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

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    airasiacrash

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    GWEN IFILL: It’s been a fruitless hunt so far for an AirAsia jetliner that disappeared Sunday morning off Indonesia; 162 passengers and crew were on board, and two days of searching has failed to find anything.

    Alex Thomson of Independent Television News has our report.

    ALEX THOMSON: Dawn this morning on the Java Sea, for the international search effort, some hopes raised as an Australian team reported seeing debris offshore.

    The sighted debris proved to be nothing of significance, leaving another day passed in this operation with no sign of missing Flight QZ8501. Human sight is daylight-limited and compromised of course by cloud cover. So the plane’s flight data recorders fixed with underwater locator beacons might prove crucial.

    When submerged, they should emit a signal every second to be picked up, in theory locating the plane. But with every passing hour, the likelihood of the jet having gone down in the ocean increases. After today’s disappointment, the search area has been expanded to include islands to the south and east. There are now 30 ships involved in the search and at least 15 aircraft.

    DAI WHITTINGHAM, United Kingdom Flight Safety Committee: I think the probability is that this one will be found quite quickly. The Java Sea is actually quite shallow, which means that there is a much greater chance that the signal from the position indicator will be detected.

    ALEX THOMSON: And the man in the eye of the storm right now, the AirAsia boss and chairman of QPR Football Club.

    TONY FERNANDES, CEO, AirAsia Group: No one can guarantee that their airline is 100 percent safe. But I think in 13 years, we have carried 220 million people. And until today, we have never lost a life.

    ALEX THOMSON: The search for flight QZ8501 resumes on and in the Java Sea at first light.

    GWEN IFILL: There was no suggestion of foul play in the AirAsia disappearance. Ten months ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished on a flight to China, with 239 people on board. Investigators believe it was deliberately diverted and went down in the Indian Ocean. No trace has ever been found.

    We will talk to a reporter in the region about the ongoing search and growing frustrations right after the news summary.

    The post Search widens for missing AirAsia flight – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Texas Gov. Rick Perry prepares to run for the U.S. presidency during the 2016 election.   (Photo by Scott Eells-Pool/Getty Images)

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry prepares to run for the U.S. presidency during the 2016 election. (Photo by Scott Eells-Pool/Getty Images)

    AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Rick Perry would like to run for president in 2016 as a proven job-creator who modeled Texas’ strong economy in his own political gunslinger image and says he can do the same for the rest of the country.

    To do it, he’ll have to convince voters to forget about “Oops.”

    It’s the moment when Perry, in the midst of a 2011 presidential debate, was unable to recall the third of three federal agencies he’d promised to shutter, finally muttering “oops.” Asked about the moment in a recent interview with The Associated Press, Perry said, “That’s like going back and asking a football player who dropped a pass to win the Super Bowl, ‘Did that bother you?’ ”

    As he looks at running a second time for president, Perry, 64, is banking on his record as governor of Texas to move past “oops.” It’s a strategy that didn’t connect in the last campaign, when the governor’s jobs record was drowned out by that moment and other gaffes, said Ray Sullivan, a former Perry chief of staff and spokesman for his 2012 campaign.

    “Our own errors on the campaign trail led to a shortened campaign,” Sullivan said. “So the message got overshadowed.”

    Should he run again, Perry will have two more years of his time as Texas governor to try to make the case again.

    His state has generated more than a third of the nation’s new private-sector jobs since 2001. While critics say about 6 percent of the state’s hourly wage earners in 2013 got minimum wage or less, fifth highest in the nation, Perry counters that this figure has fallen three straight years since 2010, when Texas’ rate peaked at a national high 9.5 percent.

    Perry credits the gangbusters state economy to low taxes, restrained regulation and caps on civil litigation damage awards, as well as improving high school graduation rates. He also oversees two funds offering economic incentives to lure top employers to Texas and repeatedly visited states with Democratic governors to poach jobs.

    “You’re the chief yell leader, cheerleader,” said Perry, who was elected yell leader, a coveted campus spirt squad post, while a student at Texas A&M University.

    When Waste Connections, Inc., was looking to relocate its headquarters from east of Sacramento in 2011, CEO Ronald Mittelstaedt received calls from both Perry and fellow Republican Gov. Brain Sandoval of Nevada.

    “Governor Perry, he is a very down-to-earth, easy to talk to man,” said Mittelstaedt, whose company eventually moved about 100 employees to suburban Houston.

    John W. Harrington was laid up after back surgery in 2013 when he heard frequent recruitment radio ads featuring Perry. He soon transplanted his gun shop from California, to Shiner, Texas, a town otherwise famous for its brewery.

    “Rick and guns, that’s kind of the epitome of what Texas is all about,” said Harrington, who held a ribbon-cutting barbeque with Perry.

    The Perry-administered incentive funds, though, have been savaged by state auditors. They found that The Texas Enterprise Fund, offering deal-closing money to top business and employers, had awarded $222 million to 11 firms and universities that either didn’t apply for the funding or weren’t required to directly create jobs.

    And Perry’s Texas Emerging Technology Fund is supposed to bolster high-tech startups, but some firms haven’t filed tax reports or made questionable job claims.

    Both also have given money to firms linked to Perry donors, drawing “crony capitalism” complaints from conservative activists. But Perry dismissed that: “I consider myself to be very much an adherent to most of the tea party’s philosophical positions.”

    Meanwhile, Texas leads the nation with about a quarter of residents lacking health insurance, and had the country’s highest annual total of workplace fatalities nine times during Perry’s tenure.

    “The bragging that he has engaged in about the Texas miracle is going to come under very strict scrutiny and I think people are going to see it’s not what he claims it to be,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

    Beyond the questions related to how much credit Perry deserves for the Texas economy, and about “oops,” he will also be forced to contend with questions about his felony indictment.

    The left-leaning government watchdog group Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint in 2013 when Perry publicly threatened — then made good on — a veto of state funding for public corruption prosecutors, following the Democratic head of the unit’s drunken driving conviction. In August, an Austin grand jury indicted the governor for abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.

    Perry insists most Americans believe he did nothing wrong and that the case won’t affect any possible presidential aspirations. He concedes that “oops” might, but is hoping voters see it as a test of character.

    “It’s easier to judge someone by how they get up from a failure when they’ve been knocked down,” Perry said. “Being tested is a good thing.”

    The post Gov. Rick Perry to rely on Texas jobs record during his 2016 presidential run appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ann Patchett, author of “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” and Daniel Pink, author of “To Sell is Human,” sat down with Jeffrey Brown in Washington’s Politics and Prose bookstore to talk about the factors that make a great book.

    “The mark of a truly great book for me is one that makes me forget that I’m reading,” Patchett said. “One that actually turns off the critical component of my mind.”

    Pink, who underlines thoroughly while reading, said the key for him is the urge to share what he’s just read. “I come across something and underline it and go: I’ve got to tell somebody what I just found out.”

    Patchett adds that she’s become a better reader since she’s become the owner of a bookstore. She owns Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee.

    “I think for any passionate reader,” she said, “the experience of reading a book that you love is not complete until you can turn around and say, ‘You have to read this book. This is so important to me.’”

    On Tuesday’s NewsHour, Ann Patchett and Daniel Pink offered their favorite books of 2014:

    The post Authors Ann Patchett and Daniel Pink talk what makes a great book appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., leaves U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, on Dec. 23. Grimm pleaded guilty to one count of felony tax fraud. Photo by Michael Graae/Getty Images

    The prosecutor in the Garner-chockhold case ponders the open Staten Island congressional seat after Republican Rep. Michael Grimm resigned following a guilty plea to one count of felony tax fraud. Photo by Michael Graae/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Potential candidates eyed a Staten Island congressional seat Tuesday as Republican Rep. Michael Grimm announced his resignation, following a guilty plea on tax evasion charges.

    Among the possible candidates is a Staten Island prosecutor who oversaw a case in which a white New York City police officer was cleared in the death of a black man in an apparent chokehold. Two state lawmakers and a former congressman who was unseated by Grimm could also be interested in the open seat.

    House Speaker John Boehner called Grimm’s resignation “honorable,” saying Grimm made his decision “with the best interests of his constituents and the institution (of the House) in mind.”

    Grimm, a New York Republican, had vowed to stay in Congress as long as he could, even after his guilty plea last week. But he said Monday night that he plans to resign effective Jan. 5.

    Grimm said he did not believe he could be fully effective in the new Congress and needed to start the next chapter of his life.

    “The events which led to this day did not break my spirit, nor the will of the voters,” Grimm said. “However, I do not believe that I can continue to be 100 percent effective in the next Congress.”

    Grimm, 44, of Staten Island, pleaded guilty last week to aiding in the filing of a false tax return related to a Manhattan restaurant he ran before being elected to Congress.

    Grimm made national headlines last year after he was captured on camera threatening to throw a reporter off a Capitol balcony following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The threat came after the reporter asked Grimm about an FBI probe into his campaign finances.

    The new Congress is scheduled to convene Jan. 6, and Grimm’s presence would have been a distraction for Republicans who will control both the House and the Senate.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the Democratic National Committee had called on Grimm to resign.

    Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will set the date of the special election and must give between 70 and 80 days’ notice. The scheduling process won’t begin until the state is formerly notified of the vacancy by the U.S. House of Representatives. The candidates would be chosen without a primary by the political parties or by petition.

    A Cuomo spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

    At least two prominent Republicans said Tuesday they were considering the race. Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan and state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis were among several potential GOP candidates, with Donovan considered the frontrunner. Donovan was the prosecutor in a case in which a grand jury cleared a white New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner, a black man, after being placed in an apparent chokehold.

    Garner’s death touched off nationwide protests and was one of two police killings cited by a gunman who murdered two New York City police officers this month.

    Donovan said in a statement Tuesday that he was “deeply flattered by the enthusiastic expressions of support” he has received since Grimm announced his intention to resign, adding that he was “very seriously considering the race.”

    Malliotakis said in an interview that she was “looking at the race” and noted that she was the only Republican who has represented both Brooklyn and Staten Island.

    “I’ve won races on both sides of the bridge,” she said.

    Possible Democratic candidates include state Assemblyman Michael Cusick and former U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon, who lost to Grimm in 2010. Former city council member Domenic Recchia, who lost to Grimm last month, is considered unlikely to run.

    Staten Island Democratic Chairman John Gulino said both Cusick and McMahon would be strong candidates in the Staten Island-based district, which Obama carried in 2012.

    “Both are gentlemen and both are men of character,” Gulino said.

    Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent, was elected to Congress in 2010, scoring an upset win over McMahon, a first-term congressman.

    According to the indictment, the tax fraud began in 2007 after Grimm retired from the FBI and began investing in a small Manhattan restaurant called Healthalicious.

    The indictment accused him of underreporting more than $1 million in wages and receipts to evade payroll, income and sales taxes, partly by paying immigrant workers, some of them in the country illegally, in cash.

    “The congressman fully embraces and accepts his responsibility for his actions,” his lawyer, Stuart N. Kaplan, said in a statement Tuesday, adding that Grimm “shows great humility in moving forward for himself, as well as his constituents, to resign.”

    Grimm’s sentencing is scheduled for June 8. Prosecutors said a range of 24 to 30 months in prison would be appropriate, while the defense estimated the appropriate sentence as between 12 and 18 months.

    Associated Press writers David Klepper in Albany and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this story.

    The post Potential candidates eye Grimm’s seat, including prosecutor in Garner case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cubans talk near a broken car in Havana December 19, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

    Cubans talk near a broken car in Havana on Dec. 19. Photo by REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

    A Note from Paul Solman: George Cabot Lodge is a Republican of long lineage who taught for decades at the Harvard Business School and helped start the “Biggie” (BGIE) program: “Business, Government and the International Environment.” His great grandfather was Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., the senator key to undermining the League of Nations — because it would tie the hands of the U.S. in foreign affairs. George’s father was Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., who ran as Richard Nixon’s vice presidential candidate in 1960. And George himself ran against a Kennedy (Teddy) for the Massachusetts senate seat in 1962, as his father had run against another (John F.) a decade earlier.

    He is an occasional contributor to Making Sen$e, last writing in March about the economic policy President Barack Obama should pursue with Russia, and before that, arguing ahead of the 2012 elections that America doesn’t practice what it preaches.

    He now returns to Making Sen$e to comment once again on foreign policy, specifically to praise Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts with Cuba. Before America’s historic opening with Cuba earlier this month, Making Sen$e contributor Lew Mandell predicted that capitalism in Cuba was closer than the U.S. thought, based on his own trip to the country this past spring. For a sense of the change afoot even earlier, watch my two reports from Cuba in 2001 (below), where I witnessed those capitalist flirtations and the futility of the embargo.

    – Paul Solman


    The last time that I was privileged to occupy space on this blog – a few months ago – it was to praise the sure-footed diplomacy of President Barack Obama in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I suggested that the Ukrainian affair would end with Putin seeking help to service his prodigious debt. Using a football analogy, this would indeed be a rare moment, the offense asking for help from the defense.

    Now Mr. Obama has scored again opening a new relationship with Cuba. It should have happened long ago, but still Republicans are against it.

    Why do they want to deny the Cuban people the better life that will come with U.S. investment in their country and deny American business new opportunities? Ending Cuban isolation and opening its economy will expose the island to world markets and thus prod the government to adopt policies that promote international competitiveness, encouraging, instead of suppressing, innovation and enterprise. The result will not only be better jobs and higher incomes for Cubans but also a more open and humane society.

    Diplomatic recognition does not mean approval; it means recognition, no more no less.

    The Republican opponents to Mr. Obama’s plan seem to think that a U.S. embassy in Havana would bring legitimacy to an authoritarian regime of which we disapprove. The reverse is true. Years of isolation have protected if not fostered the regime, much as in North Korea. And according to the opponents’ logic, we should shut down our embassies in Moscow, Beijing and quite a few other places. Diplomatic recognition does not mean approval; it means recognition, no more no less.

    Although we respect and do our best to practice democracy, it is important to recognize that democracy comes in many forms and varieties. Singapore comes to mind. Since its creation in the 1950s, it has had essentially one political party. Although popular representation – democracy – has flourished within that party, until recently, opposition parties were strenuously discouraged. At the same time, Singapore has become one of the economic wonders of the world. It is among the nations with the highest per capita income and the highest living standards, and it is at or near the top in health, education and housing. Those in the Congress who regard government as a scarcely necessary evil should note that government played a central and pervasive role in Singapore’s development.

    Whatever path it chooses, it is time for the United States to use diplomacy to help convert Cuba from being a former foe to becoming a future friend. It is also time for Republicans to rein in their unthinking antagonism to Mr. Obama’s good ideas.

    Watch Paul Solman’s 2001 reports below:

    The post Why Republicans should thank Obama for opening up Cuba appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A flight information signboard shows the status of AirAsia flight QZ8501 from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore at Changi Airport in Singapore Dec. 28, 2014. The airliner carrying 162 people from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore crashed into the Java Sea about halfway through the flight. Rescuers began retrieving bodies from the last known coordinates of the flight. Photo by Edgar Su/Reuters

    A flight information signboard at Changi Airport shows the status of AirAsia flight QZ8501, which crashed into the Java Sea about halfway through the flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. Photo by Edgar Su/Reuters

    The loss of AirAsia flight QZ8501 closes a year that has seen a barrage of news reports and images of airplane wreckage and grieving families. That magnified media coverage underscores the tragic fact that 2014 was the deadliest year for aviation fatalities in a decade, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives.

    According to the BAAA, 1,326 people died this year in airliner accidents, the worst on record since 2005. That figure includes both Malaysia Airlines disasters — Flight MH370, which disappeared off the Vietnamese coastline and Flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine.

    Graphic by Laura Santhanam/PBS NewsHour

    Graphic by Laura Santhanam/PBS NewsHour

    However, the major airline accidents this year accounted for 60 percent of the fatalities, The New York Times reported, and masks what is also a decreasing rate for accidents.

    The loss of life in 2014 may have eclipsed 2013′s deaths — one of safest years on record, with 459 deaths — but it doesn’t compare to numbers from other decades.

    For comparison, the worst year on record is 1972, with 3,346 fatalities from 332 airline crashes, according to the BAAA. 2014 had 112 crashes, a number that hasn’t been that low since 1927, when there was 110 crashes.

    This means, despite the uptick of fatalities seen this year, 2014 continued the downward trend for airline disasters, pointing toward an improving aviation safety record.

    The post Despite uptick of airline deaths, 2014 was one of the safest years for flying appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Most of us have a few childhood photos stashed in the back of our closets, or hidden somewhere in our parents’ homes that we would prefer never see the light of day. But if your childhood photo happens to prominently feature the leader of the free world? Then there is a good chance it will wind up in chief official White House photographer Pete Souza’s yearly photo round-up. Luckily, all of the children featured in this year’s round-up are pretty darn cute.

    A young boy face-plants onto the sofa in the Oval Office as the president greets his parents - a departing United States Secret Service agent and his wife. Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson.

    A young boy face-plants onto the sofa in the Oval Office as the president greets his parents – a departing United States Secret Service agent and his wife. Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson

    You may recognize the photo that went viral in June of a young boy face-planting onto the Oval Office couch while the president greets his parents. Guess he voted Republican.

    A young boy checks the President's heartbeat during a visit to a classroom at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

    A young boy checks the president’s heartbeat during a visit to a classroom at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

    The president crouched down so this aspiring doctor could check his heartbeat during a visit to an elementary school visit in March.

    This moment happened when former Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith and her family, including one-year-old Rose Smith, stopped by for a departure greet and photograph with the president. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

    This moment happened when former Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith and her family, including one-year-old Rose Smith, stopped by for a departure greet and photograph with the president. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

    It is hard to tell who was more elated as the president took a spin around the Oval Office with one-year-old Rose Smith, daughter of former Deputy Press Secretary Jamie Smith last April.

    Students help the president up after posing for a photograph at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, the Philippines. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

    Students help the president stand up after posing for a photograph at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, the capitol of the Philippines. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

    A group of children lent the president a helping hand during an April visit to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, the capitol of the Philippines.

    The president greets a crowd outside Arthur Bryant's Barbeque in Kansas City. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

    The president greets a crowd outside Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque in Kansas City. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

    According to Souza, the president was doling out some life advice to this young man when he snapped this photo in Kansas City in July.

    The president greets wounded warriors and their families. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

    The president greets wounded warriors and their families. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

    This young lady stared in disbelief as the president shook hands with her father while greeting wounded warriors and their families in September. Fortunately, she now has photographic proof.

    The president poses with Avery Dodson, Natalie Hurley, Miriam Schaffer, Claire Winton and Lucy Claire Sharp, members of Girl Scout Troop 2612 in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the White House science fair. The fair celebrated the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

    The president poses with Avery Dodson, Natalie Hurley, Miriam Schaffer, Claire Winton and Lucy Claire Sharp, members of Girl Scout Troop 2612 in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the White House science fair. The fair celebrated the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

    Don’t let those tiaras fool you! These girls were at May’s White House science fair, which celebrated student winners of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from around the country.

    The President checks out a baby's foot while greeting guests at a picnic on the South Lawn of the White House. Official White House photograph by Pete Souza.

    The president checks out a baby’s foot while greeting guests at a picnic on the South Lawn of the White House. Official White House photograph by Pete Souza

    “The president loves babies,” Souza said in the introduction to his 2014 photo round-up. Obama met this tot while greeting guests at a September picnic on the White House’s South Lawn.

    A group of students gives the president rabbit ears in a group photo taken at an elementary school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

    A group of students gives the president rabbit ears in a group photo taken at an elementary school at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

    The president should have known better than to ask this group of elementary school students at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida not to make rabbit ears when they posed for a picture in September.

    The President kisses a baby girl as he and the Vice president greet wounded warriors and their families during their tour in the East Room of the White House. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

    The president kisses a baby girl as he and the Vice president greet wounded warriors and their families during their tour in the East Room of the White House. Official White House photo by Pete Souza

    Souza captured this moment in June during a tour of the East Room of the White House for wounded warriors and their families.

    All photos are from the White House Flickr feed.

    The post An Oval Office face-plant, Obama in a tiara, and other moments caught by White House photographers in 2014 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Earlier today, transgender rights advocate and comedian Red Durkin started the hashtag #RealLiveTransAdult — a conversation that encouraged transgender men and women to share their stories with transgender teenagers.

    Durkin — who came out as transgender and began to transition at age 19 — created the hashtag in response to the suicide note left by transgender 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, born Joshua. Alcorn died Sunday in Ohio after jumping in front of a trailer-tractor. The realization that Alcorn most likely committed suicide because she was transgender came to light when a suicide note was discovered Monday on her Tumblr account. There, she wrote:

    “Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year.”

    In an email, Durkin further explained the reasoning behind #RealLiveTransAdult:

    “She was 17 and had no hope for her future. I wanted to put something out into the world to show trans kids that there is chance for a happy life waiting for them. I remember feeling the same way when I was young. If there’s a way to cut through that despair for young trans people today, I want to do what I can to help them see a future ahead of them that isn’t hopeless.”

    The post #RealLiveTransAdult emerges on Twitter following transgender teen’s death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    georgemiller

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally tonight: What do politicians say when they no longer are running for office?

    Yesterday, we featured an exit interview with conservative Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. Tonight, we bring you a conversation Gwen Ifill had with a man known as one of the most liberal members in Congress, retiring California Representative George Miller.

    GWEN IFILL: Congressman Miller, thank you for joining us.

    There are some people who say, after 39 years in Congress, you stayed too long, but why leave now?

    REP. GEORGE MILLER, (D) California: Well, I felt it was a good time.

    I wanted some of my time back. I wanted to come home to California, and I think I have amassed a record in the Congress that I’m very, very proud of. And so I just — it just felt right, after 40, years, that it’s time to go home.

    GWEN IFILL: You know that you arrived in Washington in 1974. In fact, you and Henry Waxman are part of the last of a class of post-Watergate members of Congress who came here to change the city, to change Congress, to change the world. Both of you are now retiring this year. Did you accomplish what you set out to do?

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: Well, I accomplished a big part of it.

    When I think of the legislation that I had the privilege of being involved with, in some cases writing, that became law, the access for children with disabilities to public schools in this country, a right they really didn’t have, or certainly many states weren’t honoring that right of disabled children to be able to go to school, the right of parents and communities and others to know about how their schools are performing, how their children are doing, the No Child Left Behind law that I wrote with President Bush, and certainly the Affordable Care Act that we did under President Barack Obama.

    You know, 40 years ago, I campaigned on national health care and ending the war in Vietnam. And when that bill was signed into law by the president, and I’m in that room, it started to look to me like I had reached the top of what I came here to do.

    So it’s been a wonderful, wonderful career. I have loved every moment of it, every moment of it.

    GWEN IFILL: If you accomplished all you set out to do, all the things that you just named, are these things that you think a Congress as it is made up now could accomplish?

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: This is a much more difficult environment.

    But I’m an optimist. You have to be if you’re going to be in the Congress. And I, in fact, believe that it’s starting to turn. I think, you know, I’m not happy with the Republican takeover in the Senate, but they now own the Congress in that sense. And I think they’re going to have to meet the responsibilities and the expectations of the American people.

    And I think, to get that done, they’re going to need to partner, just as I had to partner with Republican presidents and with Republican chairmen and Republican leadership to get the things done that I wanted to get done. And so I really think this may be the beginning of a new chapter in the congressional diaries, if you will.

    GWEN IFILL: We talked to Congressman Saxby Chambliss, who is also retiring — Senator Saxby Chambliss is also retiring. And he talked a lot about bipartisanship and the need for partnership as well.

    Who would you say in the current Congress you were able to reach across the aisle to and work with?

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: Well, I have been able to work — certainly, in our Committee on Education and Labor, work with the — with the chairman of that committee, Congressman Kline from Minnesota.

    We have been able to report legislation to the floor. We have been able to report controversial legislation to the floor and get it to the president’s desk. And I think — but it was very difficult the first 18 months, but the last six months, I think there’s a recognition that all members of Congress are accountable for the Congress doing its job.

    And I think, if you just want to push that off and say, well, the Tea Party won’t let me do the job or this person won’t let me do the job, that’s not going to sell at home. They want you to come and to produce. They want you to produce on their behalf. And I think the Congress is going to feel that heat more in the next Congress than maybe they have felt it the last couple of Congresses.

    GWEN IFILL: But I’m sure, as you know, there are people from the other party who say things like single-party passage of the Affordable Care Act, which you just cited as one of your proudest accomplishments, or even the president’s efforts on executive action have poisoned the well in a way that makes it harder, not easier, for bipartisan to happen.

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: I think, for many of those members of Congress, that’s an excuse. I don’t think that is a reality.

    The Congress is a place where you wear long pants, you wear belts and suspenders, and you go to work every day and you figure out how to get these things done. And you can’t keep lamenting what happened five years ago, three years ago, six months ago. You have to get these things done.

    That’s what the people charged you. They charged you to come to Washington and work on their behalf. And to do that in a legitimate fashion requires a bipartisan effort. Sometimes, they will choose to go the road and test whether they can do it all by themselves. That’s expected, too.

    But the fact that, at the end of the day, if you’re going to really reinvest in this country, if you’re going to keep America in its leadership role, you’re going to have to have that bipartisan cooperation.

    GWEN IFILL: What advice would you give members — citizens, voters, people who are exasperated with Congress, exasperated with Washington? What would you say to them as you leave Washington now, leave all of this behind, presumably? Should they just throw up their hands and give up on Washington?

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

    They’re the shareholders. And what elections are about is holding — is holding — is holding the officers, if you will, of the endeavor, in this case members of Congress, accountable. I would like to see more Americans get involved in elections.

    I think we’re getting fewer voices involved in elections with more power. And I would like to see the people come back to the election process. And it’s not enough just to say, oh, they’re all no good. What about — what role did you play in electing your member of Congress, your member of the United States Senate, the president of the United States?

    That’s how a democracy thrives, is when the people are engaged.

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: … participate.

    GWEN IFILL: While you were in Washington, and especially in the last few years, you were very tightly allied with the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi.

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: Sure.

    GWEN IFILL: As you leave Washington and go back to your home district, what advice do you leave for her and for other members of Congress as they try to, I guess, dig themselves out of the hole of public perception we’re talking about?

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: Well, I think they have got to make their own weather.

    I think it’s pretty clear, in this election, there’s great deal of concern in this country about the fairness of the economy, whether or not the Congress is in fact working for American families, whether or not the middle class is going to be able to participate in the growing prosperity in this country.

    Much of that prosperity has grown for a very few people over the last couple years. There may be a chance with this recovery that it could be shared in a wider fashion. And I think that is going to be very important to American families.

    And I think that’s what Nancy Pelosi has stood for. Working alongside her is like working alongside Vince Lombardi. I mean, this is a serious person who understands this system and how it can work on behalf of the American people and how in fact it very often works against their interests.

    I think that question is rising to the top. And I think that the Congress, regardless of party, is going to be held accountable for this question of, who’s working on our behalf? Who’s working on our behalf, so that we have — more of us can share in this prosperity?

    GWEN IFILL: George Miller, Democrat of California, retiring after four decades in the House of Representatives, thank you very much.

    REP. GEORGE MILLER: Thank you.

    The post Outgoing Rep. Miller on partnering with Republicans and serving Americans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now a different take on the year that was.

    Judy Woodruff recently talked to several teenagers about the stories that caught their eyes in 2014, and explored how technology affects what they see and hear about the news.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: “NewsHour” Extra, our Web site for teachers and students, has partnered with Google for what we’re calling the MyZeitgeist Year in Review contest.

    More than 1,000 students from around the world created digital mash-ups, images and videos edited together, highlighting the most important stories of 2014. We don’t know who won yet. That won’t be announced until midnight, December 31.

    But, in the meantime, to find out more about how young people view current events, we have invited three students who entered the contest from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia.

    They are Rona Ikram Putri, Evan Williams, and Shayla Brown. Their teacher, Mark Eaton, also joins us.

    But, first, here’s a clip of one of their entries, just to give you one idea of how young people view the news.

    MAN: Derek Jeter.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    MAN: Where fantasy becomes reality!

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, Anchor, “NBC Nightly News”: The first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States has died of Ebola in a Dallas hospital.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Evan Williams, let’s start with you.

    That was an excerpt of your video. How did you decide what were the most important stories? How did you put that together?

    EVAN WILLIAMS, Student, T.C. Williams High School: Well, I tried to think of stories that had the most impact.

    So I think a good way to measure that is something that became like a household discussion, pretty much, that was just a universal discussion, like, for example the Ebola outbreak. Everyone was talking about that. The World Cup, everyone was talking about that. The Olympics.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now Shayla, Shayla Brown, how did you decide what were the most important stories?

    SHAYLA BROWN, Student, T.C. Williams High School: Our journalism class made a list of the huge stories in 2014, so I used that. And I did research, like Evan did.

    And my mom helped me with the project a lot too, so I got like a grown-up input to it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you get your news in general?

    SHAYLA BROWN: I have apps on my phone that I get alerts occasionally when there’s something huge in the news that happens.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rona, what about you? How did you decide what were the most important stories?

    RONA IKRAM PUTRI, Student, T.C. Williams High School: Yes.

    So, basically, for me, I — in the news, there are two necessary factors. The first one is the importance, and the second one is either it’s interesting or no.

    I read newspaper every day, which is a good habit, I think, personally, and then also, like, what Shayla does. I look it up in the Internet. And then also, in the beginning of the journalism class, Mr. Eaton will say, what’s going on out there?

    So, the students will raise their hand and then they will tell about what they have found in either newspaper or television or radio or…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you all get a chance to talk about it?

    RONA IKRAM PUTRI: Yes, so we all get a chance to talk about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should say, Rona is an exchange student from Indonesia.

    RONA IKRAM PUTRI: Yes, I am.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So this is a particularly interesting experience for you in the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Eaton, you’re the teacher of this class. You’re head of the English department at T.C. Williams.

    What changes have you seen in the years, what, eight years you have been teaching journalism in how young people get their news?

    MARK EATON, English Teacher, T.C. Williams High School: Well, first thank you for having us.

    What I have noticed is that the students seem to be getting their — with the rise of social media, the students seem to be getting their news from a much wider variety of sources. And I have noticed that there’s a particular attraction to ironic news, the Stephen Colberts, Jon Stewart, John Oliver.

    These resonate with the students.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see that, Evan? Before you started this journalism class, how were you getting your news?

    EVAN WILLIAMS: Mostly, it’s Twitter, because Twitter, it’s like you can follow the certain pages you want, the certain areas of news that interest you. You can just scroll down.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rona, it sounds like you’re getting news from a lot of different places. You mentioned newspapers and online.

    RONA IKRAM PUTRI: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about your friends? How do you see them getting the news? Do you think the three of you are typical?

    RONA IKRAM PUTRI: I think typical teenagers right now, they usually get the news from the Twitter. Yes, they follow certain accounts that provide news.

    And it’s really useful. So when the teenagers are using their phone, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the world. They do. But it’s only in a different way. They know what’s going on out there in this world, actually.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what you’re seeing, Mark Eaton? Are they — as the teacher looking at them, do you think they’re learning about the world in the sources that they choose?

    MARK EATON: I do. I think so.

    And it’s certainly something that we stress in the class, is we try to increase the element of curiosity about what’s going on. Our class, in some ways, it is a citizenship class. The question we keep asking is, are you going to be just a consumer or are you going to be a citizen?

    And if you’re interested in the news and you understand how the — the importance of news, that’s a step on the road to citizenship.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does the news this year, Evan, leave you feeling sort of uplifted about the way things are going in this country, or does it leave you worried in the world? How do you feel about that?

    EVAN WILLIAMS: I mean, I think you could go both ways with that. There are so many things that uplift people, like sports, like the Olympics and the World Cup. But then also, obviously, there are things that can worry people, like the Ebola outbreak and stuff like that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sure.

    EVAN WILLIAMS: So there’s always different types.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about you, Shayla? Does the news make you feel better or more anxious about the world? What do you think?

    SHAYLA BROWN: A little of both, but probably more anxious because of all the — not — there are some pretty terrible things that happened this year, like the Ebola outbreak, like Evan said, and then the shooting that went on in Missouri.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you compare the way you get your news from your parents? And do you think the way you consume news will change when you’re their age? Or do you think it will stay the way it is?

    SHAYLA BROWN: I think it will stay the way it is. I kind of get the same — I watch news shows with them when we’re, like, home. But my main way is through apps, and I think I will stick with that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rona, what about you? Do you think it’s going to stay like this, or the way you get news now as you grow up?

    RONA IKRAM PUTRI: I think it will change, because, as time goes by, the, like, newspaper, maybe, some day, it will be just gone and then everything will be just replaced by just online media.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Changing…

    RONA IKRAM PUTRI: It will change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Changing fast.

    And you get the last word, as the teacher. Do you think — do you see these — this younger generation changing the way everybody is going to consume news in the future?

    MARK EATON: I think so, but I would not hazard a prediction. I think things will be different, but I don’t think we know how.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I think that’s a very wise way to wrap it up.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Eaton, who is the teacher of this journalism class at T.C. Williams High School, Shayla Brown, Evan Williams, and Rona Ikram Putri, we thank you.

    RONA IKRAM PUTRI: Thank you.

    SHAYLA BROWN: Thank you.

    MARK EATON: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, by the way, this conversation is part of our American Graduate project. It’s a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Ebola, Ferguson and Derek Jeter make high schoolers’ #MyZeitgeist videos appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Next: Jeffrey Brown recently sat down at a Washington, D.C., book store with two well-known authors for a dive into some of their favorite reads of 2014.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I’m here at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

    And I’m joined by bestselling authors novelist Ann Patchett and business writer Daniel Pink.

    And we have asked you both to come up with a few of your favorites of the year.

    Ann, want to start?

    ANN PATCHETT, Author, “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage”: Yes. We have got a lot this year.

    “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson is actually a middle school book, but I’m terrible about reading middle school books, young adult novels. I picked this up because…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Normally, you don’t read them?

    ANN PATCHETT: Normally, I don’t.

    I heard so many great things about this book. Jackie was born in 1963. She grew up partially in South Carolina and partially in Brooklyn. And it’s just about the experience of a young woman and her life in two various settings.

    And the thing that is so interesting about this book is that it’s written in verse. And it just gives a tremendous amount of space for the reader to enter into the experience. Great for adults, great for kids.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just won National Book Award.

    ANN PATCHETT: And just won the National Book Award.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Daniel?

    DANIEL PINK, Author, “To Sell Is Human”: So my book of the year really is this book right here, “Dataclysm.”  Now, this is a unique kind of book. This is…

    JEFFREY BROWN: “Dataclysm: Who We Are.”

    DANIEL PINK: “Dataclysm: Who We Are” when we think nobody’s watching

    And this is a guy who founded — the guy who wrote this founded a site called OKCupid. It’s a dating site. And what he has is access to massive amounts of data about what we really think, what we really believe, who we really like, who we find attractive.

    And so this book gives us some incredible revelations about how people really behave on matters of love, on matters of race, on matter of politics. So, for instance…

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is very much in the news these days, of course, right? Every day, it seems like, we’re looking at some data issue, not of it all benign, by the way. Right?

    DANIEL PINK: Well, I mean, he makes a very good argument that data and numbers are a form of narrative. They put together a very beautiful story.

    And one of the things that he found out, one of my favorites, is that the single — the two questions that better predict whether couples will connect are these, OK? I could ask you. I’m already married, but I will ask you the question.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: So is she.

    DANIEL PINK: That’s right.

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes. Let’s see if it works with us.

    DANIEL PINK: Do you like scary movies?

    ANN PATCHETT: No.

    DANIEL PINK: Have you ever traveled to another country alone?

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes.

    DANIEL PINK: OK.

    So we actually could be compatible for marriage.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DANIEL PINK: There’s a higher standard, believe me, but those are the two questions that, more than any other questions, predict whether two people on a dating site will get together.

    ANN PATCHETT: And those are your answers for those two things?

    DANIEL PINK: Absolutely.

    ANN PATCHETT: Oh, wow.

    DANIEL PINK: Wow.

    ANN PATCHETT: I feel closer to you already.

    DANIEL PINK: Exactly.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Although you look a little skeptical.

    OK, your next book, Ann Patchett.

    ANN PATCHETT: OK.

    “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast. She’s a senior cartoonist at “The New Yorker.”  This is a memoir, a true story about her taking caring of her aging parents. Talk about a book that will make you laugh and will make you cry. It’s done as a graphic novel.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And one that a lot of people have the experience of.

    ANN PATCHETT: Well, my line is, if you have parents, if you had parents or if you ever knew someone who had parents, this is an appropriate book for you.

    What she gets down on paper, the experience of watching your loved ones get old, it’s so honest, it’s cringe-inducing, but it’s also hysterical.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Dan?

    DANIEL PINK: So, this book here, what I like is the modesty of the title.

    It’s called “The Meaning of Human Existence.”  So…

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s all?

    (LAUGHTER)

    DANIEL PINK: So, in football terms, this guy is throwing long. And I like that. I admire that.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DANIEL PINK: This is a book by E.O. Wilson, one of the great scientists of our times. He’s won two Pulitzer Prizes. He’s made a career out of studying ants. And this book is sort of like a victory lap, sort of the greatest hits and victory laps of E.O. Wilson.

    And he really gives a — it’s the kind of book where every time I read a chapter, I had to stop, because I really had to think about it, because it was — some of it was disturbing, some of it was enlightening.

    And he puts us — human beings, he puts us in our — helps us understand our place in the universe. He shows us the connection between how science understands the world and how the humanities understands the world. And he basically tells us that our sitting here today is the product of random conditions and natural selection that could have easily gone another way.

    So it’s a really profound, interesting book by one of the — really the great scientists of our time.

    ANN PATCHETT: You’re really making me want to read these books. So, this is good.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Which is the point.

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes, absolutely.

    DANIEL PINK: Right.

    Well, this is just so — he says — this is one of my favorite lines here. He’s a good writer here. Here’s what we says about the Earth. He says: “Earth relates to the universe,” sort of putting us in our place.

    “Earth relates to the universe as the second segment of the left antenna of an aphid sitting on a flower pedal in a garden in Teaneck, New Jersey, for a few hours this afternoon.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Huh.

    ANN PATCHETT: Wow.

    DANIEL PINK: So, if you don’t feel small — happy holidays.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes.

    DANIEL PINK: If you don’t feel small after that.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DANIEL PINK: But it’s that kind of very vivid writing and very, very thoughtful…

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so, so far, he has got us married, like, why we married and why we’re here on Earth, right?

    ANN PATCHETT: Right. And it’s not very important, because it is just going to be over like that, this marriage.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, what else do you have, Ann?

    ANN PATCHETT: Maira Kalman, “My Favorite Things.”

    I really do love some pretty books for the holidays. Maira Kalman does beautiful work for “The New York Times” that we all know. This book started out because she was hired to curate a show of her favorite things from the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. And she picks these beautiful items, but it also becomes the story of her life and the things that she loves and also the things that she doesn’t love.

    It’s a very different kind of visual narrative reading experience, great gift, gorgeous book, and something I think you would come back to again and again over time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sure looks nice.

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes, it is nice.

    DANIEL PINK: Yes, it’s beautiful.

    Do you think that the form of these books is part of their power?

    ANN PATCHETT: Oh, absolutely.

    DANIEL PINK: All three books that you took are — were different kinds of narratives.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes, absolutely. And, again, I think…

    DANIEL PINK: I mean, this one doesn’t even have pictures.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ANN PATCHETT: Well, I’m a little slower. I like the pictures.

    This time of year, again, I really am thinking about books that you are going to read more than once, a book that you’re going to come back to all year long.

    DANIEL PINK: Yes. Yes. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, you got one more.

    DANIEL PINK: So, my last choice, this is a book that came out in paperback this year. I just — it came out in hardcover in 2013, but came out in paperback this year. I just got around to reading it.

    It’s called “Drunk Tank Pink.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    DANIEL PINK: OK? So…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Of course you saw the pink, and you immediately…

    DANIEL PINK: Right. “Drunk Tank Pink,” by the way, is no relation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

    DANIEL PINK: So I should get that out of the way.

    This is a book about social science and by a young social psychologist at NYU. And what he does is, he goes through a lot of the research on how much we’re affected by things we barely notice, smells in the air, colors around us, merely the presence of other people.

    And it derives its title from one of these classic experiments in social psychology, where they found that, in a study of a Navy prison, a Navy prison — these are places where they took sailors who were drunk, they’re getting rowdy, they throw them in prison. And they found that when they painted the prison walls a certain color — and the Pantone color is Baker-Miller Pink — that that mellowed them out and it had this incredible — it was — he called it a non-drug anesthetic.

    It mellowed them out. It slowed them down. It took away their aggression. And since then, this color has been used in juvenile detention facilities. Some football teams have painted their opponents’ locker rooms with this color to try to make them less aggressive.

    And this shows just the power of color and smells and even weather to shape our behavior in ways we barely even understand.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, one quick last one.

    ANN PATCHETT: Last one. My favorite book of the year, I have flogged it everywhere, “Deep Down Dark: 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free” by Hector Tobar.

    We all know this story, 33 men — the subtitle says it all. Hector Tobar, though, is the genius behind this story, because he elevates it to the level of all the big issues. What is the meaning of life? What is faith? Who are we when we’re pressed up against our own death for an extended period of time? Don’t miss this book. It’s terrific.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, we’re going to continue this discussion online. I’m going to ask you some more about your own reading habits, what makes you want to recommend books.

    For now, Ann Patchett, Daniel Pink, thanks so much.

    DANIEL PINK: Thanks, Jeff.

    ANN PATCHETT: Thank you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You can find the rest of Jeff’s conversation with Ann Patchett and Daniel Pink at PBS.org/NewsHour.

    Join us again tomorrow night, when Jeff will take a look at the best movies of the year.

    The post Bestselling authors share their favorite books of 2014 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Barclays - Preview Day 2

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Social media has revolutionized how we stay in touch with friends and family, how we shop and get our news. This year, the success of the viral ice bucket challenge has people asking whether charitable giving is having its own digital makeover.

    Yesterday, we checked in on how the $220 million raised by the ice bucket challenge to fight ALS is being put to work. Today, in the second of a series of conversations about digital philanthropy, we look at how social platforms are changing the way we give.

    Joining me are Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Amy Sample Ward, CEO of the Nonprofit Technology Network and a co-author of “Social Change Anytime, Everywhere.”

    So, Stacy, I want to ask, was the ice bucket challenge a watershed moment or I guess a cold watershed moment?

    STACY PALMER, The Chronicle of Philanthropy: It was quite the watershed. Everybody was doing it.

    And it was a miraculous thing. Nobody thought that social media could raise money at all and many nonprofits were really frustrated. We had just written a story a few weeks earlier saying, nobody is succeeding. Don’t worry. You’re OK that you’re not raising money.

    And then all of a sudden, hundreds of people are joining together and, all of a sudden, their friends were joining and everybody was joining. And celebrities did. And everybody got engaged. And it wouldn’t have happened without things like Facebook spreading the message.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    So, Amy, I want to ask, is this something that a campaign — is that something that can be replicated? Because it seems like it had a much more organic feel when it began which. And that is what got more people into it, vs. getting a flyer in your box saying go dump a bucket of icewater on yourself.

    AMY SAMPLE WARD, Nonprofit Technology Network: Well, that’s the million-dollar question, right, or the multimillion-dollar question.

    I think a lot of organizations are feeling the pressure from their boards, from their fund-raising teams, thinking, OK, we have to put a plan in place and we have to create the next ice bucket challenge.

    But, if you peel it back, what really made it successful, to Stacy’s point, it was shareable. It was a really easy-to-share campaign. You posted a video, you posted something on Facebook, and your friends wanted to like it, and comment, and they wanted to make all of their other friends dump icewater on their head.

    So finding something that is in your either campaign strategy or in your messaging in general that can be shared, but is also really fun. It’s about the people participating. It’s not about the organization.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Stacy, you mentioned Facebook earlier and so did Amy. What is the Facebook effect on philanthropy, if it could be measured, at least up until — until now?

    STACY PALMER: Up until the ice bucket thing, it was great for sharing information and for people saying I’m running in a race and will you support me and letting people know about that, but it really just wasn’t bringing in any money.

    And groups were spending a lot of time scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do. And I think they still are, actually, because that’s the question. Can Facebook really help, can Twitter help, what do these social media tools really do in terms of connecting people?

    And it spreads the message, but how did — what nonprofits really need is cash to run their organizations. And so at a certain point, spreading the message is just not enough.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    So, Amy, what can an organization do or what do successful ones do to convert that from Facebook being kind of a marketing tool to actually getting people to contribute? Because that’s what they need at the end of the year or the end of the day.

    AMY SAMPLE WARD: Sure.

    And I think part of that is really recognizing who’s on Facebook. Do you have people on your Facebook page because you’re an organization that does lots of events and people are on there to see the photos and engage with you around events? Well, then figure out how those events hook into fund-raising.

    But if you have instead a community on Facebook that’s really there for your mission and your stories, promoting giving and promoting events may not be what hooks them in, and being realistic. The people on your e-mail list are not all the same people on your Facebook page. They’re not the same people on your Twitter list. It’s all different components within your community.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Stacy, is there kind of a blanket rule? Or it seems like this is almost threading a needle to find that balance. And it can be different for different organizations of different sizes and different causes.

    STACY PALMER: Very much so.

    And I think that’s what’s so frustrating for people, is there’s not one recipe. But that’s sort of what the whole point is. But researchers are starting to look at what works. And one of the interesting findings that just came out was that it turns out, if you don’t have a very big social network, you’re actually better at raising money from your friends, because people are paying attention to you, is the theory.

    So, we might think, oh, go to somebody who has tons of friends on Facebook. That might not be the way. It might be these more authentic messages that truly work. And I think that’s one of the reasons that this ice bucket thing took off.

    People who knew somebody who had ALS at some point. They often talked about it. You need that connection to the cause. It still needs to be personal in some kind of way. I think if it had just been this fun thing, it wouldn’t have worked. That was an ingredient of why it worked, but also part of what it was doing was trying to emulate how people feel when they have ALS. And people, for a second, thought about that.

    And, all of a sudden, they heard about this disease that many people hadn’t heard of. They learned something about it. So it was that great combination of things. But when people have tried some other kinds of things on crowdfunding networks — remember the potato salad thing?

    And that was — this guy had this idea he wanted to make potato salad, and he raised tons of money. So, this nonprofit official in Saint Louis got really frustrated and decided, I’m going to try to raise money for people who are hungry. That’s a better cause than the potato salad thing.

    Well, guess what? He wasn’t able to raise very much money at all. So, it’s very fluky why some things work and some things don’t.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    And, Amy, is there a cultural or a generational gift in how we consider giving? It seems that a lot of millennials are fine with giving $5 or $10 throughout the year in different causes because it’s right on their phone, it’s very easy to give, and maybe they’re not thinking about it as much as here’s the end of the year, here’s my $200 or whatever it is to Doctors Without Borders or UNICEF.

    AMY SAMPLE WARD: And I think what’s really important about what you just said is causes, not necessarily nonprofits.

    If there is — if there is an issue that someone is passionate about, whether it’s a really large being-covered-in-the-news political issue or it’s something in their — in their hometown, they feel connected to that cause and the impact that ultimately they want to see happen, and not necessarily the same kind of traditional relationship with a single organization that may serve — that may have a mission focused on that.

    But they’re not giving every year, like you said, at the end of the year to the same organization. They’re really feeling like, in this moment, this campaign asked for my support. I’m not — it doesn’t matter to me if it’s a nonprofit, a political organization, a community group. I want to give $10, and I also want to feel like my $10 was important, it was noticed by them, and it made a difference.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Stacy, how does a big, huge organization tailor that message and create that personal touch, besides just sending something in the mail to me?

    STACY PALMER: One of the things that a lot of groups are doing is trying to tap their volunteers, get them to reach out to their friends, make it personal in some kind of way. So, you can’t just say, I’m at the Red Cross headquarters and I’m going to send out this message, but I’m going to find the people who can reach out to other folks.

    That takes time and effort too, but it’s a more effective and more authentic kind of way of getting out to people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Amy, the big, huge, $100 million, “put my name on the side of a museum” gifts aren’t coming across Twitter, right? This is still a relatively small fraction, but I take that it’s growing on an annual basis.

    AMY SAMPLE WARD: Certainly. Online fund-raising is definitely growing year over year.

    And what we see in NTEN’s research is that e-mail is still the most significant lead generator, the piece that is driving asks for online donations, because, beyond e-mail, there are so many variables. How did they find your Web site? Was it on Twitter? Did they click through because they already follow you or did they see a retweet from a random person on a hashtag?

    There are so many other variables. So feeling those opportunities out, figuring out who the community members are that you can make asks to, whether it’s on e-mail, and you personalize that e-mail, or you use that as a constant touch point, so that when you do take that person out to lunch or you bring those people together at your annual gala, they have already heard your story. They have already talked to you a number of times, and now they may be ready for that task, whether it’s, you know, $100,000, or $1,000 or $10.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Amy Sample Ward, CEO of the Nonprofit Technology Network, and Stacy Palmer, “Chronicle of Philanthropy,” thanks so much for joining us.

    STACY PALMER: Thank you.

    AMY SAMPLE WARD: Thanks.

    The post How do nonprofits turn social media sharing into successful fundraising? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cuban flags fly beside the United States Interests Section in Havana (USINT), in Havana

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the great surprises of 2014 was President Obama’s stunning announcement, after a more than 50-year standoff, that the U.S. would reopen diplomatic relations with Cuba.

    Tonight, chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner takes a closer look at the challenges ahead and talks with an American diplomat leading the charge.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests. Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.

    MARGARET WARNER: Among the changes, the president said, he would reopen the U.S. Embassy in Havana and further ease U.S. travel, credit and export limits to direct U.S. investment to Cuba’s new small entrepreneurial class.

    He also urged Congress to lift the 54-year-old U.S. economic embargo on the island. Cuban President Raul Castro issued a similar announcement simultaneously.

    But what this opening will mean in reality depends on hard-headed negotiations between the two governments, due to start in Havana in mid-January. Leading the U.S. negotiating team will be Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

    We spoke in her office yesterday.

    Assistant Secretary Jacobson, thank you for having us.

    ROBERTA JACOBSON, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs: Thank you, Margaret.

    MARGARET WARNER: When you head to Havana in a couple weeks’ time to really launch these talks, what evidence are you looking for that the Cuban government, the bureaucracy is actually interested the kind of opening up that President Castro said they were ready to do?

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: Well, I think we have seen some signs of that already.

    So, we’re hopeful that when we sit down in Havana, we will have a broad range of conversations, but starting with the normalization.

    MARGARET WARNER: But, in terms of the opening up of the economy, a lot of things the president said he wants to do, those are things that would chip away at the sort of economic monopoly that this Cuban government has.

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: Right, exactly.

    MARGARET WARNER: Are you — are they ready for that?

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: I think that’s a very good question, Margaret.

    And I think that’s exactly what we will find out. We certainly hope that the Cuban government will allow us to engage with those who are self-employed, those who are entrepreneurs. We certainly hope that the telecommunications sector, which is one where the Cuban government has said they’re interested in modernizing, in giving more access to Cubans, to information, that they will be willing to go as far as we can get our business sector to go.

    MARGARET WARNER: When President Castro spoke to, I think, his parliament, he said his goal is a prosperous and sustainable communism.

    Now, that does — that sounds like someone who wants to essentially retain central authority, party control, but at the same time somehow liberalize the economy and revitalize it. Is that even doable?

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: It does sound like something that may be impossible.

    I think that if you look at what is going on in Cuba, you see an economy that really is in a tailspin. You see a model that’s not really working. And the liberalization that you have seen take place, although many people have commented on it, is really very, very minor. It’s very small. It’s very slow and it is still based on one patron whose own economic model is failing.

    I think one of the things we want to do is see how far we can really encourage Cubans to take control of their own destiny. Whether that is going to exist within the confines that President Castro has outlined, I really don’t know. But that’s why the new policy was designed.

    MARGARET WARNER: Many Cuban dissidents who fought a long fight down there are very upset by the president’s announcement. When the Cuban government continues to spy on them, to restrict their freedom of speech, their freedom of assembly, can the Cuban people expect any greater freedoms in the short-term as a result of this deal?

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: I don’t know, but I would say that we’re skeptical and we don’t have any illusions about this government or their willingness to allow those freedoms.

    I think they’re still fighting that fight. What you see is people beginning to lose their fear. You see performance artists. You see independent librarians and journalists and people speaking out. That’s what we want to encourage. But there is no doubt that the government continues to want to maintain a level of control and a level of repression, even if that repression may be short-termed detention or other forms of repression that differ from the way it has in the past. And that really does have to end.

    MARGARET WARNER: In the negotiations, did the U.S. try to get any greater assurances on this front?

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: I think one of the things you have to remember is that what was negotiated was the intelligence asset for the three intelligence agents of Cuba in the United States.

    MARGARET WARNER: The exchange.

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: The other things that were discussed were things we discussed with the Cubans or they discussed with us, but they weren’t necessarily negotiated.

    MARGARET WARNER: The U.S. said, well, the Cuban government has said it will release 53 political prisoners. Have they released any or all of them?

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: The Cuban government has said that those people will be released as their own decision. Some of those people have been released, among them, for example, Sonia Garro, one of the Ladies in White.

    There have been others who have been released. We expect all of them will be released.

    MARGARET WARNER: Is the Cuban government obliged to, for example, notify you? Will the United States ever really know if those 53 are released?

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: Well, there is a good deal of communications among activists on the islands and among those activists with our interests section in Havana, so we do expect to know when people are released.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, as you said, your talks initially will focus on the normalization of relations government to government. Part of that, President Obama said, was to open an embassy in Havana.

    Members of the new Congress, but many Democrats as well, say they are going to do everything they can in their power to frustrate that, including using the power of the purse. Can the Congress stand in the way of opening an embassy?

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: Well, there are certain things that we will do to transition the interests section to the embassy.

    MARGARET WARNER: Which the U.S. already has in Havana.

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: Correct, a very large interests section, one of the largest missions in Havana.

    There are certain things that we will do to transition that really won’t cost any money. And so we believe that we will be able to do that. Obviously, the conduct of diplomatic relations is within the president’s purview.

    When there may come time for things that will cost money, obviously, we will have to discuss those with Congress. But the transition to an embassy is something that is within the president’s power to do.

    MARGARET WARNER: And so a fundamental critique of the president’s decision to open up relations is that Cuba is gasping for air here and that just on the verge of losing this subsidized oil from Venezuela, that essentially the United States is now throwing it a lifeline that will enable the Castro communist regime to sustain itself.

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: Well, I don’t think that’s true.

    For one thing, the embargo is still in place. For another thing, if you look at what the president has authorized, we’re talking about supporting self-employed, supporting entrepreneurs, supporting the telecommunications sector, which is information, and providing Cubans with accurate information about the world, providing the ability for Cubans to meet real Americans in humanitarian missions, church group, athletics.

    These are not things that are necessarily going to allow the Cuban government to survive or not survive or the Cuban model to survive or not survive. These are the kinds of things that greatly empower Cuban civil society and Cuban individuals to help give them a sense of their own future and enable them to get the resources they need to get greater control over their lives.

    MARGARET WARNER: Assistant Secretary Jacobson, thank you.

    ROBERTA JACOBSON: Thank you, Margaret.

    The post U.S. diplomat: No illusions about Cuba’s willingness to allow freedoms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Fresh protests erupted in Moscow this evening, after a leading opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin was convicted of fraud.

    Alexei Navalny got a suspended sentence of three-and-a-half years, but his brother was sent to prison. Later, Navalny was seen being rounded up by police when he broke the terms of his ongoing house arrest and tried to attend the rally. The demonstration itself drew several thousand people with chants of “Freedom” and “Putin, go away” ringing through the air in Red Square.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I came here, first of all, because I am against any repression, against politically motivated cases and prosecution for views. I think every person has the right to express his opinion.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:
    After nearly two hours, police broke up the protests and detained about 100 opposition supporters. The United States denounced the convictions of Navalny and his brother as another sign of a Russian crackdown on independent voices.

    There’s word today of a Jordanian pilot who’s being held by Islamic State militants in Syria. Muath al Kasaesbeh was flying a coalition air raid when his plane went down last week. Now the Islamic State’s English-language online magazine has published interview with the captive. In it, he’s asked, “Do you know what the Islamic State will do with you?”  He answers: “Yes. They will kill me.’

    The U.N. Security Council has turned back a Palestinian push to end Israeli control in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by 2017. The vote this evening fell one vote short of the nine needed. The resolution called for an independent state, with Palestinians arguing negotiations with Israel have gone nowhere.

    But U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power criticized the Palestinian effort.

    SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. Ambassador to the UN: A staged confrontation in the U.N. Security Council will not bring the parties closer to achieving a two-state solution.

    We voted against this resolution not because we are indifferent to the daily hardships or the security threats endured by Palestinians and Israelis, but because we know that those hardships will not cease and those threats will not subside until the parties reach a comprehensive settlement achieved through negotiations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. had been expected to veto the resolution even if it did pass.

    Back in this country, the third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House said today he regrets addressing a white supremacist group in 2002. At the time, Majority Whip Steve Scalise was a state lawmaker in Louisiana. He initially said he didn’t know the group’s background. Today, he said — quote — “It was a mistake, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views that groups like these hold.”

    In his own statement, House Speaker John Boehner said Scalise made an error in judgment, but still has his full confidence.

    Republican Congressman Michael Grimm of New York has announced he’s resigning January 5. He pleaded guilty last week to tax evasion, after he’d been reelected to a third term. In a statement last night, Grimm said he can no longer be effective in Congress.

    Former President George H.W. Bush was released from a Houston hospital today after a weeklong stay. A spokesman said he is resting comfortably at home. Mr. Bush is now 90, and is the oldest living former president. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease and was admitted to the hospital last week with shortness of breath.

    On Wall Street, stocks were down, partly on profit-taking, and partly on worries about Greece. The government there has called early elections that could unravel an international bailout deal. For the day, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 55 points to close at 17983. The Nasdaq fell 29 points to close at 4777. And the S&P 500 dropped 10 to finish at 2080.

    The post News Wrap: Protests erupt in Moscow over Navalny conviction appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    AirAsia's QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore, taking same code as missing plane which took off 24 hours earlier, taxis at Changi Airport in Singapore

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining me now is Wall Street Journal reporter Andy Pasztor, who covers aviation.

    So, Andy, we just rattled off all these different resources bringing to bear on this search. What’s next? How long might it take?

    ANDY PASZTOR, The Wall Street Journal: Under the best of circumstances, it could be days or weeks. The water is relatively shallow, much shallower than in previous crashes your viewers may be aware of, such as the Malaysian 370 disappearance, where they’re still looking.

    And also there are some currents to contend with. But I think this is a scenario where investigators and experts hope that they can find what they want relatively quickly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So how do they go about piecing together a cause, even after they get this black box?

    ANDY PASZTOR: Well, of course, they will construct a timeline and try to determine what was — precisely what was happening in the cockpit at what point, and also there will be recordings of what the pilots were saying and doing.

    And I think, to put this into some perspective, as tragic as this is for the families and for the airline, this is probably not going to be a seminal accident or a seminal investigation. Experts call it a classic high-altitude stall, high-altitude upset instance, which was probably exacerbated by storms.

    But I think we should talk a little bit about why it could be a very important investigation. It could be a turning point for the industry, because this might be what they needed or what they require to put on tracking systems on all aircraft and also to be able to stream data off aircraft, so that investigators know what happened and where the plane ended much more quickly than they do now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s also almost been this collective moment where the world wonders, why is it that I can find my smartphone with such precision and I can’t find something that’s 1,000 times as big?

    ANDY PASZTOR: Well, that’s right.

    And the industry, so far, for the most part, has called Malaysia 370 a one-off event. And so the response to that disappearance, the disappearance of that aircraft, was a slow and very cautious effort to make sure that airlines — airliners can be tracked everywhere in the world regardless of where they’re flying.

    The question is, in today’s digital world, three days, that’s how long it took to find this aircraft debris. Is that too long, and should we be looking at a system that allows investigators and airlines and the flying public to know where a plane crashed and what was happening on board that plane much more quickly than the three days that it took this time?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And what about the role of the USS Sampson, the destroyer? What is that likely to do or what can that do in a search like this?

    ANDY PASZTOR: Well, I think at this point it’s an ancillary role, because I don’t believe they have any underwater search capability or technology on that ship.

    But the U.S. probably will be asked and will help out in some underwater search efforts as this develops. And there are assets under way to the site now to be able to find the bodies and to be able to, of course, find the black box and the parts of the plane that may help answer what happened.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal joining us tonight, thanks so much.

    ANDY PASZTOR: You’re welcome.

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    airasia

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We begin with that missing airliner in Indonesia.

    The mystery came into better focus today when search teams found the remains of victims and mangled metal off the coast of Borneo. Shaken, grieving relatives of the victims filed out of a crisis center in Surabaya after their agonizing wait ended with a jolt.

    A short time earlier, as they watched Indonesian television, images of bodies and wreckage flashed on screen with no warning. The multinational search had found what it was looking for in the Java Sea, as Indonesia’s national search-and-rescue chief confirmed.

    HENRY BAMBANG SULISTYO, Chief of National Search and Rescue, Indonesia (through interpreter): The area was where the plane crashed, and the debris came from the missing plane that we have been searching for.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The drama began Sunday when AirAsia Flight 8501 left Surabaya, Indonesia, on a two-hour trip to Singapore; 162 people, mostly Indonesians, were on board. But the plane disappeared off radar, without warning, about halfway into its route, traveling through stormy weather.

    Searchers found the first debris about 10 miles from the plane’s last known location in less than 100 feet of water. Initial efforts brought back a blue suitcase, an oxygen tank and aircraft parts matching the serial number of the lost plane.

    Even after the discovery, some refused to give up on the chance their loved ones might have survived.

    KRISTIN MAUREN, Friend of Passenger (through interpreter): I still hope that they can find the plane, and, from the bottom of my heart, I want them to still be alive.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But, for most, the grim reality set in, and the Indonesian president arrived at the Surabaya airport to offer what comfort he could.

    PRESIDENT JOKO WIDODO, Indonesia (through interpreter): My deep condolences go out to the families of the passengers and crew. I am feeling their loss and pray that they are given all the courage and strength to face this tragedy.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: AirAsia’s CEO, Tony Fernandes, also spoke again today, expressing deep regrets over the carrier’s first fatal crash.

    TONY FERNANDES, CEO, AirAsia Group: I apologize profusely for what they’re going through. I am the leader of this company, and I have to take responsibility. It is the worst feeling one could have. But we stay strong for the families out there to ensure that we can look after them even after this incident.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The search operation now shifts to retrieving more bodies and finding more of the plane. About 30 ships, 15 aircraft, and seven helicopters from six countries are assisting in the effort, and the destroyer USS Sampson is heading to the scene.

    Dozens of elite military divers will also comb the underwater site, looking especially for the plane’s black box recorders. Their data may tell exactly what happened to Flight 8501.

    The post Search teams find victims, mangled metal of AirAsia plane – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Shanghai's skyline, which features the Pearl television tower and a building shaped like a bottle opener, lights up in neon colors at night. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    Shanghai’s skyline, which features the Pearl television tower and a building shaped like a bottle opener, lights up in neon colors at night. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    University student and aspiring businesswoman Sophia Jiang has an idea for a website in China that could help students like her.

    She envisions a space where people with an innovative idea about a new technology could “meet” — at least in the cyber-sense — so they can research it together.

    Similar websites exist in other countries, but there’s no such thing in China, 22-year-old Jiang said recently between classes in Shanghai, a buzzing port city of 24 million people.

    Her website doesn’t yet have a name, she says, but maybe it could be a word that means “the light of the future.”

    China turns to tech

    China’s future, as Jiang and her friends see it, is no longer in its lagging manufacturing industry but in its burgeoning technology sector.

    Manufacturing helped China’s economy grow an average 10 percent annually over the past 10 years. In 2010, China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy, after the United States.

    China’s rate of growth is slowing — it dipped to a five-year low of 7.3 percent in the third quarter of 2014. But it is still doing reasonably well by global standards, thanks in part to China’s booming tech industry.

    China has some big names in e-commerce: Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent, which connect purchasers with products and services from the comfort of their own phones.

    People check their mobile phones in a plaza in Shanghai, China. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    People check their mobile phones in a plaza in Shanghai, China. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    “The share of retail transactions that are Internet-based in China is higher than the U.S.,” said Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who specializes in the Chinese economy. (Read how China’s Singles’ Day surpassed Black Friday in sales.)

    As an indicator, China’s spending in information and communications technologies next year is expected to exceed $465 billion in 2015 — an increase of more than 11 percent from the previous year and representing 43 percent of all industry growth, according to the International Data Corporation’s 2015 predictions report, released Dec. 2.

    Helping to bolster this growth are a mammoth number of smartphone and Internet users in the nation of 1.3 billion people. IDC predicts that in 2015, nearly 500 million smartphones will be sold in China — three times as many as the United States — and more than 680 million people will be online (up from the current 500 million).

    “Geographically, China is very big, and you can’t have all the retail stores everywhere in China, so e-commerce is very efficient for local domestic consumption,” said Kitty Fok, managing director of the IDC’s China Business Unit based in Beijing. “We estimate by 2018, there will be 1 billion smartphone users in China.”

    “The mobile Internet is a powerful tool,” agreed Eric Li, the founder and managing director of Chengwei Capital — a venture capital firm in Shanghai specializing in start-ups. “If you have a good idea, it can take off quickly.”

    Entrepreneurs still need a business license, but there are no political barriers anymore, he said.

    That’s good news for Jiang and her friends. But what is their next step?

    As a university student, Jiang said she is planning to tap into a network of alumni to learn from their professional expertise.

    That’s the easy part — getting help from someone in the know, said S. Ramakrishna Velamuri, professor of entrepreneurship at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. Most universities and business schools have alumni willing to share their experiences and give helpful feedback on the young entrepreneurs’ ideas.

    The harder part is protecting her idea. “That is a big fear for start-ups,” said Velamuri. The concern is one of the big three Internet companies in China — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent — will see the idea and launch its own version.

    A dragon statue guards the entrance of the New World shopping center in Shanghai. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    A dragon statue guards the entrance of the New World shopping center in Shanghai. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    The rise and fall of HotelVP

    No one knows that better than Mars Ren, the co-founder of HotelVP, a mobile app to help customers book luxury hotel rooms late in the day for deep discounts. Other websites, such as Hotels.com in the United States, offered similar services, but it didn’t yet exist in China in 2011.

    That year, Ren launched the app, got some media coverage and started attracting subscribers. But in some ways it was a victim of its own successful public relations campaign, he said, since it wasn’t able to keep up with its growing number of customers and still provide them with speedy service.

    A major online travel agency, which could afford to lose money to get a bigger share of the market, according to Ren, began offering the same service. Ren and his partner ended up selling their app to JD.com, an Amazon-like company based in Beijing, where Ren now works.

    “I used to believe I was very smart and my business model was perfect,” Ren recalled. If he could do it all again, he said, he would take things more slowly — test his model first and then work on expanding.

    As for the protection of ideas, it’s practically nonexistent in China, said Ren, and most “ideas” are actually spin-offs of models. But this lack of protection is actually a good thing when you’re talking about copying business models and improving upon them. Then, everybody benefits, he said.

    Anti-corruption campaign

    Another hurdle to starting a business in China: Entrepreneurs have to navigate the tradition of “thank you” gifts, noted Velamuri, which could be construed as bribes. But the Chinese government is trying to crack down on these practices, he said.

    Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, authorities have arrested some high-ranking officials believed to have taken bribes, including the country’s former security chief Zhou Yongkang. Zhou, who retired in 2012 from leading China’s security apparatus, also was expelled from the Communist Party as punishment.

    “No standing Politburo person has been charged with corruption,” said the Peterson Institute’s Lardy. “We can say with confidence that they’re taking it very seriously.”

    Newsstand in Shanghai, China. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    Newsstand in Shanghai, China. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    Despite China’s efforts, the country fell a few notches in the 2014 corruption perception rankings issued in December by the Berlin-based organization Transparency International, showing the Asian nation still has a ways to go. (See how all countries ranked.)

    What the corruption campaign’s ultimate effect will be is still difficult to judge, Lardy said, whether it’s a generic campaign against corruption versus one targeted at Xi’s political adversaries and those opposing his initiatives.

    Li, the 46-year-old founder of Chengwei Capital, was recently asked by a group of reporters what grade he would give the government on its anti-corruption efforts. He declined, instead saying:

    “That’s a hard question to answer. We’re probably experiencing the largest-scale, most intense anti-corruption campaign in China’s history.”

    Attracting foreign investors

    China is trying in other ways to make the climate more comfortable for business owners and investors alike.

    Literally in terms of climate, China is cooperating with the international community to set standards for greenhouse gas emissions. Xi for the first time in November set a date of 2030 for China to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions and to increase its clean energy consumption by about 20 percent.

    A nearly invisible skyline, from air pollution and fog, doesn't stop tourists from taking pictures in Shanghai. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    A nearly invisible skyline, from air pollution and fog, doesn’t stop tourists from taking pictures in Shanghai. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    Also in November, China connected the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges, which opened mainland China’s stock markets to global investors.

    In addition, Xi and President Barack Obama announced that business visas between the two countries would be issued for up to 10 years. Previously, they were granted on a yearly basis.

    These agreements were hailed as a success, but even larger improvements are needed, said Lardy. “The lack of effective protection of intellectual property rights, trademarks, patents — some of these handicaps to foreign business haven’t been resolved.”

    And China’s infamous firewall, which filters content for hot button political terms and blocks web pages accordingly, can sometimes slow the Internet to a crawl. “I don’t think that the government will change it in the future, because it’s important for the government to control what information is being broadcast around the country,” said the IDC’s Fok.

    A younger generation of entrepreneurs

    But even if foreign investors have reason to wait until the condition in China further improves, it’s not stopping the start-ups.

    In 2002, China had only 2.6 million registered private businesses, said Lardy. By 2012, registered private businesses had quadrupled to 10.9 million, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

    “When you look at the number of small businesses starting, it’s hard to imagine these (challenges) are significant impediments to starting a new business,” he said.

    Bicycles cover the grounds at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    Bicycles cover the grounds at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    The Internet in China is about 20 years old, and so are some of its newest entrepreneurs. And they don’t need much money to start a website or online service. “Youngsters from middle class families, with little wealth, are now setting up ventures,” said Velamuri. “This is a very exciting trend.”

    Jiang, who hopes to become one of those new entrepreneurs, said her friends are full of ideas and are more driven than young people in the past. “Several years ago, they just wanted to get a stable job, form a family and live day-to-day. Now, they know what they want, and they know how to do it.”

    This new mentality is good for the youth and very good for the future of China, she said.


    This report was produced from a trip to China arranged by the National Press Foundation.

    The post What’s it take to build a business in China? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HONOLULU — President Barack Obama has preached economic opportunity and equal access to education as cornerstones of the legacy he wants to leave behind. But in the contest to host his presidential library, two public universities that serve needy communities fear the playing field has been tilted against them by a pair of elite, private schools with seemingly endless money.

    As Obama weighs a decision he’ll announce within months, the University of Hawaii and the University of Illinois at Chicago are struggling to offer the upfront resources needed to offset the massive cost of building the library and presidential museum, expected to run close to half a billion dollars. The other two schools in the running, Columbia University and the University of Chicago, are both top-10 schools with a combined endowment of more than $15 billion.

    The Obamas are expected to raise much — but not all — of the money themselves, so a university’s ability to contribute will be a major factor. The Barack Obama Foundation, which is screening proposals and will recommend a winner to Obama, has asked each school in the running for explicit details about what financial and other resources they can bring to bear.

    “Look, when it comes to raw fundraising prowess, we’re not in a position to compete with New York and Chicago,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, during a recent interview in his Honolulu office, overlooking the panoramic, oceanfront site that Hawaii has proposed for the library. “We bring different assets to the table. But if the question is who can raise more money, Honolulu’s going to come in third.”

    In an unusual move this week, the Obama foundation let it be known that it was displeased with Chicago’s proposals — in particular, the fact that the University of Chicago can’t guarantee access to its proposed South Side sites because they sit on city park district property. Still, the blunt warning through the media appeared designed mainly to light a fire under the University of Chicago to fill holes in its proposal, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office quickly stepped in to say the city was working to acquire the land for the library’s use.

    Across town at the University of Illinois at Chicago, student trustee Danielle Leibowitz said her university has suspected that it’s the underdog all along. A key player in her school’s bid for the library, Leibowitz said the university wants to team up with a community foundation to build the library in North Lawndale, a blighted, heavily black neighborhood on the West Side.

    “If he wants to be consistent with the message he’s given throughout his presidency, it really only makes sense to give it to us,” Leibowitz said. “To suddenly hand over your legacy to a private institution seems rather hypocritical.”

    The University of Chicago and Columbia declined to comment for this report.

    The Obama foundation said each school has its own unique strengths and regardless of which school is chosen, the foundation will be able to raise the needed money.

    “The foundation is looking at each response as a complete package and will choose a partner which, on balance, offers the best opportunity to create an outstanding presidential library and museum,” the foundation said in a statement.

    As public, taxpayer-funded institutions, the University of Illinois and the University of Hawaii face legal and practical limitations on how much they can contribute to a project such as Obama’s library. Still, both schools have sought to show they’re eager to do what they can. Hawaii lawmakers have expressed interest in having the state pitch in, while the foundation partnering with the University of Illinois has pledged $5 million. Obama was born in Hawaii and started his family and political career in Illinois.

    Columbia and the University of Chicago have been coy about what they’re offering. But people familiar with those schools’ proposals, who weren’t authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity, said both schools are prepared to absorb a substantial chunk of the cost themselves. They’re also working to secure attractive real estate where the library can be built.

    Although the foundation has tapped Julianna Smoot, a major Democratic fundraiser and former Obama campaign official, to direct fundraising, the foundation’s board has said it won’t start seriously raising money to build the library until much later. The Obamas have pledged not to solicit donations until after they leave office.

    Meantime, the question of what message Obama wants his library to convey has grown more pronounced as the economic recovery continues to leave many behind. Marcus Betts, a spokesman for the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee, said Obama has a rare opportunity to show that one’s background need not predetermine one’s ability to succeed.

    “If you think about what Martin Luther King Jr. would do, where he would put a project like this, I think the answer becomes very clear,” Betts said. “It really boils down to the have and the have-nots.”

    The post For Obama library, a contest of haves vs. have-nots appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee are seeking answers from the Obama administration about the use of surveillance technology that sweeps up basic cellphone data.

    The bipartisan request from Sens. Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley was announced Wednesday.

    The senators say they want more information from the departments of Justice and Homeland Security about how law enforcement agencies are using technology such as Stingray devices, which trick cellphones into identifying some of their owners’ account information. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers.

    They say FBI officials told their staff the FBI recently changed its policy and now seeks a warrant before using the technology, but with certain broad exceptions.

    The Justice Department says it’s reviewing the letter.

    The post Senators seek information on FBI cell tracking appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Snowy owls in southern Ontario, Canada share air space with wind turbines that dot the area fields. Photo by Lorna Baldwin.

    Snowy owls in southern Ontario, Canada, share air space with wind turbines that dot the area fields. Photo by Lorna Baldwin

    CHATHAM-KENT, Ontario — Our original intention had been to bundle up for a brisk, post-Christmas trek through a provincial park near the family cottage on Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario. Before long and after a chance encounter with a park ranger, that trek turned into an expedition to spot snowy owls. The ranger told us about 20, that’s right 20, of the rare Arctic bird had been seen at a farm across Rondeau Bay. Even for winter, that’s an unusually large sighting. So figuring the odds were good, off we went — past farmers’ frozen fields, past the slowly turning wind turbines that pepper the landscape, a hop, skip and a jump down Lagoon Road toward the bay and before too long, we spotted our owl.

    She was perched atop a telephone pole, a prime vantage point for the Arctic immigrant to spot her prey. Why was this owl, and so many others like her, so far from home?

    A snowy owl surveys photographer Conrad Kuiper from atop a telephone pole in Ontario. Photo by Flickr user Conrad Kuiper.

    A snowy owl surveys photographer Conrad Kuiper from atop a telephone pole in Ontario. Photo by Flickr user Conrad Kuiper

    Bird experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York say the most likely reason for the invasion is an abundance of rodents (lemmings are their prey of choice) in northern Quebec last year, and again on Bylot Island in the eastern Canadian Arctic this summer, that helped snowy owl pairs reproduce in large numbers. The population explosion sent the young birds up to 2,000 miles south, away from their regular Arctic stomping grounds in search of new hunting areas.

    science-wednesday

    Naturalist and author Scott Weidensaul says the scientific term for the phenomenon is an “irruption.”

    “An irruption, in ornithological terms, is an unpredictable migratory movement of birds, generally applied to northern raptors and finches moving south well beyond their typical range,” he explained. He adds that the 2013-2014 winter season was the largest irruption in the Northeast in at least half a century, maybe longer. Now in its second consecutive year, Weidensaul says this winter’s irruption is shaping up a bit differently.

    “We’re seeing a lot of young birds, and the high nesting success on Bylot and other areas in the Canadian Arctic likely contributed,” he said. “But there are definitely more adult birds, many of them second-year owls based on their molt patterns, which may be birds that were part of the 2013-14 irruption.”

    A map of snowy owl sightings for 2014 from eBirds.org.

    A map of snowy owl sightings for 2014 from eBird.org, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

    Snowy owls are used to the barren tundra of their Arctic home in the far north, so when they do make a move they tend to hang out in wide open flat spaces, where they can quickly and easily see their next meal. That makes airports a favorite haunt for the owls, much to the dismay of airport authorities. Birders in Washington, D.C., can already lay claim to their first sighting of this season and the farthest south, where else but at Reagan National Airport. The Arctic owl was spotted near the runways on Dec. 20, the date of the annual Christmas Bird Count, held since 1900 to document the number of bird species nationwide.

    Snowy owls gravitate toward the wide open spaces of airports. A snowy owl closer to its normal Arctic habitat, Fort St. John Airport in northern British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Flickr user tuchodi.

    Snowy owls gravitate toward the wide open spaces of airports. A snowy owl closer to its normal Arctic habitat, Fort St. John Airport in northern British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Flickr user tuchodi

    At Windsor International Airport in Ontario, Canada, staff reported they banded a dozen or more owls in the month of December alone. Airport manager Phil Roberts told the CBC, ”Snowies are heavy birds and they also have no experience with humans or machinery, including aircraft. So the fact is they don’t react fast enough to stay out of the way of aircraft and because they’re so big, the probability of an aircraft being damaged from hitting a snowy is very high.” Snowy owls weigh anywhere from 3.5 to to 6.5 pounds and have an average wing span of more than 4.5 feet, according to National Geographic. Airport employees carefully catch and band the birds, watch them for 24 hours, and then release them about 30 miles away.

    Photo by Lorna Baldwin.

    Photo by Lorna Baldwin

    Back to our snowy owl perched atop its telephone pole — she didn’t stay put for long, but took off over the fields in a series of graceful swoops. Our next step was to log our observations on eBird, the global tool for tracking birds and collecting data for scientific research that’s run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Founded in 2002, it’s essentially crowdsourcing for birds. A map pinpoints the bird’s location, a checklist provides details of the sighting and in many cases, birders leave photographs, video and audio clips as learning tools for other birders and scientists. The map is interactive, and you can see our sighting or add your own here. There’s also a downloadable app for mobile phones that helps birders in the field record their observations immediately.

    Technology is also helping another group track the snowy owl invasion in more ways than one. Founded last year and mostly crowd funded, Project SNOWstorm is a collaboration among scientists to track the movements of snowy owls using GPS-GSM transmitters. The solar-powered devices collect, store and return information using the cellular phone network, transmitting data when a bird flies within range of a cell tower. Twenty-two birds were outfitted with the transmitters during last year’s irruption, from Minnesota to Massachusetts, and scientists watched and learned as the data rolled in.

    A snowy owl on the ice. Photo by Flickr user Steve Valasek.

    A snowy owl on the ice. Photo by Flickr user Steve Valasek

    Scott Weidensaul is one of the group’s founding members. He told the NewsHour, “Some of what we’ve found confirms longstanding suspicions, such as the reliance on waterbird prey like ducks, geese, gulls and grebes for coastal snowies. We’ve seen that some owls are profound homebodies, rarely straying more than a half-mile all winter from their tagging site, while others roamed across hundreds of miles. One of the biggest surprises was the way immature owls along the Great Lakes moved out onto the frozen lake surfaces for weeks or months at a stretch, apparently haunting cracks and leads in the ice plates where ducks and other waterfowl could be found. In this, they echoed recently documented behavior among adult snowies, some of which migrate ‘north’ in winter, and remain along permanent open-water leads known as polynyas in the Arctic pack ice, hunting sea ducks.”

    So far this winter, two of the 22 snowy owls with transmitters have turned up in cell range again. “That’s gravy,” Weidensaul says. “Our main focus is documenting their movements and ecology down here on the wintering grounds. The birds we tagged last winter gave us a treasure-trove of incredibly detailed data before they headed back to the Arctic.” The transmitters can hold up to 12 years’ worth of data, so the birds still have plenty of opportunities to return a wealth of information on their activity and travel. 

    The post Why are snowy owls moving so far from their Arctic home? And where can I spot one? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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