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

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    Photo by Crowther & Carter via Getty Images

    Photo by Crowther Carter via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The State Department’s internal watchdog has found that many department employees are not preserving emails for the public record as required by the government.

    That could mean a substantial amount of government information is being lost to history.

    The inspector general, in a report out Wednesday, says that in 2011, when Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary of state, department employees wrote more than 1 billion emails but only marked 61,156 for the public record. There’s no way to know from the figures how many should have been designated as public records.

    The report says many employees don’t know the rules for what emails should be recorded for history, or fear the consequences of having their recorded emails searched and exposed. Some thought the rules were merely for their convenience.

    The post Inspector general: State Department employees not archiving enough email appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    At seven feet long, the giant, filter-feeding anomalocaridid was one of the biggest arthropods to have ever lived. Illustration by Marianne Collins/ArtofFact

    At seven feet long, the giant, filter-feeding anomalocaridid was one of the biggest arthropods to have ever lived. Illustration by Marianne Collins/ArtofFact

    It’s hard to believe that a prehistoric sea creature the size of Shaquille O’Neal could teach us anything about a modern dust mite.

    But a 7-foot-long, 480-million-year-old marine animal called an anomalocaridid is an ancestor to modern arthropods , the phylum that includes insects, spiders, centipedes, crabs and, yes, dust mites. And a fossil of the species found in the Sahara desert in southeastern Morocco appears to answer a question that’s long puzzled paleontologists: How did arthropods evolve to have legs? The study was released online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

    The creatures, among the biggest arthropods that have ever lived, dwelled in the oceans during the Ordovician period, when the seas were rich and teeming with mollusks, tiny fish and sea lilies. The massive supercontinent, Gondwana, was drifting south, and early animals were taking their first limited steps onto land.

    It was a time of “massive increases in ecological complexity, with new modes of feeding and complex behavior evolving,” said Peter Van Roy, a paleontologist at Yale University and lead author of the study.

    The peaceful, plankton-munching anomalocaridid was abundant in the waters, but until now, finding well-preserved fossils, particularly of the animal’s trunk, has been difficult.

    Not long ago, a specimen in good condition was discovered by a local Moroccan collector and moved to Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, where Van Roy spent about 500 hours excavating it from the rock.

    Lateral view of a complete specimen of a giant filter-feeding anomalocaridid from the Early Ordovician of Morocco, preserved in three dimensions. Note the presence of two sets of lateral flaps, providing critical new insights into the origins of modern arthropod limbs. Photo by Peter Van Roy, Yale University

    Lateral view of a complete specimen of a giant filter-feeding anomalocaridid from the Early Ordovician of Morocco, preserved in three dimensions. Note the presence of two sets of lateral flaps, providing critical new insights into the origins of modern arthropod limbs. Photo by Peter Van Roy, Yale University

    As the details emerged, what he saw startled him. The animal, scientists knew, had a head with grasping appendages used to grab prey or filter plankton from the water and flaps on the sides of their long trunks that were used for swimming. But anomalocaridids were believed to have only one set of flaps, and to have completely lacked legs. This one, Van Roy discovered, had two sets of flaps.

    “I was literally shocked at the implications of this find ,” he said. “I remember going back to the specimen every day to look at those flaps to say, ‘Yes, they were really there, I’m not seeing things. I’m not going crazy.’” Van Roy and co-authors Allison Daley and Derek Briggs then set out to re-examine other, older anomalocaridids, and found that those too had two sets of flaps, which had been previously overlooked.

    When Van Roy first told Daley about the specimen that had just been unearthed, she said she too couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

    “I had been working on anomalocaridids for 10 years,” Daley said. “They’re always preserved highly compressed so you don’t get three dimensions. And they all had one pair of flaps per body segments, not two.”

    This discovery of two flaps solved the riddle of the supposedly lost legs in anomalocaridids. For without them, how had modern legs of arthropods evolved? The lower set of flaps seem to be modified legs, Van Roy said, used in the case of these animals for swimming. These flaps, Van Roy and his team believe, are the precursors to walking legs while the upper flaps gave rise to gills found in modern anthropods.

    David Legg, a paleontologist with Oxford University Museum of Natural History, said the finding is critical to the understanding these animals and their place in evolution.

    “Finding legs in this new animal means there isn’t this substantial gap we thought there was … For my own research, it’s quite a big deal.”

    And while at first glance, these animals don’t look all that much like a fly or a shrimp, a dust mite or a spider, the similarities jump out at you when you look at the details, Daley said. “The segmentation of the body, the head region, the jointed limbs at the front of the head — these details compare to characteristics of modern arthropods even if they don’t look exactly the same.”

    The post How the itsy bitsy spider evolved from a giant prehistoric sea creature appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Newly mobilized Ukrainian paratroopers fire a machine gun during a military drill near  the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr on March 6, 2015. The United States is sending Ukraine further aid, including unarmed drones, but no lethal weaponry. Photo by Valentyn Ogrienko/Reuters

    Newly mobilized Ukrainian paratroopers fire a machine gun during a military drill near the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr on March 6, 2015. The United States is sending Ukraine further aid, including unarmed drones, but no lethal weaponry. Photo by Valentyn Ogrienko/Reuters

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States announced Wednesday that it is sending small unarmed drones, armored Humvees and other assistance to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists. Lethal weapons were not included, to the dismay of some U.S. lawmakers.

    The White House said President Barack Obama is still considering whether to send weapons to Ukraine’s military, weighing the risks that such aid could further inflame conflict in which more than 6,000 people have died.

    “That bloodshed is something that we’re trying to avoid and de-escalate,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “So the president is very mindful of the potential risk that’s associated with providing additional lethal military assistance to the Ukrainians.”

    Word of the new aid came in a telephone call Wednesday from Vice President Joe Biden to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The White House said Biden also expressed concern that Russian-backed separatists are violating cease-fire agreements in eastern Ukraine and keeping out international monitors.

    Earnest said the new aid includes unmanned drones to help defend Ukrainian forces and enhance their communication; radios and other secure communications equipment; radars to warn and protect against mortar and artillery fire; and medical equipment, including military ambulances.

    U.S. officials, speaking on a condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the aid on the record, said it includes small Raven drones systems, which can be launched by hand. The U.S. also will send 30 heavily armored Humvees and 200 other regular Humvees.

    The drones and other equipment, not including the Humvees, are worth about $75 million. It’s not clear how many drones would be sent or what the Humvees cost.

    Members of Congress from both parties repeatedly have urged Obama to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to defend themselves. Cory Fritz, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the new aid “will be completely ineffective.”

    “The Ukrainians are begging for help, and the Congress is begging the administration to provide the defensive lethal assistance we authorized in December. Our allies deserve better,” Fritz said.

    Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that administration officials are discussing lethal assistance and are watching whether the agreements that led to last month’s cease-fire are implemented.

    Nuland said that in the past few days, there have been new transfers of Russian tanks, armored vehicles, heavy artillery and rocket equipment over the border to the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin denies arming rebels in the war in eastern Ukraine, which began in April after Moscow annexed the mostly Russian-speaking Crimean Peninsula.

    The post U.S. to send unarmed drones, but no lethal aid, to Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    It’s difficult to imagine Baghdad today without images of violence from its recent past. But a short film from PBS’s Frontline, “Life in Baghdad,” reveals a side of the city that so often is forgotten amid a decade of war and and recent Islamic State insurgency. One that shows normalcy, uninterrupted.

    The film, narrated by Frontline producer Martin Smith, contrasts the haunting danger of war against the daily lives of Iraqis filled, quite simply, with joy.

    “They don’t worry about the bombs, because they just are — they’re just a fact of life,” said Smith. He added, “Your only hope is that if a bomb goes off, it’s far enough away, or it’s close enough that you’re gone quickly.”

    Young boys swimming, teenagers dancing in the street, families enjoying ice cream beneath a Ferris wheel — the images evoke a familiar understanding.

    “They’re just trying to do what we’re trying to do.”

    Watch Frontline’s short film, “Life in Baghdad,” above.

    The post What does ‘Life in Baghdad’ look like beyond war? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Thomas Hawk

    The Federal Trade Commission has filed suit against DirecTV for what they are calling deceptive advertising for programming. Photo by Flickr user Thomas Hawk

    WASHINGTON — The government is taking the nation’s biggest satellite TV provider to court, accusing DirecTV of misleading millions of consumers about the cost of its programming.

    The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that its complaint charges DirecTV Inc. with deceptively advertising a discounted 12-month programming package. Consumers weren’t clearly told that the package requires a two-year contract, the commission said.

    The advertising, the FTC said, did not make clear that the cost of the package would increase by up to $45 more per month in the second year and that hefty early cancellation fees — up to $480 — would apply. The allegations of deceptive advertising date back to 2007 and cover more recent marketing campaigns, such as one in late 2014 that offered the company’s subscription service on a limited basis for “only $19.99″ a month.

    “We require businesses to be truthful and to give consumers the information they need to make informed choices about goods and services,” said Jessica Rich, head of the agency’s consumer protection bureau. “Companies can’t hide important information from consumers to trick them into buying goods and services — and that’s what we allege DirecTV did.”

    DirecTV denied the charges.

    The company says it’s made a number of improvements to make the ordering process as clear as possible, eliminated some promotions that may have been confusing to consumers, and prominently disclosed introductory pricing terms.

    DirecTV said many customers shop online, but the vast majority place their order by phone. All the details about terms and conditions are verbally communicated during the phone call and customers are asked to acknowledge that they understand the terms, the company said.

    The FTC’s Rich said the commission would seek refunds for consumers. She did not say exactly how many people were involved but said a large portion of the company’s more than 20 million U.S. subscribers were affected.

    The FTC also took issue with DirecTV’s trial offers of premium channels, such as HBO and Cinemax. Consumers weren’t properly told that they would incur significant monthly fees if they didn’t cancel the trial offer before the three months were up, the FTC said.

    California-based DirecTV has been in trouble with the FTC before. The company paid a $5.3 million settlement in 2005, and then a $2.3 million settlement in 2009 — both over telemarketing calls to consumers.

    The FTC complaint over DirecTV’s marketing practices was filed in federal court in San Francisco.

    The post FTC sues DirecTV for ‘deceptively advertising’ programming costs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rare and priceless Greek and Roman coins discovered after spending 80 years in a vault at the University at Buffalo. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

    Rare and priceless Greek and Roman coins discovered after spending 80 years in a vault at the University at Buffalo. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

    University at Buffalo faculty member Philip Kiernan heard a rumor back in 2010 and went on a hunt for a collection of rare, ancient and priceless Greek and Roman coins. Not in Greece and not in Italy. The hunt was on his very own campus in New York.

    In 1935, benefactor Thomas B. Lockwood donated a collection of rare books, along with a coin collection, to the university. The coins stayed in their casings and sat on a shelf, their true value never realized, at least not until Kiernan recently reexamined them and had experts verify their authenticity.

    The university describes the collection as “40 silver Greek coins, three gold Greek coins and a dozen gold Roman coins — one from each era of the first 12 roman emperors, from Julius Caesar to Domitian.” They date from the fifth century B.C. to the first century A.D. Now, Kiernan is turning them into a learning opportunity, creating an entire graduate course to study their history.

    An extremely rare gold aureus of the Roman emperor Otho, who reigned for only three months in A.D. 69. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

    An extremely rare gold aureus of the Roman emperor Otho, who reigned for only three months in A.D. 69. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

    Reverse (tails) of a silver tetradrachm of Athens, ca. 450 to 400 B.C. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

    Reverse (tails) of a silver tetradrachm of Athens, ca. 450 to 400 B.C. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    One of the coins depicts a Roman emperor who reigned for only three months; Otho who was in power in A.D. 69. Some of the Greek coins were minted in the most powerful city-states of the ancient world, from Athens to Corinth. As for how much the coins are worth, Kiernan told the Buffalo Times the market value is unimaginable to him saying, “My job as an archaeologist is to appreciate their historical value and their historical value is absolutely priceless.”

    The post Hidden in plain sight, rare coins spend 80 years unseen on college shelf appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    During a discussion this morning on the recent video featuring members of a fraternity at Oklahoma University chanting racist slurs, the hosts of “Morning Joe” laid the blame on someone other than the fraternity brothers: the rapper Waka Flocka Flame.

    The musician recently canceled a scheduled concert at the OU campus in response to the video, saying he was “disgusted,” and did not want to perform for the students there.

    Co-host Joe Scarborough, however, said that lyrics like Waka Flocka Flame’s cause incidents like the one captured on video. “So do they hear this at home?” he asked. “Well, chances are good, no. They heard a lot of this from guys like this who are now acting shocked.”

    Co-host Mika Brzezinski felt Waka Flocka Flame’s lyrics were disgusting, saying, “It’s wrong. And he shouldn’t be disgusted with them, he should be disgusted with himself.”

    Writer Vann Newkirk shared his reaction to the ‘Morning Joe’ segment on Twitter.

    Inspired by this tweet, Twitter user Alvian, who asked to be identified by his first name only, expressed his frustration using the hashtag #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery.

    Alvian, a 27-year-old linguist from Georgia, told NewsHour that he hoped to highlight what he felt was an absurd assertion: that this was an isolated incident inspired by rap music. “They didn’t just get to OU and become THAT racist, and they certainly didn’t learn it from a Waka Flocka song. This isn’t an anomaly, it’s a tradition, and though I don’t know anything about the origins of the chant, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been around for as long as the organization itself.”

    The hashtag, he said, was meant to provide a humorous way of dealing with frustration. “Finding that humor really exposes the absurdity of some of these people’s thought processes, and as we’ve seen time and time again, if there’s a joke there, Black Twitter will find it,” Alvian said. The rest of the Twitter community took the hashtag and ran with it.

    The post Rap music not to blame for racist frat video, Twitter says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo of mouse in laboratory by Adam Gault via Getty Images

    Photo of mouse in laboratory by Adam Gault via Getty Images

    A team of Australian researchers recently found that ultrasound waves have helped restore memory to mice with Alzheimer’s disease, potentially bringing scientists closer to finding a way to prevent the disease.

    Alzheimer’s, which affects more than 5 million Americans, is a result of a build-up of amyloid-β in the brain. The plaque prevents communication between brain cells, and a patient with Alzheimer’s has a more difficult time breaking apart the plaque. According to Popular Science, breaking down the plaque is difficult due to a “layer of tightly bound cells that separates the blood, water and other chemicals that are inside the brain from those outside it.” Most drugs that would break up the plaque are not able to get past the barrier.

    “The Australian team sent ultrasound waves — sound waves that move at a much higher frequency than humans can hear — at the mice’s brains,” according to Popular Science. The team found that the waves stimulated microglia, a cell that attacks unwanted items in the brain and strengthens the immune system. The researchers found that 75 percent of the mice that underwent the treatment had a severe decrease of plaque.

    The team hopes to test the method on sheep before starting on humans.

    The post Ultrasound helps restore memory to mice with Alzheimer’s appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Members of the Secret Service stand guard on the roof of White House on Tuesday. White House intruder Omar Gonzalez, the man arrested last week after jumping the White House fence, went deeper into the building than what was previously reported. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Members of the Secret Service stand guard on the roof of White House. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department is investigating two senior Secret Service agents accused of crashing a car into a White House security barrier, an agency spokesman says.

    Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said Wednesday that recently appointed Director Joseph Clancy has been briefed on the March 4 incident. Clancy has asked the Homeland Security Department’s Inspector General’s Office to investigate the incident.

    Hoback did not provide additional details.

    The agency said the two agents have been reassigned to non-supervisory, non-operational jobs.

    The Washington Post first reported the investigation Wednesday afternoon. The newspaper reported that the agents drove a government car into a security barrier near the White House after a night of drinking.

    The Post reported that one of the agents involved is Mark Connolly, the second-in-command on President Barack Obama’s security detail. The newspaper identified the other agent as George Ogilvie, a senior supervisor in the Washington field office.

    The leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — Republican chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah and top Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland — issued a statement Wednesday evening saying, “The fact that this event involved senior-level agents is not only embarrassing but exhibits a clear lack of judgment in a potentially dangerous situation.”

    The crash investigation is the latest embarrassment for the agency tasked with protecting the president.

    In the last six months, several top agency officials, including former Director Julian Pierson, have been forced out amid revelations of multiple, serious presidential security breaches. In September, a Texas man armed with a knife was able to climb a White House fence and run deep into the executive mansion before being apprehended.

    An internal investigation and an outside panel report both described serious problems within the agency.

    A four-member panel of former senior government officials concluded in a report released last year that the agency was too insular and starving for leadership.

    The panel recommended an agency outsider to replace Pierson, but Obama earlier this year tapped Clancy, a retired agent who led the agency on an interim basis after Pierson’s ouster.

    Chaffetz and Cummings, whose committee has been investigating the problems at the agency, said, “Although recent steps have been made to bring new leadership in at the highest levels, this incident begs the question of whether that is enough.”

    The post Secret Service investigating agents’ crash near White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters write slogans in chalk outside the City of Ferguson Police Department and Municipal Court in Ferguson, Missouri, March 11, 2015. Two police officers were shot during a protest outside Ferguson, Missouri police headquarters early on Thursday, police said, just hours after the city's police chief quit following a damning U.S. Justice Department report into his force. Photo by Kate Munsch/Reuters

    Protesters write slogans in chalk outside the City of Ferguson Police Department and Municipal Court in Ferguson, Missouri, March 11, 2015. Two police officers were shot during a protest outside Ferguson, Missouri police headquarters early on Thursday, police said, just hours after the city’s police chief quit following a damning U.S. Justice Department report into his force. Photo by Kate Munsch/Reuters

    Two police officers were shot during a protest outside Ferguson, Missouri, police headquarters at about midnight on Thursday, police said. They were hospitalized in serious condition.

    The two officers were a 41 year old from the St. Louis County Police Department who was struck in the shoulder and a 32 year old from nearby Webster Groves Police Department who was hit in the face, said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. He did not identify the officers by name.

    The shooting came hours after the city’s police chief Thomas Jackson resigned, following a critical report about the police force from the Justice Department.

    They were the latest developments stemming from the August shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson, who a grand jury decided not to indict. Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced it would not bring federal civil rights charges against Wilson.

    Several dozen protesters had gathered in front of the Ferguson police department on Wednesday night when the shooting occurred.

    U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the assault “inexcusable and repugnant.” He said in a statement: “I condemn violence against any public safety officials in the strongest terms, and the Department of Justice will never accept any threats or violence directed at those who serve and protect our communities — from this cowardly action, to the killing of an officer in Philadelphia last week while he was buying a game for his son, to the tragic loss of a deputy U.S. marshal in the line of duty in Louisiana earlier this week. Such senseless acts of violence threaten the very reforms that nonviolent protesters in Ferguson and around the country have been working towards for the past several months.”

    The post Two officers shot outside Ferguson police department appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    doctor and patient

    Stock photo of doctor and patient from Getty Images

    The patient was dying and she knew it. In her mid-50s, she had been battling breast cancer for years, but it had spread to her bones, causing unrelenting pain that required hospitalization. Jeremy Force, a first-year oncology fellow at Duke University Medical Center who had never met the woman, was assigned to stop by her room last November to discuss her decision to enter hospice.

    Employing the skills he had just learned in a day-long course, Force sat at the end of her bed and listened intently. The woman wept, telling him she was exhausted and worried about the impact her death would have on her two daughters.

    “I acknowledged how hard what she was going through was,” Force said of their 15-minute conversation, “and told her I had two children, too” and that hospice was designed to provide her additional support.

    A few days later, he ran into the woman in the hall. “You’re the best physician I’ve ever worked with,” Force remembers her telling him. “I was blown away,” he says. “It was such an honor.”

    Force credits “Oncotalk,” a course required of Duke’s oncology fellows, for the unexpected accolade. Developed by medical faculty at Duke, the University of Pittsburgh and several other medical schools, “Oncotalk” is part of a burgeoning effort to teach doctors an essential but often overlooked skill: clinical empathy. Unlike sympathy, which is defined as feeling sorry for another person, clinical empathy is the ability to stand in a patient’s shoes and to convey an understanding of the patient’s situation as well as the desire to help.

    Clinical empathy was once dismissively known as “good bedside manner” and traditionally regarded as far less important than technical acumen. But a spate of studies in the past decade has found that it is no mere frill. Increasingly, empathy is considered essential to establishing trust, the foundation of a good doctor-patient relationship.

    Studies have linked empathy to greater patient satisfaction, better outcomes, decreased physician burnout and a lower risk of malpractice suits and errors. Beginning this year, the Medical College Admission Test will contain questions involving human behavior and psychology, a recognition that being a good doctor “requires an understanding of people,” not just science, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. Patient satisfaction scores are now being used to calculate Medicare reimbursement under the Affordable Care Act. And more than 70 percent of hospitals and health networks are using patient satisfaction scores in physician compensation decisions.

    While some people are naturally better at being empathic, said Mohammadreza Hojat, a research professor of psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, empathy can be taught. “Empathy is a cognitive attribute, not a personality trait,” said Hojat, who developed the Jefferson Scale of Empathy, a tool used by researchers to measure it.

    “The pressure is really on,” said psychiatrist Helen Riess. The director of the empathy and relational science program at Massachusetts General Hospital, she designed “Empathetics,” a series of online courses for physicians. “The ACA and accountability for health improvement is really heightening the importance of a relationship” between patients and their doctors when it comes to boosting adherence to treatment and improving health outcomes.

    “Demographics and economics are driving this,” said James A. Tulsky, one of the developers of “Oncotalk.” (The original course for oncologists has been adapted for other specialties under the aegis of Vital Talk.) “Baby boomers have higher expectations” and are less willing to tolerate doctors they consider arrogant or unapproachable, added Tulsky, director of the Duke Center for Palliative Care. A 2011 study he headed found that doctors who took the course inspired greater trust in their patients than those who did not.

    While empathy courses are rarely required in medical training, interest in them is growing, experts say, and programs are underway at Jefferson Medical College and at Columbia University School of Medicine. Columbia has pioneered a program in narrative medicine, which emphasizes the importance of understanding patients’ life stories in providing compassionate care.

    While the curricula differ, most focus on self-monitoring by doctors to reduce defensiveness, improve listening skills (one study found that, on average, doctors interrupt patients within 18 seconds) and decode facial expressions and body language. Some programs use actors as simulated patients and provide feedback to individual doctors.

    Too Busy For Empathy

    “In the 1980s, when I trained, the emphasis was on medical knowledge and technical skills,” said Debra Weinstein, vice president for graduate medical education at Partners HealthCare, the largest provider of medical services in Massachusetts. But in the past decade, “the profession has been more attuned to patient satisfaction and the connection between satisfaction and outcomes and incentives.”

    Partners, which includes Mass General and other Harvard teaching hospitals, is requiring that its 2,000 residents take “Empathetics.” In a 2012 study involving 100 residents, researchers found that doctors randomly assigned to take the course were judged by patients as significantly better at understanding their concerns and making them feel at ease than residents who had not undergone the training.

    Riess said that while some doctors have told her they don’t have the time to be empathic, the skill has proved to be a timesaver rather than a time sink. It can help doctors zero in on the real source of a patient’s concern, short-circuiting repeated visits or those “doorknob moments” doctors dread, when the patient says “Oh, by the way . . . ” and raises the primary concern as the doctor is headed out of the room.

    Because a lack of empathy and poor communication drive many malpractice cases, a large malpractice insurer, MMIC, is urging doctors it insures to take the “Empathetics” course. Another benefit: Empathy training appears to combat physician burnout.

    “Empathy training is naturally self-rewarding,” said Laurie Drill-Mellum, a former emergency room doctor who is chief medical officer of the Minneapolis-based insurer. “It gives [doctors] the love back,” she said, referring to the positive feedback empathic doctors receive from their patients.

    ‘Doctors Are Explainaholics’

    Both Riess and Tulsky say their interest in empathy was sparked by personal experience. In Riess’ case, it was the flood of patients in her psychiatric practice a decade ago who spent their time in therapy discussing devastating interactions with doctors. “These are not just innocuous effects,” she said, “but often experiences that were profound and deeply affected people’s lives.”

    Tulsky said that his father, an obstetrician-gynecologist in a solo practice, routinely talked about his patients at dinner. “His stories were about their lives, so I got this idea that medicine was about more than the illness,” he recalled. In medical school, Tulsky said, “I was very drawn to challenging moments in patients’ lives and volunteered to give bad news,” particularly when he believed other doctors would botch it.

    “I saw a lot that disturbed me,” Tulsky said. One memorable incident involved his chief resident loudly berating a frightened, impoverished and very sick old man, saying, “If you don’t have this operation, you’ll die. Don’t you understand?”

    Tulsky said that researchers have found that some doctors don’t respond with empathy because they are clueless when it comes to reading other people. Many others, he said, do recognize distress but fear unleashing a flood of emotion in the patient, and sometimes in themselves.

    “Doctors are explainaholics,” Tulsky said. “Our answer to distress is more information, that if a patient just understood it better, they would come around.” In reality, bombarding a patient with information does little to alleviate the underlying worry.

    The “Empathetics” program teaches doctors “how to show up, not what to say,” said Riess. “We do a lot of training in emotional recognition and self-monitoring.” That includes learning to identify seven universal facial expressions — using research pioneered by psychologist Paul Ekman — and to take stock of one’s own emotional responses to patients or situations.

    Some of the course is explicitly prescriptive: Make eye contact with the patient, not the computer. Don’t stand over a hospitalized patient, pull up a chair. Don’t conduct a monologue in off-putting medicalese. Pay attention to tone of voice, which can be more important than what is said. When delivering bad news, schedule the patient for the end of the day and do not allow interruptions. Find out what the patient is most concerned about and figure out how best to address that.

    One Doctor’s Experience

    Andy Lipman has taken the Duke course twice: first as an oncology fellow in 2004 and last year as a practicing oncologist in Naples, Fla., when he felt in need of a “booster shot.” Oncology, he said, “is a full-contact” specialty with a high burnout rate.

    Among the most important lessons Lipman said he learned during both sessions was to let go of “my own medical agenda, the desire to fix something or make something happen in that visit.” He learned to pace himself, monitor his reactions and talk less.

    Every day, he said, he thinks about what he was told in 2004: “Never answer a feeling with a fact.” That means responding to a patient in a six-month remission from cancer who reports having a sore elbow by saying, “Tell me more about your elbow. This is probably scary stuff” and not “Your scans show no evidence of disease.”

    One technique Lipman routinely employs is taking 15 seconds before entering an exam room to ask himself, “What is needed here?”

    On the day he was interviewed, Lipman said, he used what he has learned with a patient with end-stage cancer. She was scheduled for a brief appointment but began weeping loudly as she told Lipman how alone she felt.

    “I engaged, I expected the emotional response and I hung in there,” he said of the meeting, which lasted 45 minutes. “It felt good to me,” Lipman said, and he hoped it gave his patient some comfort.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Efforts to instill empathy among doctors is paying dividends appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jon Boyes/Getty Images

    Photo by Jon Boyes/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Fake IRS agents have targeted more than 366,000 people with harassing phone calls demanding payments and threatening jail as part of a huge nationwide tax scam that has cost taxpayers $15.5 million.

    More than 3,000 people have fallen for the ruse since 2013, Timothy Camus, a Treasury deputy inspector general for tax administration, said Thursday.

    The scam has claimed victims in almost every state, Camus said. One unidentified victim lost more than $500,000.

    “The criminals do not discriminate. They are calling people everywhere, of all income levels and backgrounds,” Camus told the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing. “The number of complaints we have received about this scam make it the largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of our agency.”

    The scam is so widespread that investigators believe there is more than one group of perpetrators, including some overseas.

    Camus said even he received a call from one of the scammers at his home on a Saturday. He said he had a stern message for the caller: “Your day will come.”

    So far, Camus said, two people in Florida have been arrested. They were accused of being part of a scam that involved people in call centers in India contacting U.S. taxpayers and pretending to be IRS agents.

    “These criminal acts are perpetrated by thieves hiding behind telephone lines and computers, preying on honest taxpayers and robbing the Treasury of tens of billions of dollars every year,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Taxpayers must be more aware of the risks and better protected from attack and these criminals must be found and brought to justice.”

    The inspector general’s office started warning taxpayers about the scam a year ago, but it has since ballooned. Tax scams often increase during filing season.

    As part of the scam, fake IRS agents call taxpayers, claim they owe taxes, and demand payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. Those who refuse are threatened with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license, Camus said.

    The callers might even know the last four digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number, Camus said.

    They request prepaid debit cards because they are harder to trace than bank cards. Prepaid debit cards are different from bank cards because they are not connected to a bank account. Instead, consumers buy the cards at stores, and use them just like a bank card, until the money runs out or they add more.

    Real IRS agents usually contact people first by mail, Camus said. And they never demand payment by debit card, credit card or wire transfer.

    “Our message is simple,” Camus said. “If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you do not pay immediately, it is a scam artist calling. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by telephone. If you do owe money to the IRS, chances are you have already received some form of a notice or correspondence from the IRS in your mailbox.”

    The inspector general’s office started receiving complaints about the scam in 2013. Immigrants were the primary target early on, the IG’s office said. But the scam has since become more widespread.

    The post Fake IRS agents target more than 366,000 in huge tax scam appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    British author Terry Pratchett poses for a photograph while holding a petition on the behalf of the Alzheimer's Research Trust in London on Nov. 26, 2008. Photo by Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

    British author Terry Pratchett poses for a photograph while holding a petition on the behalf of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust in London on Nov. 26, 2008. Photo by Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

    Terry Pratchett, author of more than 70 books including the popular Discworld fantasy series, has died at his home, his publisher said Thursday.

    Pratchett announced in 2007 that he had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which he called an “embuggerance.” He died with his family and beloved cat with him.

    Pratchett “enriched the planet like few before him,” said Publishers Transworld managing director Larry Finlay. “All who read him know, Discworld was his vehicle to satirize this world: he did so brilliantly, with great skill, enormous humor and constant invention.”

    He was deemed the UK’s bestselling author of the 1990s and has sold more than 85 million books worldwide, most of them in the Discworld series.

    The 40 Discworld novels depict a mythical world set on a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle. The fanciful stories feature wizards, witches and trolls.

    Pratchett is survived by his wife Lyn and their daughter Rhianna.

    Some tributes from fans on Twitter:

    The post British fantasy author Terry Pratchett dies at age 66 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Rev. Willie T. Barrow, co-chairwoman of the Board of Trustees with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, left, marches with Rep. Luis Guttierez, D-Ill., against the U.S. Naval bombing in Vieques, Puerto Rico on June 25, 2001 during a rally in downtown Chicago. Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

    The Rev. Willie T. Barrow, co-chairwoman of the Board of Trustees with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, left, marches with Rep. Luis Guttierez, D-Ill., against the U.S. Naval bombing in Vieques, Puerto Rico on June 25, 2001 during a rally in downtown Chicago. Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

    The Rev. Willie T. Barrow, known for her lifetime of work in civil rights and other causes, died early Thursday at the age of 90. She had been in declining health.

    Barrow helped found the organization that led to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which defends and works toward gains in civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields.

    Known as the “Little Warrior,” she marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C., and Selma, Alabama. She participated in the AIDS Memorial Quilt and stood up for LGBT people.

    “Michelle and I are deeply saddened by Reverend Barrow’s passing, but we take comfort in the knowledge that our world is a far better place because she was a part of it,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

    “I was proud to count myself among the more than 100 men and women she called her ‘Godchildren,’ and worked hard to live up to her example. I still do,” he said.

    The post Civil rights leader Willie T. Barrow, known as ‘little warrior,’ dies at 90 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by zokara/E+ via Getty Images.

    Avi Flombaum, co-founder and dean of the Flatiron School, started teaching himself HTML and CSS when he was in fifth grade in 1995. Photo by zokara/E+ via Getty Images.

    Editor’s Note: Computer coding — it’s the skill in demand in seemingly all professions these days. But back before Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates were household names, knowing programming languages wasn’t such a big deal. Nor was it considered a viable career. Avi Flombaum knows that firsthand. He’s the co-founder and dean of the Flatiron School, a 12-week coding program that requires no experience or prerequisites — 10 percent of their students don’t have college degrees.

    Photo courtesy of Avi Flombaum.

    Photo courtesy of Avi Flombaum.

    Much to the chagrin of his parents, Flombaum taught himself how to code as a kid instead of pursuing the lawyer or doctor track. He started Flatiron because he doesn’t think people should have to struggle on their own to master coding. As he says, “You might as well immediately be learning it in the manner in which you’re going to be practicing it, which is going to be through collaboration.”

    In this edited transcript of his extended conversation with Paul Solman, below, Flombaum recounts how he first got into coding and how he’s dealt with his very skeptical parents.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    PS: How did you get into coding?

    AF: My mom was a teacher in an elementary school and after school she would tutor her students. And I would have to wait for her for two hours. It was like 1993. My school had one computer and I’d basically play with that computer while my mom was tutoring students. It had this game on it called Nibbles where you’re a snake and you’re eating blocks and the snake grows bigger and you can’t crash into yourself.

    Eventually, I got so good at that game that I could just beat it every time. So I opened up the source code to try to make the game harder, to try to make it move faster. So that’s the first time I had programmed. And then a year and a half later the world-wide web came out and I signed onto the Internet for the first time. I saw a web page and I really thought to myself, “This is going to change the world and this is what I want to do with my life. I want to build this Internet thing.”

    PS: Really.

    AF: So I started teaching myself HTML and CSS around fifth grade, in 1995. And then, in 1998, I made a website for my community center, the Riverdale Y, and then throughout high school I was always kind of coding and doing anything I could to explore this field. When I was 16, I got an internship at a startup called Cityfeet.com and started programming for them.

    PS: What did they do?

    “Most of the interviews I went to, they laughed at me and thought it was really cute but they were like look, ‘I’m sorry, but this is like a real job and we can’t hire you.'”

    AF: They’re a commercial real estate service. It was really early on in the Internet — maybe 2000. My parents wanted to send me to SAT camp for the summer, and I really did not want to go, so I made a deal with them. I told them I would get a summer job programming. And if I got that job, I wouldn’t do SAT camp. They challenged my bet because they thought, “Who hires a 16-year-old kid?” My parents were like, “OK, if you don’t have a job by July 1, you have to enroll in this SAT camp.” So I started applying for jobs in the New York Times want ads and anything that mentioned computers, I would apply. I made a resumé because that’s what people did to apply to jobs.

    Most of the interviews I went to, they laughed at me and thought it was really cute but they were like look, “I’m sorry, but this is like a real job and we can’t hire you.” But I eventually found this startup that also laughed at me but was like, “Listen, can you actually program?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And they gave me a test and I passed it and they said they’d pay me $10 an hour to code over the summer.

    So I went home, I told my parents and they were like, “You’re lying. We don’t believe you.” And I was like, “No, I have to go to work tomorrow. This is not a lie.” And they came with me to work the next day to this startup and walked in and met the CEO and said, “So this is the real thing – you actually hired my son for the summer.”

    PS: Did you have a relationship with your parents where they wouldn’t believe you if you told them?

    AF: I had that relationship with my parents…[but] also, the idea of being a programmer – that wasn’t really a job that you just could get. You didn’t have Mark Zuckerburgs or Bill Gateses then — world-famous, so that people understood, “Oh, you can be a self-taught programmer and be employable.”

    PS: So they really thought you were making it up as a dodge for getting out of SAT camp?

    AF: Yeah. It even happened again when I was in college in my sophomore year: I [was recruited] by a hedge fund, and they told me to drop out and just go and work there as a programmer. And I told my parents that and they were like: “No, we are not approving this until we actually see this office.” And they came to the hedge fund and they thought I’d set up this whole office. They were opening drawers, looking at people’s…

    PS: Come on!

    AF: I swear. They were knocking on walls to make sure I didn’t set up this whole ruse to convince them to let me drop out of college.

    PS: You must have had a reputation as a devious son.

    AF: I got into some trouble when I was growing up, sure. But you know, it was tough. There was no history of what startups are now, entrepreneurs or programming. Where I grew up they basically thought there were three jobs: you could be a baker or a lawyer or a doctor.

    PS: College professor, no?

    AF: Yeah, no, they weren’t encouraging that. Although my brother did become a college professor to their regret. My sister – she turned out alright. She’s lawyer.

    So I told them that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and they didn’t think that was a real thing. So now, maybe after this, you can call them and tell them that I’m doing OK.

    PS: They’ll see it on TV. Really, it’s fine, he seems to be doing very well.

    You can see Flombaum on TV for yourself on Making Sen$e Thursday on the NewsHour tonight.

    The post The kid who was coding before it was cool appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters demonstrate in Times Square after the grand jury's decision to not charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was announced, in New York. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    Protesters demonstrate in Times Square after the grand jury’s decision to not charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was announced, in New York. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    WASHINGTON — Six cities will participate in a federal pilot program aimed at reducing racial bias and improving ties between law enforcement and communities, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.

    The cities are Fort Worth, Texas; Gary, Indiana; Stockton, California; Birmingham, Alabama; Minneapolis; and Pittsburgh.

    Their selection came six months after Holder announced the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting last August.

    As part of the $4.75 million project, researchers will study data and conduct interviews to develop plans for curbing bias and strategies for building trust between residents and law enforcement. Separately, the Justice Department said it would offer extra training and help to communities that are not part of the project.

    The weeks of protests followed the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer in Ferguson. They exposed the frayed relations between that community and law enforcement and underscored the need for a nationwide initiative, Holder has said.

    “What I saw in Ferguson confirmed for me that the need for such an effort was pretty clear,” Holder said in a September interview with The Associated Press in which he announced the project

    The department last week cleared the officer, Darren Wilson, of potential criminal civil rights charges in that shooting but also released a scathing report that detailed a slew of discriminatory policing practices in Ferguson and a profit-driven criminal justice system.

    Since that report, Holder said he has seen signs of progress and a community willing to create change. The police chief and city manager, for instance, both resigned in the last week.

    He condemned the shootings of two police officers early Thursday in front of the Ferguson Police Department, calling it a “pure ambush” and the act of a “damn punk.”

    “Incidents like the one we have witnessed throw into sharp relief why conversations like the one we convened today — to build trust between law enforcement and community members — are so important,” Holder said.

    The post Federal pilot project seeks to stem racial bias in law enforcement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures at an Atlantic Council discussion on "The Road to Paris' Climate Series: The Significance of Conference of Parties 21" in Washington March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures at an Atlantic Council discussion on “The Road to Paris’ Climate Series: The Significance of Conference of Parties 21″ in Washington March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that elected officials who ban the words “climate change” are unwilling to face the facts, a non-so-subtle dig at Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

    Kerry, a longtime champion of combatting climate change, said the officials were ignoring the scientific facts.

    “Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say ‘climate change,'” Kerry said during a speech at The Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

    Kerry did not refer to Scott by name but said that he had read in the last “couple of days” reports about the ban.

    Scott, a Republican who is skeptical of climate science and said he was not a scientist when asked about global warming predictions, has denied claims that he banned officials from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” But former officials interviewed by The Associated Press and by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting said they were told not to use them, even though the Florida is considered one of the most vulnerable states to changes expected from a warming climate.

    Kerry’s remarks continue a trend by Obama administration officials to aggressively address politicians skeptical of climate science as they prepare to issue final regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and to broker an international agreement to address global warming later this year.

    But even some Republicans are urging fellow members of their party to accept the facts.

    “Call it what you are going to call it, you can’t change what is going on,” said Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency administrator under Republican President George W. Bush, in an interview with The Associated Press Thursday.

    Last year, at a speech before the League of Conservation Voters, President Barack Obama shot back at climate deniers in Congress.

    “In most communities and workplaces, they may not know how big a problem it is, they may not know exactly how it works, they may doubt they can do something about it. Generally, they don’t just say, ‘No, I don’t believe anything scientists say,'” Obama said. “Except where? Congress.”

    Not much has changed. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Senate voted 98-1 that climate change was not a hoax and real, but blocked efforts to attach language to a bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline that it was being caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The bill was ultimately vetoed by Obama.

    The post John Kerry criticizes Florida governor for banning words ‘climate change’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This is a pre-eruption satellite image of two islands that help make up Tonga. Photo courtesy of Pleiades.

    This is a pre-eruption satellite image of two islands that help make up Tonga. Photo courtesy of Pleiades

    A volcano began erupting in January off the coast of Tonga, a Polynesian sovereign state in the South Pacific Ocean that is comprised of 176 islands. The underwater eruption was so large, it sent a pillar of ash into the sky, canceling all international flights to and from the island.

    In fact, the volcano actually moved above water during the eruption to form a new island.

    After the eruption the volcano created an above water crater that conjoined with the island on the left creating a new, larger island.  Photo courtesy of Pleiades.

    After the eruption the volcano created an above water crater that conjoined with the island on the left creating a new, larger island. Photo courtesy of Pleiades

    Now, several months after the land mass emerged above the blue waters of the South Pacific, three men have climbed to the crater’s peak and snapped the first photographs of the new land.

    Speaking to Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat, Orbassano said, “We had a beautiful view of the volcano, which inside is now full of green emerald water, smelling of sulphur and other chemicals. The view was fantastic.”

    The island is about one-mile long, a half-mile wide, and about 820 feet above sea level.

    G.P. Orbassano, a local hotel owner, took a boat to the island with a friend and his son.  Photo courtesy of G.P. Orbassano.

    G.P. Orbassano, a local hotel owner, took a boat to the island with a friend and his son. Photo courtesy of G.P. Orbassano

    Made of ash the ground was unstable to walk on and has lots of deep channels, and Obrassano said a green crater lake smelled strongly of sulphur. Orbassano also said he thought the island would become Tonga’s newest tourist attraction.

    “It’s going to be amazing for tourists to go on top, it’s a really different experience and it’s not so far away [from the capital],” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s really something, this volcano.”

    Photo courtesy of G.P. Orbassano

    Photos courtesy of G.P. Orbassano

    However, if tourists are interested in going, they should book flights now because the island will likely erode back into the ocean over the next couple of months because it is composed of ash, not lava. Clive Oppenheimer, a professor of volcanology at the University of Cambridge, told the Telegraph that the land could survive for several weeks.

    “When a volcano erupts in the sea, it’s very explosive, which makes a lot of ash,” he told the Telegraph. “If it goes on long enough, the later eruptions can be lava rather than ash. And that is when land will form.”

    There is some hope that the island might become a permanent part of Tonga’s geography. In 2013, the volcanic island known as Nii-jima appeared off Japan’s coast and was also expected to erode away. Instead, it has grown over 10 times its original size and even swallowed another volcanic island nearby.

    Photo courtesy of G.P. Orbassano

    Photos courtesy of G.P. Orbassano

    Volcanic islands are still rare and important to volcanologists to learn more about volcano’s fickle nature. They have also formed the center of international disputes.

    In 1831, an island emerged off the coast of Sicily. It was discovered by the Royal Navy and was claimed by the United Kingdom. Graham Island, the name the British gave it, was soon in a four-way territorial dispute between the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and the Two Sicilies.

    The dispute was never settled because the island disappeared underwater again in 1832.

    Other volcanic islands have been more successful. Hawaii’s big island is actually five volcanic islands that all merged together.

    The post What does a newborn island look like? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Map of countries that guarantee gender equality in their constitutions. Image courtesy of WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

    Map of countries that guarantee gender equality in their constitutions. Image courtesy of WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

    In 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women. This document set the agenda for the promotion of gender equality around the globe. On March 9th, 20 years after the Beijing Declaration was adopted, the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women will convene for its 59th session. This two-week-long session will be dedicated to evaluating the progress that has been made towards gender equality in the last two decades, as well as barriers that remain.

    In conjunction with this meeting, the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public health has released a new report, along with an accompanying online resource bank, compiling data on where women stand, and what laws and policies are holding them back.

    Map of countries whose constitutions guarantee protection from discrimination at work for women. Image courtesy of WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

    Map of countries whose constitutions guarantee protection from discrimination at work for women. Image courtesy of WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

    We discussed how women’s rights have advanced in the last 20 years, where they have stagnated, and what can be done to promote increased gender equality worldwide on Twitter. Dr. Jody Heymann (@WPolicyForum), Dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center, shared her insights based on the findings of the new report. Read the full discussion below.

    The post Twitter chat: What are the barriers to global gender equality? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Thomas Piketty, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award in nonfiction for “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” speaks to business and economics correspondent Paul Solomon.

    Thomas Piketty, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award in nonfiction for “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” spoke to business and economics correspondent Paul Solomon for a story in May.

    Tonight, the winners of this year’s National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced at the New School in New York City.

    The finalists for the 2014 awards were announced in January. Their work spans autobiography, biography, critics, fiction, nonfiction and poetry, the awards are one of the most prestigious literary prizes in America.

    As is tradition, the night before the awards, all finalists were invited to read from their work to an event that is free and open to the pubic, just like the awards themselves. Last night, the public heard from nearly all the writers, capped at four to five minutes a piece, including Gary Shteyngart, who read from “Little Failure,” which is up for autobiography, Lily King from her nominated novel “Euphoria” and Eula Bliss, who read from “On Immunity,” which is up for an NBCC award in criticism. Roz Chast and Thomas Piketty, shortlisted for the autobiography “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” and the nonfiction “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” respectively, were notably missing from the crowd.

    Two special awards were also announced when the finalists were originally released. Tony Morrison has been awarded the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. In a press release of the announcement, the NBCC said Morrison “has articulated a vision of the role of the writer that is both courageous and inspiring.” Phil Klay was also honored for his short story collection “Redeployment,” earning him the John Leonard Prize, which recognizes “outstanding first books in any genre.”

    While we wait to find out who the NBCC board members have chosen to take home the awards, check out the full list of finalists below. The NewsHour spoke to many of the shortlisted authors and poets, so make sure to check out that those conversations as well.

    Autobiography
    Blake Bailey, “The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait” (W.W. Norton & Co.)
    Roz Chast, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” (Bloomsbury)
    Lacy M. Johnson, “The Other Side” (Tin House)
    Gary Shteyngart, “Little Failure” (Random House)
    Meline Toumani, “There Was and There Was Not” (Metropolitan Books)

    Biography
    Ezra Greenspan, “William Wells Brown” (W.W. Norton & Co.)
    S.C. Gwynne, “Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson” (Scribner)
    John Lahr, “Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh” (W.W. Norton & Co.)
    Ian S. MacNiven, “Literchoor Is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
    Miriam Pawel, “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez” (Bloomsbury)

    Criticism
    Eula Biss, “On Immunity: An Inoculation” (Graywolf Press)
    Vikram Chandra, “Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty” (Graywolf Press)
    Claudia Rankine, “Citizen: An American Lyric” (Graywolf Press)
    Lynne Tillman, “What Would Lynne Tillman Do?” (Red Lemonade)
    Ellen Willis, “The Essential Ellen Willis,” edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz (University of Minnesota Press)

    Fiction
    Rabih Alameddine, “An Unnecessary Woman” (Grove Press)
    Marlon James, “A Brief History of Seven Killings” (Riverhead Books)
    Lily King, “Euphoria” (Atlantic Monthly Press)
    Chang-rae Lee, “On Such a Full Sea” (Riverhead Books)
    Marilynne Robinson, “Lila” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

    Nonfiction
    David Brion Davis, “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation” (Alfred A. Knopf)
    Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, “The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book” (Pantheon)
    Elizabeth Kolbert, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” (Henry Holt & Co.)
    Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press)
    Hector Tobar, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

    Poetry
    Saeed Jones, “Prelude to Bruise” (Coffee House Press)
    Willie Perdomo, “The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon” (Penguin Books)
    Claudia Rankine, “Citizen: An American Lyric” (Graywolf Press)
    Christian Wiman, “Once in the West” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
    Jake Adam York, “Abide” (Southern Illinois University Press)

    Nona Balakian Citation For Excellence In Reviewing
    Alexandra Schwartz

    Finalists:
    Charles Finch
    Barbara K. Fischer
    Benjamin Moser
    Lisa Russ Spaar

    Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
    Toni Morrison

    John Leonard Prize
    Phil Klay, Redeployment (Penguin Press)

    The post National Book Critics Awards to be announced tonight; see the finalists appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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