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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week saw increasing brutality from Islamic State militants, and President Obama came under fire for comments on religion.

    To analyze it all, Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, we have this week seen this wave of revulsion to the latest Islamic State terrible murder, the terrible pictures, which, even if you didn’t see it, just — just the idea of it, the way they killed this Jordanian pilot.

    Now the word today of the American hostage, aid worker — they’re claiming that she was killed in an airstrike. We don’t know. And you probably saw the interview I did with the mother of a missing journalist.

    I guess my question, David, is, is the Obama administration’s strategy for dealing with the terrorists in the Middle East, with Islamic State, is it working? 


    First of all, one part I think is working, these are acts of terror. These are taunts designed the make us feel afraid, designed to make us feel helpless. They’re provocations. They’re not acts of war. It’s more like just an insult to our sense of humanity.

    And I think it’s important not to overreact to these individual events. They are — we give them power if we overreact. Having said that, we do need to do what we can, which is limited, to make the Middle East a civilized place for people to live. And Islamic State is a roadblock to that.

    And so to me, the things we have to do are things they’re doing to some degree, but not to a sufficient degree. The first is to degrade the Islamic State, which we’re doing the bombing campaigns, at least in Iraq, but not really, with the exception of one town, in Syria. And that means they will forever have a refuge to go to wreak havoc in Iraq and they will be able to make Syria into a hellhole, which it is.

    The second thing is, we can’t — it just can’t be a battle over our status vs. their status. They kill one of us. We, or as the Jordanians do, kill two of them. That’s just a descent into barbarism.

    And so what have to stand — to remind ourselves, we do stand for democracy. A lot of people have lost faith in that mission. But if we don’t have that mission of making the Middle East — doing what we can to make the Middle East a pluralistic, democratic place, then we have lost the moral high ground. It’s not about morality anymore. It’s just the barbarism that they want to be in charge of and us responding.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, is that kind of an effort under way, Mark, to make it known to the world that the U.S. is trying to make the Middle East a more pluralistic kind of place?

    MARK SHIELDS: I’m not sure, Judy.

    I think when you have the immolation of this Jordanian pilot this week, all attention is riveted there. And David is right. You can’t overreact to a single incident. But this is such an — absolutely can’t take your eyes away from it.

    And I do hope, quite frankly, that it’s a turning point, that you can’t import will into a region. And the — if, in fact, there is going to be the ultimate and eventual degrading and defeat of the forces of barbarism, then it has to come from within. We can lead, we can organize, but right now, we’re doing 90 percent of all the flights.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We, meaning the U.S.

    MARK SHIELDS: The United States.

    And so the coalition, it has to — it cannot be the United States against another country in that area. It can’t be the United States invading and occupying. It has to come — we can — we hope that this galvanizes the neighborhood in a sense of rage.

    But their religion has been perverted, has been appropriated, and that they want to reclaim it, as well as to stop this and eventually to self-determination. I mean, I don’t know if it will be a pluralistic, democratic — I hope it will. And that’s certainly our objective.

    But if we’re going to be at a point of self-determination in those areas, rather than at the end of a sword or a gun.

    DAVID BROOKS: A couple of things.

    Sometimes, the military has worked. We have saved some towns. We have certainly helped prevent genocide with the bombing campaigns. But it’s been a bit insufficient so far.

    The problem, unless you have a moral anchor and having a sense of this is what we believe in, we have heard pluralism, and it’s not going to be democracy for a little while, but at least pluralism politics, is the — and what we’re now in danger of doing is, we’re so offended by Islamic State, we become de facto allies with Bashar al-Assad and the al-Assad regime, because we have essentially stopped attacking them because we figure they’re better than the Islamic State.

    And that’s not a place we want to be. The Assad regime is one of the centers of instability in that region. It’s a barbaric, genocidal regime. We can’t be the de facto allies with them because we think it will help defeat Islamic State and we think it will help us with Iran.

    And we’re like switching back between the two. And that is a long-term reputational disaster.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But how do you thread that needle?  Then that means you’re attacking both at the same time.

    DAVID BROOKS: The original reaction — the original reaction was to, when there were moderates, to arm them. And we’re still doing a little of that. We have got about 5,000 that we’re doing.

    But that’s all we can do. We can’t shape the region. We can just be ourselves.

    MARK SHIELDS: Absolutely.

    I do think that we have failed to lay out what our mission is, you know, which has been the constant that we’re entering into what could be a long, protracted twilight struggle, when there’s no measure how we know where we have achieved victory, how we know what our objective is.

    And I think that’s what has to be done by the leadership of this country, and has yet to be done, quite bluntly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask quickly both of you about what the president said at this prayer breakfast yesterday, got a lot of attention. He was attempting to talk about — saying that terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, in the name of all religions, including Christianity, David.

    And he talked about the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, slavery. Republicans jumped on this and said false equivalency, you should be focusing on what extreme Muslims are doing today, and not talking about Christianity.

    DAVID BROOKS: I think, if the president had come as an atheist to attack religion and to attack Christianity, the Republicans would have a point. That’s not what a president should be doing.

    But that’s not how he came. He has used that prayer breakfast year after year to talk about his own faith, his own faith journey, his own struggles. He’s used it — he has come as a Christian. And the things he said were things — I have never met a Christian who disagreed with what he issued, that the religion has been perverted, that we have to walk humbly before the face of the lord, that God’s purposes are mysterious to us.

    This is not like some tangential, weird belief. This is at the core of every Christian’s faith and every Jew’s faith. And so what he said was utterly normal and admirable and a recognition of historical fact and an urge towards some humility. And so I thought the protests were manufactured and falsely manufactured.

    MARK SHIELDS: The Bible says, slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling. That was used by slaveholders and by the defenders of slavery in this country. They quoted the Bible, and that terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity.

    The Crusades are hardly one of the proudest chapters of Christianity. But I think what the president said is accurate. I do think that he’s been somewhat reluctant to acknowledge and admit and confront that this is an Islamic terrorist, that it is a perversion and to address that.

    But I thought the response — I mean, these are the same people who are constantly criticizing the Islamic State people for not joining in the coalition, and saying you have got to condemn them. I just thought that it was over the top and undeserved.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, while we’re talking about American politics, a couple of Republicans, David, got themselves in hot water this week talking about vaccines and vaccinations.

    Governor Chris Christie, Rand Paul both said in different ways, parents don’t need to vaccinate. Then they both walked it back a little bit. But damage?  Are they damaged short-term, long-term, any damage from this whole episode?

    DAVID BROOKS: It’s not been a great week for Republicans shooting their mouths off.

    You know, first, let me celebrate a couple of people who said what the science says. Marco Rubio and some of the — a lot of other leading Republicans said, the science is clear, you should get vaccinated, vaccinations should be universal, there should be vaccination. And they were completely accurate.

    To me, what’s disturbing about Christie and Paul is, I can’t imagine they believe that parents should be able to — should be opting out of vaccines. I can’t believe Rand Paul really believes — though he said I heard cases where kids were vaccinated and then there was mental damage. I can’t believe he believes that.

    What he is doing is, he’s kowtowing toward people who are suspicious of institutions and therefore suspicious of belief. And there has to be a leadership test for candidates. Are you willing to tell people whose vote you want the truth when the science is very clear?

    And Marco Rubio passed that test this week. Christie and Paul are like getting C-minuses. And so that — you have to stand up for truth, even if a constituency thinks otherwise.

    MARK SHIELDS: I want to be in David’s class if that’s a C-minus.


    MARK SHIELDS: I think they both flunked.

    Judy, there’s a rhetoric in this country. It’s been on the ascent for almost a generation or more. And that is individual freedom, government interference, stay out of our lives, leave us alone, anything from Washington, you have to oppose, a federal mandate.

    And, you know, that has become the rhetoric. And that was their response. The reality is quite simple. Americans do feel that the government is a pain in the neck and too much red tape and keep them out of their lives. But a trace of botulism found in one can of tuna fish outside of Pocatello, Idaho, and the universal American reaction is, where the hell is the federal government?  I want a report in my office in 24 hours, or heads will roll.

    We want a small, effective, efficient federal government on our side 24 hours a day, cheap. In 1988, there were 350,000 cases of polio in this world. In 2012, there were 213. That’s because of vaccination. That’s because of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin and the federal government and the public — public effort in health.

    And that to me is — this is the reality. It’s beyond ideology. They were slaves to ideology. And Christie hasn’t — just doesn’t have his footing. With Paul, it’s sort of an excess of where he comes from and where he treads and what he believes. But I think Christie comes off even worse than Paul or anybody else.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the measles debate goes on. There are states now imposing new rules, school systems. I mean, it’s roiled up a discussion we thought was gone.

    MARK SHIELDS: … your child’s health and survival.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.

    The post Shields and Brooks on the politics of vaccination, using religion to justify evil acts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: the changing model of the music business, and how it’s impacting the work itself.

    The other night, Hari Sreenivasan looked at what streaming has done to artists and the industry financially. Tonight, he’s back with a second report, this on how artists, companies and big labels are approaching the whole idea of recording differently.

    It’s part of our series we’re calling Music on Demand.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: At the turn of the century, music entered a second jukebox era, not because Wurlitzer rolled out a new model, but when Apple launched iTunes, the music player essentially unbundled the album and put the individual song at the center of the musical universe once again.

    Listeners could go back to buying a single song, instead of an entire album.

    DANIEL GLASS, Glassnote Records: So, sort of like the ’60s, we’re releasing music differently than we were for the last 20 years, where bands are putting out a song here, then an E.P.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Daniel Glass has helped indie artists such as Mumford & Sons launch their careers, and even though they have won awards like Billboard’s album of the year, he sees something new on the horizon for his artists, playlists.

    DANIEL GLASS: The drum that is beating in the street that you’re following really is a curation of like-minded playlists. So, for example, what are your hobbies? You like to exercise, you like to follow basketball, there’s NBA playlists. What do they use to warm up? What do they use to in halftime?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Take, for example, Lorde, a Grammy Award-winning artist from New Zealand known for her hit song “Royals,” among others. In 2012, she released her extended play debut, meaning a few select tracks for free, on a service called SoundCloud.

    With little marketing, her songs found their way to streaming services and on important playlists. Similar to the Billboard charts that once tracked air play on radio stations, the streaming services began adding her song to their list of up-and-coming lists, partly because they could see so many of their listeners adding Lorde to their own playlists.

    DANIEL GLASS: Lorde was not hyped. It was playlisted. And people spoke to each other and said, wow. So, the turn-on factor is easier and better.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Glass also thinks that the shift away from the album, combined with a move toward streaming music, means the creative process could change in ways we have not yet thought of.

    DANIEL GLASS: Remixes, having — putting up their stems of their music up online, so people can remix their music, and reciprocal fans say, how about you mix mine, I will mix yours? It’s a different experience.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Ken Parks is North American head of Spotify, one of the largest streaming services in the world.

    KEN PARKS, Chief Content Officer, Spotify: We will see people creating and releasing music in novel ways, releasing, instead of albums, maybe they will release a song a week for 20 weeks.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He sees the technology creating new opportunities for artists.

    KEN PARKS: Artists have an unprecedented level of control now. They can — with the tools that are available, they can record a song and within a matter of minutes upload it and connect with millions of people around the globe.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Artists like Norwegian pop duo Nico & Vinz are taking advantage of what the technology has to offer.

    KAHOULY NICOLAY SEREBA, Nico & Vinz: All these media outlets allows people to be closer to us, anything from Instagram, so, like you said, those small, intimate settings where you’re doing shows. It’s not like before where you people on these huge stages. And, yes, I feel like we’re more close to the fans now than ever before.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While their fame was built on successful tracks, they still strive for the artistic expression of the album.

    VINCENT DERY, Nico & Vinz: That’s always been the thing for us. We really wanted to make a top-to-bottom work of art, in a sense, really try to piece together a story. You know, to us, having singles and songs out are cool, sort of like sound bites of what’s to come. But our heart really — we really put our heart into the album.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Rosanne Cash released her 13th album last year, and isn’t ready to abandon that format.

    You still put out albums.

    ROSANNE CASH: Albums.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s a reason thesis and a through-line a reason why track three is track three and not track seven.

    ROSANNE CASH: That’s right. In fact, not only did I put out an album this year. I put out a concept album. I mean, how old-fashioned can you get, right?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Cash realizes few will hear the music in the way she intended.

    ROSANNE CASH: I’m pretty active in social media. And when we were sequencing this album, I — we were obsessing about it. We must have done 30 or 40 sequences. And then I just put something on Twitter. And I said, why am I even bothering with this? Nobody listens to albums in sequence anymore.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The numbers prove that. With album sales dropping, the music industry is trying to make money by streaming a track at a time.

    But for some artists like Cash, the math just doesn’t add up. Streaming sales don’t come close to replacing what used to be her album income.

    Is there an impact on your creative process? You think, though, the lack of an ability to make a living off of your art would be a strong enough disincentive for you to not pursue that path?

    ROSANNE CASH: I think what happens is that you have less time to create your work, because, you know, it’s all expensive studio time, and if you have to take off a year to write a record, I mean, you know, not many people can afford to do that. So, yes, it definitely impacts.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How to make artists like Cash whole again through this transition is the challenge that streaming services face.

    Songza, a streaming service Google bought last summer, thinks the key is to introduce more people to new music they find relevant based on what they’re doing at the time.

    ELIAS ROMAN, Co-Founder, Songza: During finals, we have a lot of kids, of — high school students and college students listening to classical for studying. So we exposed sort of a demo that would never search out classical music on their own to it, because we say, we know that you’re studying. This is great music for helping you focus without distracting you with lyrics. Try it.

    And people take us up on that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The app and service suggest playlists of songs based on the time of day, the activity you’re doing or the mood you’re in. It’s co-founder, Elias Roman, says it’s those introductions to new sounds just at the right moment that will lead a listener to an artist.

    ELIAS ROMAN: Something we all spend a lot of money on, in fact.

    I think when music packaged in a way where it’s this essential ingredient to doing all of those things better, it becomes a much more intuitive thing to pay for, for a generation that, per your point, might not think access all by itself is worth paying for.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And that longer paid relationship between listener and artist is what streaming services and record companies want to be in between. Streaming services increased their revenue by 54 percent in 2014. It seems the industry is convincing listeners to pay for music again, just not albums.

    Hari Sreenivasan in New York City for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post How music on demand is killing the album appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And with me now is Debra Tice. She is Austin’s mother.

    Welcome. We appreciate you joining us.

    DEBRA TICE: Thank you. Thank you so much for asking me to come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, as we have reported today, the Islamic State claiming that the American aid worker, the woman, is dead as a result of an airstrike. Like these other reports, this has to be so hard for you and your family.

    DEBRA TICE: It’s — when we think about her family, it’s almost more than we can bear. It’s just almost unbearable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you have gotten to know them?

    DEBRA TICE: Well, we don’t know them as well as some of the other families, but we do know — we have had contact with them. And, of course, we share this burden.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Austin has been missing now for two-and-a-half years. What keeps you and your family going?  What are you hearing from the government?  What are you hearing from any sources you have that he’s there and he can come home?

    DEBRA TICE: Well, we do get periodic words of encouragement, you know, that we need to be patient, that he’s alive, he’s relatively well taken care of.

    And, so, we have this steadfast hope that he is coming home. We expect that this campaign is going to raise a lot of support, and those are the things…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: To get attention…

    DEBRA TICE: Right. Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … for Austin’s situation.

    DEBRA TICE: And people joining hands with us and saying, we want him home, too.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Who do you believe is holding Austin?

    DEBRA TICE: We do not know who is holding him.

    You know, of course, it’s a great relief to us to know that Da’esh is not holding him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s Islamic State.

    DEBRA TICE: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re convinced, pretty convinced of that?

    DEBRA TICE: Absolutely, and Nusra. And the Syrian government denies holding him. So we can’t be really sure who is holding him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me that you and your husband have talked to a representative of the Syrian government. You have met with them in Lebanon.

    DEBRA TICE: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do they say to you?  Because the U.S. government obviously isn’t talking.

    DEBRA TICE: Well, they tell us that they will put all their resources as well toward finding our son and returning him to us. So, you know, we hold them to that. They have told us they will do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where do the assurances come from that Austin is alive and being well taken care of?

    DEBRA TICE: We cannot ever trace them back. They are credible and they are referred credibly, but we can never channel them back.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What more do you want the U.S. government to do?  You and your husband have been somewhat critical of the fact that the government hasn’t been more organized, they haven’t been more helpful. What do you want them to do that they’re not doing?

    DEBRA TICE: Well, we want all of the information that our government has about our son, we want them to share.

    We don’t think anyone should know more about our son than we do. And that’s been a point of frustration that’s ongoing. You know, I believe in diplomacy. I believe in diplomacy. And, for me, that means talking, and I just — as a mother of seven children, I don’t think, when you’re angry with someone, the first thing you should do is cut off communication, because then you have cut yourself off from a resolution as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you want more information from them. You want them to be talking to the Syrians.

    DEBRA TICE: Yes, of course.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about — there’s obviously been discussion about whether money should change hands, whether whoever’s holding Austin should get — be rewarded.

    DEBRA TICE: Well, we haven’t had that discussion because it hasn’t — we haven’t even had the chance to get to that place.

    So there are ways to figure things out, and we think that we should be the best and the brightest at figuring it out, and responding appropriately and getting our people home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The other evening at the Newseum, I was there. The assistant secretary of state, Douglas Frantz, was acknowledging the government has made mistakes and saying, we are going to try to make this better. We’re coming up with a new policy.

    How confident are you that the new policy will be better?

    DEBRA TICE: I expect it to be better. I expect that we will be able to hold them accountable.

    I think that the American people should be interested in holding them accountable and that we can come up with something better. It won’t be perfect, but it will be the beginning of something much better. I’m confident in that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there one part or one piece of that new policy, new strategy that you think would make a big difference?

    DEBRA TICE: Yes.

    They’re talking about having a single point person who is a — is focused entirely on the hostage and that unique situation, and that that person will look at American resources and assign them appropriately for the benefit of the hostage. And I think that will be a fundamentally great improvement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And — but that’s not being done now?

    DEBRA TICE: Oh, nothing like that is being done now, not at all.

    There is — you have 17 different government agencies. None of them have a defined position. There’s all kinds of jockeying for ascendancy and a lack of communication. It’s just chaos in a can.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you see improvement maybe coming?

    DEBRA TICE: Yes. There is a truly dedicated effort to getting this policy right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you believe Austin will come home?

    DEBRA TICE: Absolutely. I think we’re just waiting. We’re doing all that we can to make that moment our very next moment, but I have no doubt that he will be home.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Debra Tice, I know that everyone who’s listening absolutely is with you on that.

    DEBRA TICE: Thank you. Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you very much.

    DEBRA TICE: I really appreciate you having me. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    The campaign Debra Tice just mentioned is to raise awareness about her son and the threat to free journalism. You can visit the Web site at FreeAustinTice.rsf.org.

    The post A mother demands better advocacy for U.S. hostages appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to the situation in Syria.

    Since the start of the civil war, a number of Americans have been captured by militant groups.

    Tonight, we look at one American journalist who has been missing for two-and-a-half years, and his family’s efforts to find him.

    This shaky video released weeks after Austin Tice disappeared remains the only sign of him to date. Tice had been working as a freelance journalist, covering fighting on the outskirts of Damascus. That was in August of 2012.

    Now his parents, Marc and Debra Tice, have mounted a public campaign for more help in winning his release.

    MARC TICE, Father of missing journalist: Our number one focus is to bring our son Austin home safely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Tices were in Washington this week, pressing their case, even as Islamic State militants announced they’d burned a captive Jordanian pilot alive. They had already beheaded two Japanese hostages, as well as American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and three aid workers, American Peter Kassig and David Haines and Alan Henning of Britain.

    Then, today, the claim that another American aid worker, Kayla Mueller, died in an airstrike. Tice’s parents say they don’t believe the Islamic State is holding their son, but they complain U.S. officials haven’t told them much, one way or the other.

    DEBRA TICE, Mother of missing journalist: There is no agency, no person solely committed to the singular objective of the safe return of a hostage. That has to change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At a forum at the Newseum, Debra Tice, along with James Foley’s mother, Diane, listened as Assistant Secretary of State Douglas Frantz acknowledged the problem.

    DOUGLAS FRANTZ, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs: We need to do more. We need to be better. I would have preferred to have Mrs. Foley and Mrs. Tice sitting right here saying not that news organizations had done everything they could for them, but that the U.S. government had done everything it could for them.

    The post Parents of U.S. hostage Austin Tice mount campaign to win his release appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a closer look at what’s driving those surprisingly upbeat jobs numbers in the U.S.

    Here’s Jeffrey Brown.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Not only did today’s labor report show that more people found work in January; it also revised the numbers upward for November and December, making 2014 the strongest year for job gains since 1999. And more good news: The increase in wages last month was the largest in six years.

    Diane Swonk is a senior managing director and chief economist for Mesirow Financial and joins me from Chicago.

    And, Diane, it looks as though the upswing is bringing more people back into the job market. Can you tell us who, what age groups, for example? 

    DIANE SWONK, Mesirow Financial: Yes.

    One of the biggest encouraging points about the job participation rate, where more people threw their hat in the ring, was that younger people were rejoining the labor force. Many of these people had been sidelined for many years; 25-to-34-year-old men, in fact, had the highest labor force participation rate in two years, a big jump there.

    We also saw an increase in the 35-to-44-year-old age group. This is a group that the Federal Reserve had been watching carefully because they had been sidelined by the recession, but clearly they’re too young to retire and they had to come back at some point in time. So the fact that they were reengaged is quite encouraging.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And this of course does explain why the unemployment rate ticking up is actually a good thing, considered a good thing in this case, because of the participation.

    DIANE SWONK: Absolutely. Absolutely. More people throwing their hat in the ring and being reengaged with the hope they find a job now, rather than just giving up, is good news.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the wages going up, this has been a big problem for many years. Even as the job sector has gotten better, wages have been a problem. So, what do we see now?

    DIANE SWONK: Well, the wages did snap back after slowing a bit in December. On a year-over-year basis, though, we’re still really stagnant on wage gains. They’re running only 2.2 percent, which is well below what the Fed would like to see, closer to 3 percent to 4 percent wage gains, to really regain the ground lost in median family incomes out there.

    It’s also important to note that we saw a lot of states pass minimum wage increases over the last year and nine states increased minimum wages in the month of January, and a lot more are coming in, in June. So, what we’re seeing is that cascading effect of minimum wages lifting up the bottom a bit, particularly in states like Florida and Arizona in January, which have a lot of those low-wage jobs that we have generated in recent years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And as we see this growth, do we see big regional differences, do we see big job sector differences?

    DIANE SWONK: There are big sectoral differences.

    These gains were pretty broad-based. Of course, the losing sector was the mining sector. Oil prices have fallen and with that we have seen a decline in mining and oil-related jobs, oil industry-related jobs. Now, that is going to be a complete flip-flop in 2015 from what we saw in previous years, because the real strong point, Texas, as a matter of fact, generates some 400,000 of the more than 300 — three million jobs generated last year just came from the state of Texas alone.

    They’re a very diversified economy, more diversified than they once were with high-tech and oil, but clearly oil is going to hold them back a bit and slow down employment gains. We’re also going to see that in oil patch states.

    On the flip side of it, places where we see a lot of leisure and hospitality, people starting to spend more discretionary spending, places in the south like Florida gaining some momentum with these low-wage jobs and finally some of those jobs coming back in business services and finance as well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Even with all of these gains, there are still so many people out of the job market. What other kinds of concerns keep you awake at night or keep you — are on the forecast here?

    DIANE SWONK: Certainly, there still is — we have got a nice tailwind going into 2015 with the upward revisions we saw in November and December. And that’s good because that’s a lot more paychecks to cushion us and buffer any headwinds coming our way, but headwinds are out there.

    We have a strong dollar and weak growth abroad and a lot of turbulence that could come from abroad. And we don’t want those tremors to come up as tidal waves on our own shores. I think our shores are better fortified than they once were and we can better handle those waves coming in, but those waves are still out there from abroad.

    The Eurozone is still trying to navigate its own crisis. We have got the crisis in Russia and the Ukraine. We have got crisis in the Middle East. All those things can be destabilizing as we move forward.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, hovering over all of this of course is what the Fed would do next, when it might raise interest rates. Did today’s number have any influence that you can see?

    DIANE SWONK: My view is that the Federal Reserve has shown extraordinary patience — it’s a word that they use — in terms of their liftoff on interest rates.

    And with the wage gains coming back, they welcome that, but they are still stagnant relative to the overall year-over-year gains. They’re still not enough. And this is a Fed that’s really been very clear about their willingness to not only allow the economy to expand and recover and regain ground loss, but do some catchup, too.

    And I think they will be willing to wait until late in the third quarter before they start to raise rates. And even then, even as the ground below us is firming, they will be treading as if they’re treading on thin ice to hedge those downside risks, particularly from abroad.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Diane Swonk, thank you, as always.

    DIANE SWONK: Thank you.

    The post Job growth on a roll, will wages follow? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other major story, the U.S. economy showed the strongest evidence yet that it is rebounding in the latest government jobs report. It said employers added a net of 257,000 employees in January. That makes one million jobs created since November, including newly revised totals and the best three-month average in 17 years.

    The unemployment rate ticked up to 5.7 percent in January, as more people began to look for work.

    Jeffrey Brown will examine what’s behind the numbers after the news summary.

    The jobs report unsettled Wall Street today. Signs of strong growth raised fears that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates sooner than expected. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 60 points, and slipped closer to 17800. The Nasdaq fell 20 points on the day and the S&P 500 slid seven.

    In Yemen, Shiite rebels announced today they have officially taken over the government and dissolved the parliament. They said their revolutionary committee in charge of security and intelligence will now run the country. Yemen’s government had been a U.S. ally in the war on al-Qaida. The White House said today it’s deeply concerned by this turn of events.

    President Obama is defending his approach to Yemen, to the Islamic State and other challenges, in a new national security document. He’s faced calls from Republicans and others for more robust U.S. action, but in the document released today, he said, — quote — “We have to make hard choices among many competing priorities, and we must always resist the overreach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear.”

    The leaders of France and Germany took their diplomatic mission to Moscow tonight, in a bid to stop the war in Ukraine. At the same time, hundreds of people took advantage of a brief truce to escape the fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels.

    Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News reports.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: They are on the road to Debaltseve to evacuate civilians, because last September’s cease-fire is in tatters, and the town may be about to fall to pro-Russian forces.

    The sound of shelling frequently contradicted today’s humanitarian truce. Those trapped in the crossfire have been deprived of water and electricity for almost two weeks now. And they now face this choice, either take a bus to the Ukrainian side of the front line or into the breakaway self-declared Republic of Donetsk.

    Separatist forces have them almost surrounded. And today’s diplomacy in Moscow seems increasingly desperate. This was Angela Merkel’s first trip to the Russian capital since this crisis began, a mark of how serious it now is. President Hollande of France flew in, too, in the hope of another cease-fire.

    Last September’s so-called Minsk agreement led to a cease-fire and buffer zones along the front line. That agreement completely collapsed last month, when Ukrainian forces were forced to retreat from Donetsk airport. In the past few weeks, the fighting has been concentrated around Debaltseve, still held by Ukrainian forces, but shelled by rebels.

    These Ukrainian forces are demanding Western weaponry to defend themselves. But the Europeans fear that will expand this war, rather than end it. The question is whether Europe is so eager to stop the fighting that Vladimir Putin will emerge the victor here, and perhaps more inclined to push forward again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Moscow talks ended after more than five hours, with word that the parties will work on a new peace document.

    Activists in Syria say the Assad regime has stepped up airstrikes this week, to deadly effect. More than 80 people were killed in attacks outside Damascus today after rebels fired rockets into the capital yesterday; 47 others died in Aleppo when army helicopters dropped barrel bombs.

    In Canada, the Supreme Court has struck down a ban on doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. The court today reversed its own 1993 decision, and said mentally competent adults with intolerable suffering have the right to die with dignity.

    The response on both sides was immediate.

    GRACE PASTINE, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association: This is a case about real people with serious illnesses who through a change in the law can find some peace and comfort in knowing they have a choice.

    AMY HASBROUCK, Disability Advocate, “Not Dead Yet.”: We find that this decision is the most destructive and least restrictive option in the world right now in terms of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Assisted suicide is already legal in handful of nations and in the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, and Montana.

    A sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives has died. Republican Congressman Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi passed away today in Tupelo, after battling a stroke and brain tumor. Nunnelee was reelected to a third term last year. He was 56 years old.

    And NBC News announced an internal investigation of its anchor Brian Williams and his statements about an incident in Iraq in 2003. He’s admitted that his helicopter wasn’t hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, as he previously claimed. But he’s facing growing criticism.

    In a memo to staffers today, the head of NBC News said, “We’re working on what the best next steps are.”

    The post News Wrap: Hollande, Merkel go to Moscow for Ukraine talks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Questions swirled today after Islamic State militants claimed an American aid worker is now a casualty of war. The militants said the hostage, Kayla Jean Mueller, died when Jordanian planes bombed this building in their stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. Jordan had stepped up the airstrikes after one of its pilots was burned alive.

    Amman dismissed the Islamic State claim, and U.S. officials, including National Security Adviser Susan Rice, said they cannot confirm it.

    SUSAN RICE, National Security Adviser: We’re obviously very concerned about the reports that have come in, in recent hours. We do not, at the present, have any evidence to corroborate ISIL’s claims, but obviously we will keep reviewing the information at hand.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We examine what’s known and not at this time with Shane Harris. He’s senior intelligence and national security correspondent for The Daily Beast.

    Shane Harris, welcome.

    First of all, who was Kayla Mueller and what was she doing in Syria?

    SHANE HARRIS, The Daily Beast: Well, Kayla is 26. She was an aid worker from Prescott, Arizona, who had spent much of her life actually after she graduated from college working in that region and particularly along the border of Turkey and Syria to work with refugees who had been displaced by the civil war and was especially passionate about working with children.

    She had tried to work with children in camps who had lost their homes. She had done art therapy and other kind of activities with them was really drawn to the plight of these refugees, and ultimately did go into Syria, where she was working at a hospital associated with Doctors Without Borders, and it was that time in 2013 that she was kidnapped by ISIS.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there any question that it was ISIS, the Islamic State, that kidnapped her? Has there been evidence since she was taken?

    SHANE HARRIS: There was evidence.

    There has been no question that it was ISIS. And, in fact, last year, Kayla’s family received what is known as proof of life from her kidnappers, evidence that she was in fact alive, at least at that time. They had demanded a ransom payment as well. So ISIS had identified itself as her captors, but there’s no known communication since that time last year between the family or U.S. officials and ISIS.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how recently then was she known to be alive?

    SHANE HARRIS: Well, at least the confirmation of that had come as recently as last spring, which is quite some time ago.

    There had been no evidence though to suggest that she had been killed. There had been speculation, there had been rumors about the status of her, but frankly there’s often a lot of rumors about the status of American hostages that are held over there. What was notable in Kayla’s case is that she had not appeared in any of the videos that ISIS has been putting out since last summer, these grisly beheading videos that we have become so familiar with.

    So there had been really no indication about whether she was dead or alive.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, today’s claim from Islamic State that she died in a Jordanian air attack on this building in Raqqa, where’s the evidence that backs that up?

    SHANE HARRIS: There really is no evidence. And I think we should treat it skeptically. And I think U.S. officials are, for the moment right now, generally — we talked about proof of life. ISIS usually provides proof of death when these hostages are killed.

    There’s been no photographic evidence that she’s been killed, only a claim from ISIS, which is sort of hard to believe if you look at the evidence they have presented so far. There were airstrikes in the area, possibly. We have not confirmed how many of them there were. There have been questions about how ISIS could have identified that it was a Jordanian aircraft that bombed this facility.

    The Jordanians say the picture that was shown is actually a weapons a warehouse that was used by ISIS. So there’s some questions about why she would be held there. But beyond releasing some of her biographical details, like a phone number and an address that was associated with her, ISIS just hasn’t put forward any evidence.

    And they do have a pattern of lying about the time that hostages were killed and using this information to manipulate emotions and to — for their own P.R. advantage. So we really just don’t have any evidence yet that she is dead. And ISIS has manipulated people with this information in the past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it sounds like we are left to wait until there is some evidence. Shane Harris with The Daily Beast, we thank you.

    SHANE HARRIS: My pleasure.

    The post No proof yet of Islamic State claims about female hostage’s death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Consumer Tax Group at the northern end of San Diego. This is where Intuit develops its flagship tax return preparation product, TurboTax. Date	18 February 2008 Source	Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by User:Kelly

    TurbTax is taking precaution following some tax payers’ fraudulent use of stolen information. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    After seeing an increase of stolen information used to file fraudulent state tax returns, TurboTax announced that the processing of all state filing has been halted and the option to file state taxes online no longer exists.

    The software company has said that there is no data breach within TurboTax databases, but stolen personal information from elsewhere has been used to file state tax returns, causing the state tax filing to halt state return processing. Federal taxes can still be filed, and state tax returns that have already been filed will be transmitted once the problem is solved.

    “We understand the role we play in this important industry issue and continuously monitor our systems in search of suspicious activity,” Brad Smith, president and CEO of software company and TurboTax owner Intuit said in a statement. “We’ve identified specific patterns of behavior where fraud is more likely to occur. We’re working with the states to share that information and remedy the situation quickly. We will continue to engage them on an ongoing basis in an effort to stop fraud before it gets started.”

    Smith reiterated that no TurboTax data has been compromised.

    In response to the TurboTax announcement, the state of Minnesota has stopped accepting tax returns has stopped accepting tax returns filed through the online software program.

    TurboTax’s decision follows another data breach this week. Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurance company, joined the ranks of Target, Home Depot and a number of other major companies after experiencing a data breach.

    As computer hacking attacks continue, and become more sophisticated, questions over how to put data breaches to rest become increasingly important.

    Anthem’s CEO Joseph Swedish reported on Thursday that despite “state-of-the-art information security systems,” a database containing personal records of more than 80 billion people, including social security numbers, medical IDs and income data, was accessed.

    After notifying the FBI, “Anthem has also retained Mandiant, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms, to evaluate our systems and identify solutions based on the evolving landscape,” Swedish said in a statement.

    If “state-of-the-art information security systems” can’t keep cyber attackers out, what will?

    Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley technology forecaster at Stanford said there is no easy fix. Instead, the problem lies in the architecture of the computer security systems.

    “The only solution is to re-architect with reliable hardware and reliable software,” Saffo said. To solve the problem without an overhaul of the system would be like “trying to pour a concrete foundation onto quicksand.”

    Peter Neumann of SRI International, a technology and computing research nonprofit echoed Saffo’s statements that there is no quick fix, and instead an entire overhaul is needed, something currently being done — a project called Clean Slate by the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The goal is to develop new computing systems around security to protect against cyber-attacks.

    Others are taking a different approach to data breaches, including expecting a cyber-attack in the first place. Mark Bower, the Vice President of Product Management & Solutions Architecture at Voltage Security, said the key is to neutralize data so a cyber attack’s effect is minimal.

    “Ultimately you have to assume that, as a business today, with the level of malware out there today, with the sophistication of hackers, you are going to get breached at some point,” Bower said. “So what you have to think about making that a non-event and neutralizing your data from the breach is the way to do that. And there are technologies out there that are very simple and straightforward that are not disruptive to everyday business dealings.”

    In a similar manner, Kevin Duggan, CEO of security consulting firm Camouflage Software said masking data means that if a cyber attack is able to steal information, the data would be useless out of context.

    “The most successful solution that many enterprises, including healthcare providers, are starting to deploy is new technologies that render data useless if stolen, such as data masking or anonymization which manipulates data so that it’s still useable by doctors and nurses, but unable to be tied back to the individual patient,” he said in an email.

    The post Cyberattacks keep TurboTax users from filing returns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Sinclair Lewis, seen here in Chicago in 1922, Photo by Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

    Sinclair Lewis, seen here in Chicago in 1922, Photo by Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

    Feb. 7 marks the 130th birthday of Sinclair Lewis, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930.

    Sinclair Lewis' "Arrowsmith" was published in 1925.

    Sinclair Lewis’ “Arrowsmith” was published in 1925.

    At first glance, one might ask what does an American novelist have to do with a column devoted to medical discoveries and great medical events?

    Well, when considering he helped initiate our popular culture’s fascination with doctors and science, this all but forgotten, the best-selling writer’s birthday has a great deal to do with modern medical progress.

    In 1925, Sinclair Lewis published “Arrowsmith,” the first novel ever devoted to the life and adventures of a medical scientist. His Pulitzer Prize winning book brilliantly tells the story of a physician’s relentless search for truth. Unlike other novels of the Roaring Twenties, let alone the decades before, the main character, Martin Arrowsmith is neither a soldier nor a misunderstood artist, although he does engage in the occasional drunken binge. Martin is not even a great medical doctor.

    Instead, Lewis, who was acutely aware of the wide public interest in all the new medical discoveries then being made, introduced millions of readers to a young man who dedicates himself to the hottest scientific field of his day: bacteriology.

    In the fall of 1922, the author of “Main Street and Babbitt” met a bacteriologist named Paul de Kruif. Making the introductions, depending on whose memoirs you read, were either the journalist H. L. Mencken or Dr. Morris Fishbein, the powerful editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association. De Kruif earned his Ph.D. in bacteriology from the University of Michigan, served a hitch in the U.S. Army researching influenza vaccines during World War I, and had just been fired from the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. His boss, Simon Flexner, complained that De Kruif was spending more time writing embarrassing magazine articles about the failings of American medicine than he was making important scientific discoveries at his laboratory bench.

    Looking for gainful employment, De Kruif (who was still several years away from his string of best-selling books popularizing health topics ranging from germs to sex hormones, including his biggest hit, “The Microbe Hunters”) agreed to collaborate on a medical novel with Lewis. Soon after signing a contract with the publishing firm of Harcourt and Brace, DeKruif and Lewis booked passage on a steamship to the West Indies where they could work without distractions.

    The bacteriologist was essential to Lewis’s ability to compose this wonderful novel. Nearly all the scientists, physicians and medical institutions portrayed in “Arrowsmith” were drawn from De Kruif’s experience and gallery of colleagues. The result is a remarkably accurate (if not always complimentary) historical document.

    Lewis, the favorite son of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, (and the son of a doctor), had a genius for mining the rich quarry of the American Midwest, and there much of “Arrowsmith” is set. Martin’s medical school, the University of Winnemac, is a precise pen portrait of the University of Michigan. In subsequent chapters, Martin becomes a “country doctor” in a fictional hamlet called Wheatsylvania, North Dakota, and a public health officer in the even more fictional town of Nautilus, Iowa, before being invited to join the prestigious McGurk (i.e., Rockefeller) Institute in New York City.

    The novel’s greatest strength is its veracity of detail about a life in medical research, from the conflicts that arise between commerce and altruism to the design of scientific experiments. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than when a bubonic plague epidemic raging on a Caribbean island affords Martin an opportunity to test his newly discovered magic bullet, bacteriophage. Martin’s wife, Leora, insists on joining him on the dangerous trip. Soon enough, Martin immerses himself in a complex human experiment where half the island’s inhabitants receive bacteriophage and the rest a placebo.

    Bacteriophage was no fictional device. A viral parasite that kills bacteria, it was the talk of the bacteriology world soon after its discovery by Felix d’Herelle of the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1917. It was, however, eventually cast aside for something even more miraculous: antibiotics.

    Late one night, Leora finds a cigarette Martin left behind on his makeshift laboratory bench. Unaware that the housekeeper had accidentally spilled some plague culture on the cigarette, she smokes it in an effort to be closer to her absent husband and dies a miserable death before sunrise.

    This tale actually has a true origin drawn from De Kruif’s memory bank. In February 1901, De Kruif’s mentor and bacteriology professor, Frederick Novy, returned to Ann Arbor with some specimens he collected from a plague epidemic in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Some weeks later his laboratory assistant, a medical student named Charles B. Hare, unknowingly contaminated a cigarette he was about to smoke in a manner similar to Leora. Hare developed plague and became deathly ill but, unlike the fictional Leora, survived.

    In the novel, Martin is overwhelmed by the tragic news, abandons his carefully designed study, and gives bacteriophage to all who want it. While he receives international acclaim, he is enough of a real scientist to know he botched the experiment.

    Throughout the novel, Lewis captures the absolute passion for discovery required of any successful scientist. This is no mere job, Lewis and DeKruif argue, it is a “religion,” with rituals and rules, along with severe penalties for those who do not follow them

    In one of the novel’s most moving scenes, Martin prays to himself while working late at night in his laboratory, amid burning Bunsen burners and bubbling racks of test tubes: ”God give me a quiet and relentless anger against all pretense and all pretentious work and all work left slack and unfinished. God give me a restlessness whereby I may neither sleep nor accept praise till my observed results equal my calculated results or in pious glee I discover and assault my error. God give me strength not to trust to God!”

    From medical practice to public health and scientific discovery, from the unbridled ambitions of medical students and doctors to the complexities of delivering medical care in a diverse nation like the United States, “Arrowsmith” delivers with humor and brio a slate of important lessons for everyone concerned about 21st century health care.

    So here’s a rousing Happy Birthday to Sinclair Lewis, with a nod to his own brand of medical discovery. No longer as popular as he was in the 1920s, Lewis continued to write novels and get into silly fights with his critics and friends until he died in 1951, a little less than one month shy of 66, largely due to his alcoholism and depression.

    For more than 20 years as a medical school professor and even on the pages of medical journals and the New York Times, I have been pleading others to pick up the novel and get to work reading it.

    And on no day more than Sinclair Lewis’s birthday does the doctor in me wish I could prescribe “Arrowsmith” to my more profit-driven colleagues, my overeager medical students, the policymakers, those working at health care, health device, biotechnology and pharmaceutical corporations, and our worried patients.

    Perhaps “Dr. Lewis” might help restore some health to the ailing, and yet miraculous, enterprise we call American medicine.

    Dr. Howard Markel

    Dr. Howard Markel

    Dr. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS NewsHour, highlighting the anniversary of a momentous event that continues to shape modern medicine. He is the director of the Center for the History of Medicineand the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.

    He is the author or editor of 10 books, including “Quarantine! East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892,” “When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Have Unleashed” and “An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine.”

    The post What a 1925 novel by Sinclair Lewis can teach us about health care today appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, people living in the Mississippi Delta, a fertile and culturally rich region in northwest Mississippi, were hit hard by an economy in decline.

    Magic City, Falcon, Mississippi, 1989. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Magic City,” Falcon, Mississippi, 1989. Photo by Birney Imes.

    The economic downturn disproportionately affected African-Americans, who make up the majority of the Delta’s population.

    Riverside Lounge, Shaw, Mississippi, 1986. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Riverside Lounge,” Shaw, Mississippi, 1986. Photo by Birney Imes.

    During the 1980s, automation and competition from low-wage foreign workers caused manufacturing, one of the Delta’s few economic lifelines, to fall by half across the region. Jobs were scarce. In Tunica County, one of the poorest in the Delta, unemployment reached almost 20 percent in 1986, nearly three times the national average.

    The King Club, Glendora, Mississippi, 1984. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “The King Club,” Glendora, Mississippi, 1984. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Photographer Birney Imes is a native of Columbus, Miss and grew up in the state when it was still segregated. His work has been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago and La Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

    Imes spent more than 20 years wandering through the Mississippi delta region capturing images of the lives he came upon.

    The Pink Pony, Darling, Mississippi. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “The Pink Pony, Darling,” Mississippi, 1985. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Imes told PBS NewsHour that he was attracted to a “world that was forbidden” to white residents of Mississippi.

    “Growing up in the segregated South, there were– there were these separate worlds living next to one another that often intermixed,” Imes said. “And I think part of what took me to photography was the desire to explore that world.”

    Turk's Place, Leflore County, 1989. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Turk’s Place,” Leflore County, Mississippi, 1989. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Girl on Catfish Alley, Columbus, Mississippi, 1990. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Girl on Catfish Alley,” Columbus, Mississippi, 1990. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Hermanville, Mississippi, 1981. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Hermanville, Mississippi, 1981. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Man with Mouthless Fish, Phillip, Mississippi, 1982. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Man with Mouthless Fish,” Phillip, Mississippi, 1982. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Oakland Baptism, Crawford, Mississippi, 1979. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Oakland Baptism,” Crawford, Mississippi, 1979. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Poochie, Marks, Mississippi, 1983. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Poochie Marks,” Mississippi, 1983. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Rabbit Hunters, Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1980. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Rabbit Hunters,” Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1980. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Smokey's Friend and Poochie, Marks, Mississippi, 1983. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Smokey’s Friend and Poochie,” Marks, Mississippi, 1983. Photo by Birney Imes.

    William Robertson, Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1982. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “William Robertson,” Lowndes County, Mississippi, 1982. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Blume on his 84th birthday, April 1986, Lowndes County, Mississippi. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Blume on his 84th birthday,” April 1986, Lowndes County, Mississippi. Photo by Birney Imes.

    Blume with Chicken, January 1986, Lowndes County, Mississippi

    “Blume with chicken,” January 1986, Lowndes County, Mississippi

    Blue and T.P., Lowndes County, Mississippi, Summer 1986. Photo by Birney Imes.

    “Blue and T.P.,” Lowndes County, Mississippi, Summer 1986. Photo by Birney Imes.

    The post Photos: Life in the Mississippi Delta in the 1980s and 90s appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — The number of drivers on the road with alcohol in their systems has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, but there has been a large increase in drivers using marijuana and other illegal drugs, a government report released Friday found.

    The report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the share of drivers who test positive for alcohol has declined by more than three-quarters since the agency first began conducting roadside surveys in 1973.

    But the latest survey, conducted in 2013 and 2014, also found that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety. That includes illegal drugs as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications.

    The anonymous surveys have been conducted five times over the last 40 years. They gather data in dozens of locations across the country from drivers who agree to participate.

    Mark Rosekind, head of the safety administration, credited anti-drunk driving efforts for the decline in drivers who test positive for alcohol, but said “there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash.”

    About 8 percent of drivers during weekend nighttime hours were found to have some alcohol in their system, and 1.5 percent were found with .08 percent or higher breath alcohol content – the legal limit in every state. Drivers with any alcohol in their systems and drivers testing greater than .08 were both down by about 30 percent from the previous survey in 2007. Both groups are also down by more than three-quarters since the first survey in 1973.

    At the same time, more than 15 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one illegal drug, up from 12 percent in 2007. The number of drivers with marijuana in their systems grew by nearly 50 percent over the same period of time, 8.6 percent in 2007 to 12.6 percent in 2014.

    “The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” Rosekind warned.

    A second survey, the largest of its kind, assessed the comparative risk of drunk and drugged driving. The study was conducted in Virginia Beach, Virginia, over a 20-month period and involved the collection of data from more than 3,000 drivers involved in a crash, and more than 6,000 crash-free drivers for comparison.

    That survey found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be part of demographic groups at higher risk of crashes generally. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men – a group already at high risk.

    “Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness,” said Jeff Michael, the agency’s associate administrator for research and program development.

    One complication to assessing crash risk by drivers who have used marijuana is that it can be detected in the human body for hours and sometimes days after the high from smoking has dissipated. Other studies have shown that a marijuana high typically peaks within 30 minutes and is gone within about three hours after ingestion.

    But unlike with alcohol, drivers high on pot tend to be aware that they are impaired and try to compensate by driving slowly, avoiding risky actions such as passing other cars, and allowing extra room between vehicles. On the other hand, combining marijuana with alcohol appears to eliminate the pot smoker’s exaggerated caution and to increase driving impairment beyond the effects of either substance alone.

    The post Fewer drunk, but more drug-impaired drivers on the road appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about his plan for free community college education and middle class economics during a visit Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 6, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about his plan for free community college education and middle class economics during a visit Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 6, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    INDIANAPOLIS — President Barack Obama said Friday that he dropped a widely criticized plan to scale back tax benefits for college savings accounts because the savings weren’t worth it.

    Obama, who revealed that he uses the 529 savings accounts for his own daughters, said he looked at reducing the tax savings because the accounts tend to be used by “folks who were a little more on the high end.” He says other taxpayers struggled to save enough to participate.

    About 12 million families take advantage of college savings plans, in which money can eventually be withdrawn with no tax on earnings to pay for postsecondary education costs. About half the accounts were held by families making more than $150,000, according to a 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office.

    The administration initially estimated that scaling back the tax breaks would bring in about $1 billion over 10 years. Obama had planned to use the savings to help fund his proposal to make two years of community college free for all. “Our thinking was you could save money by eliminating the 529 and shifting it into some other loan programs that would be more broadly based,” Obama told a crowd of nearly 400 at a town hall meeting at Ivy Tech Community College.

    But he quickly backed off after lawmakers from both parties objected.

    “It wasn’t worth it for us to eliminate it,” Obama said. “The savings weren’t that great. So we actually, based on response, changed our mind and are going to be paying for the two years of free community college with other sources.”

    Obama’s remarks were his first on the matter since the White House announced the shift last week, saying the issue had become a distraction. The president’s comments came in response to a question from a woman who said she uses the accounts to help her grandchildren.

    The president mixed politics with the personal as he touted his higher education agenda while talking about his own experience as a one-time student and the father of a daughter on her own college hunt.

    In response to a questioner who asked about help paying the rising costs of books, Obama said he understood the problem all too well after having to buy his own during undergraduate and law school.

    “I addition to the bonds of love, we had the bonds of debt. Our net worth was negative,” Obama said.

    Obama chuckled at kids these days on the college hunt. His older daughter, Malia, is checking out colleges during her junior year of high school.

    “These days, I hear everybody’s looking for fancy gyms and gourmet food and really spiffy dorms,” Obama said. He said that when he started at California’s Occidental College, the weight room amounted to not much more than a medicine ball and the cafeteria served food that wasn’t very appetizing. “There was something on the menu that we called roast beast, because we couldn’t really tell what kind of meat it was.”

    In the hometown of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Obama couldn’t get by without a question about his basketball game from Eddie White, host of the Pacers’ postgame show. He said he doesn’t play as much as he used to because “I’ll be honest with you, my game’s a little broke.”

    “The chances of an Achilles tear or an ACL injury is increasing each month, and then the satisfaction that I get from playing diminishes because I am so bad,” he said. He said the likelihood of injury is much lower with golf, which he plays most weekends when the weather permits.

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    Adnan Syed was convicted in 2000 on charges of robbery, false imprisonment and first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that it would hear arguments for Syed’s appeal in June.

    The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that it will hear arguments in defense of Adnan Syed, the subject of the blockbuster true crime podcast “Serial,” in June.

    “It’s the first step in a pretty long process but we’re extremely happy,” Syed’s attorney, C. Justin Brown, told the Baltimore Sun.

    Syed was convicted in 2000 on charges of robbery, false imprisonment and first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years.

    His application for appeal centers on the claim that his attorney, Christina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, provided him with ineffective counsel during his trial. Syed has said that Gutierrez did not heed his request to seek a guilty plea offer from the state.

    The court’s decision to hear arguments could eventually allow new evidence to be introduced in the case, the Washington Post reported.

    Such evidence might include testimony from Asia McClain, a key witness in the case who filed an affidavit in January claiming she was encouraged not to participate in Syed’s appeal.

    McClain has said she spoke with Syed at Woodlawn Public Library on Jan. 13, 1999, during the time period when the state argued Lee was murdered.

    McClain did not testify in Syed’s original trial and has also claimed her testimony was suppressed during his 2010 appeal.

    A key witness in the trial of Adnan Syed has provided a second affidavit to The Blaze.

    A key witness in the trial of Adnan Syed provided a second affidavit to The Blaze in January.

    Syed’s appeal to the Baltimore City Circuit Court for post-conviction relief in 2010 was denied. “Post-conviction relief” can include releasing the defendant from prison, altering his or her sentence, or even ordering a new trial.

    In an update on the “Serial” podcast website on Saturday, host Sarah Koenig said that while Syed had cleared a “big hurdle” with the Court of Special Appeals, the June appeal is only the first step in what is likely to be a lengthy court battle.

    “No matter what the Court of Special Appeals rules, it’s quite possible the whole megillah ends up in Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. Because if this current panel of judges grants Adnan relief, the state is likely to appeal to the highest court; and likewise, if it denies Adnan relief, Adnan’s attorney will probably do the same. So it’s bound to grind on for a long while yet.”

    Read more from “Maryland stands by its case against ‘Serial’ subject Adnan Syed.”

    The post ‘Serial’ subject Adnan Syed granted appeal by Maryland court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    ALISON STEWART: And now to Viewers Like You: your chance to comment on some of our recent work. Many wrote us about our interview describing a recent pew poll — a poll that found a large gap between what scientists believe and what the public believes.

    On the issue of genetically modified foods, The Reader commented: Scientists are so busy creating “bigger and better” they fail to consider the penalties of their creations. After water, fruits and vegetables are the staff of life, and life should, at the very least, be real.

    Gary Guthrie said: What’s scary is that 12 percent of scientists apparently believe that GMO’s are not safe to eat. That is the group to look to for facts.

    And from YaanG: The general public may distrust science on questions of what constitutes a healthy diet because they were led astray so many times. Think of how scientific thought has changed on dietary cholesterol, good/bad fats, carbs, equivalence of different sugars, food pyramids. etc etc.

    Linda Baetzel Szulczewski added: I agree that GMO is probably OK. I do think that we have a right to know what is [a] GMO.

    There was this from Fredric Dennis Williams: In the end, surveys of the ignorance of the population only serve to show (1) people lack a decent education and the ability to discern fact from fiction; (2) government misleads people, usually intentionally and for its own purposes; and (3) the media look for sensational stories that inspire fear. Welcome to Dumbocracy 2015.

    Mary Bethune Jordan said: I guess I’ll have to look into who is behind the PEW Research Center. I don’t buy this poll.

    And finally this, from Rolfe Eric Tikkala: I’m with science on this, but then again I bet on the Seahawks.

    As always, we welcome your comments at pbs.org/newshour, on our Facebook page or tweet us at @NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON– Democratic senators on Friday called on federal regulators to investigate Verizon Wireless, the country’s biggest mobile provider, for secretly inserting unique tracking codes into the Web traffic of its some 100 million customers.

    Data privacy experts have accused Verizon of violating consumers’ privacy by using “supercookies,” an identifying string of letters and numbers attached to each site visited on a person’s mobile device.

    “This whole supercookie business raises the specter of corporations being able to peek into the habits of Americans without their knowledge or consent,” said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, in a statement.

    Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Debra Lewis said the company “takes our customers’ privacy seriously” and that it planned to respond to Nelson’s letter to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission. The company had announced last week it would give customers the chance to opt out of the tracking program.

    The FCC and FTC did not respond to questions on whether they would conduct a review. The FCC regulates the telecommunications industry, while the FTC investigates consumer complaints based on unfair or deceptive business practices. The agencies typically do not acknowledge investigations until they are complete and only if wrongdoing is found.

    “The commission takes violations of consumer privacy extremely seriously,” said FCC spokesman Neil Grace in an emailed statement.

    Most people are familiar with online cookies- little bits of code attached to your Web browser after visiting a site. But popular Web browsers give the option of blocking these cookies or deleting them from your computer.

    As more people rely on wireless devices to go online, the industry found a new way to track people. At Verizon, each retail customer – business and government users were exempted – was assigned a unique code, or identifying header, that was inserted into their mobile applications and browsers. Critics called these supercookies because consumers couldn’t delete them and no one knew they were there. And while these trackers didn’t contain personal information, such as a name or phone number, they could be easily used to identify a person by monitoring their Web habits and cross-referencing it with information that a person volunteers online.

    A civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, compared supercookies to creating a “license plate for your brain” because everything a person thinks about and searches for online would become linked to an identifying header.

    Phone companies are required by law to give customers the opportunity to opt out of data collection for marketing purposes and have five business days to notify the FCC if that process fails. Last September, Verizon Communications agreed to pay $7.4 million to settle allegations after it failed to notify some 2 million customers of its privacy policies.

    In the letters to regulators, Nelson said he wants to know whether Verizon violated any laws and suggested new privacy legislation might be needed. Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts also signed the letters.

    AT&T Mobility, which had experimented with the idea, announced last November that it’s no longer attaching the hidden codes.

    Consumers’ interest in privacy and their digital anonymity has intensified in recent years, following revelations by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden. Top secret NSA documents he leaked to journalists revealed the NSA was collecting the phone records and digital communications of millions of citizens not suspected of a crime, prompting congressional changes.

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    Refugees from eastern Ukraine stand in a queue to receive food donated to a volunteer centre in Slaviansk

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS ANCHOR: As we reported earlier, world leaders have been meeting to try to end the fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

    For more on the situation on the ground in Ukraine, we are joined now via Skype from Donetsk by Peter Leonard, who is reporting there for the “Associated Press”.

    Peter, one of the more striking events that’s happened recently is in the small down of — and I’m going to try to say this correctly — Debaltseve, is that the fighting ceased for a short period of time so that civilians could evacuate. Both sides stopped fighting.

    First of all, what’s the significance of this town, and why stop the fighting?

    PETER LEONARD, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, to begin with, the significance of the town is essentially is it lies along a railway line that connects the two main rebel cities. And so, if these rebel territories are ever to be economically sustainable and to exist as independent entities as they would like, they really have to have all of the trappings of an act for a functional state, which is to say a transportation infrastructure and various other kind of industrial concerns. And so, this is why the rebel offensive has concentrated so much on capturing this city.

    Now, in what came as a clearly unusual development, the Ukrainian and the rebel side agreed to suspend hostilities for a few hours yesterday so that the civilians who have remained in the city could be evacuated. The town, I should say, has been on the receiving end of sustained shelling for several months now, but especially intensive shelling for the last couple of weeks.

    ALISON STEWART: The humanitarian crisis is growing. About a million people are displaced at this point. Is there anything being done on the ground to address this crisis?

    PETER LEONARD: In fact, the number of displaced people is actually a higher than just a million. It’s now about a million within Ukrainian itself, and another 600,000, according to U.N. figures, who have left the country, mostly to Russia. And as I say, the efforts are mainly concentrated on resettling those people who have sought shelter in safer areas, although — I mean, as far as Ukraine is concerned, with the disastrous state of its economy it’s really sort of straining to support this huge displacement of people.

    Russia, clearly, has greater resources in that respect.

    ALISON STEWART: And what is the situation in Donetsk where you are?

    PETER LEONARD: I mean, it varies from day to day, and even talking to you, from time to time I hear sounds of outgoing shelling. So, it’s — the fighting is still very close to the city indeed.

    ALISON STEWART: Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has she does not believe this will end via military lines. Whereas, the United States is considering sending weapons to the Ukrainian supporters. Why the difference in opinion between the U.S. and Europe?

    PETER LEONARD: Well, you know — I mean, the thing is I suppose Europe feels like it has a rather greater stake in the whole situation. I mean, Ukraine is right on its doorstep and I think that it feels as though European leaders would rather this whole problem went away. I mean, with Greece on the stake — I think it probably — it’s got more than enough to deal with.

    The United States has been very supportive of the government that came in after the revolution last year, and I think it feels as though the possibility, the kind of the dangling of potential military support in the month to come is — I suppose Washington considers to be a continuation of its support for this very strongly pro-Western government.

    ALISON STEWART: Peter Leonard reporting for the “Associated Press” — thank you so much. And please be safe.

    PETER LEONARD: Will do. Thank you very much.

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    Doctor Quarantined At NYC's Bellevue Hospital After Testing Positive For Ebola

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS ANCHOR: You might have seen the headlines the past day or two, about how scientists in New York searched the city’s subway system and, perhaps not surprisingly, found all kinds of germs that could cause everything from like common cold to meningitis.

    Now, health department officials immediately downplayed any serious threat and wise-cracking New Yorkers joked about the story, but the work is actually part of a very serious effort to bolster the public health system.

    Joining us now is a scientist whose work generated those headlines. Dr. Christopher Mason is a geneticist at Weill Cornell Medical College.

    Doctor, what did you do exactly in the subway?

    DR. CHRISTOPHER MASON, WEILL CORNELL MEDICAL COLLEGE: So, we wanted to build the first molecular map of New York City, kind of like a Google Maps, where you can zoom in and see what molecules are present at different areas of the city to better classify, track, and understand how the dynamics of the services that we all touch every day, how they change over time. But to do that, we first need to build a baseline.

    ALISON STEWART: And how did you do that? Literally went into the subway and start swabbing?

    DR. CHRISTOPHER MASON: We did, indeed.

    So, we had a mixture of high school students, graduate students, public health students, medical students, down swarming the subway system and bringing nylon swabs and swabbing for three minutes, they collect enough DNA, and bring it back to the lab, which track DNA, and then sequence it — essentially generating 10 billion small molecules of DNA that’s all around the subway system.

    ALISON STEWART: What was the thing you found that you thought, didn’t expect that?

    DR. CHRISTOPHER MASON: So, the most surprising part of the study was that about 48 percent of all the DNA molecules we find don’t match any organism that’s known to humankind. So, there’s really a wealth of discovery literally under our fingertips that we’ve never seen before until this study.

    ALISON STEWART: What is the broader mission of this study?

    DR. CHRISTOPHER MASON: So, we’re trying to — with this baseline, we’re trying to then expand out to see how does this change within one city over time, so you can look at sort of seasonal shifts of what happens to what we call the microbiome, which is the ecosystems of microorganisms we touch every day.

    And then, also, in a larger sense, we want to be sort of a smart city so we could use this to look, essentially, for changes in this baseline that might indicate changes for disease surveillance or potentially could contextualize a bioterrorism event if it were to occur.

    ALISON STEWART: Is this something that can be applied to other public transportation systems?

    DR. CHRISTOPHER MASON: Absolutely. So, we — you know, part of the context is not only within the city over time, but comparing New York to other cities. So, we want — essentially, there is some work being done in Boston. We have begun swabbing in Sao Paulo in Brazil, also been looking in Paris, and Tokyo, and some work is in Hong Kong. And we also have collaborations with Shanghai. So, the larger goal is to really have molecular views of many cities.

    ALISON STEWART: And I’m curious if this applies in any way to all the discussions we have been having about — and people have talking about measles?

    DR. CHRISTOPHER MASON: Looking ahead, what we could do with this type of studies and this type of data is to make it even faster. So, there are technologies and some of them are in my laboratory today, where you can actually sequence DNA as it appears in real time.

    So, in that case, you would then know not after someone got sick, essentially, but you’d know as the piece of DNA or RNA, or as the virus or bacteria appears in a city, you could potentially track it in real time and then respond to it much faster. So, it could potentially impact all the millions of people who live in the cities and billions of people who ride the subway or transit — mass transit every year.

    ALISON STEWART: Dr. Christopher Mason, thanks for sharing your science.

    DR. CHRISTOPHER MASON: Thanks. A pleasure being here.

    ALISON STEWART: We shook hands, by the way.

    DR. CHRISTOPHER MASON: OK. Yes, yes, and fist bumps. Yes.

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    > IAVA's Fifth Annual Heroes Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on November 9, 2011 in New York City.

    Brian Williams is shown here at a 2011 gala for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in New York City. The NBC news anchor said Saturday that he will take a leave of absence from his role on “Nightly News.” Photo by Joe Corrigan/Getty Images for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

    Brian Williams said Saturday he will take a leave of absence from his anchor role at “NBC Nightly News.”

    “It has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions,” Williams said in a statement.

    Williams said he would take himself off the broadcast “for the next several days” but would come back.

    “Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us,” he wrote.

    The program’s weekend anchor, Lester Holt, will fill in for Williams during his absence.

    Williams’ announcement comes amid mounting criticism over the anchor’s admission that he mislead viewers with a story of being in a helicopter hit by enemy fire during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    NBC News President Deborah Turness said Friday the company would launch an investigation into Williams’ reporting.

    “As you would expect, we have a team dedicated to gathering the facts to help us make sense of all that has transpired,” Turness wrote in a memo to NBC staff.

    The head of NBC News’ investigative unit, Richard Esposito, is slated to lead the probe, which will examine Williams’ story about the downed helicopter as well as claims he made while reporting on Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    Williams, the long-time anchor and managing editor of NBC’s flagship news program, apologized to viewers Wednesday and recanted his account of being aboard a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2003.

    Tom Brokaw, Williams’ “Nightly News” predecessor, also weighed in Friday to dismiss a report that Brokaw had privately called for Williams’ dismissal.

    “Brian’s future will be decided by him and the executives of NBC News,” he said in an e-mail to the New York Times.

    NBC’s next move is further complicated by the fact that there is no heir apparent for Williams’ anchor spot on the “Nightly News.” The show is the nation’s most widely viewed television news program, with more than nine million nightly viewers.

    Turness left Williams’ fate an open question in her Friday memo.

    “We’re working on what the best next steps are — and when we have something to communicate we will of course share it with you,” she wrote.

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    U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) delivers remarks at the morning plenary session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington September 26, 2014. Paul's statements about vaccination and other medical issues came under scrutiny this week.  Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) delivers remarks at the morning plenary session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington September 26, 2014. Paul’s past statements about vaccination and other medical issues came under scrutiny this week. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    DES MOINES, Iowa — As a medical doctor, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has a rare set of credentials at the intersection of science and politics. But the glare of the 2016 presidential race is searing, and under it, Paul had a rough week.

    On Friday night in Iowa, Paul faced likely voters in the state’s leadoff nominating caucuses for the first time since answering questions about a measles outbreak centered in California. Paul said Monday that he had heard about “many tragic cases” of children who got vaccines and ended up with “profound mental disorders.”

    That assertion has no basis in medical research, and Paul clearly was still upset on Friday about how his comments had been received.

    “It may be a little because I’m a doctor, but really I think it’s inaccuracies” fueled by reporters, he told The Associated Press. “From my point of view, that’s frustrating.”

    Paul’s supporters in Iowa rallied around him, bestowing on him “more credibility than other would-be presidential candidates on the issue,” said former Iowa Republican Party co-chairman David Fischer, a Paul supporter.

    But the episode probably took a toll on Paul, a libertarian who intends to try to highlight his background as a physician as an advantage if a possible White House campaign.

    Republicans in Washington distanced themselves from Paul this past week, and none went out of his way to defend him.

    “As a doctor, I believe all children should be vaccinated,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., an orthopedic surgeon. It was a line he repeated several times when asked about the uproar.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he would support a run by Paul, made no secret of his disagreement with Paul about the value of childhood vaccinations.

    “As a victim of polio myself, I’m a big fan of vaccinations,” McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters.

    Paul’s immunization comments were the latest, and most inflammatory, example of the challenge he faces as the one of two doctors – along with Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon – among the more than dozen GOP contenders.

    Paul is viewed as an expert on science in an age where anyone with Internet access can check his statements. He also is a politician and a congressman’s son whose platform revolves around a distrust of government shared by some in both parties.

    “Physicians look at things differently,” Paul told the AP. “We don’t think of things so much in partisan terms. We think of them as problems. And the problem has to be fixed.”

    When it comes to vaccinations, he said, “the science doesn’t show a relation” between them and mental disorders.

    Carson, who has generated a following in Iowa and nationally among conservatives, said this past week that he has heard stories of brain damage resulting from vaccinations. But he was quick to add that in his career as a pediatric surgeon, he had never been presented with such a case.

    “There have been many stories like that, that have circulated,” Carson said. “Have I ever encountered one? No.”

    Paul’s words about a medical issue have raised eyebrows before.

    Last fall, when the Ebola virus reached the United States in a few isolated cases, Paul told a group of college students that the disease can spread from an infected person to someone standing 3 feet away. He called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic.

    Paul also suggested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the transmission of Ebola sound similar to that of AIDS. Ebola, he said, is easier to contract.

    “You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul said. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within 3 feet of someone.”

    Health authorities worldwide have said that Ebola is only transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids – and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus.

    Such political missteps are noticed by those paying early attention to the presidential race.

    Gwen Ecklund, the Republican Party chairwoman in Iowa’s GOP-heavy Crawford County is not yet aligned with any candidate. She said Paul’s medical credentials add weight to his words.

    “I think people pay more attention when Sen. Paul is saying it, more than when others do,” she said.

    The post Rand Paul’s vaccine claims under microscope appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A mourner with an Israeli flag draped over his shoulder attends the joint funeral of victims of Friday's attack on a Paris grocery, in Jersualem

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    MARTIN HIMEL: This is Garges-Lès-Gonesse, a partisan suburb, where the synagogue Shaare Rahamim was built more than 60 years ago. It’s now smack in the middle of what has become a mostly Muslim immigrant community. Jews here say they have been regularly subjected to anti-Semitic attacks.

    ALAIN BEN SIMON: It’s a real bunker, but this is the only way to reassure the congregants. Otherwise we’d have to move out of the synagogue.

    MARTIN HIMEL: This apartment block is really on the frontline of a conflict between this immigrant community and the Jews that worship in the synagogue to my right. It’s from this apartment block that a Molotov cocktail has been thrown at the Synagogue, rocks have been thrown at the Synagogue, even a bullet has been fired from this direction.

    Jews at the synagogue told us they typically summon the police a few times a week. And when the police come, they document the new graffiti: swastikas, ‘sale Juif’ which means dirty Jew.

    ALAIN BEN SIMON: It’s true that it’s not the best place for a Jewish community. But we’re here, so we have to get on with it.

    MARTIN HIMEL: Even before the recent attack on the kosher market in Paris, anti-Semitic protests were intensifying. There were a number of Jewish store owners who were forced to lock themselves in during one protest, after Israel’s war with Hamas last summer in Gaza.

    Between January and July 2014, according to data gathered by Jewish groups and the French government, the number of anti-Semitic acts in France nearly doubled compared to the same period in 2013. The same figures show half of all racist attacks in France target Jews, even though they number less than one percent of the population.

    And years ago at another protest in Paris, Muslims demonstrated, chanting “Khaybar ya-Yahud,” which means that Mohammed’s army will crush the Jews as they did in Khaybar in the seventh century.

    Radical Islamic activists had attacked Jews years before the recent kosher market kidnappings and murders. In 2012, that buildup of hatred against Jews led to a bloody onslaught perpetrated by a radical Islamic terrorist.

    Mohammed Merah, a French radical Muslim shot and killed a Rabbi, his two small sons, and an eight year old girl at the entrance of a Jewish school in Toulouse, a city about 420 miles south of Paris. It was one of the worst anti-Semitic attacks in Europe since World War II.

    RICHARD PRASQUIER: If you come to a Jewish school and you shoot a Jewish children on her head- you cannot be something else than an extraordinary anti-Semite. And the question of anti-Semitism was somehow blurred by the idea that we should not stigmatize any population.

    MARTIN HIMEL: Jewish leaders point out the French Muslim community is not at war with French Jewry and they note Muslim leaders condemned the attacks.

    RICHARD PRASQUIER: Muslim religion is not responsible for this murder but radical Islam is responsible for this murder and this murder is an anti-Semitic murder.

    MARTIN HIMEL: Seventeen-year-old Tomas was at the school during the attack and is now too afraid to wear his Jewish prayer cap, his yarmulke, outside of the house. He vividly recalls the day of the attack.

    TOMAS FRIEDMAN: Tomas Friedman: I see people bleeding, people crying, screaming, but I’m still shocked. It’s the worst day of my life.

    MARTIN HIMEL: Though he and his family still observe the Sabbath every weekend inside their home, his father, Marc, fears it may be too dangerous for his family to remain in France.

    More than seventy years ago, Marc Friedman’s grandmother was taken from this home by Nazis and sent to a concentration camp.

    MARC FRIEDMAN: She had been deported to Bergen Belsen, and she survive and she came back. I buy this house. To be in the same house, you know? Because it’s important.

    MARTIN HIMEL: Now Friedman fears he will be forced to leave his home, because of resurgent anti-Semitism.

    Marc Friedman: We think we are French people before to be Jewish. But no, we are Jewish.

    MARTIN HIMEL: Friedman and many Jews are convinced the source of this anti-Semitism comes from anger, partially from economic hardships and social exclusion. But they are also worried that it is being generated by a militant Islamic ideology.

    According to police reports, Mohammed Merah, the assailant in the school attack, studied Salafism, an ultra conservative form of Islam which has a wide following in Egypt.

    Sheik Mohammed Ali Suleiman is an Egyptian Salafist and scholar whom we interviewed in Cairo. According to the Sheik, there will be an inevitable apocalyptic showdown.

    SHEIK MOHAMMED ALI SULEIMAN: Muslims and Jews will fight until the Day of Judgment. It is a religious war between Muslims and Jews.

    MARTIN HIMEL: The Sheik tells us a Hadith, a saying that comes from the prophet Mohammed. Sayings are interpreted one way or another by various Muslim groups.

    SHEIK MOHAMMED ALI SULEIMAN: The Jew will hide behind the stone and the tree, so the stone and the tree will call out: “Oh Muslim, servant of God, a Jew is behind me, so come and kill him.”

    MARTIN HIMEL: It’s this radical militant Islamic ideology, professing a genocide of Jews, that inspired Mohammed Merah, the assailant in the school attack, and the assailant who struck at the kosher supermarket in Paris.

    Rabbi Shaar Kesselman’s father-in-law established the school attacked in Toulouse. Kesselman is now the Rabbi of the Jewish community in Malmö, Sweden. He says there has been a number of anti-Semitic acts near his synagogue.

    That’s why the Rabbi calls the road in front of his Synagogue the “Street of Hate.”

    RABBI SHNEUR KESSELMAN: Cars driving by, people rolling down the window, shouting anti- Semitic remarks. There have been incidents of people throwing things at me. And I had a car try to run me and my wife over once, which was quite a traumatic incident.

    The vast majority of those which stand behind these incidents are immigrants, or people with immigrant backgrounds.

    I believe that the trauma which Europe has experienced after the Holocaust, is starting to fade out. I don’t think this is any new form of anti-Semitism, I think it’s a different face, a different cover, but it is the same old Jew hatred.

    If a person’s hate could take them so far to start cursing and throwing things at a total stranger just because he is Jewish, for me that says that all the normal boundaries and limitations, of what’s accepted in a civilized society, have fallen.

    The post Why have anti-Semitic attacks on French Jews doubled in a year? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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