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

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    Hillary Clinton is expected to address recent reports of her private email, used while she was secretary of state. PBS NewsHour will live stream the event, scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT.

    UNITED NATIONS — Hillary Rodham Clinton is opening up about her email practices as secretary of state, after days of silence and intensifying calls from Democrats as well as Republicans to address the matter.

    Clinton planned a “brief press conference,” spokesman Nick Merrill said, immediately after her speech at a U.N. forum on women in society. Clinton told the forum equality for women “is not just morally right, but is the smart thing to do” and leaders “have to keep making the same case over and over again. What we are doing here today is smart for companies and smart for countries.”

    She was introduced at the forum as “a future president,” prompting applause and cheers through the room. But her speech steered clear of presidential politics.

    Nearby, journalists jostled for position, after waiting two hours or more at an overwhelmed credentials office, to hear the potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate speak for the first time about her use of private emails to conduct official business.

    Clinton ignored the email issue at a forum Monday while fellow Democrats urged her to speak out about conducting business in a private account while secretary of state. Republicans are ramping up their attention on the issue.

    Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois — the No. 2 Senate Democrat — became the first member of his party’s leadership to call on Clinton to address the issue. “I think it’s only fair to say to Hillary Clinton: ‘Tell us your side of the story,'” Durbin said Tuesday on MSNBC. “What did you put on this personal email?”

    Also on Tuesday, the five Democrats on the House panel investigating the fatal 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, asked the State Department to make public some of Clinton’s emails that recently were provided to the committee. They wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry and urged him to make a priority of the 850 pages of documents that the department gave to the panel.

    The State Department is reviewing 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton has turned over, and Republicans in Congress have said they plan to review her email practices.

    The White House has said that President Barack Obama learned only recently that Clinton was using a privately run server for emailing during her tenure and that she was using private email for all official business. He was aware of the account’s existence before because the two had exchanged emails using it.

    Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Clinton should turn the server itself over to an “independent arbiter.”

    The planned news conference would be her first since she left the State Department in early 2013. She gave several TV interviews during her book tour last year, frequently conducts question-and-answer sessions with moderators during speaking engagements and briefly answered questions from reporters at an Iowa event in September.

    Clinton is under scrutiny over whether she fully complied with federal laws requiring government officials to preserve written communications involving official business. By using her own email server, traced to an Internet connection registered to her hometown in Chappaqua, New York, she gained more control over her email than she would have had using a government server.

    During the past week, the State Department has faced a torrent of questions about Clinton’s email practices and has increasingly referred them to Clinton and her team.

    Last week, Clinton said in a Twitter message that she wanted her emails released by the State Department as soon as possible — but did not address why she does not put them out herself. Clinton’s spokesmen and the State Department have said she never received or transmitted classified information on her private account, in which case there would be no concerns that disclosure of her messages could compromise national security.

    Clinton is approaching a public decision on a 2016 presidential campaign and remains the leading prospect for the Democratic nomination if she seeks the White House again.

    Republicans noted a State Department policy requiring all outgoing employees to turn over job-related materials before leaving. The policy required such employees to sign a “separation statement” declaring they had “surrendered to responsible officials all unclassified documents” related to official business during their employment.

    Priebus said the “fact that Hillary Clinton did not abide by the same rules her State Department employees had to comply with is just the latest example of how the Clintons think the rules don’t apply to them.” It was not immediately clear if Clinton signed the agreement, but State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the secretary of state is supposed to follow such department policies.

    Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York and Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Clinton expected to take questions on emails appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images.

    Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images.

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

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

    Question: What if a manager forces you to deal with the personnel department?

    My friend’s mom works at the company where I want to work. She came through with the name of the hiring manager for the job I want. I’ve learned from your articles that it’s best to go straight to the manager. So, I wrote a good letter demonstrating why I am the right person for the position and sent it to the manager. Now I find out the manager just passed it on to the personnel recruiter for review! So, what do you do when the hiring manager forces you through the personnel department?

    Nick Corcodilos: Last week we talked about “The biggest roadblock in the hiring process”: Human resources. Now let’s talk about how to go around the roadblocks to get hired.

    Good for you for tracking down the actual hiring manager, but what you did next is what resulted in your being routed to the personnel department.

    You went to a lot of trouble to develop a good inside contact, but then you squandered it. No offense, but you’re acting like just any other job candidate, and the manager is treating you that way.

    While I fault the manager for not giving your thoughtful letter the attention it deserves, you fell right into the same old trap: You sent a letter to someone you don’t know who doesn’t know you. That’s not much better than sending a resume to HR. It all gets treated like junk mail. (See “Should I accept HR’s rejection letter?”)

    Think about how you could have leveraged the information your friend’s mom gave you. You went to a lot of trouble to develop a good inside contact, but then you squandered it. No offense, but you’re acting like just any other job candidate, and the manager is treating you that way. When you get a personal referral to a hiring manager, you don’t write. You use that introduction to establish a more personal level of contact.

    You would get the most mileage if your friend’s mother actually spoke to the manager. She should just poke her head in the manager’s door and say, “I heard you’re looking to fill a position. I think I can help you out. There’s someone who would be great at this job. His name is… Would you be interested in talking with him?”

    If the response is positive, the next part is crucial. “This person is being pursued by a couple of companies and you’d have to move quickly if you want to interview him. I’d be glad to invite him over for lunch in the cafeteria and you could drop by to meet him.”

    This lightens the manager’s load and makes contact easier and less stressful for everyone involved.

    If your friend’s mom’s pitch works, and you get to talk to the manager, here’s how to get an in-person meeting. (This “How to Say It” tip is from “Pest or manager’s dream?”, pp. 18-19, in the PDF book, “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3, Get in The Door Way Ahead of Your Competition.”)

    How to Say It:

    My name is John Jones. Ellen Smith suggested I give you a call, after she explained that you’re facing some challenges with doing X,Y,Z. I’ve put together a brief business plan. If you have a few minutes to meet, I’d like to show you how I could tackle those challenges and related problems you’re facing, to help make your business more successful.

    You had a great inside contact, but you still relied on an impersonal approach that made it easy for the manager to toss your resume to the personnel office. If your contact had gone a step further, you’d be talking directly to the manager while your competition wallows in that stack of resumes on the recruiter’s desk.

    But it’s not too late. Ask your friend’s mother to talk with the manager and personally recommend you. It’s always better to develop an inside contact and leverage it by making a call rather than writing a letter.

    I know some readers will say it’s presumptuous to ask your friend’s mom to do so much. I don’t think so. The worst that can happen is she’ll say no. If she really wants to help, she’ll talk to the manager. Otherwise, you should move on to another contact — and possibly another hiring manager.

    In any case, I compliment you for your motivation to address managers one at a time with a thoughtful proposal about how you can help them. You are making some right moves to get around the HR roadblock. Now don’t stop there. (See “How to get the hiring manager’s attention.”)

    Dear Readers: How do you get past the personnel office?

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

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

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

    The post Ask the Headhunter: Why you’re being treated like just another job applicant appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch the full “India’s Daughter” documentary about the 2012 gang rape in Delhi.

    A documentary produced by the BBC focuses on the rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in India. It was a watershed moment in women’s rights in the nation of 1.2 billion but the movie could not be viewed there this week.

    The documentary, called “India’s Daughter,” depicts how Jyoti Singh was beaten and gang raped on a bus as it was driving around Delhi in 2012. She later died in a hospital in Singapore. Her male friend also was severely beaten but survived.

    One of the accused, bus driver Ram Singh, reportedly hanged himself in his cell. His brother, Mukesh Singh, and three other men, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta, were convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death. One other accused, a juvenile, was given the maximum sentence of three years in a reform facility.

    Following the incident, the Indian government passed new sexual assault laws, including one that set a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years for gang rape.

    A documentary depicting the attack, made by Leslee Udwin, was meant to be aired in India on March 8, International Women’s Day, but the Indian government blocked its release on March 4 for fear of inciting more violence, officials said. The BBC ended up broadcasting it that day in the UK.

    The movie contains an interview with the jailed Mukesh Singh, who explains in excruciating detail what happened that night and blames the victim for fighting back. “A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night,” he says. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”

    The film also shows footage of the massive street protests around India that ensued, along with interviews with the victim’s parents, Badri and Asha.

    They speak warmly of their daughter, who was intent on becoming a doctor. “Jyoti means ‘light’,” her mother says. “We were given a gift of light and happiness when she was born.”

    On Tuesday’s PBS NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown interviews the filmmaker Leslee Udwin.

    The post Watch the banned documentary examining the brutal Delhi gang rape appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A woman rolls a marijuana cigarette in this Aug. 30, 2014, file photo. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    A woman rolls a marijuana cigarette in this Aug. 30, 2014, file photo. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Two Democratic senators and a possible Republican presidential candidate joined forces Tuesday to push a bill to remove federal prohibitions on medical marijuana in 23 states where it’s already legal.

    Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey said their unusual coalition is a sign of growing acceptance of medical marijuana.

    The lawmakers introduced a bill intended to eliminate uncertainty surrounding marijuana use in states and the District of Columbia that allow it for medicinal purposes. The bill also would allow doctors at veterans’ hospitals to prescribe pot for medical purposes and allow banks to provide checking accounts and other financial services to marijuana dispensaries.

    “This bill we are introducing seeks to right decades of wrong and end unnecessary marijuana laws,” Booker said at a Capitol news conference, where lawmakers were joined by veterans and other patients who use marijuana to relieve pain or suffering. All said they fear prosecution if they move to a different state or if the federal government decides to crack down on medical marijuana use.

    “Our federal government has long overstepped the boundaries of common sense, fiscal prudence and compassion with its marijuana laws. These laws must change,” Booker said.

    “Otherwise law-abiding Americans — bankers, business people, veterans and families— are fearful of unnecessary, expensive, life-disrupting investigations and prosecutions,” Booker said. “Today we join together to say enough is enough.”

    Paul, a doctor who is considering a bid for president, said Americans “are changing our opinions on restricting people’s choices as far as medical treatments” and said the bill would allow patients with incurable diseases to receive needed relief.

    “There is every reason to try to give more ease to people in the states who want this — more freedom for states and individuals,” Paul said.

    The measure also would reclassify marijuana as a so-called Schedule 2 drug, rather than Schedule 1 as currently listed. The shift would recognize “accepted medical use” of marijuana and make it easier for doctors to prescribe it. The change also would make it easier for universities to conduct research on medical uses for marijuana without fear of prosecution.

    Gillibrand said Congress needs to catch up with the nearly two dozen states that have recognized the value of medical marijuana to treat diseases ranging from multiple sclerosis to cancer to epilepsy and seizure disorders.

    “This is clearly a case of ideology getting in the way of scientific progress,” she said.

    The three senators said they hope to bring the bill to a floor vote this year, but acknowledge it is likely to face strong opposition.

    Gillibrand said she would personally lobby her colleagues, adding: “I dare any senator to speak to the patients here and say they don’t deserve the medicine their doctors have prescribed,” she said.

    Marijuana legislation also has been introduced in the House.

    The post Rand Paul, two Senate Democrats try to legalize medical marijuana nationwide appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Demonstrators confront police outside the Ferguson police station in this Oct. 13 file photo from Ferguson, Missouri. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Demonstrators confront police outside the Ferguson police station in this Oct. 13 file photo from Ferguson, Missouri. The Justice Department’s report last week said that blacks in Ferguson are disproportionately subject to excessive police force. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report based on the findings of their months-long investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. While the Justice Department will not file charges against former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown last August, the report faulted the city of Ferguson and its law enforcement for a pattern of racial bias demonstrated by repeated civil rights abuses.

    The findings, which Attorney General Eric Holder has called “searing,” have stirred up many of the feelings expressed during the weeks of protests that followed Brown’s death. President Obama has said that while he does not believe the acts of racial bias described in the report are “typical of what happens across the country,” he also does not believe this type of behavior is exclusive to Ferguson. “It’s not an isolated incident,” he said in a radio interview.

    Several members of the Ferguson Commission, an independent group set up by the state of Missouri to study the social and economic conditions underscored by the protests that followed Brown’s death, shared their reactions to the Justice Department report on the NewsHour last Friday. We will continue the conversation on Twitter this Wednesday, March 11, from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. EDT. Ferguson Commission members Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti), executive director for Teach For America in St. Louis, and community activist and organizer Rasheen Aldridge, Jr. (@SheenBean32) will discuss the report. Follow along using #NewsHourChats.

    The post Hear from members of the Ferguson Commission on Twitter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Green tipped armor-piercing 5.56 millimeter ammunition is shown on February 27, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Obama administration has proposed banning the ammunition, which is popular among hunters and target shooters, because it can be used in pistols. Fear of a ban has caused a run on sales. (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    Green tipped armor-piercing 5.56 millimeter ammunition is shown on February 27, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Obama administration has proposed banning the ammunition, which is popular among hunters and target shooters, because it can be used in pistols. Fear of a ban has caused a run on sales. (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON — Amid an onslaught of criticism, the Obama administration has dropped plans to ban a popular type of rifle ammunition that can pierce a police officer’s protective vest if fired from a handgun, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Tuesday.

    More than 80,000 people have commented on the proposal to ban certain types of 5.56 mm, or .223 caliber, ammunition since the agency announced its proposal last month. An ATF spokeswoman, Ginger Colbrun, said the vast majority of comments were critical of the proposal.

    Objections also came from 291 members of Congress — majorities of both the House and Senate.

    The ATF had proposed banning some types of ammunition used in the popular AR-15-style rifles. The rule change would have affected only “M855 green tip” or “SS109″ rounds with certain types of metal core projectiles.

    In a letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., objected to the plan. On Tuesday, he applauded the reversal, saying he was “pleased that the Obama administration has abandoned its attack on the Second Amendment.”

    Armor-piercing handgun ammunition has been banned since 1986 as a way to protect police officers under the federal Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act. The rifle bullets considered under the ban were long thought to be considered exempt because they were used for “sporting purposes,” such as target shooting.

    Colbrun said ATF proposed ending the exemption in part because of the advent of AR-style pistols that can fire the rounds. Such guns did not exist when the armor-piercing ammunition law was passed.

    She said the legislation also did not define “sporting purposes,” which has led to more than 30 requests for exemptions in recent years.

    Without a new framework to determine which armor-piercing ammunition is strictly for sporting purposes, Colbrun said, those exemption requests cannot be processed.

    The post Obama administration forgoes plan to ban popular rifle ammunition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A GMC vehicle is seen parked in front of a trader standing outside of the New York Stock Exchange on Nov. 18, 2010. On Monday, GM announced a $5 billion stock buyback, part of bigger trend in corporate America, argues entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, that's threatening the American economy. Photo by REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton.

    A GMC vehicle is seen parked in front of a trader standing outside of the New York Stock Exchange on Nov. 18, 2010. On Monday, GM announced a $5 billion stock buyback, part of a bigger trend in corporate America, argues entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, that’s killing economic growth. Photo by REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton.

    Editor’s Note: On Monday, General Motors announced a $5 billion stock buyback. The beleaguered car-maker is appeasing grumbling shareholders by making their shares worth more.

    Buying back stock limits its supply and therefore artificially drives up its value. To make those purchases, GM is reducing its cash reserves from $25 billion to $20 billion. (Recall that you, the taxpayer, helped prop up GM’s cash reserves with a $49.5 billion bailout in 2009.)

    The stock buyback, combined with higher dividends, is expected to result in $10 billion for shareholders through 2016. It’s a grand time to be holding GM stock. And a bad time to have been behind the wheel of one of the thousands of defective vehicles for which GM is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice.

    But GM’s not the only corporation throwing taxpayers under the bus. Almost all public companies do stock buybacks, writes plutocrat progressive Nick Hanauer on Making Sen$e today. He should know. The entrepreneur and original Amazon investor has done them too.

    Hanauer authored the most popular post ever on this page last fall: on corporations not paying overtime and how doing so would address the crisis of growing economic inequality. He was also featured in a story of ours on the minimum wage and in Robert Reich’s film, “Inequality for All.”

    The billionaire investor has used his high-profile platform to address his peers, most famously in the 2014 TED talk, “Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming.” Today, he returns to Making Sen$e with another example of, to him, extravagant corporate overreach: stock buybacks.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    Everybody is talking about income inequality these days. But even as politicians from both parties jockey to position themselves as champions of the American middle class, leaders from both sides seem terrified of acknowledging the trillion dollar elephant in the room: unsustainably high corporate profits.

    Our crisis of income inequality wasn’t principally caused by the rich not paying enough tax, even though we don’t. Rather, it is largely the product of the $1 trillion a year that once went to wages, but now goes to corporate profits. And this demand and investment-killing trillion-dollar-a-year transfer of wealth from the bottom 80 percent of households to the top 1 percent is the direct result of the economic and regulatory policies both Republicans and Democrats have imposed since the dawn of the trickle down era.

    As policy shifted economic power from workers to owners over the past 40 years, corporate profits’ take of the U.S. economy has doubled — from an average of 6 percent of GDP during America’s post-war economic heyday to more than 12 percent today. Yet despite this extra $1 trillion a year in corporate profits, job growth remains anemic, wages are flat, and our nation no longer seems able to afford even its most basic needs. A $3.6 trillion backlog has left our roads, bridges, dams and other public infrastructure in disrepair. Federal spending on economically crucial research and development has plummeted 40 percent, from 1.25 percent of GDP in 1977 to only 0.75 percent today. Adjusted for inflation, public university tuition — once mostly covered by the states — has more than doubled over the past 30 years, crushing recent graduates under $1.2 trillion in student debt, as of May 2013. Much of our public infrastructure, including public schools and our police and fire departments, is dangerously underfunded.

    The core claim of the trickle down economics crowd is that high profits are the principal driver of growth. The higher profits are, the more money we have to “create jobs” and invest. So a fair question to ask is, where did this extra trillion dollars of profit go?

    Much of the answer is as simple as it is depressing: Stock buybacks — more than $6.9 trillion worth since 2004, according to data compiled by Mustafa Erdem Sakinç of The Academic-Industry Research Network.

    Between 2003 and 2012, the companies that make up the S&P 500 spent an astounding 54 percent of profits on stock buybacks. Last year alone, U.S. corporations spent about $700 billion, roughly 4 percent of GDP, simply propping up their share prices by repurchasing their own stock. And much of the rest of these profits has been paid to shareholders in the form of dividends.

    Over the past 10 years, according to data compiled from its public filings, Wal-Mart has spent more than $65.4 billion on stock buybacks — about 47 percent of its profits. That’s an average of more than $6.5 billion a year in stock buybacks, enough to give each of its 1.4 million U.S. workers a $4,670-a-year raise.

    In the past, this money flowed through the broader economy in the form of higher wages or increased investments in plants and equipment or in public investment. But today, trillions of dollars of windfall profits are being sucked out of the real economy and into a paper asset bubble, inflating share prices while producing nothing of tangible value. Of course, corporate managers have always felt pressure to grow earnings per share (EPS), but where once their only option was the hard work of actually growing earnings by building and selling better products and services, they can now simply manipulate their EPS by reducing the number of shares outstanding. Our epidemic of stock buybacks is the smoking gun that reveals just how dangerous bankrupt trickle-down economic theory is: it values profit above all else, and makes the sole responsibility of corporate managers the enrichment of shareholders.

    Take, for example, Wal-Mart, which recently made headlines by announcing it would spend a billion dollars a year raising the wages of its lowest paid employees — a minor tweak to its low-wage business model. Over the past 10 years, according to data compiled from its public filings, Wal-Mart has spent more than $65.4 billion on stock buybacks — about 47 percent of its profits. That’s an average of more than $6.5 billion a year in stock buybacks, enough to give each of its 1.4 million U.S. workers a $4,670-a-year raise. It is also, coincidentally, an amount roughly equivalent to the estimated $6.2 billion Wal-Mart costs U.S. taxpayers every year in food stamps, Medicaid, subsidized housing, and other public assistance to its many impoverished employees. In this context, how can stock buybacks be either morally or economically justified?

    They can’t, for the practice is not only unfair to the American middle class, it is also demonstrably harmful to both individual companies and the American economy as a whole. In a recent white paper titled “The World’s Dumbest Idea,” GMO asset allocation manager James Montier absolutely shreds our 40-year obsession with “shareholder value maximization,” or SVM, documenting the many ways that stock buybacks and excessive dividends have reduced business investment and boosted inequality. Almost all investment carried out by firms is financed by retained earnings, Montier points out, so the diversion of cash flow to stock buybacks has inevitably resulted in lower rates of business investment. Defenders of SVM argue that investors efficiently reallocate the profits they reap from repurchased shares by investing the proceeds into more promising enterprises. But Montier shows that since the 1980s, public corporations have actually bought back more equity than they’ve issued, representing a net negative equity flow. Shareholders today aren’t providing capital to the corporate sector, they’re extracting it.

    So what’s changed? Stock buybacks were once considered a form of illegal stock manipulation, until 1982, when President Ronald Reagan’s Securities and Exchange Commission chair John Shad (a former Wall Street CEO) loosened the rules. It was this rule change that made possible the shift toward stock-based compensation that has driven the dramatic rise in the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay, from 20-to-one in 1965 to about 300-to-one today. Before 1982, such massive stock grants would have diluted the number of shares outstanding, causing both EPS and share prices to tumble. But armed with the SEC’s seal of approval, CEOs can now prop up EPS by diverting profits into stock buybacks, making their own previously unimaginable compensation packages possible.

    I love profit. Profit is absolutely necessary to incentivize both innovation and investment. But if we truly want to address our crisis of income inequality, we must have the courage and common sense to question whether too much profit can be too much of a good a thing.

    The result has essentially been the creation of a gigantic game of financial “keep away,” with CEOs and shareholders tossing a $700-billion ball back and forth over the heads of American workers, whose wages as a share of GDP have fallen in almost exact proportion to profit’s rise. And as wages fall, so does consumer demand, resulting in slower economic growth: A new study from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development finds that rising inequality knocked six points off U.S. GDP growth between 1990 and 2010 alone. Stock buybacks are hurting the U.S. economy.

    To be clear: I’ve done stock buybacks too. Virtually all public companies do it. In this era of short-term-focused activist investors, it is nearly impossible to avoid. And I have nothing against profit. I love profit. Profit is absolutely necessary to incentivize both innovation and investment. But if we truly want to address our crisis of income inequality, we must have the courage and common sense to question whether too much profit can be too much of a good a thing.

    During Seattle’s successful campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage, our opponents would sometimes roll their eyes and snort, “If $15 is so good, why not $50?” It was a straw man argument: Nobody was proposing a $50 minimum wage; it would have been too high and we said so. Yet Americans have been taught to unquestioningly celebrate record profits as if the sky is the limit, and that more is always better for the broader economy. So if 12 percent of GDP is so good, why not 25 percent? Why not 50 percent? Or, wouldn’t it be reasonable to suggest that the optimal and sensible balance might not call for profits to return to the same 6 percent of GDP that, between 1950 and 1980, fueled the greatest economic expansion in human history — an economy that benefited all Americans, not just the top 1 percent? If our true goal is to grow and sustain a prosperous middle class, isn’t it reasonable to suggest that this $1 trillion a year in excess profits might be better spent raising wages or building roads and schools rather than buying back stock?

    If we business leaders hope to maintain broad public support for market capitalism, we must acknowledge that the purpose of the corporation is not to enrich the few, but to benefit the many.

    This is not just a moral question of fairness. It is simply mathematically impossible to make the public and private sector investments necessary to sustain our nation’s global economic competitiveness while flushing away 4 percent of GDP, year after year after year manipulating stock prices. That is why we must reorient our policies from promoting personal enrichment to promoting national growth. That is why we must discourage this sort of stock price manipulation by returning to the pre-1982 stock buyback rules.

    If we business leaders hope to maintain broad public support for market capitalism, we must acknowledge that the purpose of the corporation is not to enrich the few, but to benefit the many; we must acknowledge the trillion dollar elephant in the room. Once America’s CEOs get back to the business of growing their companies rather than growing their share prices, shareholder value will take care of itself, and all Americans will share in the higher wages and other benefits of a renewed era of economic growth.

    Hanauer’s brand of “middle-out” economics was the subject of a Making Sen$e segment last summer:

    The post The biggest scam bankrupting business and the middle class appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the United Nations in New York

    UNITED NATIONS — Breaking her silence, Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded Tuesday that she should have used a government email to conduct business as secretary of state, saying her decision was simply a matter of “convenience.”

    “At the time, this didn’t seem like an issue,” Clinton said in her first public comments since it was disclosed last week that she exclusively used her private email for government business and housed her communications on a personal server.

    Clinton said the server would remain private. She also said she had discarded thousands of personal emails, such as communications related to her daughter’s wedding or her mother’s funeral, but she insisted she had given the State Department all relevant emails.

    “Everything that would be in any way connected to work is now in possession in the State Department,” Clinton said.

    The controversy has upended Clinton’s careful blueprint for the rollout of her 2016 presidential campaign. The clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Clinton had planned to spend March touting her work on women’s issues and giving a handful of paid speeches before announcing her candidacy in early April.

    Clinton tried to stick to that plan in the days following revelations that she relied on her private email for government business and controlled her communications on her own server. But as criticism from Republicans mounted and Democratic allies started publicly pushing Clinton to address the matter, her team hastily arranged Tuesday’s brief news conference.

    Clinton spoke shortly after delivering remarks at a women’s empowerment event at the United Nations. She then made her way to a nearby hallway where dozens of reporters and photographers were awaiting her first formal news conference since leaving the State Department in early 2013.

    The post Clinton says ‘convenience’ led her to use personal email to conduct government business appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Police clash with student protesters during a protest in Letpadan March 10, 2015. Myanmar police beat students, monks and journalists with batons on Tuesday as they dispersed a protest against a proposed new education law after a standoff that lasted more than a week, a Reuters witness said. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

    Police clash with student protesters during a protest in Letpadan March 10, 2015. Myanmar police beat students, monks and journalists with batons on Tuesday as they dispersed a protest against a proposed new education law after a standoff that lasted more than a week, a Reuters witness said. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

    Protests in Myanmar took a violent turn on Tuesday after police beat students, monks and reporters and detained about 100 people demonstrating against an education law that has been criticized for curtailing academic freedoms.

    The crackdown occurred in Letpadan, where 200 protesters had been blocked by the police during their march southward from the city of Mandalay to Yangon.

    Student-led protests against the education law had been held since last September, when Myanmar’s parliament passed the National Education Bill into law. Advocates who had suggested that the bill engender widespread education reform were dismayed by what they believed were increased government controls on academic institutions required by the new legislation.

    After months of rallies, authorities held talks with student organizations to amend the law. On Feb. 14, the government agreed to a number of the students’ demands, such as the independent formation of curricula and the permission of ethnic minorities to hold classes in their native language.

    However, the Education Ministry released a draft of its own bill three days later, suggesting that the agreement was only a proposal. After the announcement, students resumed protests.

    A second attempt at talks on March 5 failed to produce results and tensions between protesters and law enforcement were heightened after eight arrests were made in Yangon on the same day.

    Today’s incident has evoked global concern. Myanmar has cooperated more actively with international bodies since 2011, when the country initiated a series of democratic reforms after decades of military rule.

    The European Union, which has been training Myanmar’s police force under its External Action program, called for an investigation into the police action.

    On its Twitter page, the U.S. embassy in Myanmar said that “patience, compromise and restraint are foundations of stability and democracy.”

    This also comes a day after a U.N. report lamented the government’s lacking commitment to reform, citing ongoing human rights violations.

    The Interim Myanmar Press Council, a media advisory group that favors journalistic independence, has called for the release of the detained reporters.

    While Burmese officials have yet to release a statement, the Information Ministry posted a photo on its Facebook page suggesting that the protesters had initiated the police reaction.

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    Tonight, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta will host a documentary about our science correspondent, Miles O’Brien, and the days and months that followed the freak accident that took his left arm — and nearly his life.

    It’s hard to imagine, but since the accident, Miles has barely missed a beat. He has reported on changing Alaska sea ice, genetically modified rice, drones, Mars, killer comets and missing planes.

    He has also dug deeply into the latest in upper-limb prosthetic technology, with this piece, which looks at the possibilities and the limits of bionic arms…

    And this report on breakthroughs in sensory perception that are helping amputees feel again — one of the hardest things, he says, to replicate.

    Plus, here’s Miles’ piece on a man who’s become a pioneer for advanced upper limb prosthetics:

    For more background, you can watch this moving interview with Judy Woodruff, just three weeks after the accident:

    The post Before CNN tells Miles O’Brien’s story, watch his 3 reports on bionic arms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Obama speaks to students during a visit to Georgia Tech on Tuesday. The president unveiled efforts to change student loan procedures. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Obama speaks to students during a visit to Georgia Tech on Tuesday. The president unveiled efforts to change student loan procedures. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    ATLANTA — Issuing a clarion call to Americans saddled by student debt, President Barack Obama urged student borrowers Tuesday to stand up for their rights, and announced a medley of modest steps to bring some order to a notoriously chaotic system.

    Obama unveiled his “student aid bill of rights” before a gymnasium packed with nearly 10,000 students at Georgia Tech, where he said the nation must mobilize to bring about deeper changes to student loans. Not only should every American be able to afford college, Obama said, they also should be able to afford the loan payments that kick in with a vengeance once they graduate.

    “We’re trying to tackle this problem from every angle,” Obama said. “We want to make this experience more affordable, because you’re not just investing in yourselves, you’re investing in your nation.”

    In the Oval Office ahead of his brief visit to Atlanta, Obama signed a presidential memorandum with policy tweaks that don’t require new legislation from Congress — a plus as far as the White House is concerned. The memo targets third parties like Navient — formerly Sallie Mae — that contract with the government to collect on loans. Those companies will be required to better inform borrowers about repayment options and notify them when they are delinquent, the White House said.

    Obama also called for a single website where students can see all their federal loans in one place — a major problem for students with multiple loans or debt that’s been sold from lender to lender. He also called for a website where borrowers can file complaints.

    The presidential steps aim to crack down on a student loan system known for being complex and confusing to navigate. In recent years, lawsuits and critical government reports have cast a light on industry abuses and the difficulties facing borrowers.

    A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau study last year found borrowers were getting little help when they ran into trouble and had few affordable repayment options. And in May, Sallie Mae reached a $60 million settlement with the Justice Department to resolve allegations it charged military members excessive interest rates and improperly sought default judgments.

    When Vickie Kight of Houston couldn’t afford to pay the interest accruing on her loans, she turned to her loan servicer for help — and says she didn’t get it. Her wages being garnished, Kight dropped out of Louisiana’s Southern University, returning to school only years later once her finances were under control.

    “They were very aggressive with me,” Kight said in an interview. Her student loan servicer eventually passed her loan onto a collection agency. “That’s when it got really hectic. They weren’t providing much information. They just said you owe this much to the bank.”

    Obama also floated the possibility of proposing legal changes to how student loans are affected by bankruptcy. Currently, student loans cannot typically be discharged even in bankruptcy. His memo also requires servicers to apply early payments to loans with the highest interest rates, helping students pay off debt faster.

    Although Obama has long lamented the high cost of college, he’s run into obstacles that have limited his efforts to improve the situation.

    Using his executive authority, Obama expanded a federal repayment plan to allow more low-income Americans to cap their payments. But when Obama this year proposed to eliminate the “529” college savings plan to make way for education tax benefits, opposition was so strong that he had to jettison the idea. And the president’s $60 billion pitch this year for two years of free community college has gained little traction in the Republican-controlled Congress.

    The government estimates total U.S. student debt exceeds $1.1 trillion, with around 7 million Americans in default.

    Before returning to Washington, Obama was to headline a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, which is beginning to gear up for the 2016 presidential race. Roughly 25 donors paid up to $33,400 to attend.

    Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.

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    [Watch Video]Photographer Suzanne Heintz captures the hallmark moments of her fictional, mannequin family, including vacations, breakfasts, and even steamy shower scenes. Video produced by Carrie Saldo, shot by Paul Cywilko and edited by Dave Wruck, Rocky Mountain PBS.

    People sometimes assume that photographer Suzanne Heintz is anti-family or anti-marriage, a claim she readily disputes. It’s not because she has highly publicized images of herself on the internet posing with her rigid husband and their daughter who has “odd, over the top facial expressions” — her term — as the three of them eat breakfast or vacation to the Grand Canyon. Or that her photos appear to be out of the 1950s.

    People make that assumption because her husband and her daughter are fictional. In fact, they are mannequins, purchased during a liquidation sale at an outlet center.

    Photo by Suzanne Heintz

    Photos by Suzanne Heintz, see a gallery of her recent work on her website.

    At the time, Heintz friends were all getting married and having children.

    “I was the odd man out. Everywhere I went, people just kept asking me, ‘why aren’t you married,’” said Heintz. “When my own mother put it to me point blank, ‘There’s nobody perfect out there. You’re just going to have to pick somebody if you want to settle down’ I yelled back at her, I said, ‘Mom, it’s not like I can go out and buy a family. I can’t just make this happen.’”

    But that sparked an idea, which soon led to her project, “Life Once Removed.” Over the past fourteen years, photographs have shown their engagement (with a cubic zirconia ring — not even a real diamond), their wedding, holidays and family vacations.

    Photo by Suzanne Heintz

    Heintz plays with satire to “startle” the viewer, “making them laugh … that’s the way to open up the conversation.”

    In the end, however, her husband and daughter are really just a means to an end, plastic props to help convey her message.

    “If we are concentrating on the image of what our lives should look like, then we’re not concentrating on the feeling of contentment that we truly want in our lives,” she said.

    Local Beat is a weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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    PBS NewsHour is seeking a Coordinating Producer, Politics who will lead production of daily political reports for the broadcast and website and participate in senior strategic planning for all political and campaign coverage.  Working closing with political reporters, the Coordinating Producer, Politics will plan and execute coverage of the major political stories of the day for national nightly news program.  Primary responsibilities include proposing, developing, researching and writing stories for both on-air that relate to ongoing developments in national politics and producing stories for air on a daily and forward planning basis, working at the program headquarters and also in the field.  College degree and a minimum of five (5) years of experience in broadcast and/or digital journalism, to include high quality video production, in covering national politics and campaigns for a major publication, digital or television outlet.


    Send your cover letter, resume and salary requirements to hr@weta.org or visit our website at www.weta.org for the full job description and on-line application.

    WETA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street was hit hard today by new worries that interest rates are headed higher. Last month’s strong jobs report has fueled fears that the Federal Reserve will act sooner, rather than later, to raise rates. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 332 points to close well below 17700. The Nasdaq fell 82 points, and the S&P 500 dropped 35.

    The University of Oklahoma has expelled two students over a racist chant at a fraternity event. School president David Boren said today they were identified as leading the chant. He didn’t make their names public, but he said others may face discipline as well. The university has also shut down its chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Members have until midnight to remove their belongings.

    President Obama called today for better treatment of Americans burdened with student debt. He laid out a series of changes during a speech at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. They call for loan services to better inform borrowers about repayment options and to notify them when they’re delinquent, among other things. The president said the system has to work better.

    : Higher education has never been more important. But it’s also never been more expensive. I believe that America is not a place where higher education is a privilege that is reserved for the few.

    America needs to be a place where higher education has to be available for every single person who’s willing to strive for it, who’s willing to work for it.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: More than 40 million Americans currently carry student loan debt.

    In Myanmar, hundreds of riot police cracked down today on student protesters. Officers swing batons charged into the crowds, beating people and arresting more than 120. The confrontation put a sudden end to a standoff about 90 miles north of Yangon, the former capital. The protesters were targeting a new education law. They say it gives the government too much control over schools and curbs their academic freedom.

    The U.S. ambassador to South Korea was discharged from a Seoul hospital today, five days after being slashed on the face and arm. Mark Lippert needed 80 stitches to close the deep knife wounds. Despite that close call, he sounded upbeat today as cameras flashed at a hospital news conference.

    MARK LIPPERT, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea:
    I feel pretty darn good, all things considered. I mean, it was obviously a scary incident. But I’m walking, talking, holding my baby, hugging my wife, so I’m — I just feel really good.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lippert’s attacker turned out to be an anti-U.S. activist. North Korea denied any involvement, but it did call the attack a deserved punishment for joint U.S. and South Korea military drills.

    And there’s word today that the Central Intelligence Agency spent nearly a decade trying to crack the coding in Apple iPhones and iPads. The Intercept, an investigative news site, cites documents obtained by Edward Snowden at the National Security Agency. They indicate that the CIA tried to break into Apple products as early as 2006. It’s unclear if the agency was ever successful in its attempts.

    The post News Wrap: Two Okla. students expelled for racist chant appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    US Army Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey speaks to children, volunteers and mentors during the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors in Arlington, Virginia, May 27, 2011. The organization provides workshops, support groups, mentoring challenges and other activities for children that have lost a family member while serving in the military. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

    Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said concerns regarding the potential after effects of Islamic State’s defeat. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — America’s top military officer says that while Iran’s support in the fight against Islamic State militants is helpful, the U.S. remains concerned about what happens “after the drums stop beating” and IS is defeated.

    Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that anything anyone does to counter IS is a “positive thing.” But he said there is concern about whether Iran-backed militamen, who are Shia, will turn against Sunni Iraqis, further destabilizing Iraq.

    “We are all concerned about what happens after the drums stop beating and ISIL is defeated, and whether the government of Iraq will remain on a path to provide an inclusive government for all of the various groups within it,” Dempsey said, using an acronym for the militant group. “We’re very concerned about that.”

    “What we are watching carefully is whether the militias — they call themselves the Popular Mobilization Forces — whether, when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing,” he said. “There’s no indication that that is a widespread event at this point, but we’re watching closely.”

    Dempsey joined Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter in testifying at a hearing about President Barack Obama’s proposal for new war powers to fight IS. The debate comes amid Democratic worries that it could lead to a full-scale U.S. ground war in the Mideast and GOP concerns that it should not ties the hands of the commander in chief.

    The legislation, debated in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, will set up the first war vote in Congress in 13 years.

    Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he hopes the hearing will help start a process where both parties can reach agreement on a new authorization to fight IS militants, who have seized territory across Iraq and Syria. Obama sent his draft to Capitol Hill last month.

    “As we have received that authorization for the use of military force, what we have come to understand is that — and this is not a pejorative statement, it’s an observation — we don’t know of a single Democrat in Congress, in the United States Senate, anyway, that supports that authorization for the use of military force,” Corker said.

    Obama’s proposal would allow the use of military force against IS for three years, unbounded by national borders. The fight could be extended to any “closely related successor entity” to the IS, which has overrun parts of Iraq and Syria. He ruled out large-scale U.S. ground combat operations reminiscent of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Republicans expressed unhappiness that Obama had chosen to exclude any long-term commitment of ground forces, while some Democrats voiced dismay that he had opened the door to any deployment whatsoever.

    The 2002 congressional authorization that preceded the American-led invasion of Iraq would be repealed under the White House proposal, a step some Republicans were unhappy to see. But a separate authorization approved by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks would remain in force, to the consternation of some Democrats.

    The struggle to define any role for American ground forces is likely to determine the outcome of the administration’s request for legislation. The White House has said that the proposal was intentionally ambiguous on that point to give the president flexibility, although the approach also was an attempt to bridge a deep divide in Congress.

    During Kerry’s testimony, an anti-war protester from the Code Pink shouted: “We’re tired of the endless war … the killing of innocent people.” Corker called for order. Kerry responded, asking, “Killing more innocent people? I wonder how our journalists who were beheaded and the (Jordanian) pilot, who was fighting for freedom, who was burned alive — what they would have to say to their efforts to protect innocent people?”

    Corker noted that the United States has signed on to train and equip forces to fight IS, yet once they are fielded, they will be subject to barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Corker said the president’s proposed authorization would allow ways to protect the forces.

    “I don’t think we’ve made those decisions yet. And I think … that shows is potentially a lack of commitment, if you will, to really deal with ISIS in a more significant way,” Corker said.

    Dempsey said the U.S. has undergone two rounds of talks with Turkish officials about a possible air-exclusion zone in Aleppo, Syria, that would provide overflight to protect the troops. “We are continuing to develop that option should it be asked for,” Dempsey said.

    The post Top military chief Dempsey voices concerns about fight against Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Students and a teacher wear protective masks during a class at a school in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad March 2, 2015. India has seen a sharp rise in the number of swine flu deaths and reported cases this year, prompting officials to investigate the cause and step up efforts to combat the virus. REUTERS/Amit Dave

    Students and a teacher wear protective masks during a class at a school in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad March 2, 2015. India has seen a sharp rise in the number of swine flu deaths and reported cases this year, prompting officials to investigate the cause and step up efforts to combat the virus. REUTERS/Amit Dave

    Poor surveillance of a swine flu outbreak in India concerns health researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, who say a new H1N1 influenza strain is far more dangerous than Indian health officials admit.

    A mutation in the new H1N1 strain allows this form of swine flu to attack an infected person’s respiratory cells more virulently, according to the study published today in the journal, Cell Host & Microbe. This finding contradicts previous government reports that the strain currently sweeping India was the same strain and has not changed since it spread worldwide between 2009 and 2012 and left 18,000 people dead.

    In order to assess how the mutated strain is developing, MIT researchers stressed the need for better surveillance and public awareness of the disease.

    “The point we’re trying to make is that there is a real need for aggressive surveillance to ensure that the anxiety and hysteria are brought down and people are able to focus on what they really need to worry about,” said Ram Sasisekharan, a MIT biological engineering professor and the study’s lead author, in a released statement. “We need to understand the pathology and the severity, rather than simply relying on anecdotal information.”

    The World Health Organization is “closely monitoring this situation,” said Gregory Härtl, the WHO’s head of public relations and social media, via Twitter on Wednesday.

    “So far no major changes of the #H1N1pdm09 viruses have been identified by the NIC (National Informatics Centre) of India,” Härtl said on Twitter.

    So far, an estimated 1,500 people in India have died as a result of the virus since December, the Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday. Over 27,000 people already may have been infected in nearly every state and union territory of India, a country whose population is more than 1.2 billion people.

    Once a person is infected, treatment options are limited. The Indian government has updated a list of pharmacies and outlets in 36 states and union territories that are licensed to carry oseltamivir, also commonly referred to as Tamiflu.

    “Whether you say ‘Namaste,’ or ‘Sat Sri Akal,’ or ‘Allahu Akbar,’ or ‘God is Great,’ say it with folded hands.”

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, Tamiflu is one of three recommended forms of medication used to treat H1N1, along with Relenza and Rapivab.

    People who believe they may have been infected with swine flu should stay home, wash their hands well and often, cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough, avoid crowds or exposing other members of their household, according to Mayo Clinic guidelines.

    The outbreak’s spread prompted social activists and politicians to spread awareness of the virus and how to prevent it. NDTV reported that Anil Vij, a health minister in the North Indian state of Haryana, discouraged people from shaking hands, saying, “[W]e have to rid ourselves of this foreign habit.”

    “Whether you say ‘Namaste,’ or ‘Sat Sri Akal,’ or ‘Allahu Akbar,’ or ‘God is Great,’ say it with folded hands,” he said, according to NDTV.

    Rallies are popping up across the country in an attempt to raise public awareness of what precautions people should take to stem the spread of swine flu.

    Satbir Singh, a social activist and former mayor of Delhi, attended a rally on Wednesday outside of one of the city’s public transit stations to get people’s attention and aid prevention efforts.

    “We have taken upon ourselves to spread the message as far and wide as possible,” Singh said via direct message on Twitter. “Everyday during morning and evening hours, we go with our teams to crowded spots like metro stations and the like, to spread the message and to make people understand the gravity of the situation.”

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

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    Survivors of an 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami receive treatment at the Ishinomaki Red Cross hospital March 12, 2011. Photo by Toshirharu Kato/Japanese Red Cross/via Reuters

    Within hours of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated central Japan in 2011, Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital was accepting patients and acting as a refuge for throngs of survivors who’d lost everything. No broken windows. No collapsed ceilings. How was that possible? Engineering. Photo by Toshirharu Kato/Japanese Red Cross/via Reuters

    This story is part of an Oregon Public Broadcasting series on how well the Northwest is prepared for the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that scientists say will hit along the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the Pacific Coast.

    In this report, OPB’s Ed Jahn follows Jay Wilson of the of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, paleo-seismologist with Oregon State University Chris Goldfinger and geotechnical engineer Allison Pyrch to learn how a hospital withstood a magnitude 9.0 quake with nary a broken window. Read the full series: Unprepared: Will We Be Ready for the Megaquake?.

    Vans deliver a stream of patients to the front door of the Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital. The five-story, 402-bed hospital functions today just as it did before, during and immediately after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck the east coast of Japan.

    The massive building rises like a beacon on a short incline in Ishinomaki City, several miles from Kadonowaki, which was severely affected by the tsunami; homes and businesses were reduced to rubble. The hospital was constructed in 2006 to replace another that used to be located along the waterfront. Experts concluded that the old hospital was vulnerable to a tsunami, so they closed it.

    Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital was out of reach of the 2011 tsunami and withstood the 9.0 earthquake while Ishinomaki City's old hospital flooded to the first floor. Graphic by Oregon Public Broadcasting

    Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital was out of reach of the 2011 tsunami and withstood the 9.0 earthquake while Ishinomaki City’s old hospital flooded to the first floor. Graphic by OPB

    When the tsunami struck, a wall of water and debris destroyed nearly 46 percent of Ishinomaki City. The old hospital, which had been converted to a nursing school, was inundated to the ceiling of the first floor.

    Dr. Iwao Kaneda works at the new hospital. He’s busy today, with a lobby full of patients. Many are still undergoing treatment for lingering psychological trauma from the earthquake that killed more than 3,000 in the Ishinomaki area alone.

    Dr. Kaneda makes it clear to Wilson that he only has time to talk for the 30 minutes he’s allotted in his schedule. But the doctor — who was on duty at the hospital on the day of the earthquake — is eager to tell Wilson a success story from the tragedy.

    On March 11, 2011 the hospital shook hard for about three minutes. Video from that day shows staff bracing against desks as doors swing back and forth and windows rattle uneasily.

    Within an hour, the intact building was accepting patients and acting as a refuge for throngs of survivors who’d lost everything.
    But when the shaking stopped, doctors and nurses walked to a well-lit conference room to implement their emergency plan.

    “No staff were hurt and none of the important medical equipment was damaged,” said Dr. Kaneda. No broken windows. No collapsed ceilings. No flooding from the tsunami that stopped miles from the hospital’s doors.

    The hospital wasn’t wrapped in a magic bubble — its emergency water supply proved inadequate and its emergency generators provided only half the electricity staffers were accustomed to. But within an hour, the intact building was accepting patients and acting as a refuge for throngs of survivors who’d lost everything.

    The Ishinomaki Red Cross hospital treated nearly 4,000 patients within the first seven days after the disaster. Normally, the hospital treats about 60 patients a day.

    “If you are expecting the same kind of tsunami disaster we experienced, you have to build medical facilities in the areas the tsunami can’t reach,” Dr. Kaneda said.

    He added that the building was engineered with large earthquakes in mind, then asked, “Have you seen our basement?”

    Engineering Is the Key

    Hiraku Abe, an engineer with Ishinomaki Red Cross, leads Jay Wilson of the of the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, paleo-seismologist Chris Goldfinger and geotechnical engineer Allison Pyrch down the stairs to the basement. It surrounds the building like a moat. The building floats above the basement on spring-like structures, made of rubber and steel. It’s as if the building is balancing on over a hundred massive pogo sticks.

    Photo by Allison Pyrch

    The hospital building sits on a series of spring-like structures, an engineering feat known as base isolation support. Photo by Allison Pyrch

    Prych gasps. “This is geotechnical engineering…” Pyrch hesitates before going for the word, “Porn!”

    It’s a feat of engineering called base isolation. After a series of technical exchanges with Abe, Prych explains that the system provides shock absorbers that cushion the five-story hospital above.

    “The ground motions actually don’t reach the structure. The building has a much calmer movement,” Pyrch said. Pyrch is captivated by the design. This is not the way hospitals are built in Oregon.

    Next, Abe shows Pyrch a large metal stylus suspended from the ceiling that reaches down to a metal plate bolted to the basement floor. During the earthquake, the stylus skipped and bounced, marking the plate like an Etch-A-Sketch.

    “It bounced horizontally 26 centimeters and the other side also moved about the same distance,” Abe said.

    The stylus rendered in graphic form the ease with which the hospital weathered a 9.0 earthquake that ripped apart the surrounding countryside. The hospital rocked and rolled, then settled back into place. Engineers estimate the hospital can sustain several more earthquakes of equal magnitude without needing to replace the base isolation “springs.”

    Hiraku Abe, an engineer with Ishinomaki Red Cross, explains the base-isolation “springs” beneath the hospital. Photo by Todd Sonflieth/OPB

    Hiraku Abe, an engineer with Ishinomaki Red Cross, explains the base-isolation “springs” beneath the hospital. Photo by Todd Sonflieth/OPB

    Oregon’s Earthquake Standards Far Weaker than Japan’s

    Pyrch, a member of an American Society of Civil Engineers group that examines seismic engineering throughout the world, says there’s nothing like the Ishinomaki Red Cross hospital in Oregon.

    That’s because current state seismic standards only require new buildings to be safe enough for occupants to escape after an earthquake.

    Japan’s long history with earthquakes has created a different culture. “They design to make sure that the infrastructure is useable afterwards” Pyrch said.

    In Oregon, even so-called seismically engineered buildings may have to be torn down if they sustain even one earthquake as large as the one that shook Ishinomaki.

    “When I drive through Japan and I see all the bridges and overpasses I’m like, ‘Wow, base isolation! Base isolation!’ ” Pyrch said. “I see something that’s up and running and standing. And that’s not the case when you drive through Oregon.”

    Chris Goldfinger, the paleo-seismologist, has absorbed this engineering show-and-tell in his own quiet way. He’s used to talking in terms of great tectonic plates. He beats the drum of preparedness in Oregon because he knows the underlying science tells us we’re due for a big quake.

    He was in Japan during the 2011 earthquake and knows what it’s like to be caught in a building as it shakes for what he says were four long minutes. But in the basement of the Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital he is surrounded by humankind’s answer to that natural phenomenon.

    “I work on earthquakes in my office … and it’s a bit abstract. But here in Japan it’s not abstract. You see exactly how the earth interacts with people and that’s where it departs from the science and becomes a societal issue,” Goldfinger said.

    To Chris Goldfinger, the science is in. Why wouldn’t Oregon build like this?

    How prepared is Oregon for a magnitude 9.0 quake? Read the full story: Japan Earthquake Holds Lessons For Oregon Coast

    Listen to the report:

    And view the rest of the series, Unprepared: Will We Be Ready For The Megaquake?

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

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that any nuclear deal negotiated between the U.S. and Iran would not be able to be changed by Congress. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that U.S. lawmakers won’t be able to change the terms of any nuclear agreement with Iran because it won’t be legally binding, a statement likely to inspire greater congressional opposition.

    Kerry, Washington’s senior representative in talks with Tehran, said he reacted with “utter disbelief” to a letter earlier this week signed by 47 Republican senators warning Iran’s leaders that an accord with President Barack Obama’s team could expire the day he leaves office.

    He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the letter undermined U.S. foreign policy and was legally incorrect.

    “We’ve been clear from the beginning: We’re not negotiating a, quote, legally binding plan,” Kerry told the panel. “We’re negotiating a plan that will have in it the capacity for enforcement. We don’t even have diplomatic relations with Iran right now.”

    Kerry said the letter posted Monday by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas “ignores more than two centuries of precedent in the conduct of American foreign policy.”

    Whereas formal treaties require ratification by two-thirds of the Senate, “the vast majority of international arrangements and agreements do not,” he said. “And around the world today we have all kinds of executive agreements that we deal with,” he said, from protecting U.S. troops in Afghanistan to “any number of noncontroversial, broadly supported foreign policy goals.”

    The Obama administration and Democrats have harshly condemned Cotton’s letter, signed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several Republican presidential hopefuls. Presented as a constitutional primer to the leaders of the Islamic republic, they warned that “the next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

    Kerry, who will meet Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, next week in Switzerland for another round of talks, said the senators’ letter “erroneously asserts that this is a legally binding plan. It’s not, that’s number one. Number two, it’s incorrect when it says that Congress could actually modify the terms of an agreement at any time. That’s flat wrong. They don’t have the right to modify an agreement reached executive to executive between leaders.”

    No side has emphasized the need for a legally binding deal because each has stronger forms of leverage. If Iran cheats, the Obama administration has spoken of re-imposing suspended sanctions. The U.S. has also held out the prospect of military action if Iran makes progress toward a nuclear weapon.

    Similarly, if the U.S. doesn’t live up to its side of the bargain, the Iranians can ramp up enrichment levels of uranium, taking them closer to nuclear weapons capacity.

    Congress, too, wields a threat: new forms of economic punishment of Iran that would be forbidden in the agreement. But such a move would almost surely require overriding a presidential veto and could pin a diplomatic collapse on the United States.

    Negotiators from the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia hope to seal a framework with Iran by month’s end and a comprehensive agreement by July. Kerry scoffed at the notion that Obama’s successor would discard a deal reached between so many powerful governments and adhered to by Iran.

    “I’d like to see the next president, if all of those countries have said this is good and it’s working, turn around and just nullify it on behalf of the United States,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”

    Questions about the process involved in any agreement with Shiite-majority Iran are sensitive for a variety of reasons.

    Israel, Sunni Arab countries and many U.S. lawmakers are concerned that international negotiators could be placing too much trust in Iran. The prospects of a “nonbinding” pact will hardly alleviate their concerns, even if none of them have professed faith in Iran abiding by the terms of an agreement that would ease sanctions in exchange for at least a decade of strict limits on the Iranian nuclear program.

    Iran says its program is solely for peaceful energy and medical research purposes.

    On Tuesday, Jen Psaki, Kerry’s spokeswoman, raised the possibility of the deal assuming legal character through the U.N. Security Council. Psaki didn’t speak definitively on the matter but cited the example of a 2013 strategy agreed to between the U.S. and Russia on Syria relinquishing its chemical weapons stockpile. That plan was then endorsed by the United Nations’ top body.

    “This framework was not legally binding and was not subject to congressional approval,” Psaki told reporters. “It outlined steps for eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons and helped lay the groundwork for successful multilateral efforts to move forward.” In that case, she added, the U.S.-Russian agreement “went to the U.N. to the Security Council vote.”

    Zarif is the only one who has gone on record saying such a model would be followed with a nuclear deal.

    U.S. negotiators have been more circumspect. Making such a declaration would amount to telling Congress that it won’t have a say on the accord, because it is not a treaty, but that the United Nations will.

    The post Kerry says Congress would not be able to change terms of Iran deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Andreas Zierhut via Getty Images.

    Andreas Zierhut via Getty Images.

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


    Ask the Medicare Maven

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

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

    Many readers seem to access Ask Phil from cruise ships, the Orient Express, grape-crushing sessions near Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and other similarly idyllic locations. This conclusion is based on the many, many reader questions about overseas health care expenses. And what many people, such as Steven from Oklahoma, want to know is why the @#$&%^ does Medicare not cover them outside the U.S.?

    I can see a philosophical objection to allowing Americans to fork over U.S. dollars to foreign health care providers. I also can see that there may have been substantial concerns when Medicare was enacted 50 years ago that the quality of foreign medical care was just not up to Marcus Welby standards.

    “If I were able to have Medicare pay me what they customarily pay providers in the U.S. for the same services, I might not see any cost at all. If that is the case, why wouldn’t both the government and private Medicare supplemental insurance companies welcome expatriate customers?”

    But that’s hardly the case these days. Check out international health care rankings. Look at the surge in medical tourism, driven not only by lower costs but also by quality.

    By comparison, people can get their Social Security benefits sent to them anywhere. Presumably, these folks spend their dollars on foreign goods and services. Somehow, the nation has survived. Why not Medicare? Here’s how Steven put it, and I can’t improve on his logic:

    Why should there be such resistance to using American benefits abroad? I understand that American insurance companies and the federal government say that they have designed their service to use networks of doctors and hospitals with whom they have agreements, to reduce costs. But my experience over the past 30 years, in the UK and France, has been that health care costs are far lower in these countries that have adopted national health services than they are in the U.S., with our fee-for-service philosophy. As I look to retirement, I am not anxious about using medical services here in France, and I expect that the costs that I will pay will be far less than what providers in the U.S. will charge. And if I were able to have Medicare pay me what they customarily pay providers in the U.S. for the same services, I might not see any cost at all. If that is the case, why wouldn’t both the government and private Medicare supplemental insurance companies welcome expatriate customers? The more Americans drew on less costly services abroad, the greater the reductions would be for U.S. payments for retiree health care.

    Ever curious, I asked the good people at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for more background. Here is what a spokesman said:

    Medicare does not pay for medical care provided outside the United States, with certain specific exceptions. The exceptions are when a beneficiary is traveling between the contiguous states to Alaska by the most direct route; when a beneficiary requires emergency care while near the U.S.-Canada border and the nearest emergency care is located on the Canadian side. Beneficiary is not covered otherwise when in another country. Also not covered when aboard a ship of foreign registry that is within 40 miles of a U.S. port.

    Now, Social Security does far more than simply send payments to beneficiaries outside the U.S. Through bilateral agreements with many nations, the earnings of Americans who work in foreign countries can be credited to the earnings records on which their Social Security retirement benefits are based. Would it really be so hard to make Medicare similarly responsive to those beneficiaries who live and travel overseas? Providers of health care services in the U.S. might not be so happy. But if the customer here is the Medicare beneficiary, is there any doubt that he or she would be better off? Or that in the process, federal spending would be reduced?

    I’m laughing even as I write these words because the prospect of Congress doing anything so helpful and logical these days is such a non-starter. And this reality, of course, is no laughing matter at all.

    Not so coincidentally, the federal government has lots of employees around the world. The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program that insures them does not require people to come back to the U.S. for their health care needs. How silly that would be, right? It does operate an extensive program of overseas health insurance that somehow has managed to include things like networks of foreign health care providers, mail order pharmacies for drugs, and the like.

    In the meantime, there is some private insurance help for foreign health care needs. Read the next two questions:

    Dan – Pa.: I will turn 65 this year and will enroll in Medicare as well as take out a Medicare supplement plan. I intend to keep working for the foreseeable future. My work involves a fair amount of international travel, and I have an emergency medical evacuation service. However, I wonder what I will need to do to be insured for any urgent or emergency medical expenses while I am outside the U.S. Are there supplement plans that cover medical expenses outside the U.S.? If not, what other options are there (short of traditional medical insurance)?

    Karl — France: I will be 65 in not too many years. I have a second home in Nice, France. I know that Medicare doesn’t cover treatment in France. What must I do to be able to spend time there while having medical coverage? Do I have to buy a temporary private policy?


    Can expats take their Medicare abroad?

    Phil Moeller: Six Medicare supplement coverage plans, also called Medigap plans, offer emergency coverage for foreign travel. But the benefits are modest, according to SHIP: 80 percent of Medicare-eligible expenses with a $250 annual deductible. Beyond this, you may need to seek non-Medicare insurance including — depending on how much time you spend outside the U.S. — a policy issued by an insurer in a specific foreign country. And there are health care options in travel insurance policies for shorter trips.

    Monica — Ind.: I’ve just relocated to Bloomington, Indiana, from Dublin, Ireland. I was not eligible for a Part D drug plan while in Dublin. As soon as I returned, I applied for Part D. Now they want to charge a penalty, but since I was not living in the United States, when I would otherwise have been eligible, I was not eligible. Do you know how I can avoid the penalty?

    Phil Moeller: Did I mention that the way Medicare interacts with the health care needs of people in other nations is in need of a bypass operation? Oh, well. I think your relocation qualifies as a life-changing event that should entitle you to a special enrollment period and exempt you from this kind of penalty. But my opinion counts for naught here. Try getting in touch with the Indiana SHIP office and see if they can help. And please let me know if the forces of logic prevail here and give you the relief you so clearly merit.

    The post I can get my Social Security abroad, so why not my Medicare? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    File photo of Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani by Azad Lashkari/Reuters

    File photo of Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani by Azad Lashkari/Reuters

    NEAR ZUMAR, Iraq —  Kurdish President Masoud Barzani looks out at the rolling hills beyond the sandbags of a forward command base near the Syrian border.

    The sounds of birds singing used to be sounds of explosions and gunfire just a few months ago as Kurdish peshmerga fighters battled the Islamic State group.

    “We’ve been through very, very difficult times – now it’s much different,” Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, recently told the PBS NewsHour.

    Peshmerga commanders stride through the gravel paths between the pre-fabricated trailers moved here four months ago after IS fighters were driven out near the town of Zumair. On this day, there is good news from the front – the peshmerga have cleared more than 60 square miles near Kirkuk, including part of a road to the northern city of Mosul.

    Barzani credits the U.S. and Europe as well as Kurdish forces with helping to roll back the IS advance. But while the air strikes halted IS moves towards the Kurdish capitol, he says Kurdish forces still lack the weapons and military equipment to ensure they can meet any threat.

    “There is no political decision yet to give us what we need,” he said.

    When entire Iraqi Army divisions collapsed in the face of the IS onslaught last June, the Kurds became the most reliable U.S. military partner in the fight against IS. But the United States is wary of empowering the Kurdish region and further weakening the central government’s authority.

    Although relations between Baghdad and Erbil have improved under new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, there is still tension between the two and little coordination. Kurdish forces have focused mostly on areas near their de facto border and in the disputed territories long claimed by both the central and Kurdish governments.

    As Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militias make their way further into Tikrit and beyond, Kurdish involvement in predominantly Sunni areas remains a major question.

    “If there is a program to liberate Mosul or anywhere else close to the Kurdistan region we can study the situation and in principle we have no objections,” said Barzani.

    He said he would not rule out sending in Kurdish troops as part of a wider force but said in the primarily Arab city they would have to play a supporting role.

    “The situation in those areas is complicated – you can’t tell who is IS and who isn’t,” he said. “They don’t know who they are so it might lead to a lot of innocent killings and peshmerga casualties. We need to establish what role is given to the peshmerga and then we will decide but we will not go into the Sunni areas and fight the Arabs.”

    Barzani said he does not share the concern of some countries that Iran, which provides military and financial backing for Shia militias leading the fight in central Iraq, is playing too prominent a role. He said he worries that a prominent militia role after cities are retaken would deepen sectarian tension.

    “Whoever will take part and help us attack IS, we will thank them,” he said. “Right now I don’t share that concern if you are asking me about helping to fight and defeat IS. What happens after that we can’t predict.”

    Kurdish forces have now taken back large swathes of territory seized by IS, including parts of Sinjar, where more than 100,000 members of the small Yazidi minority fled in June as IS fighters killed hundreds of men and captured several thousand women. But the military gains have come at a cost.

    More than 1,100 peshmerga have been killed in the fight. IS is now holding 21 Kurdish fighters it has threatened to behead on the spring holiday of Nawruz on March 21.

    Asked about how the Kurdish government can confront such tactics, Barzani becomes visibly upset.

    “Of course it is sad to see our peshmerga in the hands of IS. Some got lost and fell into their hands. Some were captured in the fight. It hurts me a great deal personally. We will try our utmost to free them but if that doesn’t materialize we will list them as martyrs and the number of martyrs will increase. It doesn’t mean that we are going to slow down in fighting these terrorists.

    “We are holding many of them prisoners but we will not treat them the way they treat our peshmerga,” he said.

    Jane Arraf is a PBS NewsHour special correspondent based in the Middle East. Watch her interview with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on Wednesday’s NewsHour.

    The post Kurdish president weighs broader role in Islamic State fight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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