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

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    Many families overlook the scope of hospice services available to them, often through Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs or private health plans. Photo by BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

    Many families overlook the scope of hospice services available to loved ones and their caregivers. Photo by BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

    Bettina’s dad Paul (89 years), a once robust and active man, was getting weaker every day due to heart failure. They met with a surgeon to consider his options but the proposed medical intervention was fraught with complications and no guarantee of being able to return him to his one passion: square dancing. He opted instead to continue taking medications to treat the problem and ponder how he could hide his increasing weakness so as not to be a burden to Bettina. Recently, a friend asked if she had considered looking into hospice. Bettina was taken aback. She always thought that hospice was just for people who were terminally ill …

    Promoting independence and “successful aging” is a laudable goal for many and a common media headline. But it’s not the reality for people caring for anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness or a relative who struggles to manage day to day as a result of debilitating health conditions and growing frailty. Most people would prefer to talk about wellness rather than illness, so we tend to avoid planning for advanced illness and ultimately death. One valuable, often overlooked, and generous Medicare benefit for those caring for a family member or friend is hospice care.

    Adult children tell me that if they bring up the subject of end-of-life planning, their parent will think they want to “push them aside” or “be done with them.” Spouses have told me that they worry that even thinking about it will somehow hasten death or cause their partner to die sooner. The reality is, given the right opportunity, those living with illness and frailty often welcome the opportunity to share their preferences about their end-of-life choices. Listening without judgment to the individual’s worries or advice can be a gift to them. Researching what is available to help care for a family member living with advanced illness relieves the individual from having to do the work themselves.

    Medicare coverage for hospice

    Since 1983, Medicare has paid for most hospice care received in the United States. Other payers of hospice care include Medicaid (in most states), the Department of Veterans Affairs and most private insurance plans. Typically, no one is turned away from receiving hospice. Private contributions and donations are used to help cover the cost of care for those who have no other ways to pay for this service.

    Beneficiaries are eligible for hospice care when they are entitled to Medicare Part A and are certified by a physician as having a life expectancy of six months or less if the illness runs its normal course. However, living longer than six months doesn’t mean the patient loses the benefit. After the initial certification period, each beneficiary receives an unlimited number of additional 60-day periods.

    A good example of this was my friend’s mother, who lived in an assisted living residence. At an advanced age and consumed by Alzheimer’s disease, she “graduated” not once but twice from hospice. Both times she was diagnosed with pneumonia, kept comfortable but without aggressive treatment to cure her. Both times she appeared to be at “death’s door” but rallied to wellness. Throughout the experience, the hospice team oversaw her mother’s care while keeping the family well-informed and supported.

    Although cancer patients used to make up the vast majority of hospice recipients, that is no long the case. An increasing number of people diagnosed with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease, non-Alzheimer’s dementia, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s and other conditions benefit from hospice. More hospice eligibility criteria can be found here.

    Hospice is underutilized

    People often wait too long before seeking hospice care. In the United States, the average length of hospice care is less than 60 days with 30 percent of those who elect hospice care dying in seven days or fewer. It seems that misinformation about the benefit coupled with our general discomfort talking about end of life prevents Medicare beneficiaries and their family from taking advantage of the valuable benefit.

    What services are provided?

    An interdisciplinary team of health and social service professionals joined by volunteers work together to provide the following:

  • Comfort care for pain and symptom management
  • Maintenance care for existing chronic conditions such as diabetes or emphysema
  • Support for emotional, social, psychological and spiritual needs and issues related to dying
  • Needed drugs, medical supplies and equipment
  • Mentoring for the individual, his or her family, and friends on best practices in patient care
  • Services like speech and physical therapy, which can be accessed when needed
  • If receiving hospice at home, payment for short-term inpatient care is available when symptoms become too much to manage or when caregivers need a respite break to take care of themselves
  • Grief counseling is available and can take the form of a support group, one-to-one therapeutic counseling, spiritual counseling, phone check-in calls and educational materials to surviving family and friends.

    Those receiving care are allowed to keep their regular physician or nurse practitioner to oversee their care or to receive care from the doctor associated with the hospice organization.

    Hospice is offered by both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations and can take place:

  • At the home of the patient, a family member, or friend
  • At a stand-alone hospice center
  • In a hospital
  • In a skilled nursing facility or other assisted care residence

    If you think you or a friend or relative may be using hospice services in the near future and you are fortunate enough to have more than one hospice provider in your community, it’s a good idea to contact or visit two or three. You will want to look for an organization that most closely matches your preferences. Although the core services provided by every hospice are essentially the same, each organization will have its own character, driven by their business model and organizational values.

    Typically, hospice care starts as soon as a formal request or a ‘referral’ is made by the patient’s doctor. Some questions to ask a potential hospice provider:

  • Is this hospice program Medicare-certified?
  • How many years has the agency been serving your community?
  • Be sure to ask for references from families served and professionals (hospital or community social workers). Ask for specific names and telephone numbers and follow up with these people to ask about their experience with this provider.
  • Does the hospice organization require a designated family primary caregiver as a condition of admission? If so, what are their expectations of what the family is responsible for? What can they offer if the primary caregiver is working or has other obligations and can’t be present all of the time?
  • Ask about the hospice policies. Are they centered on your needs or focused more on the needs of the agency? If the hospice imposes a specific set of conditions that do not feel comfortable or right for your situation, it may not be a good fit. Be sure to discuss your concerns.
  • An excellent list of questions to select from is offered by the American Cancer Society.

    Benefits for caregivers

    An important part of taking care of yourself is taking breaks. Your hospice team will offer to have volunteers come and sit with the patient or help with chores to make things easier for you. They are there to assist your family member or friend — and you — so be sure to tell them how they can help.

    Hospice will be there to provide comfort and support following your loved one’s death. Bereavement services are offered to caregivers and families for at least one year. These services can take a variety of forms, including telephone calls, visits, support groups and written materials about grief.

    For residential hospice, take note that the Medicare hospice benefit does not cover room and board in an assisted care facility (nursing home, hospice center), but will pay for care related to the terminal illness. However, there must be a contract between Medicare and the hospice providing the care.

    New in 2015: Medicare Care Choices Model

    Included in the Affordable Care Act (2010) is a pilot project called the Medicare Care Choices Model. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in 2015 a select group of hospice providers will offer a new option. Medicare beneficiaries will receive palliative care services while concurrently receiving services provided by their regular physician and health care team.

    Palliative care, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is a method of care that, like hospice, focuses on comfort of the patient and support and education for the caregiver. But palliative care can begin when a diagnosis is given and while treatments are being evaluated and selected. By comparison, hospice care traditionally begins after active treatment of a condition has stopped and the patient is not expected to survive the illness for longer than six months.

    According to CMS, the goal of the two-year demonstration project, Medical Care Choices, is to see “whether Medicare beneficiaries who qualify for coverage under the Medicare hospice benefit would elect to receive the palliative and supportive care typically provided by a hospice if they could continue to seek services from their curative care providers.”

    Anticipated announcement for at least 30 rural and urban hospices selected to offer the Medical Care Choices benefit is slated to occur early this year (2015).

    Pursuing the Medicare benefit and accepting help from hospice can feel like a major change in how the person receiving care and their family considers the remaining time they have together. Caring for someone with serious illness and at the end of life is a daunting task, both mentally and physically. Having a dedicated, skilled and caring team of professionals to help can allow you to focus more on quality time with the person and less on the care and maintenance of the disease. Accepting help can make a difference in everyone’s well-being.

    In a future column, we will address more issues facing those caring for a parent, spouse or other important person living with advanced illness.


    More Information & Resources


    MedlinePlus: U.S. National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health

    National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

    Caring Connection

    Center for Medicare Advocacy

    Family Caregiver Alliance fact sheet: End of Life Decision Making


    Long-Term Care Options Explored on PBS NewsHour:


    More Helpful Publications from Family Caregiver Alliance:


    About Family Caregiver Alliance

    Family Caregiver Alliance
    National Center on Caregiving
    785 Market Street, Suite 750
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    (415) 434-3388
    (800) 445-8106
    Website: www.caregiver.org
    E-mail: info@caregiver.org

    Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) offers an extensive online library of free educational materials for caregivers. The publications, webinars and videos offer families the kind of straightforward, practical help they need as they care for relatives with chronic or disabling health conditions.

    Family Care Navigator is FCA’s online directory of resources for caregivers in all 50 states. It includes information on government health and disability programs, legal resources, disease-specific organizations and more.


    Leah Eskenazi, MSW, is Director of Planning and Operations for Family Caregiver Alliance, based in San Francisco, Calif.

    The post Why hospice care could benefit your loved one sooner than you think appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BIG BETS MPNOTOR  SPORTS  2 football in middle

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    GWEN IFILL: With only days left until the Super Bowl, we turn now to reporter Paul Solman, who visited Las Vegas recently to take a look at the multibillion-dollar world of sports betting.

    It’s part of our ongoing reporting Making Sense, which you can find every Thursday on the NewsHour.

    PAUL SOLMAN: An afternoon in Paris, a lovely, traditional setting for a cafe break, says Teddy Covers, if just a bit faux.

    TEDDY “COVERS” SEVRANSKY, Professional Bettor: It’s the real Las Vegas Paris. It might not be Paris in France.

    PAUL SOLMAN: No.

    TEDDY “COVERS” SEVRANSKY: It’s not a bad facsimile.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Teddy Covers, a professional sports gambler, knows how convincing illusions can be.

    Directly above us, a half-scale Eiffel Tower dominates the Las Vegas Strip 541-feet high, down here below, the tower’s sturdy feet, a grand illusion to buttress the dream harbored by most Vegas visitors, hitting it big.

    TEDDY “COVERS” SEVRANSKY: They are recreational players, squares, average joes. Over the long term, they’re not likely to return a profit from their sports betting investments.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Whereas Teddy Covers, ne Sevransky, says he is likely to profit, in large part, one assumes, by taking money from the squares.

    We come to Vegas on one of its big money sports weekends, the pro football playoffs that determine the Super Bowl finalists.

    JAY KORNEGAY, Vice President, Race & Sports Operations, Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino: This is the world’s largest race and sports book, with over 30,000 square feet of action.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Jay Kornegay proudly runs sports betting at The Westgate, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, when built in 1969, the biggest hotel in the world. But the stage Elvis once graced now features a 45-foot screen.

    Sports betting has become the headliner here. And sports betting is huge for Nevada, a state which handled more than $100 million on the Super Bowl alone last year, no credit cards, cash only. How does the Westgate make the odds?

    JAY KORNEGAY: Back in the day, we used to just get in a room and argue for about five to 10 minutes on each and every game. But now analytics play a huge part of it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Data, he means, computer algorithms.

    Kornegay, who may be the most influential football bookie in the world, sets the point spread on, for example, the next day’s Patriots-Colts game. He had the Pats, my team, favored by six-and-a-half points.

    JAY KORNEGAY: Most of these numbers are moving based on what the sharps are betting.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Who are the sharps?

    JAY KORNEGAY: The sharps are the professional bettors. They’re the ones that play the big money. And the big money influences the line movements.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The Pats favored by six-and-a-half means they’d have to win by at least seven for me to cash a bet on them. Bet on the Colts?  So long as they don’t lose by more than six points, you’re the winner. Six-and-a-half is the cutoff.

    But Kornegay had had the Patriots as bigger favorites earlier in the week, setting the original point spread even higher, at seven-and-a-half. Why the change?

    JAY KORNEGAY: It’s a cat-and-mouse game every single day in the sports book. We try to position ourselves to be on the same side as the big money that comes in. The public, the average joes, we will just let them play the game.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And is that because passionate fans like myself just aren’t as rational as the sharps and you?

    JAY KORNEGAY: Rational is kind of a strong word, but what you look at is that these guys that are playing the big money have done their homework, the average joes, probably not so much. They probably read today’s paper.

    Teddy Covers agrees.

    TEDDY “COVERS” SEVRANSKY: The recreational player is going to take five minutes, look at the point spread, and say, oh, I like this side, or I like that side. I’m spending all day, all week working on finding little edges, because all it is, is little edges over time.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Years ago, a finance professor explained the stock market to me with an image that stuck: a herd of investing sheep preyed upon by the wolves of Wall Street.

    Sports gambling in Nevada recalled the metaphor, the public herd betting as one, forcing the bookies to change the odds or line. And then:

    JAY KORNEGAY: The sharps, or the wolves in your case, will take advantage of that, as they see value in line movement that’s been adjusted by all the public money that’s come in.

    PAUL SOLMAN: You don’t look like a wolf, and I don’t feel like a sheep.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: But I’m getting a sense that our relationship might reduce to that.

    JAY KORNEGAY: I’m a good guy.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JAY KORNEGAY: You know, I have a family. I went to college. I go to church. You know, I’m not here really to take your money.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But seeing as how he’s a bookie in Las Vegas, Nevada, Kornegay admits:

    JAY KORNEGAY: Most likely, it’s going to happen.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Tony Salinas is another Westgate habitue who also both sells picks, and bets. When he sees a game where the crowd loves a favorite:

    TONY SALINAS, Professional Bettor: I will bet $10,000 or $20,000 on it, yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Against the crowd, that is, because this Homo sapiens identifies with Canis lupus.

    If you don’t mind my asking, how are you in a position to bet $20,000 on an NFL playoff game?

    TONY SALINAS: I have been betting since 1978. In fact, I was sent out here by a federal judge in 1978 from San Antonio, Texas.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A federal judge said you have to get out of Texas because you’re betting so much?

    TONY SALINAS: Yes. I had to move out here for five years, which I did. And I never did leave. I just stayed here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Look, says Teddy Covers, most betting is illegal.

    TEDDY “COVERS” SEVRANSKY: 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.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nevada handled $3.6 billion in sports bets last year. Estimates of the U.S. total?  As high at $380 billion, including all the illegal action, most of it taken online in other countries.

    MAN: Costa Rica’s probably the main one. And these people, they use their credit cards, log on to the computer. Boom. There you go.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A 29-year-old New York bookie was willing to meet us, so long as we made him unrecognizable.

    Why do bettors patronize illegal bookies?  Because you can’t bet in Vegas unless you’re there in person, he says, plus:

    MAN: You know, a lot of folks don’t have the money that they’re betting. So, you know, in Vegas, you have got to go put up the cash to make the bet. Other people, they kind of like to make the bet and hope they win, and, if they lose, go and scramble and put the money together, you know?

    PAUL SOLMAN: As to wolves and sheep:

    MAN: In general, the bookie wins, because, A, you’re already losing $10 dollars on every $100 bucks you bet.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The bookie’s commission.

    MAN: B, most people have no self-control, and they’re just going to keep betting and betting and betting on more nonsense.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, more nonsense back in Vegas on Sunday, the games were on. Eddie Ceballos, a die-hard Seattle fan, was dying hard as his favored Seahawks were failing to cover the eight-and-a-half point spread over the Green Bay Packers.

    EDDIE CEBALLOS: I did bet on the game. I went with my heart, not with my brain, on this one.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The thrill of his Seahawks coming back to win by six in overtime seemed to overshadow his gambling loss.

    Fellow Seattle fan Mark Barrett and friends were also wearing Seahawks gear.

    And you bet on Seattle?

    MARK BARRETT: Yes, of course.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Of course because?

    MARK BARRETT: Because I’m from Seattle.

    JEROME KAGAN, Harvard University: This is not rational. This is uniquely human. There’s no chimpanzee who could have anything comparable.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Like me, Harvard psychology professor Jerome Kagan identifies with the New England Patriots. He said, days after this interview, that when the country branded them cheats for Deflategate, he felt anger and shame.

    JEROME KAGAN: I belong to my family. I live in New England. And, therefore, anything good or bad that happens to those categories affects my emotional life. I have no control over it. We are symbolic beings, OK?

    PAUL SOLMAN: And your team, says the psychology professor, is your symbolic family.

    JEROME KAGAN: You cannot help but feel that, if New England does well and I live here, then I’m enhanced in some way.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, indeed, on playoff Sunday, I was enhanced, even tangibly, giving seven points to the Colts, cashing the bet after the Patriots won by 38.

    We Patriots sheep were then diminished, however, by the slings and arrows of outrageous footballs.

    And, so, your conflicted economics correspondent, Paul Solman, reporting for the PBS NewsHour.

     

     

    The post Bookies bank on sports fans who bet with their hearts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    american sniper

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a look at a movie that has been at the top of the box office for the past two weekends, as well as generating a lot of conversation and controversy.

    Jeffrey Brown has that.

    It’s part of our occasional series we’re calling “NewsHour” Goes to the Movies.

    BRADLEY COOPER, Actor: Don’t pick it up. Drop it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “American Sniper” is a drama based on the real story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL said to be the most lethal sharpshooter in U.S. military history, credited with killing more than 160 people in Iraq.

    ACTOR: Do you ever think that you might have seen things or done some things over there that you wish you hadn’t?

    BRADLEY COOPER: Oh, that’s not me, no.

    ACTOR: What’s not you?

    BRADLEY COOPER: I was just protecting my guys. They were killing our soldiers. And I’m willing to meet my creator and answer for every shot that I took.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kyle himself told the story of his multiple tours from 1999 to 2009 and difficult adjustment to civilian life in a bestselling memoir.

    Now the film, directed by Clint Eastwood, has become a huge commercial success, on path to becoming the biggest box-office war film ever, overtaking Steven Spielberg’s World War II classic “Saving Private Ryan,” with $200 million in ticket sales and counting. And it’s received six Oscar nominations, including for best picture.

    It’s also clearly touched a national nerve, rekindling debates about the Iraq War, the glorification of killing, and more, all playing out in popular culture, on social media and on TV.

    BILL MAHER, Real Time With Bill Maher: I’m just saying, you know, the idea that Americans cannot see any ambiguity, that somebody has to either be pure hero or pure traitor, is ridiculous. And this one is just American hero, he’s a psychopath patriot, and we love him.

    BILL O’REILLY, The O’Reilly Factor: He was shooting al-Qaida terrorists, all right?  And I would have shot them, too, because his job was to protect the soldiers and the Marines who were on the missions. And he was up. And when he saw, he shot.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Cody McGregor, Texas state director of the group Concerned Veterans for America, told me why he thinks the film is appealing to so many Americans.

    CODY MCGREGOR, Former Army sniper: Americans are hungry to see heroes on the field. And I’m not talking about football players this Sunday. I’m talking about our heroes that are on the battlefield.

    And I think it does a tremendous job and it resonates with not only veterans, but civilians, because it shows the battle that we incur in camouflage and the battle that we incur in civilian clothes when we come home. And I have got to tell you, we have seen the parades that take place when we come home from combat. I would like to see those same type of parades a year later, after we have come back into society.

    JEFFREY BROWN: McGregor, himself a former Army sniper who served in Afghanistan, also thinks the film captures the ambiguity and pressures that people like him went through.

    CODY MCGREGOR: The film does a great job in showing that there is far more to being a sniper than just pulling a trigger. You have got to be able to quickly assess the battlefield. You have got to make sure you’re identifying your target properly. And you have got to be able to think through the larger impact of that trigger pull.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, for others, that gun barrel focus is too narrow and ultimately deceptive.

    New York Magazine film critic David Edelstein says he greatly admires the film-making here, but not the message.

    DAVID EDELSTEIN, New York Magazine: The way that you frame something, context is everything. Clint Eastwood looks at this character, Chris Kyle, in a vacuum, in a way that I think does a profound disservice to the men who died over there, supposedly defending our freedom, as well as the Iraqi civilians, tens, if not hundreds of thousands, who died as consequences.

    The film presents the Iraq War as a natural outgrowth of the attack on 9/11. Chris Kyle sees footage of the Twin Towers fall. He gets married very quickly. And the next thing you know, he is in Iraq. And there’s no indication by the film that those two things, 9/11 and Iraq, are not connected. There’s no historical context whatsoever to the movie.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But then why are Americans flocking to the film?

    DAVID EDELSTEIN: The story of Chris Kyle told in this extremely dishonest way is giving people some idea, yes, we lost him, yes, we lost these incredibly brave soldiers, but there was a reason we were there, there was a reason we had to be there.

    And the movie allows us, allows people to mourn Chris Kyle, to mourn the dead in Iraq, but also to say, this made sense, it made moral, it made cosmic sense.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The man behind all this, Chris Kyle, came home after four tours of duty and worked with troubled and wounded veterans. There are continuing questions about how much he himself suffered from PTSD and about the veracity of some of the accounts he gave of his own life and deeds.

    In 2013, Kyle was killed by a vet he was trying to help through some dark times. That year, Nicholas Schmidle wrote a profile for “The New Yorker” magazine that tried to pull together a full portrait of the man.

    NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE, The New Yorker: He’s an enormously dynamic person. He — he — all of the things that have been said about Chris Kyle, about his opinion — his opinions about Iraqis, his embrace of killing, all of that is true. And yet he also was enormously generous when it came to helping veterans.

    He was a mentor. I think he was a natural mentor. I think that if you — again, looking at some of the military records, he was repeatedly cited for his leadership and for the way that he worked with younger SEALs. And I think that carried on after he left the service.

    I think that Chris Kyle drew a line between us and them, a very, very bold line. I think that some of us would draw that line a bit further out and be a little bit more inclusive as to who the us is. And for Chris Kyle, it was a bit closer to him.

    But if you were on this side of the line, you were a brother in arms.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Actor Bradley Cooper, who plays Kyle and received an Oscar nomination, says he thinks the film puts a spotlight on the challenges of vets and their spouses and families back at home.

    BRADLEY COOPER: So we tell this man’s story, but he does serve a purpose, hopefully, that someone who is going to watch this movie who maybe has gone through what he has gone through, or has gone through what Taya has gone through can sit there and say, oh, wow, I’m not alone.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s one theme that’s run through films that have tried to capture aspects of the nation’s longest-running wars. “American Sniper” has outdone them all in the box office and says, Nicholas Schmidle, raised the level of contentious divide still further.

    NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE: It has people talking about the war again in a way that perhaps felt reflexive at the time and felt very political and polarized.

    And you see — customarily, you see sort of these unlikely bedfellows of people who are saying — who are anti-war, but pro-film or think the film glorifies the war or think the war is anti-war, and I feel like a lot of people are projecting their own opinions about the past 14 years, how the U.S. has responded to 9/11, U.S. engagements abroad.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One thing both supporters and critics of “American Sniper” may at least agree on: Americans are still sorting out their responses to our recent wars, and films are one way that’s happening.

    The post ‘American Sniper’ provokes debate on Iraq, depictions of war appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PAYING THE TROOPS monitor

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    GWEN IFILL: Everyone routinely thanks veterans for their service.

    But now an independent commission has new recommendations on how they should be compensated.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Over the past 15 years, health care and retirement benefit costs for members of the armed forces has nearly doubled. So far, efforts to rein in costs have stalled, as members of Congress and veteran groups have pushed back.

    Today, a congressional-chartered commission charged with recommending reforms released their report. They call for overhauling the health insurance system for military families and retirees and modifying the pension benefits for soldiers.

    To walk us through some of those recommendations, I am joined now by the commission’s chairman, Alphonso Maldon.

    Thanks for joining us.

    So, first, I want to ask, how important is it for the military to carry out some of these reforms? What’s wrong with the way things are now?

    ALPHONSO MALDON, Chairman, Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission: Our retirement system today, we have — the vast majority of our military really doesn’t benefit from the traditional retirement, military retirement.

    And we have made recommendations, this commission has made a recommendation that we can actually offer more benefits or increased benefit to the — to those service members. And we can best do that by a recommendation that we have made, which is actually a blended retirement system, which actually — and the blended retirement system that we are recommending is one that will leverage the benefits, the recruiting benefits of a government-sponsored thrift savings plan and the retention benefits of the traditional military retirement system.

    And we add an additional continuation pay at the 12-year mark. And so then we — by doing that, we’re able to provide more benefits to more service members, which will extend the benefit that is to about 17 percent now to up to about 75 percent of the force.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, if you’re actually shifting some of those costs, if you are going to put it into these thrift plans, where do the savings come from?

    ALPHONSO MALDON: The savings come from, one, we have savings that will come from the accrual. You accrue a cost, dollars today, current dollars over future dollars, and we take advantage of that savings.

    Also, in the recommendation that we are — we have made, when a service member actually decides that they’re going to retire at 20 years, we’re offering them additional options where they can take a lump sum of pay. If they take that lump sum and — out early, that means that we can take advantage of that and those accrual savings.

    So that’s part of the savings that we get there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. All right. Let’s talk a little bit…Sorry, let’s talk a little bit about the health care recommendations that you have, too. That’s a big portion of it. You want to try to shift military families out of the Tricare system that they’re using now into a little bit more of an open marketplace. Why?

    ALPHONSO MALDON: Why is because, right now, we think that there’s — Tricare really has — often, it has really caused some confusion for people and some dissatisfaction because there are beneficiaries trying to access care, and that the process is so lengthy, it’s so frustrating for people to actually have to obtain that specialty care that they need.

    And so it has caused concerns in that regard. And so what we’re recommending is that there be a — we would actually replace Tricare with a selection, a menu of commercial insurance plans, so that the beneficiaries of active-duty service members, reserve component members and retirees that are non-Medicare-eligible could actually benefit from that, because it gives them more choice, more access.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    So one of the concerns that veterans groups have is, if you do increase, while better choice or more choices is good, if you shift towards more of a public model, these military families are going to have to pay higher premiums compared to what they pay today.

    ALPHONSO MALDON: That’s not the case with this, because, number one, exactly what the family members of active-duty service members are paying today, there is no additional cost in that regard, because the government provides a basic allowance for health care that each family member, that each service member will get.

    That money will be there to defray those out-of-pocket costs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    So, I want to ask, with these changes to both health care and retirement, if you’re grandfathering the entire existing military and their families in, when are we actually going to materialize these savings?

    ALPHONSO MALDON: Well, the only ones that you’re grandfathering — this is two different things here.

    You’re grandfathering on the retirement side of it. You’re grandfathering those current — the people that are currently serving in the military today, and you’re grandfathering those that have already retired. That’s just only the retirement pay that’s being grandfathered.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    And do you think you have a better chance of getting this through Congress now?

    ALPHONSO MALDON: It’s my hope that we will be able to get it through. I think Congress has sent clear signals that they’re very interested in wanting to get some things done here.

    And they have waited for quite some time, almost two years, to get this, so I think that there’s a great chance we can get it done.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Alphonso Maldon, thanks so much for joining us.

    ALPHONSO MALDON: Thank you.

    The post Military commission lays out major reforms for soldiers’ pay and benefits appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    General view of Imamzadeh Helal Grand mosque in the city of Aran

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now back to our second look at rethinking Iran.

    Just today, the Senate Banking Committee voted to advance a bill which would toughen sanctions against Iran if negotiators fail to achieve agreement on its nuclear program by the end of June.

    Tonight, we focus on the challenges and the opportunities of reaching a deal with the longtime enemy of the United States.

    It’s part of our partnership with The Atlantic magazine.

    Whether you were watching the president’s State of the Union address last week in Washington or Tehran, his warning to the U.S. Congress against imposing new sanctions on Iran has been loud and clear.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But new sanctions passed by this Congress at this moment in time will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nonetheless, Mr. Obama faces varying degrees of resistance from congressional Republicans and even some Democrats.

    House Leader John Boehner issued an unprecedented and controversial invitation to the Israeli prime minister to address Congress on why new sanctions are crucial.

    Hossein Mousavian, former spokesperson for Iran’s nuclear negotiation team, says Iranian politics are equally divided.

    HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN, Former Spokesperson, Iranian Nuclear Negotiation Team: The Iranian domestic situation is very much like the U.S. domestic situation, believe it or not. This is mirror image.

    RICHARD HAASS, President, Council on Foreign Relations: They have real domestic politics. This is not a dictatorship. This is not a monolithic political entity. This fusion of political and religious authority, it’s like nothing else we have seen. So negotiating with them is very difficult.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Journalist and Iran specialist Robin Wright has visited the country many times in the last two decades.

    ROBIN WRIGHT, United States Institute of Peace: Iran has two parallel governments. You have both an elected president, but you also have a supreme leader who is a cleric and who has the ability to veto virtually anything.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A majority of the Iranian Parliament voted to support current nuclear negotiations. Still, a split at the top of Iran’s leadership often pits hard-liners against those more moderate.

    Author and geopolitical strategist Robert Kaplan believes it’s a pivotal moment in Iranian politics.

    ROBERT KAPLAN, The Atlantic: Does the country want to be a normal country and engage in — you know, engage with the world and trade with the world and do away with “Death to America”? Or does the country want to be a pariah for years to come?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, insists there is no doubt about which holds sway.

    RON DERMER, Ambassador, Israel: When the leader of Iran, the supreme leader — and you don’t get called supreme leader for nothing — tweeted out in English on his official account, “Israel must be annihilated,” it’s a threat that we take very, very seriously.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, the Iranian capital is less than 1,000 miles from the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

    RON DERMER: Israel’s position is not just to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon today. It’s to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon tomorrow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Iran, however, has long claimed that its nuclear intentions are for civilian purposes only, energy generation and medical uses.

    Mousavian says there is no better proof than the Iran-Iraq War, when, even under chemical attack from Saddam, the supreme leader publicly opposed retaliation with weapons of mass destruction.

    HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: I would say, if a nation during war is attacked by weapons of mass destruction and is not reciprocating just because of its religious values, what more objective guarantees do you want to believe that this nation is not after a nuclear bomb?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mousavian says that Iranian good faith was clear more recently in Syria, where, he points out, Iran was a key partner in negotiating the destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile.

    HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: There was a trilateral, secret cooperation between Tehran, Washington and Moscow, which led to destruction of chemical weapons in Syria.

    RICHARD HAASS: You would have to believe in the Tooth Fairy to believe that Iran is not interested again in getting very close to nuclear weapons.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations is much less trusting.

    RICHARD HAASS: History wouldn’t give you a lot of confidence. One is, Iran has at times violated understandings with the International Atomic Energy Agency. There have done a lot of things on the side surreptitiously.

    ROBIN WRIGHT: We shouldn’t be naive. Iran has the capability to build a bomb. It has the knowledge. And even if talks collapsed and we launched a war, the fact is, we can’t bomb knowledge.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There are many who say what’s really going on is that Iran is already so close to being able to build and having a nuclear weapon that these talks really don’t matter very much.

    HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: Judy, let me to be very sincere and frank to you. If Iranians, they wanted to build nuclear bomb, no one could have prevented it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, there is a tale of two Irans. While many clerics claim to a view America as Iran’s top enemy, many younger Iranians are looking to the West, hoping that normal relations will improve their prospects for a better life.

    ROBERT KAPLAN: The population is one of the youngest populations of the large country in the world.

    ROBIN WRIGHT: They’re very much involved in Internet, social media. They all have satellite dishes that bring in Western programming.

    ROBERT KAPLAN: Iran is partially democratic. Churches are allowed. Women ride on motorcycles.

    ROBIN WRIGHT: So, a lot has changed. There is a yearning to be part of the world again, and that clashes with the deep xenophobia of the revolutionaries.

    RON DERMER: Your problem is not with the Iranian people. The Iranian people don’t hate the United States. The Iranian people, probably besides the people of Israel, are the most pro-American people in the entire region. But the Iranian people don’t control their government. Their government is controlled by a radical regime. And that regime hates the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Many basic civil liberties, from women’s rights to free speech, are denied in Iran.

    Journalists are routinely imprisoned by the regime, including an American reporter for The Washington Post.

    ROBERT KAPLAN: It’s not clear who has the upper hand in Iran, but what is clear is, never in years has there been so much public expectation and hope of a political change in Iran, in this case via the nuclear talks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What all sides in Iran agree on is that nobody here wants more of the crippling sanctions layered on the already fragile economy, which many in the West credit for bringing the country to the negotiating table.

    But Mousavian claims Iran responded to past increases in sanctions by actually boosting their nuclear efforts.

    HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: American understanding was that if we put more pressure, the Iranians would step back. They increased the sanctions. Iranians, they increased the number of centrifuges from 2,000 to 3,000 to 20,000, the level of enrichment from 3 percent to 20 percent, the stockpile of enriched uranium from a few hundred kilogram to 10,000 kilogram.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But with oil prices falling, Richard Haass believes U.S. economic leverage may be rising.

    RICHARD HAASS: If Iran ever reaches that point where they believe the choice is compromising on the nuclear in order to preserve the essence of their political system and their revolution going back to ’79, they would make that — they would do so, I believe.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So where will this high-stakes game of nuclear negotiations end? Predictions still vary.

    HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: This is my belief, that we would be able to reach a deal by this summer.

    RICHARD HAASS: I think the odds are at least even or even slightly better than even we get a deal. I think, if there is a nuclear deal, Iran will get some sanctions relief that. That will improve things.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What will the reaction be inside Iran if there is no nuclear deal?

    ROBIN WRIGHT: Well, there will be tremendous disappointment. I think the government would actually be in trouble if there is no nuclear deal, because expectations are now so high.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Israeli resolve remains firm.

    RON DERMER: Israel’s position is, Iran doesn’t need to have a military nuclear capability at all. So, all of their nuclear infrastructure that could be used to build nuclear weapons in the future has to be dismantled.

    The post Weighing risks and benefits of making a deal with Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Shot glasses on Darmouth College's bookstore website. Image by Ruth Tam.

    Shot glasses currently for sale on Dartmouth University’s bookstore website. Image by Ruth Tam.

    Dartmouth University announced that the school would ban any liquor 30 proof or higher and add a mandatory sexual assault prevention program for students to attend for all four years. Officials have also ended pledging for student organizations, where drinking-related hazing often occurs.

    “Beginning today, Dartmouth will take a lead among colleges in dealing with hard alcohol on campus. Hard alcohol will not be served at events open to the public — whether the event is sponsored by the college or by student organizations,” President Phil Hanlon said in a speech Thursday. “Penalties for students found in possession of hard alcohol will ramp up. And so will penalties for those who purchase and provide any alcohol to minors.

    Dartmouth isn’t the first school to ban hard alcohol — Bates and Bowdoin have similar rules — but it is the first Ivy League school to do so, according to the AP. The school is also the first outside of military schools to require sexual assault prevention education all four years.

    The changes are part of a collective push to end sexual violence on campus, as Dartmouth is one of 95 schools under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases.

    The post Dartmouth bans hard liquor in effort to address ‘at-risk’ behavior appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    TROUBLED SKIES monitor planes

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    GWEN IFILL: Now an update on aviation stories from around the world.

    In Malaysia, the government has officially declared the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last March an accident. In Indonesia, investigators now say the co-pilot was in control when AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea last month. And U.S. officials are reporting a spike in online threats against major airlines.

    I’m joined now by science correspondent Miles O’Brien.

    Let’s take these one at a time, Miles.

    Declaring this flight an accident, is that something we kind of knew?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, we did.

    And, really, this is not based on any new information about the investigation. This is more bookkeeping. There are international treaties which require airlines to declare an aircraft missing or an accident or whatever the case may be. And this makes it possible for the victims, for the families to seek redress. And so…

    GWEN IFILL: We should remind people, this has never been found, this particular air…

    MILES O’BRIEN: That’s correct.

    So, I mean, missing is considered an accident, by technical terms. Here we are approaching the one-year anniversary of this event, and I think that it was time to allow these families to move on and seek their claims.

    And so, meanwhile, the search continues in the Southern Indian Ocean. That will continue until the weather gets too bad, probably in May or so, but we don’t know anything new. So when people say it’s been declared an accident, remember, it’s based on the same information we have had for quite some time.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, a big difference with the AirAsia flight, they actually found the plane. They are recovering victims. They even found the black boxes. And now we’re beginning to hear that they will able to pin some of the responsibility for what seemed like a very erratic flight path.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, we’re getting it out in dribs and drabs, which is unfortunate. It would be nice if it came out in a more systematic way.

    But we do know that the plane somehow stalled. It got into some bad weather, apparently. And when we talk about a stall, an aerodynamic stall, meaning the wind wasn’t moving quickly enough over the wings for it to fly. The recovery from the stall is obviously where the problem occurred.

    The first officer was the pilot flying. The captain would have been right there beside him. But the important thing to remember is, when you stall at high altitude, the — there is precious little time to do what needs to be done. You’re right at the edge of the performance capability of the aircraft.

    Couple that with the fact that the Airbus is flown largely by computers and human beings manage the systems. And when things go bad, the computer sort of gives up the ghost. It hands the plane over to the human being at a really inopportune time.

    And so one of the things I think we should be looking at here is the relationship between the automation and the computers and the human beings. Is there a good interface in this gray area between the two?

    GWEN IFILL: And we know that this is very similar to a flight we — remember the Air France flight? Was it kind of like that?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Air France 447 is hauntingly similar. And for those of us who follow the aviation industry closely, we don’t like to hear that. Accidents should lead to that accident never happening again.

    They say there’s — the rules are written in blood, if you will. And it’s too bad to see a recurrence, potentially.

    GWEN IFILL: And, briefly, this question about new threats, 50 threats in the last month against airlines, is that something that’s unusual? Is 50 a lot?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, I think — listen, we love the First Amendment. It’s what we’re all about. You shouldn’t yell fire in a crowded theater. Twitter is making it possible for a lot of people and apparently a lot of copycats to do harm.

    And you know what? People can get hurt sliding down those slides, so people should stop and think, and these people who do this should be prosecuted.

    GWEN IFILL: So, even if you make a threat, it has got to be investigated, everything has got to be done…

    MILES O’BRIEN: You have to do it, yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Miles O’Brien, thank you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome, Gwen.

    The post Using AirAsia Flight 8501’s mistakes to prevent future crashes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    KIDS BEHIND BARS monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A new report out today on the state of juvenile justice in the U.S. finds that outcomes are better for youth kept under supervision closer to home, rather than those in secure state-run facilities.

    In fact, it shows that those arrested and then locked up in juvenile detention facilities are 21 percent more likely to be arrested again than those monitored closer to home. And those who commit a second offense after time in detention facilities are three times as likely to carry out more serious crimes later on.

    With us to discuss the report are Xavier McElrath-Bey of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. And Michael Thompson, he’s director of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. His group conducted the study for the state of Texas.

    And we welcome you both.

    Michael Thompson, to you first.

    I read that you said there has never been a study done like this one. What did you mean by that and what were the main findings?

    MICHAEL THOMPSON, Director, Council of State Governments Justice Center: Yes, we have never seen any state conduct a study like this. I mean, every state is seeing — or nearly every state is seeing a dramatic decline in the number of kids that it has in state-secure facilities.

    But this study that Texas undertook is unlike anything done anywhere. We saw 1.3 million records pulled together over an eight-year period, a real exhaustive analysis that was done, that proves that really kids do, do better closer to home, kids staying under community supervision, instead of being in an incarceration setting.

    We found that they were saving the state a lot of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, by closing these facilities and really putting the emphasis on community supervision. Very few states could conduct an analysis like, this yet it’s the kind of analysis that states everywhere should be conducting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what was — what was so different about the community incarceration care for these young men and women that was from the state-run facilities?

    MICHAEL THOMPSON: Right.

    I mean, when you hear it and you think about it, it really makes a lot of sense, right? I mean, what we have been doing is we have been pulling kids away from their community, sending them to a facility hundreds or thousands of miles away, interacting with staff who don’t look like them, don’t necessarily speak their language, uprooted from any kinds of ties they had in the community, further away from positive influences they had, like maybe family members or a pastor or a sibling.

    And we expect there to be some tremendous corrective action when we’re putting them with a bunch of kids who maybe will have a negative influence on them because they’re a higher risk of reoffending. So, really, when we talk about it that way, we shouldn’t be surprised that those kids actually end up doing better when they’re closer to home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Xavier McElrath-Bey, you were in a detention facility when you were 13 years old. What did you learn from that experience about this?

    XAVIER MCELRATH-BEY, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth: Well, at that age in particular, I was very much traumatized, to be quite honest with you.

    I came from a household that contended with psychiatric disorders and substance abuse and a lot of very non-nurturing experiences I had as a child, and also faced with a lot of violence in my community.

    So when you grow up in an environment like this and you are contending with such a sense of being unsafe and the feeling of being unnurtured, I feel like you naturally gravitate toward those things that give you the opposite impression. And for me in my life, that was the gang.

    And the gang gave me a wealth of love and support. And, strangely enough, although it resulted in many poor decisions, it was what was, I would say, fundamentally needed for me in terms of my own development.

    I would also say that recognizing these needs, you know, not only are we the only country in the world that overincarcerates kids, but we’re also the only country that’s known to sentence children to life without the possibility of parole.

    I think this really flies in the face of what we know in terms of adolescent development. And it totally negates the reality that children have the capacity to change. And this is what we know, not just in terms of research, but also in terms of what we have seen with all the individuals that are coming out who have been able to have another chance at life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Xavier McElrath-Bey, let me stay with you for just a minute.

    What is — what do you believe is different and helpful about a facility, about a treatment program that is closer to home? Because, in many cases, it’s going to involve — they’re going to be isolated from other youth. What’s better about it?

    XAVIER MCELRATH-BEY: I think we need to keep in mind that the majority of the kids that are coming into the system have experienced a lot of adverse experience.

    They have been traumatized by violence, by abuse within their homes. We know this through research. And when we put a child in an environment that only reinforces that negativity in their life, we cannot expect a child to have a positive outcome. In fact, more often than not, that does more harm. It only retraumatizes the child. It only exposes them to further abuse and neglect.

    And it’s almost as if we have picked up for other individuals and systems that failed them. But I think we could take on a better approach with our kids.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Michael Thompson, what does it look like then from the standpoint of a state or a community? What do the results look like when young people come through a program that’s run at the community level?

    MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, again, what we’re seeing is that the kids are doing better when they’re in this community-based program, instead of in a state correctional facility.

    But we also know that just putting in a program doesn’t automatically ensure great results. We have seen here in Texas that they have plowed a lot of the money they have saved into community-based supervision and community-based services. But what we’re finding is that those programs are not always delivered in a way that’s consistent with what the research says works.

    So, for example, we find different programs serving low-risk youth, and they’re connecting those low-risk youth to some medium- or higher-risk youth, and those kids in turn are having a bad influence on those lower-risk youth. And that’s simply pulling them further into the system.

    So, we have to figure out a way to make sure that these programs are actually delivered in a way that’s consistent with what the research says works.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Xavier McElrath-Bey, back to you. How do we know that the local community is going to be able to deal with some of the complex issues these young people can face? Is a local community always going to have that ability?

    XAVIER MCELRATH-BEY: I think with — given the proper support, given an adequate amount of information and how to go about best practices, I think it could be very effective.

    We know that incarceration is not the answer. I just think we need to direct more money, more resource, more funding towards community-based alternatives that are going to enable these children to be able to have more successful outcomes. We know that children have the capacity to change.

    I always say, no child is born bad. And the reason why I say that is because, for the most part, the majority of kids that are growing up and coming into contact with the law, it’s because they come from some of the most poor, disinvested and impoverished communities. They come from communities that lack proper resources and adequate education.

    And I think that if we can focus on how to better these areas of their lives, I think we can see some much better outcomes for the youth.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Michael Thompson, in terms of, again, whether it’s state governments, local governments, the resources they expend on these program, why are — why should they believe, the officials who are making these — making decisions about what to do, why should they believe that this is a more successful course?

    MICHAEL THOMPSON: Well, again, first of all, they’re going to save a lot of money going this route, instead of putting the emphasis on state incarceration. You know, $130,000 a year is what the state spends to incarcerate kids here in Texas in state correctional facilities, vs. spending $110,000 a year to put a kid under the right kind of community supervision and services.

    But, again, we know that it’s not just a matter of money. We know that unless we actually match the right kids to the right services and give them the right intensity, we’re not going to get the results that are possible. And we’re seeing that across the country. And that’s why we think everybody needs to take a hard look, not just at how kids are doing once they’re under community supervision, but really holding programs accountable for particular results.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Thompson joining us from Austin, Texas, Xavier McElrath-Bey joining us from Chicago, we thank you both.

    MICHAEL THOMPSON: Thank you.

    XAVIER MCELRATH-BEY: Thank you.

    The post Why keeping young offenders out of jail could reduce crime appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrapimage

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    GWEN IFILL: Another deadline came and went today, with still no word on the fate of two hostages held by the Islamic State group. Instead, demands and counterdemands played out at long range across the Middle East.

    This is the Turkish border with Syria, where the militants wanted the government of Jordan to hand over a convicted terrorist by sunset today. The latest deadline was contained in an audio recording by Japanese hostage Kenji Goto. He said another captive, Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh, would be killed unless Jordan released a 44-year old Iraqi woman, Sajida al-Rishawi.

    She was involved in a plot to strike three hotels in Amman 10 years ago. Her explosive belt never detonated, and she’s been on death row there ever since.

    But Jordan’s government insisted today that, before she goes free, it wants confirmation their pilot is alive.

    MOHAMMED AL-MOMANI, Jordanian Government Spokesman: Jordan is willing to help exchange Sajida al-Rishawi with the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh. At this point, we want to emphasize that we have asked for a proof of life from Da’esh, and we have not received anything as of yet.

    GWEN IFILL: The pilot’s father weighed in tonight with another plea for mercy.

    SAFI AL KASEASBEH, Father of Hostage (through interpreter): Releasing your Muslim brother, Muath, is going to receive a big positive reaction and appreciation from all Jordanian and Palestinian tribes who share the same faith as you. May God save you and act as a shield for Islam and Muslims.

    GWEN IFILL: Japanese diplomats have also been involved in the flurry of negotiations, but it’s unclear whether the hostage Goto would be part of any deal.

    Until now, Jordan has always refused to negotiate with extremists, but the government is under intense domestic pressure to bring the captured pilot home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s been another insider attack in Afghanistan, killing three American security advisers and wounding a fourth.

    Officials say an Afghan soldier shot the Americans today at a military airport in Kabul. And, in Egypt, at least 25 people died in attacks on police and military targets in the Sinai Peninsula. Islamist insurgents have carried out a series of strikes there.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, a tense calm prevailed between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah. The two sides signaled they have no interest in escalating clashes along the Lebanese border that killed two Israeli soldiers and a U.N. peacekeeper yesterday.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the violence on Hezbollah’s main supporter.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): It is Iran that is responsible for yesterday’s attack against us from Lebanon. This is the same Iran that is now trying to achieve an agreement that would leave it with the ability the develop nuclear weapons. We will continue to defend ourselves against all threats, near and far away.

    GWEN IFILL: The flare-up followed an apparent Israeli airstrike that killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general inside Syria earlier this month.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine expanded their push today to seize more territory. The separatists announced they’d nearly encircled a government-held town north of Donetsk that hosts a key railway hub. At the same time, more artillery fire smashed into Donetsk itself. Reports varied on civilian casualties, but Ukraine’s military said five soldiers were killed in the last 24 hours.

    GWEN IFILL: The number of new Ebola cases in West Africa fell below 100 this week, for the first time since June. The World Health Organization reported today it’s the strongest sign yet that the epidemic is subsiding. In all, more than 8,800 people have died since the outbreak began.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For the first time, the U.S. Senate voted today to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline. The vote was 62 to 36. Nine Democrats joined 53 Republicans supporting the project to carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

    President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, and that prompted appeals from both sides after the vote.

    SEN. JOHN HOEVEN, (R) North Dakota: We don’t agree on everything, obviously. But there are things we can work on together. And we are working to build the right kind of energy plan for this country to get to energy security. And there will be more work to do, but I hope the president will join with us now in a bipartisan way and sign this legislation.

    SEN. MARIA CANTWELL, (D) Washington: I hope that he vetoes this legislation, because, frankly, I want him to be able to negotiate. I want him to be able to negotiate with this company the terms and agreements by which this pipeline is going to be built. I want him to protect the American economy. I want him to protect the American farmers. And I want him to protect the American environment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The House and Senate must now reconcile their different versions of the bill before sending it to the president.

    GWEN IFILL: And on Wall Street, stocks swung sharply higher after a batch of better reports on corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 225 points to close near 17417; the Nasdaq rose 45 points to 4683; and the S&P 500 added 19 to finish at 2021.

    The post News Wrap: Islamic State prisoner swap deadline passes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Joe and Kris Swanberg, husband and wife, both directors, both with films at Sundance this year. Photo by Steve Mort

    Despite the celebrity frenzy, Sundance is still about the movies. Arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown talked with Kris and Joe Swanberg, husband and wife, both directors, both with films at the film fest this year. Photo by Steve Mort

    “Look, it’s — what’s his name?” (This from a woman who had just taken a quick selfie with old what’s-his-name.)

    “Keanu Reeves is over there!”

    “Did you look in that cafe? It’s like hipster central in there.”

    “Who’s everybody waiting for?” (This is overheard, and asked, a lot.)

    What can I tell you? Alec Baldwin sat behind me at a film the other night. Really. It is a scene. There’s always the sense that something wonderful (i.e. celebrity-centered) is going on — just in there, where a large man is guarding the door and you don’t have a pass to get in. Oh, well. The setting is spectacular amid the mountains and snow, even if there’s not been that much snowfall so far this year. Off in the distance there’s a snow-making machine in perpetual “on” mode.

    Sundance is still about the films, of course, and you can watch them from early morning until late at night. I quickly slipped into the otherwise abnormal practice of seeing movies at 9 a.m. Another thing that hit me, as it did on my first visit, is the sheer number of films available that I might not otherwise get to see. And that leads to the question: What happens to all these movies after Sundance? That’s the focus of our second Sundance story, airing tonight. It’s so difficult to get here with a film. You get your moment with a premiere and several screenings. But then what?

    Jeff Brown and Christine Vachon, a veteran producer of such films as "Boys Don't Cry" and "Still Alice." Photo by Steve Mort

    Jeff Brown and veteran Sundance participant, producer Christine Vachon. Photo by Steve Mort

    We look at newer distribution models — particularly video on demand — and how they impact filmmakers. We were able to spend time with some interesting people from this world. Among them, Christine Vachon, a veteran producer of such films as “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Still Alice.” (She made me laugh when telling me how she came here many years ago for the first time and won the Grand Jury Prize — for the film, “Poison.” She’s been back with some 21 other films and never won again.)

    And Joe and Kris Swanberg, husband and wife, both directors, both with films at Sundance this year — that must be quite unusual. When I asked about being the realities of being a “two-income independent filmmaker family,” Joe answered that they’re more like a “two-gambler family” given that they typically take all earnings from films and re-invest them in the next one. “It’s a tricky industry,” he said, “and it’s an industry that pays off if you invest in yourself. But that payoff comes in weird ways and over a long period of time.” There’s a third member of this indie film family, by the way: young son, Jude, who’s appeared in several of dad’s films. When I pointed out that that must help keep down costs, Joe said yes, but Jude actually does get paid and Kris added with a laugh that he probably has earned more than his parents. And, unlike them, “he doesn’t have any debt.”

    I also spoke with Kerry Trainor, CEO of Vimeo, about his company’s model of video on demand. Interesting to think about it: Vimeo doesn’t have ads. The “payday” for filmmakers comes if they’re able to entice consumers to pay $5 or $10 or more to watch a film. So the key is finding and holding onto that passionate audience. It’s “niche” programming. As Trainor told me, “When you’re selling a piece of work, it really only takes tens of thousands of buyers for selling something at 5 or 10 dollars to make hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Compare that to the YouTube model, with advertising, that requires, say, millions of views to pay out. Niche versus mass. All still evolving before our eyes.

    The post ‘Isn’t that Keanu Reeves?’ and other phrases overheard at Sundance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The 'Havengore' makes its way along the Thames River, marking the same route it traveled 50 years ago for Winston Churchill's funeral.

    The boat that carried Winston Churchill’s body during his funeral in 1965, named the ‘Havengore’, recreated its route from 50 years ago, traveling from the Tower of London to Westminster, where a wreath was cast into the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament.

    When Winston Churchill died 50 years ago at the age of 90, a million people lined the streets of London to watch the funeral cortege pass by. The man who led Britain to victory against Nazi Germany was honored with a state funeral, something very few politicians in Britain are ever given. Today, the boat that carried his coffin along the River Thames in 1965, the Havengore, re-traced the route to mark the 50th anniversary of his funeral.

    The 'Havengore' makes its way along the Thames River, marking the same route it traveled 50 years ago for Winston Churchill's funeral.

    The ‘Havengore’ makes its way along the River Thames, marking the same route it traveled 50 years ago for Winston Churchill’s funeral.

    Members of Churchill’s family were onboard and traveled along the route, from the Tower of London to Westminster. Across from the Houses of Parliament, a ceremonial wreath was cast into the water by British Army personnel involved in recent conflicts.

    Churchill’s grandson and a lawmaker himself, Sir Nicholas Soames, walked behind his grandfather’s coffin in 1965 and today was surprised at the outpouring of support from well-wishers who lined the route. “I was astonished at the faces of many, many people who were literally contorted with grief because I think that for the older people my grandfather had been a friend,” Soames said. “He was someone they knew. And he had led the nation at a very difficult time, with them. And they felt part of that and I think his going was definitively the end of an era.”

    Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1942.

    Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1942.

    Today’s tribute was an opportunity for the dwindling numbers of World War II veterans to pay tribute to their wartime leader. Britain’s current leaders also paid tribute, laying wreaths at the base of a statue of Churchill in the House of Commons lobby. Prime Minister David Cameron said, “History has been kind to Winston Churchill, not because he wrote it, but because he shaped it. He left a Britain more free, more secure, more brave and more proud, and for that we must always be grateful to him.”

    The BBC is rebroadcasting the original live coverage of Churchill’s funeral today. An estimated 350 million people around the world watched in 1965. See select moments from the funeral here.

    The post Britain pays tribute to Winston Churchill 50 years after his state funeral appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Census classification for Middle Eastern and North African Americans could help the often-marginalized groups gain a stronger presence in politics. Photo by Reuters

    Census classification for Middle Eastern and North African Americans could help the often-marginalized groups gain a stronger presence in politics. Photo by Reuters

    DETROIT — The federal government is considering allowing those of Middle Eastern and North African descent to identify as such on the next 10-year Census, which could give Arab-Americans and other affected groups greater political clout and access to public funding, among other things.

    The U.S. Census Bureau will test the new Middle East-North Africa (MENA) classification for possible inclusion on the 2020 Census if it gets enough positive feedback about the proposed change by Sunday, when the public comment period ends.

    Arab-Americans, who make up the majority of those who would be covered by the MENA classification, have previously been classified by default as white on the Census, which helps determine congressional district boundaries and how billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated, among other things.

    Those pushing for the MENA classification say it would more fully and accurately count them, thus increasing their visibility and influence among policymakers.

    The Census Bureau plans to test it later this year by holding focus group discussions with people who would be affected by the proposed change. Congress would still have to sign off on the proposal before the change could be added to the 2020 Census.

    “We know the challenges,” says Hassan Jaber, who runs a Detroit-area social services group and serves on a census advisory board formed to evaluate Americans’ changing racial and ethnic identities. “It really does take rethinking … who we are as a population and what our needs are, (but) there are specific needs for Arab Americans that are not being recognized and not being met.”

    Jaber’s group, ACCESS, and others that serve U.S. Middle Eastern communities have been pushing for the new Census classification, which could also allow people to identify under sub-categories such as Assyrian or Kurdish.

    “Frankly, being under MENA will also give us a chance for the first time for minorities within the Arab communities, such as Chaldeans, Berbers and Kurds, to self-identify,” said Jaber, a Lebanese-American who serves on the U.S. Census’ National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.

    Arabs have been coming to America in large numbers since the late 19th century and their ranks have grown in recent decades due to wars and political instability in the Middle East, with many settling in and around Detroit, New York and Los Angeles. The Census’ 2013 American Community Survey, which had a sample size of about 3 million addresses, estimated that 1.5 million people were of Arab ancestry in 2006-10.

    Although Jaber thinks the public comment and testing periods should go well, he said it could be difficult getting congressional approval. Some Republican lawmakers are generally critical of the expense and intrusion of the Census and have sought to eliminate the community surveys, which, unlike the main decennial count, aren’t constitutionally mandated.

    There also isn’t universal support for the proposed Census change among those who could identify as Middle Eastern or North African.

    ome have expressed concern about sharing such information with the government in a post-9/11 world. And some have said that keeping the status quo would let them feel more American. Some have expressed concern about sharing such information with the government in a post-9/11 world. And some have said that keeping the status quo would let them feel more American.

    “I’m not for it. … I feel I’m a Mayflower American,” said Eide Alawan, a 74-year-old son of a Syrian immigrant whose roots are mostly Arab.

    Alawan, a diversity liaison at a Detroit hospital and interfaith outreach coordinator at the area’s largest mosque, said he knows there are benefits to having the category, but that he thinks the change would be divisive.

    “We’re broken down into villages and countries (where we come from)” — I don’t like that.”

    Some older Middle Eastern immigrants or their descendants live with the legacy of U.S. laws in the early 20th century that excluded Asians from entry and at one point included Syrians and others from the eastern Mediterranean. Groups were formed to fight those decisions and eventually the Middle Eastern immigrants were deemed white and were allowed to become citizens.

    Sally Howell, an associate professor at University of Michigan-Dearborn and author of several books on Arabs and Muslims in Detroit, said that argument is common among “people that were raised in an America that was more polarized along black and white lines.” But she added younger people generally are “less eager to see the world in those binary terms,” and the Census should reflect that.

    No matter what happens, identity would remain a choice, but she said an evolving population requires asking new questions.

    “We need to kind of rethink who Arab-Americans are, really. The community has changed radically over the last 25-30 years,” she said. “The only way we’re going to have a good sense of the changes is if we have good data to work with.”

    The post Census Bureau may count Arab-Americans for the first time in 2020 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jann Turner with Eugene de Kock at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Headquarters in 1997. Photo by George Hallett

    Eugene de Kock, right, at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Headquarters in 1997. De Kock was granted parole Friday by South Africa’s government. Photo by George Hallett

    Eugene de Kock, a former South African police colonel responsible for the torture and deaths of dozens during South Africa’s apartheid government, will become a free man after South Africa’s government granted him parole Friday, according to The Associated Press.

    After 20 years in jail and several rejected bids for freedom, de Kock, known as “Prime Evil,” will be released in what South Africa’s justice minister Michael Masutha said is in the interest of national reconciliation.

    De Kock was convicted in 1996 and sentenced to two life terms plus an additional 212 years in jail for crimes against humanity, namely for his leadership position in the South African apartheid-era’s death squad C10, which tortured and killed scores of black, anti-apartheid activists.

    Some of those affected by the crimes of de Kock aren’t completely comfortable with his release. Eddie Mauke, who worked for the South African Council of Churches when the commander of the apartheid state covert unit bombed its headquarters in 1988, told the AP he had “mixed feelings” with the decision, due to the harm de Kock’s unit inflicted on their prisoners.

    “We have seen what devastation it has caused to them and we find it difficult to understand that he got off,” Makue said.

    Testifying at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1998, de Kock offered thorough accounts of the torture and killing of African National Congress activists. De Kock blamed most of the killings on senior politicians in the apartheid government, claiming he was just following orders. He added that the politicians, including former South African presidents, knew all about C10 and their crimes.

    The former colonel expressed remorse at the commission and continued to express remorse throughout his time in jail, reaching out to the family members of those he killed, seeking forgiveness.

    The post South Africa frees apartheid-era death squad leader ‘Prime Evil’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A PBS NewsHour team set out with a group of volunteers who blanketed Washington, D.C., to count the city’s homeless population in one night. Video by Joshua Barajas.

    8:30 p.m. Jan. 28, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

    How do you count a population of people in one night? The men and women without an address, who camp out on city grates, in shelters and along highways. In the Nation’s Capital, they’re silhouetted against its grandest monuments.

    Nearly 300 volunteers have until 2 a.m. to count and survey every homeless person they can find on the streets of D.C. They’ll check bus stops and Metro stations, 24-hour convenience stores, emergency rooms and alleyways.

    It’s part of Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual point-in-time count of the homeless, which doesn’t include doubled-up families or couchsurfers, something that the Department of Education and the Census include in their reports. These are the men and women who are considered “undeniably” homeless. Last year, HUD counted a nationwide total of 578,424 homeless, 7,748 of whom lived in the District.

    Here in the church’s meeting room, the volunteers listen to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser optimistically declare that the city will end chronic homelessness while members of HUD rev up the crowd.

    We pack up to head out. Volunteers are armed with down jackets, granola bars, maps, surveys and McDonald’s gift cards — an incentive to give to those who share their information.

    9:30 p.m. Capitol Hill Group Ministry, Eastern Market

    My colleague Joshua Barajas and I are tagging along with the Capitol Hill group.

    Karen Cunningham, Executive Director at Capitol Hill Group Ministry, says it’s a good thing if we don’t find many people tonight since that means they’re hopefully out of the cold. It’s a subtle reminder that this isn’t a scavenger hunt.

    10:30 p.m. Union Station

    It’s 32 degrees when we set out toward Union Station. The ink in my pen has frozen.

    When we arrive, we find Alph. He lives near the giant fountain in front of the landmark train station.

    Alph has been homeless for nearly three years. He resides just outside of Washington's grand train depot, Union Station. Photo Joshua Barajas

    Alph has been homeless for nearly three years. He resides just outside of Washington’s grand train depot, Union Station. Photo by Colleen Shalby

    “I’m here. But I didn’t want to be here,” he tells us. He points to his possessions, packed into a dozen of garbage bags. He has a front-row view of the Capitol.

    Emily Powers, Community Outreach Coordinator at Capitol Hill Group Ministry, and our team leader, fills out the survey sheet as Alph answers questions.

    “Did you serve in the military?”
    “No.”
    “Do you receive a monthly income?”
    “No.”
    “Have you been homeless for a year or more?”
    “Yes.”

    Alph is considered one of the chronically homeless. He’s been living on the streets for nearly three years. Powers listens as he recounts the story of how he lost his housing. She nods her head and checks the appropriate boxes. She tells him she’ll see him next week. Then she hands him a $10 gift card.

    By 11:15 p.m., the temperature has dropped to 30 degrees.

    “Warmer,” we’re told, than past years. Alph sticks to his fountain outside as we venture inside Union Station where several homeless men and women sit with their belongings in the marble lobby.

    Of the 7,748 counted in D.C. last January, 396 people were “unsheltered.”

    “Shelters don’t go together with a good thought,” says Norman, a 30-year-old who’s a graduate of Tulane University.

    He echoes a sentiment we’ve been hearing a lot — that shelters can be dangerous. Many prefer makeshift spaces instead.

    Norman has been living on the streets of D.C. for a year and a half. He tells me that “a whole bunch of stuff” led him from the life of a physics major and college graduate to that of a homeless man who sees his family only on Facebook.

    The volunteers are checking in with the other homeless men and women, many who are sleeping upright so as not to get kicked out for lying down. Most agree to answer some of the survey questions. One man quietly declines. He’ll become a number without a name.

    I say goodbye to Norman and walk out with the volunteers. Someone is buffering the marble floors. The sound echoes across the giant hall as we leave the regal building and its temporary residents behind.

    Volunteer Karen Cunningham spoke with Walter outside of Washington's Union Station. Photo by Joshua Barajas

    Volunteer Karen Cunningham speaks with Walter outside of Washington’s Union Station. Photo by Joshua Barajas

    1:30 a.m. Capitol Hill Group Ministry, Eastern Market

    We head back to home base.

    Along the way, I talk to Adam Maier, Director of Housing at Pathways to Housing DC who’s been a part of the count here “five or six times.” He tells me about coordinated entry — a program implemented in 25 cities that aims to place the homeless with resources specific to their needs. For example, those with drug or alcohol abuse problems get different help than someone suffering from a mental illness.

    Maier says that nearly 1,000 people move into the District each month, driving up rent and forcing some to the streets.

    Affordable housing is key to the city’s mission to end chronic homelessness. But the roadblock here, much like inside the halls of the Capitol, remains funding and budgeting.

    Back at our meeting place, Whitney Parnell, Community Engagement Manager at Capitol Hill Ministry, is checking in with volunteers, pointing them toward the hot chocolate.

    She notes the contrast between the homeless and the power players who live side-by-side in the nation’s capital.

    “This represents the land of opportunity,” she says. “This is where decisions are made to really change the country and the world. Yet we’ve got so many of our neighbors that don’t have a place to stay.”

    And though they remain invisible to some, on this night, they’ve been counted.

    The post How do you count a city’s homeless population? You walk the streets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Newsweek's January 28 cover. Illustration by Edel Rodriguez.

    Newsweek’s Jan. 28 cover. Illustration by Edel Rodriguez.

    Newsweek’s current cover story on sexism in Silicon Valley is getting negative attention for dressing up what it defiles: unequal footing for women in technology.

    The cover was ridiculed as “desperate/inappropriate/offensive” and described by a national TV host as “despicable.” But many defended its intent, including the cover story’s author, Nina Burleigh.

    “The cover illustrates disgusting behavior that has been described in literally hundreds of easily available tweets, blogs and articles online as well as in the many interviews I conducted with women,” she told PBS NewsHour.

    In Burleigh’s article, she fleshes out the stereotypes behind Silicon Valley’s legends, who she describes as being unimpressive physically but capable of walking into venture capital firms and leaving with a million dollars. Presented in parallel are the many women who have reached for the same support who were not rewarded because, as Burleigh suggested, they are lacking “the sine qua non of the fabled Silicon Valley startup”: penises.


    “They had Miley Cyrus twerking half naked on that show and a whole feature on ’50 Shades of Grey.’ They’re accusing me of using sex to sell something?”

    Burleigh’s article investigated why this disparity existed, but her reporting was lost on “Today Show” host Tamron Hall, who said she hadn’t read the article but “you want to rip the cover off.”

    “Where were all these offended people when women like Heidi Roizen published accounts of having a venture capitalist stick her hand in his pants under a table while a deal was being discussed?” asked Burleigh.

    Artist Edel Rodriguez, who was TIME’s art director for Canada and Latin America from 1994 to 2008, created the provocative cover and discussed his process at length on Facebook. PBS NewsHour spoke to Rodriguez today.

    What did you take away from Nina Burleigh’s article?

    It’s hard to like something that’s so difficult to read. I liked it as a written piece but I don’t like the subject. It was about how men have been in a computer mode for so much of their life that they treat women the same way: like tools. That’s the most disturbing thing and one of the main things I took away from it.

    What’s your process when you approach illustrating a magazine cover?

    I usually get a story synopsis about a paragraph long and soon after, a rough draft of the article. My process is to start doing quick sketches, several pages of rough ideas and concepts. I hone it down to more developed ideas in pencil. When I have enough ideas, I send them to the art director. This one was Grace Lee. She looked through my ideas and picked the one that was used on the cover and the one on the inside. When she picked those ideas,  I did the final artwork. The whole thing took two days and I finished last Friday.

    What were your other ideas?

    They were all over the place. I had ones that were variations of the arrow attacking the woman or raising her dress. Others showing men as pigs in a way. A hand holding a cell phone and a thumb down on a woman, keeping her down. A woman inside a cell phone. A laptop with the pig’s face on it. A woman being pulled by different electronic cables. Woman getting trampled or devoured by a laptop.

    Did you have a conversation with Grace Lee about which was the best for the cover?

    In this case, I sent a bunch of ideas and she said, “I want this one for the cover and this one for the inside.” That was it. Sometimes there are revisions. There were no revisions or extra sketches in this case. She also talks to the staff at Newsweek, the writer and editor. They decided that that got the point across in the story. The headline, which was written later is “What Silicon Valley thinks of women.”

    Did you anticipate the backlash?

    I thought there might be a few letters or something. I didn’t realize there would be that much commenting on it. Many women think this cover is right on the money. There might be 30 to 40 percent who have a problem, and 70 to 60 who think it shows it perfectly. That’s the sign that it’s getting people’s attention. And that’s what a magazine cover should do. To get people to try to figure out what the image is. The article could possibly eliminate what they were first outraged about, but you have to read it. The cover is supposed to get them to read.

    Tamron Hall on the Today Show described it as “the lowest common denominator” used to sell something. Is that what it is?

    They had Miley Cyrus twerking half naked on that show and a whole feature on “50 Shades of Grey.” They’re accusing me of using sex to sell something? There’s a big outrage machine in the media. The next day, they’ll be outraged at something else. I’m interested in opinions and thoughtful articles about it, not talking heads on television. They’re using it themselves as titillation, but that wasn’t my intent. It was to show a problem.

    A lot of commentators said that this image “revictimized” women who have experienced sexual harassment at work and that it “punched down” to them.

    It’s a difference of opinion. I don’t see how a woman working her life and showing that this still happens to her is pushing her down. It’s punching at the person moving the cursor. If someone feels revictimized, I’m sorry that’s the case. People are affected by images; it happens all the time. But I am illustrating this story and it’s about harassment.

    10940639_10153020838981101_3722274867869709561_n

    Edel Rodriguez’s illustration for the interior of the Newsweek cover story on sexism in Silicon Valley.

    You created two images: one for the cover and one for the interior. Do you think the messages they conveyed were the same?

    I think that there are two different messages. One is about sexual harassment in the workplace and the second image is more about women’s careers. That you’re high up and this stuff knocks you down. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. It’s not like I don’t know what images mean and what they indicate. In terms of the visual for the cover, the one that ended up on the cover is better, because, graphically, it’s smarter. There is more room for the headline and the whole cover can be taken in as a complete statement. The image in the interior takes up too much space on a cover and doesn’t have the same impact.

    When you read negative criticism and saw a lot of women were offended, did you ever doubt yourself and think maybe it was sexist?

    I would be rethinking if every woman or more than 50 percent of women I saw were offended. But many of the women [who are offended] didn’t read the article. The outrage industry jumps into full effect immediately. News sources embed five tweets and it becomes “what people are thinking.” It’s tiresome how it happens on a repetitive basis. I wouldn’t change this image. There’s a huge percentage of women who think it’s very appropriate. Even women in tech.

    After what happened to Charlie Hebdo, there has been a lot of scrutiny of cartoons and images in the media. Do we live in an era of heightened awareness about images? Or have racism and sexism always been topics that are too touchy?

    I think if there’s a heightened awareness about images in print, that’s wonderful. Is there actually a more heightened awareness? The one thing that’s changed is that responses are immediate. If there was a question about the cover, someone would write a letter to the editor, the editor would pick five to publish. But now, everyone’s writing everything immediately online and it’s starting a discussion. Nowadays it happens in larger amounts and much quicker. I’m fine with that. The idea is that it starts a conversation. If every week, there’s a conversation, and it’s happening in a civil way, that’s what it’s supposed to do.

    The post Artist behind Newsweek cover: it’s not sexist, it depicts the ugliness of sexism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Kristi Berry

    Photo by Flickr user Kristi Berry

    Health and sports drinks like Vitaminwater and Naked Juice pride themselves for containing high amounts of vitamins or nutrients. But a new study finds that many of these beverages often have excessive amounts of vitamins, sometimes in harmful dosages.

    A study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism looked at 46 drinks sold next to bottled water in grocery stores. Researchers found that 18 of the drinks had three times the recommended dosage of B6, and 11 had three times the suggested amount of B12.

    In general, the study noted, the vitamins often included in sports drinks include vitamins plentiful in the average person’s diet, making the need to add some vitamins in drinks somewhat unnecessary. Combined with multivitamin supplements, excessive vitamin intake can add up. In some cases, the body will simply eliminate vitamins if there are too many, but for others too much can be harmful.

    “When consumed in excess, some water-soluble vitamins like B and C are excreted in the urine,” a New York Times article explained. “But fat soluble-vitamins — including A, D, E and K — accumulate in the tissues, posing potential risks.”

    Consuming an excessive amount of vitamins by eating natural food is nearly impossible, but some vitamin drinks have the recommended amount, some even more, of particular vitamins, including Vitaminwater’s Formula 50, which includes 120 percent of the recommended amount of Vitamin C, B6 and B12.

    The post Are vitamin drinks providing too many vitamins? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you too. It comes from The New York Times Op-Docs video series. It’s about the struggles of a family in Fort Worth, Texas, to help their 15-year-old daughter, Grace, deal with type 1 diabetes. Her efforts to manage her blood glucose levels have been especially difficult. The short film is titled, “Midnight Three & Six,” named for the hours when her parents must monitor her levels. Here’s a short clip featuring her mother, Patricia Chamberlain.

    PATRICIA CHAMBERLAIN, Mother: My husband and I take turns on duty And on duty means we check her blood glucose levels through the night, midnight, 3:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m. Type 1 diabetes represents, I think the last figure I heard is 5 percent of all diabetics in the world. And Grace is a type 1 diabetic. She’s a volatile type 1. She hasn’t really stabilized and she is unpredictable. So every three hours keeps her safe. Every five or six hours can be very dangerous. By very dangerous, I mean she could die. That’s the best we can do is checking her, correcting her, checking her, correcting her. Her pancreas is dead. And it died all of a sudden. And it becomes very life-threatening very fast. Sometimes, we have to check her every 15 minutes for a few hours or every hour for 10 hours. Just depends on what is going on with her.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You can see the full film on The New York Times Web site.

    The post Ensuring a daughter’s health by checking in at ‘Midnight Three & Six’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For Mitt Romney, a third time won’t be the charm. For the Koch brothers, nearly a billion dollars might be the right number. And for congressional Democrats, what’s life like in the minority?

    For all that, the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen. We have something to talk about.

    Mitt Romney announced he is not running.

    Mark, what do we make of this, and especially the part of his statement where he said he expects the next generation of Republicans to produce the nominee.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, if you’re a very sensitive maybe Jeb Bush, you might think that he was talking about people who are baby boomers.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: But that’s — it’s falling in the same generational grouping, slightly younger than Romney.

    I was surprised, as were most of my Republican sources, three weeks ago, when Mitt Romney said he was going to reconsider. I was surprised, as they were, today when he announced that he wasn’t going to run. I think what he got was, he got a lot of goodwill and respect, as he is respected within the party, but not a stampede of people signing up and wanting to jump on board, either as committed supporters or contributors or fund-raisers.

    And I think he, being what he is, a professional man who makes hard, severe judgment based on facts, he made one about himself, and didn’t sit around. And he just made the decision and let it be known.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Were you as surprised as Mark?

    DAVID BROOKS: No, I’m never surprised.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: No, I never expected him to run. The people who re-run, the Adlai Stevensons, it’s because they represent a faction in the party and they have a group of passionate followers. And Romney had neither of those.

    As for the rivalry with Bush, that’s — there’s obviously a longstanding rivalry between the two. But I thought — sort of thought he’s right, that the estimation that the Republican campaign is going to look a lot like the Democratic campaign, where you have a Hillary Clinton, who is clearly the dominant figure, that Jeb Bush is that dominant figure, I do think that’s wrong.

    The way I appraise campaigns at this early stage — and Mark may disagree with me — is to ignore the fund-raising, ignore who’s getting the consultants, and just judge the candidates the way you might judge a picture in spring training. Who’s got the stuff? Who’s showing they can deliver?

    And if you had looked at Clinton vs. Obama early in that campaign, you saw how good Obama was on the stump, you would think, oh, he’s going to be real. And so now, as the Republicans are beginning to do their auditions, what you’re beginning to see is, like, Scott Walker just had a great week.

    He went out to a group of conservatives and sort of unexpectedly showed that he had a little spark. Marco Rubio has done OK. And so just look at who has raw talent and ignore some of infrastructure issues that we probably pay a little too much attention to you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What does the rest of the field look like to you?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, just to pick up on David’s point, by 2000, by that definition, John McCain was the Republican nominee, and probably was elected president, because he was certainly the far superior candidate to George W. Bush that year. And he was connecting and he had the right stuff and all the rest of it.

    But Bush did had and overwhelmed him with — eventually with infrastructure. And…

    DAVID BROOKS: I always hate it when Mark comes back to me with…

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: But I would say Bush wasn’t a bad candidate.

    MARK SHIELDS: No, Bush wasn’t a bad — Bush wasn’t a bad candidate, but McCain was the better candidate.And I — but I think the point you make is a very valid one.

    As far as the rest of the Republican field, I think, right now, the early footing — we are really early in the footing — you would have to say Scott Walker. And I — Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, I think, has this going for him. There was a governor of New York named Hugh Carey, who was a long-shot congressman running for governor.

    And he was running against a well-financed candidate with 21-point plans. And Hugh Carey had a very simple slogan. This year, before they tell you what they’re going to do, make them show you what they have done.

    And he had a good record in the Congress he could talk about. And I think that’s Scott Walker. Scott Walker, three times in four — the space of four years, in a blue, or purple state, call it what you want, has beaten the Democrats, done what he said he was going to do, and hasn’t trimmed, and maybe — maybe made a little connection last weekend in Des Moines.

    I mean, I think, in that sense, you have got to give him a little shout-out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, he certainly fits the definition of next generation.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you want to defend yourself here or you want…

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, no, I — whether Bush — I thought Bush was as equally a good candidate. We don’t need to relitigate that race.

    MARK SHIELDS: No.

    DAVID BROOKS: But I do think the Upper Midwest is really important, winning that. And Scott being a governor is really important.

    And so — and the problem with Walker was, people thought he was Tim Pawlenty, that he was just a little too boring. And, frankly, there’s a look, there’s a presidential look, and people weren’t sure he had the look.

    But if he can generate sparks, then that’s somebody to look for. But the general point is, the assumption that it’s Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, some of the old guys…

    MARK SHIELDS: Or Hillary Clinton.

    DAVID BROOKS: Or Hillary Clinton. I totally agree with that. I think she’s way overpriced.

    And so there’s going to be a campaign that’s going to be run. You know, Ben Carson, who we — doesn’t seem that serious because he hasn’t run for office, he will have his moment. I will guarantee you Ben Carson will have a moment in the Republican primaries, a surge in his run for president.

    And so a lot of people are going to have their moments. There’s a lot that is about to happen. More candidates are coming in, I think at the rate of about 40 or 50 a day. Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina came in today, or indicated.

    MARK SHIELDS: Just one thing, Judy.

    Talking about the Super Bowl, Kevin and Christine were in the earlier segment. The Republican race is a little bit like that, in the sense that there’s one representative of the American Football Conference and one for the National Football Conference, Seattle against New England. And that’s how the Republican races go.

    And it was, for example, in 2008. John McCain represented sort of the right-of-center governing wing of the Republican Party. And his foe came from the more ardently true conservative side. And that was Mike Huckabee. In 2012, Romney was in that governing center, and it was Rick Santorum.

    So there are two finalists. I would say that Romney was competing with Bush and Christie in that governing wing. And maybe Walker is a hybrid that could go either way. But I think, then you have got the true conservatives already, you know, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum and a whole host of others.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the two of you touched, I guess tangentially, on money and whether that matters.

    We know this week the Koch brothers, the billionaire Koch brothers, announced that their network is going to raise almost a billion dollars to put into this race.

    David, are they now their own political party? What effect is this going to have, or is it? You said a minute ago we shouldn’t pay attention to the money.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right. I still believe that.

    The first thing we learned is a lot of people who are really smart at raising money are really stupid about giving it away. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars four years ago. It had no effect. They lost most of their races. This year, they’re doubling up.

    And — but the one thing we know, in these big national campaigns, whether they devote it to Senate races or presidential or even House races, the money is vastly overvalued. There’s just a ton of political science on this, that you can dump in a ton — once people reach a threshold, you can dump in a ton of money and have very little effect.

    So, I think they’re just wasting their money, money that could be given to poor schools or something like that. And it is kind of offensive on that level. It will have an effect, as I say, not on the vote, but on the Republican Party, because candidates will pay attention to this money and they will flock over to a certain side of Koch-style politics.

    And the Koch-style politics is, we’re going to give you money, but if you compromise and do something we don’t like, next time around, we are going to give your opponent the money. And so what they do is they reinforce a noncompromising style of politics.

    And so I think it will have a weird negative effect on the Republican Party because it will pull people away from — from independent voters.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see…

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I think David’s last point was absolutely salient.

    And that is, it will pervert — money does pervert the process. We saw it last weekend. We saw the candidates going out to Palm Springs for their audition. You go in, and you’re seeking to please. You don’t want to displease.

    And the terrible part of this is, Judy, that it means you are going to spend more time worried about raising money and less time about raising issue, less time meeting with hairdressers and schoolteachers and nurses and truck drivers, and more time with moneyed people, because what are you terrified of? You’re terrified of somebody dropping a million dollars against you in a primary.

    I don’t care if it’s a swing district or it’s a safe district. That possibility always is there. And that increases when you’re talking about — but the thing about the Koch brothers that amazes me, these are men, the fourth and fifth on the Forbes list of richest men in America, each of them, worth $83 billion between the two of them, is their lack of shame, I mean, their openness in saying this.

    We’re reminded of the court’s decision to open up, to say that money was speech, which they did in…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court.

    MARK SHIELDS: At the Supreme Court of the United States.

    And we were told at that time, assured by the justices, so politically savvy themselves, that the Congress, of course, would demand total disclosure, that you would have immediate disclosure of who the people who were giving.

    Now half the money that is given by millionaires and billionaires is never even recorded. It’s not even in the Federal Election Commission, because it goes through this charitable loophole.

    So it’s a perversion. And to their credit, they — or maybe it’s just like a lack of shamelessness. The fact that they made it public tells you something about the swagger with which they approach it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I think we should say that, in the past, they weren’t so open to talk about how much they’re giving.

    MARK SHIELDS: No.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But now they are.

    Just quickly, David, do the Democrats have anything comparable, where…

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, they have done well.

    I mean, when Obama was running, he outraised his opponents. The Democrats have done phenomenally well. In the Obama-McCain race, Obama had a huge fund-raising advantage.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, he did.

    DAVID BROOKS: So, if you’re walking through the Upper East Side of Manhattan, if you’re walking through Santa Monica, California, Seattle, there’s some money there for the Democrats.

    So, there will just be more money than we can believe. And each diminishing dollar is just making the rubble bounce.

    MARK SHIELDS: I think Barack Obama was sui generis. I think he was unique.

    He raised millions of dollars. David is right. He raised a lot more than John McCain did on individual contributions. It was a mission. I don’t think that’s replicable by just any other candidate. And a president can always raise money, whoever the president is, with respect to the party, because of the power the president has.

    And Hillary Clinton would be able to raise money because her husband because of her and her record and the fact that she’s now seen as leading in the polls. But if you took a generic Democrat and a generic Republican under the existing system that the Koch brothers have laid out, I just think the Republican has an enormous advantage fund-raising.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But I hear you saying Hillary Clinton can be on par with the Koch brothers and with the Republican Party?

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, the Clintons have demonstrated an ability to raise money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.

    Less than a minute, the most important question for this, for the end of this, the Super Bowl. Is it going to be the Seahawks or is it going to be the Patriots?

    David?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s going to be the — I have to say it’s going to be the Seahawks, because I know what Mark is going to say.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: And I just have to disagree.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: But I can’t get excited. It’s Amazon and Starbucks vs. the biotech industry and Harvard.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: I mean, I don’t care. I want a town I can actually root for.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: I mean, Foxborough, Massachusetts, Taunton, Brockton, Massachusetts, they aren’t chichi.

    DAVID BROOKS: OK. OK.

    MARK SHIELDS: They aren’t — they aren’t — they are not upscale. )

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Did you bring a football, Mark? Can we see a football?

    MARK SHIELDS: We’re taking the air out. We’re taking the air out of David’s argument right now.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: It’s deflationary policy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m shocked you’re…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … the Patriots.

    MARK SHIELDS: I’m for the Patriots. And, listen, I mean, the fact that we cut a corner or two, so be it.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m going to be watching.

    DAVID BROOKS: Politics ain’t beanbag.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

    David, Mark, thank you both.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Koch brothers’ near-billion dollar spending plan, no third run for Romney appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Let’s take our own stock now of the NFL as it heads into its showcase event of the year. We turn again to Kevin Blackistone, a sportswriter and commentator for ESPN. He’s also a professor of sports journalism at the University of Maryland. And Christine Brennan, national sports columnist for USA Today and commentator for ABC News, she is in Phoenix covering the game.

    So, Kevin, I want to start with you.

    In the short-term, when you look at Deflategate, was it a giant witch-hunt, or will it have longer-lasting impacts on the integrity of the game beyond this one?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE, ESPN: I don’t think it will have any impact on the integrity of the game beyond this one. In fact, I think it worked out to be a somewhat of a nice carpet ride for the NFL to keep the conversation going about this particular Super Bowl matchup, and gave one team a black hat and the other team a white hat.

    It’s amazing that we get to the end of the season talking about something as ridiculous as deflated and inflated footballs, when we began the season talking about very serious issues affecting the league, such as domestic violence and child abuse.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Christine, in your column today, you were writing that, when you walk through the streets of Phoenix, it looks like the Olympics. There’s not really any mentions or any signs that people are thinking about domestic violence or child abuse?

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: Absolutely, Hari.

    And I think the TV ratings may well be higher than they have ever been before, because, as we know, controversy will bring more people to their television sets to see what this is about, if that’s possible, that there could be more people watching the Super Bowl.

    I do say I agree with Kevin. It is ridiculous, but it’s been a distraction and it’s kept the NFL in the news in that week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl itself.

    But that — walking around Phoenix, being in this town, it struck me that, in this year of Ray Rice, September 8, 2014, the video that changed everything, our perceptions of the country about domestic violence, our culture, as well as the NFL’s feelings about it and having to deal with all these issues, it’s almost nonexistent.

    Fans come, and this is America, and this is our football. And they want it. And, yes, talk about domestic violence, they’re kind of saying, at least you figure they’re saying, but don’t bother me with it on Sunday, every Sunday.

    And so, if there’s any doubt that the NFL is going to thrive and survive no matter what, there should be no doubts based on what you see on the streets in Phoenix.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Kevin, is this because — is this a reflection of our collective perhaps attention span or the fans of football over it and don’t want it on Sundays, as Christine said, or is it — does it also have to do with the way that the commissioner handled it?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Well, part of it, I think, is the way that the commission — the commissioner handled it, because so much of the focus became how Roger Goodell was bungling these very important issues as they affected some star players in the league.

    I think the other part of it, though, is that, you know, football has long tried to divorce itself from the rest of society. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the Super Bowl even allowed a — quote, unquote — “political ad” to be played during the Super Bowl. And that was the Tim Tebow commercial that was a pro-life commercial.

    And so, as we know, coming up in this Super Bowl, we’re going to have the “No More” anti-domestic violence public service announcement played. So, it will be there, but, certainly, come the time of the kickoff and for much of the rest of the day leading up to that, it’s not going to be part of the conversation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Christine, you have been one to have the people that have not called for a resignation of Roger Goodell. How do you rate his handling of this now?

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: It has not been entirely good, and clearly mistakes were made, huge mistakes.

    This was bungled from the start, the issue of Ray Rice, how to handle him. But I also think it’s a reflection of our society and all of us coming to terms with domestic violence and what it looks like, which is why I believe the video of September 8 is such a watershed moment, not just for the NFL, but for all of us, in terms of seeing what it looks like.

    And, unfortunately, that adjective “domestic” is such a terrible word before the word violence. It softens the word, domestic violence. If there were another name for it, I think it would be better. But I will say this. And I think Roger Goodell had a bit of a more humble tone today, although he had a few moments and — that I think were unfortunate.

    But, in general, the NFL is doing more than any other pro sports league on this issue, and certainly any other international league, for that matter, on this issue or sport.

    So, maybe that’s faint praise, because a lot of people are doing almost nothing. But do I think it’s important to note the National Football League has taken some big steps. It was ugly getting to this result, but they’re there now. And I think we’re going to hold them accountable moving forward.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Kevin, the other big story this year was about concussions and maybe the ripple effect that it had on especially another generation of people saying, maybe I don’t want my young child playing football, or — I don’t know if that necessarily correlates with their interest in watching the Super Bowl, but is there kind of an existential crisis for football because of how — where people are now about the dangers?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Sure.

    If you remember the investigations into concussions done by PBS, “Frontline,” the NFL, and for a short while ESPN as a partner, “League of Denial,” one of the things that was revealed there was the idea that if 10 percent of mothers, I think the quote was, had their sons not play football coming up, that the National Football League would no longer have a labor pool to have a league.

    And so this concussions report that Roger Goodell issued at the press conference also comes right on the heels of a new study from Boston University showing that former NFL football players who played little league football suffered concussion-related problems, health-related problems at a far higher rate than did football players who played later.

    So this is something that the league is certainly going to have to deal with going forward and it’s certainly a danger to the success and survivability of the league.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Kevin and Christine, before I let you go, one-word answer, who do you think’s going to win?

    And thanks for joining us.

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Patriots.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, and I will go with Seattle.

    If there’s a dynasty in football, this may be the new one.

    (LAUGHTER)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Kevin Blackistone of ESPN, Christine Brennan of USA Today, thanks so much.

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Thank you.

    CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Thank you.

    The post After a season of scandal, will viewers hold NFL more accountable? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: the changing world of making and distributing movies.

    Jeffrey Brown was at the Sundance Film Festival this week. And here’s the second of two reports he filed from there, part of our ongoing series NewsHour Goes to the Movies.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A world premiere at Sundance. Earlier this week, director Joe Swanberg got the red carpet treatment for his new film, “Digging for Fire.”

    The 10-day gathering in the mountain resort town of Park City, Utah, is for those who make and those who love independent films, and it’s still a touchstone for the health of the industry. It’s a scene, all right, a place to see and be seen.

    But for Swanberg and other filmmakers, it’s more than that.

    JOE SWANBERG, Director: Sundance is a market.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    JOE SWANBERG: I mean, I am here to sell my movie.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    JOE SWANBERG: I’m here to see other friends’ films. I’m here to appreciate good art, but I’m here to sell my movie. It’s a market.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just getting here with a film is a major achievement. For this year’s festival, there were more than 2,300 dramatic film and 1,800 documentaries submitted. From those, 184 were accepted.

    A showing here is great. A launching from here is even better. That’s because, while technology has made it cheaper and easier than ever to make a film, it’s in some ways harder than ever to break through, to get people to see your film.

    CHRISTINE VACHON, Producer, Killer Films: I brought my first feature film here, “Poison” by Todd Haynes, 1991, I think, and it won the Grand Jury Prize.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You won — you won the big prize.

    CHRISTINE VACHON: And I was, like, how hard can this be? And since then, I have come back with 21 movies, and we have never won again.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You started at the top and then…

    CHRISTINE VACHON: Total deep dive down.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Christine Vachon can afford to laugh. One of the co-founders of Killer Films, she’s a veteran producer of dozens of small-scale movies and number that reached larger audiences and garnered awards, including “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Still Alice.”

    CHRISTINE VACHON: We also have to start focusing on, well, what is the right platform?

    JEFFREY BROWN: At Sundance the other day, she took part in a panel on a major topic of discussion here, the rise of video-on-demand platforms, pushing many new films straight to a small screen, including, of course, television.

    She told me it’s a profound shift, forcing people like her to rethink their own identities.

    CHRISTINE VACHON: One of the things that I say, for example, when I talk to young filmmakers — and I have to say this to myself, too — like, maybe it’s time we stopped calling ourselves filmmakers. Maybe it’s time to start calling ourselves content makers or storytellers, because there is — just to say a filmmaker limits the expectation to a certain length and a certain expectation of a theatrical release, for example.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, like it’s going into the movie theater.

    CHRISTINE VACHON: That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    CHRISTINE VACHON: And now…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Which is not the case anymore.

    CHRISTINE VACHON: Well, it’s not the case for many, many stories. And the fact is, that doesn’t make them any less compelling.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Think of your own viewing habits. Are you still going to the movie theater as often as you used to, or are you watching more on demand, at home on your TV set or on one of the many other screens you might own?

    The answers to those questions are providing some new challenges and opportunities for filmmakers.

    KERRY TRAINOR, CEO, Vimeo: The next challenge is, how do I distribute it? How do I get it to audiences? And what video on demand provides is an open platform for any filmmaker to sell a video anywhere in the world for any price they want and have it to be consumable on any device.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Harry Trainor, CEO of the video-sharing Web site Vimeo, thinks the new on demand model can work for filmmakers who don’t need a pass audience.

    WOMAN: As more creators came to video, more viewers came to watch them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The key, he says, is to reach the right audience, one willing to pay for digital content they can access when and how they want.

    KERRY TRAINOR: When you’re selling a piece of work, it really only takes tens of thousands of buyers for selling something at $5 or $10 to make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At Sundance, Vimeo announced a new partnership with Indiegogo, a crowdfunding Web site that allows filmmakers to raise money from individuals, targeted funding, targeted distribution, direct from and to the consumer.

    Indiegogo CEO Slava Rubin says it’s an exciting new world, but hardly the end of the challenge.

    SLAVA RUBIN, CEO, Indiegogo: It’s easier than ever to become a filmmaker. That doesn’t mean it’s easier than ever to become a sustainable filmmaker. Getting the attention, being able to monetize is still challenging.

    We live in a world of Twitter and Snapchat, where people need things quickly and the next story. And you need to really engage with your audience and create relationships. Don’t just think about it as one-off film, one-off short. Think about it as you’re creating a relationship with your audience and you’re creating a career.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Or in the case of the Swanbergs, two careers. Director Joe Swanberg, who we met earlier, is the husband of director Kris Swanberg, who had her own film premiering at Sundance.

    These two are used to the indie life.

    So, you can make a film for under a million dollars?

    KRIS SWANBERG, Director: Yes. I have only made films for — both of us have only made films for under a million dollars.

    JOE SWANBERG: Yes, we have made a lot of films for under $10,000.

    KRIS SWANBERG: Yes.

    JOE SWANBERG: You can — these days, you can make a film for almost nothing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Joe Swanberg, just 33 years old, has had the longer career, turning out film after film, mostly shot in their home city of Chicago, and sometimes literally in their home, where the movie “Happy Christmas” takes place.

    Kris Swanberg’s new film, “Unexpected,” is her third, a story of a Chicago high school teacher — Kris was once a teacher herself — who finds herself pregnant at the same time as one of her students.

    In just thinking about the economics of the independent filmmaking, you’re two-income independent family, aren’t you?

    JOE SWANBERG: Yes, to some degree.

    I have historically taken all of the money that I have made off of a movie and then invested it in the next movie.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have?

    JOE SWANBERG: So we’re more like a two-gambler family than a two-income family. I mean, it’s really — it’s a tricky industry, and it’s an industry that pays off if you invest in yourself. But that payoff comes in weird ways and over a long period of time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And there’s a third member of the team, son Jude, who’s now appeared in two of dad’s films.

    JOE SWANBERG: I always say, like, if we owned a flower shop, he would start working the flower shop when he was 12. Yes, Jude’s part of the traveling gypsy pack of independent filmmakers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Two filmmakers, two films at Sundance, but what happens to those films afterwards?

    Kris Swanberg knows what she wants, even if, these days, it sounds almost quaint.

    KRIS SWANBERG: I made the movie to be seen in a theater. I would love for that to happen. It’s important to me. And I think it legitimizes the film, and I also think that it — it finds a new — a theater-going audience that doesn’t necessarily buy things on VOD.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Producer Christine Vachon works at a higher dollar level, but she too is mindful of holding down costs as the economics of the business change.

    CHRISTINE VACHON: There used to be a kind of character-driven drama, right? And those are always the toughest, because they have to be really good to work. Those used to get made pretty routinely, either independently or by some of these, you know, independent studio operations, at like $8 million to $10 million, right?

    And now we’re making them routinely at $3 million to $5 million.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s a big — that’s a big downward push, yes.

    CHRISTINE VACHON: Yes.

    We have this joke that five is the new 10, that three is the new five, one is the new three.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes.

    CHRISTINE VACHON: You get — you know, hilarious.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Less money per film, but more players, including now Netflix and Amazon, and more options for distribution. Somehow, many independent filmmakers make it work.

    And late today, Joe Swanberg learned that Orchard Films had purchased his movie for a theatrical release in North America for $2 million.

    Meanwhile, Kris Swanberg is still waiting to hear the fate of her film to see if it comes to a theater or a smaller screen near you.

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

    The post What an indie movie deal means in the age of on-demand appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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