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

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    Police block the West Florissant Avenue, where protesters and looters rampaged businesses following the grand jury decision in the fatal shooting of a 18-year-old black teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 25, 2014.  Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The nation’s been focused on Staten Island, Ferguson, and Cleveland in the last few weeks as citizens and law enforcement assess how they have and how they should deal with one another.

    This as a new investigation by the The Wall Street Journal reveals that accounting for killings by police might be grossly underestimated.

    Wall Street Journal reporter Rob Barry joins us now. So, how did you do your reporting, and what did you find?

    ROB BARRY: Thanks for having me. What we did was we asked about 105 departments to give us the number of people who have been killed over a five or six year period.

    And we compared those numbers to what had reported to the FBI. And we found that there was a lot of stuff that wasn’t in the FBI’s information.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You said that at least 550 police killings between 2007 and 2012 never made it onto the books?

    ROB BARRY: Yeah, and that’s only among the top 105, 110 largest agencies in the country.

    So there’s 18,000 jurisdictions. So you know, that’s just a small estimate of the total.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, so for example, some jurisdictions could call something a justifiable homicide versus an unjustifiable homicide? Discrepancies in definitions? What do you mean?

    ROB BARRY: Yes, it was a wide range of things. That was certainly one of the issues there, that what we’re dealing with here are essentially crime reports.

    And agencies who are forced to report information about unfortunate events where officers take someone’s life. They don’t really want to include that in a crime report.

    It’s not a crime in their eyes. It was a justifiable event. So there was some concern by some agencies about that issue.

    There’s also a lot of other issues involved. You had technical issues. So you have departments which, at least they told us, they thought that these things were being reported, they thought they were participating in this program.

    But then when they went in and they looked into it, when we said to them, “hey, here’s the numbers that you reported,” maybe there would be one, but they told us 10.

    They’d look into it and they’d say, “Oh, well it turns out that we haven’t been keying it in correctly.” So that was another issue.

    And then I think the largest issue was that three of the biggest states in the country – New York, Florida, and Illinois – have almost nothing reported.

    And that’s because of how this process works. What happens is that when an agency wants to send this information to the FBI, they pass it through a state agency first.

    And in all three of those states’ cases, there are issues, varying issues, with the way that the states then turn around and pass it up to the FBI.

    Such that there’s no information about justifiable homicides from any of those states.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What you’re also saying here is that not everybody has to report.

    ROB BARRY: It’s voluntary, exactly. And when you’re dealing with 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, a lot of them small, a lot of these agencies only have five, 10, officers at them, these events are very rare.

    Reporting them is just not built into their process in many cases.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So we’ve got different definitions, we’ve got 18,000 jurisdictions, it’s all voluntary, and I’m assuming some of these departments are pretty sensitive about this information in the first place.

    ROB BARRY: Yeah, of course. I mean, each of these things are inflammatory or potentially inflammatory events.

    So there were concerns – a lot of departments asked me when we went to them and said, “Will you provide us with the number of incidents you’ve had,” quite a few departments answered first saying “Why? Yes we’ll give it to you, but just tell us why you want this.”

    There’s a lot of concern about it being used for comparisons. And I mean, you know, when we see what’s happening across the country right now, I think that you can understand that concern.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And your reporting is not saying that all cops. You’re just pointing out that there’s this discrepancy in how we’re reporting the information.

    So if there are these gaps in the data set, how do we make any policy based on maybe faulty numbers?

    ROB BARRY: That is a great point. And that’s why we were looking at this in the first place.

    We wanted to get a benchmark. We wanted to know how often does this happen and who does it happen to?

    When we tried to do that using the available information and took it to experts, everyone said well, you can’t really do that.

    And we said, OK. And that raised the question of why not?

    In terms of solutions as to what we’d do from here, it’s a complicated problem. And we’ve discussed most of the reasons why.

    Some of – some of the people involved in this are working now towards coming up with incentives, financial incentives from the federal government or some sort of mandatory process that would require these things to be reported.

    But from what I’ve been able to tell at this point, there’s nothing concrete on the way.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Rob Barry from The Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    ROB BARRY: Thank you for having me.

    The post Is the FBI underreporting killings by police? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo from Luke Somers' Facebook

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS ANCHOR: Joining me now via Skype from Bahrain is “New York Times” reporter Eric Schmidt. So Eric, what do we know about the details of this operation?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: Well, overnight Friday early morning in Yemen, about three dozen special operations forces, including Navy SEAL Team 6, swept into a small village in southern Yemen with the object of trying to free Luke Somers, the American photojournalist who was held hostage there. They came in on Osprey helicopter, Osprey aircraft, approached on foot to a walled compound, and got within about a hundred yards of this compound when somehow they were detected by the armed gunmen inside who were holding the hostages.

    A gun battle broke out, and in the – before the commandos could get inside the compound, both hostages had been shot as the militants fled. The commandoes hurried to get both hostages, Luke Somers and a South African aboard the aircraft and out to the Navy ship, which has launched the mission. Unfortunately, one of the hostages died en route. The other died on the ship itself.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And this wasn’t the first time that we’ve tried to rescue Mr. Somers, right?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: No, it was just about – oh, just a little less than two weeks ago when another special operations team also conducted a raid on what they believed to be a site holding hostages. And they did rescue about eight other hostages, including several Yemenese. But Mr. Somers had been moved, along with three or four other Westerners. So this was a follow-up effort to try and rescue them before a deadline imposed by the al Qaeda affiliate (ph) in Yemen expired on Saturday.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Were there any other injuries, any members of the U.S. Special Forces that were injured or civilians on the ground or the people who were holding him hostage?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: There have been some reports, media reports, of civilian causalities, but I have not yet been able to confirm that. There were no military casualties as part of this team. It’s a dangerous part, a remote part of southern Yemen, of course, that al Qaeda, the al Qaeda affiliate there has controlled for some time now. So this is a very dangerous, high-risk mission.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is a joint operation between U.S. forces and Yemeni forces. How has that been going over the past year or two years as these governments have been trying to work together?

    ERIC SCHMIDT: Well, the government in Yemen under President Hadi has been a very effective partner in the counterterrorism field. U.S. has had trainers inside of Yemen, training some of their counterterrorism and special operations forces. And there were a few Yemeni counterterrorism specialists onboard this mission, but it was primarily a U.S. operation to rescue the American and anybody else they could find in this compound.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And you know, everyone in the United States recognizes or remembers in 2011 the successful operation to kill Osama Bin Laden, to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. But since then, at least in the recent past, there have been a couple of failures as well, highlighting how difficult and dangerous these are.

    ERIC SCHMIDT: Exactly. And it just underscores the fragility of the intelligence that these special operations officers have to use when they go in. In this case, they were under some time pressures that they knew the hostages were threatened with death by the end of Saturday, or at least the American hostage was. Because of the previous raid just a couple of weeks ago, the militants knew that they may – the Americans might be coming again. And so the element of surprise was going to be very difficult to achieve in a mission like this.

    And I think you’re right, it does underscore the limitations of military force in trying to rescue captured citizens like Mr. Somers.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Eric Schmidt of “The New York Times” reporting for us from Bahrain via Skype. Thanks so much.

    ERIC SCHMIDT: Thank you.

    The post Behind the failed rescue effort of Luke Somers in Yemen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    American photojournalist Luke Somers, who was killed by his Al Qaeda captors during a failed U.S.-led rescue attempt, was remembered on Saturday by colleagues who knew him in Yemen, including NewsHour Desk Assistant Tik Root.

    “It really hit home with a lot of us,” said Root, describing Somers’s capture in September of 2013.

    “He was kidnapped in front of a supermarket that we all shopped at, at a time of day when we could have gone there,” Root said in an interview. “And he was doing nothing out of the ordinary. We were very much aware that it could have been any one of us.”

    In light of President Barack Obama’s announcement that 33-year-old Somers was among two hostages killed “at the hands of Al-Qaida terrorists” during a rescue attempt conducted by U.S. forces in Yemen, Root published a blog post with some of Somers’s photos showcasing his work in Yemen.

    Root said Somers was working as a teacher when Root met him in Yemen — until the Arab Spring uprising broke out in the country. That’s when Somers picked up a camera. 

    “I think one of the things that really shone through with Luke was his love of the country and of the people; that was pretty undeniable,” Root said. “And I think, like a lot of people during that time, he was inspired to document what was happening around him.”

    Watch our full conversation below:

    The post Recalling Luke Somers as a ‘passionate’ and ‘dedicated’ colleague appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A picture taken on April 20, 2014 shows five-day-old Rothschild giraffe Jabulani at the Zoo-Aquarium in Madrid. (Credit: Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

    A picture taken on April 20, 2014 shows five-day-old Rothschild giraffe Jabulani at the Zoo-Aquarium in Madrid. (Credit: Dani Pozo/AFP/Getty Images)

    The population of African giraffes has decreased by 40 percent over the last 15 years, new research shows, pushing the world’s tallest animal closer to extinction. 

    Fewer than 80,000 giraffes are roaming sub-Saharan Africa today, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, compared to more than 140,000 reported in 1999 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    The most threatened subspecies are the West African giraffe and the Rothschild’s giraffe, according to GCF. Both are currently on the endangered species list.

    Most to blame for the drastic plunge in numbers are human population growth and migration, especially in conflict-ridden areas like Somalia and Ethiopia, according to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species report. 

    Poaching, particularly in Tanzania, is another major cause, as Rothschild’s are routinely hunted for their brains and bone marrow, which some locals believe can cure them of HIV and AIDS, Dr. Julian Fennessy, GCF’s executive director told ABC News.

    Poachers can make up to $140 for a freshly severed giraffe head or bones, researcher Zoe Muller said in a 2010 Rothschild’s Giraffe Project report. 

    The IUCN report says about 40 percent of the remaining giraffe population lives around protected areas, including the Waza National Park in Cameroon, Zakouma National Park in Chad, Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, and in facilities in five other countries.

    The post Report: Giraffe populations in Africa drop 40 percent in 15 years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Caption:COVINGTON, LA - OCTOBER 13: Supports of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) holds up signs for their candidate as U.S. Sen candidate and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) (L) and U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (2nd L) arrive for a Veterans rally at the American Legion Post on October 13, 2014 in Covington, Louisiana. Cassidy is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Supporters of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) held up signs for their candidate amidst political lawn signs endorsing one of her original opponents, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Cassidy defeated Landrieu in a runoff election on Dec. 7, 2014. Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    BATON ROUGE, La. — Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy has denied Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana a fourth term, calling his Senate victory “the exclamation point” on midterm elections that put Republicans in charge on Capitol Hill for President Barack Obama’s last two years in office.

    With nearly all votes counted, unofficial returns showed Cassidy with a commanding victory in Saturday’s runoff as he ousted the last of the Senate’s Deep South Democrats. In the South, Democrats will be left without a single U.S. senator or governor across nine states stretching from the Carolinas to Texas.

    Cassidy, after a campaign spent largely linking Landrieu to Obama, called his win more of the same message American voters sent nationally on Nov. 4 as Republicans scored big gains in both chambers of Congress.

    “This victory happened because people in Louisiana voted for a government that serves us, that does not tell us what to do,” Cassidy said in Baton Rouge, the state capital.

    He did not mention Obama or offer any specifics about his agenda in the Senate, but said in his victory speech that voters have demanded “a conservative direction” on health care, budgets and energy policy.

    Following Cassidy’s victory, Republicans will hold 54 seats when the Senate convenes in January, nine more than they have now.

    Republican victories in two Louisiana House districts on Saturday – including the seat Cassidy now holds – ensure at least 246 seats, compared to 188 for Democrats, the largest GOP advantage since the Truman administration after World War II. An Arizona recount leaves one House race still outstanding.

    Landrieu narrowly led a Nov. 4 Senate primary ballot that included eight candidates from all parties. But at 42 percent, she fell well below her marks in previous races and was sent into a one-month runoff campaign that Republicans dominated over the air waves.

    The GOP sweep also denied former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards a political comeback at age 87; the colorful politician who had served four terms as governor in the past had sought a return to public office after eight years in federal prison on corruption charges.

    Landrieu hugged tearful supporters and sought to strike an upbeat chord Saturday night after her defeat. Her defeat was also a blow for one of Louisiana’s most famous political families, leaving her brother, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, to carry the banner.

    “We may not have won tonight, but we have certainly won some extraordinary victories,” she told supporters, citing her role in directing additional oil and gas royalties to Louisiana and securing federal aid after multiple hurricanes and the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill.

    “It’s been a fight worth waging,” she said in New Orleans. She also said she was “proud” of her efforts to expand health care access, though she didn’t specifically mention the Affordable Care Act.

    The Louisiana race mirrored contests in other states this election season, with Landrieu, 59, joining Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor in defeat. Democrats ceded seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia after incumbents opted not to run again.

    Like victorious Republicans in those races, Cassidy, a 57-year-old Illinois native, made his bid against Landrieu more about Obama than about his own vision for the job.

    In a state where 73 percent of white voters on Nov. 4 told pollsters they “strongly disapproved” of the president, that was enough to prevent Landrieu from finding her footing as she tried several lines of attack.

    Her anchor argument was that her seniority was a boon for Louisiana, particularly her chairmanship of the Senate’s energy committee, an important panel for this oil-rich Gulf Coast state. But that argument was gutted Nov. 4 when Republicans won the Senate majority, meaning Landrieu would have lost her post even had she won.

    The incumbent also had argued the race shouldn’t be about Obama, but also targeted advertising on radio stations geared to the black community, where the president remains popular. And she hammered Cassidy as unfit for the job and more interested in partisanship than helping Louisiana.

    The post Senate’s last Deep South Democrat ousted in runoff election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Foreign governments and U.S. intelligence agencies are predicting that the release of a Senate report examining the use of torture by the CIA will cause “violence and deaths” abroad, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday.

    Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, is regularly briefed on intelligence assessments. He told CNN’s “State of the Union” that U.S. intelligence agencies and foreign governments have said privately that the release of the report on CIA interrogations a decade ago will be used by extremists to incite violence that is likely to cost lives. The 480-page report, a summary of a still-classified 6,000 page study, is expected to be made public next week.

    On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry urged the senator in charge of the report to consider the timing of the release, though Obama administration officials say they still support making it public. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has not responded to reports of the Kerry call, though she told the Los Angeles Times in a story published Sunday that “We have to get this report out.”

    A congressional aide noted that the White House has led negotiations to declassify the report since April, and that both the president and his director of national intelligence have endorsed its release. The government has taken steps to beef up security at American posts around the world, said the aide, who was not authorized to be quoted by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The report amounts to the first public accounting of the CIA’s use of torture on al-Qaida detainees held in secret facilities in Europe and Asia in the years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    U.S. officials who have read it say it includes disturbing new details about the CIA’s use of such techniques as sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces, humiliation and the simulated drowning process known as waterboarding. President Barack Obama has acknowledged, “We tortured some folks.” The report also says the torture failed to produce life-saving intelligence, a conclusion disputed by current and former intelligence officials, including CIA director John Brennan.

    Rogers questioned why the report needed to become public, given that the Justice Department investigated and filed no criminal charges.

    Feinstein told the Los Angeles Times that the harsh interrogations undermined “societal and constitutional values that we are very proud of. Anybody who reads this is going to never let this happen again.”

    The post Release of report on CIA torture expected next week appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Artur Makylyervsky (center) runs a startup company that allows users to customize original artwork online to make prints, t-shirts or mobile cases. Credit: NewsHour

    Artur Makylyervsky (center) runs a startup company that allows users to customize original artwork online to make prints, t-shirts or mobile cases. Credit: NewsHour

    Raising a large pool of money from many small contributions online, known as crowdfunding, was supposed to be an option for startup business to raise money when President Obama signed the 2012 JOBS Act into law.

    But today, that method of raising investment capital still remains out of reach for many entrepreneurs.

    What’s your take? Do you think small investors should be able to fund startups?

    Take our poll and sound off in the comments below.

    The post Poll: Should small investors be allowed to fund startup businesses? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SANAA, Yemen – A high-risk, U.S.-led raid attempting to rescue hostages in Yemen a day earlier killed 10 al-Qaida militants, Yemeni security officials said Sunday.

    The captives – American photojournalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie – died of wounds sustained during the raid.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

    About 40 American special operations forces were involved in the rescue attempt, which followed U.S. drone strikes in the area, U.S. officials said.

    Following a firefight with militants, the rescuers eventually reached the men and found them alive but gravely wounded. They both died shortly after.

    On Thursday, al-Qaida released a video showing Somers and threatening to kill him in three days if the U.S. did not meet the group’s unspecified demands.

    In South Africa, Korkie’s body is expected to arrive from Yemen on Monday, according to a government statement issued Sunday.

    “The South African government sends deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Korkie for their loss. Condolences are also conveyed to the family and loved ones of the deceased American hostage,” said the government statement.

    Korkie’s widow, Yolande, and their two children have gone to a secluded place to grieve, said family friend Daan Nortier.

    “Yolande and the children are at a safe place and the family is being helped by counsellors,” said Nortier.

    Later in the day in the capital, Sanaa, gunmen at a funeral opened fire on a tribal leader aligned with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, killing three of his bodyguards and wounding him, security officials said.

    Sheikh Sagheer Bin Aziz was involved in fighting against Shiite Houthi rebels in 2010, who have since taken control of Sanaa. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters, said they believe Houthis were behind the attack.

    Separately, gunmen believed to be from al-Qaida fought with government troops in the southern city of Houta, killing one soldier and wounding three as they attempted to take control of government buildings but failed, the officials said.

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

    The post Yemen says US-led raid killed 10 al-Qaida fighters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    9999999GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba. Photo by the National Guard.

    A guard in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by the National Guard.

    Six detainees from Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba have been transferred to live freely in Uruguay, the Pentagon announced Sunday. 

    Officials in Uruguay chose the men– four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian — from a list of detainees, who were suspected of having al-Qaeda ties in 2002 but were never charged or given a trial, the Associated Press reported. They were cleared for release in 2009 and the transfer had been in the works since January.

    The Pentagon identified the Syrians sent to Uruguay Saturday as Abu Wa’el Dhiab, 43; Ali Husain Shaaban, 32; Ahmed Adnan Ajuri, 37; and Abdelahdi Faraj, 33. Also released were Palestinian Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan, 35, and 49-year-old Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi of Tunisia.

    This is the largest detainee contingent to leave Guantanamo Bay since 2009, and it’s the first group of detainees sent to South America.

    “We are very grateful to Uruguay for this important humanitarian action, and to President Mujica for his strong leadership in providing a home for individuals who cannot return to their own countries,” said U.S. State Department envoy Clifford Sloan, who also called the transfer a “milestone” in U.S. efforts to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay for good. 

    NewsHour’s William Brangham reported last October on the story of six other men — all ethnic Uighurs –  who were released from Guantánamo and sent to the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau. As Brangham reported, while the men were grateful to be out of prison, their lives had become stalled in a legal and political limbo. You can watch the full piece in the player above.

    More than 130 detainees still remain at Guantánamo, including 67 who have been approved for future transfers.  

    The post U.S. transfers six detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Uruguay appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is prescribing time and vigilance to tackle problems as entrenched in American society as racism and bias.

    He also is urging patience, saying progress usually comes in small steps.

    In an interview with BET, the president described his conversation with a group of young civil rights activists, including a leader of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, he hosted last week in the Oval Office.

    Obama said he told them that “this is something that is deeply rooted in our society, it’s deeply rooted in our history.”

    America has made gains, and that “gives us hope” of making more progress, he said.

    “We can’t equate what is happening now to what was happening 50 years ago,” Obama said, “and if you talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles, they’ll tell you that things are better, not good in some places, but better.”

    Obama said he is advising young people to be persistent because “typically progress is in steps, it’s in increments.”

    In dealing with something “as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society, you’ve got to have vigilance but you have to recognize that it’s going to take some time and you just have to be steady so that you don’t give up when you don’t get all the way there,” Obama said.

    The full interview is set to air Monday night. A video excerpt was released Sunday.

    The post Obama: Racism, bias in US will take time to tackle appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    YEMEN-US-UNREST-QAEDA

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We’re learning more about that failed hostage rescue attempt in Southern Yemen.

    U.S. special forces tried to free photojournalist Luke Somers from Al Qaeda militants yesterday, but the kidnappers fatally shot Somers and another hostage, South African teacher Pierre Korkie, just before the commandos could get to them.

    The BBC reports that the U.S. Special Forces didn’t know Korkie was being held there. A charity working on Korkie’s release says he was set to be freed today.

    I’m joined now by reporter Adam Entous, who chronicled the raid for The Wall Street Journal.

    So, in the past 24 hours, do we know any more information about any other casualties during this raid?

    ADAM ENTOUS, The Wall Street Journal: No.

    The latest we have heard is the Americans assessed that about six or seven AQAP, or Al Qaeda, militants were killed in the raid. None of the special forces that were involved in the operation, about 40 total, none of them were hurt or injured in any way.

    But, of course, the outcome, as we know, was not what was intended, with the — with the death of the two hostages.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And at what point during this operation did things go south?

    ADAM ENTOUS: What happened was is that the — the American commando team flew in on Osprey aircraft to a landing spot about 10 kilometers from the compound where the hostages were being held.

    And then they hiked by foot through this area to about 100 yards of the compound, when a noise was heard. One official told me that it might have been a dog bark, something as benign as that. And that tipped off the militants inside, who were already pretty trigger-happy, since there was a previous raid late last month to try to free the American hostage.

    And they — they opened fire. And, at that point, the commandos were still on the outside of the compound. And that’s when Americans believe that one of the militants went inside a building and fired shots, killing the two hostages.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s talk a little bit about the intelligence that went into this operation. Obviously, the timetable was accelerated with the deadline of a possible killing.

    But, even if these two governments are working together, with all the intelligence resources that they had, they still didn’t know that there was this other hostage there.

    ADAM ENTOUS: Well, they knew that there was another hostage there, but they didn’t know who it was.

    Basically, after the raid around Thanksgiving or just before Thanksgiving, the U.S. saw two hostages being moved from the previous site, which was a cave. They didn’t know who those people were, but they, it seems incorrectly, thought at the time that it did not include the American.

    They — that raid in November helped lead special forces to this new compound. And, clearly, the intelligence was correct, in the sense that it had the American there and a second hostage, although the Americans didn’t know who that second hostage was.

    But getting intelligence in this part of the world is incredibly, incredibly difficult. And, as you — as you know, intelligence is perishable. The information might be — might be right at one moment, but after a little bit of time, if the weather isn’t right and the drones can’t watch people coming and going, that intelligence can quickly be out of date.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    So, what does this do to future missions? Or you said in your reporting that some of the U.S. officials you spoke to were devastated by this failure.

    ADAM ENTOUS: Yes. This was the second very risky raid that the U.S. has done to try to get this American hostage in Yemen.

    And, at the White House, I know from talking to officials, they were really heartbroken that it was not successful. They really did take a huge risk here. They were inserting 40 special forces to rescue one American in a part of the — of Yemen where, you know, a lot of things can go wrong, with suicide bombers and things like that.

    So, it was a really — a real big gamble. But, from their perspective, they thought it was the best shot that Somers had, because AQAP was threatening to execute him as early as later that same day that the raid was taking place.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Adam Entous of The Wall Street Journal joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

    ADAM ENTOUS: Thank you.

    The post Why did the raid in Yemen to rescue Luke Somers go so wrong? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People attend a vigil held for Alexander Mora Venancio, one of the 43 missing students, whose remains were identified on Dec. 6, 2014. Photo by Pedro PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

    People attend a vigil held on Dec. 7, 2014 for Alexander Mora Venancio, one of the country’s 43 missing college students, whose remains were recently identified. Credit: Pedro PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

    Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said Sunday that the charred remains found in a landfill near El Pericon — approximately 124 miles south of Iguala, where the college students vanished — are those of 19-year-old Alexander Mora Venancio. The body was identified through forensic analysis performed in Austria.

    Officials told Mora Venancio’s relatives, who live in El Pericon, and his former classmates at the Rural Normal School in Ayotzinapa on Friday.

    The development sparked anger and renewed protests in Mexico City on Saturday.

    “We are not crying for Alexander, to the contrary, we know that his fall will result in the flower of revolution for a deep change in our country,” said Felipe de la Cruz Sandoval, a father of one of the missing students.

    “That no matter where he is, he should know that the fathers of the families are not going to rest until there is justice.”

    Mora Venancio and 42 other teacher trainees disappeared while participating in demonstrations against school budget cuts in the city of Iguala on Sept. 26. Massive protests in Mexico ensued following reports of police involvement in the students’ disappearance.

    Murillo Karam said in a press conference on Sunday that authorities have detained 80 people, including Iguala’s mayor and his wife, for possible involvement in the disappearance of the students.

    The post Mexican officials confirm ID of body in case of 43 missing students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US-ENTERTAINMENT-SONY-CYBER-ATTACK

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Investigators are calling the recent cyber-attacks on Sony Pictures unprecedented, well-planned and possibly the most destructive corporate security breach reported on U.S. soil.

    Sony happens to be releasing a comedy movie called “The Interview,” which depicts a fictitious plot to assassination Kim Jong-un, pointing to North Korea’s possible involvement in the attack. There’s also speculation that China aided in the security breach.

    Joining me now via Skype from Seoul, South Korea, is James Pearson, a reporter for Reuters and the co-author of “North Korea Confidential,” due out in February.

    Let’s start with the attack on Sony. Does the evidence point to North Korea?

    JAMES PEARSON, Reuters: Well, there’s still no — there’s still no evidence then that — that — at least there’s no conclusive evidence that North Korea was behind the attacks on Sony Pictures.

    What we do know are that there are — there are some hallmarks of this attack, which is similar to an earlier one. Since about 2009, there have been countless attacks on South Korea by a gang which security researchers have nicknamed the Dark Seoul Gang, which was a name for the malware which they were — they were found to use at the time.

    And, later on, the researchers also found that these — these hackers were — on the surface looked like hacktivists. They were defacing Web sites. But the codes that they had written were actually specifically designed to steal North Korean — and military secrets, and also from U.S. bases, of course, which there are — of which there are many here in South Korea.

    So, whilst there is still no conclusive evidence that North Korea is indeed behind this attack — and they have — they have also denied it — just today, they said that it was a righteous deed that perhaps some pro-North Korean activists carried out on their behalf.

    The point is, is that, if they wanted to do that attack, they would have the capability to do so.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tell us about the structure of what amounts to the North Korean cyber-unit.

    JAMES PEARSON: Well, within — within North Korea, just like in — in fact, many countries, has its own military intelligence, which is specifically designed to target its — the militaries — the networks of the militaries of its enemies.

    Now, within North Korea, there’s an organization that’s a slightly shadowy organization, like many of the wings of the government, called the General Reconnaissance Bureau. And within that, there’s a further bureau called Bureau 121, which specializes in — in hacking, essentially.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You have spoken to North Korean defectors. They have told you that hackers are given incentives to be part of this team.

    JAMES PEARSON: Well, the defectors that we spoke to in Seoul described hacking, as a member of the North Korean elite, as a white-collar job, essentially.

    It’s a highly sought-after profession. There are many people who do computer science in Pyongyang. In fact, you don’t even have to be particularly elite. We spoke to some defectors who said that they studied alongside friends who came all the way from the countryside to Pyongyang to study at the University of Automation and learned — and learned their trades there.

    Now, in terms of the incentives that they give these hackers, one thing you have got to remember is that, if you’re in a highly controlled space like North Korea, and you are given access to information from the outside world, then, ideologically, it’s quite threatening.

    So, the one thing you can do as a state to sweeten the deal for these hackers is make sure that they live very, very comfortably. If you’re a hacker, for example, you will be given quite a nice apartment. You may — you will have probably a computer in your own house, and you will live quite comfortably.

    You will probably also be able to travel overseas as a part of a North Korean trading delegation and have access to things that most North Koreans simply would never even be aware of, let alone think of.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: James Pearson via Skype from Seoul, South Korea, thanks so much.

    JAMES PEARSON: Thank you.

    The post ‘Unprecedented’ Sony hack stirs concern over North Korea cyberwarfare​ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senator elect Bill Cassidy celebrates with supporters after defeating Senator Mary Landrieu on Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Senator elect Bill Cassidy celebrates with supporters after defeating Senator Mary Landrieu on Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It marks the first time in U.S. history that two women incumbents have lost. (Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina is the other.) Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • The end of the 2014 midterms
    • Two incumbent women lose for the first time ever
    • Obama talks race — new polls on Ferguson, Garner
    • Clinton continues to lead ’16 field.

    The Deep South’s political transformation is complete: Yes, there’s a recount in an Arizona House race ongoing, but for pretty much all intents and purposes, the runoff election in the Louisiana Senate race Saturday put the final nail in the 2014 midterm elections. Republican Bill Cassidy ousted incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu 56 to 44 percent. The Cassidy win gives Republicans a net pickup of nine seats in 2014. The GOP will have 54 senators in the next Congress. The nine-seat gain is the most for either party since 1980 when Ronald Reagan and Republicans gained 12 seats in the Senate. Perhaps it’s fitting that 1980 is the bookend, because that’s when the transformation of the Deep South began to take hold. Dixiecrats, conservative Democrats from the South, began voting Republican in national elections. And now, 34 years later, even as places like Virginia and North Carolina change demographically, the political transformation of the Deep South is complete. In fact, driving home that point, it’s the first time in 132 years that a Republican has held this Louisiana Senate seat.

    This wasn’t the history women were looking for: There have been lots of firsts in politics when it comes to women in the last few election cycles. We’ve reported previously that for the first time, there will be 100 women in Congress. But here’s another first — with Landrieu’s loss, it marks the first time in U.S. history that two women incumbents have lost (Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina is the other), the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog reports. In a way, though, it’s a mark of progress — there are more women running. And they are being reelected at about the same rate as men — 84 percent for women versus 87 percent for men. Smart Politics: “With two more cycles to go in 2016 and 2018, there have already been more female U.S. Senate nominees during the first three cycles of the 2010s (48) than in any other decade, ahead of the 1990s (47), the 2000s (46), 1980s (26), and 1970s (nine).” Despite Landrieu’s and Hagan’s losses, there will still be 20 women in the Senate with the wins by Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

    Clinton continues to lead: Speaking of women, there’s another that Democratic women hope will make history in 2016 — Hillary Clinton. And a Bloomberg/Selzer poll finds her continuing to lead the presidential field. She beats Jeb Bush (43-37), Chris Christie (42-36), Ted Cruz (46-33), Rand Paul (45-37) and Mitt Romney (45-39). Most importantly for Clinton, she has better favorability ratings than any of her potential GOP opponents — 52 to 42 percent net-positive. Of the Republicans, Paul had the best rating, 32-29 percent, but with a whopping 39 percent unsure.

    Obama: Racism ‘deeply rooted,’ will take time to change: For the first time since Ferguson or the Eric Garner case in New York, President Obama did a TV interview. In an excerpt with BET, which airs in full Monday night, President Obama said, “[T]his is something that is deeply rooted in our society, it’s deeply rooted in our history.” But he urged patience to young protesters, adding, “We can’t equate what is happening now to what was happening 50 years ago, and if you talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles, they’ll tell you that things are better, not good in some places, but better.” He said of racial progress that “typically progress is in steps, it’s in increments.” More: In dealing with something “as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society, you’ve got to have vigilance but you have to recognize that it’s going to take some time and you just have to be steady so that you don’t give up when you don’t get all the way there.” Attorney General Eric Holder will announce Monday new limits on racial profiling for agencies under the Department of Justice and any local police forces that are involved with joint task forces. The policy excludes border and TSA agents.

    Divided by race: Two new polls show how divided Americans are by race in their view of these two cases. NBC/Marist: “47 percent of Americans say that law enforcement applies different standards to blacks and whites, while 44 percent disagree. But 82 percent of African-Americans say that police have different standards based on race, while half of whites say the opposite.” President Obama gets just a 30 to 46 percent approval of his handling of the grand jury decisions. But overwhelmingly, 76 percent believe police should have to wear body cameras. The Bloomberg poll finds 52 percent agreed with the Ferguson grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown. But it found the opposite in the Garner case — 60 percent disagreed with the decision in that case. There was a huge racial divide: on Ferguson, 89 percent of blacks disagreed with the grand jury, but just 25 percent of whites felt the same; on Garner, 89 percent of blacks disagreed with the grand jury and so did a majority (52 percent) of whites.

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln announced his plan for reunification of the United States with his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction. Who was president when the Reconstruction period finally ended? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Charles Hicks‏ (@mrcharleshicks) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: Jackson was the first Irish-American president; where was he born? The answer was: Waxhaws, which scholars debate was either in South Carolina or North Carolina. No one guessed Thursday’s trivia: How many U.S. presidents took office after serving as a military general and without holding prior elected office in the U.S. government? The answer was: 4- Washington, Eisenhower, Grant and Taylor.

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    The post Not the way women wanted to make history this election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman holds a banner during a march throughout downtown in Washington, United States on December 7, 2014 to protest the killings of unarmed black men by police officers. Photo by Michael Hernandez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    A woman holds a banner during a march throughout downtown in Washington, United States on December 7, 2014 to protest the killings of unarmed black men by police officers. Photo by Michael Hernandez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration issued guidelines Monday that ban federal law enforcement from profiling on the basis of religion, national origin and other characteristics, protocols the Justice Department hopes could be a model for local departments as the nation tackles questions about the role race plays in policing.

    The policy, which expands decade-old guidelines established under the Bush administration, also will require new training and data collection.

    Civil rights advocates said they welcomed the broader protections, but were disappointed that the guidelines will exempt security screening in airports and border checkpoints and won’t be binding on local and state police agencies.

    Civil rights advocates said they welcomed the broader protections, but were disappointed that the guidelines will exempt security screening in airports and border checkpoints and won’t be binding on local and state police agencies.Though the guidelines — five years in the making — were not drafted in response to recent high-profile cases involving the deaths of black individuals at the hands of white police officers, they’re nonetheless being released amid an ongoing national conversation about standards for police use of force, racial justice and the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.

    “Particularly in light of certain recent incidents we’ve seen at the local level — and the widespread concerns about trust in the criminal justice process which so many have raised throughout the nation — it’s imperative that we take every possible action to institute strong and sound policing practices,” said Attorney General Eric Holder, referring to the August shooting by a white police officer of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death weeks earlier of a man in New York City.

    Local grand juries declined to indict either officer. The Justice Department is investigating both cases.

    The guidelines cover federal agencies within the Justice Department, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They also extend to local and state officers serving on joint task forces alongside federal agents.

    Their practical impact remains to be seen, especially since local police officers are the ones primarily responsible for traffic stops, 911 calls and day-to-day interactions with the communities they patrol. But the Obama administration envisions the rules as a possible roadmap for local police, with Holder expected to brief local law enforcement officials Monday to encourage them to adopt the federal guidelines.

    Holder, who has made the release of the guidelines a priority before leaving the Justice Department next year, called the guidelines a “major and important step forward to ensure effective policing” by federal law enforcement.

    The guidelines extend a ban on routine racial profiling that the Justice Department announced in 2003 under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Civil rights groups have long said those rules left open too many loopholes by allowing an exemption for national security and border investigations and by failing to extend the ban to characteristics beyond race and ethnicity.

    The new guidelines would end the carve-out on national security and border investigations and widen the profiling ban to prohibit the practice on the basis of religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity — though agents would still be able to consider those factors if they had information linking a person of that characteristic to a specific crime or threat.

    Still, the new protocols allow for significant exemptions, including some for Homeland Security officials who screen passengers at airports and do inspections at the border. Homeland Security officials argued for the exemptions on the basis of what they said was “the unique nature of border and transportation security as compared to traditional law enforcement.”

    “This does not mean that officers and agents are free to profile,” the department said in a statement. “To the contrary, DHS’ existing policies make it categorically clear that profiling is prohibited,” while allowing for limited circumstances in which race, ethnicity and other characteristics could be considered.

    The American Civil Liberties Union objected to those exemptions.

    “It’s so loosely drafted that its exceptions risk swallowing any rule and permit some of the worst law enforcement policies and practices that have victimized and alienated American Muslim and other minority communities,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “This guidance is not an adequate response to the crisis of racial profiling in America.”

    The department said other activities, such as civil immigration enforcement and Coast Guard law enforcement actions, would still be covered.

    The post White House issues guidelines to ban racial and religious profiling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Much like these supporters, federal contractors are developing a soft spot for the Affordable Care Act. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

    Much like these supporters, federal contractors are developing a soft spot for the Affordable Care Act. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

    Two years ago General Dynamics, one of the biggest federal contractors, reported a quarterly loss of $2 billion. An “eye-watering” result, one analyst called it.

    Diminishing wars and plunging defense spending had slashed the weapons maker’s revenue and left some subsidiaries worth far less than it had paid for them. But the company was already pushing in a new direction.

    Soon after Congress passed the landmark Affordable Care Act, the maker of submarines and tanks decided to expand its business related to health care. Its 2011 purchase of health-data firm Vangent instantly made it the largest contractor to Medicare and Medicaid, huge government health plans for seniors and the poor.

    “They saw that their legacy defense market was going to be taking a hit,” said Sebastian Lagana, an analyst with Technology Business Research, a market research firm. “And they knew [the ACA] was going to inject funds into the health care market.”

    They were right. In a way that is deeply changing Washington contracting, growth opportunities from the federal government have increasingly come not from war but from healing, an examination by Kaiser Health News and The Washington Post shows.

    Politics are frozen. Budgets are tight. But business purchases by the Department of Health and Human Services have doubled to $21 billion annually in the last decade and are expected to continue rising.Politics are frozen. Budgets are tight. But business purchases by the Department of Health and Human Services have doubled to $21 billion annually in the last decade and are expected to continue rising.

    HHS is now the No. 3 contracting agency, thanks to health-law spending combined with outlays for computer upgrades and Medicare’s drug program that grew during the administration of George W. Bush. HHS outranks NASA and the Department of Homeland Security in business deals and spends more than the departments of Justice, Transportation, Treasury and Agriculture combined, federal data show.

    If health care is “the new oil,” as some investors hope, HHS is one of the richest fields — along with massive opportunities in health-related computer spending by the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Treasury.

    “The DOD market is very weak,” said Steve Kelman, a Harvard management professor and contracting specialist. “The two growth markets are cybersecurity and health care. So everybody’s trying to get into those.”

    The new money is buying medical-record software, insurance websites, claims processing, data analysis, computer system overhauls, consumer education and consulting expertise to control costs and identify fraud.

    hhschart1

    hhschart2
    True, it’s a fraction of the $200 billion-plus the Pentagon spent on planes, bombs and other purchases in fiscal 2014. But thanks largely to automatic cuts set in 2011, defense contracting has dipped by more than a third since 2008 despite continuing conflict in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

    Few expect that to happen to health contracting — even with limited budgets and Republicans opposed to the health law controlling both sides of Congress. Analysts expect the Ebola crisis to add billions more to an HHS budget that was already expected to grow.

    “It’s going to be really hard to find more money,” said Stephen Fuller, an economist at George Mason University who follows federal spending closely. “But I would think HHS is in a position to sustain their funding levels and gain some as well where other agencies are going to find it more difficult just to keep what they have.”

    This KHN story also ran in The Washington Post. It can be republished for free (details). logo washingtonpost110
    HHS’ contracting budget is separate from the billions the agency pays in reimbursement to caregivers of Medicare patients; its grants to states for Medicaid; and its awards through the National Institutes of Health to clinical research institutions such as the Johns Hopkins University.

    If health care is “the new oil,” as some investors hope, HHS is one of the richest fields — along with massive opportunities in health-related computer spending by the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Treasury. Traditionally HHS vendors processed Medicare claims, made vaccines and managed information technology. HHS spending had already spiked in 2009, before the health law was passed, thanks to extraordinary purchases of H1N1 flu vaccines. But the ambitious ACA, intended to expand health coverage, overhaul payments and reengineer care —and with ample budgets to attempt all three — changed the game.

    “Just because of the Affordable Care Act our health care business has probably doubled in the last five years,” said Nelson Ford, CEO of LMI Government Consulting, which helps HHS analyze and regulate the new, private insurance plans sold under the law.

    The law effectively created major companies from scratch as well as growing new divisions at established businesses.

    “It just occurred to me: If this bill does become law it will be a level playing field [for contractors] and we’ll have a head start,” said Sanjay Singh, who founded Reston-based hCentive based on the Affordable Care Act’s promise. “And we can build a company.”

    Today hCentive employs more than 650 people. The company built the federal government’s online marketplace for small-business health plans and is working on insurance portals for Massachusetts, New York, Colorado and Kentucky.

    Business at HighPoint Global, with offices in Virginia, Maryland and Indiana, ballooned from a few million to more than $100 million annually after it landed the job of training and quality control for dozens of call centers handling questions about the insurance marketplaces, federal data show. HighPoint CEO Ben Lanius declined a request for an interview.

    For contractors, profiting from the health law goes far beyond the $840 million-plus HHS has already spent on the troubled healthcare.gov portal. (This year the agency fired CGI Federal, the site’s primary contractor, and replaced it with Accenture. HHS contracted with CGI for work worth $339 million the last two years; with Accenture, $192 million in contracts, records show.)

    Defense giant Serco has done more than $400 million worth of business with HHS in the past two years, records show, much of it for collecting paper insurance applications that surged when the online marketplaces failed.

    HHS’ innovation lab, with a $10 billion budget over a decade, is hiring research firms such as Mathematica to test alternatives to traditional, “fee for service” medicine that encourages unnecessary procedures. The ACA also furnished an extra $350 million to hire cyber sleuths to fight Medicare fraud.

    A related law, the HITECH Act of 2009, steered another $30 billion via Medicare reimbursements to spur hospitals and doctors to buy medical-record software from private industry.

    For traditional defense contractors, health care isn’t the new oil. It’s the new F-35 fighter or Zumwalt-class destroyer.

    “This is a pretty exciting time to be in the federal health IT space,” said Horace Blackman, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of health and life sciences. “The biggest opportunities I would point to are efforts associated with the Affordable Care Act.”

    While Lockheed has run HHS computers for a long time, its business with the agency has increased by more than half since 2006 to $300 million annually, according to federal records.

    The company won part of a $15 billion data management contract from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2012, along with Accenture, CGI Federal and others. It’s bidding with many others on another giant health job — an $11 billion Pentagon contract to modernize the military’s computer medical records.

    Defense vendors are recycling products from battlefield to bedside. Lockheed says it converted missile-defense software into a hospital tool for the early identification of sepsis, a life-threatening response by the body to infection.

    “We’re seeing a lot of these companies quietly repositioning and reusing their legacy capabilities,” said John Caucis, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research.

    Along with cybersecurity smarts, Washington employers especially prize health analytics skills, recruiters say.

    “We have 200 epidemiologists. We have clinical statisticians. We have physicians. We have nurses,” said Amy Caro, head of the health division at Northrop Grumman, better known for its B-2 stealth bomber.

    Among other HHS work, Northrop manages data sharing for the National Institutes of Health; helped launch the health law’s accountable care organizations to control costs and improve care; and turned telecommunications software into a Medicare fraud detector.

    The quickest way to acquire a particular expertise needed by HHS, some contractors have found, is often to mimic General Dynamics and buy somebody already doing the work.

    In October Xerox said it acquired Consilience Software, maker of patient case-management and disease-surveillance programs for government agencies. The same month defense and intelligence giant Booz Allen Hamilton said it bought the health division of Genova Technologies, a tech company that has done $90 million in HHS business since the health law was passed, according to federal records.

    The deal is part of a larger push by Booz, majority owned by the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, to sell technology services and consulting to HHS.

    Its yearly business with the agency has quadrupled in the last decade to $170 million even as its overall revenue from the federal government has shrunk, according to contracting data. (However, the extent of Booz’s government work is unclear because its jobs for spy agencies don’t show up in official records, contracting specialists say.)

    This summer Booz won part of a huge (potentially $7 billion) job to help HHS’ innovation lab design, run and evaluate tests to improve care results and control costs. Other awardees include RTI International, a nonprofit; Deloitte, a consulting firm; the Lewin Group, a consultancy owned by insurer UnitedHealth Group; and Truven Health Analytics, a research shop owned by private equity investors Veritas Capital.

    Booz officials did not respond to repeated requests for interviews.

    Health-care acquisitions by defense contractors don’t always work smoothly. In 2011 General Dynamics paid Veritas nearly $1 billion for Vangent, a seller of health information technology and business services.

    General Dynamics did not make executives available for interviews. But the deal did not go as well as the company hoped, as Vangent’s corporate culture clashed with that of the buyer, said Technology Business Research’s Lagana. Part of General Dynamics’ $2 billion quarterly loss at the end of 2012 was — ironically — related not to defense but to Vangent and its health-care work, he said.

    But thanks to Vangent, the company got the task of staffing call centers to explain healthcare.gov to consumers. That job became bigger than anybody imagined when the site crashed during insurance enrollment a year ago. General Dynamics ended up hiring 8,000, mostly temporary workers to run hotlines for Obamacare as well as Medicare.

    This year healthcare.gov is working better, by many accounts. Enrollment began Nov. 15. Again General Dynamics has been hiring to answer the phones. The company’s $815 million in spending commitments from HHS made it the agency’s top contractor for fiscal 2014, not counting vaccine makers.

    And because its call-center jobs are “cost-plus” contracts, every hire comes with a built-in profit.


    This story is republished from Kaiser Health News and The Washington Post. Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit national health policy news service.

    The post Federal defense contractors find a new profitable business: Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Two-year-old Maggie Awad, plays an app game  on her mother's, Paula Mansour, IPod Touch, at their home in Falls Church, Virginia. App makers collect information about kids, often without parental consent. Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post

    Two-year-old Maggie Awad, plays an app game on her mother’s, Paula Mansour, IPod Touch, at their home in Falls Church, Virginia. App makers collect information about kids, often without parental consent. Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post

    WASHINGTON — Worried that toy stores, fast food chains, and other retailers are tracking your kids online this holiday season? A landmark 2013 law aimed at protecting the privacy of America’s youngest mobile consumers hasn’t stopped app developers from collecting vast amounts of data, including a person’s location and even recordings of their voice, according to privacy researchers and consumer advocates.

    Whether mobile app developers seek parental consent first — as required by law — or pass the information on to advertisers isn’t entirely clear. But if you prefer to stay anonymous, your options are limited: Wade through each mobile app’s privacy policies to make sure you are OK with the terms, or stick the phone on “airplane mode” to shut off the wireless connection and risk losing functionality.

    “Kids are such a lucrative market, especially for apps,” said Jeff Chester, of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Unfortunately, there are still companies out there that are more concerned about generating revenue than protecting the privacy of kids.”“Kids are such a lucrative market, especially for apps,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Unfortunately, there are still companies out there that are more concerned about generating revenue than protecting the privacy of kids.”

    Americans have traded vast amounts of personal data in exchange for the ease and functionality of fun mobile applications on their phones. But how is industry using that information? Chester and other consumer advocates allege that fast food chains are increasingly focusing advertising dollars on digital media, targeting blacks and Hispanics. They also warn that data from phones can be combined with offline information like home prices, race or income in ways that could violate fair lending laws. And a new site, PrivacyGrade.org, found that many popular kids’ apps like Talking Tom and Fruit Ninja collect information in ways parents wouldn’t necessarily expect.

    Concerned in particular about industries’ focus on kids online, the Federal Trade Commission in July 2013 expanded the Child Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, to require app developers to get parental consent before collecting personal data on anyone younger than 13. That includes information like the unique identifying device on a phone, a person’s phone number or a device’s location.

    “It’s upped the ante for companies deciding whether they are going to market to kids,” said Michelle De Mooy of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “And that’s a good thing.”

    But with the number of smartphones expected to reach 3.5 billion in the next five years, according to Forrester Research, the mobile app and advertising industry has exploded. Regulators don’t have an easy, automated way of analyzing the hundreds of mobile apps popping up each day.

    Since the updated regulation went into effect, the FTC has brought about only two enforcement actions against mobile apps. Last September, the commission announced that Yelp Inc. agreed to pay $450,000 and TinyCo. $300,000 to settle separate charges that their companies knowingly collected information on young children through their mobile apps.

    “Our ultimate goal is compliance,” said Kandi Parsons, an attorney in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. But “that doesn’t undermine our desire to bring cases against companies that violate COPPA … where we find violations, we will bring cases against mobile apps.”

    According to PrivacyGrade.org, which is run by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, scores of apps that collect information are still aimed at kids.

    For example, Fruit Ninja collects a phone’s location, which could be passed on to advertisers. And Talking Tom, where kids can talk to and “tickle” an alley cat using the touch screen, collects a child’s audio recordings along with other information that can uniquely identify a phone.

    Whether these apps would violate COPPA would depend on a number of factors, including whether and how they seek parental consent. But because these apps collect information in surprising ways, PrivacyGrade.org gave them both D grades.

    Outfit7, the developer behind Talking Tom, said in a statement that personal information and recordings are never shared with advertisers. The developer says its app also complies with COPPA by providing “appropriate gate protections … to distinguish adults from minors and restrict sharing on social media,” according to the statement.

    Halfbrick Studios, which developed Fruit Ninja, said in a statement that it planned to release updates to Fruit Ninja and other apps to increase privacy protections.

    “Parents and players are understandably cautious about the privacy aspects of online games, and the way their data is handled,” said company CEO Shainiel Deo. “Creating a safe and secure app is no longer enough to answer consumers’ needs for assurance. Developers must also ensure that permissions are clearly explained and easy to access at every applicable point in a game.”

    The post App developers are tracking kids despite laws to protect their privacy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    12DaysBanner_FinalTo show our appreciation for our audience, PBS NewsHour will be unveiling 12 gifts over the next 12 days. Check back here each day, from Dec. 8-19, for a new gift that you can easily download or print out right from our site. Each day’s gift will also be posted on our Facebook page.

    Share photos of yourself, your family and your friends enjoying the gifts on social media using the hashtag #12DaysofNewsHour. Who knows, your photo might be selected to be shown on air during on of our evening broadcasts!

    Dec. 8: First up, the first longplay 4K video of a crackling fireplace on Youtube. Despite its realism, our 4K video doesn’t actually generate heat, so it won’t dry your mittens. But it will give you cred if you hook it up at your holiday office party.

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    The post Celebrate 12 days of NewsHour with 12 unique gifts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Happy holidays from the PBS NewsHour. To kick off our Twelve days of NewsHour, we happily present the first longplay 4K video of a crackling fireplace on Youtube. Enjoy the soothing sights and sounds anywhere: on your tablet, mobile device, or streaming to your computer screen or connected television. We’ve merged cutting edge video technology with pre-historic pyrotechnic technology to bring you this holiday-friendly experience.

    12DaysBanner_FinalA few saftey pointers for our viewers:

    • Despite its realism, our 4K video doesn’t actually generate heat, so it won’t dry your mittens.
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    The post 12 days of NewsHour: The first 4K fireplace video on YouTube appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: The Justice Department announced new guidelines today on federal law enforcement profiling. The rules build on a 2003 policy that barred racial profiling, and extends it to include the use of religion, national origin, and other characteristics.

    Attorney General Eric Holder said, amid anger over the killings of black men by white police officers, it’s vital to have sound policing practices.

    ERIC HOLDER, U.S. Attorney General: Given the limited resources that we have, given the opponents that we face, both here and certainly overseas, we can’t afford to profile, to do law enforcement on the basis of stereotypes. It undermines the public trust, ultimately, but also makes us not good at what we need to do.

    GWEN IFILL: Security screening at airports and border checkpoints would be exempt from the new guidelines. They also don’t apply to local police departments.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Six long-term detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, began settling in today in Uruguay, their new home. The country’s defense minister said they will be — quote — “totally free men,” the same treatment refugees receive. The four Syrians, one Tunisian and one Palestinian, had been held at Guantanamo since 2002. They were originally suspected of ties to al-Qaida, but never charged; 136 detainees remain at Guantanamo, half of whom have been cleared for transfer.

    GWEN IFILL: In Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO officially closed their combat mission after more than 13 years. NATO troops participated in the ceremony in Kabul, lowering a flag and formally ending their deployment. At its peak in 2011, there were 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.

    After January 1, the coalition will maintain a force 13,000-strong. Most of them will be Americans, including an extra 1,000 troops announced on Saturday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Syria and Iran today condemned Israeli airstrikes inside Syria. The attacks on Sunday hit near the Damascus Airport and a town near the Lebanese border. Israel hasn’t confirmed the attacks, but previous airstrikes targeted Iranian-made missiles bound for Lebanon and for the militant group Hezbollah.

    GWEN IFILL: Eight people in Western China now face the death penalty in high-profile attacks that killed 46 people last spring. A court imposed the sentences today in Xinjiang Province. Authorities blamed the attacks on radical separatists with foreign connections. The province has been — has seen growing unrest as Muslim Uighurs chafe under Chinese rule.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, two large fires raged in downtown Los Angeles early this morning, snarling rush hour traffic before fire crews could get them under control. More than 250 firefighters turned out at a block-long construction site where the first fire broke out. It spread to two neighboring high-rises and rained burning embers across roads.

    CAPT. RICK GODINEZ, Los Angeles Fire Department: This is right up there with one of the most intense fires that I have seen, where it taxed a lot of our resources right away, and then the fact that there were other multiple incidents going on at the same time. It was really challenging for the incident commander to get companies into the right places to surround this thing.

    And, fortunately, we had a freeway behind us, so we had it boxed in, but it was just so intense, the heat, and it took a little while for us to get it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Another large fire also broke out about two miles away. No injuries were reported in either incident, but both were under investigation, and fire officials wouldn’t rule out arson.

    GWEN IFILL: The Supreme Court refused today to review BP’s multibillion-dollar settlement stemming from the 2010 Gulf oil spill. The oil company argued that it’s been forced to pay some businesses for losses that may not have been caused by the disaster. But the court’s action makes the settlement final and starts a six-month period for filing claims.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House has kicked off a major initiative to train millions of high school and middle school kids in computer science. Today’s announcement says the nation’s seven largest school districts, along with 50 others, will begin offering introductory computer science classes. Much of the focus is on getting more girls and minorities into computer careers.

    GWEN IFILL: Wall Street started the week on a sour note. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 106 points to close at 17,852; the Nasdaq fell 40 points to close at 4,740; and the S&P 500 slipped 15 to finish at 2,060. Falling energy stocks led the way, as oil prices slid to $63 a barrel, a new five-year low.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama had a royal visitor from Britain today, Prince William. The pair chatted briefly in the Oval Office. Later, William delivered remarks at the World Bank on illegal wildlife trade. The prince’s wife, Kate, is also in the U.S. for the visit, but she stayed in New York City, where she visited a child development center in Harlem.

    The post News Wrap: Six Guantanamo detainees resettled in Uruguay appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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