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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally tonight, arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown talks with author Hector Tobar about his book on a group of Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than two months after a cave-in sealed them inside their mine.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was an extraordinary story that captivated the world. In 2010, 33 Chilean miners were trapped below the earth in a collapsed mine for 69 days.

    For the first 17 days, they had no contact with the outside and were feared dead. But after a powerful drill broke through the rock, the story took a bizarre new twist, as the miners found hope and found themselves international celebrities.

    HECTOR TOBAR, Author, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free”: They were still trapped in this mountain that was rumbling, that threatened to kill them still.

    They were waiting to get out. They were desperate to get out, but they also thought, we might be rich. We might actually have a story the world wants to hear. And so they made this pact underground. They decided that they would share, collectively, the rights to a book. They would tell their story to one writer.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Hector Tobar, who I spoke with recently at the Miami Book Fair, would write the book “Deep Down Dark,” telling of the mine collapse, the rescue effort and media spectacle that followed, and, most of all, the men themselves and the harrowing ordeal they endured.

    HECTOR TOBAR: Well, it was an extremely traumatic event. It was a psychological torture.

    Even working there on an ordinary day was tough. The temperature was 90 degrees. They are 2,000 feet underground. They have to get to the mine through this stone highway in the mountain that spirals down to the bottom. It’s 98 percent humidity.

    Most of them didn’t have breakfast on an ordinary day because they would throw it up after a couple of hours working in these conditions. So the mine collapses. Huge stone crushes the road out. It blocks their way out with a curtain of stone, a guillotine of stone. And they are slowly dying the first 17 days. And it was a very existential and it became a very spiritual thing, because most of the men were fathers, were providers for their family.

    And they realized that their families might never see them again. They might never be able to provide for their families again. When they started to die, when they started to die of starvation, they reflected on, what kind of father was I? Was I a good father? Was I a bad father? Was I a good husband?

    Many of them felt they were being punished for what they had done in their surface lives: I drank too much. I did drugs. I’m being punished.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, of course, in a group dynamic like that, under extraordinary stress…

    HECTOR TOBAR: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … things happen, right?

    HECTOR TOBAR: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Leaders aren’t leaders. Other people become leaders. The group changes.

    But what — what struck you about what they went through in that regard?

    HECTOR TOBAR: Well, one of the first things many of the men wanted to tell me was the man who people think was the leader underground wasn’t the leader.

    Luis Urzua, he was the shift foreman. He abdicated his responsibility on the second night. And he didn’t take charge. Many of the men wanted me to know that. The other thing they wanted to tell me, which was their big secret, was that, on the first night, several of the men stole some of the food, the emergency supplies.


    HECTOR TOBAR: And so they starved a little bit more than they would have, thanks to the desperation of a few men.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Incredibly, they survived, brought to the surface one by one, until all were there in a joyous celebration for them, their families, their country and the world.

    As Hector Tobar’s book shows, though, the celebration didn’t last.

    HECTOR TOBAR: Unfortunately, I think, almost every man had his breakdown. Almost every man had his crisis because they had been tortured by the mountain. The mountain was like a monster while they were in it that was growling at them for 10 weeks.

    It left them with this profound trauma. Some of them had it the first three, four months. They were shattered. I interviewed many of the men who were trembling when I first spoke to them about what had happened, when I went to their homes.

    Others didn’t have their crisis until a year or two years later. So I think, every man, they really went through something that was incomparable in human history. In fact, they were trapped longer than anyone in human history. And so it was a very deeply shattering emotional experience.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You mean tragedy and celebrity hits them at the same time.

    HECTOR TOBAR: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They come up. The world is watching. They’re famous. And then what? Is there a letdown? Were they expecting to stay famous, to become rich?

    HECTOR TOBAR: Right.

    When they came out, they knew that they were the most famous miners on earth. They had been called national heroes even while they were still trapped. Many of them believed they would never have to work again, because a certain Chilean millionaire had already given them $10,000 each, which is a king’s ransom in Chile for a working man.

    Many of them believed that, from the film and the book, they would get rich and never have to work. And it turned out that the money didn’t really last very long. You know, they ended up — many of them have to go back into mining. In fact, there are several of the men who went into underground mining months after being rescued.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    HECTOR TOBAR: So you can imagine, being pulled out of the earth while a world audience watches, and, six months later, you are just a working stiff again who has to go back underground and work in a mine.

    And for some of the men who did that, that was a very difficult emotional experience.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the book is “Deep Down Dark.”

    Hector Tobar, thank you so much.

    HECTOR TOBAR: Thank you for having me.

    The post Journalist given exclusive access shares stories of trapped Chilean miners appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: To help ring in 2015, tonight, we start a new weekly feature on the broadcast, Making Sense Thursday, a regular report on business, finance and related matters.

    Tonight, economics correspondent Paul Solman takes a look at how to fulfill those New Year’s resolutions.

    WOMAN: I really want to learn how to knit.

    WOMAN: Stay better organized. I’m going to create a schedule.

    MAN: Try to combat procrastination and really try to focus a little more.

    MAN: Save more money.

    MAN: Actually going to work harder. That’s — that’s pretty much it.

    WOMAN: And how are you going to do that?

    MAN: Ooh. Umm…

    PAUL SOLMAN: So New Year’s resolutions, people make them, and just about as often, they break them. Why?

    WALTER MISCHEL, Author, “The Marshmallow Test”: Because they’re formulated in a way that is a general good intention, but it’s not a plan.

    PAUL SOLMAN: If there is a man with a plan for leading us not into temptation, it’s psychologist Walter Mischel, author of “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control” and, by mastering it, working harder, saving more, key factors in economic success.

    The book is based on half-a-century of research by Mischel and others that began with a simple experiment, now among the most famous and replicated in the history of psychology.

    WOMAN: There’s a marshmallow. You can either wait and I will bring you back another one, so you can have two, or you can eat it now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Mischel ran this self-control experiment on some 650 preschoolers at Stanford University in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Most gobbled up the puffy confection, but one-third abstained long enough to get another.

    WOMAN: You get two.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And delaying gratification at even the earliest ages has been shown to correlate powerfully or else equal with prosperity later in life. Mischel found that the successful self-deniers had a pretty simple strategy.

    WALTER MISCHEL: Which is, they transform an impossibly difficult situation into a relatively easy one by distracting themselves, by turning around.

    PAUL SOLMAN: By putting the marshmallow farther away.

    WALTER MISCHEL: Or I can do it by exploring my nasal cavities or my ear canals and toying with the product. The fancy word for it now is executive control. I’m able to use my prefrontal cortex, my cool brain, not my hot emotional system. I am able to use my cool brain in order to have strategies that allow me to make this miserable, effortful waiting effortless and easy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Or not so effortless and easy.

    CHILD: Ten minutes. Ten minutes. Ten minutes. Ten minutes. Ten minutes. Oh, 10 minutes.

    WALTER MISCHEL: I think some people find it much easier to exert control than others. But no matter whether one is reasonably good at this overall or easily bad at this overall, it can be enormously improved.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So how do exert executive control as an adult, facing vices more inviting than marshmallows when childish distractions may no longer work.

    So if I have a New Year’s resolution to drink a little less than I do, what do I do?

    WALTER MISCHEL: What you need is a plan that says, at the end of the day, 5:00 is the time that I am likely to have a drink.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right.

    WALTER MISCHEL: OK? I have to have a substitute activity at that time, so there will be an alternative and it will be very, very practiced.

    I mean, to give you an example from my own experience, a chocolate mousse is generally irresistible for me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: His self-control strategy?

    WALTER MISCHEL: I will order the fruit salad. And that’s a specific rehearsed plan, so before the guy can tempt me with the mousse, I’m already ordering the fruit salad.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And just to be safe:

    WALTER MISCHEL: The idea that the chocolate mousse before it was brought out of the restaurant kitchen may have had a cockroach having a little breakfast on it first.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Behavioral economist Dean Karlan has pioneered a different approach.

    DEAN KARLAN, Yale University: I go to a fancy restaurant with some friends, I know that after I have had my wine, the dessert menu comes, I will order the dessert, even if I swear I wasn’t going to up front. So I will turn to my friend and I will say if — fine, yes, let’s get the wine. But if I eat dessert, then I owe you $100.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Karlan first became involved with such so-called commitment contracts in grad school, researching them, even making one with a friend who, like Karlan, wanted to lose weight and keep it off.

    DEAN KARLAN: The contract was for $10,000. So the point was to make it for a lot of money, enough that it would be really, really painful to write that check.

    PAUL SOLMAN: How much did you lose?

    DEAN KARLAN: I lost 48 points.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Growing out of that experience, Karlan co-founded a Web site called StickK, in part for its distinctly non-carrot-like approach to helping people reach their goals.

    DEAN KARLAN: If you put monetary stakes up, then you can have it so that your money goes to, say, a friend who is going to hold you accountable. Or one of the more popular options is the anti-charity. Now the money goes to something that you hate. The NRA foundation is one of the most popular causes that people don’t like and choose on this site.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The National Rifle Association.

    DEAN KARLAN: The National Rifle Association. We also have super PACs both left and right, and those are very popular because they kind of capture all the issues all in one bundle. Keep in mind that there would have to be some reporting of the failure.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Then the money goes to some truly odious cause? I mean odious to me.

    DEAN KARLAN: Odious to you. That’s the key part.

    And the other part that also is very popular and very effective for a lot of people is not the monetary part, but is the public aspect of it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So you would have to admit that you failed?

    DEAN KARLAN: On Facebook or Twitter?

    PAUL SOLMAN: But why do our resolutions so often fail? Because humans like you and me and Walter Mischel, both of us former smokers, temporally discount, valuing immediate rewards much more than those in the future.

    WALTER MISCHEL: So, if it’s not now, it’s essentially never, because the future, for example, the cancer that I could get if I kept smoking, is probabilistic. It’s distant. We don’t know for sure. And so it might as well not be there, unless I do something that makes the faraway consequence immediate and vivid.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Hence the graphic warnings on Canadian cigarettes. A similar image 50 years ago got Mischel, a three-packs-a-day addict, to quit practically cold turkey.

    WALTER MISCHEL: That’s a man with metastasized lung cancer and those little green X-marks are for where the radiation goes. That was the beginning of my ending my smoking, because the image of me on a gurney with little green X-marks is very, very vivid. And it makes the distant probabilistic consequence something that is immediate and now, and changes the cigarette from a huge temptation to a small dose of poison.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In the end, then:

    WALTER MISCHEL: The most powerful way to have control is by transforming what the stimulus means.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, of course, everything follows for making that resolution in the first place.

    MAN: It starts the conversation about trying to change something.

    WALTER MISCHEL: You have to really want to, because you are taking that delayed goal, to live longer, to live healthier, to have retirement funds when you need them, rather than to not have them.

    It is what we want and how we think about what we want that controls and regulates what we’re able to do.

    Paul Solman, reporting for the “PBS NewsHour,” from, hopefully, the land of self-control.



    The post Want to keep your New Year’s resolutions? Stop living in the present and focus on the future appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Around the world, people welcomed the start of a new year and all the promise it holds. But for some in Shanghai, the year began tragically, after a street celebration turned into a stampede that killed 36 people.

    Anxious friends and relatives filled the waiting rooms at hospitals in Shanghai today. They sought information about loved ones caught in the deadly stampede during New Year’s Eve celebrations. As authorities looked for answers, people gathered at a makeshift memorial, and witnesses recounted the horror of the city’s worst disaster in recent history.

    CUI TINGTING, (through interpreter):   It’s too cruel. People in front of us had already fallen to the ground. People were stepping all over them. People just needed to leave the site. It’s people’s lives at stake. We felt death so close to us last night. We were horrified.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Police today denied reports that the stampede started after people rushed to grab fake money falling from a nightclub in Shanghai’s waterfront area. Chinese President Xi Jinping has demanded an investigation and New Year’s Day celebrations in the city have been canceled, according to Chinese media.


    HARI SREENIVASAN:  Thousands of miles from the tragedy, Pope Francis made a wish for no more wars.

    POPE FRANCIS, (through interpreter):  This proximity of God to our lives gives us true peace, peace, a divine gift that we implore, especially today. Peace is always possible. It’s always possible. We have to search for it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  In the U.S., New Year’s events were accompanied by protests in places like Boston, where a small group of demonstrators staged a peaceful die-in over recent police killings of unarmed black men around the country.

    But the biggest celebrations went off without a hitch. The traditional ball drop in Times Square drew a million people. And, today, the 126th annual Rose Parade was the center of attention in Southern California. This year, one of the coldest on record, there was a new face involved in the old tradition. Joan Williams rode the lead float, nearly 60 years after she was denied the honor because she is African-American.

    The first victim of the AirAsia plane disaster has now been identified. The woman’s remains were returned to her family and laid to rest in a funeral ceremony in Surabaya, Indonesia, where the jetliner took off Sunday before disappearing with 162 people aboard. Recovery efforts to find more bodies in the Java Sea resumed briefly, until wind and rain hindered the operation. Nine victims have been found so far. But there’s still no sign of the plane itself.

    North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said his country is open to talks or even a summit with South Korea. Kim made the remarks during a New Year’s address on state television. North and South Korea are technically still at war. Even as he indicated a willingness to talk, he blamed South Korea for current tensions.

    KIM JONG-UN, Supreme Leader, North Korean (through interpreter):  The South Korean government should stop all war maneuvers and reckless military drills that it has made with foreign countries and turn its steps towards relieving the tension of the Korean Peninsula.

    Needless to say, faithful conversation can’t be implemented, nor the relationship between the North and South proceed, when there are military drills to oppose one another in a warlike atmosphere.

    HARI SREENIVASAN:  South Korean officials later called the move meaningful. The two nations last held a summit in 2007.

    The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, made a rare visit to the front lines of the civil war over New Year’s Eve. State television aired footage of Assad visiting different troops of — soldiers in eastern Damascus last night. He also sat down and ate with some of them. The Damascus neighborhood has seen intense fighting in recent months.

    A British-based human rights group reported today more than 76,000 people were killed in fighting in Syria in 2014. That makes it the deadliest year since the war began in 2011.

    In the U.S., General Motors announced three new recalls today, on top of one yesterday for faulty ignition switches. The recalls affect 92,000 trucks and SUVs. In the last year, GM has recalled about 15 million vehicles around the world for ignition and key-related problems.

    The fast food chain Chick-fil-A has announced it is investigating a possible data breach. In a statement on its Web site, the restaurant chain said it has received reports of potential unusual activity involving payment cards used at several of their locations. The locations were not disclosed and Chick-fil-A officials said they first became aware of the suspicious activity on December 19, even though a security Web site pointed to the breach five days earlier.

    The post News Wrap: Kim Jong-un discusses talks with South Korea, first victim of AirAsia crash identified appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s been 20 years since apartheid ended in South Africa. And despite many social and political advances, more than a quarter of the country’s black African population remains in poverty; 40 percent is unemployed.

    What is less reported in the U.S., however, is that community’s and that country’s rising middle class.

    Tonight, “NewsHour” special correspondent Martin Seemungal introduces us to one man who is emblematic of that ascension, an entrepreneur hoping to make his fortune in gold.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Ndumiso Madlala is doing something that has never been done before. He’s brewing high-quality craft beer in Soweto. He calls it Soweto Gold.

    NDUMISO MADLALA, Brew Master, Soweto Gold: So, whenever I drive to work, I just think how wonderful it is that we are starting the first microbrewery in the township. And we’re putting that in Soweto. I mean, the first microbrewery in the country was in 1983. And since then, all microbreweries have been in white suburbs. And it’s the first time that we have set up a brewery in a black township.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Soweto, the sprawling township near Johannesburg, an enduring symbol of the struggle against apartheid, parts of Soweto still home to thousands of impoverished black South Africans.

    But Soweto has also changed in the 20 years since the first multiracial election. Streetlights are everywhere. The roads are paved. And there is a huge shopping mall. Madlala is emblematic of a different, a new South Africa.

    NDUMISO MADLALA: My family is always very proud of what I have achieved. Of course, they are the guys who really bore the brunt of apartheid. For them, it was really — very, very difficult for black people to start their own businesses.

    BARNEY MTHOMBOTHI, Political Commentator: We are coming to realize that political freedom on its own is meaningless without economic freedom.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Barney Mthombothi is a columnist who has been charting change in the country over the past two decades. Mthombothi says there are more black entrepreneurs than ever before, but still not enough, he says. And the official statistics support that. Five percent of black South African adults own a business. The figure for white South Africans is nearly three times that.

    BARNEY MTHOMBOTHI: Now, if you have people actually doing things for themselves, that is actually very good, actually because they also create jobs, rather than actually expecting things to fall in their lap simply because they are actually free. And I think people need to understand that freedom actually is the freedom to really do things on your own.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: So is Madlala’s Soweto Gold any good?

    Lucy Corne writes about South African beers in her blog called The Brew Mistress.

    LUCY CORNE, Blogger, “The Brew Mistress”: It’s got a different flavor to the mass-produced beers in South Africa, but it is very much designed, I think, for the South African palate and for the South African climate. It is a crisp, refreshing beer. It is very full-flavored, very drinkable.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Madlala worked many years for South African-based SAB, one of the biggest beer companies in the world some, so he has brewed beer before, just never like this.

    NDUMISO MADLALA: Here, it is just you. I mean, you control basically about every process, step. So it requires focus. It requires a lot of attention to detail. And you have to know what you are doing.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Madlala is very focused on brewing a consistently high-quality beer. He’s also very focused on marketing.

    And his target market is the large and still growing black middle class. It is estimated that the black middle class in South Africa now equals the entire white population. They have spending power, and many return to Soweto on weekends.

    Tamang Mohetla runs a restaurant on the popular Vilakazi Street. He says nearly half the black South Africans who come here live in rich suburbs in Johannesburg that used to be all white.

    TAMANG MOHETLA: They grew up in Soweto, but they still have relatives, they still have very strong roots in Soweto. Often, then, their idea of relaxing, unwinding is coming back to Soweto, where they grew up. So, Soweto — that Soweto Gold beer, I think, would be appeal to them, definitely.

    Themba Vundla takes a more discerning view, saying, he won’t drink it just because Madlala is black.

    THEMBA VUNDLA: I’m not going to drink because it’s been brewed by a black person. If it is good, I will drink it.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Soweto Gold isn’t available yet on Vilakazi Street. Madlala is working on contracts that will clear the way for distribution.

    Ironically, you can buy Soweto Gold outside Soweto.

    This public is in a wealthy area of northern Johannesburg. Most of the people that come here are white. And one of the most popular beers sold here is Soweto Gold.

    WARWICK KITTEL, South Africa: I would say there is a lot more intrigue. I would say there is a lot more intrigue about it. People would like to see what is going on, how this whole change in South Africa has brought upon different things. Oh, let’s give it a try. It’s local. It’s right around the corner. Let’s see what it is. Let’s see what — what the Soweto brewery can produce.

    LUCY CORNE: Soweto has this kind of larger-than-life reputation. And then people see the name and they think, wow, that’s really awesome that this has come out of Soweto. I want to try this beer. I want to drink this beer.

    ALBERT FAYARD: This is a great beer.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Albert Fayard is drinking Soweto Gold for the first time.

    ALBERT FAYARD: We have come a long way in South Africa. And for a black guy to go and have a brewery in Soweto and brew a quality beer like this, it just shows where we have come from. We have come a long, long way. And this is the new member nation. We are all proud. We love it. This country has got such a great future.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Soweto Gold is the first beer of its kind, but it is not expected to be the last. It is a sign of South Africa’s changing times, moving forward, away from the memories of its racialized past, creating new ones every day.

    The post In Soweto Gold beer, a taste of economic freedom appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo May 11, 2004 in New York City. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

    Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo May 11, 2004 in New York City. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

    Former New York governor Mario Cuomo has died at his home in New York City, according to the New York Times, citing a family friend. He was 82.

    Cuomo, who was governor for three terms from 1983-1994, is the father of current New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who was sworn in for his second term today. In his inaugural address, Andrew talked about his father:

    We’re missing one family member. My father is not with us today. We had hoped that he was going to be able to come; he is at home and he is not well enough to come. We spent last night with him, changed the tradition a little bit. We weren’t in Albany last night; we stayed at my father’s house to ring in the New Year with him. I went through the speech with him. He said it was good, especially for a second-termer. See, my father is a third-termer. But he sends his regards to all of you. He couldn’t be here physically today, my father. But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here and he is here, and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point. So let’s give him a round of applause.

    Cuomo was the son of Italian immigrants who often spoke of his humble beginnings. He was a champion for liberal causes and social justice.

    In 2004, the NewsHour spoke to Cuomo about how his Catholicism influenced his politics. Watch that below:

    In 2013, he recounted to WLIW the story of how he told his parents that he wanted to go into politics.

    We’ll have a full reflection on the life and politics of Mario Cuomo on Friday’s NewsHour.

    The post Mario Cuomo, former New York governor, dies at 82 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video still by U.S. Senate

    Video still by U.S. Senate

    WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was hospitalized after suffering an injury while exercising in his Nevada home.

    WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid broke a number of ribs and bones in his face when a piece of exercise equipment broke at his Nevada home, causing the lawmaker to fall.

    In a statement issued Friday, Reid’s office said the 75-year-old senator was hospitalized overnight at University Medical Center in Las Vegas as a precaution. His security detail had initially taken Reid to St. Rose Dominican Hospital near his home in Henderson, Nevada.

    The accident occurred when an elastic exercise band broke, striking Reid in the face and causing him to fall, said spokesman Adam Jentleson. Reid struck part of the equipment as he fell, breaking multiple bones near his right eye.

    As he hit the floor, he broke several ribs.

    Tests found no bleeding in the brain or any other internal bleeding, Jentleson said. He is expected to be released on Friday.

    “Senator Reid will return to Washington this weekend and be in the office Tuesday as the Senate prepares to reconvene. His doctors expect a full recovery,” his office said.

    Jentleson said Reid is likely to have severe facial bruises.

    Reid, majority leader since 2007, will hand over the top job in the Senate next week to Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky after Democrats lost their majority in November’s midterm elections.

    In October 2012, Reid suffered rib and hip contusions in a chain-reaction car crash.

    Reid has run marathons and was a boxer as a young man.

    The post Sen. Harry Reid suffers broken ribs, bones in accident appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user christian.rondeau.

    Photo by Flickr user christian.rondeau.

    For 29 years now, Paul Solman’s reports on the NewsHour have been trying to make sense of economic news and research for a general audience. Since 2007, our Making Sen$e page has striven to do the same, turning to leading academics and thinkers in the fields of business and economics to help explain what’s interesting and relevant about their work. That includes reports and interviews with economists affiliated with the esteemed National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Making Sense/NBER logo

    Founded in 1920, NBER is a private nonprofit research organization devoted to objective study of the American economy in all its dazzling diversity, combining data with rigorous analysis to describe and explain the material world in which we live long before data analytics became fashionable. “Why Some Women Try to Have It All: New Research on Like Mother Like Daughter” and “Why Does the First Child Get the Gold? An Economics Answer” have been among our most popular posts on Making Sen$e, both of them largely based on NBER research. We thought our readership might benefit from a closer relationship.

    Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to begin featuring these summaries regularly on our page.

    This summary is written by the NBER and does not necessarily reflect the views of Making Sen$e.

    State-level policymakers often adjust corporate income-tax rates to keep or lure businesses. Many of these changes are enacted without full understanding of the impact such tax moves and economic incentives have on companies, workers and landowners.

    In “Who Benefits From State Corporate Tax Cuts? A Local Labor Markets Approach With Heterogeneous Firms” (NBER Working Paper No. 20289), Juan Carlos Suárez Serrato and Owen Zidar find evidence that 40 percent of both the economic benefits of corporate-tax rate reductions and the costs of tax increases accrue to companies and their shareholders, while 35 percent accrue to workers and 25 percent are received by landowners.

    NBER corp tax changes

    The standard analysis of corporate income taxes levied by small jurisdictions like states holds that such taxes are not likely to burden footloose firms, but will ultimately reduce wages and land values in the jurisdiction.

    In their study, Suárez Serrato and Zidar develop a new framework in which firms derive benefits from operating in particular localities, and so cannot easily move in response to changes in the level of corporate taxes in a state. A classic example is Silicon Valley firms that feel they need to operate in that region to take advantage of the concentration of skilled workers and capital.

    Using data from the U.S. Census and various other sources, the authors estimate how state-level corporate income taxes — which are complex and are apportioned across states using apportionment formulae that depend on the level of sales, employment and fixed assets in each state — affect employment and the number of establishments in the state.

    They find that a 1 percentage point cut in a state’s corporate tax rate is associated with a 3 to 4 percent expansion in the number of establishments over a 10 year period. Corporate tax hikes are correspondingly associated with slower growth in firm numbers.

    The authors go on to estimate how the burden of state-level corporate income taxes ultimately affects the returns earned by corporations and their shareholders, the wages received by workers who live in a state, and landowners in the state.

    “Our main result is that firm owners bear a substantial portion of the incidence of corporate taxes in an open economy,” the authors conclude.

    Jay Fitzgerald, National Bureau of Economic Research

    The Take-Away, from Making Sen$e: States set their own corporate tax rates, and reducing them is often a tactic for luring businesses to that state. The authors find that when a state lowers its rate by one percent, the number of businesses in that state increased 3 to 4 percent over 10 years. Plenty of businesses also experience tax increases, perhaps because it’s too costly for them to move to another state; their business is where they are. The bottom line in this study is that whenever rates go up or down, it’s mostly the businesses owners, more than their employees, who are affected.

    The post Who benefits from state corporate tax cuts? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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

    American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, center, arm-in-arm, lead others during on the Selma to Montgomery marches held in support of voter rights in March 1965. Among those with them are Reverend Ralph Abernathy, at left, facing camera, and Pulitzer-Prize winning political scientist and diplomat Ralph Bunche, whose his wife, Ruth holds his arm. Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

    “Selma’s the place. And they ready.”

    In the new film, “Selma,” actor Common, playing Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader James Bevel, leans into the camera and delivers this line packed with gravitas.

    It appears to be the turning point in the recently-released film, directed by Ava DuVernay, that has been lauded for its depiction of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches for voting rights. The Alabama city was the starting point for the proposed 54-mile march to the state capital in protest of unequal voting rights.

    Two weeks after the film’s limited Dec. 25 release, Paramount Pictures is offering free screenings of the film to its namesake’s residents. While the length of run hasn’t been finalized and showtimes haven’t been announced, the city will be reopening the closed Selma Walton Theater to allow runs of the film starting Jan. 9.

    “The city and people of Selma welcomed the production with open arms this past summer and in celebration of the film’s national release on Jan. 9, we are incredibly excited and very humbled to be bringing Ava’s finished film to the community,” said Rob Moore, Vice Chairman of Paramount Pictures.

    The filming of “Selma” over the summer temporarily closed the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge and stalled local traffic. In the film’s earlier stages, Selma residents were wary of the film’s historical accuracy. But for many locals now, the filming was a small inconvenience and the town has embraced the film’s depiction of the city’s heritage.

    “[The screenings are] something people want to happen,” said Justin Averette, a reporter at the Selma Times-Journal. “People are looking forward to seeing it.”

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    Pancreatic cancer cells seen through a scanning electron micrograph. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that tissues such as these have a higher probability for cancer instances based on the number of times its cells divide. Photo by Getty Images

    Pancreatic cancer cells seen through a scanning electron micrograph. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that tissues such as these have a higher probability for cancer instances based on the number of times its cells divide. Photo by Getty Images

    Sometimes there just isn’t a good explanation for a cancer diagnosis other than random bad luck.

    That’s what researchers at Johns Hopkins have found. In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, oncologist Dr. Bert Vogelstein and biomathematician Cristian Tomasetti link more cancers than previously thought to random DNA mutations, and not to heredity or environmental factors.

    Their analysis reveals a strong correlation between the total number of divisions that naturally occur in a tissue over its lifetime and the risk of getting cancer in this tissue. So, the greater number of divisions, the higher the risk of developing cancer in that tissue.

    The two looked at rates of cell division among 31 types of tissue. They found that 22 of the types, including pancreatic, bone, ovarian and brain cancer, are often affected by these random divisions.

    But the researchers warn that this new analysis does not mean that people should ignore other factors that could contribute to developing cancer. Tomasetti said, for instance, it is well known that smoking carries a huge risk for lung cancer, so it depends on the tissue.

    The pair did not look at breast cancer and prostate cancer, because there are not reliable estimates for the rates of those tissues’ cell divisions.

    To learn more about this study, we talked to co-author Cristian Tomasetti.

    NEWSHOUR: Cristian Tomasetti, thank you for joining us. So what’s new here?

    CRISTIAN TOMASETTI: We know that cancer is due to three main factors: the environment — things like smoking, environmental factors; those that are genetically inherited; and then the third factor is just pure chance. And the pure chance is due to our cells and our tissues that divide. And some tissues divide very frequently. Every time you have a division, there is a small possibility that a mutation will occur in our DNA. And if it happens in the wrong gene, this may take us to cancer. So what this study did — we analyzed: What is the role of bad luck among all the components? And it turns out that it plays a key role. It’s responsible for what we estimate to be two-thirds of the variation of cancer risk across tissues in humans.

    NEWSHOUR: This really goes against what a lot of people think — that it’s more about hereditary and environmental factors. So changing lifestyle habits isn’t as important in preventing cancer, according to your study?

    CRISTIAN TOMASETTI: No, no — it is absolutely important. Let me make an example. Say, if it was true that it was only due to environmental factors and inherited genes leading to variation — then let’s say my parents smoked all their lives and never got lung cancer. Then that may say to me, their son, that I can also smoke because I got very good genes inherited from my parents. To the contrary, what this study is saying is that this is wrong and that my parents were just particularly lucky and played a very dangerous game, and that it would be irresponsible of me to play the same type of game. It emphasizes the importance of doing what we can to reduce those factors that are increasing my risk. Also, another element to keep in mind is that when we say “two-thirds” — it’s an estimate looking across many, many tissue types. So there is, of course, an important variation among tissues. For some tissues, like lung cancer, it’s very well-known that smoking has a huge risk of getting to that type of cancer. So it really depends on the tissue, too.

    NEWSHOUR: Why did you decide to exclude breast cancer and prostate cancer?

    CRISTIAN TOMASETTI: We studied 31 tissue types. And what you asked is very important because breast cancer and prostate cancer — those are two very, very important cancers with extremely high incidence. The reason why we had to leave them out is that we didn’t feel that we had reliable enough estimates for how many stem cell divisions occur in those tissues in a lifetime. And to simply explain the basic idea — tissues like colon undergo divisions that, say, renew every five days or basically a week. So there is very high renewal, and it’s pretty linear in time. While in tissues like breast, the renewal, the cell division, it’s highly dependent on our hormonal levels and age, so we were not able to find estimates that we felt were reliable enough to give us a number that would have allowed us to do an analysis for those tissues.

    NEWSHOUR: Which tissues did you find more prone to this random bad luck?

    CRISTIAN TOMASETTI: There are tissues like colon cancer or skin cancer, where it is clear in our analysis that the impact of the environment is huge, as are inherited factors. And then there are tissues that don’t seem to have a large component of those factors — where it looks like, at least for our population, it’s a lot of just bad luck. Some of those tissues, just to name some names, are the small intestine or some of the brain cancers. Bone cancer is another very important one.

    NEWSHOUR: And what would you say is the takeaway when it comes to finding and treating cancer?

    CRISTIAN TOMASETTI: I think that the main takeaway is that we should probably focus more resources and research on finding ways to detect cancer at very early stages. Because for some tissues, where luck is the main component, there is not a lot you can do by just using primary prevention — which means vaccination or changing our lifestyle or diet or quitting smoking. There are cancers where those things will not be as effective as for other cancers, like lung cancer. Therefore, for those tissues, probably the best thing is to focus on early detection.

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    North KoreaThe White House announced on Friday additional sanctions on the North Korean government and more than a dozen individuals and entities after promising a “proportional response” to the cyberattacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment in December.

    In an executive order announced Friday, President Obama will target three North Korean organizations, including Reconnaissance General Bureau, Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation and Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, as well as 10 individuals connected to the country’s government. These sanctions, which prohibit the companies and people from accessing the U.S. financial system, are in addition to previous sanctions targeting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

    Friday’s action comes in response to the cyberattacks on Sony Pictures from a group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” according to the BBC. The group leaked data and personal information from Sony’s computers and threatened theaters planning on showing the movie “The Interview,” a satirical comedy about an assassination on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Although the investigation is still ongoing, the FBI has said North Korea is believed to be behind the cyberattacks.

    “This attack clearly crossed a threshold for us for its coercive and destructive nature,” a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call Friday.

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    Photo by Flickr user Damian Gadal

    Photo by Flickr user Damian Gadal

    WASHINGTON — For years, the government has been issuing guidelines about healthy eating choices. Now, a panel that advises the Agriculture Department is ready to recommend that you be told not only what foods are better for your own health, but for the environment as well.

    That means that when the latest version of the government’s dietary guidelines comes out, it may push even harder than it has in recent years for people to choose more fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and other plant-based foods — at the expense of meat.

    The beef and agriculture industries are crying foul, saying an environmental agenda has no place in what has always been a practical blueprint for a healthy lifestyle.

    The advisory panel has been discussing the idea of sustainability in public meetings, indicating that its recommendations, expected early this year, may address the environment. A draft recommendation circulated last month said a sustainable diet helps ensure food access for both the current population and future generations.

    The beef and agriculture industries are crying foul, saying an environmental agenda has no place in what has always been a practical blueprint for a healthy lifestyle.A dietary pattern higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods is “more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet,” the draft said.

    That appears to take at least partial aim at the beef industry. A study by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year said raising beef for the American dinner table is more harmful to the environment than other meat industries such as pork and chicken.

    The study said that compared with other popular animal proteins, beef produces more heat-trapping gases per calorie, puts out more water-polluting nitrogen, takes more water for irrigation and uses more land.

    As the advisory committee has discussed the idea, doctors and academics on the panel have framed sustainability in terms of conserving food resources and also what are the healthiest foods. There is “compatibility and overlap” between what’s good for health and good for the environment, the panel says.

    Once the recommendations are made, the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments will craft the final dietary guidelines, expected about a year from now. Published every five years, the guidelines are the basis for USDA’s “My Plate” icon that replaced the well-known food pyramid in 2010 and is designed to help Americans with healthy eating. Guidelines will also be integrated into school lunch meal patterns and other federal eating programs.

    The meat industry has fought for years to ensure that the dietary guidelines do not call for eating less meat. The guidelines now recommend eating lean meats instead of reducing meat altogether. But another draft discussed at the panel’s Dec. 15 meeting says a healthy dietary pattern includes fewer “red and processed meats.”

    In response, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sent out a statement by doctor and cattle producer Richard Thorpe calling the committee biased and the meat recommendation absurd. He said lean beef has a role in healthy diets.

    Objections are coming from Congress, too.

    A massive year-end spending bill enacted last month noted the advisory committee’s interest in the environment and directed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “to only include nutrition and dietary information, not extraneous factors” in final guidelines. Congress often uses such non-binding directions to put a department on notice that lawmakers will push back if the executive branch moves forward.

    Environmentalists are pushing the committee and the government to go the route being considered.

    “We need to make sure our diets are in alignment with our natural resources and the need to reduce climate change,” said Kari Hamerschlag of the advocacy group Friends of the Earth.

    Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the idea of broader guidelines isn’t unprecedented. They have already been shaped to address physical activity and food safety, he said.

    “You don’t want to recommend a diet that is going to poison the planet,” he said.

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    Ohio teenager Josh Alcorn posted this photo to Tumblr along with a suicide note on Sunday, signed with the name "Leelah." Alcorn expressed the desire to be accepted as a girl, and detailed her frustration with her family's refusal to accept her.

    Ohio teenager Leelah Alcorn posted this photo to Tumblr along with a suicide note on Sunday. Alcorn, named Josh at birth, expressed the desire to be accepted as a girl, and detailed her frustration with her family’s refusal to accept her identity.

    A petition to ban gender-conversion therapy, created in response to the death of transgender 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, has garnered more than 200,000 signatures in two days.

    The petition from the Transgender Human Rights Institute asks President Barack Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi to “immediately seek a pathway for banning the practice known as “transgender conversion therapy.”

    Alcorn died after walking in front of a tractor-trailer on Sunday in Ohio. She left a suicide note on her Tumblr account describing her family’s negative reaction to her gender identity and her experience with conversion therapy. She called for greater acceptance of transgender people, writing:

    The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.

    The account has since been removed.

    As many as one in three LGBT people have undergone a form of conversion therapy, which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

    The practice has been discredited by numerous mainstream health organizations that have linked it to an increased risk of depression and self-harm. Neither the American Medical Association nor the American Psychological Association support the therapy. The National Association of Social Workers’ National Committee on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues (NCLGB) has said it can cause “severe emotional damage.”

    New Jersey and California are currently the only states that have enacted bills banning the therapy. A similar bill was passed by the District of Columbia City Council in early December and is pending further review before becoming law.

    Leo Sheng, who documented his transition from female to male via Instagram, said in an interview with the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan that his family’s acceptance of his correct name and pronouns helped his transition. “It’s a representation of how you truly feel, and if people overlook that, they’re disregarding your identity,” he said.

    He said he has still faced transphobia online. “They say ‘God made you the way you are,’ and you know, that’s true. God made me like this,” he said.

    Sheng said he hoped his posts could help other transgender people, as a visible example of what it is like to transition.

    If you need support, call the Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: They are calling him a liberal lion. Mario Cuomo began life above his father’s grocery store in Queens and died yesterday as a three-time governor known for unapologetic defense of liberalism.

    MARIO CUOMO, (D) New York Governor-Elect: We won because people — people and the passion of belief are still more important than money.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: It was November 1982, and Mario Cuomo had just been elected governor of New York State. His victory marked the ascent of a son of Italian immigrants, who became a successful lawyer and then politician.

    Just five years earlier, he’d lost to Ed Koch in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City. But, in 1978, he was elected lieutenant governor, and then captured the governor’s mansion. There, Cuomo became a rallying point for liberal Democrats in the Reagan era.

    MARIO CUOMO: The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that this is how we were warned it would be.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He electrified the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco with an impassioned attack on Reaganomics.

    MARIO CUOMO: The Republicans called it trickle-down when Hoover tried it. Now they call it supply-side. But it’s the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods. But for the people who are excluded, for the people who are locked out, all they can do is stare from a distance at that city’s glimmering towers.

    It’s an old story. It’s as old as our history. The difference between Democrats and Republicans has always been measured in courage and confidence. The Republicans…


    MARIO CUOMO: The Republicans believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail.


    MARIO CUOMO: The strong, they tell us, will inherit the land.

    We Democrats believe in something else. We Democrats believe that we can make it all the way with the whole family intact, and we have more than once.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: The speech energized the Democratic base and thrust Cuomo into the national spotlight.

    Ultimately, the Democratic presidential nominee, Walter Mondale, lost in a landslide. And Cuomo became the party’s presumed front-runner for 1988. He pondered making the race, but passed in 1988 and again in 1992, earning the moniker Hamlet on the Hudson.

    In the end, Cuomo’s national moment passed, and he gave the nominating speech for the Democrats’ successful presidential candidate in 1992.

    MARIO CUOMO: It’s time — it’s time for change. It’s time for someone smart enough to know, strong enough to do, sure enough to lead, the comeback kid, a new voice for a new America.

    Because I love New York, because I love America, I nominate for the office of the president of the United States the man from Hope, Arkansas, Governor Bill Clinton.


    HARI SREENIVASAN: All told, Cuomo served three terms as governor, marked by his increasingly unpopular stances against the death penalty and for gun control.

    He also insisted lawmakers had no right to ban abortion, despite his own personal opposition rooted in Roman Catholic beliefs.

    In 2004, he spoke with Jeffrey Brown, on the “NewsHour,” about balancing religion and politics.

    MARIO CUOMO: But the question really is, are you in communion with your church if, for example, you’re a Catholic who accepts the abortion teaching, as I did, and lived by it for, say, 50 years, which we have, but refuses to take the position that now I have to make the whole society of non-Catholics, non-believers, and even those Catholics who do not accept the abortion — I have to impose a law upon them or attempt to?

    And if you do that, you’re talking about a Catholic theocracy. And if you tell people that, they will never vote for a Catholic.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: By 1994, New Yorkers were no longer willing to vote for Cuomo, and he lost to George Pataki in that year’s Republican wave.

    The following year, his political career now ended, he returned to private law practice. But, last year, in an interview with public TV station WLIW in New York, he suggested the career change had been liberating.

    MARIO CUOMO: I love the law. I love — I didn’t love politics. As a matter of fact, I hate politics. I loved governing, which is, I hope, a different thing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And even out of politics, Cuomo remained at least partially in the public eye. He mediated a $162 million settlement between the owners of the New York Mets and victims of Bernard Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme.

    MARIO CUOMO: They will be able to return to, as I say, normalcy. And that, I think, is a very good thing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And he lived to see his son Andrew Cuomo follow in his footsteps and win election and then reelection as governor of New York state.

    His death came the same day his son was sworn into office for a second time. And Andrew Cuomo poignantly paid tribute to his father in his inauguration speech.

    GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) New York: He couldn’t be here physically today, my father. But my father is in this room. He’s in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here. And he’s here. And his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mario Cuomo suffered from a heart condition in his final years. He died yesterday, at the age of 82.

    Online, you can watch more archival video of Mario Cuomo, including Jeff’s 2004 conversation with him.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Next: the role of chance, what we might call bad luck, in who gets cancer.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look.

    JEFFREY BROWN: According to a new study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published today in the journal “Science,” more cases of cancer than have commonly been thought can be primarily explained by random DNA mutations that occur during cell division, rather than by heredity, lifestyle choices, or environmental influences.

    The study looked at 31 types of cancer, including leukemia, bone, testicular, ovarian and pancreatic cancers. Breast and prostate cancers were not included in the study.

    Cristian Tomasetti is one of the authors of the report and a biomathematician at Johns Hopkins. He joins me now from Baltimore.

    Well, thank you for joining us.

    It seems important, first, perhaps, to explain what you were looking at. What does bad luck or chance mean when it comes to getting cancer?

    CRISTIAN TOMASETTI, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: Yes, what it means is that every time a cell, in particular a stem cell, the lonely stem cells, every time it divides, a random mutation can occur and can hit the DNA of this cell.

    And if that mutation happens to be in a gene that is the key regulator and known to be associated with cancer, so let’s say a bad mutation, that may lead us to cancer. So that’s what we meant for bad luck.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so were you and other researchers surprised to find that there — that bad luck, in a sense, played such a large role in so many cancers?


    I would say that I think it’s been known that luck, together with environmental factors like smoking or sun exposure, as well as inherited factors, are three fundamental — three components. And I think what was surprising and unexpected, in a sense, was how large, how important this component of the bad luck turned out to be.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, you mention the other — the other causes for cancer.

    You are not saying — we should be real clear about this, right? You’re not suggesting that people should change their behavior and do things that we know do cause cancer?

    CRISTIAN TOMASETTI: Right. Thank you for mentioning that.

    That’s actually very important. I really hope no one takes, you know, this work as saying that, because that would be completely wrong.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s also important to say, I think, that different types of cancer are different, right, that some tissues seem to be more prone to this random mutation…


    JEFFREY BROWN: … and some more tied to environmental or hereditary traits?


    In fact, I was going to — that was the next thing I was going to say, which is that when we talk about the two-thirds due to bad luck, this is an analysis done across many, many tissues. But there are very important differences.

    For example, it’s undeniable the huge impact that smoking has on lung cancer or that sun exposure has on skin cancer. So, the study doesn’t contribute — say anything against what we already know to be important.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so what implications would there be for doctors and future research in all this?


    Probably, the biggest implication is that we need to focus resources even more on ways to detect cancer at early stages, when they are still curable, so early detection, and this in particular in developing new methodologies that enable us to find those cancers at much earlier stages.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Dr. Cristian Tomasetti of Johns Hopkins, thank you so much.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Officials in this country have also been dealing with a surge in illegal immigration this past year, most dramatically when a wave of unaccompanied children and young adults flooded north across the U.S.-Mexican border last spring and summer. Many were detained and face possible deportation back to their home countries.

    But, as special correspondent Spencer Michels reports, those who made it to American cities face other challenges in their new lives.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Nearly 100 miners who came to the U.S. without their parents make up about a quarter of the student body at Oakland International High School in California. Altogether, nearly 60,000 unaccompanied minors were caught at the border this year.

    Most are from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Protests both for and against the Obama administration immigration policies greeted their arrival. When apprehended, many of them claimed fear of gang violence and persecution in their home countries, so they were allowed into the U.S., pending a hearing in immigration court.

    But, in Oakland and in some other California cities, there was little debate over whether to welcome them.

    Carmelita Reyes is co-principal of International High.

    CARMELITA REYES, Co-Principal, Oakland International High School: These are children, period. And so what their legal status is, is immaterial. They’re students. They deserve an education. So I’m part of that system that is the safety net for these children.

    SPENCER MICHELS: There’s a network of schools like Oakland International High in several American cities, but the politics of the immigration debate are largely ignored in these schools, where the emphasis is on teaching English and other subjects and on taking care of the kids.

    Seventeen-year-old Yefrey Cinto Blanco is new at the school, just starting to learn English. He grew up in Guatemala, where he says violence and danger were commonplace.

    YEFREY CINTO BLANCO, Student (through interpreter): It’s a violence that emerges from the communities and it keeps getting bigger and bigger, and sometimes people are killed because of this problem.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Today, Yefrey takes a full load of classes. Topics like history and math are taught in English and the students, who speak 35 different languages, learn from each other.

    CARMELITA REYES: We don’t have desks. We have tables, and we have very purposeful groupings, so that there’s some language diversity at the table, a student from Asia and a student from Central America at the same table. And so English becomes the common language of that project or that group discussion.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But, for this population, Oakland schools can’t concentrate solely on education. Almost all get free or low-cost meals paid for by the federal government. And the district has hired an unaccompanied minor specialist and others to concentrate on the psychological, social and immigration problems facing the new arrivals.

    LAUREN MARKHAM, Oakland International High School: Let’s go. Where do you have to go?

    SPENCER MICHELS: Lauren Markham is community schools manager, who spends her days solving kids’ problems.

    LAUREN MARKHAM: Because these students aren’t with their family members and because they have faced a tremendous amount of trauma, there’s huge mental health needs, so needing to see a counselor, to see a mentor, to be engaged in sports or after-school programs.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Among her charges is Carlos Sura, a senior at International, who made his way to the U.S. from El Salvador with just his younger sister.

    CARLOS SURA JR., Student: They were recruiting young kids to join the gangs, and like — I was, like, I don’t want to be a part of that, because then, when they put you in it, they — there’s no way back to — for you to get out. Got to go to church every day, or, otherwise, they are going to kill you.

    SPENCER MICHELS: After being caught near the border, he and his sister were sent to live with their parents in Oakland while waiting for an immigration hearing.

    Carlos’ father and then his mother had come to America without documents years earlier, leaving Carlos and sister, Tanya, with a grandmother. They live with younger siblings born here in a few crowded rooms in East Oakland, a neighborhood where gangs flourish, just as in El Salvador.

    Carlos Sr., who works as an unlicensed barber, would like to get a work permit. He was encouraged by President Obama’s recent announcement on immigration.

    CARLOS SURA SR., California (through interpreter): I think that it is going to help us. God willing, we will be able to work legally. I think that I will be able to get my license to work as a barber and start my own business.

    SPENCER MICHELS: For his son, it’s been worth the fear and the struggle. He wants to be an accountant.

    CARLOS SURA JR.: My plans are to start going to college next year after I graduate from high school, get a career, help my family.

    SPENCER MICHELS: At the U.C. Berkeley Law School, Allison Davenport studies and handles family immigration cases in the International Human Rights Law Clinic. She says the immigration challenges faced by the Sura family are complex and uncertain, but not unusual.

    ALLISON DAVENPORT, UC Berkeley School of Law: That’s a very common scenario. So, the parents are undocumented. The children who were born in the U.S. are, by law, U.S. citizens. And then the recently arrived children are — likely have cases pending in immigration court.

    Now, the parents, because they do have the U.S. citizen children, may be eligible under this new deferred action for parents program announced by President Obama on November 20.

    SPENCER MICHELS: As for unaccompanied minors like those at International High, Davenport was disappointed President Obama didn’t directly address that issue.

    ALLISON DAVENPORT: Asylum claims are very difficult to win. You have to show not just that you have a fear of return to your home country, but it’s connected to one of the five protected grounds under asylum law, which is race, religion, political opinion, membership in a particular social group, or your nationality.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Consequently, all the unaccompanied minors at International High need legal representation.

    LAUREN MARKHAM: A ton of my work this fall and last spring has been trying to find lawyers for these students. When an unaccompanied minor crosses the border and is caught, they are immediately put into removal proceedings or deportation proceedings. So, they’re going to be deported unless they can show a reason that they have legal grounds to stay.

    SPENCER MICHELS: That’s the way it should be, argues Ric Oberlink, an environmentalist and an active member of Californians for Population Stabilization.

    He says cities or schools providing services for illegal immigrants just encourages others to come.

    RIC OBERLINK, Californians for Population Stabilization: When you provide benefits, when you provide incentives, you’re going to increase the flow and you’re going to put more people onto this perilous journey. It’s just wrong. We have a very generous immigration policy, but we can’t be open to just anybody walking across the border. Eventually, most of them should be returned.

    SPENCER MICHELS: The U.S. deports 400,000 people a year. So far, none of the unaccompanied minors at Oakland’s International High has been removed.

    Meanwhile, the school is not anticipating another surge of students, but will figure a way to take care of them should they materialize.

    Spencer Michels in Oakland for the “PBS NewsHour.”

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    Capitol Hill Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The next year is poised to bring more drama and debate for what U.S. leaders should look for in their political — sorry — for U.S. politics.

    Our political director, Domenico Montanaro, brings us a political viewers guide to 2015.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: 2014 was a consequential year in American politics, from the Republican election sweep that will give the GOP control of the U.S. Senate, to the president’s executive action on immigration, to the eruption of protests over the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of a man in New York.

    So, what might happen in 2015?  Here are some things to watch.

    First, Republicans are looking to flex their muscles in Congress. So expect President Obama to dust off the veto pen. He’s only used it twice. That’s the least of any president in 130 years since James Garfield. But Garfield had a pretty good reason for not issuing any vetoes. He was shot just four months into office.

    So, what will be the hot issues?  First, health care. Republicans like Mitch McConnell, the man who will control the Senate, have said things like this.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Minority Leader: Look, the American people hate, detest and despise Obamacare. Virtually all of us would like to see it pulled out root and branch. We understand that the president obviously is not sympathetic with that point of view.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: McConnell knows the White House would block any attempt to overturn the law. What congressional Republicans might pass instead are significant changes, like ending a tax on medical devices, changing the definition of full-time work, so employers would have to cover fewer people, and eliminate an advisory board overseeing Medicare costs.

    But the most important building to watch on health care may be this one, the Supreme Court. The justices will decide by this summer whether people who sign up for Obamacare through a state exchange are allowed to get money from the federal government to lower the cost of their coverage. If the court rules they can’t, the amount people pay would go up, and that would leave the law on life support.

    Next issue to watch, the Keystone pipeline.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people.

    DOMENICO MONTANARO: The president has delayed his decision on whether to approve the pipeline. It would move oil from Canada to the Southern U.S., but environmental groups strongly oppose it.

    Before the president decides on Keystone, Congress may try to force his hand. Republicans want to pass legislation mandating the pipeline’s approval.

    But ’tis the season of joy and merriment, even at the Capitol. Is there anything the two sides can do to work on together?  One area where McConnell and a Republican Senate could actually help the president, trade.

    Remember this fall when President Obama went to Beijing for that Asian economic summit?  He’s been trying to pass a trade deal with Pacific Rim countries, but Democrats like outgoing Senate Leader Harry Reid have blocked it. They fear it would outsource jobs.

    And maybe it’s all the eggnog talking, but some are even thinking about tax reform. But that’s been dangled out there before. If those deep issues aren’t what you political junkies were hoping for, have no fear, 2016 campaigning will soon be here.

    How soon?  We will likely see candidates declare this spring. And by the summer, the presidential campaign will be in full swing.

    Domenico Montanaro, “PBS NewsHour.”

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more on this, I’m joined by Daryl Grisgraber of Refugees International. She has interviewed migrants who have made this dangerous journey.

    So, why is it that they’re abandoning these migrants in the ships on the middle of these dangerous routes?

    DARYL GRISGRABER, Refugees International: It’s an easy way to make money, frankly.

    People can be charged for the smuggling rates. You get on the ship, you can take them out into the water. And then, instead of having to risk getting them all the way to shore or being caught by a coast guard and being prosecuted, you can just leave and have the ship there. And whatever happens happens, right, because of the idea that these people are victims and civilians, and so maybe things won’t be so bad for them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so and you said paid. How much are people paying to get on these ships?

    DARYL GRISGRABER: It depends where you’re going from, but we have heard anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 U.S. dollars, depending on the length of the trip.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And that’s a lot money in that part of the world.

    DARYL GRISGRABER: It’s quite a lot of money, yes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what is the driver or what are the key drivers of — what’s forcing these people to find a better life?


    Originally, in the country that they’re coming from, take Syria, for example, there’s a conflict, right? People are leaving that. Many Syrians have gone to Egypt as another good example, and this was where I spoke to a lot of people. And in Egypt, they don’t get adequate services, they can’t find jobs, they don’t see any future for themselves there.

    And they feel like their only hope is to move on. And Europe, of course, as you might guess, is the place where everyone wants to go. So it’s really desperation driving people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what do we know about the smugglers? Who’s behind this?

    DARYL GRISGRABER: Well, it depends on where they’re coming from.

    But there are large international networks of smugglers all across the northern coast of Africa and they are well-connected internationally and well-connected between the countries on the African — the North African coast as well. And they also involve a lot of local people. Sometimes, local fishermen are involved in smuggling. They help load the boats.

    There are people on the ground who collect the migrants, take them from the bus from a big city to the coast. So there’s really a huge number of people involved and they’re extremely well-organized.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. So, there’s an infrastructure here. It seems shocking that there’s that much of a profit to be made that you could also just abandon an entire ship. Ships are worth something.

    DARYL GRISGRABER: Yes, that’s true, but, lately, what’s been happening is, they’re using much larger ships, so you can put a lot more money on — a lot more people on it, right?

    DARYL GRISGRABER: Kind of more bang for your buck, right. And a lot of the ships are used and not precisely seaworthy. And so you can get them quite cheap. It’s apparently cheaper to buy one than it would be — or someone will make a profit by selling it, rather than sending it to, like, Southeast Asia for scrap or something like that. And so people can buy them, load them up with migrants, and then just kind of push them off.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the Italian response? They’re seeing this flood of migrants one boat after another.


    Well, there are responsibilities of a receiving country, yes. And, granted, the maritime laws are a bit different than when people are actually on land. But Italy suspended its search-and-rescue program a couple of months ago now because — they said it was because of finances they couldn’t do it anymore, a bit about manpower as well.

    And so there really needs to be much larger regional cooperation that is helping rescue people at sea, but also deterring a lot of the boats from leaving in the first place.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the E.U. overall?

    DARYL GRISGRABER: Same thing. They need to be putting their resources into this because that is — it’s their border as a whole as well, yes.

    Britain recently withdrew its support for some search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean as well because they were afraid that it encouraged people to come to Europe actually if they were being rescued at sea. But there’s much wider problem going on here. And, internationally, there needs to be cooperation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Daryl Grisgraber, thanks so much for joining us.

    DARYL GRISGRABER: Thank you.




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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.

    So, first, I want to start out with a poll that came out, a Gallup poll, 1,000 Americans sampled. And they say their most important issue throughout the last year has been government.

    And that was interesting to me, because, you know, when you look back at this, 2004 to 2007, it was Iraq, 2008 to 2013, it was the economy, and then, 2014, the government. So these are longstanding concerns. When it was the Iraq war, obviously, that was something a lot of us were concerned about, and then the economy through the financial crisis.

    But this kind of pivotal moment, this turning point that so many people are so concerned about what’s happening in government and what’s happening in Washington and whether it’s even possible to get anything through, let’s start — what happens in 2015?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think it’s part of a broader crisis of legitimacy for institutions.

    People are questioning whether our institutions, including government, are up to our challenges. We have got serious challenges on education. We have got serious challenges entitlement reform and other things. And we don’t seem — our institutions aren’t responding in a way they should. And I think Obamacare played into that, to be honest, where — which faltered at the beginning, and also, you know, shook confidence in institutions.

    So people want their government to work. Even, you know, conservatives want, in certain areas, government to work, and there are real questions about that.

    MARK SHIELDS: I would say that confidence in government has diminished, is slipping. There are reasons for it.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily distinct from loss of confidence, public confidence, in corporations, in other institutions, private institutions, higher education. It’s across the board, religion, the military being the sole exception, which I think has other psychological factors involved, which is, they’re doing it and we don’t have to do it.

    But I really think, when you look at what happened with the Secret Service, with Veterans Administration, the NSA, I mean, there’s a sense of government not working or not working in the interest of the people who wanted it to.

    Countering that, at the end of the year, there was a surge in confidence because — whether because of government policies, in spite of government policies — Democrats would argue the former — that there’s been a surge in economy and the president’s job rating is the highest it’s been in two years. And for the first time since the recession, since the great recession some six years ago, the national economic confidence is in the positive zone.

    So, you know, perhaps — every poll is a snapshot in time, Hari. Maybe that one has passed, and we’re heading into a brighter and more optimistic time.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. All right.

    So, let’s talk about what’s possible in the world of bipartisanship, whether that exists or not, in 2015. Let’s start with kind of foreign policy issues. What’s likely to be on the table for — both for Congress and the president?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think we’re going to see the continuing crisis of the Middle East dominate on foreign policy.

    First of all, it’s real hard to predict these things, because, last year, I’m not sure I would have predicted Ebola or the Ukraine or other things. But we do now have the circumstance in which three former secretaries of defense from this president and the former secretary of state have all been publicly critical of the president’s conduct of policy in Syria and Iraq, which has metastasized across the region, produced 200,000 deaths, as — you know, nine million displaced people in the region, and now threatens Lebanon, Jordan and other places and terrorism across the world.

    This is likely to be a major focus. But do we have the policies in place necessary to contain that crisis right now? And our — some of our military has questions about that. And we’re going to see that, I think, work itself out with ISIS over the next year.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes. I mean, I don’t pretend to be a prophet about what’s going to happen in the world.

    I, of course, did say the Ukraine and Ebola a year ago.


    MARK SHIELDS: And I was the first person to identify ISIS out of the entire class picture.



    MARK SHIELDS: But I think there’s going to be — there’s going to be an ambivalence, which has been in American foreign policy and defense policy, going to be saying, we have to do more and be more overt and more involved and engaged in combating ISIS, and that is coupled with and tempered by a strong resistance to America reentering.

    And that really is the quandary and the dilemma. I fear that, as the Russian economy plummets and energy prices go down and the oligarchy is threatened and Putin is diminished, that Russia will become more aggressive and more nationalistic, which is only a recipe for trouble.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, what about the sort of situation of troops on the ground?

    It seems that there’s been a lot of concern about exactly whether the U.S. withdrew too soon, whether the U.S. committed too many or too few troops in states like Iraq — or countries, I should say, like Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Even today, Ashraf Ghani, I think in a recent interview, said, well, that whole withdrawing by 2016, that could still be negotiable, and the president knows what I’m talking about.

    But we clearly don’t know that.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think the administration claimed that the Iraq war was over, but ISIS didn’t believe it was.

    They claimed that the Syrian crisis could be contained. And it clearly has not been contained in the way that was originally intended. And now the claim is that we can leave Afghanistan. And I’m not sure the Taliban are going to cooperate here. So that, I think, is a very live issue.

    What is necessary? We — I don’t think anyone has an appetite for troops on the ground in the same way that they have been in the last 10 years in the Middle East. The question is whether this strategy we have of striking from afar, using intelligence capabilities and drones, is sufficient to the defeat of ISIS and the rollback of ISIS. And that is very much an open question.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I would simply add to that, I — I wait and hope that we will have a debate on this subject.

    I mean, the Congress, both parties, has not forced the issue. I mean, this should be national policy. What it has been in the sense is a delegation to the president. You can delegate authority, but you can’t delegate responsibility. And the responsibility under the Constitution is with the Congress. It’s with the people. We should have a national debate exactly on what we are willing to do.

    We have had ouchless, painless wars, with tax cuts, for the past 15 years, and coffin after coffin has come back, and congressman after congressman and president after president has not gone to the funerals. And Gold Star mothers are not comforted, except by letters and an occasional phone call.

    And this is not a broadly shared sacrifice. It’s a violation of the great American principle of the universality of shared sacrifice. And that has been totally missing. And we do need a debate on this. And it’s been — it’s been dereliction of duty on the part of our leadership and on us, as a people, in not demanding it.


    What about domestic policy? Domenico rattled off a list of things. Do you think that there’s any possible movement on, say, immigration or Keystone?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, first of all, I think that Mark is exactly right that the key over the next year is going to be whether this growth, this serious growth that we’re seeing is going to be sustained. That would create an environment that is tougher for Republicans in 2016, not impossible, but tougher. That’s the context in which many of our debates take place.

    So I think that that’s certainly true. The problem is, there are a bunch of issues, tax reform, trade, that were mentioned that adults in Washington want progress on, that think our country could benefit for — from.

    But we’re likely to have a debate on immigration in February with the funding of the Department of Homeland Security that was deferred this last time, and maybe a debate on the debt limit in March that could be knockdown, drag-out funding debates of the kind that we have seen in the past, where both sides are at one another’s throat.

    The question is, does that overwhelm? Does it prevent progress on other issues on this agenda that — that are necessary, that most people concede are necessary? And I’m afraid that we’re going to see the kind of debates we have seen in the past and that that could really overwhelm, you know, the capacity of our system.

    MARK SHIELDS: I’m a little bit more optimistic.

    I don’t think there’s a national yearning for more rancor and more name-calling out of Washington. I think there’s an interest on the part of Republicans to show that they can be a governing party, something that that’s been — there is widespread doubt about.

    There’s a certain, obviously, urgency on the part of President Obama to add to or create or — his record for the last two years. I would add to Domenico’s list. I would certainly include tax reform. But tax reform requires a lot more than just kind of an agreement that the corporate tax cut ought to be lower. If you’re going to raise any revenue, that’s going to require real sacrifice, again, real deal-making.

    And there’s no Bill Bradley, there’s no central figure who’s made this his case. And Dave Camp did, and now he’s gone from the Congress. And so I think that infrastructure, there is a hope. I mean, when you get a water main breaking in every major city and flooding a block at least on a weekly basis, it seems, it ought to be a reminder that bridges, tunnels, roads, and water systems are part of the national competitiveness, in addition to living a decent life.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, speaking of living a decent life, Mario Cuomo, your thoughts?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, I think that there are a class of American politician that are influential people who never became president.

    That’s true of Hubert Humphrey. It’s true of Scoop Jackson. It’s true of Jack Kemp. There are a group of people that really influenced American politics without being president. He belongs in that category.

    There are some orators in American history that are orators of unity or of national purpose. He was an orator of ideological definition. He told Democrats, this is what we can be, this is what we should be. He inspired his party, his ideology, in the same way that Ronald Reagan did in a speech like “A Time for Choosing” in 1964. This is what we want to be.

    That, I think — you know, Bill Clinton eventually won the argument over the future of the Democratic Party with new Democratic ideas, but Mario Cuomo won the soul of the party. And people are still very nostalgic about that, I think.

    MARK SHIELDS: I think it’s a good point.

    Harry — what the hell was his name, the great Jewish philosopher and funnyman? Oh, Harry Golden. Harry Golden said he always knew the first Jewish candidate for president would be an Episcopalian.


    MARK SHIELDS: Barry Goldwater. And it was just an acknowledgement that it was necessary to Americanize and kind of take off the rough edges if you’re going to go national.

    Mario Cuomo didn’t speak English until he entered the public schools of South Queens, New York. And he had mastered English. He was a first-rate intellect. Holmes said of Roosevelt that he was a first-rate temperament and a second-rate intellect, which I think was unfair, but Mario Cuomo was a first-rate intellect.

    And I just — he brought to it a gravity and a seriousness. He could deal with any issue, philosophical, political, policy, in a real sense. And I — my one regret that he didn’t run for president is, it would have been a great debate. We would have been forced to confront real questions and eternal truths.

    He did — Michael is right. He spoke for the soul of the Democratic Party. In the decade of the 1980s, when he emerged, the Democrats carried one state in 1984, six states in 1980, and 10 states in 1988. They were wiped out, 17 states. And he — to a disappointed, discouraged, dejected Democratic Party, he said, this is who we are, and we must be a family, we must share the burdens and share the blessings.

    And he really did. He did give a great, great lift to a party that needed it and to a nation that needed it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Mark Shields, Michael Gerson, thanks so much.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: It’s one of the deadliest migration routes in the world, refugees fleeing war and poverty in North Africa and the Middle East aboard rickety, overcrowded boats, and then crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Thousands have died on this journey.

    Increasingly, human smugglers are abandoning vessels jammed with migrants before they even reach European shores. It’s the second such incident this week alone, a ship carrying hundreds of migrants stranded in the rough waters of the Mediterranean. Shortly before dawn today, Italian officials took control of the Sergei Lavrov-flagged Ezadeen.

    FILIPPO MARINI, Spokesman, Italian Coast Guard (through interpreter): The Coast Guard is working to avoid another tragedy. We called on board immediately when we detected the ship. There were no crew, and one migrant, a woman, took the call. She said: “We are alone. Please help us. We are in danger.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As many as 450 people, including children and some pregnant women, were on board. Most were believed to be Syrian. Though its exact route is unclear, officials said the cargo ship left from a Turkish port, before it was abandoned by its crew of smugglers, ending up drifting off Italy’s southern coast.

    The rescue comes just days after Italian authorities took control of another cargo ship after its crew disappeared. The Moldovan-flagged Blue Sky M was close to crashing into Italy’s coast with hundreds of migrants aboard. The Italian navy, coast guard, and air force patrols last year rescued or intercepted more than 170,000 migrants. The efforts of rescuers are made more complicated when crews abandon the ships.

    FILIPPO MARINI (through interpreter): We are watching this new phenomenon with great attention. We are looking at it, we are studying it, and we are trying to give a correct response. But, for sure, this is very dangerous, because one ship that navigates with nobody at the helm is like a bomb launched against the coastline.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In a statement today, the U.N.’s refugee agency said the growing trend of migrants undertaking dangerous sea journeys to Europe can — quote — “no longer be ignored.”

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