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

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    Congress convenes its first session of the 114th Congress on Tuesday with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Congress convenes its first session of the 114th Congress on Tuesday with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Despite a growing number of Americans who say they are religiously unaffiliated, Congress is dominated by those who identify with a religion.

    One out of every five Americans, or 20 percent, say they either do not identify with a religion, are agnostic or are atheist, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. That is on the rise, up from 15 percent in 2007.

    Yet, just one member of Congress says she is unaffiliated with any religion — Democratic Rep. Krysten Sinema of Arizona. She is the first person to serve in Congress to describe her religion as “none.” (Nine others, or two percent of Congress, identify as “don’t know” or “refused to answer.”)

    As Congress is set to begin its new session Tuesday, it remains overwhelmingly religious and overwhelmingly Christian, outpacing society at large, according to an analysis conducted by Pew and CQ Roll Call.

    Ninety-two percent of lawmakers in the new Congress identify as Christian, far ahead of the 73 percent of American adults who say so.

    The Religious Makeup of the 114th Congress

    Of those identifying as Christian, Protestants and Catholics lead the way. The largest contingency continues to be Protestants, who make up 57 percent of the incoming Congress. That’s more than the fewer than half of Americans – 49 percent – who identify as Protestant. Catholics are 31 percent of the new Congress, ahead of the 22 percent that identify as Catholic at large.

    Though the percentage of Protestants continues to be the highest in Congress, it is actually down from the 1960s when three-quarters of Congress identified as such.

    Changed in the Religious Makeup of Congress (1961-2015)

    Some other numbers of note:

    • 28 Jewish members, or 5 percent of Congress, which is ahead of the 2 percent of the country that identifies as Jewish. But that 28 is actually 11 fewer than in the 112th Congress.
    • 7 ordained ministers are members of Congress
    • 2 Buddhists (down from three in the last Congress)
    • 2 Muslims (or 0.4 percent, which is slightly off from the just 1 percent of Americans who identify as Muslim)
    • 1 Hindu
    • 1 Unitarian Universalist

    To be expected, there is a big party split. Of the 301 Republicans, 300 are Christian, including 81 Catholics and 14 Mormons. Just Lee Zeldin of New York’s first congressional district is Jewish. In last Congress, there was also one Jewish Republican — Eric Cantor of Virginia. But the House leader lost in a stunning primary upset in 2014.

    Democrats are slightly more religiously diverse with 80 percent (187 of 234) identifying as Christian, including 104 Protestants, 83 Catholics, and two Mormons, as well as 27 Jewish members, two who are Buddhist, two Muslim, one Hindu and Sinema, who does not identify with a religion.

    The bottom line though is that it is very difficult to get elected in most places without having a religious affiliation. And, as is the case with racial and ethnic minorities, candidates are trying to win a majority of a district. That’s why it continues to be difficult for underrepresented groups to win seats in Congress.

    The post Congress is still really religious and really Christian appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945. Photo courtesy of Army Signal Corps.

    Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Japanese Government during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Photo courtesy of Army Signal Corps.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzio Abe told a news conference on Monday that he would express remorse for Japan’s actions during World War II. He said that the government would make a new statement on August 15 that, in addition to remarks made by previous administrations, would include regret for Japan’s actions during the war.

    This year marks the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, which officially ended the war on September 2, 1945.

    The official government stance towards the war was set by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995, 50 years after Japan’s surrender. In a move to promote peaceful relations among countries in the Asia-Pacific, Murayama stated that Japanese colonial rule caused “tremendous damage and suffering” to the people living under occupation, for which he offered his “heartfelt apology.”

    Abe’s exclusion of an official apology in today’s remarks has got people concerned as to whether he will maintain the same tone set by Murayama. The debate over the extent of Japanese war crimes has soured relations between Japan and neighboring countries. China’s foreign ministry criticized Abe last August for honoring war criminals at a Buddhist Temple.

    Abe also sided with Japanese critics of Takashi Uemura, an investigative journalist who wrote a piece examining Japanese military brothels during World War II.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying responded to Abe’s statement today, saying that “we hope Japan will be consistent in its words and actions, have a correct understandingand attitude towards its history of aggression, and abide by its statements and promises regarding history.”

    The post Japanese prime minister says he will express remorse for World War II appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    edwardbrooke

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    GWEN IFILL: For more on the man and his time, we’re joined by Adrian Walker, a columnist with The Boston Globe.

    Adrian Walker, one of the things that he said so often during interviews, Ed Brooke, was that he got a little tired of being called a first.

    ADRIAN WALKER, The Boston Globe: Yes, he did.

    He wanted to be known for his service, for the things he had accomplished in office, rather than just being known as the black — first black senator since Reconstruction.

    GWEN IFILL: But why?  Why not?  Why wouldn’t he embrace that?

    ADRIAN WALKER: You know, I think he didn’t embrace it because he didn’t view race as a central part of his political persona.

    He saw himself as a person who transcended it, a man for all Massachusetts and a man who crossed over barriers.

    GWEN IFILL: Adrian, we’re joined now by “NewsHour” regular, presidential historian Richard Norton Smith, who, among many of his other accomplishments, worked as a speechwriter for Ed Brooke for a time in his Senate.

    What’s your sense about that?  Why is it that Ed Brooke, for all he accomplished, didn’t really want to be remembered as a first anything?

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH, Presidential Historian: Well, I think he was always uncomfortable with labels, whatever they were, because labels, after all, are inherently limiting.

    And he knew enough history to realize that at some point today, when we reached this point in his story, historians and others would be making assessments, based not on the symbolism, important as it was, of being the first, but rather they would be assessing what he did.

    GWEN IFILL: I think we just lost Richard. I will take that question back to Adrian.

    One of the things that he did, one of the things happened for Ed Brooke is he was offered three different Cabinet posts, yet he turned them down. Was it just because he just preferred politics?

    ADRIAN WALKER: He loved being a man of the Senate. I think he really loved it. He loved the bipartisan nature of the Senate of the day. He loved trying to reach across the aisle. He loved crafting legislation, and I think he was very happy where he was.

    And I think he expected to be a senator for a long time, which didn’t exactly come to pass.

    GWEN IFILL: Hopefully, we will join Richard Norton Smith again. We have a little bit of a weather problem in Grand Rapids, which is making the connection difficult.

    But I want to stick with you for now, Adrian Walker.

    ADRIAN WALKER: Sure.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the interesting things to me about Ed Brooke is he was very aware of what followed in his path. He was proud and sent a signed book to Barack Obama, talking about how he was proud of him carrying the torch for him. And Barack Obama said he knew he had paved the way.

    But — but Ed Brooke said he wasn’t a civil rights leader.

    ADRIAN WALKER: He did say wasn’t a civil rights leader. He said it many times.

    He really didn’t want to be known as the sort of first black senator, as a sort of civil rights leader. He wanted to be thought of as just a senator, a person who had transcended those boundaries and had overcome them.

    GWEN IFILL: I think we may have Richard back.

    I want to ask you about this idea. He described himself often as a creative moderate. Maybe that’s why he resisted those kinds of labels.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Yes, you know, he was an amazingly constructive force.

    You know, you mentioned earlier housing was one of his preeminent interests in the Senate. You don’t join the Housing Committee if you want to be invited onto Sunday morning talk shows. That’s not a subject — important as it is and as much time as he put into it, it wasn’t something that would produce political dividends.

    He was also, from the very beginning, very much a man who was willing to buck his own party. Richard Nixon is a classic example. Senator Brooke opposed both Nixon Supreme Court nominees Haynsworth and Carswell successfully.

    And yet, by all odds — and, as you said, he was the first leading Republican to call for Nixon’s resignation, and yet he seemed to have retained Nixon’s respect. And that tells you something about the way that people on both sides of the aisle viewed Brooke, who was a senator’s senator.

    GWEN IFILL: Adrian Walker…Go ahead.

    ADRIAN WALKER: I’m sorry.

    GWEN IFILL: No, go ahead.

    ADRIAN WALKER: He was a moderate in a way that you really don’t see in the Senate anymore. He was a really moderate Republican who really prided himself on being able to work across the aisle and who really wasn’t afraid of bucking the party leadership at many turns.

    GWEN IFILL: And he was elected in Massachusetts at a time when the black population was something like 2 percent.

    Does that mean he was what people later said that Barack Obama should have been or could have been, which is the transcendent, breakthrough candidate?

    ADRIAN WALKER: In a way, he was, yes. I mean, he got elected in a state with hardly any black voters. He was elected by white people, absolutely.

    GWEN IFILL: Richard Norton Smith, was — his brand of bipartisanship, could it survive today?

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: No. It’s vanished, along with his kind of Republicanism.

    In 1968, he joined forces with Walter Mondale, Democrat from Minnesota, and together they offered the Fair Housing Act. That was the last of the great civil rights bills. Can you imagine that happening today?

    But what you said earlier about — there was something special about Ed Brooke. Brooke was one of that rare breed of politicians who made people feel good about voting for them. Forget his ideology, forget his voting record. And you have got to go back to the 1960s.

    Barry Goldwater lost Massachusetts to Lyndon Johnson by a million votes. The same day, Ed Brooke carried it by 700,000 votes. He had an appeal that transcended race, that very much was in the great Massachusetts tradition, for better or not. We think we invented America. We are the home of Webster and Sumner and…

    (LAUGHTER)

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: … and the Kennedys.

    And Ed Brooke is very much in that pantheon, if you will.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Adrian Walker, how would you say Ed Brooke should be remembered?

    ADRIAN WALKER: Ed Brooke will be remembered in Massachusetts, as I wrote this morning, as a person who enlarged our sense of possibility and who made it clear that African-American politicians could achieve things that had previously been thought unattainable.

    I think he will remembered nationally for his efforts to cross, to transcend boundaries, to cross — to reach across the aisle, and as a moderate Republican of the kind that really doesn’t exist anymore.

    GWEN IFILL: Do you agree with that, Richard?

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Yes, and the civility.

    He was a classy guy.

    ADRIAN WALKER: Yes.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: And I have to say, on a personal note, he was a wonderful teacher.

    I started writing speeches for him. And I had a lot to learn. And he was the best teacher. He had the innate quality that great teachers have of showing you how you could do better without ruining your delicate ego.

    He also was the definition of charisma. You want to see someone walk into a room and own it, connect instantly with people, he had it.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, Richard Norton Smith and Adrian Walker, Boston Globe columnist, thank you very much for taking us there.

    ADRIAN WALKER: Thank you very much.

    RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Thank you.

     

    The post Resisting labels, Edward Brooke broke barriers and embraced bipartisanship – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    brooke1

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to the passing of a political giant.

    Barack Obama was only 5 years old in 1966, when Edward Brooke paved the way for the history that was to come more than four decades later. That’s the year Brooke was elected a Republican senator from the state of Massachusetts, the first African-American in that body since Reconstruction.

    Brooke had also been Massachusetts’ first black attorney general and he earned the Bronze Star for his service in World War II. After the war, Brooke moved to Boston, where he practiced law before shifting to a career in politics. In 2003, he was interviewed by The HistoryMakers’ oral archive and recounted the pushback he encountered from other politicians as he sought to run for Senate.

    FORMER SEN. EDWARD BROOKE, (R) Massachusetts: All of them said they were thinking about running themselves, and which, to me, strengthened my position that I didn’t have any time to waste to run.

    Now, you might say, well, isn’t that political opportunism?  Of course it’s political opportunity. But that’s what politics is all about. I learned that. You strike when the iron is hot.

    GWEN IFILL: Brooke went on to serve two terms as a Massachusetts Republican, making his mark on major anti-poverty and housing legislation. After initially supporting President Richard Nixon’s bid for office, Brooke earned his reputation as a party outlier by becoming the first Republican senator to call for Nixon’s resignation.

    He came to be known for his bipartisan efforts in the Senate. In 2009, Brooke was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. Edward Brooke III died on Saturday at his home in Coral Gables, Florida. He was 95 years old.

    The post Remembering former Sen. Edward Brooke, 95, political giant and party outlier – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announces the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson Monday in Clayton, Missouri. Photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte/Reuters

    A lawsuit filed Monday says that St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch incorrectly implied that all of grand jurors believed there was no evidence to support charges of manslaughter against police officer Darren Wilson. Photo by Cristina Fletes-Boutte/Reuters.

    A member of the grand jury that decided in November not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday challenging a gag order that prevents jurors from speaking about court proceedings.

    All members of the grand jury who heard the case are subject to a lifetime gag order. The suit is being brought against St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, who would be the one to bring criminal charges against any member who breaks the order. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is representing the plaintiff, who is referred to in the lawsuit as “Grand Juror Doe.”

    The suit contends that McCulloch incorrectly implied that all of the jurors believed there was no evidence to support charges of manslaughter or murder against Wilson, a white police officer who shot unarmed 18-year-old Brown, who was black, in August. The grand jury consisted of nine white and three black members. Nine members needed to reach a consensus to determine whether Wilson would have been indicted.

    According to the lawsuit, the juror alleges that “the investigation of Wilson had a stronger focus on the victim [Brown] than in other cases presented to the grand jury.” The juror also contends that legal standards were discussed in a “muddled” and “untimely” manner.

    “Right now there are only 12 people who can talk about the evidence out there,” said ACLU attorney Tony Rothert. “The people who know the most – those 12 people are sworn to secrecy. What [the grand juror] wants is to be able to be part of the conversation.” No other grand jurors have spoken publicly about the case.

    The lawsuit only seeks to lift the gag order in this specific case.

    “We are not saying there should never be grand jury secrecy,” Jeffrey Mittman, the executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, said to The Wall Street Journal. “In this particular case, we believe it is unconstitutional for there to be a lifetime gag order on the grand jurors.”

    According to Ed Magee, a spokesman for McCulloch, the prosecutor has not yet been served, and therefore had no comment.

    In December, McCullouch participated in a radio interview on KTRS and admitted that he knowingly allowed witnesses to lie on the stand, but would not pursue any charges of perjury. Also last month, state Rep. Karla May (D), requested that a joint House and Senate committee investigate whether McCulloch committed prosecutorial misconduct in this case.

    The post Ferguson grand jury member files lawsuit to lift lifetime gag order appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    leelahacorn

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The suicide last week of a transgender teenager in Ohio has drawn heightened attention to the challenges that transgender and lesbian, gay or bisexual young people face, and prompted something of a national conversation on the subject.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our report.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Hundreds gathered at a candlelight vigil in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend in memory of transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn.

    The 17-year-old, who was born Joshua, is believed to have killed herself late last month. Alcorn’s story gained nationwide attention after a suicide note was posted posthumously on her Tumblr page. In it, she detailed her struggles with her identity and placed much of the blame on her devoutly Christian parents, who she claims refused to accept her.

    She wrote: “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.”

    Alcorn said she was taken out of school and forced to attend so-called conversion therapy, where she was told to change her sexual orientation. In an interview with CNN last week, Leelah’s mother, Carla, said she loved her child unconditionally, but could not support her sexuality, on religious grounds. During the interview, she referred to Alcorn using only male pronouns.

    Alcorn’s death has sparked a groundswell of support, with many calling for a federal law to protect other transgender adolescents.

    WOMAN: I hope that the conversation continues. We could have vigils every day from now until eternity, but if we’re not actually trying to make changes within the system and within the institution, then I think we’re going to continue to have children that take their lives.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, on Twitter, users shared support and their own stories of hardship with the hashtag #RealLiveTransAdult. And a change.org petition calling for the banning of conversion therapy has nearly 300,000 signatures online.

    For more on the pressures on transgender youth, their friends and families and what resources are available, we torn to Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Leo Sheng, a Michigan college student who recently transitioned from woman to man and chronicled it all on social networks like Instagram and YouTube.

    He joins us from New York.

    So, Leo, I want to start with you.

    When you first heard what happened to Leelah Alcorn, what went through your mind?

    LEO SHENG, Transgender Man: Well, I initially didn’t read the article. I saw the headline. And it took me a little while to bring myself to read it.

    And I read her note, and it was just heartbreaking. It was really hard to finish it. She touched on so many different aspects of her life, and to share — it was just really hard to read.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Were there things that you could relate with, things that — feelings that you had gone through yourself?

    LEO SHENG: Yes.

    She mentioned towards the end even living as a lonely man or a lonelier woman, and that definitely resonated with me.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    Mara, how common is this, not just depression, but suicidal tendencies in the transgender population?

    MARA KEISLING, National Center for Transgender Equality: Well, we don’t know exactly.

    We do know that there is an elevated several of suicidality among transgender people, but probably substantially higher than among non-transgender people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How come?

    MARA KEISLING: Well, there are a lot of pressures that society puts on us.

    I think one of the things that Leelah did so well in her note was to really express very clearly that it wasn’t her. She wasn’t the problem. It was how society was treating her. It was what the expectations were for her because she was transgender.

    And those are pressures are really real. And that note resonated with so many trans people, maybe most or all trans people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And possibly even other people besides…Right.

    MARA KEISLING: Oh, absolutely.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

    So, Leo, one of the things in her note that she pointed out specifically was the support or lack of support from her parents. When you were growing up, when you were going through this transition over the last few years, how important was that to you?

    LEO SHENG: It was everything.

    I mean, without that support, I wouldn’t be here right now, honestly. It really provided a cushion for me. If I fell, I knew that someone would catch and I knew they there — I had people who had my back. So I know, for sure, I wouldn’t have made it this far without the support of my family.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Mara, what about the support network that deals with the family members and the friends as well, because as — even in the grief-stricken kind of conversations that those parents had on a television network the other day, they still referred to Leelah as a boy.

    MARA KEISLING: Yes, you know, transgender people are not a new phenomena, but so many of us being out and so many of us coming out is really a thing of the last few decades.

    And there haven’t been a lot of resources for parents until over the last couple of decades, when now there’s things like PFLAG. That’s Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays. But they do a lot of work with transgender — with the parents of transgender people as well. There’s a lot of resources on the Internet.

    There’s the Family Acceptance Project. There’s Gender Spectrum and so many other ways that people can learn. People have to reach out. And what Leo said is so important. Family acceptance is one of the most important indicators of success or failure in any kind of life.

    But when you’re — when you’re facing some societal pressures, having your family behind you is really important.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And where does that fall short most? In this particular scenario, in the videos or, I should say, in the suicide note, it said that really the problem wasn’t school or — her friends said she was actually accepted in school, but really the problem was at home.

    But for the majority of transgender people, let’s say, is bullying more of a problem outside the family?

    MARA KEISLING: Well, I think it’s different — it’s different for everybody.

    Some places — some people have phenomenally supportive parents and lose their friends. Some, it’s the other way. Some, it’s just people at school. It really varies a lot. It’s getting better. It’s not getting better for everybody fast enough, but it is getting better.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Leo, one of the things that we had talked about earlier, and you had mentioned in one of your posts was just about changing the pronoun and how important that was.

    Why is that so important? For somebody watching somewhere else that doesn’t get it, OK, what’s the big deal of calling you a he vs. a she?

    LEO SHENG: Right.

    Well, pronouns and name change are basically — when you say that you are going to acknowledge that, you are acknowledging the person and you are acknowledging that this is how they identify. This is who they are. So, by saying, all right, I will call you by this, I will refer to you as this, you’re saying, I see who you are and I accept that and I respect that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Mara, I want to finally ask you, what kind of support infrastructure exists for teens who might be depressed, might be thinking about this, might, unfortunately, be inspired in a negative way by seeing what just happened last weekend?

    MARA KEISLING: Yes. There is actually quite a bit.

    First of all, there’s the Internet, where lots of communities have sprung up and lots of communities of trans youth who support each other, and I think that’s really important. There’s also The Trevor Project, which is a help line both online and telephones.

    There is PFLAG for families. There are also some youth support groups, queer youth support groups in a lot of cities now, and a lot of LGBT community centers in cities that have youth groups, places where people can find support from their peers and from their communities.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Leo Sheng, thank you both for joining us.

    MARA KEISLING: Thank you.

    LEO SHENG: Thank you.

    The post Teen’s suicide note resonates with transgender community and supporters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Word Euro On A Euro Coin.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And we explore this more now with economist Jacob Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University.

    And, Ken Rogoff, let me start where our piece just ended. How bad is the overall economic situation in Europe and what is the European Central Bank going to do about it?

    KENNETH ROGOFF, Harvard University: Well, growth is zero, inflation is zero, and the economy doesn’t look bright from here.

    And the European Central Bank would like to stimulate the economy much more than it has. The Germans have resisted that. They’re very averse to inflation. But I think things have gotten so bad that they will get overruled, and the ECB will start to look more like the Federal Reserve.

    But it’s not so easy. Certainly, they face a tough road going ahead.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Jacob Kirkegaard, it’s interesting, because that’s the opposite of what the U.S. is doing, right?  The Central Bank is not doing that, is not stimulating anymore.

    JACOB KIRKEGAARD, Peterson Institute for International Economics: No, I think one of the main reasons why we’re seeing this movement in the currency markets is exactly that, the sort of opposite directions of monetary policies in the U.S. and in the euro area, where obviously the euro area is going to do more stimulus going forward, whereas the main debate in the Federal Reserve is when to raise interest rates, rather than begin buying sovereign bonds.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just briefly explain, how does this European Central Bank acting that way decrease the value of the euro?

    JACOB KIRKEGAARD: Well, basically, it acts as — when it starts buying any type of asset, it essentially creates more money.

    And, at the same time, you’re going to have a situation where interest rates are going to remain essentially zero in the euro area, so you are going to have a yield differential. It’s basically going to be more profitable to have your money and your assets in dollars, as opposed to the euro, which obviously creates these effects.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so, Ken Rogoff, then we look at Greece. And, boy, we three and others talked about Greece for many years running now, and a lot of it looks very much the same. Has something new happened here?

    KENNETH ROGOFF: Well, I think it is inevitable that Greece is going to rebel from the programs that it has.

    Now, let’s understand they’re not really paying a lot now. Now, the payments are back-loaded. But, nevertheless, having all that debt coming due even many years from now puts a pall over investment. It certainly depresses the economy. They need to make transfers to Greece. They need to write Greece’s debt down.

    The problem is they realize, when they do that, they need to do it for some of the other periphery countries, Portugal, Spain, Ireland. Frankly, I think they should. I think it’s inevitable. But there’s incredible intransigence, not just in Germany, with writing down debt, but also in France — and France and Italy with reforming their economies.

    This is really pushing them. Every time they’re pushed, they seem to do just enough to keep it going, and I think the markets are a little calmer about that than they might have been a few years ago, but they’re very far from finding a solution.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is there, Jacob Kirkegaard, a real possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone this time?  Because that’s also something we have also talked about over the years.

    JACOB KIRKEGAARD: No. I think that the likelihood that Greece will drop out of the euro is very, very small.

    And I think, actually, if you look at the recent rumors that you also mentioned in the beginning of this segment, it’s essentially, I would call it from the department of dirty political tricks, because you have an election in Greece that’s basically between a narrative of fear and a narrative of anger.

    If the Greek voters are angry, they’re going to vote for the opposition, but, if they’re fearful about the future, they’re going to vote for the current government. So what you have these anonymous German officials doing is by saying, well, maybe Greece can drop out of the euro or maybe it can’t, but we don’t really know, is creating more mayhem and more fear ahead of the election.

    But I don’t think the likelihood that Greece is going to drop out has gone up, because the reality remains that the vast majority of Greeks wants to stay in the euro, because I think they correctly perceive that if they drop out, the situation will be even worse.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, as we look — Ken Rogoff, as we look at the euro dropping, there are winners and losers, right?  It’s not all necessarily a bad, including for Europeans. Tell us a little bit about winners and losers.

    KENNETH ROGOFF: It’s not a bad thing at all.

    The European company is weak. The U.S. economy is strong. In fact, it’s been a puzzle that the euro hasn’t dropped more over the past few years. I think it’s basically a healthy development. I mean, obviously, American tourism, places in the United States that have tourists, they lose European tourists, Europe gets American tourists.

    If there’s an American car manufacturer competing with a European car manufacturer, at the margin, they lose. But I wouldn’t overdramatize this. Badly. Europe needs this stimulus badly. It’s very helpful for the global economy. And, by the way, the oil prices falling is something good for everyone.

    So this is not all an ugly picture in Europe. Greece, yes. The euro falling, the falling oil prices, actually, it’s going to give a bit of a boost to a region that badly needs it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do we see, Jacob Kirkegaard, much of an impact on the U.S. economy as — with a weaker Europe?  We even saw today of course the big stock market dropping. Most of that is about oil prices, right?

    JACOB KIRKEGAARD: Yes, I don’t think the effect is going to be that big. You basically have two main sort of channels.

    One is of course slightly lower U.S. exports to Europe. And something else that will matter for some U.S. multinational companies is that the value of the profits that they derive from their large affiliates in Europe in euros be worth less in dollars.

    But, ultimately, this is not going to affect the U.S. economy very much. And, as Ken said, this is actually what we would want. We want the euro to go down to help stimulate the European economy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just very briefly, is there a point at which too far down is too far down, where it does get serious?

    JACOB KIRKEGAARD: Yes.

    I mean, there’s no doubt that you can have a situation where markets can overshoot. But, so far, in this gradual decline that we have seen vis-a-vis the dollar is, in my opinion, fully in line with economic fundamentals. And were it to drop further to, say, 110 or something like that, I also think that would be fully in line with fundamentals.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Jacob Kirkegaard, Ken Rogoff, thank you both very much.

    KENNETH ROGOFF: Thank you.

    JACOB KIRKEGAARD: Thank you.

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    euro1

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    GWEN IFILL: The value of the euro plunged to a nine-year low against the dollar today, renewing fears in some quarters that the economic stability of Europe could be at risk.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look at that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One reason for the euro’s recent fall, all eyes are once again on economic and political instability in Greece.

    Just weeks before the January 25 national election, Greece’s left-wing Syriza Party is ahead in the polls, and its leaders want to change the terms of a bailout deal, one that imposes extreme austerity, forged as a result of the country’s economic crisis.

    But that move would likely anger the rest of the euro group, leading to a possible split.

    MAN (through interpreter): Greece has to remain in the euro and has to keep its promises and the signature that Greece has done. So the Europeans, I think they are right. Greece shouldn’t distance itself from Europe and shouldn’t get out of the euro.

    MAN (through interpreter): I don’t believe our leaving the euro would be that much of a problem. I think we’d be in the same mess. We’re at zero. It can’t get worse. We will try to work and make things better.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Will Greece go so far as to leave the German currency?

    The German magazine “Der Spiegel” reported that, for her part, Chancellor Angela Merkel is — quote — “no longer afraid that a Greek exit could result in the collapse of the entire Eurozone.”

    But, today, a government spokesman insisted that Germany’s stance has remained the same.

    STEFFEN SEIBERT, German Government Spokesman (through interpreter): Since the beginning, it has been the policy of the federal government and its European partners to stabilize and strengthen the Eurozone, meaning the Eurozone with all its members, certainly also including Greece. This has not changed at all.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the meantime, another reason for the euro’s fall, as Europe’s economy continues to struggle, the European Central Bank is widely expect to take new action to stimulate growth, along the lines of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing of recent years.

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    US-ARCHITECTURE-LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, the United States Congress will convene its 114th time, and with it will come Republican control of both the House and Senate for the first time in nearly a decade.

    To give you a sense of the new Congress, here is the composition of the House as it stands today, with Republican seats in red and Democrats in blue. And here is the House as it will be starting tomorrow, more red, less blue. There will be one vacant seat. That follows the resignation of New York GOP Congressman Michael Grimm.

    The Senate faces a more dramatic shift. Democrats held a significant majority in this past Congress. Starting tomorrow, that will flip. Republicans will hold 54 seats and the Democratic Caucus will have 46.

    What does all this mean for the agenda? The main issues ahead include energy, health care, and some new fiscal deadlines approaching.

    To get a more precise idea of what all this could mean, we are joined by David Boaz of the libertarian Cato Institute and Arkadi Gerney of the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

    And we welcome you both to the program again.

    DAVID BOAZ, Cato Institute: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    So you both watch the Congress very closely. You look at the issues.

    David Boaz, let me start with you. What are Republicans looking for out of this Congress?

    DAVID BOAZ: Well, I think, immediately, they’re likely to turn to the Keystone pipeline issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week?

    DAVID BOAZ: Yes, that’s right. And they will likely pass that in the House of Representatives. They will probably pass it in the Senate, but not with a veto-proof- majority. And, therefore, it’s — well, I don’t know. It’s still possible the president will let that go.

    But then they’re going to turn, I think, to Obamacare. And then budget are going to occupy much of the year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s start with energy and the Keystone pipeline.

    Arkadi Gerney, looks like the Republicans are going to get this passed. The president is expected to veto it? Is that your understanding?

    ARKADI GERNEY, Center for American Progress: I think that’s the expectation.

    But I think what you see from Republicans is this real focus on just the Keystone pipeline. Years ago, both Democrats and Republicans were talking about an all-of-the-above energy strategy. Now it’s really Keystone pipeline, Keystone pipeline, Keystone pipeline from Republicans.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying nothing else you see on energy coming?

    ARKADI GERNEY: Well, I think we’re actually seeing some progress in the real world of energy, with gas prices down, a lot of progress toward more fuel-efficient cars and renewable energy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    ARKADI GERNEY: But it looks like, this week, the Republicans will have a very narrow focus on just this Keystone pipeline.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just on the point of — if the president vetoes, as expected, enough votes on the part of Republicans to overturn the veto or not?

    DAVID BOAZ: I doubt they can get two-thirds in both houses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And your sense is the same?

    ARKADI GERNEY: That’s correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, let’s talk about health care.

    David Boaz, you were telling us earlier you think there’s going to be an early attempt again on the part of Republicans to overturn the president’s health care law.

    DAVID BOAZ: Yes, but the difference is, as you just said, now they have a Republican Senate.

    And so the likely thing is that the House wants to pass a repeal and replace, or maybe just repeal, promising later to replace Obamacare. I think they will pass that. The Senate would probably have a majority for that, but probably not a 60-vote majority. And under the new sort of it takes 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, they couldn’t pass it.

    So the likely tactic for Republicans is to make it part of the budget bill and push it forward under a reconciliation process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what does that mean?

    DAVID BOAZ: Well, reconciliation is a way of dealing with reconciling what both houses…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: No, but, I mean, what does it mean in terms of health care, of the health care law?

    DAVID BOAZ: Well, if they repeal, if they put an Obamacare repeal in a reconciliation bill, then they can get it passed by both houses of Congress and sent to the president’s desk, where he will surely veto the repeal of Obamacare.

    So, then it will go back. And the question will be, do the Republicans then send a cleaner budget bill, having made their point with Obamacare? Do they put things in that the president doesn’t like, but that he won’t want to veto twice?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean that he doesn’t like with regard to health care?

    DAVID BOAZ: No, more likely that he doesn’t like with regard to the budget generally. He’s not going to let a repeal of Obamacare go through.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the bottom line on this, Arkadi Gerney, is that there’s going to no be change in the health care law? Is that…

    ARKADI GERNEY: I think that’s right.

    We have heard this tune before. The health care law was passed in 2010. It’s working. More than nine million Americans who didn’t have coverage have it now. The costs of health care, which had been skyrocketing for years, are now escalating at a much slower rate.

    But Congress and Republicans in Congress have been working for years to undermine this law. They have taken tens of votes on it. They have tried to connect it…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: They have talked about it on the campaign trail.

    ARKADI GERNEY: They have talked about it on the campaign trail.

    They have tried to shut down the government several times. So, it’s not surprising that this continues to be a fascination of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If anything, we’re looking at the courts, because we know this is coming up in the Supreme Court.

    DAVID BOAZ: That’s right.

    I was going to say, Arkadi is probably right that they can pass it, the president can veto it. That leaves us at the status quo. But it is possible that the Supreme Court will correctly find that what the president is doing is not authorized in the law, and that will start over.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So we’re looking at a disagreement over energy. We’re looking at continued disagreement over health care. Where do you see areas of possible agreement in this Congress? What do you…

    DAVID BOAZ: Trade is one area where I would think that there is potential for the president, who, like most presidents, does want to sign trade agreements, and the Republicans, who mostly support free trade, to work together, possibly against a majority of the Democrats in both houses, who, heavily influenced by unions, don’t like further free trade.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the trade issue?

    ARKADI GERNEY: Well, I think a more likely issue — I think trade can be quite controversial.

    I think another issue where you might see compromise is around criminal justice reform. Senator Booker and Rand Paul have a bill together to look at — particularly at nonviolent drug offenses and some of the sentences that we have now. And I think some of the incidents like in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Garner case in New York have put this question of inequalities in the criminal justice system in the spotlight.

    And I think that’s something that you will actually see Democrats and Republicans potentially make some progress on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see the possibility?

    DAVID BOAZ: Yes, I think there is hope for that.

    Certainly, the Rand Paul-Cory Booker alliance is important there, criminal justice reform, also possibly repealing or reforming the 1033 program, under which the Pentagon gives military equipment to police forces even in small towns like Ferguson, Missouri. You would hope there could be bipartisan objections to that program.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about on immigration?

    Arkadi Gerney, Republicans are talking about undoing the president’s executive action on immigration. If that’s what they try to do, how will that work through?

    ARKADI GERNEY: Well, before the president put forward this action, there were all kinds of threats about how the sky would fall down and how serious a problem it would be if the president went ahead and did this.

    So far, the Republicans have not followed through on that threat. There is this upcoming issue of the Homeland Security budget, which expires in February. And that could be another trigger. But this effort to shut down the government or parts of the government for policy outcomes that Republicans don’t like hasn’t worked well in the past. It didn’t work very well for Republicans politically in the Rand — in the shutdown of last year that Senator Cruz did.

    So we will see if they go through with anything.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see happening on that front?

    DAVID BOAZ: I think there is a majority in the country and in the Congress for some liberalization form of immigration reform.

    The problem is, I do believe that the president’s unilateral action has poisoned the well among a lot of Republicans. So, even though there’s a majority for better policy, there may not be a majority you can put together for any particular better policy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So we may see what, something?

    DAVID BOAZ: We may see a stalemate, although I’m still hopeful.

    It is true that, in both parties, there’s strong interest in having a more rational and generally more liberal immigration process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the bottom line on immigration?

    ARKADI GERNEY: Well, I think let’s keep our fingers crossed.

    But I think what is a good thing is that for more than four million people who have been living in this country for a long time, the president’s action has made them become part of the economy and part of the country. And I think that’s a good thing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Arkadi Gerney, David Boaz, we thank you both.

    DAVID BOAZ: Thank you.

    ARKADI GERNEY: Thank you.

     

     

     

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    refugees

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    GWEN IFILL: In the Middle East, Syrians attempting to flee fighting were turned away today by the Lebanese government. The bordering nation, which has been straining under the weight of its refugee population, is now imposing new restrictions aimed at slowing the influx of asylum-seekers.

    Humanitarian groups are concerned that the new policy may leave Syrians trapped inside a war zone with no way out. All told, the conflict has produced more than three million refugees. According to the U.N., more than a million registered refugees are in both Lebanon and neighboring Turkey. Jordan is host to more than 600,000, Iraq nearly a quarter-million.

    Joining me to help put all this in perspective is chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner.

    Margaret, how big? What is the scope of the problem we’re talking about in Lebanon?

    MARGARET WARNER: It’s absolutely huge. Lebanon is being swamped in proportion to its population.

    So, right now, more than a quarter of the people living in Syria living in Syria are — living in Lebanon are Syrian refugees. In other words, there’s 1.2 million. There’s another probably half-million that don’t register with the U.N. By many accounts, Lebanon has the highest proportion of total refugees, because they have all these Palestinians, remember, from 40, 50, 60 years ago, in the world.

    So it’s put a huge strain on resources. I mean, there are some towns, I’m told, where there are more babies born to Syrian mothers than to Lebanese mothers. There are some schools now where there are more Syrian children at least trying to get into the schools than there are Lebanese children.

    And so apparently these new restrictions were agreed upon in the cabinet by all these different sectarian groups. There’s the Shiites, i.e., Hezbollah. There’s the Sunnis. There’s the Christians. They often don’t agree on much. On this,they totally agree. Public opinion, the resentment is across all categories.

    GWEN IFILL: Why is Lebanon — it’s not the only bordering country to Syria. Why is it getting such a hit, taking such a hit?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, part — partly, it’s accessible. In other words, people flee wherever they can get to a border, and it’s closest.

    So, in the case of Lebanon to the south, this has been an area that was semi-controlled by the Free Syrian Army, the opposition, or at least there was open area. And Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaida-like group, they’re in a kind of uneasy collusion. So people fleeing from Damascus have come that way and from that whole area.

    It really is, people flee closest to where they can get to and not get killed in the process. But you have got to remember there are also millions of Syrians inside Syrian who can’t even get across borders anywhere.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    Is there any distinction that is drawn among these refugees who are in Lebanon between political refugees and humanitarian refugees?

    MARGARET WARNER: No, not really.

    I mean, first of all, there always had been this treaty of friendship and cooperation between the two, so you didn’t even need a visa to come in. So many of these are people who came in and out. And we saw that when we were there 18 months ago.

    They might come in and buy food and go back out and back and forth. A lot of Syrian officials and pro-Assad businessmen now have put their families in Beirut. Syria and Lebanon have always had a very, very close relationship. But, no, they didn’t make a distinction.

    And so now what the U.N. is worried about is, if you look at these new restrictions, they don’t even mention the word refugee. They say, you have to say if you’re coming in as a businessperson, a tourist, a visa — a student.

    And so the U.N. is asking for clarification. The rules do say, if you’re already in Lebanon, you won’t be asked to leave. So…

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that was my next question.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: We’re talking about three million people, a million accounted for.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes, 1.5 million.

    GWEN IFILL: Roughly.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: So — well, it’s more than roughly, but, OK, 1.5 million.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Assuming that those folks are there, they’re safe from repatriation?

    MARGARET WARNER: They’re safe from repatriation.

    But what it doesn’t say in the rules is what happens to the mother and her starving children, sick child who arrive at the border. And so far, I’m told this afternoon no answer yet from the Lebanese government. And what it does say if you don’t meet one of the categories, you have to get someone to vouch for you who is Lebanese.

    Now, one, there is a huge opportunity for corruption. But, secondly, it is a way for the government to retain some control, but send a message to Syrians, look, don’t head our way.

    Finally, of course, what they mean it is as a wakeup call to the international community, which is, if you want us to have an open border, you have got to help us pay for it. And the international community has not.

    GWEN IFILL: And if you’re Iraq and you’re Jordan, you would consider the same thing.

    MARGARET WARNER: You absolutely would.

    Now, in the case of Iraq, mostly, these are the poor Yazidis and others who would go in through Syria and out there. It’s pretty unsafe now to get into Iraq, but yes. And all these countries are being overwhelmed. I mean, Turkey is a huge country and a huge economy.

    But the big difference, Gwen, if I may just point out, is because Lebanon didn’t want to establish camps, because they didn’t want another Palestinian situation because of their ethnic sectarian balance, they have made it harder for themselves, because there is no place for the U.N. to even administer aid.

    GWEN IFILL: They’re everywhere.

    MARGARET WARNER: They do it informally through food vouchers, but there are no established camps in which the U.N. can get in there and help run things. So, it’s particularly desperate.

    GWEN IFILL: Really important story.

    Margaret Warner, thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: My pleasure.

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    bostonbombings

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on today’s proceedings and the mood in the city of Boston, we are joined by Phillip Martin. He’s senior investigative reporter for WGBH-FM public radio. He was at the courthouse today.

    Phillip Martin, thank you for being with us.

    First of all, tell us about the scene where you were.

    PHILLIP MARTIN, WGBH-FM: Well, I was with other journalists today watching through a glass plate window — a glass-paned window, a huge window, watching about 250 jurors starting at 9:00 this morning, and then again at 1:00 this afternoon. These are potential jurors, I should say.

    They’re being selected from throughout Massachusetts to sit potentially on the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the U.S. courthouse right behind me, in fact.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s a lot of people to talk to. How is the judge and the lawyers, how are they going about winnowing that down? What kinds of questions are being asked?

    PHILLIP MARTIN: You asked the right question.

    One question that will winnow this down tremendously is whether or not the juror, whether or not he or she supports — would consider the death penalty if the defendant is found guilty. If you answer no to that question, you are immediately dismissed from the jury pool. You are excused from the jury pool, because, as you know, this is a death penalty trial. And if you answer no to that question, the prosecution — the prosecutors will just go on.

    And so other questions asked, if you know any of the potential witnesses. There’s a list of the witnesses that the potential jurors see. It’s for their eyes only. We weren’t allowed to see the questionnaire. And if they know some of the witnesses on this list, it’s not clear how the judge will act or — and what the prosecution and the defense will say under those circumstances.

    But it’s thought that it’s preferable, of course, that they not know any of those witnesses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I was also reading that the judge is saying to the potential jurors not to read anything or do any research about this case.

    But I also want to ask you about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev himself. He is in the courtroom. What is he doing during all this?

    PHILLIP MARTIN: Well, you know, this is — under any other circumstances, you would look at this young man as what he was at one point, a college student. That’s what he looked like.

    But the — but in the background, of course, are the bombings, the twin bombings of April 2013. So you see a young man with a scruffy beard wearing a black sweater and khaki pants, not a suit, not a tie. He looks like a college student. And throughout the proceedings, as the jurors — potential jurors, I should say, were being questioned, he was looking straight ahead.

    He seemed to look down only when Judge O’Toole mentioned that the death penalty would be considered under — in this case. But for the most part, he seemed, I wouldn’t say confidant and I wouldn’t say aloof. He seemed as though he was simply accepting what was taking place and he was staring straight ahead.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Phillip Martin, just finally, what are people in Boston saying about this? Is there a sense of anxiety about the trial? We just heard a few moments ago one resident saying they just wanted to get this over with.

    PHILLIP MARTIN: You’re going to hear that from quite a few people, but there’s a sort of sense that this had the take place. This was inevitable.

    It had been put off for some time now. It was originally supposed to take place in November. But in talking with, for example, a manager at Boston Marathon Sports, which — windows were blown out during the — by one of the bombs, he simply said that he would like to focus on the survivors and the victims, rather than on the alleged suspect — I mean, on the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

    He said his sympathy is for the victims of this case. He would like it to be over with, but, at the same time, he is resigned to the fact that this is going to happen, it took place in Boston, and this is where it’s going to end.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Phillip Martin with WGBH Radio, we thank you.

    PHILLIP MARTIN: Thank you, Judy.

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    bombingtrial1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jury selection got under way in Boston today in the trial of the man accused of bombing the 2013 Boston Marathon.

    The surviving suspect, 21 year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was on hand, but didn’t speak, as lawyers from both sides began screening 1,200 juror candidates. The number will eventually be whittled down to 12 jurors and six alternates. But that could take weeks, due to extensive media coverage of the attack and the sheer number of people affected.

    It’s been almost two years since the bombings killed three people and wounded more than 260 others near the marathon’s finish line. Soon after, the FBI released this surveillance video showing Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan, at the scene. That triggered a manhunt and forced the city of Boston and its surrounding areas into lockdown.

    The accused allegedly killed a police officer along the way. It wasn’t until four days after the blasts that law enforcement closed in on the brothers in the suburb of Watertown. Tamerlan ultimately died after an intense shoot-out with police. But Dzhokhar fled and was later arrested, hiding out in this boat in a Watertown backyard.

    Dzhokhar has already pleaded not guilty to all 30 charges, and could face the death penalty if convicted. Many in the community are eager for the trial to finally begin January 26.

    MAN: Get this over with, get it in the past, and start — start over, you know?

    WOMAN: It’s going to be painful, of course, to relive something so traumatic, but I think, who could handle it better than the citizens of Boston?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some bombing survivors, like Heather Abbott, who lost her left leg below the knee, plan to attend the proceedings, but are understandably anxious.

    HEATHER ABBOTT, Bombing Survivor: I expect it to be emotional. I’m sure that it’s not going to be an easy time. But, for me, it’s something that I want to at least experience attending for — I think just for some sort of peace of mind, to see the person who changed my life forever.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The judge said he expects the trial could last as long as four months.

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    newswrap

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    GWEN IFILL: The price of oil briefly dipped below $50 a barrel today for the first time in five years. But, by the end of the day, it had returned to just above that symbolic threshold, yet still at a five-year low.

    That plunge had a ripple effect on the markets, driving energy stocks down sharply. But the losses on Wall Street today were broad across all sectors. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 331 points to close at 17501; the Nasdaq fell 74 points to close at 4652; the S&P 500 dropped 37 points to close at 2020.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lower oil prices also gave a boost to the nation’s automakers this holiday season. General Motors and Fiat Chrysler posted double-digit gains in December. Cheaper gas and promotional savings sent Americans to dealerships in droves. Only Ford finished flat for the month, although it was the top-selling brand in the U.S. for 2014.

    GWEN IFILL: The search for AirAsia Flight 8501 expanded today. Ships and aircraft fanned out over a wider section of the Java Sea to make up for eight days of strong currents that could have carried debris farther afield; 37 bodies have been recovered of the 162 passengers and crew who were on board.

    Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Transport Ministry cracked down on AirAsia for flying the Surabaya-to-Singapore route on unauthorized days.

    DJOKO MURJATMODJO, Acting Director General of Air Transportation, Indonesian Transport Ministry (through interpreter): If AirAsia didn’t do anything wrong, why would Indonesia suspend their license?  According to our identification data, it shows that they are clearly in the wrong, because they do not fly at the times that we have approved or permitted.

    GWEN IFILL: Control tower officials and other individuals who permitted the plane to fly will also be suspended.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Boko Haram Islamic militants have attacked and seized the headquarters of a remote multinational military base in Nigeria. An unknown number of soldiers and civilians were killed in the attack that happened this weekend in Baga, near the border with Chad. Survivors who fled the scene said the militants used assault rifles, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades in the sustained attack. Many residents escaped by canoe.

    GWEN IFILL: In the U.S., a blast of arctic air pushed down from Canada into the Plains and Upper Midwest today. Some of the worst windchills were recorded in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the National Weather Service issued advisories and warnings for much of the region. The cold air is moving east and south. In New England, temperatures dropped 35 degrees in the last 24 hours. But meteorologists say it’s not unusual; it’s just January.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The flu is running rampant in most of the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC issued updated numbers today, showing flu is now widespread in 43 states and could peak later this month. The strain of the virus that’s making most people sick wasn’t included in this year’s vaccine, making flu shots less effective than normal.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. ski team is in mourning after two of its prospects were killed in an avalanche today in the Austrian Alps. Twenty-year-old Ronnie Berlack and 19-year-old Bryce Astle were descending a slope with four other skiers when they left the prepared path and apparently triggered the deadly slide. None of the other skiers were hurt. The site of the accident had been under an avalanche alert because of recent weather.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A member of the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, filed a lawsuit today so that he or she can speak out about the case. The lawsuit is necessary because a lifetime gag order was placed on jurors who decided not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old. The unnamed juror contends the prosecutor in the case was wrong to imply that all 12 jurors believed there was no evidence to support the charges.

    GWEN IFILL: The tomb of a mystery queen has been unearthed in Egypt. A team of Czech archaeologists discovered the 4,500-year-old tomb at the Abu Sir necropolis just south of Cairo. Markings on the walls indicated it belonged to Khentakawess III, a previously unknown wife or mother of Pharaoh Neferefre, who ruled during Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty. That’s during the same time the first pyramids were constructed.

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    Photo by Sanyam Bahga.

    Madhu Bai Kinnar won Chhattisgarh’s municipal election by over 4,500 votes. Photo by Sanyam Bahga.

    Madhu Bai Kinnar, a low-caste transgender woman, was elected on Sunday to serve as mayor of Raigarh in Chhattisgarh, India.

    Kinnar, 35, won the central Indian state’s municipal election against an opponent from the Bharatiya Janata Party. According to the state election commission, she won the election by more than 4,500 votes. She is the first openly transgender person in India to be elected to a mayoral office.

    “It was the public support that encouraged me to enter the poll fray for the first time and because of their support only, I emerged as the winner,” Kinnar said. A member of the Dalit caste, which were previously referred to as “untouchables,” Kinnar had been earning money by singing and dancing on trains, according to the Press Trust of India, before entering the race.

    “People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me,” Kinnar said to reporters. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams.”

    In April, India’s Supreme Court ruled that transgender people would be legally recognized as members of a third gender.

    “It is the right of every human being to choose their gender,” the court said. The decision ordered the government to institute quotas for transgender people in jobs, education, and other amenities.

    Transgender people, transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other gender non-conforming Indians are commonly referred to as hijras, and local rights groups say they face extreme marginalization. Many live in poverty and are sometimes even refused medical care in hospitals.

    The post Madhu Bai Kinnar becomes India’s first openly transgender woman elected mayor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Visual artist Favianna Rodriguez merges printmaking with political activism. Video shot and edited by Joel Wanek, KQED.

    Migration is beautiful. Those words are printed beneath an image of a monarch butterfly, a species known to fly thousands of miles across the North American continent — a visual statement on the naturalness of migration and crossing borders in an age where immigration is a contentious political topic.

    The woman who created this poster, Favianna Rodriguez, is an interdisciplinary visual artist and community organizer who merges her artistic practice with political activism. Through her artwork, she has become a strong voice on immigration, women’s issues, globalization and economic injustice.

    “Rather than reiterate a stereotype, art can show human beings in multidimensional ways. It can show the way in which we wish to build the world,” she said.

    KQED

    As a printmaker, Rodriguez prefers monotyping and linoleum block printing.

    Rodriguez directs an organization called CultureStrike that mobilizes creative people to support global immigration rights. Her website says her “mission is to create profound and lasting social change in the world.”

    KQED’s Art School visits Rodriguez in her West Oakland studio to discuss the genesis of her artistic process and to look back at some of her influences

    “Printmaking — throughout social justice history, in particular — has been a tool that artists have used to expose the truth, to fight for justice,” said Rodriguez. “I believe that art is a human right and art is something that everyone can and should do.”

    Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

    The post California artist draws on long tradition of socially conscious printmaking appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    World-as-100-People_3_o

    Image by Jack Hagley.

    If the entire world’s population were represented by 100 people, 13 of them would not have access to safe water, according to this graphic that cites the CIA World FactBook.

    While 13 percent may not seem monumental, when it’s multiplied out to reflect the world’s current population, it means over 947 million people are without clean water every day.

    As early as 2003, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged funds to address water, sanitation and hygiene issues worldwide. Recent projects include reinventing the toilet. But that latest invention out of the Gates Foundation is a new contraption that will give new meaning to “eau de toilette.”

    The Janicki Bioenergy Omniprocessor converts sewer sludge into water, electricity and fertilizer.

    To create water, the omniprocessor boils wet sewer sludge. The collected water vapor is purified into drinking water. For electricity, the dry, boiled sewer sludge is burned, creating steam. The steam collected drives a generator that not only powers the machine but sends electricity back to the grid.

    “The sanitation system as we know it in the developed world cannot work in developing countries,” said Doulaye Koné, the foundation’s senior program officer. “…what we need in developing countries is a very simple system.”

    "I watched the piles of feces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water.The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.”-Bill GatesScience is AMAZING. Watch the full video here.

    The Jacki Omniprocessor creates water vapor from boiling sewer sludge and steam by burning it once it’s dry. Gif by Digg.

    Here’s Bill Gates himself explaining the system and testing the water himself:

    The Gates Foundation has not been the only organization to address safe water access. Two years ago, the UN declared 2013 the “International Year of Water Cooperation” to raise the profile of “cooperation in water management.”

    There were successes. At the end of the year, an agreement between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority freed up waters in the Middle East. But, making clean water available to small communities remains a problem.

    The Janicki Omniprocessor supposedly pays for itself by selling electricity it creates back to the grid. As for the water?

    “The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle,” wrote Bill Gates on his blog, adding, ”…having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.

    "I watched the piles of feces go up the conveyer belt and drop into a large bin. They made their way through the machine, getting boiled and treated. A few minutes later I took a long taste of the end result: a glass of delicious drinking water.The water tasted as good as any I’ve had out of a bottle. And having studied the engineering behind it, I would happily drink it every day. It’s that safe.”-Bill GatesScience is AMAZING. Watch the full video here.

    Cheers, Bill Gates. Gif courtesy of the Digg.

     

    The post WATCH: This machine turns human waste into water appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rep. John Boehner wields the gavel after being re-elected as the Speaker of the House. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    Rep. John Boehner wields the gavel after being re-elected as the Speaker of the House, despite some in-party opposition. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, won his bid to be Speaker of the House for two more years, but a more-than-expected 25 of his fellow Republicans voted against him.

    Boehner was able to survive the challenge from the right flank of his party, netting 216 out of 408 votes cast. (Because of the 408 voting, Boehner needed 205 votes instead of the 218 that would be a majority when a full 435 members are present.)

    The 25 voting against Boehner is the highest number opposing a likely speaker from either party since 1923.

    The opposition from a small but vocal minority highlights the ongoing challenge facing Boehner and his leadership team: despite a massive majority gained in the 2014 midterm elections, there may be times again — when the hard right sees the speaker as too willing to comprise — when they have trouble passing legislation without Democratic help.

    A handful of hardline Republicans received what amounted to protest votes. Rep. Daniel Webster, a freshman Republican from Florida, received 12 votes. Others receiving votes included Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. But the votes weren’t limited to other House members. Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Rand Paul of Kentucky as well as former Secretary of State Colin Powell also received one vote each.

    Two years ago, 12 Republicans voted against Boehner. But a bigger majority, and the fact that several House members were absent, meant Boehner could afford to lose more members without losing his position.

    Members in the House chamber chuckled collectively when another conservative, Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fl., voted for himself.

    “Yoho?” asked the House Clerk.

    “Yoho,” he replied.

    Despite the opposition, when the hour-long process was over, Boehner received a standing ovation from the overwhelming majority of the near-record-setting 246 members who voted for him.

    New members absorbed the intensity of taking their first vote — Reps. Mimi Walters, R-Calif. and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., both freshmen, congratulated each other in their seats after voting for Boehner.

    Boehner, true to form, fought back tears as he accepted his election in front of the House.

    “This won’t be done in a tidy way, but the battle of ideas never ends, and never should,” Boehner said during his opening remarks, referencing recent gridlock in Congress. “I ask that we disagree without being disagreeable.”

    The House went into recess in December amid a conservative backlash against President Barack Obama’s executive action on illegal immigration, a conflict that forced Congress to remain in session for an extended period to avoid another government shutdown. Some of the same members, who voted against Boehner Tuesday, are upset the House did not do enough to stop the president on the issue.

    The GOP faces the challenge of uniting its party while pushing changes to the Affordable Care Act and a key Republican priority, construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The House is set to vote on the pipeline Friday.

    As Boehner waited for the outcome of the speaker election, the White House signaled the president would veto any Keystone legislation.

    The post Boehner wins reelection as speaker, but not without opposition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A female suicide bomber detonated herself at a police station in Istanbul on Tuesday, killing one officer and wounding another, Turkish authorities said.

    Areas surrounding the police station were immediately blocked off after the attack. The police station was located at the historic Sultan Ahmed district, home to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque museums, sites that attract thousands of tourists from the around the world.

    Istanbul’s governor told reporters at the scene the woman entered the police station to report a missing wallet before she blew herself up. She spoke with a heavy accent and wore a traditional face veil. Istanbul’s governor Vasip Sahin said.

    Her identity remains unknown, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davautoglu said he has ordered “the most comprehensive investigation” into whether there was a link to any group.

    This attack comes just a week after Turkey’s leftist group Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, also known as DHKP-C, claimed responsibility for a police attack that took place near the prime minister’s office.

    The assailant in the January 1 attack was arrested and no one was killed.

    DHKP-C is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

    Special forces police officers stand guard at the scene of a bomb blast in Istanbul January 6, 2015. A Turkish police officer died of injuries sustained in an attack by a suicide bomber on a police station in the heart of Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet district on Tuesday, Turkish media reported. A female assailant entered the police station, across the square from the Aya Sofya museum and Blue Mosque, and blew herself up shortly after 5 p.m. (1500 GMT), the city's governor said earlier. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

    Special forces police officers stand guard at the scene of a bomb blast in Istanbul January 6, 2015. A Turkish police officer died of injuries sustained in an attack by a suicide bomber on a police station in the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet district on Tuesday, Turkish media reported. A female assailant entered the police station, across the square from the Aya Sofya museum and Blue Mosque, and blew herself up shortly after 5 p.m. (1500 GMT), the city’s governor said earlier. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

    The post Female suicide bomber targets Turkish police station appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    From folksy Irish sayings to parental advice, hugs and kisses, selfies and cellphone calls from grandmothers, it was vintage Joe Biden Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

    The vice president relishes his duties administering the oath to members of Congress. Here were some of the best-of-Biden moments:

    • It started off with the most consequential moment – his swearing in of Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Congratulations, Mr. Leader,” Biden said.
    • Then there was this exchange between Biden and McConnell as McConnell’s wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, was directing choreography for photographs:

      Biden to Chao: “Madam Secretary, whatever you say”
      McConnell: “You know how it works, don’t you?”
      Biden: “I sure do”

    • There were plenty of kisses and “Hey moms” to go around. Here’s one gif of Biden giving a peck on the head to Delaware Sen. Chris Coons’ daughter:

    • Biden to Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran: “Thaddeus! Best guy in the United States Senate. I can say that now, because it won’t hurt him.”

      Cochran had narrowly survived a primary challenge for reelection last year from tea party opponent Chris McDaniel.

    • Biden told Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin’s mother: “Mother of 10. No purgatory for you!”

      Biden then forgot to administer the oath of office to Durbin. Durbin reminded him. Constitutional crisis averted.

    • As Kansas Republican Pat Roberts approached, Biden, proclaims “Uh oh,” then looks at Roberts’ wife and tells her, “My sympathies” before giving her a prolonged hug.
    • Pulling a woman into the picture, Biden tells South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, “I tell you what, man, I may be Irish, but I’m not stupid.”
    • Biden tells New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker: “We’ve got something in common: sisters who are better looking than us.”

      Similarly, he tells newly minted Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican and a former Army Ranger, “Hey man, we both have something in common. We married up.”

    • Vice President Joe Biden takes a photo with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his family Tuesday after ceremonially swearing McConnell in. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

      Vice President Joe Biden takes a photo with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his family Tuesday after ceremonially swearing McConnell in. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    • To Cotton’s mother: “Hey mom, how are you, congratulations!” (“Hey, moms” are a standard Biden-ism.)
    • To a toddler: “Hey, J.T., how are you? He says, ‘This is boring.’”
    • Biden also took a cellphone call from Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s grandmother: “She said, ‘Nice talking with you, but I don’t have time.’”

      Gardner, after getting the phone back from Biden, talking to his grandmother: “That really just happened, grandma.”

    • “Jamie!” to Oklahoma Republican James Lankford.
    • To the press: “Your microphone is in the way, Jack. Move it!”
    • Biden to blonde family member of South Dakota Republican Steve Daines: “Hey Caroline, how old are you?” Later whispers to her brother, “Keep the guys away from your sister.”
    • Biden flubbed Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s name, calling her, “Gail,” which happens to be her husband’s name. “Um, no,” she replied. “That’s my husband’s name.”

      It’s probably not the best idea to make that kind of mistake with the person who rocketed to fame because of an ad touting her ability to castrate hogs.

      Biden later told Ernst’s daughter, 15, “I hope mom has a big fence around your house.”

    • The fence line is another repeat Biden-ism. To a granddaughter of Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, he also recycled, “I hope you have a fence around your house.”
    • He left one senator’s daughter with an Irish saying, “A son’s a son until he gets a wife. But a daughter’s a daughter for the rest of her life.” “That’s true,” she replied.
    • Biden, shaking hands with Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner’s daughter, 20, switched gears: “I need a hug, kid, come on.” They hugged, proceeded to take a selfie.

      Turns out my youngest Eliza is the real tech wonk, not me. Here's her selfie with @vp

      A photo posted by Mark R. Warner (@markrwarner) on

    In case you’re feeling left out and need a pick me up from the vice president yourself, The Washington Post has created a “Joe Biden random compliment generator.”

    God love ya.

    The post The best of Biden being Biden from the new Congress’ first day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bao Bao rolled around in Washington, D.C.’s first snow of 2015.Video by Smithsonian National Zoo

    We can confirm that Bao Bao — a Washington, D.C. celebrity who was propelled into the limelight last year when she was born to panda royalty Mei Xiang and Tian Tian in August 2013 — had her first run-in with snow today.

    The 16-month-old giant panda rolled, tumbled and played with a beloved log and climbed over mom Mei Xiang on the grounds of the Smithsonian National Zoo.

    Unnamed sources called the event “the most adorable sight of year.”

    The post DC panda Bao Bao experiences snow for the first time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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