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

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    yazidi girl 2 close up

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to the Islamic State group and their brutal tactics.

    Correspondent Marcia Biggs traveled to Northern Iraq for the NewsHour to report on a group of girls who managed to escape from the terrorist group. But because of their psychological trauma and shame, they are still far from free.

    A warning: Her report contains graphic images and subject matter.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Refugee camps dot the countryside in the Kurdish region of Iraq, where almost two million people have been forced from their homes; 29,000 people are living in this camp alone. Most of them are Yazidi, and almost all of them are missing family members.

    The Yazidis are a small community of less than a million people, found primarily in Northern Iraq. A private and conservative community, they practice an ancient religion. Last August, members of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, attacked the Yazidis, whom they consider heretics.

    These pictures of Yazidis trapped on Sinjar Mountain stunned the world. Hundreds of thousands fled for their lives after I.S. fighters executed many of the men and took thousands of women and girls as slaves. This 13-year-old girl was taken and later escaped.

    GIRL (through interpreter): They brought everyone to a school and put the women upstairs and drove the men away. I didn’t want to let my mother go, but they were pulling us from our mothers and beating us. The children were all put in cars. They said, “We’re going to sell you to others and you will have sex with them.”  The last time I saw my mother was when they took me away.

    MARCIA BIGGS: This video, which went viral last fall, appears to show an I.S. fighter bragging about the selling of girls.

    MAN (through interpreter): Where is my Yazidi girl?

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARCIA BIGGS: In the months that followed, a network of activists sprung up throughout Northern Iraq, an underground railroad of sorts, coordinating rescue efforts. Their phone numbers quickly spread among captive girls, who used smuggled phones to call for help and give their location.

    At times, the Kurdish regional government has stepped in to grease the wheels.

    KRG envoy Dr. Nouri Othman told us about two girls who escaped their captors in Raqqa and ran to a nearby house, but were turned away by the owner, too scared to take the chance.

    DR. NOURI OTHMAN, Envoy to Internationally Displaced Persons, Kurdish Regional Government: I called the person, said, listen to me. Please keep these two girls at your home for a couple of days. He said, no, I can’t. I said, I’m going to pay you. Nobody is going to make an adventure with his life without doing something for you. You have to pay them.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Some families are raising money to buy back their girls, racking up thousands of dollars in debt.

    Is the government funding a program to buy back the girls?

    DR. NOURI OTHMAN: I’m not buying them, no. Maybe I’m paying some people. They are helping me getting them back.

    MARCIA BIGGS: And so they’re going into ISIS-controlled areas and infiltrating it and getting these girls…

    DR. NOURI OTHMAN: Sure. And I’m sure some of them, they have relations with ISIS or some of relatives — some of relatives, and they are doing that. But I don’t care. The important, I want these people to be back. These are my responsibility.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Dr. Nouri says that his government has spent over $1.5 million to rescue the girls.

    Do you face any ethical dilemma, in the sense that the money that you would pay these people might somehow get into the hands of ISIS fighters?

    DR. NOURI OTHMAN: Well, I’m not — not paying ISIS fighters. This is one. Second thing, these are Kurdish citizens. And I don’t care where the money go, personally. I care how to rescue the people.

    MARCIA BIGGS: As many as 400 Yazidi women and girls are now free and living in camps like this one, but their nightmare is not over. Most of them have been raped repeatedly. And in a culture where a woman’s virginity is her badge of honor, no one wants to talk about it.

    But we found one brave girl who told us her whole story. Just 15 years old, she and her siblings were captured, separated, and, for four months, she was shuttled between towns and cities hundreds of miles apart, even being sent to Syria.

    In that first month, she and another girl were handed over to a man she calls the sheik.

    GIRL (through interpreter): He took us to his house, and for the night, he forced us to have sex with him.

    MARCIA BIGGS: He raped you?

    GIRL (through interpreter): Yes. He raped us together. We were together, the three of us, for the night. He told us: “You don’t have religion. I’m marrying you to make you the people of God.”

    MARCIA BIGGS: What else did he say to you?

    GIRL (through interpreter): He said: “We are married. You are mine. We will stay together and have children. If you try to escape or run away, you will get hurt and we might sell you.”

    MARCIA BIGGS: They escaped through the help of a local mechanic, who was able to get them a taxi. They were discovered out at an Islam checkpoint and returned to the city of Mosul, where she was bought and sold again to a man who she says raped her over and over.

    GIRL (through interpreter): He said bad words, ugly words. He told me: “If you don’t let me have sex with you, I’m going to sell you again. I will send you to Syria, where 10 men will be doing the same. And he beat us.”

    MARCIA BIGGS: She says she attempted suicide twice, the first by drinking bleach, and the second by strangling herself with her scarf.

    During those dark days, she used a razor and a pen to tattoo herself with the words which is Arabic for “Mommy and daddy, I love you.”  She says that’s what kept her going.

    You hadn’t seen them for four months and you didn’t know where your sisters were.

    GIRL (through interpreter): No, I hadn’t heard anything about my sisters.

    MARCIA BIGGS: She finally managed to escape once more, through a small kitchen window. A family took her in until a taxi driver, paid by the local government, drove her north towards the town of Dohuk. She says she walked the final hours on a road littered with bombs.

    And she’s still missing. And she’s still missing as well.

    Her four sisters and brother are still missing. Her mother can barely speak as we swipe through the pictures on her phone of her missing children. It’s too dangerous for us to show you their faces. She may be back with her family, but, like all the girls we met, she is suffering severe trauma, with very few resources.

    DEREK FARRELL, Psychotherapist: When you sleep at night, do you have bad dreams, do you have nightmares?

    MARCIA BIGGS: Dr. Derek Farrell is a British psychotherapist working with a foundation that aims to open a trauma center for Yazidi girls. He told us some of the horror stories he’s heard.

    What has struck you the most?

    DEREK FARRELL: Well, one is the level of sexual violence, which is horrific. These are the members of the Yazidi community, where their faith is very important to them. And it’s the fact that, within their trauma, their faith is in some way being used against them, in a way which is very dehumanizing.

    A number of them felt that they wanted to kill themselves. And some of the women were given a gun by their ISIS captor and were offered that they could kill themselves, but, when they pushed the trigger, the gun was empty, you know. And it was the sheer, you know, humiliation and ridicule that went with that. These are girls who can’t sleep. They’re having bad nightmares. They are having flashbacks.

    MARCIA BIGGS: So many of the girls are afraid to admit that they were raped. They use the words honor and virginity interchangeably. This woman told me she had gone to a doctor who performed a test to prove she was still a virgin.

    The Ministry of Health is trying to treat the girls both mentally and physically. But Dr. Nizar Esmat says less than half the girls who have returned have come in for a medical exam.

    Is a virginity test part of this initial medical exam?

    DR. NIZAR ESMAT, Director General of Health, Dohuk Province: Not all the cases.

    MARCIA BIGGS: So you don’t have to have a virginity test if you come for the medical evaluation?

    DR. NIZAR ESMAT: No.

    MARCIA BIGGS: But I just wonder if that’s maybe why some of the girls are staying away, because they’re scared to have that test?

    DR. NIZAR ESMAT: Yes, this may be one of the reasons, but we are not pushing anyone for this examination.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Some girls have had their hymens repaired, a sort of revirginization surgery provided by the government for those that want it.

    Did you have any kind of a surgery?

    GIRL (through interpreter): I had surgery to become a virgin.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Did you feel like you had to have that surgery?

    GIRL (through interpreter): Yes.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Why?

    GIRL (through interpreter): To return to that time when I was a virgin.

    DR. NIZAR ESMAT: The priority is to provide good medical care, but some of them are hopeless, because, they say we lost our virginity, so we cannot marry again, for example. We cannot make a family. And we don’t want to disclose this to any one of our family.

    They are really in a situation that is really a barrier for us to treat her or to overcome her traumas and depression.

    MARCIA BIGGS: Dr. Nizar wouldn’t confirm reports of underground abortions, but said that he is working with the court to try to find a way to make abortion legal for girls returning from captivity.

    Throughout the camp, we notice the older women and the little girls, but very few young women. They prefer to stay inside.

    Do you think that you will some day marry and have a family?

    GIRL (through interpreter): No. Because of what happened to me, I can’t. I don’t want to marry again. I can have a family, but I don’t want to.

    MARCIA BIGGS: We ask her if there is anything that makes her happy now. “The thought of meeting my brother and sisters again is the only thing,” she says.

    For the little ones in the camp, there are smiles and laughter. They were spared the pain of their older sisters’ captivity. But they embark upon a life in a culture and a community which has been decimated by death and trauma.

    Marcia Biggs, for PBS NewsHour, near Dohuk, Northern Iraq.

    The post Freed but not free: Yazidi girls who escaped Islamic State are trapped by trauma appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People holding placards take part in a vigil in front of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo,

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    GWEN IFILL: One major element in the battle against terror is the threat to hostages and the demand for ransom. The U.S. government says paying for their release only feeds the money machine.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman has been looking into how terrorism is financed, part of our ongoing reporting Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Suicide bombings, brutal attacks on innocent civilians, hostage-taking with fatal consequences. Terrorism, it seems, is becoming frighteningly frequent. But what are the economics of terror, the cost-benefit analysis of, for example, paying ransom to Islamic State kidnappers?

    Economist Todd Sandler says the results are clear, if controversial: Do not pay.

    TODD SANDLER, University of Texas at Dallas: You have got one person back and, on average, it encourages two to three more people to be taken hostage after that. This is based on 40 years of daily data collected worldwide.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But ISIS may be a new brand of kidnappers, and hostages are not just data points. They’re human beings with friends and families who will do almost anything to get them back.

    Juan Zarate led efforts to thwart terror financing while at the U.S. Treasury and has written a book about it, “Treasury’s War.”

    JUAN ZARATE, Center for Strategic and International Studies: The human reality is that people want their loved ones back and are willing to spend money, regardless of the downstream impact on terrorism, regardless on the effects potentially on other potential hostages down the road.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And of course that’s why so many countries have paid for the release of their citizens.

    TODD SANDLER: Germany has been known to pay off. Spain has been known to pay off. Italy has been known to pay off and the French have been known to pay off. And, in fact, what the research I’m trying to do right now is to look at to what extent, when one country pays off, whether they become more of the victims of future hostage-taking than those countries that say we will never negotiate, and they stayed alive.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What’s your guess as to what the results are going to be?

    TODD SANDLER: That the countries that pay off get hit with more hostages.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In an interview with BuzzFeed, President Obama was firm the United States will not pay ransom to ISIS because it will cost even more in the end.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What we don’t want the do is make other American citizens riper targets for the actions of organizations like this.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But on the same day American hostage Kayla Mueller was confirmed dead, the president could hardly help but empathize with those who do want to pay.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s as tough as anything that I do, having a conversation with parents who understandably want by any means necessary for their children to be safe.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, while economics may deem it cost-ineffective for countries to pay ransom, that doesn’t mean they will stop paying.

    TODD SANDLER: It’s a collective action problem. Each individual looks at it from their own point of view or each corporation, thinking, well, that’s not going to change the big picture. But every time someone does give in, it seems to change the big picture.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But there’s even more pressure to pay when you’re dealing with kidnappers who manipulate the media to project the raw ruthlessness of their methods.

    JUAN ZARATE: The challenge for those who have loved ones in the custody of a terrorist group like the Islamic State is that they have to wonder whether or not not negotiating will lead to the slaughter of their loved ones. And we have seen that the Islamic State has been willing to up the ante with its barbarity and cruelty.

    And so hostages for the Islamic State in many ways have become strategic pawns in a broader conflict and a broader ideological battle, in a broader campaign for propaganda and attention.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Perversely, hostages have become increasingly important moneymakers for the Islamic State of late, especially since allied airstrikes and lower prices have slashed ISIS income from commandeered oil facilities in Syria and Iraq.

    JUAN ZARATE: ISIS is running a local war economy and in some ways is a for-profit terrorist and militant group. Kidnap for ransom has really become an industry in some cases. And so, in many ways, it’s less about terrorism and more about commerce and profit.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Despite the rise of ISIS, however, economist Sandler finds that transnational, terrorism across borders, has declined.

    TODD SANDLER: It’s about 40 percent less than what it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, each incident is more likely to end in bloodshed now.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What has been most cost-effective in restraining cross-border terrorism, according to Sandler’s research? Not our substantial investment in global homeland security since 2001.

    TODD SANDLER: We spend much too much money on defensive measures. So the payback that we calculated, I believe it was somewhere between 13 cents and 23 cents, depending on the assumptions.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Per dollar spent.

    TODD SANDLER: So it was a loser, because it didn’t stop that many incidents.

    PAUL SOLMAN: By contrast, the economics ideal was the MIND/FIND system operated by Interpol, the international police organization, checking passports against a database of terrorists and stolen travel documents.

    TODD SANDLER: The payback was about $40 for every dollar spent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But former Treasury official Zarate says that homeland security may well have been cost-effective, too.

    JUAN ZARATE: Because what you’re trying to measure is — are things that don’t happen, which are hard to calculate. It may not appear all that cost-effective to be spending money on trying to prevent, for example, WMD terrorism, when the probability is not that high, but if it were to occur would be incredibly costly to not just a society, but to an economy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In the end, the bottom line remains elusive, but that doesn’t mean economic analysis isn’t worth doing when trying to assess what works and doesn’t work in dealing with terrorism.

    This is economics correspondent Paul Solman reporting for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post What’s the price of paying for hostages? The economics behind funding and fighting terrorism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ban Ki-moon

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Private meetings among the ministers were held throughout the day, as they search for a full-spectrum response to a complex, bedeviling challenge.

    Earlier this afternoon, I sat down with the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, while he was here in Washington.

    Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for joining us.

    BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General, United Nations: It’s a great pleasure to see you. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you are in Washington for this summit on countering violent extremism. Compared to all the other threats in the world right now, where does this rank?

    BAN KI-MOON: Often, we have been discussing about the consequences of terrorist acts.

    Now the purpose of this meeting is very important, in a sense that we have to address terrorism and the issue of violent extremism in a multidimensional way, starting from the root causes of political, social, economic, and cultural aspects.

    And this is a global challenge. Therefore, everybody should get involved in this. I am very much encouraged that President Obama has initiated this White House summit meeting. And this is the time for us to show our solidarity, at the same time build upon what we have been doing until now, focusing more on preventive way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a lot of focus, a lot of conversation today — you brought up education, preventing terrorism, preventing young people from turning to terrorist activities.

    But what about where it’s already taken hold? What about in places in the Middle East where groups like Islamic State, ISIS, are already killing people, taking over territory? What’s to be done there?

    BAN KI-MOON: Of course, for those brutal, barbaric acts, we have to address as such.

    In that regard, I’m very much grateful to many countries who have shown such a strong solidarity, even using military means. But military means may be effective in some sense, but that’s not all the answers to resolve this one.

    We have to get at the root causes of this issue. So, good governance is an answer and how to educate and how to send a message to many people and how to protect the human rights and human dignity of many marginalized groups of people, how to make sure that the people are feeling some sense of belonging to their own society.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And would you say right now that violent extremism is the greatest threat to world stability?

    BAN KI-MOON: I believe so.

    We have seen so many crises, regional and national conflicts, but the transnational terrorism and extremism do not have borders. Therefore, it is a global challenge. Unless we do not address it, this issue, this will just destroy the fabrics of our community.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about that, because, yes, ISIS is getting, Islamic State, a lot of attention right now in the Middle East, in Syria.

    But, in fact, while that is happening, the regime of President Assad is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths; 350 people died just in the last few days in Damascus, over 100 of them women and children. Is the world giving President Assad a free pass, turning the other way, while it focuses on ISIS and not on him?

    BAN KI-MOON: No, we cannot and we will never give any free pass to any leader, including President Assad, to kill their own people. That’s totally unacceptable.

    At the same time, we have to be very practical then how to resolve this issue. There is no alternative to political and inclusive dialogue, a political solution. That’s what my special envoy, Mr. de Mistura, has been really trying to resolve this issue, try to have some political space, as much as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But your point is that President Assad still needs to go for there to be a solution in Syria?

    BAN KI-MOON: That will have to be discussed in the final phase of political negotiations — negotiation. And that should be decided by the Syrian people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And let me ask you about Ukraine. We have seen great advances by the pro-Russian rebels just in the last few days. They have taken over a key town.

    There’s now evidence — the British are providing photographic evidence that the rebels are using advanced anti-aircraft weapons systems, the SA-22. Is there any doubt that President Putin and Russia are very much behind what is going on in Ukraine? And by letting this happen, by the West not getting more involved, isn’t this giving President Putin a victory?

    BAN KI-MOON: It’s not a matter of giving somebody a victory or not.

    The agreement among four leaders, Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia, was a very encouraging one. I’m urging the parties concerned that these agreement, the Minsk protocol and framed memorandum, must be implemented in sincerity, in its totality.

    I’m particularly concerned, even now, there is fighting still going on in Donetsk and Mariupol. I’m urging them to abide by this agreement. There’s no such way or alternative to the solution of this than a peaceful dialogue and peaceful negotiation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, meanwhile, the British are saying just today that Russian fighter jets were very close to British airspace, that the British — British officials are saying President Putin is a real and present danger to Europe. There is an E.U. official who is saying that Mr. Putin is trying to redraw the boundaries of Europe by force.

    Do you agree with that?

    BAN KI-MOON: President Poroshenko of Ukraine has announced that he will pull all the military armament (INAUDIBLE) and his forces, and, therefore, the pro-Russians and the Russian — the side shall pull out immediately, in accordance with the agreement, which was agreed to just a few days ago.

    It is a matter of integrity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it doesn’t look like — excuse me — but that doesn’t look like it’s happening.

    BAN KI-MOON: I’m urging, as the secretary-general of the United Nations, to abide strictly by this agreement. And United Nations has made, again, clear that the United Nations will do all to provide the humanitarian assistance who have been affected, and also continue the human rights monitoring mission there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, again, so many challenges facing the United Nations.

    Two of your former predecessors as secretary-general have issued a letter saying that they feel strongly the United Nations needs to be reconfigured, it needs to be reformed in a way that the Security Council doesn’t have the veto system that it does now, that it’s more transparent, more democratic, that it’s not an organization — that the U.N. isn’t respected anymore by the people fighting on the ground or even by member countries.

    Do they have a point that the U.N. isn’t respected and doesn’t have the authority that it needs to have to make a difference?

    BAN KI-MOON: I think just to generalize what the United Nations is doing isn’t helpful at this time.

    Of course, I don’t claim that United Nations is a perfect organization. There are many challenges. There are some limitations. There are some inefficiencies. But, since I became secretary-general, I have been doing my best to make this United Nations relevant, more efficient, and more effective, and more transparent. That’s what I’m doing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary-General of the United Nations, we know there are a lot of challenges out there. And we appreciate your coming in to talk to us. Thank you very much.

    BAN KI-MOON: Thank you very much. It’s a great pleasure.

    The post Ban Ki-moon on preventing terrorism by protecting human rights appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama again warned today of the growing threat of extremism around the world at a White House-sponsored conference, and he urged the global community to do more to stop it.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Countries have a responsibility to cut off funding that fuels hatred and corrupts young minds and endangers us all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president shifted his focus overseas today before an audience of ministers from around the world. He placed special emphasis on the role democracy plays in fighting terrorism, a theme often heard from his predecessor, George W. Bush.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit. When peaceful democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorist propaganda that violence is the only answer available.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama also urged leaders to expand human and religious rights as they confront extremist ideologies from groups like Islamic State, also key, fostering economic and educational opportunities for young people who may be receptive to the militants’ call.

    Delegates from 65 countries also heard from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

    BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General, United Nations: We will never find our ways by discarding our moral compass. We need cool heads. We need common sense, and we must never let fear rule.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He pressed for alternatives to purely military responses.

    NASSER JUDEH, Foreign Minister, Jordan: It is all about education, education, education, opportunity, opportunity, opportunity, empowerment, empowerment, empowerment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, vowed his country will lead the fight against extremists, a role that has stepped up since the execution-by-burning of a Jordanian pilot by Islamic State.

    NASSER JUDEH: If anyone had any doubt about the brutality and barbarism of these extremists, then this doubt has been removed. If anyone had any doubt that this is our war as Muslims and our collective war as an international community, that doubt has been removed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And as Europe reels from a spike in homegrown terrorism and its own citizens leaving to join Islamic State and other groups, the French interior minister highlighted the different pathways leading people toward extremism, including social media.

    BERNARD CAZENEUVE, Interior Minister, France (through interpreter): The profile of terrorists and potential terrorists is very diversified now. Many have access to the Internet and learning on the Internet. They go abroad and they are trained to kill when they come back to Europe. They go from criminality to terrorism. In prison, they have contact with extreme terrorists.

    The post At White House summit on extremism, thinking beyond military action to root causes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Kurdish Peshmerga fighters walk with their weapons as they take control of the area, on the outskirts of Mosul February 6, 2015.  Photo by REUTERS/Ari Jalal

    Kurdish Peshmerga fighters walk with their weapons as they take control of the area, on the outskirts of Mosul February 6, 2015. A senior U.S. military official told the Associated Press Thursday that the operation to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, from Islamic State militants will likely begin in April or May. Photo by REUTERS/Ari Jalal

    WASHINGTON — The operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city from Islamic State militants will likely begin in April or May and will involve about 12 Iraqi brigades, or between 20,000 and 25,000 troops, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday.

    Laying out details of the expected Mosul operation for the first time, the official from U.S. Central Command said five Iraqi Army brigades will soon go through coalition training in Iraq to prepare for the mission. Those five would make up the core fighting force that would launch the attack, but they would be supplemented by three smaller brigades serving as reserve forces, along with three Peshmerga brigades who would contain the Islamic State fighters from the north and west.

    The Peshmerga are Kurdish forces from northern Iraq.

    The official said there also would be a Mosul fighting force, largely made up of former Mosul police and tribal forces, who would have to be ready to go back into the city once the army units clear out the Islamic State fighters.

    Included in the force would be a brigade of Iraqi counterterrorism forces who have been trained by U.S. special operations forces. The brigades include roughly 2,000 troops each. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The official said the U.S. will provide military support for the operation, including training, air support, intelligence and surveillance. The official said there has been no decision made yet on whether to send in some U.S. ground troops to help call in airstrikes.

    Islamic State militants overtook Mosul last June, as the group marched across large sections of Iraq and Syria, sending Iraqi forces fleeing. At this point, officials estimate there are between 1,000 to 2,000 Islamic State insurgents in the city of Mosul. Military leaders have been talking about retaking the city for some time, but they have said they won’t launch the operation until the Iraqi troops are ready.

    The official said they wanted to retake Mosul in the spring, before the summer heat and the holiday month of Ramadan kick in.

    “But by the same token, if they’re not ready, if the conditions are not set, if all the equipment they need is not physically there and they (aren’t) trained to a degree in which they will be successful, we have not closed the door on continuing to slide that to the right,” he said.

    The official also revealed for the first time that Qatar has agreed to host a training site for coalition forces to train moderate Syrian rebels who would return to Syria to fight the Islamic State forces there. Other sites are in Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

    The post Mission to retake Mosul likely to begin in April, May appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    GWEN IFILL: An arctic blast forecasters have dubbed the Siberian Express dipped all the way to Florida’s Gulf Coast today, demolishing cold temperature records along the way.

    From the Midwest, to the Deep South, the arctic blast brought dangerous, record-breaking cold to much of the U.S. today; 27 states are now under windchill warnings or advisories, more than 100 million Americans shivering in a deep freeze.

    In Chicago, the windchill dipped to about 30 degrees below zero. The frigid temperatures led to transportation delays and school cancellations.

    But there was no such luck for Gabe Wolter, in Oak Park, Illinois, on his way to his fourth grade classroom.

    GABE WOLTER, Student: I put on my ski goggles and my scarf, just so no wind could get to my face.

    QUESTION: And are you feeling pretty good right now?

    GABE WOLTER: yes.

    GWEN IFILL: North of Boston, an area already hammered by winter, crews fought blowing snow to rescue a dog that had fallen through the ice. In the nation’s capital, some braved the cold to see the monuments, or even go for a run.

    MAN: It’s been cold enough that my iPhone’s stopped working. It’s giving me a message that says that it’s too cold to operate in this temperature. So it must be pretty cold.

    GWEN IFILL: Elsewhere, large swathes of the Great Lakes are now iced over, the second smallest, Lake Erie, more than 90 percent frozen and parts of the famed Niagara Falls a frozen cascade now. Meantime, the National Weather Service predicts even colder temperatures are on the way.

    Despite the cold covering much of the U.S., the first month of the year turned out to be the second warmest January on record around the world. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released that data today. California is having its warmest and driest winter on record.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    A superbug outbreak has infected at least seven patients at a Los Angeles hospital, two of whom died. More than 170 others may have been exposed. The incidents occurred at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center between October and January. The bacteria is resistant to most antibiotics, and can trigger bladder or lung infections. Hospital officials suspect contaminated medical instruments were to blame.

    GWEN IFILL: Hundreds of products are being pulled off grocery shelves after traces of peanut were found in cumin spice. The Food and Drug Administration warned anyone with peanut allergies to stay away from foods that use cumin or cumin powder. It’s commonly found in taco seasoning and chili powder. Recalls of products have picked up steam since December, as more foods containing cumin are discovered.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The validity of a truce in Ukraine kept on crumbling today, as shelling and fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists spread.

    Alex Thomson of Independent Television News filed this report from Debaltseve. The war has come back to Donetsk. The pounding began around 7:00 a.m. and hasn’t stopped since, Ukrainian artillery.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): It’s obviously peace hasn’t come. These explosions prove that the deal’s been breached. I don’t know who I can look to for hope when these top-level agreements have failed.

    ALEX THOMSON: Unquestionably, it is the most intense bombardment in this regional capital city since Saturday’s so-called cease-fire, fighting around Donetsk, fighting near the southern city of Mariupol and of course around the bitterly fought-over town of Debaltseve.

    In one part of Debaltseve, the rebels make their feelings plain about the Ukrainian flag, across the lines, Ukrainians embracing, glad to be out of the hell that was Debaltseve for them.

    MAN (through interpreter): They were shelling almost the entire town. Starting at night, they would fire at us just to stop us from sleeping.

    ALEX THOMSON:
    Significantly, Ukrainian soldiers who survived Debaltseve are openly critical of their commanders.

    MAN (through interpreter): The planned withdrawal, that’s ridiculous, that’s nonsense, planned. As usual, they screwed up.

    ALEX THOMSON: Rebels may control Debaltseve city, but all around it, the rumble of heavy shelling this morning. Ukraine’s now calling for the U.N. to come in, but will they get any further than these European monitors, so often stopped by both sides from doing their job?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. today denounced the demand for U.N. peacekeepers, saying it is Ukraine’s responsibility to maintain the latest cease-fire agreement.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. signed a deal with Turkey to train and arm Syrian rebels who are fighting Islamic State militants. Talks went on for several months before the agreement was formally signed by the U.S. ambassador to Turkey tonight. Training by U.S. and Turkish soldiers could begin as early as next month.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Greek government came forward today with its request for a six-month extension of its rescue loan. But German officials quickly rejected it, calling it a Trojan horse for shirking its commitments and leaving too much open for interpretation.

    The German minister for economic affairs spoke in Berlin.

    SIGMAR GABRIEL, Economic Minister, Germany (through interpreter): This offer is insufficient because it lacks all specific measures in Greece. And that cannot happen. We cannot make it easier in Greece on the shoulders of German and European taxpayers. Over the next days, especially tomorrow, we need to negotiate further to find an agreement on specific measures. The proposal can only be the start of talks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Greece’s current bailout expires at the end of this month. If the parties can’t reach an agreement before then, the Greek government faces bankruptcy.

    GWEN IFILL: It was a mostly cautious day on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 44 points to close just under 18000. The Nasdaq gained 18 points. And the S&P 500 slipped two.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wal-Mart, the country’s largest private employer, is giving raises to nearly half-a-million of its U.S. workers. Over the next six months, full-time employees will get $13 an hour, and part-time workers will receive $10 an hour. Wal-Mart has faced criticism from labor groups and its own work force for poor compensation and benefits. The new wages still fall short of the national average for hourly retail workers.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama designated three new national monuments today. He went to his hometown of Chicago to create the Pullman National Monument in the historic South Side neighborhood where African-American railroad workers won a key labor agreement. He also designated Browns Canyon National Monument, 21,000 acres along the Arkansas River in Colorado. And he created the Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii, the site of an interment camp that held Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

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    Nationwide, the rise of prescription drug use has led to an increase in harder substances, most notably heroin, as abusers turn to the deadly drug when prescription pills, or the funds to buy them, run out. Since one of the first states heroin reaches in the U.S. from the southwest border is Arizona, the state has seen a massive increase in heroin use and overdoses in the past year.

    A project by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Arizona PBS recently covered the state’s heroin problem in the short film “HOOKED: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona.” The school-wide project was the work of nearly 100 student journalists as well as two dozen faculty and Arizona PBS staff members. The Cronkite School and Arizona PBS partnership also has a website dedicated to the full project on the state’s heroin problem.

    The documentary depicts the rise in heroin and the effects on the state, from law enforcement working to stop users and track the origins of the drug, to heroin addicts struggling to stay sober.

    While “HOOKED” covers the issue in Arizona, the film stresses the growing use of heroin outside the state as well. A Huffington Post story, covered by the Newshour earlier this year  also spoke of the rise in heroin use in Kentucky in the past few years and the discussions surrounding how to treat addicts. Ryan Grim, editor of the story, spoke with Hari Sreenivasan about the debates around suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate addiction and revive someone from an overdose.

    “HOOKED,” and the addicts profiled in the film, show fighting the addiction is near-impossible regardless of the approach.

    “I seriously don’t know how many times I’ve done this,” Dezarae, a heroin user from Chandler, a city in Arizona, said as she threw out her syringes and other tools. In the past, she or her boyfriend would dig them back out of the dumpster later.

    “I knew I didn’t want to live using anymore, but I also didn’t know how to live sober,” Dara from Phoenix, Arizona said in the video. “For me I had to hit rock bottom. I overdosed one time, and they put me in the bathtub and ran cold water over me. And when I came back around, I remembering hearing a guy say ‘do we get the shovel or what?’”

    “HOOKED” has clearly resonated in the Arizona community. The film, released on Tuesday, was shown on all 33 broadcast TV stations in Arizona and aired on most of the state’s radio stations. Almost a half-million households watched the broadcast, about 1 million Arizonans. That’s twice the viewership of a typical week’s most popular TV program. That same night, a phone bank at Arizona PBS took 438 calls over three and a half hours, directing people to appropriate services.

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    Video still by PBS NewsHour

    Video still by PBS NewsHour

    WASHINGTON — Britain’s electronic spying agency, in cooperation with the U.S. National Security Agency, hacked into the networks of a Dutch company to steal codes that allow both governments to seamlessly eavesdrop on mobile phones worldwide, according to the documents given to journalists by Edward Snowden.

    A story about the documents posted Thursday on the website The Intercept offered no details on how the intelligence agencies employed the eavesdropping capability — providing no evidence, for example, that they misused it to spy on people who weren’t valid intelligence targets. But the surreptitious operation against the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phone data chips is bound to stoke anger around the world. It fuels an impression that the NSA and its British counterpart will do whatever they deem necessary to further their surveillance prowess, even if it means stealing information from law-abiding Western companies.

    The targeted company, Netherlands-based Gemalto, makes “subscriber identity modules,” or SIM cards, used in mobile phones and credit cards. One of the company’s three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas. Its clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint, The Intercept reported.

    The Intercept offered no evidence of any eavesdropping against American customers of those providers, and company officials told the website they had no idea their networks had been penetrated. Experts called it a major compromise of mobile phone security.

    Gemalto said in a statement Friday it could not immediately confirm the reported hack and “had no prior knowledge that these agencies were conducting this operation.” The company said it “will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate” the reported hack.

    A spokeswoman for Sprint Nextel said Thursday that her company had no comment on the report, while a spokeswoman for T-Mobile said her company was referring reporters to Gemalto and declined further comment.

    In addition to SIM cards, Gemalto is a leading maker of encryption systems for other business and industrial uses, including electronic payment processing and “smart” key cards that businesses and government agencies use to restrict access to computers or other sensitive facilities. “Their SIM cards would be used by most of the major telecom operators,” said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at the Linley Group, a Silicon Valley tech research firm.

    The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, former agency officials have defended using extra-legal techniques to further surveillance capabilities, saying the U.S. needs to be able to eavesdrop on terrorists and U.S. adversaries who communicate on the same networks as everyone else. The NSA, like the CIA, breaks the espionage and hacking laws of other countries to get information that helps American interests.

    Still, the methods in this case may prove controversial, as did earlier Snowden revelations that the NSA was hacking transmissions among Google’s data centers. The Intercept reported that British government hackers targeted Gemalto engineers around the world much as the U.S. often accuses Chinese government hackers of targeting Western companies — stealing credentials that got the hackers into the company’s networks. Once inside, the British spies stole encryption keys that allow them to decode the data that passes between mobile phones and cell towers. That allows them to ungarble calls, texts or emails intercepted out of the air.

    At one point in June 2010, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, as its signals intelligence agency is known, intercepted nearly 300,000 keys for mobile phone users in Somalia, The Intercept reported. “Somali providers are not on GCHQ’s list of interest,” the document noted, according to the Intercept. “(H)owever, this was usefully shared with NSA.”

    Earlier in 2010, GCHQ successfully intercepted keys used by wireless network providers in Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, India, Serbia, Iceland and Tajikistan, according to the documents provided to The Intercept. But the agency noted trouble breaking into Pakistan networks.


    Associated Press writer Brandon Bailey in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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    Photo by Hill Street Studios/Blend Images via Getty.

    Photo by Hill Street Studios/Blend Images via Getty.

    WASHINGTON — An extra cup or two of coffee may be OK after all. More eggs, too. But you definitely need to drink less sugary soda. And, as always, don’t forget your vegetables.

    Recommendations Thursday from a government advisory committee call for an environmentally friendly diet lower in red and processed meats. But the panel would reverse previous guidance on limiting dietary cholesterol. And it says the caffeine in a few cups of coffee could actually be good for you.

    The committee also is backing off stricter limits on salt, though it says Americans still get much too much. It’s recommending the first real limits on added sugar, saying that’s especially a problem for young people.

    The Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments will take those recommendations into account in writing final 2015 dietary guidelines by the end of the year. The guidelines affect nutritional patterns throughout the country — from federally subsidized school lunches to food package labels to your doctor’s advice.

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “it is by no means over” with the release of the report. The government will take comments on the advice before distilling it — and possibly changing it — into final guidelines for consumers.

    Even with the changes, the report sticks to the basic message of the previous guidelines in 2010: Eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains; eat less saturated fats, salt and sugar.

    EGGS ARE OK

    The report says dietary cholesterol now is “not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” This follows increasing medical research showing the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream is more complicated than once thought.

    The committee says available evidence “shows no appreciable relationship” between heart disease and how much dietary cholesterol you eat, but it still recommends eating less saturated fat. As in previous years, the report advises limiting saturated fats to 10 percent of total calories.

    The panel doesn’t give a specific recommendation for how much cholesterol — or eggs — a person may eat.

    WATCH THE ADDED SUGAR

    Added sugars should be around 200 calories a day — about the amount in one 16-ounce sugary drink, says the advisory committee, which is made up of doctors and nutritionists.

    The recommendation is part of a larger push in recent years to help consumers isolate added sugars from naturally occurring ones like those in fruit and milk. Added sugars generally add empty calories to the diet.

    Americans now get about 13 percent of their calories from added sugar, or 268 calories a day, the committee says. Older children, adolescents and young adults generally take in more. The committee recommends 10 percent, which is “a target within reach,” says Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University professor of nutrition who served on the panel.

    Sugary drinks should be replaced with water instead of those with low-calorie sweeteners; there’s not enough evidence those drinks can help with weight loss, the committee advises.

    A SOFTER APPROACH ON SALT

    Sodium adds up quickly. A turkey sandwich and a cup of soup can average about 2,200 milligrams.

    That’s just under the committee’s recommendation of 2,300 milligrams a day for all people, even those most at risk for heart disease.

    The 2010 dietary guidelines had recommended those at risk for heart disease limit sodium to 1,500 milligrams. The new report said lowering to that amount can still be helpful for some. But the new advice follows a 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine that said there is no good evidence that eating less than 2,300 milligrams a day of sodium offers benefits.

    With the average American eating more than 3,400 milligrams daily, the panel recommends at least trying to reduce sodium intake by 1,000 milligrams a day if the goals are unattainable.

    Alice Lichtenstein, a member of the panel and a professor at Tufts University, said the new recommendation “puts the focus where it should be.” Get sodium intake down, and fine-tune the numbers as more evidence comes in.

    A HEARTY ENDORSEMENT FOR COFFEE

    The report looks at caffeine for the first time, and says coffee is OK — even good for you. The panel says there is strong evidence that 3 to 5 cups a day can be part of a healthy diet, and there’s consistent evidence that it’s even associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

    The advice comes with some caveats — don’t add calories with cream, milk and added sugars. The report also advises against large-size energy drinks that are popular in the marketplace, and it recommends pregnant women limit caffeine to two cups of coffee a day.

    EAT A PLANT-BASED DIET

    The panel recommends eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. A plant-based diet is “more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact” than the current U.S. diet, which is high in meat.

    The report stops short of telling people not to eat meat, saying “no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes.”

    Overall, the panel advises a diet lower in red and processed meat, and in a footnote says lean meats can be part of a healthy diet. The North American Meat Institute criticized the report, saying the health benefits of lean meat should be “a headline, not a footnote.”

    The meat recommendations in particular may prompt pushback from Capitol Hill. Last year, Congress noted the panel’s interest in the environment and directed Vilsack “to only include nutrition and dietary information, not extraneous factors” in final guidelines.

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    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says it sent about 800,000 HealthCare.gov customers the wrong tax information, and officials are asking those consumers to delay filing their 2014 taxes.

    The tax error disclosed Friday is a self-inflicted injury that comes on the heels of what President Barack Obama had touted as a successful enrollment season, with about 11.4 million people signed up.

    California, which is running its own insurance market, just announced a similar problem affecting about 100,000 people in that state.

    The errors mean that nearly 1 million people may have to wait longer to get their tax refunds this year.

    Another 50,000 or so who already filed may have to resubmit their returns.

    Federal officials also announced a special sign-up extension for uninsured people facing the health care law’s tax penalties.

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    UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles has told scores of patients they were possibly exposed to a drug-resistant bacterial "superbug" during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and may have contributed to two deaths. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

    UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles has told scores of patients they were possibly exposed to a drug-resistant bacterial “superbug” during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and may have contributed to two deaths. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

    The bacterial outbreak at a Los Angeles hospital highlights shortcomings in the federal government’s efforts to avert the most lethal hospital infections, which are becoming increasingly impervious to treatment.

    Government efforts are hobbled, infection control experts say, by gaps in monitoring the prevalence of these germs both within hospitals and beyond. The continued overuse of antibiotics — due to over-prescription by doctors, patients’ insistence and the widespread use in animals and crops — has helped these bacteria evolve into more dangerous forms and flourish.

    In the outbreak at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center, two patients have died and more than 100 may have been exposed to CRE, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria commonly found in the digestive tract. When this germ reaches the bloodstream, fatality rates are 40 percent. The government estimates about 9,000 infections, leading to 600 deaths, are caused each year by CRE, which stands for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

    Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    UCLA Health says the infections probably were passed around by inadequately sterilized scopes used to peer inside a body.

    Previous CRE outbreaks have occurred elsewhere in the country, including hospitals in Illinois and Seattle.

    The immediate public health response has focused on the safety of the scopes and tracking down people who may have been exposed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Thursday issued a warning about the devices. But the California outbreak comes amid the government’s broader struggle to spot and battle the swelling ranks of bacteria that are resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics.

    CRE is one of three infectious agents that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorized as the drug-resistant threats that require the most urgent monitoring and prevention. CRE is resistant to almost all antibiotics, including carbapenems, which doctors often deploy as a last resort. The remaining treatments are often toxic. A CDC report found that in the first six months of 2012, nearly 5 percent of hospitals reported at least one CRE infection.

    Unlike another urgent threat, Clostridium difficile, known as C. diff, the federal government does not publicly report CRE infection rates at each hospital.

    The federal government also does not monitor the prevalence of any of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria beyond health care facilities, although California, Georgia, Minnesota and seven other states do.

    “That is an example of a world-class infections system, but it’s only in 10 states,” said Dr. Trish Perl, a senior epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore, Md.

    “We have very targeted sources of information as opposed to an integrated and holistic system,” she said. “It’s like air control towers if you only had data from Chicago and Atlanta.”

    People can often carry CRE in their gut without injury, but it can spread outside the gut quickly in people who are taking antibiotics for other ailments or in a weakened state. Lisa McGiffert, director of the Safe Patient Project at Consumers Union, said that the CDC recommends hospitals screen all new patients for CRE but “I find it highly unlikely that many hospitals are doing that.” She noted that UCLA this week notified patients who underwent procedures as long ago as October that they may have been infected.

    The federal government has been trying for years to get doctors and hospitals to shrink their use of antibiotics, since their proliferation has helped create these new resistant bacteria strains.The federal government has been trying for years to get doctors and hospitals to shrink their use of antibiotics, since their proliferation has helped create these new resistant bacteria strains. The CDC has encouraged hospitals to create antibiotic stewardship programs, in which experts systematically try to insure that the bacteria-fighting drugs are the best resource and that there is evidence that they actually work on the specific infection the patient has.

    For instance, stewardship programs can discourage doctors from bombarding patients with lots of different antibiotics. Instead, doctors can take an “antibiotic time out” until they get lab results and reconsider their approach. (UCLA Health has a stewardship program in place.) Last September, President Obama’s science advisers recommended that by 2017 all hospitals and nursing homes be required to have stewardship programs if they want Medicare payments.

    California last year mandated hospitals create stewardship programs, but the federal government considers them voluntary. Even the Infectious Diseases Society of America was unable to determine how many hospitals have such a program, said John Billington, the society’s director of health policy.

    The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been taking a tougher approach against hospital infections. Since October, more than 700 hospitals have been receiving lower payments from Medicare if they have higher rates of infections and other injuries. However, that program tracks only two kinds of catheter-related infections, not CRE. It will be another two years before the penalties incorporate rates from two antibiotic-resistant germs that have been around for longer than CRE: C. diff, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA.

    “A lot of patients are walking around with CRE and don’t know about it,” said Dr. Anthony Harris, president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. “At this point CRE is still a fairly rare event, but this is the time to intervene so you don’t have the magnitude of the problem we have with MRSA.”


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

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    Photo by Flickr user Jeffrey L. Cohen

    The state senate in Kansas approved a bill on Friday that would ban a commonly-used abortion method in the state. Photo by Flickr user Jeffrey L. Cohen

    Kansas’ state senate on Friday approved a bill banning an abortion procedure commonly used to terminate pregnancies in the second trimester, a victory for anti-abortion activists in what could become the United States’ first ban of this method.

    The procedure, known as dilation and evacuation, involves dilating the woman’s cervix and using tools to remove the fetus and any remaining tissue from the uterus. Abortion rights activists say that the procedure, which is used in about 8 percent of abortions in Kansas, is the safest and cheapest option for women looking to terminate pregnancies in the second trimester.

    The bill passed by a vote of 31 to 9 and would ban the removal of the fetus using clamps or forceps. It will go to the Kansas House of Representatives next month, and if it passes, Kansas will be the first state in the country to ban the procedure. Similar bills are currently being discussed in Oklahoma and Missouri.

    “That’s a very gruesome practice that needs to end,” State Senator Garrett Love, who introduced the bill to the senate after seeing his daughter’s 12-week sonogram, said in an interview with PBS NewsHour. “I think that when it connects with people that babies between 13 to 18 weeks are having their arms torn out and killed, they are outraged by this,” he said.

    But abortion rights activists say the procedure is the safest option for many women. Substitute procedures, including extraction and induction procedures, carry greater risk of infection and may cause more bleeding, Julie Burkhart, co-founder of the Trust Women Foundation, said in an interview with the NewsHour. The Trust Women Foundation operates a clinic that performs abortions in Wichita, Kansas.

    “What the legislators are proposing is to tell the physician that they know what’s best when it comes to the practice of medicine,” said Burkhart, who worries the bill will force women to seek services in other states or to go to unqualified physicians for the procedure.

    Dilation and evacuation is also much cheaper than alternative methods of abortion. Burkhart’s clinic charges between $800 and $2,050 for the procedure, compared with triple the price for inductions.

    “Our women are really going to be put into quite a predicament,” she said.

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    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Have you ever walked past an abandoned house on the side of the road and thought to yourself, what’s in there? And why did the inhabitants leave? It’s a natural curiosity, says Andre Govia, a photographer and urban explorer, but fear of getting in trouble and the unknowns within prevent most people from walking inside. Undeterred, Govia began exploring abandoned buildings in 1999.

    The decaying buildings and derelict landscapes he encountered were often vandalized, demolished or converted into newer structures. To preserve a record of the unseen history decomposing before him, he brought a camera. Soon, documentation turned to art.

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    In December, Govia released, “Abandoned Planet,” a book that contains 380 of the thousands of photographs he has taken during his adventures. The book is filled with images of deserted hospitals, hotels, schools, theme parks, mansions, cottages, car graveyards and industrial spaces. In all, the explorer has visited more than 900 locations in about 22 countries.

    “I went to Germany 15 times last year, also Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, Austria, America, Sweden and Norway, and we have Iceland coming up and maybe Russia,” Govia told Art Beat.

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Every place decays differently, Govia said. North Wales, for example, has a dense, “black” decay. In New Jersey, the decay is “very green.” The Catskills have a “more deep-set decay,” whereas Miami, Spain or Portugal has a “very dusty decay.”

    “You can kind of tell where a place is if you know what your decay is,” said Govia. “I rather enjoy it — the different decay and different smells.”

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    In British mansions, hidden away from society and preserved just as its inhabitants left them 20 or 30 years earlier, Govia might find an unmade bed or a jacket hanging on a doorknob. In Germany and Italy, he saw beautiful paintings decorating ceilings and sculptures in homes and hospitals.

    “Even the mental asylums and the crematoriums in Italy have painted ceilings, it’s amazing. You’ll be in an operating theater, and you’ll look up, and it’s got painted ceilings with God knows what on it, cherubs,” Govia said.

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Despite the beauty, he is quick to point out the dangers. Thin floor boards, disintegrating roofs, asbestos and rampant nails are just a few to contend with, not to mention the security systems. Govia himself has fallen into a few basements; he’s seen friends land on nails or break their legs and even their necks – and these are the seasoned explorers. Govia remembers watching a security guard walk toward him and fall through the very floor that he just walked over.

    “I’m not a photographer who wants to try my luck at taking photos in an abandoned location that looks cool. It’s dangerous, it’s guerrilla, and you have to know the hazards.”

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    So Govia and his network of urban explorers keep their locations secret. They don’t want unskilled adventure seekers getting hurt and they want to protect the buildings from getting further destroyed. In fact, the explorers have a code — and they adhere to it strictly.

    “We don’t damage anything. We don’t break into a building … We never remove items from a building, never deface a building. We’re there to actually capture the glory of the building,” said Govia. “If somebody is found to have removed an item or someone is found to have damaged a property to gain entry, then they are very much frowned upon and often outcast.”

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    That code is shared different types of urban explorers, whether they climb on rooftops to see far-reaching aerial views from above the city, abseil into the sewers and underground tunnels to experience the often ignored subterranean worlds or, like Govia, explore the overlooked corners on ground level.

    The photographer has rules for his art, as well. He will not bring anything in or out of a building, but if a photo needs something, he might move a chair from the hallway or lift some family portraits off the floors to help capture the essence of the room. He uses objects in the space to enhance the feeling of the photograph.

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    There are very few descriptions in “Abandoned Planet.” Govia doesn’t want to disrupt how the viewer perceives the space – and in the end, he doesn’t think it’s important if you assume a hallway is from a hospital if it’s actually from a hotel or a school.

    “I wouldn’t want to taint your vision of what you’re seeing … it’s cinematic photography and it’s trying to put you in the photo so you can almost feel the ambiance within the location.”

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Viewers also come to the book for different reasons. Some are those interested in the fantasy-like photography, some are excited by the curiosity of urban exploration, and others are attracted to the historical documentation and access to aspects of life they would never normally see.

    “You don’t have to like abandoned buildings to like the photography, and you don’t have to appreciate the photography to like the abandoned buildings.”

    See more of photographs from Andre Govia’s “Abandoned Planet” below:

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Photo by Andre Govia

    Read more:

    Photographers sneak into London’s underground world

    Photographer goes to great heights for call to arms on sprawl

    Photos: These punk hippies prefer horses to cars

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    Youtube's new app is designed to answer parents who have asked for more kid-friendly viewing options. Photo by Getty Images

    Youtube’s new app is designed to answer parents who have asked for more kid-friendly viewing options. Photo by Getty Images

    YouTube is launching a mobile app that delivers kid-friendly content.

    While children’s videos are already accessible on YouTube, the new app will feature content only appropriate for young users. YouTube Kids will use big icons and a voice-operated search function, making it easier for children to navigate, Reuters reports.

    Children’s entertainment giants like Jim Henson TV, DreamWorks, Sesame Street and programs like Thomas the Tank Engine are partnering with YouTube to push content on the new app. Educational programs like National Geographic Kids and YouTube stars like vlogger Hank Green, executive producer of SciShow and SciShow Kids, will also provide content via the app.

    “Parents were constantly asking us, can you make YouTube a better place for our kids,” Shimrit Ben-Yair, the project’s group product manager, told USA Today. “(Year over year) we’ve seen 50% growth in viewing time on YouTube, but for our family entertainment channels, it’s more like 200%.”

    Parents can still control the amount of time their children spend on YouTube with a timer function on the app, Google Press said in an email.

    Google press confirmed that YouTube Kids will be free, but only available on Android platforms in the United States as of February 23.

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    Bush photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Clinton photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    For Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, famous family members would play a role in 2016 runs. Bush photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Clinton photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Living in the shadows can be such a drag. But it’s demonstrably worse if the shadow is cast by somebody who used to be President of the United States.

    You could argue that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are not the first two Oval Office aspirants who have had to cope with this uniquely first world problem.

    It could not have been a walk in the park for John Quincy Adams or Franklin D. Roosevelt to tread in the path of famous relatives. Then, as now, voters were on the hunt for something fresh. Perhaps that’s why only four sitting vice presidents have ever managed to be elected to succeed the leader they served.

    Interestingly, the last man who pulled that off was George H.W. Bush, who was able to parlay his time as Ronald Reagan’s No. 2 to the presidency in 1988.

    H.W. Bush (not to be confused with the son who would follow him some years later), is probably the most uniquely positioned to know what it’s like to cast a long shadow.

    In his 1999 book, “All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings,” he demonstrated that he knew well the perils of dynasty.

    The Washington Post’s Carlos Lozada surfaced a fascinating letter Bush wrote to his sons in 1998 that managed to capture a father’s hurt, pride and determination in a single missive.

    The 41st president began by noting that their mother had mentioned to him that they were worried about negative stories written about the his presidency — by then six years past.

    “Do not worry when you see the stories that compare you favorably to a Dad for whom English was a second language and for whom the word destiny meant nothing.”

    He continued: “That can be hurtful to a family that loves each other. That can hurt you boys who have been wonderful to me, you two of whom I am so very proud. But the advice is don’t worry about it. At some point both of you may want to say, ‘Well, I don’t agree with my Dad on that point’ or ‘Frankly I think Dad was wrong on that.’ Do it. Chart your own course, not just on the issues but on defining yourselves.”

    Two years later, George W. was elected president. And this week, Jeb — now teeing up his own run — made headlines by doing exactly what his Dad advised.

    “I love my brother. I love my dad,” he said during a closely-watched foreign policy speech. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make, but I am my own man.” Then he went on to admit that mistakes had indeed been made in Iraq — on his Dad’s watch.

    Somewhere between now and the end of the year, Hillary Clinton can be expected to deliver a version of that same speech. She will certainly want to embrace the good news from the Bill Clinton years, including the legacy of a strong economy under her husband’s presidency. But it’s inevitable that she too will need to establish herself as — in this case — her own woman.

    So much in politics is unpredictable. This is not.

    The post Gwen’s Take: The Jeb and Hillary chronicles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New research suggests that Indo-European languages emerged from a single common ancestor language spoken on the Russian steppes more than 5,500 years ago.  Photo by  Johan Klovsjö/Flickr

    New research suggests that Indo-European languages emerged from a single common ancestor language spoken on the Russian steppes more than 5,500 years ago. Photo by Johan Klovsjö/Flickr

    Linguists have traced the roots of English, Hindi, Greek and all Indo-European languages to a common ancestor tongue first spoken on the Russian steppes as much as 6,500 years ago.

    New research from the University of California-Berkeley emerged after linguists analyzed reconstructed vocabulary, including words such as “I am,” “bear,” and “wood” from more than 150 living and dead languages, as well as archaeological data.

    Then, researchers relied on statistical models and phylogenetic analysis — or how the languages evolved — to track how quickly these words changed over time to pinpoint when the languages broke away from the ancestor language, or Proto-Indo-European. Linguists also linked innovations in animal husbandry to spread languages from a steppe that stretches from Moldova and Ukraine to Russia and Kazakhstan’s western frontier.

    The study’s authors said:

    Our most important conclusion is that statistical phylogenetic analysis strongly supports the steppe hypothesis of IE origins, contrary to the claims of previous research. This in turn contributes to the study of Eurasian linguistic prehistory, indicating that IE language dispersal was not driven by the spread of agriculture.

    This study offered new evidence that supports the “steppe hypothesis” about the origins of the Indo-European language family. Another theory suggests that this language family actually sprang from what is now modern-day Turkey more than 8,000 years ago.

    The report will be published in the March issue of the journal Language, according to the Linguistic Society of America.

    The post Linguists link English, Hindi to single ancestor language spoken 6,500 years ago appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Traffic on the 495 Beltway is backed up from Bethesda to College Park due to emergency pothole repairs on the beltway along the Maryland / Washington, DC border on February 12, 2010. Today was the first day the government went back to work after a four-day closure due to a double snow storm. It was the commute from hell. Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Traffic on the 495 Beltway in the Washington, D.C.-metro area can get hairy during rush hour. Research indicates that women, especially with families, are disproportionately stressed from long commutes, which can affect their job prospects. Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    It takes Kristel Fritz 90 minutes by train to get from her home in San Jose to the talent agency where she works in San Francisco. On days she has to pick the two kids up from day care, she’s out of the house before 5:30 a.m. to get into the office early. Come afternoon, the 31-year-old has to leave by 3:30 p.m. to make sure she gets to the day care before it closes at 6 p.m. If the train is delayed? Every 15 minutes she’s late earns her a $20 charge per kid.

    Fritz is fortunate: She has help. Her husband drops the kids in the morning and grandma is available if something comes up. But even that hasn’t stopped her from turning down jobs in the past because the commute made working and raising a family a logistical nightmare.

    A number of studies amassed over the last decade put Fritz’s plight in a larger context: Commuting disproportionately limits and stresses out women compared to men. From restricting job prospects to requiring aviationlike coordinate plotting, daily travel pressures are wearing women down.

    A study out of the U.K. titled “It’s driving her mad” found that women feel the psychological impact of commuting four times as strongly as men. Even controlling for other factors like income, job satisfaction and housing quality, the findings held steady. Commuting, for women, gets added to an already heavy workload that often includes child care and the majority of day-to-day household tasks, the researchers explained.

    Nancy McGuckin, a travel behavior analyst, says that for many women, commuting is not just a matter of getting through rush hour. “Before the last stop on the train I’m asking my husband if he needs anything from the store,” Fritz says. “I’m thinking about how crowded Trader Joe’s is going to be and what’s for dinner.” A direct route turns into a maze of detours when you add in ferrying kids, picking up dry cleaning and stopping by the grocery. Because of this, McGuckin says, what can be a time-out from the day for many men to listen to music and be alone turns into pure stress for their wives.

    It even impacts where you choose to make your life: A study out of the University of Chicago shows that cities with longer commute times have fewer married women in the workforce. In cities where commute times increased between 1980 and 2000, the researchers found that more women dropped out of the labor force. Example: in Minneapolis, which has some of the most easily navigable streets for a major city, 79 percent of married non-Hispanic white women 25-55 with at least a high school-level education were employed. Compare that same demographic in New York City, the number drops to 49 percent. Neither housing prices nor local wages explains the disparity.

    Sure, men still leave earlier in the morning, work later into the evening and have longer trip times. And, as McGuckin points out, part of the stress women feel may be because they take on the burden of making sure everything runs according to plan. But regardless, commuting is shaping — and limiting — workforce diversity (yes, we’re talking to you, companies that don’t allow work-from-home flexibility).

    The PBS NewsHour is sharing this story as part of our partnership with OZY Media.

    The post How a bad commute is worse for women than men appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    One of the seven patients infected with the UCLA “superbug” is in grave danger, according to his lawyer.

    UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles has told scores of patients they were possibly exposed to a drug-resistant bacterial "superbug" during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and may have contributed to two deaths. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

    UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles has told scores of patients they were possibly exposed to a drug-resistant bacterial “superbug” during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and may have contributed to two deaths. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

    According to the AP, the 18-year-old student was infected with the suberbug when doctors used an endoscope to examine his pancreas for a procedure at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The endoscope was contaminated with carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) — a possibly lethal, antibiotic-resistant bacteria — and was also found on another endoscope. The two medical instruments had been used for similar procedures to the 18-year-old’s between October and January, exposing the bacteria to more than 170 people. So far, at least seven people, including the 18-year-old student, have been infected and two of those seven have died.

    The young man spent 83 days in the hospital and was released, but recently relapsed.

    The type of endoscope is known to be difficult to fully clean. UCLA has since incorporated stronger sterilizing systems and removed the contaminated endoscopes. Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s chief medical and quality officer Dr. Robert Cherry said the hospital followed the endoscope manufacturer’s rules for cleaning the product, but the intricate design and parts make fully sterilizing the endoscope difficult. Other areas in the U.S. have seen similar infections from the medical instrument.

    The FDA is working to find ways to prevent infections from the product, but has also said that removing the product entirely would hurt the millions of patients who benefit from these procedures.

    The post One ‘superbug’ victim is fighting for his life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shieldsbrooks

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week: the debate in Washington over how to talk about the Islamic State militant group, Jeb Bush lays out his approach to foreign policy, and a Texas judge temporarily blocks President Obama’s immigration action.

    We look at it all with the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen. Great to have you.

    All right. So, David, let’s start with the summit the White House held on confronting — they called it confronting violent extremism, looking at how do you prevent terrorist acts from happening in the first place, local communities. The criticism the White House got was they’re bending over backwards, they’re going out of their way not to use the term Islamic extremism.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you make of it?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, are we allowed to called the Islamic State Islamic?

    They are. In some sense, it’s a stupid debate, because is it true Islam, is it perverted Islam? The fact is, religion is all interpretation. God doesn’t come down here and tell us exactly what he means. We have interpretations within Christianity, within Judaism and within Islam. If you call yourself a Muslim, you’re a Muslim.

    They have different interpretations, but it’s all interpretations. So, one is a perverted or a sick form of Islam. A lot of people fortunately have a much more peaceful form of Islam, but it’s all an interpretation of a faith. What’s the real one? It’s all a matter of interpretation.

    I think they should probably call it Islamic extremism. It is Islamic extremism. The second, I think, and more important issue is how we diagnose the problem. And there are three elements to this sort of terrorism, as we just saw in the segment about that Egyptian young man.

    First, there’s economic and political dysfunction. So that young man wanted to be a personal trainer and he couldn’t. So he was alienated from that and marginalized from society. But, second, there’s a spiritual ardor. A guy wants to be a hero. The guy wants to be seen as strong and a hero, like that young man.

    And, third, there’s theological conviction. And Islamic State has theology to it, real, substantive theology. We’re comfortable talking about the economics and the politics because we live in a secular society and we’re comfortable talking about that stuff.

    But if we don’t talk about the spiritual call that they feel and the theological content, then we’re missing the core of the thing. And if we’re going to fight it, you can’t just say we’re going to give you a higher standard of living. You don’t need to go to the Islamic State. That isn’t going to work. You have to have a spiritual, better alternative.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this, Mark?

    MARK SHIELDS: I think, Judy, that I think the president was right.

    It is wrong to say that this is a religious movement as such. David makes the point, I think validly so, that this is a splinter group from this religion. Most of the victims of the Islamic State have been Muslims. Most of the opponents are Muslims.

    But it does have a theological component to it. That’s its farm system. That’s from whom it’s drawing. It’s a battle of nomenclature. I think there was a reluctance on the part of the administration to ever say it. They have said it. The president was very clear.

    But at the same time, you want to make a distinction. This is 26 percent of the world’s population. And you just don’t want to give the impression, the misimpression, that this is a war against Islam. It isn’t. It’s a war against these people who come and call themselves the Islamic State and who do come from Islamic groups. But I think you have to grant it is a perversion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark has a point, doesn’t he?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, no, I think it’s a perversion because they’re so inhumane.

    What’s the Pascal phrase, they try to be higher than the angels, they end up lower than the beast. And so that’s clearly what is happening to them. They have turned themselves into monsters. But there was lot of monstrosity in the wars of religion in the 15th century in Europe. They were certainly religious wars.

    And so I do think you have to take the religion seriously, that these people are — it’s not like they can’t get what we want. They want something they think is higher than what we want. Their souls are involved. And I’m saying you have to conceive of them as moving, as acting in a religious way.

    And you have to have religious alternatives. And they are driven by an end times ideology. They think there’s going to be some cataclysm battle and Mohammed will come down. And if you ignore that part of it, write it off as sort of marginal, that they are being produced by economic dysfunction, I just think you’re missing the main deal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, this is one we’re going to keep talking about.

    But, Mark, while we’re on the subject of Islamic State, foreign policy, let’s talk 2016. Jeb Bush clearly running or seems to be clearly running for president, gave a major foreign policy speech this week. His team said he’s laying out how he thinks about it. How much is he constrained by his brother’s record on foreign policy?

    MARK SHIELDS: Enormously. He probably would like to be the heir to his father’s, I think who has probably an admired foreign policy and respected foreign policy, the last president to go before the Congress and get support, go before the Security Council of the United Nations and get support and to do what he said he was going to do in the Persian Gulf War.

    And it was a unequivocal American victory and a great coalition was assembled, the antithesis of his brother. Jeb Bush is basically saying, I’m Bush. I’m not my brother. It was a bumbling, fumbling introduction, Judy.

    He wasn’t agile. He wasn’t comfortable with the subject. He’s fortunately running against two people, Scott Walker, who is a governor of Wisconsin, whose idea of foreign policy is beat Ohio State, and Chris Christie, whose trips to Chinatown and Little Italy have qualified him for foreign policy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ooh.

    MARK SHIELDS: I mean, no, they are total novices.

    But it wasn’t an impressive debut. And it was marred not by announcing and emphasizing Jim Baker or Brent Scowcroft, revered advisers from earlier times are counseling him, but Paul Wolfowitz, the architect, advocate and engineer of the United States’ war against Iraq and really the leader of the weapons of mass destruction lobby, is in the front.

    To me, that just a serious, serious mistake.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Not an impressive rollout?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, he definitely has a problem.

    Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard had a piece on a poll they did. They asked Americans, does this candidate represent the future or the past? And Bush was heavily, he’s the past. And so he does have a big mountain to climb. Hillary Clinton, oddly, was 50 percent future, 48 percent past. So, even though she’s been around, people sort of think she’s — something new there.

    MARK SHIELDS: Gender-intensive.

    DAVID BROOKS: Exactly.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And so Bush has this problem.

    And I thought the speech — I wasn’t quite as underwhelmed as Mark. I don’t know how you rate underwhelmed-ness. But I do think it was sort of lacking in some of the innovation and substance, the willingness to take a risk and offer something new.

    I think what’s heartening is that — we can have different views about Paul Wolfowitz. I think he’s a much more complicated character than sometimes he’s portrayed. But most of the people that Bush went to are people like Bob Zoellick, Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations. It was pretty much the A-team on the Republican side.

    They’re very responsible. And we would feel safe with men and women like that at the helm. And so he’s like going right down the middle of Republican foreign policy, nothing too remarkable either way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you’re troubled by it.

    MARK SHIELDS: I’m not troubled.

    I just — I thought — it’s a rush, Judy. No one’s going to get to his right. That was what this speech was about politically. And secondly was, I’m going to get Romney supporters. He’s in a hurry. He’s a man in a hurry to get donors and to get backers. And I think he’s trying to fill up the vacuum. I don’t think he’s ready for prime time. That was not…

    DAVID BROOKS: He’s nobody’s idea of a perfect orator. That’s for sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I have a question about Hillary Clinton.

    But before I do, you mentioned Scott Walker. At one of the Scott Walker events this week, former New York Mayor, David, Rudy Giuliani made a statement that has gotten a lot of attention. He basically — he talked about President Obama and said, “He wasn’t raised like we were,” talking to the group. He said, “He doesn’t love this country as we do.”

    It’s gotten a lot of attention. Do we — how big a deal is it?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s — you know, it’s unacceptable. You can’t say that. He doesn’t know that. It’s not true. It’s self-destructive.

    There’s sort of, I don’t know, who to blame, I don’t know, somebody like that. There’s almost sort of a Mort Sahl, Richard Pryor ethos where the person who says the most shocking thing is the best person. And sometimes on the stump, that seems to happen in partisan rallies. And Giuliani said something that I’m sure, like, shocked the bourgeoisie, but it’s unacceptable. And I hope it doesn’t define the Republican race.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You see it stopping there?

    MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I think this — has to be signaled, has to be stated, and has to be called out.

    Rudy Giuliani’s language is unacceptable. This wasn’t given at some shadowy end-of-the-road, secret handshake to get into the room with sort of a paranoid fringe group. This was 60 people, major fund-raisers and donors, Republican, at the 21 Club, a bistro, a signature bistro in New York City.

    And to this group of people, he basically said the president doesn’t like America. And this is — I go back to John McCain, who in 2008, when this was a hot issue, had the courage to confront a Republican audience in Lakeville, Minnesota, when they made this charge and said, no, that is untrue. President Obama is an American. He cares about this country. He loves this family, and I like him, but I disagree with him on the issues.

    This is going to be an arms race about who hates Barack Obama and who can say he’s less of a patriot. Rudy Giuliani, who had six draft exemptions and got a judge to write a request to have him reclassified 2A so he didn’t have to serve in Vietnam, for him to start grading patriotism is unacceptable. And it’s going to take the Republican Party right down the road to defeat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there were several Republicans who denounced it after he said it.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I think that’s incumbent upon Republicans to do that, just to police the party.

    As Mark says, it’s self-destructive. It’s not only bad taste, bad manners, bad morality. The country doesn’t want that kind of thing, I don’t think.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Question about Hillary Clinton. We haven’t talked about her in a while. She’s not a candidate yet, but everybody thinks she will be.

    Mark, she’s — there’s a major story out this week about her, the Clinton Foundation receiving enormous amounts of money from foreign governments. Is that the kind of thing that could hurt her candidacy?

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    Hillary Clinton is a beat now, just like foreign policy is a beat, Congress is a beat. Major newspapers, including David’s, have people, good reporters, excellent reporters assigned to Hillary Clinton. And it comes up this week. And The Wall Street Journal had 60 major corporations had given $21 million that — who have lobbied her when she was secretary of state, who she had tried to help, as secretaries of states do in their foreign dealings.

    So her being on a first-name basis with big money and particularly Wall Street puts pressure on her, I think, to establish her economic independence from those groups in the campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see it?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I think it will hurt. I think there will be things that will shock people that maybe we don’t even know yet, because there just was a river of money flowing through to foundation and through the speeches.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean in the specifics?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. We will find things and we will think, oh, really?

    And I think people will be shocked by the dollar amounts that are there and they will ask about quid pro quos. And so I do think it will be a problem, especially because this is a party that’s become more populist, and has become more organized against finance and against the dominance of finance.

    And Hillary Clinton clearly has to show she’s different. And she can come out and move left on economic populism. But if the paychecks are coming from those sources, it will at least be an issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so far — we will see what more her campaign, her team has to say about it.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, have a great weekend.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you.

    DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you both.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Shields and Brooks on fighting Islamic extremism, Giuliani on Obama appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports

    Major League Baseball announced several pacing changes to the sport, including how long a batter has to make it to the batter’s box and how many warm-up pitches a pitcher can take. Photo by Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports

    Major League Baseball today announced a series of new rules, effective immediately, that aims to quicken the pace of the national pastime.

    In a press release distributed on Friday, recently-instated MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark and John Schuerholz, chairman of MLB’s Pace of Game and Instant Replay Committee, outlined several new rules that will alter the timing of each game, including the additional use of a physical timer to previously untimed sport.

    Some of the pacing changes include:

    • All batters must keep one foot in the batter’s box at any given time, unless one of a set of pre-specified exceptions occurs.
    • Time limits will be enforced during “non-game action” and game breaks to keep the ballgame on a consistent pace. For example, batters will have a certain amount of time to make it to the plate for their at-bat, pitchers will have a certain amount of time to throw warm-up pitches and there will be a finite time for innings and pitching changes to take effect.
    • Pitchers will be required to deliver their pitch soon after a batter enters the batter’s box and “becomes alert to the pitcher.”
    • Physical timers will be added to each ballpark’s scoreboard, as well as behind home plate, to enforce the specified time limits.

    Failure to comply with these rules will prompt fines from the MLB.

    In addition to rules associated with attempting to speed up the game, the release also announced new changes to the league’s young instant replay policy. One of the major changes involve team managers being able to call for a replay from their own dugout, instead of needing to walk out to an umpire — which was frequently used as a stalling tactic throughout the 2014 season.

    Some of the replay changes include:

    • Managers may signal a challenge from the top step of the dugout instead of approaching an umpire on the field.
    • Whether runners left a base early or tagged a base properly on a tag-up play are now able to be challenged.
    • Violations of the home plate collision rule now require a manager’s challenge to be reviewed. Last season, such a review did not count towards a team’s instant replay count.
    • For every successful challenge, a manager will retain that challenge.
    • Managers will have two challenges per game, instead of the usual one, for postseason games, tiebreakers and the All-Star Game.

    The Pace of Game Committee was convened in September to address a concern of baseball executives about the length and pace of ballgames, which during the 2014 season were averaging more than three hours per game for the first time in the sport’s history.

    The post Major League Baseball introduces new rules to speed up their games appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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