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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 Fuse/Getty Images

    A Washington Post report says that local and state governments are spending less money per pupil than in richer districts. Photo by Fuse/Getty Images

    Poor children generally find themselves with heavier needs as opposed to other students when attending school. In 23 states, however, poorer school districts are not getting the money they need to help these students.

    The Washington Post reported on Thursday that in 23 states, “per-pupil spending” by state and local governments is lower in poor school districts than in rich ones, in some cases as much as 33 percent lower. Nationwide, the average amount spent on students in poor school districts is $9,270 versus $10,721 for students in wealthy districts, based on U.S. Census data released by the National Center for Education Statistics last month.

    The state with the largest difference, at 33 percent, is Pennsylvania, followed by Vermont and Missouri, at 18.1 and 17 percent respectively. In contrast, Indiana spends 17.1 percent more on students in poor districts than for those in wealthy ones, and Minnesota, 15.4 percent. Colorado, Iowa and Utah spend essentially the exact same amount per student in both poor and rich districts.

    “What it says very clearly is that we have, in many places, school systems that are separate and unequal,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Post. “Money by itself is never the only answer, but giving kids who start out already behind in life, giving them less resources is unconscionable, and it’s far too common.”

    In general, wealthier counties are able to raise more money through taxes for the school system than poor counties are, and often send some funds to poorer counties. Federal funds under Title I are expected to add more funds to poorer districts, but instead are serving as an equalizer between the rich and poor counties, despite the original purpose of the Title I.

    “The point of that money was to supplement, recognizing that poor children and English language learners and students with disabilities come to school with additional challenges,” Duncan said. “This is about trying to get additional resources to children and communities who everyone knows need additional help.”

    The post Richer school districts in 23 states are receiving more local funding than their poorer counterparts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illustration of improved Large Hadron Collider in preparation for its second season. Illustration by Daniel Dominguez, Maximilien Brice and Cinzia De Melis/CERN

    Illustration of improved Large Hadron Collider in preparation for its second season. Illustration by Daniel Dominguez, Maximilien Brice and Cinzia De Melis/CERN

    After two years of upgrades and repairs, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland fires up again this month. This time it’s moving at twice the energy, looking for dark matter and exotic new particles.

    Physicists at CERN held a press conference in Geneva on Thursday to announce the plans for the Large Hadron Collider’s second run.

    “It’s going to be another new era of science, and we’ll see what we find,” said Dave Charlton, spokesperson for the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, said at the press conference Thursday. “It’s very open this time. There’s many possibilities for what we might see.”

    The massive particle collider runs in a 17-mile circumference ring under the Switzerland-France border. In 2013, physicists used the high-energy particle smasher to find the elusive Higgs boson. The Higgs boson explained why particles have mass, an idea first proposed in the 1960s.

    It was a monumental achievement for the field of physics. It was the final piece in the Standard Model of physics, the theory which describes the particles that make up the universe and the forces between them.

    Finding the Higgs boson is not the end of the story for the Large Hadron Collider. Physicists hope to create more Higgs bosons by increasing the energy of the particle collider. With more Higgs in more collisions, they can study the particle more closely, Charlton said, and learn more about its behavior.

    But they also hope the higher energy collisions will help them discover new particles. One mystery physicists hope to unlock in the next phase of experiments is dark matter. Scientists estimate that dark matter makes up 85 percent of the universe, Mike Lamont, operations group leader for CERN, told CNN. It’s invisible, and it would explain effects physicists can observe on radiation and visible matter in the universe.

    Finding dark matter and studying it will be the biggest challenge for the Large Hadron Collider’s second run, Charlton said.

    “We know it has to be there. Can we create it and study in the laboratory?” he asked.

    Over the coming months the Large Hadron Collider will warm up, running at lower energies to prepare the machinery to run at experiment levels, said CERN general director Rolf-Dieter Heuer.

    The post Large Hadron Collider gears up to find dark matter, new particles in its second run appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to last night’s violence in Ferguson, Missouri, where two police officers were shot outside a protest.

    This shaky amateur video captured the moment that the gunfire erupted, shortly after midnight. An otherwise peaceful demonstration had been winding down, outside the Ferguson Police Department.

    BRADLEY RAYFORD, Witness: We heard, the crowd, what sounded like a firecracker. And so we looked up to the top of the hill, and we saw two or three more actual gunshot — flares from the muzzle of a gun firing towards the officers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Police said those flashes likely came from a handgun some 125 yards away. There were three or four shots, and two struck home.

    Saint Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar:

    JON BELMAR, Chief, St. Louis County Police Department: This is really an ambush, is what it is. You can’t see it coming. You don’t understand that it’s going to happen, and you’re basically defenseless from the fact that it is happening to you at the time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the wounded officers was shot in the face. The bullet lodged behind his ear. The other was hit in the shoulder by a bullet that just missed his spine.

    JON BELMAR: We could have buried two police officers next week over this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Instead, officials said neither man suffered permanent injury, and both were released from a hospital late this morning. The shootings came just hours after Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson resigned. He’d been under pressure since the August shooting death of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson, who’s since left the force.

    Then, last week, the U.S. Justice Department accused Ferguson’s police and courts of rampant racism, prompting Chief Jackson and five others to quit or be fired.

    In Washington today, however, Attorney General Eric Holder warned last night’s shootings threaten any attempt to move forward.

    ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General: This wasn’t someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson. This was a damn punk, a punk who was trying to sow discord in an area that is trying to get its act together and trying to bring together a community that has been fractured for too long.

    This really disgusting and cowardly attack might have been intended to unravel any sense of progress that exists, but I hope that that doesn’t in fact happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama tweeted his own reaction as he left for a trip to Los Angeles, saying: “Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers in Missouri. Path to justice is one all of us must travel together.”

    For now, the focus in Ferguson is on finding the shooter. Officers searched a house today and took several people in for questioning.

    The post Attacks on police threaten progress in Ferguson, says Holder appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The latest incident involving Secret Service agents took a new turn today. Two senior agents had allegedly been drinking when their car hit a security barricade at the White House last week. Now, The Washington Post reports, they may have disrupted a bomb investigation and driven over a suspicious package that later turned out to be a book.

    Officials said today the Homeland Security Department has opened an investigation into the incident.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Divers off the Florida Panhandle have found an Army helicopter that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 servicemen. The seven U.S. Marines and four National Guardsmen were on a special operations training mission Tuesday night. The fire chief from nearby Eglin Air Force Base says a salvage unit will try to raise the wreckage.

    MARK GIULIANO, Fire Chief, Eglin Air Force Base: But, as you can see with the conditions, and we have some weather coming in later on, they’re probably not going to be able to start any operation tonight. I don’t know what the weather is tomorrow, but I believe we have some more weather coming tomorrow, so that may hamper the beginning of their operation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The helicopter went down in heavy fog, after another helicopter had turned back because of the conditions.

    GWEN IFILL: Another Canadian National Railway train derailed overnight, the third in a week; 13 cars jumped the tracks in rural Manitoba near the town of Gregg, and one of them spilled an oil product. There’s been growing concern in Canada over the — and the U.S. over oil train derailments.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Bangladesh, at least five people were killed when a cement factory collapsed. Dozens more were feared trapped. Rescue workers in the port city of Mongla struggled to break through the mangled debris and beams throughout the day. They managed to rescue at least 40 people. Two years ago, more than 1,100 died when a garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, the country’s capital.

    GWEN IFILL: Iran’s supreme leader today rejected a warning letter from U.S. senators over nuclear negotiations. In the letter, 47 Republicans said any agreement that lacks congressional approval might be scrapped by the next U.S. president.

    In Tehran today, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei fired back that the letter shows American deceit and disintegration.

    AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMENEI, Supreme Leader, Iran (through interpreter): These gentlemen, the senators, have openly announced that when the current administration is no longer in office, the deal that America is making will be null and void. This is the ultimate degree of the collapse of political ethics.

    GWEN IFILL: Khamenei has generally supported the nuclear talks, while expressing doubt about U.S. motives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tensions between Yemen and Saudi Arabia ratcheted up today. Shiite rebels who now control much of Yemen began military exercises in their home province near Saudi Arabia. The Saudis regard them as terrorists backed by Iran. Also today, rebels opened fire on Sunni protesters in Southern Yemen, killing at least one person.

    GWEN IFILL: The death toll from Ebola in West Africa has passed the 10,000 mark. The World Health Organization marked the milestone today, in the year-old outbreak. And there was word that an American medical worker has been infected in Sierra Leone. The National Institutes of Health said the patient will arrive at its hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, on Friday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Kremlin tried today to quash rumors that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ailing. Putin is 62 years old. He has not been seen in public since March 5, and he canceled a trip to Kazakstan. But a spokesman insisted today there’s nothing wrong.

    DMITRY PESKOV, Spokesman for Vladimir Putin: Well, there is absolutely no reason for any doubts about the state of his health. His health is really perfect and everything is OK with him. And he’s working in accordance with his traditionally overloaded working schedule.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, Russia’s actions in Ukraine prompted the government of Poland today to announce nationwide defense exercises.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, Wall Street bounced back from Monday’s big losses, partly on upbeat news about bank dividends. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 260 points to close near 17900. The Nasdaq rose 43 points, and the S&P 500 was up 25.

    And the Reverend Willie Barrow died at a Chicago hospital today. She was a civil rights field organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the ’60s and took part in the marches on Washington and in Selma, Alabama. More recently, she focused on gun violence in Chicago. Reverend Willie Barrow was 90 years old.

    The post News Wrap: Homeland Security investigating Secret Service incident at White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    LOS ANGELES — President Barack Obama read “Mean Tweets” on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Thursday night, but he was unfazed.

    After enduring the routine — in which celebrities read hostile Twitter comments about themselves — Obama told Kimmel, “You should see what the Senate says about me.”

    The president also joked about the perks and restrictions he faces, revealing that he’s not allowed to use cellphones that have recorders in them. (Hence his ever-present BlackBerry.) He also noted that he can visit the dentist in the White House basement but doesn’t text and can’t drive.

    Kimmel asked if that was because you have to have a birth certificate to get a driver’s license.

    Obama — whom Kimmel introduced as the “first Kenyan-born Muslim Socialist ever elected president” — deadpanned that Kenyans “drive on the other side” of the road.

    With Sean Penn waiting in the wings, Obama said he was quite familiar with Penn’s 1982 coming-of-age comedy “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

    “I lived it,” Obama said. “I didn’t just see it.”

    Kimmel spared the president from questions about the latest controversy involving the Secret Service — although Kimmel’s security guard and sidekick, Guillermo Rodriguez, dressed in a full Secret Service getup of dark suit and sunglasses. The glasses, Kimmel joked, were simply hiding a hangover: “Secret cerveza.”

    Obama’s appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” fulfilled a commitment the White House made after he had to postpone an appearance last year.

    During a more subdued segment, Obama reflected on Wednesday night’s shooting of two police officers in racially tense Ferguson, Missouri, just days after he had delivered a speech on racial healing in Selma, Alabama.

    “What had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest, but there was no excuse for criminal acts,” he said.

    “Whoever fired those shots should not detract from the issue — they are criminals, they need to be arrested. And then what we need to do is make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides — law enforcement, who have a terrifically tough job, and people who understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race — that they are able to work together to come up with some good answers.”

    After the “Kimmel” taping, Obama attended a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Santa Monica home of Chris Silbermann, president of ICM Partners, one of the top talent agencies in Hollywood. The event was closed to the press, but a Democratic official said the event attracted about 25 people who each paid up to $33,400.

    On Friday, Obama is flying to Phoenix to hold a roundtable event on veterans’ health care.

    The post Obama banters with Kimmel, reflects on Ferguson appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Cartoonist Roz Chast finds humor in caring for aging parents in her first graphic memoir, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” which won the autobiography prize at last night’s National Book Critics Circle Award.

    For the first time in National Book Critics Circle Award history, a graphic novel won the prize for autobiography. New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast took home the award for “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” her bestselling memoir about caring for aging parents.

    “This was probably the most personal thing I have ever done … I could have not written it until after they died,” Chast told chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown in December. “I wanted to remember who they were. I wanted to remember all of it. I didn’t want to purge myself of it.”

    In “Citizen: An American Lyric” Claudia Rankine writes prose poems about the small and large racial injustices that mark daily American life. Her collection was awarded the National Book Critics Circle prize for poetry, though it also received a nomination for the criticism prize.

    This was also the first year in the history of the awards that one book was a finalist in two categories. “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine, a collection of prose poems that reflects on racism in daily American life, was a finalist for both a poetry and criticism award. Last night, Rankine’s book won the poetry prize.

    “I see myself as a citizen, walking around, collecting stories, and using those stories to reflect our lives through poetry, through essays, creating these hybrid texts and plays that reflect back to us who we are,” Rankine told the NewsHour in December. “I wanted to try to track the moments that disrupt interactions, especially between people of different races.”

    Also at last night’s ceremony, Marilynne Robinson took home the prize for fiction for “Lila,” her final installment in a trilogy that began with the Pulitzer Prize winning “Gilead.” Nona Willis Aronowitz accepted the criticism award for “The Essential Ellen Willis,” a collection of essays by rock critic Ellen Willis who died in 2006. Aronowitz is Willis’s daughter.

    The biography prize was awarded to New Yorker drama critic John Lahr’s “Tenneesee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh” and the nonfiction prize was awarded to David Brion Davis’ “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation,” which culminates both a trilogy and nearly 50 years of research.

    Marine Corps veteran Phil Klay uses war stories to bridge the civilian-military gap in his first book, “Redeployment,” a collection of stories which was awarded this year’s National Book Critics Circle award’s John Leonard prize as well as the National Book Award for Fiction.

    Toni Morrison and Phil Klay were also in attendance at the awards, receiving special honors which were announced the same day as the finalists back in January. Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison accepted a lifetime achievement award, remarking the publishing climate after her first novel, “The Bluest Eye.” Iraq war veteran Klay was awarded for the best debut book. His short story collection, “Redeployment,” was also awarded this year’s National Book Award for fiction.

    The post Meet three National Book Critics Circle Award winners appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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  • 03/13/15--08:49: How anyone can learn to code
  • Editor’s Note: On Making Sen$e Thursday, Paul Solman spoke with Avi Flombaum, co-founder and dean of the Flatiron School, a 12-week coding academy for students with no previous coding experience. As a kid, Flombaum taught himself how to code (see “The kid who was coding before it was cool”), but as he recounts, it was an isolating experience.

    As Flombaum explains to Paul in the transcript of their extended conversation below, he believes anyone can learn to code in the same way that anyone can learn to read and write. It’s simply a matter of good teaching, he says, and embracing your insecurities.

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor

    PS: Do some of the people coming out of coding programs, including yours, have a problem getting a job, or is this just a complete bonanza for anybody who knows how to code?

    AF: If you program today you’re a man that can see in a blind man’s world. There is just such a demand for these kinds of skills that if you are competent, and you are passionate about this, and you’re a self-driven person, there are more opportunities than we can possibly fill. And I think that any prediction [about] the amount of jobs that [is] going to happen in the future [is] low.

    PS: So you don’t think that this is a bubble that’s going to burst, or there’ll be equilibrium at some point…

    AF: The most consistent thing about the last 3,000 years of history is that technology replaces jobs. Technology becomes more complex, more integrated into the daily human experience. We might say that there are 10 million programming jobs in the next 10 years – I think it’s probably closer to 50 million.

    PS: So all the predictions about robots taking over jobs from humans are simply wrong?

    AF: Someone has to program those robots.

    PS: Well, but now there are software routines that write software.

    AF: Sure. Someone wrote that software. Ultimately, the one consistent thing about computing and programming is that computers cannot think and whenever they seem to think, there’s a programmer behind that that created that illusion. That’s what more and more jobs are going to look like. Everything that can be automated will be automated. That doesn’t mean there won’t be jobs. It just means that the jobs will be creating those automations, which is what coding’s really about. It’s procedure — infallible steps of exactly how to do something that accounts for environmental and variable changes. That’s what the world is going to become.

    PS: But you could imagine a world in which there are “the knows” and “the don’t-knows,” in the sense of “haves” and “have-nots,” and there would be even more stratifying over the years.

    AF: Right. We’ve previously lived in a world divided by skills. We lived in a world where literacy created different classes. People who could read and write made laws and ruled the world. I think that coding and programming technology is that sort of literacy and it will divide people, but schools like Flatiron School and other programs are trying to balance that field, teach these skills to people who never thought they’d be able to learn them.

    “I don’t think programming has anything to do with math. I think it shares more with art and writing than it does with science.”

    PS: Can anybody learn the skills?

    AF: I absolutely believe that anybody can learn how to program in the same way that we know anyone can learn how to read and write. It’s just a question of teaching people.

    PS: It’s just like learning a language.

    AF: That’s right. There’s a rule to the syntax, just like there’s a rule to grammar. There are different characters; there are different ways to phrase a thought and express an idea in code in the same way there is in language.

    PS: But don’t you have to be savvy about math?

    AF: I don’t think programming has anything to do with math. I think it shares more with art and writing than it does with science. One of the fathers of computer science is a programmer named Edsger Dijkstra and he says that calling programming “computer science” is like calling surgery “knife science.” It’s more concerned with the tool than the art. Coding is just about procedure. It’s about expressing exactly how to do something in a repeatable fashion which isn’t necessarily always mathematical.

    PS: Are there people from other coding boot camps who don’t get jobs?

    AF: I’m sure there are people from other coding boot camps that have failed to acquire employment. I think it’s very much about how you teach it and prepare them for the job processes and set expectations. We do our best to inspire our students with a love of this craft that will never end. They have to actually love it. Our first goal of Flatiron School is to make sure that they fall profoundly and deeply in love with code, because once you love it you will never ever stop wanting to be great at it.

    PS: How could you teach me to fall in love with code?

    AF: People have confused programming for the mechanics and gestures of it. Aren’t you fascinated by practicing the craft that has explained how life has progressed and evolved?

    PS: Well, if it isn’t too frustrating and I feel that I can master it, and if I can stick to it with the right amount of effort.

    “So much in our education has taught us to impede our knowledge with our own insecurities of who we are, what we’re capable of; those insecurities of not knowing something should be embraced. Those are the insecurities that define the learning process.”

    AF: It’s not simple, but why should the great things we do in life be simple? It’s just a challenge. Struggle is the nature of learning. The reason why people are bad at programming in the beginning is because they are beginners. That is the definition of being a beginner – to not be good at it yet.

    PS: Yeah. I don’t like that. I’d rather that I already knew.

    AF: Sure. I’d rather that I already knew how to dance. But I realize that I am a beginner and that I can only get better. And I will never be as bad of a dancer as I am today. We tell our students to embrace the struggle of learning; that learning is a process of going from not knowing to knowing, and up until the moment that you know something, you feel stupid and that’s OK. So much in our education has taught us to impede our knowledge with our own insecurities of who we are, what we’re capable of; those insecurities of not knowing something should be embraced. Those are the insecurities that define the learning process.

    PS: Yeah. I have not embraced my insecurities.

    AF: You seem to be doing pretty well, so I’m sure you’ve learned something at some points.

    PS: Yeah, the stuff I was good at I mastered.

    AF: We’re taught to follow what we’re naturally good at when that will not make us stronger. That will not make us grow. We should embrace the things that are challenging to us because those are the moments when you are learning and when you are growing, not when you’re great at something – that’s when you’re doing what you already know how to do. So with all the beginners that come through Flatiron School, we very much talk about what the process of learning something difficult feels like and not to give up; to just continue struggling through it because one day you will understand it, as long as you never, ever give up. And it works. We’ve had 350 graduates, and we’ve had three people not complete the program.

    PS: Well, but you’re hand picking the people who are in the program.

    AF: Sure. So do colleges with a 51 percent dropout rate. They hand pick their students also.

    PS: How representative of New York City as a whole is your clientele?

    AF: In one of our Brooklyn fellowships, I would describe the class as 82 percent not white male.

    “We very much talk about what the process of learning something difficult feels like and not to give up; to just continue struggling through it because one day you will understand it, as long as you never, ever give up. And it works. We’ve had 350 graduates, and we’ve had three people not complete the program.”

    PS: What about African Americans?

    AF: They’re an underrepresented group in technology and we are interested in levelling the playing field as much as possible.

    PS: Do you have a way of doing that?

    I believe that the best way to teach anyone is to believe that they can and will learn, to infuse your curriculum with as much love and inspiration as possible, and to allow them to struggle through it; to not have grades; to not have assessments; to not create bars that if you don’t pass this bar, you cannot go. People learn at their own pace, so as long as you create an environment where they’re safe and capable to fail, as long as they’re always allowed to try again and succeed, I think everyone can learn this. And I think that our numbers and results have proven that.

    PS: But you are, of course, attracting people who are already more motivated than the norm.

    AF: Sure. Motivation is absolutely crucial to do something well in life.

    PS: And so that might be the divide of the future — that is, between the motivated and the not-motivated, some of which may just be congenital. And there’s nothing you can do about that?

    AF: You can address the reasons why they have previously been unmotivated or unambitious. It has a lot to do with insecurities and self-consciousness, with the fact that they might have grown up in environments where people projected their expectations of them onto them, so that they expect of themselves what they’ve been taught other people expect of them, which now is terrible.

    PS: There’s nothing, in your view, with regard to actual ability that means that some people can’t do this?

    AF: I’ve seen such a diverse set of people succeed in learning these skills and I just believe that we’re all so chemically and genetically similar to each other that to believe that intelligence is defined as this innate quality that you either have or you don’t — I just can’t see that any more. I think intelligence is a measurement of grit; of how willing you are to struggle through something and not give up.

    PS: And anybody can manifest that; it can be drawn out of anybody.

    AF: Absolutely. Having people not quit and not give up on themselves is what the job of a teacher and an instructor has to be, forcing a student to see better in themselves every day, to maintain a perspective of improvement and to encourage them to just never, ever give up.

    PS: But now, you were a private school kid in New York, so I’m almost positive that you grew up thinking there were the people who were smart and then people who were not so smart.

    AF: Yeah. I was actually told that I was one of the not smart people at my private school, that my ambitions for college should be scaled back and I should give up the dream of Harvard and Yale because I would never have the grades to succeed at that. My school told me: Now you can go to BU and GW and the University of Wisconsin and the University of Texas at Austin, but Ivy Leagues are not for you. My [high school] principal told me I was the exact opposite of what colleges want to see.

    PS: And why was that?

    “I really thought that I was lazy or stupid. But I just found that the way I learn is different. I’m curious and passionate about what I want to learn… I wanted the freedom to explore my own path, and if you’re 16 and growing up in New York City in a private school, that is not a comfortable situation to be in.”

    AF: Because I just did worse and worse in school. I didn’t like taking tests; I didn’t like the way they taught there and for a long time, I really thought that I was lazy or stupid. But I just found that the way I learn is different. I’m curious and passionate about what I want to learn. I take it seriously and I want to be great at it.

    But school’s not designed for that; school’s designed to create students that excel well academically and my whole life growing up people were selling me this dream: If you work hard and you get good grades, you’ll go to a good college and have a good job and you’ll be happy. And I just immediately felt that happiness is way more nuanced, way more subtle than such a platitude, and that I didn’t want to buy into that. I wanted to be happy in the way that I felt inside would make me happy, and that didn’t have to do with grades, and that didn’t have to do with doing what everyone around told me. I wanted the freedom to explore my own path and if you’re 16 and growing up in New York City in a private school, that is not a comfortable situation to be in.

    PS: So your teachers thought you were ornery, your parents thought you were ornery.

    AF: My parents thought I was lazy; my teachers thought I was difficult and stupid.

    PS: Do you go back and say: Hey!

    AF: I have not been back to my high school, but it would be really nice to do a programming class there – as in, “Hey, guys, how’s it going? Remember when you told me that if I don’t like school here so much, I should start my own? I did.”

    The post How anyone can learn to code appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Banana Cream Pie, courtesy of Emeril's

    “Emeril’s New New Orleans Cooking” included the recipe for his signature dessert, Banana Cream Pie. Photo courtesy of Emeril’s

    Editor’s Note: In honor of Pi Day — which falls on Saturday (March 14, get it?) — we searched for the most mouth-watering pie recipe on the internet. We found one on NOLA.com, the website for New Orleans’ Times-Picayune newspaper. This month the paper published a series of stories on one of its local celebrities, Emeril Lagasse, who is celebrating 25 years of his flagship restaurant, Emeril’s. The series features recipes from the boisterous chef, including this one for Banana Cream Pie — BAM, a perfect Pi Day recipe.

    NOLA.com also has 30 years of Emeril’s recipes, for treats such as buttermilk biscuits, gumbo and brownies.

    Originally published on NOLA.com June 9, 2014 | As we celebrate Recipes from Our Files that incorporate bananas, here is what I consider to be one of the city’s most famous desserts made with the fruit. It’s not as famous as Bananas Foster, but like that seminal dessert at Brennan’s, it has many fans and is served in many places outside the city.

    It’s served at Emeril’s restaurants. It’s one of his signature desserts, and we published it for the first time in 1993 upon the release of “Emeril’s New New Orleans Cooking.”

    Think of this as the ultimate banana cream pie.

    Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie With Banana Crust and Caramel Drizzles

    Makes one 9-inch pie

    1 banana pie crust (recipe follows)

    3 cups heavy cream

    1 small vanilla bean, split and scraped

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter

    3/4 cup cornstarch

    2-1/2 cups sugar

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    5 large egg yolks

    4 ripe bananas

    3/4 cup caramel drizzle sauce (recipe follows)

    2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 2 teaspoons sugar

    Shaved chocolate and mint sprigs, for garnish

    Prepare the crust and cool completely.

    Heat 2 cups of the cream in a large saucepan over high heat. Stir in the paste scraped from inside the vanilla bean, and the butter, and bring to a simmer.

    Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup cream with the cornstarch and stir until thoroughly blended and smooth. When the mixture in the saucepan begins to boil, stream in the cream/cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly until all is thoroughly incorporated. Remove from the heat.

    In a bowl combine the sugar and salt, and whisk this dry mixture vigorously into the saucepan until the cream is thick and the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Over low heat, whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Remove from the heat and whisk the pastry cream until smooth and creamy.

    Peel the bananas and cut them crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. Spread about one third of the pastry cream in the pie crust and arrange half of the banana slices over the cream. Spread on another one third of the pastry cream and arrange the remaining banana slices over that. Cover with the remaining pastry cream and smooth out the top. Refrigerate for at least two hours or until firm.

    About 20 minutes before serving, prepare the caramel drizzle sauce.

    To serve, cut the pie into wedges and drizzle on the warm sauce. Top with the whipped cream and garnish with the shaved chocolate and mint sprigs.

    Banana pie crust

    2 cups graham cracker crumbs

    1/4 cup light brown sugar

    8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

    1 very ripe banana, mashed

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, cream the ingredients together with your hands. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake until brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.

    Caramel drizzle sauce

    1 cup sugar

    1/4 cup water

    1 cup heavy cream

    In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring it to a boil, stirring often. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is a deep nutty brown color and the consistency of thin syrup, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the cream, turn the heat back onto high, and boil the sauce for about two minutes. Remove from the heat. Use immediately.

    The post Celebrate Pi Day with the ultimate banana cream pie appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Law professor Anita Hill takes the oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12, 1991. Photo by Jennifer Law/AFP/Getty Images

    Law professor Anita Hill takes the oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 12, 1991. Photo by Jennifer Law/AFP/Getty Images

    LOS ANGELES — HBO says “Scandal” star Kerry Washington will play Anita Hill in a film about Clarence Thomas’ 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

    The film will be titled “Confirmation,” and Washington is also among its executive producers.

    Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Thomas put the issue at the center of a fierce national debate. Hill became a hero and a target, while Thomas was confirmed as an associate justice.

    Last year saw the release of “Anita,” a documentary by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock about the Brandeis University law professor.

    HBO didn’t give other casting details or an airdate for “Confirmation” in its announcement Thursday.

    The post Kerry Washington to play Anita Hill in HBO movie appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Editor’s note: This is an updated segment to a story that originally aired on July 12, 2014.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Do you have an email account? How about a Facebook page? Bank online? Shop online? Pay your gas, light, or cable TV bill over the internet?

    I’ve just laid out more than a half dozen accounts that many of us have, likely each with its own password.

    These accounts don’t die with us. The passwords to each of them, are often times locked away with only one person—the deceased. Which means that valuable online assets could be lost forever—or be found by those looking to exploit them.

    Take the case of Glenn Williamson, a tech entrepreneur in Portland, Oregon. In August of 2012, he got the worst news possible.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: I was in the Philippines speaking at a conference and, you know, when your phone goes off 15 times and it’s 3:00 in the morning in the United States, you have a bad feeling. You know it’s not a good call.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Glenn’s 73-year old mother, Lee, had died. As her fiduciary and as a 25-year veteran of the tech world, it fell to him to manage her online accounts.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: I knew my mom, being a cool grandma, was on Twitter. So, I knew she was on Twitter and I knew she had a Yahoo account, so we had a baseline to start, but that’s all we knew.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After 20 hours of searching, Glenn found 13 different accounts belonging to his mother, including email, social media, and shopping accounts.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: So we broke it down into categories: travel, sentimental value, security, and basically we searched on about 75 different sites

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Some had real value.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: We got to United, and United did indeed have my mom as a customer and there was 54,000 miles that we were able to retrieve for our family.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All this while he was grieving.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: And it’s a painful, it’s a long process, and everybody means well, but if one more person tells you they’re sorry—it’s like, okay, I just need to know, did she have an account or not.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Williamson and his wife are online savvy, relatively young and it was still tough to find all those accounts.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: So, the average person, especially if the average person is doing it in their 60’s, it’s a very, very difficult process.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Glenn’s problems managing his mother’s online estate helped inspire him to start a business solution called “WebCease”—an online service that helps people search for their deceased loved ones’ digital assets.

    It uses a person’s basic information—like an email address—and finds the major online accounts that are linked to it. And although WebCease won’t shut down an account for you, it will tell you what can be done under a website’s specific terms-of-service.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: My mom had an asset inventory of her financial accounts. But she didn’t have an asset inventory of all things digital, and that’s really what we provide to the family, is we provide them at—a high level—a digital asset inventory. So, you can look through it and say, “Oh, my mom was on Amazon and she had iTunes and Marriott and Hyatt, etcetera.” So, that’s really the value we provide.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: WebCease is one of a handful of websites that has sprung up over the last few years—sites like Navigatr, the Doc Safe, Capsoole, My Cyber safe, and Afternote—all of them trying to tackle what is becoming an increasingly common problem.

    SUZANNE WALSH: Nowadays, everyone keeps their filing cabinets on their computers and they may not have shared the access to that with their families.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Suzanne Walsh is an estate lawyer in Hartford, Connecticut.

    SUZANNE WALSH: I have received panicked calls from family members who don’t know passwords, don’t know the nature of the online accounts. They simply know mom paid the bills online and they may not even be sure about the bank.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Walsh says that the main problem is one of access. In many cases, we have made it virtually illegal for anyone else to use our online accounts.

    It starts with those terms-of-service agreements; the fine print of the online world. Once the “I agree” button is pressed, it’s as good as a contract.

    SUZANNE WALSH: Many of them prohibit the sharing of passwords and they prohibit third-party access. So, right now, they tend to bar anybody but the account holder accessing the account.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That means —even if the account-holder is dead.

    Internet service providers say, they’re following the letter of the law as spelled out in the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which prohibits anyone from accessing private information online without permission.

    SUZANNE WALSH: The problem with fiduciary access now is that it may be a violation of federal privacy law or a computer fraud and abuse act. It may be an actual criminal act to violate the terms of service agreement.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But being unable to access or shut down a deceased loved one’s accounts could have unforeseen risks, as Glenn Williamson—who spent 20 years in online security—will tell you.

    GLENN WILLIAMSON: The year after somebody passes is one of the most vulnerable times for identity theft. It’s a heinous crime, but what the bad guys do, because death is public record, they’ll go out there and they’ll comb through recently deceased and they’ll create a fake identity, because the deceased don’t check email and they don’t get the mail.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Every year, more than 2 million Americans are the posthumous victims of identity fraud.

    Thieves can use a dead person’s information to rack up credit card charges, apply for loans, or even file false tax returns.

    And much of this information can be found on the internet through something as simple as a shopping account.

    To date, only nine states have any laws in effect that govern online estate planning.

    Suzanne Walsh, who chairs a committee on the Uniform Law Commission—an organization which drafts laws it hopes to standardize in all 50 states—is trying to change that.

    Last year, Walsh’s committee finished drafting a bill called the “Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act”, which would give fiduciaries the same rights over online estates as they now have over physical estates.

    SUZANNE WALSH: Fiduciaries, traditionally, have access to everything in admin—especially in administering estates. And that used to mean opening up the mailbox, opening up the file cabinet, rifling through the desk. Our act is designed to continue that and facilitate that, given the different nature of the digital assets.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The bill was reviewed and enacted by the Uniform Law Commission last July. But it’s still up to individual state legislatures to propose it and pass it as law.

    Although the act has been introduced in eighteen states, so far, only one state—Delaware—has signed the act into law.

    However, the act is not without its critics. The general counsel of a Washington, DC-based group called “The State Privacy and Security Coalition”—which represents the interests of Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, among others—came out against Delaware’s new law, saying, quote, “This law takes no account of minimizing intrusions into the privacy of third parties who communicated with the deceased.

    This would include highly confidential communications to decedents from third parties who are still alive… who would be very surprised that an executor is reviewing the communications.”

    But, despite the pushback, Suzanne Walsh is hopeful that her committee’s work will be recognized in more state legislatures.

    SUZANNE WALSH: Widespread enactment is our goal. That’s our primary goal. Certainly we hope and expect that it won’t take more than a year or two for most of the states to adopt this product.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While the states debate the act, some internet service providers have begun proposing their own solutions to the problems raised by digital estates.

    In 2013, Google introduced a new feature called “Inactive Account Manager”, which would give users the choice of having their accounts transferred to specific people after a set period of inactivity or having them automatically deleted.

    And last month, Facebook announced their own feature for dealing with digital estate management called “Legacy Contacts”. Users can now choose a Facebook friend to maintain their account after they die, but the designated friend cannot delete the account or respond to messages intended for the deceased. Facebook users also have the option to have their account deleted upon their death.

    But beyond new user features and state laws, there are steps that people can take now to make the process of digital estate management easier on next of kin.

    First, create an inventory list of all your online accounts and passwords for your fiduciary. Stipulate what to do with your email accounts in a will, and read the terms-of-service agreements, so you can understand how or even if access to your accounts can be granted to someone else.

    But Glenn Williamson says, no matter what steps you take or what laws are eventually passed, managing a digital estate for a loved one will always be a long, arduous, and painful process.

    The post Online after death: Facebook now lets you name an heir to your profile appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Smoke stacks from the NRG power plant outside of Jewett, Texas.  Photo by Nick Simonite/Associated Press

    Smoke stacks from the NRG power plant outside of Jewett, Texas. The International Energy Agency announced today that, for the first time in 40 years, carbon dioxide emissions flatlined despite global economy growth. Photo by Nick Simonite/Associated Press

    Good news for environmentalists and anyone who lives on the planet: for this first time in 40 years, the global economy grew, but the level of carbon dioxide emissions did not.

    The International Energy Agency announced in a press release today that in 2014, global emissions of carbon dioxide remained 32.3 billion tonnes for a second year in a row. While carbon dioxide usually stalls during economic downturns, the global economy wasn’t in a downturn this year. It actually grew by 3 percent. This marks the first time since the agency began collecting data in the 1980s that the global economy grew and CO2 emmissions did not.

    The agency credited the OECD countries and China for burning less coal and instead using more electricity generated from renewable sources, including hydropower and wind. More data and details will be released in June this year in London.

    Environmental economist Robert Stavins of the Harvard Kennedy School
    told the Washington Post that an additional reason for the stalled emissions, at least in the U.S., is more efficient cars as well as a natural gas boom due to more fracking, forcing out coal-fired electricity.

    “This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said in the release. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”

    The post First time in 40 years, CO2 emissions stalled while the global economy grew appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Let’s be honest. Chain hotels are usually the home away from home for reporters on the road. The TV, wi-fi and room service make a long day a little easier.  But for a recent trip to Ohio’s countryside, I canceled the hotel reservations for myself and my colleague Mike Fritz, opting instead for an Amish-run bed and breakfast in Berlin, Ohio.

    The area around Berlin (which apparently is pronounced both BURR-lin and Burr-LIN — the latter like the capital of Germany) bills itself as “the world’s largest Amish community.” And although most Amish people don’t have electricity in their homes, some have permission to use it in their businesses. With a 6 p.m. sunset and temperature dipping well below zero, we were grateful for light and heat.

    But as a creature of technology, and as someone who has found it hard to live in silence since I started working in newsrooms, where police and fire scanners produce constant background noise, it is odd sitting a house that is not wired. The front window of the B&B faced one of the main streets. From there, we heard cars passing, and every five or 10 minutes the clip-clopping of horses hooves. There was an old TV/VHS/DVD combo in the far corner of the living room, complete with Ben Hur as a viewing option. But I didn’t even think about turning it on.

    Amish buggy on the road near Berlin, Ohio.  Photo by Mike Fritz/PBS NewsHour

    Amish buggy on the road near Berlin, Ohio. Photo by Mike Fritz/PBS NewsHour

    During our trip, Mike and I had a lot of conversations about technology with residents of this area. The education story we came to report involved Amish students using technology in the classroom. But to varying degrees, technology is also seeping into the daily lives of many Amish families, too.

    One mother — who we’ll call Sarah — asked that we not identify her because members of her church would likely may not approve of conversations with the media. Sarah and her family follow many Amish traditions: no electricity in the home, simple home-sewn clothes, and homegrown food.

    “We build our own houses with friends,” Sarah said. “Women help each other for a day to clean or whatever needs to be done with canning. We do a lot of canning.

    “That’s how we were brought up and we never knew anything else,” she said. “I just never wanted for more, and I know if we had more modern things I would spend a lot more money than I do and get things I don’t really need. I’d probably be using the technology instead of getting my work done like I should.”

    But the family has a phone in an outbuilding, and uses batteries to power some household items including a washing machine. They have an oven, stove and lamps powered by natural gas, and occasionally, they ride on busses and trains.

    “Change in the Amish culture is always brought about, not individually, but corporately, so it is slow to change,” said Jerry Schlabach. He is Amish, born and raised in the area around Berlin.

    But in some ways Schlabach has changed with the times more than many other Amish. Even though he left traditional school after 8th grade, he earned a GED and is the librarian and German teacher at Mt. Hope Elementary in nearby Mt. Hope, Ohio. Schlabach has also traveled around the world, flies on airplanes and has a cellphone — all things many people in his community wouldn’t even consider.

    “It’s a big difference from flying in a jet in the morning and being in your horse and buggy in the afternoon, but it’s happened already,” said Schlabach. “But I’m always happy to come back to that, and I have not, at this point, found anything that I would rather do.”

    “There are things to learn, there are interesting things to see, but nothing that I think really enhances what we have here.”

    Which brings us back to the Amish bed and breakfast on a relatively quiet street in Berlin. Strictly speaking it wasn’t too quiet for too long. We brought a wi-fi hub, each of us had a laptop, and I’d brought a tablet, too, loaded with TV shows and movies. After a long day, the two of us were tapping away at our computers in relative silence, catching up on email and what we missed while out and about. Then the silence was broken.

    “Do you mind if I play some music?” Mike asked.

    See the full report on tonight’s PBS NewsHour.

    The post Why it’s hard to unplug, even in Amish country appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    DENVER,CO--MARCH 4TH 2010--Cameron Stanley, 18-years-old, smokes marijuana on the west steps of the State Capitol in support of a medical marijuana rally Thursday afternoon. A group of about 50 people were protesting HB 1284, that would impose new licensi

    18-year-old Cameron Stanley smokes marijuana on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol in support of a medical marijuana rally in 2010. How can teachers broach controversial topics like marijuana legalization in their classrooms? One Colorado teacher has experience with just that. Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post

    Editor’s Note: The recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Washington and the District of Columbia, with a number of similar legislations pending in other states. Teacher John Czernicki shows us how the debate over legalization is not just limited to the legislature and describes how it became an educational opportunity in his Colorado classroom. 

    As a teacher, I have never been reticent to bring up controversial topics in class.


    Living and teaching in Colorado for the past 30 years, I have seen tremendous societal and legislative changes in my state on the issue of marijuana. In 2000, voters approved the legalization of marijuana for medicinal uses, and in 2012, a measure to allow a state-regulated recreational marijuana industry. The state has a new economy based on the sale and distribution of what used to be an illegal product (and still is, under federal law).

    My history classes have discussed the issue of marijuana since 1987 in a lesson built around the legislative process. In those lessons, each student researched, wrote and sponsored a bill in our Congress simulation. My classes became the House and the Senate, with me as President.

    What’s not to like about students presenting real-life, well-researched and supported arguments in a respectful manner?
    Students wrote, read and debated their bills in class. Their goal: to get the bill approved for passage by their peers. In addition to marijuana, they debated a number of contentious topics, including abortion, gun control, marriage equality, terrorism and torture. If you could think of anything potentially controversial, I probably had a student write a bill about that topic. And as “President,” I actually signed some well-written and well-researched bills into “law,” once they completed the entire legislative process.

    There were never any complaints from administrators regarding this simulation, but once, a parent emailed me and called me a “dope smoker,” perhaps fearing I would turn students into bong-waving miscreants. The gist of the email was that by allowing the students to discuss marijuana, I was encouraging them to smoke it (at this point, it was only legal in Colorado for medicinal purposes). However, since the sender never stated their name, I never responded; I simply reported it to my administrator and they handled it.

    Administrators observed my classes during these lessons and gave good feedback. They liked the fact that the students were debating and listening to other people’s arguments in much the same way that adults should discuss controversial topics. What’s not to like about students presenting real-life, well-researched and supported arguments in a respectful manner? These middle-school students were able to argue and debate as well as adults; many of them were already developing opinions on many of the issues that we talked about.

    Over the years, I’ve noticed a change in students’ views of marijuana. In the 80s and 90s, when the DARE program was huge and the “war on drugs” was big, there were many more students who were opposed to legalization of marijuana. Now, it seems as if students are more open to debating the issue and listening to the many sides of the argument. At the same time, more students than ever seem to agree with the voters of Colorado — that marijuana should be a legal and state-regulated product.

    Recently, I’ve heard more students argue for outlawing tobacco instead of marijuana. To most students, tobacco is about as attractive as the yellow bell bottoms I wore in 1975.

    Changes happening in our country are reflected in the classroom in many ways. What used to be controversial issues, such as marijuana legalization or marriage equality, are now issues that students are comfortable discussing and debating in the classroom.

    I have always believed in encouraging students to pursue topics that test their fundamental ideas about right and wrong and to find issues that they are passionate about. Teachers everywhere challenge students to think and form opinions through experience and basic research. Marijuana legalization in Colorado has simply been one topic among many I have used in my classroom to get students to research and form their own opinions as they listen to different views.

    John Czernicki teachers middle school social studies as a substitute at Westlake Middle School in Broomfield, Colorado, where he taught full-time for 30 years. 

    The post What my middle schoolers learned from debating marijuana legalization appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    March 15 marks 30 years since the birth of the .com website suffix, or dotcom.  Photo courtesy of  Tim Patterson/Flickr

    March 15 marks 30 years since the birth of the .com website suffix, or dotcom. Photo courtesy of Tim Patterson/Flickr

    Before getting out of bed, millions of people daily visit websites such Amazon.com, Weather.com and Facebook.com, something unthinkable just three decades ago when none of these sites existed.

    March 15 marks the 30th anniversary of the birth of the .com domain suffix, or dotcom.

    The first dotcom belonged to a now-defunct company called Symbolics, which held a post office box in Burke, Virginia, and considered itself “the premier producer of special-purpose computer systems for running and developing state-of-the-art object-oriented programs in Lisp.”

    Whatever Lisp is.


    Looking back on how far the Internet has come since then, it is stunning to think that at one point, only a handful of “elite universities” accessed what would come to be known as the World Wide Web, says Lee Rainie, director of internet, science and technology research at the Pew Research Center.

    “The explosion of dotcoms and even of top level domains is a testament to how deeply bound up the internet is in people’s social, economic and political lives,” Rainie said.

    In the early days, companies acquired their own dotcoms and developed a marketing presence on the Internet. Open University, a distance learning and research institution based in the United Kingdom, collected a few of these initial efforts from Apple, Intel, Xerox and more.

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    Image courtesy of Open University

    In fact, Pew’s Rainie said that in the 1980s, it was “a radical thing” that a company could represent itself with its own dotcom.

    About 15 years to the day that the Symbolics launched its website, the dotcom bubble burst. After years of investment in companies like AOL, stocks slipped, companies crashed and the American economy dipped as a result of a deflated dotcom bubble.

    However, the Internet prevailed. In February, Netcraft surveyed more than 883 million websites and found that .com remains one of the most popular suffixes, along with .net and .org.

    “Now, for a price, businesses and people can be a dot-ADULT or dot-GAL or dot-BEER (or VODKA) or dot-HIPHOP or dot-OKINAWA or dot-MONEY (or RICH) or even a dot-SCHWARZ,” Rainie said. “What better illustrates the diversity, breadth, and wackiness of the internet?”

    The post What was life like after the first dotcom? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo courtesy of Louisville Mega Cavern.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Mega Cavern.

    When you enter the Louisville Mega Cavern in Kentucky, it’s hard not to gape at your surroundings. At 100 feet below the ground, the thick limestone walls are imposing, and the enormous space seems to go on forever — 17 miles, to be exact. Back in the 1930s, this was the Louisville Crushed Stone Mine, which was quarried for rock. Now it’s an underground adult playground, equipped with a zip-line course over glowing rocks, a rope course and a tram that takes visitors on a historical ride through the cavern.

    But the latest addition, which opened last month, is a massive bike park — 320,000 square feet — with more than 45 trails, including a dual slalom and jump track, tunnels, wooden jumps and a skills area. “I didn’t know what a bike park was nine months ago,” Mega Cavern co-owner Jim Lowry tells OZY. But then someone asked him about renting space to make one. Lowry hired the enquirer, and they began to explore if it would work, then teamed up with Joe Prisel, designer of the Burlington Bike Park, a 40,000-square-foot indoor bike park in Washington state, to create an outline for the cavern. Construction took about three months.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Mega Cavern.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Mega Cavern.

    Trails at the high-octane bike park fit a wide range of technical ability — from family-friendly single-track rides to jump lines for expert riders. For now, cyclists must bring their own bikes, but Lowry plans to rent them later this year. Ages seven and up are welcome, but riders younger than 12 require supervision. Four hours costs 24 dollars, with discounts for more time.

    There are two distinct advantages of biking underground: the weather and the temperature. It’s always dry and 60 degrees, Lowry says. Plus, there are no cars to deal with. He estimates capacity at about 300 people and hopes to hold cycling competitions in the park, teaming up with local organizations. Situated under the Louisville Zoo, the facility has the unusual honor of being incredibly secure. “We can take a direct hit from a 747 airplane,” Lowry says, and in the 1960s, the mine was considered a potential bomb shelter for crisis events.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Mega Cavern.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Mega Cavern.

    Whether it can attract tourists is another question. Cyclist John Thompson of Washington, D.C., has enjoyed cycling trails along the Potomac and Mount Vernon for six years now and likes new challenges. “It’s very cool, but is it worth going to Kentucky just to do this?” he says. “I like doing trails outside and seeing nature — this is all underground.”

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Mega Cavern.

    Photo courtesy of Louisville Mega Cavern.

    Still, the underground cavern is seen as one of the most alluring aspects of the park; the concept of being swallowed by the earth can give adventurers goose bumps. The cavern is so deep that it can’t receive TV or radio signals, which brings to mind this Jules Verne quote from Journey to the Center of the Earth: “Wherever he saw a hole, he always wanted to know the depth of it. To him, this was important.”

    The PBS NewsHour is sharing this story as part of our partnership with OZY Media.

    The post PHOTOS: See the bike cave that’s 100 feet below ground appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Facebook user Kay Sweet will be celebrating Pi Day, and her birthday. Photo courtesy of Kay Sweet

    Facebook user Kay Sweet will be celebrating Pi Day, and her birthday. Photo courtesy of Kay Sweet

    It’s a most auspicious holiday for math lovers. Saturday, March 14, 2015 is Pi Day, a celebration of the irrational number that describes the ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference. Pi is approximately 3.141592653, but it continues at random to infinity. No matter how many numbers after the decimal place you use, the only way to get it exactly is to use the symbol pi.

    Pi Day is a holiday for math (and pie) enthusiasts to celebrate their love of numbers. And this year marks a once-in-a-century occurrence. At 9:26:53 a.m. the date and time will read 3.14.15 9:26:53. That’s 10 digits of pi.

    It’s odd for something out of math to become so popular, David Blatner, author of “The Joy of Pi” told the NewsHour in 2013. But there’s something special about pi that people connect with, he said.

    “It strikes a dissonant chord within us. How can something so simple as a circle — the most simple shape in the universe — how can it be defined by something we cannot know?”

    So we asked math-lovers: how are you celebrating? Here are some ways people have marked this momentous Pi Day.

    Some people are joining in a Pi Puzzle Party:

    Others advocate for better STEM education (and a pi emoji):

    Pi doesn’t just appear in dessert form for some math-lovers:

    Image courtesy of Facebook user Jim Popper.

    Image courtesy of Facebook user Jim Popper.

    Facebook user Emma Carmela Preciado will also be celebrating her birthday on Pi Day. Image courtesy of Emma Carmela Preciado.

    Facebook user Emma Carmela Preciado will also be celebrating her birthday on Pi Day. Image courtesy of Emma Carmela Preciado.

    A few are getting musical:

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is showing off how they use pi when exploring space:

    And of course, lots and lots of pies:

    Facebook user Heather Armstrong shows us what At work Pi Day!!

    Facebook user Heather Armstrong shows us “At work Pi Day!!”

    The post Why Math geeks are so excited about March 14, 2015, at 9:26:53 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Disabled American Veterans Commander Ronald Cox (L), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America leader Cara Campbell (3rd L), U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald (2nd R) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) wrap up a meeting at the Phoenix VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona March 13, 2015. Obama announced the formation of a new advisory group made up of public officials and leaders from the private sector to advise on improvements to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during an event at the Phoenix VA facility, where long waits for medical care sparked a political crisis for the administration. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    Disabled American Veterans Commander Ronald Cox, left, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America leader Cara Campbell, U.S. President Barack Obama and, seated to Obama’s left, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald wrap up a meeting at the Phoenix VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona on March 13. Obama announced the formation of a new advisory group made up of public officials and leaders from the private sector to advise on improvements to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    PHOENIX — Amid persistent complaints about veterans’ health care, President Barack Obama acknowledged lingering weaknesses Friday in the federal government’s response to the chronic delays and false waiting lists that triggered a national outcry over the Veterans Affairs health system last year.

    Obama said that while VA Secretary Robert McDonald is “chipping away” at the problem, it was clear there was still more work to do.

    “It’s important that veterans know that somebody’s got their backs, and that if there are problems that we’re not being defensive about it, not hiding it,” Obama said.

    In his first trip to the Phoenix VA hospital whose practices sparked the scandal, Obama announced the creation of an advisory committee to recommend further steps the VA could take to improve veterans’ access to health care.

    Obama met with veterans, VA employees and elected officials, including Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Arizona’s two Republican senators. He said lawmakers specifically raised questions about the slow pace of implementing a new law meant to increase health care choices for veterans. Mental health and suicide prevention are also areas of concern, he said.

    “Trust is something you can lose real quick,” Obama said, promoting the need to restore trust and confidence in the VA system. But, he added, “Every veteran I talked to today said that the actual care they received once in the system was outstanding.”

    Obama’s visit came amid questions from lawmakers who say veterans are still not benefiting from changes in the law that were meant to improve their access to care. A month ago, Obama drew criticism for traveling to Phoenix without stopping at the VA hospital.

    McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, blasted the president’s visit as a “photo op.” He said the foot-dragging in implementing VA reforms showed that Obama’s administration had given up on reform before it even started.

    “The American people — and veterans in particular — should be as unimpressed by the President’s high-profile but empty gesture today as I am,” said McCain, who scheduled a news conference outside the VA to respond on camera to the president’s visit.

    As Obama flew to Phoenix, the White House defended the VA’s actions to correct problems.

    “Long after it fades from the headlines, this is something a lot of people have been working on and that he president feels strongly about,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

    Obama also announced the creation of an advisory committee to address ways to improve the VA’s service to veterans. The committee will consist of representatives from the private sector, veterans’ organizations, government, health sciences and academics.

    The Phoenix VA Medical Center prompted the scrutiny last year following reports that dozens of veterans died while awaiting treatment at the hospital. The ensuing scandal prompted the ouster of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The agency’s Phoenix director, Sharon Helman, also lost her job.

    A series of government reports said workers throughout the country falsified wait lists while supervisors looked the other way. While veterans encountered chronic delays, the reports found managers who falsely appeared to meet on-time goals received bonuses.

    In the aftermath, Congress approved a sweeping law to overhaul the VA and appropriated money to make it easier for veterans to get VA-paid private health care. It also limits the time VA employees have to appeal firings for alleged wrongdoing.

    The Phoenix office brought a respected former director out of retirement to take controls of the office for a one-year assignment. Glen Grippen told an Arizona legislative panel this week that the Phoenix office has hired 320 new staff since January 2014, is opening three new Phoenix-area clinics and is preparing to remodel its main Phoenix hospital.

    The VA says that between May 1 and Dec. 31 of last year it completed more than 37 million appointments nationwide, 1.8 million more than for the same period in 2013. The Phoenix VA health care system completed more than 476,000 appointments between May and Jan. 31 of this year, an increase of 19 percent over the previous year. The VA also said the Phoenix system completed 94 percent of appointments from October through January within 30 days of the date preferred by the patient.

    But the doctor who sounded the alarm on problems with the Phoenix VA and helped bring about the changes said he is still frustrated about what he sees as a slow pace in reforms being carried out. He said McDonald has a nearly impossible job.

    “If I ask you to go out and lift a 10,000-pound boulder and you go out and give it your best and can’t do it, does that make you a bad guy? No. The boulder was just too big for anyone to lift,” Dr. Sam Foote told The Associated Press on Thursday. “And that’s somewhat of the situation that they’re in.”

    The post At Phoenix VA, Obama says more work to do for veterans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Students at the University of Colorado gather in support of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, during a demonstration in Boulder, Colorado, Dec. 1, 2014. The demonstration was part of a national student walk-out. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Students at the University of Colorado gathered in support of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, during a demonstration in December. Are today’s college students really more tolerant than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations? Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Earlier this month, a video surfaced showing members of the University of Oklahoma chapter of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, or SAE, chanting racial epithets. The video quickly prompted protests, followed by apologies and expulsions. Despite the University cracking down on the fraternity and the students involved, the conversation sparked by the incident has continued across traditional media and social media alike. Among the questions being asked: is this an isolated incident, or is it indicative of a larger trend?

    In a 2010 report, the Pew Research Center found that Americans ages 18-29 are more racially and ethnically diverse, and more tolerant and open-minded than previous generations. In spite of this, many were not shocked by the SAE video.

    “I wasn’t surprised, as this is pretty much in line with the culture of racism,” said Twitter user Alvian, who started the hashtag #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery in response to the incident, and spoke to the NewsHour on the condition that he be identified by first name only. “This isn’t an anomaly, it’s a tradition.”

    What, if anything, can the nation learn from the recent incident at the University of Oklahoma? Are today’s young adults really more tolerant than their parents and grandparents? Share your opinion on Twitter this Tuesday, March 17, from 1-2 p.m. EDT. Use #NewsHourChats to follow the conversation and join in.

    The post Twitter chat: Is the next generation really more tolerant? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference in New York, March 10, 2015. GOP congresswoman Susan Brooks called Saturday for Clinton to turn over the private email server she used to store her State Department correspondence. Photo by Lucas Jackson /Reuters

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference in New York, March 10, 2015. GOP congresswoman Susan Brooks called Saturday for Clinton to turn over the private email server she used to store her State Department correspondence. Photo by Lucas Jackson /Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A member of the House committee investigating the deadly attacks against Americans in Benghazi, Libya, says Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email server could help lawmakers answer vital questions.

    Among them: Why was security at the U.S. diplomatic compound inadequate?

    Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana said in the weekly Republican radio address Saturday that gaining access to Clinton’s server is “the only way to truly know” that investigators have obtained all the State Department communications that “rightfully belong to the American people.”

    Clinton acknowledged this past week that as the nation’s top diplomat, she relied on a personal email account rather than one operated by the government.

    The committee chairman Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, has called on Clinton to turn over the server for an independent review; Clinton so far has rebuffed the request.

    GOP leaders have not ruled out a House vote to force Clinton to turn over the server, setting up a possible confrontation between the GOP-led Congress and the person who could be the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016.

    Brooks said in her address that the server could help her committee “answer vital questions,” including why requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound were denied, and why some members of the Obama administration appeared “slow to acknowledge” that a terrorist attack had occurred.

    “It is simply unacceptable for so many questions to remain unanswered,’ Brooks said. “And it is unjust and simply wrong for anyone to withhold evidence that may lead to the answers.”

    President Barack Obama has promised that his administration would be the “most transparent administration in history,” but Brooks said Clinton “has fallen painfully short” of that mark.

    Clinton served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term. She is widely considered the favorite for the Democratic nomination for president, although she has not announced her candidacy.

    The post Clinton server access key to Benghazi probe, GOP lawmaker says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    An esteemed Harvard economist once said that if the earth were threatened with an alien invasion, he would want Robert Solow to chair the international commission on how to deal with it. What he meant: Solow was the wisest, most sensible person he’d ever met.

    President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to economist Robert Solow on Nov. 24, 2014. Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images.

    President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to economist Robert Solow on Nov. 24, 2014. Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images.

    Robert Solow is also an economist who won the Nobel Prize in economics back in 1987 for his “Solow growth model,” a staple of the economics literature. An MIT emeritus professor, he’s semi-retired, but still one of the most acute minds I’ve ever encountered. So on Friday, I visited him at his condo in Lexington, Mass., to record the first of what I hope will be a series of regular conversations on the week’s news in business and economics. This is the first of them.

    The post The economics week in review with Nobel laureate Robert Solow appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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