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

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    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

    Senate Intelligence Committee Minority Report by Doug Mataconis

    The post Read the full Senate report on CIA interrogation and the minority report in response appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    AP Photo/Darryl Bush, File

    AP Photo/Darryl Bush, File

    Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for over two years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions.

    Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours — the Secrets of Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) will be published in February by Simon & Schuster.

    Imagine that each and every year that you work, you and your employer jointly contribute 12.4 percent of your pay in FICA taxes to the federal government. You’re now 70 and are walking over to the local Social Security office — in Dayton, Ohio, where you live — to file for your retirement benefits. You’ve waited until 70 to get the largest possible benefit thinking you might make it to 100.

    The​n​ tragedy ​strikes​. As you walk, you open a letter from your doctor telling you your cancer test is positive and ​that ​you have six months to live. You’re horrified. But when you get over the shock of knowing you are about to die, you get really angry. You start thinking of all the money you paid to Social Security for the 50 years you spent working. Now you’ll get essentially nothing back.


    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    But then you realize your wife is going to collect widows​ ​benefits based on your work record, and since she earned very little on ​her ​own, your wife will get what you would otherwise have received.

    You love your wife. You married her in Massachusetts years ago and are extremely concerned that she be financially secure when you pass. With your paid-off home in Dayton and her monthly widow benefit, your wife will be able to ​just ​get by.

    You arrive at the local office​, ​explain the situation​,​ and start asking what your wife needs to do to collect widows benefits when you die. The Social Security staffer looks sheepish.

    “Sorry, but your wife can’t collect widows benefits.”

    “What do you mean she can’t collect widows benefits? I paid FICA taxes all my life. The Social Security rules are crystal clear. Widows and widowers of deceased spouses can collect survivor benefits as long as they are over age 60.”

    “Yes, but you aren’t married.”

    “What do you mean I’m not married? I can go get my marriage certificate. We got married in Massachusetts.”

    “Yes, but you are living in Ohio?”

    “Yes, I live in Ohio. But Social Security is a federal program. I paid a tax each year for 50 years that has the name federal on it​ — the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. ​Why does it matter that this is Ohio?”

    “Because you are gay and Ohio doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages. Social Security condones Ohio’s judgement that you aren’t married even though you are married.”

    “Are you kidding?”

    “Unfortunately not. If you want your wife to collect a widows benefit, you’ll need to sell your house and move to one of the 35 states that do recognize same-sex marriage.”

    “We can’t sell our house. My wife is disabled. We spent a ton ​of money ​fixing the house to accommodate her disability.​ And because of this, it has a very low resale value.​”

    “I’m sorry. But that’s Social Security’s decision.”

    If Ohio recognizes same-sex marriages, the wife may be able to collect a lump sum benefit from ​whatever date​ the Ohio ​a​ttorney ​g​eneral ​thinks is appropriate. A recent Social Security decision in Rhode Island, which recognized same-sex marriage last year, went down this way.​ The Rhode Island attorney general made the call.​

    Social Security follow the laws of the state in which the worker lives at the time he or she applies for benefits or while the claim is pending a final determination.

    And now for some answers to readers’ questions.

    Anne — Ind.: My husband died in 1992 when he was 40 and I was 35. At the time, our triplets were five years old, and I received the maximum family benefit until they graduated from high school, at which time all Social Security benefits ended. I have never remarried and will be 60 in another year. Can I expect any more widows benefits, since I already received the maximum family benefit while the kids were growing up? I haven’t been able to find anything online that addresses my question.

    Larry Kotlikoff: The maximum family benefit is applied annually, so the fact that you reached the limit in the past doesn’t matter for collecting benefits when you reach 60 or in any year thereafter.

    Please note that it may or may not be optimal for you to start taking widows benefits at 60. If you had a low earnings history, maximizing your lifetime benefits may entail taking your retirement benefit starting at 62 and switching to your widows benefit at full retirement age, which, in your case, is age 66 and two months. This will ensure that you’ll receive your largest possible widows benefit. Alternatively, it may be best to take your widows benefit at 60 and your retirement benefit at 70, when it will start at its highest possible value. In either case, you won’t run into the family benefit maximum.

    Macrina — N.C.: I received Social Security benefits for disability for three years during cancer treatment. I returned to work for eight years, but then had to reinstate my disability in 2011. I attained full retirement age (FRA) Dec. 7, 2013. Social Security told me my disability automatically became my retirement benefit at my FRA at 66. They did not offer any other option. Reading your answers to some other inquiries made me wonder if I could have continued on disability had I elected to and wait until 70 for retirement, greatly increasing my benefits. I cannot live on my resources without the Social Security money even though I am able to work a little each month, earning less than the disability SGA teaching college online. Is there still anything I can do to increase my benefit? I am still disabled and I have been divorced since the early 80s (marriage was only three years).

    Larry Kotlikoff: The only thing you can do now to raise your lifetime benefit is suspend your retirement benefit and restart it at, say, at age 70, when it will be about 24 percent higher due to the accumulation of delayed retirement credits. But I realize that you need the money to make ends meet and that this is probably not a real option.

    Were you within one year of the automatic conversion of your disability benefit to your retirement benefit (you are now two days beyond that date) and were you married or divorced after a 10 year marriage, you could, I believe, withdraw your retirement benefit and, depending on a couple other conditions, collect a full spousal or full divorced spousal benefit.

    Claude — N.J.: Can several ex-spouses (divorced wives) collect Social Security spousal benefits related to the same ex-spouse (ex-husband)? If they can, is the benefit amount each ex-wife can collect based on the pro-rata of their marriage duration?

    Larry Kotlikoff: All your previous wives/husbands to whom you were married for 10 or more years can collect on your work record just as if there were no other previous wives/husbands. Conversely, one person can also cash in one multiple ex-spouses’ benefits.

    Jim — Va.: Both my wife and I have worked all our lives and have maximized our Social Security benefit and are getting close to 62. What is the best strategy to maximize our benefit? There is not an immediate need for the benefit and we can wait until FRA or later.

    Larry Kotlikoff: The best thing to do is purchase a low-cost, but highly accurate Social Security maximization software program. It will tell you in a second what’s the optimal strategy. It will surely involve one of you, whom I’ll call A, filing for his or her retirement benefit either early or at full retirement age in order to permit the other of you, whom I’ll call B, to file just for a spousal benefit. B will then wait until 70 to collect his or her retirement benefit. If A files early, A will suspend his or her retirement benefit at full retirement age and then start it up again at 70. If A files at full retirement age, A will immediately suspend his or her benefit and restart it at 70.

    The post How Social Security still discriminates against same-sex couples appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Black congressional staffers hold their hands up as they pose for a group photo during a walkout December 11, 2014 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The staffers staged a walkout to protest over the recent Mike Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Black congressional staffers hold their hands up during a walkout Thursday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The staffers staged a walkout to protest the recent Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Dozens of minority congressional staffers and Capitol employees have gathered to protest the killing of unarmed black men by police.

    About 200 workers and a few members of Congress stood on the House steps Thursday and silently raised their arms in the “don’t shoot” gesture used to protest the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

    They stood, heads bowed, as Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black prayed, “Forgive us when we have failed to lift our voices for those who couldn’t speak or breathe for themselves.” He emphasized “breathe” in a reference to Eric Garner of New York, who died after a police chokehold.

    Afterward, Black said the workers were exercising their free speech rights to seek a larger conversation about the issue, which has sparked demonstrations across the country.

    The post Capitol staffers raise their hands to join protest over police killings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A sea of thick cloud covers the Grand Canyon. Image from the National Park Service.

    A sea of thick cloud covers the Grand Canyon. Image from the National Park Service.

    Imagine showing up for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to view the Grand Canyon in Arizona only to find the deep ravine completely covered by clouds. If you went today, that’s what you saw — a rare total cloud inversion just below the rim. The unusual weather phenomenon usually happens every few years, but this is the second year in a row.

    The clouds materialize when cold air gets caught between the Earth’s surface and warmer air above, according to the National Weather Service. Weather forecasters expect these clouds to dissipate gradually as a cold weather system moves in, bringing the first snow of the season to the national landmark.

    Watch a time lapse video of the clouds beginning to close in over the canyon several days ago:

    The post Sea of clouds cover the Grand Canyon in rare weather event appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Forty years after his death, musician Nick Drake's sister wants to set the record straight, to provide a "fuller picture of someone who was basically an enigma." She published "Nick Drake: Remembered for a While," “the authorized companion” to the artist’s music earlier this week.

    Forty years after his death, musician Nick Drake’s sister wants to set the record straight. She’s just published “Nick Drake: Remembered for a While,” an authorized companion to the artist’s music, to provide a “fuller picture of someone who was basically an enigma.” Courtesy Bryter Music

    In the last two decades, musician Nick Drake went from relative obscurity to posthumous fame, his beautiful, melancholic music touching the lives of people throughout the world. Forty years ago, he died from an overdose of antidepressants at age 26. Today he’s often remembered as a “solitary, misunderstood lonely poet.”

    “We are more intent on making the picture as muddy as it really is, than trying to clarify anything.”
    Now, his sister wants to set the record straight, to provide a “fuller picture of someone who was basically an enigma.”

    Nick Drake: Remembered for a While,” is the product of that goal, a nearly 450-page book, filled with photos, handwritten lyrics, family letters and essays on the musician.

    The book, released this week, is being billed as “the authorized companion” to the artist’s music, and was compiled and edited by his sister, Gabrielle Drake, and his estate manager, Cally Callomon.

    The beginning to Nick Drake's handwritten lyrics to "Fruit Tree," which was released on his first album "Five Leaves Left" in 1969. Courtesy Bryter Music

    The beginning to Nick Drake’s handwritten lyrics to “Fruit Tree,” which was released on his first album, “Five Leaves Left,” in 1969. Courtesy Bryter Music

    “I’m usually a bit suspicious about things that try and be definitive,” Callomon told Art Beat. “We are more intent on making the picture as muddy as it really is, than trying to clarify anything … because none of us know how it was.”

    Gabrielle Drake had originally vowed to never write about her brother, leaving that task to music critics and historians, but inaccuracies in their writings prompted her to reconsider.

    He was more than a depressed, melancholic young man, she said. “He had a lot of humor and lightness in him … He gave a lot of pleasure to people. He had friends. Nick was very much loved in his life.”

    Gabrielle insists on a more complex chord structure for their recording of 'All My Trials' during Christmas at Far Leys, the Drake family home. Photo by Rodney Drake

    Gabrielle insists on a more complex chord structure for their recording of ‘All My Trials’ during Christmas at Far Leys, the Drake family home. Photo by Rodney Drake

    The original idea for the book came from Callomon, who was inspired by a similar compendium his father owned on Beethoven.

    “You could play the records and wander through Beethoven’s life,” he said.

    Diving into Drake’s life took six years and wasn’t easy. The two had a long list of people that they hoped would contribute.

    “Nick was someone who compartmentalized his life, and so often certain sections of the people in certain parts of his life never met people who were in other parts of his life,” Drake said. “It’s been very interesting to me to hear about a Nick perhaps that I didn’t really know, and that happened throughout.”

    Nick in France playing the Swedish-built Levin Guitar.

    Nick in France playing the Swedish-built Levin Guitar. Courtesy Bryter Music

    She met friends she’d never met before. She read her father’s diaries documenting the almost daily struggle of the last three years of Drake’s life and his battle with depression. Entries describe his son’s moods, his medications, his willingness or unwillingness to converse.

    “I found that reading those diaries were quite an enlightenment, and quite a harrowing one and distressing one at that,” she said.

    Despite the painful memories, Gabrielle Drake kept the diaries in a storage room in her home, along with family letters and papers, poems from her brother’s childhood, photographs and report cards. “My family and I are terrible hoarders. We seem to have kept everything.”

    Callomon was already a fan of Drake when, in 1990, he started working at Island Records, the record company that released Drake’s three studio albums.

    “There were a number of musicians on their roster who I thought were really undernourished and Nick was very much one of them — he wasn’t selling any records at all.”

    Pink Moon, Nick Drake’s third album, came out in 1972, two years before he died. It was his worst-selling album during his life, but his biggest-selling album in America. In 1999, the title track was featured in a Volkswagen commercial, which helped launch the song on to the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

    “Some music is dated by the death of the author. Some music, it doesn’t matter whether the person is alive or not; it’s the music itself that takes flight.”
    In 1994, he created the CD collection “Way to Blue: An Introduction to Nick Drake.” The collection was an immediate success, selling more than 200,000 copies in the U.S. and U.K. combined. Through the process, Callomon developed a relationship with Drake’s sister and with music producer Joe Boyd, which paved the way to managing Drake’s estate.

    “I just got interested in, what happens if you manage a dead musician as if he’s a living entity,” said Callomon. “Some music is dated by the death of the author. Some music, it doesn’t matter whether the person is alive or not; it’s the music itself that takes flight.”

    When Callomon started managing Drake in the ‘90s, he was still fairly unknown.

    “The extraordinary thing was that he died in relative obscurity 40 years ago,” Drake said. “It took a few years for his fame to start rising, but then it seemed that it was almost unstoppable. His work, which I think he always believed in, and his music, suddenly found an audience.”

    The front cover of "Bryter Layter," Nick Drake's second album. Photo by Nigel Waymouth

    The front cover of “Bryter Layter,” Nick Drake’s second album. Photo by Nigel Waymouth

    So why did he find an audience so many years after his death? Callomon has his own theory. The manager describes Drake’s music as without “clichés.” It doesn’t fit neatly into one category or another, he said.

    “I think people were just confused by this person making music in odd time signatures with odd phrasings and off callings, and this is music that didn’t adhere to whatever was at the time the sign of the times … the reason why he wasn’t selling is the reason why he is selling now.”

    Back in the early 1970s, Drake struggled with a lack of recognition, so his sister believes this profound response, so many decades later, would have meant a great deal to him. For her, it’s bittersweet.

    “I am deeply pleased and delighted for him that his work is recognized and only terribly sad that he is not able to see it for himself,” she said. “While I am not surprised that people find his music beautiful and are really starting to listen to it in a big way, I suppose I am surprised and delighted that fame can come to him 30 years after he died.”

    “Introduction” is the overture to Nick Drake’s second album, “Bryter Layter,” which was released by Island Records in 1971.

    That fame, she is quick to point out, is largely due to word of mouth. There have been no large campaigns promoting his music. People have discovered it and passed it on to their friends.

    “The great thing about Nick is the deeper you get, the more mysterious he becomes.”
    As this network of Drake devotees continues to grow — a task Callomon is gratified to keep working on — they now have their new book to help “round out” the many impressions of the illusive artist.

    But is that “rounding out” possible? Callomon and Drake hope to start, but they both agree no one will ever have a finished picture.

    Callomon recalls hearing the first track to the album “Bryter Layter” in London’s Abbey Road studios recently. He’d heard it many times before, but “it virtually brought me to my knees,” he said. “It was like hearing it again for the first time.”

    “The great thing about Nick is the deeper you get, the more mysterious he becomes,” he said. “And there aren’t many musicians around that I can say that about…

    “I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I’ve exhausted Nick Drake.”

    The post Handwritten lyrics and unpublished photos expose new side of Nick Drake appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    A centuries-old time capsule was discovered in Boston on Thursday. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    A 219-year-old time capsule, believed to be originally buried in 1795 by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, was unearthed Thursday in Boston.

    The time capsule, believed to be the oldest unopened one in the U.S., was first discovered on Beacon Hill in 1855 during emergency repairs to the State House. It was immediately reburied by then-Governor Henry Garnder, where it did not see the light of day until December’s excavation by Museum of Fine Arts conservator Pam Hatchfield.

    According to the the Boston Globe, the capsule, encased in granite, is believed to include silver and copper coins that date back to 1652 and 1855, newspapers, a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records and the seal of the Commonwealth.

    The piece of American history was taken to the Museum of Fine Arts. There it will be X-rayed before its contents are revealed and made available to view to the public.

    The post Centuries-old time capsule from Sam Adams and Paul Revere unearthed in Boston appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Hello Dolly cookie from the kitchen of Colleen Shalby. Photo by Ariel Min

    Hello Dolly cookie from the kitchen of Colleen Shalby. Photo by Ariel Min

    12DaysBanner_FinalHappy Friday! Not only have you made it to the end of another work week, you’ve arrived at Day 5 of our 12 Days of NewsHour. We hope today’s gift will keep you busy in the kitchen all weekend and satisfy your sweet tooth all week long.

    You may recall last year’s PBS NewsHour staff-wide cookie contest. Ten brave employees offered up treasured family recipes to be judged by a jury of their peers. The real winner, of course, was you — our online audience. We shared the recipes for the winning cookies last year, and we’re resurfacing them here, so you and your taste buds can take a walk down memory lane.

    Speaking of memories, don’t forget to take advantage of the other gifts we’ve released so far. The 4k fireplace video we released on Day 1 is still crackling away on YouTube. The cross-stitch pattern from Day 2 is just the thing to keep you occupied during your well-deserved holiday vacation. Judy’s Georgia Cheese Biscuits, released on Day 3, are the perfect winter side dish (if you haven’t filled up on cookies). And Gwen and Judy’s voicemail message from Day 4 will delight all who call to wish you a happy holiday season.

    While you are waiting for the sixth gift to be released on Saturday, please hop online to share photos of you and your loved ones enjoying the first five gifts on social media using #12DaysofNewsHour.


    The post 12 Days of NewsHour: NewsHour staff share their favorite cookie recipes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A feeding tube and other items used in the forced feeding of detainees is seen at the detainee hospital at Guantanamo Bay. Doctors say that the method of rectal feeding and hydrating described in the Senate's report on the CIA's interrogation practices is not practiced in modern medicine. 2013 file photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    A feeding tube and other items used in the forced feeding of detainees is seen at the detainee hospital at Guantanamo Bay. Doctors say that the method of rectal feeding and hydrating described in the Senate’s report on the CIA’s interrogation practices is not practiced in modern medicine. 2013 file photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    One of the more dramatic findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s interrogation practices in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks is that some uncooperative detainees were subjected to “rectal rehydration” and “rectal feedings.”

    Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who served under former President George W. Bush, on Thursday strongly defended the practice as a “medical procedure.”

    But doctors dispute that. They say the practice is almost never used, that it’s humiliating and not the best way to rehydrate a patient.

    “That was a medical procedure that was done because of detainee health,” Hayden insisted on CNN.

    Hayden claimed that in each of the five instances the practice was used “for the health of the detainee, not part of the interrogation program, not trying to soften him up for any questioning.”

    The Senate report, which Hayden derided as not “an objective observer,” noted on p. 488, in one instance: “According to CIA records, Majid Khan’s ‘lunch tray’ of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.”

    Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan and contributor to the NewsHour, questions the practice.

    “It’s almost never done,” he wrote to the NewsHour in an email. “There are so many easier and more effective ways to hydrate or feed a patient.”

    Thomas Burke, an emergency doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital who teaches at Harvard Medical School echoed that in an interview with the Washington Post.

    “For all practical purposes, it’s never used,” Burke said. “No one in the United States is hydrating anybody through their rectum. Nobody is feeding anybody through their rectum. … That’s not a normal practice.”

    The practice dates back to the 18th and 19th Centuries, Markel noted.

    “During the Civil War, nurses tried to feed injured soldiers that way,” he said.

    But it’s considered very rare today.

    “It’s annoying and humiliating to have it done to you,” Markel wrote, adding, “If the fluids you are infusing into the rectum and colon are not the right balance of electrolytes, etc., your bowels could violently — and painfully — expel the contents all over you and the floor.

    “Speaking as a physician, there is no place [for this] in medical treatment today. It’s a barbaric way to feed, let alone rehydrate anyone in the 21st Century.”

    The post Is rectal feeding an actual modern medical practice? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    On Sept. 6, 2006, President George W. Bush delivered the first detailed “formal public representation about the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation technique.” This is according to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA Interrogation that was released Tuesday.

    In his speech, delivered from the White House, President Bush outlined the U.S.’s successes in capturing and questioning high-level terrorists involved with the 9/11 attacks. The president also lauded the contributions of intelligence officers in their quest to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.

    But according to the Senate report, some of the intelligence the president referenced was based on false information provided by the CIA.

    In his speech, President Bush referenced detainee Abu Zubaydah, a senior terrorist leader and associate of Osama bin Laden. He said that information obtained from Zubaydah during an “alternative set of procedures” used during questioning led to information that helped stop a terrorist attack being planned for inside the U.S.

    “We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives. But he stopped talking.

    As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so, the CIA used an alternative set of procedures.”

    According to the report, Zubaydah did not respond any differently to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

    Abu Zubaydah’s inability to provide information on the next attack in the United States–and operatives in the United States–provided the basis for CIA representations that Abu Zubaydah was uncooperative, as well as for the CIA’s determination that Abu Zubaydah required the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques to become compliant and reveal the information that CIA Headquarters believed he was withholding. The CIA further stated that Abu Zubaydah could stop the application of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, like the waterboard, by providing the names of operatives in the United States Or information to stop the next attack. At no point during or after the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques did Abu Zubaydah provide this type of information. (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report Executive Summary — Page 206)

    CIA Director John Brennan said Thursday in response to the release of a Senate report that some agency officers used “abhorrent” techniques and it was “unknowable” whether they produced any helpful intelligence from terrorism suspects.

    But he defended the agency and the CIA officers who fought and died in the Afghanistan war. The CIA “did a lot of things right” in a time when there were “no easy answers,” he said.

    Read the Senate’s full report below:

    Senate Republicans issued a minority report in response to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s executive summary on enhanced interrogation techniques.

    Video edited by Justin Scuiletti

    The post Video: Comparing Bush’s 2006 claims about CIA interrogation to what we know now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968) and his wife Coretta Scott King (1927 - 2006) (center, arm in arm) lead others during on the Selma to Montgomery marches held in support of voter rights, Alabama, late March, 1965. Among those with them are Reverend Ralph Abernathy (1926 - 1990) (at left, facing camera), and Pulitzer-Prize winning political scientist and diplomat Ralph Bunche (1904 - 1971) (front row, third left with glasses) whose his wife, Ruth (nee Harris, 1906 - 1988), holds his arm. (Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

    American Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, center, arm in arm, lead others during a Selma to Montgomery march in March 1965. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” opens on Christmas Day. Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

    There is a shock of recognition in the scenes that begin and end “Selma,” the elegiac new work by filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

    Even if you know only a little about your history, the events surrounding the 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama March will seem familiar. The characters — Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, John Lewis — are central to the story. But as retold in this film, often through the eyes of people whose names no longer ring a bell, you will be shocked by the saliency of the story.

    On some level, we have all internalized the civil rights movement — the marches, the iconic voices, the laws — as a kind of dated backdrop to America as it is now. The last few years and the year to come have taken us through anniversaries of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws, the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision, and the March on Washington.

    It is not insignificant that every time President Obama has been required to comment on a current day outcry over Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown or Eric Garner, he is compelled to remark on how far we have come. Americans are fond of viewing their most complicated history through the lens of progress.

    But this film is not about our sepia tone memories, and it certainly does not allow us to wallow in the self satisfaction of having elected a black president. It is not about a country that could enable the raging success of the billionaire icon Oprah Winfrey.

    It is one that is home to an entertainment industry that requires an Oprah Winfrey to get films like this made. (She has a small acting role in the movie, but a far more consequential one as one if its producers.)

    DuVernay, a gifted storyteller, opts for a fair bit of shorthand throughout the film, setting aside the somber black-and-white documentary approach we have come to expect, for an immediacy that takes you inside the White House and also to mid-span at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where one marcher glances at the riot troops ahead, and remarks to the young John Lewis: “Can you swim?”

    One of the most amazing details I came across while preparing for a post-screening conversation with DuVernay in Washington this week was that there has never been a feature length motion picture made about Martin Luther King Jr.

    My other surprise was that to get this movie made, DuVernay had to rewrite much of King’s iconic speeches herself, because the King estate would not grant her the rights to use his actual words.

    DuVernay does many interesting things with this film – some intentional, like drawing attention to the contributions of women like Diane Nash and Amelia Boynton. And, without tarnishing our memory of her, we gain a layered insight into the long-suffering Coretta Scott King, who – for instance — met with Malcolm X when Dr. King would not.

    Thanks to historians like Taylor Branch and Robert Caro, these incidents and these individuals have not been entirely lost to history. But I daresay more people will see this film than have read their weighty history books.

    This comes as a great gift at a time when we are wrestling with our history. The young people protesting nightly in cities around the country and around the world can’t help but remind me of John Lewis, who was only 23 when he was nearly killed while marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

    But, as the closing Golden Globe-nominated song “Glory” plays and the credits roll, you cannot help but be jolted into the Michael Brown/Eric Garner present. How far have we come really?

    The singer John Legend and hip-hop artist Common neatly tie together the then and the now.

    “The movement is a rhythm to us
    Freedom is like religion to us
    Justice is juxtaposition in us
    “Justice for all” just ain’t specific enough”

    The post Gwen’s Take: Selma — then and now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, Congress is going down to the wire again on averting a government shutdown. New and familiar divisions emerged inside both parties. And all that happened just days after a report on the CIA’s alleged use of torture went public.

    For all that and more, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, Mark, we’re going right down to the wire once again on a spending bill. Was this inevitable, lame-duck session, after the midterm elections? Is this what we knew was going to happen?

    MARK SHIELDS: Probably, Judy.

    And it’s a great opportunity for people who have particular causes that they want to slip into the final legislation, that it’s — the train is pulling out of the station. You have to vote to keep the government going, keep it open. And so I think there’s a certain appeal, in addition to the procrastination, that contributes to this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sometimes, people want to avert their eyes, but here we go again.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, though I’m upbeat.

    I think we have a right to be happy and joyful, holiday season. We had an actual government shutdown not too long ago. And this time, the odds are, we’re not going to have one. And so a couple things have happened. The center has held.

    President Obama and John Boehner, Democrat, Republican, it seems like they’re going to win this thing. They’re not going to win it without blood and setbacks, but they are going to win it. Boehner clearly has much more control over the Republican Caucus than he did this time a year ago or six months ago.

    And so that’s interesting and probably productive. On the other hand, the Democrats are beginning to behave like an opposition party, a party in opposition. And we’re beginning to see the shifts there. Now, I would say the big loser of the week is Hillary Clinton.

    If you thought she was going to walk in, cakewalk to the coronation, if I’m mixing metaphors there, but that ain’t going to happen. Clearly, the Democratic Party is beginning to have an argument within itself with a more populist wing, a more establishment wing, so a little parallel to what happened to the Republicans a couple of years ago, but it’s really interesting.

    And so we have seen a lot of the new formations of the next two years come into being here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David is referring, Mark, to Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, a darling of many of the liberals, who is taking issue with one of the easing of the financial regulations in the bill. There are other liberal Democrats who are unhappy about changing campaign finance.

    Is this what we have to look forward to in the Democratic Party?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think I have a little different take on it from David, in the sense that I think the Democrats had a great opportunity here to define themselves as a party.

    They have gone through an election where they’d never had an economic message. And here’s a bill presented with the amendment, quite openly written by Citigroup. The four biggest banks in the country handle 93 percent of derivatives. And this is written for them.

    It’s to make their business easier and to provide backup if — in case things still go wrong, that Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer of this country will bail them out once more under — in the worst possible circumstances. They say, oh, it’s just — it’s making it easier logistically and so forth.

    The Democrats had a chance to break that. Nancy Pelosi stood up on it, and I think — really think that the White House buckled too soon. I think they had the Republicans very much on the defensive. They didn’t want — wanted to deny paternity of this provision. It ties them very much into the negative public stereotype of the party as too close to big money.

    And then on top of that, they quintupled or actually octupled the amount of money that millionaires and billionaires can give to party committees. So, you had two really good issues. And we have ended up with 70 percent, seven out of 10 House Democrats voting against, not simply the speaker, but voting against the president on this bill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying it’s a good thing for the Democrats.

    David, a good thing?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s a good thing. Any turmoil in the Democratic Party has got to be a good thing.

    It’s very much like what happened in the Republican Party. It’s the difference between, are you trying to make a statement or are you trying to pass a law? If you are progressive and you have, as Mark says, two great issues, you can make a statement.

    On the other hand, if you don’t pass this right now, and you kick it over to the next Congress, say, then it’s certainly going to be worse on a whole range of other issues for Democrats because Republicans will be in control. And so the people who supported this thing, like Barack Obama, Steny Hoyer, all these people, they are looking at what is going to happen, not only those two issues, but on a whole range of issues.

    So, if you’re trying to define your party, then Mark is right. Elizabeth Warren has a good defining issue there. If you’re trying to pass a law that will be good for your people on a whole range of other issues, Barack Obama is right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Weren’t we just talking, Mark, a couple weeks ago about the president making gestures to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party on immigration reform, the executive action, net neutrality?

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, no question.

    But I think this was a crunch question. I don’t think there’s any question the Republicans could not — this is a practical political question, rather than just symbolic and philosophical. I think the Republicans were in a terrible position. The more heat, the more light, the more attention that had focused on these two provisions would have put them very much on the defensive, to the point — there was — Tea Party Republicans were upset because of the money.

    They see this opening up the money, the millionaires and billionaires’ money, to the establishment of the Republican Party, then running against them, as they did very effectively in 2014, in primaries, so that they will nominate more establishment candidates.

    So I just think a missed opportunity was here. And I think that the White House, quite frankly, was eyeball to eyeball with the Republican Congress and the White House blinked.

    DAVID BROOKS: But a lot of it is what’s getting your juices flowing. And for Elizabeth Warren, this issue on the derivatives gets her juices flowing. That’s like a core issue.

    And for a lot of Democrats, that is a core issue. I think, for a lot of other Democrats, it’s just not a core issue. They might agree with it nominally, but they’re just not passionately involved. And that’s why I leap ahead to the primary season. And that’s why Elizabeth Warren owes it to us to run, or somebody like owes it to us to run to make our lives interesting, of course.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we’re going to wait and talk about that on another — on another Friday.

    The Senate Intelligence report, though, Mark, on the CIA’s so-called enhanced interrogation techniques or, as others say, that’s euphemistic for torture, what do you make of the report and the reaction of the CIA, this this — a few people did it, it was legal, and they did what they had to do in a time of great stress for the country?

    MARK SHIELDS: The critics have basically they didn’t talk to enough people, it wasn’t complete, it wasn’t balanced, it shouldn’t come out at this time, doesn’t — helpful.

    Is it true? Yes, it’s true. Did the United States — I mean, Ronald Reagan signed the anti-torture U.N. convention as president of the United States in 1988. The Senate ratified it in 1994. Torture was declared not simply immoral, but illegal.

    In 2001, we repealed it. Without any official act, it was effectively repealed. And that’s what this is about. And, on this issue, Judy, it’s very rare that this happens in American public life. There’s one figure who stands unassailable and alone as the authority. And that is John McCain.

    And John McCain is the moral clarity on this torture issue and on this report. And he is the one who has said, quite bluntly, yes, we should have it, we should have had this report, and what we did done was wrong, and it’s not the United States. We are better than that as a people. He believes in American exceptionalism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you make of the report?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I will add four things.

    First, the best thing about the report is, it cuts through the ocean of euphemism, the EITs, enhanced interrogation techniques, and all that. It gets to straight language. Torture — it’s obviously torture. What was done is obviously torture.

    And when you cut through it, though, the technology — or the metaphor and the euphemism is designed to dull the moral sensibility. And this aroused the moral sensibility. It’s very hard to read this report and not be morally outraged. And so that does have — that had a great effect.

    Second — the second issue raised, which is another issue McCain has gone to, is the effectiveness of the evidence. And I think we’re right to be agnostic about that. Brennan says he’s not sure. John Brennan says he’s not sure.

    MARK SHIELDS: Unknowable.

    DAVID BROOKS: Unknowable whether it helped. McCain says, from his own personal experience, that torture leads to bad intelligence. He’s probably right about that. So we’re unsure about that.

    I do have some sympathy for those who say the document was too partisan. It was written by Democratic staffers. It was done in a partisan way. I’m a little bothered, as a reporter, that they didn’t interview as many people as they should have. I do — there’s some merit in that.

    And then the thing they do whitewash is the role of Congress here and even the role of Democrats. At the time, the CIA claims, with some evidence, that they did brief people. And a lot of people who are now on their high horse saying how horrible that it was sat there in those rooms and didn’t say anything or even were for it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is the argument really about here? What matters in all of this, Mark?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, what matters, Judy — it was not a perfect document and I don’t think anybody is pretending that it is.

    What matters is, do we confront what we have done and what was done in our name and under our flag? And, you know, to quote John McCain, this isn’t about our enemies. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.

    And I wasn’t just being glib when I said he believes in American exceptionalism. A lot of people on the left who are very supportive of McCain’s position don’t think America is exceptional otherwise. But — and all the people who talk about America being exceptional and doing whatever we want militarily all of a sudden are very defensive and don’t even — don’t even pretend to hold us to a standard on something like torture.

    This was torture. The United States of America does not, does not, does not hold somebody by chains to a floor half-naked and let him freeze to death in the name of the United States of America. We don’t do that. David’s right. It’s impossible to read it and not to be morally upset.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If that’s the case then, why aren’t we talking about punishment for the people who did this?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, people are put in miserable jobs and decisions were made at a political level.

    And there was — a lot of what we have learned is that decisions are made, but then don’t tell me what you’re going to do, under the aegis of the decision I just made.

    And I do — I would hesitate to do it, because it was a tough time. They didn’t know anything about what al-Qaida was up to. And I do think they were motivated by the national security interest. I think it was wrong. I think the people who were involved — and we know this from the report — the people who were involved were appalled at the time, but sometimes they thought, you know, they are doing the right thing.

    We kill people with drones. We’re killing people all the time with drones. Killing is probably worse than torture. Those moral calculus shouldn’t be legalized, except for in extreme cases, in my view.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly to both of you, the CIA comes out of this how?

    MARK SHIELDS: The CIA comes out of it, I think, damaged and wounded.

    I think that’s what John Brennan is trying to do. Judy, most of all, what it hurts is the honest, effective, dedicated professionals who get intelligence without torturing people, without degrading other human beings, who do that every day, and do it well.

    DAVID BROOKS: It wasn’t just the CIA. It was the whole country. There was a lot of people, and a lot of people up the political chain, a lot of people in Congress, a lot of people in the public. And so we’re trying to rediscover our moral center.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tough questions tonight.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, we thank you.

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    Following months of negotiations and court dates, Detroit finally emerged from a historic bankruptcy yesterday with a new plan for the future.

    The city’s former Financial Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, who resigned his post yesterday, was the central manager in the largest-ever municipal bankruptcy, leading the city through a fairly speedy Chapter 9 that shaved $7 billion of its $18 billion in debt.

    Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor and host of Detroit Public Television’s (DPTV) American Black Journal, sat down with Orr for a one-on-one interview to discuss the bankruptcy, its effects on Detroit, and the short and long-term goals for the city.

    Orr was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on March 14, 2013 to serve as Detroit’s Financial Emergency Manager. Prior to that, he served a key role in Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring. Prior to coming to Detroit, Orr was a partner in the Washington, DC office of the international law firm Jones Day.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s been just about two weeks since word broke of cyber-criminals hacking into Sony Pictures. And each day seems to bring more damaging, embarrassing or worrisome revelations.

    The hackers have released a steady flow of information, ranging from salaries, to personal e-mails, Social Security numbers, and health records of employees, to internal messages showcasing industry hardball.

    The past couple of days have been even worse for the company, if you can believe that.

    And again to Hari, who is in our New York studios tonight.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The latest e-mails put new pressure on Amy Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Entertainment and one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood. It’s focused on confidential e-mails between Pascal and Scott Rudin, a powerful producer.

    Before a fund-raiser for President Obama, they exchanged messages in which they try to guess the president’s favorite movies, all with African-Americans. Pascal writes: “Should I ask him if he liked ‘Django’?” referring to “Django Unchained.”

    Rudin writes back, “12 Years,” for “12 Years a Slave.”

    Pascal responds: “Or ‘The Butler? Or ‘Think Like a Man?’”

    Both apologized yesterday. It’s not yet clear who’s behind the hacking. But they call themselves the Guardians of Peace.

    We turn to two watching this closely, Sharon Waxman, editor in chief of The Wrap, an industry news site, and James Lewis, a cyber-security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Sharon, I want to start with you.

    You’re one of the few people to get in touch with Ms. Pascal yesterday. How significant is this hack? Put this in perspective. Is this what folks in Tinseltown are all talking about right now?

    SHARON WAXMAN, TheWrap.Com: It’s the only thing people are talking about.

    And it’s by far the most significant thing to happen in the business this year, for sure, and probably will weigh on people’s minds for years to come, largely because the studio has been more or less paralyzed for weeks now. I don’t think that the studio is back to normal. From what we hear, they’re doing billing by hand.

    Yesterday, we broke a story that the hackers once again penetrated their network and flashed a message on their computer screens, threatening to do more damage if their demands were not met. That being said, their demands are not at all clear.

    But I think every single studio in town is checking their own security and everyone is worried about their e-mails, because, of course, anyone who’s had contact with Sony’s e-mail system, which is everyone, is worried that they might be impacted as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: James Lewis, this isn’t your normal kind of hack, in the sense that if somebody was able to get something as sensitive as Social Security numbers, you see that being sold on the darker portions of the Internet. Tell us how this is different.

    JAMES LEWIS, Center for Strategic and International Studies: Well, it’s different in a couple of ways.

    The first is that there doesn’t appear to be a commercial motive. It’s some kind of a political motive, maybe a personal motive. The second is that it’s been going on for a long time. Most crimes are smash-and-grabs. You get in, you get the data, you sell it.

    And, finally, this is a little more sophisticated than some of the things we have seen. It tracks very closely with what North Korea has done in the past, but it’s in no way conclusive. And the North Koreans have never before gone after an American target. So, in many ways, this is a bigger deal than what we have seen previously.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sharon, help me understand. Does this change how actors and agencies and studios do business, in the sense that, if I read through some of this, I know what actors make, what sorts of perks are included in the deals that are going on behind closed doors.

    And also you get a sense that, you know, there is this disturbing data that confirmed the gender disparity that exists at the top of Hollywood.

    SHARON WAXMAN: Well, the gender disparity, which, by the way, is also an ethnic disparity, is not news to anybody who is involved in the entertainment industry. It’s heavily white and it’s heavily male.

    And Amy Pascal is one of the handful of extremely powerful women executives in town. But if you’re referring to the fact that the top million-dollar-plus salaries were released and pretty much she was the only one on the list who is a woman, yes, I think it underlines that.

    But it’s way more disturbing in terms of doing business to, yes, what you’re referring to, having conclusive information about what perks every star who is working at Sony gets, what stars are actually making, within the, you know, private negotiations that go on for various projects. People have — actors, they have fees and they have agents.

    But, of course, what is said, what is actually concluded is that there’s always that murky space. That’s all been ripped away with the revelation of these e-mails and it’s just one thing after another that is, you know, embarrassing and that is going to make it difficult, I think, for Sony to be regarded as a place where you can do your business and that it remains private.

    You know, I think that is one part of the damage to the studio. And I think that the damage to Amy Pascal personally, because it seems like a very personal attack on her, is devastating.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jim, what do we know about the identities of the hackers? What sort of clues are the investigators working with?

    JAMES LEWIS: Well, they’re working with the code, which includes some Korean language that points toward North Korea. They’re looking at the malware, which is similar to what North Korea has used in the past against South Korean targets, although it’s been used by the Iranians and others in their cyber-incidents.

    We’re looking at the motivations in the statements. The North Koreans denied it. That doesn’t mean anything. Everybody always denies covert action. What’s interesting is that they also turned around and then said, it wasn’t us, but, by the way, we’re really glad to see this happen.

    It’s interesting to note that, this summer, the North Koreans sent a letter to the secretary of the general of the U.N. protesting the film, asking that it be banned, and using language that was very similar to what we have seen in the hack.

    So in no way is this conclusive, but they’re the lead suspect.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Sharon, does this also fuel this tension between artists and the studios, in the sense that when you read some of these e-mails, regardless the race of the artists, they seem to be expressing on Twitter and other places that, you know what, we’re the help, we make all this money for the studios, but this is really what they think of us behind closed doors.

    SHARON WAXMAN: It’s really funny you would say that because I have had a couple of calls this year, completely unrelated to this, from people who are directors and who represent actors, saying exactly that, that there’s so much of like a serf-landlord feeling in the culture of Hollywood today and actually asking me to find out, if I could, who’s making a million dollars or more at the studios, as they grind down constantly the salaries of the actors, who are the names that they open these movies with.

    But you have situations — and I don’t know if you have seen — it’s up on Twitter — Angelina Jolie, who is part of — who was mentioned in these e-mails between Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin, a very powerful producer. He was insulting to her in the e-mails. And she is obviously a director now. She has a movie coming out shortly, “Unbroken.”

    And they’re talking about her in relation to interrupting some negotiations over a movie they’re trying to make about Steve Jobs, and he refers to her as a spoiled brat.

    So, just so happens she was at a breakfast with Amy Pascal. And there is a pretty icy photo of the two of them greeting each other. So if you’re asking how it affects talent relations — and Amy Pascal is known as somebody who has warm relations with talent. That’s one of the big, important things. This is a business of relationships, and that — I think that makes everything kind of fraught at the moment, for sure.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Sharon Waxman from The Wrap, James Lewis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, thanks you so much.

    JAMES LEWIS: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Six former Guantanamo detainees were transferred to the South American country of Uruguay this week. They were terror suspects, but never charged with any crimes.

    One of the men, Abu Wa’el Dhiab, has been on a hunger strike for years and was subjected to force feedings. His attorneys have sued the U.S. government for release of videotapes of the force-feeding sessions.

    I spoke with his attorney, Cori Crider, a short time ago in Uruguay.

    Cori Crider, welcome.

    These men who have been released, they have now been in Uruguay for almost a week. What’s it’s been like for them? How have they been received?

    CORI CRIDER, Attorney for Former Guantanamo Bay Prisoner: I have never, in my many years of doing this work, seen a reception like this.

    It has been overwhelming in its warmth and its compassion. When my client, who has been on a hunger strike for most the past two years, was going around the hospital ward to have tests, other patients in the hospital came out of their wards and leaned in and smiled and waved.

    I have been hugged by grandmothers in the supermarket simply because I am a lawyer who represents a Guantanamo prisoner. The warmth of the people of Uruguay has been overwhelming. We’re so grateful and so pleased.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I read that some of the men went for a long walk today. And I know that, as you mentioned, your client has been on a hunger strike. His health has been a real issue. How is he doing?

    CORI CRIDER: He’s recovering slowly. With every day, he seems to have a bit more color in his face, but he wasn’t, unfortunately, one of the men to go on a long walk.

    We have been talking about it. And I showed him photographs of the sunset. But, as yet, he hasn’t — he hasn’t gone out. But the others, they smelled the sea air for the first time in 12 years, and that’s a really special moment when you have been held without charge or trial, of course.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How free are they, Cori Crider, to move about and do what they want?

    CORI CRIDER: They’re free. They have gone down to the cafe. I think they have done a spot of kind of shopping with some friends.

    At the moment, I think the thing that’s most difficult is, I don’t think any of us can really comprehend the extent to which 12 years in Guantanamo without charge or trial takes time to recover from. One of my clients basically said to me, it is effectively like being born for the second time.

    They are having to learn things very basic. Another client once said, “I haven’t heard the laughter of a child in over 10 years.”

    So, after having so much loss, they’re really just taking their first steps as men, as free men again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So what is next for them? What are their plans, to the extent they have any?

    CORI CRIDER: Yes. Well, of course, it takes time to make plans, and we are really only on sort of day six of having a future at all.

    But, that said, when I talked to Abu Wa’el Dhiab, reprieve client, we discussed how he used to manage a Syrian restaurant and maybe he could start a Syrian food craze here in Montevideo.

    Some of them are well into their Spanish classes. And they are progressing. But, of course, it will take time. The trauma they have been few, in my client’s case, the forcible cell extractions, with the riot squad hauling him from his cell and the force feedings, of course, those will take time to recover from, but I’m delighted to say that they’re all on the road to recovery.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Cori Crider, the attorney for one of the men released this week from Guantanamo Bay, thank you.

    CORI CRIDER: Thanks so much.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Since the federal health care law expanded Medicaid in some states, about seven million low-income Americans have gained new health insurance.

    But, in Los Angeles, health officials say that’s not enough and they want to try going further, using Medicaid dollars to pay for housing for the homeless.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our report.

    WOMAN: I got appendicitis, OK? Cirrhosis of the liver.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Deborah Mullins blames most of her health problems on this block in downtown Los Angeles.  She has been living on the sidewalk here for the past 30 years.

    MAN: Do you know how many times she went to the hospital? At least eight.  At least.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mullins’ health has gotten so bad that even the police have started worrying.

    MAN: As a matter of fact, no, that’s been this year, and we’re not even done yet.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: She’s exactly the kind of person Dr. Susan Partovi and her team from L.A.’s Department of Health Services have been trying to find recently.  They say they have an obviously cure for much of what ails the city’s chronically homeless, namely, housing.

    WOMAN: We could put you in a temporary housing.

    WOMAN: Put me somewhere, because I’m tired of this.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The health care reform law brought insurance to most of L.A.’s homeless population this year, when California expanded the Medicaid program, but so far it’s done little to improve the health of the 3,500 homeless residents in the infamous Skid Row neighborhood, because even with better access to doctors and prescription drugs, they’re still living on the streets, many with severe chronic and mental health conditions.

    Marc Trotz directs a new branch of the county’s Department of Health Services called Housing for Health.

    MARC TROTZ, Housing for Health: It’s daunting out on Skid Row.  I mean, just in our quick walk out there, it does feel like a — you’re quite overpowered by the number of people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the next few years, he plans to use county health funds to put 10,000 of L.A.’s sickest homeless people into permanent supportive housing, because he says it’s not free to let them live on the sidewalk.

    MARC TROTZ: It’s a very high cost for that person and their health and their well-being, but a very high societal cost as well, in terms of this constant ricocheting through hospitals, correctional facilities, back on the street and shelters.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Often, this is the site of the priciest of those interactions, public hospitals like Los Angeles USC Medical Center.  Most nights, several dozen homeless patients make their way to the emergency department here for health crises made worse by living outdoors.  Others camp out in the waiting rooms just to get out of the weather.

    KATHY GARVIN, USC Medical Center: Trying to find out why people are here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Care for the most frequent patients can cost upwards of $90,000 to $150,000 per year.  And Kathy Garvin, the emergency department’s assistant nurse manager, says the results are often depressing.

    KATHY GARVIN: If we prescribe antibiotics to somebody with pneumonia and they go back and they lay on the grate right out front, they’re not taking their antibiotics.  They’re not getting any better.  We might feel like we have done something, but really we haven’t, and eventually we are going to bury them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tracy Napoli’s story almost ended that way.  The former construction worker lost his job and then his house after he fell from a ladder and shattered an ankle, making it difficult for him to walk or work.

    WOMAN: Any history of alcohol abuse?


    HARI SREENIVASAN: For three years, he bounced between the streets, the shelters and too often the emergency room.

    TRACY NAPOLI: Usually, the emergency room was a last-ditch effort, because I had let something go for too long or I was really sick and it wasn’t getting any better.  Twice, I got into an emergency room because of altercations here in downtown. 

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of those times, Napoli heard about the Star Apartments.  He was among the first to move in to the 100-unit complex when it opened last year, under the Housing for Health Division and the nonprofit Skid Row Housing Trust.

    And he was also among Dr. Susan Partovi’s first patients at the Star clinic on the ground floor.

    WOMAN: That hurts?


    WOMAN: Now, can you do it if I push it up a little bit?

    TRACY NAPOLI: Yes, but it still hurts.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It was Partovi who noticed a few months ago that 50-year-old’s eyes looked yellowish, one of the signs of alcoholic hepatitis.

    TRACY NAPOLI: She just asked me.  She says, are you going to quit drinking? Do you want to quit drinking? I said, yes.  So, she says, well, we’re going to put you in the hospital.  She gave me a ride to the hospital, had me admitted.  And I have been sober since.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Not long ago, Napoli’s apartment was covered in beer cans.  Now he tries to keep it clean.  He is hoping to regain strength in his ankle through physical therapy and then start applying for jobs.

    DR. MITCHELL KATZ, Director, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services: My interest in housing is how do you use housing to change the arc of life of somebody who’s homeless.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s Dr. Mitchell Katz, the director of Los Angeles County’s Department of Health Services.  He and Marc Trotz helped develop the housing first idea in the ’90s, when they both worked for San Francisco’s Department of Public Health.

    DR. MITCHELL KATZ: What we discovered is that, often, once you house people, the other problems often diminished right away.  They were using less substances because they wanted to keep their housing.  They were less mentally ill because they were not so frightened by the conditions in which they were living.  They had a sense of security.  They had a sense of community.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The concept has spread to many other American cities to.  But take it to the next level, Katz is making a controversial move.  He’s advocating that the federal government allow him to use funds from the health law’s Medicaid expansion to directly purchase or build thousands of additional units for the homeless, taking the program to scale with federal funds.

    But, at the moment, top government officials say that’s not allowed because housing isn’t a direct health service.

    DR. MITCHELL KATZ: This doesn’t really make any sense because, for a homeless person, housing is the relevant top service.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Not everyone buys the argument.

    Bruce Vladeck directed Medicaid and Medicare during the Clinton administration.  He is still an advocate for both the Medicaid program and government-funded housing, but he says that combining the two could be dangerous.

    BRUCE VLADECK, Former Administrator, Health Care Financing Administration: I think we need to fund housing as housing.  I think the problem with funding it or seeking to fund it through Medicaid is that the Medicaid is already under all kinds of political pressure because of its expense.

    If you start to say that anything that might benefit a Medicaid beneficiary ought to be covered by the Medicaid program, you’re really opening up a bottomless pit, and you’re making the program even more vulnerable to those who want to cut or eliminate it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Others say the concept has already grown too much.

    At the Los Angeles Mission, one of the oldest shelters in Skid Row, the goals are short-term help and long-term treatment.  Herb Smith, the nonprofit’s president, says housing first works for some people, but there are many people who need services like a bed for the night or help quitting their addictions before they try to live independently.

    Smith says those things have become much harder to provide in recent years, as funders have shifted toward housing first.

    HERB SMITH, Los Angeles Mission: It affects people differently, the reason people became homeless, and we need to be able to address that in ways that are effective and target those particular populations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tracy Napoli used to stay at the L.A. Mission and very much agrees that kind of help is needed as well.  But the housing first approach is what ended his homelessness, he says, and eventually his drinking.

    He also knows he’s relatively lucky.  The program has helped about 700 people so far; 50,000 more remain homeless in L.A. County, the number the Housing for Health team says would fall dramatically with the federal help they’re requesting.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s a growing recognition about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, and it seems new headlines each week, including the high-profile investigations currently under way at the University of Virginia.

    One major factor that’s getting less attention, and yet accompanies many cases, is the volume of drinking happening on or near campus.

    That’s our focus tonight.

    Gwen has a conversation we recorded earlier this week.

    GWEN IFILL: The scenes you find of college parties on the Web and in the movies play up the fun, the rowdy moments, the sheer “Animal House” craziness of campus life.

    But a recently renewed discussion about rape allegations has thrown a fresh spotlight onto the dark side of problems associated with excessive drinking at institutions of higher learning. More than 1,800 students die each year from alcohol-related incidents; 600,000 students have been injured while drunk and nearly 100,000 sexual assaults have been reported that were linked to alcohol intoxication.

    We talk with two people who have seen the problem close up.

    Jonathan Gibralter is the president of Frostburg State University in Maryland, which has about 5,000 students. He’s the co-chair of a college presidents working group to address student drinking. And Beth McMurtrie is with “The Chronicle of Higher Education” and she’s part of a team that just finished a special series, “Alcohol’s Hold on Campus.”

    Welcome to you both.

    JONATHAN GIBRALTER, Frostburg State University: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: We just talked about death, injury, sexual assault, President Gibraltar. Of those three, which would you say are the biggest consequence of excessive drinking?

    JONATHAN GIBRALTER: I think all of them are the biggest consequence of excessive drinking. And excessive drinking is the thing that I think brings about a lot of these related harms to a lot of college students today. And I consider even one of them to be extremely serious.

    GWEN IFILL: Beth McMurtrie, wasn’t this declared a problem in the 1990s? I am certain this is not the first conversation we have had about drinking on campus, yet here we are again.

    BETH MCMURTRIE, The Chronicle of Higher Education: I know.

    And I think that’s the thing that struck me as I was reporting this story. If you go back in time to the ’90s and even earlier, you see that this was part of a national conversation. And millions of dollars and hundreds of task forces and so many efforts have been put into this issue over the years to try to address the problem of dangerous drinking on college campuses.

    But when you look at the data and you look at the binge drinking rates among college students, not a whole lot has changed.

    GWEN IFILL: So, why didn’t the problem as identified turn into action?

    BETH MCMURTRIE: Well, I think there has been action over the years.

    And I think what did you see among colleges is that they tend to focus on education as a means for changing students’ behavior, this idea that if you give students the right information, that they will make wiser choices. But the research has shown education without enforcement and without intervention, without trying to control the flow of alcohol on campus, really has a very limited and a very short-term effect.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s ask president Gibraltar about that.

    You have been part of this commission, but you also have to see this every single day in your job.

    JONATHAN GIBRALTER: I think — and Beth is exactly right. I think that the important thing to recognize is that, in colleges and universities every year, you have a new group of freshmen. So it’s a new educational process.

    Beyond that, though, just educating young people alone isn’t enough. It’s got to be a comprehensive initiative to approach this problem. And that includes both working with a local community, working with your college or university community, working with your alumni, but it also has to include deterrents.

    At Frostburg State, we have a collaborative law enforcement agreement and our university police work closely with several different law enforcement agencies to work off campus and be able to work — you know, to really get at adjudicating these young people who get citations for off-campus behavior.

    GWEN IFILL: And yet, Beth McMurtrie, in the series that you did in “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” there’s a term which — that caught my eye called the Organized Collegiate Drinking Infrastructure. That’s to say, the fraternities, the sororities, party culture, tailgating, you name it.

    How do you tackle that, especially when it’s so much a part of the identity and even an Ivy League school like Yale, where 62 percent of students said they binge drink?


    Well, I want to start out by saying this is a huge cultural issue. It’s not just a college issue. And so colleges do inherit this problem. But, as you pointed out, there are a lot of constituencies that are kind of actively working against efforts to control alcohol.

    I think the simple answers is it, requires leadership, because this is in some ways a political — a political issue.

    GWEN IFILL: On campus.

    BETH MCMURTRIE: If you’re going to take on the fraternity system, if you’re going to take on the tailgating structure, the booster structure, you really have to — or if you’re going to go out, as Frostburg did, into the community and look at what is happening off campus with bar owners and liquor stores, you really need high-level support to be able to tackle these very complicated and sometimes political issues.

    GWEN IFILL: So is it just a matter that the colleges or the law enforcement are just looking the other way? The laws exist. The rules exist. Are they just looking the other way?

    JONATHAN GIBRALTER: I don’t think they’re looking the other way.

    I think that these are just incredibly difficult issues. You know, you deal perhaps with a fraternity or a sorority perhaps off campus and there is a culture around these organizations that makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement to actually walk in and be able to have an impact.

    I think that — I mean, at Frostburg State, when I arrived in 2006, the reported high-risk drinking rate was at about 59 percent; 59 percent of all students said they drink more than five drinks in any one sitting. We have been able to…

    GWEN IFILL: Five drinks.

    JONATHAN GIBRALTER: Five drinks in — over a period of two or three hours. Now it’s down to 41 percent. We have been able to move the mark below the national average.

    GWEN IFILL: How?

    JONATHAN GIBRALTER: Through a combination of deterrents, education, and working with local bar owners, working with landlords, and really trying to provide a comprehensive program for our students.

    GWEN IFILL: When it comes to campus sexual assault, which we have been talking about a lot involving the University of Virginia and the flawed story that “Rolling Stone” ran, but still raised questions about behavior.

    Is drinking — does drinking contribute to the inability of a woman to defend herself, especially if she drinks, is drunk, becomes a victim in one way or another, and looks like she — and the blame then shifts to the victim?

    BETH MCMURTRIE: Well, you raise a very interesting issue.

    Studies have shown that about three-quarters of sexual assaults on campuses involve alcohol, so we know that they’re closely correlated. But, historically, colleges have not talked about drinking or not talked about alcohol when they talk to students about preventing sexual assaults.

    And I think the reason is they’re worried that they’re going to end up sounding like they are blaming the victim. They already have trouble getting victims to come forward, and so they don’t want to send this message that, well, it’s up to you to, right? It’s up to you to — if you drink too much, you might be putting yourself at risk of assault.

    And, yet, that is a fact. And so colleges are wrestling with how to talk to students about the reality of dangerous drinking without sounding like they’re blaming them.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, President Gibralter, how do colleges attack this now and avoid the issue fatigue that stopped the conversation from moving to some better place last time?

    JONATHAN GIBRALTER: I — again, every year, it’s a new group of freshmen, so it’s a new conversation every year.

    And for me, taking a leadership position on this at my campus is extremely important that empowers other people to be able to do their jobs. And so I don’t — neither I nor my university faculty and staff become fatigued of me talking about this topic. It’s important.

    GWEN IFILL: But if I’m a parent, I’m a little fatigued or at least scared of sending my child to your school, if I think that that’s what’s going to happen.

    JONATHAN GIBRALTER: And you should be concerned, because it is a cultural part of many colleges and universities.

    And what I do during our orientation programs and during our open houses, where parents and their sons and daughters visit, is I tell parents that they need to be a part of this conversation. We need their help and support.

    GWEN IFILL: President Jonathan Gibralter of Frostburg State University and Beth McMurtrie of “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” thank you both very much.

    BETH MCMURTRIE: Thank you.


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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street sank into a week-ending swoon today, overwhelmed again by the plunging price of oil. In New York trading, oil fell below $58 a barrel, down 12 percent just this week. In turn, the Dow Jones industrial average slumped 315 points to close below 17,281, its worst week in three years. The S&P 500 dropped 33 points to close at 2,002, its worst week in well over two years. The Nasdaq fell 54 to close at 4,653.

    Financial expert Hugh Johnson says it underscores that lower oil prices present a trade-off.

    HUGH JOHNSON, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, Johnson Illington Advisors: A decline in the price of gas at the pump is going to free up a lot of money for consumption in the U.S. That’s good news. We see it show up in an increase in consumer confidence. We see it show up in an increase in November retail sales. So there’s a trade-off

    But, believe me, the decline in the price of oil does reflect a decline or a slowdown in the global economy. That’s a worry and that’s not going away any time soon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Stocks were also hurt today by fresh concerns over economic growth in China.

    A new look at how the economic recovery is affecting individual Americans finds a growing wealth gap between whites and minorities in the U.S. The Pew Research Center reported today that, in 2010, white households had a net worth eight times greater than black households. By last year, it had grown to 13 times greater. The gap between whites and Hispanics is slightly less, but still the largest it’s been since 2001.

    The Senate moved this evening to consider a giant spending bill that funds most of the government through September. It scraped through the House last night, after President Obama lobbied Democrats for support. Many were angered by provisions that weaken rules on financial derivatives, and let wealthy donors pour more money into political parties.

    Today, the president argued it’s the best deal available.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This, by definition, was a compromise bill. This is what’s produced when you have the divided government that the American people voted for.

    Had I been able to draft my own legislation and get it passed without any Republican votes, I suspect it’d be slightly different. That is not the circumstance we find ourselves in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: While the Senate works, the House passed another short-term extension of government funding through next Wednesday.

    A major Pacific storm lashed Southern California today after roaring across the northern part of the state. Downpours of two inches an hour triggered floods, downed trees, and cut power to some 80,000 customers. The rain also set off a mudslide in Camarillo Springs, north of Los Angeles, where hillsides had been stripped bare by wildfires; 124 homes were ordered to evacuate, as debris was piled up to the rooftops in some places.

    BILL GOLUBICS, California: I came out on my little front porch here to see how much water might be going down the street. Then, after about five minutes, the door slammed shut behind me, and I knew what had happened, that the mud had entered the house and was up against the door from the inside. So there I was kind of stuck on the front porch. And soon the mud was flowing around both sides of the house, going into the street, and I knew I was — I was in trouble at that point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials say the powerful storm is not nearly enough to end California’s record drought.

    British officials demanded an investigation today, after a computer failure shut down airspace over London for a time. The incident brought Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest, to a standstill. In turn, hundreds of flights had to be canceled or delayed. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said the disruption didn’t delay any flights departing from the U.S. for Britain.

    The people of Japan prepared today to go the polls for nationwide parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called Sunday’s vote in a bid for fresh support for efforts to rejuvenate a faltering economy. His party’s victory is all but guaranteed. This will be Japan’s third national election since the end of 2012.

    And new research today underscored the health costs of osteoporosis in older women. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reported that the bone-weakening disease leads to more hospitalization and greater health costs than heart attack, breast cancer or stroke. The study looked at American women over the age of 55.

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    Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), waves his hands to voters atop a van during a campaign for the Dec. 14 lower house election in Saitama, north of Tokyo December 12, 2014. Photo by Yuya Shino/Reuters

    Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), waves his hands to voters atop a van during a campaign for the Dec. 14 lower house election in Saitama, north of Tokyo December 12, 2014. Photo by Yuya Shino/Reuters

    On Sunday, Japan is slated to head to the polls for a parliamentary election that has many in the country scratching their heads.

    “I don’t understand at all why he has to call an election,” one voter told the Financial Times.

    Sheila Smith, a Senior Fellow on Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, agrees that the Japanese public is generally “confused about why they have to have an election right now,” adding that many see it as a reflection of Mr. Abe’s ambitions rather than the best interests of the country.

    Indeed, the timing appears more political than practical. The vote comes only two years into Mr. Abe’s four year term, and there is little doubt about the outcome. With the opposition fielding only 198 candidates for 475 parliamentary seats, his ruling coalition is all but assured a win.

    Mr. Abe announced the snap elections last month in the wake of data showing that Japan’s economy had slipped into a recession for the first time since the global financial collapse in 2008. The drop is largely being attributed to his plan to hike Japan’s consumption tax, a move that is part of a wide ranging economic revival plan colloquially known as “Abenomics.”

    Ousted in 2007 and revived in 2013, Mr. Abe is watching his approval ratings sink along with the economy. The weak polls likely drove him to seek a renewed vote of confidence from the public.

    “Really what he’s asking is can the conservative party, which he’s [the] head of, and their coalition party the Komeito, continue to govern and govern longer,” said Smith of an election that will give the victor four years in office. “It’s a mandate on Abe. [But] What Mr. Abe reads into the mandate, is debatable.”

    With the win guaranteed, Smith will be looking to other indicators – such as voter turnout – as more telling measures of what’s to come for Mr. Abe’s next term. But, as tepid campaign slogans like “to revive the economy, there is no other way” suggest, excitement is at a minimum.

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    New York Times Journalist James Risen sat down for an interview with Judy Woodruff in October, 2014.

    New York Times Journalist James Risen sat down for an interview with Judy Woodruff in October, 2014.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A source familiar with the case says the Justice Department will not compel New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about his source at an upcoming trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information.

    The source said it has been ruled out that he will be called to testify about his source. The source, who was not authorized to discuss the case by name in advance of an official announcement, spoke on condition of anonymity.

    A federal judge in Virginia gave the agency until this coming Tuesday to announce whether they would call Risen in the upcoming trial of Jeffrey Sterling. The source said it was still possible the Justice Department would seek testimony from Risen, but not about his source.

    Judy Woodruff spoke to Risen in October about the challenges whistleblowers face when they challenge the federal government.

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    WASHINGTON — Protesters plan to converge on the nation’s capital on Saturday to help bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police and call for legislative action.

    Civil rights organizations plan to hold a national march in Washington with the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died in incidents with white police officers, to help bring attention to the issue of police brutality. Civil rights advocate The Rev. Al Sharpton also will be part of the march.

    Protests – some violent – have occurred around the nation since grand juries last month declined to indict the officers involved in the deaths of 18-year-old Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Garner, 43, who gasped “I can’t breathe” while being arrested for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in New York. Politicians and others talked about the need for better police training, body cameras and changes in the grand jury process to restore faith in the legal system.

    Saturday’s march against police violence – sponsored in part by the National Action Network, the Urban League, the NAACP – is scheduled to go down Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. At the Capitol, speakers will outline a legislative agenda they want Congress to pursue in relation to police killings.

    While protesters rally in Washington, other groups including Ferguson Action will be conducting similar “Day of Resistance” movements all around the country, including a large march in New York City.

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