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

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    The Islamic State released a video on Sunday purporting to show the beheadings of 21 Egyptians captured in Libya.

    The five-minute video, which appeared on the Twitter feed of a website supporting the militant group, shows the Christian captives dressed in orange jumpsuits forced to kneel on a beach where masked militants behead them, Reuters reported.

    Prior to the beheadings, a militant in the video stands with a knife and says, “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.”

    A caption for the video reads: “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.”

    Since the 2011 uprising in Egypt, thousands of Egyptians have traveled to Libya in search of jobs against the advice of of their government, Reuters reported.

    The post Islamic State releases video purporting to show beheadings of 21 Egyptians appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Police officers control the street in front of an internet cafe in Norrebro district in Copenhagen, February 15, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger.

    Police officers control the street in front of an internet cafe in Norrebro district in Copenhagen, February 15, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger.

    The Danish Prime Minister said the country was still on “high-alert” on Sunday after police in Copenhagen shot and killed a 22-year-old man they believe was responsible for the double terror attack at a cafe and synagogue on Saturday and early Sunday morning that left two dead and five others wounded.

    “If you go through the streets of Copenhagen, which is normally a beautiful, peaceful place, you will see that we are in a place of high-alert,” Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said. “But we have caught the perpetrator, and we are closer to understanding what happened, but we have still not called the emergency off completely.”

    Police did not release the name of the gunman, known to them because of his violent past, who first fired some 30 shots through the window of the Krudttoenden cafe early Saturday evening. Police said a 40-year-old man was killed and three police officers were wounded outside the cafe that was hosting a free speech forum attended by controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks.

    A victim is carried into an ambulance after a shooting incident after a public meeting and discussion arranged by the Lars Vilks Committee about Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech in the Krudttonden Hall in the Osterbro area on February 14, 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Lars Rønbøg.

    A victim is carried into an ambulance after a shooting incident after a public meeting and discussion arranged by the Lars Vilks Committee about Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech in the Krudttonden Hall in the Osterbro area on February 14, 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Lars Rønbøg.

    Around 1 a.m. local time, police said the lone gunman fired shots outside a synagogue in the center of the city, killing one man and injuring two other police officers.

    Police said the perpetrator fled on foot and the gunman was killed after shooting at police in Copenhagen’s Noerrebro district.

    Authorities are investigating whether the gunman was inspired by last month’s terror attacks in France, which followed a similar pattern. 

    On Sunday, Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt laid flowers at the scene of the second shooting and told reporters she promised to protect the country’s Jewish population.

    Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt lays flowers outside the synagogue Krystalgade in Copenhagen, on February 15, 2015 after two fatal attacks in the Danish capital, at a cultural center during a debate on Islam and free speech and a second outside the city's main synagogue. Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

    Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt lays flowers outside the synagogue Krystalgade in Copenhagen, on February 15, 2015 after two fatal attacks in the Danish capital, at a cultural center during a debate on Islam and free speech and a second outside the city’s main synagogue. Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

    “Our thoughts go to the whole Jewish community today,” Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt said. “They belong in Denmark. They are a strong part of our community, and we will do everything we can to protect the Jewish community in our country.”

    The post Denmark on ‘high-alert’ after police kill gunman behind double terror attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Americans love their aquariums.

    The United States reportedly imports nearly half of the total worldwide trade in aquarium fish, and two-thirds of the world’s 1.5 million aquarium hobbyists live in the United States

    The colorful fish that fill these aquariums almost all come from the wild, taken off of coral reefs and shipped to aquarists around the world. And the practice of collecting these fish has often been controversial, both for its impact on the fish themselves and on the reef ecosystems they are taken from.

    But while taking fish from the wild can have serious impacts, the effects from the trade range from species to species, says Andrew Rhyne, a marine biologist at Roger Williams University and the New England Aquarium. For years, Rhyne has been researching the aquarium trade and the trends in the millions of fish that are imported into the USA each year.

    So what should you know before you start a tank? We asked Rhyne to tell us more about what it takes to get the most popular fish into America’s aquarium tanks

    _Cleaner Common Wrasse_Flame Angelfish_Banggai Cardinalfish_Clown Anemonefish_Blue-Green Damselfish_Blue Tang copy

    The post Six popular aquarium fish and what you should know about them appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The cannonade ceased and guns fell suddenly silent across eastern Ukraine at midnight Saturday as a cease-fire between government forces and pro-Russian rebels took effect.

    As of Sunday afternoon, the truce held in much of the country, but rebels had already launched new attacks against the town of Debaltseve, which sits astride a strategically important railroad junction.

    In a televised address, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gave government forces the cease-fire order one minute after midnight, allowing civilians in beleaguered areas to resume daily life, and offering forces on both sides of the conflict time to resupply in preparation for a possible resumption of hostilities.

    A woman walks by a building that was damaged by shelling last September, Donetsk, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A woman walks by a building that was damaged by shelling last September, Donetsk, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko takes part in a wreath laying ceremony near a Kiev monument to servicemen killed during the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan, February 15, 2015. Photo by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko takes part in a wreath laying ceremony near a Kiev monument to servicemen killed during the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan, February 15, 2015. Photo by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

    Locals shop at a market in Donetsk, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    Locals shop at a market in Donetsk, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A member of the Ukrainian armed forces poses near Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine February 15, 2015. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    A member of the Ukrainian armed forces poses near Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine February 15, 2015. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    A man fishes through an ice hole on a frozen river in Donetsk, Ukraine, February 15, 2015.  Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A man fishes through an ice hole on a frozen river in Donetsk, Ukraine, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A man ice fishing on a frozen river in Donetsk, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A man ice fishing on a frozen river in Donetsk, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A local resident reacts near her home after shelling in recent days in Svitlodarsk, eastern Ukraine, February 15, 2015. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    A local resident reacts near her home after shelling in recent days in Svitlodarsk, eastern Ukraine, February 15, 2015. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    A member of the armed forces of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic checks on a kettle at a checkpoint near Donetsk, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A member of the armed forces of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic checks on a kettle at a checkpoint near Donetsk, February 15, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

    A local resident walks on the road in a park in Svitlodarsk, eastern Ukraine, February 15, 2015. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    A local resident walks on the road in a park in Svitlodarsk, eastern Ukraine, February 15, 2015. Photo by Gleb Garanich/Reuters

    The post (Some) quiet on the eastern front as Ukraine’s cease-fire goes into effect appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former U.S. poet laureate, Philip Levine, died at age 87 Saturday morning. Levine spoke about his role as the working man's poet in an interview with PBS NewsHour's Jeffrey Brown in 2010.

    Former U.S. poet laureate, Philip Levine, died at age 87 on Feb. 14, 2015. Levine spoke about his role as the working man’s poet in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown in 2010.

    Philip Levine, a former auto worker, turned acclaimed poet, died Saturday. He was 87.

    His death was caused by complications from pancreatic cancer, the New York Times reported.

    Levine was perhaps best known for tackling the world of the working-class through verse. It was a world he knew intimately from growing up in the industrial setting of Detroit.

    “There’ll always be working people in my poems because I grew up with them, and I am a poet of memory,” Levine said.

    He spoke about his working-class upbringing in this 2010 interview with PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown:

    From 2011 to 2012, Levine was United States poet laureate. He discussed the experience at age 83, with fellow laureate, Britain’s Carol Ann Duffy and PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown in 2012.

    Levine’s collection of poems, “The Simple Truth,” garnered him a Pulitzer Prize in 1995. In 1991 and in 1980, he won National Book Awards for his works “Ashes: Poems New & Old” and “What Work Is.” Major publications like The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine often published his works.

    Levine was known for his earnestness, and the phrasing and cadence of his verses have been replicated by many mainstream poets, critics say.

    An emeritus professor of English at California State University-Fresno, Levine is survived by his wife, three sons, two brothers and five grandchildren.

    The post Former U.S. poet laureate Philip Levine dies at 87 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pedestrians walk past an HSBC bank in London, February 9, 2015. HSBC published an apology Sunday in response to media reports it helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets. Photo by Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

    Pedestrians walk past an HSBC bank in London, Feb. 9, 2015. HSBC published an apology Sunday in response to media reports that the bank helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets. Photo by Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters.

    Britain’s largest bank, HSBC, published a full-page apology letter in several British newspapers Sunday, following allegations that the company’s Swiss private banking arm helped clients dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars in assets.

    Six days earlier, a group of media outlets reported on documents leaked by Hervé Falciani, a former systems engineer for HSBC’s Geneva branch.

    The documents, dating from 2005 to 2007, show that HSBC “aggressively marketed schemes likely to enable wealthy clients to avoid European taxes” and “provided accounts to international criminals, corrupt businessmen and other high-risk individuals,” the Guardian reported.

    In the published letter, HSBC Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver said the bank has “absolutely no appetite to do business with clients who are evading their taxes or who fail to meet our financial crime compliance standards.”

    Gulliver stressed that HSBC has made changes since the period covered by the documents, and that its Swiss private bank had been “completely overhauled.”

    “We must show we understand that the societies we serve expect more from us,” Gulliver wrote. “We therefore offer our sincerest apologies.”

    The post HSBC publishes apology for tax dodge scandal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cranes and containers are seen at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California in this aerial image

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: In Canada today, 3,000 members of the Teamsters went on strike.

    They are in a dispute with the Canadian Pacific Railway over wages and benefits. Analysts say a prolonged strike would affect the flow of oil, lumber, auto parts and other products into the United States.

    Another labor dispute between ship owners and longshoremen has been going on for months now on the West Coast of this country. And, this weekend, the president dispatched Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to California to try to resolve it.

    For more about this, we are joined now from Los Angeles by Christopher Thornberg. He is an economist and a founding partner of Beacon Economics.

    So, Christopher, tell me, what is at the center of this dispute, and why has it gone on for something like nine months?

    CHRISTOPHER THORNBERG, Founding Partner, Beacon Economics, LLC: Well, we have to remember that, you know, there is a long history of tension between the longshoremen and the various owners of the shipping companies that move products in and out of those ports.

    This time around, the contract was up for renewal. Those negotiations had been carrying on.

    I know the workers at the port have been working under the old expired contract for a number of months.

    Contract negotiations haven’t been going very fast.

    And, as a result of that, there’s been kind of this, if you will, guerrilla action going on between both parties.

    It’s somewhat of a work slowdown by one side of the equation, and, of course, these kind of weekend-long lockouts on the other side of it. And, overall, the tensions are just getting hotter and hotter.

    ALISON STEWART: What is the fight about?

    CHRISTOPHER THORNBERG: Just the same old, right, wages and benefits.

    The port workers are looking to really increase some of the benefits they’re getting right now.

    And, at the same time, we know that technological change continues to alter operations at the port. And they’re fighting very hard to try and maintain the overall level of employment at those ports.

    ALISON STEWART: Thus far, who has been most affected by this slowdown dispute? And, if it goes on much longer, who will be most affected?

    CHRISTOPHER THORNBERG: When you sit down and really look at what has been happening at the ports, say, in terms of containers moving in and out, while there are these sort of delays, the overall volume hasn’t dropped by very much at all, to be perfectly honest, by the numbers we have been seeing.

    ALISON STEWART: What about farmers in the Midwest or truckers? I mean, wouldn’t this affect their livelihood?

    CHRISTOPHER THORNBERG: At some level. But remember that a lot of farmers have alternative ways of getting their crops, shall we say, out and about.

    ALISON STEWART: Right now, there are 29 ports affected from Southern California up to Washington State. And the backlog has been its worst in the past week, since this whole thing started.

    So, what does that mean for an average consumer?

    CHRISTOPHER THORNBERG: Not much at this particular point in time.

    You know, I realize that it’s easy to make big news about these ports. You hear all the rhetoric about these being an important, almost, if you will, an artery of the U.S. economy, and if it gets cut off, we almost think about the body economy bleeding out, as the case may be.

    But those kind of views are highly overstated. Go to your local supermarket, go to your local department store, the shelves are stuffed with products and goods.

    Nobody in the United States is being denied any kind of consumption choice as a result of these disruptions. And, candidly, it would take a very long time for that to happen.

    The ports are a cheap and convenient way of moving product in and out of the United States, but they are not the only way.

    You can wheel stuff through Canada or Mexico. You could ship it through the East Coast. You can put it on planes. There are plenty of ways of moving product in and out.

    This may be a hassle and indeed even a financial hit for some companies, but on the macro sort of level, where we look at the winners and the losers, overall, it doesn’t really mean all that much for the U.S. economy, or even here in Southern California, as it may be.

    ALISON STEWART: Christopher Thornberg, thank you so much for sharing your analysis.

    CHRISTOPHER THORNBERG: My pleasure.

    The post Is the economic impact of the labor disputes at West Coast ports just hype? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman walks through the snow down Charles Street during a winter blizzard in Boston

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    IVETTE FELICIANO: By this morning, a foot of snow was already on the ground across much of Eastern Massachusetts, and 20 inches had already fallen in some coastal areas.

    The conditions were further complicated by strong winds that started last night and continued into today. This local ABC reporter in Boston was barely able to stand.

    It is now officially the snowiest February in the history of the city. As of this morning, 52.5 inches have fallen this month, and more than  7 feet of snow has fallen there this winter.

    BOSTON MAN: What can you do? it’s mother nature. you wait, again, hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: More than 1,800 airline flights have been canceled across the United States today, many into and out of Boston’s Logan International Airport.

    The city also has halted rail, bus and ferry service.

    Making things even more difficult, walls of snow – 6 feet or higher – left over from earlier storms. Though the snow fall finally let up this afternoon, drifting is causing major visibility problems.

    GOVERNOR BAKER: We still have wind gusts that are in the 40 and 50 mile an hour range, this very light snow is going to continue to blow around a lot. And as a result these roads that may have been plowed recently will start to look pretty quickly like they haven’t been plowed.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Boston is hardly the only place dealing with extreme weather.

    Bone chilling temperatures are also expected throughout New England tonight, with wind chills early this evening forecast to be -13 in Providence, -16 in Boston, -26 in Concord, New Hampshire, and -32 west of Augusta, Maine.

    ALLAN TUFANKJIAN, SCITUATE, MA RESIDENT: If I saw one day that was above freezing, I’d be very happy. But I don’t see, I looked seven days ahead and every single day, the highest temperature I can see is 26 degrees (Fahrenheit) (-3 degrees Celsius). That is disappointing.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Thousands in the east have already lost power because of high winds.

    Much of the Midwest also suffered through extreme cold last night and this morning.

    Another winter storm, Octavia, is expected to bring snow and ice to about a dozen states tonight and tomorrow…from Missouri to Virginia.

    Snowy conditions in Ohio yesterday caused a series of accidents, including one that killed two people.

    The post More extreme winter weather wallops Northeast, Midwest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    University of Missouri students guide a quad-copter drone off the ground at Columbia's Hinkson Field on June 40, 2014. Today the FAA released proposed rules regarding the regulation of commercial drones. Photo by David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images.

    University of Missouri students guide a quad-copter drone off the ground at Columbia’s Hinkson Field on Jun. 40, 2014. Today the FAA released proposed rules regarding the regulation of commercial drones. Photo by David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images.

    The Federal Aviation Administration released a list of long-awaited proposed rules governing the use of small commercial drones on Sunday.

    The proposed rules would permit drones up to 55 pounds to fly during daylight hours, as long as they remain within the operator’s sight, something companies like Amazon have taken issue with.

    Drones would be required to fly below 500 feet and at less than 100 mph, and anyone who is 17 years or older would be allowed to operate a drone, provided they pass an aeronautics knowledge test.

    The test requirement is more lenient than originally anticipated, and will not require drone operators to possess a license or log flying hours.

    “Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release.

    While the proposed rules have been in the making for years, it unlikely that they will be solidified anytime soon. The FAA called for 60 days of public comment in response to the proposed rules.

    “We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”

    Despite the rapidly developing field, a drone crash-landing on a White House lawn last month renewed security concerns.

    On Sunday, President Obama signed a memorandum ordering federal agencies using drones to come up with policies to protect the privacy and first amendment rights of individuals.

    The post FAA releases long-awaited proposed commercial drone rules appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Illustrations by Ruth Tam

    Illustrations by Ruth Tam

    Many historians point to television as the game-changing technology that made a presidential candidate’s appearance almost as important as their platform. The truth is, aesthetics played a role in politics long before the American public tuned in to the evening news. Eleven-year-old Grace Bedell knew that when she wrote to presidential hopeful Abraham Lincoln on Oct. 15, 1860:

    “I have got 4 brother’s (sic) and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.”

    Lincoln’s response, penned just four days later, seemed to dismiss Bedell’s suggestion. He wrote, “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin now?”

    Honest Abe obviously reconsidered, and regardless of whether he would have won without his beard, it is hard to picture President Lincoln today without this “silly affectation.” Is the facial hair of other past presidents equally recognizable? Take our quiz below to find out.

    The post Name that beard: Match the facial hair to the President appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Listen to Jericho Brown read “Labor” from his new collection, “The New Testament.”

    Labor

    I spent what light Saturday sent sweating
    And learned to cuss cutting grass for women
    Kind enough to say they couldn’t tell the damned
    Difference between their mowed lawns
    And their vacuumed carpets just before
    Handing over a five-dollar bill rolled tighter
    Than a joint and asking me in to change
    A few lightbulbs. I called those women old
    Because they wouldn’t move out of a chair
    Without my help or walk without a hand
    At the base of their backs. I called them
    Old, and they must have been; they’re all dead
    Now, dead and in the earth I once tended.
    The loneliest people have the earth to love
    And not one friend their own age — only
    Mothers to baby them and big sisters to boss
    Them around, women they want to please
    And pray for the chance to say please to.
    I don’t do that kind of work anymore. My job
    Is to look at the childhood I hated and say
    I once had something to do with my hands.

    Jericho Brown "The New Testament"“The New Testament” is Jericho Brown‘s second book of poetry. His first book, “Please,” won the American Book Award in 2009. His poetry has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker and Best American Poetry. Brown is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University and the the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland. Before earning his Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Houston, Brown worked as a speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans. He is an assistant professor in the Creative Writing Program at Emory University.

    “Labor” from “The New Testament” by Jericho Brown. Published in 2014 by Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission from Copper Canyon Press.

    The post Poet Jericho Brown looks back at Saturdays spent cutting grass appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user jayneandd

    New York City’s longest streak without a homicide in around two decades ended Saturday. Photo by Flickr user jayneandd

    New York City’s 12-day, killing-free streak, the longest period the city has gone without a homicide in at least 20 years, ended this weekend with the murder of a 28-year-old Queens resident.

    Eric Roman was shot in his head, leg and hand at his home on Friday before succumbing to the injuries in a hospital the next day. Police are still searching for the shooter, who sped off from the scene in a dark Mercedes Benz, the New York Times reports.

    “This extraordinary streak of safety over the past several days is testament to the hard work of the men and women of the NYPD, and further evidence that New York City is the safest big city in America,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement, as reported by the International Business Times.

    John Repetto, a police department spokesman who tracks statistics, told The New York Times the number of people shot in the city in 2015 stood at 39 before Feb. 1, compared to 33 in the same time frame last year. In 2014, 333 homicides were reported in the city, the lowest figure since 1963, when statistics were first reliably collected.

    The post New York City killing-free streak ends with murder appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    During SNL’s 40th anniversary special, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake paid tribute to some of the more memorable sketches to come from the comedy show’s four-decade run.

    Do you have a go-to catch-phrase? Is it truly yours, or something you’ve plucked from one of Saturday Night Live’s many recurring or one-time schticks? Whether you’ve watched the show from the get-go or just in dribs and drabs over the years, chances are at least one of the sketches from the past 40 years has made it into your life on some level.

    During SNL’s 40th anniversary special on Sunday, Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon highlighted many of those witty one-liners and favorite characters during a musical cold open. We rounded them up:

    “Shwing”
    Were we ever worthy of hearing this catchphrase from Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, played by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, uttered during nearly every “Wayne’s World” sketch?

    “Da bears”
    The Chicago Bears get the superfan treatment.

    “That’s the ticket!”
    Tommy Flanagan, “The Pathological Liar” — played by Jon Lovitz — uses this sign-off after completing every questionable lie.

    “You look marvelous”
    It’s pronounced “mahvelous.” Billy Crystal plays talk-show host Fernando Lamas.

    “Sully, that’s wicked!”
    With thick New England accents, Denise “Zazu” McDonough, played by Rachel Dratch, and Pat “Sully” Sullivan, played by Jimmy Fallon, webcast their relationship from Lexington, Massachusetts, to the world.

    “Nerds”
    Lisa Loopner and Todd DiLaMuca, played by Gilda Radner and Bill Murray, are a couple of bonafide nerds.

    “The bees”
    SNL’s first recurring sketch involved the bees, whose skits were often abuzz with various puns featuring the winged insects.

    “Isn’t that special”
    The Church Lady, often judgmental of the guests on her television show “Church Chat,” would chime in with this sarcastic catchphrase.

    Roseanne Roseannadanna
    Roseanne Roseannadanna, a consumer affairs reporter played by original cast member Gilda Radner during the show’s Weekend Update sketches, would read letters from a Mr. Richard Fedder from Fort Lee, New Jersey. Besides belittling the writer, Roseannadanna would often launch into anecdotes with less-than-thrilling details.

    “Chronicles of SNL”
    Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell’s “Chronicles of Narnia”-loving “Lazy Sunday” was SNL’s first digital short that ushered in the new media world.

    “Cheeseburger, cheesebuger”
    Want something to eat at the Olympia Restaurant? Your safest bet is to order a cheeseburger, no Coke, one Pepsi.

    “Chevy Chase falls”
    In this recurring sketch, Chevy Chase plays a klutzy President Gerald Ford.

    Carvey, Sandler, Farley and Rock
    Dana Carvey, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley and Chris Rock are some of SNL’s notable alums. Check out some of their work below (and Carvey above in “Wayne’s World).

    “Schweddy balls”
    National Public Radio gets into the holiday spirit with (cheese/meat/popcorn)balls from Pete Schweddy, played by Alec Baldwin.

    “Dick in a box”
    Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg star in this digital short about two men trying to share their Christmas, um, packages.

    “Ambiguously gay duo”
    No cartoon showed a more ambiguous relationship than this one.

    “We are two wild and crazy guys!”
    The Festrunk brothers, played by Dan Akroyd and frequent host Steve Martin, emigrated to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia. A bit culturally inept, these two “wild and crazy guys” continued to drive away the very women they were chasing.

    “Van down by the river”
    Motivational speaker Matt Foley, played by Chris Farley, may have lived in a van down by the river, but that didn’t stop him from getting pumped up enough to destroy furniture while lecturing.

    “We come from France”
    The Coneheads — Beldar, Prymaat and Connie — found themselves stranded on Earth from the planet Remulak. Despite their unearthly behavior and appearance, people were always willing to accept their claims of hailing from France.

    “Crapped my pants”
    SNL has always been one of the best at parodying commercials, including this play on adult diapers.

    “The Californians”
    If you take the 110 to the 405 to La Cienega Boulevard, and just keep driving, you’ll find the Californians sipping on Chardonnay.

    “Mr. Bill”
    This unfortunate clay character would often find himself the victim of terrible mishaps caused by Mr. Hands or the mean Sluggo.

    “Bring it on down to SNL”
    Frequent guest Justin Timberlake would adorn costumes ranging from an omelette to wrapping paper, beckoning passers-by to “bring it on down to” Burritoville, Omeletteville, Wrappinville — you get the picture.

    Rachel Dratch,Debbie Downer
    Having a good time reading this? Well, we’ll just let Debbie Downer change that for you.

    “Roll call”
    The Spartan cheerleaders, played by Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri, would bring their enthusiasm to any contest, even a chess competition.

    “Blues Brothers”
    Brothers Jake and Elwood Blues, played by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, performed as musical acts on the show three times, including the classic “Soul Man,” before going on to make a feature film that saw them get the band back together.

    “Cowbell”
    Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is missing something from their music. The solution? “More cowbell,” says producer Bruce Dickinson — yes, Bruce Dickinson — played feverishly by Christopher Walken.

    Molly Shannon, Superstar
    Mary Katherine Gallagher, played by Molly Shannon, is a Catholic school girl with aspirations to become a star superstar.

    What’s your favorite SNL sketch? Tell us below.

    The post Every reference Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon made during SNL’s 40th anniversary opening ditty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Craig Kohlruss/Fresno Bee/MCT via Getty Images

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: remembering the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former poet laureate PhilipLevine.

    He died this weekend from pancreatic cancer at the age of 87. Levine, who worked as an autoworker in Detroit, wrote with distinction about working-class life in the industrial heartland. He eventually published more than 20 volumes of verse and earned a place as one of the country’s honored poets.

    Jeffrey Brown profiled him in 2010. Here’s a look.

    It starts with Levine reading one of his poems about waiting in line for factory work.

    PHILIP LEVINE, Poet: “We stand in the rain in a long line waiting at Ford Highland Park for work. You know what work is. If you’re old enough to read this, you know what work is, although you may not do it. This is about waiting, shifting from one foot to another, feeling the light rain falling like mist into your hair, blurring your vision, until you think you see your own brother ahead of you, maybe 10 places.”

    When I was a young guy working in these places and didn’t see a way out as yet — and I certainly didn’t think the way out would be poetry.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What were you doing?

    PHILIP LEVINE: Usually, five people would take an enormous piece of hot steel, which four of us would hold with tongs, and put it into a huge press.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, what was poetry, then? I mean, where did the poetry come from?

    PHILIP LEVINE: No one knows where poetry comes from. I had been writing poetry from the age of 14. It was just something I loved doing. I loved language. I — I recognized that I had a facility for it. My teachers praised me to the skies, which was wonderful.

    Well, one thing I was struck by very young, in my middle 20s, very young, was that I didn’t see any work, written work, about this experience — as far as poetry, zero. So, I actually did at one time say to myself, hey, there’s a whole world here no one has touched.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And this should be a subject for poetry?

    PHILIP LEVINE: It should be there. Yes, it should be there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Many years later, you have made a life as a poet. Does that surprise you?

    PHILIP LEVINE: Oh, God, yes. Oh, I mean, I’m stunned.

    To be honored, as a poet, even if it — not by a nation, because a nation is an abstraction, but just to be honored by this person, or that person, or especially by your wife, or your brothers, or your mother, father, I mean, it’s just fantastic. It keeps you going in a way that nothing else could keep you going.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You can watch the full profile online, plus find more videos of Levine discussing and reading his work. That’s at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, a new take on Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate general, with President George Washington as the touchstone.

    I recently talked with the author of this look at two men who helped shape American history.

    The civil war split families, states and the nation; 74 years after the signing of the Constitution, the United States was torn in two. One of the more conflicted participants in the war was none other than Robert E. Lee, a son of a Revolutionary War hero who was a trusted aide to General George Washington. He married the daughter of Washington’s adopted son.

    At the outbreak of the Civil War, Lee had served 25 years with the U.S. Army, but in April 1861, he turned down an offer to command the Union Army, resigned his commission, and accepted the command of the military and naval forces of Virginia.

    All this and more can be found in the new book, “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History” by Jonathan Horn, who served as a speechwriter and special assistant to former President George W. Bush.

    Jonathan Horn, welcome to the NewsHour.

    JONATHAN HORN, Author, “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington”: Thanks for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you grew up in the area around Washington. Is that where this interest in Robert E. Lee came from?

    JONATHAN HORN: That’s exactly where this interest came up.

    If you glow up on the Potomac River, you have so much of Robert E. Lee’s and George Washington’s history all around you. Robert E. Lee was born in Westmoreland County downriver from Washington, and so was Washington. Robert E. Lee grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, right near George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation, and Robert E. Lee married his wife at Arlington House, which is that great pillared mansion that’s now a similar tear, but back then it was actually a memorial to George Washington.

    It was filled with relics of George Washington, because, as you mentioned, Robert E. Lee had married the daughter of George Washington’s adopted son.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, describe the decision he made that you argue changed American history.

    JONATHAN HORN: Robert E. Lee actually opposed secession. I think that’s a surprise to most people today.

    But he was actually reading a biography of George Washington as the Union comes apart. And as he’s reading this biography, he concludes that the founding fathers themselves would have opposed secession. But then he gets this offer. He gets called to Washington by an emissary for Abraham Lincoln, who says the country looks to you as the representative of the Washington family to save the Union.

    And Lee turns downs this command because, as much as he loves the Union, he can’t imagine going to war against his native state of Virginia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the premise then is that here’s this great man who was considered a great hero for the Confederacy in the Civil War. When the moment came for a decision that would matter, he made the wrong one.

    JONATHAN HORN: That’s very much what happened. He forever cast his fate against George Washington’s greatest legacy, the Union, and that’s ultimately what made me want to write the story, is that tragic tension in Lee’s life, how a soldier so associated with George Washington goes to war against George Washington’s greatest legacy, the Union.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he continued to be conflicted about it. You write about what he went through in the period after that.

    JONATHAN HORN: Right.

    And what’s amazing is after the war, he actually revises his views and he starts saying, maybe the founding fathers hadn’t been opposed to secession. And he does try revisit what happened. He really is tortured. There are lots of descriptions of him with very sad looks on his face riding his horse after the war and people wondering, what is he thinking?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You also write, Jonathan Horn, about what he thought about slavery. He wasn’t comfortable with it, but he did in the end defended it. He kept slaves. You even tell a really remarkable story.

    You quote someone as describing a scene where he himself whipped a female slave who had tried to escape, when one of his employees said he couldn’t do it.

    JONATHAN HORN: Right. And that’s one of the most controversial moments in Robert E. Lee’s life.

    We don’t know exactly what happened there. He denied that story. But what is so interesting is, what most entangled Robert E. Lee in the institution of slavery — because he really didn’t want to be involved with it. He wanted to stay away from it.

    But we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking he was an abolitionist. He certainly wasn’t. But what happened is, his father-in-law, who was George Washington’s adopted son, dies and leaves a will naming Robert E. Lee as executor of estates. And those estates actually include slaves who have descended from Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.

    So on the eve of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee is managing slaves who have direct connections to the father of our country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You write not only about the decision that he made to join the Confederacy, but about decisions he made as a general. He has a reputation as a brilliant general. It’s the reason that both the North and the South went after him.

    But, in the end, when you look at the decisions he made as a general, was he a great general?

    JONATHAN HORN: He was a brilliant military mind.

    And what’s so interesting about Lee is, we have this impression of him always taking the initiative in battle, even though his forces were outmanned and outgunned. But he never saw it that way. He always thought he had no choice. He had to take incredible risks because the odds against him were so stacked.

    And so the way we view Lee today isn’t necessarily the way he viewed himself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Was there a chance that with Lee in charge in the South, the South could have prevailed?

    JONATHAN HORN: Absolutely.

    I don’t think we can say anything is inevitable. If those Union soldiers hadn’t held Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, who knows what would have happened. I think one of the lessons I took away from this book is that nothing is inevitable in history. History turns on the decisions of single individuals all the time. And we shouldn’t ever make the mistake of thinking that history is inevitable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is a fascinating book, whether you are into Civil War history or not.

    It’s “The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History”

    Jonathan Horn, thank you very much.

    JONATHAN HORN: Thanks so much.

    The post Exploring Robert E. Lee’s connections to George Washington appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    politicsmonday

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    GWEN IFILL: The economy, education, foreign policy, issues already shaping the conversation about who should be our next president. But what else is driving the conversation?

    For that, we turn to politics Monday, our weekly check-in with Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Welcome back again.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Thank you.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, The Washington Post: Great to be here.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to go back — kind of go back to those three issues, but also talk about, in general, what’s not on the ballot?  We have been spending a lot of time at this table talking about candidates and the people who are thinking about running, who are not thinking about running, but not about what else is driving this — shaping this race right now.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    I think there is this sort of overarching theme right now that, whether it’s domestic or foreign policy, is this idea of security and stability, which we’re really lacking right now. And you could hear it in the 2014 campaign too. I have heard it from voters. I’m sure you guys did, too, when we were out talking to them, the sense that, like, the center isn’t holding. Nothing seems to be making sense, whether it’s beheading, whether it’s Ebola, Ferguson, school shootings.

    All of this is coming together for a lot of voters, in the sense that nothing seems to be going right. Domestically, again, there are some of the immediate problems, but still the big underlying problems about jobs not coming back, an economy that is well for some people, not everybody. So, I think that what voters are looking for is somebody to come in and say, I know we have an unstable world that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Let me tell you how I’m going to do that, both internationally, but here at home, to stabilize it and make you feel more secure.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the interesting things about this, part of the response to the unanswerable questions, if you’re Jeb Bush, for instance, is to say, I’m going to be completely transparent about who I am. And so we have seen a little bit of that from him.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yes, we have with. He released all these e-mails all last week in the form of an e-book. We will see him give a speech on foreign policy on Wednesday in Chicago.

    He’s been asked questions about how he differs from his brother. He has said he doesn’t want to relitigate the past in terms of Afghanistan and Iraq, so we will see him do that going forward. I do think both with him and Clinton, they have to figure out what their identity is vis-a-vis the status quo, the status quo for Clinton obviously being Obama, and the status quo for Bush being his brother.

    GWEN IFILL: Except, for Hillary Clinton, it seems that the real pressure on her is coming from within her own party and from kind of the Elizabeth Warren — once again, not a candidate.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Not a candidate. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.

    You see progressives — there was a poll out of Iowa. Warren wasn’t in the poll, but if you talk to folks on the ground in Iowa, they very much are dissatisfied with the choices they have. They want to see someone else run. It doesn’t look like they will. It looks like Hillary Clinton will have to deal with progressives in whatever way she can. And they won’t at least have Elizabeth Warren to channel some of that dissatisfaction.

    AMY WALTER: Except that every time I see any polling — and there’s more polling of course out today — and I try to stay away from the top-line number and just look at the bigger picture number about, are people dissatisfied with the choices that they have?

    And when you looked at these polls out of New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina, even among very liberal voters, they say, yes, we like Hillary. We’re not dissatisfied. Now, Iowa was the one place where they were the least satisfied liberals. But there is not a pining, at least at this point, from the liberal base to bring somebody different in who is not named Hillary Clinton.

    GWEN IFILL: But they’re all fighting it out on all these different fronts. We them fighting it out on education issues about Common Core, foreign policy, as you mentioned.

    And here’s another place where it’s interesting to see them fight it out kind of sort of. And that is we saw the FBI director give a speech last week in which he talked about race, something which I think I would have been surprised if I had seen either this president or this attorney general speak about. Instead, we had the big Irishman get up and speak.

    Let’s listen for a moment.

    JAMES COMEY, FBI Director: The Irish had some tough times, but little compares to the experience on our soil of black Americans. That experience should be part of every American’s consciousness. And law enforcement’s role in that experience, including in recent times, must be remembered. It is our cultural inheritance.

    GWEN IFILL: Cultural inheritance, now, that — I can imagine what would have happened on social media if those words had come out of the president’s mouth. And I wonder if that’s part of this as well, part of just our political environment right now, or if that was just a one-off.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Well, we will have to see.

    This has been part of the debate that we saw in the wake of Ferguson. You saw sort of the black lives matter campaign on social media. Very surprising, though, that this is a Republican. He’s a white man. He’s the head of the FBI — to talk in such a frank way about race.

    It reminded some people of Eric Holder when he gave that nation of cowards speech six years ago, also in February. Notable that it’s February. Notable that we will probably see more kinds of conversations about race, given that it’s Black History Month. But where do you go from here I think is the question, right?  A speech is one thing. Policy and legislation is something else.

    GWEN IFILL: I’m trying to figure out who we are watching in this 2016 lineup would pick this up, this cudgel.

    AMY WALTER: Well, we have already seen somebody like Rand Paul pick it up. Again, you have here’s a white libertarian from — who is very conservative who is aligning himself, and has been doing this for quite some time, with African-Americans and other Democrats to say we need to do some work on justice reform, on criminal sentencing.

    And, in fact, he talks very much about the fact in the — actually in the wake of Ferguson, he was one of the few politicians who came out, sort of sounded like Comey, when he said, let’s just be clear here. There is a difference in the way that whites and blacks are treated in our justice system.

    GWEN IFILL: Final brief thought from both of you on this foreign policy piece.

    We have talked before about people rushing over to London, coming back, not necessarily making the point they meant to do. All the issues we talked about for the first part of this program, whether it’s about Libya or the Islamic State or Ukraine, does that seep into this campaign yet?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Absolutely.

    AMY WALTER: It absolutely has.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yes. And we have seen that already with these foreign policy trips that are really trade missions, but really foreign policy trips.

    I think we will see it with the discussion of the AUMF and authorizing the use of force. We will see Lindsey Graham on one end, Rand Paul on the other, so very much informed.

    AMY WALTER: And voters, too. It’s starting to pop up in polls too in terms of their concern with it.

    And I think, for Jeb Bush, his issue is going to be not so much is he going to go and make statements about ISIS, but how is he going to be different than his brother?  That’s going to be key.

    GWEN IFILL: Right. Full circle back to…

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yes.

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

    AMY WALTER: Thanks, Gwen.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Thank you.

    The post Will security and stability concerns shape the 2016 race? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    jehovahwitness_sexabuse4

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: an investigation into child sexual abuse among Jehovah’s Witness and accusations that religious leaders led a cover-up within inside some of the group’s 14,000 U.S. congregations.

    Our colleagues from the Center for Investigative Reporting obtained confidential memos shedding new light on the revelations.

    Special correspondent Trey Bundy has the story from Reveal, a new Web site, radio show, and podcast run by the center.

    TREY BUNDY: At a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in California, new members are taking the plunge.

    MAN: At your baptism, you said yes.

    TREY BUNDY: They’re joining more than eight million members worldwide.

    Believers are taught to renounce secular society because it’s controlled by Satan, and not to socialize too much with outsiders. But charges of sexual abuse have brought this insular community under greater scrutiny. And now, in this San Francisco courtroom, the first child abuse case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses to go to trial is under way.

    Candace Conti is suing the organization for failing to protect her from a known child abuser when she was 9 years old.

    CANDACE CONTI, Plaintiff: If I were to sum up our goals in this case, it was to attack the policies and procedures that where in place that let a serial molester continue to molest children.

    TREY BUNDY: Conti’s lawyer says instructions from Jehovah’s Witness leaders have enabled child molesters.

    MAN: The instructions were, you keep these pedophiles secret.

    TREY BUNDY: The case hinges on letters from Jehovah’s Witness leaders to the heads of local congregations. For almost 20 years, they have ordered them to send reports like this one for every known child abuser, to hide these cases from their congregations, and not to cooperate with law enforcement or the courts, unless instructed to.

    They have refused judges’ orders to turn over these abuse reports, so no one knows how many cases like Conti’s are out there.

    JAMES MCCABE, Jehovah’s Witnesses lawyer: Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse of any form.

    TREY BUNDY: The Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that they comply with the law. And their lawyers argue that the First Amendment gives them the right to set child abuse policies as they see fit.

    JAMES MCCABE: Religious beliefs and standards of Jehovah’s Witnesses were at play in this case from start to finish.

    TREY BUNDY: The religious beliefs come from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, which has often used the First Amendment to defend its policies of separation.

    In 1943, it even won a Supreme Court case arguing that schoolchildren shouldn’t be forced to pledge allegiance to the flag.

    TREY BUNDY: Watchtower lawyers, who refused to speak with us, are again claiming a First Amendment defense to keep child abuse in its congregations secret.

    JAMES MCCABE: And the elders are counseled in that letter to give special heed to the counsel, do not reveal the confidential talk of another, quoting from the Bible, Book of Proverbs, Chapter 25, Verse 9.

    TREY BUNDY: Candace Conti was part of a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Fremont, California. She was often grouped with adults to go knocking on doors including this man, Jonathan Kendrick.

    CANDACE CONTI: He was very dominating, very domineering, very — he commanded a presence.

    TREY BUNDY: She says Kendrick would take advantage of their time door-knocking to find ways to be alone with her.

    CANDACE CONTI: Jonathan Kendrick molested me as a child. I really kind of pushed everything down and tried not to think about it about much as I could.

    TREY BUNDY: What no one in Conti’s family knew was that Jonathan Kendrick had admitted to molesting another child a year earlier.

    Michael Clarke, an elder in the congregation, was asked about it in this deposition.

    MAN: Do you recall becoming aware of a report of sexual abuse of a child by Jonathan Kendrick?

    MICHAEL CLARKE, Elder, North Fremont Congregation: Yes.

    MAN: When did you become aware of such a report?

    MICHAEL CLARKE: He had called us to his home to discuss a — or to confess to an incident with his step-daughter.

    TREY BUNDY: Clarke never called the police. He followed Watchtower protocol. He wrote to New York headquarters, asking how to deal with Kendrick’s confession. They told him not to investigate the matter further.

    Instead they said, “Provide him with strong scriptural counsel to avoid a repetition of such a serious offense.”

    MICHAEL CLARKE: We don’t make that public to the congregation. It’s confidential.

    TREY BUNDY: The elders didn’t warn other members that one of their own was a child abuser.

    MAN: And that’s the policy and the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses that you learned as an elder, correct?

    MICHAEL CLARKE: Yes.

    TREY BUNDY: Clarke says the elders told Kendrick not to be alone with children. But he was still allowed to join in congregation activities that included minors. A year later, one of those minors was Candace Conti.

    CANDACE CONTI: And I don’t think it ever left. I know it never left me. You know, it’s always there. And it was just probably one of those days that I just felt it.

    TREY BUNDY: Conti kept quiet about the abuse, until years later, when she discovered on a sex offender registry that he had gone on to molest another young girl. She decided to sue the Watchtower.

    CANDACE CONTI: I think, after I had found that out, I had this sense of guilt. What if I did something?  What if I hadn’t been such a coward?  What if I had done something to maybe protect this other child?  I knew what he was capable of, but I didn’t do anything. And then now look what happened.

    TREY BUNDY: I drove to Oakley, California, where Kendrick had moved when he left Conti’s congregation. I met the girl Conti had found. She agreed to talk to us if we didn’t show her face.

    WOMAN: When I was a little girl, probably about 6 or 7, Jonathan Kendrick abused me.

    TREY BUNDY: She blames the Watchtower’s secrecy for enabling Kendrick to marry into her family and target her. The family sued the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    WOMAN: They knew that he had a past, and they kept it from us.

    TREY BUNDY: When Kendrick moved to the Oakley congregation, no one was told he was a child molester, not even Roger Bentley, who served as an elder there for 30 years. He reviewed this letter of introduction from Kendrick’s old congregation.

    ROGER BENTLEY, Former Elder, Oakley Congregation: There’s no indication at all that he’s guilty of child abuse.

    TREY BUNDY: So no mention of child abuse, but any mention of children?

    ROGER BENTLEY: Well, if you read it, it very specifically says he’s a very interesting individual who has taken the lead with some young ones in the congregation and helped them from veering off course.

    That’s not a child abuser. That’s a recommendation. That’s a very specific recommendation: Oh, relax. He’s good with kids.

    TREY BUNDY: I have spent months trying to interview Watchtower leaders, but they wouldn’t talk to me. Instead, they sent a statement, saying they comply with reporting laws, they do not shield abusers from law enforcement, and are committed to preventing child abuse.

    And in one of the dozen lawsuits I have been following, Watchtower supervisor Richard Ashe was asked if the organization has a responsibility to protect children from abuse.

    RICHARD ASHE, Watchtower Supervisor: Well, within the congregation, ours is a spiritual protection. When we’re talking about physical protection, that’s up to the secular authorities to provide.

    TREY BUNDY: He was asked about the Watchtower’s Bible-based directives to keep child abuse cases confidential.

    MAN: It states, in paragraph three, there is a time to keep quiet, when your words should prove to be few.

    Do you see that?

    RICHARD ASHE: Yes.

    MAN: I’m going to object to that. It’s a violation of the First Amendment, freedom of religion, freedom of association.

    TREY BUNDY: The courts continue to grapple with the question: Should freedom of religion outweigh the responsibility to protect children?

    In Candace Conti’s case, the jury overrode the First Amendment claims and decided the Watchtower and the North Fremont congregation were negligent and didn’t adequately protect her from abuse.

    Kendrick maintains he never molested her. Pending appeal, she was awarded more than $15 million in compensation and damages. It’s the first time a jury has ordered the Watchtower to pay for its child abuse policies.

    But for Kendrick’s other victim, her case against the Watchtower was thrown out. Even though Kendrick confessed to the abuse in this deposition and served about eight months in jail, the judge affirmed that the Watchtower’s policies were protected by the First Amendment. It wasn’t liable because the abuse occurred at home and not in the course of religious activity. The Watchtower had no obligation to warn the family about Kendrick’s past.

    Kendrick is now free and still an active member of the Oakley congregation.

    CANDACE CONTI: The fact that Jonathan Kendrick is still a member in a good standing is absolutely ridiculous. It’s scary. The fact that he still has access to children — and, really, my parents didn’t have the power to know that Jonathan Kendrick was a child abuser.

    Let’s give the parents the power to be able to protect their children. And that’s what these organizations are hiding.

    TREY BUNDY: Despite the huge verdict against the Watchtower, the organization is sticking to its policies. In fact, it just released another confidential memo reminding elders to keep quiet about child abuse.

    I’m Trey Bundy from Reveal for the NewsHour.

    The post Did leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A new report finds that more Americans than ever are spending time in jail. The Vera Institute of Justice showed that, in the past two decades, despite a drop in the crime rate, the number of people going to jail has increased dramatically.

    In addition, those behind bars are staying longer. Some 62 percent of them have not yet been convicted of a crime, and three-quarters of those jailed now are brought in for nonviolent offenses. The report also finds that a disproportionate number of those in jail suffer from mental illness.

    Joining us are Nicholas Turner. He’s president and director of the Vera Institute. And Margo Schlanger of the University of Michigan.

    Nick Turner, to you first.

    Why are the jails and prisons of the United States so full today?

    NICHOLAS TURNER, President and Director, Vera Institute of Justice: Well, you have to go back, really, almost four decades. We have, since the early 1970s, been on what some people describe as a binge in this country, a reliance on incarceration and on confinement as the primary strategy to keep people safe. That’s been the argument.

    And so, for the past 40 years, the number of people in jail and in prison in this country has gone up almost 400 percent. When you look at jails now, there are additional other reasons as to why we have so many people in jail. In the past few decades, we have increasingly arrested more and more people, not only for felonies or serious charges, but also for misdemeanors.

    And we are also seeing more people who are being arrested being put in jail, so there is a general reflex within the criminal justice system still to rely on confinement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Margo Schlanger, but, overall, as we understand it, the number of arrests is down, so I think it’s hard to understand why the prison population has risen so much.

    MARGO SCHLANGER, University of Michigan: Well, it’s always a function of two things.

    One is who goes to prison, and the answer is a much higher proportion of the people who are getting arrested are going to prison, and then how long they stay there. And they’re staying a longer period of time. So prosecutors, who used to forgo using prison a fair amount, are foregoing prison much, much less.

    And so we have a massive increase in the proportion of people arrested for crimes who go to prison, and that’s before you even get to jail, where people are going before they’re convicted often, and they’re going much more and for much longer periods of time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Nick Turner, this report suggests that you have got a much higher percentage of people in prison who are poor and who are mentally ill. I think some of us would say, well, hasn’t it always been that way?

    NICHOLAS TURNER: Well, I think the thing that is remarkable now is the scale of it.

    Back in the early ’60s, the Vera Institute of Justice, the organization I ran, that I now run, got its start actually looking to solve the problem of people who were locked up in jail simply because they hadn’t been able to post bail. We did that. And the lesson spread across the country.

    But one of the things that’s sort of bittersweet about the report that we have written now is, in fact, that this problem very much remains and, actually, in the past two decades, it’s gotten a bit worse, so that when you look at people who are in jail right now in this country — and, as you stated at the outset of this, about 60 percent of them are still locked up without having been convicted yet, so they’re presumed innocent — a large percent of them are locked up or are unable to get released because they can’t post bail.

    So take New York City, for example, where in 2013 half of everyone who was at Rikers or some of the other detention facilities were there because they couldn’t post low rates of bail, $2,500 or less.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Margo Schlanger, this raises a whole set of questions, number one, the harm done to society by this. But, number two, I think what many people are asking is, what can be done about it, then?

    MARGO SCHLANGER: Yes, I think that the jail problem, bail reform is the easiest thing, not that it’s easy, but it’s the thing that we really, clearly need.

    And if we could solve the bail problem, if we could get people out of jail who haven’t been convicted anything and who are not there because they’re a danger, but because they don’t have $2,000 to post, we could really make a dent.

    Solving the prison problem, the problem for people who have been convicted of felonies, that will take a more varied kind of set interventions. But I think it’s really — right how is a great moment for us to try to make those interventions.

    And there are — I mean, there are a bunch of people. We could — we need to do parole and probation reform. We need to do the reform of the system that allows prisoners good-time credit off their sentences if they are behaving themselves in prison. We need to do community corrections kinds of reform, so that prosecutors have some place to send people when they — so that they don’t just send them to prison because it’s the only option.

    If we could do all those things, we could really maybe make a dent and get down from 2.3 million people in jail and prison and get down to something that is historically more typical.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Nick Turner, Professor Schlanger just used the term complex set of solutions. It does sound complicated to accomplish all this. Is this something that realistically can be done?

    NICHOLAS TURNER: I think it is, absolutely.

    And so let me make two points about that. I mean, the first is, is that report that we wrote came about as part of Safety and Justice Challenge, which is an initiative undertaken by the MacArthur Foundation which is encouraging localities around the country, building it’s localities, it’s cities and counties that run jail systems, and that also have the opportunity to figure out how to recuse over-incarceration.

    And the — one of the primary reasons why this challenge has been undertaken is because there is a sense of the potential for solutions. So I will make two very quick points about that. One is that there’s an absolute necessity. As Margo pointed out, when people are locked up prior to conviction, one of the things that we know is that that detention has very negative — very negative consequences for people.

    There’s a higher rate of re-arrest post being locked up. There’s a higher rate of returning to prison. And for people who have been locked up for even two days or so, they’re more likely to get eventually sentenced to prison and be sentenced for a longer period of time.

    So what’s really essential is that we figure out how to help people avoid those few days of being locked up. And there are lots of solutions. You can look at options for the police. Rather than arrest, they can divert people who have a mental health or a substance abuse problem. You can look at mental health courts or drug courts where treatment is possible.

    And, as Margo said, you can rely less on bail as sort of the ticket out of detention and release people on recognizance, which we have known has been proven to be effective.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I hope that this is something that we can come back to. It’s clearly a big subject and one, as both of you suggest, will take some time, but it sounds as if the work is beginning.

    Nick Turner and Professor Margo Schlanger, we thank you both.

    MARGO SCHLANGER: Thank you.

    NICHOLAS TURNER: Thanks so much for having us.

    The post How poverty and mental illness are putting more people behind bars appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: The Islamic State’s gruesome attacks in Libya over the weekend raises the specter that the militant group is expanding beyond Syria and Iraq.

    We take a look at that now with Frederic Wehrey the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He’s recently returned from a trip to Libya. And Michael Leiter, he was the director of the National Counterterrorism Center from 2007 to 2011. And he is now the executive vice president at Leidos, a science and technology company specializing in national security issues.

    Michael Leiter, what are we to take from this particular move into Libya?  This seems like an expansion of the footprint we have become familiar with, with ISIL.

    MICHAEL LEITER, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center: That’s right, Gwen.

    And we have really seen this expansion beyond just Libya. ISIS has over the past several months gained some foot holds in Egypt to the east in the Sinai Peninsula, as well as smaller elements in Algeria, in Afghanistan and South Asia.

    And I think what this fundamentally shows is that we have a message which is resonating extremely effectively with its adherence and also it’s highlighting the real security vacuum that we have in many of these places. And, in Libya, that is really most obvious. The breakdown of civil society and government authority in Libya since the fall of Gadhafi in 2011 has allowed, with a lack of security services, elements of ISIS associates, now three different groups in Libya, to really take charge and perpetrate these incredibly gruesome and horrific events.

    GWEN IFILL: Frederic Wehrey, you’re back not too long ago from Libya. Is something which was — are they taking advantage of this vacuum, as Michael Leiter was discussing just now, that exists because of the internal civil unrest and governance problems that are going on in Libya?

    FREDERIC WEHREY, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Absolutely. I mean, this is a country that’s tearing itself apart. There are essentially two different governments. The country’s ruled by a patchwork of militias. You have entire areas of the country that are veritable no-go zones.

    Some of these areas in the east are longtime hotbeds for extremism. Many of them had al-Qaida affiliates. What we’re seeing now is that the Islamic State is really moving in and siphoning away a lot of these al-Qaida folks and moving them over to the Islamic State. It’s a very appealing brand right now in Libya.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Leiter, why Coptic Christians?  Is it that they are Egyptian, is that they were Christian?  Were they targeted in a particular way?

    MICHAEL LEITER: Well, a little bit of both.

    Coptic Christians have, very regrettably, been targeted both in Egypt after the fall of Mohammed Morsi — many in Egypt believe that Christians were behind some of that — as well Coptic Christians have been targeted specifically in Libya before. So they have been under real threat.

    In my view, Coptic Christians are an even more attractive threat — or a more attractive target to ISIS than other groups, but in truth ISIS targets go well beyond Coptic Christians, as we have obviously seen in Iraq and Syria with the burning of the Jordanian pilot. In their view, if you are not strictly aligned with their ideology, be it Muslim, Christian or someone else, you really are one who will be targeted.

    GWEN IFILL: Frederic Wehrey, let’s go to Egypt’s role in this. How significant is it that they now been drawn front and center into this growing conflict, if we can call it that, with ISIL?

    FREDERIC WEHREY: Well, it’s certainly a bold intervention, airstrikes on these camps in Eastern Libya.

    But it’s not the first time that they have been involved in Libya. Last year, there were reports of them sending special operations team across the border. They have been secretly supporting one faction in the civil war, the so-called faction that is against the Islamists. They have been providing it with intelligence and logistical support.

    So this is really a visible expression of something that they have been doing for quite some time. Now, will it have any effect?  We know from history that airpower alone is not decisive in rooting out these sorts of groups.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask — let me go back to Michael Leiter on this, too, because I wonder whether the degree is — the degree of response is going to create a greater response?  Are we now seeing — is the Islamic State beginning to be kind of a hydra-headed organization that can spray terror wherever it wants, or is there some sort of goal?

    MICHAEL LEITER: Well, I think, unfortunately, it really has, Gwen.

    What we were so fearful about really two or three years ago, as we saw the conflict in Iraq and Syria grow, was regional instability, and we are seeing that. We are seeing that with more vehemence and the fight on the Jordanian side into Syria, which is obviously part of our coalition. But now we’re seeing that instability spread to North Africa in a very problematic way.

    And I think it’s going to be difficult for the Egyptians not to remain involved and potentially get even more involved. They have this problem again to their east in the Sinai and they have the same problem now to the west. And I think General Sisi views this as a fight that he cannot avoid. And I expect that we will see continued airstrikes.

    And I don’t think it’s impossible that we might see some Egyptian troops moving into Eastern Libya to try to provide some sort of security space for the region.

    GWEN IFILL: Frederic Wehrey, does this complicate the U.S. plan to degrade the Islamic State, now that Egypt is involved, or does it back us, does it give us a little bit more support for that?

    FREDERIC WEHREY: Well, it’s really conflicted.

    I mean, on the one hand, they are attacking these camps, but the U.S. position all along has been, is that this is a civil war and that any outside interference, outside support to the warring factions is unhelpful. The U.S. is supporting a U.N.-sponsored peace initiative to try to bring the warring factions to the table.

    And so outside interference, I think, really harms that. So in the long run, I think the — defeating the ISIS threat in Libya is best served by a comprehensive peace agreement between the warring factions, coming up with a unity government, unifying the security forces and then assisting the forces to go after this terrorist threat.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Leiter, what does ISIL, the Islamic State, ISIS, however we’re referring to it today, what do they aspire to in these kinds of shocking and riveting actions, especially when they show up, pop up in another country?

    MICHAEL LEITER: Well, they have both tactical and strategic goals.

    Tactically, they simply believe that it is their duty to kill these individuals. They are so abhorrent to their vision that they deserve to die and they believe that they are defending their vision of the Muslim Ummah, the Muslim people throughout North Africa and the Middle East, and this is their fight, in the same way that Syria — ISIL in Syria is also believing that they should also kill people like the Jordanians who are bombing them.

    That’s the tactical, but the strategic is still a vision for a broader caliphate which will be ruled under ISIL’s banner. And I think what we see from Libya across to Syria and into Iraq is that this does have some resonance and it is causing real regional instability, not to mention the threat of individuals who are either inspired by or directed by ISIL who are traveling back to the West, whether we have seen it in France, potentially seen it in Copenhagen.

    This is a hydra. And it is going that is going to take some time in the region and globally to really effectively counter.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Leiter, Frederic Wehrey, thank you both very much.

    FREDERIC WEHREY: Thank you.

    MICHAEL LEITER: Thank you.

    The post Islamic State exploits the chaos of civil war in Libya appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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