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

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    The Power Inn Alliance of Sacramento brought together ten local artists to paint a very unusual canvas for a public art exhibit called “Art of the Dumpster.” Video produced by Marinda Johnson Gorman, shot by Martin Christian and edited by Jose Luis Romero, KVIE.

    The southeastern quadrant of Sacramento is an industrial community that has seen many industries come through: mining, truck farming, recycling. Now, a group that advocates for the community has decided to re-brand it by asking artists to paint dumpsters.

    “What better thing to use as our canvas than our history? You see them all over the city whether you’re in the best part of the city or the not great part of the city,” said Sally Freedlander, vice chairwoman of the Power Inn Alliance and the organizer of the community art project. “With the help of the artists, we turn these boxes into works of art.”

    Each artist has taken a different approach to their dumpster. Some are realistic; others are more abstract. But, no matter what the design is, the goal is the same.

    “I hope that the people who live and work in this neighborhood can see their neighborhood in a fresh new light,” said Gioia Fonda, one of the artists. “I hope that they can maybe see that their whole corridor is a blank canvas waiting for things to happen on it.”

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

    The post From industrial to creative, re-branding Sacramento with artful dumpsters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally to our NewsHour shares of the day, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

    Our colleagues from WNYC Public Radio in New York have produced a series on what it’s like to be 12 years old, and captured some honest thoughts from more than 100 of them.

    Here are a few:

    STUDENT: Since I’m confident in my style, like, I like know somebody — they had like warned me about it.  I would just be like, whatever.  Like, you’re just jealous, because I have a unique, like, style that you don’t.

    STUDENT: If they have the guts to say something bad about you behind your back, they should have the guts to say it to your face.

    STUDENT: I think that soccer balls are really cool.

    STUDENT: The closest thing I do to gossip is I read “Tiger Beat” about once a month.

    STUDENT: I miss being able to get away with things.

    STUDENT: Sometimes, I will feel pressure to dress a certain way to school, because everybody wears, like, skinny jeans and stuff like that, and I don’t like jeans.

    STUDENT: I’m a lot taller than almost my whole class.  I just keep growing.  I have no idea when I’m going to stop, and that’s what is — that’s the scary part.

    STUDENT: I’m afraid of supernatural things, like zombies and, like, the apocalypse.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Charming.  You can watch the entire “Being 12″ series at WNYC.org.

    The post 12-year-olds talk about dealing with bullies, jealousy and zombies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    salif keifa

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: a remarkable voice and even more remarkable life.

    Jeffrey Brown is back with the story, the last from his recent trip to the West African country of Mali and part of his ongoing series Culture at Risk.


    JEFFREY BROWN: The song is titled “Folon,” “The Past.”

    The singer at dusk on the banks of the Niger River in Bamako, Mali, is Salif Keita, known as the Golden Voice of Africa. Keita is one of the most famous musicians on the continent, a giant on the world music scene, but it’s easy to see what sets him apart here. He’s an albino, one who began life as a pariah, but refused to be kept down.

    When you were young, you were outcast.

    SALIF KEITA, Musician: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But now you’re perhaps the most famous person in Mali.

    SALIF KEITA: Yes, because if I was black, maybe I couldn’t have this time to — I couldn’t have this opportunity to be famous or to be popular in the world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Keita was born with the hereditary condition that deprives a person’s skin, hair and eyes of pigmentation. It left him nearly blind.

    As is common in Africa, he was ostracized by his village, even his own family.

    SALIF KEITA: The people doesn’t — they don’t know how, if you have your mother black, your father black, how you can be white.

    JEFFREY BROWN: With few opportunities, he turned to what he calls a God-given talent, music.

    SALIF KEITA: Music for me is my life. It’s my freedom. My music give me a possibility to talk to people, to tell them what I want and what I feel.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Keita first broke through in the 1970s, performing what was known as Afro Pop, as the leader of one of Mali’s biggest bands.

    Soon enough, he was appearing internationally and has continued that for decades, including in Central Park in 2010. He’s been one of a remarkable group of musicians who have made Mali renowned around the world, bring traditional African rhythms and instruments into a contemporary context.

    Among Mali’s biggest stars, desert blues guitarist Ali Farka Toure, singer Oumou Sangare, and Toumani Diabate, virtuoso of the harp-like kora. In Bamako, we met Bassekou Kouyate, called the master of the ngoni, an ancient string instrument. He’s building a school here to help preserve his country’s musical history.

    BASSEKOU KOUYATE, Musician (through interpreter): I have decided with my school to save African music, to save African instruments. It’s important that African music always remain here because there will be a new generation that will help us keep the tradition.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We also met Khaira Arby, a singer from Timbuktu, one of her causes, making life better for African women.

    KHAIRA ARBY, Musician (through interpreter): A woman, she can also be very strong. Women can find their own place in the world. I can go to school properly, just like men. I can work like men. That’s the message that I send in my songs.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Like all these musicians, Salif Keita has lived through political turmoil in his country. He spent 15 years abroad in exile during a military dictatorship.

    Today, the father of several albino children, he devotes himself to this more personal cause of fighting discrimination working through a foundation he set up to raise funds and awareness and by his own example. Early in life, Keita told us, he wanted to be a teacher. His condition made that impossible. Now he can laugh at how his life has unfolded.

    SALIF KEITA: If I was black, I would have the good eyesight, and I would maybe — I can be a teacher now for 40 people. But now I’m a teacher for a million people. That’s funny.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the past, goes the song “Folon,” people didn’t want to know. Today, Salif Keita sings, they do.

    From Bamako, Mali, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.


    The post How African musician Salif Keita went from social outcast to international superstar appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: a time of pain, but one shared openly with an unseen audience.

    Gwen Ifill recently recorded this interview. It’s the latest from our NewsHour Bookshelf.

    GWEN IFILL: You may recognize Scott Simon from his public voice, as host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday.”  But it is his private voice that brought him a different kind of attention, as he chronicled his mother’s final days in an unusually public way, on Twitter.

    His series of 140-character observances about the remarkable life and poignant death of Patricia Lyons Simon Newman captured the imagination, and led him to the book “Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother and the Lessons of a Lifetime.”

    Scott joins me now.

    I want to ask you first to tell me about your mom, but, first, one good way to do it is to read one of the tweets that you wrote which actually first caught my eye when you were keeping her — you were keeping vigil with her in the hospital in Chicago.

    SCOTT SIMON, Author, “Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother and the Lessons of a Lifetime”: Next to her bed in the intensive care unit. I actually got one of those orange camp mats at a sporting goods store and laid that down next to the bed, so that I could stay there, obviously.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    SCOTT SIMON: I think this is the tweet you mean.

    “My mother and I just sang ‘Que Sera, Sera’ three times. God bless you, Doris Day, for giving us such a great theme song.”

    GWEN IFILL: I have to say, I met your mother, and she was larger than life.


    GWEN IFILL: And what I thought about that was that you were in an incredibly sad time.


    GWEN IFILL: And yet you and your mother were kind of going at this together, kind of sharing memories, and getting to know each other again.

    SCOTT SIMON: Yes. Yes.

    I mean, we knew each other pretty well, but this was undoubtedly a whole different dimension. I think, by the time we were singing “Que Sera, Sera” together, we understood this — there was only going to be one end. And there was particularly an intense period, which you can read in the book, in which we were up with each other for 48 hours straight, in which we recollected old family stories, got the — some revisions of old family stories, got the chapter I was — the last chapter I was always missing from a few family stories, and had a very good time with each other.

    I think my mother and I had always been able to have a good time with each other. But, you know, over the years, lots of stuff intervened, right…

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    SCOTT SIMON: … where you find yourself sometimes at cross-purposes.

    But, this time, we were able to be with each other and concentrated on having a good time.

    GWEN IFILL: And you had the gift of time.


    GWEN IFILL: Some people, I know, have written you and said, I got there too late, or we weren’t there for the passing of…

    SCOTT SIMON: We were astonishingly lucky. And I don’t shy away from using the term blessed. I didn’t know when I got to her bedside that it would turn into her deathbed.

    I had hoped that she would get better and that we would face what — whatever it was together. But within a few days, it was clear that there wasn’t going to be the resolution that we wanted. And then, from there, we were able just to be together. Boy, I guess just about the greatest days of my life.

    GWEN IFILL: You got to tell some of her secrets, actually.


    GWEN IFILL: I was a little surprised reading them that it seemed like maybe that was OK with her?

    But among the secrets, not a secret, because I just said her full name, she had been married a few times. She had done a few things in life.


    GWEN IFILL: Read this next tweet. It’s where she talks about — basically, she talks about what’s going to happen to her, but in a funny way.

    SCOTT SIMON: “I consider this a good sign. Mother says, when time comes, oh, the headline should be, three Jewish husbands, but no guilt.”


    SCOTT SIMON: My mother was Irish Catholic.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    SCOTT SIMON: She happened to have three Jewish husbands.

    GWEN IFILL: But she also had guilt from the Catholic and the Jewish…

    SCOTT SIMON: Yes, exactly. And you can imagine how that manifests itself in me all the time.

    GWEN IFILL: And what does that say about your relationship with your fathers and stepfathers along the way?

    SCOTT SIMON: I had a very good relationship with each of them.

    But I think we always understood that it was my mother who brought us together. My stepfather was a wonderful guy named Ralph Newman, who a Lincoln scholar who got into some fairly famous legal trouble. And he in many ways — because my father died when I was 16.

    That was the most stable love, I think, of my mother’s life, and in many ways the most stable male relationship I had with a father figure. My father was a comedian. And he was a wonderful, rapturously funny man. His career was mostly on the downside by the time, in fact, I ever came along.

    My mother had what she began the refer to as a sweet kind of kamikaze love with her. He had a drinking problem. As she wound up saying to me during those days in the hospital, it’s easy to fall in love with a drunk. It’s very hard to wake up with one the morning after.

    And they had nine hard years together. And I think my mother was at the point of saying that maybe it wasn’t a good idea for the two of them to get together. On the other hand, I can’t argue with that, because I…

    GWEN IFILL: You’re here.

    SCOTT SIMON: Exactly. I’m the proud issue.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the interesting things about witnessing someone saying farewell, the way you had the privilege of doing with your mother, is that everybody can do it your own way.

    And in your case, you mentioned humor. You mentioned singing.


    GWEN IFILL: And there was another singing moment which you tweeted about, which I loved. It was about — the song wasn’t Doris Day this time.


    SCOTT SIMON: “Mother and I just finished a duet of ‘We’ll Meet Again.’  Every word has meaning. Nurse looks in, asks, ‘Do you take requests?'”


    SCOTT SIMON: ICUs are grim places, obviously.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    SCOTT SIMON: There’s the bleeps. There’s all the siren sounds, the ghastly kind of organ noises. There are the carts trembling up and down that make you think like it’s something from the Middle Ages, where people are being asked to throw out the carcasses.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    SCOTT SIMON: And there we were, singing these songs. “We’ll Meet Again” is happy and bittersweet both at the same time. But I think, at the point we began to sing it, it’s something, without getting ethereal, that we devoutly believed.

    As I said to her — my mother said to me at one point: “Oh, baby, you and I can get through this. The hard part is going to be for you when it’s over.”  And a couple hours later, at an even harder part, she said to me, “Will this go on forever?”  She meant the pain and the dread.

    And I said, “No, it won’t go on forever.”

    And she said, “But you and me, we will go on forever, right?

    And I said, “Yes.”

    And I believe that.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, I would say, you wrote her great deathbed speech for her in “Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother and the Lessons of a Lifetime.”

    Scott Simon, thank you.

    SCOTT SIMON: Thank you, Gwen.

    The post Why Scott Simon shared his mother’s death with an unseen audience appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    brain boost miles

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: a report on how researchers are exploring whether a small zap to the brain may actually be helpful. The idea?  Possibly boosting performance and improving brain activity in some cases.

    Our guide is our science correspondent, Miles O’Brien.

    MILES O’BRIEN: If you’re like me, you really can’t start the day without a little jolt.

    MAROM BIKSON, The City College of New York: This is the simulator itself that’s going to be providing the actual current that’s going to your head.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But step aside, grande latte. There’s a new kid on the block.

    MAROM BIKSON: So, current is going to come out of the device to the electrodes on your forehead and it’s going to flow through your head.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Biomedical engineer Marom Bikson at the City College of New York is prepping me for a dose of transcranial direct current stimulation, or TDCS, a jump-start for my brain.

    MAROM BIKSON: It can make the brain perhaps function information more effectively and therefore make you, let’s say, better at things. Or it can make the brain more likely to undergo plasticity, more malleable, more able to learn.

    MILES O’BRIEN: A human brain has 100 billion nerve cells or neurons. Neurons are networkers. They make multiple connections with each other via synapses. We have about 100 trillion of them. All of this runs on electricity that we generate ourselves.

    MAROM BIKSON: Now, this was the montage that we tried on you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It turns out each of our neurons is a microscopic battery with a-tenth of a volt of electricity. When we’re using them to remember things or do math or write this story, they fire electrical spikes.

    MAROM BIKSON: When we’re adding electricity to the brain with TDCS, instead of a tenth of a volt, we’re producing a 1,000th-of-a-volt change, so it’s not enough to trigger a spike. It’s not enough to generate a spike, but it’s enough to modulate the spikes, to maybe get more spikes or to get less spikes.

    ACTRESS: This will keep you from biting your tongue. Now just bite down on it.

    MILES O’BRIEN: When you think of the human brain and electricity, there is a good chance you might conjure up this intense image. The treatment powerfully depicted in the 1975 Oscar-winning movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is called electroconvulsive therapy.

    It’s delivers big jolts of alternating current to treat severe depression. It is still used as a last resort, but in reality it is painless. So is TDCS, which uses direct current, roughly equivalent to a nine-volt battery.

    The basic idea goes back to the Romans, who used electric fish as a headache cure. But in 2000, some German scientists published this paper, which proved weak electrical current can modulate brain activity. Ever since, scientific interest in TDCS has amped up steadily.

    MAROM BIKSON: So that’s it.

    MILES O’BRIEN: My TDCS session lasted 20 minutes. All I felt was a little bit of tingling in my scalp. It didn’t hurt a bit.

    MAROM BIKSON: You may need a paper towel.

    MILES O’BRIEN: OK. I got one here.

    I felt great. It was like I had a jolt of caffeine without the tense feeling. And for several hours afterwards, I felt extremely clear-headed. But is that all there is?

    MAROM BIKSON: The theory is that when you now combine TDCS with things like training or clinical therapy, you can make those things more effective. You sort of prime the brain, and now you’re combining it with some other intervention, like trying to learn something.

    MILES O’BRIEN: With that much promise, there should be no surprise TDCS has captured the attention of serious researchers. But it has also inspired a lot of people looking for fast cash or a fast way to try and juice their gray matter. You can buy the TDCS device online for about $100. Or you can go to YouTube and see how to build one yourself.

    MAN: So, a cathode goes above the right eye. Learned this from a TDCS video montage I watched.

    MILES O’BRIEN: What could go wrong with that?

    James Giordano runs the Neuroethics Studies Program at Georgetown University.

    JAMES GIORDANO, Georgetown University: Are we just going to sit back and say caveat emptor?  But I think that that’s irresponsible. I think much more important is to create particular parameters, perhaps even including a surgeon general’s warning, that says, these are the ways that you should use this. These are the ways that you shouldn’t.

    MILES O’BRIEN: At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, biomedical engineer Andy McKinley is exploring ways for the military to exploit TDCS. The Air Force mission has change dramatically in the past decade with the rapid rise of unmanned aerial vehicles. It demands a new kind of right stuff.

    ANDY MCKINLEY, 711th Human Performance Wing: It’s like looking through a “Where’s Waldo” book, but Waldo may not be in the book. Keeping your attention for that long, for doing that for an entire shift of eight or 12 hours, is extremely difficult.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So he recruited volunteers for some studies.

    ANDY MCKINLEY: In this scenario, what you are going to be doing is, there is a market square with a bunch of people milling around.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Using software called Vigilant Spirit, sleep-deprived volunteers spend hours looking at a crowded village square trying to identify people carrying guns and a high-value target with a purple hat. Some got stimulation, some coffee, some a placebo.

    ANDY MCKINLEY: We found that people that got the stimulation performed about twice as well as the folks that got either caffeine or no stimulation. And that effect lasted about three times as long as caffeine.

    MILES O’BRIEN: At this point, Andy had my full attention as well. So he gave me a demo, lacing me up for vigilance assessment called the Mackworth Clock test. Red dots move around the screen like a sweep secondhand, and then, randomly and infrequently, there’s a skip.

    ANDY MCKINLEY: So, if it skips a spot, you just push the spacebar to indicate that you saw that.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It was mind-numbingly boring. I spent most of my energy just trying to keep my eyes open.

    How did I do?


    ANDY MCKINLEY: You got about half of them.


    ANDY MCKINLEY: Actually, you got exactly half.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Then he turned on the juice. My brain seemed to switch on like a lightbulb. It was still boring, but I was on it, a red dot watching machine.

    ANDY MCKINLEY: You got all but one, and I think that one you missed…

    MILES O’BRIEN: … spacebar?

    Wow. That’s pretty amazing.

    ANDY MCKINLEY: That’s pretty amazing.

    MILES O’BRIEN: That’s pretty amazing.

    There’s no doubt in my mind it works. The question is, how will we use it?

    Michael Weisend is a neuroscientist at Wright State University.

    MICHAEL WEISEND, Wright State Research Institute: But I think, in 10 years, we will have some reliable applications that will come — where this will be prescribed, actually. And I think those will be things like depression. Those will be things like ADHD. Who will be things like motor problems that people have.

    MILES O’BRIEN: At the University of Minnesota, neuroscientist Bernadette Gillick works with young people, like 20-year-old Maddy Evans, who suffered a stroke in utero. The unaffected side of her brain has taken up the slack and is doing work the stroke side would normally do. ‘

    Dr. Gillick thinks TDCS could help rebalance Maddy’s brain, so both hemispheres can contribute to movement.

    BERNADETTE GILLICK, University of Minnesota: We’re trying to simultaneously excite brain cells that are still alive in the stroke hemisphere, while inhibiting brain cells on the non-stroke hemisphere.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Awakening dormant, yet viable neurons that are best suited for the job could make Maddy’s paralytic hand more active and nimble.

    BERNADETTE GILLICK: I think what we’re finding more information out about is, what areas of the brain respond better for what function? It might be that we can move better because we’re doing this, think better, read better, speak better. I think what we’re doing right now is the tip of the iceberg.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But there’s still much to learn.

    Back at Marom Bikson’s lab, they’re studying rat brains to try and determine exactly what’s happening to the neurons and synapses while they’re stimulated with electricity. It’s important research, but I would rather not wait for it. I want my venti voltage now.

    Miles O’Brien, the PBS NewsHour, New York.


    The post How a gentle electrical jolt can focus a sluggish mind appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FIT TO FLY monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There are even more questions today about how pilots are screened.

    Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, reported the co-pilot of the plane that crashed in the French Alps last week informed the company back in 2009 that he had suffered from severe depression. Andreas Lubitz told the flight training school of the problem after a months-long absence.

    The incident raises concerns about mental health and standards for flying.

    We speak with two now who know about these issues. Dr. Warren Silberman is a physician and former manager of aerospace medical certification for the Federal Aviation Administration. He is now in private practice. And Dr. William Sledge is a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. He’s evaluated pilots throughout his career, including for the Air Force, for major airlines, for the pilots union and the FAA.

    And we welcome you both.

    Dr. Silberman, to you first.

    We know the information we have on Andreas Lubitz is incomplete, but, based on what we know, would he have been certified to fly a passenger plane in the United States?

    DR. WARREN SILBERMAN, Former FAA Medical Certification Manager: With — if he would have revealed that he was depressed or showed manifestations of depression, absolutely not. He would be disqualified.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Sledge, would you agree?

    DR. WILLIAM SLEDGE, Yale University: I would agree, particularly with the designation that he was suicidal.

    And Dr. Silberman knows better than I, but the FAA occasionally would — if someone was treated successfully for depression, would allow them to return to the cockpit, but, for the most part, the presence of suicidality really rules it out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Dr. Sledge, staying with you, what is the U.S. system for screening pilots for physical, mental and emotional conditions?

    DR. WILLIAM SLEDGE: Well, to get a license to fly, you have to have a medical exam that certifies you in different categories of how you will be flying.

    The first-class category is what we were talking about here. Those are for people who are carrying passengers commercially. And all the major trunk carriers are, by license, required to have a class one. That’s an annual physical up until you’re age 40, and then it’s twice a year.

    And the content of the evaluations are similar, although they’re a little bit more strict for the first class, and they’re pursued more aggressively by the aeromedical examiners, who are the primary care physicians who are certified by the FAA to carry out these exams.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Silberman, what would you add to that, and especially when it comes to mental health and emotional screening?

    DR. WARREN SILBERMAN: Well, you know, if — the good thing is when you know the pilot and he’s been seeing you.

    The other problem is when you have got a brand-new student pilot. But the FAA’s got a whole bunch of questions that are on the medical history. One question relates just to overall mental health. And it says, have you ever had depression or anxiety or something else?

    Another question relates to alcoholism. Have you ever had a problem with alcohol?  A third question asks if you had substance dependence, where you have taken a substance within the last two years. And then the next — the last question asks about suicide.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Sledge, it sounds as if so much of this depends on self-reporting. Is that right?  And what about the role of co-workers, colleagues who are observing pilots every day?

    DR. WILLIAM SLEDGE: Well, yes, a lot of it does depend on self-reporting.

    But, of course, many of the items that Dr. Silberman mentioned can also be verified by law enforcement or job evaluations, et cetera. But in terms of the — most pilots are pretty tolerant of people, but they’re not tolerant of people who are non-standard in the carrying out of their work functions. And if someone is consistently violating the rules and the regulations of flying, those people will get reported pretty quickly, in my experience.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes, I want to ask both of you.

    Dr. Silberman, do you think the regulations right now in the United States are sufficient?  Do they need tightening in some way, given what we have seen with this terrible incident in France?

    DR. WARREN SILBERMAN: Ms. Woodruff, it’s actually an interesting thing, because back in — when that pilot on JetBlue had a psychotic reaction — that was March 27 of 2012 — we, the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, which is the largest organization of aerospace medicine specialists, got together and had a working group to decide, is the exam — are we missing something on the exam?

    And we came up that, since something like that is so rare that you don’t want to put your money on that, and it’s better to put the emphasis on mental health education, education at the airline, that kind of stuff.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Dr. Sledge, very quickly, would you agree that no major changes are needed?

    DR. WILLIAM SLEDGE: I agree.

    And I think one of the things that’s been left out of this conversation is the tight collaboration and coordination between the major trunk carriers, the FAA and the Airline Pilots Association, who are really quite together in maintaining safety and healthy clientele.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A just final quick question to both of you. Should Americans for the most part feel confident when they get on a plane and fly in this country.

    Dr. Silberman?

    DR. WARREN SILBERMAN: Hey, I — with all the years that I was at the FAA and the stuff that I still do with pilots, I feel totally comfortable flying in the U.S.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Dr. Sledge?

    DR. WILLIAM SLEDGE: I would agree.

    But I would also add that, when something like this happens, we should stop and pause and just recheck and make sure that we’re doing the best we can. But I completely agree. This doesn’t change my confidence in the system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. William Sledge, Dr. Warren Silberman, we thank you both.

    DR. WILLIAM SLEDGE: You’re welcome.

    DR. WARREN SILBERMAN: Thank you.

    DR. WILLIAM SLEDGE: Thank you.

    The post Does the U.S. need to change its mental health screening process for pilots? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Demonstrators gather to protest a controversial religious freedom bill in Indianapolis

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the fight over religious freedom and discrimination.

    Late today, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed its own controversial law and the governor has indicated he will sign it.

    NewsHour political editor Lisa Desjardins is in Indiana this week, where there’s been an uproar over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, that many claim will allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

    Indiana’s governor tried to answer critics this morning.

    GOV. MIKE PENCE, (R) Indiana: Let me say, first and foremost, as I have said to each one of them, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was about religious liberty, not about discrimination. As I said last week, had this law been about legalizing discrimination, I would have vetoed it.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Indiana Governor Mike Pence took 37 minutes to try and roll back five days of questions about whether he signed an anti-gay law.

    GOV. MIKE PENCE: I abhor discrimination. The way I was raised was like most Hoosiers, with the golden rule, that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: As the Indiana Republican aimed to define his new law as not discriminatory, Hoosiers were at lunch, and less certain about how to digest their governor’s words.

    MAN: He still hasn’t — he still hasn’t said what he’s going to do.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The news conference played on TVs usually reserved for football or music videos at Olly’s sports bar in Indianapolis.

    MAN: I think he talks in circles. I think he realizes he has made a mistake. A lot of us believe that this is truly a backlash for the gay and lesbian marriage laws.

    LISA DESJARDINS: All of this is happening as, and in large part is boiling because, the pinnacle of all college sporting events, the NCAA Final Four championship, is set to begin this weekend in Indianapolis.

    And that put an extra spotlight on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. On Sunday, Pence appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC News: Do you think it should be legal in the state of Indiana to discriminate against gays or lesbians?

    GOV. MIKE PENCE: George…

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s a yes-or-no question.

    GOV. MIKE PENCE: Hoosiers — come on. Hoosiers don’t believe in discrimination.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Pence now admits that he could have done better. Many loud voices in his state let him know. Gay rights groups held two rallies in the past four days, this one yesterday, seizing modern Republican watchwords like liberty, and also drawing a direct line to civil rights sins of the past.

    MAN: You will never get me, my family, my friends or anybody who I know who social justice- or civic-minded to agree with a bill that brings Jim Crow back to Indiana.


    LISA DESJARDINS: With a standing-room-only crowd on hand Monday, the Indianapolis City Council voted on its own resolution. Nine Republicans joined Democrats like Zach Adamson, who is gay and married.

    ZACH ADAMSON: The Indianapolis City-County Council is opposed to the recent passage of RFRA.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Some voices in the Indiana business community were also upset and present.

    Bill Oesterle is the CEO of Angie’s List and a big Republican donor.

    BILL OESTERLE, CEO, Angie’s List: We’re completely opposed to this measure. We want to see it repealed or we want to see changes to the civil rights code. And that’s because we have — our chief asset is our people.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Angie’s List has ended its plans for a major expansion. And it joined with eight other high-profile Indiana companies, including Eli Lilly and Roche, to urge Governor Pence to reform the law. And rock band Wilco has canceled a May concert.

    TONY KATZ, Radio Host: Because of RFRA, which they decide is discrimination. They have decided, not a court, no lawsuit. Wilco, this band that you have never heard of, they have decided it is discrimination, so clearly, you know, must be.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But many conservatives in Indiana, like radio talk show host Tony Katz, are crying foul.

    TONY KATZ: If the intent in America is to ensure you have the right to say no and not get attacked for it, well, then, OK, I’m fine with that. But the bill itself, I’m not in favor of because I’m not interested in legislation to fix a cultural issue, which is this ability to say no.

    LISA DESJARDINS: A potentially historic moment, at a time when Hoosiers see themselves as charging forward, moving past outdated factories, pouring billions into a modern Indianapolis that has become a sports powerhouse and business magnet, now that story is overshadowed by another.

    MAN: It’s not going to end until Indiana, the United States decides to quit drawing a line down the middle and saying, I’m right, you’re wrong.

    TONY KATZ: But if you have no concept of what the word clarification means, I don’t know what the answer is. I really and truly don’t know. That’s what’s making this, in terms of a news story, even without the people who are just there to try and hurt, it makes it a spectacular soap opera.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins us now from Indianapolis.

    So, Lisa, we heard the governor this morning he wants the clarify the language in that law. What happens now?

    LISA DESJARDINS: A lot of action in the next couple days, Judy. I just got off the found with the House speaker’s office.

    Here’s the plan: They have cleared the way for possible clarification language to work through the House, a vote likely tomorrow or on Thursday. But here’s the problem right now, Judy. They don’t have the language agreed upon. Meetings are under way. It sounds like they could go late into the night. That language will be important, not just for conservatives and for the state of Indiana, but also for the NCAA Tournament, because if gay rights activists don’t like this language, they don’t think that it protects them enough, I know and have been told that they will plan protests during the NCAA Tournament this week.

    And I can’t stress enough around here how important the NCAA is. Obviously, we know it nationally. But you really feel it in this town, Judy. Indianapolis is the NCAA’s headquarters. And the NCAA only pays a dollar a year to the city to stay here, so it’s a real cornerstone that Indianapolis prizes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s clear that’s adding a real sense of urgency.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa, you have been — you were telling me earlier today you have been talking to a lot of Indiana residents.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do they feel about all this, about all the attention they’re getting over this controversy?

    LISA DESJARDINS: You know, I think the thing that surprised me the most, Judy, and that I heard a lot from conservatives, liberals alike here, all kinds of people, they say they don’t like to be in the spotlight here. They’re really used to Indiana being off the radar. They like to think of themselves as a state that is kind of a best-kept secret.

    And in general, they don’t like making national headlines. But another thing I heard from folks, Judy, is that they think they are at the center of a national moment. Indianapolis, I didn’t know this before I came here, their motto — or their nickname is the crossroads of America. And I think there is a sense in this town that they’re now at the crossroads of the debate over rights in America.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins with some very fine reporting from Indiana, thank you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Thank you.

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    JEFFREY BROWN: For now, both sides are also watching for the kind of post-election violence that plagued the country four years ago.

    And joining me now is Nii Akuetteh, executive director of the African Immigrant Caucus.

    Welcome to you.

    NII AKUETTEH, African Immigrant Caucus: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do we know about what explains this election? Is it pro — anti- Jonathan or pro-challenger at this point?

    NII AKUETTEH: I think it is both.

    I would put the emphasis on actually anti-Jonathan, because, for one thing, this party that just won, they had been splinter parties, four of them, and they came together because they had been losing to Jonathan’s party since 1999, and — but also, this time, Jonathan’s party split. There was an internal dispute, and a lot of them left.

    I think that’s an undercounted factor. They left because some of them had said that there was an agreement that Jonathan shouldn’t stand. So both the internal problems and the external coalition, I think, help explain it. There were other issues, political issues, like the economy, like Boko Haram, and like corruption as well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you more about Muhammadu Buhari, because, a former military dictator, why would he be elected now in a democratic election?

    NII AKUETTEH: I think we’re going to be learning more about him, because even though he was a former head of state, it was only for a brief time. And then he has run three times and lost.

    And so people have — I think, outside of Nigeria, have a fairly simplistic view of him, but his image will be fleshed out now. For one thing, he’s seen as a very austere, incorruptible man. He also has run four times, so, clearly, he’s determined that there is something that he can do for Nigeria. And this time, so many Nigerians supported him outside. Before, he had always been popular in the north. This time, he got support in the south, too.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you sense implications for the fight against Boko Haram, because that of course has been much of the focus, international focus, but also in Nigeria?

    NII AKUETTEH: I do, actually.

    But I think that, in the past five weeks, the elections were postponed because the military wanted more time to deal with the insurgents. And people were skeptical, but I think an objective look on the ground says actually they now have Boko Haram on the run.

    Now, they haven’t been eliminated. And they are insurgency force that is using terrorism, so they can pop up at any time. But it seems to me their back has been broken. So President Buhari will just have to mop up with them, make sure that they don’t crop up again, and that they don’t also spill over into neighboring countries.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You see signs that they are on the run, but the fight is far from over; is that what you’re saying?

    NII AKUETTEH: That is what I’m saying. I think it would be dangerous to assume that it’s beaten and take eyes off the ball.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about the stakes for the United States? What impact does this have on our relations with Nigeria and, for that matter, with the larger reason because of its important role there?

    NII AKUETTEH: I think it’s actually a new and fresh and welcome beginning.

    I know that there are people — the U.S. officially stayed neutral, but in my own picking up in the streets of Washington, I thought that people were tired of Jonathan and they would like a fresh face. Now we have somewhat of a fresh face. And the U.S., because of Boko Haram — but like the setup mentioned, Nigeria is the richest country, the largest economy in Africa.

    Somebody has estimated that the middle class in Nigeria is almost as large as the population of Germany. And so when the hiccup over the drop in oil prices is gone, I think economic relations between the U.S. and Nigeria will be very strong. So both on security and on the economy, I think the U.S. will want to strengthen its relations with Nigeria.

    Now, the kind of work that I do in the daytime, we like to see strong relations. And, frankly, we would have liked Nigeria to have received more help fighting Boko Haram, in the same manner the U.S. has given for the fight against ISIS. And I actually get the impression that the U.S. is about to do that now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re seeing more possibility from that of this?

    NII AKUETTEH: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Nii Akuetteh, thank you very much.

    NII AKUETTEH: Thanks for having me.

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    GOODBYE GOODLUCK  nigeria  monitor flag map

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Longtime Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat today in his reelection bid in Africa’s richest and most populous nation. He lost by at least two million votes to challenger Muhammadu Buhari.

    Jeffrey Brown reports.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Supporters of Buhari celebrated in the northern city of Kaduna, an opposition stronghold, as word of the results spread.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): I am out because I am happy about the change of government.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The winner, a Muslim and former military ruler, swept the Muslim north. Crucially, he also scored well in states across Southern Nigeria, where Christians predominate and Jonathan had his power base.

    The outcome stunned the ruling party, and one of its officials even disrupted the electoral commission’s proceedings, charging, “We have lost confidence in you.”

    But for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress party, the results were momentous.

    LAI MOHAMMED, All Progressives Congress Spokesman: We are all happy because we are witnessing history, history in the sense that this is the first time in Nigeria that a sitting government would be voted out of power using purely democratic means.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Buhari initially came to power in a military coup 30 years ago, but says he became an advocate of democracy after civilian rule returned to Nigeria in 1999. He says he will draw on his past experience to stamp out the violent Boko Haram militants.

    MUHAMMADU BUHARI, Nigerian President-Elect: With my background as a military man, I think we have to quickly restore the morale of the Nigerian military and the reinforcement agencies by certainly getting weapons, retraining, and reorganization.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news, the Obama administration formally pledged to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions up to 28 percent over 10 years. It’s part of a proposed global treaty. The cuts would come from vehicle and appliance efficiency standards and from limits on power plants. Some of those steps face challenges in Congress and the courts.

    The defense has rested in the Boston Marathon bombing trial, without calling the accused bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to testify. His lawyers admit that he took part in the 2013 attack, but they’re trying to save him from the death penalty. They called four witnesses to show that he was influenced by his brother. Closing arguments begin on Monday.

    Saudi Arabia’s growing military campaign in Yemen intensified today, on land, sea and in the air.

    Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News has this report.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: After six days of Saudi airstrikes, Yemen is on the verge of total collapse. So says the U.N., which adds that over 90 civilians have been killed here in the capital in the last few days, Saudi warplanes trying to drive Shia rebels back, but making enemies in the process.

    MAN (through translator): They hit us until they completely destroyed these homes, while we were sleeping at home.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: In the north, a U.N. refugee camp was hit by Saudi jets, leaving at least 40 dead. The U.N. said it was shocked. Yemen’s foreign minister blamed rebels for being there.

    RIYADH YASEEN, Yemeni Foreign Minister: Houthis, they are going to places where there is some population or residential houses, and they’re trying to put their weapons there.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Last night, the Saudis hit this munitions warehouse near Sanaa. While the missiles are landing, the International Committee of the Red Cross has failed to negotiate delivering medical supplies by air, not in the midst of this burgeoning Sunni-Shia war.

    The Houthis are allied with Iran. And that alliance may strengthen, as the Saudi-led Arab coalition weighs up a possible land invasion next, because airstrikes may not be enough to dislodge them, and there’s no sign of a political way out of this crisis, let alone a cease-fire.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Saudis say they mean to restore to office Yemen’s president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who’s also backed by the United States.

    President Obama today released military aid to Egypt, as the Cairo government moves to form an Arab alliance against terror. The aid had been on hold since the Egyptian military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. It includes 12 F-16 fighter jets, plus missiles and other weaponry.

    In Iraq, government forces fought their way into the center of the city of Tikrit, against Islamic State militants. Military officials said troops attacking from the south and west have recaptured at least 75 percent of the city. The Interior Ministry reported street-to-street fighting, with at least 40 Islamic State fighters killed.

    Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi spoke in Baghdad.

    HAIDER AL-ABADI, Iraqi Prime Minister (through translator): I would like to present to you the good news that our troops have raised the Iraqi flag over the provincial building.


    HAIDER AL-ABADI (through translator): And they are now purging other parts of the city from the Islamic State militants.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The operation to retake Tikrit began earlier this month, with Iranian support, but it stalled. Last week, the Iraqis called in U.S. airstrikes, and the ground offensive began moving again.

    The United States committed over half-a-billion dollars today to help Syrian refugees. It was part of nearly $4 billion pledged by nations at a U.N. summit in Kuwait. Almost 11 million people, half of Syria’s population, have been displaced by the war.

    And back in this country, a late-day slide on Wall Street wiped out most of Monday’s gains. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 200 points to close under 17800. The Nasdaq fell 46, and the S&P 500 gave up 18.

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    Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi walks with others during a break in a meeting with world representatives seeking to pin down a nuclear deal with Iran at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers went down to the deadline today. But with hours to go, the State Department announced that the meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, are being extended at least a day.

    We get more from Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News, who’s in Lausanne.

    Indira, hello again.

    So it’s midnight there. This was when it was all supposed to be wrapped up. What’s going on?

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, Bloomberg News: Yes, I was supposed to be on a plane by now, but obviously you’re seeing me here, so apparently we’re not.

    We’re just a few minutes past the self-imposed deadline that the two sides set for themselves last November, when they missed their last deadline, so the idea was they were meant to come to this framework understanding tonight.

    Now, clearly, the two sides have made enough progress that they feel it’s worth going into the next day, as they have told us. But not surprisingly at a time like this, you have got public posturing and messaging through the media. We had one delegation tell us that Iran had been given a make-or-break dawn deadline, that it was now or never.

    Then the U.S. denied that. Iran denied that. So, you know, each of these different six powers in Iran are trying to send their own messages to try to get something done that they can go home and be happy with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, is it possible to sort out among all these stories that are being put out there to the press which ones are reliable?


    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: I think we’re not going to know until we know, until they give us a joint declaration or until they declare failure.

    But what we had been hearing earlier in the day was that it was very likely that the two sides were going to come up with major points of agreement, not on everything. That’s for sure. They still had problems over Iran’s enrichment capacity, over research and development, and over sanctions relief, and what the — what shape that was going to take.

    But they were going to try to come up with major points of agreement, come up with a joint declaration and then have bullet points. Then that would still give them three more months to come up with a detailed technical accord. But, you know, I think, at this point, they’re still trying to get there.

    They need to be able to have agreed on enough of the main points that Secretary Kerry can take it home to Washington, sell it on Capitol Hill, and Minister Zarif of Iran can take it home and sell it to the supreme leader and President Rouhani.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Indira, we have been told the Iranians all along have been more focused on a June deadline, when they wanted to get this resolved. Is that having an impact on what’s taken place?

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: It may be. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has said that he doesn’t want a two-step final deal. He wants one step.

    And the Iranians, we know, behind closed doors, have been pressuring the Americans, saying, we want a long, written accord, the final one in June. We don’t want to have to write something out now. But I don’t really think that’s what’s holding it up at this point. I think what’s holding it up is that there are some really difficult issues. And that’s why there has been a 12-year standoff between the international community and Iran over this disputed nuclear program, which Iran denies is seeking military applications, but the world believes that they have sought nuclear weapons.

    So these are really tough issues to resolve. And I think that’s why we’re seeing them going into the early hours of the morning, because they haven’t come to an agreement yet simply that they can take away and both be happy with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Indira Lakshmanan, and it sounds like you’re going to have a long night. Thank you.

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    Four in 10 millennials said the sex ed they received in middle or high school was not helpful when it came to making decisions about sex and relationships, according to a new survey. Photo by Getty Images

    Four in 10 millennials said the sex ed they received in middle or high school was not helpful when it came to making decisions about sex and relationships, according to a new survey. Photo by Getty Images

    Millennials widely support comprehensive sexual education, but almost four in 10 millennials report that the sex education they received was not helpful, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

    Approximately three-quarters of millennials received some amount of sex ed in middle or high school, and nine in 10 trusted the lessons they learned as very or somewhat medically accurate. But 37 percent said that when it came to their own lives, this information did not help them make decisions about sex and relationships. This opinion differed by race, with 14 percent of whites and 12 percent of Asian-Pacific Islanders saying their sex ed was helpful, while 27 percent of black respondents and 32 percent of Hispanic respondents reported the same.

    Most millennials support the use of contraception and a majority, 78 percent, says it should be available on college campuses. Millennials also tie the issue of contraception to women’s financial security, with 64 percent of women and 55 percent of men saying that access to contraception is vital to ensuring financial security for women. They also report that sexual assault, after which emergency contraception can be necessary, is somewhat or very common in high school (53 percent) and at colleges (73 percent).

    But currently, fewer than half U.S. states require schools to teach sex ed at all, with only 18 states and the District of Columbia required to provide information on contraception, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

    Meanwhile, 37 states require schools to provide information on abstinence, and in 25 states schools must stress abstinence as an option. 19 states mandate that schools stress the importance of sex only within marriage.

    Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, told the Washington Post it was not surprising that some millennials did not find sex ed helpful.

    “Many were in school during a time when schools taught only abstinence. Others may have received clinical information about disease or pregnancy prevention, but few were provided the information young people truly need to traverse puberty, understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, develop a positive body image, make informed decisions, communicate effectively or navigate the health care system,” she said.

    Young people are at a unique risk for teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Nearly half of all new STI infections in the U.S. each year affect youth ages 15-24, according to Advocates for Youth, a sex education advocacy group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in four teenage girls has an STI. The U.S. also has a higher teen pregnancy rate than many other developed nations, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    The poll also showed that only 12 percent of respondents had addressed non-heterosexual sex in class. Nine states have state laws on the books that limit schools’ discussion of non-heterosexual sex, and in three states — Texas, South Carolina and Alabama — any mention of non-heterosexual sex must be in a negative context.

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    Senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown plays with an elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park. Photo by Molly Raskin

    Senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown plays with an elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park. Photo by Molly Raskin

    On Tuesday, PBS NewsHour’s chief correspondent for arts and culture Jeffrey Brown addressed questions from journalism students in a Facebook chat. Questions ranged from the best educational path to follow to value of blogging and how to navigate censorship.

    Brown advised students not to specialize too young, and emphasized the value of a varied education to inform journalists’ reporting later in life. He also spoke of his love for literature and the arts, and how it is possible to make a well-covered story new again by reporting through a cultural lens–something that Brown does regularly in his “Culture at Risk” series. In response to a student who asked Brown to identify “the best” moment in his career, Brown wrote, “Don’t worry about ‘best’ moments or best jobs right now. Focus on building a life and career and see where it takes you. Most likely to unexpected places.”

    Read additional excerpts from this Q&A below, and stay tuned for information about the next chat in our series of Facebook chats for journalism students.

    Editor’s note: The following excerpts have been edited lightly for grammar and clarity.

    Juliana Taylor: What was your first big break into journalism?

    Jeffrey Brown: I started late – and maybe there’s a lesson there for all of you late bloomers. I took my time getting through college. I didn’t even think about journalism until my mid-20s. My first job was doing the ‘listings’ for an alternative weekly in San Francisco. But at some point I got an idea in my head: I wanted to cover the Supreme Court and I wanted to do it for the New York Times. Okay, it was a BIG idea. I went to law school, not to practice law but to learn law. (I never finished law school, by the way, but that’s another story.) At the Columbia Journalism School I met Fred Friendly, a legend in broadcast journalism history and, at that time, running his own production company while teaching at Columbia. First big break in journalism? I’ll go with: meeting Fred and having the opportunity to work with him. That started me on the path.

    Betty AkaShannon Stevens: Thank you for this wonderful opportunity! As the faculty advisor for CSU Signal, a student newspaper in California’s central valley, my students often want to know which is better: continuing to write, edit and produce for the college paper for academic credit or take a low-paying job at a local, small-town news outlet. What are your thoughts?

    Jeffrey Brown: This is a question that comes up all the time with young people I meet, including those who come to the NewsHour to work in our desk assistant program. A variation on the theme is whether it makes more sense to attend journalism school or to get right into the workplace. There’s really no one answer. I’d insist on one key point: Write! Write and write. That’s before you think about ‘television’ or ‘web’ or whatever medium you’re going to work in. The main thing is to learn to organize your facts and thoughts into a coherent story. I promise you that this will help in whatever you end up doing.

    To answer your question with another question: Where will you get the best chance to learn to do that? I see college as a place to learn. Learn about the world, learn things that will help your journalism work, whether directly or indirectly. Take classes in subjects that interest you and try things you may not be interested in. That is to say, I prefer the idea of taking non-journalism classes while in college and writing for the college paper.

    Lisa Kaplan: Is there a “best” educational path for prospective college freshman seeking to study journalism (i.e. liberal arts foundation vs. journalism school)?

    Jeffrey Brown: There’s an easy answer to this: No! But I don’t mean to be glib in responding to you. Ask every journalist you meet about his or her educational background. You’ll hear some interesting responses. Mine might be a highly unusual one. My undergraduate degree was in classics. Ancient Greek! As you might imagine, this doesn’t come up very often in the stories I cover every day. And yet I’m so grateful for that grounding. It taught me about rigor, about really digging into something, about looking for larger contexts of history, thought, literature and ideas that lurk behind so much of what we deal with in the news.

    Is a degree in journalism the way to go? It can be. Many wonderful journalists have taken that route. My own advice, though, would be to use college to expose yourself to as many things as you can, very much including the humanities and liberal arts. It will help you throughout your life and career in unexpected ways.

    John Bauer: Thank you for taking the time to do this! Is starting your own blog or finding lesser known sources who will publish your work a good thing to do for someone looking to get into journalism?

    Jeffrey Brown: I would think that anything you do along those lines is only going to help, though it may not necessarily lead to a job directly. you have to give yourself ways to learn and experience the practice of journalism. See an earlier answer: You have to learn to write, to gather facts and organize them into a coherent story. Doing that on your own blog is partly about creating a venue for yourself. And, yes, it also shows initiative to a prospective employer. The idea of ‘lesser known sources’ is an interesting one, especially if it becomes a way for you to bring a particular area of interest or knowledge to your work. Whether you’re interested in covering the environment or a particular type of music or a region of the world, find a way to bring something of ‘you’ to it. Thanks for your question.

    Molly Meeker: Thank you for taking time to answer our questions! What is a piece of advice you have for an aspiring travel journalist? What educational programs do you suggest pursuing in order to open opportunities?

    Jeffrey Brown: Well, that’s an interesting question. I’ve never been a ‘travel journalist’ but I’m certainly a ‘travelling journalist.’ It seems to me the educational programs would be the same: You have to learn about the world to know where to look and who to talk to when reporting. Knowing the history of a place helps you understand its situation today. A country’s economy should interest you even if, in the end, you’re just recommending the best value hotels. Do you want to write about coral reefs in the Pacific? It would help to know something about biology and ocean and plant life. I myself love to read fiction and whenever I travel anywhere for work I try to read literature from that place. I like the insight it provides, whether or not it ends up directly in the story I’m working on. (As I’ve written in a previous answer, I also love to interview writers and artists in my travels.) And, by the way, I love it when travel journalists include that kind of cultural knowledge and even recommend writers and artists in their stories. I would also tell you, though, that the principles of good reporting apply — or should apply — whether you’re covering a local election at city hall or a surfing contest in Maui. Thank you, Molly, and good luck.

    Tyree Johnson: Are you an archaeologist ?

    Jeffrey Brown: No, but I play one on TV. I’m joking. I am not an archaeologist, no. But I do love history, literature, ideas and studying old things. In a previous answer I explained that I was a classics major in college. In recent years I’ve found a great way to pursue these interests, including archaeology, in a series I’ve been reporting around the world called “Culture at Risk.” It looks at art, artifacts, buildings, even whole cities that are at risk from war, development, climate change, changing aesthetic tastes and more. It’s a way of looking ‘behind’ the front page, if you will. That is, we might report on the war in Syria, but through the lens of its impact on historic sites. Another example: I was recently at several remarkable archaeological sites in northern Peru and it was a chance, in part, to look at the impact of climate change.

    Are you an archaeologist? And want to be a journalist? I’d say, go for it.

    Hanno van der Bijl: How do you deal with censorship? I wrote an article for a trade magazine recently where two quotes I included were censored because people in the industry would get upset. I just went along with it. Was that wrong of me?

    Jeffrey Brown: I think I’d need to know more about the publication you work for and the article you wrote. Were you taken by surprise? Did you have a good talk with your editor before you ‘went along with it’? My advice would be to try first to understand the thinking behind whatever action was taken then make your arguments if you think the action was wrong.

    I’m often asked about potential interference or censorship by one or another of our funders at the NewsHour — public funds, corporations, foundations. I’m happy to say I’ve never experienced that. We have very strict guidelines when it comes to that and wouldn’t accept interference.

    Rachel Toalson: What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge when finding/writing your stories and how do you overcome that challenge?

    Jeffrey Brown: Thank you, Rachel. It’s not a challenge to find stories, generally. They’re everywhere. The bigger problem is choosing which stories to report. (I’m not talking, of course, about the big headline stories that we MUST cover.) There are very practical factors that come into play: resources, time, how many stories can fit onto a particular program and more. But some of it is just going with your gut — What really grabs you? What story do you find compelling enough to want to tell your audience? Maybe the more interesting challenge, though, is how to know when you’ve ‘got’ the story, when you know enough or have told it well enough? I’m not sure anyone ever gets past that feeling of doubt or the desire to report and tell more. But this is why deadlines (and editors) were invented! You overcome the challenge — that is, you finish the story — because you must.

    Breanna Walker: What was the best moment in your career as a journalist?

    Jeffrey Brown: Thank you for your question, Breanna. I can’t give you one ‘best’ moment. I can tell you that a very fulfilling and fascinating part of my job has been to travel to different places and look at the news through the eyes and voices of writers, musicians and other artists. It’s a different window on the world and one that we rarely get exposed to. It’s also allowed me to meet many remarkable people. Another best part (as opposed to ‘moment’) of my career is going behind the scenes at events. Again, this often involves the arts — being backstage at the theater and seeing all the work that goes into a performance. But I also have to tell you that there are ways to find satisfaction even in the everyday-ness of doing the ‘daily news’. My advice to you, if you’re just setting out: Don’t worry about ‘best’ moments or best jobs right now. Focus on building a life and career and see where it takes you. Most likely to unexpected places.

    The post Jeffrey Brown’s advice for young journalists? Expect the unexpected. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    [Watch Video]

    Gary Dahl, the advertising copywriter behind the 1975 fad Pet Rock, died March 23 at the age of 78. Dahl’s wife confirmed Tuesday that the inventor of the pop culture craze died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the Associated Press reported.

    The concept for the easy, cheap pet sprung out of bar conversation with friends. But the product was an overnight success, selling 1.5 million rocks over a period of months for $3.95 apiece.

    Dahl initially bought several one-cent Mexican beach stones at a building supply store and packaged each one inside a cardboard box, atop a straw nest. The 20-page step-by-step manual that came with each Pet Rock covered how to feed and train “your sensitive pet,” including helpful tips such as “a pat of approval works wonders.”

    1975 version of the Pet Rock. Photo courtesy of the  Strong National Museum of Play

    1975 version of the Pet Rock. Photo courtesy of the Strong National Museum of Play

    As CNN Money pointed out, Dahl told the Toledo Blade in 1999 that the Pet Rock was a product of its time.

    “At the time, the Vietnam War was winding down; Watergate has just started up,” he said. “There was a whole lot of bad news going on. People were down. It wasn’t a real good time for the national psyche. I think the Pet Rock was just a good giggle. Everybody needed a good laugh and the media ate it up.”

    We’ve seen panda cams, puppy cams, even sloth cams. So, in that spirit, and in tribute to Dahl, we introduce to you: the Pet Rock cam.

    The post Devote a slab of your day to our Pet Rock live stream appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted with corruption charges on April 1, 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted on corruption charges on April 1, 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted on corruption charges Wednesday, accused of using his office to improperly benefit a Florida eye doctor and political donor.

    The indictment charged the New Jersey Democrat with 14 counts, including bribery and conspiracy, over his ties to Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy doctor and the politician’s longtime friend.

    Melgen also was charged in the case.

    The indictment from a grand jury in New Jersey was the latest development in a federal investigation that came into public view when federal authorities raided Melgen’s medical offices two years ago. The investigation focused on whether the senator had improperly advocated on Melgen’s behalf, including by intervening in a Medicare billing dispute.

    Menendez has acknowledged that he flew multiple times on Melgen’s private jet to the Dominican Republic and initially failed to properly pay for the trips. Menendez in 2013 agreed to reimburse Melgen $58,500 for the full cost of two flights.

    The senator’s office later disclosed another flight, from Florida to New Jersey in 2011, and said Menendez had repaid Melgen $11,250 for it.

    Last year, Menendez disclosed that his campaign accounts had paid a law firm $250,000 for legal costs related to investigations by the Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee of his ties to Melgen.

    Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has acknowledged taking actions that could benefit Melgen, among them contacting U.S. health agencies to ask about billing practices and policies.

    But the lawmaker has said he did nothing wrong and that he and Melgen have been friends for decades.

    “We celebrated holidays together,” he once told reporters. “We have been there for family weddings and sad times like funerals and have given each other birthday, holiday and wedding presents, just as friends do.”

    Melgen came under renewed scrutiny when government data last year showed he had received more in Medicare reimbursements in 2012 than any other doctor in the country.

    Menendez becomes the first sitting U.S. senator to face indictment since then-Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, in 2008. Stevens was found guilty of concealing gifts from donors on financial disclosure statements, but the Justice Department later dropped the case after admitting that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that would have been favorable to his defense.

    Menedez joined the Senate in 2006 after serving more than a decade in the House of Representatives.

    A lawyer and former mayor of Union City, New Jersey, Menendez also served in the New Jersey General Assembly and state Senate.

    Even while under federal investigation, he has used his leadership position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to criticize negotiations between President Barack Obama’s administration and Iran on its nuclear program and has been outspoken in opposition to normalizing relations with Cuba.

    The post Sen. Bob Menendez indicted on federal corruption charges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Parks Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia

    Several teachers and the principal of Parks Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia, were implicated in a massive cheating scandal at the school.

    Eleven former Atlanta educators were found guilty on Wednesday for their roles in a public schools cheating scandal to inflate students’ scores on standardized tests. The educators were convicted of racketeering, a felony that could put them in prison for decades.

    The guilty were accused of participating in cheating dating back to 2005, driven by the pressure to meet federal standards and for personal gain, according to The Associated Press.

    Investigations on the educators started back in 2009 when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution raised questions about Atlanta students’ drastically improved scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, a standardized test given across Georgia. In 2011, investigators found widespread cheating cases in at least 44 schools in Atlanta, with nearly 180 educators accused of wrongdoing. A grand jury indicted 35 educators in March 2013 and 12 defendants decided to go before a jury.

    Many of the educators blamed former Superintendent Beverly Hall, who died last month from breast cancer, of pressuring them inflate scores. She was supposed to be included in the trial. Investigators said Hall and the top officials “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” for anyone who tried to report it.

    The post 11 former educators convicted of racketeering in Atlanta cheating scandal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A breeding male blackpoll warbler. Photo by Robert Royse

    A breeding male blackpoll warbler. Photo by Robert Royse

    Every year, from September to November, millions of tiny songbirds gather along the Northeastern coastline, get fat feasting on insects and take to the skies. And then they fly and they fly and they fly.

    It’s long been believed that the blackpoll warbler, a speckled grey and white bird with a black cap and an unusually high-pitched song, completed an unimaginably long journey across the Atlantic Ocean. This week, a team of researchers from Canada and the northeastern United States, confirmed it. The warblers fly south over water as far as 1,700 hundred miles — with no layover.

    “Many consider it one of the most amazing migratory feats on the planet,” said Bill DeLuca, lead author of the study and an ecologist at the University of Massachusetts.

    While abundant in the United States, the population of blackpoll warblers are declining rapidly, at a rate of 6 percent a year. Rebecca Holberton from the University of Maine, who has been studying these birds for 20 years, said it wasn’t uncommon in the past to catch 300 warblers in the fall. Now you’re lucky if you get 30. Understanding what’s at the root of this decline requires better understanding their life cycle and migratory patterns.

    In summer 2013, scientists strapped geolocator backpacks to the backs of 38 birds in Nova Scotia and Vermont. The geolocators weigh half a gram and consist of a battery, a light sensor and data storage. Each device recorded the time the sun rose and set on each day. Scientists use those times to track the birds’ flight path.

    Blackpoll Warbler

    “It’s the way mariners have navigated around the world for centuries,” DeLuca said.

    But accessing that data requires retrieving the geolocator from a bird that’s completed the migration south and then returned to its breeding ground in the north.

    “It’s seems like this migration is really on the brink of impossibility,” DeLuca said. “And then to say we’re now going to strap this half a gram thing on the bird’s back and hope to get it the following year.”

    Of the 38 fitted, five were retrieved. Chris Rimmer recalled finding the first bird after it’s return flight.

    “Exhilaration. Relief. Amazement. Excitement. All those adjectives,” Rimmer said. “It was a watershed moment for sure.”

    William DeLuca and Chris Rimmer attach a geolocator to a blackpoll warbler on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont. Photo by Vermont Center for Ecostudies

    William DeLuca and Chris Rimmer attach a geolocator to a blackpoll warbler on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont. Photo by Vermont Center for Ecostudies

    Four of the birds made landfall in Hispaniola or Puerto Rico. Another flew from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to Turks and Caicos. All five continued on to Venezuela and Colombia. Their longest flight ranged from 1,410 to 1,721 miles.

    The size of these birds and the fact that they’re a forest-dwelling species sets them apart from other long-distance flyers. Most forest dwellers take the path of least resistance, hopping along the coast and from island to island. And of those that cross over water, most are seabirds, much larger and built to feed on fish.

    Scientists believe the warblers ride along the tailwinds. Their fat buildup also helps them survive. Before takeoff, the birds nearly double their body weight from 11.5 grams to as much as 30 grams and shrink unneeded organs, so their bodies are little more than wings for flight, fat for fuel and brain for navigation.

    “These birds just become little roly poly balls of feather with fat,” Rimmer said. “It’s extraordinary, the sheaths of fat on their skin. You wonder if they could even take off. But they couldn’t be powered on that long flight without this source of fuel.”

    They also shut down parts of their brain that they’re not using and build up their storage of red blood cells, which allows them to hold more oxygen in their blood.

    The next step for scientists is to better understand the factors that threaten this population. It’s likely a combination of factors, Holberton said. Deforestation is a threat both north and south in the Amazon River basin, along with an increase in the intensity of offshore hurricanes.

    “To know and understand how to effectively conserve a migratory bird, you have to really understand what’s happening at all stages of its migratory cycles — where it breeds and where it winters,” Rimmer said. “This is an important piece of that overall puzzle.”

    The post This tiny songbird flies Canada to Puerto Rico nonstop appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video by University of Nottingham

    Scientists in the United Kingdom have found what they believe could be an unlikely treatment for the deadly and notoriously hard-to-kill MRSA superbug: a foul-smelling, Medieval concoction of garlic, wine and cow bile.

    University of Nottingham microbiologist Freya Harrison and Anglo-Saxon scholar Christina Lee made this discovery when the duo found a recipe for a potion used in Medieval England to treat eye infections and decided to put its alleged curative properties to the test.

    The results were surprising.

    They found the concoction not only managed to clear up stye but also killed the MRSA bacteria in mice. According to the research, the salve destroyed virtually all traces of the bacteria when placed on the mice’s infected wounds.

    “We thought that Bald’s eyesalve might show a small amount of antibiotic activity because each of the ingredients has been shown by other researchers to have some effect on bacteria in the lab,” Harrison told The Telegraph. “But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was.”

    The original recipe calls for garlic and onions or leeks as well as wine and the bile from a cow’s stomach. The mixture is boiled in a brass vessel, then strained and left for nine days. The resulting cream is applied topically.

    A team of scientists at Texas Tech University who were asked to recreate Harrison and Lee’s experiment said the product was “good if not better” than traditional antibiotics. The group in Nottingham is now seeking additional funding to attempt human tests.

    A display of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria strain inside a petri dish containing agar jelly for bacterial culture in a microbiological laboratory in Berlin March 1, 2008. MRSA is a drug-resistant "superbug", which can cause deadly infections.    Photo by Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

    A display of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria strain inside a petri dish containing agar jelly for bacterial culture in a microbiological laboratory in Berlin March 1, 2008. MRSA is a drug-resistant “superbug”, which can cause deadly infections. Photo by Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

    The post Could a Medieval potion made of bile and garlic stop MRSA? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    tc boyle book cover

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn to books and to the latest addition on the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    T.C. Boyle has just published his 15th novel. In “The Harder They Come,” he explores the violence and darker corners of the American dream.

    Recently, he sat down with Jeffrey Brown at Busboys and Poets. It’s a restaurant and bookstore chain in the Washington, D.C., area.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Welcome to you.

    T.C. BOYLE, Author, “The Harder They Come”: Hi, Jeffrey. Glad to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, this novel I have read is based on real events. But what pulled you in?  What has to happen for you to say, I’m going to write this story?

    T.C. BOYLE: It’s a story about American violence, particularly American gun violence, the lone shooter.

    So, like everybody else in the country, I’m disturbed by why this happens, where it’s happening. And so I found a news story set in Northern California in which a lone shooter, who happened to be schizophrenic and supplied with automatic weapons by a generous society, killed two people and was at large in the woods.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Story right from the headlines.

    T.C. BOYLE: Right there, yes, right from the headlines. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So there’s this story that you have and you build up that, but then there’s also this quote at the beginning of book by D.H. Lawrence. “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer. It has never melted.”

    The American soul, you’re also somehow exploring that?

    T.C. BOYLE: I need a template to build the book. All right, I have a ready-made story of this killer. I’m changing the names, but I’m using the locale and the police report and so on.

    But what does it mean? You don’t really know what it means unless you put it in context. So, the title “The Harder They Come” and this quote from Lawrence kind of provides a template for me to then paint around.

    My novels are — my stories, novels are all organic. It just starts, I see something, and I follow it. So this was important to have this quote. Is that true? Is it true? Has it melted? Are we really like that? That’s the proposition that I want to find out about.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And you’re exploring it through fiction?

    T.C. BOYLE: Exactly. I mean, I don’t — as an artist, I don’t have an agenda. I’m not pushing a point of view. I’m exploring something and I’m inviting you in to explore it with me.

    That’s the difference between, let’s say, writing a piece of fiction and an essay.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have characters here who are part of fringe groups in the hills, against the government, anti-authoritarian.

    T.C. BOYLE: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That exists in our world. Do you research it?  Do you look into it, or do you start with something and then just imagine your way through it?

    T.C. BOYLE: I will take choice B on that one, Jeffrey.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Choice B?  OK.

    T.C. BOYLE: I have never come from a journalistic tradition. I have only simply been an artist all my life. I don’t do anything else. I just write fiction. It’s kind of a miracle for me, because I don’t know what it will be. I dream it up. It’s so very exciting.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what is it that interests you about this underbelly or this violence you see in our culture today?

    T.C. BOYLE: Again, I read the newspaper every day, and I’m worried. I worry about everything. I have written a lot about the environment and environmental degradation, global warming.

    I just wonder what’s happening to our society. How is it dissolving? What’s wrong with compassion? What’s wrong with negotiation? It seems to be like in some of the Hollywood movies we see, where there’s an exclusively good guy and an exclusively bad guy. The first 15 minutes, the bad guy does something terrible to the good guy’s family, and the rest of the movie, the good guy comes back and wipes them out, and we all cheer.

    I think it’s probably a little more complex than that. And so I write a novel to find out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I know you’re also a professor of literature. Is there a lot of — do you see a lot of writing about this kind of stuff, you know, I mean, the hard stuff of American life?  Do you wish there were more?

    T.C. BOYLE: No, I don’t wish there were more. And I also don’t see a lot of it.

    Every writer chooses his or her own territory and does what they’re going to do. So I really don’t have a wish to see one kind of writing or another. I just want to see good writing. But, yes, I do — I am very socially engaged and I do write about such things often and have all my career, because that’s what interests me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I read that you grew up in a working-class neighborhood yourself, household without a lot of books around?

    T.C. BOYLE: No books.

    JEFFREY BROWN: No books?

    T.C. BOYLE: My father was raised in an orphanage and educated to the eighth grade. My mother was the salutatorian of her high school class, but it was the Depression, and she lived in a family without a father present and couldn’t go to college.

    So they both encouraged me to become educated. We had a wonderful public school system. I went to a state university of New York, and for graduate work state university in Iowa and Iowa City. So I am a product of moving up through education, and is one reason why I continue to teach and believe in especially a liberal arts education, so that you can have time to find out who you are and what you are.

    I didn’t even know that one could be a writer until I was an undergrad.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really? That’s when books came into your life?  That’s when literature…

    T.C. BOYLE: Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The idea of writing.

    T.C. BOYLE: Yes.

    I started out as a music major, flunked my audition.


    T.C. BOYLE: And I said, oh, my God, what am I going to do?  What — I was in a liberal arts college, so I had always loved history. I said, I’m a history major.

    But then we took a course in which I read stories by Flannery O’Connor. I said, all right, I’m a double major, history and English. Junior year, I blundered into a creative writing classroom, and here I am.

    So, I really love the idea of allowing a young person to grow and discover what he or she can do in life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, Flannery O’Connor. What other writers turned you on and made you want to write?

    T.C. BOYLE: In that era, of course, Hemingway. All male — young male writers read Hemingway.

    John Updike was writing then. Shortly thereafter, when I started to write myself, it was the whole wave of the absurdist, the absurdist playwrights, and then people like Garcia Marquez, and Gunter Grass, and John Barth, and Robert Coover, people who had a large canvas and had this wicked sensibility and were highly literate. I just loved that sort of stuff, and still do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re a fairly prolific guy, right?

    T.C. BOYLE: Well, I’m still extremely young, as you can see on camera.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I see, yes.

    T.C. BOYLE: This is my 25th book.


    T.C. BOYLE: So I figure I will write another 25 more, and we will see what happens after that.


    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, this one is “The Harder They Come.”

    T.C. Boyle, thanks so much.

    T.C. BOYLE: You’re welcome. Thanks, Jeffrey. It was a lot of fun.


    The post T.C Boyle examines complexity of American violence in his latest novel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: And for educators across the nation, few problems have been as persistent as the academic disparity between boys of color and their white peers.

    A little over a year ago, President Obama launched an initiative designed in part to reverse that trend. But as even as the My Brother’s Keeper initiative takes shape, nagging questions remain about who is being left out.

    The NewsHour’s April Brown reports for our American Graduate series.

    APRIL BROWN: It’s a large investment aimed at improving academic outcomes for young men of color in Washington, D.C.

    KAYA HENDERSON, Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools: We will invest $20 million over the next three years to support the Empowering Males of Color Initiative.

    APRIL BROWN: The plan includes the creation of an all-boys public school in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

    This is just one of many recent efforts around the country supporting the My Brother’s Keeper initiative President Obama announced just more than a year ago.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in fourth grade. By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled.

    APRIL BROWN: My Brother’s Keeper received more than $300 million in pledges from foundations and private businesses to support literacy, jobs programs and criminal justice reforms for boys of color.

    But the growing emphasis on supporting males of color is being called into question, not for who is being helped, but rather who is being left out, young women of color.

    KIMBERLE WILLIAMS CRENSHAW, UCLA School of Law: There is a conversation throughout the country about some of the crises that boys of color are facing. There isn’t a similar conversation about girls of color.

    APRIL BROWN: Kimberle Williams Crenshaw is a professor of law at UCLA and Columbia and the author of a recent report called “Black Girls Matter,” examining the lives of girls of color in Boston and New York City schools.

    KIMBERLE WILLIAMS CRENSHAW: We found that black girls were 11 times more likely to be subject to discipline in Boston, 10 times more likely to be subject to discipline in New York. And that’s a greater racial disparity between girls than there is between boys.

    APRIL BROWN: She says the problems often extend into the classroom.

    KIMBERLE WILLIAMS CRENSHAW: Black girls face the same indicators in terms of attendance to school, in terms of interest in school, in terms of reading levels, mathematical levels. It’s far more of a racial problem than it is a gender problem.

    APRIL BROWN: The American Civil Liberties Union shares some of her concerns. The organization is questioning the legality of creating a public school exclusively for black and Latino males, suggesting it may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

    BRODERICK JOHNSON, Chair, My Brother’s Keeper Task Force: By helping young boys and young men of color, we’re not excluding helping girls and young women of color.

    APRIL BROWN: Broderick Johnson is an assistant to President Obama and chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. He says the White House Council on Women and Girls is addressing the needs of girls of color.

    BRODERICK JOHNSON: We don’t want to leave anybody behind, but we especially want to make sure that boys and young men of color understand that there is hope for them, that their success is tied to the success of this country, and that when they are better and they are functioning better, that the girls in their lives, the women, their mothers, are all in a better place as well.

    APRIL BROWN: For male African-American students, the problems are stark. They are twice as likely to be held back in elementary school, only half as likely to graduate from college compared to their white peers, and, if current trends hold, an estimated one in three black males born today can expect to spend some time in prison.

    BRODERICK JOHNSON: I would say to you with no apology that the disparities that affect boys and young men of color are profound. They have been profound for generations, and we need to break that cycle.

    APRIL BROWN: Residents of Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood face high levels of violence and low graduation rates in school, but there’s an effort under way to break the cycle.

    HOWARD JOHNSON, Mentor, Higher Achievement: I came from this community, so I understand that there are many obstacles that these kids face, but I also know that there is potential in these kids.

    APRIL BROWN: Howard Johnson is an engineer by day, and he spends many of his nights as a mentor at Higher Achievement, an after-school and summer academic program founded in 1975 that works with My Brother’s Keeper.

    Higher Achievement offers tutoring and a culture of high expectations for middle school students like Darryl Brown and Ricardo Jones.

    RICARDO JONES: I’m just thinking about college right now, where am I going to be, where am I going to end up, even when I’m — where am I going to end up even after college? And that’s why Mr. Howard is that guy to talk when you’re — when you need that type of question. He will tell you the answer.

    DARRYL BROWN: He also helps me. He looks for other activities for me. I have been doing way better. This past report card I have got — gotten, I have straight A’s.

    APRIL BROWN: Higher Achievement started in Washington, D.C., and has expanded to Richmond, Virginia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. The program has served young women of color for decades.

    JORDIN MCFADDEN: At first, I didn’t really like school. I hated school. I thought it was the worst thing ever.

    APRIL BROWN: Eighth grader Jordin McFadden says Higher Achievement has helped her raise her grade point average to a 3.0, and become more confident.

    JORDIN MCFADDEN: I learned to talk out loud, because, at first, I used to be quiet and I used to stay to myself. But when I came to Higher Achievement, they taught me that it’s OK. You have just got to warm up to it.

    APRIL BROWN: McFadden now plans to pursue a music career after graduating from Howard University.

    Kimberle Williams Crenshaw believes it will be difficult to make significant progress reducing the achievement gap in minority communities until there are more efforts to support all children of color.

    KIMBERLE WILLIAMS CRENSHAW: Number one, we have to realize that, traditionally, racial justice interventions included everybody, from integration, to the right to vote, to employment, protection. And so the interventions need to be addressed to men as well as women, boys as well as girls.

    APRIL BROWN: And Higher Achievement plans to continue that work with a new $12 million innovation grant from the Department of Education.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m April Brown in Baltimore, Maryland.

    The post With growing focus on intervention for boys of color, a reminder not to forget the girls appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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