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

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    Home For The Aged

    If it seems we are facing an epidemic of parent care and spousal care needs, it’s true. We are.

    You’ve probably heard the statistic that approximately 10,000 baby boomers reach age 65 every day. And with that milestone, age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, heart disease and other conditions occur more frequently. This means that many people in this age group are stepping up to help a parent or a chronically ill spouse, friend or relative in need.

    Almost everyone would agree that lending a hand to help a family member or someone else in need is the right thing to do. But is there a price that we pay for doing so Studies document that in many situations, caregivers put their own health at risk when they take on care for someone else.

    Today, medical advances, shorter hospital stays, limited discharge planning, and expansion of home care technologies have placed increased costs as well as increased care responsibilities on families. Caregivers are being asked to do medical tasks formerly managed in the hospital, and to provide care for longer periods of time. Those who leave the workforce to assume full-time care will forego earnings, have reduced Social Security benefits and may also lose access to employer paid health insurance. These burdens and health risks can hinder caregivers’ ability to provide care, lead to higher health care costs and affect the quality of life of both caregivers and care recipient.

    Effects of caregiving on health and well-being

    Researchers continue to study the possible negative effects of caregiving on health and well-being. We know, for example, that spouses who provide care, who are between the ages of 66 and 96, and who are experiencing mental or emotional strain, have a 63 percent higher risk of dying than people the same age who are not caregivers. A combination of emotional loss, prolonged stress and the often-heavy physical demands of caregiving, along with age-related vulnerabilities — physical frailty, sensory impairment, health problems of the caregiver — can increase caregivers’ risk for earlier death.

    For adult children, caring for a parent, spouse, partner or other relative while also juggling work, raising children and maintaining a relationship can contribute to an increased risk for depression, impaired immune system and likelihood for developing one or more chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.

    Typically, we get involved in caregiving for another adult in one of two ways. When a crisis occurs, as it did in my family, we are called into action. When my dad suffered a debilitating stroke, I dropped everything — work, family responsibilities — and jumped on a plane to be by his side at the hospital. There, my siblings and I waited, hoping for the best. For those who survive such a health crisis, the challenge then becomes how to manage ongoing care, which begins immediately after discharge and can last for months and often years.

    Another common path to caregiving occurs more subtly over time. My friend’s mother moved from another state into a local independent retirement community to be closer to her son. Over time, during their weekly grocery shopping trips and regular visits to the doctor, he started to notice she was having difficulty walking and had developed a tremor in her chin. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. When it was no longer safe for his mother to live independently, he and his wife decided to move his mom into their home, where they have progressively assumed full-time care for her.

    The risks in long-term caregiving

    Family and friends report having difficulty attending to their own health needs while managing care responsibilities for someone else. Here are a few of the common health risks for caregivers:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Poor eating habits, with a tendency toward prepared foods high in fat and sodium
  • Failure to exercise or having far less time to exercise
  • Unable to stay in bed to recuperate if they are ill
  • Depression
  • No time to keep their own medical or health appointments
  • No time for counseling to deal with the stress
  • Compounding these serious concerns are negative messages we tell ourselves. Here are a few that we hear often from caregivers:

  • There is no one else. I have to do it all.
  • I can’t seem to do anything right.
  • How can I justify taking a break when it’s my spouse who is suffering from this awful disease?
  • I don’t want to burden my children, they have enough on their plates to worry about.
  • Complaining is a sign of weakness. Others have it worse that I do.
  • Our family always takes care of our own, so I have to figure out how to make that happen.
  • Caregiving can be an emotional roller coaster. On the one hand, caring for a family member demonstrates love, commitment and can be a very rewarding experience. On the other hand, exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources (money, time, support services in the community), dysfunctional families and seemingly never-ending care demands can leave you feeling overwhelmed and without hope for a reasonably healthy caregiving experience.

    How can you gain control over your situation?

    You can’t stop the deterioration caused by a progressive chronic illness such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, nor reverse a debilitating injury. Your job is to help the person you care for feel comfortable and safe, see that he or she gets good medical and health care, and try to provide emotional, social and physical support as much as you are able.

    But at the same time, you can work to remove personal barriers to your own self-care. It’s not easy, it takes time — and it is critical. The message here is that you can take control of your own health so you don’t also end up as a patient yourself.

    Here are a few questions to think about to help you start the process:

  • What role do you play in your family or community? How important is it for you to be healthy so that you can carry out your community responsibilities?
  • When someone tells you that you aren’t doing enough, or are not performing your duties in the right way, how do you assess objectively if the concern is valid or not?
  • Do you do too much to prove that you are worthy of the care recipient’s affection or in the hope of repairing a historically fractured relationship?
  • If you ended up incapacitated or in the hospital, who would assume your caregiving responsibilities?
  • If someone offers their help, can you say “yes”? What care tasks are on your “to do” list that someone else could take on?
  • If you could redesign your caregiving situation, what would it look like? Are there one or two steps you can take toward a healthier caregiving situation? Try reading the Caregiver’s Pledge if this last question is difficult to answer.
  • It is not selfish for a spouse, adult child or partner to focus on their own needs and desires when caregiving. In fact, it is an important part of the job. In another column, we will talk about the specific strategies grounded in science for reducing stress and promoting health for family and friends who care. For now, though, these tips can help to get you started:

  • Take a break from caregiving. Make a date to go to the movies, take a walk, meet a friend for lunch. Everyone needs to get out of the house once in a while. Do something not related to caregiving.
  • Get support. Attend a support group, have a friend you can call just to let off steam and complain. Depression is treatable. Talk to your doctor about it. Or seek counseling.
  • Practice communication and behavior management skills if you are caring for someone with dementia. This will make your job easier. Learn how to do this by taking a class or reading how to online. The right way is not intuitive.
  • Relax. Read a book, meditate, pray, garden, knit, get a massage, take a long bath.
  • Take care of your health. Go to the doctor, get routine exams and flu shots, get enough sleep and eat your fruits and vegetables.
  • Change “guilt” to “regret.” Guilt is you did something wrong, regret is that you are in a difficult situation and sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, but they are not wrong.
  • Forgive yourself — often. You cannot be a perfect caregiver, all day, every day.
  • Laugh. Find ways to keep your sense of humor by sharing a silly story with a friend, watching a funny show or movie, or joining a group to try laughter yoga exercises.
  • Exercise. Walk around the neighborhood. Or even better, recruit a friend to walk with you. Sign up for an online or in-person yoga class. Join a Zumba class or line dancing class.
  • Ask for and accept help when offered. No one can do this alone.

  • More Information & Resources

    ARCH National Respite Network: Online Respite Locator is a service to help families and professionals locate respite services in their community from a database of nearly 3,000 members.

    Powerful Tools for Caregivers: A self-care education program for family caregivers.

    Veteran’s Administration Caregiver Support: Programs are available to help support family caregivers who care for a veteran.

    Long-Term Care Options Explored on PBS NewsHour:

    More Helpful Publications from Family Caregiver Alliance:

    About Family Caregiver Alliance

    Family Caregiver Alliance
    National Center on Caregiving
    785 Market Street, Suite 750
    San Francisco, CA 94103
    (415) 434-3388
    (800) 445-8106
    Website: www.caregiver.org
    E-mail: info@caregiver.org

    Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) offers an extensive online library of free educational materials for caregivers. The publications, webinars and videos offer families the kind of straightforward, practical help they need as they care for relatives with chronic or disabling health conditions.

    Family Care Navigator is FCA’s online directory of resources for caregivers in all 50 states. It includes information on government health and disability programs, legal resources, disease-specific organizations and more.

    Leah Eskenazi, MSW, is Director of Planning and Operations for Family Caregiver Alliance, based in San Francisco, California.

    The post Tips for health and sanity that every caregiver needs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Nuns at the St. Joseph Health Centre in Bangui, Central African Republic,  grow their own algae to feed to malnourished children. Photo by Sebastian Rich

    Nuns at the St. Joseph Health Centre in Bangui, Central African Republic, grow their own algae as a supplement for malnourished children who have suffered the ravages of war since 2013. Photo by Sebastian Rich

    BANGUI, Central African Republic — Dawn had barely broken over the capital city of war-torn Central African Republic. For a few minutes the golden glow of the early morning sun gave the beleaguered city a picture postcard look.

    It’s a morning light that we photographer’s covet; we call it “The Golden Hour.” The light is softer at dawn, with a depth of contrast that we find desirable. But this moment is very short and vanishes all too quickly as the sun slowly rises.

    Photo by Sebastian Rich for PBS NewsHour

    The green algae known as spirulina is a source of protein, B-vitamins and iron. Photo by Sebastian Rich for PBS NewsHour

    Unfortunately this so-called golden hour can give an illusion of comfort to any subject, and in the case of the crumbling and broken city of Bangui, which has been caught in the crossfire between warring Muslim and Christian groups. it needs all the help it can get.

    But on this occasion I can’t camouflage or misrepresent the effects of a terrible, vicious civil war that has ripped this country and its capital apart. My cameras reluctantly remain at my side as I step through the rusting gates of St. Joseph Health Centre.

    St. Joseph has seen the worst of the worst come through its doorway in a war that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands since December 2012. And one of the saddest effects of the conflict has been malnutrition, says Sister Margherita Floris, who has been the driving force of the medical center for more than 20 years.

    Sister Margherita Floris of the he St. Joseph Health Centre in Bangui, Central African Republic. Photo by Sebastian Rich for PBS NewsHour

    Sister Margherita Floris of the he St. Joseph Health Centre in Bangui, Central African Republic. Photo by Sebastian Rich for PBS NewsHour

    She tells me that the number of children being treated for acute malnutrition in Bangui “is so so many, too many, I can’t count, but we try to do our very best.”

    The nuns of the centre, who serve women and children with pre and post-natal care, do their best to alleviate the suffering of children with acute malnutrition. They have literally taken matters into their own hands.

    Instead of waiting for high protein supplements from NGO’s, which more often than not get held up because of security issues across the country, a couple of years ago the nuns took the advice of a passing French pharmacist who gave them the formula and the technical skills to grow the vitamin rich green algae spirulina in their own back yard.

    Nuns at the St. Joseph Health Centre in Bangui, Central African Republic, grow their own algae to feed to malnourished children. Photo by Sebastian Rich for PBS NewsHour

    Nuns process the algae at St. Joseph’s. Photo by Sebastian Rich for PBS NewsHour

    With materials begged and borrowed from the local community, the nuns single-handedly built the concrete tanks that would eventually grow the algae.

    The U.S.’s National institutes of Health reports that though early research on the use of this type of algae for malnutrition in infants and children has been mixed, undernourished children who were given spirulina with a combination of other food gained weight.

    Spirulina contains all of the essential amino acids plus minerals like iron. The algae is also a good source of protein, according to the USDA.

    Sister Margherita’s eyes sparkle with satisfaction as she tells me “none of our babies die anymore, we have a huge success with this.”

    Nuns at the St. Joseph Health Centre in Bangui, Central African Republic, grow their own algae to feed to malnourished children. Photo by Sebastian Rich

    The nuns at St. Joseph’s serve pregnant women before during and after they give birth. Photo by Sebastian Rich

    According to the United Nations, more children will die in CAR from malnutrition and related diseases than from bullets. Malnutrition is even more deadly in the rainy season, when diarrhoea and malaria are at their peak. Both diseases put the lives of already malnourished children in danger. It is estimated that 28,000 children in CAR will suffer from acute malnutrition this year alone.

    The sisters of St. Joseph have are helping to reduce this staggering number. Nutritionists globally have recommended to governments that spirulina be used on a large scale to combat malnutrition because of its excellent nutritional value as well as its cost effectiveness.

    The post Photos: Algae-growing nuns in Central African Republic fight malnutrition with ingenuity appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    El Bohemio, 2014. Photo by Alejandro Pérez, courtesy Lake Forest College

    El Bohemio, 2014. Photo by Alejandro Pérez, courtesy Lake Forest College

    When Cuban photographer Nelson Ramirez was eight years old, he borrowed his mother’s camera, a twin-lens reflex that requires you to reload film before each shot. Ramirez kept forgetting to reload. When he finally developed the roll of film eight years later, he noticed the negatives had multiple exposures.

    “I think those are the first manipulated photography that I did,” Ramirez told Art Beat. This week, the Robert Mann gallery in New York City opened “The Light in Cuban Eyes,” a two-month long exhibit that showcases Ramirez work along with 23 others. The exhibit is an offshoot of a book by the same name, which showcases 50 artists and was published earlier this month.

    Águilar y dragones, Hotel Havana series, 2008. Photo by Liudmila and Nelson, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Águilar y dragones, Hotel Havana series, 2008. Photo by Liudmila and Nelson, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Ramirez creates most of his artwork with his partner, Luidmila Velasco, which often use manipulation. In a 2008 series called “Hotel Havana,” two duo combined images of a street or a city landmark over time, using archival photos from the 1940s and 50s. They would layer those archival images with their own current-day photographs and images that represent people’s fears about the future, such as replacing the ideological billboards with advertisements for Coca-Coca.

    Ramirez is now the director of the Caribbean island’s version of Getty, Fototeca de Cuba. It’s in this capacity that he met Madeleine Plonsker, an art collector from Chicago who has been focusing on paper art — photographs, paintings, etchings, lithographs, etc. — with her husband for 54 years.

    Sin titulo, Absolut Revolution series, 2005. Photo by Liudmila and Nelson, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Absolut Revolution series, 2005. Photo by Liudmila and Nelson, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Plonkser first visited Havana in 2002 on a People-to-People tour of Cuban art, a trip that profoundly affected her. She wandered into an open air contemporary photography shop and, after purchasing a print, was directed across the plaza to the only photography gallery in Havana at the time. Soon she was connected with Ramirez who introduced to her photographers throughout the bustling city.

    “When I first started collecting, you had to get in a taxi and there were no taxis. You just got into an old car with an address and they lifted you around,” Plonkser said. “Sometimes, a whole afternoon had passed for five dollars, a taxi ride and three artists. It was a bit of a discovery process.”

    Compartido, Humo series, 2004. Photo by Néstor Marti, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Compartido, Humo series, 2004. Photo by Néstor Marti, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Over time, the collector started to develop strong relationships with the photographers. She would bring friends with her to Cuba and host “salons,” a sort of meet-and-greet showcase where a dozen photographers could interact with collectors. One of the first artists to participate was Pedro Abascal, a self-taught photographer who was one of the first people to take pictures freely on the street after the Soviets pulled out of Cuba.

    Abascal has spent more than 40 years as a documentary photography, which he says is a very personal form of self-expression. He says that “The Light in Cuban Eyes” is essential, especially for an American audience, because it gives a glimpse into a world that was closed for so long.

    Sin titulo, From the book "Documentos personales," 1990. Photo by Pedro Abascal, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, From the book “Documentos personales,” 1990. Photo by Pedro Abascal, courtesy Lake Forest College

    “It covers a period of time in my country which is very important to see what we have to say and how it was,” Abascal said. “[The book] puts together people like myself that were photographing around that time with film, younger people that work with digital and other people who do more conceptual work. You can see a whole spectrum of expression in photography … you can see how Cuban photography is changing, how it has grown up in a sense.”

    For Ramirez, the book and the exhibit hold a similar meaning.

    “We are looking forward to opening that door to America so they can actually see how Cuba really is today, through the eyes of the photographers and through the value of the art that we make in Cuba,” Ramirez said.

    Sin titulo, Conducta improprio SERIES, 2008. Photo by Alejandro González, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Conducta improprio SERIES, 2008. Photo by Alejandro González, courtesy Lake Forest College

    For Plonsker, whose collection is on display, she hopes the book will serve as a “bibliography of contemporary Cuban photography.”

    “Anybody who is traveling to Cuba and loves art can look at this book and make their list in a lot faster fashion that it took me which was — ten, thirteen years of my life,” Plonkser said. “I just want the world to see them and have them burst upon the contemporary scene of the world where they belong.”

    View more photographs from the book and the exhibit below:

    Prado y Malecón, From the photo essay "Habana Color," 2011. Photo by Pedro Abascal, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Prado y Malecón, From the photo essay “Habana Color,” 2011. Photo by Pedro Abascal, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Mi menú, Autorretrato bajo control series, 2009. Photo by Néstor Marti, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Mi menú, Autorretrato bajo control series, 2009. Photo by Néstor Marti, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Ferro-carril series, 2002. Photo by Lissette Solórzano , courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Ferro-carril series, 2002. Photo by Lissette Solórzano , courtesy Lake Forest College

    SED, impresión digital sobre papel fotográfico, 2010. Photo by Leysis Quesada Vera, courtesy Lake Forest College

    SED, impresión digital sobre papel fotográfico, 2010. Photo by Leysis Quesada Vera, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Campo series, 2011. Photo by Arien Chang Castán, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Campo series, 2011. Photo by Arien Chang Castán, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, La base de vianda series, 2010. Photo by Arien Chang Castán, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, La base de vianda series, 2010. Photo by Arien Chang Castán, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Blanco y negro documental series, 2009. Photo by Arien Chang Castán, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Blanco y negro documental series, 2009. Photo by Arien Chang Castán, courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Malecón series, 2005. Photo by Lissette Solórzano , courtesy Lake Forest College

    Sin titulo, Malecón series, 2005. Photo by Lissette Solórzano , courtesy Lake Forest College

    The post Photos: Exhibit allows a glimpse at Cuba, forbidden to Americans for so long appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a press conference as Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) listens on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015.      Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a press conference as Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) listens on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. On Friday, Reid announced he plans to retire next year and immediately endorsed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to take over his position as leader of the Senate Democrats. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a pugnacious and glamour-averse tactician who united Democrats to help deliver tough victories for President Barack Obama, said Friday he’s retiring next year. He immediately endorsed brash New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to succeed him as leader of a party desperate to regain the Senate majority.

    Reid, 75, rose from hardscrabble beginnings in Nevada, and brought his amateur boxer’s tenacity to the pinnacle of congressional politics.

    Friends said his doggedness and indifference to popularity helped rebuff Republicans who fiercely oppose Obama on health care, spending, immigration and other issues. But critics say Reid added to Washington’s poisonous partisanship, particularly by changing Senate filibuster rules in 2013 to enable Obama to appoint more judges.

    On Friday, Schumer seized the inside track to succeed Reid as the Democratic Senate leader after next year’s elections. Potential rival Dick Durbin of Illinois said he would back Schumer. Durbin is currently Reid’s No. 2; Schumer is No. 3.

    Stylistically, Reid and Schumer are miles apart. Schumer is voluble, outgoing, eager to talk campaign strategy, on TV or anywhere else. He sometimes works with Republicans, including an ultimately unsuccessful effort to overhaul immigration laws in 2013.

    But Schumer, 64, is a partisan fighter too, hailed by colleagues as a top fundraiser and strategist. He headed the party’s Senate campaign operations in 2006 and 2008, when Democrats made sizable gains. Colleagues’ gratitude helped him surpass Durbin as Reid’s likely successor.

    Schumer, who spent much of Friday phoning fellow Democratic senators, said in a statement he was “humbled to have the support of so many of my colleagues.”

    Durbin said he hopes to retain the second-ranking leadership post, known as party whip. Allies of Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said she might also seek that job.

    Reid, who came to Congress in 1982, lost his role as Senate majority leader when last fall’s elections swept Republicans into power. He suffered serious eye and facial injuries on New Year’s Day while exercising at his Nevada home.

    He typically has won Nevada elections by narrow margins, and Republicans were heavily targeting him in 2016. Both parties now plan all-out bids for his open seat.

    In a video statement Friday, Reid said Democrats must retake the Senate majority and “it is inappropriate for me to soak up all those resources” while remaining the caucus leader.

    Obama called Reid “a fighter” who pushed for jobs, better health care and a safer environment. He also called the senator a friend, but the two aren’t exactly cozy.

    Obama has circumvented Reid to negotiate some tough budget deals with Republicans. In a break with protocol, Reid’s chief of staff publicly suggested Obama’s low popularity hurt Democrats in the 2014 elections.

    Reid, however, saves his sharpest barbs for Republicans. After calling then-President George W. Bush “a liar” and “a loser,” Reid apologized for the “loser” comment but not the “liar.”

    He once told Bush, “Your dog is fat.”

    Reid grew up in the tiny town of Searchlight, Nevada. His mother sometimes took in laundry for pay. His father, a miner, committed suicide when Reid was 32.

    Seemingly best-suited for black-and-white photos, Reid rarely appears at Washington dinners or on TV talk shows. His voice is so mumbling and low that reporters strain to hear him.

    Fellow Democrats chose him as their leader for his institutional knowledge, listening skills and tenacity.

    Briefly holding a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority after the 2008 elections, congressional Democrats — led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi in the House, and Reid in the Senate — muscled Obama’s Affordable Care Act to enactment, without a single Republican vote.

    Other times, however, Obama and Pelosi worked around Reid. That was largely the case in resolving the 2013 “fiscal cliff” dilemma. When negotiations ground to a halt, raising the possibility of tax hikes on nearly all working Americans, Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky crafted a compromise with minimal input from Reid.

    While never wildly popular with voters, Reid is a canny campaign strategist. Facing a potentially potent GOP opponent in 2000, Reid helped a less experienced tea party-affiliated Republican win the nomination. Then he comfortably beat her in the general election.

    On Friday, Reid endorsed former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto to run for his seat next year. Democratic Rep. Dina Titus said she also is weighing a bid.

    Unworried about picking favorites, Reid told KNPR radio, “I’ve never been a shrinking violent.”

    Many Nevada Republicans would like to see Gov. Brian Sandoval run for the Senate seat, but he gave little encouragement Friday. Other GOP possibilities are Rep. Joe Heck and former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki.

    Most tributes to Reid on Friday, regardless of political party, used words like “fighter” to describe him.

    “Harry Reid has always been a tough advocate for the people of Nevada, and I have always appreciated the candid and straightforward nature of our relationship,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

    Reid’s brusqueness has hit many targets over the years. Acquaintances say he often ends phone calls without “goodbye.”

    In 2013 he clashed with his leadership predecessor — Tom Daschle of South Dakota — over an open Senate seat in that state. Reid wanted a former congresswoman to run, while Daschle wanted a former aide. Daschle’s choice prevailed but lost the general election last November to Republican Mike Rounds in a strongly pro-GOP year.

    Despite the tension, Daschle praised Reid on Friday. “He had a very, very difficult job,” Daschle said in an interview. “This is a challenging time for anyone in political leadership.”

    Daschle said Reid was justified in changing the filibuster rules in 2013, calling it “probably inevitable.”

    Associated Press writers Alan Fram in Washington and Riley Snyder in Carson City, Nevada, contributed to this report.

    The post Pugnacious Reid retiring, wants Schumer as Senate Dem leader appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    TOM HANKS: “What’s the matter, Mama?”

    SALLY FIELD: “I’m dying, Forrest.”

    LYNN SHERR:  It’s been a Hollywood staple for decades: the deathbed scene – here, Forrest Gump’s Mom (Sally Field) reminding her son (played by Tom Hanks), that death is a natural part of life.  But when end-of-life conversations with doctors were encouraged by the government back in 2009 during the Obamacare debate, opponents called them “death panels” and the idea became toxic.  Some called it “pulling the plug on grandma.”  That was then.

    LACHLAN FORROW: It is exactly the opposite.  It is about grandma controlling the plug. Grandma or her designee controls the plug and that’s the system we’re going to have.

    LYNN SHERR:  Dr. Lachlan Forrow, a specialist in ethics and palliative care at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is at the forefront of a new national movement to make talking about death public policy. He chaired the expert medical panel that helped lead to new Massachusetts regulations — the first in the nation, which took effect in December – mandating that health facilities – from hospitals to assisted living communities – tell terminally ill patients their end-of-life options.

    LACHLAN FORROW:  The full range of the choices.  From “Keep me alive, no matter what, as long as medicine can do that,” to “I just want to be home with my family, with hospice,” to anything in between or any sequence.

    LYNN SHERR: Nationally, a number of private insurers are already reimbursing doctors for having those talks.  Among the critical first steps: an advance directive and a health care proxy so someone you trust can legally make decisions if you’re incapacitated.

    And almost six years after the Obamacare proposal perished in the political graveyard, Medicare is now reviewing the possibility of paying for such discussions, which have been endorsed by the American Medical Association.  A decision could come by the end of this year.

    LACHLAN FORROW: We are just starting to emerge, so that politicians and others realize this is not the third rail of politics.  You are not destroying your career by talking about improving care in the last phase of life.

    LYNN SHERR:  But advocates say policy doesn’t change until the culture does, and inserting such private conversations into the public arena may require a new approach.

    ELLEN GOODMAN:  Sometimes people think you talk about dying and you let it into the room, you know, that if I talk about this today, it’ll happen tomorrow.

    LYNN SHERR:  Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ellen Goodman is on a mission to make death part of popular conversation.  For more than 35 years, she chronicled American social change in her widely syndicated columns for the Boston Globe.

    She wrote about the values instilled in her as a child, by her father, who helped run John F Kennedy’s first Senate campaign, and her homemaker mother, Edith.  But Goodman only realized the consequences of leaving certain things unsaid about a dozen years ago, when her mother’s health started to fail.

    ELLEN GOODMAN:  I think we all have this fantasy that we’re gonna live to 90 and then, Kaboom! You know?  But in fact the reality is that many of us will face a long period of being frail and declining.  And I would say that my mother began to decline somewhere in her 80s, really.

    LYNN SHERR:  After her mother moved to a long-term care facility a few miles away, Goodman found herself making medical decisions she hadn’t dreamed of, especially because Edith began to suffer from dementia.

    ELLEN GOODMAN: My mother could really no longer decide what she wanted for lunch, let alone what she wanted for health care decisions. So, I was faced with a kind of cascading number of decisions, for which I was unprepared. In fact, blindsided.

    ELLEN GOODMAN: And I remember particularly one day when I got a call on the phone and I was on deadline.  And the doctor said to me, “Your mother has another bout of pneumonia.  Do you want her to have antibiotics?”

    And I remember my hands being poised over the keyboard, saying, “What is he asking me?  Is he asking me do I want her to live or die?  You know, can I call you back?  Could I have a minute?” And so, it was quite shocking to me that those decisions fell to me.  I’d just never thought about it before.

    LYNN SHERR: What you’re saying is, you never talked to her about these things ahead of time?

    ELLEN GOODMAN:  Well, we didn’t talk in a way that was useful. From time to time if we were together my mother would say, “I never want to be like that.  Pull the plug.”  You know. A lot of people say that.  Well, there’s generally no plug to pull.

    LYNN SHERR:  Edith Holtz died at 92 in 2006.  Four years later, Goodman co-founded The Conversation Project, a non-profit to urge people to express their end-of-life desires — to have The Conversation with those close to them — early on, before it’s too late.

    Advised by a group of healthcare professionals (including Dr. Forrow), its website has attracted almost a quarter million visitors; more than half have downloaded the Starter Kit, a kind of security blanket to jump start the process.

    LYNN SHERR: ​When you download the Kit, you’ll find plenty of useful and practical advice on how to get an otherwise uncomfortable discussion going.  For openers, you are asked to complete the following sentence:  What matters to me at the end of life is…”

    You’re also invited to consider where you want to have The Conversation, with whom, and where.  And there are suggestions of the actual words you can use to break the ice.  For instance, “I need to think about the future, will you help me?”

    CHUCK KOPLIK:  We talked about nursing homes and you know, living at home.  We talked about pain management.  We talked about all kinds of issues that we wouldn’t otherwise have ever talk about, until the time was upon us.

    LYNN SHERR:  Husband and wife Chuck Koplik and Sue Tafler of Lexington, Massachusetts, recently had The Conversation with their only child, Sarah Yukich.  Inspired by a workshop on The Conversation Project at their synagogue, Chuck and Sue — in their 60s, and in good health (except for recent surgery on Sue’s foot) — sat down here, in their living room.  They were most concerned about the effect on Sarah.

    SUE TAFLER:  I could just tell I was unsettling her.  So that was difficult.

    SARAH YUKICH: I’m 32.  I have a two-year-old.  I’m an adult, and I know that, but at the same time interacting with my parents, I’m their child.  I’m not their caretaker.  And trying to think about that eventual role reversal is very scary.

    LYNN SHERR: So when they suggested having the conversation, your first reaction was…

    SARAH YUKICH:​ I was happy that they were suggesting it.  Because it’s something that I have wanted to talk to them about.  But I didn’t really have any idea of how to bring it up.

    LYNN SHERR:  Sarah says she was especially relieved when they said that moving them to Maryland, where she lives, for long-term care, would be acceptable.

    SARAH YUKICH:  And to have my parents say, “Oh, we’ve thought about this and are aware that that might happen at some point.  And it would be okay.”  It was like, ‘Oh, OK.”  So now I don’t have to be sort of holding that inside, but not really knowing how to bring it up.”

    LYNN SHERR: Was this about gaining control over the end of your life?

    SUE TAFLER: Yeah, I’m very much a planner and manager.  I think in some ways it kind of gives me a little bit of a sense of control.  I’m sort of starting to think about it.

    CHUCK KOPLIK: Yeah, my biggest fears would be that you know, that I’d be in pain, or maybe I wasn’t so clearheaded, and the doctors would be making decisions on what my treatment would be.  And then they’d be making the decisions.

    LYNN SHERR:  Individuals– not medical staff — should determine those issues, says The Conversation Project, by making their values and wishes known to the people they love.

    According to a survey the group conducted, more than 90 percent of people agree, saying they should have The Conversation.

    But only 30 percent have done so.  Which is why they’re expanding their public engagement campaign.  Goodman herself, who used to cover social change and its influence on our institutions, now makes it happen.

    ELLEN GOODMAN: Let me show you statistics.  70 percent of Americans say they want to die at home, and 70 percent of Americans are dying in hospitals and institutions…

    LYNN SHERR:  They’re co-sponsoring “Death over Dinner” parties—social gatherings to approach the subject in a cozy setting, so people can break bread while breaking the taboo…

    IRA BYOCK:  Thank you all for being here…

    LYNN SHERR:   They’ve also had some luck convincing TV writers to include family conversations about death in their scripts…

    LYNN SHERR:  It’s all about making the subject safe, bringing it home, because, The Conversation Project says, nothing will change until people start talking about it.

    LYNN SHERR:  You have kids.  You have grandkids.  You have a husband.  Have you had the conversation?

    ELLEN GOODMAN:  Oh yes, I’ve had it.  My daughter’s a comedian, and her first response when I said, “Let’s have this conversation,” was, “Can’t we have lunch?”  But we did get through it.

    We did talk about it.  And I have talked about it with my husband and with most of the people in my family.

    People, when they have these conversations with each other, describe them as some of the richest personal moments they’ve had with people they love.  Someone described having the conversation to us as a gift.  It’s a gift you give your family.

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    People gather at the site of an air strike at a residential area near Sanaa Airport March 26, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

    People gather at the site of an air strike at a residential area near Sanaa Airport March 26, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

    As Saudi airstrikes against Houthi rebels enter their second day, Unicef has cautioned that a humanitarian crisis in Yemen could become reality within a year.

    According to Julien Harneis, Unicef’s spokesperson for the country, major progress in ensuring food security and access to health care risk being turned back as sources of international aid, including the World Bank and Saudi Arabian donors, are suspending their local activity.

    The timing of this withdrawal couldn’t be more problematic, as over half of the population lives in poverty and millions lack adequate access to food and medical services. Yemen was already among the Arab world’s poorest countries before the internal crisis escalated.

    Harneis added that spreading violence would result in more than malnutrition and dwindling medical supplies if more guns are put into the hands of children, who already make up 30% of soldiers fighting for various groups opposing Houthi domination.

    Although he praised the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development for the continued allocation of funds to Yemen, he urged other international bodies to take a more active role in providing humanitarian aid.

    As of today, the conflict shows no signs of calming down. Morocco became the latest member of the Saudi-led alliance against the Iranian-supported Houthi group, who sent President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fleeing from the capital Sana’a last month. Saudi airstrikes have received the backing of U.S., Turkey, the Gulf states and Egypt, who announced yesterday that it would consider sending ground troops into Yemen.

    The airstrikes have already inflicted civilian deaths, although reports on the precise number are conflicting. The Guardian has reported that the number is “thought to be 18”, while a Houthi television network claimed that dozens of people have been killed.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s widely considered one of the masterworks of contemporary dance. And tonight on “Great Performances,” viewers have a chance to see for themselves.

    And again to Jeffrey Brown, who has our preview, with choreographer Mark Morris.

    MARK MORRIS, Choreographer: It’s the longest whole dance, probably two or three times longer than anything I had done.

    I had a wonderful situation. It’s all I worked on for several months. It probably took about three months to choreograph it, working every day, with everybody really killing — knocking themselves out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Everything about the dance “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato” is grand, its sweep of movement and color, its 32 scenes brought to life by two dozen dancers, its music, the piece with full orchestra and voices, written in 1740 by Handel using poems by Milton.

    MARK MORRIS: I heard it and I pretty much immediately knew that I was eventually going to have to deal with it and make it into an evening of dancing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Three years ago, marking the dance’s 25th anniversary, New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay wrote that — quote — “seemed a masterpiece in its opening season.” Twenty-five years on, it’s also a classic.

    But, says Mark Morris now, it wasn’t easy.

    MARK MORRIS: I have been probably fun during the rehearsal process than I was during this one. But it was really…

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have been more fun?

    MARK MORRIS: I have more fun. I got a little bit — I freaked out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Morris started his dance company in 1980, when he was just 24, and danced himself in many of his works until recent years. “L’Allegro” early on cemented his place as one of the era’s leading choreographers and showcased the elements that have come to characterize his work.

    There’s the beautiful symmetry of movement, as seen here in what’s called “The Ladies Dance.” There’s also the sheer fun, low comedy, if you will, in a section called “The Stupid Men Dance.”

    The original name of Milton’s poem, “L’Allegro,” “The Happy One,” and “Il Penseroso,” “The Thoughtful One,” inspired Morris as two sides of life and he plays with that reality throughout the dance.

    MARK MORRIS: It’s not like bipolar disorder. It’s more like half-full and half-empty kind of thing.

    And so it’s not characters. It’s people. It’s communities. It’s civilization, it’s individuals, and it also cites many, many examples of natural life, of forests and animals and birds and cities. In order to get all of that across, I was compelled to make my dancers behave as not just people, but animals and shrubberies and fireplaces. So the dancers are the living decor and they’re the wonderful characters. So, it’s complicated.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re smiling as you say that. You like the idea of turning your dancers into all those things.

    MARK MORRIS: Yes, exactly. Yes. Well, they’re very imaginative and very versatile.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In 2001, Morris’ company moved into a permanent home in Brooklyn, itself a grand space for rehearsals, performances and classes that attract more than 8,000 students, young and old.

    Meanwhile, the company itself continues to evolve, including the group performing in the TV production of “L’Allegro.”

    MARK MORRIS: Now, for the first time, there isn’t one person who was in it in the first performance. I think of the people who used to do those parts. And a lot of them are good friends of mine or still work with me, but the dance keeps moving on, and the personnel changes as it goes, but the steps don’t change.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So now it’s a multigenerational dance.

    MARK MORRIS: Yes, exactly. So they are all going to be home crying a little bit in front of their TV sets with the beautiful memories of having done it, because it’s a very beautiful piece. I can’t resist telling you that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about for you, changes in 25-plus years?

    MARK MORRIS: None. Zero. There are no — there’s difference, except now, if I drop something on the floor, I wait until I drop two more things before I pick it up. That’s all.


    MARK MORRIS: I spend less time getting up off the ground than I used to.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In Mark Morris’ grand piece, of course, it’s the dancers who do all the work now. The full performance on “Great Performances” can be seen tonight.

    From New York, for the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, let’s talk about Harry Reid.

    Mark, he announced he’s retiring, not until the end of next year, but this is after being the face — the leader and the face of the Democratic Party in the Senate. What does this mean for Democrats?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, first, just a quick word about Harry Reid.

    I mean, Harry Reid wasn’t born to privilege or advantage. There’s no pedigree there. There are eight counties in Nevada where prostitution is legal, and Harry Reid lived in one of them in Searchlight, Nevada. His mother took in the laundry from the local brothel. His dad was a miner who had a problem with alcohol and committed suicide.

    He went to law school nights here. He worked as a Capitol Policeman up on Capitol Hill, totally self-made man, which somebody say relieves the creator of a great responsibility.


    MARK SHIELDS: But he was tough as nails. He was determined. His word, you could take to the bank. You could talk to any Democrat, talk to anybody on the hill. That was the thing about Harry Reid. He was incredibly determined, tough, no-holds-barred.

    You didn’t want — you wanted him on your side if you were in a foxhole, not smooth and not Sunday morning chat show, not a charmer, short on charisma, but I would say an effective leader. And he probably knew the time was right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And would say, he’s still there for another year-and-a-half.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, fair — and, in fairness, let’s say there is no Obamacare, there is no Affordable Care Act without Nancy Pelosi as speaker and Harry Reid as leader. There’s no Dodd-Frank without Pelosi and Reid. There is no $800 billion stimulus to save the economy from the precipice without Reid and Pelosi.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He had his detractors as — has his detractors as well.

    DAVID BROOKS: The good part was, as Mark said, he was rooted, rooted in Searchlight. And he talked about Searchlight all the time.

    I once heard him say that he played on a football field in high school that was only 98 yards long. I never quite understood that. Nothing but ground out there in Searchlight, but played on a short field.


    DAVID BROOKS: But he talked about that and remained rooted in that, so was never really of the Washington culture, I would say, even though he was obviously — or he’s still here a long time.

    And the good part is, the effective part, as Mark says, to keep 60 votes together among a very diverse Democratic body was — that is an accomplishment. The bad side, probably the detractors will say, is, he was sometimes extremely loose and sometimes extremely bizarre with the things he said and could be, in my view, overly tough on people, overly rash, overly cruel even.

    And so sometimes the public projections weren’t all that one would want in a statesman. But I have always had a soft spot for him, in part because he’s a big watcher of this show, but also because he…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re always glad to hear that.


    But, listen, there’s an authenticity to the guy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what does it mean, Mark, for the Democrats? We would say, Reid came right out and said he wants Chuck Schumer of New York to be his successor as the leader of the party. How are things going to change after?

    MARK SHIELDS: Reid and Schumer were as close as two people can be, and not to arouse the suspicions of their spouses. I mean, they talk together five or six times a day.


    MARK SHIELDS: So, he did. He leapfrogged Dick Durbin, the deputy, and went to Chuck Schumer, the third in line.

    And it means that Reid is there for 22 months. It means Schumer is probably — undoubtedly the favorite. We would question whether the women in the Senate will mount any kind of candidacy for at least representation, whether Patty Murray perhaps the most likely.

    But these votes inside a body, Judy, are next to impossible to predict. I remember when Bob Byrd upset Ted Kennedy as the Democratic whip. And Ted Kennedy said afterwards, “I want to thank the 32 senators who committed to vote for me and the 27 who did.”

    And so you can’t tell, but I would have to say that Schumer is the favorite.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just because he named Schumer doesn’t mean it’s going to happen?

    DAVID BROOKS: No. Everyone gets a vote.

    And what is interesting about Schumer is, he seems superficially much more ideological, maybe further to the left, but I think Schumer is practical as well. And in some senses, you could even have — if there were ever a possibility for bipartisan compromise, I think Schumer, though is ideologically quite out there and his verbal style is certainly out there, I think he would be capable of quite surprising compromises on occasion.

    So if that comes along, I think Schumer would be pretty good at that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about another senator, freshman Republican, Mark, Ted Cruz of Texas, who became the first candidate to officially announce his candidacy. He didn’t stop along the way and announce an exploratory committee. He said, I’m in it, I’m running for the Republican nomination.

    Smart to be out there so early, ahead of everybody else? And what are the pluses and the minuses?

    MARK SHIELDS: Think about how people announced in 2008, and some in 2012, e-mail, on YouTube. I mean, this was a show of shows. This was Ed Sullivan. This was Dean Martin. This was…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The speech he gave at Liberty University.

    MARK SHIELDS: Liberate University, 10,000 people in the round, no notes, no teleprompter, just a speech that Ted Cruz has been rehearsing for 18 years, all replete with pauses at the moment, as he’s trying to think of that next word…


    MARK SHIELDS: … but, you know, I think a terrific performance. I think he will be a formidable debater.

    Unlike the two previous Texas statewide Republicans, George W. Bush and Rick Perry, he won’t stumble over his words, he won’t fracture his syntax, and he will — he takes a no-holds-barred approach. He didn’t come to compromise, he’s not a coalition builder, he’s going to fight for principle.

    And I think he could move the debate to the right, and I think that’s a real concern, on the force of his intellect and his personality and his — yes, that’s it.


    Well, picking Liberty, a Christian school, was clearly a sign that he’s going to run to be the inheritor of the evangelical vote. There’s a shot he could be that. He’s got some competition on that side, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, a lot of the others, but that’s a powerful vote, especially in some of the early caucus states.

    He’s a new style of politician with no history of governance, really, no effectiveness as a legislature, but a good media personality and a spokesperson. And, to me, it’s a bit of politics as show business. And I don’t think he has much of a chance, in part because it’s such a crowded field, and in many ways a more qualified field than him, in part because I just don’t think he radiates sincerity.

    There are a lot of people who are plenty conservative, but they just don’t find him that sincere. And so he’s so smart. He’s thinking it all through. He’s very polished, but a lot of people think it’s all — it’s so cleverly thought through, they’re not quite comfortable. And so will he arouse people, passions the way some true — someone who seems more sincere will? I’m a little acceptable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there’s the — I guess the conventional wisdom at this point is, there are two contests in the Republican Party. One is for the conservative banner carrier and the other, Mark, for the mainstream Republican banner carrier.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that just too simple a way to look at this?

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, it is, Judy, but that’s all right.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was my theory, so…

    MARK SHIELDS: No, it wasn’t your theory. It’s one that is imposed.

    There’s Tea Party, which are the economic and anti-government conservatives. Then there’s the cultural or moral religious conservatives. I think there’s an overlap, but they’re distinct. There is the governing Republicans, those who really think, gee, it’s important to be able to govern. And then there are sort of the Wall Street or business Republicans.

    So, I think there’s almost four different groups. I will say this about Ted Cruz. He stands in total opposite to what happened this week in Congress. We have spent months, years just kicking the daylights out of Congress for doing nothing. And this week, we saw an act on grownups on the part of Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and they passed a Medicare doc fix, something 17 times in 10 years — 12 years — they have patched this, they have kicked the can down the road.

    This time, they did it and led their caucuses. And, you know, we say we want this. Ted Cruz gets cheers for saying he won’t compromise. And Pelosi and Boehner get very few kudos for being grownups and, I think, showing real leadership.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is figuring out what doctors get from Medicare reimbursements.

    DAVID BROOKS: Cruz’s strategy, clearly with his debating skills, is to pick a fight, pick a fight, pick a fight. And anybody who isn’t quite as pure as him will be a RINO, a Republican in name only.

    And that may work for him. I actually — I have 32 categories of the candidates.


    DAVID BROOKS: Because there are 487 of them, I think, at this count.


    DAVID BROOKS: But, no, I actually think the categories are a little overblown when voters — they are not aware of the ideological distinctions that we make between the neocons and the proto-neocons and all that.

    They’re looking at personality.

    MARK SHIELDS: Right.

    DAVID BROOKS: And I do think character and personality are just golden.

    And you look at a Scott Walker, who can point to some horrible stories that happened to him while he was in the Wisconsin fight. He seems sort of attractive. Marco Rubio is a smart, attractive person. You just have got to — you have to be with the guy for four years. I’m not sure people are going to want…

    MARK SHIELDS: Just one point on what David made.

    And Bill Cohen, the former secretary of defense, United States senator from Maine, congressman, mayor, had a great aphorism, which is, before they vote for you, they have to like you. And I think that is…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Makes sense.

    MARK SHIELDS: And it really does for president. It’s a very personal choice.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is unfair to ask you both about this, Yemen, what’s been going on. We have been covering it all week.

    We now see the Saudis involved there hitting these Shia rebels, the Houthis. I guess my very quick question to both of you is, John McCain this week — yesterday accused the Obama administration of just not having its eye on the ball, not being engaged. Is this one where the U.S. should be more involved, Mark?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, this is the dilemma we face in each of them. I mean, do we stand outside and watch ISIS, or whatever its incarnation is under whatever religious banner it might be, take over and disable?

    I mean, these are nonfunctioning states that we are talking about. Or do we engage and then incur the wrath and the enmity, as well as the casualties? And I think this is it. I mean, as far — is there an overarching strategy, a coherent policy? I haven’t seen it, Judy, but I don’t pretend to be a detective.


    Well, we’re a victim of circumstance. We’re just reacting to whoever it is that’s happening that — most which we do not foresee. And therefore, we’re fighting with Iran here, but against Iran there. We’re negotiating with Iran over there. And so we’re just — it’s case by case.

    And to me, that’s a problem of a strategy which is unreaistic. I do think the president had a strategy, which was to turn Iran into a member of the community of nations in some way and then use that as a pivot to sort of stabilize the region. I think that’s an unrealistic strategy. But that’s the strategy we have.

    But when it’s compared to the actual world, it leaves us without a strategy. And so we’re reacting. I think what we need is obviously a strategy that takes acute awareness of our limits here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And speaking of which, we’re looking at the deadline for these Iran nuclear talks next Tuesday.

    MARK SHIELDS: We are. But we have no government in Baghdad.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re going to have to save it for next week.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Please come back.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: sharks. Just saying the word can send shivers down the spines of some, but as Hari Sreenivasan found in this report, studying their skin could be key to fighting diease and is on the cutting edge of the larger push announced at the White House today to contain superbugs.

    It’s part of our Breakthroughs series on innovation and invention.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In a Colorado laboratory, 1,000 miles from the ocean, a team of scientists is trying to use the skin of a shark to save the lives of humans. The company called Sharklet Technologies has invented a manmade material that, like the skin of a shark, repels deadly bacteria.

    Sharklet CEO Mark Spiecker:

    MARK SPIECKER, CEO, Sharklet Technologies: We use textures inspired by the skin of sharks to control bacteria on surfaces, no chemicals, no antibiotics, no heavy metals. It’s really just the shape of the surface that the bacteria don’t like.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Scientist Ethan Mann shows how the bacteria, in this case a common staph germ, has trouble both attaching and growing to the Sharklet pattern.

    ETHAN MANN: We compare a smooth surface right now to a Sharklet surface. There’s 10 to 100 more bacteria on the smooth surface compared to a Sharklet surface.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Spiecker and his team hope to bring Sharklet into hospitals.

    MARK SPIECKER: We have got different kind of films. You can take those. Just peel and stick them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: They have created a textured film which can be attached to high-touch areas, like handrails and doorknobs.

    MARK SPIECKER: About two million people a year get what are called hospital-acquired infections. That means they went in to the hospital for knee surgery or hip surgery and they ended up getting some kind of infection while there that they didn’t bring in with them.

    Of those two million people, we spend about $30 billion a year treating those infections, and 100,000 people a year die from those infections.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A superbug outbreak has infected at least seven patients at a Los Angeles hospital, two of whom died.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Recent news about superbugs have brought new urgency to the issue.

    The idea came from Anthony Brennan, a professor of engineering at the University of Florida. It all started 14 years ago, when Brennan was asked by the Navy to find a way to keep barnacles from attaching to their ships.

    ANTHONY BRENNAN, University of Florida: As I was doing some evaluations for the Office Of Naval research, I came across this idea of the sharks, little nurse sharks, and I said, they don’t get barnacles on them, but a ship sitting in a harbor at a dock will have that same current, and they get barnacles.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: When Brennan mimicked the surface topography in his lab:

    ANTHONY BRENNAN: Lo and behold, the shark’s skin is very effective against the green algae.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Brennan believes the complex texture on a shark creates a dynamic and unstable environment for organisms.

    ANTHONY BRENNAN: Places that should get cleaned more, but often don’t.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This fall, the company released a comparison study showing 94 percent less bacteria attached to surfaces with the microscopic shark skin pattern. This held true with multidrug-resistant staph bacteria or MRSA.

    MARK SPIECKER: Some of the bacteria that are out there are resistant. They’re the multidrug-resistant bacteria that are resistant to different antibiotics. We just don’t want the bacteria to attach to our surface. And when they don’t attach, they die. So, whether they’re resistant or not resistant, they don’t like our surface.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Of course, a much simpler way to control the transfer of bacteria is diligent hand-washing. Whether hospitals will want to spend money on technology for a problem that can be addressed with sterile washing procedures may be a challenge for the company.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Dr. Margaret Sande is an associate professor at the University of Colorado Medical School.

    DR. MARGARET SANDE, University of Colorado Medical School: We find that hand contact, as clinicians are going quickly from room to room, is often a means of transmission. So the hand can be sort of the source of all evil as we then deal with devices that we use to treat patients like catheters, et cetera. Things that become invasive then become a portal for infection for our patients.   

    HARI SREENIVASAN: An emergency medicine doctor, Dr. Sande says nothing should replace rigorous hand-washing, but when time is critical, it can be forgotten

    DR. MARGARET SANDE: When it really is a matter of life or death, people are always, by their natural instinct, going to jump in, roll up their sleeves and act.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sande runs the university’s Wells Simulation Center, where medical students practice on high-tech mannequins.

    DR. MARGARET SANDE: Minute by minute, we’re adjusting vital signs, we’re adjusting lab abnormalities or the course of the patient, depending on what is done to the patient during that scenario.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Last fall, Sande conducted a study with the Sharklet surface covering high-touch surfaces like the cart handles and drug vials.

    DR. MARGARET SANDE: We intentionally had the staph aureus bacteria, which is a common bacteria, all on the leg of the patient, so that they started with a touch of the leg.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sande then simulated a pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest, the same scenario these graduate students were given on the day we visited.

    DR. MARGARET SANDE: The patient became critically ill, and needed to have the defibrillator applied. And they grabbed that cart and they had to engage the defibrillator by pushing the button. We were able to prompt them essentially as the case unfolded to touch certain places in a given sequence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The surfaces covered with the Sharklet film retained fewer germs.

    MARK SPIECKER: There difference between the Sharklet surface the non-Sharklet surface was about a 13-fold decrease in bacteria that transferred on to those surfaces.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While the commercial appeal of Sharklet surfaces remains unproven, the company has won support from one key backer, the National Institutes of Health.  They awarded them $1.2 million to further develop the technology.

    I’m Hari Sreenivasan for the PBS NewsHour.


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    A man carries goods on top of his head at an open market in front of election posters in Kano

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    JEFFREY BROWN: And joining me to discuss tomorrow’s election and what it means is the Nigeria bureau chief for the Associated Press, Michelle Faul.

    Welcome to you.

    So, is this election now about the two men, the two regions, the economy, Boko Haram?  What’s it coming down to?

    MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press: I think it comes down to the future of Nigeria.

    And President Obama in his message to the Nigerian people was very clear when he said that this is a matter of keeping Nigeria together, of the need for Nigerians to unite. And there are very real fears of violence here. And that’s because the contest between these two men is so incredibly close.

    And that’s a good thing, in a way. As the human rights commissioner said, it’s a cause for celebration. It should be a sign that Nigeria’s democracy is maturing. But in fact what’s happened is, even before the voting started, a campaign that’s degenerated into the kind of worst hate speech.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How much is the outcome determining the fight against Boko Haram and how that proceeds from here?

    MICHELLE FAUL: There are lots of people who will tell you, critics of President Jonathan, that reason that, at this point, the military were able to announce today that they have cleared Boko Haram out of the three northeastern states, is that that was done because of President Jonathan’s reelection bid as a political ploy.

    The military have said that they were waiting to get the arms and training in order to make this push against Boko Haram. But, either way, on the eve of the election, we have this major announcement of victory over Boko Haram, one, by the way, that I do not think is likely, you know, that they have absolutely done away with Boko Haram.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You mean because they have announced such things in the past and it’s hard to verify at this point?

    MICHELLE FAUL: Well, because of that, and also because I think, from speaking with analysts and diplomats and just my own knowledge of what’s happening on the ground there, that this is not going to be a campaign to annihilate Boko Haram, that the best you can hope for is that you push them out of the territory that they have been holding now, as the West Africa franchise of I.S., and you’re left with a situation where they will continue to make hit-and-run attacks and you will continue to have suicide bombings.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What is the potential that the vote, because it is close, will be inconclusive?  And there is talk about a potential for violence in its aftermath.

    MICHELLE FAUL: There are great fears.

    I mean, the pre-election violence has been unprecedented. Dozens of people have been killed. And, if you remember, after 2011 elections, again, the same two contenders. General Buhari lost President Jonathan won. The north went up in flames, riots, and over 1,000 people were killed then. And this is much more contentious, the reason being that Nigeria’s political landscape has just been transformed.

    Two years ago, the main political parties came together and formed an opposition, not just formed an opposition. They have united behind one candidate, which for the first time in the history of Nigeria — and that’s since independence, 1960, from Britain — for the first time in its history, you have the possibility of an actual democratic change of power. It’s never happened before.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Michelle Faul of the Associated Press in Nigeria, thank you so much.

    MICHELLE FAUL: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, millions in Africa’s most populous country will turn out to vote in a very tight presidential race, with fears of terrorism looming.

    Jeffrey Brown reports on the Nigerian election.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The two front-runners are coming down to the wire in what could be closest election since the end of military rule in 1999.

    President Goodluck Jonathan is facing off against former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari to lead Africa’s largest economy, its biggest oil producer and home to 173 million people. One man must win more than 50 percent of tomorrow’s vote to avoid a runoff.

    PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, Nigeria: Let us all, political party leaders, contestants, party members, party agents, supporters, and ordinary voters alike, be very cautious of the fact that the eyes of the entire world are on us.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Jonathan, a Christian from the south, has been in power since 2011. Buhari, a Muslim from the north, is a retired general who ruled Nigeria in the 1980s following a military coup. He is running on an anti-corruption platform.

    MUHAMMADU BUHARI, Nigerian Presidential Candidate: I am not contesting this election because I want power and money. I am doing so because Nigerians believe I am what it takes to achieve a much needed change.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But hanging over the election, and sidelining normal election-year issues, is the rise of Boko Haram. The Islamic militant group has killed more than 1,000 civilians this year alone, and controls parts of Northern Nigeria. It recently pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

    President Jonathan cited the Boko Haram threat when, in early February, he delayed this election six weeks. Now Jonathan says the army has beat back the group, even though many areas in the north will still have no polling stations.

    Just today, the military said it recaptured a northeastern town and destroyed the militants’ headquarters in the process.

    GEN. CHRISTOPHER OLUKOLADE, Defense Spokesman, Nigeria: A lot of arms and ammunition have been recovered, and the administrative headquarters of the terrorists have been completely destroyed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But whether it is actually the Nigerian military making those gains is an open question. The Nigerian government reportedly has used mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union to press the offensive.

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    VERDICT KCPB ellen pao  silicon valley case

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a verdict in a sex discrimination case in Silicon Valley that’s been widely watched. A jury of six men and six women found gender wasn’t a factor in the firing of a former junior partner at a leading venture capital firm.

    Our Hari Sreenivasan has the story from our PBS station KQED in San Francisco.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The sex discrimination case drew attention to gender imbalance, working conditions and outright discrimination for women in the tech world.

    Attorneys for Ellen Pao argued she was denied a promotion at Kleiner Perkins and kept out of meetings because she is a woman. She was later fired in 2012. Kleiner Perkins said Pao was a chronic complainer who twisted the facts and wasn’t a team player. The jury rejected all of Pao’s gender discrimination claims.

    Late today, the judge sent the jury back to reconsider one claim: whether she was fired in retaliation after making complaints.

    Fran Maier is the founder of TRUSTe, an online privacy management services provider, and co-founder of Match.com. And she’s been watching this case closely.

    So, are you surprised by the decision?

    FRAN MAIER, Founder, TRUSTe: You know, I think, from the beginning, everybody thought it was going to be a tough case one way or the other.

    Ellen is complex. There were a lot of different kinds of issues. And gender discrimination suits are hard to prove. But I am disappointed and I think many women in the tech world are very disappointed today.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, was this a symbolic case in some measures?

    FRAN MAIER: Well, there’s been a lot of stories about women and technology that haven’t been very favorable, frankly, to men in technology.

    We have the situation Uber and “Boober” and Titstare, a new app, and other kinds of issues that have been coming out. And there are so many images of boys running the show that, for many women, it was seen as our opportunity to talk about the reality of working in tech companies, working in a venture capital, and trying to see some good things happen and change.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it specific just to the venture capital world or the larger tech world?

    FRAN MAIER: I think most women in Silicon Valley see it as a larger tech world.

    And, in fact, tech companies don’t do very well with women in the C-suite or at the vice president level or at board. My ex-company has 42 percent women in management at the director level, so I’m happy about that, but many companies don’t. And every woman I know can say that they can — that Ellen’s experience resonated with them.

    So, for example, not being invited to the ski trip, or having — not having a seat at the table, or the slight sexual harassment or sexual discrimination things, we have all experienced it.


    So, what does this do — I mean, Kleiner Perkins is one of Silicon Valley’s largest, most well-reputed venture capital firms. Does this do something to their reputation, whether she wins or loses? She lost today.

    FRAN MAIER: I think, from the very beginning, Kleiner Perkins, because of their influence, certainly was getting the spotlight here and other V.C. firms.

    Only 6 percent of V.C. partners are women, so that’s pretty poor. But V.C.s have a big impact on all start-up companies. They sit on their boards. They advise the CEOs. They obviously provide the capital for growth. So, in many ways, a lot of tech companies take their cues from what they see in the V.C. world.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the ideas that the technology industry or Silicon Valley is able to portray is that this is not like the old boys’ club, that this is the meritocracy, that your ideas matter and this is where you get ahead. And it seems that this case sort of — kind of uncovered that a little.

    FRAN MAIER: Yes. I think that’s one of the important things, is it has shown it really isn’t a meritocracy, that many times it’s very much about who you know, and who you want to work with, who is like you.

    And that’s why it perpetuates this image. Another thing Silicon Valley always has is, hey, we’re great, we’re going to change the world. And fast-growing companies sometimes get a pass on trying to do the things that they should be doing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What happens now? Even though Ellen Pao lost, does this end up elevating this conversation in a way?

    FRAN MAIER: Well, I think it’s going to elevate this conversation, yes.

    But I think the message for women is not to get too discouraged. We need to step up. We need to do more. We need to form more of our own companies. We need to invest in each other. We need to find some investors on some of the new networks like Portfolia or some of the female-led V.C. firms like Aspect and make things happen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Fran Maier, thanks so much.

    FRAN MAIER: Thank you.

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    ASSAD TALKS monitor bashir syria

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The war in Syria entered its fifth year earlier this month, and despite predictions years ago of his demise, the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is still standing in Damascus.

    PBS host and CBS News anchor Charlie Rose traveled to the Syrian capital and talked to the leader yesterday about the war and the region’s instability.

    Assad told Rose that he is open to a dialogue with the United States, and he also dismissed accusations that his army has used chemical weapons.

    CHARLIE ROSE, PBS & CBS News: The weapons of war that have been used that most people look down on with great — one is chlorine gas.

    They believe it has been used here. They have said there is evidence of that. And they would like to have the right to inspect to see where it’s coming from.

    As you know, barrel bombs have been used, and they come from helicopters. And the only people who have helicopters is the Syrian army. And so those two acts of war…


    CHARLIE ROSE: … which society looks down on as barbaric acts…

    PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Let me fully answer this. This is very important. This is part of the malicious propaganda against Syria.

    First of all, the chlorine gas is not a military gas. You can buy it anywhere.

    CHARLIE ROSE: But it can be weaponized.

    PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: No, because it is not very effective. It is not used as military gas. That is very self-evident.

    Traditional arms is more important than chlorine. And if it was very effective, the terrorists would have used it on a larger scale. Because it is not effective, it is not used very much.

    CHARLIE ROSE: Then why not let somebody come in and inspect to see whether it’s been used or not?

    PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Well, we allow…

    CHARLIE ROSE: You would be happy for that?

    PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD: Of course. We always ask a delegation, impartial delegation, to come and investigate.

    But, I mean, logically and realistically, it cannot really be used as military. This is part of propaganda, because, as you know, in the media, when it bleeds, it leads. And they always look for something that bleeds, which is the chlorine gas and barrel bomb.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some of the interview can be seen on Sunday night on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”  All of it will appear Monday evening on PBS’ “Charlie Rose.”

    And to tell us more about his experience interviewing President Assad, Charlie Rose joins me now.

    Charlie, welcome back…

    CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … after what sounds like a pretty grueling trip over and back in just a matter of a day or two.

    Why do you think President Assad agreed to talk right now?  What do you think they’re trying to get across?

    CHARLIE ROSE: He believes now that the rise of ISIS has caused the United States and others to make him not the priority, the overthrow of him or his departure from power, but, somehow, building some effort against ISIS.

    So I think he thinks it’s timely there. So I think he wants to reach out and say, circumstances have changed, and I’m open to a conversation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me he’s about to have talks in Moscow, that the Russians play — could play a key role here?

    CHARLIE ROSE: The Russians indeed can play a key role here.

    They have great interests in at least Syria and have had, as do the Iranians — and the Iranians have given a lot of support. And, in fact, Hezbollah came in and really saved the day for him at a time that his regime was tottering.

    He said to me he’s optimistic about the possibilities coming out of sort of the statements that Secretary Kerry started, this new round of intense focus.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Charlie, it also sounds like he worked really hard to defend himself when you asked him about the chlorine gas, when you asked him about the barrel bombs.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: At one point, he said: We wouldn’t be trying to kill our own people when we’re trying to win hearts and minds.

    But doesn’t that just fly in the face of objective evidence?

    CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, it does, absolutely.

    Most of the civilian casualties have come from — not from, say, ISIS, but most of the civilian crisis — civilian casualties have come from other means. And, clearly, there are serious international accusations against his government. And some people who you say — when you say accusations, say that’s crazy. Why is it an accusation?  It’s a fact.

    Barrel bombs have been dropped. He’s the only person, his army, that has helicopters and the capacity to drop these barrel bombs. He got into this discussion with me about, we don’t know what barrel bombs mean. And I simply said, it’s a barrel with things that explode and kill a lot of civilians.

    And he also, Judy, in an interesting way has enormous things to say that are critical of Saudi Arabia, which has been supporting people on the ground against him, as has the Qataris. He was very accusatory against Turkey, because a lot of the people who are coming into Syria to fight against him, he believes, come through the Turkish border.

    And he talked about Erdogan, the president of Turkey, as being simply, in his own way, very much in kin to the Muslim Brotherhood.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last thing, Charlie, how did you find him personally?  And how did you find Damascus?  You had to make the trip from across the border.

    CHARLIE ROSE: As we drove with two other CBS colleagues from Beirut, took us about, I would say, you know, 2.5 hours to make the trip, you didn’t hear as many explosions in Damascus as I did in 2013, when I was there.

    It was quieter. You see people outside engaged in the parks, you know, talking to each other. At the same time, you see military people everywhere. You know that there is a kind of on-alert circumstance in Damascus.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Charlie Rose, we will look for the entire interview on “Charlie Rose” on PBS on — on Monday night. Thank you.

    CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you, Judy. A pleasure to be with you.



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    Andreas Lubitz runs the Airportrace half marathon in Hamburg

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: No suicide note was found in the search of the homes of the Germanwings co-pilot, but there was evidence he was hiding an illness from his employers.

    It’s believed the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately steered Flight 9525 into the French Alps on Tuesday, killing everyone on board.

    Neil Connery of Independent Television News has this report from the co-pilot’s family home in Montabaur, Germany.

    NEIL CONNERY, Independent Television News:
    Behind the energetic and healthy appearance, what turmoil could have driven Andreas Lubitz to do what he did?

    More clues uncovered about his mental state are starting to surface. Documents with medical information discovered at the house he shared with parents are helping investigators trying to understand his actions. At his flat in Dusseldorf, where he sometimes stayed, torn-up sick notes for Lubitz are helping prosecutors build up a picture of the 27-year-old.

    “The fact that a ripped-up current sick note which covered the day of the crash was found supports the assumption that he kept his illness secret from his employer,” this prosecutor says.

    Neighbors say Lubitz appeared to be in excellent physical shape. But evidence is growing of some other problem. In his flat, along with torn-up sick notes, investigators found medical documents relating to an existing illness, which they say showed he was receiving appropriate medical treatment for.

    And it’s been reported his pilots’ license required him to have specific regular medical examinations. At the local flying club where Lubitz was a member, they’re in disbelief.

    Ernst Mueller tells me none of this makes sense.

    ERNST MUELLER: It’s strange. This isn’t an everyday event, that someone kills themselves and takes 149 others with them?  Some things happen, but to take innocent people with you like this, it’s just terrible.

    NEIL CONNERY: The regional mayor told me his thoughts are with all those suffering.

    “We mourn with all the families, including the family of the co-pilot,” he says.

    But there’s no proof so far that the media reports are what really happened. There’s been more police activity at Lubitz’s parents’ home, with items taken away as this investigation continues.

    As the hours pass, more details continue to emerge about the real Andreas Lubitz.

    Lubitz locked himself in the cockpit alone before the crash. That prompted Europe’s aviation safety agency today to recommend all airlines adopt the two- person cockpit rule as soon as possible. U.S. rules already require it.

    Saudi Arabia launched a new wave of airstrikes today against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. They targeted a northern stronghold, an oil-rich area in the east and the rebel-controlled capital. The Saudi Press Agency released this video showing Saudi Arabian air force jets bombing an airport today in Sanaa. A spokesman for the operation said the Saudi-led coalition is prepared to take further military action if warranted.

    BRIG. GEN. AHMED ASSERI, Coalition Spokesman (through interpreter):
    There are no plans at this stage for ground forces operations. But if the need arises, the Saudi ground forces and those of our friends are ready and will repel any aggression.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, four Egyptian warships are en route to the coast of Yemen to secure the strategic sea passage off of its coast.

    In Somalia, Al-Shabaab militants stormed a hotel popular with government officials and foreigners today, killing at least nine people. The incident happened in the heart of the capital, Mogadishu. Somali police said a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives at the hotel’s gate.

    That allowed militant gunmen to enter the building, where they exchanged fire with security forces. An unknown number of people are still trapped inside.

    Back in this country, the University of Oklahoma announced it is disciplining 25 more students linked to the singing of a racist song captured on video. The school’s president, David Boren, said two members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity have now been expelled. The students learned the song during the fraternity’s national leadership cruise four years ago. Boren said he took action so everyone can move on.

    DAVID BOREN, President, University of Oklahoma:
    Our purpose here is not to brand people with certain words for life. Our purpose is not to forgive. Our purpose is to learn lessons and be held accountable and then move forward with our lives.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Boren said that, after investigating over 160 people, it became evident that the song was — quote — “part of the institutional culture of the chapter.”  The SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma has since been disbanded.

    Republicans pushed a balanced budget plan through the Senate after a marathon overnight session. It passed along — nearly along party lines and follows one passed by the House earlier this week. The proposed budget shrinks federal deficits by more than $5 trillion over the next decade, mostly by cutting health care and other benefits.

    The Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, has announced he won’t be seeking reelection next year. His party lost the Senate majority in the 2014 midterm elections. Reid has served Nevada for five terms. The 75-year-old recently suffered an exercising accident that left him with injuries to his face and eye.

    In a video statement released by his office, Reid said that had nothing to do with his decision.

    SEN. HARRY REID, Minority Leader: We have to make sure that the Democrats take control of the Senate again. And I feel it is inappropriate for me to soak up all those resources on me, when I could be devoting those resources to the caucus, and that’s what intend to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a statement, President Obama called Reid a fighter and said the Senate won’t be the same without him. Reid later endorsed New York Senator Chuck Schumer to succeed him as minority leader.

    A new plan to fight the threat of drug-resistant bacteria was unveiled by the White House today. The program aims to curtail the overuse of antibiotics, which can lead to new strains of untreatable deadly so-called superbugs, and to ramp up research into alternative medications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that superbugs cause about 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses in the U.S. each year.

    Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled during a speech in San Francisco there could be an interest rate hike coming — quote — “sometime this year.”  But she added it would be gradual.

    Wall Street had little time to digest the news and stocks broke a four-day losing streak. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 34 points to close at 17712. The Nasdaq rose 28 points and the S&P 500 picked up five points. For the week, the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P all dropped more than 2 percent.

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    U.S. first lady Michelle Obama takes questions wile speaking with children of Executive Office employees at last year's annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day in Washington April 24, 2014. Obama urges expansion of efforts to include children. Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

    U.S. first lady Michelle Obama takes questions wile speaking with children of Executive Office employees at last year’s annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day in Washington April 24, 2014. President Barack Obama says the White House will open next month’s annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day to children whose parents don’t work in the building Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says the White House will open next month’s annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day to children whose parents don’t work in the building.

    He’s also asking private businesses to include kids who are left out of the experience because they don’t have a workplace to visit.

    Obama says in a video released Friday that aides are working with the Boys and Girls Club and the District of Columbia’s Child and Family Services Agency to invite kids from Washington to join the children of White House staffers on April 23 to learn what it’s like to work at the White House.

    A highlight of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day under Obama has been a question-and-answer session with first lady Michelle Obama.

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    A CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter launches from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde during preparations for a field exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, October 24, 2011. US forces rescued two Saudi pilots from waters south of Yemen. Photo by US Navy/Josue L. Escobosa/Reuters

    A CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter launches from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde during preparations for a field exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, October 24, 2011. US forces rescued two Saudi pilots from waters south of Yemen. Photo by US Navy/Josue L. Escobosa/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A Defense Department official says U.S. forces rescued two Saudi airmen after they ejected from an F-15 fighter jet over waters south of Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading airstrikes against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

    The official says a U.S. helicopter flew Thursday from neighboring Djibouti to the Gulf of Aden and rescued the airmen. Initial reports said the rescued airmen were “ambulatory.”

    The destroyer USS Sterett took lead of the situation after Saudi Arabia requested U.S. assistance Thursday afternoon, coordinating assets from the U.S. naval base in Djibouti and the amphibious transport dock USS New York.

    The official, who was not authorized to discuss the operation by name and requested anonymity, had no information on the two airmen’s status or why they ejected from their plane.

    This report was written by Lou Kesten of the Associated Press.

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    Credit: Getty

    Credit: Getty Images

    As medical advances have lengthened our life spans and can improve quality of life as we get older, many people remain reluctant to have end of life conversations with their physicians and loved ones.

    Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ellen Goodman confronted this situation firsthand when her mother’s health began to deteriorate unexpectedly.

    “I think we all have this fantasy that we’re gonna live to 90 and then, Kaboom! You know? But in fact the reality is that many of us will face a long period of being frail and declining,” Goodman said.

    Today, Goodman has turned her personal experience into a mission to make death part of popular conversation. In 2010 she co-founded The Conversation Project, a non-profit to urge people to express their end-of-life desires before it’s too late.

    In a report released last September titled “Dying in America,” the Institute of Medicine encouraged individuals to start having end of life conversations early in life to “help normalize the advance care planning process…and to obtain guidance in the event of a rare catastrophic event.”

    Last year, Dr. Atul Gawande, author of “Being Mortal,” spoke to the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown about the difficulty of having these conversations from a physician’s perspective. Gawande further explored the “intersection of life, death, medicine and what matters in the end” in the PBS Frontline documentary “Being Mortal

    We will continue this conversation on Twitter next Thursday, April 2, from 1-2 p.m. EDT.

    Join us as representatives from the Conversation Project (@convoproject) and “Being Mortal” share advice for broaching the topic of end of life care with physicians and loved ones, and discuss different options for ensuring your wishes are followed.

    Follow along and chime in using #NewsHourChats.

    Plus: If you knew you were dying, what would you do with the time you had left? Use #WhatMattersMost to join the conversation with Frontline and NewsHour.

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    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA on a flight from Malta to Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2011.  Rep. Trey Gowdy said Friday that Clinton has permanently deleted all emails from her personal email server. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA on a flight from Malta to Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2011. Rep. Trey Gowdy said Friday that Clinton has permanently deleted all emails from her personal email server. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton wiped her email server “clean,” permanently deleting all emails from it, the Republican chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks said Friday.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said the former secretary of state has failed to produce a single new document in recent weeks and has refused to relinquish her server to a third party for an independent review, as Gowdy has requested.

    Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, said Gowdy was looking in the wrong place.

    In a six-page letter released late Friday, Kendall said Clinton had turned over to the State Department all work-related emails sent or received during her tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

    “The Department of State is therefore in possession of all Secretary Clinton’s work-related emails from the (personal email) account,” Kendall wrote.

    Kendall also said it would be pointless for Clinton to turn over her server, even if legally authorized, since “no emails … reside on the server or on any backup systems associated with the server.”

    Clinton, a likely Democratic presidential candidate, faced a Friday deadline to respond to a subpoena for emails and documents related to Libya, including the 2012 attacks in a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

    The Benghazi committee demanded further documents and access to the server after it was revealed that Clinton used a private email account and server during her tenure at State.

    Gowdy said he will work with House leaders to consider options. Speaker John Boehner has not ruled out a vote in the full House to force Clinton to turn over the server if she declines to make it available by an April 3 deadline set by Gowdy.

    Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Benghazi panel, said Kendall’s letter confirmed “what we all knew: that Secretary Clinton already produced her official records to the State Department, that she did not keep her personal emails and that the Select Committee has already obtained her emails relating to the attacks in Benghazi.”

    Cummings said it is time for Gowdy and other Republicans to stop what he called a “political charade” and instead make Clinton’s emails public. Gowdy also should schedule Clinton’s public testimony before the Benghazi panel as soon as possible, Cummings said.

    Kendall said in his letter that Clinton’s personal attorneys reviewed every email sent and received from her private email address – 62,320 emails in total – and identified all work-related emails. Those totaled 30,490 emails or approximately 55,000 pages. The material was provided to the State Department on Dec. 5, 2014, and it is the agency’s discretion to release those emails after a review.

    Kendall said Clinton has asked for the release of all of those emails. He said the State Department is reviewing the material to decide whether any sensitive information needs to be protected.

    “Secretary Clinton is not in a position to produce any of those emails to the committee in response to the subpoena without approval from the State Department, which could come only following a review process,” Kendall wrote.

    Gowdy said he was disappointed at Clinton’s lack of cooperation.

    “Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server, ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest,” he said.

    In a statement released later Friday, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said she “would like her emails made public as soon as possible and … she’s ready and willing to come and appear herself for a hearing open to the American public.”

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    Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Death, while inevitable, is one of the most difficult things for most people to talk about. But a growing national movement warns that not talking about death can make end-of-life even more difficult for you, your family and loved ones.

    Advocates say too many people in this country die in a way they may not want to, simply because they never thought or talked about it. Family members are often left to make tough decisions without knowing what their loved ones want. 

    Now, Medicare is considering covering conversations about end-of-life care between doctors and patients, and some insurers have started paying for these consultations.

    Boston-based nonprofit The Conversation Project has developed a “Starter Kit” to begin the talk they believe will help people prepare for what’s to come.

    Here are 5 things that advocates from the The Conversation Project say you should know about starting this conversation with your loved ones. Learn more by downloading the group’s starter kit, linked above.

    1. You can start out by writing a letter—to yourself, a loved one, or a friend — and you might consider having a practice conversation with someone you trust.

    2. Try finishing the sentence ‘What matters to me at the end of life is…’

    3. You can broach the topic by saying things like “I was thinking about what happened to , and it made me realize…” or “I need to think about the future. Will you help me?”

    4. You don’t have to steer the conversation; just let it happen.

    5. Keep in mind there are legal and medical documents you should think about producing, including an Advanced Care Planning, an Advance Directive, a Health Care Proxy and a living will.

    In the meantime, we invite you to consider: #WhatMattersMost to you in the end?  Join us on Thursday for a Twitter chat with PBS NewsHour about end of life conversations and how to get them started with your loved ones.

    The post 5 things you should know about end-of-life conversations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JEFF GREENFIELD: This was the American cityscape when television was new: forests of rooftop antennas, capturing signals over the air from a half-dozen channels that fought for space on a crowded broadcast spectrum. Turning those signals into flickering, sometimes ghostly black and white images on small screens.

    For almost 90 percent of today’s homes, television comes to us through cable or telephone wires or via satellite. Our cable bills bring us a so called “bundle” of more than 900 channels, But most of us watch an average of only 17.

    And now, more and more viewers, unwilling to pay ever-higher fees for a huge “bundle” of choices they rarely use, are turning to a new technology that may threaten the very foundation of the cable TV industry. Over the past 5 years, 3.8 million American homes have cut the cord – cancelling or refusing cable.

    Younger viewers, so-called millennials form a growing class of cord-nevers, rejecting the cost of a monthly cable bill, they’ve turned instead to broadband, high-speed internet connections and a range of streaming video services to watch what they want, where they want, when they want.

    We didn’t have to go far to find a prime example. Hannah Yi is a 31 year old producer for NewsHour Weekend, and in fact, is one of the producers of this piece. And she’s a TV producer, remember, she doesn’t have a television set.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Why are you not tempted, do you think, to buy yourself a television set and hook up to cable?

    HANNAH YI: I think it’s because I already have ways to watch what I want to watch without a television.  I have my phone.  I have my iPad.  I have my laptop.

    And I feel like, with good broadband, I can pretty much get everything that I need to see on those devices. And so I don’t feel the need to go out of my way to buy a TV, let alone pay a cable bill.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Her 9 dollar a month Netflix subscription brings her not just movies and older TV shows, but original offers like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.”

    Like many of her contemporaries, Hannah – to put it politely – borrows a friend’s password to watch HBO shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Last Week Tonight.” Another 8 dollars buys her Hulu Plus, which lets her see shows from traditional broadcast channels, although not when they’re originally broadcast.

    HANNAH YI: Modern Family is an ABC show.  I get that on Hulu Plus so I watch that on my iPad. I’m not watching it with the rest of America, but I am still able to watch it easily on my devices.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Hannah isn’t alone in using Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon. A recent Nielsen report found that over 40% of American homes subscribe to at least one of these services.

    For those unlike Hannah Yi, who do have a TV set, 50 dollars buys them a Roku, a simple piece of hardware that brings those online offerings right onto their high definition televisions.

    And there’s evidence that this new technology is having a serious impact. According to Nielsen, viewership of traditional TV dropped 4 percent last year. Meanwhile, time spent viewing streaming video is up 40 percent, a dramatic increase in online viewing.

    In response, something like a California gold rush has broken out, as many – perhaps most – of the biggest media players are offering services that don’t require a cable or satellite hookup.

    Apple, Sony and The Dish Network are among those looking to offer their own streaming subscription services, bundling about 20 channels – featuring entertainment, sports and news programming – for 20 to 50 dollars a month. Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV – Dish’s streaming service – explains the rationale.

    ROGER LYNCH: We’re going after millennials and cord-cutters and cord-nevers.  So, really people for whom the traditional pay TV bundle doesn’t meet their needs.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: With so many players looking beyond cable, a key question arises: does this portend the death of TV? Will this medium go the way of music, where records and CD’s are all but extinct, or newspapers, finding it ever harder to survive in print? Well, it depends who you ask and what you mean by death.

    Earlier this month HBO’s chief Richard Plepler announced a $15 a month streaming service, to be delivered through Apple devices, that set alarm bells ringing.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: When HBO announced that you were going to bring this new service to the public, one of the first reactions out there was, “Aha, this is the canary in the coal mine.  The cord is being cut.  This presages the ultimate death of cable.”  True?

    RICHARD PLEPLER: No, highly overwrought. Listen there are 70 million homes in the U.S. that don’t take HBO and one of the things we think about all the time is how do we go and bring those 70 million homes into the HBO family.

    So we wanna do that through kind of multilateral approach. We’re gonna work with our cable operators. We’re gonna work with our satellite distributors. We’re gonna work with our telco distributors.  And we’re going to add digital distribution to that outreach.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Indeed with 46 million cable and satellite TV homes subscribing to HBO, there’s a huge economic incentive for the network to stay with cable. It’s the same logic for sports giant ESPN, which earns some 6.5 billion dollars year just from cable subscriber fees.

    That is a powerful reason to remain in the cable universe. As for those who are looking to save money by dumping a cable package, the advantage to cord-cutting may not be all that clear, says The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Even in cutting the cord, they’re still gonna be paying $40 a month, say, to Time Warner just for the internet.


    JEFF GREENFIELD: But now you add Sling.  That’s $20 a month, I mean, when you start adding this stuff up, it doesn’t look like these cord cutters are gonna be saving any money.  They might actually end up spending more money.

    DEREK THOMPSON: Yeah.  Some people are not going to save money.  Some people surely are going to think that they’re beating a system but ironically are going to pay more for it.  But there’s a lotta people and they’re gonna say, “I don’t wanna spend $100 a month on entertainment.

    Instead I just want to have Netflix.” And there you’re only spending about $10 a month.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: There is, however, is one wild card to contemplate. What is mostly “streamed” via broadband is more or less traditional, recognizable fare: big-budget dramas like “House of Cards,” repackaged TV shows via Hulu Plus.

    But Craig Moffett, who’s been analyzing the industry for years, notes that the cord cutting and cord-never millennials are actually often watching something very different.

    CRAIG MOFFETT:They’re existing in an entertainment ecosystem that operates entirely outside of the pay TV system that we know today.  It’s content that’s developed for tenth the cost per hour of traditional content.  And it’s not distributed via cable and satellite operators.  It’s distributed by social media companies.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: Moffatt’s talking about videos that you can watch without a TV like “Between Two Ferns” Zach Galifianakis’ interview show on the “Funny or Die” website. Or “High Maintenance” the sitcom about a marijuana dealer on Vimeo.

    Millennials are also watching video clips on YouTube and the video messaging app Snapchat. That’s one reason why HBO’s new streaming service includes a daily half-hour newscast from Vice, a distinctly nontraditional form of journalism.

    CRAIG MOFFETT:If you went to media companies five years ago or even three years ago and said, “What happens when the millennials go through a life stage change, when they have children, when they get married?”

    They all would have said,”All of these millennials are gonna come flooding back to pay TV.”  They’re not so sure anymore.  Millennials are disengaged from the entire ecosystem.

    And having children isn’t gonna make them suddenly abandon Netflix and go back to pay TV.  They’re simply gonna find their programming through a different venue.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: So does this new media landscape really point to the death of TV? Well, Jay Yarow, who writes a regular Death of TV column for Business Insider, says this:

    JAY YAROW: There’s still millions of people tuning in to TV shows. With any conversation around the death of anything, you have to keep in mind what the “death” really means.  It doesn’t mean it goes to zero, and goes away, and disappears entirely.  What it means is it probably goes into decline, or it goes flat, it goes sideways.

    JEFF GREENFIELD: If you’re betting that TV as we know it won’t be around ten or even twenty years from now, you’d likely lose that bet. And the giants like ESPN or HBO will likely survive no matter how their signals come into our homes.

    But if millions more turn away from the cable bundle, it’s a very good bet that many of the smaller, specialized networks that depend on that bundle will be endangered species.

    The post Cutting the cable cord: Will the online media boom mean the death of TV? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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