Quantcast
Loading...
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)
Loading...

More Channels


Showcase


Channel Catalog


Loading...

Channel Description:

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

older | 1 | .... | 499 | 500 | (Page 501) | 502 | 503 | .... | 1175 | newer

    0 0

    Photo by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

    Photo by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

    On Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. ET, an alarm clock went off for NASA’s New Horizons probe, 2.9 billion miles away from Earth. At 9:52 p.m., the piano-size spacecraft sent a message back to Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory saying it was awake and all systems were functioning.

    Back on Earth, in a conference room at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, 20 people cheered as they received New Horizons’ message. Champagne was poured, and mission managers played a special recording of “Where My Heart Will Take Me” by English tenor Russell Watson.

    The wake-up call means New Horizons is ready to be the first spacecraft to get close-up photos of Pluto and its five moons. On July 14, 2015, the probe will make its closest approach to dwarf planet. Over 20 weeks, it will snap photos of Pluto and its moons before going on to explore the icy, rocky objects in the Kuiper Belt at the outermost edge of our solar system.

    Alan Stern, the New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, called this a turning point in the nine year mission.

    “This is the turning of a page. This is changing from a mission in cruise to a mission at its destination,” Sterns said.

    The $700 million probe was launched in 2006. Powered by a nuclear power generator, it has traveled 2.9 billion miles since then, making it the fastest space probe ever launched. As of its wake-up call Saturday evening, it was 162 million miles from Pluto.

    New Horizons has been in hibernation since August, its final nap on its nine-year trip to Pluto and points beyond. To prevent unnecessary wear and tear on its systems, the spacecraft has slept through almost two thirds of its journey.

    If you want to hear Russell Watson’s special message and overture to New Horizons, you can watch his performance here:

    The post NASA’s New Horizons probe wakes up in time to photograph Pluto in 2015 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    Illustration by NewsHour

    The report from the Senate Intelligence Committee will be the first public accounting of the CIA’s use of what critics call torture on al-Qaida detainees held at “black” sites in Europe and Asia. The committee is expected to release the summary today. Illustration by NewsHour

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Senate Intel report prep
    • Shutdown deadline closer, but hope pervades
    • Gruber, Kerry testify
    • Obama losing the message on immigration, budget

    Intel report — Prep Sheet: For five-and-a-half years, nearly the entire Obama presidency, the U.S. has waited for a report on the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee will release the (partially redacted) executive summary of that report. To help prepare, here’s what we can tell you before the release.

    We expect the report out in the first half of the day, multiple Senate sources tell Morning Line. They caution that the final timing is up to Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The executive summary which we’ll see today is about 500 pages long. The full report is several thousand pages long.

    Two things to watch:
    1. Aside from the description of CIA techniques, but pay attention to number of incidents and number of different CIA agents described. This could indicate how widespread any issues became.
    2. Individual reactions. The White House and senators on the Intelligence Committee have had more than two years to prepare their responses, including what they will chose to highlight or defend. This is a case where very close analysis of press releases is warranted.

    Shutdown brinksmanship: The government is just two days away from another potential government shutdown, and “plans to quickly approve a $1.1 trillion spending package to keep most of the federal government open through the end of the fiscal year fell apart late Monday, increasing the chance lawmakers will miss a Thursday deadline,” the Washington Post reports. House Republicans need Democratic votes and there are still sticking points that need to be worked out, including on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act and banking, but most believe there will be a deal before the deadline. Or at least, there will be a VERY short-term measure to buy some more time. To watch: whether Majority Leader-to-be Mitch McConnell adds campaign finance changes (fewer restrictions for political parties) to the CR, as Roll Call is reporting he wants.

    Kerry, Gruber testify: There’s lots more action on the Hill today with Secretary of State John Kerry testifying at 2 p.m. EST on the Islamic State militant group before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Obama health care adviser Jonathan Gruber appearing before the House Oversight committee at 9:30 a.m. ET.

    When you’ve lost the message…: President Obama talks immigration at 3:45 p.m. EST in Nashville, Tennessee. But a Bloomberg poll shows the president has lost the message war on immigration and the budget. Despite increased deportations from a decade ago, Bloomberg writes, “By 53 percent to 29 percent, Americans believe that Obama has sent fewer undocumented immigrants home…” And despite a reduction in the deficit under President Obama, “By 73 percent to 21 percent, the public says the federal budget deficit has gotten bigger during the Obama presidency.” As Al Hunt writes, “When it comes to informing Americans about the accomplishments of his own administration … he’s not exactly the persuader-in-chief.”

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1803, The U.S. Congress passed the 12th amendment, which directed that electors must vote for a ticket of candidates for president and vice president, rather than electing the top two vote getters regardless of party. Who was the last vice president to attain that office under the old system (pre-12th Amendment ratification)? We’ll have that answer and the answer to yesterday’s question, who was president when the Reconstruction period finally ended? tomorrow.

    LINE ITEMS

    TOP TWEETS

    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

    The post What to know about the CIA interrogation report appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    Esther is an Ebola survivor who waited out her incubation period at the Hope 21 interim care facility. Photo by M. Holden Warren for More Than Me

    Esther is an Ebola survivor who waited out her incubation period at the Hope 21 interim care facility. Photo by M. Holden Warren for More Than Me

    The nonprofit More Than Me helps girls in Liberia’s West Point slum get an education and stay off the streets. But when Ebola hit last summer, the organization shifted gears to assist in the fight.

    It became an impromptu soldier in the army of NGOs helping Liberia’s Ministry of Health eradicate the disease.

    “We’re not trying to be the health experts,” said Emily Bell from the group’s U.S. office in New Jersey. Instead, its local Liberia staff and new recruits are filling in where needed, including spreading Ebola awareness, transporting patients and housing children during their incubation period.

    “We were responding organically to the community’s needs and felt like as long as Ebola was in Liberia, our girls were at risk,” she said.

    West Point is an impoverished neighborhood in Liberia's capital Monrovia. Photo courtesy of More Than Me

    West Point is an impoverished neighborhood in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. Photo courtesy of More Than Me

    Founded in 2009 by New Jersey native Katie Meyler, More Than Me started small: by finding sponsors for individual students’ education in West Point, a shanty town of about 75,000 in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. In 2013, it opened its own academy for more than 100 girls, providing their uniforms, books and meals, along with afterschool activities such as yoga, art and classes in sexual and reproductive health.

    While the group was running its summer program in 2014, Ebola cases exploded in the three West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf closed all schools and banned large gatherings to try to keep the virus at bay. To date, there have been 7,719 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola in Liberia and 3,177 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

    “We shut down the summer program and sent local Liberian and U.S. staff home,” said Bell. The students were sent home as well with bags of rice, classroom materials to keep up their studies and information about Ebola resources, such as numbers to call if they became sick.

    In August, the shanty town was quarantined, and desperate residents ransacked the patient holding center, releasing the suspected Ebola patients and stealing the contaminated mattresses.

    It was all due to a major miscommunication, said Bell, with residents thinking the quarantine was the cause of Ebola’s introduction there. More Than Me kicked back into action, working with its local partner organizations and the Ministry of Health to educate the community about the virus.

    “The health care system was overwhelmed even before Ebola,” said Bell. But now that the virus had arrived, health workers fled local clinics because they were scared, and the sick themselves were too afraid to seek treatment, fearing the worst — that they were on their way to die.

    In 2014, More Than Me opened an Ebola interim care center, known as Hope 21 (on the left), next to its academy for girls in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo courtesy of More Than Me

    In 2014, More Than Me opened an Ebola interim care center, known as Hope 21 (on the left), next to its academy for girls in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo courtesy of More Than Me

    More Than Me organizers turned their empty school into a warehouse to store and distribute gloves, personal protective gear, oral rehydration salts and other supplies from donors. The group ditched plans to turn another building into a guest house and rooftop café, and instead registered it with the Liberian government as an interim care facility — called Hope 21 — for children waiting out their 21-day incubation period if their parents contracted Ebola. (Read more about interim care centers and their helpers.)

    The group’s social workers and school nurse helped train more health workers and an “awareness” team to educate the community about Ebola prevention and treatment.

    But first they needed a map of West Point — none had been drawn before, said Bell. The map was divided into seven zones and the workers given color-coded shirts. The shirts originally said “Ebola” across the front, but community leaders advised that no one would want to talk to the workers. The shirts now say “I love West Point” and everyone wants one, she laughed.

    When it took several days for an ambulance to pick up potential Ebola patients for treatment, the group raised donor money to purchase the community’s own ambulance and cut the waiting time.

    Then there was the fear factor. “It’s scary when a family member goes to the Ebola treatment unit and they’re never heard from again,” said Bell. The team started giving the patients and their family members phones so they could keep in touch. It helps convince reluctant families to seek treatment for their ill relatives, she said.

    More Than Me’s future plans are to reopen the academy in February and to open a boarding school, said Bell. But it all depends on the country’s Ebola caseload and the Liberian government giving the green light for schools to open again.

    View all of our Social Entrepreneurship profiles and tweet us your suggestions for more groups to cover.

    The post With schools closed in Liberia, education nonprofit joins Ebola battle appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a consultant on the drafting of the Affordable Care Act legislation known as "Obamacare," testifies during a US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB

    Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a consultant on the drafting of the Affordable Care Act, apologized for his comments last year when he said that the “stupidity of the American voter” was key to passing the legislation in 2010 without any GOP support. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats charged Tuesday that Republicans are seizing on a health adviser’s self-described “thoughtless” and misleading remarks to attack President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

    The adviser, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, told groups last year that the “stupidity of the American voter” and a “lack of transparency” were important to passing the legislation in 2010 without any GOP support. Appearing before a House Oversight panel Tuesday, he expanded on earlier apologies.

    Gruber said his comments were uninformed, “glib, thoughtless and sometimes downright insulting.” He said passage of the health law was transparent and heavily debated in public, despite his earlier comments. Gruber said he was not the “architect” of the law, and apologized for “inexcusable arrogance.”

    Democrats welcomed the chance to tamp down the uproar over Gruber. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel, glared at Gruber and called his remarks from 2013 “absolutely stupid” and “incredibly disrespectful.”

    But Republican Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California called Gruber a crucial player in the legislation as he opened a hearing into what he calls “Obamacare.”

    The hearing came as prominent Democrats debate the wisdom of devoting much of 2009 — Obama’s first year as president — to the bruising battle for the health care legislation, which finally passed without a single Republican vote. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York is among those Democrats now criticizing the timing. Top liberals are defending Obama, creating new divisions among Democrats right after major losses in this year’s elections.

    Like many congressional hearings, Tuesday’s session may provide partisan fireworks while doing little or nothing to change government policy. The president says he will veto any effort to overturn the health care law, should such a bill reach his desk after Republicans add Senate control to their House majority next year.

    Also testifying Tuesday was Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Issa denied her request to be placed on a separate witness panel from Gruber.

    Tavenner is on the hot seat because she gave Issa the wrong enrollment figures when she last testified in September. At that point, she said there were 7.3 million people signed up through the insurance exchanges that offer subsidized private coverage under Obama’s law. It turned out her agency had over-counted that by about 400,000 people, an embarrassing discrepancy discovered by Issa’s investigators after he demanded to see the records. The corrected number for 2014 is 6.7 million.

    Tavenner apologized for the mistake Tuesday, saying it was caused by an inadvertent double-counting of people with both dental and medical insurance coverage.

    Issa calls the health care law “the poster child for this administration’s broken transparency promises.”

    Issa’s bare-knuckled inquiries into administration policies and missteps have often infuriated Democrats while providing welcome fodder for conservative talk shows, speeches and campaigns.

    His broadsides against the IRS, State Department and other agencies may have helped excite the Republican base in the November midterm elections. But Issa sometimes embarrasses GOP leaders, as when he cut off the committee microphone at an IRS hearing when Cummings was trying to speak. And some Republican lawmakers chastised Issa when he called then-Obama spokesman Jay Carney a “paid liar.”

    The post ‘Obamacare’ adviser apologizes for ‘insulting’ comments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    An Amazon worker pushes a box of diapers along a conveyor belt at the Amazon.com Phoenix Fulfillment Center in Goodyear, Arizona. The Supreme Court ruled today that the company does not have to pay its workers for time spent waiting to pass through security checks at the end of their shifts. Photo by Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

    An Amazon worker pushes a box of diapers along a conveyor belt at the Amazon.com Phoenix Fulfillment Center in Goodyear, Arizona. The Supreme Court ruled today that the company does not have to pay its workers for time spent waiting to pass through security checks at the end of their shifts. Photo by Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that warehouse workers who fill orders for retail giant Amazon don’t have to be paid for time spent waiting to pass through security checks at the end of their shifts.

    The unanimous decision is a victory for the growing number of retailers and other companies that routinely screen workers to prevent employee theft. The justices said federal law does not require companies to pay employees for the extra time because it is unrelated to their primary job duties.

    Some workers at Amazon contractor Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc., claim they wait up to 25 minutes to clear security before they can go home.

    The Supreme Court reversed a ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the screenings should be compensated because they were performed for the employer’s benefit and were integral to the workers’ jobs.

    The case was being watched closely by business groups worried that employers could be on the hook for billions of dollars in retroactive pay for workers seeking pay for time spent in security checks.

    Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said the screenings are not the principal activity which the workers are employed to perform.

    “Integrity Staffing did not employ its workers to undergo security screenings, but to retrieve products from warehouse shelves and package those products for shipment to Amazon customers,” Thomas said.

    Thomas also said the security checks were not “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ duties as warehouse workers. He based his decision on a federal law called the Portal-to-Portal Act, which specifically exempts employers from paying for pre- and post-work activities such as waiting to pick up protective gear or waiting in line to punch the clock.

    The case was brought by Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, two former workers at a Nevada Amazon warehouse who were employed by Integrity. Their lawyer argued that waiting in long security lines to go through metal detectors and empty their pockets each day was work because their employer required them to do it to keep merchandise from being stolen.

    Amazon officials contend that warehouse employees typically walk through security with little or no wait time.

    Since the 9th Circuit’s ruling last year, at least four class-action lawsuits have been filed against Amazon.com seeking compensation for time that nearly 100,000 workers have spent in post-shift security screenings. Similar suits are pending against CVS Pharmacy and Apple Inc.

    The post SCOTUS: Amazon doesn’t have to pay workers during warehouse security checks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    Loading...
    0 0

    Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

    American embassies, military units and other U.S. interests are preparing for possible security threats related to the release of a report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities after the 9/11 terror attacks. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Senate investigators delivered a damning indictment of CIA practices Tuesday, accusing the spy agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners beyond legal limits and deceiving the nation with narratives of life-saving interrogations unsubstantiated by its own records.

    Treatment in secret prisons a decade ago was worse than the government told Congress or the public, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report found. Five hundred pages were released, representing the executive summary and conclusions of a still-classified 6,700-page full investigation.

    “Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the committee chairman, declared.

    Tactics included weeks of sleep deprivation, slapping and slamming of detainees against walls, confining them to small boxes, keeping them isolated for prolonged periods and threatening them with death. Three detainees faced the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. Many developed psychological problems.

    But the “enhanced interrogation techniques” didn’t produce the results that really mattered, the report asserts in its most controversial conclusion. It cites CIA cables, emails and interview transcripts to rebut the central justification for torture — that it thwarted terror plots and saved American lives.

    The report, released after months of negotiations with the administration about what should be censored, was issued amid concerns of an anti-American backlash overseas. American embassies and military sites worldwide were taking extra precautions.

    Earlier this year, Feinstein accused the CIA of infiltrating Senate computer systems in a dispute over documents as relations between the investigators and the spy agency deteriorated, the issue still sensitive years after President Barack Obama halted the interrogation practices upon taking office.

    Former CIA officials disputed the report’s findings. So did Senate Republicans, whose written dissent accuses Democrats of inaccuracies, sloppy analysis and cherry-picking evidence to reach a predetermined conclusion. CIA officials prepared their own response acknowledging serious mistakes, but saying they gained vital intelligence that still guides counterterrorism efforts.

    “The program led to the capture of al-Qaida leaders and took them off the battlefield,” said George Tenet, CIA director when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks occurred. He said it saved “thousands of American lives.”

    In a letter published today by the Wall Street Journal, Tenet and two other former CIA Directors, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden, and former CIA Deputy Directors John E. McLaughlin, Albert M. Calland and Stephen R. Kappes said the interrogations saved lives.

    “The interrogation program formed an essential part of the foundation from which the CIA and the U.S. military mounted the (Osama) bin Laden operation,” they wrote.

    CIA Director John Brennan released a statement today saying that the intelligence gained from the program was critical to the understanding of al-Qa’ida and continues to inform the U.S.’d counterterrorism efforts to this day.

    President George W. Bush approved the program through a covert finding in 2002, but he wasn’t briefed by the CIA about the details until 2006. At that time Bush expressed discomfort with the “image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper and forced to go to the bathroom on himself.” Bush said in his 2010 memoirs that he discussed the program with CIA Director George Tenet, but Tenet told the CIA inspector general that never happened.

    After al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah was arrested in Pakistan, the CIA received permission to use waterboarding, sleep deprivation, close confinement and other techniques. Agency officials added unauthorized methods into the mix, the report says.

    At least five men in CIA detention received “rectal rehydration,” a form of feeding through the rectum. The report found no medical necessity for the treatment.

    Others received “ice baths” and death threats. At least three in captivity were told their families would suffer, with CIA officers threatening to harm their children, sexually abuse the mother of one man, and cut the throat of another man’s mother.

    Zubaydah was held in a secret facility in Thailand, called “detention Site Green” in the report. Early on, with CIA officials believing he had information on an imminent plot, Zubaydah was left isolated for 47 days without questioning, the report says. Later, he was subjected to the panoply of techniques. He later suffered mental problems.

    He wasn’t alone. In September 2002, at a facility referred to as COBALT — understood as the CIA’s “Salt Pit” in Afghanistan — detainees were kept isolated and in darkness. Their cells had only a bucket for human waste.

    Redha al-Najar, a former Osama bin Laden bodyguard, was the first prisoner there. After a month of sleep deprivation, CIA interrogators found him a “broken man.” But the treatment got worse, with officials lowering food rations, shackling him in the cold and giving him a diaper instead of toilet access.

    Gul Rahman, a suspected extremist, received enhanced interrogation there in late 2002, shackled to a wall in his cell and forced to rest on a bare concrete floor in only a sweatshirt. The next day he was dead. A CIA review and autopsy found he died of hypothermia.

    Justice Department investigations into that and another death of a CIA detainee resulted in no charges.

    During a waterboarding session, Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth,” according to internal CIA records.

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, received the waterboarding treatment 183 times. Though officers noted he wasn’t becoming more compliant, they waterboarded him for 10 more days. He was waterboarded for not confirming a “nuclear suitcase” plot the CIA later deemed a scam. Another time, his waterboarding produced a fabricated confession about recruiting black Muslims in Montana.

    After reviewing 6 million agency documents, investigators said they could find no example of unique, life-saving intelligence gleaned from coercive techniques — another sweeping conclusion the CIA and Republicans contest.

    The report claims to debunk the CIA’s assertion its practices led to bin Laden’s killing. The agency says its interrogation of detainee Ammar al-Baluchi revealed a known courier was taking messages to and from bin Laden.

    Read the full report below:

    Bradley Klapper and Ken Dilanian of the Associated Press wrote this report.

    The post Senate report: Harsh CIA tactics — including waterboarding, sleep deprivation — didn’t work appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    A protester on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley faces police with his hands up during Saturday night’s protest. Photo by Patrick Chong/Daily Californian

    A protester on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley faces police with his hands up during Saturday night’s protest. Photo by Patrick Chong/Daily Californian.

    Weekend protests in Berkeley, California, responding to recent grand jury decisions concerning the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner — two unarmed black men who died after confrontations with white police officers — spilled over into Monday night, when more than 150 protesters were arrested after blocking traffic on I-80 in Berkeley.

    Between 1,000 and 1,500 marchers took part Monday, a relatively calm day compared to Saturday and Sunday nights’ protests in which cases of vandalism and protesters clashing with police were reported.

    The weekend marches began peacefully in the evening on the University of California, Berkeley campus with students and community members calling for an end to police brutality. On Saturday, after several instances of vandalism were reported, police released tear gas near campus in an attempt to disband the crowd.

    Protests have increasingly sprung up on an almost nightly basis in cities and towns around the country in the wake of grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in the Staten Island borough of New York. Both men died after confrontations with police.

    The following photos were taken by freelance photographers and student photographers with The Daily Californian, and depict the protests that took place on Saturday and Sunday night in Berkeley, as well as some of the aftermath Monday morning.

    Protesters look on as trash cans set on fire in the middle of downtown Berkeley smolder during Sunday night’s protest. Photo by Benjamin Shenouda/Daily Californian

    Protesters look on as trash cans set on fire in the middle of downtown Berkeley smolder during Sunday night’s protest. Photo by Benjamin Shenouda/Daily Californian.

    A wounded protester is tended by another protester during Sunday night’s protest. Photo by Rachael Garner/Daily Californian

    A wounded protester is tended by another protester during Sunday night’s protest. Photo by Rachael Garner/Daily Californian.

    Protesters hold up signs depicting phrases that have become iconic to the continuing movement calling for an end to police brutality sparked by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner verdicts. Photo by Ariel D. Hayat/Daily Californian

    Protesters hold up signs depicting phrases that have become iconic to the continuing movement calling for an end to police brutality sparked by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner verdicts. Photo by Ariel D. Hayat/Daily Californian.

    Police deploy tear gas as they advance South on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Photo by Kevin Foote.

    Police deploy tear gas as they advance South on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Photo by Kevin Foote.

    ATM machine screens smashed during Sunday night’s protest. Photo by Ariel D. Hayat/Daily Californian

    ATM machine screens smashed during Sunday night’s protest. Photo by Ariel D. Hayat/Daily Californian.

    The post Photo gallery: 150 arrested in Berkeley protests over police brutality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    2012 Volkswagen Passats sit in the Assembly Building, at the Volkswagen Chattanooga plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S., on Wednesday, June 1, 2011. The plant which has an initial capacity of 125,000 units per year, will build the 2012 Volkswagen Passat for the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg

    Lines of 2012 Volkswagen Passats sit in the Assembly Building at the Volkswagen Chattanooga plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Photo by Mark Elias/Bloomberg

    On Monday, Volkswagen certified the Union of Automobile Workers (UAW) as the sole representative of members of Local 42, a branch of UAW representing factory workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The decision came after an independent audit tallied over 50 percent of workers in Volkswagen’s Chattanooga factory with membership in Local 42.

    Volkswagen logo

    According to Volkswagen’s Community Organization Engagement policy, released in November, a union that can demonstrate it represents at least 45 percent of its constituency’s workers is allowed to hold bi-weekly meetings with Volkswagen management.

    Prior to the announcement, Volkswagen’s Chattanooga location was the only one of its factories not recognized in the Global Group Works Council, an organization representing the company’s workers around the world.

    During a press conference today, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel expressed his enthusiasm for a cooperative relationship between the union and Volkswagen as the company expands its operations in the Southern United States, where labor is less unionized.

    “Today is for us a very important day,” said Casteel. “We’ve been working for several years with Volkswagen to understand how expansion can happen in a way that benefits both the workers and the company.”

    Casteel said the initial meetings between UAW and Volkswagen executives will host discussions that he hopes will lead to collective bargaining with Volkswagen executives. The UAW will also propose the idea of a works council similar to the arrangement Volkswagen has with workers in Germany. Casteel acknowledges, however, that it is too early to tell how soon UAW will achieve these objectives.

    “Our commitment was that we would negotiate the first American works council. But that’s not today’s task,” he said. “You have to walk before you run, crawl before you walk.”

    In February, PBS NewsHour covered the political backlash in Chattanooga during a vote to unionize Volkswagen factory workers with UAW. Republican Senator Bob Corker and a group called the National Right to Work expressed concern that the unionization would hurt Volkswagen’s activities and jeopardize job creation in the area. The vote ultimately failed.

    Since then, Casteel sees Volkswagen’s recent announcement as a milestone in progress. Although there is still much to do, he felt that Volkswagen’s announcement was not expected given the union’s position in February.

    The post UAW wins major victory in unionizing Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    A lookout post at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Senate investigators released a 500-page report Tuesday detailing CIA practices, accusing the spy agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners beyond legal limits and deceiving the nation with narratives of life-saving interrogations unsubstantiated by its own records. Photo by the National Guard.

    A lookout post at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Senate investigators released a 500-page report Tuesday detailing CIA practices, accusing the spy agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners beyond legal limits and deceiving the nation with narratives of life-saving interrogations unsubstantiated by its own records. Photo by the National Guard.

    In 2003, the White House reconsidered its position on using the term “humane treatment” when publicly describing how it handled suspected al-Qaida and Taliban detainees in U.S. custody and elsewhere abroad.

    CIA General Counsel Scott Muller expressed concern to the National Security Council principals, White House staff, and Department of Justice personnel that the CIA’s program might be inconsistent with public statements from the Administration that the U.S. Government’s treatment of detainees was “humane.” (Select Committee on Intelligence Report Executive Summary — Page 115)

    The Senate’s report details how this change in language may have had an effect on the treatment of Majid Khan, a prisoner who participated in a series of hunger strikes and self-mutilation beginning in March 2004. In 2006, CIA personnel took radical measures to force-feed Khan and administered a “lunch tray” of pureed hummus, raisins and pasta through his rectum.

    According to CIA records, Majid Khan’s “lunch tray” of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was “pureed” and rectally infused. (page 488)

    According to CIA records cited by the report, Khan became “‘very hostile’” to the rectal feedings and “removed the rectal tube as soon as he was allowed to.”

    This treatment comes to public light after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a more than 500-page summary report on the use of enhanced interrogation tactics on detainees in U.S. custody. The full 6,600-page report remains classified.

    Khan was one of at least five out of 119 detainees who received either rectal feedings or rectal rehydration, the report says. In at least one instance, these types of procedures were described in cables as “enemas,” but later clarified as being rectal rehydration.

    Personnel administered rectal rehydration to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, identified as the principal orchestrator of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in order to “clear a person’s head” and prompt Mohammed to talk to interrogators, the Office of Medical Services said, according to the report.

    The use of rectal feedings and rehydration as a coercive tactic adds a new layer to existing arguments against the U.S. practice of force feeding prisoners as part of enhanced interrogation techniques. In 2013, Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg, who has extensively covered the conditions of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, told the NewsHour:

    Well, you know, the head of the International Red Cross tells us that they oppose force-feeding, that actually prisoners do have the right to a certain measure of self-determination. And one of the things that they can do is choose not to eat.

    The Pentagon has a different policy. And what they say is that they have developed these force-feeding protocols from the Federal Bureau of Prisons years ago when they were first confronted with the hunger strikes. So there are international human rights and medical organizations that say what the U.S. is doing down there, feeding them twice a day with these tubes tethered up their nose, down the back of their throat and into their stomach, a can of Ensure twice a day, there are organizations that say this is wrong, that they should be allowed to choose to starve to death if they want to.

    The Senate’s CIA interrogation report quoted excerpts from the October 2001 edition of the CIA Directorate of Operations Handbook, which clearly stated that CIA personnel are to “neither participate directly in nor encourage interrogation which involves the use of force, mental or physical torture, extremely demeaning indignities or exposure to inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation.

    Read the full report below:

    The post CIA interrogators used rectal feedings to encourage prisoner compliance, report reveals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    Photo by Flickr user Kate Hiscock.

    Photo by Flickr user Kate Hiscock.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


    Question: I viewed an employment application yesterday and I didn’t have issues with most of what they asked for, until I got to the request for my Social Security number. What do they need that for? My thinking is that providing your SSN would only be appropriate if and when you are hired. In your opinion, when would it be acceptable to provide your SSN to a potential employer?

    Nick Corcodilos: Employers, like your phone company and gas company, use your SSN to identify you in their databases because it’s a unique number. It’s the lazy vendor’s way to track customers, and the lazy HR department’s way to track job applicants. And it’s frankly irresponsible.

    Here’s what Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, says:

    Never put a Social Security Number on your resume. You can provide it when you are invited for an interview or when the employer obtains your permission to conduct a background check. Widespread access to your SSN puts you at risk for identity theft.

    (So, uh… do employers ever conduct background checks before meeting you, or without your permission? Yep. For an example, see “Big Brother & The Employment Industry: All your employment are belong to us!”)

    “Give me one good reason why an applicant’s SSN is necessary to proceed with a job interview.”

    I know many HR workers will shake their heads and say I’m being overly cautious, and that they really do need a job applicant’s SSN. So here’s my challenge to any HR executive: Give me one good reason why an applicant’s SSN is necessary to proceed with a job interview.

    I’ve asked this question again and again, and no one has been able to answer it satisfactorily. We’ve already discussed how this “SSN protocol” has spawned unintended scams: “How employers help scammers steal your Social Security number.”

    If it needs a unique identifier, why doesn’t the employer just ask for your credit card number? For that matter, why don’t you — the applicant — ask the HR representative for his SSN, as well, so you can do a background check on him? (Two can play this game, if one thinks he can justify it.)

    Yes, these are rhetorical questions — but they’re no nuttier than improper requests for your SSN.

    I don’t believe any employer really needs your SSN until you are hired, when it’s necessary to process and report your contributions to your Social Security account. If the employer needs it to conduct a background check, wouldn’t you want the employer to put some skin in the game first — for example, by actually interviewing you and indicating it’s interested in hiring you?

    I’d take that a step further and ask the employer to (1) disclose exactly what kind of check it’s going to do, and (2) agree to show you everything it finds. Even credit bureaus are required to show you what they find. Which reminds me: You should be just as wary of requests by employers for your credit report: “Presumptuous Employers: Is this HR, or Proctology?”

    There’s really no stopping the assertive job applicant if we’re going to apply HR’s “logic” to employers. Ask the HR manager for her company’s Dunn & Bradstreet DUNS number so you can do a background check, too — before you invest any more of your time.

    Think my suggestions are a bit over the top? Then try responding to the employer with these two businesslike questions: For what reason do you need my SSN? Or, What are you going to do with it?

    The reality is, some software designer included a SSN field in the employer’s database, and the HR department bought the software without questioning the design and intent. Because HR relies on such software to process you, HR doesn’t know what to do if you decline to provide data the software “requires.” Go figure. Suppose the software included a credit card field instead — that’s unique to you, too, right? But no one would expect you to provide it because the employer doesn’t need it.

    I feel your pain. Some employers will boot you out of the hiring process if you don’t give them your SSN (and your salary history) — just like a phone or cable company will refuse to sell you service without it. I wish someone would file a lawsuit. (See “Never, ever disclose your salary to an employer.”)

    When you’re stuck, blocked by a faceless job application form that asks inappropriate questions, there’s just one thing left to do: Go mano a mano. Yes, I’d call the employer — on the phone — and explain that you’d like to apply, but that you will provide your SSN only if you are hired. “So, how do we proceed with my application?”

    Of course, HR might have a problem dealing with a human applicant, and it may have a policy against talking to applicants on the phone. Hey — where did you get HR’s private phone number, anyway…?

    Dear Readers: Do you hand over your SSN when applying for jobs? Is there an HR executive out there with the guts to stop asking for job applicants’ SSNs until after HR has decided to make an offer?


    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    The post Ask the Headhunter: Does HR really need your Social Security number? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    Loading...
    0 0

    Rock singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge shows the NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill her extensive collection of guitars and tells the story behind a few special instruments.

    It’s been a big year for Melissa Etheridge, personally and professionally. She got married to Hollywood producer Linda Wallem and shook up her 35-year music career by founding her own record label. The 53-year-old rocker released her 14th album “This is M.E.

    The Kansas-born Etheridge sat down with Gwen Ifill recently to talk about changing with the musical times while not changing what her fans value most: her distinctive triple threat of songwriting, singing and acoustic guitar playing.

    “I still believe in the art form of the album, that I want to spend, you know, 45 minutes with someone. I want to listen to it. I want to be on their drive from here to there,” Etheridge said. “I want them to have it in the car and share that time with me.”

    Before getting down to business, Etheridge showed Gwen her extensive collection of guitars, including her favorite guitar and one she bought at a Los Angeles flea market for just a few dollars.

    Tune in to tonight’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour to see Gwen’s conversation with Melissa Etheridge. You can watch on our Ustream channel at 6 p.m. EST or check your local listings.

    The post Inside Melissa Etheridge’s guitar case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    A guard in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    A guard in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

    Two military psychologists were contracted by the U.S. government for $180 million to develop the enhanced interrogation tactics within the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation and Detention Program, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Executive Summary revealed after it was released Tuesday. Before their contract was terminated in 2009, they had collected $81 million.

    The two psychologists, who the summary refers to using the pseudonyms of Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar, had worked at the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school, which prepares soldiers if they “are taken prisoner by countries that did not adhere to Geneva protections.”

    They built their ideas upon theories of “learned helplessness,” and they themselves even used these interrogation techniques on “some of the CIA’s most significant detainees,” the summary states, even though neither of them “had experience as an interrogator.”

    Both SWIGERT and DUNBAR had been psychologists with the U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school, which exposes select U.S. military personnel to, among other things, coercive interrogation techniques that they might be subjected to if taken prisoner by countries that did not adhere to Geneva protections. Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise. SWIGERT had reviewed research on “learned helplessness,” in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information. (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Executive Summary — page 21)

    Abu Zubaydah was the first detainee to receive this method of interrogation after he entered CIA custody in 2002, according to the summary. At that time, the two psychologists were the only ones allowed to have contact with Zubaydah. During the interrogations, he was slammed naked against a concrete wall, shown a box that appeared to be a coffin and waterboarded, after which time the summary said that Zubaydah “coughed, vomited, and had ‘involuntary spasms of the torso and extremities’ during waterboarding.”

    Swigert and Dunbar formed a company in 2005 to house their work with the CIA. The contract was terminated in 2009 under the Obama administration. According to the summary, the CIA’s indemnification contract requires that “the CIA is obligated to pay Company Y’s legal expenses through 2021.”

    The post Two military psychologists were paid $81 million to develop the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    President George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet and others stand on the seal of the Agency March 20, 2001 at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Photo by David Burnett/Newsmakers

    President George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet and others stand on the seal of the Agency March 20, 2001 at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Photo by David Burnett/Newsmakers

    In 2006, CIA officials were concerned that the FBI was getting too much credit for making progress in the war on terror. So the CIA Office of Public Affairs released false information to boost the agency’s profile and to support CIA claims that “tougher tactics” were necessary to get information from prisoners, the Select Committee on Intelligence Report Executive Summary reveals.

    Throughout the report, released today, cited documents show that the FBI and CIA frequently fought turf battles over information and access to prisoners, and CIA officials coveted public recognition for their agency’s efforts.

    The report details a September 2006 email communication between public affairs officers in the CIA discussing a possible New York Times story by David Johnston about a successful FBI interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. (The story was published by the Times on Sept. 10, 2006, and headlined, At a Secret Interrogation, Dispute Flared Over Tactics.)

    In an email with the subject line, “We Can’t Let This Go Unanswered,” the CIA’s director of public affairs in OPA, Mark Mansfield, described Johnston’s proposed narrative as “bullshit” and biased toward the FBI, adding that “we need to push back.” (Select Committee on Intelligence Report Executive Summary — page 406)

    The CIA had a go-to narrative for undercutting any FBI claim of success: FBI agents weren’t able to get useful information during their interrogations and that useful intelligence only began to flow after CIA agents swooped in with their own, “tougher tactics.”

    The article included the frequent CIA representation that, after the use of “tougher tactics,” Abu Zubaydah “soon began to provide information on key Al Qaeda operators to help us find and capture those responsible for the 9/11 attacks.” (page 406)

    But the claims were not true, the committee found:

    This characterization of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation is incongruent with CIA interrogation records. (page 406)

    In another instance, the CIA cooperated with author Ronald Kessler on his second book about the war on terror.

    According to CIA records, the purpose of the cooperation was to “push back” on Kessler’s proposed accounts of intelligence related to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, which a CIA officer noted “give undue credit to the FBI for CIA accomplishments.” (pages 406-407)

    A lawyer on staff advised against sharing CIA information with Kessler, but was less concerned about sharing if the information would help to “undercut” the FBI.

    After another CIA officer drafted information for passage to Kessler, [redacted] CTC Legal, [redacted], wrote, “[o]f course being the lawyer, I would recommend not telling Kessler anything.” [redacted] then wrote that if, “for policy reasons,” the CIA decided to cooperate with the author, there was certain information that should not be disclosed. [redacted] then suggested that “if we are going to do this,” the CIA could provide information to Kessler that would “undercut the FBI agents,” who [redacted] stated had “leaked that they would have gotten everything anyway” from Abu Zubaydah. (page 407)

    The goal was to avoid letting the CIA get “short shrift” in the overall narrative about the war on terror, Mansfield said.

    After Kessler provided a draft of his book to the CIA and met with CIA officers, the CIA’s director of public affairs Mansfield, described what he viewed as the problems in Kessler’s narrative. According to Mansfield, Kessler was “vastly overstating the FBI’s role in thwarting terrorism and, frankly, giving other USG agencies — including CIA — short shrift.” Moreover, “[t]he draft also didn’t reflect the enormously valuable intelligence the USG gleaned from CIA’s interrogation program” and “had unnamed FBI officers questioning our methods and claiming their own way of eliciting information is much more effective.”

    According to Mansfield, the CIA “made some headway” in its meeting with Kessler and that, as a result of the CIA’s intervention, his book would be “more balanced than it would have been.” (pages 406-407)

    The CIA gave Kessler their standard story: that enhanced interrogation techniques administer by the CIA had gleaned useful information from Abu Zubaydah after he had stopped cooperating with the FBI.

    The changes included the statement that Abu Zubaydah was subjected to “coercive interrogation techniques” after he “stopped cooperating.” Kessler’s revised text further stated that “the CIA could point to a string of successes and dozens of plots that were rolled up because of coercive interrogation techniques.” (page 406)

    But, the report states, those claims were not backed up by any CIA records of the event.

    Read the full report below:

    The post CIA leaked false information to the press in an attempt to outshine the FBI, report finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    Senate investigators delivered a damning indictment of CIA practices Tuesday, accusing the spy agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners beyond legal limits and deceiving the nation with narratives of life-saving interrogations unsubstantiated by its own records. Read full PBS NewsHour coverage of the report here.

    Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA Interrogation

    The post Read the full Senate report on CIA interrogation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    Students at Doherty Middle School get their healthy lunch at the school cafeteria, on June 18, 2012 in Andover, Massachusetts. Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

    Students at Doherty Middle School get their healthy lunch at the school cafeteria, on June 18, 2012 in Andover, Massachusetts. Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Congress is taking some whole grains off the school lunch line.

    A massive year-end spending bill released Tuesday doesn’t allow schools to opt out of healthier school meal standards championed by first lady Michelle Obama, as House Republicans had sought. But it would ease standards that require more whole grains in school foods.

    The bill also would put off rules to make school meals less salty, suspending lower sodium standards that were supposed to go into effect in 2017.

    Some school nutrition directors have lobbied for a break from the standards, which have been phased in since 2012, saying the rules have proven to be costly and restrictive. Some kids don’t like the meals, either. House Republicans have said the rules are an overreach, and have fought to ease them.

    As the debate escalated this summer, Michelle Obama said she would fight “to the bitter end” to make sure kids have good nutrition in schools. The White House did not have immediate comment on the language in the spending bill.

    Many schools have complained that the whole grain standards are a challenge, especially when preparing popular pastas, biscuits and tortillas. Food service companies don’t have as many options in the whole wheat varieties, and preparation can be more difficult, especially with some whole wheat pastas that can be mushy and hard to cook.

    The spending bill, expected to become law before the end of the year, would allow schools that can demonstrate they have had difficulty finding and affording acceptable whole grain products like pastas and breads to be exempted from 2014 standards requiring all grain products to be mostly whole grain. Those schools would still have to abide by previous guidelines that half of their grain products be mostly whole grain.

    Food service companies don’t have as many options in the whole wheat varieties, and preparation can be more difficult, especially with some whole wheat pastas that can be mushy and hard to cook. The final language is a compromise between the House’s attempt to allow schools to opt out of the standards for a year and a Senate provision that called for more study on the whole grains issue.

    The changes for sodium standards are far off. The 2012 standards already lowered salt levels in school meals, with even lower sodium levels set to start in two years. The bill says the government cannot require the 2017 levels “until the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children.”

    In a statement after the bill was released, Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees agriculture issues, said the whole grains waiver is “the best bill we that are going to get” with Democrats still controlling the Senate. He expressed optimism that the GOP may get more of what it wants when the party controls both chambers next year.

    While many schools have implemented the new standards successfully, others have said they’re not working. Schools have long been required to follow government nutrition rules if they accept federal reimbursements for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students, but the 2012 standards were much stricter than earlier standards.

    The congressional changes have been pushed by the School Nutrition Association, a group that represents both school nutrition directors and the food companies that produce many of the school foods. While the group was looking for deeper rollbacks than included in the spending bill, the whole grain and sodium standards were among its main concerns. The organization’s CEO, Patricia Montague, issued a statement late Tuesday saying the group “strongly supports” the language.


    The Agriculture Department has already shown some flexibility on the whole grain issue. It said earlier this year that schools can put off for two years the requirement that all pastas in schools be mostly whole grain if they can demonstrate that they have had “significant challenges” in preparing the pasta.

    Advocates for the healthier meal standards predict there will be fewer problems over time as kids get used to the new foods and the food industry creates tastier and more numerous products that follow the standards.

    American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said the changes in the spending bill could harm kids’ health, even if the bill doesn’t dismantle the school meals program.

    “If Congress hits the pause button now on the sodium reduction, it’s possible that more children could develop high blood pressure and be at risk for heart disease or stroke before they even become adults,” Brown said in a statement.

    The year-end spending bill won’t be the last time Congress takes on the school meal standards, as the overall law governing child nutrition policy, including school lunches, expires next year. Both the House and the new Republican Senate are expected to consider changes to the meal standards as part of legislation renewing the law.

    On other food issues, the spending bill would allow fresh white potatoes to be part of the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. The Agriculture Department doesn’t currently allow them, even though it allows other fruits and vegetables, because it says people already eat enough white potatoes. The program serves low-income children and pregnant and nursing mothers.

    The post Congress eases whole grain standards for school lunches appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    Loading...
    0 0
  • 12/10/14--07:53: A food stamps success story
  • Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    Federal and state cash and in-kind transfers kept the child poverty rate about the same since 2000 and through the Great Recession. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    Editor’s Note: Just how poor are America’s children compared to children around the world?

    University of Ottawa professor of economics Miles Corak uses a recent UNICEF report and accompanying background paper on child poverty to draw an important distinction about the way poverty rates are measured. There’s a difference, he says, between who’s poor when only market and private sources of income are considered and who’s poor after counting all taxes, including all federal and state cash and in-kind transfers.

    Corak has previously written for Making Sen$e about the Great Gatsby Curve and why America’s children are the silent victims of the Great Recession.

    A longer version of this column appears on Corak’s blog. Follow him on Twitter at @MilesCorak. And for more on poverty rates in this country, check out Making Sen$e’s primer, “Who counts as poor in America?”

    – Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    It is an understatement to say that the welfare reforms of the 1990s were intended to give a little spring to the social safety net.

    The intention was much more radical. The reforms involved a major make-over of income support, and turning what was imagined as a net ensnarling many Americans behind a welfare wall, into a springboard that would incentivize work and allow them to ride a wave of prosperity to higher incomes that would lift their children out of poverty.

    But this kind of reform is hardly what is needed when times turn bad.

    The only virtue of a trampoline when employment falls by more than 8 million, when the unemployment rate more than doubles, and when median incomes drop by over $10,000, is that it catches you on the way down.

    American families needed a safety net during the Great Recession. A recent report on child poverty suggests that is exactly what they got: the rate of child poverty has hardly budged in spite of all the macroeconomic turbulence of the last six years.

    The UNICEF report, “Children of the Recession,” is the latest in a series that every two years or so compares the well-being of children across the rich countries, a series that has repeatedly made the claim that child poverty in the U.S. is among the highest, placing American children in the company of, if you find the numbers convincing, Bulgarians and Romanians.

    It continues to do so, claiming that one in three American children live in poverty, a slight increase since the recession began, and actually a bit worse than in Romania.

    UNICEF defines “poverty” as the degree of inequality in the lower part of the income distribution, more specifically the fraction of children falling below six-tenths of the middle income. This is a prevailing standard in Europe, but an accompanying background paper, that has yet to receive the attention it deserves, offers a helpful perspective by using a definition closer to what is recommended by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Marianne Bitler, Hilary Hoynes and Elira Kuka, economists at, respectively, UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis, who authored this more detailed assessment for UNICEF, clearly document the failure of the job market to eliminate child poverty. About one-in-six children were poor before the recession when only market and other private sources of income are considered, and this shot up to about one-in-four in 2010.

    A child poverty rate of 17 percent in the best of times, to say nothing of one approaching 25 percent during the worst of times, drives home a clear message about the polarization of wage rates, their stagnation and outright declines among the lower skilled, and the limited capacity of families to move up the income ladder, both when jobs are scarce and when they are not.

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    But, when measured after all taxes, and including all federal and state cash and in-kind transfers (with the exception of health insurance transfers), the child poverty rate has not changed at all since 2000, averaging about 12 percent throughout the recession with no major uptick.

    As a result, a yawning gap has opened up between market income poverty rates and total income poverty rates, which can only be heralded as a major success story, not for the in-work assistance mode of income support, but for out-of-work assistance, and particularly for those components of the system under federal control.

    It’s a food stamps story.

    As the authors explain, Clinton-era welfare reform “led to a decline in cash welfare generosity. At the same time, with the expansion of the EITC [Earned Income Tax Credit], the safety net for low income families with children has been transferred from one providing out-of-work assistance into one supporting in-work assistance.”

    The Earned Income Tax Credit may be the country’s biggest anti-poverty program for those with a job, but it doesn’t offer much support for those unable to find work.

    In contrast, the very significant increases in spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program aided the least advantaged. That spending depended on federal government action, but it also exposed the limited capacity or desire of some states to respond in turn.

    The social safety net reversed market income poverty rates in Texas, Oregon, Montana, Vermont, Maryland, Colorado, Illinois and New York. But in other states with similar challenges, notably in Louisiana and Alaska, the social safety net accomplished much less.

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Graph courtesy of the author.

    Market income poverty rates that jumped by more than eight percentage points were erased in Hawaii and Idaho, but only partially so in Delaware and North Carolina. And while Nevada saw a 10 percentage point increase in child poverty based on market incomes, that was reduced by about half after government support.

    But all of this leaves a good deal unsaid. Income is not the only thing that matters in giving children the support they need to successfully navigate the transitions to adulthood, and the severity and duration of the Great Recession suggest that some kids will certainly be scarred long after the unemployment rate falls to pre-recession levels.

    Major reductions in wealth and permanent income from job loss, residential moves as a result of mortgage defaults, and the added stress parents face in having to deal with impeding uncertainty have all taken a toll on the family lives of many kids, whether their household annual income falls above or below the poverty line.

    The fact that federal government programs put a floor under family incomes may well be something to be celebrated, but it is not a balm for all of the challenges families and children continue to face, and it is certainly not sustainable in the long run without a robust labor market that benefits the least advantaged in some significant way.

    The post A food stamps success story appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    Photo by Flickr user Don McCullough

    Photo by Flickr user Don McCullough

    WASHINGTON — Under pressure from Congress to speed access to U.S. skies for commercial drones, the government granted four companies permission Wednesday to use drones for aerial surveillance, construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections.

    The new permits bring the total number of companies granted permits for commercial operations to 13. They were announced by the Federal Aviation Administration an hour before a House hearing at which lawmakers warned that if the agency doesn’t move faster, Congress will step in.

    Commercial drone flights are taking off in other countries while the U.S. lags behind in developing safety regulations that would permit unmanned aircraft operations by a wide array of industries, Gerald Dillingham of the Government Accountability Office testified at the hearing.

    Several European countries have granted commercial permits to more than a 1,000 drone operators for safety inspections of infrastructure, such as railroad tracks, or to support commercial agriculture, Dillingham said. Australia has issued over 180 permits to businesses engaged in aerial surveying, photography and other work, but limits the permits to drones weighing less than 5 pounds. And small, unmanned helicopters have been used to monitor and spray crops in Japan for more than a decade.

    Canada has had regulations governing the use of unmanned aircraft since 1996 and, as of September, had issued over 1,000 permits this year alone, Dillingham said.


    The permits announced Wednesday were granted to Trimble Navigation Limited, VDOS Global LLC, Clayco Inc. and Woolpert Inc., which received two permits. The drones weigh less than 55 pounds and the firms have said they will they will keep the unmanned aircraft within line of sight of the operator.

    Previously the only permits the Federal Aviation Administrational Aviation had issued were to two oil companies in Alaska and five aerial photography companies associated with television and film production.

    The FAA said it has received 167 requests for exemptions from commercial entities.

    The post FAA issues commercial drone permits to 4 more companies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — One of the two psychologists paid millions for designing the CIA’s post-Sept. 11 program of brutal interrogations defends the treatment of al-Qaida detainees and disputes a critical Senate report.

    “What I would love the American people to know is that the way the Senate Democrats on that committee described the credentials and background of the two psychologists is just factually, demonstrably incorrect,” James E. Mitchell told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday from his Florida home.

    Mitchell, who is identified in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report by a pseudonym, Grayson Swigert, declined to be specific about what he considered inaccurate.

    He said a secrecy agreement prevented him from confirming his involvement in the CIA program or fully defending himself.

    A U.S. official with knowledge of the program confirms that Mitchell is Swigert. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information that has not been publicly released.

    Mitchell’s former business partner, Bruce Jessen, is identified in the report as Hammond Dunbar, the official said.

    The report said they “devised the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management” of the program. The two were said to be involved in some of the most brutal interrogations, including waterboarding applied to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed that went beyond what the Justice Department had approved.

    “It’s a lot more humane, even if you are going to subject them to harsh techniques, to question them while they are still alive, than it is to kill them and their children and their neighbors with a drone,” James E. Mitchell told The Associated Press. The CIA contracted out much of the interrogation program to the two men, the report said, and ultimately paid their company $81 million.

    In the AP interview, Mitchell said the committee’s report cherry-picked evidence to present a false narrative about the CIA program.

    “It’s flat wrong,” he said, to suggest that he had no experience as an interrogator and no understanding of al-Qaida, as the report says of the psychologists.

    But Mitchell declined to detail his experience, other than to point out he spent 30 years with the Air Force and other government organizations.

    “I completely understand why the human rights organizations in the United States are upset by the Senate report,” he said. “I would be upset by it too, if it were true.”

    “What they are asking you to believe is that multiple directors of the CIA and analysts who made their living for years doing this lied to the federal government, or were too stupid to know that the intelligence they were getting wasn’t useful.”

    Mitchell asserted, as have former CIA officials who ran the interrogation program, that the current policy of using CIA drones to kill terrorists overseas with Hellfire missiles is more troubling than subjecting them to harsh interrogation measures.

    “It’s a lot more humane, even if you are going to subject them to harsh techniques, to question them while they are still alive, than it is to kill them and their children and their neighbors with a drone,” he said.

    The report said Mitchell “had reviewed research on ‘learned helplessness,’ in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information.”

    The post Psychologist defends harsh CIA interrogations, challenges Senate report’s accuracy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    TIME's magazine covers for their 2014 Person of the Year depict those who have been fighting Ebola.

    TIME’s magazine covers for their 2014 Person of the Year depict those who have been fighting Ebola.

    Doctors in hazmat suits, nurses in scrubs, scientists in lab coats, aid workers in plain clothes — the people responsible for waging war against the Ebola virus come in many different uniforms across the globe. In 2014, they are all TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

    “Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, says the proverb, but rather the hero’s heart,” TIME writer Nancy Gibbs starts. “Maybe this is true in any battle; it is surely true of a war that is waged with bleach and a prayer.”

    The Ebola virus created an epidemic in 2014, spreading across borders and taking hundreds of lives. With poor government response plans and organizations unable to keep up with aid, Gibbs writes that it was those with “the hero’s heart” who stood up to confront the virus when the world wasn’t prepared to, even at risk of their own lives.

    “Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one,” the article states.

    Which brings us to the hero’s heart. There was little to stop the disease from spreading further. Governments weren’t equipped to respond; the World Health Organization was in denial and snarled in red tape. First responders were accused of crying wolf, even as the danger grew. But the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritan’s Purse and many others from all over the world fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams.

    The article warned that 2014′s events were a test, one that the global health system failed. Yet, the people who fought Ebola were able to act as a barrier to keep the disease at bay.

    “The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight,” the article concludes. “For tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year.”

    While TIME’s Person of the Year is usually given to an individual, this is one of numerous instances where the distinction has been awarded to a group. In 1950, the “American fighting-man” in 1950, “Hungarian freedom fighter” in 1956, “U.S. Scientists” in 1960, “the Inheritor” in 1966, “The Middle Americans” in 1969, “American Women” in 1975, “The Peacemakers” in 1993, “The Whistleblowers” in 2002, “The American Soldier” in 2003, “The Good Samaritans” in 2005, “You” in 2006 and “The Protester” in 2011.

    The post Ebola fighters are TIME’s ‘Person of the Year’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    0 0

    U.S. President Barack Obama sits with students during a tour of a Pre-K classroom at Powell Elementary School prior to speaking on the Fiscal Year 2015 budget in Washington, D.C. in March 2014. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    U.S. President Barack Obama sits with students during a tour of a Pre-K classroom at Powell Elementary School prior to speaking on the Fiscal Year 2015 budget in Washington, D.C. in March 2014. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Declaring early childhood education “one of the best investments we can make,” President Barack Obama on Wednesday followed up on a promise to expand early education opportunities for tens of thousands of children by announcing $1 billion in public-private spending on programs for young learners.

    Obama said that less than one-third of 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool and blamed the high cost of these programs for essentially shutting off access to poorer infants, toddlers and preschoolers. He said studies repeatedly show that children who are educated early in life are more likely to finish their educations, avoid the criminal justice system, hold good jobs and have stable families. All those factors are good for the U.S. and its economy overall, Obama said.

    “We’ve got kids in this country who are every bit as talented as Malia and Sasha but they’re starting out the race a step behind,” Obama said, referencing his teenage daughters. He said the investments announced at a daylong White House summit on early education will help level the playing field.

    Nationwide, 28 percent of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded preschool program last year.

    “We’re not close to where we need to be,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during a morning panel discussion on how to pump more investment into early learning.

    The panelists, including a local sheriff from Ohio, agreed that spending more money on early education can have significant lifetime effects such as reducing crime and teen pregnancy and increasing future earnings for those who went to preschool.

    At the summit, 18 states are being awarded a total of $250 million in Education Department grants to create or expand high-quality preschool programs. Those states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. In all, 36 states had applied for the grant money.

    Another $500 million from the Health and Human Services Department is being sent to more than 40 states to expand Early Head Start and child care programs for youngsters from birth to 3 years old.

    The White House said about 63,000 children would benefit from the federal dollars, which officials said already have been appropriated by Congress.

    On top of the federal money is another $330 million from dozens of corporations, foundations and individuals. That money is part of a new campaign called Invest in US.

    The effort being led by the First Five Years Fund will challenge the private and public sectors to spend more on early childhood education. Among those supporting the campaign are The Walt Disney Co. with $55 million, the LEGO Foundation with $5 million and the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation with $25 million.

    “That’s real money,” Obama said. “Even in Washington, that’s real money.”

    Obama pushed for an expansion of early education opportunities in his State of the Union address in 2013, and again in 2014 after his call got little traction in Congress. At the summit, he called on the new Republican-controlled Congress that will be seated next year to “work with me to make pre-K available for all of our kids.”

    During the summit, the First Five Years Fund also previewed a series of 60-second public service announcements that focus on different aspects of early childhood education, from home-based child care providers to preschool teachers.

    Produced to highlight the importance of educating children in their first five years, actors Jennifer Garner and Julianne Moore and singers John Legend and Shakira each narrate a spot, ending with the tagline “When we invest in them, we invest in us.”

    The Associated Press previewed the announcements before their release. They are available for viewing online at www.investinus.org .


    Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

    The post Obama announces $1 billion investment for early childhood education appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


    Loading...

older | 1 | .... | 499 | 500 | (Page 501) | 502 | 503 | .... | 1175 | newer


Loading...