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

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    The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. This week, a data breach at Anthem compromised the data of 80 million people, prompting calls for cybersecurity standards for health care companies. Photo by Gus Ruelas/Reuters

    The office building of health insurer Anthem is seen in Los Angeles, California February 5, 2015. This week, a data breach at Anthem compromised the data of 80 million people, prompting calls for cybersecurity standards for health care companies. Photo by Gus Ruelas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Insurers aren’t required to encrypt consumers’ data under a 1990s federal law that remains the foundation for health care privacy in the Internet age – an omission that seems striking in light of the major cyberattack against Anthem.

    Encryption uses mathematical formulas to scramble data, converting sensitive details coveted by intruders into gibberish. Anthem, the second-largest U.S. health insurer, has said the data stolen from a company database that stored information on 80 million people was not encrypted.

    The main federal health privacy law – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA – encourages encryption, but doesn’t require it.

    The lack of a clear encryption standard undermines public confidence, some experts say, even as the government plows ahead to spread the use of computerized medical records and promote electronic information sharing among hospitals, doctors and insurers.

    “We need a whole new look at HIPAA,” said David Kibbe, CEO of DirectTrust, a nonprofit working to create a national framework for secure electronic exchange of personal health information.

    “Any identifying information relevant to a patient … should be encrypted,” said Kibbe. It should make no difference, he says, whether that information is being transmitted on the Internet or sitting in a company database, as was the case with Anthem.

    Late Friday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee said it’s planning to examine encryption requirements as part of a bipartisan review of health information security. “We will consider whether there are ways to strengthen current protections,” said Jim Jeffries, spokesman for chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

    The agency charged with enforcing the privacy rules is a small unit of the federal Health and Human Services Department, called the Office for Civil Rights.

    The office said in a statement Friday that it has yet to receive formal notification of the hack from Anthem, but nonetheless is treating the case as a privacy law matter. Although Anthem alerted mainline law enforcement agencies, the law allows 60 days for notifying HHS.

    The statement from the privacy office said the kind of personal data stolen by the Anthem hackers is covered by HIPAA, even if it does not include medical information.

    “The personally identifiable information health plans maintain on enrollees and members – including names and Social Security numbers – is protected under HIPAA, even if no specific diagnostic or treatment information is disclosed,” the statement said.

    A 2009 federal law promoting computerized medical records sought to nudge the health care industry toward encryption. Known as the HITECH Act, it required public disclosure of any health data breach affecting 500 or more people. It also created an exemption for companies that encrypt their data.

    Encryption has been seen as a controversial issue in the industry, particularly with data that’s only being stored and not transmitted. Encryption adds costs and can make day-to-day operations more cumbersome. It can also be defeated if someone manages to decipher the code or steals the key to it.

    In fact, Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns said encryption would not have thwarted the latest attack because the hacker also had a system administrator’s ID and password. She said the company normally encrypts data that it exports.

    But some security experts said a stolen credential by itself shouldn’t be an all-access pass to encrypted data.

    Martin Walter, senior director at RedSeal Networks, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm, said encryption can be tuned to limit the data that even authorized users can view at one time. That makes it harder for an outsider to copy a whole stockpile of records.

    Under the HITECH law, the government set up a public database listing major breaches, known informally as the “hall of shame.” Breaches on that list affected more than 40 million people over a decade, meaning that the Anthem case could be twice as damaging as all previous reported incidents combined.

    Indiana University law professor Nicolas Terry said it seemed at the time of the 2009 law that the government had struck a reasonable balance, creating incentives for encryption while stopping short of imposing a one-size-fits-all solution. Now he’s concerned that the compromise has been overtaken by events.

    “In today’s environment, we should expect all health care providers to encrypt their data from end to end,” said Terry, who specializes in health information technology.

    If the voluntary approach isn’t working, “HHS should amend the security rule to make encryption mandatory,” he said.

    The post Lack of encryption standards raises health data privacy questions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters Saudi Arabia's King Salman gestures to the media as he sits with U.S. President Barack Obama at Erga Palace in Riyadh, Jan. 27. A court testimony by Zacharias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaida member serving life in federal prison, has renewed questions of a link between the government of Saudi Arabia and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While some American officials urge for the release of 28 pages of classified documents relating to Saudi Arabia from a joint congressional inquiry into the attacks, others say no such link exists and making the material public would serve no purpose.

    Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sits with President Barack Obama at Erga Palace in Riyadh on Jan. 27. A court testimony by Zacharias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaida member serving life in federal prison, has renewed questions of a potential link between the government of Saudi Arabia and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — For years, some current and former American officials have been urging President Barack Obama to release secret files they say document links between the government of Saudi Arabia and the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Other officials, including the executive director of the Sept. 11 commission, have said the classified documents do not prove that the Saudi government knew about or financed the 2001 terrorist attacks, and that making the material public would serve no purpose.

    Now, unsubstantiated court testimony by Zacharias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaida member serving life in federal prison, has renewed the push by those who want a closer look into whether there was official Saudi involvement with al-Qaida and the Sept. 11 hijackers. They say it should start with the release of 28 pages relating to Saudi Arabia from a joint congressional inquiry into the attacks.

    “We owe the families a full accounting,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts, a Democrat who has read the classified pages written in 2002. They were left out of the public version of the report on the orders of President George W. Bush, who said they could divulge intelligence sources and methods. Officials on both sides of the debate acknowledge that protecting the delicate U.S.-Saudi relationship also played a role.

    Lynch and Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., have sponsored a resolution that calls for declassifying the records. The White House has asked intelligence agencies to review the pages with an eye toward potential declassification, spokesman Ned Price said, but there is no timetable.

    The controversy comes at a consequential moment in the relationship between the U.S. and the kingdom.

    Saudi Arabia has a new king – pro-American like the late monarch – and the two wary allies are working closely to confront the Islamic State, the turmoil in Yemen and Iran’s nuclear aspirations. At the same time, U.S. officials say they continue to privately admonish Saudi Arabia over human rights abuses in the kingdom, such as the recent flogging of a blogger, and its support of the spread of religious extremism abroad.

    Moussaoui, who claimed during his terror conspiracy court case that he had planned to fly a plane into the White House on Sept. 11, was deposed by lawyers in a civil suit by some Sept. 11 families who are seeking damages from the Saudi government and other defendants, including charities and banks. Saudi Arabia vigorously disputes the allegations.

    Moussaoui testified at his trial that key members of the Saudi royal family continued to fund al-Qaida in the late 1990s, even after the organization had declared war on the House of Saud. He also described plotting with an employee of the Saudi Embassy in Washington to shoot down Air Force One.

    Lynch said the classified 28 pages, which are drawn from intelligence collection and FBI investigations, “are consistent” with Moussaoui’s testimony.

    “There are specifics, there are transactions, there are names,” Lynch said.

    Others who have read the document say it’s far from definitive.

    Two senior congressional aides described the case as weak. One noted that just because Saudi citizens helped the mostly Saudi hijackers in the U.S. does not mean they knew about the operation. Another said that the pages contain inaccuracies that could compromise an important diplomatic relationship.

    The aides spoke on condition of anonymity to describe material that remains classified.

    “If you think it’s thin, well then, why not release it?” Lynch said.

    Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said he supports the release because he believes the pages would “demystify” the notion of a Saudi conspiracy.

    “The issues raised in those pages were investigated by the 9/11 commission and found to be unsubstantiated,” he said.

    That commission, which built on the work of the joint congressional inquiry with access to FBI files and secret intelligence, did not exonerate Saudi Arabia. But it did conclude in its 2004 report that there was no evidence that the Saudi government funded al-Qaida during the planning of the attacks.

    “It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban financially supported al-Qaida before 9/11, although some governments may have contained al-Qaida sympathizers who turned a blind eye to al-Qaida’s fundraising activities,” the report said. “Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al-Qaida funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”

    Two ardent dissenters from that conclusion have been former Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a leader of the congressional inquiry and longtime chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and John Lehman, a Sept. 11 commission member and former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan.

    Graham has said he sees “a direct line between some of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia.” He believes that a Saudi government agent living in the United States, Omar al-Bayoumi, provided assistance to two Sept. 11 hijackers in San Diego at the behest of elements of the Saudi government.

    The New York lawsuit argues that Saudi rulers were playing a double game in the years before the attacks, expelling Osama bin Laden and declaring opposition to al-Qaida, while secretly funding it to assuage the kingdom’s religious conservatives.

    Moussaoui, in testimony from a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, told plaintiff lawyers it was “an absolute lie” that Saudi Arabia severed its ties with bin Laden and al-Qaida in 1994.

    “This is a complete misleading … assumption of people who are not familiar with the way the Saudi government is established” because the government has “two heads of the snake,” he said, according to a transcript.

    The House of Saud, he said, “cannot keep power in Saudi Arabia without having the agreement” of the extremist Wahhabi religious establishment, he said.

    “Look, see, we are not against Islam or the jihad, we finance bin Laden.”

    Associated Press writer Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.

    The post New allegations renew old questions linking Saudi Arabia to 9-11 attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An original version of the Magna Carta on display at Sotheby's auction house in New York December 17, 2007. A 1300 edition of the document from was discovered in a town archive in England. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    An original version of the Magna Carta on display at Sotheby’s auction house in New York is shown on Dec. 17, 2007. An edition of the document from 1300 was discovered in a town archive in England. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    A rare early copy of the Magna Carta, the medieval English charter that forms the foundation of modern democratic rights, has been found in a Victorian-era scrapbook in Kent County, England.

    For decades, the document, which dates back to 1300, lay forgotten in archives belonging to the town of Sandwich, which intends to keep the charter as a tourist attraction.

    Dr. Mark Bateson, a Kent archivist, found the document late last year while looking for a copy of the Charter of the Forest, another medieval legal document, which granted common people access to royal lands, among other things. The two documents were found together in a scrapbook from the late 19th century. The only other such pair in the world belongs to Oriel College, Oxford.

    Although the copy of the Magna Carta has been damaged by moisture and is missing about a third of its original text, it has historical and monetary value as one of just 24 known copies of the legal code, which Sotheby’s auction house has called “the most famous document in history.”

    Nicholas Vincent, a professor of medieval history at the University of East Anglia in England, who authenticated the discovery, estimates the document is worth up to 10 million British pounds ($15.2 million).

    The mayor of Sandwich Town Council, Paul Graeme, told the Guardian: “On behalf of Sandwich town council, I would like to say that we are absolutely delighted to discover that an original Magna Carta and original Charter of the Forest, previously unknown, are in our ownership.”

    “To own one of these documents, let alone both, is an immense privilege given their international importance,” he said.

    The original Magna Carta, written entirely in Latin, was the result of a compromise between the king and a group of rebel barons in 1215.

    The famous charter established several important legal principles, including the rule of law and the notion that everyone–including the king—is subject to the law. It also codified the right of habeas corpus, stating that no free person should be imprisoned without a lawful trial.

    June 15 will mark 800 years since King John sealed the Magna Carta near London in 1215. The occasion will be commemorated by a year-long series of events across the United Kingdom, including an initiative, planned for the eve of the anniversary, called LiberTeas, in which parliament will encourage citizens to “sit down to tea to celebrate, debate or reflect on their liberties.”

    The post Forgotten copy of Magna Carta found in UK archive appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ornately costumed partygoers have showed up in droves for the Carnival of Venice, a centuries-old, annual festival, which began as a way for Venetians to let loose in the days leading up to Lent, the period before Easter when Catholics observe penance and prayer.

    Nearly three million visitors flock to the islands of Venice every year to partake in the carnival’s gala dinners, parades, masked balls and concerts. Many participants dress in lavish costumes and elaborate hand-painted masks usually made of leather, porcelain or glass.

    The carnival, which runs until Feb. 17, culminates in the contest for la maschera più bella (the most beautiful mask) that takes place during the event’s last weekend and is judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers. 

    Masked revelers pose in front of St. Mark square during carnival in Venice, February 8, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    Masked revellers pose in front of St. Mark square during carnival in Venice, February 8, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    A masked reveler poses at Saint Mark's square during Carnival in Venice, February 8, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    A masked reveler poses at Saint Mark’s square during Carnival in Venice, February 8, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    A masked reveler poses in St. Mark's square during the Carnival in Venice, February 7, 2015.  Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    A masked reveler poses in St. Mark’s square during the Carnival in Venice, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    The traditional Columbine descends from Saint Mark's tower bell on an iron cable during the Venetian Carnival in Venice February 8, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    The traditional Columbine descends from Saint Mark’s tower bell on an iron cable during the Venetian Carnival in Venice February 8, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    A masked reveler poses in Saint Mark square during carnival in Venice February 8, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS

    A masked reveler poses in Saint Mark square during carnival in Venice February 8, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS

    Iranian mask artisan Hamid works in his shop "Ca' del Sol" near St. Mark's square during the first day of carnival in Venice February 1, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    Iranian mask artisan Hamid works in his shop “Ca’ del Sol” near St. Mark’s square during the first day of carnival in Venice February 1, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    Masked revelers ride a gondola during the Venice Carnival, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    Masked revelers ride a gondola during the Venice Carnival, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    Revelers inside the Caffe Florian coffee shop in Saint Mark's Square during the Venice Carnival, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    Revelers inside the Caffe Florian coffee shop in Saint Mark’s Square during the Venice Carnival, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    Revelers pose in front of St. Mark's Square during the Venice Carnival, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    Revelers pose in front of St. Mark’s Square during the Venice Carnival, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    A masked reveler poses in St. Mark's Square during the Venice Carnival, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    A masked reveler poses in St. Mark’s Square during the Venice Carnival, February 7, 2015. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS.

    The post Frocked to frolic: Masked revelers turn out in style for Carnival of Venice appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas Jan. 22, pushing his State of the Union message that everyone should stand to gain from an economy that has all but recovered from years in the doldrums. A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds Americans' views of Obama's handling of the economy have slightly improved in the past two months.

    President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas on Jan. 22. A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds Americans’ views of Obama’s handling of the economy have slightly improved in the past two months. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Americans’ views of President Barack Obama have improved slightly in the past two months, and opinions are more positive about the direction of the country and the health of the economy, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

    A slim majority now approves of the way Obama is handling unemployment, according to the poll, conducted before Friday’s release of a surprisingly strong jobs report.

    Forty-seven percent of those surveyed approve of how Obama is doing his job, compared with 41 percent in December, and 51 percent approve of his handling of unemployment, compared with 44 percent before.

    Nearly half say the economy is good now, while 41 percent thought that in December. In December 2013, only one-third called the economy good.

    Approval of the way Obama is handling the economy improved slightly, 41 percent to 45 percent, over the past two months.

    Friday’s report showed that U.S. employers added 257,000 jobs in January, and hourly wages grew by 12 cents to $24.75, the biggest gain since September 2008. Hourly pay has increased 2.2 percent in the past year.

    “We’ve come a long way these past six years since we suffered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama said Friday in Indianapolis. “In 2014, our economy created more than 3.1 million jobs, and that’s the best year of job growth since the 1990s,” adding that “America is poised for another good year.”

    Despite the increase in jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent from 5.6 percent, largely because more people began looking for jobs. An increase in the number of job hunters can indicate that people are more confident in their ability to find work, even if the official unemployment rate goes up.

    But people still feel that their own recovery is lagging, the poll shows, with only 35 percent saying their own family has completely or mostly recovered from economic downturn.

    Just 27 percent see the job market where they live as being most of the way to recovery, far less than the number that thinks big businesses (55 percent) and the stock market (53 percent) have bounced all the way back.

    People also fear the possibility of another downturn. Three-quarters say the government has not put the right rules and regulations in place to stop another recession from occurring.

    Obama has been keen to take credit for the improving economic landscape, arguing that new financial regulations, an early boost in government spending and the bailout of the auto industry under his watch were essential to the recovery.

    Economic concerns remain at the top of Americans’ minds, the AP-GfK poll shows, with 9 in 10 calling the economy a very or extremely important issue, significantly more than any other issue asked about in the poll.

    The poll finds that people are slightly more likely to trust Democrats than Republicans on handling economic issues, 33 percent to 28 percent.

    Improving views of the president also came with a small increase in the percentage that thinks the country is headed in the right direction – 39 percent compared with 33 percent in December.

    Much of that improvement was among Democrats, two-thirds of whom now think the country is headed in the right direction. Improved ratings among Democrats appeared to boost Obama’s approval rating.

    Bolstered by lower unemployment, greater consumer confidence and evidence of a rise in his approval ratings, Obama has made an aggressive start to his final two years in office even after November’s elections gave control of Congress to Republicans. The White House hopes a stronger recovery gives Obama the credibility to confront Republicans with his own economic pitch.

    In spite of growing optimism about politics and the economy, 8 in 10 people questioned have little confidence that Obama and Republicans in Congress can work together to solve the country’s problems.

    Americans blame both sides for the perceived impasse. About half thinks Obama doesn’t compromise enough with Republicans to get things done, while 6 in 10 say Republicans don’t compromise enough with Obama. Fewer than 2 in 10 think either side compromises too much.

    The AP-GfK Poll of 1,045 adults was conducted online Jan. 29-Feb. 2, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

    Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.

    The post Poll: Slim majority approves of Obama job on unemployment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Candlelight Vigil Held For Executed Jordanian Pilot

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS ANCHOR: We turn now to our continuing series of conversations about the war on ISIS.

    This week brought more news in that fight. On Monday, the Islamic militant group released a video showing the killing of a Jordanian pilot held captive since December. ISIS also claimed that Kayla Jean Mueller, an American woman it had also been holding, was killed in a Jordanian airstrike.

    And, today, John Allen, the retired Marine Corps general who heads the U.S.-led coalition fight against ISIS, had this to say:

    LT. GEN. JOHN ALLEN (RET.): International Coalition Coordinator: ISIL is at an entirely different level than al-Qaida was. It’s better organized. Its command-and-control is better.

    ALISON STEWART: To help us analyze these developments, we are joined from Washington, D.C., by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Mr. Cordesman previously served in the State Department and was the director of intelligence assessment in the office of the secretary of defense.

    Mr. Cordesman, I would like to start with Jordan, where there has been significant action, first the execution of two members of ISIS, and, of course, King Abdullah saying that he will continue to use his military until — quote — “they run out of fuel and bullets.”

    Please, tell me, what is Jordan’s capacity in this manner to fight ISIS?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, Center For Strategic International Studies: Well, it’s very effective air force. It flies the F-16.

    It has modern air-to-surface ordnance. It can carry out precision strikes. And it has the capability to get targeting information from U.S. intelligence capabilities. And targeting is absolutely critical to this kind of operation. So, when Jordan commits a large number of aircraft, it really does mean something.

    ALISON STEWART: Tell me why targeting is critical.

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, one of the problems you have at any time is, when you have a dispersed nonstate actor, a force that doesn’t wear uniforms, that doesn’t need a lot of heavy military equipment, you need very advanced intelligence assets to know where they are.

    And then you also need to know, if you are going to strike at them, you’re not going to strike at civilians. Your target is really going to be the enemy. There also is the problem of, how do you locate the most important targets? And that requires the kind of satellite data, the kind of intelligence collection capability that really only the United States can provide.

    ALISON STEWART: Knowing where the leadership is, do we know, how do we know, and, if we don’t, how do we find out?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: We use a process which some people call fusion.

    You’re not relying simply on things like unmanned aerial vehicles. You’re not relying on photo or imagery satellites or any other one indicator alone. You’re looking for patterns. You’re looking for a slip, when they send a message they shouldn’t send. You’re tracking movements in and out.

    And you’re tying these together in near real time, so you can provide the targeting data for aircraft or for these unmanned combat aerial vehicles.

    ALISON STEWART: I can remember being in a background session with a military analyst who once said about al-Qaida that you can’t think of it the way you think of an army. You have to think of it as a movement.

    Is ISIS the same?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think it’s always difficult to describe. It’s not a regular fighting force.

    But, unlike terrorist groups, it can fight. And it could defeat the Iraqi army. So, it is somewhere in between an army and a terrorist force.

    ALISON STEWART: We talked about Jordan’s effectiveness. How about other players in the region?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, at this point in time, when it comes down to the threats that the Islamic State, or ISIS, faces, it’s largely airpower.

    You have some good air forces. It isn’t just Jordan. It is the United Arab Emirates. Most of the Arab forces are quite capable. Certainly, our NATO allies, forces like Australia, are very effective. But the key problems are that the Iraqi army is still very weak. It has not recovered from the dictatorship or almost dictatorship of Maliki.

    It’s going to require at least months more before it can have even limited offensive capability. When we come to Syria — and we need to remember a lot of the fighting is there — the fact is that it isn’t just the Islamic State. The force that defeated the rebels that we had backed most and shipped arms to was the al-Nusra Front, which is allied to al-Qaida.

    And almost all of the movements now that are rebel movements that are active in the field have some kind of Islamist character. So, the problem there is, it isn’t just the al-Nusra Front. It’s both the rebels and, to some extent, of course, the Assad forces. It’s not just one threat we’re dealing with.

    ALISON STEWART: Anthony Cordesman, thank you so much for your analysis.

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: A pleasure.

    The post The war on ISIS: How effective can Jordan be in its vow to ‘wipe out’ terror group? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A rag picker collects recyclable materials in the polluted waters of river Yamuna amid dense smog in the old quarters of Delhi November 8, 2012. Indians are at high risk of respiratory ailments, heart disease and lung cancer, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data that showed Delhi's air had almost 10 times the recommended level of PM10 particulate matter, or particles small enough to penetrate to the deepest part of the lungs and cause health problems. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal (INDIA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY HEALTH TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3A5J3

    A rag picker collects recyclable materials in the polluted waters of river Yamuna amid dense smog in the old quarters of Delhi on Nov. 8, 2012. According to the Economist, a greater number of cities in India see “extremely high levels” of air pollution than in China. Photo by Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

    More cities in India have “extremely high levels” of air pollution than in China, the Economist reports.

    The Economist report also found that Delhi’s air has been 45 percent more polluted than the air in Beijing for the past few years.

    While Beijing has historically been the world’s city with the worst smog, data released by the World Health Organization last year revealed New Delhi had overtaken the Chinese capital as the city with the dirtiest air.

    Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters Visitors take a walk during a polluted day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing Jan. 15, 2015. According to data by the World Health Organization last year, New Delhi now surpasses Beijing as the city with the worst air pollution in the world.

    Visitors take a walk during a polluted day at Tiananmen Square in Beijing Jan. 15, 2015. Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

    This latest report comes amid growing global concerns over the health risks posed by exposure to air pollution.

    Exposure to traffic fumes, industrial emissions, construction dust, burning trash and other sources of pollution pose serious health risks, including higher risks of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Nearly 700,000 people die in India each year as a result of the toxic air quality, and experts say the toll is likely to rise in the coming decades.

    Environment minister Prakash Javadekar said on Feb. 3 the government had “already started walking the talk” by taking action on clean energy, including an effort to increase solar power.

    In January, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a “personal commitment” to work toward a global climate change agreement in Paris later this year.

    Learn more: Are Modi’s pro-business plans a path out of poverty for India’s poor?

    The post India grapples with air pollution crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A man purchases New York State Lottery tickets for the $400 million Powerball lottery in New York's financial district

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS ANCHOR: This Wednesday’s Powerball jackpot has already spiked to more than $450 million and will probably grow over the next couple of days.

    The huge prize is expected to boost sales this week, but ticket-buying has reportedly dropped 35 percent since 2013. And that’s putting state budgets on the losing end of the lottery system.

    Joining me now from Washington, D.C., to talk about the pitfalls of Powerball is Ben Leubsdorf with The Wall Street Journal.

    So, Ben, here’s the obvious question. Why the decline in participants?

    BEN LEUBSDORF, The Wall Street Journal: Well, this is the biggest jackpot we have seen since December 2013 for any lottery game.

    And that’s why people aren’t buying tickets. People buy tickets, they get office pools, they — people come off the sidelines who aren’t regular players when you have a big, eye-popping jackpot like this. And we haven’t had one in a while.

    That’s the main reason that Powerball sales dropped 35 percent in 2014 from the prior year. In 2013, 2012, we had this string of really big jackpots for Mega Millions and for Powerball. And that got people playing the game.

    Now, when we haven’t had those big numbers, people haven’t been as impressed with an $80 million jackpot as they are with something above $200 million, above $300 million.

    ALISON STEWART: So, explain to me how that directly results in state budgets having a problem.

    BEN LEUBSDORF: Well, 44 states rely on lottery revenue as part of their revenue picture. And that’s — it’s not the biggest part of their revenue structure. Taxes, federal grants, those are still the big parts. But they rely on this money in order to, in many cases, pay for education or other expenses.

    So, when you have a big reduction in Powerball playing, you have got state lotteries saying, well, we have got to make up that revenue somehow. So, some states, Virginia in particular, has tweaked their scheduled to roll out more scratch-off games, instant win games to make that up lost revenue to make sure that they don’t have a shortfall when it comes to — time to settle the budget.

    ALISON STEWART: So, if you can’t count on participants in the lottery, why do states have this as part of their budget portfolio?

    BEN LEUBSDORF: Well, you know, it’s, by its nature, a random chance that — these drawings are pretty random.

    So, when we had the hot streak in 2012, 2013, states were — states were raking in a lot of revenue. Now we have had a dry streak for a while, and they haven’t been seeing it. But I think most officials aren’t too worried that this is going to continue. This could be the beginning of another string of big jackpots.

    ALISON STEWART: It has been serious for certain states. Arkansas, for example, had one scholarship program that had a $5 million deficit.

    Is there anything that states can do to prevent this from happening to them?

    BEN LEUBSDORF: Well, some states are very conservative in their revenue estimates.

    I spoke to the head of the North Carolina lottery, who says that they budget for — they assume that they’re going to have the standard number of players. They don’t count on a big jackpot to bring in lots of new players. If they do, she said, that’s gravy, that’s great for them. But they’re not going to be in trouble, she said, if they don’t have big jackpots materialize.

    ALISON STEWART: Ben Leubsdorf from The Wall Street Journal, thanks so much.

    BEN LEUBSDORF: Thank you.

    The post The pitfalls of Powerball: Why some states are on the losing end of the lottery system appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Engrith Acosta, patient care coordinator at AltaMed, speaks to a man during a community outreach on Obamacare in Los Angeles, California November 6, 2013. Concerns among Hispanics that signing up for medical insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law may draw the scrutiny of immigration authorities has hurt enrollment, according to advocates of the policy. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    Engrith Acosta, patient care coordinator at AltaMed, speaks to a man during a community outreach on Obamacare in Los Angeles, California November 6, 2013. Concerns among Hispanics that signing up for medical insurance under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law may draw the scrutiny of immigration authorities has hurt enrollment, according to advocates of the policy. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    Norma and Rodolfo Santaolalla have always worked but have never had health insurance. When the Arlington, Va., couple tried to apply online for coverage under the health care law, it was just too confusing.

    “I didn’t understand about the deductibles and how to choose a plan. It’s difficult. It’s the first time we’ve done that,” said Norma, 46, who cleans houses for a living. Rodolfo, 47, is a handyman. “That’s why we came here, to ask them to help us.”

    “Here” was the Arlington Mill Community Center, where help was available on a recent Saturday as part of a national effort to increase Affordable Care Act enrollment, especially among Latinos.

    Hispanics represent about a third of the nation’s uninsured, and for a number of reasons, signing them up has been harder. According to the latest government statistics, as of Jan. 16, two months into the current open enrollment period, just 10 percent of those who had enrolled in the 37 states served by healthcare.gov are Latino. Despite a concerted effort by officials and health law advocates to reach Latinos, that’s up only slightly from 7 percent during the first few months of last year’s enrollment.

    Nearly a third of the ACA’s media budget this year is focused on Hispanic media, tripling the 10 percent spent on reaching Latinos last year.Experts caution that those numbers are reported by applicants and there’s no requirement that anyone signing up for coverage on healthcare.gov state their race or ethnicity. Nonetheless, the Department of Health and Human Services and pro-health-law groups have stepped up their efforts through media campaigns and with a greater emphasis on the kind of in-person assistance the Santaolallas and many other Latinos are seeking.

    In fact, nearly a third of the ACA’s media budget this year is focused on Hispanic media, tripling the 10 percent spent on reaching Latinos last year, according to HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.

    Providing in-person assistance, however, takes time. A session can easily run 90 minutes to two hours, and several meetings are often needed to explain how insurance works and what the various options are. Even though applicants may qualify for the law’s tax credits, many will have to still pay a premium each month. And people who have been doing without health insurance might not feel the need to pay for it.

    Still, since October 2013, 2.6 million Latinos ages 18 to 64 gained insurance through the health law, according to HHS. As of last June, the percentage of Latinos without health insurance dropped from 36 percent to 23 percent, with the highest gains in states that adopted the health law’s Medicaid expansion, according to a Commonwealth Fund analysis. That’s important to the success of the overall health law, because uninsured Latinos tend to be young and healthy. They are likely to use fewer medical services and thus will help offset the cost of sicker people in the insurance “risk pool.”

    To enroll, though, some Latino applicants have to work through extra paperwork and overcome language barriers.

    Joaquin Barahona, 41, is a construction worker. He’s never had health insurance, and when he did go to the doctor, he paid cash.

    One of the most stubborn obstacles is the widespread fear in the Latino community that those who are eligible for coverage might endanger others in their family who are undocumented.When he tried to enroll in the health law in late January, at the Legal Services of Northern Virginia in Arlington, he found that the health law’s website couldn’t verify his identify. Now the Centreville resident will have to mail in additional documents, including his employment authorization card.

    That same evening, Lusmila Morales, 53, also hopes to obtain ACA coverage. She sent in a paper application last year but never heard back and wanted to try again this year. She brought along her 17-year-old nephew to translate.

    The Falls Church resident is applying for health insurance “out of necessity,” said her nephew, Daniel Palacios. She has arthritis but can’t afford the medication. She needs a mammogram and a physical but can’t afford the tests. In addition, her mom has diabetes and she wants to find out how her parents — who are both in their 80s and here legally but without the work history that would qualify them for Medicare –can get coverage under the health law.

    But Morales couldn’t complete her application because she forgot her green card, which proves she is a lawful permanent resident of the United States. She would have to come back.

    One of the most stubborn obstacles is the widespread fear in the Latino community that those who are eligible for coverage might endanger others in their family who are undocumented. That concern persists even though President Barack Obama and other administration officials have said repeatedly that no information on a health law application will be used for deportation purposes.

    “The federal government can proclaim every day, every hour on the hour how immigration information in the exchange is not going to be used for deportation proceedings, but it’s still really scary,” said Alicia Wilson, executive director of La Clinica del Pueblo, a Washington, D.C., health center that provides comprehensive services primarily to the Latino community.

    “You don’t want to be the family member that because you signed up for coverage you’re getting your grandmother, your uncle or your parent deported,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the group Health Access California, a health care consumer group.

    Mixed immigration status families also face special challenges when it comes to enrolling in the health law, Wilson said. Some may be here legally but are not eligible for coverage under federal programs. Some may have children who were born in the U.S. but other family members who are undocumented. Some may qualify for health insurance through a job while family members qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

    “Each one of those insurance vehicles has a different enrollment process and different eligibility criteria, a different set of documents that you have to demonstrate, a different level of proof of who you are and a different schedule for enrolling and reenrolling,” Wilson said. She added that the identification process can be even more difficult for those who do not have a credit history.

    The patchwork of state-based and federally based exchanges can also cause confusion, with some state governments more welcoming than others when it comes to Latino outreach and enrollment efforts.

    Just over half of states have expanded their Medicaid programs, with Indiana the latest to make the change. According to HHS, if all states participated in the health law’s Medicaid expansion, 95 percent of uninsured Latinos might qualify for Medicaid, CHIP or tax credits to help lower the cost of health insurance on the federal and state marketplaces.

    In states like Virginia, which has not expanded its Medicaid program, individuals must earn at least $11,670 a year to qualify for subsidies to buy coverage on the exchange. Those who earn less fall into the “coverage gap” because they don’t qualify for their state’s existing Medicaid program and don’t earn enough money to qualify for the health law’s financial assistance.

    “It’s heartbreaking to tell them,” said Leni Gonzalez, outreach and education specialist with Enroll Virginia.

    The fact that this year’s enrollment period is three months shorter than last year’s further complicates efforts to enroll the uninsured. And those who work with the Latino community say because so many in it have been uninsured for so long, it’s not surprising that it will take longer to increase their enrollment.


    Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit national health policy news service.

    The post Why Hispanic Americans still aren’t signing up for Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    TSA found this throwing star in a carry-on bag at Salt Lake City International Airport.

    TSA found this throwing star in a carry-on bag at Salt Lake City International Airport.

    By now, TSA rules are drilled into most people’s minds as a pre-flight mantra of sorts. We all* know that liquids over 3.4 ounces, drugs and weapons don’t fly as carry-on. If you bring your brass knuckles, you’ll have to part ways for good.

    *Apparently, not everyone is aware of these instructions. Doubtful? Look no further than TSA’s Instagram feed, filled with photos of apprehended belongings that (luckily) ended up on the no- fly list.

    Below is an assortment of some items confiscated by the TSA during the past two months.

    The post Photos: The questionable items TSA finds in people’s carry-on bags appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Dwight Sipler

    The U.S. government will allocate $3.2 million to aid the restoration of monarch butterfly populations. Photo by Flickr user Dwight Sipler

    WASHINGTON — The federal government on Monday pledged $3.2 million to help save the monarch butterfly, the iconic orange-and-black butterfly that can migrate thousands of miles between the U.S. and Mexico each year. In recent years, the species has experienced a 90 percent decline in population, with the lowest recorded population occurring in 2013-2014.

    About $2 million will restore more than 200,000 acres of habitat from California to the Corn Belt, including more than 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. The rest will be used to start a conservation fund — the first dedicated solely to monarchs — that will provide grants to farmers and other landowners to conserve habitat.

    The move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comes as it’s in the midst of a one-year review to determine whether to classify the monarch butterfly as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, which would afford the butterfly more protection. In December, the agency said that there was enough evidence to trigger a review.

    “The magic of the monarch butterfly is that little patches matter,” said Service Director Dan Ashe at a news conference in Washington. Piece by piece, he said, “we can make a difference on a continental scale.”

    The monarch lays its eggs exclusively on the milkweed plant. Conversion of prairies into cropland and the increasing use of weed killer-resistant crops have greatly reduced the extent of milkweed, officials said.

    “It is weed control that is driving eradication of the milkweed plant,” Ashe said.

    The conservation projects will be focused on the I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, areas that provide important spring and summer habitat along the butterfly’s migration path. The species also faces challenges in Mexico, where its primary wintering grounds are being threatened by logging and climate change. Ashe said the hope was to eventually sign an agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to cover their entire range.

    Environmental groups who have pressed for the butterfly’s protection said Monday the announcement was a positive step, but said the species needs legal protection.

    Monarchs are pollinators and indicators of broader environmental problems. Some populations migrate thousands of miles, across multiple generations each year from breeding and wintering grounds.

    “The specter of listing will spur a lot of conservation for the monarch,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that asked the Fish and Wildlife Service last August to protect the monarch butterfly and set aside critical habitat.

    But Curry said the butterfly needed to be listed for it to recover.

    The post U.S. government pledges $3.2 million to save monarch butterfly appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

    The Secret Service will lose its deputy director Tuesday as part of an agency shakeup. Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The deputy director of the Secret Service, who managed day-to-day operations during scandals that badly tainted the agency, will resign his position but be allowed to accept another unspecified federal job within the Homeland Security Department, the government said Monday.

    Alvin “A.T.” Smith, who was appointed to the No. 2 job in April 2012, will resign effective Tuesday. His career in the Secret Service lasted 29 years before he was forced out.

    “His contributions to the Agency have been invaluable,” Secret Service Acting Director Joseph P. Clancy said in a statement.

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and others have criticized Smith, saying he was at the center of bad decisions in a sequence of Secret Service scandals. Until the announcement, Smith had survived a leadership purge in the agency that had already claimed the job of Director Julia Pierson.

    Chaffetz, head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the committee’s top Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said Monday they commended the Secret Service for its recent job changes, including transferring Smith elsewhere in the Homeland Security Department.

    Because of the changes, the lawmakers said they were rescheduling Thursday’s congressional hearing, when they expected to hear from Clancy.

    The post Secret Service shakeup sees resignation of deputy director appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The U.S. has designated a German citizen as a global terrorist for fighting for the Islamic State.

    The State Department says Denis Cuspert joined the militants in 2012, appearing in numerous propaganda videos. In one from November, the 39-year-old from Berlin holds the head of a man he claimed was executed for opposing the group.

    Designating a European citizen as a “global terrorist” is rare. Monday’s announcement coincided with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington.

    The action bans Americans from doing business with Cuspert and blocks any U.S. assets he has. The United Nations put him on its global blacklist.

    The State Department said Cuspert, who now identifies himself as Abu Talha al-Almani, recruits German speakers for Islamic State. Germany wants him on suspicion of terrorism at home.

    The post U.S. names German global terrorist for helping Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by David Freund

    Card tricks use the magic of psychology to influence participants’ choices. Researchers, including a professional magician, set out to understand exactly how those influences worked. Photo by David Freund

    Pick a card, any card, says the magician. Though seemingly offered a choice to pick whichever card you want, in a majority of cases your brain has already fallen right into the magician’s trap.

    Pulling off a card trick doesn’t require spells or magic words — rather the magician’s key ally is the ability to subtly influence an audience to make key decisions while making the people believe they are choosing freely. In a study published Saturday in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, a team of Canadian researchers explored the psychology behind the magic.

    “We found that people tend to choose options that are more salient or attention-grabbing, but they don’t know why they chose them,” said Jay Olson, lead author of the study and a professional magician.

    To explore why people chose a certain card without being aware of any influence, Olson decided to test out some magic on the streets. Olson asked 118 people to choose any card by glancing at the one they wanted as he flipped through a deck. Unbeknownst to each of the subjects, Olson made a specific “target card” more prominent than the rest of the deck. In the end, an overwhelming 98 percent of participants ended up choosing the target card influenced by Olson, while nine out of 10 claimed they felt they had a free choice in the matter.

    As a follow up, the research team reenacted the flipping of the deck, except this time using a computer program which subtly kept the target card on slightly longer than all the others. Like the street version, participants were asked to choose a card while glancing, though this time they were to record their choice silently throughout 28 separate trials.

    This trick seemingly had less magic, however, as the target card was only chosen in 30 percent of the trials.

    Why the lower success rate for the computer version, despite using the same subtle technique? According to study co-author Ronald Rensink, it was “possibly because many of the social and situational factors central to magic tricks were absent.” In other words, the magic is not only in the trick, but also in the personality and performance of the magician.

    In addition to beginning to understand the psychology behind the centuries-old art of magic, the researchers also note that the study could help us understand why people make the decisions they do in everyday life.

    “These results show that combining real-world and laboratory research can be a powerful way to study magic,” the authors wrote, “and can provide new methods to study the feeling of free will.

    The post Abra Cadabra! The science of how magicians influence decision-making appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    UNC Celebration of a Century

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some thoughts now about the many legacies of Dean Smith on and off the court with sportswriter John Feinstein, who long covered Smith him and knew him well. He wrote about him today in The Washington Post and is working on a book about Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, and Jim Valvano.

    It’s great to see you again, John.

    JOHN FEINSTEIN, Sportswriter/Author: Thanks, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: First, tell us about Dean Smith the basketball coach. Why was he so successful? 

    JOHN FEINSTEIN: Probably because he was the smartest guy in any room he walked into. You start with that.

    He was an innovator. Coaches will tell you that they were always copying Dean. One of the things he always said was, I hope I’m a better coach than he was — than I was a year ago. I hope I will be a better coach a year from now than I am now.

    And he worked at that every summer, tried to come up with new ways to beat the opposition. But the other thing was his ability to make his players understand why he did things. He didn’t just say, do this. He would tell them why he wanted them to do it and why he built the program the way he did, why the freshmen, whether it was Michael Jordan or anybody else, carried the bags for the seniors, even if the seniors were walk-ons.

    And he had a system. He believed in it totally. And he kept working at making it better year in and year out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he inspired a lot of loyalty.

    JOHN FEINSTEIN: Oh, my God, yes.

    A lot of players are loyal to their former coaches, but it’s at a completely different level with Carolina players. And I asked Larry Brown, who played for him and then coached under him once, why?  Why is the loyalty so incredibly intense?

    And I thought Larry’s answer was great. He said, he’s the single most decent man I have ever met.

    And I think that’s a wonderful way to be remembered and a perfect description of Dean Smith.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, talk about that, because in all the tributes I have been reading today, so much of it is about Dean Smith the man, as well as a successful basketball coach.

    You talked to him a lot. You have spent time with him. What was it about him?

    JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, he was never afraid to take on an issue, even if he thought it might make him unpopular.

    He was very much against the death penalty in North Carolina, a state where most people are for the death penalty. When he got to North Carolina in 1958, being the son of the first high school coach in Kansas to coach an integrated basketball team in the state playoffs, he was shocked to learn that the restaurants there were still segregated.

    And he spoke to his minister, the Reverend Robert Seymour, about it, and the two of them agreed that he and a black member of their church would walk into a segregated restaurant and dare management not to serve them.

    Now, remember, he wasn’t Dean Smith at that point. He was an assistant coach. He could have been fired. He could have been arrested. He had no idea what would happen, but he didn’t hesitate to do it. And the management did serve them. And that was the beginning really of desegregation in restaurants in Chapel Hill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the pushback on that didn’t get to him?

    JOHN FEINSTEIN: Not at all.

    I don’t think Dean ever worried about what outsiders thought. And the best coaches need to do that, because — especially today, but even back then. If you did, you would lose your mind. In 1965, his fourth year at North Carolina, he was hung in effigy by students after a bad loss at Wake Forest.

    Billy Cunningham, who was on the team then, pulled the effigy down. Dean read — as I said, he was a deeply spiritual guy. And he read a lot of Catherine Marshall. And he said he took a lot of strength from an essay she wrote called “The Powerful of Helplessness.”  Don’t concern yourself with that which you cannot control.

    And he always did that, whether he won and lost  basketball games. He saw that there was more to life than that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You described, in the piece you wrote today in The Washington Post, in an interview you did with him, the decision he made to integrate, to work on desegregating the restaurant.

    JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you had spoken with his minister.

    JOHN FEINSTEIN: Correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in that conversation, you talked about how he was judged. And how — tell us about that..

    JOHN FEINSTEIN: Well, what happened was, I was doing a profile on him. This is in 1981 for The Washington Post.

    And Reverend Seymour — by the way, Dean didn’t want me to do the profile. He always wanted you to write about somebody other than him. But I had spoken to Reverend Seymour, who had told me the story about the restaurant.

    And I went back to Dean and I said: “Can you fill in some of these details?  What was it like that night?  Were you nervous?”

    He said, “Who told you the story?”

    And I said, “Reverend Seymour.”

    And he said, “I wish he hadn’t told you that.”

    And I said: “Why, Dean?  You should be proud of doing something that like.”

    And he looked at me and he said, “John, you never should be proud of doing the right thing. You just should do the right thing.”

    And, really, that’s the way he lived his life. He never wanted or needed a pat on the back. But he wanted to do what was right for all the people in his life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John Feinstein talking about the great North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, thank you.

    JOHN FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Judy. 

     

    The post Remembering Dean Smith, innovative coach who inspired deep loyalty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A PATH APPEARS monitor

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    GWEN IFILL: In a new report out today, the United Nations documents how girls simply trying to go to school face threats and violent attack in 70 countries.

    That tracks with the stories on display in a PBS documentary series that ends tonight. “A Path Appears” expands that scope to explore violence against women more broadly and what can be done about it.

    Jeffrey Brown has our conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are well-known for their work on these subjects. Their prior collaboration, “Half the Sky,” first a book and then a series, took viewers around Africa and Asia.

    This time, they have co-authored the book “A Path Appears,” which focuses on problems such as sex trafficking and abuse, including in this country. It’s also led to a series that’s been shown on PBS’ “Independent Lens.”  The latest episode airs tonight.

    Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn join me now from New York.

    And, Nick Kristof, let me start with you.

    One thing you have done in this series is put a spotlight on abuses here at home. Was that a particular concern, to bring it home, so to speak?

    NICHOLAS KRISTOF, Co-Author, “A Path Appears”: Yes, it was.

    “Half the Sky” focused on women’s rights abroad. And people kept asking us, well, what about the U.S.?  And that seemed a fair question. The atrocities in many ways are worse in Afghanistan or Yemen, but we have real problems right here.

    And it seemed to us that while the discussion about gender inequity in this country is often about pay equity or about representation of women in Congress or on boards, that really the two massive issues are sex trafficking — 100,000 underaged girls trafficked a year into the sex trade — and likewise domestic violence, three women every day killed by their domestic partners.

    And, Sheryl, Sheryl WuDunn, were there common threads that you found for how girls and young women came into this world?

    SHERYL WUDUNN, Co-Author, “A Path Appears”: There certainly are common threads, how girls are abused here at home, trafficked.

    We often think of trafficking as girls from abroad brought here to the U.S. But actually there are runaway girls who are found at the bus station or the railroad station, and they are just coaxed into a relationship with a pimp and then they are forced into prostitution. So it happens a little bit differently, but the result is the same, that these girls are forced into prostitution as well.

    But there are solutions. And that’s in part why we wrote “A Path Appears,” because we saw solutions bubbling up everywhere.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let’s look at a short clip.

    Nick Kristof, tell us a little bit this. It’s a young woman in Atlanta, right?

    NICHOLAS KRISTOF: That’s right, a young women named Antonia in Atlanta. She had been in a long-term relationship with a man who brutally beat her up repeatedly. And, finally, she decided that she was going to stay alive only if she fled with her children to this shelter.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK. Let’s take a look.

    WOMAN: How old are your kids?

    ANTONIA: Ten, 7 and 4.

    WOMAN: All girls?

    ANTONIA: Yes.

    WOMAN: Oh, lovely.

    ANTONIA: But I love this place. I think it saved me. A lot of females do die. And they stick around. And I made that choice to leave.

    NICHOLAS KRISTOF: So, right now, he’s charged with beating you up when…

    ANTONIA: Yes.

    NICHOLAS KRISTOF: … when you were in the shelter. But, before that, he had abused you, which led you to run away to the shelter, I guess.

    So, what had he done?

    ANTONIA: When he put his — when I had to end up in the hospital, that’s when I went to a shelter.

    All them year, I was just sitting there and letting him — well, he used to tie me up, put me, leave me in the closet, do mean things to me, tell me nobody loves me. You know, he had jumped on me. He had choked me. Even it was one situation where he was choking me so bad that my older daughter had had to jump on his back to get him off of me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sheryl WuDunn, you were talking about solutions. That’s the idea of the path, right?  It’s a path forward?

    SHERYL WUDUNN: Absolutely. A path appears…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, give us an example.

    SHERYL WUDUNN: Well, there are a number of ways that we can actually address change, specifically when it comes to challenges like trafficking.

    You need a comprehensive solution. There’s woman, Becca Stevens, who was in Nashville, Tennessee. And she has raised money for safe houses. And she puts eight women or so in each house. They learn to live together. They basically take two years to detox and to adjust into a new life in normal society, and then she trains them for jobs.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What’s your sense, both of you?  Let me start with you, Nick. What’s your sense of the awareness of these kinds of problems, whether it is at home or abroad?  How much do you have to still convince people of the problem?

    NICHOLAS KRISTOF: I think that is a huge problem.

    I think that it’s very easy for those who have made it to construct a narrative in which those who are suffering are to blame for their own problems, and, you know, this notion of personal irresponsibility as being the all and end-all of poverty and disadvantage.

    And we hope that by putting a human face on some these challenges, by humanizing them, we can help push back at that and underscore that, sure, there is a certain amount of personal irresponsibility there, but there also is an awful lot of kids who desperately need help, who didn’t do anything wrong.

    And it’s a certain amount of social irresponsibility on the part of all of us if we don’t use the evidence-based solutions to try to give them a chance to get to the starting line.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you have an example that you want to share of that?

    NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Sure.

    I think one of the lessons of the past is that our efforts against poverty haven’t been more successful in this country and abroad because they often start too late. It’s an awful lot easier to help a 6-month-old than it is a struggling 16-year-old and a lot cheaper.

    In the documentary, we saw a 4-year-old kid who can’t speak because he didn’t get a hearing screening in West Virginia. And so, as his brain is developing, he’s not getting that auditory stimulation. It’s not clear he ever will speak. That is — we let him slip through the cracks. And he is not going to be a fully productive citizen because we blew it on our watch with something as simple as a hearing screening.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, these books and the documentaries, Sheryl, they are on pretty dark subjects, but it sounds as though you two remain optimists?

    SHERYL WUDUNN: Well, we are very optimistic, partly because we have seen so many people engage in solutions.

    So, for instance, early childhood education, Nick actually talked — touched on it when he mentioned this little boy, whose name was Johnny. In fact, there are evidence-based solutions that researchers have conducted, randomized control trials. They have actually gone and figured out what strategy works best.

    And they realize that now, starting with basically when the baby is in the womb, teaching, basically coaching parents on how to raise their kids. Don’t smoke, don’t drink. And then, when the baby is born, read to the baby, talk to the baby, hug and kiss the baby. And that is so critical because the brain is transforming its most dramatically in that early phase of life from basically zero to 5 years of age.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, “A Path Appears.”

    Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, thank you both very much.

    NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Thank you, Jeff.

    SHERYL WUDUNN: Thank you, Jeff.

    The post New series explores how to fight gender oppression at home and abroad appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    albuquerque police

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: From Ferguson, Missouri, to New York City, police killings where the officers were not charged have sparked some intense debate and protests across the country.

    In Albuquerque, New Mexico, which has one of the highest rates of shootings involving police in the country, it’s a different story.

    Special correspondent Kathleen McCleery has that.

    And a warning: Her report contains graphic footage.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Fourteen-year police veteran Jim Jury knows he and the 935 officers on Albuquerque’s force are getting national attention.

    OFFICER JIM JURY, Albuquerque Police Department: It’s shaken the department up.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: The intense scrutiny stems in part from charges filed against two officers last month.

    KARI BRANDENBURG, District Attorney, New Mexico: We did file an open — what we refer to as an open count of murder.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: District attorney Kari Brandenburg took a tough stand after two policemen shot and killed a mentally ill homeless man last March. She charged officer Dominique Perez and detective Keith Sandy with murdering 38-year-old James Boyd.

    He was illegally camping here in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains overlooking the city of Albuquerque. The police were called. A four-hour standoff followed, and the scene was recorded by a camera worn by one of the officers.

    MAN: Don’t change up your agreement. I’m going to try to walk with you.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Boyd is heard agreeing to walk down the mountain with police. Less than 30 seconds later, the officers fired a flash grenade in an attempt to stun him.

    MAN: Do it.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: He put down his backpack and took two small knives from his pockets. Officers fired six live rounds, hitting him three times. He died the next day at a hospital.

    Protests erupted after the Boyd shooting. Hundreds confronted police in riot gear, who used tear gas and made multiple arrests. The Boyd killing was one of five involving Albuquerque police in a two-month stretch in 2014.

    By all accounts, the video taken by officer Perez is critical. It’s the first time such evidence will be used in a murder case against police in New Mexico and one of about a half-a-dozen cases nationally. But there’s little agreement on what the video shows.

    Attorney Sam Bregman represents Keith Sandy.

    SAM BREGMAN, Attorney: In this particular instance, we have a mentally unstable man with two knives eight feet away, higher ground, who takes an aggressive step towards that dog handler, that fellow police officer. At that time, not only did Keith have the right, but he had the duty to protect that officer and take that shot.

    SHANNON KENNEDY, Attorney: That’s simply not true.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Attorney Shannon Kennedy represents the Boyd family in a separate civil lawsuit.

    SHANNON KENNEDY: If you look at the video, you see James Matthew Boyd looking around, disoriented, delusional. And he’s not threatening anyone. He’s not even looking at the dog handler. And he turns away, putting down his backpack. And that is when he is shot in the back.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: This city of about a half-a-million people has had a long string of shootings involving officers, 28 fatal incidents in the last five years. Per capita, that’s eight times the rate in New York City.

    In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a massive civil rights investigation of police tactics here. Its findings, a 46-page report released last year, blasted the department, saying it engages in a pattern of excessive force, including deadly force, often against those with mental illness and in crisis.

    At the time, acting assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels gave a laundry list of problems found.

    JOCELYN SAMUELS, Acting Assistant Attorney General: Inadequate oversight, inadequate investigations of incidents of force, inadequate structures for reporting force, inadequate training of officers to ensure that they understand what is permissible and what is not.

    MAN: Basically, we have the camera here that stores footage.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: The Justice Department report noted that Albuquerque is one of a few cities its size to mandate that police wear body cameras, but, it added, those cameras often failed to record critical encounters.

    In fact, there’s no video from Keith Sandy the day Boyd was shot. After the report was issued, city officials knew a major overhaul was in order.

    Police Chief Gorden Eden:

    GORDEN EDEN, Chief, Albuquerque Police Department: Within the department there were systematic failures. We have good people that — and the system has failed them.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: We talked to Mayor Richard Berry at the city’s botanical gardens.

    MAYOR RICHARD BERRY, Albuquerque, New Mexico: A lot of very difficult things in the finding letter. We chose to take the finding letter as a pivot point.

    We basically said, listen, we’re going to reserve our right as a city to disagree with that report if we need to, but for now let’s turn right into this process of creating a settlement agreement that we think works.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: After the city negotiated that agreement, community groups banded together and said they would hold authorities accountable — among the changes, beefing up the number of officers given crisis intervention training, known as CIT.

    It’s aimed at preparing police to handle mentally ill, homeless or impaired suspects. Jim Jury took those classes recently. As we rode along with him, he took a call involving an attempted suicide and told us later his training helped.

    JIM JURY: You can go into these, and it’s not so much as about talking to someone. It could be about, OK, well, what is this person capable of doing and then how — how can I talk them down or how can I help them with what they are going through?

    GORDEN EDEN: We went from 27 percent of our officers being certified in CIT, to now over 75 percent, and we should hit a number near 100 percent before the spring.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Other reforms in the works include new ways to evaluate officers and to investigate the use of force. All the reforms, as well as settlements with families of victims of police shootings, have taken a financial toll on the city.

    The Albuquerque Journal estimated the tab at $23 million for past settlements, plus another $5 million for the reforms. And there’s a toll on those on the front lines.

    GORDEN EDEN: I hear many of them are concerned. I hear many of them are doubting whether or not they want to be a police officer much longer.

    RICHARD BERRY: From a morale standpoint, you will talk to officers that feel like they’re pretty beat up. When the officers feel like they’re not given a fair shake, that drives morale down. When people in the community, whether it’s Albuquerque or anywhere else in the country, feel like they’re not being listened to, that’s — that’s a morale problem in the community.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: It will months at least before the Boyd case goes to trial. Unlike Ferguson, prosecutors chose not to proceed with a grand jury, opting first for a mini-trial before a judge.

    KARI BRANDENBURG: We choose to go by way of preliminary hearing, because we feel it’s more transparent, and everybody’s got the information, and they’re not asking questions, well, why did this happen, was that presented, why didn’t you present this? It’s all out in the open.

    The judge has broad discretion, first-degree, second-degree, voluntary manslaughter. She could also do involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: There could be no charges?

    KARI BRANDENBURG: There could be no charges. She could say, I don’t find that there’s probable cause.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Attorney Bregman doesn’t want the hearing to take place at all. He’s moved to disqualify Brandenburg, saying her prosecutor interviewed witnesses on the mountain when Boyd was shot.

    SAM BREGMAN: We have the very same district attorney’s office, including the lead prosecutor in this case, at the time of this shooting, goes up to the mountain, interviews people, gives legal advice at the time, now comes back down months later, charges these same officers with murder. It’s an inherent conflict of interests.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Brandenburg said her department is supposed to go to the scene of a crime.

    And for attorney Kennedy, it all looks like pushback from the police.

    SHANNON KENNEDY: They truly believe that they should be able to operate above the law, and when you have a district attorney that’s going to hold their feet to the fire and say no one is above the law and no one is below the law, they retaliate. They’re bullies.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: Change won’t happen overnight. It will take four years or more to fully implement the Justice Department agreement. The mayor sees the city’s current plight as an opportunity.

    RICHARD BERRY: Albuquerque, though some of the difficulties we have had, I think will come out of this as a real thought leader, and as someone that can really show the way.

    KATHLEEN MCCLEERY: But in the meantime, there have already been three new shootings involving officers this year, including one that was fatal.

    I’m Kathleen McCleery for the PBS NewsHour in Albuquerque.

    The post Albuquerque holds police department accountable after many fatal incidents appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Wisconsin Governor Walker walks off the stage after speaking at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines

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    GWEN IFILL: Call it front-runner-itis. That’s what happens when early polls hurt more than they help.

    For now, the struggle for position is playing out among a handful of Republican governors and one politically larger-than-life Democrat.

    Joining us for our weekly look at how the 2016 race is shaping up are Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Front-runner-itis, I coined that.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: I like that.  I like that. I do.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, The Washington Post: You should trademark it.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Let’s talk about the chess pieces on the board one by one.

    And the two governors I want to focus on this week are two who have been making some interesting moves. Scott Walker from Wisconsin.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    We had — the last time we talked, we talked about how he had surged into the lead, albeit a very narrow one, in Iowa. Now the latest polls out of New Hampshire show that he’s gone from basically zero, nobody knew who he was in New Hampshire, to at least a top candidate in that state.

    GWEN IFILL: Because name recognition.

    AMY WALTER: Absolutely. People now know who he is.

    And you know what he does? For a lot of Republicans, he fills a niche for them. They’re looking for somebody who is new, who is different, who is shiny. And he is not offensive to any one of the different groups in the Republican coalition. There’s not one group that says, well, he’s not going to be good on our issues.

    So, right now, he’s fulfilling the hopes of a lot of Republicans. They still want to check him out, but he’s living up to in some ways this desire for Republicans for somebody different.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about Bobby Jindal. He is another governor from a Southern state. What niche does he fill?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Well, I think he’s in the cultural warrior lane. And he initially started off as something of a wonk when he burst into the national scene.

    And what he’s doing now is, he’s talking about Islam in a sort of a cultural warrior — war on terrorism, he talks about it almost as a clash of civilizations. And in that way, he’s getting a lot of traction among conservatives, on cable news, among folks in the blogosphere. So, that’s what he is doing.

    He’s in D.C. today talking about Common Core. He’s going to be a thorn in the side — should he run, he’s certainly going to be a thorn in the side for Jeb Bush. So that’s his lane as sort of a Christian Southern moralist.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s back for a minute and explain this whole Common Core issue, because that seems to be also kind of a defining tipping point issue that allows candidates to say, this is who I am. Common Core, which is the common educational — these across-the-board educational standards, which has become very unpopular in conservative circles, Jeb Bush has endorsed.

    AMY WALTER: Jeb Bush has endorsed. Bobby Jindal had endorsed.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Had endorsed, exactly. Mike Huckabee had endorsed.

    AMY WALTER: Mike Huckabee had endorsed.

    What Republicans like Jindal and Huckabee say is, well, we endorsed it before the Obama administration got their hands in it. Once they made it a federal issue by saying, if you live up to these Common Core standards, you are going to get federal money from the government, Race to the Top money, then it became a federal issue, we don’t like that.

    But really, fundamentally, what it comes down to is, you’re hearing a lot of grassroots~ anger too, a lot of it from parents, a lot of it from teachers. This is actually this funny issue that cuts both ways. There are a lot of liberals in the teaching profession. Teachers union don’t like it. They think it’s too prescriptive.

    And on the conservative side, they don’t like it because it has a federal component to it. Jeb Bush, though, you’re right, still standing by this. This is one of those issues that you will see a Bobby Jindal and others go after Jeb Bush to show he’s not a true conservative.

    GWEN IFILL: How we begun to see Jeb Bush try to adjust to this new world that he’s anticipating joining, where he’s campaigning in states where there are very strong social conservative bases like Iowa?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Not yet.

    He’s going to Iowa next month. We saw him of course in Detroit last week, where he was the reform conservative, not really touching on many of the issues that are so important to social conservatives, talking about immigration reform. Tomorrow, we will see him release more of his e-mails. He’s going to release, I think, a chapter from his e-book. So, not yet.

    I don’t think he knows what this new world is going to be in terms of social conservative. And I think his candidacy, should he run, will be a test of how strong…

    (LAUGHTER)

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Right — of how strong that strain of the party still is.

    Every year, they talk about consolidating behind one candidate. You saw that in different years with Rick Santorum, with Mike Huckabee. And these are candidates who ran as shoestring candidates, right? They were sort of living off the fat of the land. This time, I think you will have probably more serious candidates.

    GWEN IFILL: Speaking of “should he run,” air quotes, “should she run”, air quotes…

    AMY WALTER: Oh, yes. Perfect.

    GWEN IFILL: Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, sits on the sidelines, the elephant in the room, to kind of flip the whole donkey-elephant thing.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: And she must be pretty happy watching this. What’s happening within Clinton world that is either anticipating the rise of these governors or of these candidates or just sitting back and letting it play out?

    AMY WALTER: A lot of it is sitting and letting it play out.

    A lot of it, though, is she is behind the scenes doing a lot of work, so hiring up a brand-new team. This is a team that is comprised now of different parts of the Democratic consultancy world, I guess you would say.

    Some of them are old-time Clinton handlers, but a lot of them come from Obama world. And it’s really an attempt by the Clinton establishment to say, you know what, this is going to be a different kind of campaign. First of all, we’re going to have better relationships apparently with the press. They were terrible during the 2008 campaign.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes. We will see.

    AMY WALTER: We will see how that works.

    We are going to bring in different voices. It’s not just going to be same voices we have listened to since 1992. And we are going to be a cohesive Democratic Party. The Republicans, there is going to be a lot of fighting.

    GWEN IFILL: And yet, and yet, in your newspaper today, this afternoon, they posted a story about disagreements breaking out among the fund-raisers, that amorphous world of fund-raisers, who had allied together to raise money for Hillary Clinton. That’s already beginning to surface.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yes.

    And this shows how difficult it is going to be to bring all of these disparate groups together. And that’s been one of the challenges, I think, so far, of the super PACs, because there are all of these groups out there who are looking to define the candidate.

    GWEN IFILL: Not coordinating with the candidate.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Right, not coordinating, right, right, but having a message that supports the candidate. I think that’s some early signs of dissension in the ranks.

    And also you have had in terms of the folks she’s brought around her, you have had some people criticize her for not bringing around more diverse people. Where are the African-Americans, where are the Latinos in some of these top ranks?

    And the Clinton campaign has said, well, she’s committed to it. As she fills out her campaign more, you will see some various different faces.

    GWEN IFILL: We’re expecting still not any kind of announcement before the spring from…

    AMY WALTER: That is sure what it seems like. She also has to come up with a rationale for her candidacy. And that’s a lot of the frustration from a lot of Democrats, which is, you can put the infrastructure in place, but where is the rationale for your candidacy?

    And, also, you can change the paint on the car, but are you changing the engine? In other words, is Hillary Clinton still going to be the same candidate?

    GWEN IFILL: Amy Walter and Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you both very much.

    AMY WALTER: Thank you.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Thank you.

     

     

     

    The post How Walker and Jindal are drawing attention for 2016 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    STATE SHOWDOWN monitor gay marriage rings alabama map flag

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: To the fight over whether gay couples can marry.

    A federal court last month lifted Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage, passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2006.  But Roy Moore, the state Supreme Court’s chief justice, ordered state judges to ignore the federal ruling.  The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to put a stay on that ban, effectively halting gay marriages there.

    But, today, a divided Supreme Court decided against Alabama’s appeal, allowing same-sex unions to begin.  In their dissent, Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia wrote that the court is showing — quote — “an increasingly cavalier attitude toward the states.”

    For the latest on all this, I spoke a short while ago via Skype with Joseph Smith.  He’s a political science professor at the University of Alabama.

    Professor Joe Smith, thank you for talking with us.

    You have had an unusually busy 24 hours in the Alabama legal system.  You have your state Supreme Court chief justice going one direction, the U.S. Supreme Court going in the other.  How are the courts handling it?

    JOSEPH SMITH, Political Science Professor, University of Alabama: Well, right now, it’s in the county offices where the action is, and I would say that they are handling it in different ways.

    I read somewhere this afternoon that 41 county offices are not giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and I think there’s about 26 more that are giving such licenses.  So it’s going in two directions right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How are these county offices — I gather they are officers, probate judges.  How are they making these decisions?

    JOSEPH SMITH: Well, on a case-by-case basis, meaning county by county.

    In each county, the probate judge is faced with the decision of following what Chief Justice Moore set out, laid out, or following what the federal courts have said.  And I think that another factor that has to be weighe~d in is, these county probate judges are elected officials.  And so they’re probably also looking ahead to the next election and how they want to explain this at that election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in other words, there is politics as well as the law involved?

    (LAUGHTER)

    JOSEPH SMITH: Absolutely.  There is politics I think all over this.

    You have got Chief Justice Moore, who, is I think — I think at this point at least know how this story is going to end, which it’s going to end with same-sex marriages being recognized in Alabama, but not wanting to be the one who stops fighting.

    I think you have got Attorney General Luther Strange, who has said he is not going to give legal advice to the probate judges.  He’s not going to advise them on what they should do, and he is kind of deploring that the Supreme — he says the Supreme Court has decided not to delay the implementation of this and he says that’s more confusion.

    It seems to me that neither one of those statewide elected officials wants to be the one who tells Alabama probate judges you have got to start issuing gay marriage licenses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We looked at the most recent poll we could find about public attitude towards same-sex marriage in Alabama.  We saw that in 2004, 16 percent of the people were in favor, but, in 2012, eight years later, that had doubled to 32 percent.

    What do you think attitudes are like now? You’re dealing with college students every day.

    JOSEPH SMITH: Yes.  College students — the undergraduates that I teach are 20, 21, 22 years old.

    And they have consistently, I would say, been very supportive of equal rights for gays and lesbians over the last 11 years that I have been at Alabama.  Even while they’re conservative on other issues, they have consistently, it seems to me, just thought that allowing marriage and other rights for gays and lesbians is simply fair.

    So I would say what you’re seeing is a big generational change, where some voters are no longer voting.  Maybe they’re no longer alive.  And then as younger voters either come of voting age or become a little bit more likely to vote as they get older, then their preferences are going to be more important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How would you describe public attitudes towards same-sex marriage in the state today?

    JOSEPH SMITH: I would you say that the public — that public opinion doesn’t yet favor same-sex marriage, but it’s getting a lot closer.  And it’s getting a lot closer, I think, primarily because of generational change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Professor Joseph Smith at the University of Alabama, we thank you.

    JOSEPH SMITH: Thank you.

    The post How Alabama politics are motivating a legal showdown over gay marriage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    G20 Leaders Meet In St. Petersburg For The Summit

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    GWEN IFILL: And Margaret Warner joins me now.

    Margaret Warner, the president — or, I should say, Angela Merkel made clear that she wants diplomacy first, and if that doesn’t work, then maybe we will talk about what happens next. Did the president give any sign of where he’s leaning?

    MARGARET WARNER: I think the president — I think what we heard today — first of all, last week, administration officials were saying that this drumroll that he was about the furnish weapons was a little overstated, that he hadn’t made up his mind.

    I think, today, even though we heard him make a case for it, we also heard him lay out some of the doubts and dangers, things like the weapons would fall in the wrong hands, it would make the Ukrainian military more aggressive than they can actually sustain. And so he said my measure will be, is it more likely to be effective than not?

    I think the other thing we saw on display today, he is determined to stay united with the Europeans because he thinks that’s the only way, whether it’s on sanctions or anything else, to keep pressure on Putin, and that is the only option that they have got.

    GWEN IFILL: Everything is tied to everything else.

    MARGARET WARNER: That’s right.

    GWEN IFILL: Was this a matter of courtesy, as much as anything else? Here, she’s right here in my White House and I’m not going to disagree with her?

    MARGARET WARNER: No, I think it’s actually strategic and tactical.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    MARGARET WARNER: The president understands that the minute Vladimir Putin splits the U.S. from the Europeans, the game is over, as far as he is concerned, and she is taking a longer view than he is.

    Her argument is, we have to have strategic patience, we have to keep upping the ante on sanctions and see if at some point that causes him to change his calculus.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, she was more recently in a room with him than Barack Obama was, she and Francois Hollande trying to figure out the middle ground.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Was there any sign — did she indicate or anybody indicate that there was some give on this with Putin?

    MARGARET WARNER: That’s been a very well-kept secret as to what exactly Merkel and Hollande got out of it.

    But I’m told by U.S. officials that German and French officials said the talks were really tough. Putin showed no give whatsoever. They don’t really have any great expectations for this meeting on Wednesday necessarily, but they want to play it out.

    You know, they couldn’t really refuse to show up because Putin had sent this new proposal, even though it’s so extreme, in the view of the U.S. and the Europeans, that it’s a nonstarter. So they showed up. But it wasn’t encouraging.

    I asked one U.S. official, well, how do you all read Putin lately? And he said, we are way beyond the point of any competence or confidence on that one.

    GWEN IFILL: So, what then is the U.S. role in this? You’re right. They want to keep him at the table for the potential of Iran negotiations and all of these other related issues, but what does the U.S. see as its role? Does it step back and let Europe take the lead?

    MARGARET WARNER: No.

    I think that the U.S. is staying real close to the Europeans. And President Obama is always there to argue that we have to keep the pressure on. And they think actually Merkel agrees with that. It’s just a question of how long this timeline is.

    But the U.S. fear or the administration’s fear is that the longer — the outcome of the Moscow meeting was Washington’s worst nightmare, which is that on the eve of the new sanctions that were going to be opposed by the E.U. today, Putin would come in with some plan and say let’s talk and then he would say, let’s keep talking.

    And sure enough, the E.U. held back on the new sanctions, and that, meanwhile, the rebels are just gaining more and more and more ground and creating new facts on the ground, and that then Putin will be able to argue, well, the new cease-fire line has to be even bigger and bigger and be beyond the reach of Kiev.

    So I think that the president wants to stay very engaged in this, but they weren’t going to tell Merkel and Hollande, when the U.S. pointedly wasn’t invited to the meeting, oh, well, you can’t go. They had to play it out.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes. What’s become of the relationship between president and Angela Merkel? There was a little tension, a little strain after the eavesdropping incident. Was there any evidence of that still?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, I don’t think so.

    I think that they both said quite frankly at the end, when the NSA issue was raised, President — both Angela Merkel and President Obama said  it had caused some major rifts — and that wasn’t their word — between allies, and many allies didn’t quite understand.

    Then the president made a very spirited defense, though, of when we’re out in cyberspace looking for these terrorists, they want to attack Berlin or New York, and we hope the German public understands that.

    I think you have got two very businesslike people here. And they know they want to do business with one another. And I don’t think it’s even a cold relationship. I think it’s a really quite frank and open one. And the Germans remain very upset about the NSA surveillance.

    GWEN IFILL: But they’re transactional individuals and have to come to a meeting of the minds.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, exactly, and they actually trust one another, I think.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes, interesting.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: OK, Margaret Warner, thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: Always my pleasure.

    The post U.S. unity with Europe vital to pressuring Russia on Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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