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

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    Listen to Saskia Hamilton read her poem “Once” from her new collection, “Corridor.”


                      In the night, the bed was as long
    as the hours, the hours were as long as the road
    or the future, the past was not our destiny,
    the foreboding or foretelling was left
    on the shelves to the longplaying records
    we’d switch on for the warmth of the scratches
    that pocked the music like rain, as the needle
    wandered all that black circumference—

    Meg Tyler

    Photo by Meg Tyler

    Saskia Hamilton has published four collections of poetry, including “Divide These” and “As for Dream.” “Corridor” is her most recent collection. She also coedited “Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell” with Thomas Travisano, and edited “The Letters of Robert Lowell.” Hamilton is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliff Institute of Advanced Study. She is an editor for the journal Literary Imagination and has taught at Barnard College, Kenyon College and Stonehill College.

    All poems copyright © 2014 by Saskia Hamilton, from Corridor. Used by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

    The post Poet Saskia Hamilton on vinyl records and the ‘warmth of the scratches’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Malaysian government announced its plan to buy out Malaysia Airlines on Friday, in light of the recent tragedies and economic problems the company has faced.  Adrian Pingstone, May 2006

    Malaysia Airlines’ website was hacked earlier Monday. Photo by Adrian Pingstone

    For a few hours on Monday, visitors to MalaysiaAirlines.com were unable to purchase airline tickets or access schedules.

    Instead, the airline’s website showed a picture of a Malaysia Airlines A380 plane and the words “404-Plane Not Found,” and “Hacked by Cyber Caliphate,” as well as Twitter handles belonging to two people who work for UMG Events LLC — a company that hosts video game events.

    The browser’s tab read “ISIS WILL PREVAIL,” and later that day, the same site had a photo of a lizard in a top hat and a message that said “Hacked by Lizard Squad, Official Cyber Caliphate” with a link to the Lizard Squad’s Twitter page before it was replaced by a basic version of Malaysia Airlines’ site.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, Lizard Squad “claimed responsibility for a cyberattack on video game servers of Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp,” in December.

    One of the two UMG Events workers claimed he had nothing to do with the attack, and instead said whoever did hack the site was trying to scare or warn the video game events company. Recent tweets from Lizard Squad were directed at the two men about gamers banned from video game conferences.

    Malaysia Airlines said the incident was immediately reported to CyberSecurity Malaysia — the country’s forensics agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation — and the Ministry of Transport. It was later determined by CyberSecurity Malaysia to be domain hijacking.

    Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that the company’s customer information and data are secure.

    The post Malaysia Airlines website latest cyber target of Islamic State supporters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    India recently blocked 32 websites from users within the country in what the government officials call efforts to prevent terrorist groups from recruiting new members. Civil liberties advocates, however, say this action amounted to censorship and infringed upon freedom of expression in the world's largest democracy. Photo by Bloomberg/Getty Images.

    India recently blocked 32 websites from users within the country in what the government officials call efforts to prevent terrorist groups from recruiting new members. Civil liberties advocates, however, say this action amounted to censorship and infringed upon freedom of expression in the world’s largest democracy. Photo by Bloomberg/Getty Images.

    Software engineer Ashwath Akirekadu can’t tell you how many times he’s logged onto GitHub over the last 15 years, but he vividly recalls the one time he couldn’t.

    Earlier this month while on vacation to visit family in Bangalore, India, Akirekadu tried to help a local friend who wanted to develop a mobile application. Just as he would have done if he were back at work in San Francisco, Akirekadu turned to GitHub, a collaborative, code-sharing hub used by millions of computer, Internet and data professionals around the world. But this time on Jan. 6, he got an error message.

    “It was as though there’s no website called GitHub.com that existed,” he said.

    Akirekadu wasn’t the only person who had trouble accessing the website. In what the government says is an effort to thwart terrorist groups from recruiting new members and distributing anti-India content on the Internet, the Indian government recently blocked GitHub, the Internet Archive, Vimeo, Pastebin and dozens of other websites from users within that country.

    The sites have since been restored, but following President Barack Obama’s visit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India and the two nations’ strategic defense partnerships forged this week, questions remain about how India, the world’s largest democracy, balances the tension between free speech and national security. How effective is this method in stemming terror attacks? Did India do the right thing?

    Critics call this latest move censorship and an affront to freedom of expression, and found it particularly offensive because websites were not given prior notification. Blocks were conducted secretly, leaving users to wonder what happened.

    The Indian government maintains that this is not censorship. Instead, India considers these steps necessary to prevent websites from “carrying the ISIS related Jehadi [sic] material inviting youth to join ISIS and promoting their policies,” according to a statement from Gulshan Rai, director general of India’s Computer Emergency Response Team, which monitors cybersecurity issues.

    Rai emailed the NewsHour on Jan. 19, saying that the ban was lifted on all of the affected sites in early January:

    First of all, the websites were not censored. India believes in freedom of expression and speech and we are committed to the principles of freedom of expression and speech as enshrined in the Constitution of India. …

    All the websites were unblocked and all the websites are accessable [sic] to general public for more than ten days now. The Internet penetration in India is growing and the government does not believe in blocking of the websites. In today’s world, there cannot be censorship on the websites. However, in these circumstances and situation and reaction regarding ISI [sic] activities in the world, this unfortunate decision was taken in complying the orders of the Court.

    About 15 percent of all Indians had Internet access in 2013, according to the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva, Switzerland. In other words, 189 million people used the Internet, equal to about half of the population of the United States. And that number is growing dramatically each year.


    But blocking websites to protect national security is ineffective, said Richard Rossow, senior fellow and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. This is especially given how low Internet penetration remains in India, who is logging onto the Internet and who remains most likely to succumb to the temptation of joining a terrorist group, Rossow said.

    “Closing the Internet is an imprecise measure,” Rossow said. “It just can’t be a hugely effective tool for broad campaigns across the country. If you’re targeting disaffected groups, the poor, it doesn’t really hit them as well. Maybe it has some impact around the edges, but I can’t believe this is going to play a major role in trying to blunt any group trying to incite negative activities by another group.”

    When the Indian government blocks websites, it is bound by law to do so in secret. In fact, websites such as Vimeo and GitHub both confirmed in written statements that they received no prior notification that their websites carried any questionable material before the government blocked them from users in the country. A GitHub spokesperson said the organization only found out about the ban in mid-December when “we began receiving intermittent reports from users in India that they were unable to reach github.com.”

    When they pressed the Indian government for a response, they received an official press release on Dec. 31 saying that the ban had been lifted. Nearly two weeks passed before the government restored access to all of the banned websites.

    Rai with India’s Computer Emergency Response Team said the government “made serious efforts to issue the notices to these 32 websites. However, most of the websites did not have the contact points posted on their websites at that time.”

    The NewsHour was able to contact and receive response within 24 hours of using email addresses listed publicly for Vimeo and GitHub.

    More broadly, India’s actions jeopardize free speech on the Internet, according to civil liberties advocates. The country’s blocks also fall in line with recent global trends in Internet governance, explained Cynthia Wong, senior researcher for Internet and human rights at Human Rights Watch. She maintains that portions of India’s Information Technology Act are “very untransparent” and enable the government to act with virtually no real way for people to appeal these bans.

    “It’s hard to say whether this censorship would protect national security or address legitimate threats,” Wong said. “The onus is really on the government to demonstrate that wholesale blocking would address significant threats. Because there’s no real due process, it leaves far too much discretion to government officials and leaves way too much room for abuse.”

    According to Wong, this is nothing new. Worldwide, many democracies, including India, are stepping up their use of website blocking and filtering to prevent people from accessing information that these respective governments deem inappropriate, and “that really does present human rights problems,” Wong explained.

    With the Islamic State and other terrorist groups recruiting people on the Internet, governments will continue to clamp down on what people can and cannot say on the Internet, she said.

    India may be particularly sensitive to this method of Internet monitoring, which could be compared to fishing with dynamite. The country’s information technology industry is one of the most competitive in the world. Its relative industry share of the nation’s gross domestic product amounts to more than 8 percent, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies in India.

    This perhaps explains why India is one of the top five global markets in terms of active users of GitHub, a source-code management website, along with China, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.

    It also underscores why software engineer Ashwath Akirekadu was initially baffled when he was blocked from using GitHub. According to Akirekadu, his friend just wanted to develop a mobile app and could have saved him hours, if not days, of work with the help of free, open-source coding available on GitHub.

    When Akirekadu realized that the Indian government, and not some technical error, stood between him and this code, he was disappointed in the country that he originally called home.

    “It didn’t seem very democratic, and India is suppose to be the world’s biggest democracy,” Akirekadu said. “It sounded more like the kind of thing that would happen in a country run by dictators, where there’s no true democracy.”

    The post In India, is web censorship justified in the name of national security? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable in an all-stock $45-billion deal announced Thursday that will allow the company more control over the U.S. market's television, broadband Internet and phone services.

    Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable in an all-stock $45-billion deal announced Thursday that will allow the company more control over the U.S. market’s television, broadband Internet and phone services.

    While the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice debate the merger between cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable, local politicians have submitted letters urging for federal approval. The letters, which express strong support behind the deal, were authored by Comcast, according to The Verge.

    In its report, The Verge published emails between the offices of small-town politicians and Andy Macke, Comcast’s vice president of external affairs.

    In late August 2014, Comcast sent a sample letter for Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell, Georgia, through a local development firm. While an email described the letter as a ‘draft’ and said the Mayor could choose to use it, Wood filed the letter word-for-word with the FCC.

    Comcast’s letter has Wood extolling the company’s “outstanding job providing high quality cable TV and internet services.”

    “What has impressed me even more is the company’s deep interest in further technological development to benefit its many subscribers,” it read.

    The filing continued to emphasize Comcast’s attention outside “large metropolitan areas” to “smaller cities – like Roswell”

    Wood’s letter and others from officials like him were referenced in an August 25 Comcast press release, which highlighted the “support of mayors and other local officials.”

    After interest in net neutrality turned into negative press for the Comcast merger with TWC, Comcast didn’t just turn to local politicians. According to the Verge, Comcast also wrote letters for higher level officials like Oregon’s Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown, who has received nearly $10,000 since 2008 for two campaigns.

    State executives who have also voiced support for Comcast include the governors of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Hawaii, Colorado, Maryland and Vermont. Many major city mayors have also filed comments, including Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, where Comcast’s headquarters are located. The Verge has not published any emails between these executives and Comcast.

    But in a more direct move, Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts called one of Obama’s top advisers last November to lobby against strict net neutrality rules days before Obama made a video announcement reclassifying Internet service as a utility.

    The FCC, which is reviewing whether Comcast and TWC’s deal is in the public interest, and the Department of Justice, which is analyzing the merger for antitrust issues, is expected to complete its review in the first quarter of 2015.

    The post Comcast ghostwrote letters for politicians to send to FCC appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In November, 466 people were treated in English hospitals for the effects of female genital mutilation, according to a recent analysis by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

    These numbers are similar to September’s, when hospitals identified 467 new cases, and October’s, when 455 new cases appeared.

    John Cameron, head of childhood protection operations at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, has called for an end to the practice.

    “It is vital all health professionals are trained to spot the signs of FGM and that girls who are subjected to this brutal practice get the post-traumatic support they deserve,” Cameron told The Sunday Times.

    According to the World Health Organization, over 125 million people have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), a term which covers “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

    The UK outlawed FGM in 1985, and in 2003 also passed a law that forbade transporting women out of the country to receive the procedure. No one has been prosecuted for FGM, though Dr. Dhanuson Dharmasena and Hasan Mohamed are undergoing the first FGM trial in the UK for allegedly performing it in London.

    As many as 60,000 women in the UK are estimated to have received FGM, and 20,000 are at risk each year, according to the National Health Service.

    The practice of FGM is mainly concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, though cases have been documented nearly worldwide. Somalia has the highest known rate of female genital mutilation in the world, with 95 to 98 percent of women undergoing the practice, and in seven countries, FGM is inflicted on over 85 percent of women.

    FGM has no medical purpose and can cause infections, infertility and cysts, among other health concerns.

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to outlaw FGM “for everyone within this generation” at the Girl Summit in London last July.

    The post Nearly 500 people in England hospitilized for female genital mutilation in November appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: the power and appeal of virtual reality and what it could mean for storytelling. It’s long been discussed in video games and other media. Now its moment appears to be arriving in the world of film. It’s getting a lot of buzz at one of the country’s major film festivals this week.

    Here’s Jeffrey Brown.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I am flying through San Francisco.

    Yes, it’s true. I’m a bird soaring among the buildings of the city by the bay.

    I crashed.

    Well, I sure felt like I was flying. But I’m actually stretched out somewhat awkwardly on a contraption called Birdly. And I’m in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival, where one of the main attractions this year is an exhibition called New Frontier, showcasing a new world filmmakers are now exploring, virtual reality.

    Shari Frilot served as curator.

    SHARI FRILOT, Curator, “New Frontier”: In terms of what’s coming out of the storytelling community, we’re really starting to see the first steps, the first baby steps of what is to come, but I do think it’s going to grow very big.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the leaders is Chris Milk, who’s made a name for himself as a director of music videos that push the envelope of technological effects.

    Here’s how he describes the virtual reality, or V.R. difference.

    CHRIS MILK, Filmmaker/Founder, VRSE.com: We always are watching the visual stories, the moving picture stories that we watch through these frames. It’s always a frame, it’s always a rectangle, whether it be your television set or your computer screen or a movie screen.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right, it’s a screen of some kind. Right?

    CHRIS MILK: Yes, but it’s always — it’s always a window that you’re looking through.

    JEFFREY BROWN: V.R. technology, Milk says, bursts through that window and takes you along.

    CHRIS MILK: It’s tricking your brain into believing what you are seeing is truth. So, even the…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Tricking my brain?

    CHRIS MILK: Tricking your brain.


    CHRIS MILK: So, it is essentially hacking your audio and visual system.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, I’m not sure I want my brain hacked, frankly, but I did strap on the headset, and first entered Milk’s fantasy film “Evolution of Verse,” and then his nonfiction film, “Clouds Over Sidra,” which took me inside a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.

    It’s hard to convey on your screen, but the sensation is one of being in the camp as a young girl talks about life there. It was shot with a 3-D 360-degree camera system, using eight different cameras. The Middle East, in fact, was the focus of several projects here.

    NONNY DE LA PENA, University of Southern California: For most Americans, the story of Syria is so far away. They don’t really understand what’s happened to the millions of people. I think that you’re able to understand the impact for people just going about their daily business when a bomb hits.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Somebody walks right past me.

    And that’s what happens in “Project Syria,” created by filmmaker Nonny de la Pena, who approaches virtual reality as a journalistic tool.

    Here, I walk down a street in Aleppo. This is animation made from video of an actual street, when a bomb suddenly exploded.

    Whoa. An explosion goes off. Smoke’s everywhere. People are yelling.

    An actual event, experienced virtually.

    And now I’m in a refugee camp.

    De la Pena, a former print and TV journalist, thinks the visceral impact of V.R. could bring new audiences to the news.

    NONNY DE LA PENA: Younger audiences are growing up now very comfortable with digital environments, with having avatars, and they may not be reading the newspaper or watching television. And I think that these are environments that are really important to think about how do we do news stories, nonfiction and documentary.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, there’s reason for skepticism here. Much of this can feel like you’re merely playing a high-level video game.

    WOMAN: How does that feel?

    JEFFREY BROWN: But the technology is improving for V.R. creators, and opening up to the public.

    There was much talk here about the potential impact of Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift, makers of one system of headgear and software, for $2 billion. It’s also getting cheaper for consumers. Google Cardboard uses your smartphone as the video player and sells for just $20.

    The real question, it seems, isn’t so much technology as storytelling. For now, V.R. is good at immersion, putting you into situations, into a horror film, as in “Kaiju Fury!”

    In “1979 Revolution Game,” you take part in a street demonstration during the Iranian Revolution. But more intriguing, and more difficult is how to use V.R. to tell complex stories.

    Another top innovator, Felix Lajeunesse, explains.

    FELIX LAJEUNESSE, Felix & Paul Studios: I originally come from a background of traditional filmmaking. And I migrated towards virtual reality. So, it’s a fundamentally different medium in the fact that, first of all, the viewer is there. The viewer is no longer an abstraction, but he is part of the experience.

    So you need to think of how you will articulate your story or the moment that you create, considering the fact that there is a subjectivity at the heart of it. There is someone there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That someone is you, or, in this case, me.

    The traditional filmmaker directs the viewer’s eye through shots picked, edits made, and so on. But what happens when you control the movement?  How can a story be told?  And who’s telling it?  Lajeunesse drew from the recent film “Wild” to create a fully immersive environment for the viewer, again, impossible to convey here, but I found myself sitting on a rock, looking around the woods as Reese Witherspoon walked down the path, sat down, and looked right at me.

    She’s looking at me and I wanted to talk to her. I mean, eventually, will I get to talk to her in a virtual reality film?

    FELIX LAJEUNESSE: Well, it’s — you will have to give us maybe 10 years for that to be actually possible.


    FELIX LAJEUNESSE: But I think for now, it just brings you in that place where, if she looks at you, it engages you emotionally in a very special way.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you think in 10 years?

    FELIX LAJEUNESSE: For a proper piece of storytelling that was pre-recorded to be sort of interacting with whatever you’re saying, it feels complex, but probably not impossible.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Not impossible. But will we want it?

    Chris Milk, who’s thought deeply about the evolution of story-telling, sees V.R. as a logical future step, one not so far removed from that very old-fashioned technology, the book.

    CHRIS MILK: You read a book and there is print, ink on a page, and your brain reads those words and it says, these two people are standing in a field, and you imagine the two people standing in a field.

    And there’s a suspension of disbelief that your brain goes through to put you inside of the story. Same thing with all — basically all other forms of media, whereas, in virtual reality, you actually have to remind yourself not to believe. You look this way, you see that way. You exist within the world. And existing within the world is a very powerful thing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed it is.

    It was the poet Wordsworth who wrote, “The world is too much with us.”

    But if you want even more, look out. Virtual reality is coming right at you.

    I’m Jeffrey Brown at the Sundance Film Festival for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Virtual reality bursts through the movie screen at Sundance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: To politics now and the 2016 race for the White House.

    On Saturday, nearly a dozen Republican hopefuls made their way to Iowa to woo conservative activists at the inaugural Freedom Summit. Speakers included Donald Trump, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

    GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) New Jersey: Now let me ask you this. If I was too blunt, too direct, too loud and too New Jersey for Iowa, then why do you people keep inviting me back?

    GOV. SCOTT WALKER, (R) Wisconsin: If you’re not afraid to go big and go bold, you can actually get results.

    DONALD TRUMP: It can’t be mitt, because Mitt ran and failed. He failed.


    DONALD TRUMP: The last thing we need is another Bush.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then, on Sunday, focus shifted West to Palm Springs, California. Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz participated in a forum before some 400 potential donors at the winter meeting of Freedom Partners. That’s a conservative group aligned with the billionaire Koch brothers.

    Joining us now to talk about it all are Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post.

    It’s great to see you both again.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Good to be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Only 500-and-some days to go before the…But we’re not going to — that’s not going to stop us.

    AMY WALTER: No. No.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What stands out to you about these early, early events, Amy?

    AMY WALTER: I mean, the fact that they are so early, right?

    We are 500-some days away. And we had a lot of candidates in Iowa and a lot of press in Iowa. There were over 200 credentialed reporters trying to size up these candidates.

    Look, they are all trying out for different types of audiences, voters, but also donors. That’s the voters in Iowa, the donors in California, of course, but then more generally, the more — the national media. A lot of these folks aren’t household names. And they’re trying to break out and show that they have the mettle, they have the stuff to be a serious candidate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, they come to these things with their own agenda.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, The Washington Post: That’s right.

    I mean, each of them are them with their own agenda. Chris Christie saying, I can play in Iowa. People might think I’m pugnacious, but I can play in Iowa and I can other places, too. You had Mike Huckabee, who of course won Iowa in 2008, him telling the audience there that, listen, Common Core, don’t believe what you have heard about my stance on Common Core.

    Ben Carson, I thought, was much more sort of mild-mannered than he normally is. He usually is very pugnacious and sort of says something to stir the crowd up and stir up the media. He had sort of a more sort of bedside manner-type speech.

    Scott Walker, I thought, really a guy who broke from the pack. This is a guy that I think people don’t see as very charismatic, but he really wowed the crowd and he reminded everybody that he’s won three times over the four races he’s — over in the last four years for governor.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy, do they have to do these events? We know that not everybody went.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mitt Romney didn’t go. Jeb Bush didn’t go to either one of these events.

    AMY WALTER: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, why do they need to do this?

    AMY WALTER: So, I think a lot of it is to try to get some of that early buzz.

    Again, one of the downsides of being a Scott Walker is even Republicans don’t really know much about Scott Walker. So, here was his chance. Again, you’re introducing yourself not just to Iowa voters, but to a whole national media scrum, who is going to take that story and push it forward into the big national media.

    And of course, who reads and digest the national media? A lot of donors. Right? So, a lot of this playing up what we call the invisible primary. This is not about trying to get the votes in the bank today. Today, it’s about getting the bank in the bank and also positioning yourself to get more money to put in the bank.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Nia-Malika, we described both of these groups that organized these as conservative, the conservative freedom gathering in Iowa, same thing. Is this just one spectrum of the Republican voter electorate that these candidates have to worry about?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Well, I think, in Iowa, yes, that’s one spectrum.

    I think there are probably three altogether, right? It’s sort of the evangelicals, then the Tea Party crowd, sort of the crowd that liked Ron Paul and likes Rand Paul now, and then the establishment crowd, and that’s more Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.

    But I think you also saw somebody like Ted Cruz, who was at both, right? He was in Iowa and he was also in California. He’s trying to play both sides. He’s going to those donors and saying, listen, you have heard about me being the Tea Party guy, being the evangelical guy, but I can also play in these circles too and be more the Chamber of Commerce Republican as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why is the media — Amy, what did you say, 300…

    AMY WALTER: Yes, something like 200 credentialed.



    AMY WALTER: This is what’s so much fun about 2016. And, again, I know there are a lot of people viewing this right now and thinking, really? 2016 is so far away.


    AMY WALTER: But this is such a wide-open race for president.

    None of us who have covered this for any period of time have seen a Republican race that looks as wide open as this. We really cannot tell you the front-runner is, nonetheless who’s going to be the nominee. And that just doesn’t happen. So, we’re all watching and waiting to see how these candidates perform, especially how they perform under the microscope.

    And that’s going to start occurring on a more regular basis. This was just a first act.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, people really do believe that one of the — quote, unquote — “lesser known, also-ran” types could make it?



    If you would have asked us probably six ago if Romney was seriously thinking about getting in, we probably would have said no. I don’t think people thought Jeb Bush would necessarily get in, that he had too much baggage with that Bush last name.

    But we will see. People are running who have had experience. And that’s part of their argument, that they have done this before, that they have gotten the billion dollars or the capability of raising a billion dollars. So that sort of also-ran quality is both a positive and a negative.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how do Republicans think about Iowa? This is a state, the last few winners of the Iowa caucuses have gone on basically to disappear.

    Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee won the last few times. They didn’t win the nomination.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    And the candidate who is the furthest on the right, especially on social issues, the evangelical issues, is the candidate that wins. Now, Mitt Romney technically won on the election night, and then it came to be that Rick Santorum had more votes.

    But the bottom line is, you’re right. The more right you go, the more likely you are to win the Iowa — the fight in Iowa. And, of course, that’s not the kind of message you want to bring out to — even to the rest of the Republican Party going to New Hampshire and Florida, et cetera.

    So I think Iowa is still important, in that it’s an easy place for everybody to try and get together, test out their message, see how they play in a crowded field. Remember, there’s not just going to be one conservative. There are plenty of conservatives in the mix.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. And anything like this for moderates in the Republican Party?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: In terms of a state like Iowa? I mean, I think it’s more like New Hampshire, which is after Iowa, how they play in Florida. Can they get that big money to play in that big field because the ad rates there are so high and it’s such a big state?

    But in terms of Iowa, I do think how you play in Iowa, whether or not you go too far to the right, as we saw Mitt Romney doing — some people think that’s why Mitt Romney lost, because he went so far to the right in trying to capture some of that momentum in Iowa around immigration reform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we have only a few more days before we have got to get it all figured out.

    AMY WALTER: That’s right.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: That’s right.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re almost there.

    Nia-Malika Henderson, Amy Walter, thank you.

    AMY WALTER: Thanks, Judy.


    The post 2016 hopefuls pitch their presidential qualities at GOP meetings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: When President Obama took office in January 2009, he signed an executive order to close the detention facility for terror suspects at Guantanamo, Cuba.

    Today, his outgoing secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, told National Public Radio that closing the facility was going to be very difficult. The 122 prisoners who are still there are among the most difficult to relocate.

    One detainee’s story has just been published.

    Hari Sreenivasan in our NewsHour Weekend studio has that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Some two weeks after 9/11, Mohamedou Slahi, a 30-year-old electrical engineer, was arrested at his home in the North African country of Mauritania. He was questioned by FBI agents and then released.

    In November of that year, he was re-arrested for suspected connections in a plot to bomb the United States. What followed was a harrowing journey through the American national security apparatus post-9/11, from Mauritania to Jordan to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, finally to the U.S. prison site at Guantanamo Bay. He remains there today, 13 years later, with no charges filed against him.

    In 2005, he began a journal, which was confiscated by prison guards and deemed classified. After a seven-year legal battle, a federal judge declassified the material, although some sections remain redacted.

    Last week, Little, Brown and Company published “Guantanamo Diary,” in Slahi details those first years of imprisonment, including isolation, beatings, sexual abuse, and humiliation.

    Joining me now are Slahi’s lawyer, Nancy Hollander, and the book’s editor, Larry Siems.

    So, Larry, you say this book has been edited twice, once by the U.S. government, because there’s 2,500, 2,600 redactions in here, and then a second time by yourself. And unlike any other book, you haven’t been able to talk to the author, right?

    LARRY SIEMS, Editor, “Guantanamo Diary”: Right.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So — and you haven’t really been working with Nancy here to confirm all these facts.

    So, as a reader, how do I know what the author’s intent was?

    LARRY SIEMS: Well, I think he says what his intent was.

    He — he — by the time he gets going in telling the story, he clearly imagines that some day it will be read by us, and the us is particularly the American people. He at several points in the book says, what do you think, dear reader? He solicits our opinion.

    This in a way is his appeal for justice, you know, just for the American people to know what’s going on in Guantanamo in the fullest sense and to encounter it, to reckon it, to read it, and to react to it, I think.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Nancy, the government’s case in different times against your client has been that he had sworn allegiance to al-Qaida back when they were fighting the Soviets, that he prayed at the same mosques as the man who was responsible for planning out the millennium bombing, that his cousin was in the inner circle of Osama bin Laden.

    So, how do we know exactly what the facts are in his particular life and why he shouldn’t with in Gitmo today?

    NANCY HOLLANDER, Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Lawyer: Well, the reasons we know he should been in Gitmo, first of all, is that the government has never charged him with any crime.

    Secondly, the government admitted that they didn’t believe he even knew about 9/11. The government had decided that he had nothing to do with the plot to blow up LAX Airport in 1999, that he had nothing to do with him, the government came to that conclusion even before Mohamedou got to Guantanamo.

    So — and his cousin, Abu Hafs al-Mauritania, is now a free man in Mauritania after having been interviewed by the United States. So if you click all of those off — plus, he did swear allegiance to whatever was al-Qaida in 1990, but, in essence, you could say the United States almost did the same thing. We supported that movement.

    We — with millions of dollars of money and armaments, we encouraged people to go fight against the Soviets. That wasn’t the same al-Qaida that later turned on the United States. So the reason he shouldn’t be there is that he is not a terrorist; he’s an innocent man who should go home.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He says that there’s a point where he finally just breaks and he starts to admit, yes, I did this, yes, I did that.

    What are the sorts of interrogations that got him to that breaking point?

    LARRY SIEMS: Well, it’s — he calls it an endless world tour of detention and interrogation.

    He arrived in Guantanamo in August of 2002. And from there until a year-and-a-half later, he’s subjected to this accelerating, intensifying, increasingly brutal interrogation. In fact, he sort of lands in the middle of this incredible institutional struggle going on over U.S. interrogation tactics writ large.

    So you had the FBI and the criminal investigation task force interrogators in Guantanamo who are used to doing rapport-building interrogations. You had this new unit called the special projects team, which defense intelligence interrogators were setting out to sort of import and adapt the enhanced interrogation techniques that were being rolled out in the CIA black sites.

    And Mohamedou finds himself in exactly the middle of that tug of war. And they actually struggle between those two agencies over who gets to control his interrogation until the spring of 2003. The FBI, much to their horror, loses control of the interrogation. DIA takes over.

    And then he’s subjected to this — called special interrogation plan, which is written out ahead of time, step by step, signed off all the way up to Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of the defense. And it’s a year of harrowing abuse that begins with extreme isolation, sleep deprivation, subjecting him to extremes of temperature, strobe lights, loud music, stripping him, subjecting him to sexual abuse and assault.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: His words paint a picture.

    I just want to read out this author’s note at the end. And it says: “In a recent conversation with one of his lawyers, Mohamedou says that he holds no grudge against any of the people he mentions in this book, that he appeals to them to read it and correct it if they think it contains any errors, and that he dreams to dream to one day sit with all of them around a cup of tea after having learned so much from one another.”

    Nancy, you’re one of the few people that actually gets to communicate with him on a semi-regular basis. I think he has two calls a year to his family. What’s he like?

    NANCY HOLLANDER: He’s a very talkative person. He’s very curious.

    But he’s humble, he’s compassionate, and he really does hold no grudge. He just wants to get out. He understands that there are good people and there’s good and evil really in all of us. And he talks in the book about how — I found it really interesting — you don’t get to choose your family. And this became his family. Whether he likes them or not, they’re his family, so he has to put up with them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, the book is called “Guantanamo Diary,” written by someone in Guantanamo today, edited by Larry Siems.

    Nancy Hollander, thanks so much for joining us.

    NANCY HOLLANDER: Thank you.

    LARRY SIEMS: Thank you.

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    A pipeline leak near Williston, North Dakota, that began January 6 has spilled 3 million gallons of brine — a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing. The leak has reached the Missouri River, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

    It’s the largest saltwater spill in the state’s history. Brine is considered toxic; it is saltier than seawater and often contains other fracking fluids and petroleum.

    The leak contaminated two creeks near Williston: Blacktail Creek and the Little Muddy River. The Little Muddy River empties into the Missouri River, one of the town’s sources of drinking water.

    State health official Dave Glatt told the Associated Press that given the size and volume of the Missouri River, the contaminants were quickly diluted. But Karl Rockeman, the director of water quality at the Department of Health said “high readings” of contamination were found where the Little Muddy meets the Missouri, the Williston Herald reported.

    The number of spills from North Dakota’s booming oil industry has risen steadily since 2006, the New York Times reported in November. A Times investigation found that 18.4 million gallons of oil and chemical substances have leaked into the North Dakotan air, water and soil between 2006 and October 2014. The Summit Midstream leak follows on the heels of a 50,000 gallon oil spill in the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana — the second oil spill in the river in four years.

    Clean-up has already begun, but contaminated water trapped in ice may slow down the process. Oil and fracking spills have already proven difficult to clean up in North Dakota; a spill near the town of Alexander in 2006 is still being cleaned up the Associate Press reported.

    The saltwater spill has prompted North Dakota Democrats to call for increased monitoring and regulation of the industry.

    “It should not take a 3 million gallon spill to realize that this monitoring is needed,” Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, told the Associated Press. “If North Dakota does not get this under control, the feds are going to step in and do it for us. And nothing is going to slow the oil industry down like the federal government. We want to protect our environment first and foremost but this also will be good for industry in the long run.”

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    JUDY WOODRUFF:  The Paris attacks a few weeks ago brought Europe’s growing Islamic extremist threat into sharp focus.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner visited another European country, the United Kingdom, to see what’s driving young Muslims there to extremism and what’s being done about it.

    Tonight, we bring you the first of her two reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: It’s a gruesome scene  become too familiar since august.

    Kneeling hostages, NewsHour policy is not to show these videos, and a masked killer from the Islamic State — speaking in English.

    The British voices shocked people here — awakening them to the fact that close to one third of the estimated 15,000 foreign fighters for Islamic state or ISIS. Are Muslims from Western Europe seeking an alternative to their sense of alienation at home?

    PETER NEUMANN: The solution to this is that Muslims unite, rediscover their Muslim identity, completely divorce themselves from any form of western identity and start defending their identity if necessary by violent means.

    Peter Neumann whose center for the study of radicalization at King’s College, London monitors nearly 700 foreign fighters through social media says Islamic State has crafted a powerful appeal.

    PETER NEUMANN: Some of the rhetoric that comes out of ISIS about the caliphate, it basically tells young western recruits you can be part of an enormous historical project and people in a thousand years will be talking about those brave young westerners who came over and rebuilt the caliphate with us.

    MARGARET WARNER: Across the internet, photos and videos of some of the estimated six hundred to a thousand young British Muslims thought to have traveled to Syria and Iraq and calling on fellow countrymen to join them.

    MAAJID NAWAZ:  There is no one route in and no one route out of radicalization.

    MARGARET WARNER: Former Islamism revolutionary Maajid Nawaz, who now heads the counter-extremist Quilliam foundation, says there are three preliminary steps before responding the call of the caliphate.

    MAAJID NAWAZ: They are a sense of perceived sense of grievance, the second is what I call an identity crisis, and the third and into that mix comes a charismatic recruiter who is able to capitalize on those grievances and who is able to fill the void.

    MARGARET WARNER: One accused of playing that role, Anjem Choudry, a British-born lawyer of Pakistani descent who rails against European and Western intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan as “the west’s war on Islam” and repeatedly calls for establishing Sharia Law in Britain.

    He denies recruiting for Islamic State, or inciting violence. But among his followers are two Muslim converts convicted of hacking an off-duty British soldier to death in 2013 to avenge the killing of Afghans by the British military.

    Choudary says what appeals to foreign recruits is Islamic State’s self-governed caliphate, declared last June.

    ANJEM CHOUDARY: This is a country bigger than in fact Britain. So people are going there to experience the Sharia, to look at life you know of the divine law, to bring up their children where they don’t face the vices of gambling, prostitution, you know alcohol etc. And in fact have a proper Islamic upbringing.

    MARGARET WARNER: Choudary preaches to other native-born UK Muslims that there’s nothing special about being British.

    ANJEM CHOUDARY: People believe being British can be liking the queen, fish and chips, standing in queues. I believe that having a passport is a travel document. If you are born somewhere it does not mean that you have to have allegiance to that particular place. My allegiance is to what I believe.

    MARGARET WARNER: That sort of thinking upsets Bernice Drew, who owns the Turner Old Star Pub in the classic British district of Wapping.

    She finds the Muslim communities here — most of South Asian descent — other waves of immigrants assimilated from other former British colonies, including India.

    BERNICE DREW: They’re totally different than anybody we’ve had come here before. They are very, very strong in their religion. And they don’t tend to integrate as others have before them. So you have a kind of divide which is not a good thing. So they come here and keep 100% to their way, their original ways. Don’t assimilate into our way at all. Their women aren’t allowed to go out.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do you think they are a threat to the British way of life?

    BERNICE DREW: In some ways, yes, I do. I think people I general feel that way. We feel in certain areas of London that we’re losing our culture and it’s being replaced with theirs.

    MARGARET WARNER: The sense of distance seems to be shared by many of Britain’s nearly three million Muslims too. Though many mix with the general population, a great many others choose to live and work in self-segregated communities around the country.

    At his merchant stall in Whitechapel in London’s East End, Pakistani immigrant Javed Ikbal denounced the Paris attack — but also criticized European culture for allowing disrespect to the prophet Mohammed.

    JAVED IKBAL: There should be a limit. You cannot just keep provoking. I mean we don’t use the word “n” for some people because it’s insulting and they are only human beings.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do you feel more Muslim than British?

    JAVED IKBAL: Every Muslim feels the same way, we are proud to be Muslim first and then whatever country we belong to.

    MARGARET WARNER: British-born sisters Sarah and Sabrina Lalouche say they feel hostility from their non-Muslim fellow Brits.

    Do you believe that Muslims in the UK are discriminated against?

    SABRINA LALOUCHE: Yes, most of us are. We get the awkward stares, occasional whispers People moving from you on the bus.

    MARGARET WARNER: A software developer at a major British newspaper, Sarah has had off-putting moments.

    SARAH LALOUCHE: I’ve heard a few snide remarks at work, actually I’ve heard people having their own group conversations forgetting that I work there are well. Since the Paris bombings, I’ve had 3 friends attacked for wearing the hijab on public transport. We aren’t the people committing these atrocities, it’s other people who are using our religion as representative, which isn’t fair.

    MARGARET WARNER: What worries European governments is that some of the foreign fighters will return bent to launch terrorist attacks on the homelands they have come to hate.

    PAUL NEUMANN: They are a danger in the next 5, 10, 15 years not just the next month. We know of course that returning fighters have networks, they have had military training. Likely to be more deadly, more effective, more viable so I think in the long term those returning foreign fighters will be the core of new international network.

    MARGARET WARNER: To try to shrink the pool of potential recruits, British government wrote the imams of Britain’s nearly 1000 mosques after the Paris attacks, urging them to root out extremist views in their midst –  and use their positions with young Muslims to “explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.”

    Some imams took offense at the implication that jihadism is the mosques’ responsibility

    But Majid Nawaz says imams and other Muslim leaders need to do more.

    MAJID NAWAZ: It’s usually the case they say, why should we apologize for something we don’t agree with, and I think that is disingenuous.

    We’re dealing with the rise of an ideology that has global appeal and has become a brand andhas its own symbols and leaders it has its own narratives. What we need to do it match it with a competing brand so that we can arrive at a day when the Islam ideology becomes as unattractive and as unappealing as Soviet communism has become today. And that’s a really long term struggle.

    MARGARET WARNER: I’m Margaret Warner for PBS NewsHour in London.

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    Photo by Flickr user Didriks

    Scientists have found the on and off switches in the brains of mice that trigger thirst. Using light, they were able to stop dehydrated mice from drinking and make well-hydrated mice consume water anyway. Photo by Flickr user Didriks

    Thirsty? Craving a large glass of cold, refreshing water?

    Now, what if you could trick your brain into thinking you weren’t thirsty in the first place without ingesting a single drop, or make yourself believe you are thirsty when you are not?

    In a study published Monday in the journal Nature, scientists at Columbia University revealed the on/off switches for regulating thirst in the brains of mice. The scientists isolated two sets of neurons in the brain’s subfornical organ (SFO) — CAMK11, which signals thirst, and VGAT, that erases it — and were able to trigger both.

    The researchers tested the triggers by first placing a light-sensitive protein into the cells of the mice, which allowed them to shine specific lights onto the mice in order to trigger the neurons. When scientists turned on a light activating the CAMK11 neurons, they found that mice that were well-hydrated as well as mice that were dehydrated both drank water continuously until the light was switched off. When the VGAT neurons were activated, the opposite happened: mice stopped drinking water, even if they were dehydrated.

    Whether thirst was activated or deactivated in the mice, the scientists also found that the animals’ interests in salt or food were not affected, meaning that the neurons were responsible for water intake alone.

    “The SFO is one of few neurological structures that is not blocked by the blood-brain barrier — it’s completely exposed to the general circulation,” said Dr. Yuki Oka, lead author of the paper. “This raises the possibility that it may be possible to develop drugs for conditions related to thirst.”

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president is pushing for major new areas of protection in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge, and getting set for a big battle in the decades-long debate over oil drilling and production there.

    Currently, about seven million areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, often referred to as ANWR, are protected from oil and gas exploration. President Obama announced yesterday that he wants to expand that by 12 million more acres, including along the potentially oil-rich coast. It’s the first of several moves aimed at holding back production.

    Here’s some of what the president said in a White House video about his decision to protect the area.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For centuries, it supported many Alaskan native communities, but it’s very fragile.

    And that’s why I’m very proud that my Department of Interior has put forward a comprehensive plan to make sure that we’re protecting the refuge and that we’re designating new areas, including coastal plains, for preservation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president’s actions sparked immediate and sharp opposition from some Republicans, including Alaska Senator and Senate Energy Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski, who joins me now.

    Senator, welcome.

    So, first of all, why is this a bad idea?

    SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, Chair, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: Well, to effectively put off-limits forever the entire ANWR area, some 19 million acres, on top of what is already contained in the state of Alaska, we have — we have more than half of the wilderness in the entire United States in the state of Alaska.

    So of all the wilderness and all the 49 other states out there, we have got more than all of the other states combined. So what the president is doing through this action is a process that would — could eventually lead to permanent wilderness status.

    And, fortunately, this is something that the Congress is going to have to sign off on. I don’t see any scenario where this Congress will allow for permanent designation of all of ANWR, including the 1002 area, the area that’s been specifically designated by Congress to be reserved for oil and gas exploration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what — the president’s argument is that this is a pristine area, that there are very rare species of animal life there, it’s a fragile piece of land that needs to be protected.

    SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI: Well, look at the map. Look at the map that we’re talking about.

    Again, this is an area that, in addition to the 1002 area, is the size of the state of South Carolina that he’s saying that we need to take off into permanent wilderness status. This is an amazing part of the state, as all parts of the state are amazing.

    When you have a state that’s one-fifth the size of the entire rest of the country, you’re going to have some amazing places, OK? I’m with you on that. But for him to take all of this area and say off-limits entirely, what we have been doing in the Prudhoe area for 40 years, accessing a resource, while still being sensitive to the environment, making sure that subsistence is still allowed for the native people who live off the land, this is the key here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any room for middle ground here?

    SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI: You know what? This administration has not been negotiating with the state of Alaska.

    I made the suggestion that they’re willing to negotiate with Iran, but they won’t — they won’t work with Alaska. They won’t — they won’t work with us. Now, is there a middle ground? I have been trying. I have been bending over backwards to be that broker, where we can have a relationship to advance some of Alaska’s interests.

    But it doesn’t seem it makes any difference what the resource is that Alaska wants to access, whether it’s our forests in the southeast, whether it’s our mineral developments, or whether it’s our oil and gas up north. It seems like this administration has taken an all-of-the-above approach to energy policy, except in Alaska.

    I don’t know what to do, except to fight back. And I’m going to do it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, we thank you.

    SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for the Obama administration’s perspective, we are joined by the Cabinet officials who is implementing this policy. She is the secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell.

    Secretary Jewell, welcome.

    SALLY JEWELL, Secretary of the Interior: My pleasure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s clear there’s a firestorm the administration has set off.

    What do you say to this alarm articulated by Senator Murkowski that this is — that the amount of land that is set aside, if you out it all together, 19 million acres, that it’s just beyond reason?

    SALLY JEWELL: Well, let me say first that I appreciate and respect Senator Murkowski’s advocacy for her state. She has been a tireless advocate for the state.And she’s been helpful to me in understanding the perspective of Alaskans.

    I will also say that I have made many personal trips to Alaskan. I worked through college on elements of the Alaska pipeline. I visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge personally back in 2013. And as spectacular…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And these are some pictures I believe you actually took.

    SALLY JEWELL: They are, actually. I saw polar bears at the airport in Kaktovik, flew over some of the rivers in the 1002 area in the coastal plain, and then into the Brooks Range in the mountains, where we actually got off and hiked around and could see just what an incredible place this is.

    It is a large area. It is one of the most special places on Earth. And we are blessed in the United States to have an area of this size that has been undisturbed by development. And that is something that I feel very proud of the president for stepping out to protect.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what I’m hearing her say is that it’s one thing to set aside, what is, seven million, already, but now 19 million. And she’s saying, yes, it’s pristine, but the entire state is pristine. What’s so special about this area?

    SALLY JEWELL: This land was set aside in 1960 as the Arctic National Wildlife Range.

    Further protections and wilderness for seven million acres were granted in 1980. We have been operating on a plan that was based on a 1980s understanding of this refuge. We now understand the importance of the coastal plain in so much of the health of the ecosystem.

    We now understand there are many animals that actually summer over in the Arctic that come down to other parts of the Lower 48. We understand so much more. This 1002 area has not been opened for oil and gas development because Congress didn’t want it to be opened. And this codifies the administration’s position.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it’s — it’s bigger than that. It’s — we’re not even showing the entire area here.

    What about the other arguments she and others are making that this is really a blow to Alaska’s ability to have any kind of economic development? I mean, she talks about it affecting generations of Alaskans to come, because of the fact they won’t be able to develop their resources in oil and gas.

    SALLY JEWELL: Well, Judy, I believe that there are places that are the right places to develop, like the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

    We’re in the process of working with a business up there right now to support the permitting for the first development of the National Petroleum Reserve. We have been actively leasing in that area. We have done an area-wide study to understand where are the critical calving grounds for the caribou for subsistence, where are the areas that have highest oil and gas potential.

    We’re supporting that. And that already has infrastructure that will quickly enable it to be hooked up to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. So, we’re certainly not blocking development of petroleum resources in Alaska. It’s just that there are right places to develop, like the National Petroleum Reserve, and we believe that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is too special to develop.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, quickly, her point that the administration is just not reaching out, not in a position to negotiate? She says — you heard her say, I have bent over backwards, and they’re not — they’re not meeting me to talk about this.

    SALLY JEWELL: Well, I have had multiple meetings with Senator Murkowski. I would like to have had more.

    I have had three meetings with Governor Walker. The state of Alaska is feeling the effects of lower oil prices right now, and I think are feeling that pressure. But my door is always open to the senator. I have suggested to her that perhaps we could go to Alaska together. And I look forward to that opportunity and continuing to work with her.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, we thank you so much for joining us.

    SALLY JEWELL: Thanks, Judy.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news of the day: The U.S. Embassy in Yemen closed to the public as unrest roiled the Arab nation. Street protests stretched into a second week in the capital city, Sanaa. Demonstrators are angry over a power grab by Shiite rebels that prompted the pro-American president to resign. The State Department said, in light of the turmoil, the embassy curtailed its activities.

    JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: We’re still providing emergency consular service to U.S. citizens in Yemen, and due to ongoing security concerns, which we indicated last week we would continue to evaluate and make staffing and other decisions accordingly, we’re unable to provide consular services, but, as I mentioned, we remain open and operational.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a U.S. drone strike killed three al-Qaida fighters in Eastern Yemen. It was the first this year.

    In Syria, Kurdish fighters have retaken a key town on the Turkish border from Islamic State forces. The Kurds, backed by U.S. airstrikes, say they gained full control of Kobani today, after four months of fighting.

    Also in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad said the American-led airstrikes need to be cleared with his regime. “Foreign Affairs” magazine quoted him as saying, “If you want to make any kind of action in another country, you ask their permission.”

    A new left-wing leader, Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in as prime minister of Greece today. His anti-bailout party came from the political fringe to win big on Sunday, setting up a confrontation with Germany and the European Union.

    We have a report from James Mates of Independent Television News.

    JAMES MATES: An audience with the country’s president and one of the youngest, certainly the most unlikely, prime minister in Greek history is asked to form a government. Just short of an overall parliamentary majority, Tsipras party of the far left has formed an extraordinary anti-austerity coalition with the party of the right, with a man who even sits with the British Conservatives in the European Parliament.

    How can you make a coalition work between right and left?

    PANOS KAMMENOS, Leader, Independent Greeks: We are in Europe. And now we represent the nation. And the Greek nation, it’s in one government together. All the Greeks will be together in Europe.

    JAMES MATES: But this strange partnership of left and right makes defeated opponents wonder how they can possibly hold together in the negotiation with Germany that lies ahead.

    ADONIS GEORGIADIS, New Democracy Party: If the Germans want to fight the anti-austerity movement, they will have to destroy the first one.

    JAMES MATES: That will be the Greeks.

    ADONIS GEORGIADIS: That will be the Greeks.

    JAMES MATES: Do you think the Germans would do that?

    ADONIS GEORGIADIS: I think they have no other choice. If they will not do that, the European Union will be destroyed.

    JAMES MATES: On the streets of Athens, now pockmarked with shuttered shops and businesses after a five-year-long depression, that pessimism that anything can really change is pretty widely shared.

    MAN: I wish him good luck. He will need it.

    JAMES MATES: Will he succeed?

    MAN: To say no to Merkel? Yes. To create a competitive economy? No, no way.

    JAMES MATES: The ancient Athenians would look to the omens for a guide to the future. And no sooner had Alexis Tsipras had been sworn in than an almighty storm broke over the country’s parliament. For Greece within the European Union, the future looks stormy indeed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: European financial markets remained largely steady, despite concerns over Greece’s future in the European Union.

    Ukraine declared an emergency today across two eastern provinces, amid the worst violence since September. Fighting has surged in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, and the trouble spread Saturday to Mariupol, where rocket fire killed 30 people. In response, Western nations threatened new sanctions against Russia.

    But, today, President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine’s government backed by NATO.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): We often say Ukrainian army, Ukrainian army. But who is indeed fighting there? This is not even an army. It’s a foreign legion. In this case, it’s a foreign NATO legion. They are there with no aim in the national interests of Ukraine. They have different aims connected with the geopolitical aim of containing Russia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: NATO rejected Putin’s accusations, and it charged that Moscow is again sending large numbers of heavy weapons to the rebels in Ukraine.

    President Obama ended a three-day visit to India today, pledging $4 billion in loans and investments. Earlier, he became the first American president to attend the annual Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. Crowds cheered as the Obamas arrived to watch the display of India’s military forces.

    Back in Washington, a small drone crashed onto the White House grounds early today. The Secret Service released a photo of it and said a man was flying it for recreation, but lost control. The pre-dawn incident triggered an emergency lockdown of the White House complex. Officials later said the two-foot-long quadcopter didn’t pose a threat.

    A former CIA officer has been convicted in a high-profile leak case. A federal jury in Virginia found Jeffrey Sterling guilty of espionage. He was accused of giving details about a mission to undermine Iran’s nuclear program to New York Times reporter James Risen. Sterling denied leaking anything, saying Risen found out from Senate staffers who’d been briefed on the operation.

    Stocks on Wall Street inched ahead a bit today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained six points to close above 17678; the Nasdaq rose more than 13 points to close above 4771; and the S&P 500 added five to close at 2057.

    The post News Wrap: U.S. embassy in Yemen closed to public amid turmoil appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Northeastern Corridor of the U.S. hunkered down this evening for what could be a storm for the ages. Cities began shutting down services, airlines canceled nearly 6,000 flights through tomorrow, and some 35 million people braced for blizzard conditions.

    Megan Thompson of the weekend NewsHour reports from New York.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Snow began falling in earnest on New York City streets this afternoon, an early sign of the highly anticipated nor’easter that will pummel the East Coast through Tuesday.

    As the huge storm spread, forecasts, shown in this color-coded map, called for snowfall totals ranging from a foot in Philadelphia to three feet in Boston during the next 24 hours. Blizzard conditions were predicted over a 250-mile stretch.

    Five governors declared states of emergency, including Massachusetts’ chief executive, Charlie Baker.

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER, (R) Massachusetts: This is a top five historic storm. We should treat it as such. The safety of public is our primary concern at this point in time and will remain as such throughout the course of the storm.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: And in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie urged people to get inside and stay there.

    GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) New Jersey: Starting later this afternoon, you should stay home if you can. You should only go out in the case of an absolute emergency or necessity. And the same goes for all day tomorrow.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In the meantime, cities large and small closed schools early and mobilized snowplow teams. And airlines began shutting down most or all of their operations at major airports around New York, Boston and elsewhere.

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had already warned people not to underestimate what they’re in for.

    MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, New York City: We are facing most likely one of the largest snowstorms in the history of this city. Prepare for something worse than we have seen before. Prepare to be safe. Take every precaution.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Many across the region heeded that advice, storming hardware and grocery stores for supplies yesterday in advance of the blizzard’s approach.

    WOMAN: We are preparing to not leave the house for a few days, should the need arise.

    MAN: We got a lot of extra at the store today for backup, you know?

    WOMAN: We’re good for a week.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: For many, of course, staying at home wasn’t an option today, and for a time, it looked as though thousands of commuters might be stranded.

    New York City and state officials initially warned that bus, train, and other mass transit services could be curtailed before the evening commute. As the day went on, however, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that regular service would continue into the evening hours to help commuters get home.

    Governor Cuomo also announced major highways will be shutting down as conditions worsen.

    GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) New York: The blizzard brings with it very high winds, gusts up — gusts up to 55 miles per hour. And that’s what makes the situation dangerous and difficult from our point of view. It’s the snow combined with the wind.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The warnings prompted many New Yorkers to cut short the workday and head for shelter.

    WOMAN: Usually, I go home at 5:00, but now I take the 1:15 bus, because then I get home at the right time, and it’s not going to snow so much, because, later on, it’s going to be really bad.

    MAN: I just like got to work, and like 10 minutes before I got to work this morning, my boss is like, I’m going to send you home as soon as you get in.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Regardless of the weather, though, the New York Stock Exchange pledged it would be open for trading tomorrow.

    For the NewsHour, I’m Megan Thompson reporting from New York City. 

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Washington, D.C., expected to get only a minor snowfall, but the U.S. House had to postpone votes this evening because so many lawmakers were having trouble reaching the city.

    The post Northeastern U.S. braces for blizzard conditions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user josephdepalma

    Paul Solman visited Las Vegas for an inside look at professional gambling on professional sports. Photo by Flickr user josephdepalma.

    Editor’s Note: On the weekend of the NFL playoffs, Paul Solman left his beloved New England for Paris. There was coq au vin and crêpes, but no, he didn’t have to bust out his French.

    He’d gone to Paris Las Vegas. Under the half-scale Eiffel Tower, he met Teddy Covers, né Sevranksy, a professional sports gambler, to talk about the business of betting. Nevada handled more than $100 million in Super Bowl bets last year — all in cash — and with the Super Bowl coming up this weekend (and Paul’s team in the mix), he wanted to hear from a pro what goes into high-stakes football gambling. See the full story on Making Sen$e Thursday on the NewsHour. Read more of Paul’s interview with Teddy below.

    – Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    Never Stop Betting

    PS: So how many casinos are there in this town?

    TC: It depends on your definition of casino. There are a lot of smaller, local places that call themselves casinos but that may not fit into the standard definition. But, in terms of major resorts, major hotel casinos, I’d probably put the over-under in the 50-60 range.

    PS: The over-under — that’s a real better’s phrasing of the issue. So the gambler’s way of looking at this is that if it’s more than 50 or 60, you win the bet if you take the over. If it’s less than 50, you win the bet if you’ve taken the under. …Do you do this throughout your life?

    TC: That’s all I do. I’m making numbers. You know, over-under 22 and a half minutes to get home. Over under $159 dollars at the grocery store. It’s what I do for a hobby, as well as for my work.

    The Center of the Global Betting Universe

    PS: So Vegas started out as a legitimate money laundering operation for the mob, right? And now 70, 80 years later? It’s this – faux Paris.

    TC: Vegas circa the 1960s was still very much a money laundering operation for the mob. And, when you look at where it’s transformed over the last 50 years, to see the corporations that have gotten involved, and the billions of dollars that investors have plugged into this town, you get beautiful properties. The “Paris” is one of dozens of properties that absolutely stand out, that any tourist would be happy to stay at.

    PS: And these are all tourists?

    TC: Yeah, this is not a casino that particularly caters to the local market. Las Vegas draws a very international audience: Europeans, Latin Americans and, of course, Asians are a very big piece of the equation for the local casinos.

    “Don’t forget for a minute: Yes, the books set a point spread, but this is absolutely a global betting marketplace. Vegas is just a center for it.”

    PS: But these aren’t the wise guys — the sharps — they’re not here as sports bettors, are they?

    TC: The vast majority of the people that you see here are going to leave this town with less money than they arrived with.

    The public, what money they spend, it doesn’t have a big influence on the bottom line for any casino. This is not like a card game, where I’ve got to beat you in order to win the money. This isn’t a poker game. It’s not a zero-sum game where this is the money at the table, and I’ve gotta take it from the sucker. It’s not that way at all. The reality’s that most of what I do, I’m fighting against other sharp bettors, both to get the best of the number and in terms of opinions about games. Because, don’t forget for a minute: Yes, the books set a point spread, but this is absolutely a global betting marketplace. Vegas is just a center for it.

    Going Online and Offshore

    PS: How much of sports betting is now going online and offshore?

    TC: The estimates are that 1 percent of the actual handle occurs legally in the state of Nevada. Which tells you that 99 out of every 100 dollars that are bet in the United States are either going offshore, or going to a local bookie. And many of the local bookies now have a website, have a skin, that they put up. It’s called pay-per-click, where they pay a relatively small sum to have their odds available online for their clients to bet. So, there is a constant and consistent money flow from bettors in the United States, sending their money offshore because they can’t do it legally here in the U.S.

    PS: So if sports gambling were legalized, there would be less money leaving the United States?

    TC: Yeah. In theory, you’re supposed to report your gambling winnings as income. When that money goes into banks, when that money can be traced and tracked, the IRS has a much better idea of who’s betting and how much and what their income is, or losses, from gambling. When all that money goes offshore, and it never sees a bank, and it never sees a regulator, of course it’s not going to get into the tax base, and of course very few bettors are going to pay taxes on their income that they have received from betting offshore.

    Super Bowl Bets

    PS: Well, on the Super Bowl — that’s going to be a $5 billion bet or something. That isn’t going to be primarily wise guy money, right?

    TC: Well, actually, last year’s Super Bowl handle in Nevada set a record with $119 million bet on the game. And of course, the legal estimates are that the state of Nevada gets 1 percent of what’s being bet illegally in the country.

    But, when you talk about the money that’s legally bet in the state of Nevada, of that $120 million dollars, or close to it last year, a higher percentage than you think came from professional bettors. And, not just the action on who’s going to win, and by how much, but also, in the modern era, we’re talking about making bets as the game is progressing, in game wagering. We’re talking about the proposition bets, where there are hundreds and hundreds of bets available for the Super Bowl, about how many rushing yards is so-and-so going to get, how many interceptions is so-and-so going to throw.

    On any given NFL Sunday, the books are going to have what we call positions on at least half the games, oftentimes more, where they’re gonna have a vested, rooting interest in one side or the other, based on their own liabilities.

    “Certainly when you talk about the access to information that’s available via the Internet — that’s a very new thing that levels the field between the average better and the wise guy, or the sharp, the professional.”

    PS: And that was true of you when you started?

    TC: No question. When I started as a small-time manager bookie, we were always sided. And, we were always vulnerable, because we couldn’t attract two-way action on a lot of these games.

    PS: And did you win, or lose?

    TC: We did very well. … I learned a lot of lessons simply by watching bettors bet and the mistakes they were making. Because virtually no one beat us. Very very few bettors came out ahead, over the books, in the long run.

    I think in that era, in the early ’90s, the betting public was certainly less sophisticated than they are now. When we talk about the average better, the recreational player, there’s still a sense of, “Oh, this guy can’t win over the long term,” and the reality’s that, in the modern era, a recreational better [can] win on any given Sunday, in any given month, even in any given season. The average Joe has tools that maybe they didn’t have 20 years ago. Certainly when you talk about the access to information that’s available via the Internet — that’s a very new thing that levels the field between the average better and the wise guy, or the sharp, the professional.

    Professional players are going to get the best of the number. They’re going to get good point spreads. Recreational players will come in and they’ll bet whatever points they find at the time that they have the money to bet.

    Betting on the Pats

    PS: I’m gonna place a bet on the Patriots tomorrow. But it’s going to feel like way more than a couple of hundred dollars because my identity in some sense is going to be at stake.

    TC: There’s an enormous amount of ego in the sports betting world, absolutely! People bet not just because they enjoy the process of betting on a game, and the excitement or the stress that betting on a game brings. You want to be the guy that brags to your friends, “Hey, I bet on the Patriots, and they won the Superbowl.”

    There’s a lot of ego in the wise guy world, as well, where guys want to say, “Oh, I saw this and nobody else saw it. And, I made a bunch of money off it.” That happens all the time.

    PS: And, the people who are losing are undoubtedly people like me, who aren’t going to invest the time and effort in backing up our bets; we’re going to bet more merely out of enthusiasm or loyalty or casual scrutiny of the numbers…. I’m not saying you’re sending me to the poor house. I’m just saying, over the long haul, you’re taking a little bit of my money. That’s all.

    TC: I’m certainly going to try to. That’s my job! I mean, the recreational player, this isn’t their job. This is something that they’re gonna do to have fun, make a couple of bucks. For me, it’s real simple: If I don’t win more than I lose, I don’t pay my mortgage.

    The post Go inside Vegas’ Super Bowl betting business with a pro gambler appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pope Francis waves during his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, Jan. 11, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini.

    Pope Francis waves during his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Jan. 11, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini.

    Starting Feb. 16, the Vatican will offer free shaves and haircuts to the homeless every Monday in St. Peter’s Square.

    The projected is being spearheaded by Pope Francis’ almoner, Konrad Krajewski, who was inspired by a homeless man named Franco.

    Franco was invited to dine with the bishop but declined, saying he smelled. Later, over Chinese food, he explained to Krajewski that although he could find a sandwich every day, Rome lacked a place to use the toilet and wash.

    The idea to provide these services solidified when a plan to install toilets and showers in a renovated area of the plaza formed in 2014. Now that it is almost open to the public, the grooming services will be supported by donations. In fact, according to The Guardian, many razors, scissors, mirrors and chairs have already been contributed to the Catholic Church’s government, the Holy See.

    Serving the poor has been a priority of Pope Francis.’

    “To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete,” he said during a 2013 visit to a homeless shelter in Rome. “It means to see in every person the face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely. And you, are dear brothers and sisters, in the face of Jesus.”

    The post Vatican to offer free shave and haircuts for homeless appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota Nov. 14, 2014. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota Nov. 14, 2014. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many battles with the White House over energy and the environment.

    The 62-36 vote advanced a top priority of the newly empowered GOP, and marked the first time the Senate passed a bill authorizing the pipeline, despite numerous attempts to force President Barack Obama’s hand on the issue. Nine Democrats joined with 53 Republicans to back the measure.

    This bill “is an important accomplishment for the country,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “We are hoping the president upon reflection will agree to sign on to a bill that the State Department said could create up to 42,000 jobs and the State Department said creates little to no impact on the environment.”

    Still the vote was short of the threshold needed to override a veto, and the legislation still must be reconciled with the version the House passed.

    “We hope President Obama will now drop his threat to veto this common-sense bill that would strengthen our energy security and create thousands and thousands of new, good-paying American jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner.

    Democrats framed the bill as gift to a foreign oil company that would have little benefit for the American people, because much of the oil would be exported. They tried and failed to get amendments on the bill to construct the pipeline with U.S. steel, ban exports of the oil and the products refined from it, and protect water resources.

    The Senate agreed to add an energy efficiency measure, and went on the record saying climate change was not a hoax and the oil sands should be subject to a tax that helps pay for oil spill cleanups. Oil sands are currently exempt.

    “This bill is a disgrace,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the Senate environment committee. “We tried on our side to make this a better bill and they turned us away.”

    TransCanada Corp., the pipeline’s developer, disputed the export argument Thursday, saying it didn’t make sense.

    “Those who argue this pipeline is for export are not being factual,” said Russ Girling, president and chief executive officer of TransCanada. “It’s time to approve Keystone XL so we can transport Canadian and American oil to fuel the everyday lives of the American people.”

    First proposed in 2008, the $8 billion pipeline project has been beset by delays in Nebraska over its route and at the White House, where the president has resisted prior efforts by Congress to force him to make a decision. In 2012, Obama rejected the project after Congress attached a measure to a payroll tax cut extension that gave him a deadline to make a decision. The pipeline’s developer, TransCanada Corp., then reapplied.

    Obama has said he will not be forced to make a decision on the pipeline, which requires presidential approval because it crosses an international border, until the review process concludes. Federal agencies’ comments on whether the project is in the national interest are due Monday.

    Environmental groups have called on Obama to reject the project outright, saying it would make it easier to tap a dirty source of energy that would exacerbate global warming. The State Department’s analysis, assuming higher oil prices, found that shipping it by pipelines to rail or tankers would be worse for the planet. It also concluded that the project, after construction, would create only 35 permanent jobs, a figure Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., compared to a fried chicken franchise.

    “The facts are clear: the Keystone XL pipeline will only create 35 permanent jobs while dumping millions of tons of carbon pollution into the air and threatening waterways and communities across the Midwest,” said Tom Steyer, the investor and philanthropist who founded the NextGen Climate political action committee.

    Supporters say the pipeline is a critical piece of infrastructure that will create thousands of jobs during construction and boost energy security by importing oil from a friendly neighbor.

    “We urge the president to make the right decision and approve KXL because it is in this nation’s best interest,” said Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. “The fact is that if all other infrastructure projects are delayed like Keystone XL, we are years away from approving anything that could create jobs and enhance our energy security.”

    The post Senate passes bill approving Keystone XL oil pipeline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Emergency responders work at the site of an explosion at a maternity hospital in Mexico City Thursday. The explosion rocked the hospital west of Mexico City when a leak from a gas truck ignited, destroying a large part of the building and killing at least two people. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters

    Emergency responders work at the site of an explosion at a maternity hospital in Mexico City Thursday. The explosion rocked the hospital west of Mexico City when a leak from a gas truck ignited, destroying a large part of the building and killing at least two people. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters

    At least two people have been killed and 60 injured when a gas tanker exploded near a Mexico City maternity hospital, officials said Thursday.

    Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera in a press conference said 22 of those injured are in serious condition, the Associated Press reported. He said that 70 percent of the hospital had collapsed. Emergency workers continue to dig for trapped survivors.

    The tanker was making a routine delivery this morning to the city-run Maternity and Children’s Hospital of Cuajimalpa when gas started to leak, forming a large cloud.

    The AP reported these eyewitness accounts from the scene:

    “The hose broke. The two gas workers tried to stop it, but they were very nervous. They yelled for people to get out,” said Laura Diaz Pacheco, a laboratory technician.

    “Everyone’s initial reaction was to go inside, away from the gas,” she added. “Maybe as many as 10 of us were able to get out … The rest stayed inside.”

    Workers on the truck yelled: “Call the firefighters, call the firefighters!” said 66-year-old anesthesiologist Agustin Herrera. People started to evacuate the hospital, and then came the massive explosion that sent up an enormous fireball and plumes of dust and smoke.

    Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto expressed his sympathy on Twitter, writing in Spanish, “My sadness and sympathy go to the families of those injured and killed this morning in the Maternity Hospital of Cuajimalpa.”

    A delegate for Cuajimalpa, a burrough of Mexico City, Adrián Rubalcava tweeted harrowing images from the scene with the message: “We need support: water, diapers, formula for [babies].”

    Some areas in Mexico City do not have gas mains, so gas is routinely delivered by truck.

    The post At least two killed in gas explosion near Mexico City maternity hospital appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Barack Obama speaks with GloZell Green.

    President Barack Obama spoke with YouTube creator GloZell Green last week at the White House.

    In an essay published on Medium over the weekend, YouTube creator Hank Green says that “the news is losing an entire generation.”

    Along with fellow YouTube creators GloZell Green and Bethany Mota, Hank Green was chosen to interview President Obama following last week’s State of the Union address. The interviews were set up by Google and the White House in an effort to communicate the ideas outlined in the President’s address to a wider audience.

    In his essay, Green argues that young people are disengaged because “no one is connecting to them in the ways they connect with each other or talking about issues that matter to them from perspectives they can identify with.” He believes he and his fellow YouTube creators are uniquely suited to communicate with this portion of the electorate, as they have earned the trust of their audiences in a way traditional media has not.

    Is Green right? With the advent of new media, journalists have the opportunity to communicate ever more directly with their audiences. Is traditional media taking adequate advantage of this opportunity? Can they take advantage of it without violating journalistic integrity?

    We asked you to tell us your opinion on Twitter. YouTube creators Hank Green (@hankgreen) and GloZell Green (@GloZell) joined the conversation to discuss their experiences interviewing the President, and what they feel their interviews accomplished. Read a transcript of the chat below.

    The post Twitter chat: GloZell Green and Hank Green on interviewing Obama and the power of new media appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Credit card

    It only takes a few pieces of information to identify your anonymous credit card data, a new study shows.

    Out of an anonymous set of credit card data from millions of people, how easily can you find one person?

    Very easily, it turns out. It takes three pieces of outside information to correctly identify a person in an anonymous data set — even when the data removes easy identifiers like credit card numbers, names or addresses, said Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a graduate student in media arts and sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    According to a study in Thursday’s issue of Science, a crafty user has a 94 percent chance of tracking all of your purchases with three pieces of extra information — one receipt, an Instagram of your lunch, a Tweet about the new shoes you bought or Facebook post tagging the bar where you went for happy hour.

    “We are showing that the privacy we are told that we have isn’t real,” study co-author Alex “Sandy” Pentland, a data scientist also from MIT, told the Associated Press.

    De Montjoye, lead author of the study, and his colleagues took an anonymous set of credit card data from 1.1 million users over a period of three months and 10,000 different shops in an OECD country. The data had removed names, account numbers — anything that would be considered an easy identifier.

    Removing those easy identifiers, called personally identifiable information or PII, is required by the U.S. Privacy Act and the E.U. Privacy Directive. These metadata sets are used by governments and organizations who use the data for policy or new technology.

    This data can be used for good, de Montjoye pointed out, but reidentifying users is still a risk.

    “Sandy and I do really believe that this data has great potential and should be used,” de Montjoye said in a press release. “We, however, need to be aware and account for the risks of re-identification.”

    Even without PII, the data lists dates of transactions, shop names and the price of each transaction. With that information and a bit of knowledge about an individual, it’s easy to pull out one person out of the data. The study explains:

    “Let’s say that we are searching for Scott in a simply anonymized credit card data set. We know two points about Scott: he went to the bakery on 23 September and to the restaurant on 24 September. Searching through the data set reveals that there is one and only one person in the entire data set who went to these two places on these two days…Scott is reidentified, and we now know all of his other transactions, such as the fact that he went shopping for shoes and groceries on 23 September, and how much he spent.”

    The study also found that women and people with higher-incomes were more easily identified. And even after coarsening the data by listing an approximate price or a date range, it was still possible to find an individual with 10 data points.

    Ultimately, this means that removing PII doesn’t do enough to guarantee anonymity for metadata sets, the study concluded. De Montjoye and Pentland have done similar studies on cell phone data with the same results.

    “If we show it with a couple of data sets, then it’s more likely to be true in general,” de Montjoye said in a press release.

    The post Your ‘anonymous’ credit card data is not so anonymous, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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