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- 02/13/15--16:52: _It’s ‘bang-GORE’ no...
- 02/13/15--16:57: _News Wrap: Oregon g...
- 02/14/15--08:48: _Obama seeks ‘public...
- 02/14/15--08:54: _Republicans: Obama ...
- 02/14/15--10:15: _One killed, three w...
- 02/14/15--10:26: _Between a rock and ...
- 02/14/15--10:31: _Illegal crossing: S...
- 02/14/15--10:47: _Federal supoena fol...
- 02/14/15--10:54: _Challengers’ legal ...
- 02/14/15--11:27: _Viewers respond to ...
- 02/14/15--11:39: _Millions in Northea...
- 02/14/15--13:48: _Will ‘Fresh Off the...
- 02/14/15--14:48: _Why have raids on a...
- 02/14/15--15:04: _Cardinals from Myan...
- 02/14/15--16:37: _Danish police: Thre...
- 02/15/15--10:13: _Jeb Bush’s role in ...
- 02/15/15--10:39: _Why can’t captive b...
- 02/15/15--11:25: _Top Muslim Brotherh...
- 02/15/15--11:49: _Chinese New Year ce...
- 02/15/15--12:07: _Patched web glitch ...
- 02/13/15--16:52: It’s ‘bang-GORE’ not ‘banger,’ Mainers report
- 02/13/15--16:57: News Wrap: Oregon governor resigns amid ethics scandal
- 02/14/15--08:48: Obama seeks ‘public conversation’ over data encryption
- 02/14/15--08:54: Republicans: Obama giving ‘amnesty bonuses’ to immigrants
- 02/14/15--10:47: Federal supoena follows Oregon governor’s abrupt resignation
- 02/14/15--10:54: Challengers’ legal rights unlikely to effect health lawsuit
- 02/14/15--11:27: Viewers respond to manufacturing boom in Columbus, Mississippi
- 02/14/15--11:39: Millions in Northeast brace for brutal winter storm…again
- 02/14/15--13:48: Will ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ turn the tide for Asian Americans on TV?
- 02/14/15--14:48: Why have raids on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan intensified?
- 02/14/15--15:04: Cardinals from Myanmar, Ethiopia among 20 elevated by Pope Francis
- 02/14/15--16:37: Danish police: Three shot at synagogue in new attack in Copenhagen
- 02/15/15--10:39: Why can’t captive breeding of saltwater aquarium fish catch on?
- 02/15/15--11:25: Top Muslim Brotherhood official sentenced to jail in Jordan
- 02/15/15--12:07: Patched web glitch spurs flurry of sign-ups at health law deadline
The post News Wrap: Oregon governor resigns amid ethics scandal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
SAN FRANCISCO — President Barack Obama said Friday that he probably leans more toward strong computer data encryption than many in law enforcement, but added that he understands investigators’ concerns over the matter because of their need to protect people from attacks.
He suggested having a “public conversation” about the issue because “the first time that attack takes place in which it turns out that we had a lead and we couldn’t follow up on it, the public’s going to demand answers.”
Obama was interviewed by the technology website Re/code after he addressed a White House summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection that was held at Stanford University.
“And so this is a public conversation that we should end up having,” he said. “I lean probably further in the direction of strong encryption than some do inside of law enforcement. But I am sympathetic to law enforcement because I know the kind of pressure they’re under to keep us safe. And it’s not as black and white as it’s sometimes portrayed.”
The trend toward strong data encryption follows recent, damaging revelations that the U.S. government was collecting phone records and digital communications of millions of people not suspected of wrongdoing.
Law enforcement officials say encrypted data could hamper criminal investigations by putting potentially useful information off-limits. Privacy advocates disagree.
Obama said companies like Apple are “properly responding” to market demand because people, including him, want to know that their private communications remain so.
Apple’s iMessage platform, for example, offers end-to-end encrypted text messages, unlike traditional text messages. That encryption likely means the only way police can see those messages is by obtaining a user’s iPhone. Apple has sold hundreds of millions of devices that use iMessage.
Obama said he wants to “narrow the gap” in the differences of opinion over which has more value: privacy or safety. He said people who favor airtight encryption also want to be protected from terrorists.
“There are times where folks who see this through a civil liberties or privacy lens reject that there’s any trade-offs involved, and in fact there are,” said Obama, who still uses a protected BlackBerry for non-official communications. “It may be we want to value privacy and civil liberty far more than we do the safety issues, but we can’t pretend that there’s no trade-offs whatsoever.”
The post Obama seeks ‘public conversation’ over data encryption appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Millions of immigrants benefiting from President Barack Obama’s executive actions could get a windfall from the IRS, a reversal of fortune after years of paying taxes to help fund government programs they were banned from receiving.
Armed with new Social Security numbers, many of these immigrants who were living in the U.S. illegally will now be able to claim up to four years’ worth of tax credits designed to benefit the working poor. For big families, that’s a maximum of nearly $24,000, as long as they can document their earnings during those years.
Some Republicans are labeling the payments “amnesty bonuses,” one more reason they oppose Obama’s program shielding millions of immigrants from deportation.
“I represent hard working, law-biding Texans,” said Rep. Sam Johnson, a senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. “I think these amnesty rewards, and that’s what they are, need to be stopped.”
Advocates argue that many of these immigrants pay taxes, so they should be able to claim the same tax credits as anybody else. Over the past decade, immigrants in the U.S. illegally have paid an estimated $100 billion in Social Security payroll taxes, even though few will ever be able to collect benefits, said Stephen Goss, Social Security’s chief actuary.
Obama has issued executive orders shielding about 4 million immigrants from deportation. Some were brought to the U.S. as children; others are parents of children who are either U.S. citizens or legal residents.
Republicans in Congress oppose Obama’s actions and are trying to use a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security to overturn them. Democrats are resisting, resulting in a stalemate that is threatening to shut down the department.
Funding for the department, which oversees immigration enforcement, runs out Feb. 27.
The dispute over tax credits illustrates the complicated relationship that many immigrants have with the U.S. tax system. Social Security estimates that immigrants living in the country illegally work at about the same rate as the rest of the population, even though federal law bars them from employment.
In general, they are less likely to pay federal taxes. Those who do have been boosting Social Security’s finances for years.
There are an estimated 11 million to 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally. At least half are paying income and payroll taxes, even though few have valid Social Security numbers, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
By law, you must have a Social Security number to work in the U.S. But millions of people work without them.
Some work in the underground economy and do not report their income to the government. For those who work and pay taxes, the IRS provides them with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
Since 1996, the IRS has issued 21 million of these numbers. About one-quarter of them are still in use, the agency says.
The IRS accepts these tax returns without reporting the taxpayers to immigration authorities, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. That encourages the workers to pay taxes.
“We don’t enforce the Social Security laws, we don’t enforce the immigration laws,” Koskinen said of his agency. “In fact, the reason illegal immigrants file taxes with us is they know we aren’t sharing that data with anybody. We treat it as taxpayer-protected information.”
Even if these immigrants pay taxes, they are ineligible for most federal programs. They cannot legally get food stamps, unemployment benefits, Pell grants or federal student loans. They cannot get Medicaid, except for emergency medical services, and are ineligible for subsidies under Obama’s health law.
They can claim some federal tax breaks, if they file tax returns.
But until now, they were not eligible for Social Security, Medicare or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), one of the government’s largest anti-poverty programs.
Obama’s executive actions will offer Social Security numbers to these immigrants, something that eventually could make them eligible for Social Security and Medicare. For Social Security, you generally have to work and pay payroll taxes for 10 years before you qualify for retirement benefits.
More immediately, they can take advantage of the EITC. Last year, the credit provided low-income workers with about $70 billion.
This credit is popular among conservatives because it rewards work – the more you work, the bigger your credit, as long as your income does not exceed certain limits. It is popular among liberals because it provides cash payments to low-wage workers, even if they do not make enough money to pay federal income tax.
It is, however, a complicated program to administer that generates a significant amount of improper payments, according to the IRS’s own estimates.
Once the immigrants in Obama’s program get Social Security numbers, they can file tax returns claiming the EITC, as long as they meet the income requirements and can document their earnings.
They also can file amended tax returns for up to three years after they were due, which means these immigrants can claim tax credits going back as far as 2011. (Tax returns for 2011 were due in April 2012).
The maximum credit for families with three or more children is about $6,000, so some families could get as much as $24,000 in credits.
Koskinen said these tax returns would be processed just like any other.
“You have to do the same thing any taxpayer would do, which is you’re going to file a return, say this is what I earned, these are my expenses, deductions, whatever it might be,” Koskinen said. “You have to have the supporting documentation.”
Some in Congress are outraged.
“The administration may have blown open the doors for fraud with amnesty bonuses of more than $24,000 to those who receive deferred action,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. “This program severely undermines the White House’s lip-service to enforcing the law and would increase the burden on law-abiding taxpayers.”
Advocates for immigrants say that if these workers are paying taxes, they should get the same benefits as other taxpayers.
“Let’s not forget that these workers receive the lowest wages for what they contribute to their communities and local economies,” said Ellen Sittenfeld Battistelli, policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center. “What do we as a nation gain by further impoverishing them?”
The post Republicans: Obama giving ‘amnesty bonuses’ to immigrants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
One civilian was killed and three policemen were wounded during a free speech public forum at a Copenhagen cafe in an apparent terror attack on Saturday.
Danish police said a 40-year-old man was killed and three police officers wounded when a lone gunman fired some 30 shots through the window of the Krudttoenden cafe that was hosting the event, which was attended by controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks.
In a statement, Denmark’s PET agency, the country’s security and intelligence service, said the shooting’s circumstances “indicate that we are talking about a terror attack.”
— Breaking 3.0 U.S. (@Breaking3zeroUS) February 14, 2015
The unharmed Vilks, who lives under police protection, has faced numerous threats and stoked international controversy for his caricature drawings of the Prophet Mohammed, which resulted in at least one failed attempt by extremists to assassinate him.
After initially searching for two suspected gunmen, authorities later said “preliminary interviews indicate there was only one perpetrator” and released a photo of the lone shooting suspect.
— ITV News (@itvnews) February 14, 2015
Also present at the cafe was France’s Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights Francois Zimeray, who was speaking at the event when the gunfire erupted. In a tweet following the attack, he said he was not hurt.
Still alive in the room
— Frankrigs ambassadør (@francedk) February 14, 2015
The event was billed as a debate on art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression.
Just over a month ago, 17 people were killed in France over three days when two Islamic extremists opened fire at the satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo that had published satirical images of the Prophet Mohammed.
The post One killed, three wounded in Charlie Hebdo-style terror attack in Denmark appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
ALISON STEWART: Adam Hayward is the sheriff of Deuel County, Nebraska, which is right by the state line with Colorado. Sheriff Hayward says his work hasn’t been the same since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Keep it over there. It’s still illegal here. We don’t have a choice. We have to enforce the law.
ALISON STEWART: The sheriff says he’s arrested all sorts of people carrying marijuana back from Colorado along Interstate 76: teenagers making weekend runs to Denver and once a 67 year old grandmother. With each arrest the sheriff collects more and more marijuana. It is cataloged and then stored in the Deuel County jail cell.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Now we keep our evidence here.
ALISON STEWART: Which you can smell.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: All these trash bags, these totes, this, these were all out of one stop we had.
ALISON STEWART: That’s one stop?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: There were 75 pounds that this gentleman had.
ALISON STEWART: What?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: And they had, like I said, all these bags, all these totes were filled. These are essentially like a one pound package and there’s 75 of these packages, and this was out of one traffic stop.
ALISON STEWART: Wow, what did he get pulled over for?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Speeding.
ALISON STEWART: The sheriff says that batch of pot came from a marijuana growing facility in Colorado. He’s also recovered lots of edible products in cars he pulls over on I-76.
The number of marijuana cases is soaring. In 2011 when Colorado only sold medical cannabis, the sheriff stopped someone coming back from Colorado with pot less than once a week. Last year when recreational cannabis became legal, the sheriff’s county had more than one marijuana case a week. Last month, there were at least five cases a week.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: We just go out and stop cars for normal traffic violations. And it seems to be that there are so many people that are going over to get this you just can’t help but run into it just by stopping a few cars.
ALISON STEWART: What hasn’t changed is the number of officers working in Deuel County: three full time and two part time officers. The sheriff says his county is being stretched thin.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Well, we’re a small department. We usually have one person on at a time. So if they run across something then they’re having to call somebody out. Well, then you’re paying overtime, and where we’ve had more arrests and more people in jail, you know, it takes more time in the court.
You know, we’re having to transport prisoners back and forth, have more people in the courtroom for security. So it ties up our time dealing with these versus, you know, we could be doing other things, patrolling in town.
ALISON STEWART: It takes up time and money. After an arrest, regardless of whether the person is from Nebraska, Colorado or elsewhere, the county picks up the bill for housing and medical treatment for those in custody, as well as the cost of hiring a public defender.
ALISON STEWART: Sheriff Hayward says his annual jail budget has almost tripled – up nearly 100,000 dollars since 2011.
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: When you have something jump up $100,000, that’s a pretty big increase for 2,000 people to cover.
ALISON STEWART: How are you closing that gap financially?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: Basically out here, I mean, all the tax revenue is generated from property taxes. So if the county needs more money they have to raise the property taxes, and, you know, it goes back to the taxpayers.
ALISON STEWART: Nebraska law ends here at the Colorado border. So while Sheriff Hayward is doing his job just over there in the Cornhusker state, over here the owner of the first dispensary by Colorado’s north border is doing his.
MIKE KOLLARITS: I’m currently employing nine people full time.
ALISON STEWART: Mike Kollartis owns a marijuana dispensary in Sedgwick, Colorado, a town about seven miles from the border. His store, Sedgwick Alternative Relief, which sells both medical and recreational marijuana, is newly renovated. It stands out along this main street that has seen better days. It has become the main draw to this quiet town of 150 people.
MIKE KOLLARTIS: They’re pretty happy about the renovations I’ve done, the employment I’ve brought, the dollars, the tax revenue dollars are outstanding.
LUPE PENA CASIAS: Oh my goodness. It’s been good.
ALISON STEWART: Lupe Pena Casias owns a restaurant and inn across the street. She says the town has seen a huge financial boost because each time there’s a marijuana sale at the store, the town of Sedgwick gets a five dollar transaction fee. And as long as the dispensary is open, the customers keep coming.
LUPE PENA CASIAS: It’s busy, busy, busy over there and busy, busy, busy here.
ALISON STEWART: Employees at the store are trained to look out for customers who might break the law. The dispensary also displays signs detailing the marijuana laws of Colorado and neighboring states.
Yet there is still an influx of pot coming into Nebraska and Oklahoma. So the Attorneys General of both states filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court in December, alleging that they, “have suffered direct and significant harm arising from the increased presence of Colorado-sourced marijuana.”
Nebraska and Oklahoma also contend that Colorado’s marijuana law “directly conflicts with federal law and undermines…the area of drug control and enforcement.” And so both states are asking the Supreme Court to declare Colorado’s marijuana law unconstitutional and in doing so, undo Colorado’s marijuana regulatory system.
Bill Kelly is a reporter with Nebraska’s public radio station NET who’s been covering the issue. We video chatted with him because he’s based in the state’s capitol Lincoln, over 300 miles away from where we were reporting at the Nebraska/Colorado border.
ALISON STEWART: Medical marijuana, obviously, has been around for a long time in Colorado, and everyone saw that recreational was coming down the pipeline. Why didn’t Nebraska legislators get more involved in dealing with this porous border issue earlier?
BILL KELLY: I’m not certain Nebraska policy makers were really prepared for what was going to happen. You were starting to see more possession cases, you were starting to see more driving under the influence cases. But there was, I think, a little bit of the deer-in-the-headlights feeling that we don’t know what the appropriate response is.
ALISON STEWART: Some Nebraskan lawmakers believe that the appropriate response is to change the state’s marijuana laws. But there are many different ideas about what to do: one would be to legalize medical cannabis while another would increase the fines for edible marijuana products.
The penalties in Nebraska depend on how much pot is in your possession. A first time offense, under an ounce, is a $300 fine. More than an ounce but less than a pound is a misdemeanor with possible jail time and a fine. But more than a pound is a felony with a maximum five years in prison and or a $10,000 fine.
While Nebraska deliberates whether to allow marijuana or keep it out of the state, some residents like Jeremy Crary find themselves caught between the laws of Nebraska and Colorado.
Nine years ago Crary accidently shot himself in the head while playing with a gun. After painful surgeries and physical therapy, he spent years on more than a dozen medications and received regular shots of Botox for severe muscle spasms, but recently he started taking medical cannabis instead. He says it’s the most effective in relieving his pain and spasms.
JEREMY CRARY: I just quit taking all my pain pills they prescribed me and stuff.
ALISON STEWART: Crary has made several trips across the border to marijuana dispensaries. He says the strains of marijuana he can legally purchase in Colorado are better for his pain than what he can get illegally in his area.
ALISON STEWART: What’s it like for you to knowingly break the law when you’re driving back from Colorado with some weed in your car heading home?
JEREMY CRARY: I mean, it makes you feel like a criminal. I hate it. I never know whether the next cop’s gonna be so I’m always looking around.
ALISON STEWART: We spoke to a sheriff of Deuel County which is one of those counties you have to drive through to get back this way. Are you concerned at all about being part of that group that’s breaking the law or that’s causing him and taxpayers in that town a problem?
JEREMY CRARY: No, not really.
ALISON STEWART: Why not?
JEREMY CRARY: I’m not looking to just get high. I’m not trying to bring it back and sell it. I’m just trying to relieve myself of having to use pharmaceuticals to have a decent life.
ALISON STEWART: If people are making the effort to actually go buy this legally in Colorado as opposed to breaking two laws in Nebraska, “I’m gonna buy it illegally and then I’m gonna use it illegally.” Shouldn’t there be some sort of elasticity to the punishment?
SHERIFF ADAM HAYWARD: No, I mean, it’s legal over there. That’s fine. If you wanna buy it over there, use it over there. Don’t come back here with it because it’s illegal.
ALISON STEWART: The sheriff says he’s seeing more DUIDs – driving under the influence of drugs. He’s also been visiting local schools with confiscated marijuana edibles to show teachers students might possess. And he expects he’ll spend more time on Interstate 76 until this unintended consequence is resolved.
The post Between a rock and cannabis: How neighboring states struggle when pot becomes legal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
At Sedgwick Alternative Relief, a Colorado marijuana dispensary seven miles from the state’s border with Nebraska, a handmade sign alerts potential customers to the law: It is illegal to take marijuana out of the state.
It’s a familiar warning to any customer who visits a dispensary, whether in Denver or Boulder, since the state started selling recreational marijuana just over a year ago.
But since legalization, Nebraska law enforcement across the border is busier than ever, as eastward drivers attempt to leave Colorado with their pot products. In January of this year, Nebraska authorities booked 23 possession of marijuana cases coming from Colorado.
While patrolling Interstate 76, the main artery between Colorado and Nebraska, Sheriff Adam Hayward has seen a variety of pot products enter his jurisdiction in Deuel County, which is the first county across the border.
From rolled joints to psychedelic glass pipes to edibles, like cannabis-infused gummy bears, chips and cookies, the spoils of a legal weed run in Colorado become contraband in Nebraska.
Sheriff Hayward says most drivers who are caught with weed are pulled over for basic traffic violations like speeding or failing to signal a lane change. But when he walks up to the vehicle, “the smell is just overwhelming when they roll the window down,” he said.
The penalties of pot possession in Nebraska depend on how much a person is carrying. Having under an ounce on a first offense is a $300 fine. Possessing more than an ounce but less than a pound is a misdemeanor with the possibly of three months of jail time, a $500 fine or both. A person is caught with more than one pound faces felony charges with a maximum of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.
During a recent traffic stop, Sheriff Hayward confiscated four large plastic bags with six pounds of marijuana. The driver, who Hayward said purchased the cannabis from a Colorado dispensary and planned to sell it in Nebraska, was convicted on felony charges.
Sheriff Hayward says the profile of drivers caught with pot runs the gamut: teens making weekend runs to Denver; a 67-year-old grandmother; and an Iowan driving with a pound of marijuana and edibles.
And increasingly, these drivers are being found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs, which Sheriff Hayward says is worrisome trend.
“They’re using it while they’re driving,” Sheriff Hayward said. “It’s a risk to themselves to drive that way, but it also puts the rest of the motoring public at risk if they’re on the roadway at the same time.”
Watch NewsHour Weekend’s full report on the effect of Colorado’s legalized weed on the Nebraska border below:
The post Illegal crossing: See the confiscated weed at the Colorado-Nebraska border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
SALEM, Ore. — Just hours after Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced his decision to resign, a subpoena arrived in a state office building confirming that federal agents are looking into the influence-peddling scandal that led to the abrupt end of a four-decade political career.
The Democratic governor gave in to mounting pressure Friday, abandoning his office amid suspicions that his live-in fiancée used her relationship with him to land contracts for her green-energy consulting business.
His resignation, which takes effect Wednesday, cleared the way for Secretary of State Kate Brown to assume Oregon’s highest office and become the nation’s first openly bisexual governor.
“This is a sad day for Oregon. But I am confident that legislators are ready to come together to move Oregon forward,” said Brown, also a Democrat. Unlike most states, Oregon does not have a lieutenant governor. The secretary of state is next in line to succeed the governor.
When Kitzhaber closes the door on his life in public office, the scandal that toppled Oregon’s longest serving governor will still linger. Subpoenas delivered to the Department of Administrative Services Friday request a massive array of documents from Kitzhaber’s administration.
The subpoena was the first acknowledgment of a federal investigation against Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. It seeks records pertaining to 15 other people besides Kitzhaber and Hayes, including Kitzhaber’s chief of staff, policy advisers, Kitzhaber’s lawyer and secretaries.
The subpoena orders the agency to produce documents for a federal grand jury before March 10. An agency spokesman, Matt Shelby, said it would provide whatever requested records are in its possession.
Kitzhaber insisted he broke no laws.
“Nonetheless, I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life,” he said in a statement.
The announcement of the planned resignation capped a wild week in which Kitzhaber seemed poised to step down, then changed his mind, but ultimately bowed to calls from legislative leaders that he quit.
It’s a stunning fall from grace for a politician who left the governor’s office in 2003 and then mounted a comeback in 2010 and returned to his old job.
In a long statement announcing his decision, a defiant Kitzhaber cast blame on the media and on “so many of my former allies” who did not stick up for him. His staff released an audio recording of him reading the statement. Near the end, his voice trembled and he seemed to choke back tears.
Kitzhaber handily won re-election in November to a fourth term after surviving the botched rollout of Oregon’s online health care exchange.
But the allegations surrounding the work of his fiancee were more damaging, dominating headlines in the state following his victory.
A series of newspaper reports since October have chronicled Hayes’ work for organizations with an interest in Oregon public policy. At the same time, she was paid by advocacy groups and played an active role in Kitzhaber’s administration, a potential conflict of interest.
The spotlight on Hayes led her to reveal that she accepted about $5,000 to illegally marry a man seeking immigration benefits in the 1990s. Later, she admitted she bought a remote property with the intent to grow marijuana.
A fiercely private person, Kitzhaber has been forced to answer embarrassing and personal questions about his relationship. In response to questions at a news conference last month, Kitzhaber told reporters that he’s in love with Hayes, but he’s not blinded by it.
Kitzhaber, 67, met Hayes, 47, before the 2002 election, when he was governor and she was a candidate for the state Legislature. She lost her race, but they later reconnected after Kitzhaber’s term ended.
Hayes used the title “first lady,” though the couple never married, and she took an active role in his administration. They were engaged last summer.
“One thing I hope people know about me is that I love this state and its people, its rivers, its mountains and its landscapes with every fiber of my being,” Kitzhaber said in is parting statement. “It is because of that love that I tender my resignation.”
The post Federal supoena follows Oregon governor’s abrupt resignation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Despite questions about four challengers’ legal right to bring their lawsuit, the Supreme Court probably will not be deterred from deciding whether millions of people covered by the health care overhaul are eligible for the subsidies that make their insurance affordable.
The court will hear arguments in early March over whether the health law allows people in states without their own insurance markets to receive federal tax credits that reduce coverage costs. The number of uninsured could rise by 8 million if the subsidies disappear, two independent think tanks have estimated.
The challengers, who live in Virginia, object to being forced to get insurance or pay a penalty. If the subsidies were not available, they would not pay a penalty for failing to be insured because even the cheapest health plan would be too costly, according to sworn statements they filed in 2013.
But the Wall Street Journal reported that two are Vietnam veterans who probably could obtain health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, meaning they would not be affected by the subsidies issue. The newspaper and Mother Jones reported that a third plaintiff lived in a motel at the time that her address and age were used to calculate the cost of insurance. She now lives elsewhere in the state.
The fourth is a substitute school teacher in Richmond who said she could not recall how she became involved in the case.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, an anti-regulatory group, is paying for the legal challenges and recruited the four.
The right to get into court on an issue is known as standing.
“The important thing is there has to be someone in the case who is actually injured by the law,” said Tara Grove, a law professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. “That is what determines whether the court has jurisdiction.” It takes just one person who has been harmed to keep a lawsuit alive, Grove said.
The Obama administration or the justices could ask lawyers for the challengers to address the questions that have been raised about the four. The Justice Department contended that two would have earned too little to be subject to the penalty, but lower courts rejected that argument. The administration did not challenge the presence of any of the four at the Supreme Court.
The court could raise the topic on its own. But given its decision to take up the health law even in the absence of the usual requirement that lower courts be divided on an issue, several legal experts doubted the plaintiffs’ situations would derail the case.
“For a test case, these are not the best people one could put forward. It’s hard for them to demonstrate that they’ve had an actual injury,” said Robert Dudley, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
But the court creates its own rules on whether it can reach a decision in a case, Dudley said. “I can cite the rules, but it’s up to the court and the court will often take some very shaky cases because an issue is important. I honestly think this won’t affect the court much,” he said.
Questions about a party’s standing seem to become important at the Supreme Court only when a majority is unwilling to settle an issue or the court is unable to produce five votes for any particular outcome. In 2013, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban foundered on the issue of standing. The result left in place a lower court ruling holding that the ban was constitutional.
Jonathan Adler, a law professor who helped formulate the challenge to the subsidies, said efforts to sink the case over questions about the plaintiffs fit with the desire of the administration and health law supporters to delay a resolution of this case. Adler said they believe that it becomes harder to undo the tax credits the longer people receive them. “It would surprise me if the information in the affidavits wasn’t true and there was suddenly any problem for all the plaintiffs in this case,” Adler said.
Supporters of the law said questions about the plaintiffs make a broader point about the case.
“To me, what all this confirms is that people who weren’t really affected by the statute are bringing ideologically and politically based claims that will substantially affect millions of other people. This is the use of the courts as a political forum,” said Robert Weiner, a former Justice Department official who was deeply involved in the 2012 Supreme Court case that upheld the law.
There’s nothing unusual about interest groups on the right and the left driving suits and seeking plaintiffs willing to be the faces of a court fight, Grove said. “You know courts are influenced to some degree by the facts of the case,” she said. “It’s just good lawyering to make sure you have clients who are sympathetic.”
The post Challengers’ legal rights unlikely to effect health lawsuit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
ALISON STEWART: And now to Viewers Like You: Your response to last week’s signature segment from Main Street, Columbus, Mississippi where a number of international companies have opened up shop and started hiring.
Most of your comments were skeptical.
JeanSC said: The key to Yokohama Tire’s choice to locate here is NON-UNION jobs. The “golden triangle” is part of the “third world” part of the USA. The manufacturers locating here are, for the most part, mainly trying to buy the labor as cheaply as possible, and make sure it’s more exploitable by being non-union.
A $15 per hour wage is about $30k/year. At $30k/year, a worker will never qualify to purchase a home, send their children to college or save for a decent retirement. This is the reality of blue collar labor in the US.
And this from Bill Ryan: The modern manufacturers demand a better educated work force. If you don’t address that first, business will go elsewhere.
Tina Beelel commented: A friend who used to live there said [an] auto plant did well for the economy in his area… i would assume it dependS what kind of business is being built…another Walmart, No.
In our story, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant talked about the new jobs in his state.
MISSISSIPPI GOV. PHIL BRYANT: “These are manufacturing jobs. And so hopefully, they are those type that will be transferred from one generation to the next.”
ALISON STEWART: Which brought this comment from anla:
One and a half generations perhaps… Then, like the northern states, another state (or country) will undercut the cost (tax breaks, etc.) and they will move. Manufacturing jobs work only where employees are willing to work for desperation wages… Like in Mississippi.
As always, we welcome your comments at pbs.org/newshour, on our Facebook page, or tweet us at @newshour.
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Yet another weekend winter storm set its sights on the Northeastern United States, bringing with it the threat of high winds, heavy snow, subzero wind chills and the potential for flooding Saturday into Sunday.
With more than 50 million people in the path of the storm, blizzard warnings went into effect Saturday until Monday for Maine, eastern Massachusetts, coastal Connecticut and Long Island, as Nor’easter Neptune made its approach. High wind warnings were issued just south of New York City, down the coast and over to western North Carolina.
The heaviest snow will come overnight Saturday into Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters predict one two two feet of snow will fall in Boston, where residents are still digging out from a series of record-setting storms that have dumped nearly six feet of snow on the city.
Wind gusts in excess of 50 mph are also expected for eastern New England and may cause power outages in areas as far south as North Carolina.
Temperatures are expected to be 20 to 35 degrees below the February norm throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. Those chilly temps, combined with strong winds are set to produce brutal wind chills.
At the same time, these frigid temperatures, high winds and snow hit the northeast, the same weather pattern will bring unseasonably warm temperatures to the middle of the U.S. and parts of southern Arizona and southern California will enjoy above 80-degree weather.
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MORI ROTHMAN: Like millions of Americans, Jeff Yang watched the recent premiere of “Fresh Off the Boat.” Yang is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal online and has written about Asian-American issues and America’s changing demographics for decades.
JEFF YANG: Asian-Americans are disproportionately educated, which means that there’s a growing middle-class and upper-middle class, white-collar population of Asian-Americans, affluent with disposable income. The kind of demographic that marketers historically have been seeking to reach.
MORI ROTHMAN: According to the 2010 Census, which defines Asians as people originating from dozens of countries, including China, India and the Philippines, Asian Americans account for a small segment of the U.S. — just over 17 million people. But a Nielsen report on the Asian-American consumer says Asians are the fastest growing group in the U.S., having grown 58 percent from 2000 to 2013.
That’s why Yang believes TV lineups are diversifying. Networks made a splash last year by announcing 10 new shows this season with non-white characters or non-white show creators. But Yang is paying special attention to one show, and not just because he studies demographics. He’s watching for his son.
JEFF YANG: I can’t even claim to be a dispassionate observer here, and nor would I want to. You know, my son, of course, is the lead kid. He plays 11-year-old Eddie Huang in “Fresh Off the Boat.”
EDDIE HUANG, FRESH OFF THE BOAT: That’s me, your boy Eddie Huang, check it, 11-years-old…
JEFF YANG: I could never have imagined that it would be my offspring, the next generation who would be at the very center of a moment that I’ve kind of looked forward to for all of my adult life.
MORI ROTHMAN: In case you missed it, the debut of “Fresh Off the Boat” on ABC marked the first time in 20 years you could turn on your TV and watch a network show centered around an Asian-American family.
CONSTANCE WU, FRESH OFF THE BOAT: If you try to suspend our son because of this we will sue everyone in this school.
RANDALL PARK, FRESH OFF THE BOAT: …So fast it will make your head spin. Hey, it’s the American way right?
MORI ROTHMAN: The show is based on the memoir of Eddie Huang, a celebrity chef, restaurateur, and host of the web series Huang’s World on Vice.com.
The sitcom focuses on Eddie’s rough childhood and his parent’s struggles as immigrants trying to achieve the American dream by starting a Western-themed restaurant.
Even seeing one Asian American on TV used to be a rare occurrence until the arrival of actors like George Takei in Star Trek and Bruce Lee in the Green Hornet. But success in the sitcom world has been slow.
JODI LONG, FRESH OFF THE BOAT: Do you know why I encouraged your brother to become a cardiologist?
MARGARET CHO, FRESH OFF THE BOAT: No.
JODI LONG, FRESH OFF THE BOAT: Because I always knew that one day you give me a heart attack. What are you wearing?
MORI ROTHMAN: In 1994, All-American Girl starring Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho became the first network sitcom centered around an Asian-American family. But it was canceled after 21 episodes due to poor reviews and sinking ratings.
JEFF YANG: You know and I know that there’re a lot of things that go into the success of a television show, many reasons why you might imagine that a show might not work. But when you see something as singular as an Asian-American sitcom on television, when it doesn’t work it’s very easy to blame the fact that Americans don’t want to see an Asian.
MORI ROTHMAN: ”Fresh Off the Boat” debuted to an audience of nearly eight million, when it followed ABC’s highly rated sitcom, “Modern Family” on a Wednesday night. This week- airing during its regularly scheduled Tuesday night time slot, “Fresh Off the Boat” had two million fewer viewers, but still beat competition like NBC’s long-running sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”
ERIC LIU: On the one hand, that seems like, wow, this is an incredible moment of progress. On the other hand, it underscores ways in which our mass, popular culture is still a lagging indicator, not a leading indicator. It follows a little bit behind what’s actually changing on the ground, in our lives, in our schools, and in our families.
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ALISON STEWART: American and Afghan commandos have sharply intensified raids against al-Qaeda after killing an al-Qaeda leader last fall and seizing his computer.
It contained valuable information about al-Qaeda’s operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
For more about all of this, we are joined now by Matthew Rosenberg of The New York Times.
He co-authored the story detailing all of this.
So, what was on this laptop? What kind of information and what impact has it had on U.S. military involvement on the ground?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We’re told it was quite an extensive kind of accounting of al-Qaeda operations. You know, people are pretty tight-lipped about this kind of things.
You know, there was a lot of data on there that allowed them to keep tracking people, may have been operational. It could have been phone numbers.
Al-Qaeda keeps amazing records of what it does. A lot of these militant organizations do, and even things like a phone list can provide huge intelligence if you’re trying to track people down.
You know, I think it’s also important to note that there were some other factors at play here.
A new Afghan president was certainly more open to working with the U.S., and, you know, the Afghan army had a really rough time last year and the Americans really want to keep helping them.
And one of the bigger things they have been able to do to help is go after the mid-level commanders of the insurgency.
And, you know, the al-Qaeda guys, while not directly part of the Taliban, they do often aid the Taliban, to provide kind of expertise.
ALISON STEWART: Something, Matthew, I find so fascinating about this story, almost the gee whiz of it, is that a computer has been so useful, given all the military might and all the power we have and all the intelligence that one piece of equipment has proven to be so valuable.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG: You know, one of the problems they’ve always had in fighting the Taliban — and al-Qaeda, to a degree — is getting people inside.
The Taliban’s leadership is a group of villagers who all grew up together; getting people on the inside to get information, very difficult.
Al-Qaeda, the same thing. They’re in distant areas. They are very close about who they let into the inner circle.
So, something like a computer can provide a tremendous amount of insight into what’s going on, even if it’s just a bunch of record of who bought what, when, and where — you know, printer cartridges, you know, telephones, who knows.
ALISON STEWART: One of the Afghan officials quoted in the story that you co-authored said this is a secret war, these raids?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG: You know, there have always been two wars going in Afghanistan.
There is the kind of big army, public war, the embeds that journalists like myself and others went on, you saw, and there was the secret war of night raids, clandestine operations, that went after insurgent leaders, insurgent finances. You know, we never got a close look at that.
And the big war is over. I mean, those days of big U.S. troops occupying bases around the country, that’s done.
But that secret war, that clandestine war, is still very much going. And, you know, I think that’s one of the issues is that we’ve got the president declaring the war over — I think it was one of the first things he said in the State of the Union, but there are Americans who are still very much involved to a degree in combat in Afghan.
ALISON STEWART: And is that why both sides, American and Afghan side, have kept this relatively quiet?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG: I think that’s part of it. You know, there is some necessity for operational secrecy, and we all understand that.
And I think there’s the issue of political fallout at home. In the U.S., you know, on a range of issues — this, on data released by the military about what’s going on in Afghanistan — there is less and less available and the impression we have is everybody wants to kind of forget about it.
On the Afghan side, the image of Americans still raiding Afghan homes at night, even if they’re doing it with Afghan troops is just not — not a good image anybody wants to see and any leader wants out in public.
ALISON STEWART: Matthew Rosenberg from The New York Times, thank you for sharing your reporting.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG: Thank you
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At a ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis named 20 new cardinals on Saturday, reemphasizing the need for humility and a sense of justice among Catholic church leaders.
“Those called to the service of governance in the church need to have a strong sense of justice, so that any form of injustice becomes unacceptable,” he said at Saint Peter’s Basilica before a crowd that included emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, Reuters reported.
Myanmar’s Charles Maung Bo and Ethiopia’s Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel were among the men named as the pope’s highest ranking aides. Only two of the new cardinals were from Europe and there were none from the United States.
During his homily, Francis warned the new cardinals against being “puffed up with pride” by their position, something he noted church dignitaries are by no means immune to.
Since his papacy began in March 2013, Francis has worked to reshape the culture of Catholic church leadership by breaking with some traditions and making history.
Saturday marked the first time churchmen from Myanmar, Cape Verde and Tonga were welcomed into the group that will eventually choose the pope’s successor. It was the second time that Francis made history with his appointments.
Last January, he named Haiti’s first cardinal.
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Three people were wounded at a shooting reported near a Copenhagen synagogue early Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after a gunman opened fire at a cafe in the Danish capital city.
Danish police said the perpetrator fled on foot after opening fire at the synagogue in the center of the city around 1 a.m. local time.
There was no word on whether Sunday’s shooting turned fatal, but police said one person was hit in the head and two police officers suffered arm and leg wounds, BBC News reported.
It was too early to tell whether Sunday’s shooting was related to one on Saturday that left one civilian dead and three policemen wounded at a cafe where a free speech public forum was taking place.
BREAKING PHOTO – DENMARK: Police on scene after Shots were fired at synagogue in Krystalgade in Copenhagen (Sky News) pic.twitter.com/sizFJgOYnE
— Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) February 15, 2015
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MIAMI — Jeb Bush was preparing to release the emails he sent and received as Florida governor when he was excoriated by a letter-writer to The Miami Herald.
The headline: “Don’t trust Jeb Bush with the power of the presidency.”
The subject of many of the emails was Terri Schiavo. The letter-writer was her husband, Michael.
Bush’s effort to stop Michael Schiavo from removing his brain-damaged wife’s feeding tube was a defining moment of Bush’s time in office.
Bush, a devout Catholic, sided with Terri Schiavo’s parents in the end-of-life dispute and reached for unprecedented authority to intervene. Michael Schiavo said his wife did not want to be kept alive artificially.
As Bush moves toward a run for president in 2016, Michael Schiavo has re-emerged, promising to campaign against Bush and remind voters about the ex-governor’s role in the matter.
“I will be very active,” Schiavo, a registered Republican, told The Associated Press in an interview. He said he plans to back Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, should she run.
To Schiavo, Bush “owes the public, along with myself, a huge apology.”
Asked last week about the case, Bush told the Tampa Bay Times: “It’s appropriate for people to err on the side of life. I’m completely comfortable with it.”
Bush’s recently released emails are part of his attempt to define himself on his terms. Many of the emails deal with the Schiavo case.
“Please know that I respect the opinions of those who disagree with the actions I have taken,” Bush wrote a constituent in 2005. “This is a heart-wrenching case, and I have not taken any action without thought, reflection and an appreciation for other points of view.”
Friends and advisers to Bush say his actions were driven largely by his faith, and they believe his effort to keep Schiavo alive — despite wide public disapproval — illustrates principled leadership. That could help in early presidential voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina, where social conservatives hold significant sway in the nominating process.
“Jeb felt strongly from a personal standpoint that she should be given a chance,” said Al Cardenas, former chairman of the American Conservative Union.
Terri Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, asked Bush for help. They disputed the diagnosis that she was in a “chronic vegetative state” and said that their daughter, as a Catholic, would not want to be taken off life support.
“For Mr. Bush, it was clearly about doing the right thing,” said David Gibbs, the Schindlers’ lead lawyer. “He knew the easiest thing would be for him to avoid the issue and just be the governor. But he felt in principle that one disabled woman was worth his time and attention. He showed genuine compassion.”
Bush first intervened in 2003 as the Schindlers’ legal appeals were coming to an end. A judge’s ruling that Michael Schiavo, Terri’s legal guardian, could remove her feeding tube had withstood years of court challenges. But the governor took the unusual step of writing the judge and asking him to assign a different guardian.
“I normally would not address a letter to the judge in a pending legal proceeding,” Bush wrote. “However, my office has received over 27,000 emails reflecting understandable concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo.”
His request was rejected.
On Oct. 21, 2003, six days after the feeding tube was removed, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a one-page bill granting the governor the power to order the tube reinserted. Bush signed it into law, and a police-escorted ambulance moved her from a hospice to a hospital, where the tube was put back in.
“I honestly believe we did the right thing,” Bush wrote a constituent who supported the move.
Others weren’t so sure, including some of the Republicans who shepherded the measure through the Legislature. “I keep thinking, ‘What if Terri Schiavo really didn’t want this at all?’” the late Jim King, then Florida’s state Senate president, said at the time.
Nearly a year later, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional. Bush appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, was rejected and asked Congress to intervene. Lawmakers, including then-Sen. Clinton, voted to give Terri Schiavo’s parents legal standing to appeal anew in the federal courts, which then rejected their case.
In a last-ditch effort, Bush tried to have the state Department of Children and Families take custody of Terri Schiavo, based on allegations that she had been abused by her husband and caregivers. The move was rebuffed by the presiding judge.
On March 31, 2005, Terri Schiavo died.
Even after that, Bush raised questions about Michael Schiavo’s involvement in his wife’s initial collapse and asked that a state prosecutor revisit the case. “Jeb Bush had no right to do what he did,” Michael Schiavo said in his letter to the newspaper.
The prosecutor concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
“Voters should consider what someone who used the power of government to hurt so many would do with the power of the presidency,” Schiavo wrote.
In a statement upon Terri Schiavo’s death, Bush said he joined those in Florida and around the world who were “deeply grieved by the way Terri died.”
“I remain convinced, however, that Terri’s death is a window through which we can see the many issues left unresolved in our families and in our society. For that, we can be thankful for all that the life of Terri Schiavo has taught us.”
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On the outdoor lot of his beachside facility, flecked with dozens of plastic bins and tanks, biologist Syd Kraul has raised several fish species from eggs to fingerlings, including tuna, snapper, and moi, a native Hawaiian fish, for more than 30 years.
As the owner of Pacific Planktronics on the west side of the Big Island in Hawaii, Kraul has also become of a small community that raises popular species of tropical fish through captive breeding, similar to the way many freshwater fish are raised for life in aquariums.
But farming many species of popular aquarium fish remains an elusive feat for those hoping to enter the aquarium fish trade.
“If it was easy, anybody could do it,” Kraul said.
You see them in homes, hotels, restaurants and office lobbies around the country: Saltwater aquariums filled with colorful tropical fish to accent the atmosphere with the backdrop of the sea — even when it’s thousands of miles away.
Many of those fish got there by means of collectors, who pluck the gem-like fish from the wild and ship their catch to anywhere from New York to New Zealand.
The United States imports 11 million tropical fish each year, which live in an estimated two million saltwater aquariums throughout the country, and the global fish trade nets as much as $330 million annually, according to the United Nations.
But the practice has long drawn criticism from environmental activists who argue that collections damage the reef ecosystem and can deplete popular species of fish. In some locations around the world, including Indonesia and the Philippines, the two largest sources of ornamental fish, some collectors inject cyanide into the water to make fish sluggish so they are easier to catch.
Even in Hawaii, where chemicals are strictly forbidden and the aquarium fishery is more closely managed, staunch opponents remain.
In 2013, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources established a “white list” of 40 fish species that could be taken from Hawaii’s western reefs, where collection was allowed.
But all other species of fish were off limits. So despite the high comparative costs of captive breeding, Kraul’s practice continues.
“I really enjoy raising baby [fish] – they’re cute,” Kraul said. “They’re really different than the adults. Everyday they change into a slightly different form.”
But of particular difficulty for many breeders, including Kraul, is the yellow tang species, which composes about 84 percent of the aquarium fish collected off of West Hawaii’s reefs and sells at retail for about $40 each. The fish can live up to 40 years, but the longest Kraul said he has been able to keep one alive is 42 days — a whole month and a half before they even develop their distinctive yellow color.
“Yellow tangs are a little bit more difficult than some of the other ones I’m raising because they’re just a little bit smaller,” Kraul said. “So that first feed is critical; getting them that right thing in the right quantity and the right quality.”
The longest anyone has been able to raise a yellow tang in captivity has been around 80 days, Kraul said. But his efforts with another popular ornamental fish have been more successful.
In 2014, Kraul raised flame angelfish, which can retail for as high as $50, in captivity.
Aquaculture experts have also had success breeding ornamental saltwater fish, including clownfish or “Nemo fish” and seahorses.
But the majority of the saltwater fish in aquariums around the world are still caught in the wild, and Kraul estimates it will be some time before captive breeding will replace wild fish collection.
“I have hopes, but I’ve had hopes for quite a few years,” Kraul said. “I just have to pick myself up, dust myself off.”
See NewsHour Weekend’s full report on the controversy surrounding Hawaii’s aquarium fish industry below:
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A Jordan military court sentenced a top Muslim Brotherhood official to 18 months in jail on Sunday for publicly criticizing the United Arab Emirates.
Zaki Bani Rushaid, the deputy head of Jordan’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, was convicted of “sourcing ties with a foreign country” after he was arrested in late November for writing an opinion piece published online in which he attacked the legitimacy of the UAE’s rulers and claimed they were supporters of terrorism, the New York Times reported.
The op-ed was a response to the UAE, a key financial backer of Jordan, labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
While Rusheid received his sentence Sunday in a court in Jordan, Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi, a high-ranking member of that country’s Muslim Brotherhood, sat in an Egyptian court to face charges of espionage, the Associated Press reported.
The Muslim Brotherhood was established in Egypt in 1928 by fundamentalists opposed to Middle East government ruling at the time and rose to become a political powerhouse by force, according to reporter Michael Isikoff, who traced the group’s history in a 2007 documentary “The Brotherhood” for PBS.
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Celebrations around the world are already underway for the Chinese New Year, which begins next Thursday, Feb. 19 and lasts until March 5.
Often marked by fireworks and family feasts within China, customs and observances of 2015′s Year of the Goat vary widely, ranging from traditional festivals to underwater dragon dances.
Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is widely regarded as the most important celebration in China and is given official public holiday status, during which most Chinese get eight days off of work.
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WASHINGTON — After a computer glitch was patched up, supporters of President Barack Obama’s health care law were out in force Sunday trying to get uninsured people signed up by the official deadline for 2015 coverage.
The effort had the trappings of a get-out-the-vote drive, with email reminders, telephone calls and squads of community-level volunteers.
“You can’t avoid it: TV, radio, church, wife, kids, co-workers,” said Ramiro Hernandez, a previously uninsured truck repair shop owner who enrolled himself and his family in Joliet, Illinois, on Saturday.
Technicians anxiously monitored the HealthCare.gov website for any new bugs. The administration provided no numbers on weekend sign-ups.
New York, which is running its own insurance market, announced a two-week extension for anyone who has already started an application. Federal officials had said they, too, would allow extra time for people to finish in the 37 states served by HealthCare.gov. But officials have not said how long that grace period will be.
The health law offers subsidized private coverage to people without access to it on the job. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell has set a nationwide target of 9.1 million people enrolled and paying premiums in 2015. Some experts say that’s too modest. Nonpartisan congressional analysts have estimated 12 million people will sign up in the new insurance markets.
“Overall, we are really pleased with turnout,” said John Gilbert, national field director for Enroll America, a nonprofit that works closely with the administration. “We expect that this will be a big number here at the end.”
Officials held their breath Saturday when a technical problem knocked out the income verification system. Gilbert said consumers were getting a yellow screen that would not let them continue. Website woes made headlines last year, a major embarrassment for a tech-savvy White House.
Income verification, which the IRS handles, is crucial to the application process. The subsidies that most people get to help pay their premiums are based on how much they make. The problem popped up late in the morning.
“At first it seemed like no one could get through,” said Gilbert. “Then it started improving. It improved throughout the afternoon and then it was completely resolved.” Consumers who got snagged by the glitch will have extra time to finish their applications.
The sign-up deadline in states served by the federal marketplace is 2:59 a.m. Eastern time Monday. Some states running their own exchanges have different deadlines.
This year there’s a big question mark hanging over the enrollment drive, and it has nothing to do with technology.
Early next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on another challenge to Obama’s law. The plaintiffs in the case say the literal wording of the law only allows the federal government to offer subsidies in states that set up their own insurance markets. Most states have not done so.
If the court sides with the plaintiffs, millions of people would lose financial assistance, and most of those would drop their coverage.
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