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

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    Peanuts and shells by Bruno Crescia Photography Inc. via Getty Images

    Peanuts and shells by Bruno Crescia Photography Inc. via Getty Images

    Parents hoping to prevent a peanut allergy in their children have something new to chew on.

    A study in the New England Journal of Medicine says eating peanut products as a baby can reduce the risk of developing the sometimes fatal allergy by about 80 percent.

    The study looked at 530 infants, who were given skin tests to determine they were at high risk of developing a peanut allergy. One group was given a dissolvable peanut snack and the other group told to avoid peanuts.

    At age 5, the children were given a supervised dose of peanuts. Researchers found an overall 81 percent reduction in peanut allergic reactions in the group that had consumed the nuts at an early age.

    Allergy experts still warn that high-risk infants should only be given peanut products after a medical assessment.

    The post Avoid peanut allergy? New study says feed them to babies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Ed Hidden/E+ via Getty Images.

    Photo by Ed Hidden/E+ via Getty Images.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: What are the prospects for a whole department toppling their boss? The boss manages through fear. He is not liked by his subordinates, peers or those higher up in management. He is not technically competent and has been assigned the post for the mere reason of “retaining” him.

    I would like to muster some courage, get together a group and make a case against him with HR. How should I approach the matter with the authorities?

    Nick Corcodilos: You’re talking mutiny, and the price of failure is walking the plank. Are you ready to take that risk?

    This requires more than courage. It takes smarts.

    The only way HR is likely to help is if you have several solid, documented violations of law, ethics or corporate policy. In my experience, HR will back the manager every time, unless there’s such a preponderance of evidence against the manager that they’d be jeopardizing their own positions by ignoring it. But I caution you: Taking this to HR could blow up in your faces.

    First, you must find out what kind of support your boss has from upper management, and what their view of him really is.

    • Are they giving him lots of rope so he’ll hang himself?
    • Does he have something they need that makes him untouchable?
    • Does he have a protector who watches his back?

    You must find out whether you stand a chance of beating him. (This is a good time to learn about “Mentoring & Getting Mentored.”)

    This requires more than courage. It takes smarts. Talk casually with higher-ups and find out what they think of this guy. Watch their eyes and body language. Listen for any hesitation in their responses. Are they waiting for a coup that they can support?

    Talk to execs up your boss’ chain of command, but also to others on chains that interact with him. If he’s the head of sales, go talk to managers in marketing, operations and finance. These people may share your concerns, and they may lend support.

    Who among your group has good contacts way upstairs? Ask them to poke around. Are the ultimate decision makers amenable to this action? Do not just go to HR with your request. Be diplomatic. Go to the one top exec who is likely to back you, and ask for advice. This is best done one-on-one, not as a group. Then follow the advice.

    Toppling a manager requires support from others more powerful than your target. If you get lucky, another manager may take up your cause and take action.

    A good mutiny can save a ship. Proceed with caution.

    Dear Readers: Have you ever had a boss you wanted to get rid of? Did you try it? Is it worth the risk? How would you advise the reader in this week’s Q&A?

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: How can we get rid of our boss? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives for a ministerial meeting at the parliament in Athens on Feb. 24. Eurozone finance ministers approved a list of reforms proposed by Greece in return for a bailout extension. Photo by Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives for a ministerial meeting at the parliament in Athens on Feb. 24. Eurozone finance ministers approved a list of reforms proposed by Greece in return for a bailout extension. Photo by Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

    Eurozone finance ministers on Tuesday accepted reform proposals offered by Greece to extend its bailout program by four more months.

    Greece’s proposed reforms include efforts to combat tax evasion and tackle corruption.

    “We call on the Greek authorities to further develop and broaden the list of reform measures, based on the current arrangement, in close coordination with the institutions in order to allow for a speedy and successful conclusion of the review,” read a statement from the Eurogroup of finance ministers from 19 countries that use the euro.

    Greece’s current debt is more than 320 billion euros or about $360 billion. The 240 billion euro ($273 billion) bailout will now run until the end of June instead of expiring at the end of February.

    The post Eurozone extends Greece’s bailout by four months appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Sesame Street’s parody of the series “House of Cards”, called “House of Bricks”.

    Kevin Spacey, step back. There’s a new wolf in town. His name is Frank Underwolf, and he’s ready to take on “pork.”

    Sesame Street retells the children’s story of “The Three Little Pigs” with a nod to the Netflix series “House of Cards”. The highly anticipated third season will be available to fans on Friday (unless you were one of the few who got an early viewing when episodes briefly appeared on the digital streaming service two weeks before its scheduled release.)

    If the end of the Sesame Street video is any indicator of Frank Underwood’s fate, perhaps season 3 will culminate in a day of reckoning.

    This isn’t the first parody inspired by the dark take on Washington politics and power.

    Last August, Jimmy Fallon starred in a two-part video called “House of Cue Cards,” in which The Tonight Show host explained his rise to the top of the “ocean of late-night jokery.”

    The post Video: Sesame Street’s nod to Netflix series ‘House of Cards’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies at a Senate hearing on the department's FY2016 funding request in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 24. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies at a Senate hearing on the department’s FY2016 funding request in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 24. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, saying the U.S. policy is to prevent the Iranians from getting atomic weapons.

    Kerry told Congress that the administration’s policy is that “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.” He said opposition to a potential deal is misplaced because it is coming from people who don’t know what an agreement might look like.

    “The president has made clear — I can’t state this more firmly — the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon,” Kerry said. “And anybody running around right now, jumping in to say, “Well, we don’t like the deal,” or this or that, doesn’t know what the deal is. There is no deal yet. And I caution people to wait and see what these negotiations produce.”

    Kerry spoke a day after returning from the latest round of talks with Iran. U.S. and Iranian officials reported progress on getting to a deal that would clamp down on Tehran’s nuclear activities for at least 10 years but then slowly ease restrictions. Negotiators are rushing to try to meet a March 31 deadline for a framework agreement.

    The post Kerry defends Iran negotiations before Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A federal judge in Texas blocked President Obama's executive action on immigration. Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Now: how gridlock at the federal level is felt close to home.

    The Senate and House are locked in disagreement over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security, mostly because they disagree over immigration reform. There was some movement in the Senate today in a game of chess being watched closely by local officials far from Washington.

    Jeffrey Brown has that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: On Capitol Hill this afternoon, an offer to extend Homeland Security funding for the rest of the year came from Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader: I think we have a responsibility to act here. We have a solution to the problem that deals with both things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: McConnell outlined something Democrats say they want, a seven-month full extension of Homeland Security funding with no strings attached. But with it, he is also setting in motion something conservatives want, a Senate vote to block the president’s 2014 immigration actions.

    Those executive orders expanded waivers for undocumented immigrants.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: I don’t know what’s not to like about this. This is an approach that respects both points of view and gives senators an opportunity to go on record on both, both funding the Department of Homeland Security and expressing their opposition to what the president did last November.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But the Republican House may not support McConnell’s plans. And for their part, Democrats are chewing on the offer.

    SEN. HARRY REID, Minority Leader: If he says he will agree to full funding, we will be happy to debate anything he wants to get in with immigration.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the meantime, amid the angling, thousands of county officials from the around the country took to the Hill today, lobbying Congress to act on a wide range of issues, including immigration. They’re concerned over the impact on their county-run hospitals, jails and the overall effect on jobs and the economy.

    And we asked two county officials to join us to get our hands around what this means on the ground.

    Liz Archuleta is supervisor of Coconino County, Arizona. That’s home to the Grand Canyon. And Judge Glen Whitley is the chief elected official of Tarrant County, Texas, home to the city of Fort Worth.

    And welcome to both of you.

    LIZ ARCHULETA, District 2 Supervisor, Coconino County, Arizona: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Fill in the picture a little bit, Liz Archuleta, you first, about why and in what ways this immigration debate here is so important to you. How does it affect your home?

    LIZ ARCHULETA: Well, counties are basically the ones that provide social services, health service and criminal justice services, which includes law enforcement.

    And so this affects us at a very basic level. We’re concerned about people and about community-building, and our residents are the ones that are uncertain right now as to what is going to happen with immigration reform. And regardless of who they are, we have to provide these services.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Uncertainty, is that the key issue back at — in Texas?

    COUNTY JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY, Tarrant County, Texas: Yes, uncertainty, certainly.

    When Washington fails to act, it doesn’t stop us. We have to continue to deal with the folks. We care about the people in our communities, and we have to act.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, what exactly are you — you’re on the Hill today going around to Congress. What exactly are you saying? What are you asking for?

    JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY: Well, one of the things that I would say we’re looking for is to — you know, right, now you have got the DHS. You have got the immigration bill. They are kind of linked hip and hip.


    JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY: And they really — we feel like they need to be separated. They don’t need to be holding hostage — one bill hostage over the other.

    If DHS isn’t funded, it has a tremendous impact to us on the FEMA-type issues. We’re going into the spring. You have got tornadoes. You have got floods. There’s a lot of uncertainty related there. We need that uncertainty to be taken care of.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what exactly you add to that about what exactly do you say when you go to the Hill?

    LIZ ARCHULETA: Well, I would say that immigration reform is needed. It’s something that people have been talking about for years now, and that we’re about serving people.

    This is not about parties. You know, this is about people. And so we’re the ones that are on the ground, we’re the ones that are in the grocery store that are having to answer, why is this conversation still happening?

    JEFFREY BROWN: But when you go to a congressman, do you say, do this specifically, X, Y and Z, or do you say, just do something, get over the uncertainty?

    LIZ ARCHULETA: Yes, we’re saying we need to — you need to act now, that we need to have this comprehensive reform, that there has to be some solution, and that — it’s unfortunate that, you know, the debate is about health services vs. immigration reform.

    We feel like there is room for both. And we feel like we’re an example of that at the local level. We solve problems and we’re called upon to solve problems. And we just need to move the conversation to action.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you’re a Democrat.

    You’re a Republican.

    You yourselves differ. For example, take the president’s executive action on immigration. What did you think of that?

    JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY: Well, I guess I’m glad to see that the courts are going to look at it.

    I believe, personally, that he’s gone too far on that particular issue. But, really, from NACo’s standpoint…

    JEFFREY BROWN: NACo being the county…

    JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY: The National Association of Counties.

    And I think it’s important to remember that, from counties’ standpoint, even though many of us are elected in partisan races, when we get together, we actually have to solve problems. Just as Liz said, we deal with people on a day-to-day basis. Our potholes aren’t Republican or Democrat. Our diseases, our viruses, our outbreak of measles or whatever diseases, they’re not Republican or Democrat.

    And we can’t ignore the issues and wait sometimes for the federal government to take — to pass a law or a policy. We implement — if they have got one, if they have got a policy, if they have got a law, we will implement it. If they don’t, we still have to deal with it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But to get there, you have to get past these political differences.

    What did you think of the president’s executive action? Is that a good step forward?

    LIZ ARCHULETA: I thought it was a good step forward. I didn’t think it was an overreach.

    But I also think it demonstrates that Congress needs to act. The only reason for the president’s executive action is because Congress hasn’t acted. And so I don’t fear that the courts are looking at it, but I also feel that it is within the power of the president to do that.

    I mean, that’s been since the beginning of time. Abraham Lincoln used executive action for the Emancipation Proclamation. But it doesn’t take us away from the actual conversation of keeping the eye on the ball, and the ball is that we have to have a legislative action for immigration reform.

    JEFFREY BROWN: With what? What has to be in it?

    LIZ ARCHULETA: Well, I think it has to be — there has to be several elements to it.

    But, first of all, it has to be comprehensive. Second of all, it has to include a guest-worker program. Third of all, I mean, if we’re looking at actual National Association of Counties’ policy on it, we have to secure our borders. We have to have a pathway to citizenship for those who pass background checks.

    JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY: We actually passed a — passed a resolution working together…


    JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY: … Democrat and Republican, last summer on the fact that we felt like it was very urgent for Congress to pass that.

    And, as I said, secure border, right now, we have college students who graduate in our science, technology, engineering and math degrees, great young people, and then we force them to leave the country, instead of encouraging them to stay. So we need the comprehensive programs, secure the borders, come in with, you know, a way to deal with the undocumented folks that are here right now, and to be able to move forward and go on, getting to more important things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But that last part, the way to deal with the undocumented, is precisely one of the big sticking points.

    JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY: Well, and I think, you know, again, when we look and we talk about comprehensive policy, you know, that really outlines several different issues, I personally am looking for a program that deals with the folks that are here.

    And in the background checks, if you find that an individual has been a bad actor, they need to be deported, they need to be asked to leave. They need to be forced to leave. At the same time, I think we have to realize that — and this is why we would sometimes like the federal government to be a little bit more flexible with county government.

    We have got 50 states. We have got 3,069 counties. The situation may be different in each one of those.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, briefly, do you see — given what you have seen from back home and being here in Washington, do you see the possibility for legislation, or are you resigned to it being dealt with through executive action and perhaps the courts?

    LIZ ARCHULETA: Oh, I never give up hope that there could be a solution, a legislative action.

    I think that what we need is flexibility, and hopefully members of Congress will hear from their constituency back home and will agree to the points that I think we — as you know, as a people in these United States can agree to and see it is a bipartisan issue.

    We saw that a few years ago, when we had Senator McCain and Senator Kennedy that agreed on some legislation. And so I think if we continue to talk it out, we can reach to it. It’s just that we have to get there sooner than later.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, let’s end on a hopeful note. Right?


    JEFFREY BROWN: Judge Glen Whitley from Texas, Liz Archuleta from Arizona, thanks so much.

    JUDGE GLEN WHITLEY: Thank you.

    LIZ ARCHULETA: Thank you.

    The post When Congress comes to a standstill, it’s local officials who feel the pressure appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    states of change  monitor  2   diverse population in us

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: America is in the midst of rapid change, politically and demographically, as the nation grows dramatically more diverse, more educated, and older.

    Two research organizations with normally divergent views combined to produce a new study that shows the far-reaching implications of that shift.

    Karlyn Bowman analyzes public opinion for the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute and Ruy Teixeira is a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

    I find this so interesting. I just want to walk through some of your findings one at a time.

    The big one I noticed was that majority minority states, that is, the number of states which have a minority population — a majority minority population, are going to increase. I think it starts at — right now, we have four states which meet that, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Hawaii.

    And by — let me see, let me get this right — it’s be 20 — in 2060, it’s going to account for two-thirds of the country’s population. That’s 22 states we’re talking about.

    Karlyn Bowman, that’s a big change.

    KARLYN BOWMAN, American Enterprise Institute: That’s one of the big takeaways from this work that we have been doing that really in particular has done with Bill Frey of the Brookings Institution. And I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways from the survey.

    GWEN IFILL: What does it mean?  What’s the significance of that?

    KARLYN BOWMAN: Well, it has both political consequences, economic consequences, and consequences for the private market. It will affect every aspect of society going forward.

    GWEN IFILL: Ruy Teixeira?

    RUY TEIXEIRA, Center for American Progress: Yes, I think that’s definitely true.

    When you’re looking at a country that is going to have, as you say, 22 majority minority states, including such states we would never think of in that context, like Oklahoma, by the time we get a few decades down the line, when you’re going to have 10 other states that are going to be more than 40 percent minority by 2060, when children are going to be two-thirds minority by 2060, surely, this is a country that is in the throes of such dramatic change that the parties will be forced to respond, the parties will be forced compete for these emerging constituencies, for these new voters.

    The Democrats will have to deliver for the constituencies that currently favor them. And I believe Republicans will have to compete much more vigorously for their votes, because really that is our future and the future cannot be ignored.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to get back to that point about children, but first walk me through one of these states. You said Oklahoma, for instance. What is it that’s driving this shift?

    RUY TEIXEIRA: Well, Oklahoma is a very interesting state, because, like a lot of states, you do have a burgeoning Hispanic population.

    But actually what’s going to be more important in Oklahoma is a group we call Asian/other, which is a combination of not only Asians, but also multiracial and Native American. It happens that in Oklahoma, you have the Native American population, which is growing quite fast, playing a leading role in leading Oklahoma in this direction.

    You see some of the same dynamics in a place like South Dakota or a place like Arizona. Actually, Native Americans are going to be part of an increasingly important part of the constituencies in those states.

    GWEN IFILL: Karlyn Bowman, let’s talk about the diversification of children.

    In 1980, 25 percent of the children in this country were minorities. In right now, 2014, it was 26 percent, but, by 2060, it’s going to be 65 percent of the children are going to be non-white.

    KARLYN BOWMAN: Again, another extraordinary change over this period of time.

    Of course, children aren’t old enough to vote, but they will be at a particular time. When they turn 18, they will be eligible, and that is, again, a major change that we’re looking at going forward.

    GWEN IFILL: But is it — are there policy implications for having that many children, people under the age of 18 who are color?

    KARLYN BOWMAN: Oh, I think that there are extraordinary implications in terms of schooling, in terms of workplace preparation, marketing and the like.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, let’s go on. I want to talk about another interesting finding, which is the decline of the white working class.

    I find that interesting because the reason why the white working class is declining is not because fewer people of color — or more people of color are getting degrees. It’s because more white people are getting degrees. You have to explain it. I didn’t explain it well.

    RUY TEIXEIRA: Right. OK.

    Well, yes. No, picture this. Back in 1980, three-quarters, three of every four American eligible voters was a white non-college or working-class individual, 75 percent — almost 75 percent. That’s down to maybe 46 or 47 percent today, a decline of 26 points. So, it’s huge.

    What’s caused that?  Well, on the other hand, there are fewer white people. So, that drives it. But the other thing is the dramatic rise in educational attainment. A third of Americans in 1980 were high school dropouts. That’s down to 10 percent today; 14 percent were — had a four-year degree or more. Now that’s more than doubled to 30 percent.

    This dramatic increase in the educational attainment of the population has pushed down the non-college share of the population, just as the white share of the population is being pushed down. And those two things together produce this dramatic decline in the white working class, such that over every presidential cycle now, we’re losing about 3 percentage points of share in the white working class, every single presidential cycle. So that’s a pretty dramatic rate of decline.

    KARLYN BOWMAN: Getting a high school degree used to be part of the American dream. And of course today it’s getting a college degree. And you see that we have just made these extraordinary strides with a very different population.

    GWEN IFILL: Another part of the American dream used to be getting married and having 2.4 children. And now it turns out that in 1974, 70 percent of us were married and 30 percent were unmarried.

    Now, in 2014, it’s 48 percent are married, and the majority, 52 percent, are unmarried. Does that have policy implications?

    KARLYN BOWMAN: Of course it does. And it certainly has political implications overall.

    This is the eligible voter population. If you look at actual voters, you still have more people who are married than unmarried. But again the growth of the unmarried population I think has very significant implications politically as we move forward.

    GWEN IFILL: Does that mean that our politics is going to be necessarily more divided than it even is now, as a result of the country going in separate directions?

    RUY TEIXEIRA: Well, actually, I think you could maybe see a little bit of that in the short-term, the polarization, particularly around different racial groups and so on, but actually my view is that over a somewhat longer time period, we will become less divided, not more divided.

    And this is because of the factor I was previously mentioning, that the parties are going to have to compete for a much more diverse set of voters. They are going to have to compete for the minority vote. They are going to have to compete for the unmarried vote.

    GWEN IFILL: Do you see it that way, as a Republican, really?

    KARLYN BOWMAN: I do too. I’m optimistic. Yes, I do.

    GWEN IFILL: So — but there are those political folks who look at this and say that Republicans are in the wrong place now in terms of who is voting for them and who is voting for — and that Democrats are in a better position to take advantage of this kind of shift. Do you disagree?

    KARLYN BOWMAN: No, I don’t disagree.

    I think that Republicans have some significant problems going ahead. And as the Democratic National Committee reported on Saturday, the Democrats, in looking at their performance in 2014, realize they have some very serious problems going ahead. But certainly in terms of presidential politics, Republicans are going to have to do better with the minority vote going forward.

    GWEN IFILL: Is our demography our destiny?  I know this is a question demographers like to ask. Let me ask you this first.

    KARLYN BOWMAN: I’m not sure demography is destiny, but you really need to pay attention to population changes.

    GWEN IFILL: Agree?

    RUY TEIXEIRA: Yes. No, I agree with Karlyn, as I usually do on these things.

    Demography is a huge factor. It drives a lot of things. It structures the terrain. It must be taken account of. It must be reckoned with. But to say that it’s destiny is just wrong. It’s just not the case. And I hope there are no Democrats out there who think this, because I think they would be kidding themselves that just because there will be more minority voters and unmarried voters, let’s just do nothing and politics will be dominated by us forever.

    Not true. Look what happened in 2010 and 2014. Any given election can be contested if the parties, I think, reach strongly enough for the center. I just think the center is shifting, and both parties will have to take that into account.

    GWEN IFILL: Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress, and Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute, thank you both for bringing this to us.

    RUY TEIXEIRA: Thank you.

    KARLYN BOWMAN: Thank you.

    The post As diversity increases, will U.S. be more or less politically divided? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: The number of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, continues to grow. And as some get into trouble with the law, special veterans courts are finding different ways to deal with them.

    NewsHour special correspondent Spencer Michels reports.

    MAN: Remain seated and come to order. Deportment 4 is now in session.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Every Friday afternoon, Judge Jeffrey Ross turns his San Francisco courtroom into a veterans court, one of 220 such courts in the country that hear cases of former military members who have been arrested, often for drug offenses, sometimes for violence.

    To signal how different his court is, he often brings a basket of fruit and candy for the defendants.

    MAN: Even me being in anger management, what good is that?  Because I snapped.

    SPENCER MICHELS: It’s what’s called a collaborative court, where the judge, the district attorney, the public defender, the probation officer and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs work together to treat, or to punish, each defendant.

    JUDGE JEFFREY ROSS, San Francisco County Superior Court: It’s good to see you. How are you?

    AXEL RODRIGUEZ, Army Veteran: I’m doing excellent, sir.

    JUDGE JEFFREY ROSS: That’s what I hear, and I’m glad to hear it.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Forty-three-year-old Axel Rodriguez has had a lot of problems common to vets. He served in the Army in the Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait more than 20 years ago.

    AXEL RODRIGUEZ: It was crazy, it was exciting, it was scary. I have nightmares. I don’t like being in closed rooms. I don’t like large groups of people. I just don’t feel in control.

    SPENCER MICHELS: You obviously got into some kind of trouble. You’re in court.


    SPENCER MICHELS: What kind of trouble?

    AXEL RODRIGUEZ: I got arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of a controlled substance.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Just that one…

    AXEL RODRIGUEZ: No, a couple of times, you know, a couple of times.

    And at first, I didn’t want to accept that I needed help.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Rodriguez spent some time in jail and kept re-offending.

    Why are you abusing?  Do you revert back to your time in the Gulf War, and PTSD, or is it something else?

    AXEL RODRIGUEZ: No. It starts off with that, but then once you become an addict, everything goes out the window. The only thing that you care about is maintaining your inebriated state.

    SPENCER MICHELS: On a few occasions, he says, he became violent.

    You’re talking about fights?


    SPENCER MICHELS: You’re talking about girlfriends?

    AXEL RODRIGUEZ: Well, not with girlfriends, but with other men. You know, it’s just like the combativeness. It’s a great characteristic to have if you’re in the military. But it’s not one to have when you’re out in the normal world, to be combative.

    SPENCER MICHELS: San Francisco district attorney George Gascon, who was in the Army and was police chief before he became DA, argues that vets accused of crime shouldn’t be treated like common criminals.

    GEORGE GASCON, San Francisco District Attorney: If you’re talking about people that have severe trauma from being on the battlefield and may be self-medicating themselves, these are things that the criminal justice system cannot fix unless we bring other people on board.

    SPENCER MICHELS: When veterans courts first began seven years ago, there were some serious questions: Why set up an alternative justice system just for veterans?  And how could you not prosecute violence, even though the perpetrator had a bad wartime experiences?  But those objections faded as some of the courts have shown good success.

    About a quarter of the clients here have graduated, while slightly more have transferred or been reassigned to regular criminal court. The rest are still in the system. But those numbers, officials argue, are better than simply sending disturbed vets to jail time and time again.

    JUDGE JEFFREY ROSS: Our goal is to find an outcome which will both prevent recidivism, keep the public safe, keep the victims from being re-victimized, but also deal with the person’s background and the reasons he that he committed the violent conduct that we were just addressing.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Using federal grants, as well a local funds, courts rely on the VA to coordinate physical and mental care, plus weekly court dates for vets in trouble. It’s up to the vet to comply.

    KYONG YI, Department of Veterans Affairs: We often meet with the veteran when they’re in custody, develop a plan for where they’re going to go when they’re coming out, especially if they’re homeless.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Kyong Yi works for the VA.

    KYONG YI: We also link them immediately with mental health and medical services. A lot of folks, we will put into transitional housing, or if they have a substance abuse issue, we will put them in residential treatment.

    SPENCER MICHELS: As with many vets, housing has been a problem for Rodriguez. He recently moved to a recovery house called Fresh Start, mostly for veterans, after getting evicted from another program. He claims he’s been clean and sober for eight months. And he credits the veterans court for helping him find new housing and putting him on a new path.

    He has frequent court-mandated appointments with a psychiatrist.

    AXEL RODRIGUEZ: I couldn’t open up to my own family, because they used to mistreat me emotionally.

    SPENCER MICHELS: And with a nurse practitioner.

    WOMAN: So, what has been going on?

    AXEL RODRIGUEZ: Well, I got kicked out of that program for something that I didn’t do, suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol, which, I don’t drink.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Every week, the key staff at the VA Center in downtown San Francisco meets to discuss the offenders.

    WOMAN: I think there’s some inconsistent taking of his meds.

    SPENCER MICHELS: And in Judge Ross’ chambers, another group, including the judge, the prosecutor, the public defender, and the probation officer, collaborate on how they will handle each vet who comes before the court.

    MAN: He is doing extremely well. He’s in full compliance.

    SPENCER MICHELS: San Francisco’s public defender, Jeff Adachi, says this approach is something completely new in criminal courts, something he welcomes.

    JEFF ADACHI, San Francisco Public Defender: I remember when no consideration was given to a person’s background as a veteran, and we had to really fight just to get that evidence in at trial.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Veterans courts were at first reluctant to enroll those accused of violent crimes. But, today, that is changing. Adachi says it’s about time.

    JEFF ADACHI: We are looking at admitting veterans who are charged with violent crime. And, obviously, it’s going to be over a period of time to see whether or not this is successful. But if you want to prevent violence, one of things you have to do is be willing to treat people who are charged with violent crimes, and not exclude them.

    SPENCER MICHELS: For some offenders, court can demand more than they are ready for. This vet didn’t show up when he had agreed to, and despite his excuses, Judge Ross sentenced him to three days in jail, starting immediately.

    For Rodriguez, the new approach has led to success for the first time in 20 years.


    AXEL RODRIGUEZ: Veterans court is an event that you go to every week. It’s not a court. It’s an event, that we — we cheer each other on when — you know, when we are in compliance. It’s a great thing.

    SPENCER MICHELS: That’s a kind of success in progress that veterans from around the country may also soon experience.

    Spencer Michels for the PBS NewsHour in San Francisco.

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    GWEN IFILL: For years, doctors had routinely recommended children at risk of food allergies should avoid peanuts until they turn 3. But a new study challenges that medical wisdom, suggesting the opposite, that more infants should be introduced to diets with peanut products as a way of inoculating against allergies later.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Peanut allergies are one of the most common forms of food allergy among American children. And the last two decades have seen a dramatic rise in the number of cases. It’s estimated that today 2 percent of all children are allergic to peanuts, four times the number as recently as 1997. And it’s the leading cause of death from food allergies.

    For parents, of course, a key question, how to avoid the risk to their children. And now comes a new twist. A study published in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” it finds that exposing higher-risk infants to peanut products greatly reduced the risk of developing an allergy later on.

    The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

    And Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the Allergy and Infectious Diseases Institute, joins me now.

    Dr. Fauci, what was generally thought up to now, that exposure to peanuts early on was a bad thing, that was wrong?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, National Institute of Health: Indeed.

    As we have seen from this case, this study that you just mentioned, is that earlier exposure of a child does what we call tolerizing the child, so you can get less of an incident of later-on peanut allergies. So if you’re predetermined to get peanut allergy and you try avoid getting the child to be exposed, you find out the contrary. If you take the child and expose them early on and compare them to people in which you have tried to avoid exposure, there was a highly significant difference, in the sense of less later-on peanut allergies among the children who had the early exposure, as opposed to the avoidance.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us about a little bit about this study, briefly. Is it really aimed at infants who already had a predilection or a higher risk for allergies? How is that defined?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, what you did is you take children who, for a variety of reasons, either children who have a history of egg allergy, milk allergy, asthma, family history of allergic diathesis, as we call it, namely, a predisposed tendency to develop allergic reactions.

    Those are the children who would most likely to develop peanut allergies compared to a control population. And if you take those children and divide them into two groups, children who you’re going to completely avoid peanuts for a certain period of time vs. those that you expose early, and that’s where we got the results.

    It’s very interesting because it originated from an observation that, in Israel, where they expose children for nutritional reasons very early on to peanuts, these children have a much, much lower rate of peanut allergy compared to Jewish and Israeli children who actually are living in the U.K. And it turned out that that triggered the thought about doing the experiment in a controlled way to determine if deliberate exposure actually avoids the ultimate allergic reactions that you see later on. And it was a success.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Translate this now for parents and for doctors. What should they do now?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, right now, since this study was just published literally today, what you need to do is to just wait a bit, because what we at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are going to do is going to convene and be the host of a convening of individual stakeholders, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the various allergy societies, to take a close look at the data and to come up with guidelines or recommendations.

    You don’t want parents now, on the basis of this study, to go ahead and be challenging the children early on, because you have got to be careful that you don’t precipitate a reaction in a child who might actually have a reaction immediately. So you have got to be a bit careful about that. We don’t want parents on their own deciding what they’re going to do.

    Let’s wait — and it won’t be very long — for some solid guidelines and recommendations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And there’s, in the meantime, still no cure for children who have this allergy? It’s still really all about avoidance?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Indeed.

    Well, it’s avoidance if you have the allergy. What this study is all about, Jeff, is getting children to not develop the allergy. And it’s almost paradoxical, because the study says that if you give them early on in life peanuts, you dramatically lessen the likelihood that they will develop an allergy and then will subsequently have to avoid.

    So you want to get away from having to avoid by exposing them early on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And very briefly, Dr. Fauci, is there potential application in all of this to other allergies?

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Indeed.

    The mechanism that allows for this tolerance to peanut very well might actually be applicable to other food allergies. And there are studies that are going to be planned and that are ongoing to see if you can replicate these exact mechanisms and results with other food allergies.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much.

    DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Good to be with you.


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    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne North Dakota

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to the political power struggle over legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which landed today on the president’s desk and was promptly vetoed.

    The president chose to carry out the veto in private, out of the glare of cameras, a sharp contrast to House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to stage a very public bill signing at the Capitol only 11 days ago.

    SEN. JOHN HOEVEN: Senate Bill 1, as amended, is passed.

    GWEN IFILL: The Keystone bill was the first order of business after Republicans claimed majorities in both houses of Congress this year. It’s been seven years since the 1,200-mile-long pipeline was first proposed. Parts of it are already under construction, with the ultimate goal of carrying Canada’s tar sands oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast, a project many lawmakers say would create needed jobs.

    But environmentalists and landowners in some of the states it would travel through argue it would cause more harm than good.

    White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the president’s veto is not about the merits of that argument, but about the review process.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: It just merely says that the benefits and consequences of building that pipeline should be thoroughly evaluated by experts and through this administrative process that has existed for decades and has been used by previous presidents of both parties.

    GWEN IFILL: But Republican criticism was swift.

    Wyoming Senator John Barrasso:

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, (R) Wyoming: But the president does have his pen. And by choosing to veto this piece of legislation, he is choosing Washington lobbyists and special interests over the needs and desires of the American people.

    GWEN IFILL: The next step for the pipeline is unclear. Republicans would have to muster a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate to override the veto.

    We get reaction now from Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who writes widely on the energy sector, and Jeremy Sions — Symons — pardon me — senior director for climate policy at the Environmental Defense Fund.

    Robert Bryce, if this was a question or a debate over jobs vs. the environment, who won today?

    ROBERT BRYCE, Manhattan Institute: You know, Gwen, I would say it’s a tossup, but I would say that the pipeline, the symbolism over this pipeline has far outstripped its importance in terms of energy security, energy independence, energy imports, et cetera.

    Remember, since 2008, we have been arguing roughly — since then, we have been arguing, we have been arguing about this pipeline, but all it’s — blocking of the pipeline has really assured is that we’re seeing more oil moved by rail. And just in the last two years alone, we have seen in the U.S. 10,000 miles of pipeline be built and globally 23,000 miles of pipeline.

    So, in reality, unfortunately, this is just a pipeline, but the symbolism that has been attached to it has far outstripped reality, in my view.

    GWEN IFILL: Jeremy Symons?

    JEREMY SYMONS, Environmental Defense Fund: Well, the issues are real.

    The president did the right thing today. He did the right thing because this is a wrong turn. This pipeline would be a wrong turn for America’s energy policy. We’re talking about chasing Canada’s tar sands oil and we should be focusing instead on the real energy issues in front of the country, which is how we move forward with a clean energy future for America that creates more jobs, that pollutes less and that is abundant.

    And I think that that’s the debate that Congress is missing and should have had.

    GWEN IFILL: But how does this veto allow that conversation to be had?

    JEREMY SYMONS: Well, you have to ask yourself why this pipeline for one foreign energy company ended up at the top of the new Congress’ agenda, when we have so many energy opportunities in front of us on clean energy.

    And the answer is special interests. It took Americans, American families, farmers and ranchers across this country to stand up and shine light on what normally would sneak through in the halls of Washington. But this is a pipeline that is going to last not 10 years, not 20 years, probably 50 years or more.

    This is a decision about our children’s energy future and we have to take it very seriously and not let this decision go unnoticed.

    GWEN IFILL: Robert Bryce, seems like one person’s special interest is another person’s champion. How does it break down in this case? What would be the wisest step to be taken?

    ROBERT BRYCE: Well, I think it’s clearly to build the pipeline. Canada is one of — it’s our close ally, our neighbor.

    This is one of our largest trading partners, and yet we’re telling the Canadians essentially to — pardon my language, to stuff it. Look, the idea of trying to block the flow of Canadian oil into the U.S. by blocking this pipeline is akin to trying to make your diet work by shooting the pizza delivery man.

    It’s not going to work. The reality is blocking the pipeline has resulted in what? Moving more oil by rail. Western Alberta now has over — about 1.1 million barrels of rail terminal capacity in place. In North Dakota — remember, the pipeline is also going to serve the Bakken — they have built about 1.2 million barrels per day of rail terminal capacity.

    Keystone is designed to carry 830,000 per day. The idea that blocking this pipeline is going to prevent oil from getting to market is simply false.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you about that, Jeremy Symons. You just said there should be a different debate going on. But if it’s true that the oil is going to get here perhaps in a less safe way, are you moving toward that debate or away from it?

    JEREMY SYMONS: No, it’s not about whether there’s going to be a less safe way. It’s about making choices about what kind of energy future we want to build and infrastructure we want to build.

    The reality is that we’re seeing already, because of market forces, we have an oil boom, natural gas boom here in America that is contributing to reduced oil prices around the country, around the country. And that is what is standing in the way now of the Canadian — very expensive Canadian tar sands oil.

    But it’s also a very dirty oil source. So, we have to ask ourselves, this isn’t about Canada-U.S. relationships. This is about choosing the path and making sure that Congress and the president are focused on the real opportunities and policy to move beyond the old energy sources and particularly a dirtier source that has 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than American conventional oil.

    GWEN IFILL: You just mentioned oil prices. Explain to me what the connection between oil prices being depressed and the outcome of this decision today.

    JEREMY SYMONS: Well, actually creating this oil from Canadian tar sands is a very energy-intensive, high-polluting process that is also very expensive. And basically they’re taking tons of sand and trying to squeeze out a barrel of oil in doing that.

    And because it’s so expensive, they rely on high energy prices globally to do the big mining investments that they have to, to expand this vast area in the boreal forests of Canada and turn that into mining pits to make this. When you have lower oil prices it is going to put a natural blocker on even the need to have some of this oil come to America.

    GWEN IFILL: Robert Bryce, do you draw that same line between decline in oil prices and this outcome today?

    ROBERT BRYCE: Well, look, I think your other guest makes a good point.

    The decline in oil prices does produce or create some economic challenges for this pipeline, no question about it. It’s much more viable, much more profitable for the producers when oil is at $80, than it is when oil is at $50, success as it is now.

    But, look, this pipeline is clearly in the national interest. And in his veto statement, the president referred to the national interest a couple of times. Just yesterday, IHS, the consulting firm, said that roughly 70 percent of the oil that would be shipped through Keystone XL would be consumed here in the United States.

    I’m for cheap, abundant, reliable energy and I make no apologies for that. This is a good idea for American consumers. To say that we need something else, look, virtually every automobile in the country runs on oil and refined product. To say we are going to shift to something else, well, we may in decades, but this pipeline should be built and it should be built now.

    GWEN IFILL: But you started this conversation saying that this is the wrong argument to be having. What difference — how, then, if they were to agree to this pipeline and the president were suddenly to revisit it in the next several weeks, how would that contribute to America’s energy independence?

    ROBERT BRYCE: Well, look, it would provide more oil to the U.S. market.

    We are producing dramatically more oil here in the U.S. We have seen increases of roughly four million barrels of oil per day here in the United States alone. But oil — or gasoline is now at roughly $2. What’s wrong with having more oil and reducing the price of oil even further? I see no problem with that.

    I think it’s a spurious argument to say, oh, we’re supposed to shift to something else and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. has reduced its CO2 emissions more than any other country in the world over the last few years, by over 400 million tons. No other country is even close.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, go ahead.

    JEREMY SYMONS: Well, we agree that the U.S. is reducing our emissions.

    In fact, a lot of that is built on the backs of auto workers who have reinvented and auto companies that have reinvented the auto industry to make fuel-efficient cars that pollute less. Why would we move, why would government take on its top priority to bring dirtier fuel to market to put in the tanks of the cleaner cars that we’re trying to make?

    GWEN IFILL: For today, that’s not going to happen. Does that mean that you are optimistic about the president’s ultimate decision?

    JEREMY SYMONS: I am optimistic. I think he will do the right thing there too. And the case is clear that this is bad for climate, it is bad for our economy, and it is bad for our energy future.

    GWEN IFILL: Final word, Robert Bryce.

    ROBERT BRYCE: I disagree.

    We can talk about climate all day long. If you look at a 2012 study done by Andrew Weaver at the University of Victoria, he was a lead IPCC author. He said — he and a colleague looked at this and said that even if all of the 170 billion barrels of oil in the oil sands of Canada were burned, his quote was the impact in terms of climate change would “be almost undetectable at our significance level.”

    This climate change argument is a spurious one. Look, again, I will go back to what I said initially. This is about symbolism for the left and for the Democrats. And it’s unfortunately become a big fight between the Republicans and the Democrats, when I think this is clearly an infrastructure project that would benefit the U.S. national interest.

    GWEN IFILL: It sounds like you both agree on the idea that this is about something bigger, but not on what bigger.

    Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute and Jeremy Symons of the Environmental Defense Fund, thank you both very much.

    JEREMY SYMONS: Thank you.

    ROBERT BRYCE: Thank you kindly.

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    newswrap 02 24 15

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    GWEN IFILL: There will be no federal civil rights charges in the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. The Justice Department said they found insufficient evidence against George Zimmerman, who shot Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Florida.

    But, in a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder said: “Martin’s premature death necessitates that we be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface.”

    Zimmerman, who pleaded self-defense, was acquitted of second-degree murder the next year. Civil rights investigations continue into two other racially-charged cases, the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

    The secretary of Veterans Affairs apologized again today for falsely saying he served in the U.S. Special Forces. Robert McDonald made the claim last month in Los Angeles, telling a homeless veteran that, like him, he, too, had been in Special Forces. McDonald apologized for the misstatement today.

    ROBERT MCDONALD, Secretary of Veterans Affairs: In an attempt to connect with that veteran, to make him feel comfortable, I incorrectly stated that I, too, had been in Special Forces. That was wrong. And I have no excuse.

    GWEN IFILL: McDonald did serve as a paratrooper and qualified to be an Army Ranger, but he was never part of elite special forces units. The White House said it takes McDonald at his word, and doesn’t expect the incident to harm his work on veterans’ issues.

    A commuter train outside Los Angeles smashed into an abandoned truck early today and derailed. At least 28 people were taken to hospitals, some with critical injuries. The fiery wreck happened about 65 miles northwest of the city. Three of the Metrolink cars landed on their sides. The truck was scorched and cut in two. The truck driver turned up later. Police said he got tuck on the tracks and could not move the truck in time.

    The head of the Federal Reserve has signaled again there’s no immediate plan to raise interest rates. Instead, Janet Yellen told a Senate hearing today that the Central Bank will be patient. She said policy-makers on the Federal Open Market Committee are monitoring inflation and the job market.

    JANET YELLEN, Chair, Federal Reserve: The FOMC’s assessment that it can be patient in beginning to normalize policy means that the committee considers it unlikely that economic conditions will warrant an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate for at least the next couple of FOMC meetings.

    GWEN IFILL: Also today, Greece staved off bankruptcy, as European creditors agreed to extend its bailout by four months. That came after the new Greek government pledged to fight corruption and guaranteed new social spending will not bust its budget.

    Bombers struck with deadly effect today in two widely separated countries. In Iraq, at least 40 people died in car bombings and other attacks in and near Baghdad. Islamic State militants were suspected. And suicide bombers in Nigeria killed at least 26 people. Authorities blamed Boko Haram.

    Also in Nigeria, an American missionary, Reverend Phyllis Sortor, was kidnapped last night. The Free Methodist church said she was taken from a school compound in Kogi state, possibly for ransom.

    And Islamic State forces have abducted at least 70 Christians in Northeastern Syria. The captives are part of an Assyrian minority that goes back to ancient times.

    The Obama administration today defended its nuclear negotiations with Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate hearing that U.S. policy remains the same. Iran, he said, will not get a nuclear weapon. He spoke amid reports of a potential deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear activities for 10 years, then slowly ease the curbs.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: Anybody running around right now jumping in to say, well, we don’t like the deal or this or that doesn’t know what the deal is. And there is no deal yet. And I caution people to wait and see what these negotiations produce.

    GWEN IFILL: The White House also dismissed reports that it’s negotiating a 10-year deal with Tehran.

    The percentage of Americans who lack health insurance has dipped to its lowest point in seven years. The drop last year, shown in a new Gallup-Healthways survey, came as President Obama’s health care overhaul took full effect. More than half of those who are still uninsured said they plan to get coverage, rather than pay penalties.

    On Wall Street today, the news on interest rates and Greece helped push stocks higher. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 90 points to close above 18200. The Nasdaq rose seven points on the day. And the S&P 500 added nearly six.

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    Tamara Gordon leads her 8th grader students in a history  lesson during class in an overflow classroom at Beltsville Academy in Maryland, Oct. 5, 2010. Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Tamara Gordon leads her 8th grader students in a history lesson during class in an overflow classroom at Beltsville Academy in Maryland, Oct. 5, 2010. Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The White House is threating to veto a Republican bill to fix the widely criticized No Child Left Behind law that is set for debate in the House on Wednesday, calling it “a significant step backwards.”

    Republicans say the bill would restore local control in schools and stop top-down education mandates. Democrats say it would allow billions in federal dollars to flow out without ensuring they will improve student learning.

    The White House said the measure “abdicates the historic federal role in elementary and secondary education of ensuring the educational progress of all of America’s students, including students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English learners, and students of color.”

    The White House’s statement Wednesday is the latest in a series of veto threats issued since both chambers of Congress went under Republican control last month for the first time in Barack Obama’s presidency.

    A vote is expected on Friday, and it’s possible that members will vote strictly along party lines. That’s what happened with a similar bill in 2013.

    The bill maintains annual federal testing requirements. It consolidates or eliminates many federal programs, creates a single local grant program and allows public money to follow low-income children to different public schools. It would also prohibit the federal education secretary from demanding changes to state standards or imposing conditions on states in exchange for a waiver around federal law.

    The bipartisan law President George W. Bush signed in 2002 sought to close significant gaps in the achievement of historically underserved group of students and their more affluent peers. It mandated annual testing in reading and math for students in grades three to eight and again in high school. Schools had to show student growth or face consequences.

    No Child Left Behind required that all students be able to read and do math at grade level by 2014. The Obama administration in 2012 began allowing waivers around some of the law’s more stringent requirements if schools agreed to certain conditions, like using college- and career-ready standards such as Common Core.

    House Republican leaders view the bill as a way to show their opposition to the Obama administration’s encouragement of the Common Core state standards. The standards have been adopted in more than 40 states and spell out what English and math skills students should master at each level. They have become a political issue in many states because they are viewed by critics as a federal effort even though they were developed by U.S. governors.

    In the Senate, there appears to be more of a bipartisan effort to fix the law. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the committee’s senior Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have said they were working together on a proposal. Alexander said this week he wants to get a bill to the full Senate in March.

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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) campaigns at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, January 8, 2008, on the day of the New Hampshire Primary. Photo  by Jason Reed/Reuters

    The face of America, seen in its younger generations, is changing. By 2060, it is projected that nearly two-thirds of all the children born in the U.S. will be non-white. Photo of then-candidate Barack Obama at Dartmouth College in 2008 by Jason Reed/Reuters

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Up to the House now on DHS funding
    • A look at demography and what it will mean for the political parties for the next generations
    • The Democratic divide on display in Chicago, as Rahm Emanuel becomes first Chicago mayor forced into a primary runoff

    Obama’s aggressive posture on immigration, as McConnell waves the white flag on DHS funding: With just three days until a looming shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security over conservative opposition to President Obama’s executive action on immigration, the president leans into the issue at a forum on immigration in Miami. The event, at 3:45 pm EST, will be hosted by MSNBC’s Jose Diaz Balart. The president’s aggressive posture comes as Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell blinked in the showdown with the president over DHS funding. McConnell opened a path to split out the funding bill — it would fund DHS through Sept. 30 — and a separate measure that would be a protest vote against the president’s executive action. It’s not clear at this point what the House will do, but once again, over to you Speaker Boehner.

    Is demography destiny? Speaking of immigration, it takes us to the issue of demographics. Hispanics are one of the largest and fastest-growing voting blocs in the country and stand to be a political powerhouse over the next two generations. On Tuesday, two groups that don’t always agree — the left-leaning Center for American Progress and the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute — released a report projecting out demography to 2060. It showed that the country is getting more diverse, more educated and older.

    Here are five charts from the report’s data that capture the change:

    (1, 2) Majority-Minority states — 2014 vs. 2060: Currently, just four states are majority-minority, places where non-whites are a greater percentage of the population than whites — California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas. But by 2060, that will jump to 22 states.

    immigration U.S. map 1

    Immigration U.S. map 2

    (3) Diversification of children: By 2060, the two groups project that nearly two-thirds of all the children born in the U.S. will be non-white. That is a huge switch from a generation ago when just a quarter of all children were non-white.

    Immigration U.S. map 3

    (4) The decline of the white-working class: Whites without a college degree have decreased from 73 percent in 1974 to just 47 percent today. There are a whole host of reasons for that, but if that trend continues, which is likely, it will mean that the class of factory, auto workers and the like, will be a very small percentage of the population. College degrees are more important to job success today than ever before and that is expected to continue.

    Immigration U.S. map 4

    (5) The increase in the unmarried population: The number of people who are unmarried is expected to increase as it has over the past 40 years. That will have a tremendous affect on policymaking.

    Immigration U.S. map 5

    The demography likely helps Democrats in the long term… These numbers present a series of potential hurdles for both political parties. On the face of it, though, the demography favors Democrats. And that is largely true. But Democrats shouldn’t bank on it or take it for granted. Republicans already know the challenge and are going to make a serious play — at some point — for non-white voters. They won’t be able to continue to win with just whites alone. But even though minority voters have trended in Democrats’ favor, things can change. For example, as those new immigrant voter groups become more assimilated, established, and educated, traditional pay-fairness issues Democrats have used to their advantage could lose some of their resonance.

    …But Democrats have their own problems: What’s more, Democrats released their own preliminary “autopsy” over the weekend that noted the party has its own demographic problem, especially in midterms, and notably with Southern whites. “In order to win elections, the Democratic Party must reclaim voters that we’ve lost including white Southern voters…,” the Democratic National Committee report stated. The nine-page document, however, gives no prescription for how to do so. In fact, it seems to make the case that all Democrats need to do is package their messaging better. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it sounds a little like Republicans after their much more expansive autopsy following the 2012 presidential election. Remember, (Eric Cantor), whether you’re Domino’s or a local struggling corner pizza place, no one is going to eat your food if you just change the box and not the pizza. Democratic officials caution that the report was just “preliminary” and that the party’s task force will wrap up its work with fuller recommendations in May.

    Democratic divide on display in Chicago: But signs of a divide within the party were also on display Tuesday night, when former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel failed to cross the 50 percent threshold in the Chicago mayor’s race to avoid a runoff, making him the first incumbent mayor in Chicago history not to avoid a primary runoff. He led Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a former Alderman and state senator, just 45 to 34 percent, a far higher percentage than Garcia had been expected to get, based on polling. Many Democrats in Chicago, and teachers’ unions in particular, have been upset with Emanuel’s handling of its schools. Randi Weingarten, president of the largest teachers’ union in the country, the American Federation of Teachers, said the result “showed a real yearning for a mayor who listens to working families.” MoveOn called it “a huge win for progressives and working families.” Liberal group Democracy for America, led by Jim Dean, brother of Howard Dean, said it will help Garcia in the next six weeks to “harness that grassroots energy into a broad-based progressive movement that will bring Elizabeth Warren-style, populist progressive reform to Chicago in the years to come.”

    Millions of dollars, Obama, weren’t enough to lift Emanuel: It now means six more weeks of campaigning with the runoff April 7. All this, despite a multi-million-dollar campaign waged by Emanuel (he spent $4.7 million in the fourth quarter) AND a last-minute effort by President Obama, who showed up to help Emanuel. In New York, there were and are questions of whether Mayor Bill de Blasio is too liberal for the city. In Chicago, there are questions now of whether Emanuel is too moderate. Let’s be clear, Democrats’ split doesn’t come close to what Republicans have faced between the establishment and the tea party, but splinters are starting to show. The seeds are there, and that rift would grow even wider if Democrats wind up completely out of power. It’s also fascinating that this is happening to Emanuel, the man who led the Democratic charge to take over the House in 2006. With his approach at reaching out to more conservative candidates, the party controlled the House until the 2010 wave that saw them lose 63 seats in mostly those conservative, redrawn districts. But his tactics and message irked some party loyalists, who thought he was straying too far from the party’s core values.

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1793, President George Washington held the first Cabinet meeting. Who were the four original members of Washington’s cabinet? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Shawn Sullivan (@ShawnSull) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: Why was President Andrew Johnson impeached? The answer: for Violating the Tenure of Office Act by removing Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War.


    • The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, kicks off Wednesday in Washington with an “activist boot camp”. It’s part of the event organizers’ attempt at making the conference more interactive rather than just a series of speeches. Here are some choice panels over the next few days: “Where Should America Go to War?” “Immigration: Can Conservatives Reach a Consensus?” “Common Core: Rotten to the Core?” “The Conservative Replacement to Obamacare,” “So You’re a Libertarian: Who Cares?” “Countering the ‘War on Women’ Lie,” “Their Vote Doesn’t Matter: Getting Out OUR Vote,” “Tweet to Win: A Case Study,” “The Making of a Political Pundit: A Newsroom Insider’s View on Getting on TV,” “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Community Organizing for Conservatives,” “We’re Watching You: How to Video Track 24/7,” “Lies Told to You by Liberals: The Real Face of the Ultra-Left,” “Vote Early, Vote Often: How to Combat Election (Voter) Fraud” (with James O’Keefe), “Can Islam and Democracy Co-Exist?”

    • There will, of course, be the cavalcade of speeches from potential presidential candidates, beginning Thursday and continuing into Saturday. Here’s the full agenda and list of key speakers (in order of scheduled appearance) … Thursday: Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin; Friday: Newt Gingrich, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, John Bolton.

    • Ohio Governor John Kasich’s State of the State speech last night cast him as a fiscal conservative rather than compassionate conservative, the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes.

    • Hillary Clinton “gently scolded” Silicon Valley on gender issues at an appearance yesterday.

    • Politico’s Josh Gerstein looks through hundreds of State Department documents to highlight potential ethics questions for the Hillary Clinton camp raised by former President Bill Clinton’s paid speeches.

    • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads with 25 percent in Quinnipiac’s Iowa caucus poll.

    • Sen. Rand Paul just got a boost in his push to run for re-election and for president in the same year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now is endorsing the idea of a presidential caucus in Kentucky, which would give Paul a way around the state’s campaign laws.

    • Former Vice President Dan Quayle is co-hosting a fundraiser in Arizona next week for Right to Rise, the super PAC backing Jeb Bush.

    • Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina formed the Carly for America super PAC Tuesday.


    • GOP vs GOP: the tense battle over DHS funds and immigration now officially may put McConnell and Boehner on different sides.

    • National Security Adviser Susan Rice called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to the U.S. and address](http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/susan-rice-benjamin-netanyahu-congress-trip-115484.html) to Congress “destructive.”

    • Republicans conceded Tuesday that they wouldn’t have the signatures for a legislative response to net neutrality. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to approve regulations to regulate Internet service like a public utility.

    • As the Center for Public Integrity details, Mitt Romney’s presidential committee still makes money by renting the personal information of its major supporters to companies that then sell it to special interest groups. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sent an email Monday from “Protect Internet Freedom” to Romney’s email list criticizing net neutrality.

    • Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., has hired two defense attorneys and a PR firm to handle accusations about his free-spending of campaign and office money.

    • Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan is likely to take Michael Grimm’s seat in Congress, but his role in the Eric Garner chokehold case and the grand jury’s inaction is earning him critics. On Staten Island though, his law enforcement background is a welcome change from Grimm.

    • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

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    Photo by John Fedele/Getty Images

    Photo by John Fedele/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.


    Ask the Medicare Maven

    Medicare rules and private insurance plans can affect people differently depending on where they live. To make sure the answers here are as accurate as possible, Phil is working with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). It is funded by the government but is otherwise independent and trains volunteers to provide consumer Medicare counseling in state and local offices around the country. The non-profit Medicare Rights Center is also providing on-going help.

    Moeller is a research fellow at the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College and co-author of “How to Live to 100.” Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoeller or e-mail him at medicarephil@gmail.com.

    Before answering a particularly thorny Medicare question, here are two recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) consumer decisions worth sharing: 1) CMS payments to Medicare Advantage insurers will not change much in 2016 compared with this year; 2) Tougher quality ratings standards for roughly 15,000 nursing homes are now in place.

    1. Medicare Advantage plans have become increasingly popular and are now the choice of roughly 17 million Medicare beneficiaries. They offer more coverage than traditional Medicare and also include some of the features of Medicare Supplement plans, usually at a lower cost. Most MA plans also offer drug coverage under Part D of Medicare, and thus represent a conveniently bundled and often cost-effective choice that consumers find appealing.

      Under earlier government policies, MA plans enjoyed a government subsidy compared with rates for traditional fee-for-service Medicare (parts A and B). Under terms of the Affordable Care Act, CMS has been narrowing this relative pricing edge. For 2016, the agency says, insurers would receive about 1 percent less from CMS. However, once insurers adjust their mix of billed services, quality-based rate adjustments, and other options, CMS said it expects overall insurer revenues to rise by slightly more than 1 percent.

      Higher co-pays, deductibles, and drug prices can be harder to spot than premium changes.

      After allowing for public and industry comments, CMS will lock in next year’s rates in early April, and insurers will use these rates to propose specific plans for the 2016 program year. Given the outlook for minimal changes, it will be important for consumers to check out plan details to make sure their current insurers aren’t shifting costs to consumers. Higher co-pays, deductibles, and drug prices can be harder to spot than premium changes.

    2. Although many nursing homes have improved service in recent years, the government’s rating system was widely considered too easy. It was also based on self-reported quality indicators that were not checked by CMS for accuracy. About 80 percent of all homes received either four or five stars under the old rating system. As of Feb. 20, only 49 percent had such high marks. The number of low-performing one-star nursing homes increased from one in 12 to one in eight.
      The number of low-performing one-star nursing homes increased from one in 12 to one in eight.

      The most visible component of the change will penalize homes that make excessive use of anti-psychotic drugs. According to the agency, the new standards will:

      • Include use of antipsychotics in calculation of the star ratings. These medications are often used for diagnoses that do not warrant them. The two existing quality measures – for short-stay and long-stay patients – will now be part of the calculation for the quality measures star rating.
      • Have improved calculations for staffing levels. Research indicates that staffing is important to overall quality in a nursing home.
      • Reflect higher standards for nursing homes to achieve a high rating on the quality measure dimension on the website.

      The new ratings are now posted on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. Consumer advocates say they are a work in progress, with much room for continued improvement.

    Ted – N.C.: What can be done when the information about the health care providers in my health insurance network is changed so much from the prior year that it cannot be an accident? The hospital I usually go to was in the 2014 provider network book and not in the 2015 network book, which was not provided to me until after I had enrolled in the plan for 2015.

    “The hospital I usually go to was in the 2014 provider network book and not in the 2015 network book, which was not provided to me until after I had enrolled in the plan for 2015.”

    Further, of the 27 primary doctors that are supposed to be participating members of my health care insurance plan, only six are members. One of the doctors listed has been retired for years. The insurance Company is Cigna HealthSpring MedicareRX Preferred HMO.

    Phil Moeller: I’m betting lots of folks are, or at some point will be, in Ted’s shoes. Medicare Advantage plans, as already noted, have become very popular. One of the major ways they can offer attractive coverage options at affordable rates is by setting up cost-effective provider networks that consumers must use, or else pay higher out-of-network prices for their health care needs. For financial and other reasons, there is a lot of competitive pressure on insurers to change network providers. These types of changes caught Ted off guard and, I suspect, will become a growing problem for MA plans and their customers.

    Normally, people who sign up for Medicare plans are locked into them for the full ensuing year unless they move or have another life-changing event that would entitle them to a special enrollment period where they could pick a new plan. Several weeks ago, Medicare announced that it would consider letting people out of their Medicare Advantage plans if their insurers made substantial changes to their network providers after a plan year had begun. This new policy was disclosed in connection with major network changes and confusion involving Aetna prescription drug plans.

    An Aetna spokeswoman said that CMS’ extension of a special enrollment period to some of its customers was not caused by provider network changes, but by mistaken listings – on CMS and Aetna websites – of pharmacies participating in Aetna’s network. She said the company is monitoring claims from incorrectly listed pharmacies and then working with consumers to help them find an in-network pharmacy and to call CMS to discuss other plan options for 2015.

    Separately, she added, Aetna did make substantial network changes last year that took effect in 2015. These changes were properly made and communicated last year, she said, but there has been confusion among some Aetna Medicare Advantage customers. It has thus been offering consumers the temporary right, through the end of February, to have their prescriptions filled at in-network rates at any pharmacy in the company’s network. This temporary action, she noted, is a company decision and not an offer of a special enrollment period under the new CMS guidelines.

    Ted’s situation seems significant to me, but Medicare has not provided any public definition of what it considers substantial. This is not easy stuff to do, so I’m not piling on CMS. But this doesn’t help Ted.

    “CMS will review provider network changes on a case by case basis to determine when a provider network change is significant,” a spokesman said via email. “Medicare Advantage plans are required to notify affected enrollees at least 30 days prior to the provider termination(s). If the plan is making a significant change to its network, the Medicare Advantage plan must notify CMS 90 days prior to implementation of the changes. Enrollees who have questions should call their Medicare Advantage plan.”

    If Ted doesn’t get a satisfactory response from Cigna, he could then complain to Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE). The spokesman further said that CMS has not publicly identified such plans.

    “While CMS has not announced a new SEP specifically for Aetna or other plan enrollees,” the CMS spokesman said, “it has been the agency’s long-standing policy that any time a beneficiary is provided with misleading marketing information, they may contact 1-800-MEDICARE to report the marketing misinformation and request to switch to a different plan.”

    I called Cigna and asked them about changes to this plan. A spokesman said the company would be in touch with Ted but did not comment on his plan or respond to Ted’s claims that it made excessive changes in the provider network used in his plan.

    The post When your doctor is in-network one year and out the next appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    File photo of then-U.S. Consul General Katherine Dhanani (second from right) visiting the Barkas area in the old city of Hyderabad, India, on Nov. 30, 2010. Dhanani was nominated on Feb. 24, 2015, to be the U.S. ambassador to Somalia. Photo by Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

    File photo of then-U.S. Consul General Katherine Dhanani (second from right) visiting the Barkas area in the old city of Hyderabad, India, on Nov. 30, 2010. Dhanani was nominated on Feb. 24, 2015, to be the U.S. ambassador to Somalia. Photo by Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

    President Obama has nominated Katherine Dhanani, a long-time diplomat with a specialty in African affairs, to be the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991.

    Dhanani is currently director of regional and security affairs at the State Department’s Africa bureau. Her past posts include India, Mexico, Guyana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African countries.

    The ambassadorship requires Senate confirmation. If confirmed, Dhanani would lead the U.S. mission in Somalia, which for security reasons is still based in Nairobi, Kenya. “As security conditions permit, we look forward to increasing our diplomatic presence in Somalia and eventually reopening the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Tuesday.

    The reinstallation of an ambassador in Mogadishu is “a reflection both of our deepening relationship with the country and of our faith that better times are ahead,” Wendy Sherman, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said in June about the upcoming announcement.

    She said increased U.S. aid to the East African nation includes military assistance to help fight militant group al-Shabab. “The campaign against al-Shabab is an essential part of Somalia’s struggle to recover. Equally critical, however, is progress in establishing governing institutions that are capable and credible.”

    The U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu closed in 1991 after the Somali government collapsed and the country entered a civil war. A U.S. military presence remained in Somalia, but that withdrew as well after what became known as the Black Hawk Down incident in 1993, when Somali militiamen shot down two U.S. helicopters, killing 18 service members.

    Relations began to improve after civil and political activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected president in 2012, and the United States officially recognized the Somali government in 2013.

    “Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation,” said Psaki. “The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner.”

    Ahmed Samatar, Somali-born dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship at Macalester College, said the new ambassador will have her hands full in a country plagued by terrorist violence, corruption, an impoverished society including a large refugee population, and the secessionist struggle over the northern region of Somaliland, which declared its independence from Somalia after the overthrow of the Siad Barre dictatorship in 1991.

    “Since the vast majority of the people of Somaliland are adamant to go their own way, how would this ambassador deal with this and look after U.S. interests?” he asked.

    Now isn’t the time for the United States to officially recognize the Somali government, let alone appoint an ambassador, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

    The Somali government has little influence beyond the capital. Instability within the current regime has meant the turnover of two prime ministers and “countless cabinet reshuffles,” he said. “Given the relatively brief tenures which they can expect to hold, senior government officials largely view their appointments as opportunities for self-enrichment and other corruption before they are forced to move on.”

    The progress that Somalia has made recently is mainly on the military front against al-Shabab militants, and that “has been largely the work of the African Union forces which have deployed in larger numbers and with better training,” along with help from U.S. intelligence and special operations, said Pham.

    So “the decision to recognize such a so-called government is the worst of both worlds: recognized sovereignty hampers freedom of action against terrorist threats by U.S. forces while ineffective sovereignty means we don’t really get a worthwhile ally in exchange for the limitations,” he said.

    Richard Downie, deputy director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Africa Program, said in order to move forward, the Somali government needs to start delivering tangible gains to its citizens, including security, water, basic health services and education.

    Its regular bouts of political infighting “confirm the suspicions of the general public that their leaders are more concerned with satisfying their own ambitions than with improving the lives of ordinary Somalis,” he said.

    The post Obama selects first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Digital Vision via Getty Images.

    On the whole, economic conditions are looking up for college graduates. But a lot depends on what you study and the level of degree you obtain. Photo by Digital Vision via Getty Images.

    As high school seniors wait in anticipation for thick envelopes in the mailbox this spring, their thoughts may drift to what they’ll study when they enroll in their chosen schools. There’s renewed evidence this month that that’s not a decision to make lightly. Regardless of where your degree is from, what it’s in will affect your ability to get a job and how much you make.

    There was a time, not so long ago, when the benefit of going to college at all, regardless of major, was in doubt. The college wage premium — how much more college grads earn than high school grads — flattened out in the early 2000s, after rising quickly during the 1970s and early ‘80s. What was the point of going to college if your job and earnings prospects weren’t much better when you graduated than before? But today, the outlook is improving, said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce and lead author of CEW’s recent report, “Hard Times to Better Times.”

    That’s not to say college grads are suddenly earning a lot more. Wages are stagnant, and in fact, of all educational groups, workers with bachelor’s and advanced degrees saw the largest decline in real wages between 2013 and 2014, according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. But the college wage premium endures, as it has for years, said Carnevale, in part because high school grads have also seen a drop in earnings.

    For any young adult trying to decide his or her path, Carnevale offers two pieces of advice: One, he said, “Get all the education you can get.”

    Earning a graduate degree is still the strongest protection against the effects of a recession. Although the earnings of experienced graduate degree holders have declined, those workers still do much better than young and experienced workers with only a high school diploma.

    Carnevale’s second piece of advice: “What you take determines what you make.” As you can see in the graphic below, how much better you do depends on the field of study. If all you cared about was money, Carnevale said, the best major is petroleum engineering. Workers who recently earned an engineering B.A. have a wage premium (compared to median earnings of all workers with a high school diploma, which is $32,000) of 78 percent.


    The premium for recent college grads who majored in the arts or psychology is far less. Those are fields, along with education, Carnevale said, where you’ve got to earn a master’s degree to earn more than experienced high school grads. The same can be said for the humanities.

    Overall though, in today’s “knowledge economy,” college grads, event recent ones, have the advantage, especially when it comes to employment prospects. Recent college grads now have lower unemployment rates than experienced high school grads. That wasn’t the case 40 years ago, said Carnevale. In the 1970s, a unionized industrial worker would have had a much easier time finding a job than a humanities major. (By the way, employment in this study, based on American Community Survey data, refers to full-time employment.)

    Unemployment rates for most, but not all, majors fell from 2009 to 2012. Rates of unemployment are actually still increasing for recent college grads who majored in communications and journalism, and getting a graduate degree doesn’t help. Recent graduate-degree holders who majored in communications and journalism as undergraduates still have rising unemployment rates, as do recent graduate-degree holders who majored in law and public policy as undergraduates.

    unemployment by undergrad major


    Two undergrad majors — architecture and social sciences — are leaving their graduates in a worse place than experienced high school grads in terms of finding a job.The misfortunes of both, Carenvale said, follow somewhat cyclical stories of recession and recovery.

    The collapse of credit markets, and subsequently the building and construction sectors, hit architecture majors hard. The underperformance of social science majors was more surprising to Carnevale. But those majors are highly concentrated in government and nonprofits, which he said have suffered from public funds drying up during the recovery.

    So how does your major stack up and was it a worthwhile choice?


    Many a college student has heard that learning coding is a faster ticket to greener pastures than, say, studying Kafka. But at 8.3 percent, the unemployment rate for recent computer science majors is surprisingly high — higher than journalism majors and almost as high as — heaven forbid — liberal arts majors!

    Computer science, Carnevale said, has become the major du jour. Because it’s so in vogue, though, its tent has been expanded to include some roles, like customer service, that rely on computers but don’t require the hard technical skills we associate with the major, like programming. It’s those peripheral jobs within the industry that are a drag on the major’s employment figures.

    Carnevale’s biggest take-away isn’t about which major is best, although he does think schools should be forced to make transparent the earnings of different majors. It’s that slowly improving conditions for college grads say a lot about the nature of our economic woes: “It’s cyclical, stupid,” said Carnevale. “Here we are, right on schedule.”

    He projects that we’re heading for a full employment recovery for recent college graduates by 2017. In his opinion, that would be an unemployment rate somewhere below 4 percent, as opposed to the current 7.5 percent for recent grads ages 22 to 26 (it’s currently 2.8 percent for all college graduates). The college wage premium will strengthen, too, as the labor market tightens, Carnevale said. But again, that will depend on one’s major. The premium is likely to rise for STEM majors. For liberal arts majors? Don’t get your hopes up.

    The post These college majors will get you a well-paying job appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A pedestrian carries an Abercrombie and Fitch shopping bag on May 24, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  Teen apparel retailer Abercrombie and Fitch discriminated against a Muslim teenager who wore a headscarf to a job interview. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    A pedestrian carries an Abercrombie and Fitch shopping bag on May 24, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The Supreme Court is weighing a claim over whether teen apparel retailer Abercrombie and Fitch discriminated against a Muslim teenager who wore a headscarf to a job interview. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is considering the employment discrimination claim of a Muslim woman who was turned down for a job by clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch after she showed up at her job interview wearing a black headscarf that conflicted with the company’s dress code.

    The case being argued Wednesday explores when an employer must take steps to accommodate the religious beliefs of a worker or job applicant. Central to the case is that applicant Samantha Elauf never explicitly voiced her religious views or her need to wear a headscarf on the job, although the assistant store manager who interviewed her correctly assumed Elauf was a Muslim who dressed as she did for religious reasons.

    Abercrombie & Fitch has since changed its policy on headscarves and has settled similar lawsuits elsewhere. But it has continued to fight Elauf’s claim at the Supreme Court.

    Elauf was 17 when she interviewed for a “model” position, as the company calls its sales staff, at an Abercrombie Kids store in a shopping mall in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2008. She impressed the assistant store manager. But her application faltered over her headscarf, or hijab, because it conflicted with the company’s Look Policy, a code derived from Abercrombie’s focus on what it calls East Coast collegiate or preppy style.

    At the time of the interview, the policy required employees to dress in a way that’s consistent with the clothing Abercrombie sells, and it prohibited wearing headscarves or anything in black. The company has said it changed its headscarf policy as early as 2010, but the ban on black clothing remains. Abercrombie & Fitch has since changed its policy on headscarves and has settled similar lawsuits elsewhere. But it has continued to fight Samantha Elauf’s claim at the Supreme Court.The woman who conducted the interview consulted with a more senior supervisor and then decided not to hire Elauf.

    The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit on Elauf’s behalf, and a jury eventually awarded her $20,000.

    But the federal appeals court in Denver threw out the award and concluded that Abercrombie & Fitch could not be held liable because Elauf never asked the company to relax its policy against headscarves.

    Organizations of state and local governments are supporting the company out of concerns that, if the EEOC prevails, they would be subject to more discrimination claims as large employers.

    Muslim, Christian and Jewish advocacy organizations have weighed in on Elauf’s side, as have gay-rights groups.

    A legal brief on behalf of Orthodox Jews argues that requiring job applicants to voice the need for religion-related special treatment makes them less likely to be hired, with no reason given for the decision. Orthodox Jews who wear a skullcap, or yarmulke, or who may not work on Saturdays are routinely advised to withhold that information until after they are hired, lawyer Nathan Lewin said in his Supreme Court filing.

    The post Justices weigh case of Muslim denied job over headscarf appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In this photo illustration, network cables are plugged in a server room on Nov. 10, 2014 in New York City. Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images

    In this photo illustration, network cables are plugged in a server room on Nov. 10, 2014 in New York City. Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Is President Barack Obama taking over the Internet? Not by a long stretch, but that’s not stopping political banter in the “net neutrality” debate.

    The Federal Communications Commission will vote Thursday on whether to put Internet service in the same regulatory camp as your telephone. That means broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile must act in the “public interest” when providing your Internet connection and conduct business in ways that are “just and reasonable.”

    The goal, as stated by regulators: Prevent those service providers from creating paid Internet “fast lanes” and charging sites such as Google, YouTube and Netflix to move their data faster than others.

    Some critics talk about the plan like it’s a government takeover of your Netflix account. Supporters say it’ll protect the status quo without price controls or new taxes. But the lobbyists and politicians aren’t telling the whole story.

    Here’s a look at some of the questionable rhetoric in the “net neutrality” debate:

    THE CLAIM: “President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet.” — Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.

    THE FACTS: It’s a shift for sure, but the FCC hasn’t proposed regulating Internet content or controlling access to websites. The question is how to regulate Internet service so providers don’t block or slow web traffic for financial gain.

    FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says the only way to do that is to subject retail Internet service to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. That would expand FCC power significantly by allowing regulators to step in if there were allegations of harm to consumers. But it’s a reach to suggest that these new powers equate to a government takeover.

    Also worth noting is that the FCC is independent from the administration. While Obama has put pressure on the FCC to enact tougher regulations, and he appointed Wheeler to head the agency, this is not the president’s call.

    THE CLAIM: FCC Chairman “Wheeler has chosen to ignore the unprecedented Internet innovation, investment and job creation that have all thrived without government intervention and regulation.” — Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a Feb. 19 statement.

    THE FACTS: It is true that the Internet has flourished and is lightly regulated compared with other industries. It’s also true that this exponential growth occurred under a system in which broadband providers mostly agreed not to discriminate against Web traffic.

    Providers operated under the threat of regulation for several years until late 2010, when the FCC adopted open Internet rules. Those rules were in effect until early 2014, when a federal court struck them down. So it’s not true that there hasn’t been any government regulation.

    The CLAIM: “There will be no rate regulation” of Internet service. — FCC Chairman Wheeler.

    THE FACTS: Under Wheeler’s plan, broadband providers won’t have to get their rates approved ahead of time by the FCC. But the law would allow the FCC to step in if charges were “unjust or unreasonable.” The law also allows the FCC to investigate consumer complaints.

    So it’s possible that consumers can claim price gouging and regulators will get involved. Mobile voice services have been under similar rules for years, and the FCC points out that it has never regulated those prices.

    THE CLAIM: “No tariffs or new taxes.” — FCC Chairman Wheeler.

    THE FACTS: Wheeler’s plan won’t apply new fees or taxes. The Internet Tax Freedom Act bans taxes on Internet service, and that law should still apply even if the FCC reclassifies the Internet as a telecommunications service under Title II.

    What Wheeler doesn’t mention is that the tax ban expires again in October. Unless Congress passes a permanent bill, as some lawmakers want, state governments are likely to start pushing back on this temporary relief bill, especially as landline revenues decline. It’s a legitimate question to ask — how long the Internet will remain insulated from higher state fees after being declared a vital public utility.

    THE CLAIM: The FCC plan “represents a stunning reversal of the policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations.” It will backtrack on “decades of bipartisan agreement to limit Internet regulation.” — Former FCC commissioner Robert McDowell in an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal.

    THE FACTS: The question of Internet “fast lanes” is far more pressing for Obama than it ever was for Clinton or Bush. In 2000, only 3 percent of American households had broadband access, compared with 70 percent by 2013, according to the Pew Research Center.

    It wasn’t until President George W. Bush’s second term, in 2005, that YouTube became available and video services like Netflix became more popular. By the time the FCC voted in 2008 against Comcast for throttling Web traffic, Bush was nearing the end of his presidency.

    The post Talking heads skew ‘net neutrality’ debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    computer page urlWhether it is a website, gadget or the latest iPhone app, technology is available to simplify almost every part of daily life.

    A number of new technologies are geared toward older users or connecting caregivers with resources and support. From services such as Doctor on Demand, which allows users to schedule a video appointment with a licensed physician via their smartphone, laptop or tablet, to apps such as Pill Reminder Pro, which reminds users of the dosage and frequency of their medication, technology can help older adults live independently longer. Meanwhile, websites such as CareLinx, an online community connecting families with in-home caregivers, help those seeking to support their aging loved ones.

    What other recent innovations help caregivers and older adults? What are the economic incentives for a company to create an app catering to older users? Does the intervention of technology threaten the traditionally personal nature of services such as in-home caregiving and medical treatment?

    Share your opinion on Twitter, Thursday from 1-2 p.m. EST. Grace Andruszkiewicz and Michelle Maalouf of Aging 2.0 (@Aging20), an organization dedicated to accelerating innovations that improve the lives of older adults, will also join the conversation. Follow along and chime in using #NewsHourChats.

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    Artificial intelligence program deep Q-network teaches itself to play classic Atari games like Space Invaders. Video courtesy Google DeepMind with permission from Square Enix Ltd.

    A new artificial intelligence program from Google DeepMind has taught itself how to play classic Atari 2600 games. And it can probably beat your high score.

    Deep Q-network, or DQN, can play 49 Atari games “right out of the box,” says Demis Hassabis, world-renowned gamer and founder of DeepMind. Overall, it performed as well as a professional human video game tester, according to a study published this week in Nature. On more than half of the games, it scored more than 75 percent of the human score.

    This isn’t the first game-playing A.I. program. IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. In 2011, an artificial intelligence computer system named Watson won a game of Jeopardy against champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

    Watson and Deep Blue were great achievements, but those computers were loaded with all the chess moves and trivia knowledge they could handle, Hassabis said in a news conference Tuesday. Essentially, they were trained, he explained.

    But in this experiment, designers didn’t tell DQN how to win the games. They didn’t even tell it how to play or what the rules were, Hassabis said.

    “(Deep Q-network) learns how to play from the ground up,” Hassabis said. “The idea is that these types of systems are more human-like in the way they learn. Our brains make models that allow us to learn and navigate the world. That’s exactly the type of system we’re trying to design here.”

    To test DQN’s ability to learn and adapt, Hassabis and his team at DeepMind tried Atari 2600 games from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Atari games had the right level of complexity for the DQN software, Hassabis said. The software agent had access to the last four images on the screen and its score.

    By “looking” at the pixels on the screen and moving the controls, DQN taught itself to play over the course of several weeks, said Vlad Mnih, one of the authors on the paper, at Tuesday’s conference. It’s a process called “deep reinforcement learning,” Mnih said, where the computer learns through trial and error — the same way humans and other animals learn.

    “We are trying to explore the space of algorithms for intelligence. We have one example of (intelligence) — the human brain,” Hassabis said. “We can be certain that reinforced learning is something that works and something humans and animals use to learn.”

    Sometimes it learned to beat the games in ways the researchers didn’t expect. In Breakout, deep Q-network figured out how to tunnel through the wall, something the research team hadn’t thought of.

    Video courtesy Google DeepMind with permission from Atari Interactive Inc.

    But DQN failed at other games, particularly ones that required planning and foresight, like Ms. PacMan, Mnih said. And DQN can’t transfer what it learned from one situation to the next, Hassabis said. That’s something even toddlers can do, he added.

    “One of the issues is that it learns to play by pressing keys randomly, then figuring out high scores and what leads to that. In some games that strategy doesn’t work,” Mnih said.

    Google DeepMind is sticking with deep Q-networks video game training for now, moving up to Nintendo games from the 1990s, Hassabis said. Eventually he would love for the software agent to crack more complicated games like Starcraft and Civilization.

    Video games may be the testing ground, but this technology has real-world applications, Hassabis said. For example, if it masters driving a car in Grand Theft Auto, it could be used in self-driving cars, he said. Or it could learn how to make better predictions for the weather and financial markets. Hassabis and his team are already tinkering with parts of DQN’s algorithm to improve Google’s search function and mobile applications.

    “The ultimate goal is to build smart, general purpose machines,” Hassabis said. “I think the demonstration shows that this is possible. It’s a first baby step.”

    The post Artificial intelligence program teaches itself to play Atari games — and it can beat your high score appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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