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

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    The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. CIA Director John Brennan announced a sweeping reorganization of the spy agency Friday. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. CIA Director John Brennan announced a sweeping reorganization of the spy agency Friday. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Director John Brennan has ordered a sweeping reorganization of the CIA, an overhaul designed to make its leaders more accountable and close espionage gaps amid widespread concerns about the spy agency’s limited insights into a series of major global developments.

    Brennan announced the restructuring to the CIA workforce on Friday, including a new directorate devoted to boosting the CIA’s computer hacking skills. He said the move comes after nine agency officers spent three months analyzing its management structure, including what deputy CIA director David Cohen called “pain points,” organizational areas where the CIA’s bureaucracy does not work efficiently.

    Briefing reporters with Cohen at CIA headquarters this week, Brennan said the changes are necessary to address intelligence gaps that the CIA is not covering. He lamented that there is often no single person he can hold accountable for the spying mission in any given part of the world.

    “There are a lot of areas that I would like to have better insight to, better information about, better access to,” Brennan said. “Safe havens, denied areas. Whether because we don’t even have a diplomatic presence in a country, or because there are parts of countries that have been overrun and taken over by terrorist groups and others.”

    The changes come against a backdrop of evidence that the CIA’s focus on hunting and killing terrorists since the Sept. 11 attacks has led to an erosion of the espionage and analytic capabilities the agency built during the Cold War. The CIA, along with other U.S. intelligence agencies, wrongly assessed the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002 and failed to anticipate the rapid collapse of Middle East governments during the Arab Spring in 2011, among other shortcomings.

    The agency’s greatest public success of recent years – the 10-year effort to locate and kill Osama bin Laden in 2011 – may have taken longer than it should have, according to evidence made public in the recent Senate report on CIA interrogations. Internal CIA surveys have cited bad management and bureaucratic frustration as factors in driving talent away from the agency.

    Under Brennan’s reorganization, the CIA would break down the wall between the operations and analytical arms, a system that typically has required the case officers who recruit spies and run covert operations to work for different bosses, in different offices, than analysts who interpret the intelligence and write briefing papers for the president and other policymakers.

    The new plan would blend practitioners of those separate disciplines into 10 centers devoted to various subjects or areas of the world. There are a handful of such centers at the moment, including the Counter Terrorism Center, where analysts and operators have worked side by side for the last decade targeting al-Qaida with espionage and drone strikes.

    Under the new plan, each center would be run by an assistant director who would be responsible for the entire intelligence mission within that jurisdiction, including covert operations, spying, analysis, liaison with foreign partners and logistics.

    The system of CIA stations, headed by a CIA station chief, will remain in place, Brennan said. Most stations are in U.S. embassies, and various CIA case officers in embassies may be working on different missions for different centers.

    The changes do not require congressional approval and will be undertaken within the CIA’s current budget, CIA officials said.

    Critics of a blended approach have raised concerns that combining analysts with operators could compromise the objectivity of the analysts, who are tasked with coldly interpreting intelligence in which they have no stake. It may be harder for an analyst to cast doubt on a source recruited by a case officer he knows personally, the theory goes.

    The head of the CIA’s operation arm retired abruptly in January after voicing concerns about the plan, say two former CIA officials who know him but spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss internal agency matters. Brennan said the undercover officer’s decision “was not a result of this,” but he did not dispute that the officer had opposed some of the changes.

    “Any time we’ve put analysts and operators together, the result has been a more powerful product,” said John McLaughlin, a former CIA analyst who became acting director, and who advised Brennan on the restructuring.

    Brennan is retaining the old structure of CIA directorates. But he is changing some names, including restoring the old moniker “Directorate of Operations,” to the spying arm, the name it had before being rebadged the National Clandestine Service in 2005. For analysts, what used to be called the Directorate of Intelligence will be renamed the Directorate of Analysis. Two others, the directorates of support and science and technology, remain.

    The directorates will manage human resources and set tradecraft standards, Brennan said, while the centers carry out the intelligence missions.

    In another evolution, Brennan is creating a fifth directorate, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which will focus on the new world of computer networks that has changed the way espionage is conducted. Brennan avoided the term “cyber,” a word used by the National Security Agency, the country’s premier digital spying service. The CIA’s mission of human spying now almost always has a digital component -even something so simple as backgrounding a potential asset by hacking into databases – and Brennan said the agency needs to intensify its focus on it.

    The CIA will also significantly boost its leadership training and talent development efforts, which have been compared unfavorably to the military, Brennan said.

    The reorganization is already drawing fire from some quarters. Paul Pillar, a former CIA analyst who famously dissented from the case for war in Iraq, expressed concern that the costs of the changes would outweigh the benefits.

    “I worry that this plan may be another instance of the all-too-common pattern, among senior managers in both governmental and private sector organizations, to try to leave a personal mark by reorganizing the place,” he said in an email.

     

    The post CIA chief announces sweeping agency overhaul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama and his family were in Selma, Alabama on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of civil rights marches that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    Obama spoke on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of a violent confrontation between police and peaceful protesters that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

    Participants marching in a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in this 1965 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.   REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters - RTR4SDZ6

    Participants marching in a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in this 1965 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. President Barack Obama and his family will be in Selma on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches. Credit: REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters

    “So much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war, the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow, the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – met on this bridge,” Obama said. “It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America.”

    Read more: Pres. Obama in Selma: ‘Our march is not yet finished’

    The post Video: Obama speaks in Selma on 50th anniversary of civil rights marches appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Team member Kelsey Perez stocks the shelves with laundry detergent November 24, 2014 at the Glendale Target. The Glendale Target store gives a behind-the-scenes look at Black Friday preparations. (Photo By John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

    A team member stocks the shelves with laundry detergent on Nov. 24, 2014 at Target in Glendale. A recent study found that commonly-used cleaning and personal care products marketed as “green” might not be as environmentally safe as they claim. Credit: John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

    Commonly used cleaning and personal care products marketed as “green” might not be as environmentally-safe as they claim to be, a new study found this week.

    100 percent of goods labeled “natural,” “organic,” “non-toxic,” or certified as green in the study gave off at least one potentially toxic chemical, according to the findings published in the journal of Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health on Wednesday.

    “The paradox is that most of our exposure to air pollutants occurs indoors and a primary source is consumer products,” said Dr. Steinemann said in a press release, “but the public lacks full and accurate information on the ingredients in these products. Our indoor air environments are essentially unregulated and unmonitored.”

    For the study, Dr. Anne Steinemann of the University of Melbourne, Australia, along with a team of research assistants analyzed 37 items — 17 of which were “green” —  including shampoos, hand sanitizers, air fresheners and laundry detergents used and sold throughout Australia and the United States.

    In total, they found the items emitted 156 different kinds of organic chemicals, 42 of which are classified as toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

    Less than six percent of those hazardous chemicals were mentioned on product labels.

    In the U.S., labels for air fresheners, cleaning supplies and laundry products, regulated under the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Act, do not need to include all of the ingredients or fragrances.

    According to the EPA, air pollutant levels indoors may be two- to five- and from time to time, even 100-times greater than levels outdoors.

    The post Potential hazards hidden in ‘green’ cleaning products, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    maynard

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Editor’s note: This is an updated segment that originally aired on November 2, 2014.

    STEPHEN FEE: Like millions of Americans, Oregonian Pam Wald was riveted by the video of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman suffering from brain cancer who moved here last year to end her own life.

    PAM WALD: “I looked at that video. I studied, especially the last time I saw that video, I don’t think I left her eyes.”

    STEPHEN FEE: Maynard lived in California but relocated to take advantage of Oregon’s Death With Dignity law that permits what advocates call physician assisted dying but is more commonly known as physician assisted suicide.

    BRITTANY MAYNARD: “I will die upstairs in my bedroom that I share with my husband, with my mother and my husband by my side.”

    STEPHEN FEE: Maynard, who ended her own life in November, was featured in a media campaign by a group called Compassion and Choices — twenty years earlier, its predecessor group played a key role in advocating for Oregon’s first-in-the-nation right-to-die bill.

    In 1994, Pam Wald considered herself a supporter of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.

    STEPHEN FEE: “So you voted for it, but you never thought, ‘This has to do with me.’”

    PAM WALD: “No, no. It was kind of like out of compassion. The idea that, you know, someone gets in this situation, they deserve a right, you know, to choose. You know, it’s important to choose how we live our lives and how we die.”

    STEPHEN FEE: “But then you found yourself in this situation.”

    PAM WALD: “Yes.”

    STEPHEN FEE: “Where you — where it’s, now it’s the story’s about you.”

    PAM WALD: “Yeah.”

    PAM WALD: “This is my husband.”

    STEPHEN FEE: In 2011, Pam’s husband of 43 years, Ben Wald, discovered an earlier bout of cancer had returned — soon after, the disease began taking a lethal toll. Pam and daughter Bonnie watched as the once robust Ben rapidly lost weight. As the cancer spread to his bones, the pain became intolerable.

    PAM WALD: “Ben woke me up in the middle of the night and he said, ‘Pam, we gotta talk. I don’t want to keep, you know — I’m dying, Pam. I’ve had a good life with you and Bonnie. I really don’t want to just keep living like this. I want to explore Oregon’s Death With Dignity law.’”

    STEPHEN FEE: Under Oregon’s law, a doctor must determine a terminally ill patient has six months or fewer to live. The physician can write a life-ending prescription only after a second doctor signs on and both agree the patient is of sound mind. The patient must request the drug again 15 days after the initial request. But once the patient has it, the doctors’ role is over.

    STEPHEN FEE: Since the law went into effect in 1997, over 1300 people have received life-ending prescriptions — but just 859 have actually taken them and died. Others died sooner and some changed their minds.

    STEPHEN FEE: As Ben’s health deteriorated, he and Pam sought help from Compassion and Choices, the group that supported Brittany Maynard. In 2012, the group connected them with two doctors who signed off on Ben’s wishes.

    PAM WALD: “Monday, Ben got the order for the prescription so it meant we could pick it up on Wednesday. And I thought at that point we would have it and then we would just kind of see. I thought I had more time with him. But he said to me, ‘Pam, I want to take it on Friday of that week.’”

    STEPHEN FEE: Portland physician Bill Toffler also followed the case of Brittany Maynard — Brittany’s story struck a chord with him, too. Toffler’s wife of 40 years was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

    DR. BILL TOFFLER, PHYSICIANS FOR COMPASSIONATE CARE EDUCATION FOUNDATION: “We were blessed with five years after the diagnosis was made. And she died just four and a half months ago.”

    STEPHEN FEE: For Dr. Toffler and his wife, assisted suicide was never an option. He leads a group, Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation, that opposes prescribing lethal drugs to terminal patients.

    DR. BILL TOFFLER: “Every day we lived differently because we knew that we had a limited amount of time in a way that I never perceived before I had a wife what that clear diagnosis. And I’d hope that patients recognize that I value them as a doctor, regardless of how disabled they are, regardless of how sick they are, that their life still has meaning and value. And I want to reflect that, even when they don’t see it themselves.”

    STEPHEN FEE: But what about the fear and the pain that can surround dying? Why not help, I asked Dr. Toffler, if a patient asks?

    DR. BILL TOFFLER: “It is a very scary time. And at that time, I want to come around the person. I want to walk alongside them. I want to be the best doctor I can be. I’m called to be more of a doctor than ever. I’m not supposed to be the person who helps her to kill herself. That’s all too easy.”

    STEPHEN FEE: In a policy opinion, the American Medical Association says “physician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” And some religious groups, most notably the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, have strongly opposed the practice.

    According to the Gallup polling organization, a slim majority of Americans supports assisted suicide. It’s only legal in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont — and since Brittany Maynard’s death, dozens of states have introduced or are reconsidering ‘death with dignity’ legislation.

    And advocates have made progress in the courts. Decisions in Montana and New Mexico have opened the door to assisted dying. Last month, plaintiffs filed suit to allow the practice in California and New York, and Canada’s Supreme Court struck down that country’s national ban on assisted dying.

    Bioethicist Arthur Caplan — who was an opponent of the practice but now supports it — says the terms of the debate haven’t really changed over the past 20 years, even with the publicity surrounding Brittany Maynard’s case.

    We spoke to him before Maynard died late last year.

    ARTHUR CAPLAN, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: “I think what’s different in this debate is that Brittany Maynard is 29, attractive, articulate, almost– passionate about her right to choose here. That’s making the debate focus for a group that didn’t pay attention, younger people.”

    Caplan says fears of figures like Dr. Jack Kevorkian helped derail the right-to-die movement in the 1990s — and that improvements in end-of-life care have eased Americans’ concerns over suffering at death.

    BRITTANY MAYNARD: “I can’t even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me…”

    But he says Brittany Maynard’s case may provide new momentum for supporters of assisted suicide.

    ARTHUR CAPLAN: “I think she’s shifting the politics in a way that we may see some of the folks who got tied up in say, trying to broaden marriage laws and trying to see homosexuality gain wider acceptance move to say, this is a choice I want. This is something I care about because it’s her.”

    STEPHEN FEE: On May 4, 2012, Pam and Ben Wald gathered their closest friends in the living room. They sang songs together, and afterward, in the bedroom they shared, Pam handed Ben the medication that would end his life. He took it without hesitating.

    PAM WALD: “Early on when I got together with my husband and we were first together, we’d be laying in bed together and he was thinking, he’d go like this with his hands. His hands were always moving. It’s kind of like, it’s when he was thinking kind of thing and everything.

    But what I’ve never forgotten is his hands were like this on his chest, and I held my hands on top of his. But his hands never went like that and they just stayed, because he was just at peace. And his last words were, ‘Thank you.’ And he died in two hours.”

    STEPHEN FEE: Ben Wald was 75 years old.

    So what can we learn from Oregon’s experience?

    Katrina Hedberg of the state health authority — who’s neutral on the issue — tracks statistics on Oregon’s Death With Dignity law.

    KATRINA HEDBERG, OREGON HEALTH AUTHORITY: “Initially there were a number of concerns that people had around would this be disproportionately used by people who were disenfranchised, so uneducated or people who might have had disabilities or those kinds of things. And we’ve really found that the people who are participating are people who really want to control the timing and manner surrounding their death.”

    Still, Dr. Toffler says those final months and days should never be cut short, as he learned from experience with his own wife.

    DR. BILL TOFFLER: “We were married for 40 years. And in the last five years I think we had the best years of our life — when she actually had a terminal diagnosis. And I wouldn’t trade those five years for anything.”

    STEPHEN FEE: As for Pam, she’s now volunteering for Compassion and Choices, guiding other families through a process she now knows firsthand.

    PAM WALD: “Nobody wants to talk about dying and death. But once we get into that, it really becomes an act of love. It really does.”

    The post After Brittany Maynard, right-to-die movement finds new life beyond Oregon appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Thousands descended on Selma, Alabama on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” a now infamous day in 1965 when police beat and tear-gassed peaceful protesters marching for voting rights.

    The crowds gathered ahead of a speech by President Barack Obama, who will speak on the Edmund Pettus Bridge Saturday afternoon about the future of civil rights in America.

    SELMA, AL - MARCH 07:  People wait to hear U.S. president Barack Obama speak in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Selma is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the famed civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that resulted in a violent confrontation with Selma police and State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    People wait to hear President Barack Obama speak in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Participants marching in a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in this 1965 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.   REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters - RTR4SDZ6

    Participants marching in a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in this 1965 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Credit: REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters

    Speaking to reporters on Friday, Obama said his visit to Selma was not just about remembering the past, but also about looking hard at the country “in the here and now.”

    “Selma is now,” he said. “Selma is about the courage of ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they believe they can change the country, that they can shape our nation’s destiny. Selma is about each of us asking ourselves what we can do to make America better.”

    Police officers block Broad Street near the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. US President Barack Obama and the first family will visit Selma to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when civil rights marchers attempting to walk to the Alabama capital of Montgomery to end voting discrimination against African Americans clashed with police.    AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

    Police officers block Broad Street near the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

    March 1965:  A line of policemen on duty during a black voting rights march in Montgomery, Alabama. Dr Martin Luther King led the march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery.  (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

    A line of policemen stand on duty during a black voting rights march in Montgomery, Alabama in March of 1965. Credit: William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images

    In Selma today, the town of about 20,000 people is roughly 80 percent black and more than 40 percent of residents live in poverty, Reuters reports.

    According to the AP, nearly all students who attend public school in Selma are black, while most white students go to private schools.

    “Alabama has been behind the curve for not just 50 years, but 150 years,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told the AP. “We are just now starting to get out from under the stigma.”

    SELMA, AL - MARCH 06:  School kids walk by a vacant home that is along the historic route that civil rights marchers took during the Selma to Montgomery march on March 6, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. 50 years after the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery where marchers were beaten by State police officers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma struggles economically and is one of the poorest cities in Alabama with a 10.2 percent unemployment rate and over 40 percent of residents living below the national poverty level.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    School kids walk along the historic route that civil rights marchers took during the Selma to Montgomery on March 6, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    March 1965:  Children watching a black voting rights march in Alabama. Dr Martin Luther King led the march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery.  (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

    Children watch a black voting rights march in Alabama in March, 1965. Dr Martin Luther King led the march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. Credit: William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images

    People fill Broad Street while waiting for an anniversary event at the Edmund Pettus Bridge March 7, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. US President Barack Obama and the first family will visit Selma to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when civil rights marchers attempting to walk to the Alabama capital of Montgomery to end voting discrimination against African Americans clashed with police.    AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

    People fill Broad Street while waiting for an anniversary event at the Edmund Pettus Bridge March 7, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

    Students from the Tuskegee Institute listen to speeches at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march, March 1965.  (Photo by Morton Broffman/Getty Images)

    Students from the Tuskegee Institute listen to speeches at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march in March, 1965. Credit: Morton Broffman/Getty Images

    SELMA, AL - MARCH 05:  A bust of Dr. Martin Luther King is displayed in front of the Brown Chapel AME Church on March 5, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Selma is preparing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famed civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that resulted in a violent confrontation with Selma police and State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    A bust of Dr. Martin Luther King is displayed in front of the Brown Chapel AME Church on March 5, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    30th March 1965:  American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King (1929  - 1968) and his wife Coretta Scott King lead a black voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery.  (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

    American civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King lead a black voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery on March 30, 1965. Credit: William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images

    The post 50 years after ‘Bloody Sunday,’ see photos of Selma then and now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Participants in three civil rights marches a half century ago are being recognized with Congressional Gold Medals, the highest honor awarded by Congress.

    President Barack Obama signed legislation awarding the medals into law Saturday as he flew to Selma, Alabama, for commemorations of the Black Sunday protest march of March 7, 1965.

    On that day, many in a crowd of 600 were beaten bloody by state troopers as they tried to cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on their intended march to Montgomery, Alabama.

    Shocking scenes of the brutality helped to galvanize the nation against racial oppression in the South and hasten passage of the Voting Rights Act that year.

    Two more demonstrations followed in Selma. In the last one, the demonstrators completed their march to Montgomery.

    The post Obama signs law honoring civil rights marchers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. The remarks come on the 50th anniversary of the 'Bloody Sunday' march at the bridge, where police and state troopers beat and used tear gas against peaceful marchers who were advocating against racial discrimination at the voting booth.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY) - RTR4SGFE

    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    SELMA, Ala. — America’s racial history “still casts its long shadow upon us,” the nation’s first black president said Sunday as he stood in solidarity and remembrance with civil rights activists whose beatings by police a half-century ago galvanized people against racial oppression and hastened passage of historic voting rights for minorities.

    On the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march that erupted in police violence on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, President Barack Obama praised the figures of a civil rights era that he was too young to know. He called them “warriors of justice” who pushed America closer to a more perfect union.

    “So much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war, the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow, the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – met on this bridge,” Obama told the crowd under a broiling sun. “It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America. ”

    Thousands packed the riverside town for commemorations of the march of March 7, 1965, in what became the first of three aiming to reach Montgomery, Alabama, to demand an end to discrimination against black voters and all such victims of segregation. Scenes of troopers beating marchers on the bridge shocked the nation, emboldening leaders in Washington to pass the Voting Rights Act five months later.

    Obama spoke immediately after Rep. John Lewis, a leader of the Selma march who was brought down by police truncheons – his skull fractured – that day in 1965.

    “There’s still work left to be done,’ Lewis said. “Get out there and push and pull until we redeem the soul of America.”

    SELMA, AL - MARCH 07:  U.S. President Barack Obama (R) hugs U.S. Rep John Lewis (D-GA) speaks in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Selma is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the famed civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery that resulted in a violent confrontation with Selma police and State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama hugs U.S. Rep John Lewis in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    In the crowd stood Madeline McCloud of Gainesville, Florida, who traveled overnight with a group of NAACP members from central Florida and marched in Georgia for civil rights back in the day.

    “For me this could be the end of the journey since I’m 72,” she said. “I’m stepping back into the history we made.”

    Also in attendance was Peggy Wallace Kennedy, a daughter of George Wallace, the late Alabama governor who once vowed “segregation forever.”

    On his way to Selma, Obama signed a law awarding the Congressional Gold medal to participants of the trio of marches, the last of which brought protesters all the way to Montgomery.

    The shadow of enduring discrimination touched the event as Obama addressed his government’s investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. The investigation, he said, “evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the civil rights movement. But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed. What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, or sanctioned by law and custom. And before the civil rights movement, it most surely was.”

    The Justice Department concluded this past week that Ferguson had engaged in practices that discriminated against the city’s largely black population. The department also declined to prosecute the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson last year, sparking days of violent protests and marches.

    Former President George W. Bush shared the platform during speeches that preceded a symbolic walk across the bridge by Obama, his wife Michelle, and more.

    “Fifty years from `Bloody Sunday’, our march is not yet finished,” Obama said. “But we are getting closer.

    “Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding, our union is not yet perfect. But we are getting closer. Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge.”

    Obama said a disservice is done to the cause of justice by suggesting that bias and discrimination “are immutable” or that racial division is inherent to America. He noted the gains of women and gays, in particular.

    “If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the `50s,” he said. “Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was 30 years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.”

    The post Pres. Obama in Selma: ‘Our march is not yet finished’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Women draw drinking water next to the well in the Al-Wazia directorate of Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz February 12, 2015. Researchers say diseases spread by unclean water and poor sanitation are the fifth biggest killers of women around the world. Photo by Mohamed al-Sayaghi/REUTERS.

    Women draw drinking water next to the well in the Al-Wazia directorate of Yemen’s southwestern city of Taiz February 12, 2015. Researchers say diseases spread by unclean water and poor sanitation are the fifth biggest killers of women around the world. Photo by Mohamed al-Sayaghi/REUTERS.

    Dirty water and poor sanitation kill more women across the globe than diabetes, HIV or breast cancer, researchers said this week.

    Diseases linked to the lack of clean water and toilets kill nearly 800,000 women worldwide every year, making them the fifth leading cause of death for women, according to WaterAid, an international non-governmental organization.

    “This completely unacceptable situation affects women and girls’ education, their health, their dignity and ultimately, in too many cases, results in an early and needless death,” WaterAid CEO Barbara Frost said in a statement.

    More than 370 million women do not have access to clean drinking water and more than one billion live without access to a safe toilet, according to WaterAid.

    The post Dirty water more deadly for women than HIV, breast cancer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NigeriaBombing

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: As many as five separate bomb blasts reportedly killed at least 54 people and wounded 143 others in northeastern Nigeria.

    Some of the victims were children. Suicide bombers targeted a couple of crowded markets and a busy bus station. A car bomb went off at a military checkpoint.

    For the latest, we’re joined via Skype by Nigerian bureau chief with the Associated Press, Michelle Faul.

    So, what you can tell us about what happened today?

    MICHELLE FAUL, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, multiple blasts I mean four in the city, one at the checkpoint outside.

    We’re told by the police that at least 54 people were killed and another 143 are in hospitals in Maiduguri, which is the capital of Borno State.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is in the context of advances that the Nigerian military seems to be making in other parts of the state, against Boko Haram, right?

    MICHELLE FAUL: The Nigerian military, and Chadian troops — the Chadians have been leading this multinational effort to wrest towns and villages back from Boko Haram, and Boko Haram’s way of dealing with this has been with many more suicide bombings and attacks on remote villages.

    Now, Maiduguri is the birth place of Boko Haram. It’s the city where Boko Haram would like to form an Islamic caliphate with Maiduguri as the capital. So, it has great significance for the Islamic uprising.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And over the past couple of weeks or months, we’ve also, unfortunately, had to report that some of these suicide bombers are young girls or even women.

    MICHELLE FAUL: Girls as young as 10 years old, we’ve been told.

    One of them, a 10-year-old, or so she appeared to witnesses, was responsible for bombing a market in Maiduguri just last month.

    There are fears that the women that are being used and the girls that are being used in these attacks may be kidnap victims.

    As you know, Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of young women, girls, boys, young men.

    Nobody knows how many. I think the most famous one you’ll remember were nearly 300 girls from a school in Chibok.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is the support of the neighboring nations making a difference in this fight?

    MICHELLE FAUL: Well, I think certainly the Chadians have been taking the bull by the horns in wresting major Boko Haram strongholds from the militants and have in a way galvanized Nigerian troops intro responding as well.

    Because up until recent weeks Nigerian troops had been mainly failing at every front against Boko Haram, which had been making advances, and which we were told at one point in January was holding an area the size of Belgium.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And where is Nigerian public opinion on this now?

    MICHELLE FAUL: Nigerian public opinion is very mixed.

    I think most people are very upset with President Goodluck Jonathan’s failure to curtail this uprising, and we have presidential elections coming up on March the 28th, a very important election for President Jonathan, who wants to be re-elected.

    But we’re told by analysts that this is so close, that it is too close to call.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    Michelle Faul, Nigerian bureau chief of the Associated Press joining us via Skype, thanks so much.

    MICHELLE FAUL: You’re most welcome.

    The post As military advances in Nigeria, Boko Haram ramps up bombings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teen in Madison, Wisconsin Friday night, sparking protests in the state capital.

    Tony Robinson, 19, died at the hospital despite officers’ efforts to revive him, according to a statement by Madison Police Chief Mike Koval.

    “He was unarmed. That’s going to make this all the more complicated for the investigators, for the public to accept,” Koval said at a news conference on Saturday.

    The incident began around 6:30 Friday evening, when Officer Matt Kenny responded to a call reporting that a young man was jumping into traffic. Another caller then identified the man as “responsible for a battery that had been recently committed,” Koval said.

    After following the man to an apartment and hearing “what sounded like a disturbance,” Kenny, 45, forced his way into the building, according to Koval.

    Inside the apartment, the suspect, Tony Robinson, assaulted Kenny, who then shot him “in the context of mutual combat,” Koval said.

    Police said that they did not find any weapons in the apartment.

    Wisconsin’s Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation will begin an inquiry into the shooting. A 2014 state law requires Wisconsin police departments to hand off officer-involved death investigations to outside agencies.

    “Obviously in light of the fact that we are completely bound by state law, which indicates that an independent oversight and investigation should be conducted outside of the Madison Police Department, we respected that from the moment we took the scene, froze the scene, and waited for the DCI to arrive,” Koval said.

    Kenny, a 12-year veteran of the Madison Police Department, was previously cleared of criminal responsibility and commended for valor in a fatal 2007 police shooting, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

    A small crowd of protesters gathered at the scene of the shooting Friday night, chanting “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace,” refrains from protests following other police shootings, including that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

    Demonstrators also gathered in Madison Saturday, and planned larger protests for next week.

    Michael Johnson, a spokesman for Robinson’s family said on Facebook that Robinson was a “loving and caring young man,” a Sun Prairie High School graduate who planned to pursue a degree in business, NBC News reported.

    “It’s a challenging time for this family right now. To lose a son, especially the way they lost a son,” Johnson said.

    The post Unarmed black teen fatally shot by Madison police appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says it was through news reports that he first learned that Hillary Rodham Clinton used a private, nongovernment email account while serving as his secretary of state.

    In an interview Saturday with CBS News, Obama says he’s glad that Clinton has instructed that those emails about official business be disclosed. He also maintains that his administration remains the most transparent administration ever.

    Clinton has drawn criticism for using a private server during the four years she was the nation’s top diplomat. Her sidestepping official government email also raises questions about whether all pertinent messages have been preserved as well as turned over for congressional investigations and lawsuits.

    Clinton says that she’s turned over all relevant emails – totaling 55,000 pages – to the State Department for review.

     

    The post Obama says he learned of Clinton’s private email account through news reports appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first biosimilar drug for distribution in the United States, the agency announced on Friday.

    The drug approved was Zarxio, a medication used to prevent infections in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

    The approval of the first biosimilar, which are copy-cat “generic” versions of brand-name biologic drugs, comes five years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010 by President Barack Obama.

    Biologics are a type of drug made from living cells, which makes them more complex and expensive than traditional pills that are made from mixing chemicals.

    Many of these “generic” biosimilars have been available in Europe for more than eight years, sold at prices up to thirty percent less than their name-brand counterparts.

    The approval of the first biosimilars in the U.S. is poised to save the healthcare industry and patients $5.7 billion over the next decade, assuming a 30 percent discount, according to Express Scripts.

    When biologics were first manufactured in the 1980s, biosilimar copies were thought to be impossible.

    “Unlike conventional medications, biologics can’t be made by following a chemical ‘recipe.’ Dr. Leah Christl, Ph.D., Associate Director for Therapeutic Biologics, told the FDA. “For that reason, manufacturing biologics is a far more complex process than manufacturing drugs.”

    Biosimilars are not identical duplicates of their brand-name counterparts the way that most other chemical generic drugs are.

    Normally patent protection for medications expires, opening up the market to generic manufacturers, which provides patients with more options for less expensive medication. However until now, biologics manufacturers in America have not had to face the same open-market competition.

    “Biosimilars will provide access to important therapies for patients who need them,” Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the commissioner of the FDA, said. “Patients and the health care community can be confident that biosimilar products approved by the FDA meet the agency’s rigorous safety, efficacy and quality standards.”

    The post FDA approves first biosimilar drug for distribution in the US appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former President Bill Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative's 2015 Winter Meeting in New York February 10, 2015. Clinton defended his foundation's acceptance of donations from foreign sources Saturday. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Former President Bill Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2015 Winter Meeting in New York February 10, 2015. Clinton defended his foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign sources Saturday. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Former President Bill Clinton defended his foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign governments on Saturday, pointing to the track record of his global philanthropy as Hillary Rodham Clinton nears an announcement on a 2016 presidential campaign.

    In an interview at the Clinton Global Initiative University, the ex-president sought to address critics who have questioned the receipt of donations from foreign governments while the former first lady served in the State Department and after she departed in early 2013.

    “My theory about all of this is disclose everything and then let people make their judgments,” Clinton told moderator Larry Wilmore of the cable channel Comedy Central. “I believe we have done a lot more good than harm and I believe this is a good thing.”

    He spoke shortly after Hillary Clinton appeared on stage along with the couple’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, but steered clear of addressing criticism involving her use of a private email account while she served as secretary of state under President Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton also did not talk about the recent scrutiny of the foundation’s fundraising practices, instead giving college students a preview of an upcoming report on the progress of women and girls by her foundation’s “No Ceilings” project.

    On the donations flap, Bill Clinton noted that some of the foundation’s money has come from Middle Eastern nations, pointing to donations from the United Arab Emirates. “Do we agree with everything they do? No. But they’re helping us fight ISIS,” he said. Similarly, Bill Clinton said he didn’t agree with the entire foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, another donor, but he pointed to its construction of the kingdom’s first coeducational institution.

    He said the foundation has received donations from more than 300,000 people since its inception. “You’ve got to decide when you do this work whether it will do more good than harm if someone helps you from another country,” he said.

    In recent days, Hillary Clinton has faced criticism over her use of a private email account while she was secretary of state. The disclosures have raised questions over whether Clinton complied with federal rules requiring government officials to retain written communications involving official business.

    Clinton has requested her emails to be released and the State Department is reviewing the 55,000 pages of emails she has already turned over. Congressional Republicans are investigating.

    Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said Hillary Clinton had spent the past week “hiding from the press and voters” and that it was “clear that Hillary Clinton feels the rules that every other American lives by don’t apply to her, and today’s failure to answer these questions did nothing to allay any of these concerns.”

    Obama commented publicly on the email controversy for the first time Saturday, telling CBS News that he first heard about the private account through news reports and that he was glad that Hillary Clinton had “instructed that those emails about official business need to be disclosed.” Asked how the dustup squared with his administration’s push for transparency, Obama said Clinton’s decision to put them forward “will allow us to make sure that people have the information they need.”

    Republicans have also assailed the Clinton Foundation’s receipt of donations from foreign governments, saying it could create a conflict of interest for the former first lady if she’s elected president.

    Hillary Clinton is building a campaign team and remains the leading Democratic presidential contender if she enters the 2016 campaign. Her appearance at the University of Miami brought her before an audience of college students in one of the nation’s top presidential battleground states and was only a short drive from the home of a potential Republican rival, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

    Pointing to her upcoming “No Ceiling” report, Hillary Clinton said “unfinished business” remained in the educational and economic opportunities of women and girls and she would speak in detail about it next week in New York. She said she plans to black out her social media profile images on Sunday to take part in a program called “Not There” to raise awareness about gender inequality.

    The post Bill Clinton defends foundation’s foreign funding appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Girls smeared in colors celebrate Holi festival, on March 6, 2015 in Gurgaon, India. Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    Girls smeared in colors celebrate Holi festival, on March 6, 2015 in Gurgaon, India. Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    This week, revelers in India celebrated Holi, an ancient religious festival primarily observed in India and Nepal.

    Children play with colors on the occasion of Holi 'The Festival of Colours,' on March 6, 2015 in Indore, India.  Photo by Arun Mondhe/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    Children play with colors on the occasion of Holi ‘The Festival of Colors,’ on March 6, 2015 in Indore, India. Photo by Arun Mondhe/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    According to the Associated Press, the traditionally Hindu festival has been embraced by a variety of faiths.

    “The streets and lanes across most of India have turned into a large playground where people of all faiths throw colored powder and water at each other,” the AP wrote.

    An Indian man throws colored powder on a crowd of revelers during the Dadjee ka Huranga festivities in the north Indian town of Baldeo on March 7, 2015. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images.

    A man throws colored powder on a crowd of revelers during the Dadjee ka Huranga festivities in the north Indian town of Baldeo on March 7, 2015. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images.

    Celebrations begin with a giant bonfire at night and continue the next day with a free-for-all frolic of colored powder and water fights in open streets, parks and outside temples.

    Occurring at the approach of the vernal equinox, the festival heralds the arrival of spring and marks the beginning of a new year to many Hindus.

    People smeared in colours celebrate Holi on a street outside the Bankey Bihari temple, on March 6, 2015 in Vrindavan, India. Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    People smeared in colors celebrate Holi on a street outside the Bankey Bihari temple, on March 6, 2015 in Vrindavan, India. Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    People celebrate Holi festival at Radha Krishan Temple on March 6, 2015 in Shimla, India. Photo by Santosh Rawat/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    People celebrate Holi festival at Radha Krishan Temple on March 6, 2015 in Shimla, India. Photo by Santosh Rawat/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    People smeared in colours celebrate Holi on a street outside the Bankey Bihari temple, on March 6, 2015 in Vrindavan, India. Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    People smeared in colors celebrate Holi on a street outside the Bankey Bihari temple, on March 6, 2015 in Vrindavan, India. Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    People smeared in colors celebrate Holi on a street outside the Bankey Bihari temple, on March 6, 2015 in Vrindavan, India. Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    People smeared in colors celebrate Holi on a street outside the Bankey Bihari temple, on March 6, 2015 in Vrindavan, India. Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

    An Indian man is stripped of his shirt as he is surrounded by women at the beginning of the Dadjee ka Huranga festivities in the north Indian town of Baldeo on March 7, 2015. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images.

    A man is stripped of his shirt as he is surrounded by women at the beginning of the Dadjee ka Huranga festivities in the north Indian town of Baldeo on March 7, 2015. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images.

    Indian men and women participate in the Dadjee ka Huranga festivities in a hindu temple in the north Indian town of Baldeo on March 7, 2015. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images.

    Men and women participate in the Dadjee ka Huranga festivities in a hindu temple in the north Indian town of Baldeo on March 7, 2015. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images.

    An Indian boy slides in the remnant water left after a large crowd of men and women participated in the Dadjee ka Huranga festivities in the north Indian town of Baldeo on March 7, 2015. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images.

    A boy slides in the remnant water left after a large crowd of men and women participated in the Dadjee ka Huranga festivities in the north Indian town of Baldeo on March 7, 2015. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images.

    The post Photos: Revelers let loose during Holi festival in India appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama's daughters Sasha (L) and Malia (R) arrive with their parents aboard Air Force One at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama March 7, 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a march that sparked the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Photo by Johnathon Ernst/Reuters

    President Barack Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia arrive with their parents aboard Air Force One at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama on March 7, 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a march that sparked the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Photo by Johnathon Ernst/Reuters

    SELMA, Ala.– In four minutes, President Barack Obama gave his daughters a living history lesson on the civil rights movement.

    Obama paid tribute Saturday to civil rights legends sung and unsung by leading a symbolic march across an Alabama bridge where throngs who protested their lack of voting rights 50 years ago were beaten by police on what is known as “Bloody Sunday.”

    Clasping hands with “one of my heroes,” Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was badly beaten on Bloody Sunday, Obama led several dozen people across the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge in his shirtsleeves underneath Alabama’s bright sun.

    Malia and Sasha, his teenage daughters, marched along with first lady Michelle Obama, her mother, Marian Robinson, and former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.

    Lewis, an original Bloody Sunday participant whose head was cracked open by police as he led a group across the bridge, held court when Saturday’s group stopped after about four minutes, just after passing beneath the bridge awning bearing the name of Pettus, a brigadier general in the Confederate army.

    “I want to say what an extraordinary honor this has been, especially to have Sasha and Malia,” Obama said of his 13-year-old and 16-year-old.

    Obama had said he was taking his daughters to Selma to “remind them of their own obligations.”

    “There are going to be marches for them to march, and struggles for them to fight. And if we’ve done our job, then that next generation is going to be picking up the torch, as well,” Obama said at a Black History Month observance at the White House last month.

    Earlier this week, in a radio interview with host Tom Joyner, Obama said he thinks his daughters appreciate that people made sacrifices so that life would be easier for them. He noted that they live in the White House with their grandmother, who he said remembers what it was like living in a segregated setting on the South Side of Chicago.

    “Part of what I want Malia and Sasha to understand is that this is an unfinished project,” he said, referring to simmering racial tensions that flared up following the police-involved killings last year of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York. Neither of the officers involved was charged with committing any crimes.

    “There is, you know, work to be done right now. And I say to my daughters the same thing I say to the young people who work for me, and that is it is a glorious task that we are given to continually try to improve this great country of ours,” he said. “And we shouldn’t shy away from that work and we shouldn’t be complacent about it. And everybody’s got to find their own way to do it.”

    Asked how he would like to see his daughters accomplish that, Obama said he doubted they would do it from a public perch.

    “I am very doubtful that they will want to run for public office … partly because they’ve been listening to their mother,” he said.

    The post Obama: Selma represents living history lesson for daughters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama (5th L, in white shirt) participates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. Also pictured are Obama's mother-in-law Marian Robinson (from L), his daughter Sasha, first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA). Crowds gathered Sunday march 8, 2015 for other events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, which spawned a landmark voting law. Photo by Jonathon Ernst/Reuters

    President Barack Obama participates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. Crowds gathered Sunday march 8, 2015 for other events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, which spawned a landmark voting law. Photo by Jonathon Ernst/Reuters

    SELMA, Ala.– The Bloody Sunday 50th anniversary commemoration continued Sunday with gatherings and other events in Selma before a group retraces the steps that helped secure equal voting rights 50 years ago.

    As dawn broke Sunday, a crowd gathered for the Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast at Wallace Community College. Other expected events Sunday include film screenings and a pre-march rally at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

    Police beat and tear-gassed marchers at the foot of the bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965, in an ugly spasm of violence that shocked the nation. The attack on demonstrators preceded the Selma-to-Montgomery march, which occurred two weeks later. Both helped build momentum for congressional approval of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

    Five year old Kendarius Vickers stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as he waits for his family before the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march in Selma, Alabama March 8, 2015. REUTERS/Tami Chappell  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY) - RTR4SIDS

    Kendarius Vickers, 5, stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as he waits for his family before the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march in Selma, Alabama March 8, 2015. Credit: REUTERS/Tami Chappell

    A march from Selma to Montgomery in remembrance of the journey the demonstrators took is set to begin Monday morning and culminate with a rally at the Alabama state Capitol on Friday afternoon.

    Thousands gathered Saturday in the town of roughly 20,000 to hear speeches from leaders including President Barack Obama and Georgia Rep. John Lewis – an Alabama native who was among the demonstrators that was attacked by law enforcement on a march for equal voting rights.

    Both gave rousing speeches on the work left to be done to achieve equality and Obama also touched on improvements in American race relations. The president mentioned recent high profile clashes between citizens and law enforcement on the circumstances leading to fatal police shootings and law enforcement tactics toward minorities.

    U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd L) participates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. Also pictured are first lady Michelle Obama (L), U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) (2nd L), former first lady Laura Bush (2nd R) and former president George W. Bush (R). The event comes on the 50th anniversary of the 'Bloody Sunday' march at the bridge, where police and state troopers beat and used tear gas against peaceful marchers who were advocating against racial discrimination at the voting booth.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR4SGKC

    President Barack Obama participates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    “We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us,” Obama said. “We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character requires admitting as much.”

    The president also addressed notions that the prejudice that characterized the civil rights era exists in more insidious forms today and little or nothing has changed since then.

    “Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was 30 years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better,” he said.

    Bishop Dennis Proctor of the Alabama-Florida Episcopal District said his group brought five buses to the anniversary commemoration. But he told members not to come to Selma if they couldn’t commit to fighting to restore protections in the Voting Rights Act that were recently eliminated.

    The U.S Supreme Court in 2013 struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act which required states with a history of minority voter suppression to get permission from the Justice Department before changing voting laws.

    “I think within every human being there’s a desire to be validated,” Proctor said before Sunday’s unity breakfast. “For African-Americans, especially in this state, validation came at the ballot box.”

    Proctor said it was bittersweet to commemorate the 1965 march and legislation when what many people consider the critical component of the Voting Rights Act is no longer in place. Fifty years after fighting for equal voting rights, black people and other minorities still face serious opposition when it comes to legislation to protection from discrimination, he said.

    “It seems like the clock is being turned back 50 years. After all of the strides that have been made, all of the blood that has been shed,” said state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Democrat from Mobile.

    This report was written by Kim Chandler and Phillip Lucas of the Associated Press.

    The post Steps of history retraced at ‘Bloody Sunday’ commemoration appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Voting booths are set up for early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. Obama says Voter ID laws can be a barrier to the ballot box. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

    Voting booths are set up for early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. Obama says Voter ID laws can be a barrier to the ballot box. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says voter ID laws can be a barrier to voting, and the government needs a revitalized Voting Rights Act to police ballot box discrimination.

    Obama tells CBS’ “Sunday Morning” that the Justice Department must have the right tools to go after a place that’s discriminating against certain voters and fix the problem.

    The president also is troubled by photo ID requirements. He says that in some places, getting a photo ID can cost up to $150 – and that can be a burden for someone who’s on a fixed income and not driving anymore and doesn’t have a license.

    A Supreme Court ruling in 2013 eliminated the Justice Department’s ability under the Voting Rights Act to identify and stop potentially discriminatory voting laws before they took effect.

    The post Obama speaks out against voter ID laws as barrier to voting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Speaking in Selma on Saturday, President Barack Obama said that the country’s racial history “still casts its long shadow upon us.”

    “So much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war, the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow, the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – met on this bridge,” he said. “It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America.”

    As events commemorating “Bloody Sunday” continue this weekend, take a look back at some of the photos of our nation’s history leading up to the march from Selma to Montgomery and the subsequent passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

    A drinking fountain on the county courthouse lawn in Halifax, North Carolina, in this April 1938 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.   REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters - RTR4SDSE

    A drinking fountain on the county courthouse lawn in Halifax, North Carolina, in this April 1938 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters

    A man drinks at a "colored" water cooler in a streetcar terminal in Oklahoma City, in this July 1939 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    A man drinks at a segregated water cooler in a streetcar terminal in Oklahoma City, in this July 1939 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    The bus station in Durham, North Carolina, in this May 1940 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    The bus station in Durham, North Carolina, in this May 1940 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    A high school student being educated via television during the period that schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, were closed to avoid integration, in this September 1958 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    A high school student being educated via television during the period that schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, were closed to avoid integration, in this September 1958 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    Marchers, signs, and a tent during the civil rights march on Washington D.C., in this August 28, 1963 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    Marchers, signs, and a tent during the civil rights march on Washington D.C., in this August 28, 1963 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    A crowd of surrounding the Reflecting Pool and continuing to the Washington Monument during the civil rights march on Washington D.C., in this August 28, 1963 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    A crowd of surrounding the Reflecting Pool and continuing to the Washington Monument during the civil rights march on Washington D.C., in this August 28, 1963 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    A young woman casts her ballot at Cardoza High School in Washington D.C., in this November 3, 1964 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    A young woman casts her ballot at Cardoza High School in Washington D.C., in this November 3, 1964 photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress. REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters.

    Video: Obama speaks in Selma on 50th anniversary of civil rights marches

    The post From segregation to Selma: View iconic photos from the Civil Rights movement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Five women’s rights activists have been detained in China for organizing demonstrations for International Women’s Day, celebrated on Mar. 8.

    The women, who live in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hangzhou, were taken into custody by police on Friday, human rights lawyers told Reuters. The activists had been planning a national campaign against sexual harassment on public transportation.

    One of the women, Li Tingting, who goes by the pseudonym Li Maizi, is a well known activist from Beijing who led a campaign for gender-neutral toilets, Reuters reported.

    “They have not given information on why she was detained, but my guess is that it has something to do with maintaining social stability on International Women’s Day,” Yan Xin, Li’s lawyer told the South China Morning Post.

    Lawyers for the detained activists told Reuters charges against the women could be brought on Monday.

    Human rights groups say China is taking an increasingly hard line approach against freedom of expression. Since taking office in 2012, President Xi Jingping has cracked down on grass-roots activism and civic discourse in the country, according to the New York Times.

    This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1995 United Nations’ Fourth World Women Conference, which was held in Beijing, where 189 countries adopted measures for the advancement of women’s human rights.

    The post Chinese activists detained ahead of International Women’s Day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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