security Department had looked at the green card recapture issue but determined that the time period for issuing the visas had passed. The official said the administration hasn’t given up on taking action on the issue in the future.

    With congressional Republicans vowing to try to overturn Obama’s executive actions, full-throated backing from the business community could have provided some insulation for the administration. But instead, a number of business leaders were lukewarm in their public remarks. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said in a statement that “executive actions cannot adequately fix our broken immigration system, and they raise important legal and constitutional questions.”

    Among the other business-specific changes the administration made:

    —Directed expanded use of a “national interest waiver” that allows green cards to foreigners with exceptional abilities.

    —Announced a new program to allow inventors, researchers and startup founders to stay in the U.S. in a provisional “parole” status.

    —Announced plans to make it easier for people in the U.S. on high-tech work visas to change jobs.

    —Renewed previously announced promises to allow work authorization to spouses of high-tech visa holders.

    In some cases, such as the planned expansion of a program allowing foreign students and graduates to work in the U.S. for a year or more, business buy-in will depend on the details of what the administration ends up announcing.

    “It’s still not at a fully baked stage so I can’t say they delivered for business, but they still could,” said Bob Sakaniwa, associate director for advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

    ___=

    AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.

    The post Business leaders disappointed over items left out of immigration action appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Illustrations by Ruth Tam

    November is Manatee Awareness Month. Celebrate by learning eight facts about the gentle sea cows. Illustrations by Ruth Tam

    Manatees are the slow, lumbering, gentle giants of the aquatic ecosystem. Every November, the West Indian manatee, native to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, makes its way to Florida’s warmer waters for the winter.

    The U.S.’s manatees are an endangered species floating close to extinction. Prior to 2010, there were steady gains in population over the years. Then, in 2010, a devastating number of more than 700 died. In 2013, the population winnowed down again, as 830 manatees died. With a population around 5,000, that’s nearly 20 percent of the entire species, wiped out in a single year.

    In 1979, then-Florida Governor Bob Graham designated November as Manatee Awareness Month. Every governor of the state since has renewed the proclamation.

    1. Manatees can swim as far north as Cape Cod.

    While most manatees spend the summer months in the Gulf of Mexico, some vacation all the way up in Cape Cod waters.

    In 2009, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s manatee rescue coordinator Andy Garrett airlifted a manatee from the Jersey Shore down to Florida’s warmer waters. With water temperatures dropping, the scientists worried that the manatee wouldn’t make it far enough south to survive. Although manatees can swim up to 20 miles per hour in short bursts, their general speed is a slow putter at three to five miles an hour. “They move like a dolphin in slow motion,” said Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of the Save the Manatee Club.

    Photo courtesy of Save The Manatee Club

    Photo courtesy of Save The Manatee Club

    2. They use power plant outflows to stay warm

    As marine mammals, manatees need a temperate environment to survive through the winter. Despite weighing 1,000 pounds or more, manatees do not have a continuous layer of blubber like whales to stay warm. When aquatic temperatures drop below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, they seek higher temperatures.

    In the past, manatees sought out warm water springs. Now, many rely on a more mechanical force for heated water: municipal and private power plants. The plants pump out warm water into surrounding canals or ponds, and up to 60 percent of manatees now spend their winters clustered around power plant outflows, Garrett said.

    While power plants have extended the manatees’ range of wintering spots farther north, researchers worry about the impact if those plants go offline. Manatees usually return to the same spot every winter, and could return to an inactive power plant, only to die of cold in unheated waters. Human development has also blocked the entrance to some natural springs, making it difficult for them to reach other warm waters. Garrett said that spring renourishment projects are working to restore the natural flow of water, which would provide manatees wintering sites independent of humans.

    Photo by Flickr user USFWS Endangered Species

    A West Indian Manatee rests in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s gulf coast. Manatees Photo by USFWS Endangered Species

    3. Alligators give manatees the right of way

    In Florida’s aquatic highways, “even the big 12-foot alligator will give way to the manatee,” Rose said. What does this look like? If a manatee wants to get through, it swims up to gators in its way and bumps or nudges them to move.

    Unfortunately, the same tactic doesn’t work with motorboats. Nearly 60 manatees have died this year alone after being hit by boats. Although 18 Florida counties have manatee protection zones prohibiting boat access or requiring sailors to slow down, watercraft collisions are still a threat to the manatee’s survival.

    4. They grow new teeth their whole lives

    Manatees spend six to eight hours a day eating sea grass and other aquatic vegetation. Their food has tiny granules of sand in it, which gradually wears down their teeth. Eventually, those teeth fall out.

    But you won’t see any manatees sporting a gap-toothed smile. They constantly grow molars in the back corners of their mouth. As the front teeth grind down and eventually fall out, the molars fully emerge, pushing new teeth forward.

    Manatees are also anatomically incapable of using their teeth to attack. “I’ve had to have my hand in a manatee’s mouth,” Rose said, “and you have to put your whole hand in before you reach the manatee’s teeth. They’re just not capable of any form of aggression.”

    manatees25. Elephants are their closest relative

    Let’s backtrack for a second. Manatees actually have enough unique evolutionary adaptations to be classified in their own order, sirenia. This classification includes one species of dugong and the three species of manatees: West Indian, African and Amazonian. The West Indian manatee lives in the United States.

    But on land, the manatee’s closest living relative is the elephant. Manatees have three or four tiny nails at the end of each flipper, similar to an elephant’s toenails. They also have prehensile upper lips, a very shrunken version of an elephant’s trunk, that they use their lips to grasp and pull food into their mouths.

    “It’s like two little hands in the upper lip on each side,” Rose said.

    6. Speaking of relatives, the now-extinct Steller’s sea cow was the size of a small whale

    The Steller’s sea cow was discovered by humans on the Commander Islands in the Bering Sea in 1741. By 1786, only 27 years later, the fur hunters living in the frozen north Pacific had hunted the sea cow to extinction. This species was part of the dugong family. They could grow up to 30 feet long, about the size of a small whale. Unlike their modern relatives, they had no teeth at all and feasted on kelp. They also could survive in cold water, which is deadly to the modern manatee.

    Howard University professor Daryl P. Domning recently discovered Steller’s sea cow fossils in the sand of St. Lawrence Island. More than 30 species of sea cows have been discovered since 1977; half of those species were discovered and named by Domning and his team.

    “We’re really living in a golden age of discovery of marine mammals,” Domning said. “Every year, strange new creatures are dug up.”

    7. Manatees regulate their buoyancy with their lungs

    Manatees’ lungs run along their spines on the top of their body. Their lungs are “like a flotation tank running along the backside of the animal,” Domning said. Using their rib cage muscles, they can compress their lung volume and make their bodies more dense.

    They use this mechanism to come to the surface to breathe instead of actively swimming up and down. Even while they sleep, their rib cage muscles will relax, expanding their lung volume and gently carrying them to the surface. After they breathe, the muscles contract and the manatee effortlessly sinks back under water.

    8. Humans are the biggest threat to their survival

    Manatees have no natural predators or enemies. Humans can injure or kill manatees with their boats. Humans have also degraded their habitat by blocking natural springs and building up the coastline. People have also accelerated sea grass loss — now, both manatees and the environment they live in are classified as endangered.

    “They’re the most docile, defenseless creature there is,” Rose said. “Man is the only real enemy the manatees have ever had. So now it’s up to us to literally save them from ourselves.”

    Can’t get enough manatee? Tune in to a manatee livestream.

    The post 8 things you didn’t know about manatees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In front of an audience at the White House Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, President Barack Obama pardoned the sixth turkey of his presidency. The annual tradition honored two lucky birds spared from the dinner table. This year’s “free birds” are Mac and Cheese. Only Cheese was on hand for the ceremony.

    “I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked about executive action this month,” the president said. “Today I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority … to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.”

    Both were raised at Cooper Farms in Ohio. The birds will get to live out the rest of their days on a Virginia estate.

    The annual tradition has been formally taking place for the last 25 years.

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    A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on September 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

    A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on September 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images


    WASHINGTON — In a fresh confrontation with Republicans, the Obama administration on Wednesday proposed stricter emissions limits on smog-forming pollution linked to asthma and respiratory illness. The move fulfilled a long-delayed campaign promise by President Barack Obama but left environmental and public health groups wanting more.

    Business groups panned the Environmental Protection Agency’s new ozone regulations as unnecessary and the costliest in history, warning they could jeopardize a resurgence in American manufacturing. But EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy argued that the public health benefits far outweigh the costs and that most of the U.S. can meet the tougher standards without doing anything new.

    “We need to be smart — as we always have — in trying to find the best benefits in a way that will continue to grow the economy,” McCarthy said. Of reducing ozone, she added: “We’ve done it before, and we’re on track to do it again.”

    Ozone joins a long list of pollutants that Obama has wanted to limit using EPA regulations, seeking to cement an environmental legacy by sidestepping Congress and its opposition to new pollution laws. After pledging during his first presidential campaign to tighten ozone limits, Obama backtracked in 2011 by yanking the EPA’s proposed ozone limits amid intense pressure from industry and the GOP. At the time, Obama said it was important to cut regulatory red tape while the economy was recovering from the Great Recession.

    Public health groups sued, and a federal court ordered the EPA to issue a new draft smog rule by Dec. 1, with an October 2015 deadline to finalize it. Rather than settling on a firm new ozone limit now, the EPA is proposing a range of 65 parts per billion to 70. Yet in a nod to concerns on both sides, the EPA will also take public comments on an even stricter standard of 60, as well the existing standard of 75 that President George W. Bush put in place in 2008.

    Cutting ozone emissions to 70 parts per billion would cost industry about $3.9 billion in 2025, the EPA estimated, while a stricter limit of 65 would push the cost up to $15 billion. A price tag that high would exceed that of any previous environmental regulation in the U.S.

    McCarthy predicted the savings in health costs from cleaner air would deliver a 3-to-1 return on any investment, but industry groups like the National Association of Manufacturers dismissed those estimates and predicted far higher costs.

    Although Republicans balked at the proposal, it was unclear what steps opponents will take to stop it. Congressional action to block regulations rarely succeeds. Still, GOP leaders promised tough oversight of the limits, while incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the new Congress would “take appropriate action.”

    “The American people just said clearly that they want to see more bipartisanship in Washington and more jobs in their communities,” McConnell said, referring to GOP gains in the midterm elections. “This latest Obama regulation would take our country in just the opposite direction.”

    Yet on the other end of the spectrum, environmental groups were only partially satisfied and vowed to push for the stricter limit of 60 parts per billion. That’s the lower end of what scientists and an EPA report have recommended. But McCarthy conceded there’s “more uncertainty with the science at that level,” and it’s unlikely the administration would adopt a limit that would be difficult to defend scientifically.

    “Wherever they set that standard is defining what is considered ‘safe,’” said Lyndsay Moseley of the American Lung Association. “It’s critically important to get that right.”

    In the atmosphere, ozone forms a protective shield that protects the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. But at the ground level, scientists say, ozone causes smog that can lead to serious respiratory illness, particularly for children, the elderly and those with lung disease. Ozone is formed when chemicals emitted by power plants, cars, refineries and factories react in sunlight.

    Aiming to smooth the transition, the EPA plans to give states that have the most ozone up to 2037 to come into compliance. But McCarthy said most of the U.S. won’t have to take any action, thanks to existing pollution programs and previous EPA limits on pollutants like mercury and carbon dioxide that have the side benefit of reducing ozone.

    The EPA said only nine U.S. counties would fail to meet a standard of 70 parts per billion in 2025, or 68 counties if the EPA goes with the stricter 65 parts per billion. But those figures — as well as the agency’s cost estimates — don’t include California, whose smog problem is among the worst in the U.S. because of its unique geography. Consequently, California is on a separate timeline to cut ozone emissions.

    The post U.S. proposes stricter smog limits to protect health appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US President Barack Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey "Cheese" during the annual ceremony in the Grand Foyer of the White House on November 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. From left: Cole Cooper, who raised the turkey, his father National Turkey Federation Chairman Gary Cooper, Sasha Obama, and Malia Obama, the daughters of US President Barack Obama. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey “Cheese” during the annual ceremony in the Grand Foyer of the White House on Wednesday. John F. Kennedy was the first president to actually pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

    President Obama presided over his sixth turkey pardoning as commander-in-chief Wednesday at the White House.

    The annual tradition sees two turkeys spared from the dinner table, but only one is selected to take part in the White House ceremony.

    This year’s duo was “Mac” and “Cheese.” Cheese got to go before the cameras.

    “I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked about executive action this month,” President Obama said, his two daughters Sasha and Malia by his side. “Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority, same taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me, to spare lives of two turkeys — “Mac” and “Cheese.” from a terrible and delicious fate.”

    He added, “If you’re a turkey, and you’re named after a side dish, your chances of escaping today dinner are pretty low, so these guys beat the odds. … They’ll get to live out the rest of their days respectably at a Virginia estate. Some would call this amnesty, but there’s plenty of turkey to go around.”

    The tradition is not a new one — it’s happened every year for the last quarter century. But there has been confusion about how it all got started.

    Bill Clinton in his 1997 “pardoning,” cited President Harry Truman as the first.

    Photograph of President Truman receiving a Thanksgiving turkey from members of the Poultry and Egg National Board and other representatives of the turkey industry, outside the White House. Record creator	National Archives and Records Administration. Office of Presidential Libraries. Harry S. Truman Library. Date 16 November 1949

    President S. Truman receives a Thanksgiving turkey from members of the Poultry and Egg National Board on Nov. 16 1949. President Truman did not pardon turkeys, and likely feasted on this bird. Photo from Harry S. Truman Library

    But Truman never pardoned a turkey. In fact, according to the Truman Library, “Truman sometimes indicated to reporters that the turkeys he received were destined for the family dinner table.”

    Truman was actually the first president to receive a turkey from the National Turkey Federation in 1947.

    Abraham Lincoln was the first on record to spare a bird, but it was a Christmas turkey his son, Jack, had taken a liking to.

    John F. Kennedy was the first president to actually pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. In 1963, despite a sign hanging around the turkey’s neck that read, “Good eating, Mr. President,” Kennedy sent the bird back to the farm.

    But it might not have been altruism that led him to his pardon. Taking a look at the bird, Kennedy said, “We’ll just let this one grow.”

    US President Ronald Reagan receives the annual White House Thanksgiving turkey (named Charlie) from the National Turkey Federation. This was first time a turkey was "pardoned" on record by a US President. Date	23 November 1987 Photo by White House Photographic Office. Photo by White House Photographic Office

    President Ronald Reagan receives the annual White House Thanksgiving turkey, “Charlie,” from the National Turkey Federation on Nov. 23, 1987. This was first time a turkey was “pardoned” on record by a U.S. President. Photo by White House Photographic Office

    Richard Nixon also gave the birds a reprieve sending his turkeys to a nearby petting zoo. But the modern incarnation of the turkey tradition was likely spurred by Ronald Reagan.

    He was the first to use the word “pardon” relating to turkeys in 1987. But he did so to deflect from hard questions from the press about whether he would pardon anyone involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. He joked that he would pardon that year’s turkey, if he weren’t already headed for the petting zoo.

    It became an annual event when Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, became president. In 1989, Bush formalized the event.

    “Let me assure you and this fine tom turkey that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table,” Bush said. “Not this guy. He’s granted a presidential pardon as of right now. Allow him to live out his days at a children’s farm not far from here.”

    The Virginia farm he was sent to, though, was in the ironically named “Frying Pan Park,” which became the home of the future presidential turkeys for the next 15 years.

    After that, the birds spent the next five years at either Disney Land or Disney World before retiring to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia.

    President Obama pardons “Cheese” the turkey the day before Thanksgiving.

    This year, Mac and Cheese will be sent to a park in Leesburg, Virginia, a Washington suburb. The property has been used to grow turkeys in the past. The estate was owned by former Virginia Gov. Westmoreland Davis, who raised hundreds of his own turkeys there in the 1930s and 1940s.

    The event has become a lighthearted tradition. A turkey in 2000 wore a White House badge to the event. Former President George W. Bush’s administration held a vote on the White House website to choose which bird would be spared. And he joked in 2004 about it being an election year.

    “This is an election year,” he said, “and Biscuits had to earn his spot at the White House … Biscuits and his running mate Gravy prevailed over the ticket of Patience and Fortitude. The vice president and I are here to congratulate Biscuits for a race well run. It came down to a few battleground states. It was a tough contest and it turned out some 527 organizations got involved, including Barnyard Animals for Truth.”

    Online voting campaigns have become the norm for picking the turkeys. The Obama White House has taken to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to decide which bird is selected.

    But the event is not without controversy. Animal rights groups protest the event because the birds are not exactly “free-range turkeys.” They are industrially grown. And because they are bred to be eaten, and much larger than the average turkey, they don’t live very long after being pardoned.

    Last year’s pardoned bird, in fact, died in July of this year.

    Crispin Lopez and Rachel Wellford contributed to this report.

    The post Why presidents pardon turkeys — a history appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FREEBIRD monitor

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, a decades-old tradition played out at the White House again today, one in which, for a change, the turkeys do not get eaten.

    Domenico Montanaro has that.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: In front of an audience at the White House, President Obama presided over his sixth turkey pardoning as commander in chief today. The annual tradition sees two lucky birds spared from the dinner table. Only one is selected to take part in the ceremony.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m here to announce what I’m sure will be the most-talked about executive action this month.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority, the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before me, to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You are hereby pardoned.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: The tradition has happened every year for the last quarter-century. But there’s debate about how it all got started.

    BILL CLINTON, Former President of the United States: President Truman was the first president to pardon a turkey.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: But that’s not true. In fact, the library says, Truman sometimes indicated to reporters that the turkeys he received were destined for the family dinner table. Truman was actually the first president to receive a turkey from the National Turkey Federation. The industry group started giving ceremonial turkeys to American presidents in 1947.

    So who was the first president to pardon a turkey? Lincoln, it appears, was the first on record to spare a bird. But it was a Christmas turkey that his son had taken a liking to.

    President John F. Kennedy was the first to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. In 1963, despite a sign hanging around the turkey’s neck that read, “Good eating, Mr. President,” Kennedy sent the bird back to the farm.

    Richard Nixon also gave the birds a reprieve, sending his turkeys to a nearby petting zoo. Ronald Reagan was the first to use the word pardon when he was talking turkey in 1987.

    The turkey pardoning became formalized in 1989, with President George H.W. Bush.

    GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Former President of the United States: Let me assure you and this fine tom turkey that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: The Virginia farm where that turkey was sent was in the ironically named Frying Pan Park. That became the home of future presidential turkeys for the next 15 years. But, after that, it was out of the Frying Pan and into Disney, because, hey, you just won a presidential turkey pardon. Where are you going to go next?

    After the five-year stint with Mickey, the turkeys’ next move was to the more sedate confines of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. This year, the spared birds will be sent to this park in Leesburg, Virginia. The property is a well-known turkey haven. It was owned by former Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis, who raised his own birds there in the 1930s and ’40s.

    The event has become a White House holiday tradition.

    BILL CLINTON: This is the eighth I have had the privilege to meet and set free in the Rose Garden.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: In 2000, Jerry the turkey from Wisconsin sported a White House pass around his neck. Four years later, the Bush administration also had some with fun with the event. That year’s turkeys were chosen in a vote on the White House Web site.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, Former President of the United States: This is an election year, and Biscuits had to earn his spot at the White House. Biscuits and his running mate, Gravy, prevailed over the ticket of Patience and Fortitude. The vice president and I are here to congratulate Biscuits for a race well-run.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: The Obama White House has taken to social media sites like Instagram to decide which bird goes before the cameras. Mac and cheese might be a side for your Thanksgiving dinner, but they won’t be for the first family this year.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO, “PBS NewsHour.”

    The post Mac and Cheese won’t be served at the White House this Thanksgiving appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    RECORD LOSS monitor la unified schools

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This has been a very rough year for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Its new system for storing important student records like attendance, grades and test scores has not been working at all in many cases. It’s led to a chaotic fall for many of the 650,000-plus students.

    Kindergartners were actually — were accidentally enrolled at, yes, high schools. Hundreds of students spent weeks without class schedules. The school board has replaced the district superintendent.

    While the problem is particularly bad in L.A., it’s a cautionary tale for other school systems that struggle with coordinating large populations too.

    I spoke about this recently with Howard Blume. He’s an education reporter at The Los Angeles Times.

    Welcome, Howard Blume.

    First of all, why did the L.A. school system need or want a new computer system and what was it supposed to do?

    HOWARD BLUME, The Los Angeles Times: Well, they did need a new computer system, both — for a number of reasons.

    One, it all began over a lawsuit over services to disabled students. They were essentially losing disabled students in the system and not keeping track of what their disabilities were and what special help they needed.

    So, that was one issue. But then they realized as they got into this they needed a better tracking system and record system for all students, and they decided to try to do that. And it makes sense if you think about when the different departments switched from paper to computer, every department had its own system, they didn’t talk to each other. The systems are now old.

    And we want to systems to do more than they used to do. So, like, for example, you want to find out if a student’s missing homework will turn into truancies, will turn into a dropout, so you can do all sorts of things with technology if you have the right technology working in the right way.

    So it’s definitely a direction everyone wants to go in. It just didn’t work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you say, technology is supposed to be able to figure all this out, but it malfunctioned. What exactly went wrong?

    HOWARD BLUME: What went wrong was lots of things.

    Inadequate staffing, inadequate funding, inadequate planning, inadequate oversight — the system was just not ready. It was not able to bring all the information into it. It was taking information that was right and corrupting it. So students were getting wrong GPAs. They were getting classes they’d already taken. They were not getting the classes they needed to graduate or go to college.

    The attendance accounting was wrong. There really wasn’t much that actually was working right. And something like this, you have to do a lot of things right and you have to move a little slowly if you need to and you have to test it, and you have to have some sort of independent voice to say, stop, if you need to say stop and slow down.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It does sound like a nightmare.

    Were students’ educations actually disrupted by this, or is this just a matter of delays and inconvenience?

    HOWARD BLUME: Well, they were disrupted because, when you think about it, if you have a student getting their schedule right two-and-a-half months into the school year, that’s just a delay. That’s a disruption to their education.

    And if they were taking — if they were supposed to be in a calculus class and they get in there two-and-a-half months after the start of the year, they are now behind and probably in trouble. If they needed a class to apply for college, if they needed a class to graduate, those are serious issues.

    It got — those are the serious issues. They’re also comical issues, like in the elementary schools, they were bringing stacks of paper to school so that they could record this information by hand on paper, because they couldn’t do it on a computer anymore. But in some ways, it approached farce.

    But there were definitely serious implications for students. And the district itself, its funding is based on accurate attendance accounting. So, if you can’t keep track of who’s in class, then the district itself won’t get the money it needs to continue operations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we reported, the former superintendent was asked to resign. He is gone. But what else is being done to fix this? How are they trying to get things back on track now?

    HOWARD BLUME: Well, they have brought in experts from Microsoft, because the original software for the system goes back to Microsoft, and they’re working out a contract there. They have brought in retired administrators and counselors and sent them out to schools to try to get students’ records straight, and they’re focusing first on high school seniors who are most at risk of not being able to apply to college or not being able to graduate on time.

    So they’re sending out an army of retired people, and they’re just — all hands on deck are trying to figure this problem. It is going to take, they estimate, more than a year to fix it and probably a lot of money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the lesson here though for other school systems around the country that, as you told us, may also be looking to update their data systems, their computer systems?

    HOWARD BLUME: Right.

    Everybody really has to do this. And once the system, if they ever get it working right, it will do some really great things. You will be able to track all the elements of a school child’s life and, of course, because of that, you also need privacy protections.

    But the goal is that you can get students on the right program with the right help. But the key thing here is to make sure that you don’t unplug your backup system or your old system before you turn on the new system and figure out what’s going wrong. That’s one thing. You want to start off small and work out the bugs.

    You need a little bit of distance and have some independent oversight, and make sure you’re fully staffed, that people are trained in how to use the system and that they get the help they need. Those are some of the lessons learned. And these things are expensive. If you do this — if you try to do this on the cheap or if you try to do it too fast, you are likely going to run into problems.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I have a feeling that people running school systems all over the country are watching this very closely.

    Howard Blume with The Los Angeles Times, we thank you.

    HOWARD BLUME: Happy to do it.

    The post Lessons from Los Angeles’ school records disaster appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    TURKEY BUSINESS_Monitor

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    GWEN IFILL: The star of many, if not most, holiday tables tomorrow will be the Thanksgiving turkey, which must be farmed, marketed and sold in time for the big day.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman visited a family farm for a look at how one small business is trying to keep up.

    It’s part of Paul’s ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In Eastern Connecticut, 3,000 or so free-range antibiotic-free turkeys, a tiny slice of the quarter-of-a-billion birds raised in America this year, almost all on factory farms.

    But how does a humane family farm stay solvent, when four out of every five turkeys it grows are sold just one week a year? And how does a family farm stay in the turkey business anyway these days, given that except for a few gamey heritage birds, Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm raises the same fair-feathered fowl, bred for their white meat breasts, that are massed-produced.

    The Butterball company alone will put 10 million of them on our plates this week at supermarket prices Ekonk Hill’s Rick Hermonot can’t hope to match.

    RICK HERMONOT, Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm: These birds, they’re getting lots of exercise running around.

    PAUL SOLMAN: They’re burning calories.

    RICK HERMONOT: Burning…

    (TURKEYS GOBBLING)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Sorry, guys, I didn’t mean…

    (LAUGHTER)

    RICK HERMONOT: They’re burning calories, and — but it takes more feed to get a pound of meat. We can’t sell them for what a supermarket would want to pay us for them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So how to understand Ekonk economics? Well, first, they can charge higher prices, $4.49 a pound, so long as they provide higher quality.

    RICK HERMONOT: The exercise, the fresh air, the health of the birds. They’re eating leftover pumpkins we’re throwing out here for them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, yes.

    RICK HERMONOT: They’re eating the grass. They’re eating bugs. That diet creates a much, much better-tasting product.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And so, says Hermonot, does the low-stress, humane way he raises his turkeys, touchy birds who can actually die of fright.

    By contrast, charges People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, factory farm turkeys, even those boasting a humane label, are — quote — “warehoused in dark, crowded sheds. Their eyes and lungs burn from the stench of ammonia. They have parts of their beaks seared off with a hot wire.”

    They even meet their maker differently, says Hermonot.

    RICK HERMONOT: The big processors are loading them into crates and trucking them down the road at 75 miles per hour. There’s a lot of stress on those birds. Our birds don’t go through that, because they’re processed right here on the farm.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Processed is a euphemism for slaughtered, right?

    RICK HERMONOT: Right. Right. But because we’re the ones who raise them, these have been treated with TLC right up until the day they’re processed, and they don’t go through any stress.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And though experts, and even consumers, may disagree that free-range tastes better than factory farmed, Hermonot insists:

    RICK HERMONOT: There’s been studies shown that when animals are stressed before slaughter, the adrenaline that’s released into their body affects the taste of their meat.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, it’s not as if Hermonot is recommending liberty and justice for all turkeys.

    RICK HERMONOT: We’re creating what we consider to be a really special product, but I am aware that we need modern agriculture to feed the population on this planet right now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And to maintain an operation like this, Hermonot, like so many farmers, needs a regular job. He’s a farm credit consultant. Ekonk Hill has pursued another business strategy as well: diversification into new revenue streams.

    A farm store, run by Rick’s wife, Elena, and their kids — this is daughter Katie — provides 30 to 40 percent of the farm’s income, half of that from homemade ice cream, the other half from baked goods, produce, and, of course, turkey spinoffs.

    WOMAN: These are the homemade turkey pies we make at Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Not to mention the hot gobbler sundae, mashed potatoes and turkey, graced with gravy, a sprinkle of stuffing, and a dollop of cranberry sauce on top.

    A final bit diversification, autumn agritourism, with petting zoo, hayrides and an amazing attraction, three-and-a-half miles of maze made of maize.

    RICK HERMONOT: You can be lost in here for hours.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Really. Even you?

    RICK HERMONOT: Even me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Animals, rides and voluntary disorientation, all for $10 if you’re over 10, $6 for the younger ones, free for kids under 5.

    What percentage of your income does the corn maze represent?

    RICK HERMONOT: About 10 percent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And the turkeys?

    RICK HERMONOT: Turkeys are almost 50 percent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Fifty percent in just one insane week of the year. The limits of a seasonal business have opened a split in economic philosophy down on the farm.

    ELENA HERMONOT, Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm: I’m working 80 to 100 hours a week right now. I can’t do anymore.

    RICK HERMONOT: Push, push, push. We have got to get bigger. We have got to grow more turkeys.

    ELENA HERMONOT: Bigger is not always better. If you can handle what you’re doing, why get bigger?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, the standard answer is because you will make more money.

    ELENA HERMONOT: Money isn’t everything.

    RICK HERMONOT: Property taxes go up, price of feed goes up, the price of everything goes up. We can’t keep raising the price of the turkey to cover all of that. Some of it, we have to raise more birds to cover those higher costs.

    PAUL SOLMAN: On the other hand, says his wife:

    ELENA HERMONOT: You have more bills, more headaches, more everything. Get bigger, you pay more taxes too.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But for her husband, there’s something more basic than the bottom line at work here as well.

    RICK HERMONOT: I think it’s fun to take on new challenges and try to develop new markets and do something new this year that we didn’t do last year. I’m not as content with the same-old, same-old.

    PAUL SOLMAN: As we gabbed ‘midst the gobblers, two toms squared off for pride of place in the pecking order. Given the Hermonot family feud of sorts, it prompted one final, politically incorrect question.

    Any analogy to turkeys, the toms vs. the hens?

    RICK HERMONOT: I think there probably is.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RICK HERMONOT: We’re all — all not that much different from each other, when you get right down to it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Well, maybe, but we never got a chance to ask Elena Hermonot for her take on the analogy between turkeys and humans. She was too busy running the business.

    Paul Solman reporting for “The PBS”….

    (TURKEYS GOBBLING)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Paul Solman reporting for the “PBS NewsHour” from the Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling, Connecticut.

    The post When business is for the birds, small farms strive to survive despite industry pecking order appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    fireandrain

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: a story of fire and water, and how the two are posing life-threatening challenges for a Native American pueblo.

    Special correspondent Kathleen McCleery reports from New Mexico.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: For more than 1,200 years, the people of Santa Clara Pueblo, a Native American village, have cherished their canyon.

    MATTHEW TAFOYA, Acting Forestry Director, Santa Clara Pueblo: This is our sanctuary, our spiritual sanctuary.

    ROXANNE SWENTZELL, Sculptor: The canyon is home. It’s part of our home.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Today, it accounts for three-quarters of their 50,000-acre reservation northwest of Santa Fe.

    Unlike many Native Americans, who were assigned to reservations, the people of Santa Clara have always lived here. But their canyon, considered sacred, is now off-limits because it’s being repaired after multiple devastating fires and floods.

    MAN: New video tonight of the flames from the Las Conchas Fire.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: In June 2011, the Las Conchas fire blasted through the canyon. It was a blaze Matthew Tafoya, now acting director of the pueblo’s Forestry Department, remembers well.

    MATTHEW TAFOYA: The first day of the fire, it was burning about at one acre per second.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Eventually, flames destroyed more than 150,000 acres in the state, including 17,000 on Santa Clara lands. Eighty percent of the pueblo’s watershed was ruined. That set the stage for trouble just a few weeks later.

    MATTHEW TAFOYA: The soil baked, and became hydrophobic. So when the first rains hit that, there was nowhere for the rains to soak into the ground. It was basically just running off the sides of the hills and the mountains.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: The summer monsoon rains brought fast-moving and dangerous floods. The water carved deep chasms in the creek bed. It destroyed the road, and the ponds and spillways that were supposed to protect the areas downstream. Some of the most dramatic video was taken by the pueblo’s governor, J. Michael Chavarria.

    GOV. J. MICHAEL CHAVARRIA, Santa Clara Pueblo: There was large boulders, large whole trees, part of what they call floatable debris, and once that floatable debris comes closer to Santa Clara, it started impacting homes along the stream channel.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: With all the devastation, repairs have gone on for years. It’s still too dangerous for tribe members to go into the canyon. We were among the few, besides work crews, allowed to go there.

    Amid the debris are the remains of cabins once rented to campers and fishermen. And that source of revenue is gone. And there’s the constant worry of even more damage every time it rains. Maps done by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers show a major flood could wipe out the whole village.

    Matthew Tafoya’s home is one of about 340 that could be harmed. He’s had to evacuate his wife and children several times. Naomi Tafoya tries to be prepared and not panic.

    NAOMI TAFOYA: What if we do lose stuff? What if our house is damaged? What if we lose our home? Not knowing, like, what are we going to do with the kids, how are we going to — what are we going to do? We can’t live in constant fear, but you do have that in the back of your mind, ah, what if this the one?

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Santa Clara is fighting back. With help from an alphabet soup of federal agencies, contractors are building earthen berms and placing wire baskets full of dirt and rocks.

    In the canyon, there’s a new road. Workers have piled trees and rocks and stabilized the banks of the creek. Solar-powered gauges will issue warnings if waters rise. Wire fences originally designed for avalanches in the Alps are being installed to hold back debris.

    MATTHEW TAFOYA: It’s almost like a metal fence going across the tributary, and that’s to catch the sediment and the debris coming out of those tributaries, and allow the clear water to pass.

    ROXANNE SWENTZELL: I would like to help repair it.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Individuals have stepped up, too. Sculptor Roxanne Swentzell is best known for her rounded figures of Native American women. She’s started a nonprofit organization to collect seeds from native grasses, trees, and shrubs to plant someday in the canyon.

    ROXANNE SWENTZELL: If I can get a variety of species that are indigenous to this landscape to be put back into the canyon, that would be my hope.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: It all takes money. Five federal disaster declarations have brought government dollars, along with an estimate of $150 million in infrastructure damage.

    The pueblo must match a percentage of that. So far, they have spent about $5 million, but believe they need to come up with $40 million or more. They aren’t a wealthy tribe. They run a small casino, hotel and golf course. They rely on tourists visiting the prehistoric Puye Cliffs, where tribal ancestors lived.

    But, says the governor, they are actively looking for grants from foundations and others. And, meanwhile, to fund repairs in the canyon, he faces tough decisions to cut back elsewhere.

    GOV. J. MICHAEL CHAVARRIA: We’re taking away from our social services programs of a community, from grandma, grandpa, from our Head Start program, day school. And so we are taking a lot away from those, and putting it into this larger part of emergency monies now.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: These natural disasters aren’t unique to Santa Clara, of course. The fire season in the West is three months longer than it was just 40 years ago. And the number of fires on federal lands is not only increasing, but more destructive than ever.

    GRANT MEYER, University of New Mexico: The effect of climate warming has been felt most everywhere

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Geologist Grant Meyer at the University of New Mexico cites several factors for the uptick in fires, including forestry practices that aggressively stamp out fires, instead of allowing them to burn naturally.

    GRANT MEYER: What we have is the combination of warmer temperatures that dry out the forests more quickly, that makes drought more severe, combined with very dense forests and create these conditions where entire watersheds can generate floods.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: It will take generations to repair the wounds caused by the most recent fires and floods.

    GOV. J. MICHAEL CHAVARRIA: We had a lot of trees in the range of 200 to 300 years old, so it’s going to take 200 to 300 hundred years from now to really come back to how it was pre-fire.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: If the young people of Santa Clara can’t experience the canyon, elders, like Sheriff Regis Chavarria, fear they will never truly understand and appreciate their heritage.

    SHERIFF REGIS CHAVARRIA, Santa Clara Pueblo: I have a 6-year-old daughter who has never been to the canyon yet. And I also have almost a 1-year-old grandson and a 1-year-old granddaughter who have never seen the canyon. They never will see what we were shown by our grandparents.

    GOV. J. MICHAEL CHAVARRIA: We are an endangered community, like an endangered species, only 2,500 of us in the whole world. So if some of us are lost, it will have a great impact on continuing our life — livelihood into the future.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: I’m Kathleen McCleery for the “PBS NewsHour” in Santa Clara, New Mexico.

    The post After fire and floods, restoring a sacred New Mexico canyon and a way of life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: It would have been a tough day to travel, even without the snow and the rain and the airline cancellations. But getting to grandma’s house got ugly fast today.

    Hari Sreenivasan has more.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A messy mix of rain, snow, and sleet is set to affect more than 46 million travelers on one of the busiest travel days of the year. Flights in the Northeast Corridor from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York are all affected. And that could mean more delays elsewhere in the country.

    Airlines canceled more than 650 flights today, as the winter storm spread. And many airlines waived change fees to try to accommodate flyers scheduled to fly to several airports in the path of the storm.

    In Washington, rain turned to thick, wet snow earlier today. The Capitol was barely visible briefly amid the storm. For some travelers, that meant trying to find earlier flights.

    WOMAN: I had like three hours to scramble and get here. So, it’s been fun. But I think have enough time to make it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Even in the Midwest, air travel at one of the country’s busiest airports, Chicago’s O’Hare, could take a hit.

    CHRIS HILLS, Air Traffic Analyst, Orbitz: If you’re traveling to and from Chicago, you can expect some delays and cancellations because of the weather in the Northeast. There will be a ripple effect.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The mixture of rain and snow is expected to snarl travel for millions on the roadways. Here in New York, the road conditions are expected to worsen throughout the night.

    Elsewhere in the Northeast, those traveling by car tried to hit the roads early today.

    WOMAN: I heard that there was snow coming in and everything so, and I’m traveling by myself with the kids and the dog, so I wanted to get a head start.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Those driving will have one thing to look forward to, the lowest gas prices in years. The national average fell to $2.81, the least expensive in nearly half-a-decade.

    For more insights on the holiday travel problems this weekend, we’re joined now by Scott Mayerowitz. He’s airlines reporter for the AP, joins me now.

    So, why the premature cancellations? Why are airlines cutting people out right now, instead of when they get to the airport?

    SCOTT MAYEROWITZ: There are several reasons the airlines have started doing this in the last two to three years.

    The first is, as a passenger, I would rather know in advance that my flight is canceled than going to the airport and sitting three, four hours as they keep delaying it, delaying it, and then finally canceling it. Also, for them, it’s much better operationally. They’re able to put the pilots, planes and flight attendants in position where they need to be so that when the storm clears, they can reset better.

    So there are a lot of cost-saving implications for the airlines and also a customer service implication. We don’t want to have our flight canceled, but we rather know sooner than later.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And plus there’s that rule this year that you can’t keep people on the tarmac for an X-number of hours. What was the fine?

    SCOTT MAYEROWITZ: Yes, so there’s this DOT tarmac delay rule. It’s been in effect for a few years, but it’s been — airlines have been finding new ways to avoid paying these fines, which is good for passengers.

    And for every passenger on a plane for more than three hours, an airline is actually fined $2,750. That’s per passenger.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Wow.

    SCOTT MAYEROWITZ: So, a typical jet, that could be about $4 million.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And this time, they’re also waiving some of the rebooking fees if you were canceled today because of the storms on the East Coast.

    SCOTT MAYEROWITZ: Yes, during a typical week, you might have to pay to $200, plus any change in fare to move your plane.

    Here, they want to get you on earlier flights, get you away from the storms, so they’re waving all these fees. The problem is, it’s Thanksgiving and everybody’s flying. As we all know, there are no empty seats on planes. So you can change if you can find available seats, but unfortunately for most travelers, there aren’t going to be any empty seats to switch to.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And because it’s Thanksgiving, it’s not just another day where you can say, fine, I will take tomorrow’s plane. Right? Everybody kind of planned around this, holiday vacations.

    SCOTT MAYEROWITZ: Yes.

    In the summer, for instance, when we have thunderstorms happen, you might be able to push your beach vacation back a day. You lose a day, it’s not the end of the world. But if you’re not at the Thanksgiving table for turkey or football tomorrow, you are going to be upset and you want to cancel.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How long does it take to get this sorted? What’s the ripple effect? Or is this beyond just the East Coast? Do we have a domino effect in other airlines — airports, I should say?

    SCOTT MAYEROWITZ: This storm has been pretty bad for the Northeast, but that’s about it. If you look at the rest of the country, it’s been great.

    And the airlines are very particular on which planes they have been choosing to cancel. They have gone with about 80 percent of the flights canceled are their smaller regional jets that seat about 50 to 76 passengers. So it’s a lot of flight cancellations, but not a giant number of passengers disrupted.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Scott Mayerowitz from the Associated Press, thanks so much.

    SCOTT MAYEROWITZ: Thank you.

    The post Northeast storm serves up tricky travel weather for Thanksgiving appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US-CRIME-POLICE-RACE-UNREST

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    GWEN IFILL: The decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown has once again inflamed one of America’s great sensitivities about race, justice and how it is applied.

    Joining us now to discuss these issues, we have Pulitzer Prize-winning and author Isabel Wilkerson, Judith Browne-Dianis with The Advancement Project, which focuses on issues around inequality, and Carroll Doherty with the Pew Research Center.

    Carroll Doherty, I want to start by looking at some of the numbers that you have accumulated over the years about confidence in police and the difference between how white people see it and how black people see it.

    If you look at this chart that we have put together based on your numbers, you can see that over time, people basically see the same — have the same gap. Whites trust the police more or think that it’s more equal treatment and blacks don’t. This hasn’t changed.

    CARROLL DOHERTY, Pew Research Center: It really hasn’t.

    Our most recent polling was done a couple of weeks after the Ferguson incident, but the gap had been there for 20 years prior. You see around 70 percent of whites saying they have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in the local police to treat the races equally. Only about half as many blacks say that.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, we have been through many of the incidents. Start with — think about Rodney King and think about Trayvon Martin and now this one.

    GWEN IFILL: Right. Right.

    GWEN IFILL: Do the numbers ever shift?

    CARROLL DOHERTY: They do — the blacks — blacks were a little bit more negative, a little bit less confidence in the wake of Ferguson. The very negative numbers were up, but the overall gap has been pretty steady and consistent for the past two decades.

    GWEN IFILL: And, yet, Judith Browne-Dianis, when we look at the faces protesting not only in Ferguson, but around the country in the last couple of nights, not only is it an interesting and diverse crowd. It’s also a very young crowd.

    JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, Advancement Project: Very young.

    GWEN IFILL: Does that mean that they are more — less optimistic, more pessimistic?

    JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, I think that they are experiencing the overcriminalization at levels that older folks aren’t and they really have — they’re bringing energy to this movement.

    They see this not only as the fight of their lives, but the fight for their lives. And so, across the country, when you looked at all of those rallies yesterday, you saw young people — you know, this is — they are the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of our time.

    GWEN IFILL: Who were very young.

    JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS: That’s right. Exactly.

    And so we’re seeing the same kind of action of young people bringing energy to a movement and also having clarity of purpose around what they’re doing.

    GWEN IFILL: Does it feel different to you?

    JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS: It feels different in that, first of all, this is the end of status quo for them, that they understand that they have to be disruptive, that nonviolent civil disobedience will be used like it was before.

    But I think that there’s a level at which they feel like this is much — this is about their daily existence, whether or not they can survive, whether or not they can breathe, whether or not they can walk down the street without being harassed. And so there’s a very personal thing about trying to survive and be black or be Latino. And so, in that way, it is different.

    GWEN IFILL: Isabel Wilkerson, in your book “The Warmth of Other Suns,” you chronicle the great migration mostly from the South to the North, to the West of African-Americans post-slavery. Do you see any echoes of familiarity into what we see happening now and what it is that drove this migration?

    ISABEL WILKERSON, Author, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration”: Well, the people who were part of this great migration, meaning the parents and the grandparents of many of the young people that we see throughout the country protesting and, of course, those who have died at the hands of the police are actually, in some ways, connected to the long history in our country.

    You know, I’m really — you realize, when you look at the history, that there’s this haunting symmetry between the killings that occurred during the Jim Crow era, meaning the lynchings, and the — what’s happening now. As it turns out, every four days in the Jim Crow South, an African-American was lynched for some perceived breach of the caste system that they ultimately were fleeing.

    And now, based upon whichever survey that you’re looking at — and the numbers are not complete, but they’re actually an undercount — that it appears that every two to three days an African-American is killed at the hands of a police officer in this year at this time. And so you see this connection across time of the history, the long history, which would speak to the level of distrust among African-Americans.

    GWEN IFILL: But, Isabel, I wonder why there’s any connection — why there’s such a difference in perception between older people and younger people about this schism and between white and black people about that? Is it that it’s ahistorical?

    ISABEL WILKERSON: Well, I think the people have heard the stories of what happened in previous generations. We would all like to believe that these things were taken care of, were resolved in previous decades, during the civil rights movement, and also the effort to get to these Northern cities.

    One of the things that, you know, struck me in the first night, the night of the announcement, was that the protests occurred, the first, biggest protest occurred in places like Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Oakland. And all of those cities were the receiving stations, the places of refuge for the ancestors of the people that we’re now seeing who are now protesting their treatment at the hands of the police.

    And so there’s this connection across the generations, when people are recognizing that there have been the unmet promises of their ancestors’ dreams and that they’re living still with the aftereffect of the response to the arrival of all these people.

    GWEN IFILL: Carroll Doherty, you know as well as anyone how difficult and dangerous sometimes it is to try to track racial attitudes because people sometimes they don’t say what they really feel.

    CARROLL DOHERTY: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there any way, as you look at these numbers, in discerning what’s a perception and what’s reality?

    CARROLL DOHERTY: Well, I think what’s interesting is that the blacks see discrimination in a lot of areas of life, but the number one area is police and criminal justice. And it’s by a large margin, in other words, discrimination in the job — the workplace, discrimination in schools.

    It’s there. But the — really, the most acute area is in this criminal justice police area, treatment by the police.

    GWEN IFILL: And so, Judith Browne-Dianis, give me a sense about whether you think there is — this can be get better, or it’s getting worse or we’re reaching a tipping point?

    JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, I think this is a tipping point.

    I think that young people have had enough, the status quo is intolerable, and that this is not only about the killings, but it’s about the man who was told to get his driver’s license out of the car and gets shot by the police, following the orders, a 12-year-old killed.

    And so I think what we’re going to see is that this is going to be a long-term movement, that young people, you know, they have been protesting since August 9, and I think we are going to see this across the country, young people looking for a long-term fix.

    GWEN IFILL: Are you as optimistic, Isabel Wilkerson?

    ISABEL WILKERSON: In the long term, I’m optimistic. In the short term, I think that we’re in for a great deal of soul-searching and needing to reach across boundaries to understand our differing perceived and lived experiences. I think that that is what we’re looking at right now.

    GWEN IFILL: Isabel Wilkerson, the author of “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Carroll Doherty of the Pew Research Center, and Judith Browne-Dianis of The Advancement Project, thank you all very much.

    JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS: Thank you.

    ISABEL WILKERSON: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: We have more coverage of Ferguson online. Our data team analyzed more than 500 pages of witness accounts taken from police interviews in the Darren Wilson case and mapped the inconsistencies. You can find that on our home page at PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post How do we bridge the divide among Americans over race and justice? – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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