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

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    Customers shop for "Green Friday" deals at the Grass Station marijuana shop on Black Friday in Denver, Colorado November 28, 2014. This is the first Black Friday since marijuana was legalized in Colorado January 1, 2014.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS) - RTR4FZLA

    Customers shop for “Green Friday” deals at the Grass Station marijuana shop on Black Friday in Denver, Colorado on Nov. 28, 2014. Colorado’s revenue department announced Friday that retailers sold more than 19 tons of bud and 2.9 million units of pot-infused edibles in 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Rick Wilking

    The facts are in about Colorado’s first year of legal recreational marijuana sales. Among them: Colorado retailers sold more than 19 tons of bud and 2.9 million units of pot-infused edibles in 2014.

    Colorado’s revenue department announced the findings Friday in a report on the state’s marijuana industry.

    According to a Washington Post analysis of state tax data, Colorado businesses sold nearly $700 million of marijuana in 2014.

    While medical dispensaries sold more flowering marijuana — the kind used for smoking — and account for a greater share of the pot market generally, the majority of edibles sold were for recreational use.

    Although they are lucrative for retailers, edibles have been a source of controversy in Colorado. The treats come in a variety of forms, from baked goods to gummy bears, and have been criticized as likely to appeal to children.

    Some Colorado hospitals have seen an increase in the number of children brought in for accidental marijuana ingestion, the Denver Post reported.

    Vendors also faced concerns about the potency of edibles, which could contain up to ten doses in one small treat, leading some people to mistakenly ingest more than intended.

    A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 58 percent of Coloradans support legalization one year after legal marijuana sales began in the state. Only 19 percent say they’ve used marijuana since it was legalized, however.

    On Feb. 26, the District of Columbia joined Colorado, Alaska and Washington state in legalizing recreational use and possession of marijuana.

    The post Colorado retailers sold 19 tons of pot in 2014, state report says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ken Gill of Conklin, NY holds a sign in favor for the drilling process of hydraulic fracturing for extracting natural gas while taking part in a demonstration at the Capitol in Albany, NY on  Jan. 25, 2010. Conklin's town supervisor mentioned seceding from New York to Pennsylvania late in 2014, in part over the fracking debate. An investigation into that possibility is going on now.  Credit: REUTERS/Hans Pennink.

    Ken Gill of Conklin, NY holds a sign in favor for the drilling process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) while taking part in a demonstration at the Capitol in Albany, NY on Jan. 25, 2010. Conklin’s town supervisor mentioned seceding from New York to Pennsylvania late in 2014, due in part to the fracking debate. Credit: REUTERS/Hans Pennink.

    An initially playful remark by an upstate New York town official about seceding to Pennsylvania after New York State banned hydraulic fracturing in December has spurred community interest into the possibility.

    The statement came late last year from Jim Finch, a supervisor for the town of Conklin, located along the northern border of Pennsylvania in New York’s Southern Tier.

    While secession is a long shot, it garnered further attention when it was included in a survey conducted by New York State Senator Tom Libous earlier this month, the Associated Press reported.

    survey.

    A survey by New York State Senator Tom Libous asked this question about secession to Pennsylvania, according to the Associated Press.

    According to a statement by the Upstate New York Towns Association, Finch’s initial remark about secession was in response to the state’s ban on hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the controversial deep drilling process to extract natural gas from shale rock – as well as a decision by the state to back casinos in upstate areas not including the Southern Tier.

    Finch’s town, along with others in the area sit atop the gas-rich Marcellus shale rock formation. If drilling companies were allowed to practice fracking that would mean additional jobs, as well as revenue for the economically depressed area.

    “The Southern Tier is desolate,” Finch told local media. “We have no jobs and no income. The richest resource we have is in the ground.”

    The town association, which represents around 15 upstate New York towns, began comparing taxes, as well as the cost of doing business in New York versus Pennsylvania.

    The post Upstate New York towns consider secession after state bans fracking appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman undergoes a free mammogram inside Peru's first mobile unit for breast cancer detection, in Lima

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Some cutting-edge research is giving new hope to cancer patients.

    Researchers are zeroing in on the causes of specific cancers and are finding dramatically different ways to fight the disease.

    To explain the latest findings, I’m joined by Dr. David Hyman, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center here in New York.

    So, as we talk about cancer, as we talk about hope, let’s just kind of clarify, what is the current way we treat cancers, and what are some of these new studies showing?

    DR. DAVID HYMAN, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: The historic ways that we have always treated cancers is by treating them based on the organ they come from, so treating patients with breast cancer or colon cancer or lung cancer identically.

    What these new types of studies are really asking is whether we can target specific mutations which are mistakes in the genes that arise in tumors and treat them the same even if they come from different organs.

    So we have recognized that there are certain mutations that we find across multiple disease types.

    And so one question is, can we really start to think about these diseases as diseases harboring mutation A or B, rather than lung cancers or colon cancers?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so how effective are these drugs when they target a specific mutation, instead of a specific region of the body that the cancer is coming from?

    DR. DAVID HYMAN: Well, they can be very dramatically effective in ways that are really previously unprecedented.

    So, we know, for example, in lung cancers, chemotherapy has a response rate at best in the 30 percent range.

    We have certain medicines now that target certain mutations in lung cancer where the majority of patients have benefit and their tumors shrink.

    And so what we are trying to do is take those early successes in lung cancer, in melanoma, and now extend those to the larger variety of cancers that we see.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So how much of a sea change is this? I mean, when you think about — as we began this conversation, in my own head, I was thinking lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, I mean, just like you said, right?

    And now you are talking about a completely different approach to even looking at and learning these cancers and saying, here is what makes you, you.

    DR. DAVID HYMAN: Yes, here is what makes this cancer tick or grow.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right. Right

    DR. DAVID HYMAN: It’s — it’s a really big change in the way that we think about cancer.

    It really is this idea of precision medicine, you know, not treating all patients the same, but treating their individual cancers based on really detailed analysis. And I think it really represents a sea change.

    Now, I don’t want to give the impression that the organ in which the cancer arises has no importance.

    And what we have actually seen in these studies is that certain cancer types may not respond the same.

    So, a colon cancer that has a BRAF mutation may not respond as well as a melanoma with a BRAF mutation.

    So I think it’s going to be a combination of understanding the genetics in the cancers that we treat, and also understanding the effect of the organ where they come from.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    So — and these clinical trials, are they different than the clinical trials that we are used to, where one person gets the placebo and they might or might not improve, and another person gets the real drug?

    DR. DAVID HYMAN: I think they are different in a variety of ways.

    Number one, most clinical trials in cancer have required specific disease types. So, everyone that goes on that trial has one type of cancer.

    The clinical trials that we’re doing now, these so-called basket studies, allow patients from any type of cancer to participate, as long as they have a mutation in their tumor that we think suggests they would benefit from the drug being tested.

    The other point is that these trials are typically not randomized trials, meaning that everybody that participates gets the drug.

    We know exactly what they’re getting. And the reason for that is that the benefit that we’re looking for in the form of what percentage of patients have significant shrinkage of their tumor is so high, that it’s previously unprecedented for those diseases.

    So, we don’t really need to do randomized studies, because, if half of the patients or more are having shrinkage of their tumor, there is really no question that that treatment is better than the established care.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    Dr. David Hyman, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, thanks so much.

    DR. DAVID HYMAN: Thank you.

    The post New cancer treatments target disease-causing mutations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman walks along a path past mounds of snow and ice along Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, February 26, 2015.  This February was the coldest on record for many cities across the US. Photo by Jim Young/REUTERS.

    A woman walks along a path past mounds of snow and ice along Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, February 26, 2015. This February was the coldest on record for many cities across the US. Photo by Jim Young/REUTERS.

    This past February was one of the coldest months ever recorded in a number of cities across the United States, NBC news reported. Cities in the Northeast and Midwest in particular were hit with record-breaking cold temperatures.

    According to local media reports, in Cleveland, February of 2015 was the coldest ever recorded and in Detroit, temperatures reached the coldest in 140 years.

    DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 2: A man cross country skis along the Detroit River on Belle Isle February 2, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit received over a foot of snow during a storm that has crippled much of the Midwest canceling thousands of flights around the country. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

    A man cross country skis along the Detroit River on Feb. 2, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. During the month of February in Detroit, temperatures reached the coldest in 140 years, according to local news reports. Credit: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

    In New York City, residents have endured the coldest February since 1934, the New York Times reported.

    What’s unusual wasn’t the cold itself, but rather its persistence. “Usually these patterns last for a week or so,” Corey Bogel, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Caribou, told NBC News. “In this case it’s been the whole month.”

    The first day of March felt much like the last day of February for many in the Northeast and Midwest, as Winter Storm Sparta brought in a fresh blanket of snow this weekend.

    In addition to injuries and transportation difficulties, the extreme cold can pose an additional strain on low-income families struggling to heat their homes.

    NewsHour Weekend reported from North Carolina last month on how local governments are increasingly partnering with private nonprofit organizations to try to find new ways to help poor families stay warm in the winter.

    Despite the cold hammering much of the country, California is still experiencing one of its warmest and driest winters in history.

    The post Last month was one of the coldest ever recorded in some U.S. cities appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ISISThreatsUS

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Federal investigators believe they have managed to capture three suspected ISIS sympathizers before they launched an attack.

    On Wednesday, U.S. law enforcement charged three Brooklyn men with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

    Two of the suspects allegedly planned to travel thousands of miles to fight under the flag of the Islamic State. If that didn’t work, they threatened to carry out attacks in the United States.

    New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton characterized the arrests, saying — quote — “This is real. This is the concern about the lone wolf.”

    We are joined now from Washington, D.C., by Andrew Grossman, who has been covering this story for The Wall Street Journal.

    So, Andrew, how did these arrests go down? What kind of tools did they use to get them?

    ANDREW GROSSMAN, The Wall Street Journal: What we saw here is actually a fairly common pattern that law enforcement in the U.S. has been using against people who might be plotting to join ISIS or other foreign terrorist groups.

    They first attracted authorities’ attention online with a post on an Uzbek-language Web site about threatening to kill the president.

    That got the attention of the Secret Service, other law enforcement in New York, and they began to, you know, keep an eye on these guys, eventually put them in touch with an informant, who worked with them, sort of sussed out what their intentions were.

    And then, as they got closer and closer — at one point, one of the — these — these men was going to go get on a plane at JFK. That is when they came in and made the arrests.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what about the possibility that, if they didn’t, say, make a threat to the life of the president, that they could have gone undetected altogether?

    ANDREW GROSSMAN: Well, that’s the big worry here.

    You know, I think the proliferation of online propaganda is really a double-edged sword here.

    You know, it’s luring people like this into — into — to get them — it gets them interested in going to join one of these groups. But, on the other hand, authorities can see a lot of that traffic.

    They can see when people are getting in touch with someone overseas who might want to help them travel.

    So, you know, it is — it’s — that is the big worry, though, is these lone wolves, as opposed to known wolves, as law enforcement has started calling them.

    The known wolves, at least they can sort of see and they keep an eye on.

    The lone wolves who might be radicalized by that propaganda and might go carry out an attack here are the big worry for law enforcement.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And there’s also been concern that the known wolves list is so large that we just don’t have the bodies to keep up and do surveillance on all these potential threats.

    ANDREW GROSSMAN: Right.

    I think it’s hundreds of thousands on the U.S.’ terrorist list alone. And the fear also is, you know, the U.S. has about 150 people who have traveled — attempted to travel or traveled to fight in Syria, not all for ISIS, but for various groups there.

    The Europeans — for Westerners as a whole, it’s about 3,400. And, now, that’s a worry for law enforcement because a lot of those people are from countries that have visa waivers.

    They can easily come to the U.S., or they can carry out attacks in Europe.

    So it’s a much bigger problem for law enforcement in allied countries, as we saw in France not too long ago.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is this a shift in a law enforcement approach?

    We were talking in the newsroom this morning this almost seems like the PreCrime division from the movie “Minority Report,” trying to figure out before you commit a crime, stopping you.

    ANDREW GROSSMAN: Right.

    And this has actually been somewhat controversial, this use of informants. And the FBI has been doing this, to some degree, since not long after September 11.

    A lot of these cases — you know, there have been cases where an informant or an undercover FBI operative gets in touch with someone who is — appears to be interested in doing, carrying out some sort of attack, and really walks them through the steps necessary to get them to the point where they’re — almost in certain cases have their hand on the trigger of what they think is a bomb, as we saw, for example, in a case in Chicago.

    And then, once they go push that trigger, it turns out that the whole thing is a setup.

    And you know, that — some of that has been controversial. The FBI says they really try to stay — they do stay on the side of letting the target, the suspect drive the operation.

    But, you know, there — it’s a very close, fine line between that and entrapment.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    Andrew Grossman of The Wall Street Journal, joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

    ANDREW GROSSMAN: Thanks, Hari.

    The post How the U.S. tracks Islamic State threats at home appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak Monday morning at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference, where U.N. Ambassador Samantha POwer and National Security Adviser Susan Rice will also speak. Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top U.S. officials were set to face off Monday in dueling speeches on the high-stakes Iran nuclear negotiations, a signature foreign policy objective of President Barack Obama.

    The backdrop for the rift between the longtime allies was the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. Netanyahu was to address the gathering Monday morning and his speech was to be bracketed by remarks from two senior U.S. officials: U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

    Netanyahu’s visit to Washington has sparked criticism in both the U.S. and Israel. The centerpiece of his trip is an address to Congress Tuesday, which came at the invitation of congressional Republicans and was not coordinated with the White House.

    Rice has been particularly sharp in her criticism of Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress, calling the move “destructive” to the fabric of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

    The Israeli leader is deeply suspicious of Obama’s efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, fearing the U.S. and its negotiating partners are prepared to leave Tehran on the cusp of developing a nuclear weapon.

    A Netanyahu adviser told reporters traveling with the prime minister to Washington Sunday that he was not coming to the U.S. capital to offend Obama.

    “The prime minister is here to warn, in front of any stage possible, the dangers” of the agreement that may be taking shape, the adviser said, speaking anonymously under a policy that bars the official from speaking on the record.

    The adviser said Israel was well aware of the details of the emerging nuclear deal and they included Western compromises that were dangerous for Israel. Still, he tried to lower tensions by saying that Israel “does not oppose every deal” and was merely doing its best to warn the U.S. of the risks entailed in the current one.

    As Netanyahu was preparing to speak, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Switzerland for another round of talks with Iran. The U.S. is seeking to secure a framework agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief ahead of a late-March deadline.

    The U.S. is negotiating alongside Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

    The post At AIPAC conference, Netanyahu to face off with U.S. officials on Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jim McGuire/Photolibrary via Getty Images.

    Photo by Jim McGuire/Photolibrary via Getty Images.

    Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for over two years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions.

    Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours — the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published in February by Simon & Schuster.


    Editor’s Note: Larry’s new book, which was featured on Making Sen$e Thursday on the NewsHour last week, sparked many of these week’s questions. In particular, readers are curious about the file-and-suspend option that allowed Paul’s wife Jan to file for her retirement benefit at full retirement age (66) but then suspend it. A year later, when Paul hit 66, he took just a spousal benefit. At 70, they both took their full retirement benefits at their highest possible values. Watch Larry explain that strategy and follow up with readers below.

    — Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    Anonymous — Bethesda, Md.: I saw your PBS Newshour interview about spousal benefits. I earn less than my spouse, and I turned 66 in August. My spouse turned 66 earlier this month. Are we better off if the higher wage earner applies and suspends, with the lower wage earner applying for spousal benefits? If the wage differential doesn’t matter, could I even apply now, since it has been just over six months since I turned 66?

    GOT SOCIAL SECURITY QUESTIONS?

    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    Larry Kotlikoff: Yes, in your case, since you are so close in age, the higher-wage-earning spouse should file and suspend and the lower-wage-earning spouse should file just for her spousal benefit. So in your case, your husband needs to file and suspend. You definitely do not want to file on your own account until age 70. If you do, you’ll plunge into excess benefit hell and collect just your excess spousal benefit, which could easily be zero. So your husband files and suspends, and you file just for your spousal benefit (this is called a restricted application). You both take your retirement benefits at 70.


    Karin — Santa Rosa, Calif.: I listened to today’s NewsHour (about filing for spousal benefits, then filing and suspending) with great interest. My question: Does this scenario work equally well when the age difference between two spouses is greater than a year or two? I am 55, and my husband is 62; we had each planned to retire at age 65. My husband earned the higher income. Would the file-and-suspend strategy work out in this scenario and how would it play out? If not, do you have any other suggestions? Thank you for your answer.

    Larry Kotlikoff: When you reach full retirement age, your husband will be over 70 and definitely have filed for his retirement benefit. Hence, you’ll be able to file just for a full spousal benefit. There is an argument for your husband to file and suspend when he reaches full retirement age even though filing so early isn’t needed for you to file for your full spousal benefit.

    The argument is that by filing and suspending, your husband will have the option, in an emergency, to ask Social Security to pay him in a single lump-sum check all his past suspended benefits. Doing so, will, however, reset his benefit to the level at the time he suspended it.

    The major downside to doing this, however, is that if you pass away before your husband reaches 70, he won’t be able to collect a full widows benefit on your work record and then flip to his own retirement benefit at 70. He’d be stuck collecting his excess widows benefit, which would be zero if he’s been the higher earner. So, my guess is that it’s best for him not to file and suspend.


    Susan — Boulder, Colo.: Does it make a difference for spousal benefits if there is a three-and-a-half year age difference between spouses? My husband and I are on public-funded retirement plans. He decided to begin his Social Security benefit at 65. He is now 68 years old. I am 64 and had decided to collect my Social Security benefit at age 70.

    We are now curious if I should do as your program recommends — sign up for Social Security and then suspend and have him claim spousal benefits on my Social Security. Was this recommendation specifically to be implemented at age 66? And is the reverse — where he would suspend his benefit and I would collect a spousal benefit — appropriate?

    Larry Kotlikoff: The program is finding the strategy via an exhaustive search to insure that what it suggests does, indeed, maximize your household’s lifetime Social Security benefits. The Government Pension Offset reduces a spousal, widow(er), divorcee spouse or divorcee widow benefit by two-thirds of the non-covered pension. Hence, if the program is recommending that you be the one to file and suspend, it must be that your non-covered pension is larger than your husband’s. Indeed, if it’s high enough, the GPO could wipe out your spousal benefit entirely. In contrast, two-thirds of your husband’s non-covered pension may be less than his spousal benefit, permitting him to collect some spousal benefits.


    Randy — Edison, N.J.: I am reading your book. I am particularly interested in the file and suspend with spousal benefit option as described. Here is my question: I am 16 months older than my spouse. Would I be better off filing and suspending when my spouse is just about to turn 66 instead of filing and suspending when I turn 66? My reasoning is that at 67 and four months I would be getting a bigger benefit, so the spousal benefit of half would be larger than if I filed and suspended at 66. So my spouse would have four years of this larger benefit or is there something that requires that the older spouse file and suspend at 66? Then at 70 each of us would file for “full” benefits. What do you think?

    Larry Kotlikoff: You should wait until your spouse reaches full retirement age to file and suspend for a grim reason. Were your spouse to pass away before then, you could then collect a full widow(er) benefit before age 70 and then take your own retirement benefit at 70.

    If you file for your retirement benefit when you reach full retirement age and your spouse were to pass away, your widower benefit would become your excess widower benefit. This is true even if you suspend your retirement benefit.

    The advantage of filing and suspending is that you can, if you need money in an emergency, ask Social Security to pay you all your suspended benefits in one check. If you don’t formally suspend and just wait to collect your retirement benefit at, say, 70, you don’t have this option. This is why I recommend that never-married people, as well as those who married but divorced before 10 years, go ahead and file and suspend upon reaching full retirement. They will then have the option of recovering their suspended benefits in an emergency. On the other hand, if such never-married or effectively never married people were possibly going to get married, my advice might be different.

    The other option is for your spouse to file for her retirement benefit early and then suspend it at full retirement age and start it up again at 70. This would permit you to collect a full spousal benefit on her work record. We call this strategy Start-Stop-Start. Whether Start-Stop-Start is best for you and when, exactly, your spouse should file can only be determined by extremely accurate commercially available Social Security maximization software.

    The amount that your spouse receives from your account will be based on your full retirement age benefit, not including any delayed retirement credits that you may receive for waiting past age 66 to receive benefits. Therefore, her spousal benefit amount would be the same whether you file and suspend at age 66, or at age 67 and four months.

    The post Spousal benefits, you say? Does age difference matter? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Maryland Democrat Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, is expected to announce her retirement today at a news conference in Baltimore. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Democratic officials say Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in the history of Congress, is ready to announce her retirement.

    The 78-year-old Maryland Democrat, now in her fifth term, is set to make a statement at a news conference in Fells Point in Baltimore later Monday.

    Mikulski became the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress in 2012. She was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1976 and has served in the Senate since 1987. Mikulski is up for re-election next year, but has declined in the past to say whether she would run for what would be a sixth term. The deadline for filing is in January 2016.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss her plans.

    The post Sen. Barbara Mikulski expected to announce her retirement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at Monday’s AIPAC conference, said his planned speech to Congress on Tuesday is part of a “moral obligation” to try to avert the “dangers” of a potential Iran-U.S. nuclear deal. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Monday that his plans to address Congress are not aimed at disrespecting President Barack Obama, even as he assailed the U.S. leader’s bid for a nuclear deal with Iran as a threat to his country’s survival.

    “I have a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them,” Netanyahu said during an address to a pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington.

    As Netanyahu spoke, Secretary of State John Kerry was opening a new round of talks with Iran in Geneva aimed at reaching a framework nuclear deal ahead of a late March deadline. Obama views the prospect of a nuclear accord with the Islamic republic as a central component of his foreign policy legacy.

    While Obama and Netanyahu have never had a warm personal relationship, the prime minister’s visit to Washington this week has exposed the depth of their tensions.

    At the heart of this latest flare-up is Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint meeting of Congress, a Tuesday event during which he is sure to criticize the nuclear talks. The speech was arranged by Republican leaders without the Obama administration’s knowledge, a move the White House blasted as a breach of diplomatic protocol.

    Netanyahu’s visit to Washington comes two weeks before Israeli elections, heightening the political overtones. Obama won’t meet the prime minister while he is in town, citing longstanding policy to avoid appearing to play favorites in foreign elections.

    In a preview of his speech to lawmakers, Netanyahu suggested that Obama did not — and could not— understand the extent of Israeli concerns about Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear bomb.

    “U.S. leaders worry about the security of their country,” he said. “Israeli leaders worry about the survival of their country.”

    Despite his sharp rhetoric, Netanyahu declared that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel remains strong.

    “Reports of the demise of the Israeli-U.S. relationship is not only premature, they’re just wrong,” Netanyahu said. “Our alliance is stronger than ever.”

    Netanyahu’s remarks at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee were being bracketed by speeches from a pair of senior U.S. officials: U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

    Power spoke warmly of the ties between the U.S. and Israel, saying the relationship was rooted in “shared, fundamental values.” She highlighted the billions of dollars in military assistance Washington provides Israel and the constant defense the U.S. provides Israel at the United Nations.

    Power said the deep ties between the longtime allies meant their relationship “should never be politicized.”

    The ambassador also defended Obama’s pursuit of an accord with Iran and said the president shared Israel’s commitment to preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

    “If diplomacy should fail, we know the stakes of a nuclear-armed Iran,” she said. “We will not let it happen.”

    Rice was expected to deliver a more specific rebuttal to Netanyahu’s criticism of the U.S.-led nuclear negotiations. She also has been among the most outspoken critics of the prime minister’s plan to address Congress, calling the move “destructive” to the U.S.-Israel relationship.

    Netanyahu has long been suspicious of Obama’s negotiations with Iran, fearing the U.S. and its negotiating partners are prepared to leave Tehran on the cusp of developing a nuclear weapon. He has stepped up his public criticism as the parties inch closer to the March deadline.

    U.S. and Israeli officials have reported progress on a deal that would freeze Iran’s nuclear program for 10 years but allow it to slowly ramp up in the later years of an agreement. Netanyahu has vigorously criticized the contours of such an agreement, saying it suggests the U.S. and its partners have “given up” on stopping Iran from being able to get a bomb.

    A Netanyahu adviser told reporters traveling with the prime minister to Washington Sunday that Israel was well aware of the details of the emerging nuclear deal and that they included Western compromises that were dangerous for Israel. Still, he tried to lower tensions by saying that Israel “does not oppose every deal” and was merely doing its best to warn the U.S. of the risks.

    Kerry, who is in Switzerland for the next round of nuclear negotiations, warned Israel against releasing “selective details” of the negotiations.

    “Doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share,” said Kerry, who is negotiating alongside diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.


    Associated Press White House Correspondent Julie Pace and Jerusalem correspondent Aaron Heller wrote this story.

    AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Geneva and writer Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Netanyahu on Iran deal: I have ‘moral obligation’ to speak up appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, pictured here in August 2010, closed in 2003 after looters pillaged the building. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    The Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, pictured here in August 2010, closed in 2003 after looters pillaged the building. Photo by Larisa Epatko/PBS NewsHour

    The Iraqi National Museum, ransacked after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, has reopened 12 years later displaying ancient winged creatures, tablets and sculptures in stone.

    The reopening over the weekend came days after Islamic State militants filmed themselves destroying centuries-old artifacts and some replicas at the Mosul museum in northern Iraq.

    “Those barbaric, criminal terrorists are trying to destroy the heritage of mankind and Iraq’s civilization,” said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad.

    “We will chase them in order to make them pay for every drop of blood shed in Iraq and for the destruction of Iraq’s civilization.”

    A man looks at ancient Assyrian human-headed winged bull statues at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Feb. 28, 2015. Photo by Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters

    A man looks at ancient Assyrian human-headed winged bull statues at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Feb. 28, 2015. Photo by Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (right) visits the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Feb. 28, 2015. Photo by Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (right) visits the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Feb. 28, 2015. Photo by Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters

    A man looks at artifacts displayed inside the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Feb. 28, 2015. Photo by Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters

    A man looks at artifacts displayed inside the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad on Feb. 28, 2015. Photo by Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters

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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, D.C. at 11 a.m. EST on Tuesday, March 3. Watch the prime minister’s speech live in the player above.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, D.C. on the morning of Tuesday, March 3 in a speech scheduled for 11 a.m. EST. The address, which was arranged by Republican leaders without the knowledge of the Obama administration, has exposed tensions in the relationship between the prime minister and President Barack Obama.

    During his address Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to criticize the Obama administration’s efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened a new round of talks in Geneva Monday aimed at reaching an agreement with Iran over the country’s nuclear program before a deadline set for later this month.

    In a speech Monday at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — a pro-Israel lobbying group — the prime minister said he has “a moral obligation to speak up in the face of these dangers while there is still time to avert them,” in reference to a potential nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran. Speaking at the same event, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said, “we know the stakes of a nuclear-armed Iran. We will not let it happen.”

    PBS NewsHour will live stream Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address Tuesday. Watch the address live in the player above.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user jayneandd

    The killing of a homeless man is raising questions pertaining to police brutality. Photo by Flickr user jayneandd

    A homeless man on Los Angeles’s Skid Row died Sunday after an LAPD police officer shot him. A graphic video surfaced on witness Anthony Blackburn’s Facebook page shortly after the fatal shooting.

    The video shows a group of police officers surrounding the man — known as “Africa” — on the sidewalk. Africa is seen swinging his arms at the officers. One officer pins him to the ground, as three others appear to quiet him. Bystanders are heard shouting “Get off of him!” and “Drop the gun!” before five gunshots ring out.

    Officers were initially responding to a robbery call. Witnesses told the Los Angeles Times that the officers pulled Africa out of his tent. At one point, a taser was used on him, but LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said it was “ineffective.”

    According to LAPD, the gun was fired after a struggle occurred between Africa and one of the officers. But the facts are muddied, calling into question whether the killing was justified.

    In February, Gwen Ifill spoke with Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP and Richard Berry of the International Association of Chiefs of Police about how police can repair strained relations with communities, and curb the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

    Witnesses who identified Africa said he’d been living on Skid Row for a few months. Prior to that, he spent time in a mental health facility.

    A memorial service was held Sunday night for “the brother known as ‘Africa.’”

    According to the LA Times, Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said he was “watching the video repeatedly trying to hear exactly what the officers said to the man.” Soboroff, LAPD, an independent inspector general and the district attorney’s office are investigating the shooting.

    The post Fatal shooting of homeless man by LAPD puts department under scrutiny appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Listen to Hoa Nguyen read “No Sleep” from her collection, “Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008.” When Nguyen wrote the poem, she had two young children (hence the title), and she was reading about how climate change affects certain species and weather patterns.

    No Sleep

    No sleep             no sleep escape
    Milk raining down
    turning lilies white

    Mena presided over moon-blood
    Her offerings: young puppies
    that still sucked their mother

    Formaldehyde in the sheets
    to be wrinkle-free

    April 2006             5X the average in tornadoes
    and thriving poison ivy

    The sky turns green

    Old Roger has died and gone to his grave
    gone to his grave             gone to his grave
    Old Roger has died and gone to his grave
    Hiegh ho           gone to his grave

    “Several ice-sheets in Greenland
    have doubled their rate of slide”

    My boy blows a plastic whistle (parrot-shaped)
                 stamped                Made in China

    Hoa NguyenHoa Nguyen is the author of eight poetry books and chapbooks. “Red Juice” is Nguyen’s fourth full-length books of poetry. Her other works are “As Long As Trees Last,” “Hecate Lochia” and “Your Ancient See Through.” Her poetry has also been collected in nine anthologies, including “The Volta Book of Poets,” “Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sound: The Teachers of WritersCorps in Poetry and Prose,” “The Best of Fence” and “Not for Mothers Only.” Nguyen studied poetics at New College of California in San Francisco. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she teaches at Ryerson University and in private workshops.

    “No Sleep” from “Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008.” Copyright 2015 by Hoa Nguyen. Reprinted with permission of the author and Wave Books.

    The post How to contemplate climate change when you have two kids under age 4 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    politicsmonday

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    GWEN IFILL: We’re looking ahead to a big and potentially unpredictable week in politics. What better time then for politics Monday, with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post?

    We heard John Boehner on “Face the Nation,” a Sunday show, yesterday say that things were a little bit messy on Friday, which is kind of an understatement. But we also heard him blame it on Democrats.

    Let’s listen to what he said.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: The House is a rambunctious place. We have 435 members. A lot of members have a lot of different ideas about what we should and shouldn’t be doing.

    JOHN DICKERSON, CBS News: Can you lead those members?

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I think so. I think so.

    I’m not going to suggest it’s easy, because it’s not. But remember what is causing this. It’s the president of the United States overreaching.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s the president’s fault. That’s not surprising that he would say that. But this afternoon, he had another small setback. He tried to get the Senate and the House to get together and meet and agree to move forward on this. And they rejected it. The Senate Democrats rejected it again.

    So, whither John Boehner?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, John Boehner does have an unruly group. But we knew this going on, that he was always going to have at least 30 or 40 folks who were going to be against him almost at any turn, anything that they saw as sort of helping Democrats, helping the president, compromising with the president.

    And I think they’re digging in even more now, because they see that they have a president, at least on this issue, that they feel like is on the ropes. The courts have made a decision that they think justifies their action. And what we always seem to come up with as an answer in the segment is the fact that there are really ultimately no consequences for bad behavior in the House.

    These guys sit in such safe districts, that they are — if it shuts down, if it doesn’t shut down, they don’t think it’s going to impact their prospects.

    GWEN IFILL: But are there internal political consequences for John Boehner and his speakership?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, The Washington Post: Possibly. Right?  I mean, I think we saw him, I think, lose 25 votes this time when he was up for speaker. There’s always going to be…

    GWEN IFILL: They lost 52 on this one, on the vote.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yes. He lost 52, exactly.

    You said he always had trouble with 30 or so. It was 52 this time.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: I think he will survive.

    I think he’s probably more bruised and battered than he’s ever been. And I think, if you look at where the party is, this issue is about immigration, right?  And it’s about Hispanics. In so many ways, the Republican Party has struggled with this voting bloc.

    Sure, it’s about whether or not to shut down the government. But I think a lot of people see this as Republicans once again really — really not — not heeding the sort of larger story about their demographics problem.

    GWEN IFILL: The Wall Street Journal editorial page, not known as the most liberal editorial page in America, called this a self-defeating rebellion.

    So is there any sign of any kind of backing away from this kind of rebellious behavior?

    AMY WALTER: Well, I — I spent part of my weekend with a group called the Club for Growth. These are fiscal conservatives. There were a lot of members who came down to speak to this group.

    And a lot of them basically had — the message that they got was, we need to dig in even harder, because the leader is not leading. We need to take it to the president. As you saw Speaker Boehner say, we need to put the blame back where it belongs, on the president, on Democrats.

    And I think Nia is exactly right. The bigger problem for Republicans is not about whether it shuts down, doesn’t shut down. The bigger problem is, this party cannot figure out a way to deal with immigration. And if they’re going to win in 2016, they have got to figure out a way to win over voters that aren’t white.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there a true party split, or are we just dancing around the issue?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: No, I think there is a true party split. And I think this is certainly an example of that.

    And I think — it’s also I think you hear a lot of people saying, if there were hopes for things getting done in the House and the Senate, it doesn’t look like things are going to get done. And, also, Republicans very much came in saying, listen, we’re going to prove to everyone that we can govern, right?

    And so far, if you look back at these weeks of what they have been able to do, it’s not much.

    GWEN IFILL: I’m going to ask you about something we talked about a little bit a few moments ago, and that’s the visit tomorrow of Prime Minister Netanyahu to Capitol Hill.

    We talked a little bit about the internal politics. We have talked about the politics in Israel. We have talked about the politics in the American Jewish community. How about the internal politics on Capitol Hill if a couple dozen people don’t show up at the speech tomorrow?

    AMY WALTER: Well, I don’t know that it’s going to have long-lasting repercussions.

    But I think it’s just a latest example of a polarization of Congress, where you do have Democrats who say, this is absolutely the wrong thing to do, first of all, for the speaker to have invited him, and this is setting a terrible precedent.

    And the other interesting thing too is, you do have a split in the Democratic Party — this is one of those rare instances — support for Israel, where you have some liberal members who are going to be — while they will be — say they’re supportive of Israel, they’re also going to see a Palestinian view as well.

    GWEN IFILL: Lest we spend the entire time talking only about Republicans, where are Democrats?  Are they sitting on the sidelines watching smugly, just waiting for Hillary to announce?

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Well, sure.

    And I think the people who don’t want to wait on the sidelines are donors, who really want to see her get in there. Some of these super PACs are saying, listen, we have got to get her in here, not in July, but in April, because we are looking at a need to raise $1 billion.

    So I think it’s interesting. She obviously doesn’t want to get in this early, because who does want to run for president for a year-and-a-half?  But there is all sorts of chatter among donors in these super PACs saying, listen, get in. And ,also, she’s had a difficult week, I think.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: There have been so many stories about the Clinton Foundation, this foreign money. And she has got to get out there and defend herself.

    GWEN IFILL: Why?  I don’t understand why.

    AMY WALTER: About rather — than letting it blow over?

    GWEN IFILL: Why get out there?  She can defend herself without being out there, right?

    AMY WALTER: Well, that’s — I talk to people around her who say that exact same thing, which…

    GWEN IFILL: That’s what they say?

    AMY WALTER: … is, not only do you want to let the Republicans fight amongst themselves. Why would you want to get into this mix now?

    The other is, if you get in, when you get in, you’re Hillary Clinton, you have to be firing on all cylinders. There cannot be one single mistake because the expectations are so high. So, if you get out early, get ahead of your supply line, so to speak, there is going to be real problems.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yes. And you have got to comment on every single thing that comes up.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    One final thing on the Democratic side of the aisle, and that’s the kind of surprise announcement today that Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in the Senate, is going to not run again in 2016. I remember covering Barbara Mikulski back in Maryland in 1996, when she was running for one of her many reelection races, when she ran for the Senate.

    So, tell me, what’s your sense about it?

    GWEN IFILL: 1986. I think I just dated myself.

    AMY WALTER: Well, it was 1986.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes. Yes.

    AMY WALTER: I remember, in 1992, when I started covering politics, she was the only Democratic woman in the Senate, and you had Dianne Feinstein come in a little bit later.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    AMY WALTER: She to think she was the first woman elected in her own right as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1986. I know, for some people, that was a long time ago, but it wasn’t that long ago.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Right. It wasn’t that long ago.

    AMY WALTER: And now seeing the number of women that are there, she has to be able to look back and say…

    GWEN IFILL: Quickly.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: She was also EMILY’s List.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    AMY WALTER: That’s right.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: She was one of their first people that they endorsed. And this is a big group that obviously is waiting for Hillary now.

    GWEN IFILL: And apparently every elected official in all of Maryland is now saying, maybe I will run.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, see you next Monday.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: All right.

     

    The post For GOP, a bigger problem than finding a way to fund Homeland Security appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US-POLITICS-ECONOMY-BUDGET-HEALTH

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    GWEN IFILL: On Wednesday, the court will hear oral arguments in a case that goes to the heart of the Affordable Care Act.

    At issue is whether the law bars the federal government from subsidizing health plans in the 34 states that rely on the federal health insurance exchange. The health care coverage of more than eight million people rides on that decision.

    Special correspondent Sarah Varney begins our report in North Carolina.

    This story was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News.

    SARAH VARNEY, Kaiser Health News: It’s been a bitterly cold winter in the Blue Ridge Mountains for Julia Raye and her 13-year-old son, Charles.

    JULIA RAYE: Did you drink your coffee, already?

    SARAH VARNEY: But, despite the punishing weather, 2015 is looking good. Raye has finally been able to afford the insulin and other medications she needs to keep her diabetes under control.

    She’s a self-employed auditor who relies on a $400-a-month government subsidy to afford the private health plan she bought on health care.gov. Before the Affordable Care Act made tax credits available to low- and moderate-income workers, Raye was uninsured. Back then, just one of her diabetes medications cost $320.

    JULIA RAYE: During that time, I had no insurance, and I really just wasn’t taking my medicine. And there were times when my sugars and things would get up to 600. And I remember getting to a point where the ambulance had to call — take me in because I was pretty much in the diabetic shock kind of situation.

    MAN: Thank you for this chance to give us life.

    SARAH VARNEY: Since January 2014, Raye has had steady insurance, paying just $30 a month, while her son was covered by Medicaid. Treating her diabetes has improved her vision and the numbness in her feet. At age 48, she has finally got a mammogram.

    Raye says she is watching the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act with growing anxiety. In North Carolina, nine out of 10 people who buy health insurance on the federal exchange receive a subsidy. If large numbers of them lose those subsidies and drop their health insurance, health policy researchers say insurance markets in places like North Carolina will fall into disarray.

    As a snowstorm bore down on the campus of Duke University, Donald Taylor, an associate professor of public policy, considered what would happen in North Carolina if the court struck down the subsidies.

    DON TAYLOR, Duke University: If you imagine someone who is paying $100 a month and, all of a sudden, it’s $415 a month, which would be the average impact, then you can imagine some people are going to stop paying.

    Further, you would imagine the ones that wouldn’t stop paying would be the people who are the sickest who need the insurance the most. And when you only have the sick people enrolled, that’s what you — that’s when you have what’s called death spiral.

    SARAH VARNEY: That would likely happen across the country, say health care economists. In 34 states, the insurance market places are entirely run by the federal government, because state lawmakers opted not to set up their own. If the court wipes out financial help for those shoppers, the number of uninsured is expected to rise by 44 percent.

    The fallout would be heavily concentrated in the South. Estimates show that of those who could become uninsured, 62 percent live in Southern states and 61 percent are white.

    The Supreme Court last considered the Affordable Care Act three years ago in a case over the law’s constitutionality. Court watchers say the fact that the justices agreed to hear this case, which many legal scholars considered a trivial statutory flaw, shows a renewed interest by the court’s conservatives to upend the health law.

    The lawsuit stems from a group of conservatives including Michael Cannon, the director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute. Cannon and others who dissected law after its passage noticed a six-word phrase that said financial assistance would be available to those who bought health plans through — quote — “an exchange established by the state.”

    MICHAEL CANNON, Cato Institute: What this case is about is about the latest and most dangerous in a long line of false promises that the president has made about Obamacare. And this is not just a false promise. It’s also an illegal one.

    SARAH VARNEY: The Internal Revenue Service concluded Congress never intended to limit subsidies to shoppers only in state exchanges, and issued a rule making them available in all states.

    MICHAEL CANNON: With a colleague, I blew the whistle on this. And we complained the administration had no authority to do this. We began doing the legal research. We found out this was actually an intentional feature of the law that the president was trying to rewrite.

    REP. SANDER LEVIN, (D) Michigan: Oh, they’re just totally wrong. I think the letter of the law, when you read the entire law, says that these credits were to be available to everybody, whatever exchange they were in.

    SARAH VARNEY: Congressman Sandy Levin is a Democrat from Michigan who chaired the Ways and Means Committee during passage of the health law. He says there was never a debate about restricting the subsidies.

    REP. SANDER LEVIN: Even those who objected to the law never raised that. Look, what the opponents are trying to do is to look for any hook they can find. And the court shouldn’t allow them to find a hook that isn’t in existence that would tear apart the entire law.

    SARAH VARNEY: In Raleigh, North Carolina, that is exactly what Anna Beavon Gravely hopes will happen. Gravely is a community activist at North Carolina Family Action, a conservative political group. Now 26 years old, she’s had to buy insurance on her own for the first time this year, and was shocked by the cost.

    ANNA BEAVON GRAVELY: I don’t really see the return on it. It’s one thing to have — pay monthly for cable or for Netflix or Hulu Plus or a gym membership because you’re getting something out of that. I feel like I’m not really getting anything out of my virtually $200 a month. This is power from last month’s, and then this is this month’s, and working to get them down in cost to be able to pay for some of the things that we really care about.

    SARAH VARNEY: Gravely says she rarely visits a doctor and doesn’t want the added benefits that the law requires insurers to offer, like mental health and maternity coverage. She hopes the Supreme Court declares North Carolinians ineligible for financial assistance.

    ANNA BEAVON GRAVELY: I think that that will help a lot of people understand the true cost of health care and what this does, how it’s driving up costs, it’s increasing the burden on middle-class families, on individuals like me, who just want to have a plan that fits them and where they are in their life.

    JULIA RAYE: I would be in poor shape to take care of my son.

    SARAH VARNEY: More than four hours west in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Julia Raye says health insurance was plenty expensive before the health law and preexisting conditions like her diabetes weren’t covered.

    JULIA RAYE: I want to be able to go out and buy insurance and to have insurance at a workplace. And I try to do so. But when they come back with figures like $800 a month, that is not logical. It’s half of what I bring in. I need the subsidy. This is what makes me be able to subsist. And there’s just no way I could function without it.

    SARAH VARNEY: After the court hears oral arguments on Wednesday, a decision is expected by the end of June.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Sarah Varney in Burnsville, North Carolina.

    The post How six words landed the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court again appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Same-sex marriage supporters rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, on March 27, 2013 in Washington, DC. Today the high court is hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which withholds federal benefits from legally wed gay couples by defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    The current debate over same-sex marriage highlights the struggles of LGBTQ communities in the U.S. Photo of same-sex marriage supporters in front of the U.S. Supreme Court from 2013 by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: As debate intensifies over equal rights for LGBTQ people, research has spotlighted the benefits of a supportive environment for LGBTQ students who are at an increased risk for bullying and violence. Teacher Douglas Ray discusses how educators can find new ways to engage with students’ identities and foster a welcoming climate for all students.


    teacherslounge
    I teach a Queer Literature and Theory class to high school seniors in a small independent school in Birmingham, Alabama. Currently, my class is reading and discussing James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room,” a book that his publisher allegedly told him to burn because of its explicit dealing with queerness. I’m sure that particular publisher would be shocked to know that in a city once known as the “most segregated” in the South, high school students are debating the merits of describing the characters in the book as either “gay” or “bisexual.”

    One of my class’s first lessons is that we have to know who we are in relation to each other in the classroom before we can really interpret texts and form knowledge. And so every year, I start off by talking about my own experience growing up queer in the South. When I was in high school, I did not feel safe to explore who I was. School culture was very much shaped by fundamentalist Christian dogma, and I did whatever I could to blend in and survive. My academic growth flourished, but my social and emotional growth were severely, dangerously stunted.

    My openness about my own life creates a safe space for my students to be who they are or to explore their many selves.
    In the years following high school, I began to own who I was and met people who had grown up similarly to me in Mississippi, who talked about how important acceptance in school is for queer people. And in my early twenties, I lost two friends to suicide, both of whom had been silenced, bullied, or otherwise made to feel unworthy because they were gay.

    At that point, I realized that I could either do my best to create spaces where young LGBTQ people felt worthy, or I could wallow in a sense of loss. I chose the former. I knew that I wanted to create welcoming spaces. To do that, I would be honest about my own journey with my students and commit to listening to their narratives and to loving them.

    This is my second time teaching this course, and I hope it won’t be my last — but there’s always a concern when teaching material that may be viewed as “radical” or “politically charged” that could silence the discourse you want to open up. After all, Alabama is an at-will state, and anyone can pretty much be fired at any time. I was encouraged, though, that my particular school lists “sexual orientation” in its nondiscrimination policy, unlike many others in the South.

    When I created the class, I thought about how people would perceive it, just as I considered whether or not it was the right decision for me to be open about being gay when I first started teaching at this school five years ago. I thought about how I would have felt, as a student in Jackson, Mississippi, if I had known an adult who was gay and also a teacher, or how I would have reacted to seeing queer sexuality as part of a school’s curriculum — worthy to be studied, sanctioned and accepted knowledge.

    So I began by being honest about myself. My openness about my own life creates a safe space for my students to be who they are or to explore their many selves.

    My hope is that my classroom can build a community of trust among those who enter into conversation here. When we understand who each person is and how that person sees the world, there’s an opportunity for richer dialogue. I feel that my presence on this campus gives permission to students to become who they are without shame or fear, two negative forces especially at play in “Giovanni’s Room.”

    It is an act of violence to silence queer people and queer energy in schools. There should be places that affirm an individual’s coming into his or her own. And we, as school professionals, have to be comfortable with talking about queer sexualities and queer people. We have to consider what — and, more importantly, whom — we’re leaving out of our curricula.

    I encourage my fellow teachers and school professionals to not only examine our own practices, but to continue discussing what we can do better. Sometimes, it can be the difference between life and death.

    douglas RayDouglas Ray is Poet-in-Residence at Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama. He is author of the poetry collection “He Will Laugh” and editor of “The Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on the American South,” an anthology of essays and poems. He is a National Association of Independent Schools Teacher of the Future.

    The post I’m a queer teacher in the Deep South — how talking about my identity challenges hate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A US flag is held by a marcher in front of trhe Supreme during the March for Life on January 24, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.The march marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (officially Jan. 22), a landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.     AFP PHOTO / Tim Sloan (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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    GWEN IFILL: This week, the Supreme Court hears two cases that could affect how we vote and how we pay for health care.

    Jeffrey Brown starts us off with today’s arguments over what has come to be known as election gerrymandering.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a longstanding, very contentious issue in American politics. Who should draw the shape and scale of congressional districts?

    The case now before the court comes from Arizona, where, in 2000, voters passed a referendum to move the redistricting power away from the state legislature and instead create an independent commission to draw voting lines.

    You can see the result. Arizona’s congressional map before the commission on the left included a widely cited and creatively fashioned district in the northwest of the state. Then, on the right, you can see the changed map after the commission’s work in 2012.

    Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal” was there in the court for today’s argument, and, as always, joins us now.

    Welcome again, Marcia.

    MARCIA COYLE, “The National Law Journal”: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The original idea of this, of having an independent commission, was to take the partisanship out, right?

    MARCIA COYLE: Absolutely.

    When Arizona acted in 2000, the voters were seen as really doing something cutting-edge to reduce partisanship that had resulted in very, very safe seats for incumbents of the party in power and reduced the number of truly competitive election districts.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But the state legislatures said, no, you have gone too far, and that’s how we ended up in court?

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, absolutely again.

    The issue before the court is whether voters, acting through an initiative, are really acting as a legislature within the meaning of that word legislature in the Constitution.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right. We’re going to — we have got that clause, because, right…The argument is — as often, right, it’s about a word or a clause.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is the election clause from the Constitution.

    Let’s put that up.

    MARCIA COYLE: OK.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us — tell us about the — what happened here, how that played into the argument today.

    MARCIA COYLE: Former Solicitor General Paul Clement was representing the Arizona state legislature.

    And he said that word legislature has always been meant to be a representative body from the beginning of the drafting of the Constitution until today, and the one thing voters could not do was, they could not usurp the state legislature’s power, cut them out of the redistricting process permanently, that that violates the elections clause, which gives to a representative body the authority to direct the time, place and manner of congressional elections.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how did that go over with the justices?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, it actually went over, I think, fairly well with a majority. Well, we’re not sure yet.

    But there was pushback. Justice Sotomayor said, well, there wasn’t initiative and referendum at the drafting of the Constitution. It didn’t exist. And there are Supreme Court decisions in other contexts that look at legislature more broadly, as a process, the power of legislating.

    Justice Kagan said to Mr. Clement, there are zillions — and she used that word — zillions of laws that have been enacted through initiatives involving elections, for example, voter I.D. laws, voting by mail, voting by machine. She said, wouldn’t they all be unconstitutional under the state legislature’s view?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Conservative justices, though, were more — arguing along with the state legislature?

    MARCIA COYLE: That’s right.

    Another former solicitor general, Seth Waxman, argued that there is a broader meeting. And he said Arizona’s state constitution defines legislature to include the people and two representative bodies, their Senate and their House, and it is the process of legislating that is the definition of legislature.

    He also pointed to dictionary definitions. He said every dictionary that they have looked at defines it more broadly. Justice Scalia said to him, name me one provision in the Constitution that uses the word legislature in the way that you use it. And Mr. Waxman could not say that, but he said, the court has never really defined legislature one way or the other.

    And Chief Justice Roberts also pushed back at Mr. Waxman, saying, basically, why, if it was to be a broader meaning, didn’t the drafters just say, “by the state,” instead of “by the legislature”?

    JEFFREY BROWN: What — are there implication here for other states, for other laws?

    MARCIA COYLE: Absolutely.

    California has a commission very much like Arizona’s. And two former Republican governors are supporting the Arizona commission. They have been pleased with the outcome. There are about 11 states that have something similar, but not quite, as Arizona has done, cutting the legislature completely out of the redistricting process.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just in a word, was there any discussion about the implications of gerrymandering or was this all about the process?

    MARCIA COYLE: It was all about the process.

    And I should point out, too, Jeff, that the Supreme Court has pretty much washed its hand of trying to decide whether partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution. So, this action by Arizona voters was seen as one of the few checks on partisan gerrymandering.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal,” as always, thanks.

    MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure, Jeff.

    The post Supreme Court weighs process, not politics, of who draws voting maps appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Workers prepare the stage at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Prime Minister — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought today to ease strains over his plans to speak to Congress tomorrow. But he also said he has a moral obligation to criticize a potential nuclear deal with Iran.

    He spoke to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, meeting in Washington.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli Prime Minister: Reports of the demise of the Israeli-U.S. relations is not only premature; they are just wrong.

    GWEN IFILL: On the eve of what has become a controversial speech to a joint meeting of Congress, the Israeli leader went out of his way to play down any tension with the White House.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds.

    (APPLAUSE)

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I have great respect for both.

    GWEN IFILL: But the president will not meet with Netanyahu on this visit. And the prime minister, who was invited to Capitol Hill by House Speaker John Boehner, emphasized that he and the administration are still poles apart when it comes to negotiating with Iran.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I plan to speak about an Iranian regime that is threatening to destroy Israel, that is devouring country after country in the Middle East, that is exporting terror throughout the world, and that is developing, as we speak, the capacity to make nuclear weapons, lots of them. American leaders worry about the security of their country. Israeli leaders worry about the survival of their country.

    GWEN IFILL: As Netanyahu spoke, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Switzerland, where he and Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, resume talks tomorrow.

    Kerry cautioned against publicly discussing what he called selective details of incomplete negotiations.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: I want to say clearly that doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get a good deal. Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but, frankly, so is the security of all the other countries in the region. So is our security in the United States.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama did not attend this year’s AIPAC gathering, dispatching National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power instead.

    This afternoon, he told the Reuters news service the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong. Still, he called the address to Congress a distraction.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As a matter of policy, we think it’s a mistake for the prime minister of any country to come to speak before Congress a few weeks before they’re about to have an election. It makes it look like we are taking sides.

    GWEN IFILL: But Netanyahu’s appearance also underscored fault lines within the American Jewish community. Today, the American Jewish “Tikkun” magazine released this ad, claiming most American Jews support President Obama’s approach to Iran, while, over the weekend, the Emergency Committee for Israel took aim at President Obama in this video ad.

    NARRATOR: President Obama is holding secret talks with Iran, even as Iran threatens to wipe Israel off the map.

    WOMAN: The prime minister of Israel.

    GWEN IFILL: Netanyahu last addressed Congress was in May 2011. By this afternoon, more than 30 Democrats had announced they would not attend tomorrow’s speech.

    So how do American Jews view the controversy surrounding the speech of Prime Minister Netanyahu?

    For that, we get two views. Jeremy Ben-Ami is the founder and president of J Street, a pro-Israel and liberal political action committee. And David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish committee, a pro-Jewish advocacy organization.

    Jeremy Ben-Ami, we heard the president call this whole discussion about whether Netanyahu should speak to Congress a distraction. What is your view on what is the source of all this friction?

    JEREMY BEN-AMI, Founder and President, J Street: Well, the friction is actually over a question of policy, because I think that the president and the United States and most of the American-Jewish community are in line with the prime minister and all of Israel in the end goal, which is to ensure that Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapon.

    But the question is, what is the best way to get there?  And the president believes that it’s through negotiated compromise that is worked out with the international community, that limits Iran’s capacity to enrich, and gradually reduces sanctions, with a very intrusive inspection regime. And he believes that’s the way to go.

    And the source of the friction is that the prime minister has a different view and has come here two weeks before his own election working with the Republican Party in a way that undermines traditional bipartisan cooperation. And that is not a good thing for the U.S.-Israel relationship.

    GWEN IFILL: David Harris, was that a mistake?

    DAVID HARRIS, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee: Well, I think the real issue today is not whether it was a mistake or not. It’s done. The prime minister is in Washington.

    The real question is, what is he going to say tomorrow?  What is his view on the deal?  He says that he has information about the deal. I met with him two weeks ago in his office in Jerusalem, and he felt that the deal, as he understood it, would be catastrophic, indeed life-threatening, for the state of Israel. And he felt that he had the obligation to come.

    The timing wasn’t meant to be connected to the elections, he said, but rather the fact that the deadline is March 24 for the framework agreement, so he felt that he had no choice but to come now to make his case to the Congress. He wanted to do it in a bipartisan spirit. More than 90 percent of the members of Congress of both parties plan to be there as of now, and then let’s judge what he says.

    I wouldn’t prejudge what he says, though, at this point.

    GWEN IFILL: Jeremy Ben-Ami, is this — the tension that we are all chronicling so closely, is it — it’s almost soap opera proportions. Is this really about tensions between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, or does it speak to something more fundamental happening between — in the — within the U.S.-Israeli relationship?

    JEREMY BEN-AMI: Well, I actually think it’s neither one.

    I don’t think it’s just a personal issue and I don’t think it’s really fundamental to the relationship between the countries. What I do think is that you have a right-of-center world view in the Likud Party that Netanyahu heads and much of the government Israel holds. It’s in line with the Republican world view of how to deal with threats, how to deal with Iran and other threats in the region that is different from the world view that President Obama and much of the Democratic Party in this country have and folks on the center-left in Israel have.

    So there’s actually a very real policy disagreement here that is not just about Iran. It can be translated as well with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the broader Israeli-Arab conflict. It’s a legitimate disagreement. It’s one that should be discussed. It should be debated.

    And we’re going to have to find a way to work through that disagreement, while not hurting the fundamental relationship.

    GWEN IFILL: David Harris, let me direct the same question to you.

    Governor Scott Walker, one of the many Republicans running for president, wrote a story for “National Review” magazine today in which he said that the U.S.-Israeli relationship is in crisis. Do you agree or disagree with that?

    DAVID HARRIS: Well, I think, first of all, that the issue is not just the world view. It’s the geographical divide.

    It’s about where Israel is situated and where America is situated. And we have to look at that first, Gwen. Israel is sitting in the tumultuous Middle East that, since the so-called Arab spring, has become even more chaotic and more destructive. Israel is facing a country, Iran, that openly calls for its destruction.

    So the fact that the prime minister would come should be seen in that context. He’s worried about the neighborhood. He’s worried about the fact that Iran or Iranian proxies, he says, are now in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria, on the Golan Heights. And he’s worried about the crumbling of the Middle East.

    In that context, he sees Iran asserting its power, extending its reach and building nuclear weapons capability. In that context, he says the Jewish state faces potential destruction, and we can’t outsource the discussions with Iran to other countries that won’t take our views necessarily into account as we feel they should be.

    GWEN IFILL: But, Mr. Harris, does that mean…

    DAVID HARRIS: So I think it’s not just about world views.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    DAVID HARRIS: It’s about geographical location.

    GWEN IFILL: But does that put a strain on the Israeli-U.S. relationship, to the degree that it is in crisis, or are there — is this just a disagreement that we will get past?

    DAVID HARRIS: I think it’s actually the latter, because, if one takes the longer view — and I think Prime Minister Netanyahu said it earlier today at the AIPAC conference — there have been other disagreements between the United States and Israel, in fact, going all the way back to 1948.

    With each president, there has been a moment of not just disagreement, but a moment of crisis, with both Democrats and Republicans, and yet the relationship has not only endured. It’s gotten stronger. So I’m confident that, despite the very open difference on this issue, it’s about policy, it’s not about politics or personalities, and the relationship will endure, because it’s in both countries’ interest for that relationship to endure.

    GWEN IFILL: Jeremy Ben-Ami, this is something similar to what the president had to say in response to that when he was speaking to Reuters today.

    Are both sides beginning to step back from the brink here, whether there is a personal animus or not, that maybe this — and we heard Samantha Power also make the same kind of statement today. Do you think that they’re stepping back from what could have been an explosive situation?

    JEREMY BEN-AMI: Well, I don’t think either side has an interest in a personal or political dispute.

    I think that if there is a deal reached in the coming two to three weeks — and we don’t know — you know, the administration says it’s perhaps a 50/50 shot that they can actually get to an agreement. But if there is an agreement, the dispute that we’re in the middle of here is going to be elevated to historic proportion.

    I don’t know that there’s been a fight in the Congress and in the Senate over an issue like this deal on which the government of Israel and the government of the United States would be on different sides. And I think that that — I do believe it is a policy disagreement. I think it is something that reflects the world view of the two leaders and the two camps.

    And I think that it is going to be a very, very heated and difficult debate and discussion, but one that we need to have in a civil manner.

    GWEN IFILL: And we will talk about it again some more tomorrow evening, once we know what Benjamin Netanyahu actually has to say.

    Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street and David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, thank you both very much.

    JEREMY BEN-AMI: Thank you.

    DAVID HARRIS: Thank you.

    The post How Jewish Americans view Netanyahu’s speech appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap20150302

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Iraqi security forces have launched a new offensive against Tikrit, now held by Islamic State fighters. It’s their latest attempt to reclaim Saddam Hussein’s hometown, before they try to retake Mosul to the north.

    Ground troops opened the assault on Tikrit with a rocket and artillery bombardment. They were backed by Shiite, Sunni and Iranian fighters and Iraqi planes.

    Russian authorities insisted today they’re conducting a thorough investigation into the murder of Boris Nemtsov. He’d been a leading critic of President Vladimir Putin before he was gunned down Friday night near the Kremlin. On Sunday, thousands marched through Moscow in a silent tribute to Nemtsov.

    Many charged Putin bears at least some blame for his death, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected that today.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): The attempt to use the heinous killing of Boris Nemtsov for political purposes is despicable. This is a heinous crime which will be fully investigated within the full framework of the law to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice. President Putin immediately handed down all instructions and is ensuring special control over this investigation.

    GWEN IFILL: A woman who was with Nemtsov when he was shot said today she didn’t see the gunman.

    Secretary of State John Kerry held a tense hour-plus meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov today in Geneva. Kerry complained last week that Russians have lied to his face about their actions in Ukraine. Today’s meeting came as the U.N. Human Rights Office announced more than 6,000 people have been killed in Eastern Ukraine since April.

    Back in this country, fatal police shootings are drawing new attention today. Cell phone video showed Los Angeles officers wrestling a homeless man to the ground before shooting him Sunday. They said he grabbed for an officer’s gun.

    In Cleveland, the mayor apologized for a court filing in the killing of Tamir Rice last November. The documents blamed the 12-year-old, who was carrying a pellet gun, for failing to prevent his own injury.

    And at the White House, a task force called today for independent investigations in all such cases.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have a great opportunity, coming out of some great conflict and tragedy, to really transform how we think about community-law enforcement relations, so that everybody feels safer and our law enforcement officers feel — rather than being embattled, feel fully supported.

    GWEN IFILL: There was also word the Justice Department will accuse police in Ferguson, Missouri, of longstanding racial bias in traffic stops. The New York Times reported investigators found the resulting animosity erupted when a white policeman killed an unarmed black teen last August.

    Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in Congress, announced today she won’t seek reelection in 2016. The Maryland Democrat was elected to the House of Representatives in 1976. And she entered the Senate in 1987. Mikulski is now 78 years old.

    In Baltimore today, she said it came down to her hopes for the final two years of her current term.

    SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI, (D) Maryland: I had to ask myself this question: Who am I campaigning for? Am I campaigning for me or am I campaigning for my constituents? I had to decide how I would spend my time, fighting for my job or fighting for their job? Do I spend my time raising money or do I spend my time raising hell?

    GWEN IFILL: Mikulski has been a vocal advocate on issues ranging from equal pay for women to protecting the environment.

    House Speaker John Boehner came under new pressure over Homeland Security funding. Democrats urged a vote on a clean bill, minus provisions aimed at the president’s immigration policies. Boehner’s office declined to rule it out. Last week, dozens of Republicans rejected a three-week funding bill, so Congress passed a one-week measure. It expires Friday.

    And on Wall Street, the Nasdaq composite index reached a milestone that it last hit 15 years ago, before the dot-com bubble burst. The index gained 44 points, to finish above 5000 for the first time since 2000. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 150 points. And the S&P 500 added 13.

    The post News Wrap: Iraq launches offensive to retake Tikrit from Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Richard Price’s most recent book “The Whites,” centers around the criminals who get away with awful crimes and become obsessions for the police first assigned to their case. Writing under his pseudonym Harry Brandt, Price names these criminals after the great white whale in Moby Dick.

    Price, who has written eight books as well as for the TV show “The Wire,” talks with Jeffrey Brown about the four-year writing process behind “The Whites,” as well as why writing a novel has become more challenging for Price over time and how technology has altered attitudes toward the police.

    “It’s so easy to make it global, because everybody is a news reporter as long as you have a cell phone,” Price said.

    Below, Price reads a passage from “The Whites”:

    The post Richard Price breaks down his writing process appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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