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

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    Millions of Israelis turned out to vote on Tuesday in a tightly-fought election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing an uphill battle to defeat a strong campaign by the centre-left opposition to deny him a fourth term in office. Photo by REUTERS/Stringer

    Millions of Israelis turned out to vote on Tuesday in a tightly-fought election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing an uphill battle to defeat a strong campaign by the centre-left opposition to deny him a fourth term in office. Photo by REUTERS/Stringer

    Exit polls on Tuesday show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union are neck and neck in Israel’s election, according to Reuters. If the final results show that they did in fact win about the same number of parliamentary seats, the formation of the next governing coalition will be a major challenge for both candidates.

    Channel 10 and Channel 1 reported Netanyahu and Herzog’s respective parties had each secured 27 seats while Channel 2 reported that the Likud party has an additional seat, bringing their total to 28.

    Despite results being too close to call, Benjamin Netanyahu’s official Twitter account tweeted that the election was a “great victory” for the Likud.

    The Knesset, Israel’s legislative branch, seats 120 members. Final results are not expected until early Wednesday morning, though it could be up to six weeks before a coalition is formed, according to the New York Times.

    The post Israel’s exit polls show Netanyahu and Herzog neck and neck appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    High school seniors are in agony. It is March and in a few short weeks they will find out whether the college of their dreams, the college their parents’ have always wanted for them or the college they believe is a ticket to future success will admit them.

    In his new book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be,” New York Times Columnist Frank Bruni takes on this agony and often the years of preparation that precede it.

    Tonight on PBS NewsHour Correspondent Jeffrey Brown talks with Bruni about the new book. In the portion of their extended conversation shared here, Bruni talks about the extreme measures some student take to make their applications stand out and how colleges are becoming part of a boutique culture of bought access he says is permeating American society from education to airplane trips to the gym.

    Through conversations with successful adults from a range of professions and backgrounds, Bruni makes the case that it is the relationships students form with professors and peers and the work they do in college that matters, not the name on the diploma.

    The NewsHour also spoke with students at T.C. Williams High School in Arlington, Virginia and Suitland High School in District Heights, Maryland about how applying to college made them feel, what they felt was most important about the schools they want to go to and what they think it takes to get in. You can see some clips from those interviews below.

    PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Is an obsession with elite colleges taking a toll on America’s students? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People run amid smoke from a site hit by what activists said were air strikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Raqqa, eastern Syria, which is controlled by the Islamic State November 2014. REUTERS/Nour

    People run amid smoke from a site hit by what activists said were air strikes by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Raqqa, eastern Syria, which is controlled by the Islamic State November 27, 2014. Amnesty International released a report today claiming those raids could amount to a war crime and should be considered by the International Criminal Court. REUTERS/Nour

    A Syrian government raid on an Islamic State threshold that resulted in over 100 civilian casualties last year could amount to a war crime, human rights organization Amnesty International said in a report on Tuesday.

    The report comes as Syrian activists and Western-backed opposition members accuse the government of carrying out a chlorine gas attack that killed 6 people and left dozens struggling to breath on Monday. A Syrian military official denied any involvement in the attack and blamed it on rebel groups.

    This week also marks the start of the fifth year of the Syrian Civil War, which has no end in sight. The gruesome conflict has killed 220,000 people and displaced half the country’s population, according to the United Nations Refugee agency.

    According to the Amnesty International Report, for two weeks between November 11 and 29, the Syrian government carried out a series of air raids on the city of al-Raqqa, an Islamic State nerve center in the region. The raids attacked a mosque and a marketplace, killing 115 civilians, including 14 children.

    “Syrian government forces have shown flagrant disregard for the rules of war in these ruthless airstrikes,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.

    The organization said the severity and indiscriminate nature of 15 air strikes carried out by the Syrian government could constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian war.

    “[T]here can be no justification for its forces attacking al-Raqqa as if the whole city were an IS base, unlawfully killing civilians in their dozens, injuring many more and causing extensive damage to civilian objects,” the report stated.

    The organization also condemned the Syrian government’s silence on the civilian casualties following the raids and called on the government to halt all attacks on civilians. It urged the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and impose punitive measures on the Syrian government.

    Because of security concerns, Amnesty International compiled the report through remote interviews with residents, activists and witnesses in Syria.

    The post Syrian government air raid may amount to war crime appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PBS NewsHour is seeking a Reporter Producer, Online Science who will serve as an integral member of the PBS NewsHour’s Online Science unit while also working with the Segment Production Unit.  Primary responsibilities include reporting and writing news-driven, well-told and crafted stories for PBS.org/PBS NewsHour website and associated digital content and managing the online editorial content vertical, creating original text and multi-media content and coordinating regular contributors, features and columns.  College degree and a minimum of one (1) year experience working in online journalism, preferably for a national outlet required.  Experience or interest in issues around science is a plus.

     

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

    WETA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

    The post Reporter Producer, Online Science appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PBS NewsHour is seeking a Reporter Producer, Online Business and Economics who will serve as an integral member of the PBS NewsHour’s Online Business and Economics unit while also working with the Segment Production Unit. Primary responsibilities include reporting and writing news-driven, well-told and crafted stories for PBS.org/PBS NewsHour website and associated digital content and managing the online editorial content vertical, creating original text and multi-media content and coordinating regular contributors, features and columns.  College degree and a minimum of one (1) year experience working in online journalism, preferably for a national outlet required.  Experience or interest in issues around economics, business, and personal finance are a plus.

     

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

    WETA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

    The post Reporter Producer, Online Business and Economics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    China's President Xi Jinping, front row, eight from the right, meets with the guests at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank launch ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Takaki Yajima/Poo

    China’s President Xi Jinping, front row, eight from the right, meets with the guests at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank launch ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing October 24, 2014. Today, France, Germany and Italy said they would become founding members of the AIIB. Photo by REUTERS/Takaki Yajima/Poo

    France, Germany and Italy said on Tuesday that they would become founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a proposed development bank spearheaded by China, despite U.S. discouragement from doing so. This comes after Britain became the first European nation that applied to join the bank on Thursday, a move that evoked caution from the U.S. that the AIIB may not meet the same high standards as the World Bank and other Asia-focused development banks.

    The initiative gained international attention in October after China and 20 other countries from the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions signed a Memorandum of Understanding to launch the bank. China will have up to 50 percent stake in the bank, making it the largest shareholder. Funds from the bank will be use to finance infrastructure and telecommunications projects in developing countries across Asia.

    The U.S. has protested the bank, arguing that it would go against the environmental, procurement and human rights protocol that Washington-backed institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are required to follow.

    However, Chinese President Xi Jinping has stated that the initiative will only help the global financial system by promoting multilateral governance.

    Although U.S. allies South Korea and Australia initially opposed the bank, both countries are now considering joining before the March 31st deadline.

    Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, has welcomed the AIIB and insists that it’s standards would meet those of existing development banks.

    The new members will add to the AIIB’s growing list founding nations, which now totals 30. The bank is expected to be established by the end of this year.

    The post France, Germany and Italy to join China-led bank against U.S. wishes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) buttons his jacket as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) buttons his jacket as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats blocked the passage of a once-uncontroversial bill that would help victims of human trafficking due to a provision about abortion. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats blocked legislation Tuesday to help the victims of human trafficking amid a partisan dispute over abortion that threatens to sink the once-uncontroversial measure.

    The outcome left the fate of the legislation uncertain and the president’s attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, caught in the crossfire. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put off Lynch’s confirmation vote until the trafficking bill is resolved, provoking howls from Democrats, civil rights leaders and women’s groups over what has become a months-long delay to confirm the nation’s first black female attorney general.

    Senators of both parties loudly lamented their impasse on the trafficking bill, yet blamed each other in a spectacle of fruitless bickering notable even for Congress.

    “Democrats filibustering help for terrified children and abused women would represent a new low,” McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor.

    “Republicans have chosen to manufacture a political fight that has nothing to do with human trafficking,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., retorted a short while later.

    The vote was 55-43 on a procedural motion to move forward on the bill, short of the 60 needed. McConnell said he would bring the bill up again as Republicans try to pressure Democrats to back down and join them. “We’re going to stay on this bill,” he said.

    The bill would create a fund to help victims, and includes measures to make it easier for law enforcement to go after people involved in sex trafficking. It enjoyed wide bipartisan support until early last week, when Democrats began to raise objections over a provision in the bill blocking money in the victims’ fund from paying for abortions in most cases.

    Even though similar prohibitions have been included in annual spending bills for decades, Democrats claim the language in the trafficking bill goes further. Republicans noted that the provision had been in the bill for weeks as it passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously and picked up Democratic co-sponsors, but Democrats claimed they never noticed it until just before a floor vote was scheduled.

    Democrats are calling on Republicans to remove the offending language, which Republicans say they won’t do. Republicans say Democrats could lift their objections, allow votes on the bill, and offer an amendment to excise the abortion language. Democrats have turned that offer down because they would lose the amendment vote.

    Next steps are uncertain though lawmakers on both sides said they want to find a way out. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said talks were happening to try to find a compromise, and she noted that the House version of the bill didn’t include the abortion provision.

    Still, with the Senate set to turn next week to voting on a budget, and a two-week congressional recess scheduled after that, Lynch’s confirmation vote may have to wait until April.

    “There may be solutions to trafficking, we are certainly open to exploring them without doing damage to the principles we laid out,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “But those are no reason to hold up Loretta Lynch.”

    Schumer and other Democrats raised concerns Tuesday that the long delay since she was nominated last fall may be putting Lynch’s nomination in jeopardy. Previously uncommitted Republicans appear to be breaking against her, with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., announcing his opposition Tuesday. However, several others remain uncommitted and she commands solid backing from four Republicans, which would be just enough to confirm her with the bare minimum of support.

    The post Democrats block trafficking bill over abortion dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jupiterimages

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This year, millennials, the group roughly 18 to 34 years old, will overtake baby boomers as the largest living generation in the country. And even at the dawn of their careers, it turns out they are more worried about retirement than previous generations. And perhaps they should be.

    Here to help fill in the picture, Jen Mishory. She is executive director of Young Invincibles. It’s a research and advocacy group for young adults. And David John, he’s a senior policy adviser with AARP. He also works on retirement issues at the Brookings Institution.

    And we welcome both of you to the NewsHour.

    DAVID JOHN, AARP: Thank you.

    JEN MISHORY, Young Invincibles: Thanks so much for having us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So we know today the average retirement age for men is 64. For women, it’s 62. And we also know that studies are showing that most millennials expect to retire, they say, by age 65, but they plan to keep on working while they’re in retirement.

    Jen Mishory, how much are they thinking about retirement, this generation?

    JEN MISHORY: Yes, absolutely.

    Young people are thinking about retirement today. When young people, for example, have access to a retirement account, they are actually saving at relatively consistent rates. The problem is we’re actually not seeing young people accessing things like retirement accounts at the same rate.

    So only about half of workers have access to that kind of traditional retirement account. Young people, 25 percent of young people are part-time workers, so you’re seeing just fewer and fewer young workers having access to those kinds of mechanisms to actually save and at the same time struggling with things like student debt, struggling coming out of this recession.

    So we’re looking at a problem also around wealth accumulation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sounds like a very mixed picture.

    JEN MISHORY: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David John, what would you add to that in terms of how much they’re thinking about retirement, why they aren’t or why they can’t and why they want to?

    DAVID JOHN: Well, one of the things is millennials have learned from what happened to their parents. And they have seen the struggles that their parents went through when their retirement accounts were hit in 2008, for the most part.

    They are — when they have access — and that’s a crucial thing — when they have access to a retirement payroll deduction at work, they are saving and they are participating and they are much more interested than, say, previous generations were at this stage of life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At this stage.

    DAVID JOHN: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Either Gen X, which is the next older generation, or certainly the baby boomers.

    We have got another I think statistic we want to show. Polls are showing 70 percent of millennials are already saving for retirement; 81 percent of them say they are worried that Social Security won’t be there for them.

    Jen Mishory, how much do we know about how retirement is going to look different for this generation than it does today?

    JEN MISHORY: Yes. I think it’s important to take account of sort of the broader economic picture facing millennials.

    So, we’re talking about $1.2 trillion in student debt. The average debtor walks off a college campus with $30,000 in student debt. Tough to put that amount aside in savings when you’re figuring out how you’re going to actually pay down that debt. We’re also talking about wages that have been dropping actually twice as fast for young workers than older workers.

    We’re seeing an economic picture that’s tough for this generation to then be thinking about socking away money for the long term. I think it’s a question mark as to whether or not young people are going to be able to get there and get to a place where they do have that nest egg when they’re looking for retirement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, given those obstacles, David John, how are they putting money aside when they’re able to?  What does it look like?

    DAVID JOHN: Well, when they are able to, they’re participating in 401(k)s or IRAs if they’re offered by their employer, but at best, roughly one out of two workers actually has that opportunity at the workplace.

    If they don’t have that, and this is true across generations, most people don’t save for retirement. Roughly one out of 20 actually does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you — I mean, is there advice you typically would give, David John, to young people as they’re thinking about it?  Because I think, for many young people, when they look at income limited at this stage, how much the cost of housing is, they may wonder, is this really something I can afford to do?

    DAVID JOHN: They would wonder that, yes, and just as people did when I was younger, but starting younger is actually the smartest thing they can possibly do.

    If you start to save at a young age, you can save a smaller proportion of your workplace income, and you can actually get to a good place much easier. If you start later, you’re going to have to save a higher percentage of your income, and the odds are you are not going to make your goals.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk a little bit more about the financial obstacles facing them.

    We know that 41 percent of millennials expect to — they have said in a poll they expect to financially support their parents. And you mentioned this a minute ago, Jen, the average millennial, $115,000 in student loan debt over the course of a lifetime. You cited a really kind of jaw-dropping number.

    That really does cloud the picture for them over the years, doesn’t it?

    JEN MISHORY: Yes, that’s right.

    I mean, I think that, first of all, you’re right to talk about, you know, what we’re looking at in terms of a parent, a grandparent. When young people are thinking about how they’re saving, how they’re supporting their parents, how for a while during the great recession a lot of young people were living at home, how parents are supporting this generation, it’s really a holistic family picture when they’re thinking about the broad financial challenges.

    But, absolutely right, It’s tough when you’re figuring out, do you put that extra $100 toward a student debt payment or do you put it into a retirement account?  Those are sort of the tough decisions that young people are facing, again, often don’t have access to a retirement account when they’re working, might be working part-time. A larger percentage of young workers are contingent workers, part-time workers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David John, what about the people who are in a position to make a difference in terms of public policy right now for these young people when it comes to planning?

    We know Congress in Washington hasn’t been able to do a whole lot about Social Security or Medicare. There are a lot of people very worried about that. In terms of this younger generation, what do they need policy-makers to be thinking?

    DAVID JOHN: What they really need more than anything else is to have access to a retirement savings account.

    As I say, payroll deduction is absolutely essential to get into the savings habit. And savings is a habit, just like physical exercise. The thing they need to do is to be able to move their retirement accounts easily from job to job, because we know millennials are switching jobs somewhat faster than previous generations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, right now, that’s not always something that’s easy or…

    DAVID JOHN: It can be very difficult.

    And then, last but not least — and this is true across generation — we need to think much more about what happens when you reach retirement and you have got a lump of savings that is probably more than you have ever had in your life, but how do you make that stretch out and last until the end of your life?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Jen Mishory, in the few seconds we have left, what’s the main advice you would leave this younger generation with when it comes to thinking about the future?

    JEN MISHORY: Yes, I think a lot of millennials are there, right?  They are — those that have access are saving. They are realizing this is important.

    But I also think that it’s important to be thinking about retirement in the long term, but also about how you’re managing student debt, which is a real obstacle and it is a real question, so I think thinking broadly and holistically about the economic picture that you’re facing, and then figuring out what makes the most sense to you on a month-to-month basis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How old do you think you will be when you retire?

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEN MISHORY: It’s hard to say at this point. Really hard to say.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a long way off. I can say that.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, David John and Jen Mishory, we thank you both.

    JEN MISHORY: Thanks so much.

    DAVID JOHN: Thank you.

    The post Between student debt and part-time work, what Millennials should do now to save for retirement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    cancer

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a promising medical story in the continuing fight against cancer. It’s about a big change in the world of oncology.

    These days, there’s growing interest, better results and more pharmaceutical dollars to develop immunotherapy, or using one’s immune system to attack cancer cells. It’s been a long road to get to this point. For decades, researchers have tried to find a way to make this kind of treatment work for patients. And now oncologists believe they are turning a corner.

    Special correspondent Jackie Judd has our report about one intriguing approach in Philadelphia.

    JACKIE JUDD: This is your first look?

    DR. CARL JUNE, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania: Yes, it is.

    JACKIE JUDD: If buildings tell a story, the story here is one of progress. Dr. Carl June leads the team responsible for a promising trial in which the body’s immune system is turned into a cancer-fighting weapon.

    He and a once-small group of researchers began work in a closet-sized space, but soon will have two floors of what will be a state-of-the-art building at the University of Pennsylvania.

    And this will be the largest group of people working on immunotherapy in an institution?

    DR. CARL JUNE: Oh, yes, we think by far it’s the largest group in the world.

    JACKIE JUDD: Here is why. Since 2010, a group of children and adults suffering from leukemia and running out of treatment options have been in an experimental trial in which their immune system cells were genetically modified to kill cancer. It is an approach other institutions are pursuing as well. The first results at Penn startled even Dr. June.

    DR. CARL JUNE: The actual truth is our first patients, I got an e-mail from our physician that the leukemia biopsy came back with no more leukemia. My actual response to him was, I don’t believe it. So they went and three days later repeated this, and then got the same answer, that there was no leukemia.

    JACKIE JUDD: Subsequent results were so convincing, the drug company Novartis entered into a commercial partnership with Penn, including $20 million for the new research center.

    While the clinical trial is limited to a very small group of people, the Food and Drug Administration has agreed to a speedy review of the treatment for wider use.

    Tony DeMarco is patient number 45 in the trial. The now-retired police officer, who lives with his family in Eastern Pennsylvania, was growing weaker as chemotherapy became less and less effective in keeping his leukemia at bay.

    TONY DEMARCO: I couldn’t function at all. I was in bed for two or three days at a time. You know, I’d wake up, eat, go to the bathroom. And taking a shower was a chore.

    JACKIE JUDD: Last May, DeMarco began the new treatment.

    TONY DEMARCO: They put you on a machine similar to a dialysis machine, where they will have one line in one arm, and one line in the other arm, and it takes your blood out through the machine, and through a centrifuge.

    JACKIE JUDD: From there, T cells, part of the body’s immune system, are extracted from the patient’s blood and genetically altered to recognize leukemia. The T cells are modified with deactivated HIV, the very same virus that causes AIDS.

    In this case, the HIV is doing good. The so-called hunter cells are then put back in the patient.

    David Porter treats DeMarco and other adults in the trials.

    DR. DAVID PORTER, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania: This virus is very efficient at getting into the T cells and into the immune cells.

    I use an analogy when I explain this to my patients, that a cancer cell has a piece of Velcro stuck on it, but the T cell doesn’t have the other piece of Velcro to stick together. We’re genetically changing that T cell to put a new piece of Velcro on the outside, so now it can see, and recognize, and stick to the cancer cell, and start killing it.

    JACKIE JUDD: Days following DeMarco’s transfusion, the Velcro stuck. He began to feel ill, the signal that the modified T cells were waging a war on the cancer cells.

    Did you kind of cheer when you began feeling a little under the weather?

    TONY DEMARCO: Oh, yes, we took a selfie, and sent it to the nurses and everything. It says, guess what, I’m sick. And they’re like, yes.

    JACKIE JUDD: DeMarco’s post-therapy symptoms were relatively mild compared to some other patients who suffer through days of raging fevers and pain.

    In 2012, Emily Whitehead became the first child to undergo the experimental treatment at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, where the pediatric trials are taking place. After the infusion, she was near death from the potent side effects, but rallied and is now cancer-free.

    In December, the research team released updated results of their trial. Of the 39 children enrolled, more than 90 percent responded to the treatment and most were still in remission six months later. Of the 59 adults enrolled, about 55 percent responded. Those who didn’t were still fighting the disease or had died.

    Some patients have remained in remission as long as three or four years, demonstrating the durability of the modified cells. Tony DeMarco is less than a year out from his treatment, and a feeling of well-being is returning.

    TONY DEMARCO: I’m probably up to about 70 percent power. Now it’s — I have a couple bad days a month. Everything else is good.

    JACKIE JUDD: The sustained success of treating patients with blood cancer with different forms of leukemia has encouraged doctors here to keep going. They are now investigating whether the same treatment can be equally successful in killing solid tumors.

    One target is glioblastoma, the type of brain cancer that killed Senator Edward Kennedy.

    Dr. Marcela Maus led the research using mice.

    DR. MARCELA MAUS, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania: Here’s a mouse that’s been treated with the CAR T cells that we’re using to target glioblastoma, and we see that most of the tumor is gone. So that makes us feel comfortable thinking that this kind of T cell would actually potentially be effective for brain cancers.

    JACKIE JUDD: And the results have been consistent?

    MARCELA MAUS: Yes.

    JACKIE JUDD: So, recently, three brain cancer patients were treated with the re-engineered T cells.

    Are their tumors shrinking?

    DR. DONALD O’ROURKE, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania: It’s the critical question in all of this, where there’s so much scientific appeal. There’s a lot of pre-clinical data. There’s the clinical history with the lymphoma patients. But will it work in the brain? It’s too early to tell.

    JACKIE JUDD: Unknowns include whether the modified T cells can penetrate a barrier around the brain to get to the tumor, and whether patients can withstand the side effects.

    DR. DONALD O’ROURKE: We have been concerned from the beginning that release of these compounds called cytokines from the T cells would cause a lot of inflammation in the brain. And the brain is a closed structure. And if you have inflammation and swelling, people could get sick.

    PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: I will also ask for the appropriation of an extra $100 million to find a cure for cancer.

    JACKIE JUDD: Since then President Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer in 1971, promising developments later disappointed. So the enthusiasm at Penn is tempered by history.

    DR. CARL JUNE: We need to be careful not to go and raise expectations prematurely, but I think the field now believes that we’re — we’re on the verge where this can happen, but we also need caution.

    JACKIE JUDD: If these early results do hold up, questions would then arise about the cost of treating large numbers of cancer patients with customized medicine that cannot be mass produced. There is also the issue of scalability.

    DR. DAVID PORTER: Every dose of this is individualized to a specific patient. How do you do that for a large number of people, not just in Philadelphia, but around the country, and in fact around the world?

    JACKIE JUDD: But, if all goes according to plan, doctors here believe the FDA could approve this therapy for blood cancers next year, which is just when the new center is expected to be up and running.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Jackie Judd in Philadelphia.

    GWEN IFILL: You can learn more about this new approach and find a link to the University of Pennsylvania’s site on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post Experimental therapy trains immune cells to hunt and kill blood cancers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: These next few weeks are anxious ones for many high school seniors and their parents. It’s when they find out if they have been accepted to the colleges or universities on their wish list.

    But the author of a new book argues that, after all the blood and sweat and tears, it’s not worth it.

    Jeffrey Brown takes a look.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Where did you go to college?  And more to the point, for many young people now awaiting decisions, where do you hope to go, and how much do you have riding on it?

    A new book with the provocative title “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be” proposes that the whole college admissions project is out of whack and even that rejection can be a wonderful thing.

    Its author is New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who, for the record, attended the University of North Carolina.

    So, madness, nonsense, those are just some of the words you use for what you see as a broken system. What’s the brunt of the argument?  What happened to our system?

    FRANK BRUNI, Author, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be“: What happened to our system is, we became brand-obsessed. We became convinced, or at least parents did, that if their kids didn’t get into the right colleges, they wouldn’t have as bright futures, they wouldn’t make as much money.

    We somehow bought that this moment in late March, early April, when you find out where you’re going to go to school, sets the whole trajectory for your life. And it’s so untrue and it’s the source of so much unnecessary anxiety. And that’s what I go into in the book.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that is what I was going to ask you. With what result?  What has it done to young people?  What has it done to our colleges?

    FRANK BRUNI: Well, let’s start with what it has done to young people.

    It has driven them mad in high school. You see rates of depression and medication that I think we didn’t see before. It’s also taught them a very curious set of values. We’re telling them that getting into the door of something, that kind of breaching the inner sanctum is the most important thing.

    And one of my biggest concerns is that they get to college and they don’t realize that what matters is what they do there, not the name on the diploma. And that’s a big concern.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The perpetrators here are pretty widespread in your book, colleges for pushing the brand, the selectivity, parents for somehow getting this idea that they must get their kids into the best school.

    FRANK BRUNI: Yes.

    Well, I’m really glad you mentioned the colleges themselves, because they are culprits here. Colleges have become businesses that market themselves aggressively, send out more information. I talk in the book about ivory tower porn. They are trying to boost the number of applicants they get to their schools, so they can then — it’s a really perverse thing, because they want those applicants so they can reject a given number and have a low acceptance rate.

    And that’s fed this whole idea that you want to go to the most selective school. And everything feeds into everything else and you end up with a system that, as you said earlier, is out of whack.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I want to see how far you want to push this. I want to play a little clip that — we went out to some local schools.

    Here is a young woman from a high school in Maryland who is in the application process now.

    FRANK BRUNI: I pity her.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ANDRE’ANA MILLER: I’m a networking person, so I know how to talk to people. And when they hear that you have gone to certain schools or you have done certain things with the people at these schools, it also makes a big difference.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so you hear that a lot, right?  Networking. You go to certain schools, it makes a difference. Are you saying she’s completely wrong?

    FRANK BRUNI: No, she’s not completely wrong.

    There are ways in which the network at given schools can help. Certain schools feed certain industries, for example, but what I’m saying is that thinking is very flawed in its narrowness. In the book, I present stories of a lot of people we respect greatly, great business leaders, artist, politicians, who have had the most brilliant careers imaginable, and they have gotten there through a variety of schools, including many state schools.

    So, what I’m saying is to think that it all hinges on that network you’re going to get at an Ivy League school is not true. There are so many different paths to brilliant careers and great success, and to believe that there are only a few is to shortchange yourself and shortchange the college experience you’re going to have if you don’t end up at one of those few places.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and that goes to what I said in our introduction. If you’re also telling people that rejection may end up being a good thing, and you do cite a lot of examples, but is that what you would say to young people?  It’s OK to be rejected or don’t aim that high?  What exactly do you tell them?

    FRANK BRUNI: Well, I would tell them it’s OK to be rejected for many reason, one of which is through that experience you learn a talent more important than anything else, which is resilience.

    Most of life is about rebounding from mistakes, rebounding from failures, rebounding from disappointments. And to have that happen to you when you’re 17 or 18, and to master it, I mean, that’s an incredible gift.

    But there are other reasons why it’s good for you, too — or not necessarily good for you, but not bad for you. There is no one school that’s going to be right for you. There are many different kinds of schools, and sometimes kids who are rejected from their top choices and end up at their second or third choices or fifth choices approach those schools with an appetite and with an insistence on getting a good education that leads them to a better education than they might have gotten at their top choice.

    Kids who get into their top choice sometimes think, OK, my work is done and now I have it made, which is not true. Kids who get into their sixth choice often go there and think, OK, I’m going to make up for what I lost, even though they haven’t lost that much. I’m going to really attack this with a zeal, and that ends up being crucial.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We are at a time when college is so expensive. You and I have talked about this. College is so expensive. Jobs are very hard to come by. How do you make this case to everybody to kind of calm down in a sense when the stakes seem so much higher, when the pressure on everybody is so much greater?

    FRANK BRUNI: Well, because what I explore and explain and I think argue successfully in the book is the stakes are not as high as you think they’re going to be, the stakes meaning where you go to college.

    But you mentioned money, which is — I’m really glad you did. We have wonderful state schools throughout this country, and many, many of them have these amazing honors programs that kids aren’t even aware of this. You can go to a school like Arizona State University, and if you’re an exemplary student, you can end up in the Honors College there, and you will have an experience that is commensurate with the best education anywhere else.

    You are going to graduate having paid a lot less money, and you’re much less likely to have debt, and that has meaning. So I think we do need to think about expense and we need to have kids look at state schools, not with the disdain and saying, oh, those don’t have the snob appeal of another school, but saying these are really great values and that makes a difference.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right. The book is “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be”

    Frank Bruni, thanks so much.

    FRANK BRUNI: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: You can see more of Jeff’s conversation with Frank Bruni, where they discuss the extreme measures some students take to make their applications stand out. That’s at PBS.org/NewsHour.

     

    The post Why families stress too much about college admissions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: the risk of concussions in sports and trying to lower those odds.

    San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland shocked the pro football world yesterday by announcing his decision to retire from the game after a strong rookie season. Borland, who is 24 years old and was expected to earn more than a half-million dollars next season, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” he was concerned about head trauma from repeated hits.

    CHRIS BORLAND, Former NFL Player: It was just kind of the realization. I had just started my professional career. And am I going to go down this road?  Am I going to commit the prime of my life to something that could ultimately be detrimental to my health?  And that just kind of triggered my thinking and changed the way I viewed the risks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Borland becomes the most prominent player to leave the game in his prime based on those risks.

    But worries are also growing among many parents of younger athletes and kids playing sports. It turns out researchers are looking into whether electronics can make sports safer.

    Hari Sreenivasan reports on new innovations for brain safety on the playing field. It’s part of our continuing series on Breakthroughs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Contact sports like hockey can be brutal; 19-year-old Oliver Bech-Hansen describes getting hit so hard, he lost his memory.

    OLIVER BECH-HANSEN: I just couldn’t remember everything. It took me a couple weeks before I finally — I slowly started remembering things that happened.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As the spotlight on concussions and head trauma intensifies, parents, coaches, and medical professionals are debating how to keep players safe, and some are looking to technology.

    The Jersey Wildcats, a league of 16-to-20-year-olds, have been experimenting with a head impact device donated by Reebok. The device, called Checklight, is worn under the helmet and features an LED light on the back of the neck that flashes if a player takes a big blow.

    Paul Litchfield from Reebok explains.

    PAUL LITCHFIELD, Reebok Advanced Concepts: Checklight will actually fit inside of the skullcap, and it — it slides inside a little sleeve, and the device is in here, and the electronics are right here behind your ear. We can actually identify nine locations around the head, and identify the force of impact from those nine locations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The impact device can be worn under any type of sports helmet, but it will not determine if a player has suffered a concussion.

    PAUL LITCHFIELD: It doesn’t indicate anything about your level of injury. It indicates your level of impact. And by doing that, it’s up to the athlete, the coach, their players, their teammates to just make sure you check in, and you say, hey, you OK?  And you do an assessment.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Wildcats coach Justin Stanlick calls it an extra pair of eyes.

    JUSTIN STANLICK, Head Coach, Jersey Wildcats: There’s so much going on, you can be distracted, or hung up on one point, turn around, and before you know it, your player is down, and you’re not exactly sure what happened. And, you know, 12 players on the ice, it’s very easy to miss something.

    PAUL LITCHFIELD: It’s simple. It’s like a traffic signal, green, yellow, red, and at a traffic signal, green is go, yellow is caution, red is stop.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Player Eddie Pavlini.

    EDDIE PAVLINI: I had a little hit to the head, but I didn’t even realize. Like, I didn’t think anything of it until one of my buddies told me that I had a yellow light on the back. I was like, oh, wow.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Neurosurgeon Robert Cantu is an expert in traumatic brain injury among athletes.

    ROBERT CANTU, Traumatic Brain Injury Expert: Those violent shakings of the brain that don’t necessarily produce symptoms right away that are recognizable as concussions, if taken over a long period of time, can lead to later life neurodegenerative problems.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Checklight is not the only impact sensor.

    ROBERT CANTU: In the last couple of years, there’s been a plethora of different sensors that have come out. Some of them are within a helmet. Some of them are on headbands. Some of them are on chin straps. Some of them are even in mouth guards.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The Reebok device has field experience behind it. Former NFL player Isaiah Kacyvenski oversees consumer business at MC10, the electronics company that helped create Checklight.

    In the NFL, Kacyvenski suffered seven concussions and upon retirement became a vocal advocate for head trauma safety. He was one of the first NFL players to agree to donate his brain for medical research.

    ISAIAH KACYVENSKI, Former NFL Player: I knew that in my heart and my mind that the sport needs to get safer in a lot of different ways.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Kacyvenski says Checklight gives both players and coaches an objective measurement.

    ISAIAH KACYVENSKI: It takes it out of the hands of the athletes in a lot of different ways. At times, when I was hit, I always — I didn’t necessarily want to pull myself out of the game. I didn’t want to look soft. It felt almost like I was being less of a man if I admitted to being hit in the head.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Eddie Pavlini sees the same scenario play out on the ice.

    EDDIE PAVLINI: A lot of times, kids might just not say anything and try to play through it, and they will only get checked out if the coach notices it and says — and calls the trainer over.

    JUSTIN STANLICK: You can ask a 17-year-old, how are you feeling, and have him checked out by an EMT, but sometimes they’re not always truthful because they don’t want to come out of a game.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Litchfield says his team conducted 15,000 drop tests to arrive at the right measurements.

    PAUL LITCHFIELD: We actually chose values that are based of off the National Safety Transportation Board, a thing called the HIC values, which is head injury criteria values.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But while Dr. Cantu is supportive of the awareness Checklight and other sensors bring, he is cautious about their research.

    ROBERT CANTU: The various different sensor devices that are in a lot of different products right now have only been validated within their own institutions, within their own companies. They haven’t been validated by independent third-party laboratory.

    That’s a big concern for me, because we really desperately need to know the accuracy of devices.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How hard a player is hit isn’t always the most relevant information. Often, it’s the second or third hard hit that can cause the most damage.

    ROBERT CANTU: I don’t think it’s a silver bullet in terms of trying to prevent concussion or recognizing concussion. I think it’s a tool in terms of allowing you at least to know how many hits a youngster has had.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Isaiah Kacyvenski believes he is already feeling the damage from multiple hits to the head. Kacyvenski attended Harvard as an undergraduate, then played seven years in the NFL. When he returned to Harvard for his master’s in business, he found it much harder to study.

    ISAIAH KACYVENSKI: I couldn’t go through and just churn through five hours at a time, and crank through. I had to take bites, go over it again, take bites, go over it again, take bites, which is tough, because, you know, I had to recalibrate, reconfigure the way I did things.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Still a lover of the sport, Kacyvenski will start coaching his 11-year-old son, Isaiah Jr., in tackle football next fall. He says he is focused on keeping the game safe with proper techniques and Checklight.

    I’m Hari Sreenivasan with the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Can a helmet sensor help prevent brain trauma in athletes? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Budget Presser

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    GWEN IFILL: A new budget plan released today by House Republicans reveals the yawning partisan chasm that still exists when it comes to taxes and spending, as the GOP pushes for deep cuts and a balanced budget, and Democrats say the budget needs to grow. As always, the choices are not that simple.

    Joining me with the story of the policies and priorities behind the budget debate is NewsHour political editor Lisa Desjardins.

    Thank you for joining us again, Lisa.

    And maybe you can explain this for us. They’re talking about $5 trillion in savings in this proposed budget that the House leaders put out today. What does that represent?

    LISA DESJARDINS, Political Reporter & Editor: Five trillion dollars in savings is over 10 years. That represents two priorities for Republicans.

    What they are choosing with this budget, let’s just put it simply, is they’re choosing to try to pay down the debt. They would balance the budget in a remarkable nine years. Usually, it’s 10 years. And then the other priority they’re choosing here, Gwen, is defense. Even as they’re paying down the deficit and the debt ultimately, they also are increasing spending for defense.

    That’s a bit like trying dig out a hole even as you’re putting more dirt in it. It’s very ambitious. Because those are their priorities, this would mean dramatic cuts for everyone else, for discretionary funding, which means most of government. Very hard to see these cuts taking place without government layoffs, for example.

    GWEN IFILL: That kind of austerity that they’re calling for, the president came out today and basically said, hey, we need infrastructure, we need to spend on all these things, and, by the way, the economy is doing better now, there won’t be an appetite for it.

    Does he have a point?

    LISA DESJARDINS: The Democrats are going to come back to this again and say, look at what we have done. We have already cut the deficit by tremendous amounts. This is overreach by Republicans. They’re not looking at what America wants. Democrats argue America wants jobs. They’re not worried about the debt as much.

    I think that’s the debate that is going to play out here. What the calculus is — not everything is political, but there are a lot of politics in this document. They’re calculating that their core, their Republican base still cares so much about the debt that it’s worth proposing these very strong cuts, not only to agencies, but also Pell Grants, for example, would have sort of less stable funding under this plan.

    GWEN IFILL: Does the budget process itself — I think that word process always puts people off, but it seems to me there is a reason why these kinds of priorities are put forward in a budget proposal, especially one that we routinely say may not go as far as they’d like. What is the purpose for putting this stuff in a budget proposal?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes, I could see our viewers saying, why are they even talking about this?  This is just a budget. It isn’t binding.

    But this is, Gwen, is, this is a show of what Republicans’ priorities are. That’s one. This is their one chance in a gridlocked Congress to say, here’s what we stand for, and here’s why it’s especially significant. A budget falls under special rules in Congress. You can get a budget through the Senate with a magical 51 votes, instead of 60 votes, and Republicans are going to latch on to that.

    One thing they have in this budget that is major policy priority, the repeal of something called Obamacare.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, I wanted to ask you about that, because this proposal, in order for it to balance out the way they have it planned, you would not only have to repeal Obamacare, but also cut back the Dodd-Frank financial reform regulations that are in place, and that doesn’t sound like anything that’s going to be bipartisan.

    LISA DESJARDINS: No, it’s not going to be bipartisan.

    But they know that the only way they are going to actually get a repeal of both of those through the Senate is to attach it to the budget and go through that special budget rule that lets you pass things with 51 votes. Everyone knows the president will still veto that policy if it comes to his desk, but they want to make a statement here. They want to have both chambers try and pass this.

    GWEN IFILL: And the one thing that they agree, that both sides agree they don’t want to cut is defense spending. Right?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    The defense agency, Pentagon, anything to do with defense, which is not just the Pentagon, does well in this budget. One thing to watch for that is in this budget is, they have increased funding to a fund that’s just for war contingency spending. Some people call that a slush fund. The Pentagon says it’s a fund that’s important.

    But it deals with how the Pentagon operates on foreign soil fighting terror, and Republicans have increased that fund.

    GWEN IFILL: So interesting. We will be following this. And I know you will.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Oh, yes. I love it.

    GWEN IFILL: Lisa, I know you do.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: Lisa Desjardins, thanks.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Sure.

    The post What House Republicans hope next year’s budget will look like appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters beside his wife in Tel Aviv

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Martin Seemungal joins us now form Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv.

    Welcome, Martin.

    So, Netanyahu has already tweeted that the Likud Party has won. We know it’s not clear yet that that’s the case, that they’re going to put a government together. But, clearly, he closed the gap. Is it because of this turn to the right?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Absolutely.

    And as you can hear from the noise here at Likud headquarters, people are really celebrating the fact that he did close that gap, because going into the election, it looked very much like it was going to be a win for Isaac Herzog by at least four or five seats. Netanyahu, on the other hand, as you say, has closed that gap. He got those votes from the right wing, as you know, in the last days of the election.

    He made a very sharp turn to the right, as the campaign drew to a close, yesterday saying that if he becomes prime minister, under the present circumstances, there will be no Palestinian state. He took away votes from the Jewish Home, from Bennett’s party. He took votes away from the ultra-nationalist parties even further to the right. And as a result, he has closed that gap and we now have a dead heat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Martin, it’s a little hard to hear you, but we know there’s a lot going on there at the headquarters. What is the opposing Zionist camp saying? What are they saying? They have to be disappointed.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Well, they aren’t showing their disappointment, if they are.

    They’re trying to play the positive side, because going into this election, when it was first announced, they only had 13 seats. And according to these exit polls, they’re going to end up with 27. They are saying that it’s premature for Benjamin Netanyahu to be declaring victory. And, obviously, in the days ahead, they’re going to be looking to figure in some kind of coalition government.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, tell us about what does happen next. Where does Israeli politics go from here? How do they put this next government together?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Well, that’s going to be a real key here.

    The president of Israel, who will ultimately ask one of the leaders to form a coalition or try form a coalition, has said in a statement he’d like to see a unity government. Now we’re hearing that neither side certainly off the top is going to go for a unity government. Both will do their best to try to form so kind of coalition on their own.

    Benjamin Netanyahu is looking towards Moshe Kahlon, his former minister in his cabinet who left his party because he wasn’t given the Finance Ministry. They have a bit of a history with him. There’s a lot of distrust on Kahlon’s part towards Benjamin Netanyahu.

    But he’s seen as the kingmaker. Also, obviously, Isaac Herzog is going to go after Kahlon. The problem with that is Kahlon is a right-winger. He comes from Likud. He only left Likud years ago. And then he questioned or not he would he take part in a coalition that could include the support of that Arab unity party that did so well today and is now the third largest party.

    It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the days ahead.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in the end, Martin, we know the economy was an issue. Clearly, peace, security was an issue. Is there a sense — do you have a sense of which was more important to voters in the end?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Well, in the end, it has to be said it was the economy, because Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing that security line. Security, you vote for me, you will be safe. Those commercials are running.

    He was running commercials saying he was the Bibi-sitter, a play on his name as Bibi Netanyahu, the nickname people use. But, clearly, voters didn’t want to talk about security. They wanted to talk about housing prices. They wanted to talk about the high cost of living. And in the end, that’s what gave — basically gave Netanyahu a hard time.

    And he fought for his political life and made all these statements. That very sharp turn to the right, that really is what many people say saved his skin. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have the close race that we have today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Martin Seemungal, reporting from a very loud Likud headquarters there in Tel Aviv, we thank you, Martin.

    The post How Netanyahu was able to close the gap at the polls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Millions of Israelis turned out to vote on Tuesday in a tightly-fought election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing an uphill battle to defeat a strong campaign by the centre-left opposition to deny him a fourth term in office. Photo by REUTERS/Stringer

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Voters in Israel cast their ballots today to decide the future of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Voting ended just a few hours ago, and at this moment, it’s too close to call.

    However, it is clear that the leader outperformed the latest poll predictions.

    We begin our coverage with a report from special correspondent Martin Seemungal.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: It’s a dead heat, both Prime Minister Netanyahu and challenger Isaac Herzog projected to win 27 seats, according to the first exit polls released tonight, the race too close to call, and a tough road ahead for either camp to build a majority coalition.

    Israel’s largely ceremonial president, Reuven Rivlin, does have the serious job of deciding which candidate will get to take the first shot. With hopes of a fourth term in the balance, Netanyahu cast his vote this morning in Jerusalem. He made a last-ditch Election Day pitch:

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): In order to prevent the left-wing parties from governing, there’s just one thing that needs to be done, to close the gap between Likud and Labor and to vote for Likud.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The Labor Party standard-bearer, Isaac Herzog, cast his vote in Tel Aviv, as did his Zionist Union coalition partner, Tzipi Livni.

    By mid-morning, voter turnout was 20 percent higher than the past two previous elections, a clear indication that Israelis see this as a pivotal election, a close race, where every single vote will count.

    Gill Galanos lives abroad, but came back to vote.

    You came all the way from the U.S. to vote.

    GILL GALANOS: Yes.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Why?

    GILL GALANOS: Because it’s important. It’s one of the most important elections in the past two decades. I would assume so. I wanted my vote to count.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: At this Tel Aviv polling station, Israelis we spoke to were split, the battle on the national stage in miniature. Some voted for Isaac Herzog’s center-left alliance.

    ROY KAROUTCHI: Now when you are thinking about the economic pressure here in Israel and everything, you think maybe this is a time for a change.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  Others refusing to turn their back on Netanyahu and Likud.

    YORAN INGLANDER: I am not changed.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Why?

    YORAN INGLANDER: Because I am stability, and I am Likudnik.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Also voting today, Arab Israelis, who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population, four parties united under a Joint Arab List, hoping to gain as many as 15 of the 120 seats in Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset.

    Their fervor led Netanyahu to make a stark statement at midday. Via social media, he pleaded for right-wing voters to head to the polls.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (through interpreter): The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going to vote in droves. Left-wing groups are bring them in buses.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The appeal was denounced as a desperate attempt to ensure reelection and came amid a sharp turn to the right by Netanyahu. Yesterday, he seemingly reversed years of Israeli government commitment to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

    The post Israeli election too close to call appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    GWEN IFILL: A one-time Republican rising star abruptly quit Congress today, amid allegations of lavish spending from his office account.

    Illinois Representative Aaron Schock faced reports of costly office decor, private jet flights and excessive mileage reimbursement for his private car. In his statement today, he said: “The constant questions have proven a great distraction that made it too difficult for me to serve.”

    Schock won a fourth term last November. His resignation takes effect at month’s end.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A House committee grilled the Secret Service director today over an alleged drunken driving incident involving two senior agents. Joseph Clancy disputed reports that they crashed into a White House construction barrier during a bomb investigation. He said they — quote — “nudged the barrier.”  He acknowledged not learning of the incident for several days.

    JOSEPH CLANCY, Director, Secret Service:
    At the least of the description of these events, I should have still been informed of what transpired that evening. Any time you have a senior level on the president’s detail who is alleged to have even come through a secure area, as he did that evening, I should have been informed. And we’re following up on that, and there will be accountability.

    REP. HAL ROGERS, (R) Kentucky: You can’t run an agency like this, for God’s sake, or any other agency unless you have discipline in the ranks. And this is a breakdown, to put it mildly, of discipline within the ranks of your agency. And that — that’s a cancer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Clancy said it’s clear he’s got a lot of work to do to change the agency’s culture.

    GWEN IFILL: The Senate deadlocked again today on a bill to help victims of human trafficking. Democrats objected to an anti-abortion provision.

    Republicans said they won’t vote on attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch until the bill passes. The two sides traded arguments away from the Senate floor.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader: I have said all along I thought the president’s nominee for attorney general is entitled to be considered on the Senate floor, and she will be considered just as soon as we finish this very important bill.

    SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) New York: We can approve nominees while we work on legislation. We did that just yesterday when we passed two nominees. They could do the same with Loretta Lynch and she’d pass like that.

    GWEN IFILL: Lynch is the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York. She was nominated in November.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Federal agencies have set a new record for paying benefits to those who don’t qualify. The Government Accountability Office said today mistaken payments topped $125 billion last year. That was up $19 billion from 2013, after declining for several years. Most of the payments involved Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    GWEN IFILL: The United Nations’ Health Agency reports 500,000 newborns die each year in developing nations for lack of good sanitation. The World Health Organization says it found many could be saved by using — by being washed and cared for in a clean environment. But more than a third of hospitals in those countries have nowhere for staff and patients to wash their hands.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Relief workers today reached some of the outlying islands in Vanuatu, in the wake of a fierce cyclone. The storm tore through the South Pacific nation last weekend. The island of Tanna took a direct hit, and aid groups warned today the 29,000 people there are running out of food and basic supplies.

    ALEX SNARY, World Vision: Food relief, temporary shelter, these are the life-sustaining elements that we need to get in place and we need to get them in a hurry.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Despite the devastation, the storm’s death toll was lowered today to 11.

    GWEN IFILL: California will face tougher curbs on water use, as a drought heads into its fourth year. The state Water Resources Control Board moved today to extend existing limits and add new ones. Among other things, residents must limit watering lawns to twice a week. And if they want water at restaurants, they will have to ask for it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The glow of the Northern Lights may push substantially farther south tonight, thanks to a powerful solar storm. Forecasters say the display could be visible as far south as Tennessee and Oklahoma. The solar storm could also affect power grids and throw off GPS tracking devices.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, stocks mostly gave back some of Monday’s gains, as investors worried again about interest rates. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 130 points to close below 17850. The Nasdaq rose eight points, but the S&P 500 slipped seven.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And St. Patrick’s Day brought the usual celebrations, and a renewed debate over who gets to march. New York City held its 254th annual parade, and for the first time included one openly gay group. But similar groups were still barred, and gay rights advocates called for greater inclusion.

    Boston’s parade, last Sunday, lifted its ban on gays and lesbians marching.

    The post News Wrap: Secret Service chief testifies on White House drunk driving accident appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Don McCullough

    There will be no criminal charges for a man who crashed a drone onto the White House lawn. Photo by Flickr user Don McCullough

    WASHINGTON — An intelligence agency employee whose drone crashed on the White House lawn earlier this year won’t face criminal charges.

    The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington says the operator, who works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, was piloting the drone near the White House early on Jan. 26 when he lost control of it. Assuming it had crashed somewhere on the National Mall, the unidentified man went to bed.

    The drone was later found on the White House lawn and a forensic analysis concluded that the operator was not in control of the drone when it crashed.

    Federal prosecutors say the Federal Aviation Administration is now reviewing the case. The airspace over much of Washington, including the White House, is off limits to aircraft, including commercially available drones.

    The post Man who crashed drone on White House lawn will not be charged appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

    A new analysis of federal data by the Associated Press says that the Obama administration has set a record for “censoring” or “outright denying access” to government files requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

    The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

    It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.

    Its backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end grew remarkably by 55 percent to more than 200,000. It also cut by 375, or about 9 percent, the number of full-time employees across government paid to look for records. That was the fewest number of employees working on the issue in five years.

    The government’s new figures, published Tuesday, covered all requests to 100 federal agencies during fiscal 2014 under the Freedom of Information law, which is heralded globally as a model for transparent government. They showed that despite disappointments and failed promises by the White House to make meaningful improvements in the way it releases records, the law was more popular than ever. Citizens, journalists, businesses and others made a record 714,231 requests for information. The U.S. spent a record $434 million trying to keep up. It also spent about $28 million on lawyers’ fees to keep records secret.

    “This disappointing track record is hardly the mark of an administration that was supposed to be the most transparent in history,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to improve the Freedom of Information law. Their effort died in the House last year.

    The new figures showed the government responded to 647,142 requests, a 4 percent decrease over the previous year. It more than ever censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them, in 250,581 cases or 39 percent of all requests. Sometimes, the government censored only a few words or an employee’s phone number, but other times it completely marked out nearly every paragraph on pages.

    On 215,584 other occasions, the government said it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper.

    The White House touted its success under its own analysis. It routinely excludes from its assessment instances when it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper under the law, and said under this calculation it released all or parts of records in 91 percent of requests — still a record low since President Barack Obama took office using the White House’s own math.

    “We actually do have a lot to brag about,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

    Earnest on Wednesday praised agencies for releasing information before anyone requested it, such as the salaries and titles of White House employees. He cited more than 125,000 sets of data posted on a website, data.gov, which include historical temperature charts, records of agricultural fertilizer consumption, Census data, fire deaths and college crime reports.

    “When it comes to our record on transparency, we have a lot to be proud of,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One. “And frankly, it sets a standard that future administrations will have to live up to.”

    Separately, the Justice Department congratulated the Agriculture and State departments for finishing work on their oldest 10 requests, said the Pentagon responded to nearly all requests within three months and praised the Health and Human Services Department for disclosing information about the Ebola outbreak and immigrant children caught crossing U.S. borders illegally.

    The government’s responsiveness under the open records law is an important measure of its transparency. Under the law, citizens and foreigners can compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas. It cited such exceptions a record 554,969 times last year.

    Under the president’s instructions, the U.S. should not withhold or censor government files merely because they might be embarrassing, but federal employees last year regularly misapplied the law. In emails that AP obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration about who pays for Michelle Obama’s expensive dresses, the agency blacked-out a sentence under part of the law intended to shield personal, private information, such as Social Security numbers, phone numbers or home addresses. But it failed to censor the same passage on a subsequent page.

    The sentence: “We live in constant fear of upsetting the WH (White House).”

    In nearly 1 in 3 cases, when someone challenged under appeal the administration’s initial decision to censor or withhold files, the government reconsidered and acknowledged it was at least partly wrong. That was the highest reversal rate in at least five years.

    The AP’s chief executive, Gary Pruitt, said the news organization filed hundreds of requests for government files. Records the AP obtained revealed police efforts to restrict airspace to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests in Ferguson, Missouri. In another case, the records showed Veterans Affairs doctors concluding that a gunman who later killed 12 people had no mental health issues despite serious problems and encounters with police during the same period. They also showed the FBI pressuring local police agencies to keep details secret about a telephone surveillance device called Stingray.

    “What we discovered reaffirmed what we have seen all too frequently in recent years,” Pruitt wrote in a column published this week. “The systems created to give citizens information about their government are badly broken and getting worse all the time.”

    The U.S. released its new figures during Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.

    The AP earlier this month sued the State Department under the law to force the release of email correspondence and government documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. The government had failed to turn over the files under repeated requests, including one made five years ago and others pending since the summer of 2013.

    The government said the average time it took to answer each records request ranged from one day to more than 2.5 years. More than half of federal agencies took longer to answer requests last year than the previous year.

    The post Obama administration sets new record for withholding FOIA requests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Students at Vanderbilt University held a protest against police brutality in December. Photo by Blake Dover/The Vanderbilt Hustler

    Students at Vanderbilt University held a protest against police brutality in December. Tyler Bishop, editor of the student paper there, says that students need to understand pervasive examples of prejudice that still linger among younger generations. Photo by Blake Dover/The Vanderbilt Hustler

    race-todayFollowing the release of a video showing the members of University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chanting racist slurs, the conversation of racism on college campuses has been refreshed.

    The video was a demonstration of blatant racism many believed no longer existed among a younger generation. While some reacted with shock — the university’s president David Boren quickly condemned the students, saying he was so sick he couldn’t eat after seeing the video — not everyone was so surprised, including those in the college community.

    To roundup the unique views of students around the country, NewsHour talked to six college newspaper editors about how students are reacting and contributing to the conversation the video has sparked. Here’s what they had to say:

    What kind of conversations are students having in response to the SAE video?

    Tyler Alicea, Editor in Chief of The Cornell Sun at Cornell University

    Tyler Alicea, Editor in Chief of The Cornell Sun

    “I think that, both at Cornell and at college campuses across the United States, you’re sort of seeing more awareness of issues with systemic racism and how that can play into the justice system. I think the incident with SAE is especially interesting to Cornell students, because in 2011, the SAE fraternity was found responsible for the hazing death of George Desdunes, a student at Cornell. It’s definitely interesting to see SAE in the news again. For Cornell students, it resonates, especially for those who were very familiar with hazing situations that go on.”
    - Tyler Alicea, Editor in Chief of The Cornell Sun at Cornell University

    Tyler Bishop, Editor in Chief at The Vanderbilt Hustler at Vanderbilt University

    Tyler Bishop, Editor in Chief of The Vanderbilt Hustler

    “The main responses I’ve heard are, this video’s completely unacceptable, the university and SAE did the right thing in immediately taking action against those who were seen in the video and those who participated. This is a very explicit example of racism, but what we see more on a day-to-day basis are more hidden forms of racism, whether it just be divides that you see in the campus community, whether it be microaggressions, like people saying things they might not realize may be offensive to somebody of a different background, small things like that are the more common forms of the lingering prejudice I think are present in our community. I think there have been a lot of conversations about, yeah, we can take this example of OU SAE chanting those things and say racism is alive and well, but the more important thing we need to address and understand are less explicit, more problematic and pervasive, examples of prejudice lingering around.
    - Tyler Bishop, Editor in Chief at The Vanderbilt Hustler at Vanderbilt University

    Chandler Rome, Editor in Chief of The Daily Reveille at Louisiana State University

    Chandler Rome, Editor in Chief of The Daily Reveille

    “When I talk to Greek students they don’t want to think that this could happen on our campus when I think in reality it could happen on any college campus. I don’t think anyone was overly shocked. With the advent of social media, how that’s come through, I don’t think that anyone was surprised that a video came out of something that was supposed to be private. Students have also said that the punishment that was handed down was well deserved.”
    - Chandler Rome, Editor in Chief of The Daily Reveille at Louisiana State University

    Were students surprised when they saw this video?

    Jonathan Hettinger, Editor in Chief at The Daily Illini at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Jonathan Hettinger, Editor in Chief of The Daily Illini

    “The professors actually seemed the most surprised by it, but the students I talked to were mostly like, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ Especially at U of I where the Greek system is so big. The Greek life is kind of segregated.”
    - Jonathan Hettinger, Editor in Chief at The Daily Illini at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    “Absolutely not. I know people who have personal prejudices and I know that racism is alive and well in my generation. So to see the video was not a shock. I think I was more shocked frankly that somebody let the videos out. I think what’s encouraging to me is the overwhelming response that the video got and the support for the action that was taken against the perpetrators. I think that was encouraging because it brings back up the conversation that’s absolutely necessary for us to continue to have. Whatever sparks that conversation is something that needs to happen. Was I shocked by the video, no, was glad that it happened, no. But am I glad that there are conversations coming from it? Absolutely.”
    - Tyler Bishop, Editor and Chief at The Vanderbilt Hustler at Vanderbilt University

    Khari Arnold, Senior Copy Chief at  The Hilltop at Howard University

    Khari Arnold, Senior Copy Chief at The Hilltop

    “One guy we talked to said, ‘I wasn’t surprised. Those institutions were founded on racism so it’s not surprising they were doing racist chants. I feel like you can’t be surprised and you can’t expect people to change their culture to accommodate you.’ We had a couple people saying that they weren’t surprised … That’s why we had all the articles to enlighten them so they can see that they shouldn’t be surprised.”
    - Khari Arnold, Senior Copy Chief at The Hilltop at Howard University

    Andrew Erickson, Editor in Chief at The Daily Bruin at UCLA

    Andrew Erickson, Editor in Chief of The Daily Bruin at UCLA

    “Yeah, it’s shocking. The speech is horrifying to see that come out of a college community. These are college students saying this about fellow college students. That’s obviously something you’d never like to see. I don’t know if I was surprised, it’s just shocking when you first see it.”
    - Andrew Erickson, Editor in Chief at The Daily Bruin at UCLA

    How is Greek life responding?

    “I talked to the Vice President of the Howard chapter of Omega Psi Phi and he said he was shocked, but then he started doing research and became more aware of their founding and history in Alabama. He was telling me how he grew up in Alabama, how he had racial encounters in Alabama growing up but he said, it just made him thankful that he was part of an all-black Greek organization … You really realize the purpose of these organization because they were founded and built so that blacks could have a place in fraternities.”
    - Khari Arnold, Senior Copy Chief at The Hilltop at Howard University

    “Specifically this year, all of the fraternity presidents came together and wrote what’s called the ‘Inclusivity Agreement,’ which essentially states that going forward every chapter will make an active effort to be more inclusive of racial minorities, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those from all sexual orientations. In doing so, they publicly acknowledged that fraternities in the past have been problematic for those communities, and they’re actively trying to change it. And I think there’s been a lot of buy in. It’s been really great, particularly among campus leaders, and what I think going forward, what needs to happen is, an engagement of this agreement, an engagement of these issues on levels that aren’t necessarily at the top. Everyday conversations, everyday students understanding why this is necessary if we’re going to create a community that’s truly inclusive to everyone.”
    - Tyler Bishop, Editor and Chief at The Vanderbilt Hustler at Vanderbilt University

    Why did your publication decide to cover this story?

    We do have people who think that since they personally haven’t seen a form of racism or they don’t see someone in an all-white robe and pointy hat, they don’t think that those things exist.
    “We have to dig beneath the surface and understand that this stuff happens behind closed doors, but we are fortunate to receive a few videos here and there to see this stuff. I mention [in my op-ed] that if the individuals on the bus would have never recorded the members saying their racist chant, they would probably still be singing it and teaching it to their spring pledges. So I think it was important, especially looking at our audience who are African Americans about to go out into the world. We need to know that this is not dead. We do have people who think that since they personally haven’t seen a form of racism or they don’t see someone in an all-white robe and pointy hat, they don’t think that those things exist. So we need to realize it’s ongoing and we won’t always catch them.”
    - Khari Arnold, Senior Copy Chief at The Hilltop at Howard University

    “When I woke up Monday morning and saw the headlines, I couldn’t get over the feeling that I had. In the past, I’ve encountered racial prejudice and discrimination and just to see such a clear example of it in the headlines and in the community that frankly I’m a part of at a different school, there were just so many aspects that hit home with me. I felt that I was in a place where I could address it from a personal standpoint, and that’s kind of what led me to sit down and write out my thoughts in the form of an op-ed.”
    - Tyler Bishop, Editor and Chief at The Vanderbilt Hustler at Vanderbilt University

    How did your publication cover this story?

    “We got together, I hit them up the night the video went out saying, ‘We really should get this in the paper.’ We had about four or five different articles, we had a speak-out article where we talked to students all across our campus, getting their opinions on the video and their reactions. Then we had another piece that talked to fraternity members at Howard and their reaction. A lot of them spoke on how important it was to join a black fraternity for reasons as such in Oklahoma.”
    - Khari Arnold, Senior Copy Chief at The Hilltop at Howard University

    “The way we originally set out to cover it was we wanted to do a story on the numbers that LSU has in Greek life as far as diversity. We also had some opinion columns, I actually wrote one, I am Greek and I felt like this was something that need to be said from a fellow Greek. It was not a surprise to us when we went to do the story and we learned that the LSU Greek Life Office does not keep records of race and diversity within its members.”
    - Chandler Rome, Editor in Chief of The Daily Reveille at Louisiana State University

    The post We need to talk about racism on college campuses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks at a news conference following the two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington on March 18. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks at a news conference following the two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington on March 18. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    The Federal Reserve is no longer patient. But that doesn’t mean the central bank is impatient, Chair Janet Yellen said Wednesday.

    As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee replaced its more hesitant language about being “patient” on normalizing monetary policy with the equally vague language of reasonable confidence: The committee will raise rates when its members are “reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent” target.

    So when will that be? A June rate hike is still very much on the table. It won’t necessarily happen then, Yellen said, “but we cannot rule that out.” At her December press conference, when the FOMC first introduced the word “patient,” Yellen specified that “patient” meant two meetings.

    What the bank is saying is that hiking the federal funds rate “remains unlikely” at April’s FOMC meeting. That was never really a question (in part because Yellen is not scheduled to deliver a press conference at that meeting).

    Deciphering Federal Reserve forward guidance is often a guessing game built on parsing its carefully chosen language. But as CNBC’s Steve Liesman reminded us at Wednesday’s press conference, it wasn’t too long ago that the FOMC had more concrete metrics in its releases — specifically that the committee wouldn’t raise rates as long as unemployment was above 6.5 percent.

    To be fair to the FOMC, its members are often vague because they don’t know what the economy will look like in the future. “I don’t have a mechanical answer for you,” Yellen told reporters when pressed about what it would take for the committee to be reasonably confident about inflation rising. “Of course we cannot provide certainty,” she later added, “because we’re not certain what the data will look like.”

    Buzzwords aside, what the Fed had to say about economic growth, as well as its employment forecasts, are more interesting and tell a more dovish story about when the bank will raise rates. Notably, March’s FOMC statement acknowledges that despite continued labor market improvements, “economic growth has moderated somewhat.” That’s a change from January’s release, when the FOMC said, “economic activity has been expanding at a solid pace.” (See all of the linguistic changes in the Wall Street Journal’s statement tracker.)

    In another change from December, the Fed lowered its GDP expectations for this year based on disappointing first quarter growth. It also lowered its inflation expectations from its December projections, in part because of lower energy and export prices. The central tendency (of all the projections of Federal Reserve Board members and Federal Reserve bank presidents) is that inflation will be slightly less than 1 percent this year and not reach 2 percent until 2017. Based on those projections, there’s not much reason for the Fed to be impatient on raising rates.

    The FOMC painted a mostly sunny view of the labor market Wednesday, noting that conditions are moving toward its “maximum employment” objective. (Remember that the Fed, unlike other central banks, has a dual mandate to maintain full employment and stable prices.) The unemployment rate is currently at 5.5 percent, and the economy added nearly 300,000 jobs last month. But if its employment forecast is any indication, the Fed thinks unemployment can fall lower than it is now — perhaps to 4.8 percent in 2017 — which may be a hint the FOMC is ready to keep rates lower longer.

    Indeed, Yellen acknowledged at her press conference that there’s still significant slack in the labor market, with part-time workers unable to find full-time work and discouraged job-searchers not continuing the hunt. Average hourly wages have barely budged, having increased 0.1 percent in February.

    Although wages are an important component of the monetary policy debate — economists typically expect them (and inflation) to rise when unemployment falls — Yellen, in what could be viewed as a hawkish moment, said Wednesday that wage growth is not a “precondition” for raising rates. In fact, she said that they may not rise any time soon — a perspective echoed by economist John Komlos on Making Sen$e Tuesday.

    Overall, the FOMC’s forward guidance and the Fed’s forecasts pleased Wall Street (the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed above 18,000). For the markets, the Fed’s unassertive tone on raising rates — not impatient — may have been just the news they were waiting for: we’ll see a rate hike soon, but not yet.

    The post Somewhere between patient and impatient, Fed looks to June rate hike appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Experts in search of Cervantes' burial site examine remains found at a convent in Madrid.

    Experts in search of Cervantes’ burial site examine remains found at a convent in Madrid.

    Almost a year ago, Spanish investigators began searching the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, a 17th century convent that is still home to a dozen nuns, for the burial ground for “Don Quixote” author Miguel de Cervantes.

    On Tuesday, the scientists announced that, deep under the ground of the convent, they found remains that they believe belong to the celebrated writer, though they may never be able to guarantee the match.

    Equipped with a team of 30 researchers, infrared cameras, 3-D scanners and ground-penetrating radar, the investigators found the bygone crypt, buried about 50 inches under the convent.

    Inside, they discovered the bones they believe belonged to Cervantes’ wife and others known to be buried with Spain’s “Prince of Letters.” However, the bones were badly damaged and incredibly fragile, further complicating the quest to identify them.

    Forensic anthropologist Almudena Garcia speaks about the search of the remains of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, in front of a picture of its probable location, in Madrid March 17, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Andrea Comas

    Forensic anthropologist Almudena Garcia speaks about the search of the remains of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, in front of a picture of its probable location, in Madrid, Tuesday. Photo by Andrea Comas/Reuters

    Cervantes, who died nearly 400 years ago, is widely considered to have written the first modern novel, “Don Quixote.” The first part was published in 1605, followed by what was written as a sequel 10 years later.

    The story follows the adventures of a Don Quixote, an older man obsessed with chivalry who has read too many novels about being a knight and goes on a quest to become one, accompanied by his squire, Sancho Panza.

    An edition dated in 1605 of Miguel de Cervantes famous novel 'Don Quixote' is shown by a librarian at the National Library in Madrid March 10, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Sergio Perez

    An edition dated in 1605 of Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel “Don Quixote” is shown by a librarian at the National Library in Madrid March 10, 2014. Photo by Sergio Perez/Reuters

    Bruce Burningham is the editor of the Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America and the Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Illinois State University. He told Art Beat that the novel, which plays with notions of history and authenticity, can also be seen as a work of literary criticism.

    “[Cervantes] is commenting on the various literary genres that were popular during his day by incorporating them into the story and then tweaking or drawing attention to the conventions,” said Burningham. “So you take a look at these genres from a fresh perspective.”

    The protagonist’s idealistic and impractical nature gave us the word “quixotic” and the expression “tilting at windmills,” or taking on imaginary adversaries, which is derived from a scene in which Don Quixote jousts with the inanimate structures.

    Tourists visit the famous ancient windmills in the village of Campo de Criptana at the Castilla-La Mancha region in central Spain April 16, 2006. La Mancha windmills are part of the Miguel de Cervante's "Don Quixote", Spain's most famous literary character.  Photo by REUTERS/Victor Fraile

    Tourists visit the famous ancient windmills in the village of Campo de Criptana at the Castilla-La Mancha region in central Spain April 16, 2006. La Mancha windmills are part of the story of Don Quixote, Spain’s most famous literary character. Photo by Victor Fraile/Reuters

    Cervantes was not a writer until later in his life. He was in the armed services and participated in the famous 1571 Battle of Lepanto, where he was injured and lost of the use of his left hand.

    Four years later, he was captured by Moorish pirates, who believed that he was more important than he really was thanks to letters of recommendation that he was carrying. Cervantes was held captive for five years until the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians helped pay his ransom.

    He didn’t start writing until after he was denied from joining the Spanish conquest to the new world and had spent stints in prison for being a tax collector who didn’t properly balance his books. But his original writings — largely plays, the poetry and pastoral novels — didn’t garner much success.

    Specialists use ground-penetrating radar to peer into the sub-soil beneath Trinitarian convent in a quest to find the remains of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes, in central Madrid April 28, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Sergio Perez

    Specialists use ground-penetrating radar to peer into the sub-soil beneath Trinitarian convent in a quest to find the remains of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes, in central Madrid April 28, 2014. Photo by Sergio Perez/Reuters

    In 1605, however, his first installment of “Don Quixote” became a bestseller across Europe and was translated into English, German and French.

    Cervantes died the same week as William Shakespeare, in 1616. He had requested to be buried at the convent where he was found. Luis Avial, the georadar expert on the team, said at a news conference on Tuesday that Cervantes’ remains will be reburied at the same convent, after a tomb has been built.

    “Cervantes asked to be buried there and there he should stay,” said Avial.

    The statue of Miguel de Cervantes is seen next to the statue of one of his most famous characters, Don Quixote, from his famous novel at the monument in his honour at Plaza de Espana square in central Madrid March 7, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Susana Vera

    The statue of Miguel de Cervantes is seen next to the statue of one of his most famous characters, Don Quixote, at Plaza de Espana square in central Madrid. Photo by Susana Vera/Reuters

    Burningham believes Cervantes will inspire literary-minded people to make a pilgrimage to the site.

    “These major literary figures — Shakespeare, Cervantes, Dante and others — have become to us what us what medieval saints were to the people 500 years ago or 1000 years ago. Some famous religious figure would die and be sainted and this local church would keep a physical relic of that person’s body,” said Burningham. “Part of the excitement of finding his remains is it’s a way of creating a place that one can stand…it creates a connection.

    Madrid mayor Ana Botella said authorities are looking into opening the site to visitors, a potential boost in tourism. Next year, for the first time in centuries, the crypt will be open to the public to help mark the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death.

    “We’ve contributed a little bit to our history today,” said Botella on Tuesday.

    Editor’s note: This article originally stated that the second installment of “Don Quixote” was published 15 years after the first, not 10. It was updated on March 18.

    The post 400 years after death, Spain thinks it’s found the remains of ‘Don Quixote’ author Cervantes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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