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

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    NASA is preparing to launch the Orion spacecraft on its first test flight Thursday morning at 7:05am EST, with a 2 hour, 39 minute launch window.

    Barring any delays, the unmanned Orion will orbit the Earth twice in four and a half hours, rising to a height of 3,600 miles above the Earth. Then it will drop back through the Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 miles per hour.

    At that speed, Orion will heat up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Orion’s 11 parachutes will open, slowing the spacecraft’s plummet to 20 miles an hour when it lands in the Pacific ocean 600 miles southwest of San Diego.

    Orion is NASA’s latest step to taking astronauts beyond the moon. Apart from testing the capsule’s ability to handle launch and reentry, this unmanned flight will test the capsule’s shielding in the Van Allen Belt, a bubble of radiation surrounding the Earth. No manned space mission has crossed the Van Allen Belt since the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s. If astronauts hope to reach asteroids, or even Mars, they will undergo more radiation than ever before.

    It’s also an opportunity to test Orion’s state-of-the-art computer, which can handle 480 million instructions per second — 25 times faster than the International Space Station’s computer.

    NASA hopes to use Orion to send astronauts to an asteroid to gather samples in 2021. That mission will clear the way for a manned mission to Mars.

    The post LIVE: Watch NASA’s Orion test launch appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For the first time in more than four decades, NASA is set to launch a space capsule tomorrow that has grander plans of human exploration into deep space. This time, the Orion spacecraft will be unmanned. But it is an important test flight, and the first of many, as NASA tries to chart a longer-term vision for human flight.

    Science correspondent Miles O’Brien has our report.

    MILES O’BRIEN: At a 50-year-old facility that tested the heat shields for NASA’s Mercury and Apollo capsules, engineers are working on ways to protect a crew of astronauts returning to Earth from a voyage to Mars.

    JEREMY VANDER KAM, NASA Engineer: It’s really a whole new ball game in terms of the mission requirements and what we have done before.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Aerospace engineer Jeremy Vander Kam is working on the thermal protection system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, a capsule that has been described as Apollo on steroids.

    JEREMY VANDER KAM: So what we use is a material called Avcoat. It’s actually a derivation of the same material used in the Apollo program for the Apollo heat shield. So, on the Orion heat shield, there’s over 300,000 of these individual cells that are all filled by hand.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Vander Kam is using the venerable Art Jet facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center to torch small samples at the heat shield with blistering hot gases moving at hypersonic speeds in a vacuum. It’s as close to a real reentry from space as you can get on the ground.

    JEREMY VANDER KAM: Well, this is a four-inch diameter puck. And the Orion capsule is five meters in diameter. So, we obviously have some challenges in scale. And so we really rely at the end of the day on a flight test like — if you want to tell us how those parts of the system are going to work.

    MILES O’BRIEN: EFT1, or Exploration Flight Test 1, will subject an uncrewed Orion capsule to a real-world trial by fire on its maiden voyage, giving Vander Kam the data he needs and NASA a big milestone.

    Bill Hill is a NASA associate administrator.

    BILL HILL, NASA: EFT1 is absolutely the biggest thing that this agency is going to do this year.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Orion is slated to orbit the Earth twice, once at an altitude of about 500 miles. And then it will get a lift from a second-stage booster to 3,600 miles, high enough for the capsule to be exposed to a big dose of space radiation and to create enough speed on reentry to generate 80 percent of the heat it would encounter on a return from the moon.

    BILL HILL: This is really our first step in our journey to Mars.

    MILES O’BRIEN: NASA envisions a human presence on Mars in the mid-2030s.

    Charlie Bolden is the agency’s administrator.

    CHARLES BOLDEN, NASA: I use the term pioneer instead of explore. Exploring implies we’re going to go out and come back, like Lewis and Clark. We’re intending to pioneer Mars, which means we are going to put people on that planet to be there permanently.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But NASA is a long way from that.

    WILLIAM GERSTENMAIER, NASA: If you ask us to go to Mars today, we don’t think we’re in the right risk posture.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Bill Gerstenmaier is the man in charge of human space exploration at NASA. The current plan calls for an unpiloted Orion capsule to orbit the moon in 2018 and in 2021 or 2022 carry two astronauts on a short visit to small asteroid or a piece of a larger one that would be robotically grabbed and nudged into lunar orbit. There are no firm plans for what happened after that.

    Engineers are dealing with some big technical hurdles, how to protect the crew from radiation, how to land something much bigger than a compact-car-sized rover on Mars, and how humans can safely operate independent of support from Earth.

    WILLIAM GERSTENMAIER: The basic strategy that we’re trying to do is, we do a series of test, each one of more and more complexity and more and more challenge, that we continue to add, until eventually we build the capabilities and the skills and the operational techniques and the risk management philosophy that allows us to go to Mars.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There are many seasoned hands in the space world who wonder if the agency’s big plans to visit the Red Planet may become lost in space.

    Tom Young is among them.

    THOMAS YOUNG, Former NASA Executive: And I think a fundamental problem that we have with today’s Mars strategy is that it’s not consistent with the available budget, and we don’t have the funds to really make it an executable plan.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Young is a veteran aerospace executive who knows a little something about getting to the Red Planet.

    A. THOMAS YOUNG: I’m assuming we must be sitting right on the X. So that’s the smooth area. So, everybody just did fabulous. And couldn’t be more pleased. Thank you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: He was NASA’s program manager for the Viking missions in the mid-1970s, which accomplished the first and second successful landings on Mars.

    A. THOMAS YOUNG: We have either got to augment the resources to make the goal achievable, or we have got to adjust the goal to be something that’s consistent with the available resources, because, if we don’t, what we’re funding is going to do is, we’re going to — we’re going to waste a lot of money.

    Ignition and liftoff of Ares I-X.

    MILES O’BRIEN: In 2010, President Obama canceled the Bush administration’s Constellation program, which envisioned a return to the moon.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the surface of the moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say, pretty bluntly here, we have been there before.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Obama wanted NASA to use the money Constellation would have spent on a capsule and rocket made of Apollo and shuttle legacy hardware to push the development of new propulsion technology and seed the private sector to build new vehicles.

    But the cancellation of Constellation ruffled the feathers of some heavyweights in the aerospace world and on Capitol Hill. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama represents NASA’s primary rocket-building facility, Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center. He helped force the administration to spend less on new technology and instead design a rocket called the Space Launch System, or SLS.

    Led by Shelby’s constituents in Huntsville, SLS is being built with beefed-up, shuttle-style solid boosters and surplus shuttle main engines.

    SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R) Alabama: These were very successful engines. And we build on what we have. That’s why we learn. And this is tomorrow’s technology. We will learn from this. And there will be other things that will come out of it that will be positive. But you just don’t reinvent the wheel. You build on the wheel. And these were good wheels.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But, as it is, SLS doesn’t have enough thrust to go any farther than lunar orbit. That’s what prompted the idea of bringing an asteroid to the moon. Otherwise, SLS is a rocket without a destination.

    For a mission to Mars, it will need a redesign with more powerful boosters and a new second-stage motor.

    Former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver was one of the leading proponents of the original Obama space plan.

    LORI GARVER, Former Deputy Administrator, NASA: If you were driving to Mars in particular, there’s a number of things you would be doing that we’re not doing now that are the difficult things. You wouldn’t be building a spacecraft now based on technology from 40 years ago, engines from 40 years ago to go somewhere in 20 years, and spending $3 billion to $4 billion a year on that.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Garver believes NASA’s current path to Mars is a hybrid of ideas born not of engineering elegance, but, rather, political compromise.

    LORI GARVER: The purpose has become political and jobs. And I think we’re — we have lost the sort of unifying view that exploration is something that we do as a species.

    We should have that broader purpose, rather than just the political needs of a few members of Congress with jobs in their district.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Senator Shelby rejects the notion that space exploration has become a jobs program.

    SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: Well, I would be against a jobs program. I’m for the cutting edge of space. Jobs come with it if you have got a good system that you’re building. And I believe this will be a good system and be good for the space program. Otherwise, I wouldn’t support it.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But will a half-a-loaf with a side of bacon ever get NASA to Mars? Is there enough money in NASA’s budget to pay for the compromise and still reach the stars?

    John Holdren is President Obama’s science adviser.

    JOHN HOLDREN, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy: So, I don’t think the current budgets amount to kicking the can down the road. They amount to, within reasonable limits, getting done the steps that we need to achieve in order ultimately to get to Mars.

    Eventually, yes, between now and the 2030s, we would need to ramp up the budget. At the current budgets, we would not get to Mars; that’s correct.

    MILES O’BRIEN: During Orion’s first flight, NASA engineers aim to test the riskiest events, things that have to work right the first time when astronauts are on board. But the biggest risk to the overarching goal may have more to do with political science than rocket science.

    Miles O’Brien, the “PBS NewsHour,” Washington.

    GWEN IFILL: Online, we have a slide show of Orion’s journey to the launchpad. And you can watch the launch live tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern on our home page.

    The post Before NASA pioneers to Mars, Orion spacecraft faces tests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In 2011, PBS NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman paid a visit to Sesame Street, where he taught Grover about Walter Michel’s famous “Marshmallow Test” – a psychological experiment where a child is given a choice between eating one marshmallow now, or waiting and earning a second marshmallow later.

    Grover passed the test, but not all of Sesame Street’s residents were as quick to latch on to the concept of saving. Cookie Monster, famous for his lack of willpower, quickly convinced Elmo to sacrifice a dollar on the altar of instant gratification (and cookies).

    He learned eventually though. In 2013, the blue muppet, who Solman accurately described as “an icon of excess,” was featured in a series of segments promoting patience and self-regulation. A group of researchers at the University of Iowa tested the effectiveness of these segments on a group of preschool-aged children.

    The marshmallow test was administered to a group of children who had been shown clips of Cookie Monster practicing self-regulation, and to a control group. The children that were exposed to what the researchers labeled “the Cookie Monster curriculum,” held out over four minutes longer during the Marshmallow Test than their non-Cookie Monster watching peers. These children also exhibited better working memory and action inhibition skills, the researchers reported.

    However, the control group did display better attention inhibition skills, suggesting that the Cookie Monster curriculum group followed in the muppet’s impulsive footsteps. The clips the children watched often showed Cookie rushing to make an initial decision without listening carefully to directions. “This result may not have occurred with exposure to a more balanced curriculum featuring other, more reflective characters,” the researchers concluded.

    To expel any remaining doubt about the correlation between children’s exposure to the Cookie Monster curriculum and increased ability to practice self-regulation, Deborah L. Linebarger, the study’s lead author, provided the Huffington Post with this video of a child using one of Cookie Monster’s songs to sustain himself during the Marshmallow Test.

    The post ‘C’ is for Cookie, S is for self-regulation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Supreme Court Hears Pregnancy Discrimination Case Involving UPS

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    GWEN IFILL: Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Peggy Young, a former UPS driver who says the company discriminated against her when she was pregnant. UPS placed Young on unpaid leave for several months because she was unable to perform her required duties, they said.

    Young’s lawyers say the company’s actions violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Women’s rights groups and members of Congress rallied outside the Supreme Court this morning to support Young.

    But there are at least two sides to the argument.

    Joining us to describe what happened inside the court today, Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal,” Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel for the National Women’s Law Center, and Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Legal Center.

    Marcia, I want to start with you and with the law. Let’s look at this 1979 law, ’8 law. I’m always getting that wrong. If I put on my glasses, I can see it.


    MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: OK.

    GWEN IFILL: It says, “Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is illegal sex discrimination, and pregnant women shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as other persons not so affected, but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

    Sounds pretty straightforward and pretty simple.

    MARCIA COYLE: Simple, until you get into the Supreme Court and start arguing what the language means.

    Today, the arguments really focus primarily on that second clause, how to treat pregnant workers. UPS has argued and it argued today that it has basically a pregnancy-blind policy. It offers accommodations to workers whose injuries occur or conditions develop on the job, not off the job.

    So it’s not singling out pregnant workers. They are being treated like all of UPS’ other workers who have injuries or conditions that develop off the job. And it looked at that second clause and said, that’s not a freestanding, independent claim to bring — to charge discrimination against UPS.

    It is tied to the basic prohibition against pregnancy discrimination. Well, Ms. Young’s attorney says, OK, let’s look at the language of that clause again. It says nothing about on-the-job, off-the-job distinctions. It also doesn’t speak to the cause or the source of the limitation on the worker.

    Instead it says, you’re to compare the pregnant worker limitation with non-pregnant workers who have similar limitations on their ability or inability to do the job. And also he claims that UPS doesn’t have a pregnancy-blind policy because it does offer accommodations to workers, for example, who lose their Department of Transportation certificate that allows them to drive. And also it accommodates workers with conditions that are recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, I gather this was a pretty lively set of arguments today at the court.

    MARCIA COYLE: Very, very lively.

    Justice Scalia and some other justices looked at the way Mrs. Young’s attorney reads that clause. Justice Scalia used the phrase, it’s so broad the way you’re reading it that you’re seeking most-favored nations treatment for pregnant workers.

    Well, he was sort of expressing the concern that businesses that are supporting UPS say here, that any time an employer gives an accommodation to a worker with a limitation, regardless of how it happened or its severity, a pregnant worker is going to seek that same accommodation.

    But, on the other side, Justices Ginsburg and Justice Kagan, for example, said that UPS’ reading is so narrow that it is giving least-favored nation treatment to pregnant workers. And also the reading, according to Justice Kagan, it really makes the second clause redundant here, meaningless, and Congress could not have intended to do that.

    GWEN IFILL: The administration had argued against bringing this case and now is on the other side. Right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: How did that flip happen?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, it didn’t argue because it didn’t think the case wasn’t worthy, but the administration did have a change of policy. For many years, it read that section the same way that UPS reads it.

    In 2014, this year, over the summer, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidance. And its guidance on this supports Mrs. Young’s interpretation of the law. And since the Department of Justice does follow EEOC guidance, that is how the administration is pursuing these cases now.

    GWEN IFILL: Karen Harned, I want to start with the — a little bit of what the debate is. Is this a debate between employees’ rights and employers’ rights?

    KAREN HARNED, National Federation of Independent Business: Well, it’s really a debate between — we would first say it’s a debate on what the law actually says, and we would be in the category that we definitely believe that if Ms. Young were to prevail, it would create a super protected class for the pregnant worker.

    Our concern really is that there need to be limits. And if Ms. Young were to prevail, there wouldn’t be the limits that you even see with the Americans with Disabilities Act, where if an accommodation would be an undue hardship on a business, that would be considered and you would also look at whether or not the accommodation was reasonable.

    These are really questions that are better answered in Congress and the state legislatures, not through the Supreme Court, we think, rewriting the law.

    GWEN IFILL: Emily Martin, are we just arguing this debate in the wrong place?

    EMILY MARTIN, National Women’s Law Center: Well, I think this case is critically important because it’s really about whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act means what it says.

    And it’s of critical importance for women around the country. Unfortunately, Peggy Young’s story is not unique. At the National Women’s Law Center, we hear again and again from women who have lost their job, have lost their paycheck because their employer refuses to make a simple accommodation like letting the cashier sit at a stool during an eight-hour shift late in her pregnancy.

    And, as a result, women are being forced to choose between their jobs and a healthy pregnancy. And that’s not a choice anybody should have to make.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the difference — I’m going to ask the two of you, what’s the difference between omitting coverage for a protected class or actively discriminating? What is your sense about that?

    KAREN HARNED: Well, I think — and UPS argued this today — there are good business reasons why a company is going to have different classes of benefits for different classes of employees, part-time vs. full-time, in this instance, those injured on the job vs. those not, which is very common.

    You need to be able to have that flexibility. And then, also, for the small employer in particular, their ability to backfill and make up for work lost by an employee is much more difficult when you’re looking at a work force of 15 or 16 than with one of 200 or more.

    GWEN IFILL: But do the anti-pregnancy discrimination laws that exist rule out allowing that protected class for this particular sort — subset of employees?

    EMILY MARTIN: So, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed for a very specific reason, to repudiate a previous Supreme Court case from 1976 where the Supreme Court said it’s not sex discrimination for an employer to have a temporary disability insurance policy that covers all accidents and injuries, excludes pregnancy.

    And Congress said very clearly, no, you have to treat pregnancy the way you treat other disabilities and injuries that can have an effect on a person’s ability to work. That was the precise purpose of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, to keep pregnant workers from being treated like second-class citizens in the workplace.

    GWEN IFILL: So what you’re saying is that the argument that Karen Harned makes is a second-class-citizens argument?

    EMILY MARTIN: I think that what UPS is arguing is that the fact that they have found a way to accommodate people with on-the-job injuries, people with disabilities under the ADA, people who have lost their commercial driver’s license, that should mean that they can accommodate pregnant workers, too. That’s exactly what the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was intended to create.

    GWEN IFILL: And it should be said that both UPS has changed its policy and the EEOC has changed its guidelines since this case came.

    KAREN HARNED: Correct.

    But, again, I would put to, for all employers, this one-size-fits-all is not going to work. When you’re talking about small work force, maybe a small restaurant with only three servers working over the weekend, you lose one of those servers or some of their abilities to work, that’s much harder for a small business owner to address.

    That’s why you need the balance that you get in things like the Americans with Disabilities Act, where you’re also looking at undue hardship, what is a reasonable accommodation for those business operations to continue. Those are debates that need to happen in Congress, not at the court.

    EMILY MARTIN: But, you know, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act only requires equal treatment. So it just requires the employer to do for the pregnant worker what it’s already doing for another worker who has a similar inability to work.

    GWEN IFILL: Marcia, one of the things I find most interesting about this case is the odd bedfellows who agree on one side of this. You seldom see pro-life and pro-choice people arguing the same — making the same case.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right. I can’t remember when that has happened in the past.

    You have civil liberties group, women’s rights group. As you said, I think something like 23 pro-life organizations have all joined to support Ms. Young.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the common thread?

    MARCIA COYLE: The need to ensure that pregnant women who are in the work force do get equal treatment and don’t — and aren’t forced, as Ms. Young was, to go on unpaid leave, where she also least her health insurance.

    On the other side of UPS’, as you would expect, are businesses large and small, and also Eagle Forum, which is a rather conservative organization.

    GWEN IFILL: Women’s group, that’s right.

    MARCIA COYLE: Right.


    Marcia Coyle, “National Law Journal,” Emily Martin of the National Women’s Law Center, and Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business, thank you all very much.

    EMILY MARTIN: Thank you.

    KAREN HARNED: Thank you.

    MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure.

    The post Must employers make special considerations for pregnant workers? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    RECALL  monitor  air bag

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Air bag manufacturer Takata was back in the spotlight today over its refusal to endorse a nationwide recall of defective air bags. The Japanese firm faced questions on that decision and others in a hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives.

    The hearing came just hours after a deadline for Takata to expand its recall, as demanded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.

    Deputy Administrator David Friedman.

    DAVID FRIEDMAN, Deputy Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: First of all, I was deeply disappointed by Takata’s response and Takata’s failure to take responsibility for the defects that their products — for the defects in their products.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The problem lies with inflators that activate so violently, they cause the air bags to explode. There have been at least five deaths and dozens of injuries linked to the defect worldwide.

    Takata Senior Vice President Hiroshi Shimizu insisted again today that only people who live in humid conditions are at risk.

    HIROSHI SHIMIZU, Senior Vice President, Takata: The data still supports that we should remain focused on the region with high temperature and high humidity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In line with that thinking, about eight million vehicles have been recalled in the U.S., mostly in Florida, Hawaii, and along the Gulf Coast. Takata says a nationwide recall would double that figure. The company remained adamant today that a nationwide recall isn’t supported by the evidence.

    But NHTSA’s Friedman pointed to reports of air bag explosions in other parts of the country.

    DAVID FRIEDMAN: Between the fact that the root cause on the driver side is not clear, now that it’s clear that it is outside those areas of high temperatures and high humidity, and the fact that we now have six total incidents, it is clear to us that a regional recall is no longer appropriate for the driver-side air bags.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The agency had threatened to take legal action and impose fines of up to $35 million unless Takata complied. But the air bag maker took the position today that Washington doesn’t have the legal authority to make a parts maker enforce a recall. And Friedman acknowledged it could take a protracted fight.

    DAVID FRIEDMAN: We need to make sure that we build the strongest case possible, because, at the end of the day, if Takata and the automakers continue to refuse to act, we are going to have to take them to court. We want to make sure we have a case prepared that will win.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A number of lawmakers voiced frustration that even replacing the air bags recalled so far will take months to complete. And they let Takata’s vice president know it.

    REP. FRED UPTON, (R) Michigan: Complexity is not an excuse for incompetence.

    REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY, (D) Illinois: I have received letters from constituents who are literally afraid to drive their cars. And this is unacceptable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Across the Capitol, at a Senate confirmation hearing, the man nominated to run NHTSA, Mark Rosekind, was pressed to make the agency more aggressive.

    Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey:

    SEN. EDWARD MARKEY, (D) Massachusetts:  I guess what I can say you is, Dr. Rosekind, that you must make Takata recall all of these air bags. You must force the automobile companies to comply with a nationwide recall. There is no choice. The safety of the American people is at stake. Takata is toying with the safety of the American people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the weight of public opinion may be having some effect:  Today, Honda, one of Takata’s biggest customers, announced that it will expand its own recall of driver-side air bags to all 50 states.

    The post Takata fights nationwide recall for exploding airbags appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Demonstrators Call For Resignation Of NYPD Chief Bratton

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    GWEN IFILL: In two cases, in two cities, in less than two weeks, two grand juries declined to indict white police officers accused of killing unarmed black men. But in today’s case, in New York, it was on tape.

    Hari Sreenivasan has more on the case of Eric Garner.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Reaction to the grand jury decision has been sharp and highlights a very tense relationship between police in New York City and the communities they serve. It’s also a test for its new mayor.

    Joining us now is Pervaiz Shallwani, criminal justice reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

    So, surprised by this?

    PERVAIZ SHALLWANI, The Wall Street Journal: You know, I think there is some surprise by this.

    I think some people believed that, because there was a video in this case, that there was a little bit more of a clear-cut path to a charge of some kind. And, you know, the grand jury ultimately decided that there wasn’t.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. The parallels and the not-so-parallels with Ferguson?

    PERVAIZ SHALLWANI: I think that some of the parallels are, there is — there is a belief that it’s almost impossible to indict a police officer in a case where the autopsy reveals that there’s a homicide, but there are very different situations here, just, you know, in, one, how they sort of played out, and, two, the — the on-the-ground the way the situation is.

    I think New York City is a much different situation than Ferguson is.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, we just played a little bit of the video. And I think most of the country is sitting there wondering, wait, this is — everyone can see that something horrible happened to this man, that there was a chokehold applied.

    The New York City Police Department came out and said, this is not a maneuver that we authorize. The coroner or the medical examiner said this is homicide by choking. Yet still the grand jury couldn’t come up with…

    PERVAIZ SHALLWANI: Well, they said it was in part by a homicide by choking.

    But, you know, what the — what the medical examiner determines and how a criminal investigation unfolds is very different. You know, chokeholds are banned by use by the NYPD, but the unions and the officer had maintained that it’s a maneuver that they were taught at the academy and he was using that maneuver, and not intended to be a chokehold at all.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, this evening, we also heard the mayor go out and say that this is just one chapter that’s closed.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: This is something the New York Police Department and the city has been preparing for.


    The NYPD has been preparing for this for weeks. The police commissioner even last week after the Ferguson riots sent down a couple of his own detectives to learn on-the-ground techniques and learn — get on-the-ground information for how New York City could proceed, you know, when Eric Garner’s decision came down.

    You still have two other pending investigations. You have an internal affairs investigation that will determine if officer Pantaleo was actually in violation of NYPD protocol. You also have the Department of Justice announcing that they’re opening a civil rights investigation today into the Eric Garner matter.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So when these investigations happen, is that going to change the feeling of the cops on the street, the ones that you talk to as you do your reporting? Right now, what’s the position that they’re in?

    PERVAIZ SHALLWANI: It’s going to depend on how things sort of unfold I think over next couple days.

    I mean, there is some apprehension on the — on the part of the cops, what you hear from some of the unions out there, but, at the same time, you hear the police department say that the cops are going to, you know, go through some retraining. And, ultimately, they expect officers to do their jobs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, and what kinds of retraining has the police department considered in the wake of this and in the wake of the Ferguson case, which, while it’s different, is coming within a week of this?


    The NYPD announced about a week after the Eric Garner incident, less than a week after the Eric Garner incident, that it was going to retrain all 35,000 of its officers. That retraining has already begun, particularly this week. And it’s going to focus on things like use of force, use of language and a retraining of some of these techniques that are used in the field.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the change that the New York Police Department went through in the beginning — at the Garner incident, they said someone died in custody. After the video came out, it was a different narrative altogether.

    PERVAIZ SHALLWANI: Well, I think, to listen to the NYPD, the NYPD said that they didn’t realize ultimately that there was a video. And once they realized there was a video, that video was reviewed. And I think they came out and gave what they believed was part of an investigation — how the investigation then would move forward out of that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And the prosecutor also said today, almost setting the tone, don’t expect all of the evidence to be made public, as it was in the Ferguson matter.



    And we don’t really know whether he tried to go after a lesser charge of, say, manslaughter.


    I mean, it’s just not 100 percent clear what charges were presented to the grand jury. The Staten Island district attorney has come out and said that, you know, the laws in New York are different from the laws in Missouri. And so he is bound by New York laws and must go to a judge to release some information, and it’s not even — unclear what kind of information he is seeking to release.

    In Missouri, you know, the laws allowed them to release all the grand jury testimony.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, finally, is there any action that the New York Police Department can take independent of this grand jury or the Department of Justice?

    PERVAIZ SHALLWANI: Yes, absolutely.

    As it pertains to officer Pantaleo and even the other officer that was with him, who have both been played on — placed on modified duty, they’re looking in to determine if they violated any of the NYPD protocols. The NYPD protocols say that there is no use of chokehold allowed.

    Now, it will be up to the internal affairs investigators to determine if officer Pantaleo violated that, and then up to the board to make a recommendation on what kind of discipline he gets. And it could be up to as far as him being fired from the police force by police Commissioner Bratton.


    Pervaiz Shallwani of The Wall Street Journal, thanks very much.

    PERVAIZ SHALLWANI: Thanks, Hari.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A white policeman in New York City will not be charged in the choking death of a black man that was caught on videotape. The case has been closely watched in the wake of events in Ferguson, Missouri.

    Police on Staten Island tried to arrest Eric Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes last July. He told them to leave him alone, but one wrapped an arm around his neck, as Garner repeatedly gasped, “I can’t breathe.”  It turned out he had asthma, and he died later. The officer denied using a banned chokehold, and a grand jury today found no reasonable cause to indict.

    That drew outrage from several of New York’s members of Congress, including representative Hakeem Jeffries.

    REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) New York: The decision by a grand jury not to indict in the death of Eric Garner is a miscarriage of justice, it’s an outrage, it’s a disgrace, it’s a blow to our democracy, and it should shock the conscience of every single American who cares about justice and fair play.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Garner’s father condemned the grand jury decision, calling it a license to kill a black man. But he also called for calm, as did New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who urged nonviolent protest.

    The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, issued a statement, saying: “It is never my intention to harm anyone. And I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner.”

    And, in Washington, President Obama said the case underscores again — quote — “the larger issues that minorities have with police in America.”

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust, and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Separately today, a funeral was held for the 12-year-old Cleveland boy killed by police when he pulled a pellet gun last month. The child was black, the officer white. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported today that the officer’s handling of firearms was rated as — quote — “dismal” in a previous police job.

    GWEN IFILL: World allies gathered in Brussels today to plot strategy against Islamic State extremists. Diplomats from more than 60 nations and organizations met at NATO headquarters.

    Secretary of State John Kerry said air attacks have already done serious damage to Islamic State fighters.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We are united in moving ahead on all fronts and that we will engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail. There is a reason that we are confident that we will, and that is all of you around this table, the members of this coalition.

    GWEN IFILL: Kerry declined to comment or deny reports that Iran is also carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State forces inside Iraq.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran issued its own denial today of those airstrike reports. Unnamed Pentagon officials had said that Iran used aging F-4 Phantom jets to launch the raids in recent days. But, in Tehran, a government spokesman said Iran’s support for Iraq has not expanded to include direct military intervention.

    MARZIEH AFKHAM, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman (through interpreter): There has been no change. The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to provide assistance, especially advice and consultation assistance, within the frameworks of international law, but there has been no change in this regard.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in Syria, President Bashar Assad said today that airstrikes against Islamic State targets in his country have done no good. He told a French magazine that only ground troops can defeat the militants.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said a woman detained in Lebanon is not the wife of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after all. Instead, a ministry official said she is the sister of a man convicted of bombings in Southern Iraq.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Three leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy campaign surrendered to police today, after more than two months of demonstrating for free elections. The men were not immediately charged, and they were not detained. Afterward, they again urged students to call off protests that have led to violent clashes with police.

    BENNY TAI, Co-founder, Hong Kong Occupy Central movement (through interpreter): The situation is very dangerous, so I hope protesters can end the occupation movement as soon as possible. Let’s save the energy and continue this path of democracy. This is a long and exhausting road, but we need to walk together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Despite that appeal, hundreds of student demonstrators remained at two protest camps in Hong Kong’s financial hub.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, drought-ravaged California soaked up a second day of heavy rainfall from a major Pacific storm. More than eight inches had fallen in parts of the San Bernardino Mountains by dawn. To the north, the downpours spawned isolated flooding in the San Francisco region, where some roads were underwater. Forecasters said they expect the rain to last through tomorrow. Even so, it’s expected to take many more storms to break the drought.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted this evening to extend $45 billion in tax breaks through the end of this year. The package includes provisions for businesses, commuters, teachers, and even NASCAR racetracks. It now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

    GWEN IFILL: The House also moved to pass the first new legislation on disabled Americans in nearly 25 years. The so-called ABLE Act, for Achieving a Better Life Experience, will let the disabled open tax-sheltered bank accounts to pay for long-term expenses. It could affect as many as 54 million people. The Senate is expected to pass the bill as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Texas and 16 other states filed a lawsuit today over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. They went to federal court in Texas, arguing the president exceeded his powers by protecting up to five million migrants from deportation. They also claim his actions will force the states to spend more on law enforcement, health care, and education.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, stocks rallied on a pair of upbeat economic report. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 33 points to close at 17,912; the Nasdaq rose 18 points to close at 4,774; and the S&P added more than seven points to close at 2,074.

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    Attorney General Eric Holder spoke on Dec. 3, 2014 on the Eric Garner decision.

    “All lives must be valued. All lives.”

    Attorney General Eric Holder spoke tonight on a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner — an unarmed, 43-year-old black man.

    According to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in his speech earlier today, Attorney General Holder has pledged to launch a federal civil rights investigation into the incident.

    Calling Eric Garner’s death a “tragedy,” Holder called for a federal investigation into the case, as well as “a complete review” of the local investigation.

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    The Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice last week was previously “distracted” and “weepy” during his firearms qualification training at a suburban Ohio police department, new internal documents revealed Wednesday.

    During his brief tenure at the Independence, Ohio Police Department, Deputy Chief Jim Polak said Tim Loehmann’s handgun performance was poor.

    “He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,” Polak said in a letter to human resources, dated November 29, 2012, found in Loehmann’s personnel file.

    Polak added that he did not believe Loehmann was mature enough to work at IPD, due to a “dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress.”

    Polak recommended that the department terminate Loehmann in December 2012. Shortly after, Loehmann resigned, citing personal reasons.

    Loehmann’s father, Fred Loehmann, told Cleveland.com that his son left Independence because “he soon grew tired of the slow pace of suburban policing.”

    Loehmann was hired by the Cleveland Police Department in March 2014. In the documents, it’s not immediately clear whether Cleveland police officials saw Loehmann’s Independence personnel file, however, the Cleveland Police Department told Buzzfeed on Wednesday that it did not review Loehmann’s Independence Police Department personnel file before he was hired.

    On Nov. 23, Loehmann, 26, and partner Frank Garmack, responded to a 911 report that someone was brandishing a “probably fake” gun at people at a playground. A surveillance video released by the Cleveland police showed the two police officers arriving at the scene, within feet of Rice. In the video, Loehmann appeared to shoot Rice within seconds of opening his police car door.

    No audio was on the tape, but both police officers said they ordered Rice to raise his hands three times before Loehmann shot him. The boy was carrying a pellet gun.

    You can read the documents below:

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s the biggest burst of hiring in the U.S. in nearly three years.

    The Labor Department reported its November numbers today.  They show that American employers added a net of 321,000 new positions in November.  The unemployment rate, which comes from a separate survey, stayed at 5.8 percent.  That is a six-year low.  And in another hopeful sign, the average hourly wage rose 9 cents, the most in 17 months.  We will examine what’s behind the numbers later in the program.

    Protests over the killings of black men by white police kept going today with no sign of a letup.  They were fueled again by fury over a grand jury’s decision in New York City.  The panel decided on Tuesday not to issue an indictment in the death of Eric Garner.

    Jeffrey Brown reports on the day’s developments.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the latest demonstrations came this morning in Aurora, Colorado, where hundreds of high school students staged a walkout.  A police officer even gave out high-fives as they marched past.

    In Chicago and other cities, more protests geared up as the afternoon wore on.

    PROTESTERS: Shut it down!

    JEFFREY BROWN: That followed a night of demonstrations nationwide, with thousands giving voice to anger and frustration.

    PROTESTER: We’re fired up!

    PROTESTERS: Can’t take it no more!

    JEFFREY BROWN: In New York especially, emotions were still running high over the Eric Garner case.  Most of the protests were peaceful, but minor scuffles did break out.

    This morning, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said today there were more than 220 arrests overnight.

    WILLIAM BRATTON, New York City Police Commissioner: Some of them were much more assertive, so those arrests include disorderly conduct, with some assaults on police officers.  I believe my officers showed remarkable restraint in the face of, in many instances, a lot of provocation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile, the district attorney in Brooklyn announced a grand jury will probe the killing of an unarmed black suspect in a dimly lit stairwell two weeks ago.  A rookie policeman has said his gun went off accidentally.  Also today, the NYPD launched a pilot program to start outfitting officers with body cameras.  But many protesters dismissed the gesture.

    MAN: Eric Garner’s murder was caught entirely on film, and the police officer who killed him has still not been indicted.  So, it kind of makes you wonder whether or not body cameras will actually do anything.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Elsewhere, some 150 people marched in Phoenix overnight, after a black man was killed Tuesday by a white officer who said he mistook a pill bottle for a gun.

    WOMAN: We’re not going to stand for them and their brutality against black people.  We’re not going to just sit back and watch while our people get killed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: An internal investigation is under way in the Phoenix shooting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In another development, more than 100 activists arrived in Jefferson city, Missouri, the state capital, after marching 120 miles from Ferguson.  They protested police treatment of blacks and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson last August.

    New Jersey lawmakers have found no evidence that Governor Chris Christie helped create traffic jams at a major bridge for political gain.  At the same time, the joint legislative panel doesn’t rule out the possibility that he might have been involved.  Christie is a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016.  He has denied any role in the bridge scandal.

    The International Criminal Court dropped charges of crimes against humanity against the president of Kenya today for want of evidence.  Uhuru Kenyatta had been accused of fomenting ethnic violence after a 2007 election, killing more than 1,000 people.  Prosecutors accused Kenyatta and his supporters of obstructing the investigation and intimidating witnesses.

    FATOU BENSOUDA, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court: This is a painful moment for the men, women, and children who have suffered tremendously from the horrors of the post-election violence, and who have waited patiently, for almost seven years, to see justice done.

    I have decided to withdraw the charges against Mr. Kenyatta after carefully considering all the evidence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Nairobi, Kenyatta was cheered and congratulated after getting the news at a meeting of business leaders.  Supporters also celebrated in the streets, chanting “Bye-bye, ICC.”

    The man who was once head of China’s feared domestic security agencies was arrested today on charges of corruption, adultery and leaking secrets.  Zhou Yongkang was also expelled from the ruling Communist Party.  That made him the highest ranking figure to be prosecuted so far in President Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown.  Zhou had been a key rival to Xi.

    Back in this country, Congress has voted to block suspected Nazi war criminals from getting Social Security benefits.  The Senate approved the bill last night and sent it to the president.  That followed an Associated Press investigation that found dozens of Nazi suspects collected millions of dollars in benefits since 1979 under a legal loophole.

    NASA took a big first step today toward a potential mission to Mars.  It was the first unmanned test flight for the Orion capsule, and it went off without a hitch.  The spacecraft blasted off just after dawn from Cape Canaveral atop a Delta IV rocket, and it reached a peak altitude of 3,600 miles.  About four-and-a-half-hours later, Orion made a bullseye splashdown 630 miles southwest of San Diego.

    MARK GEYER, NASA: It’s hard to have a better day than today.  It was a lot of fun, very exciting, each part of the mission.  Of course, part of the reason it’s exciting is, it’s — it’s a difficult mission, it’s a tough environment to fly through, it’s tough objectives that we set for this flight.  But it appears that Orion and the Delta IV Heavy were nearly flawless.  Great job by the team.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Orion’s flight path took it deeper into space than any craft built for humans has gone since 1972.  That was when Apollo 17 made the last manned flight to the moon.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 58 points to close at 17,958; the Nasdaq rose 11 to close at 4,780; and the S&P added three to finish at 2,075.  For the week, the Dow gained seven-tenths of a percent; the S&P was up four-tenths; the Nasdaq fell a fraction.

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    Photo by the NewsHour's American Graduate Project

    A woman protests the grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Dec. 24, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Corinne Segal

    Editor’s Note: The recent decision of two grand juries not to indict officers in the deaths of Eric Garner or Michael Brown have been addressed in hundreds of classrooms throughout the country. Amber Joseph, a New York City middle school teacher, discusses how schools can help students channel their reactions into action.

    “These problems did not die with slavery, and are now emerging in huge ways,” one student in my class wrote after Ferguson.

    teacherslounge Like many educators around the country, my school has grappled with ways to responsibly frame discussion for a diverse student population with very different backgrounds and levels of awareness about the events.

    When our students returned in September, Michael Brown had just been shot, there were protests all over the country and the media – social and traditional – was awash in emotion and information. I asked my students to write all that they knew about what happened in Ferguson. Their responses’ ranged from hearing that “somebody had been shot” to knowing why Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had called in the National Guard. Because we are a school in New York City, some students confused Brown’s death with that of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man on Staten Island who died in a police chokehold in July.

    Our students had lots of questions: what would happen to the police officer? Did Michael Brown have a criminal record? What was the difference between a protest and a riot? They read news articles, watched film clips, looked at social media and news media, and eventually wrote a response to the situation.

    Some of my eighth-graders are already being stopped by police, and many others know people in their communities and families who have experienced the New York City Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” practices.

    Our school recently invited presenters from the New York Civil Liberties Union to speak with middle and high school students about their rights and responsibilities during police encounters.To address this issue, our school recently invited presenters from the New York Civil Liberties Union to speak with middle and high school students about their rights and responsibilities during police encounters.

    The NYCLU speakers told our students what to do if they are stopped: to remain calm in their tone and body language, they have the right to ask the police offer to identify themselves, and that they have the right to film the encounter. They also handed out pocket-sized cards at the end so that students could have these on their person if they are ever stopped.

    One student asked during the presentation, what to do if a cop asks for ID and you don’t have it, a reality for many middle school students. Afterward, one student privately shared that he had been detained by the police before, and he had felt anger long afterwards.

    When my students heard about the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, they met it with disbelief, then anger. But I felt it was important to channel students’ feelings into action.

    Hopelessness ferments when you feel powerless. Our responsibility is to empower students to know that their choices matter, that their actions have an impact on the larger world.

    One of my students, after listening politely all class, finally admitted at the end of our discussion of the indictment that he was “tired of hearing about it.” This was a feeling that we must create space for, too.

    So, how do we not lose hope? This question is still relevant for both students and those that work with them. There are no ready answers, but listening and talking are forms of action that must continue.

    Amber Joseph is an eighth-grade history teacher at East Side Community High School in New York City.

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    Photo from Luke Somers' Facebook

    Photojournalist Luke Somers was captured by militants in Yemen last year. The 33-year old appeared in a video released by Al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen Thursday. Photo from Luke Somers’ Facebook page

    UPDATE 7:26 a.m. EST | President Obama announced on Saturday that Luke Somers was among two hostages killed “at the hands of Al-Qaida terrorists” during a rescue attempt conducted by U.S. forces in Yemen.

    On Thursday, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula released a video to announce that American photojournalist Luke Somers would be killed within 72 hours.

    I knew Luke. Not particularly well. But during my 15 months as a fellow freelancer in Yemen, we crossed paths on perhaps a dozen or so occasions — both social and professional. Quirky, passionate and thoughtful, he also struck me as a fairly private guy.

    But his photography is anything but.

    Luke never wavered from the front lines. He spent countless hours documenting revolutionaries in Sanaa’s Change Square and snapped photos ranging from Yemen’s former president to children afflicted with malnutrition. His work provides a gripping window into a country rarely on the world’s radar. It also reveals his deep and persistent love for the country.

    Below are a few of my favorite of Luke’s photos. More can be found on the BBC (here, here and here), as well as Luke’s Corbis and Demotix pages.

    With President Saleh’s efforts focused on remaining in power, general security and stability rapidly deteriorated in 2011. Among the inevitable consequences for the Arab world’s poorest nation was a worsening humanitarian situation. In 2012, the UN World Food Programme said that one million Yemeni children faced severe malnutrition. At Sanaa’s al-Sabeen Hospital, Dr Obei said: “The Ministry of Health only provides us with milk -- this is not enough.” Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    With President Saleh’s efforts focused on remaining in power, general security and stability rapidly deteriorated in 2011. Among the inevitable consequences for the Arab world’s poorest nation was a worsening humanitarian situation. In 2012, the UN World Food Programme said that one million Yemeni children faced severe malnutrition. At Sanaa’s al-Sabeen Hospital, Dr Obei said: “The Ministry of Health only provides us with milk — this is not enough.” Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    Less than two weeks after the UN threatened him with sanctions because of fears he was meddling in Yemen’s transitional process, ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh held a large gathering in Sanaa. With thousands of his supporters in attendance, he called for “reconciliation, shaking hands and forgiveness of the past to build a new Yemen”. Meanwhile, at the massive Sanaa mosque which bears his name, a museum focused on Mr Saleh’s political career has been opened. Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    Less than two weeks after the UN threatened him with sanctions because of fears he was meddling in Yemen’s transitional process, ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh held a large gathering in Sanaa. With thousands of his supporters in attendance, he called for “reconciliation, shaking hands and forgiveness of the past to build a new Yemen”. Meanwhile, at the massive Sanaa mosque which bears his name, a museum focused on Mr Saleh’s political career has been opened. Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    Mr. Somers said the uprising has brought people together for now: "Mohammed, a friend and protester, told me that he had no siblings. But at the tent city he had found 'brothers'. But when I asked what he would do when the revolution ends, he predicted that he would again feel lonely." Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    Mr. Somers said the uprising has brought people together for now: “Mohammed, a friend and protester, told me that he had no siblings. But at the tent city he had found ‘brothers’. But when I asked what he would do when the revolution ends, he predicted that he would again feel lonely.” Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    The flag used by the Southern Movement is identical to the flag which flew over the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 1990, the south Yemeni state joined the north to form the Republic of Yemen, which has managed to hold up until the present day. Throughout the historically prosperous port city of Aden, the omnipresence of the former state’s flag on walls and buildings gives the sense of a city in rebellion. Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    The flag used by the Southern Movement is identical to the flag which flew over the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 1990, the south Yemeni state joined the north to form the Republic of Yemen, which has managed to hold up until the present day. Throughout the historically prosperous port city of Aden, the omnipresence of the former state’s flag on walls and buildings gives the sense of a city in rebellion. Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    Yemen has featured heavily in the news this week (Nov. 27). Luke Somers says his photo shows a member of the Deaf and Dumb Youth Revolution Alliance in Sana'a anxiously awaiting Ali Abdullah Saleh's signing of the GCC power transfer deal. Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

    Yemen has featured heavily in the news this week. Luke Somers says his photo shows a member of the Deaf and Dumb Youth Revolution Alliance in Sana’a anxiously awaiting Ali Abdullah Saleh’s signing of the GCC power transfer deal. Photo by Luke Somers/courtesy of BBC

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    SANAA, Yemen — An American photojournalist and a South African teacher held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen were killed Saturday during a U.S.-led rescue operation that President Barack Obama said he ordered because of “imminent danger” to the U.S. hostage.

    U.S. officials believe the militants shot the two men during a firefight, and that both were alive when American forces pulled them from a building on the group’s compound and put them on aircraft, where medical teams operated on them during a short flight to the USS Makin Island, a Navy ship in the region.

    A man, who identified himself as Luke Somers, speaks in this still image taken from video purportedly published by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The video purportedly shows a U.S. hostage and threatened to kill him if unspecified demands were not met. The man identified himself as Somers and said he had been kidnapped well over a year ago. He was looking for "any help that can get me out of this situation". Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was posted on YouTube and social media late on December 3, 2014 and carried by SITE, an organisation that monitors militant statements. The man in the video says he was born in the United Kingdom and holds American citizenship.  REUTERS/ via Reuters TV (CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MEDIA TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PROFILE)  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WAS PROVIDED SEPARATELY. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES

    Photojournalist Luke Somers is seen in this still image taken from video purportedly published on Dec. 3 by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Somers and a second hostage, South African Pierre Korkie, were killed by their captors during a U.S.-led rescue attempt on Saturday.

    South African Pierre Korkie is believed to have died during the flight, while American Luke Somers died on the ship, according to senior U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had yet to be approved for release.

    About 40 U.S. special operations forces were part of the mission, according to the U.S. officials. The rescuers, backed by Yemeni ground forces, got within 100 meters of the compound in southern Shabwa province when they were spotted by the militants, and the skirmish ensued.

    Yemen’s highest security body, the Supreme Security Committee, issued a rare statement acknowledging that the country’s forces had carried out the raid with “American friends.” The committee said all the militants who were holding the hostages were killed in the operation.

    The second rescue attempt in less than two weeks to free Somers was prompted by a video posted online earlier in the week in which al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula threatened to kill photographer Luke Somers within 72 hours.

    But an aid group helping negotiate Korkie’s release said he was to be freed Sunday and his wife was told that “the wait is almost over.”

    In a statement, Obama did not address Korkie by name, only saying he “authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke.” The South African government did not immediately comment on Korkie’s death.

    Information “indicated that Luke’s life was in imminent danger,” Obama said. “Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized a rescue attempt.”

    Officials said Obama authorized the rescue mission Friday morning and was informed that evening about the outcome.

    Lucy Somers, the photojournalist’s sister, told The Associated Press that she and her father learned of her 33-year-old brother’s death from FBI agents at 0500 GMT (12 a.m. EST) Saturday.

    “We ask that all of Luke’s family members be allowed to mourn in peace,” she said from near London.

    Yemen’s national security chief, Maj. Gen. Ali al-Ahmadi, said the militants planned to kill Luke Somers on Saturday, and that prompted the joint mission.

    “Al-Qaida promised to conduct the execution (of Somers) today so there was an attempt to save them but unfortunately they shot the hostage before or during the attack,” al-Ahmadi said at a conference in Manama, Bahrain.

    The operation began before dawn Saturday in a province that is a stronghold of al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen. U.S. drones struck first the Wadi Abdan area first, followed by strafing runs by jets before Yemeni ground forces moved in, a Yemeni security official said. Helicopters flew in more forces to raid the house where the two men were held, he said.

    At least nine al-Qaida militants were killed in an initial drone strike, another security official said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

    U.S. officials said no American forced were killed or injured. The American military team was on the ground for about 30 minutes. Officials also said that based on the location on the compound where Somers and Korkie were found, there was no possibility that the hostages were killed by American fire.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the rescue mission was “extremely well executed, and was complicated and risky. The two men “were murdered by the AQAP terrorists during the course of the operation,” Hagel said during a visit to Afghanistan.

    The rescue mission was the second by U.S. and Yemeni forces searching for Somers, among the roughly dozen hostages believed held by al-Qaida militants in Yemen.

    On Nov. 25, American special operations forces and Yemeni soldiers raided a remote al-Qaida safe haven in a desert region near the Saudi border, freeing eight captives, including Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian. Somers, a Briton and four others had been moved days earlier, officials later said.

    Following that first raid, al-Qaida militants released a video Thursday that showed Somers. The group threatened to kill him in three days if the United States did not meet unspecified demands or if another rescue was made.

    Somers was kidnapped in September 2013 as he left a supermarket in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, said Fakhri al-Arashi, chief editor of the National Yemen, where Somers worked as a copy editor and a freelance photographer during the 2011 uprising in Yemen.

    Before her brother’s death, Lucy Somers released an online video describing him as a romantic who “always believes the best in people.” She ended with the plea: “Please let him live.”

    In a statement, Somers’ father, Michael, also called his son “a good friend of Yemen and the Yemeni people” and asked for his safe release.

    Korkie was kidnapped in the Yemeni city of Taiz in May 2013, along with his wife, Yolande. Militants later released her after a nongovernmental group, Gift of the Givers, helped negotiate for her freedom. Those close to Korkie said al-Qaida militants demanded a $3 million ransom for his release.

    “The psychological and emotional devastation to Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by al-Qaida tomorrow,” Gift of Givers said in a statement Saturday.

    “A team of Abyan leaders met in Aden this morning and were preparing the final security and logistical arrangements, related to hostage release mechanisms, to bring Pierre to safety and freedom. It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5:59 this morning was: `The wait is almost over.’”

    Somers, who was born in Britain, earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing while attending Beloit College in Wisconsin from 2004 through 2007.

    “He really wanted to understand the world,” said Shawn Gillen, an English professor and chairman of Beloit College’s journalism program who had Gillen as a student.

    Fuad Al Kadas, who called Somers one of his best friends, said Somers spent time in Egypt before finding work in Yemen. Somers started teaching English at a Yemen school but quickly established himself as a one of the few foreign photographers in the country, he said.

    “He is a great man with a kind heart who really loves the Yemeni people and the country,” Al Kadas wrote in an email from Yemen. He said he last saw Somers the day before Somers was kidnapped.

    “He was so dedicated in trying to help change Yemen’s future, to do good things for the people that he didn’t leave the country his entire time here,” Al Kadas wrote.

    Al-Arashi, his editor at the National Yemen, recalled a moment when Somers edited a story on other hostages held in the country.

    “He looked at me and said, `I don’t want to be a hostage,’” al-Arashi said. “`I don’t want to be kidnapped.’”

    This report was written by Ahmed Al-Haj and Julie Pace of the Associated Press.

    Pace reported from Washington. Associated Press writers who contributed to this report include Maamoun Youssef, Sarah El Deeb, Maggie Michael and Jon Gambrell in Cairo; Robert Burns in Kabul, Afghanistan; Ken Dilanian in Washington; Adam Schreck and Fay Abuelgasim in Manama, Bahrain; Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg and Yusof Abdul-Rahman in London.

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    When someone dies, he or she inevitably leaves behind a digital footprint composed of social media profiles, e-mail accounts, photos and other documents that may otherwise hang in an online limbo.

    As our digital lives become more complicated, one important question begs asking: How can we tie up all of our loose ends to avoid being haunted by a digital afterlife?

    The answer may surprise you.

    Because of varying terms of service, only some websites offer end-of-life options. And dozens of commercial websites have emerged over the last few years to help.

    Here are a few.

    Facebook provides “memorialized” profiles

    The social media giant allows user profiles to be “memorialized”, which limits the account from popping up on news feeds and blocks it from outside use.

    It also lets friends and family leave posts of remembrance on the page of the deceased. Facebook does look at requests from immediate family members to remove a deceased user’s account, but they must provide proof of their relationship to the person who has died.

    Google offers “end-of-life” service

    Last year, Google began offering an end-of-life service called Inactive Account Manager, which allows users of many of its products the option of deciding what happens to their data. Users can specify when their account is treated as inactive and add trusted contacts who should be notified to delete or share data with specific people after a set period of inactivity.

    Posthumous messages greet loved ones on special occasions

    Sites such as Afterwords and My Goodbye Message allow users to write messages to friends and family to be sent after the user has died. Some sites like To Loved Ones even allow users to time messages to be sent on specific occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries.

    Digital vaults keep online information secure

    End-of-life services like TheDocSafe and Death Switch allow people to place important information, such as bank statements, usernames, and passwords, into secure online storage. The user designates one or more trusted people to release the information to, once he or she has passed away.

    Online memorials keep memories alive in the digital space

    Memorial sites allow loved ones to set up web pages devoted to a deceased person’s memory. Some sites like Bcelebrated actually allow the user to set up their own memorial page ahead of their death.

    For more end-of-life services, visit TheDigitalBeyond.

    For more from NewsHour on digital death and online estate planning, including an interview with TheDigitalBeyond.com co-author, Evan Carroll — see our earlier reporting: Law Lags Behind in Defining Posthumous Protocol for Online Accounts.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Editor’s note: This video is an update to a story that originally aired on July 12, 2014.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Do you have an email account? How about a Facebook page? Bank online? Shop online? Pay your gas, light, or cable TV bill over the internet?

    I’ve just laid out more than a half dozen accounts that many of us have, likely each with its own password.

    These accounts don’t die with us. The passwords to each of them, are often times locked away with only one person—the deceased. Which means that valuable online assets could be lost forever—or be found by those looking to exploit them.

    Take the case of Glenn Williamson, a tech entrepreneur in Portland, Oregon. Two years ago, he got the worst news possible.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: I was in the Philippines speaking at a conference and, you know, when your phone goes off 15 times and it’s 3:00 in the morning in the United States, you have a bad feeling. You know it’s not a good call.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Glenn’s 73-year old mother, Lee, had died. As her fiduciary and as a 25-year veteran of the tech world, it fell to him to manage her online accounts.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: I knew my mom, being a cool grandma, was on Twitter. So, I knew she was on Twitter and I knew she had a Yahoo account, so we had a baseline to start, but that’s all we knew.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After 20 hours of searching, Glenn found 13 different accounts belonging to his mother, including email, social media, and shopping accounts.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: So we broke it down into categories: travel, sentimental value, security, and basically we searched on about 75 different sites

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Some had real value.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: We got to United, and United did indeed have my mom as a customer and there was 54,000 miles that we were able to retrieve for our family.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All this while he was grieving.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: And it’s a painful, it’s a long process, and everybody means well, but if one more person tells you they’re sorry—it’s like, okay, I just need to know, did she have an account or not.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Williamson and his wife are online savvy, relatively young and it was still tough to find all those accounts.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: So, the average person, especially if the average person is doing it in their 60’s, it’s a very, very difficult process.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Glenn’s problems managing his mother’s online estate helped inspire him to start a business solution called “WebCease”—an online service that helps people search for their deceased loved ones’ digital assets.

    It uses a person’s basic information—like an email address—and finds the major online accounts that are linked to it. And although WebCease won’t shut down an account for you, it will tell you what can be done under a website’s specific terms-of-service.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: My mom had an asset inventory of her financial accounts. But she didn’t have an asset inventory of all things digital, and that’s really what we provide to the family, is we provide them at—a high level—a digital asset inventory. So, you can look through it and say, “Oh, my mom was on Amazon and she had iTunes and Marriott and Hyatt, etcetera.” So, that’s really the value we provide.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: WebCease is one of a handful of websites that has sprung up over the last few years—sites like Navigatr, the Doc Safe, Capsoole, My Cyber safe, and Afternote—all of them trying to tackle what is becoming an increasingly common problem.

    SUZANNE WALSH: Nowadays, everyone keeps their filing cabinets on their computers and they may not have shared the access to that with their families.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Suzanne Walsh is an estate lawyer in West Hartford, Connecticut.

    SUZANNE WALSH: I have received panicked calls from family members who don’t know passwords, don’t know the nature of the online accounts. They simply know mom paid the bills online and they may not even be sure about the bank.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Walsh says that the main problem is one of access. In many cases, we have made it virtually illegal for anyone else to use our online accounts.

    It starts with those terms-of-service agreements; the fine print of the online world. Once the “I agree” button is pressed, it’s as good as a contract.

    SUZANNE WALSH: Many of them prohibit the sharing of passwords and they prohibit third-party access. So, right now, they tend to bar anybody but the account holder accessing the account.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That means —even if the account-holder is dead.

    Internet service providers say, they’re following the letter of the law as spelled out in the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which prohibits anyone from accessing private information online without permission.

    SUZANNE WALSH: The problem with fiduciary access now is that it may be a violation of federal privacy law or a computer fraud and abuse act. It may be an actual criminal act to violate the terms of service agreement.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But being unable to access or shut down a deceased loved one’s accounts could have unforeseen risks, as Glenn Williamson—who spent 20 years in online security—will tell you.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: The year after somebody passes is one of the most vulnerable times for identity theft. It’s a heinous crime, but what the bad guys do, because death is public record, they’ll go out there and they’ll comb through recently deceased and they’ll create a fake identity, because the deceased don’t check email and they don’t get the mail.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Every year, more than 2 million Americans are the posthumous victims of identity fraud. Thieves can use a dead person’s information to rack up credit card charges, apply for loans, or even file false tax returns.

    And much of this information can be found on the internet through something as simple as a shopping account.

    To date, only seven states have any laws in effect that govern online estate planning.

    Suzanne Walsh, who chairs a committee on the Uniform Law Commission—an organization which drafts laws which it hopes to standardize in all 50 states—is hoping to change that.

    Over the past two years, Walsh’s committee has been drafting the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which would give fiduciaries the same rights over online estates as they now have over physical estates.

    SUZANNE WALSH: Fiduciaries, traditionally, have access to everything in admin—especially in administering estates. And that used to mean opening up the mailbox, opening up the file cabinet, rifling through the desk. Our act is designed to continue that and facilitate that, given the different nature of the digital assets.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The bill was reviewed and enacted by the Uniform Law Commission this past July. But it’s still up to individual state legislatures to propose it and pass it as law.

    As of now, only one state—Delaware—has signed the act into law. Even so, the new law has faced opposition.

    The general counsel of a group called “The State Privacy and Security Coalition”—which represents Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, among others—has come out against the bill saying, quote, “This law takes no account of minimizing intrusions into the privacy of third parties who communicated with the deceased… This would include highly confidential communications to decedents from third parties who are still alive… who would be very surprised that an executor is reviewing the communications.”

    But, despite the pushback, Suzanne Walsh is hopeful that her committee’s work will be recognized in more state legislatures.

    SUZANNE WALSH: Widespread enactment is our goal. That’s our primary goal. Certainly we hope and expect that it won’t take more than a year or two for most of the states to adopt this product.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For now, there are steps that people can take now to make the process of digital estate management easier on next of kin.

    First, create an inventory list of all your online accounts and passwords for your fiduciary. Stipulate what to do with your email accounts in a will, and read the terms-of-service agreements, so you can understand how or even if access to your accounts can be granted to someone else.

    But Glenn Williamson says, no matter what steps you take or what laws are eventually passed, managing a digital estate for a loved one will always be a long, arduous, and painful process.

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    WASHINGTON — Federal agents who guard the border and screen passengers at airports would be exempt from new racial profiling guidelines that must be observed by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Those guidelines are being announced by the Obama administration in coming days and would restrict the ability of numerous federal agencies to take into account factors including religion and national origin during investigations, officials say.

    A U.S. official familiar with the guidelines said Friday night that the new guidelines banning racial profiling exempt the Transportation Security Administration and also do not cover inspections at ports of entry and interdictions at border crossings. The official was not authorized to discuss the guidelines by name and spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement expected within the coming days.

    The new guidelines apply to federal law enforcement agents but aren’t binding on local police departments whose officers who are more likely to have day-to-day contact with community members. Their formulation also long predates high-profile cases, such as the police shooting in August in Ferguson, Missouri, that have placed police treatment of minorities in the spotlight.

    But the guidelines are nonetheless a significant legacy item for outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder and come during a time of national reckoning about racial bias in law enforcement and community relations with police.

    “This new guidance will codify our commitment to the very highest standards of fair and effective policing,” Holder told an audience in Atlanta on Monday night in previewing the announcement.

    Federal law enforcement agents are banned from routine racial profiling under a 2003 Bush administration policy that created a significant exemption for national security investigations. This policy goes beyond the decade-old one, expanding the definition of racial profiling to ban the practice on the basis of characteristics including religion, national origin and sexual orientation, the official said.

    The American Civil Liberties Union said the inclusion of those categories represented a “significant leap forward” in guarding against profiling.

    But the guidelines will not end the FBI’s ability to collect racial and ethnic information about neighborhoods, a practice known as “mapping” that has long disquieted civil liberties advocates, said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, who is familiar with the new policy.

    “In essence, the guidance is a major improvement, but it’s not sufficient,” she said.

    The outline of the guidelines was first reported by The Washington Post on Friday night.

    The guidelines apply to law enforcement agencies within the Justice Department, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the U.S. official. The official added that the Department of Homeland Security – which handles airport and border security, among other priorities – fought against being subject to the same rules in the administration’s new guidelines.

    ACLU officials said they were troubled that the protocols wouldn’t apply to Homeland Security components who serve at the border or in airports, saying that exemption would disproportionately affect Latinos and religious minorities.

    “Focusing on an entire class of people instead of on actual conduct is unfair and harms our national security by wasting scarce government resources and eroding minority communities’ trust in government,” the group said in a statement.

    Holder has made civil rights a cornerstone priority as attorney general, and the issue has taken on added importance in recent months with the Ferguson case and the July death of Eric Garner, a New York man who was placed by a police officer in what appeared to a chokehold. Local grand juries declined to indict the officers in both cases.

    Still, given the guidelines’ emphasis on federal law enforcement, it’s not clear how much impact they’ll have on the routine police practices of local agencies.

    “Based on what we know about the changes that are coming out, I’m not sure how it ties into the Eric Garner/Ferguson issue,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center, a public policy and law institute. “In both of those cases, you had local law enforcement that was involved in the incidents, and the guidelines don’t regulate state and local police.”

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    Pfc. Zach Fike, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew readies an aircraft at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan in May 2014.

    Pfc. Zach Fike, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew readies an aircraft at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan in May 2014. On Dec. 6, 2014, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that more troops than originally planned will remain in Afghanistan into 2015. Credit: Department of Defense.

    KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday the United States will keep as many as 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than planned for the first part of 2015.

    At a news conference at the presidential palace with President Ashraf Ghani, Hagel said the original plan to cut U.S. troop levels to 9,800 by the end of this year had been abandoned, but not because of a recent surge in Taliban attacks.

    Hagel said the U.S. will keep up to 10,800 troops for the first few months of next year and then restart the drawdown, which is scheduled to reach 5,500 troops by the end of 2015.

    The U.S. decided to keep additional forces in the country temporarily because planned troop commitments by U.S. allies for a NATO train-and-assist mission starting in January have been slow to materialize.

    President Barack Obama “has provided U.S. military commanders the flexibility to manage any temporary force shortfall that we might experience for a few months as we allow for coalition troops to arrive in theater,” he said. “But the president’s authorization will not change our troops’ missions, or the long-term timeline for our drawdown,” he added.

    On his final visit to Afghanistan as U.S. defense secretary, Hagel said with striking optimism that he believes Afghans will successfully put down a surge in Taliban attacks in the capital and stabilize the nation.

    Hagel arrived in Kabul on a previously unannounced trip one day after Obama declared he would nominate one of Hagel’s former deputies, Ashton Carter, to succeed Hagel, who resigned under pressure Nov. 24.

    In an interview with reporters traveling with him from Washington aboard a military aircraft, Hagel was in a reflective mood about America’s longest war. He recalled arriving in Kabul in January 2002 as a member of a congressional delegation when security was so dicey that the lawmakers arrived under cover of darkness and left before dawn. Hagel at the time was a Republican senator from Nebraska.

    The Taliban, which had ruled Afghanistan since 1996, were forced from power in late 2001 just weeks after a U.S.-led invasion prompted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But they recovered gradually after the U.S. shifted its military focus to Iraq in 2003, and by 2008 the U.S. was conceding that the war in Afghanistan was stalemated.

    Hagel, on his fourth trip to Afghanistan as defense secretary, said it should not be surprising that the Taliban are still able to launch significant attacks in the capital.

    “The Taliban are going to continue to have pockets of resurgence, and it’s predictable that they would do everything they possibly could to disrupt” the new Afghan government under Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, Hagel said.

    The Taliban clearly are aiming to disrupt the new government and undermine confidence in it. But Hagel said they have failed thus far and are unlikely to ever succeed.

    “I have confidence in the Afghan security forces that they will continue to meet these challenges,” he said.

    Hagel said that during his visit he intended to discuss with Ghani and Abdullah the state of security in Kabul and ways that it can be improved. He said the main reason for his visit is to reinforce support for their new government, reiterate a long-term U.S. commitment here and to thank American troops.

    The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan has lasted far longer than anyone predicted at the outset in October 2001, and the final result, after more than 2,200 U.S. deaths, remains in doubt even as Obama officially ends the U.S. combat mission Dec. 31.

    Hagel said that in hindsight the struggle to prevent Afghanistan from reverting to a haven for al-Qaida has been difficult but worthwhile.

    “As difficult, as challenging, as long as this has been, by any definition the country of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan, are far better off today than they were 13 years ago, if for no other reason than they have the opportunity to decide their own fate, their own way, on their terms,” he said.

    “They’re not completely there yet, but they’ve come a long way and that’s to the credit certainly of the United States,” Hagel said.

    At the peak in 2010-2011 the U.S. had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. The Americans have fought alongside troops from a coalition of countries, including Britain, Canada, Australia, Italy, Denmark, Turkey and Poland.

    About 9,800 U.S. troops are to remain after this year as part of a NATO mission, dubbed Resolute Support, to train and assist Afghan security forces and to carry out counter-terrorism missions. The U.S. troop total is to shrink further to 5,500 by the end of next year but the pace of the decline is yet to be decided.

    Hagel said he would be consulting with the top U.S. commander here, Army Gen. John Campbell, about the troop drawdown and other issues.

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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Saturday he authorized the attempt to rescue American Luke Somers in Yemen because the U.S. had information that the American photojournalist’s life was in imminent danger.

    Shortly before the White House statement, Yemen’s national security chief said militants had planned to kill Somers on Saturday. On Thursday, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula posted a video online threatening to kill the American.

    Authorities said Somers, who was kidnapped in September 2013, and a South African teacher, Pierre Korkie, died in the rescue operation that Obama said was conducted by U.S. forces in partnership with Yemen’s government.

    The president said he “strongly condemns the barbaric murder of Luke Somers at the hands of al-Qaida terrorists” and reaffirmed that the U.S. “will spare no effort to use all its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located.”

    Obama said terrorists “who seek to harm out citizens will feel the long arm of American justice.”

    A mysterious U.S. raid last month had tried to rescue Somers but he was not at the site, the Pentagon’s spokesman acknowledged Thursday.

    Obama cited the captors’ video threatening to kill Somers within 72 hours and said “other information also indicated that Luke’s life was in imminent danger.”

    “Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized a rescue attempt yesterday,” Obama said in the White House statement.

    Secretary of State John Kerry also cited “a compelling indication that Luke’s life was in immediate danger” and said “we recommended that the president authorize an attempt to rescue Luke.”

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a news conference in Afghanistan that the rescue operation was “extremely well executed,” and was complicated and risky.

    Obama said Somers wanted to use his photographic images to convey the lives of Yemenis to outsiders, and had come to the country “in peace and was held against his will and threatened by a despicable terrorist organization. The callous disregard for Luke’s life is more proof of the depths of AQAP’s depravity, and further reason why the world must never cease in seeking to defeat their evil ideology.”

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Editor’s note: This video is an update to a story that originally aired on October 27, 2013.

    KARLA MURTHY: Artur Makylyervsky runs a startup company that allows users to customize original artwork online to make prints, t-shirts or mobile cases. 

    ARTUR MAKLYERVSKY: Takes two clicks to just essentially change a product…

    KARLA MURTHY: It’s an idea that he thinks could take off, so he’s working on building his business and hopes to be able to sell his idea to big investors.

    That can be a time consuming and difficult process. It takes face-to-face meetings, networking and luck to hook an investor with big bucks.

    ARTUR MAKLYAREVSKY: There’s only so much that they’re going’ to invest per year. And every hour, there is exponentially more and more and more and more start-ups getting into the market. So it’s going to be harder for us to kind of bubble up.

    KARLA MURTHY: But now startup businesses could soon have another source of cash.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: For startups and small businesses, this bill is a potential game changer.

    KARLA MURTHY: That’s because a little-known provision in the 2012 JOBS Act, signed by President Obama, allows non-publicly traded companies to use the Internet to raise investment capital.

    It’s a practice known as crowdfunding – raising a large pool of money from many small contributions. Companies can raise up to $1 million dollars a year.

    Before the JOBS Act, to invest in most startups an individual had to be “accredited,” meaning that they earned more than $200,000 dollars a year or were worth at least a million dollars.

    Now, even if you earn less than $100 thousand dollars a year, you’ll be allowed to invest up to $2,000 or 5 percent of your annual income in these new companies.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: For the first time, ordinary Americans will be able to go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in.

    KARLA MURTHY: The question is this: Will it provide an opportunity for someone of ordinary means to get in early on a potentially lucrative investment? Or is it a disastrous rollback of laws designed to protect investors from risky ventures that often fail?

    Steve Case co-founded AOL and is now CEO of Revolution, an investment firm in Washington D.C. He’s convinced the law will encourage the creation of more startups.

    STEVE CASE: I think it’s going to unleash another wave of entrepreneurship all across the nation.

    KARLA MURTHY: Case served on President Obama’s jobs council and was a major supporter of the JOBS Act,

    STEVE CASE: We need to really make sure we’re doubling down on our nation’s entrepreneurs, and the JOBS Act will help do that by providing more entrepreneurs in more places in more sectors of our economy the ability to raise the capital, either to get started or to grow their company.

    KARLA MURTHY: Artur Makylyervsky says this new law could make it easier for him to raise money.

    ARTUR MAKLYAREVSKY: Essentially, it will allow us to focus on growth much faster and not have to deal with the standard angel VC funding ventures that we would have to go on.

    KARLA MURTHY: Is this also going to create more jobs?

    STEVE CASE: Absolutely. If we want to get our unemployment rate down, the place to focus is startups. If we want to get our economic growth rate up, the place is to focus is startups. If we want to make sure we’re competitive, the place to focus is startups.

    KARLA MURTHY: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, each year since 1994, startups have created more jobs than the total number lost and gained by all U.S. businesses.

    And supporters say that by updating the law so companies can raise money from anyone over the Internet, entrepreneurs will have more access to capital and will in turn create more jobs.

    STEVE CASE: The Internet didn’t exist 80 years ago. Most people didn’t have television, you know, 80 years ago. Most people didn’t have cars 80 years ago. The world has changed and it was time to update our securities law to reflect that.

    KARLA MURTHY: But at what risk to small investors, who could be putting their money in the riskiest of startups: Businesses that may have failed to raise enough money from venture capitalists.

    MIKE STOCKER: The issue is, is it a good idea for investors? And I think the answer to that is a resounding no.

    KARLA MURTHY: Attorney Mike Stocker represents investors. He says this new provision in the JOBS Act undoes protections put in place during the Great Depression.

    MIKE STOCKER: If we change them now we are forgetting not only what we learned then, but what we learned in this great recession that we’ve just come through.

    KARLA MURTHY: A lot of the supporters of equity crowdfunding are saying we are just bringing these laws into this century, I mean the Internet wasn’t around back then, and we just really need to update these laws in order to reflect the way business works now.

    What’s your response to that?

    MIKE STOCKER: Well, that’s certainly been part of the huge mass appeal to crowdfunding that it sounds kind of sexy and kind of 21st century, and most importantly kind of democratic because everyone can get involved.

    The thing that they are actually asking to be updated is traditional limitations on the ability of small, private companies to raise money from mom and pop investors. And those restrictions have been in place historically because those are very risky investments.

    KARLA MURTHY: Isn’t there some benefit for having this just open to accredited investors that are wealthy and maybe more sophisticated and know what’s entailed with the risk and are more knowledgeable about investing?

    STEVE CASE: I understand that concern. We don’t have that limitation in terms of letting people buy a house which is risky. We don’t have that limitation in terms of people investing in the stock market which is risky. We don’t have that limitation in terms people gambling in Las Vegas which is really risky.

    Why should we tell people they shouldn’t be able to invest in startups? For the last 80 years, you essentially had to be a millionaire to invest in startups. So it was kind of a way for the rich to get richer, but everybody else was being left out.

    KARLA MURTHY: I know some skeptics are really worried about fraud and protecting the investors. I mean, is that something you’re concerned about, that maybe some of these investors might get fleeced?

    STEVE CASE: I think there’s always risk of that. I think the right protections are being put in place and I remember, since we started AOL almost 30 years ago when the Internet was still just beginning to be an idea.

    And when people started talking about the idea of ecommerce when people entering their credit cards on the Internet, they said, “that’s never going to happen. People are never want to enter their credit cards.” over time, people got comfortable that they were going to be protected.

    These new technologies, these new ideas will take some time to really settle out and really have the kind of impact they can have.

    KARLA MURTHY: But there’s a catch – even though startups were supposed to be able to use this new tool to raise money by this January 2013, the SEC still hasn’t fully implemented the crowdfunding provision of the JOBS Act.

    STEVE CASE: I think they want to be deliberate and make sure they get it right, which I understand.

    But I think they also need to understand there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there with companies that aren’t getting started because they don’t have access to capital or with existing companies that could be growing and creating jobs that aren’t doing that because they don’t have access to capital.

    KARLA MURTHY: In October 2013, the SEC released proposed rules for crowdfunding and has received hundreds of comments. But today, using crowdfunding to raise investment capital from ordinary investors is still not legal for entrepreneurs.

    Many supporters of the provision have expressed concern that the rules and even some of the requirements in the original bill make it unworkable for many small businesses trying to raise money.

    PATRICK MCHENRY, R-NC: It is now clear that the current statute has failed.  

    KARLA MURTHY: Even though the crowdfunding provision still hasn’t been enacted, Congressman Patrick McHenry, who helped author the original bill, introduced the ‘Equity Crowdfunding Improvement Act of 2014′ in May.

    The new legislation would increase the amount a company can raise using crowdfunding from $1 million to $5 million and companies would not have to provide financials when raising up to $3 million, up from $500,000 in the original bill.

    While that bill has not yet been voted on and the SEC still works on the final crowdfunding rules, many states are not waiting.

    Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have allowed companies raising money in their own borders to use crowdfunding — an exemption allowed under federal law. At least 12 others are considering joining them.

    But for many entrepreneurs, including Artur Maklyrevesky, crowdfunding remains out of reach more than two and a half years after JOBS Act was signed into law.

    The post A distant dream? Crowdfunding still beyond reach for many entrepreneurs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Fishermen carry thier outrigger to higher ground in Legazpi City, south of Manila on December 5, 2014, ahead of the landfall of Typhoon Hagupit. Thousands of people in the Philippines sought shelter in churches, schools and other makeshift evacuation centres on December 5 as monster Typhoon Hagupit bore down on the disaster-weary nation. (Credit: Charism SAYAT/AFP/Getty Images)

    Fishermen carry their outrigger to higher ground in Legazpi City, south of Manila on Dec. 5, 2014, ahead of the landfall of Typhoon Hagupit. Thousands of people in the Philippines sought shelter in churches, schools and other makeshift evacuation centers as Hagupit bore down on the disaster-weary nation. Credit: Charism SAYAT/AFP/Getty Images

    More than 650,000 people were evacuating from coastal villages in the Philippines as Typhoon Haguipit made landfall early Saturday.

    The storm weakened before hitting the town of Delores on the eastern coast, but the Philippines weather agency registered sustained winds of more than 100 mph and gusts of 130 mph, the Associated Press reported.

    “There are many trees that have toppled, some of them on the highway,” police Senior Inspector Alex Robin told the AP. “We are totally in the dark here. The only light comes from flashlights.”

    The typhoon knocked out power, downed trees and has canceled more than 150 flights since Friday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

    It was unlikely that Hagupit would reach the same intensity as Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the country in early November of 2013 and became one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, but officials warned the heavy winds could still set off deadly storm surges and landslides. 

    “Everybody is in fear because of what happened during (Haiyan),” Eastern Samar province Rep. Ben Evardone told the AP. “We can already feel the wrath of the typhoon. Everybody is praying.”

    The post Typhoon Hagupit slams into Philippines as thousands evacuate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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