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

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    The PBS NewsHour, co-anchored by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, has seen impressive gains, both in terms of broadcast viewers and online visitors, leading into 2015. Compared to December 2013, PBS NewsHour’s broadcast audience in December 2014 was up +12% in total viewers and up nearly +15% of households, according to Nielsen NPower Live +7 ratings. Equally impressive, PBS NewsHour online garnered nearly 9.5 million page views, with more than 4.1 million users during the month of January 2015. This is the highest online monthly audience in the history of PBS NewsHour online, according to Google Analytics.

    “The steady gains we’re seeing, both on air and online, demonstrate that there is a growing audience looking for the distinctive storytelling, thoughtful reporting and insightful analysis that we are dedicated to offering across platforms,” said executive producer Sara Just, who joined the NewsHour in September 2014. “Our efforts to further connect our online and television content, recently announced partnerships with The Atlantic, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and OZY, and commitments to ongoing series including ‘Making Sen$e Thursdays’ and ‘NewsHour Shares’ have translated into recognizable growth. There is much more to come.”

    On broadcast – in the coveted age 25-54 demographic – NewsHour saw an +11% gain in December 2014 compared to December 2013. January 2015’s record-breaking traffic online was up more than +75% in page views and nearly +70% in users compared to January 2014.

    About PBS NewsHour

    PBS NewsHour, co-anchored by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, is seen by over 4 million weekly viewers and also is available online, via public radio in select markets and via podcast. PBS NewsHour is a production of NewsHour Productions LLC, a wholly owned nonprofit subsidiary of WETA Washington, D.C., in association with WNET in New York. Major funding for PBS NewsHour is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Major corporate funding is provided by BAE Systems, BNSF and Lincoln Financial Group with additional support from Carnegie Corp. of New York, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Friends of the NewsHour and others. More information on PBS NewsHour is available online. On social media, visit Facebook or follow @NewsHour on Twitter.

    The post PBS NewsHour demonstrates audience growth on broadcast and online appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Students at Monroe Elementary School learn to grow and prepare healthy meals in the school's garden club with some of the food going to the school's lunch program. Photo by REUTERS/Rick Wilking.

    Students at Monroe Elementary School learn to grow and prepare healthy meals in the school’s garden club with some of the food going to the school’s lunch program. Photo by REUTERS/Rick Wilking.

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is committing $500 million to spend over the next ten years on programs stopping childhood obesity. This is in addition to the $500 million they committed in 2007. Obesity rates have dropped from 14 percent to 8 percent among preschoolers aged 2 to 5 years old, but nearly 18 percent of ages 6 to 11 were obese in 2012 .

    “When we set out our initial goal to reverse childhood obesity by 2016 we wanted to see clear progress and if you look at the national statistics we’re starting to level off nationwide,” Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of RWJF, told the PBS NewsHour, “We feel like there’s a real momentum going at the moment. We’ve turned the corner on this obesity epidemic, but the gains are fragile.”

    The $1 billion invested over almost 20 years focuses on making schools healthy environments by promoting physical activity and healthier school lunches. In 2006 there were 231 schools supported by the Healthy Schools Program of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, now more than 26,000 schools are being supported.  First Lady Michelle Obama has made healthy eating, particularly in schools, her top public priority, but it hasn’t been without controversy. Last year a political fight broke out over new school lunch standards.

    While some communities, particularly affluent ones, have seen a drop in their obesity rates, many communities are seeing very little change. African Americans and Latinos have much higher obesity rates than their white peers. Lavizzo-Mourey said RWJF is going to focus on areas that will help these often low-income groups create healthy environments.

    “This is part of the reason why we are focusing in particular in making sure the school environments are healthy. This is also why we are focusing on ending food deserts, making sure everyone has access to healthy foods is so critical. We also need safe places for kids to be physically active,” said Lavizzo-Mourey.

    RWJF is using Philadelphia, where obesity rates among minorities saw their biggest decline, as an example that it is possible to fight obesity across socioeconomic divides.  

    Risa Lavizzo-Mourey will be on the PBS NewsHour this evening to discuss further how $1 billion can stop childhood obesity.

    The post What can $1 billion do to prevent childhood obesity? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Residents who graduated from high school 10 or more years ago are not eligible for state tuition assistance at Michigan public colleges and universities, like the University of Michigan, pictured. Photo from Flickr user Ian Freimuth

    Residents who graduated from high school 10 or more years ago are not eligible for state tuition assistance at Michigan public colleges and universities, like the University of Michigan, pictured. Photo from Flickr user Ian Freimuth

    Misty Aemisegger had always planned to go to college, but when her daughter was born, she decided to stay home and take care of her.

    A series of short-lived factory jobs, including one that involved chemical exposure she suspects of causing her severe asthma and liver damage, revived her college aspirations.

    But because she’s 34, the born-and-raised Michigan mother of two doesn’t qualify for state financial aid.

    That’s because residents who graduated from high school 10 or more years ago are not eligible for state tuition assistance at Michigan public colleges and universities.

    Nationally, about half a dozen states have similar, or even tighter, restrictions, with some allowing students no more than two years between high school and college in order to receive financial aid. Another dozen make it difficult for older-than-traditional-age students to get anything more than token amounts of financial aid toward bachelor’s degrees.

    The idea is to encourage high school graduates to go directly to college, since those who don’t are less likely ever to end up there. But the effect is to make higher education even more expensive for some of the nearly 7.2 million people over age 24 enrolled in colleges and universities, and to discourage others altogether.

    Michigan, for instance, previously offered several grants targeted at adults. In 2009, the year before they were eliminated, just two of those programs served more than 10,000 students.

    “From a workforce development perspective, it was penny-wise and pound-foolish,” said Peter Ruark, senior policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy, which produced a report on the topic. “It saves money today but leaves workers unskilled for tomorrow.”

    Americans with high school diplomas on average earn $27,607 a year, the Census Bureau reports, while those with bachelor’s degrees make $50,096.

    Related: Advocates say feds can force states to increase spending on higher ed

    Although each year more than 100,000 Michigan residents over age 30 apply for federal financial aid, which has no age restriction, the most they can get from that source is $5,730, which doesn’t cover even half the cost of in-state tuition at Michigan’s four-year public universities, the sixth-most expensive in the country.

    In her quest to get a better-paying job, Aemisegger took out loans and enrolled at a community college. She finished her first year, then switched to part-time status when she got a job in an insurance office. Being dropped from a class because of several absences when her kids were sick disqualified her from continuing to get her student loan, which required that she take a minimum of 12 credits per semester.

    “My balancing act was just so delicate,” Aemisegger said. “When it got thrown off just a tiny bit, it just all came tumbling down.”

    She now has $15,000 in student-loan debt and no degree.

    Related: Colleges that pledged to help poor families have been doing the opposite

    Among the other states that effectively bar older students from financial aid for bachelor’s degrees at public universities are Georgia, Texas and Wyoming.

    In Georgia, residents are eligible for the state’s HOPE scholarship only if they have graduated from high school within the last seven years. Democratic state Rep. Stacey Evans would like to change that.

    “A high school diploma used to go a lot further than it does now,” said Evans, who has introduced a bill to get rid of the seven-year limit. “For the state, it’s absolutely a win, because if you have a more educated person, that person is going to be more employable, and that will attract businesses.”

    Texas has an even stricter policy. Residents there must enroll in college no more than 16 months after graduating from high school or 12 months after completing military service in order to qualify for the state’s primary need-based grant. Only 42 percent of working poor families in Texas have college experience, the second-lowest proportion in the country.

    In other states, older-than-traditional-age students are technically eligible for financial aid for college, but the amounts are negligible or the deck is stacked against them.

    In Rhode Island, the only grant available for older students has a maximum award of $500 a year. In Mississippi, eligibility for the main grant ends three years after a resident’s high school graduation date, while another program is restricted to full-time students and provides only $500 annually for the first two years, or about 7 percent of in-state tuition.

    Related: Poorest states cut what experts say could help the most: higher ed

    Some advocates note that changing these rules could benefit entire families, since one of the biggest risk factors for a child not graduating from college is having a parent who also has not graduated from college.

    Others argue that expanded opportunity could help fill the demand for college-educated workers.

    “If you just look at the numbers, there’s no way the U.S. can fulfill the need for jobs based on college credentials only using students under 25,” said Hadass Sheffer, president of the Graduate! Network. “You have to bring in the adults.”

    Aemisegger isn’t giving up. She has a new job at a credit union and hopes to re-enroll in college.

    “I have every intention in moving up in the company so I plan to find out what classes would take me to the next level,” she said. “If the balancing act wasn’t quite so hard — that would be really amazing.”

    This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about higher education here.

    PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Why do some states bar older students from receiving financial aid? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

    Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

    WASHINGTON — House Democratic lawmakers are clawing to get their views heard as Congress moves ahead on revising the much-maligned No Child Left Behind education law and its annual school testing requirements.

    They crowded into a small Capitol Hill hearing room Thursday for their own forum on changing the law in protest of Republicans’ handling of the issue. Votes on a GOP bill are anticipated soon.

    The bill “shows that poor, minority and disabled children are not a priority for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio.

    Some worried about a provision in the bill to let federal dollars follow a low-income student to a different public school, saying they fear it will hurt schools with a high concentration of poor students. “How do you think we can best get that message out?” said Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif.

    The No Child Left Behind law, signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, was intended to close substantial achievement gaps between the academic performance of minority and low income students and their more affluent peers. It mandated that students in grades three to eight be tested annually in reading and math and be tested again once in high school.

    Schools that didn’t show annual growth faced consequences, and every student was to be proficient by 2014.

    GOP Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, now the House speaker, sponsored the legislation with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and other senior lawmakers, and Congress sent it to Bush with overwhelming bipartisan support.

    The law’s annual testing requirements, Common Core standards and school choice are all controversial issues wrapped up in the debate. Both sides heartily agree that the landmark law needs to be fixed, but tensions are high over the level of federal involvement in fixing schools.

    Complicating the matter, allegiances don’t clearly fall along party lines. While more conservative Republicans would like to essentially eliminate the federal role in education, GOP-friendly business groups side support a strong federal role, as do civil rights groups that traditionally align with Democrats. At the same time, teachers’ unions, which also tend to align with Democrats, argue the Obama administration has placed too much of emphasis on testing.

    Deciding that the goal of proficiency for every student by 2014 was unattainable, the Obama administration in 2012 started granting waivers to states. The waivers allow states to avoid some of the more stringent requirements of the law if they met conditions such as adopting meaningful teacher evaluation systems and college- and career-ready standards like the Common Core. The standards spell out what skills students in each grade should master in reading and math.

    Widespread disagreement over how to change the law has kept Congress from getting a bill to President Barack Obama.

    Republicans congressional leaders who now control both the House and Senate say they hope to pass a bill this year. That’s left House Democrats complaining things are moving too fast.

    Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, released a bill to update the law similar to one passed by the House in 2013 without one Democrat on board, and scheduled a Feb. 11 committee meeting to consider it. The bill maintains testing requirements, but it strips the federal government of much of its authority — including limiting the education secretary’s role in “coercing” standards. A vote is expected in late February.

    Kline said the committee has had more than a dozen hearings over the last four years. “Americans have waited long enough for reforms that will fix a broken education system,” he said.

    Like Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Kline has expressed concern that a strong federal role in education stifles education advancement and innovation in states.

    But Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the newly appointed senior Democrat on the House committee, accused House Republicans of a “hasty, partisan push” to rewrite the law and he organized the forum with a panel of education experts.

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement that Kline’s bill would “turn back the clock on growth.”

    Much of the discussion in the Senate has focused on whether federal testing mandates should continue. Alexander has said he’s willing to listen to both sides and he’s hopeful he can get a bill out of his committee by the end of the month. But there have been signs of dissent. The committee’s senior Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray came out this week against allowing federal money to follow students, an idea also included in a draft bill circulated by Alexander.

    “We have to have a bipartisan result. Otherwise we won’t have a law,” Alexander said Wednesday.

    The post House Democrats discuss updates to ‘No Child Left Behind’ law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, our NewsHour Shares of the day, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you too.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke at Georgetown University here in Washington yesterday about what’s it’s like to be one of only a handful of women to have ever served on the Supreme Court. Along the way, she also provided rare candid insight into the career challenges she overcame to get to the pinnacle of her profession.

    Here is some of what she had to say.

    JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. Supreme Court:  In the ancient days, when I was going to college, the law wasn’t a welcoming profession for women.

    In those days, in the Southern District, most judges wouldn’t hire women.  In the U.S. attorney’s office, women were strictly forbidden in the Criminal Division. There was one woman in the Civil Division.

    And the excuse for not hiring women in the Criminal Division was they have to deal with all these tough types, and women aren’t up to that.  And I was amazed. I said, have you seen the lawyers at legal aid who are representing these tough types? They’re all women.

    People ask me sometimes, when — when do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is when there are nine.

    If I had any talent in the world, any talent that God could give me, I would be a great diva.

    The post When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court? Justice Ginsburg answers that question appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Alpine Skiing: FIS World Championships-Men's Super G

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Alpine World Ski Championships got under way in Colorado this week, where the U.S. team is hoping for some unprecedented medal wins. And in a non-Olympics year, the U.S. is also aiming to grab public attention for a team that has emerged as a power in its own right.

    The NewsHour’s Mary Jo Brooks reports.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Nineteen-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin is methodical about preparation. We watched as she warmed up before a series of training runs on her home in Vail, Colorado.

    Shiffrin said she learned from her ski racing parents that a laser-like focus on the fundamentals will bring about speed and success. Last year, she became the youngest slalom racer to win gold in Olympic history.

    MIKAELA SHIFFRIN, U.S. Ski Team: Pretty much my entire career, I have always just focused on making sure my techniques and my tactics and my equipment and everything is dialed in, my strength and my nutrition, and keeping everything so dialed in that when it comes to racing, I can put 99 percent out on the hill and that’s enough to win.

    And I don’t have to risk that extra 1 percent that a lot of racers risk and end up getting injured.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Shiffrin is one of the bright young stars on a U.S. ski team which itself has undergone methodical transformation. In a sport that has long been dominated by Europeans, the team hopes that this year’s Alpine World Championships will cement its ascendancy as a skiing powerhouse.

    Three of the team’s other big stars, Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller, and Ted Ligety, are also competing here. The 30-year old Vonn, who sat out last year’s Olympics because of serious knee injuries, has already claimed a bronze medal here in the women’s Super-G. Last month, she set the all-time record for wins by a female ski racer, having amassed 64 victories at the sport’s top level, and she vows there’s more to come.

    LINDSEY VONN, U.S. Ski Team: My goal is just to try to ski my best every day and try to win as many races as I can, world championships, World Cups, Olympics. Just try to keep improving. Keep pushing the limits. And that’s what I do. That’s what I love about ski racing. It’s just you and the mountain and it’s just how hard you can push yourself.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Tiger Shaw, CEO of the U.S. ski team, and a former Olympian himself, credits these four superstars for the team’s rise to dominance.

    TIGER SHAW, CEO, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association: They have a personality that elevates everything to a new level. And so we’re fortunate to have them. And we encourage that. There’s individual personalities. And this is a crazy sport. And having wild, crazy successful people doing it really helps drive it to another level.

    MARY JO BROOKS: But Shaw says the team’s success also rests on corporate money that has allowed the team to train more rigorously year-round, whether it’s chasing winter in South America or New Zealand or taking to the glaciers in Europe.

    TIGER SHAW: We have learned how to compete in Europe. So, that’s the bottom line. This sport is highly contested in Europe. And if you can’t handle being on the road two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight weeks in a row, then it’s not for you.

    And so the athletes you see doing well now have mastered that.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller has been a main driver behind this change. His often contentious relationship with the U.S. ski team at one point led him to start his own independent operation. He eventually rejoined the U.S. squad after many of the things he initially fought for were adopted as standard team policy, things like providing better housing, food and conditioning for athletes when they’re on the road.

    BODE MILLER, U.S. Ski Team: The strife that I had with the team and the kind of bickering back and forth was productive, actually. I take pride in the fact that I played a role in getting us to where we are today.

    MARY JO BROOKS: At 37, Miller is now the old man on the team. He’s raced today for the first time since undergoing back surgery nine weeks ago. After a strong start, he caught his arm on a gate, sending him tumbling down a hill an out of the race. With a huge gash on his leg, he managed to ski to the bottom, where he was greeted by adoring fans.

    NATHANIEL VINTON, New York Daily News: I think downhill skiers are the most interesting athletes.

    MARY JO BROOKS: New York Daily News reporter Nathaniel Vinton agrees that Miller has had an enormous influence in a variety of ways, including improvements in the equipment itself.

    NATHANIEL VINTON: Bode Miller, more than any person in the world, understands ski construction. Throughout his career, he’s just demanded a very front-row seat at the factories, the best skis, the best testers, the best equipment, the best execution of his ideas of what he wants.

    MARY JO BROOKS: But Vinton, who has just written a book called “The Fall Line: How American Ski Racers Conquered a Sport on the Edge,” says the technological improvements come with a price.

    NATHANIEL VINTON: In the last 20 years, what we have seen is speeds rising because of technology. When you get high speeds, you get some potentially some catastrophic injuries.

    MARY JO BROOKS: He says he’s concerned about the widespread practice of icing the race course to make it firmer and faster.

    NATHANIEL VINTON: Race organizing committees are often making the snow harder and harder.

    MARY JO BROOKS: It’s actually injected, is that right?

    NATHANIEL VINTON: Yes, you have a fire hose and you have a special bar on the end that goes to special nozzles, shoots the water deep into the snow. The dry air wicks that moisture to the top of the surface, making a glassy, smooth layer of ice that is as hard as a hockey rink.

    TIGER SHAW: You want an exciting sport. And the iciness is actually driven by the needs and wants of the athletes themselves to make the course fair. But the safety controls that we have put into place are extraordinary. So, while the sport is getting more thrilling, they’re jumping further, they’re going faster, it’s becoming safer at the same time.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Another criticism leveled at the U.S. team is that it allocates too many resources to the very top athletes and not enough on developing talent at the lower levels. Shaw acknowledges the problem.

    TIGER SHAW: We now have 195 athletes. And we have added four or five new sports in the last quadrennial. So we’re stretched thin. But we’re doing our very best to grow the budgets and handle that.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Alpine skiing has never enjoyed the popularity in this country that it has in Europe, where the sport has a devoted fan base and governments fund their national teams.

    Still, everyone here hopes with the rise of the U.S. team, Americans might begin to find some of that passion.

    Two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety:

    TED LIGETY, U.S. Ski Team: The sport of ski racing will never be one of the major sports, for sure. It’s just not possible for the demographics of it and the geographics of it as well. But I think with the success we have had, it’s definitely becoming bigger and bigger.

    MARY JO BROOKS: For his part, Miller has a much more cosmic concern.

    BODE MILLER: Are you feeling hopeful for the future of the sport or what? What are you feeling about it?

    BODE MILLER: Yes. If I — I’m not going to be investing in the ski industry anytime soon. I think global warming, there’s no question that it’s a serious threat to the snow sports. I have been around long enough to really, truly see it. I don’t need any researcher or scientist to tell me anything about it. The snow is coming later and it’s less.

    MARY JO BROOKS: Mikaela Shiffrin isn’t letting herself get too distracted by those larger issues. She’s continuing her training for the giant slalom race next Thursday and enjoying the attention the entire U.S. team is getting.

    MIKAELA SHIFFRIN: Hopefully, there’s going to be more resources coming into the U.S. ski team, and then we will be able to get them out to all those young talents. And I think that’s going to, in and of itself, really help us develop more really passionate, fast ski racers.

    MARY JO BROOKS: The Alpine World Championships continue through February 15.

    In Vail, Colorado, I’m Mary Jo Brooks for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Training, technology and talent takes the U.S. Ski Team to new heights appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now: innovation in India, where there’s a new effort under way to bring mobility and prosthetic limbs to some of the world’s poorest people.

    Fred de Sam Lazaro reports, as part of our series on Breakthroughs.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Jaipur is one of India’s top tourist destinations, but not far from its architectural landmarks is a far more modest one that draws a whole different kind of visitor. They come — literally — on hands and knees to an organization commonly known as Jaipur Foot.

    DEVENDRA RAJ MEHTA: Now every year we are fitting anything between 23 to 25,000 limbs.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: D.R. Mehta began offering artificial limbs and other services to physically disabled people nearly 40 years ago.

    About 150 patients arrive each day from across India, desperate people like Zareena, a widow who said she is reduced to panhandling to support her two children.

    DEVENDRA RAJ MEHTA: Bombay?  She has come near — a place near Bombay. It’s about 100 kilometers. She has come to get a hand-pedaled tricycle.

    ZAREENA, India (through interpreter): You are the answer to my prayers.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She’s one of at least 5.5 million people in India with so-called locomotor disabilities — caused in her case by childhood polio. Others suffer congenital conditions. But, by far, the most frequent customers are amputees, trauma victims, mainly from road accidents.

    The Jaipur Foot organization was started with the help of government grants and is now funded mostly by foundations and individual donors. Its cost structure, for a lower limb, say, are minuscule by Western standards.

    DEVENDRA RAJ MEHTA: Now it’s $50.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Here’s a comparison.

    In the United States, a prosthesis like this would typically range in price from $8,000 to $12,000. It would be made of metal, aluminum, possibly carbon fiber, whereas, in Jaipur, the key ingredient is a PVC piping more commonly used to irrigate farms. And this is the key to a $50 artificial leg.

    Despite the overall success with artificial limbs, one challenge that has required a lot more innovation is the knee.

    DR. POOJA MUKUL, Orthopedic specialist: So much so that it’s better to lose both the limbs below the knee than to lose one leg above the knee. And the knee has been the weakest link in prosthetic componentry in the developing world. We’ve had very simple knee joints which are single axis, which are more like door hinges, and we’ve been using them largely because of the simplicity, low cost and also non-availability of any other options.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dr Pooja Mukul, an orthopedic specialist, is leading the effort to develop better options, partnering with MIT and Stanford University, with software typically used in the movies. They have conducted so-called gait analysis.

    DR. POOJA MUKUL: So this is the first prototype or version one of the polycentric knee that we developed in collaboration with Stanford.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Trials over the past five years with hundreds of patients in India and several other developing nations helped refine the new Jaipur knee, removing, for example, a clicking sound from version one.

    DR. POOJA MUKUL: Our patients don’t want to hear clicks. And they don’t want to be labeled as disabled. They don’t want a sound preceding their entry into an area. So then we got a bumper put in here, and now it’s a silent knee.

    And, also, the geometry — you see, this is very, very squarish, and doesn’t match the human geometry in any way. This one like — more like a knee.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s built to be especially sturdy and simple and especially for conditions in the developing world, where the typical amputee has a very different profile than in the West.

    DR. POOJA MUKUL: A typical amputee in India or the developing world would be post-traumatic, and age would be 20 to 30, in fact even younger, because if you’re looking at land mines, then a lot of young children were stepping on land mines and losing their limbs.

    So it’s a very young population who have no other medical condition pulling them down, except the fact that they unfortunately met with an accident. And they have their whole productive lives ahead of them, unlike in the West who’ve lost it because of diabetes or vascular insufficiency, they have cardiac issues, pulmonary issues, they’re mostly sedentary.

    So the demands that our patients put on prosthesis are very, very challenging.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The new Jaipur knee will be ready for mass production later this year. Once the molds are made, the cost and manufacturing should come down to about $20 a piece, based on the simple low-cost approach for al prostheses here.

    They are cut and trimmed by hand. About a third of the workers here have Jaipur limbs themselves. Mehta says restoring people’s mobility makes a huge difference in lives, which he asked these amputees to show us by sprinting.

    This is Fred de Sam Lazaro in Jaipur, India, for the PBS NewsHour.

    GWEN IFILL: A version of this story aired on the PBS program “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.”

    Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

    The post The $20 prosthetic knee that could change lives in India appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Students at Doherty Middle School get their healthy lunch at the school cafeteria, on June 18, 2012 in Andover, Massachusetts. Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Childhood obesity remains one of the largest public health problems in the United States. There have been a number of major campaigns to combat it. And, today, those efforts got a big boost.

    Here’s Jeffrey Brown.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There has been no shortage of initiatives in recent years to try to curb the problem, and last year the government reported some progress in that fight. The rate of obesity among children 2 to 5 years old has dropped from about 14 percent in 2004 to 8 percent in 2012.

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been a key player in all of this, committing half-a-billion dollars since 2007. And today it pledged another $500 million over next 10 years. Its president, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, made the announcement at an event with the first lady in New York today.

    She joins me now.

    And, for the record, the foundation has been a funder of the NewsHour in the past.

    So, welcome to you.

    And, as a starting point, there really has been progress, right? So, why the renewed effort?

    RISA LAVIZZO-MOUREY, President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: There has been progress, indeed. You quoted some important statistics, a leveling off after 30 years of relentless rise in childhood obesity rates, and actual decrease among our youngest children.

    But these gains are fragile. They are not evenly distributed. We see more gains in white children and in children from higher incomes. So, frankly, we have got to renew our efforts and increase the momentum, spread these successes, so that all children have the opportunity to grow up at a healthy weight.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so you look — when you look at how to spend money in the future, what’s worked? What do we know so far about what works?

    RISA LAVIZZO-MOUREY: Well, we know that one of the most important things is that we have shown people can come together and work on this issue across communities.

    And so we’re really going to focus on five areas, five very strategic areas that we think will make a difference, first, ensuring that children have a healthy weight when they start school. We know that if children start kindergarten at a healthy weight, they have a higher probability of maintaining that weight throughout their childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.

    We need to make sure that healthy schools are the norm, not the exception. Kids spend more time at school than any place else other than home. And we have seen more than 27,000 schools across the country really become healthy places.

    Third, we have to make sure that kids are physically active, they get up and moving, and we make physical activity fun, convenient, and they have safe places where they can be physically active. We have to make sure that parents have availability of healthy foods in their communities, so that they can prepare and hopefully prepare with their children healthy meals.

    And, finally and not least, by any means, we need to make sure that we eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages for children zero to 5 years old. Toddlers and young children simply have more healthy options to drink than sugar-sweetened beverages. So we want to engage children and youth and parents and the health care community in working on these five big strategies, because we think that will make a difference.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, but where are you seeing it not working and why not? I mean, what are the biggest barriers to achieving those five things?

    RISA LAVIZZO-MOUREY: One of the key things that we have seen is that communities that are challenged economically are having more difficulty investing in these kinds of strategies.

    So, we want to redouble our efforts to make sure that all communities, irrespective of their economic means, are able to invest in these kinds of strategies and help their children have the choices that will allow them to have a healthy weight.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We do see disparities in some of the numbers, even in some of the gains, right, among some communities, African-American, Latino?

    RISA LAVIZZO-MOUREY: We have seen much more progress among white children and children of higher incomes.

    But then there are cities like Philadelphia that have been able to demonstrate across-the-board reductions in obesity rates among all children of all racial and ethnic groups. So we know it can be done if people come together and employ a comprehensive approach like those five strategies that I mentioned.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And does any of this include changing, working to change laws? I ask because some of the attempts at mandating some changes, especially when it comes to sugary drinks you were mentioning, some of those seem to have backfired.

    RISA LAVIZZO-MOUREY: Well, we know that there are places, like Berkeley, that have enacted sugar-sweetened beverage taxes.

    And one of the things we’re committed to doing is evaluating those kinds of changes, so that we will know what really works going forward. We already know that there are a variety of ways that we can use to change behaviors and give people more opportunities to choose healthy choices, like some of the efforts that have been used in Philadelphia, investing in more walking and bikeable approaches, ensuring that there are healthy foods in every community, in the corner stores, as well as the grocery stores, eliminating food deserts.

    We know these things work. And now we have to evaluate some of the other possibilities that are being enacted around the country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, in a word, what’s the ultimate goal in 10 years?

    RISA LAVIZZO-MOUREY: The ultimate goal in 2025 is to ensure that every child in this country has had the opportunity to grow up at a healthy weight, no matter where he or she lives and who they are.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, thanks so much.

    RISA LAVIZZO-MOUREY: Thank you, Jeffrey. It’s a pleasure to be here.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now economics correspondent Paul Solman examines how viral music videos, television interviews, and good looks can boost a company’s stock price.

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

    PAUL SOLMAN: Pop quiz.

    What do the following have in common, the 2012 hyper-viral video sensation “Gangnam Style, the hottest, sexiest CEOs alive, the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics?

    To help answer that question, and a deeper one about the rationality of the stock market, we went to the recent meeting of the American Economic Association in Boston, where, among hundreds of presentations, one in particular had caught our attention.

    ANDY KIM, Sungkyunkwan University: So you’re gripping this horse, right?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Oh, the reins.

    ANDY KIM: And then you’re ready to…

    PAUL SOLMAN: That’s the key equestrian dance move in “Gangnam Style,” the Korean pop video watched so many times online, now over 2.2 billion, that YouTube had to rejigger its views counter.

    After the video went viral, economist Andy Kim, who dressed up playfully, “Gangnam Style,” to present his paper, noticed some weird activity in the stock price of a publicly traded South Korean semiconductor firm, DI Corp.

    ANDY KIM: Market efficiency would say the price of this stock has to stay calm, because there was no fundamental information about this company, but only with this “Gangnam Style” being viral, the stock started to jump up 800 percent level within three months.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Eight hundred — it multiplied eight times?

    ANDY KIM: Yes, eight times.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Market efficiency is the theory for which University of Chicago economist Eugene Fama shared the Nobel Prize in 2013.

    EUGENE FAMA, Nobel Laureate, Economics: The central question is whether asset prices reflect all available information, what I label the efficient markets hypothesis.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The idea is that stock prices always reflect true value because investors take in all available information about companies almost instantly and thus bid them up or down to their true worth.

    But with DI Corp and its 800 percent price jump, there was only one even remotely relevant bit of information. The company’s executive chairman, Park Won-ho, is father of Park Jae-sang, AKA tongue-in-cheek rap star Psy.

    Like son, like father, inexplicable success.

    So, no merger talk? No nothing?

    ANDY KIM: No mergers. No earnings surprise. No announcement about M&As or new business. Nothing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In other words, the stock price of DI Corp took off in tandem with the CEO’s son simply because his video went viral, and investors got excited, a stock bubble if ever there was one, except the Nobel theory said bubbles don’t exist.

    Was there any way to strengthen the case that they do?

    Well, “Gangnam Style” happened to have spawned a cottage industry of parodies, from Eastern Europe, Saudi Arabia, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, even the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. And then there were flash mobs, from Bangkok to Barcelona, from a Budapest shopping mall to a Philippine maximum security prison.

    Economist Kim wondered, could it possibly be that when these videos anywhere from Italy to Indonesia went viral, or even just bacterial, in their home country, would the dad’s stock price go up there? Take a guess.

    You mean people were actually buying the stock of the father of Psy in “Gangnam Style” because there were flash mobs in their area?

    ANDY KIM: Yes. That’s what I’m documenting in this paper.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And though DI Corp’s stock price eventually subsided some, it soared again with the release of Psy’s second hit song, “Gentleman,” in April 2013.

    Though the company’s earnings remain pretty much where they were pre-virus, the stock still hovers 400 to 500 percent above where it started, and, says Kim:

    ANDY KIM: Whenever people are anticipating Psy’s new songs coming up, the price shoots back up again to that 800 percent level.

    DANIEL S. HAMERMESH, Royal Holloway University of London: That’s an immense effect. That has got to be a true bubble, as we call it, irrationality.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Economist Dan Hamermesh, from whom we will hear more in a moment.

    But we have to set him up with Andy Kim’s second piece of irrationality research.

    ANDY KIM: We study 7,000 CEO interviews on CNBC, the financial network, and what happens to the stock price when the CEO comes onto the CNBC and does an interview, we see price jump on the day of the interview — interview, and then reverse, goes backward over the next 10 trading days.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Back to where it started?

    ANDY KIM: Back to where it started. Popping up part is irrational, and then getting back to original level, it’s market efficiency.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So it’s irrational to buy stock in a company when its CEO goes on TV, given no actual news about the company, right? But what if the CEO is as good-looking as Tesla’s Elon Musk, number one on Business Insider’s list of sexiest CEOs? Or Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who saw her stock price jump 1.25 percent the day her “Vogue” magazine feature came out?

    Mayer scores an 8.45 out of 10, just five-hundredths of a point lower than Angelina Jolie, on Anaface.com’s facial attractiveness index. That’s the Web site two Wisconsin researchers used to judge the hotness or not-ness of 682 CEOs. They found that the better looking the CEO, the bigger the boost to the company’s stock price when he or she took over.

    MAN: Attractiveness affects people’s perceptions.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Crazy. Or maybe not, says Dan Hamermesh, who’s been studying the economics of beauty for over 20 years.

    DANIEL S. HAMERMESH: If the CEO is better looking, he or she is going to generate more confidence by the co-workers, by the subordinates. And that’s going to help the company make more sales, make more profits. And those profits are going to be reflected in the higher stock price. So it’s completely comprehensible, very rational, given that you think we have a preference for good-looking people, which I know we do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it’s rational to bet on beauty being more than skin-deep?

    DANIEL S. HAMERMESH: Rational only in the context of a discriminatory society, which values beauty. It’s the underlying discrimination that I think is irrational.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, in the end, are markets efficiently rational or aren’t they? Or are they both? Isn’t it rational to believe that investors can take a fancy to a knockout CEO or a company that gets sudden attention, for whatever wacky reason, so long as those investors think other investors will do the same?

    And that brings us back to Psy, the stock of his dad’s firm, and the most supposedly rational market players of all, the world’s institutional investors.

    ANDY KIM: Institutional investors from abroad started to buy this stock even more. And then guess what? Dimensional Fund Advisors, which was founded by Nobel laureate Eugene Fama, now it’s the largest institutional investor.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, wait. You mean that the hedge fund most associated with the efficient market hypothesis that price always reflects fundamentals…

    ANDY KIM: Right.

    PAUL SOLMAN: … is the largest investor in “Gangnam Style”‘s father’s company?

    ANDY KIM: Yes. They may have different investment style. I guess that style must be “Gangnam Style.”


    PAUL SOLMAN: Or the style that says, if you can’t beat them, it’s perfectly rational to join them.

    Paul Solman, reporting for PBS, NewsHour-style.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today’s disclosure of a major hacking attack on the nation’s second-largest health insurer, Anthem, is setting off alarms about cyber-crime at a new level.

    Hackers were able to crack a database that included records for 80 million people. The cyber-criminals were able to get names, addresses and e-mails, as well as Social Security numbers and income. But hospital and doctor information related to patients wasn’t hacked.

    Bloomberg News reported that investigators believe Chinese state-sponsored hackers are involved.

    Mark Bower is a noted expert on these issues. He’s also a vice president at Voltage Security in California.

    Mark Bower, welcome.

    So, compared to the hacks we have seen until now, how serious is this one?

    MARK BOWER, Voltage Security: Well, certainly, we have just started the year off with a bang in terms of data breaches; 80 million records is a very substantial amount, so this is quite a serious attack

    And the nature of the data, you have got lots of personal data that can potentially be monetized. It’s going to be very inconvenient for those individuals and also quite costly for the organization that this affects.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It is possible to know at this point who is behind this? You — we mentioned the Bloomberg news report that it’s potentially the Chinese. They mentioned a group called Deep Panda.

    MARK BOWER: It’s not clear yet. We only have a couple data points on information like that.

    But, fundamentally, there’s got to be some organized crime behind this or very well-organized attackers to be able to get into these types of systems and steal this volume of data. And we shouldn’t forget that these types of attacks are pretty much expected these days.

    We have seen breaches of this nature across the board over the last decade. And, in fact, the volumes of data that have been stolen are actually staggering these days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What can the people behind this data breach do with this information?

    MARK BOWER: So, it depends on the — their motive in the end. But, ultimately, if you have stolen large amounts of personal information, whether you have got Social Security numbers, name and address, date of birth, all that kind of stuff — and in this case, it seems like there’s also employment history and income data — well, you can start to create identity theft situations, where you’re actually stealing people’s information or identity to commit fraud.

    But, more importantly, there is also the risk of side effects, that this type of data can actually result in attacks that are more targeted. So, for example, we might have an individual that is maybe a wealthy individual, and the attacker can go now after them more specifically based on the information that they have about them in what we call a spear phishing attack.

    And that might involve going after them with targeted e-mails, even phone calls, to try and get them to reveal more data that then can be used in a compromise or for further identity theft.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So for individuals who either now or did have health coverage through Anthem, what should they be on the lookout for?

    MARK BOWER: So, after these types of attacks, what we often see is a wave of spam e-mails. Those are those fake e-mails that are often trying to lure people into Web sites where there may be viruses and malware, the more sinister phishing attacks, which might be there to lure people to Web sites to then download malware that will actually steal further information from their own personal computers or maybe even get into their bank accounts and so on with online banking.

    So people have to be vigilant to make sure that they’re not seeing e-mails that look suspicious and clicking on things there. And also be wary of things like phone calls, for instance, from organizations that may be purporting to be from service providers that may be related to Anthem, but they’re actually criminal gangs trying to get more information from consumers that can then be used for further fraud or accessing their bank account or accessing their computers and so on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, Mark Bower, how would you rank or rate the security system at a company like Anthem? I mean, obviously, it was breached, but had they taken all the steps that a big company is supposed to take?

    MARK BOWER: That’s hard to say.

    But even the best-prepared organizations can often succumb to these types of attacks. What we have found over the last several years is that the attackers are becoming much more sophisticated. The malware is becoming much more advanced. And it just takes one vulnerability to be able to bypass those traditional perimeter defenses, the firewalls and the log-in and the intrusion detection, to get into the heart of these systems.

    And once they’re in there, it’s too late. The information can be stolen, monetized. And we see victims, as we have seen today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s certainly got a lot of people’s attention.

    Mark Bower with Voltage Security, we thank you.

    MARK BOWER: Thank you very much.

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    GWEN IFILL: Should the United States beef up military support to Ukraine?

    For that, we turn to Steven Pifer, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine during the Clinton administration. He’s senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. And John Mearsheimer, a professor of international security policy at the University of Chicago.

    So what do you think is the answer to the question, Steven Pifer?

    STEVEN PIFER, Brookings Institution: I think the answer is that we should provide additional military assistance to Ukraine, including some defensive arms, and that’s designed to support the diplomacy.

    It’s designed to give the Ukrainians the ability not to beat the Russian army. They can’t. But they can raise the costs to the Russians and therefore perhaps in the future deter Russian escalation and further Russian aggression and then maybe change that calculation in Moscow, where Putin concludes he can’t use military force. He has got to go and seek a negotiated settlement.

    GWEN IFILL: So you’re suggesting that the U.S. provide weapons that they can use defensively, not offensively?

    STEVEN PIFER: The weapons — first of all, the group that I was with when we proposed additional military assistance, the bulk of that is actually non-lethal assistance.

    The one area that we visited in Ukraine three weeks ago, we found a real need was for light anti-armor weapons. The Ukrainians have stocks that are over 20 years old and almost three-quarters of them just don’t work. And as was mentioned in the report, you have seen in December and January a significant influx of Russian tanks and other armored vehicles from Russia into Eastern Ukraine.

    GWEN IFILL: John Mearsheimer, have we reached that point where that’s the next step?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER, University of Chicago: No, I think it would be a fundamentally foolish idea to arm the Ukrainians.

    And I think that for two reasons. First of all, it just wouldn’t work militarily. The Russians can just counterescalate and they can balance any increase in weapons that we give to Kiev. So we gain no military advantage. And if you’re talking about driving up the costs for the Russian, you’re also going to drive up the costs for the Ukrainians.

    There’s going to be a real escalation spiral that sets in, and in effect you’re going to be backing the Russians into the corner. And the question you want to ask yourself is, do you want to take a country that has thousands of nuclear warheads and back it into a corner? Do you want to raise the costs and risks for that country to the point where it might think about rattling its nuclear saber?

    I think the answer is categorically no. I think the last thing that we want to do is try and solve this one militarily. What we want to do is solve it diplomatically.

    GWEN IFILL: Professor, you used the term escalation spiral. Given the bloodshed of the last several weeks, hasn’t that already done and is humanitarian aid enough to stop that?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: It has begun, there’s no question about that. But the point is, it could get a lot worse. What we’re talking about here is upping the ante, having an arms race in Ukraine.

    And the end result is the intensity of the conflict will spiral. And what I’m saying to you is, if it does work to Russia’s disadvantage, if Russia is backed into a corner and the Russians become desperate, because core strategic interests are at stake — remember, we’re talking about Ukraine here, which is right on their border — their incentives to pursue risky policies, which could mean nuclear weapons, are significant.

    We just want to avoid that situation.

    GWEN IFILL: Steven Pifer, what about this idea that you’re just backing Russia into a corner and you’re getting into a war we don’t want to get into?

    STEVEN PIFER: Well, first of all, let’s be clear. The Russians put themselves in this situation. It’s been Russian aggression against Ukraine that goes back to last March, beginning with the seizure of Crimea, Russian support for the separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

    In June, you saw an influx of heavy weapons, including, apparently, the surface-to-air missile system that shot down Malaysia Air 17. And then Russian army units went in, in August. So, there has been a continual pattern of Russian escalation, even after September 5, when there was a cease-fire agreed.

    If you look at the map in Ukraine, you will see that today the Russians and the separatists occupy about 500 square kilometers more than they did five months ago. So the Russians have been escalating. I would argue that you can put the Russians in the dilemma on escalation, where further escalation likely then, as Mr. — Professor Mearsheimer described, would involve the Russian army in a way that does two things.

    One, it exposes at home for Vladimir Putin that the Russian army is fighting in Eastern Ukraine and it then raises the question of casualties. I don’t think Mr. Putin cares about dead Russian soldiers, but he cares about the impact of that on his approval rating.

    And it also then makes clear to Europe that the Russians are fighting there. So the idea that the Russians are automatically going to jump up I think is a mistake. One last point too is we talk about this in kind of a West-Russia context. Ukraine gets a vote.

    I mean, Ukraine very much has a say or should have a say in how it’s going to develop as a country.

    GWEN IFILL: Professor Mearsheimer, assuming that you disagree with a lot of that, which I’m assuming you do, I do want to move you forward to what the other solution is. Is it diplomacy? Is it standing in place?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Just before I answer that question, Gwen, let me just say I don’t think that Putin and the Russians were generally responsible for this crisis.

    I think the West is, especially the United States, and it’s NATO expansion that’s the taproot of this problem. The fact that we have been pushing NATO and the E.U. eastward and trying to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and make Ukraine a bulwark of the West right on Russia’s border is what has precipitated this crisis.

    GWEN IFILL: And what…

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: What we’re doing is it exacerbating it by arming the Ukrainians.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. But nobody has been armed yet, at least not lethal aid. What would diplomacy look like? What would Hollande-Merkel solution look like?

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think there is actually a very simple solution to this problem, and that is to turn Ukraine into a neutral buffer state.

    What the West has to do is explicitly take NATO and E.U. expansion off the table and make it clear to Moscow that the United States and its European allies have no intention of siding with a government in Kiev that is anti-Russian and pro-Western.

    What we want is a neutral government. And then we ought to work with the Russians and with the IMF and with the E.U. to come up with some sort of economic package that can put Ukraine back on its feet. The fact is that the Russians have a vested interest in having a viable, but neutral Ukraine on their border. So there’s no reason we can’t work with the Russians to put Ukraine back on its feet.

    GWEN IFILL: Steven Pifer, given what we saw happen with Crimea, it is possible, is there a reasonable fear that the Eastern Ukraine would become a breakaway state if this were to happen?

    STEVEN PIFER: Well, I think what you see right now is the Russians are using Eastern Ukraine by sewing instability, chaos there. They’re trying to destabilize the government in Kiev.

    I think just a couple points to what Professor Mearsheimer just said. First of all, on the question of NATO, there has been zero enthusiasm in NATO for the last six years to enlarge to Ukraine. The Obama administration has never pursued it. And the Russians know this. I think that’s simply a false argument.

    The second point, though, is, again, when we start talking about pushing Ukraine back towards Russia, we’re talking kind of spheres of influence. It’s really kind of 19th century. And Europe was trying to move beyond that. And a fundamental point here is with the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, that was designed to say, Europe will play by rules.

    And one of the cardinal rules was nonviability of borders and you don’t use military force to take territory from other countries. That’s what Russia is doing.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, we will see what happens with the big meeting in Moscow the next few days, and we will revisit this.

    Thank you both very much, John Mearsheimer in Chicago and Steven Pifer here with me in Washington.

    STEVEN PIFER: Thank you.

    JOHN MEARSHEIMER: You’re welcome.

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    GWEN IFILL: In Ukraine, a debate over guns or diplomacy, a battle over that choice shaped up today as Western leaders sought to stop the killing and rein in Russia. The French president, the German chancellor, and America’s top diplomat all hurried to Ukraine in search of an answer.

    Night had fallen by the time the leaders of France and Germany landed in Kiev. They were driven directly to the presidential palace to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a bid to stop the escalating war.

    Before leaving Paris, French President Francois Hollande spoke of the growing urgency.

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): We will make a new proposal to solve the conflict. It won’t be said that France and Germany, together, haven’t tried everything, undertaken everything to preserve peace.

    GWEN IFILL: France, Germany and other nations oppose supplying Ukraine with arms.

    Meanwhile, in Brussels, NATO defense ministers agreed on new moves to counter Russia’s aggressive actions by more than doubling the size of a ready response force, and setting up new command centers in Eastern Europe. As fighting in the east has escalated, both NATO and Ukraine charge the Russians are supplying tanks, heavy weapons and even troops to the Ukrainian rebels, something the Russians deny.

    That’s led to White House discussions of whether the U.S. should start shipping weapons to Ukraine’s military.

    Secretary of State John Kerry, also in Kiev today, didn’t rule out sending lethal aid, but, noting that President Obama doesn’t want a proxy war, he didn’t rule it in either.

    JOHN KERRY, U.S. Secretary of State: We want a diplomatic resolution, but we cannot close our eyes to tanks that are crossing the border from Russia and coming in to Ukraine. We can’t close our eyes to Russian fighters in unmarked uniforms crossing the border.

    GWEN IFILL: Publicly, at least, the White House insists providing military assistance to Ukraine could simply increase the bloodshed. But there was growing pressure elsewhere in Washington to act.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) South Carolina: This is a fight between a struggling democracy and an autocratic dictatorship. And we should take sides.

    GWEN IFILL: Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other senators, from both parties, continued to press the White House to arm Ukrainian forces.

    Yesterday, defense-secretary-designate Ashton Carter weighed in.

    ASHTON CARTER, Secretary of Defense-Designate: I’m very much inclined in that direction, Mr. Chairman, because I think we need to support the Ukrainians in defending themselves.

    GWEN IFILL: But Carter, who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate, later backed away from that statement.

    In Moscow, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman fired a verbal warning shot, warning against the prospect of any American military involvement.

    ALEXANDER LUKASHEVICH, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman (through interpreter): We can state that Washington’s actions intentionally lead Russia-U.S. relations into a deadlock, and it will take a very long time to find a way out.

    GWEN IFILL: France’s Hollande and Germany’s Merkel travel to Moscow tomorrow.

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    GWEN IFILL: The new leftist government in Greece vowed today it will not be blackmailed into giving up its anti-austerity stance. That came after the European Central Bank imposed new restrictions on lending to Greek banks.

    Meanwhile, the new Greek finance minister met with his German counterpart in Berlin. They discussed Athens’ demands to renegotiate terms of its bailout, but they made little headway.

    WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE, Finance Minister, Germany (through interpreter): Greece belongs to the euro, but we don’t really agree on what we have to do now, despite a very intense, open discussion. I should say now, we agree to disagree.

    YANIS VAROUFAKIS, Finance Minister, Greece: We didn’t reach an agreement. It was never on the cards that we would. We didn’t even agree to disagree, from where I’m standing.

    GWEN IFILL: The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is set to set out his program for the country’s financial future this weekend.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The European Union’s latest economic forecast showed a little improvement today, despite uncertainty over the Greek situation. Across the 19-country Eurozone, the new outlook called for 1.3 percent growth in 2015. That’s up from a 1.1 percent estimate in November.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, oil prices bounced back above $50 dollars a barrel, and that boosted stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 212 points, to close near 17900; the Nasdaq rose 48 on the day. And the S&P 500 added 21.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jordanian warplanes blasted Islamic State targets today in a show of force after a captured Jordanian pilot was burned alive. The jets streaked across the home village of Muath al-Kaseasbeh as they returned. At the time, King Abdullah was visiting the pilot’s family. He has pledged to step up Jordan’s military efforts against the militants.

    Meanwhile, in Washington, President Obama condemned Islamic State atrocities. He told the National Prayer Breakfast, no God condones terror.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number. And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who have tried to distort our religion, any religion for their own nihilistic ends.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In another development, a United Nations agency reported Islamic State militants in Iraq are systematically torturing and killing the children of minority groups.

    GWEN IFILL: Hundreds of Boko Haram fighters from Nigeria carried out a rampage in neighboring Cameroon today. Officials say the Islamists murdered scores of civilians in a border town, torching churches, mosques and schools and leaving hundreds of people wounded. It appeared to be revenge for an offensive by Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad that’s killed hundreds of militants this week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Taiwan, officials praised the pilot of a TransAsia plane as a hero for steering his stricken plane past buildings yesterday, and into a river. At least 32 people died in the crash, after the airliner lost an engine. Divers searched for victims again today as salvage crews loaded pieces of the wreckage onto truck beds. The plane had 58 people on board.

    GWEN IFILL: The co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment has announced she’s leaving, three months after embarrassing e-mails she wrote sparked an uproar. Amy Pascal’s messages came to light when the company was hacked in what officials said was a North Korean cyber-attack. They included denigrating remarks about President Obama. Pascal will stay with Sony, heading up a new production venture.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress this fall, the first pontiff to do so. House Speaker John Boehner announced today that the speech is set for September 24. While he’s in the U.S., Francis is also expected to visit the White House and speak at the United Nations.

    GWEN IFILL: And the head of the Food and Drug Administration, Margaret Hamburg, is stepping down after nearly six years on the job. She confirmed today that she will resign next month. Under Hamburg, the FDA imposed new food safety rules and tobacco regulations.

    The post News Wrap: Greek government vows not to drop anti-austerity stance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. skier Bode Miller was laeding through the first half of the men's Super G race before crashing in the FIS alpine skiing world championships at Birds of Prey Racecourse in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Photo by Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports via Reuters

    U.S. skier Bode Miller was laeding through the first half of the men’s Super G race before crashing in the FIS alpine skiing world championships at Birds of Prey Racecourse in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Photo by Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports via Reuters

    BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller was forced to pull out of the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships last night, following a harrowing crash during the Super-G race on the slopes of Beaver Creek, Colorado.

    Miller, who was competing for the first time since having back surgery nine weeks ago, was in the lead at the halfway point when his arm caught on a gate, sending him tumbling down the hill.

    “Bode was skiing outstanding,” said U.S. Ski Team coach Sasha Rearick. “[He] was putting down a run that inspired America, inspires the world.”

    Although he managed to ski down to the finish to wave to appreciative fans, one of his skis had sliced a huge gash in his calf. The injury required surgery to repair a severed hamstring tendon.

    On his Twitter account, Miller released a photo after the procedure and wrote: “Feeling lucky since things could have been way worse.”

    His injury is expected to take at least two months to heal and has raised speculation that this may have been the last race of his career. Two days before the race, Miller didn’t directly answer the question about retirement, but said that with the impending birth of his third child, it’s unlikely he would continue with the rigorous travel schedule of training and competing.

    As Miller explained it, “The commitment it takes to be at the top in this sport is pretty extreme and I think that level of selfishness is just not in the cards for me.”

    Thursday on the PBS NewsHour, we looked at the U.S. Ski Team’s hopes for big medal wins and greater recognition at the Alpine World Ski Championships. Watch that video above.

    The post Could crash signal U.S. ski star Bode Miller’s last race? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Akuot Mayak

    Photo by Akuot Mayak

    How does one gain cross-cultural understanding? One photo at a time is the philosophy behind the National Geographic’s “Photo Camp” program, celebrating a decade of teaching students in 67 workshops around the world, where under-served and refugee youth are trying to lift themselves and their communities out of difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations.

    The National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., is displaying a cross-section of work as part of the 10-year anniversary of “Photo Camp.” The NewsHour caught up with three young people from civil war-torn South Sudan. They studied with veteran National Geographic photographers in their country, and then were invited to reunite for more instruction in Washington.

    Learn a little about these three young photographers and see some of their images below:

    Catherine Simon

    Catherine Simon is a law student and believes photography will help her “communicate with people in my community and to solve issues,” she told the NewsHour. “Photos are really understood by everyone around the world, like when you have a picture, you don’t have to have a certain language to explain it. The picture speaks for itself. So through the pictures that we take we were able to explore and show the world the daily life in South Sudan, how South Sudanese do our things, and what do we do exactly. Most people might just have information that they get through the news that focuses on a certain angle in the country. But when we take pictures from different angles, we take the daily life, the happy things that happen, the sad things that happen, the stressful (things) that maybe happens, everything, we capture everything. So the pictures kind of balance the news, and balance the information, and the picture of the country itself.”

    Photo by Catherine Simon

    Photo by Catherine Simon

    Photo by Catherine Simon

    Photo by Catherine Simon

    Duku Savio

    Duku Savio is studying at the University of Juba and aspires to be a photojournalist. “Photography actually means a lot because it shows a story…” he told us. “If you saw a photo, you will know that is the situation somewhere, and it needs action. Photography also tells a lot about a community or environment where we are living. When you’re documenting somebody’s life, it’s good for future reference because when we grow, we will know that this is how we have been living. (People) will realize we are trying to work it out, because the country has been in a problem. We need to grow up and we make something for ourselves, so that we can be strong in the future.”

    Photo by Duku Savio

    Photo by Duku Savio

    Photo by Duku Savio

    Photo by Duku Savio

    Akuot Mayak

    Akuot Mayak was born in the small village of Jalle in Dinkaland and is now pursuing a profession as a journalist. His family escaped to Ethiopia during the most recent civil war that started in 2013. When the family was forced to leave Ethiopia, Mayak was sent to the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya, leaving his parents and siblings behind. He told the NewsHour, “A picture is evidence because you can say a word, but there’s nothing that can show that, there’s no evidence. But, if you take a picture and show it to a person, a person can say, oh, that is how that area, or that location looks like, and what is happening around here. If I take a picture (in Washington) and then I go back, I take the picture back there at home, and then I compare them, and then I project them out to society to look at them and compare them. This one will make them to change their whole lives. If people just live their lives and never see with their eyes what is happening, they cannot know if they are going forward or backward. But if you just travel with your camera all over the world, take pictures from different locations, take them back home, then they can compare and begin to live their life together in harmony.”

    Photo by Akuot Mayak

    Photo by Akuot Mayak

    Photo by Akuot Mayak

    Photo by Akuot Mayak

    Watch tonight’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour for more about National Geographic’s “Photo Camp.” You can tune in our Ustream channel at 6 p.m. EST or check your local listings.

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    A new snake-like, shape-changing robot will be used to examine containment vessels within the Fukushima Daiichi plant, considered too radioactive for humans to enter. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

    A new snake-like, shape-changing robot will be used to examine containment vessels within the Fukushima Daiichi plant, considered too radioactive for humans to enter. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

    Tokyo Electric Power Co. is finally ready to examine the inside of one of the three compromised reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant — with the help of a remote-controlled robot that uncannily resembles a snake.

    Exploring just how much damage has been done to the reactors is the pivotal first step in decommissioning the plant, which was nearly destroyed by the devastating Tohoku earthquake and following tsunami on March 11, 2011. The robot will allow workers to perform the work and avoid the extremely high radiation levels still present at the plant, which could prove deadly for any human getting close to the reactor chamber.

    The information gathered by the robot will allow TEPCO to repair the melted down reactors just enough so that workers can begin the process of filling them with water to safely remove the radioactive debris; a plan TEPCO outlined to have completed by mid-2020.

    According to the Associated Press, the two-foot-long robot was taken for a test run this week at a Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy facility northeast of Tokyo, where the robot was developed. Officials expect it to enter the Unit 1 reactor as soon as April of this year.

    The robot is distinct, able to slither like a serpent and light the way with a lamp at its front to guide its way through the reactor. The robot can also take on a U-shaped form, allowing it to capture live images, temperatures and radiation levels then transmit them to a control station outside the building. Using these tools, the snake will need to enter the containment vessel through a 4-inch wide pipe then dangle itself and descend onto a platform just below the reactors core’s bottom.

    Once its mission is completed, specialists will store the snake robot permanently in a shielded box due to the high levels of radioactivity it will have been exposed to. TEPCO must use a different robot for each reactor because neither machines are alike.

    Expectations are incredibly high for the robot snake after earlier efforts and errors produced little success and caused a series of accidents, the New York Times reported. Since 2011, large volumes of water used to cool the machines continue to leak, causing contamination in the ocean, and elongating the cleanup process for the plant.

    PBS Newshour science correspondent Miles O’Brien toured the Fukushima plant last year:

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    National Geographic photographers Amy Toensing and Matt Moyer reflect on National Geographic’s “Photo Camps,” which teaches photography skills to under-served youth around the world. Video edited by Matt Ehrics

    National Geographic has “Photo Camps” all over the world. Through 67 workshops, the organization hopes to forge cross-cultural understanding through photography. The program, celebrating 10 years, works with underserved and refugee youth who are trying to lift themselves and their communities out of difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations.

    As part of it’s anniversary celebration, the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., is now displaying a cross-section of the work and the NewsHour went to check out the exhibit.

    Veteran National Geographic photographers and married couple Amy Toensing and Matt Moyer have worked in many “Photo Camps” abroad and domestically. They shared their reflections on why it is such a meaningful experience for the young students — and for them.

    “A lot of these students in some of these locations have never even touched a camera before,” said Toensing. “They’re just ready to learn, and they’re open, and it’s very exciting for us how open they are, and thirsty for the power of photography, and how they can use it when they get it in their hands.”

    The Newshour also caught up with three young people from civil war-torn South Sudan who studied with veteran National Geographic photographers in their country and then were invited to reunite for more instruction in Washington.

    The free exhibit runs through the end of May.

    Watch tonight’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour for more about National Geographic’s “Photo Camp.” You can tune in our Ustream channel at 6 p.m. EST or check your local listings.

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    JOHN LARSON: Just a look at Main Street in Columbus, Mississippi and you can sense why Travel and Leisure voted it one of “America’s Great Main Streets”.

    But it hasn’t always been this way.

    As these images taken over the years by Columbus’s own renowned photographer Birney Imes suggest, Mississippi has endured challenges throughout its history.

    Unemployment, still 15 percent in some parts, including some of the poorest people in the poorest state in the nation. An unlikely place, you’d think, for an economic recovery.

    And yet, at 516 Main Street, that’s precisely the story.

    The Columbus Commercial Dispatch is the last, family owned daily newspaper in Mississippi. The headline on this afternoon? A Japanese tire company will be opening a new plant west of town.

    Yokohama Tire will employ 500 people, and possibly up to 2,000 if all goes according to plan.

    Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.

    PHIL BRYANT, MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: These are manufacturing jobs. And so hopefully, they are those type that will be transferred from one generation to the next.

    JOHN LARSON: The tire plant is just the latest in what is now called “The Golden Triangle” — a shining example of new manufacturing growth in an area that not too long ago was just the opposite.

    Plant after manufacturing plant had closed here in the late 90’s. And then in 2007, the area’s largest employer for decades – Sara Lee – closed its food processing plant.

    Yet, the area’s rebirth was already underway. Severstal: a Russian steel maker built its $900-million dollar plant here, followed by Paccar: the American builder of truck engines. And, when Airbus decided to build helicopters here, many felt it launched a new era.

    JOE MAX HIGGINS, CEO OF GOLDEN TRIANGLE DEVELOPMENT LINK: I jokingly tell people that all of a sudden people started walking upright. They started thinking– “Hey, you know, we build stuff that flies.”

    JOHN LARSON: At 1102 Main Street, Joe Max Higgins runs the Link – the development group credited with attracting more than 5-billion dollars in new investment to the triangle. Higgins is the area’s larger than life salesman – and you can get a sense how that happened.

    JOE MAX HIGGINS: Live every second like your ass is on fire.

    JOHN LARSON: In other words, go for it.

    JOE MAX HIGGINS: All the time. And– and– and– and so that– that– that’s– that’s typically how we look at this stuff. My license plate on my– on my– my vehicle says, “2EQLAST.”

    JOHN LARSON: So second equals last.

    JOE MAX HIGGINS: Every time. In this business, if you come in second, you might as well not have participated.

    JOHN LARSON: To come in first with Yokohama, Higgin’s group helped coordinate a state effort offering $130-million dollars in incentives. It bought the land, developed the site and built a new access road.

    When Yokohama raised concerns about the reliability of the local workforce, Joe Higgins made an emotional plea to its top officer.

    JOE MAX HIGGINS: I said, “This is a community who– that’s heart was cut out when Sara Lee left.”

    I said, “You could be the phoenix rising up from the ash by building this new facility here. And you could replace Sara Lee as the community’s hope.” And he looked at me and he said, “I want to see this Sara Lee.”

    JOHN LARSON: So Higgins took Yokohama’s chairman up in a helicopter.

    JOE MAX HIGGINS: We did two and a half times around the– around Sara Lee. I let him look out the window.

    JOHN LARSON: You’re looking down at destroyed plants.

    JOE MAX HIGGINS: Looks like a bomb hit it. Okay? And two and a half times. He looked up at me and he nodded. I kinda think back that that might have been the day that might have been the day, the second that we were picked.

    JOHN LARSON: Yokohama and other manufacturers were also drawn to the area’s industrial mega sites, pre-approved and ready for contraction, as well as non-union labor, and universities, including the local community college.

    The community college had a record of training its students for the high-tech factory work. For training purposes, Airbus provides the students with helicopter components. Paccar offers truck engines.

    East Mississippi Community College’s Dr. Raj Shaunak.

    JOHN LARSON: What do you say to the line that we’ve all heard for decades now, that American manufacturing is either dead or it’s dying?

    DR. RAJ SHAUNAK, COMMUNITY COLLEGE PROFESSOR: Modern manufacturing in America, but especially in the golden triangle of Mississippi, is not disappearing,

    JOHN LARSON: How much does the area gets out, for all the incentives it gives industry?

    In the Steel Mill’s case, local efforts provided $12 million dollars in land, infrastructure and tax breaks. The county now receives more than 2 million a year in revenues, which will soon grow to five million every year. So the investment will more than pay off in the long run.

    JOHN LARSON: The area’s rebirth, however, is only one of the stories we encountered on Main Street. We were in town the week of Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

    JOHN LARSON: The gathering took place on the courthouse steps within a few feet of a Civil War monument honoring those who defended the ‘Values of the Confederacy’.

    KAMAL KARIEEM: Mississippi is still a very segregated society. A lot of people like to put blinders on and act like it does not exist.

    JOHN LARSON: Kamal Karriem is a local preacher who helped organize the event.

    KAMAL KARIEEM: In Mississippi there is a psychosis of poverty. In other words, I’ve been poor for so long, until I think that that’s the way that it’s supposed to be.

    JOHN LARSON: The counties around Columbus include some of the poorest people in the poorest state in the nation.

    In some areas, one-third of the people live in poverty. The Columbus public school system has been largely abandoned by its white residents.

    40 percent of the city is white, yet only 10 percent of the city’s school system is white. Mississippi public schools are poorly funded and the worst performing schools in the nation.

    KAMAL KAREEM: This school district traditionally has always had a failing grade, a D. This is what we have to overcome. Not just in education. But in every aspect of life, we have to overcome the psychosis of poverty.

    JOHN LARSON: Which begs the question, to what extent will the area’s poor benefit from the new manufacturing? Manufacturing taxes supply more than a quarter of the county’s school budget, but they contribute only a fraction to the city’s struggling school system.

    Cedric Brownlee and his wife Sharika both worked at Sara Lee until the plant closed.

    CEDRIC BROWNLEE, LOCAL RESIDENT: All of a sudden, it was gone, you know? It was, like, “Wow, you know?” It was devastating for the community. There were a lot of people who really didn’t know what tomorrow was going to bring.

    JOHN LARSON: While both worked minimum wage jobs, Cedric enrolled at East Mississippi Community College. He worked hard — earning several certifications.

    Seven years after losing his job at Sara Lee, he was finally hired. A full-time job, with benefits, at PACCAR the truck engine plant. He now earns 15 dollars an hour, double his minimum wage jobs.

    CEDRIC BROWNLEE: We came a long way, you know. Now, here we are. We are livin’ better than we ever lived.

    JOHN LARSON: Same for Genice Allen, who doubled her pay when she landed a job as an engineering specialist at Airbus, and the company is now paying for her to pursue a business degree.

    GENICE ALLEN, AIRBUS EMPLOYEE: And it happened for me. So, I’m very thankful for the opportunity.

    JOHN LARSON: Before we finish our story, meet Yusef Karriem, Kamal Karim’s son. He sang that night at the courthouse.

    A high school senior, Yusef washes dishes at his family’s soul food restaurant. Listen to him sing for a moment.

    As we show a few more images from photographer, Birney Imes.

    Most everyone we met on Main Street says any discussion of the town’s future must remember the past.

    Before we left Main Street, we learned that 5 out of the first 11 Yokohama’s hires are African American.

    Young Yusef will not be one of them, because he plans to attend college to become a biology teacher, and then a public school administrator.

    CEDRIC BROWNLEE: It was tough, not knowin’ when change was gonna come.

    JOHN LARSON: And as for Cedric Brownlee, who after years of struggle was hired at the truck plant? The manufacturing boom has already changed his life. He and his wife have bought their first house, and last year took their first vacation.

    JOHN LARSON: You mean, literally, your first vacation?

    CEDRIC BROWNLEE: Our first vacation.

    JOHN LARSON: Since when?

    CEDRIC BROWNLEE: Since forever, you know. You know, it– it was our first vacation—

    JOHN LARSON: How’d that feel?

    CEDRIC BROWNLEE: It– it f– it feel– wonderful.

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    A police officer stands guard outside the sealed-off building housing a crematorium in Llano Largo, on the outskirts of the reort town of Acapulco. At least 61 bodies were discovered Thursday in the abandoned crematorium, mostly in a state of decomposition. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters

    A police officer stands guard outside the sealed-off building housing a crematorium in Llano Largo, on the outskirts of the reort town of Acapulco. At least 61 bodies were discovered Thursday in the abandoned crematorium, mostly in a state of decomposition. Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters

    Police uncovered 61 bodies in an abandoned crematorium on Thursday, close the Mexican resort town of Acapulco. The decomposing bodies were fully clothed, wrapped in sheets and sprinkled with lime in an effort to mask their smell, but suspicious neighbors called police, authorities said. It is not clear whether the dead were victims of gang-related crime, or left at the crematorium when it closed.

    “We can’t say for now that there is an indication that organized crime participated in this but we can’t rule it out,” Guerrero chief prosecutor Miguel Angel Godinez told the BBC. The dead included one child, Reuters reported.

    Acapulco, once known for its glamorous hotels and white-sand beaches, has been ravaged by drug violence in recent years. This, in a country where tens of thousands have been killed in drug violence since former President Felipe Calderon launched a war in 2006 against the cartels that vie for control of parts of Mexico. When he took office two years ago, President Enrique Peña Nieto promised to restore order to the gang-ridden country, but police brutality and corruption have stood in his way.

    Mexico is still mourning the deaths of 43 student teachers who were abducted by local police and burned by gang members in a town just over 100 miles from Acapulco, in the biggest crisis to rock Peña Nieto’s administration.

    The post At least 61 bodies found decomposing in crematorium near Mexican resort town appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: a program that is empowering young people in one of the most dangerous countries on earth to look at their future through a different lens.

    The NewsHour’s Anne Davenport reports.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: Can a camera be a tool for peace? That’s one of the questions behind National Geographic’s photo camps.

    Now in their 10th year operating around the world, one program focused on South Sudan, known as the world’s newest nation. South Sudan has been embroiled in a series of civil wars. The most recent 13-month conflict has left more than 10,000 people dead, and reopened deep ethnic divides, causing more than one million to flee and driving the country of 11 million closer to famine.

    Catherine Simon Arona is a law student in Juba, the nation’s capital and the largest city. She’s one of 20 students at the university there from a cross-section of tribes who set out to document their reality. We talked to her on a recent trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, where she explained the backstory to this image of an orphan at the Confident Children out of Conflict center.

    CATHERINE SIMON ARONA: This child was so curious that he couldn’t hold back how he wanted to touch the camera, and take the picture himself, because I took their pictures and they wanted to see, and when they saw it, they felt like they want to do it themselves.

    I went out of the room and I captured this moment because I felt like it’s very strong.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: The images are part of the recently opened exhibit featuring 67 different camps, from India to Uganda, Baltimore to Los Angeles. The aim? Look at universal issues youth age 13 to 25 face.

    Each camp is organized around the themes of love, survival, work, home, community, and self-image.

    MATT MOYER, National Geographic Photographer: So, see? Now, somebody is coming through, and ready, and go now.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: Amy Toensing and Matt Moyer travel the world for National Geographic. The married couple has devoted time to this program for many years.

    AMY TOENSING, National Geographic Photographer: To actually hold a camera that has functions that they can control is like a whole new experience for them. It’s very exciting for us how open they are, and thirsty for the power of photography and how they can use it when they get it in their hands.

    MATT MOYER: They start to learn about each other, and that helps build bonds across borders, and stereotypes, and regions, and everything else.

    The camps — within the camps themselves, very often, the goal is to bring in different people from different areas. In Pakistan, we had men and women together working. In Chad, we had Christians and Muslims who were working together.

    AMY TOENSING: We have put our cameras down, and so we’re getting to see how they’re seeing their world.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: Is it hard to put your camera down?


    MATT MOYER: Sometimes.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: The veterans mentor the young photographers. Here, Matt Moyer critiques Catherine Simon Arona’s photo.

    MATT MOYER: That tear frozen tear right there makes all the difference.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: After meeting up again with mentors, this time at National Geographic, they set out for a more informal session at a Washington ice rink, a first-ever skating outing for the South Sudanese students.

    MATT MOYER: The camera itself, you know, is just a box. What the camera really does and having the cameras, it allows these individuals to have an excuse to go out into their communities and explore, and to see their world, and study it in a way that they wouldn’t by just walking through it. It gives them a voice.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: Akuot Mayak comes from a small village. His family escaped to Ethiopia during the civil war, but Mayak was then sent alone to a refugee camp in Kenya. He and his fellow photo participant, Duku Savio, see holes in their country’s cultural history that visual storytelling can help fill in.

    DUKU SAVIO: Actually, documenting human life, it’s meant a lot, because when you’re documenting, you are documenting somebody’s life, and it’s good for a future. The country has been in a problem, and we need to grow up, and we make something for ourselves, so that we can be strong in the future.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: Savio and Mayak say it’s the ordinary, not the extraordinary, that often drew their eyes and cameras. For Savio, scenes of farmers and fighters, and for Mayak, quotidian life of girls swimming and a boy fishing. They want to show signs of normalcy, yet they live in a nation where even taking photos can be a source of conflict.

    CATHERINE SIMON ARONA: We take pictures from different angles. So, the pictures, it kinds of balance the news, and balance the information and the picture of the country itself.

    STUDENT: If you just travel your camera all over the world, take pictures from different locations, take them back home, then they confirm with their own life, this will change a lot, and make people come back to normal life and live their normal life together in harmony.

    ANNE DAVENPORT: The group of young photographers will continue to share, but now through social media and in pop-up exhibitions across Juba.

    I’m Anne Davenport for the PBS NewsHour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, you can see more images from these young photographers. That story is on our home page at PBS.org/NewsHour. 

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