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

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    Goebbels in Warsaw. On his left, Von Moltke, June 1934, Germany. (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

    Nazi minister Joseph Goebbels (center) is seen in June of 1934. Goebbels’ estate is suing the publisher Random House over a book that used extensive excerpts from Goebbels’ copyrighted diaries. Credit: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images

    The estate of the Nazi war criminal Joseph Goebbels is suing the publisher Random House over a book that used extensive excerpts from Goebbels’ copyrighted diaries.

    At the center of the dispute is “Goebbels,” a biography of Hitler’s infamous propaganda minister written by German historian Peter Longerich, published in Germany in 2010. An English edition is set for release on May 7.

    Cordula Schacht, the lawyer who brought the case, owns the copyright to the diaries, which Goebbels kept from 1923 until his death in 1945. She is suing on behalf of Goebbels’ estate.

    Schacht is the daughter of the late Hjalmar Schacht, who was Hitler’s economics minister from 1934 to 1937. Hjalmar Schacht later pledged support to the German Resistance after becoming disillusioned with the Nazi regime.

    Random House initially agreed to pay Goebbels’ estate one percent of the net retail price of the biography but later rescinded the offer.

    Rainer Dresen, Random House Germany’s general counsel, told the Guardian that the publisher objected on moral grounds to paying Goebbels’ estate.

    “We are convinced that no money should go to a war criminal,” Dresen said.

    According to The Guardian, Dresen offered to pay Schacht the royalties on the condition that she donated the money to a Holocaust charity. But Schacht refused, saying it should go to Goebbels’ family, though, to include descendants of the propaganda mastermind’s siblings.

    Goebbels has no direct descendants, as he and his wife Magda poisoned their six children before committing suicide in a Berlin bunker as Soviet troops overwhelmed the city on May 1, 1945.

    The post Family of Nazi minister sues Random House over diary excerpts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to Viewers Like You, you’re chance to comment on our work.

    Here’s what some of you had to say about last week’s signature segment from Hawaii, where some residents who tried to switch to solar power were told by the utility company to slow down.

    Dave Wiggins said: Utility companies state side are really worried. So much so that they are starting to change tariffs. Quietly. Technology is changing the game.

    Mike Lee took issue with those who had made the switch to solar: This is what happens when you have too many liberals living in the same place.

    Candid One warned: If its condition’s inadequacy was so prominent at the turn of the millennium–and hasn’t received more than token attention since, the US doesn’t have much leeway toward an enhanced grid option. Hawaii’s example is school time.

    MikeAThinker had this to say about the solar industry: …the rooftop solar industry made a (bad) assumption that they could just shove all the rooftop generated power back up the grid at any time and everything would be sweetness and butterflies. As someone who worked early in my career in the power industry – that is decidedly NOT how it works, and the system is largely not ready for that kind of ‘backflow’, particularly because it is so erratic and unreliable.

    ProudLiberalAmerican had some advice: Better that these producers stay on the grid and continue to pay a small charge to help maintain it and have the excess they produce offset this cost and provide power to help replace outdated, inefficient, and polluting centralized power plants.

    Shane Algarin added: Anybody who remembers Enron, the rigging of electricity markets, artificial blackouts, people dying because their medical equipment depended on electricity, knows why it’s good to escape the tentacles of the utilities.

    As always, we welcome your comments. Visit us at pbs.org/newshour, on our Facebook page, or tweet us at @NewsHour.

    The post Has Hawaii’s solar energy industry become too popular? Viewers weigh in. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A Snail Kite, one of Florida?s iconic breeding bird species, perches on a branch at J. W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area near West Palm Beach, Florida in this July 12, 2008 handout photo. Florida water managers are worried about the growing population of the South American apple snail, which has become a food source for the endangered Snail Kite, but is also threatening Everglades clean up efforts.  REUTERS/Mike Baranski/FWC/Handout via Reuters (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTR488TZ

    A Snail Kite, one of Florida’s iconic breeding bird species, perches on a branch at J. W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area near West Palm Beach, Florida. Pres. Obama plans to celebrate Earth Day by visiting the Florida Everglades. Credit: REUTERS/Mike Baranski/FWC/Handout via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to celebrate Earth Day by visiting the Florida Everglades.

    In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama says “there’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change.”

    He says he’ll visit the Everglades on Wednesday to talk about how global warming threatens the U.S. economy. He says rising sea levels are putting the “economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry” at risk.

    Polls consistently show the public is skeptical that the steps Obama has taken to curb pollution are worth the cost to the economy. So Obama is aiming to put a spotlight on the costs of climate change.

    Obama held an event in Washington earlier this month linking climate change to health problems like allergies and asthma.

    The post Obama plans Everglades trip to highlight cost of climate change appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    TAKOMA PARK, MD - MAY 16:  Student Allison Ramirez asks for help as her class goes over fractions in a fourth grade math class at Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park, MD on May 16, 2013.  Montgomery County Fourth and Fifth grade math teachers are training themselves to teach students in a new style of learning math to prepare them for newer, more rigorous education standards under Common Core.  (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

    A classroom in Takoma Park, MD prepared for more rigorous education standards for math under Common Core in 2013. Thousands of students are opting out of new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards, defying the latest attempt by states to improve academic performance. Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Thousands of students are opting out of new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards, defying the latest attempt by states to improve academic performance.

    This “opt-out” movement remains scattered but is growing fast in some parts of the country. Some superintendents in New York are reporting that 60 percent or even 70 percent of their students are refusing to sit for the exams. Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about standardized testing.

    Resistance could be costly: If fewer than 95 percent of a district’s students participate in tests aligned with Common Core standards, federal money could be withheld, although the U.S. Department of Education said that hasn’t happened.

    “It is a theoretical club administrators have used to coerce participation, but a club that is increasingly seen as a hollow threat,” said Bob Schaeffer with the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which seeks to limit standardized testing.

    And so the movement grows: This week in New York, tens of thousands of students sat out the first day of tests, with some districts reporting more than half of students opting out of the English test. Preliminary reports suggest an overall increase in opt-outs compared to last year, when about 49,000 students did not take English tests and about 67,000 skipped math tests, compared to about 1.1 million students who did take the tests in New York.

    Considerable resistance also has been reported in Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania, and more is likely as many states administer the tests in public schools for the first time this spring.

    The defiance dismays people who believe holding schools accountable for all their students’ continuing improvement is key to solving education problems.

    Assessing every student each year “gives educators and parents an idea of how the student is doing and ensures that schools are paying attention to traditionally underserved populations,” U.S. Department of Education Spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said in an emailed statement.

    Opposition runs across the political spectrum.

    Some Republicans and Tea Party activists focus on the Common Core standards themselves, calling them a federal intrusion by President Barack Obama, even though they were developed by the National Governors Association and each state’s education leaders in the wake of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program.

    The Obama administration has encouraged states to adopt Common Core standards through the federal grant program known as Race to the Top, and most have, but each state is free to develop its own tests.

    In California, home to the nation’s largest public school system and Democratic political leaders who strongly endorse Common Core standards, there have been no reports of widespread protests to the exams – perhaps because state officials have decided not to hold schools accountable for the first year’s results.

    But in deep-blue New York, resistance has been encouraged by the unions in response to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to make the test results count more in teacher evaluations.

    In Rockville Centre on Long Island, Superintendent William H. Johnson said 60 percent of his district’s third-through-eighth graders opted out. In the Buffalo suburb of West Seneca, nearly 70 percent didn’t take the state exam, Superintendent Mark Crawford said.

    “That tells me parents are deeply concerned about the use of the standardized tests their children are taking,” Crawford said. “If the opt-outs are great enough, at what point does somebody say this is absurd?”

    Nearly 15 percent of high school juniors in New Jersey opted out this year, while fewer than 5 percent of students in grades three through eight refused the tests, state education officials said. One reason: Juniors may be focusing instead on the SAT and AP tests that could determine their college futures.

    Much of the criticism focuses on the sheer number of tests now being applied in public schools: From pre-kindergarten through grade 12, students take an average of 113 standardized tests, according to a survey by the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban districts.

    Of these, only 17 are mandated by the federal government, but the backlash that began when No Child Left Behind started to hold teachers, schools and districts strictly accountable for their students’ progress has only grown stronger since “Common Core” gave the criticism a common rallying cry.

    “There is a widespread sentiment among parents, students, teachers, administrators and local elected officials that enough is enough, that government mandated testing has taken over our schools,” Schaeffer said.

    Teachers now devote 30 percent of their work time on testing-related tasks, including preparing students, proctoring, and reviewing the results of standardized tests, the National Education Association says.

    The pressure to improve results year after year can be demoralizing and even criminalizing, say critics who point to the Atlanta test-cheating scandal, which led to the convictions 35 educators charged with altering exams to boost scores.

    “It seems like overkill,” said Meredith Barber, a psychologist from the Philadelphia suburb of Penn Valley who excused her daughter from this year’s tests. Close to 200 of her schoolmates also opted out in the Lower Merion School District, up from a dozen last year.

    “I’m sure we can figure out a way to assess schools rather than stressing out children and teachers and really making it unpleasant for teachers to teach,” said Barber, whose 10-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, will be in the cafeteria researching Edwardian history and the TV show “Downton Abbey” during the two weeks schools have set aside for the tests.

    Utah and California allow parents to refuse testing for any reason, while Arkansas and Texas prohibit opting out, according to a report by the Education Commission of the States. Most states are like Georgia, where no specific law clarifies the question, and lawmakers in some of these states want protect the right to opt out.

    Florida has another solution: Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill strictly limiting testing to 45 hours each school year.

    In Congress, meanwhile, lawmakers appear ready to give states more flexibility: A Senate committee approved a bipartisan update of No Child Left Behind this week that would let each state determine how much weight to give the tests when evaluating school performance.

    Contributors include Associated Press writers Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York; Geoff Mulvihill in Trenton, New Jersey; and Christine Armario in Los Angeles.

    The post Thousands of students opt out of Common Core tests in protest appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: A growing number of psychiatrists are no longer accepting private insurance or Medicare and preferring to accept patients who pay cash. That means many, including those at greater risk, can’t get psychiatric care, a development that can have tragic consequences.

    Shannon Pettypiece of “Bloomberg News” wrote about recently and joins us now.

    You found a very disturbing scenario of someone who had an appointment to see a doctor, ran out of meds before then, what happened?

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG: Well, basically his mother had been trying for months to get this man, who is in his 30s, who had been hearing voices, having paranoia, thinking there were drones flying overhead, the CIA was in his apartment.

    Everyone knew something was wrong. He had been hospitalized. They’ve been to the emergency room.

    But his family says they just couldn’t get him an appointment with a psychiatrist in time to keep him on the medication he needed. Either doctors didn’t take their insurance, they just wouldn’t return their calls, they had months-long wait, or they didn’t want to see him because he was a tough patient, he had history of substance abuse, he had paranoia. He was a difficult case. Doctors prefer an easier case.

    So, after all of this, you know, his mother, his friends, his family trying, they did finally get him an appointment and the medication ran out. And, unfortunately, it ended very tragically. He murdered his mother with a kitchen knife. And everybody in the aftermath was saying, how could something like this happen? How could a man with family support, in a suburb of New York City, not be able to get help?

    And one of the main reasons is because you have such a limited number of doctors willing to take the hard cases and take people with insurance.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And you abstract up from that and you talk a little bit about the cycles that are at work here. I mean, it’s not just the doctor’s fault. I mean, it’s really the supply, the demand — the whole system seems stacked against someone like this getting the care.

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Yes, and doctors say we’re just not going to deal with it. There’s enough demand from people who will pay cash, so we’ll just, you know, focus on those patients.

    The insurance industry says, well, their job is to get the best value for their customers, which is the patient. You know, they — if they have to pay doctors more, they’re going to have to increase co-pays and premiums.


    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: You know, no one wants to pay for health care these days. Everyone wants to control costs. So, the insurers say they’re trying to do what is in the best interest of their clients.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what are some of the, kind of, larger picture influences? I mean, how did the recession play into this? Or how did Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act play into this?

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Well, $4 billion got cut from state mental health budgets during the recession. That’s money that goes to support community clinics that are supposed to be the safety net. And on the Obamacare front, Obamacare did try to address this issue, requiring insurers to provide mental health services, not just, you know, medical services.

    But the problem is you might have insurance but can’t find a doctor who will take your insurance. Or you might —

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Because it didn’t add 1,000 new psychiatrists into the system.

    SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Right. And there are some indications that the Obamacare insurance plans pay doctors even less than other private insurance plans, so doctors are even less likely to take the plans sold on the Obamacare change.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Shannon Pettypiece of “Bloomberg News”, thanks so much.


    The post Why are psychiatrists turning away patients who can’t pay cash? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Relatives and residents carry the coffins of victims after a suicide attack during a burial ceremony in the Dari Noor district of Nangarhar province

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Today’s bombing in Afghanistan caps a chaotic week throughout much of the Muslim world. Violent conflicts are now raging in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and the threat posed by terror groups like ISIS and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seemingly are intensifying.

    To help us analyze these developments, we are joined from Washington by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Mr. Cordesman previously served in the State Department and was the director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

    So, it’s nearly 2,000 miles from Damascus, Syria, to Kabul, Afghanistan. And violence seems to be spreading throughout this entire region.

    What’s the bigger picture that we need to understand?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I’m afraid that is the bigger picture because what we are watching — and we have been watching almost since 2010 — is a very sharp rise in the number of terrorist incidents. And now, what we’re watching is civil war and basically some forms of insurgency.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We mentioned that suicide bombing in Eastern Afghanistan today, that the president of that country blames on ISIS. How significant is it that ISIS is now involved in Afghanistan?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: We need to be very careful. I think part of the problem is it’s convenient to blame ISIS if you’re trying to negotiate with the Taliban. But a lot of groups have sort of had this cosmetic set of alignments with the Islamic State without there being real ties. These movement movements are generally independent.

    And long before any of these alignments occurred, Afghanistan, for example, saw a very sharp rise in casualties last year. There’s been another rise this year. What I think we had hoped for in terms of much stronger Afghanistan forces, a much stronger Afghan government, has yet to appear. There certainly is no more stability in Afghanistan than there is in Yemen or Syria or Iraq or on the other areas in this region.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You mentioned Iraq, and ISIS forces are now battling government troops for control of Ramadi and of the nation’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. What does this say about the effectiveness of our bombing campaign against them?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: We’re dealing with a scattered force. It isn’t really dependent on a lot of heavy equipment. It can embed itself in buildings and cities, which makes bombing very difficult unless it’s supported by ground troops. And in both the case of Ramadi and the refinery, that simply not something where air power alone can be fully effective. Where it has done well is in reducing the revenues they’ve had through oil exports. It has had some impact on hitting key leadership cadres, but this coming campaign so far has been relatively limited and it has not had any major strategic impact.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: If we turn our spotlight to Yemen for a second. Yesterday, al Qaeda forces there overran a weapons depot, seized dozens of tanks, rocket launchers, small arms. How concerning is that group’s gains given that it was responsible for the Paris terrorist attacks in January?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, it is concerning because it also is the movement which has been best organized in trying to launch attacks against the United States. A rebirth of that group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is seriously dangerous.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the humanitarian aspect of all this?

    CORDESMAN: The most recent estimates from the USAID for Syria are a good example. It has a population of a little over 18 million. There’s something like 3.7 million that have been driven out of the country as refugees. More than 4 million people are so caught up in the fighting that there’s no form of aid that can reach them.

    Just over the last few weeks, we’ve seen something close to that building up in Yemen — a breakdown in food supply, in basic operations of the economy, the spread of violence throughout the entire country in the populated areas. So, the human cost just keeps rising.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: If someone’s just kind of opening up the paper, so to speak, or watching this program, considering the string of headlines that they’ve been seeing all week, what should the takeaway be?

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: This is going to be a very long set of struggles. It isn’t centered in one place. We’re going to be dealing with this problem for years. We’ve already said we’ve had our chief military warn us that in Iraq, it could easily be years before Mosul is liberated, and no one has said anything about when this conflict will end in Syria, end in Yemen, end in Afghanistan.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Anthony Cordesman joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

    ANTHONY CORDESMAN: My pleasure.

    The post Threat of terror groups builds following ISIS suicide bombing in Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A note for the Scott family is seen at a small memorial for Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina April 9, 2015. Residents are in mourning against what they feel is a culture of police brutality in South Carolina in the case of white officer MIchael Slager, who was caught on video killing 50-year-old Scott, a black man, by shooting him in the back as Scott ran away after a traffic stop. Slager was charged on Tuesday with murder in the death of Scott.   REUTERS/Randall Hill  - RTR4WPLO

    A note for the family of Walter Scott is seen at a small memorial in North Charleston, South Carolina on April 9, 2015. Civil rights groups in North Charleston have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into all the fatal officer-involved shootings that have taken place in Charleston County since 1994. Credit: REUTERS/Randall Hill

    Civil rights groups in North Charleston, South Carolina have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into all the fatal officer-involved shootings that have taken place in Charleston County since 1994.

    The request was made Friday at North Charleston City Hall in a joint press conference held by the North Charleston NAACP, the Coalition (People United to Take Back Our Community) and the Tri-County chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

    DOJ spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in response that “The department will review any requests that are submitted,” The New York Times reported.

    The call comes in the wake of the April 4 killing of Walter Scott, a black man who was repeatedly shot in the back by a white police officer as Scott tried to flee.

    Three days after the shooting, a bystander’s cellphone video of the shooting surfaced. The video appears to contradict the version of events given by Michael Slager, the officer who shot Scott.

    In a written statement, the groups said:

    It is commonly believed in the African-American community, those most affected by officer-involved shootings, that law enforcement agencies have deliberately filed false police reports, tampered with evidence, turned a blind eye to the facts of their investigations and launched covered-up campaigns in order to avoid prosecution for their acts of violence perpetrated against black people in North Charleston and in Charleston County.

    On Friday, the activists said that they believed other police officers who shot and killed residents of Charleston County in the last 21 years may have avoided prosecution because there was a lack of the sort of stark evidence present in the Scott case.

    The groups also called the North Charleston Police Department’s early actions following Walter Scott’s death “the beginnings of a cover-up that would have eventually resulted in the acquittal of Michael Slager.”

    In a recent interview with NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill, Brian Hicks, a columnist for The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston, said that members of the community and the NAACP have “claimed for well over a decade that North Charleston police use racial profiling” and “pick on black citizens.”

    The post S.C. activists demand DOJ probe local police killings since 1994 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A couple sits under an umbrella for shade from the sun at the beach in La Jolla, California May 12, 2014. A high pressure system is expected to bring record breaking heat to Southern California over the next few days.   REUTERS/Mike Blake    (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3OUQ2

    A couple sits under an umbrella in La Jolla, California on May 12, 2014. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday that last month was the hottest since record keeping began in 1880. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    Last month the average global temperature was the highest recorded for March since record keeping began in 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Friday.

    Average global temperature, including both land and ocean surfaces, was 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit (0.85 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    “Record warm temperatures continued to dominate in the northeast Pacific Ocean and were also notable in the southwest Pacific and parts of the Arctic Seas to the north and northwest of Scandinavia,” NOAA said in its report. “Overall, every major ocean basin had at least some areas with record warmth and large areas with much warmer-than-average temperatures.”

    The first quarter of this year, from January to  March, had already broken records. It was the hottest such period in the administration’s 136-year archive.

    Last year was the hottest ever recorded in modern history.

    If current trends continue, 2015 will likely surpass 2014’s record.

    “It seems quite likely that Earth will continue to see record or near-record high temperatures over the next several months,” NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden told Climate Central.

    With the exception of 1998, the ten hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.

    The post Last month was the hottest March since record keeping began appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Inna Simone is retired, a mother and grandmother from Russia who now lives outside of Boston.  Last November, her home computer started acting strangely.

    INNA SIMONE:  My computer was working terribly. It was not working, I mean, it was so slow.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  A few days later, while searching through her computer files, Inna saw dozens of these messages — they were all the same.  They read: “Your files are encrypted. To get the key to decrypt them, you have to pay $500 dollars.”   Her exact deadline — December 2nd at 12:48 pm – was just a few days away.

    All her files were locked — tax returns, financial papers, letters — even the precious photos of her granddaughter zoe.  Inna couldn’t open any of them.

    INNA SIMONE:  It says, “If you won’t pay, within one week or whatever, your fine will double. If you won’t pay by then, all your files will be deleted and you will lose them forever and never will get back.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Inna Simone — like hundreds of thousands of others — had been victimized by what’s known as a “ransomware” attack.   Hackers — who law enforcement believe come mainly from eastern Europe or Russia — manage to put malicious software onto a victim’s  computer, often via an email attachment or a compromised website.  That software then allows the hackers to lock up your files — or your entire computer — until you pay them a ransom to give it back.  Ransom demands have ranged from a few hundred dollars to several hundred thousand.

    Justin Cappos is a computer security expert at New York University.

    JUSTIN CAPPOS:   It will actually lock you out of the files, the data, on your computer.  So you’d be able to use the computer but those files have been encrypted by the attacker with a key that only they possess.  It’s frustrating because you know the data is there.  You know the files are there.  You know your photos and everything is there and could be accessible to you.  But you have no way of being able to get at it because of this encryption that the attackers are using.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Inna was panicked.  Computer technicians were no help.  She didn’t want to call the police… her husband at first said don’t pay the ransom, but she wanted those files back.

    In their ‘ransom note’, the hackers wanted to be paid in bitcoin — the largely untraceable digital currency — and have it put into their anonymous account.  Inna had never heard of bitcoin, but the hackers, in one of their many touches of what you might call ‘customer service,’ provided all sorts of helpful facts and links and how-to guides about bitcoin.

    Alina Simone is Inna’s daughter.

    ALINA SIMONE:  If you see the ransom note you can see, oh, they try to reassure you about bitcoin.  We have got screen shots or here is a link to some kind of a guide that talks you through the whole process, and here’s a list of providers with a little kind of yelp-like reviews next to each one that kind of explain their strength and weaknesses. It’s incredibly sophisticated.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: After days of debate, Inna decided to pay.  She sent a money order to a bitcoin seller, but it was Thanksgiving, and a huge snowstorm hit Boston, which meant the check only arrived the afternoon before her deadline.  And, in that delay, bitcoin’s exchange rate had changed, and now her check didn’t cover the full $500 ransom – it was about $13 short.  Her last resort was this bitcoin ATM machine in Brooklyn, NY — conveniently not far from her daughter Alina’s apartment.

    ALINA SIMONE:  It’s very kind of spooky looking ATM. It has no buttons. It just had a slot that you feed your money into.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Tuesday afternoon, the full ransom was sent to the hackers account.  But it was two hours late. Inna added one short message with her payment.

    INNA SIMONE:   I wrote: “I wish you all will drop dead.”

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  The F.B.I. doesn’t have complete data on how often these attacks occur. Computer security researchers estimate close to a million users have been hit globally during the last year.  One tech firm estimates that more than a quarter of victims pay the ransom, which cyber security experts discourage because they don’t want to encourage more hacking.

    And it’s not just individuals who get hit:  hackers have hit several local police stations.  We heard of law firms being targeted.  Even the city of Detroit had its data held for an 800,000 dollar ransom by hackers. The city didn’t pay.

    SUPERINTENDENT TERRY VAN ZOEREN:  When you think of a technology hack, you think of data or files that are being destroyed, or taken, ransomware, I learned, doesn’t work the way.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Last month, Terry Van Zoeren had to learn all about ransomware when his southern New Jersey school district got hit.  Hackers compromised the entire district’s computer system — causing problems with hard drives throughout the system:  administrators’, those in the classrooms, the computers that processed kids’ lunch payments, even the standardized tests that were going on when the hack occurred.

    SUPERINTENDENT TERRY VAN ZOEREN:  We had to shut down student testing for a number of days until we got control of the PCs.  And there were 100s of PCs in the district.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Van Zoeren said the hackers demanded 500 bitcoin, which at the time was about $128,000 dollars in ransom.  School officials didn’t pay (there’s obviously no guarantee paying up gets your data back.)   Instead, they called the local police.  School officials says no student or parent data was stolen, and after a costly, elaborate rebuilding of their network, they were able to get back up and running.

    NYU computer scientist Justin Cappos says hackers go after such seemingly small targets because they’re pretty easy:  victims often inadvertently download the viruses themselves by clicking on those email attachments. Besides, he says, the risks of getting caught are low, and if you cast a wide enough net, you’ll get something.

    JUSTIN CAPPOS: When you go fishing, you don’t try to catch every fish in the ocean.  You only wanna catch some.  And if you catch enough of them, then it’s been a profitable trip for you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  When her mom got hacked, Alina Simone — who’s a journalist by day — did some research into ransomware for a piece she wrote for the New York Times.  She says it’s alarming how organized and easy it is to carry out these kinds of attacks.

    ALINA SIMONE: There are people making viruses, selling viruses. There are distributors whose specialty is distributing viruses. These perpetrators, they don’t have to know a line of code. They can just buy a virus and then hire a distributor and send it out.  And it’s kind of just an off the shelf, you know—

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Wow. Plug and play corruption.

    ALINA SIMONE: Right. And so that’s sort of the scariest thing that, just one person can just unleash all of this chaos and malice on the world with very little effort.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Her mom’s story, however, wasn’t over.  Inna had paid the hackers $500 — but rather than releasing her files as promised — they sent her this message.  It said “You did not pay in time for decryption.”  Remember, she’d paid two hours late — now the hackers doubled the ransom to $1000, gave her another deadline, and said if she missed this one, they’d delete everything.

    INNA SIMONE:  If you won’t pay by then, all your files are gone forever.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Using a message board the hackers provided (another customer-friendly touch) Inna pleaded with the people she’d previously told to ‘drop dead:’ “We had a snowstorm” … “It was a holiday” and lastly: “I am only two hours late!”

    INNA SIMONE:  So first I sent them about all these obstacles and the fact that I was only two hours late and this is really harsh.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Did this feel strange that you’re trying to communicate to a group of criminals — who knows where they are in the world — saying “You don’t understand… the post office, the snow, Thanksgiving, the long weekend…”  I mean you must’ve felt–

    INNA SIMONE:  But what else?  I mean, this is the only option. It’s either this or nothing.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  You didn’t think it would work.

    INNA SIMONE:  Absolutely not.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  But later that day, the hackers released her files in full.

    The post The hack attack that takes your computer hostage till you pay appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 18, 2015.  Photo by Brian Snyder/REUTERS.

    Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 18, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/REUTERS

    NASHUA, N.H. — Republican presidential candidates and hopefuls were in New Hampshire this weekend for a party conference, the first gathering of its kind this year in the first-in-the-nation primary state. Politicians already in the 2016 race or considering a run gave speeches, answered questions from voters and reporters and tested their campaign skills in stops across the state. Some things to know about the state of the race:


    One thing is clear after 20 presidential prospects campaigned in New Hampshire this weekend: The 2016 Republican primary contest is wide open. The establishment favorite, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, continues to struggle with his party’s base; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio proved they deserve serious consideration; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie flashed extraordinary political skills and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul continued his push to create a new coalition. Several others with impressive resumes – Ohio Gov. John Kasich among them – were also on hand, fighting to emerge.


    Bush said he had an “I’m-not-kidding conservative record” as Florida governor, but he did little to convince skeptical Republicans of his conservative bona fides this past weekend. He called on world leaders to address climate change, endorsed a pathway to legal status for immigrants in the country illegally and refused to back away from his support for Common Core education standards. The positions are deal-breakers for some of the GOP’s most passionate voters. Bush seems to be testing his own theory that presidential candidates should be willing to “lose the primary to win the general” election.


    The libertarian-leaning Paul continues to distinguish himself from the crowded field. He repeatedly attacked fellow Republicans on foreign policy and spending, knocked the GOP’s strategy of courting business owners instead of their employees and a devoted a significant portion of his remarks to courting minorities, young people and those living in poverty. Paul is trying to create a new Republican coalition and transform his party, as his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, did in the 2012 presidential primary campaign.


    Once considered an early front-runner, Christie arrived in New Hampshire as an afterthought among the candidates, but he reminded the political world that it’s far too soon to write him off. Christie flashed his considerable political skills during a speech on entitlements, at retail stops and at two town hall meetings where he seemed to connect well with the audience. His challenges remain significant, but the two-term governor signaled that he’s not going away anytime soon. He told potential voters he’ll be back often and articulated the rationale for his candidacy in detail.


    Hillary Rodham Clinton was a regular punching bag this weekend, but the diverse and crowded Republican field was often more focused on their own records and the contrasts between their GOP competitors. Governors highlighted the executive experience that members of Congress may lack, members of Congress focused on the foreign policy experience the governors may lack and the business leaders knocked Washington insiders and longtime politicians. Several GOP officials urged the candidates to save their venom for Democrats, but it’s clear the 2016 Republican primary won’t be as quick and painless as the Republican National Committee would like.

    The post Five things to know about GOP hopefuls in New Hampshire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    United Airlines planes are parked at the terminal at San Francisco International Airport on July 26, 2012 in San Francisco, California. United Airlines blocked a security researcher from boarding after a tweet. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    United Airlines planes are parked at the terminal at San Francisco International Airport on July 26, 2012 in San Francisco, California. United Airlines blocked a security researcher from boarding after a tweet. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — United Airlines stopped a prominent security researcher from boarding a California-bound flight late Saturday, following a social media post by the researcher days earlier suggesting the airline’s onboard systems could be hacked.

    The researcher, Chris Roberts, attempted to board a United flight from Colorado to San Francisco to speak at a major security conference there this week, but was stopped by the airline’s corporate security at the gate. Roberts founded One World Labs, which tries to discover security risks before they are exploited.

    Roberts had been removed from an earlier United flight Wednesday by the FBI and questioned for four hours after jokingly suggesting on Twitter he could get the oxygen masks on the plane to deploy. Authorities also seized his laptop and other electronics.

    A lawyer for Roberts said United gave him no detailed explanation Saturday why he wasn’t allowed on the plane, saying instead the airline would be sending Roberts a letter within two weeks stating why they wouldn’t let him fly on their aircraft.

    “Given Mr. Roberts’ claims regarding manipulating aircraft systems, we’ve decided it’s in the best interest of our customers and crew members that he not be allowed to fly United,” airline spokesman Rahsaan Johnson told The Associated Press. “However, we are confident our flight control systems could not be accessed through techniques he described.”

    Johnson did not respond to a follow-up question Sunday why Roberts would still be a threat if he couldn’t, in fact, compromise United’s control systems.

    In recent weeks, Roberts gave media interviews in which he discussed airline system vulnerabilities. “Quite simply put, we can theorize on how to turn the engines off at 35,000 feet and not have any of those damn flashing lights go off in the cockpit,” he told Fox News.

    Roberts also told CNN he was able to connect to a box under his seat at least a dozen times to view data from the aircraft’s engines, fuel and flight-management systems.

    “It is disappointing that United refused to allow him to board, and we hope that United learns that computer security researchers are a vital ally, not a threat,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents Roberts.

    The Government Accountability Office said last week that some commercial aircraft may be vulnerable to hacking over their onboard wireless networks. “Modern aircraft are increasingly connected to the Internet. This interconnectedness can potentially provide unauthorized remote access to aircraft avionics systems,” its report found.

    Roberts took an alternate flight on Southwest Airlines and arrived in San Francisco Saturday evening. He speaks this week at the RSA Conference about computer security vulnerabilities.

    The post United Airline prevents researcher from boarding after tweet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Group of 20 (G-20) finance ministers and central bank governors have their group photo taken on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, April 17, 2015. World finance leaders see threat of Greece default on its debt. Front row left to right; Joe Hockey, Australia's treasurer, Erdem Basci, governor of Turkey's central bank, Ali Babacan, Turkey's deputy prime minister, and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

    Group of 20 (G-20) finance ministers and central bank governors have their group photo taken on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, April 17, 2015. World finance leaders see threat of Greece default on its debt. Front row left to right; Joe Hockey, Australia’s treasurer, Erdem Basci, governor of Turkey’s central bank, Ali Babacan, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The world’s financial leaders see a number of threats facing a global economy still on an uneven road to recovery with U.S. and European officials worrying that Greece will default on its debt.

    The finance ministers and central bank governors ended three days of meetings in Washington determined to work toward “a more robust, balanced and job-rich economy” while admitting there are risks in reaching that objective, the steering committee of the International Monetary Fund said in its communique Saturday.

    Seeking to resolve Athens’ debt crisis, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis held a series of talks with other finance officials on the sidelines of the meetings. The focus now shifts to Riga, Latvia, where European Union finance ministers meet next week.

    The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said it was “urgent” to resolve the current dispute between Greece and its creditors. He said that while the international finance system had been strengthened since the 2008 crisis, a Greek default would still put the global economy into “unchartered waters” with its effect hard to estimate.

    Draghi told reporters he did not want to even contemplate the chance of a Greek default on its debt. But French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said he thought any damage would be confined to Greece because euro zone countries had established measures to protect themselves from any spillover effects.

    Seeking to assure financial markets, which fluctuated considerably on Friday over the possibility of a Greek default, Sapin said nothing had changed on the issue as a result of the weekend meetings. He said it was up to the Greek government to present credible, assessable solutions to its economic problems.

    “The solution to the Greek debt crisis is in Greece,” he said.

    The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, who had rejected suggestions that the IMF might delay Greek debt repayments, said she had constructive talks with Varoufakis and that the objective remained the same: to restore stability for Greek finances and assure an economic recovery.

    Greece is negotiating with the IMF and European authorities to receive the final 7.2 billion euro ($7.8 billion) installment of its financial bailout. Creditors are demanding that Greece produce a credible overhaul before releasing the money.

    The country has relied on international loans since 2010. Without more bailout money Greece could miss payments due to the IMF in May and run out of cash to pay salaries and pensions.

    The negotiations over Greece’s debt have proved contentious, but all sides have expressed optimism that the differences can be resolved.

    A number of countries directed criticism toward the U.S. for the failure of Congress to pass legislation needed to put into effect reforms that would boost the agency’s capacity to make loans and increase the voting power of such emerging economic powers as China, Brazil and India.

    Agustin Carstens, the head of Mexico’s central bank and chair of the IMF policy panel, said “pretty much all of the members expressed deep disappointment” that a failure of Congress to act is blocking implementation of the reforms. The IMF panel directed IMF officials to explore whether interim solutions could be put in place until Congress acts.

    The finance ministers urged central banks including the U.S. Federal Reserve to clearly communicate future policy changes to avoid triggering unwanted turbulence in financial markets.

    The annual meetings of the IMF and its sister organization, the World Bank, take place Oct. 9-10 in Lima, Peru.

    The post World finance leaders see uneven road to global recovery appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the United Nations in New York in this March 10, 2015 file photo. Hillary Clinton has made it clear she wants to appeal more to the liberals. Photo by Mike Segar/Files/REUTERS.

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the United Nations in New York in this March 10, 2015 file photo. Hillary Clinton has made it clear she wants to appeal more to the liberals. Photo by Mike Segar/Files/REUTERS.

    WASHINGTON — This time, Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to be on liberals’ good side.

    As a presidential candidate in 2008, she opposed gay marriage, equivocated on granting driver’s licenses to people who were living in the U.S. illegally and endured heavy criticism from rival Barack Obama over her stance on campaign finance.

    During the opening week of her second presidential campaign, Clinton showed she had retooled her positions to line up with the views of progressive Democrats. On Monday, she called for a constitutional amendment that would limit “unaccountable money” in politics. Days later, she said through her campaign that she supports same-sex marriage being recognized as a constitutional right in a pending Supreme Court case. After that, her campaign said she now supports state policies awarding licenses to people in the country illegally.

    Such do-overs are part of an effort by Clinton to rectify past missteps and assure the liberal wing of her party that in 2016, she will be change they’ve been waiting for.

    While Clinton enters the race in a dominant position, she faces skepticism from some Democrats who question her commitment to tackling income inequality.

    “Equal opportunity and upward mobility have been very central to her political ideals from the start,” said Robert Reich, who was President Bill Clinton’s labor secretary and has known Hillary Clinton since college. “I just don’t know how courageous she will be in fighting for them.”

    Clinton devoted the first week of her campaign trying to put such concerns to rest. She visits New Hampshire on Monday and Tuesday, returning to the state that handed her a 2008 primary victory early in the bruising nomination struggle won by Obama.

    Aides spent much of the first 72 hours reaching out to union leaders, party officials and other interest groups. But for some who have met with her campaign staff, they wonder not about whether Clinton will tack to the left, but how far her proposals will go.

    “There’s a big difference between a $9 or $10 minimum wage versus a $15 wage,” said Adam Green, a liberal activist who has talked with the campaign over the past months. “The big question we anticipate is, will they go big or will they go small?”

    So far, at least a few are encouraged. At her opening event in Iowa, Clinton took on CEOs and hedge fund managers, saying the “deck is still stacked in favor of those already at the top.”

    At the Statehouse, her support for universal pre-K earned some of the biggest applause from Democratic lawmakers, according to people in the room.

    When she returned to New York, Clinton had words of praise in Time magazine for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a liberal stalwart some have hoped would challenge the former secretary of state. “She never hesitates to hold powerful people’s feet to the fire: bankers, lobbyists, senior government officials and, yes, even presidential aspirants,” Clinton wrote.

    News also leaked that Clinton had recruited former federal regulator Gary Gensler as her campaign’s chief financial officer, a sign that she may be preparing to take a tougher position toward regulating financial firms.

    Potential rivals have jumped at the chance to question Clinton’s record and say she has shifted her positions on matters important to liberal voters.

    “I’m glad Secretary Clinton’s come around to the right positions on these issues,” said former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considering running for the Democratic nomination. “Leadership is about making the right decision – and the best decision before sometimes it becomes entirely popular. “

    She’s faced this before. In 2008, Clinton’s hold on the nomination looked unshakeable. Then Obama captured Democrats’ imagination and proved a far more durable candidate than expected.

    Clinton’s supporters say her recent comments, particularly on inequality, do not reflect a shift in position. In her 2008 primary campaign, Clinton stressed the need to help families struggling economically and she criticized hedge fund investors, oil company profits, drug company subsidies and trade agreements.

    “She’s been an advocate for these issues of economic equality, fairness and playing by the rules for her whole career,” said Tom Nides, a Clinton confidant and Morgan Stanley vice chairman.

    Clinton is not in the clear with liberals yet.

    Liberal organizations say they plan to continue their push to draft Warren, and Democrats in early voting states say Clinton has work to do if she wants to be assured of winning the nomination.

    Her decision to accept political donations from lobbyists – something Obama refused – may undercut her efforts to change the campaign finance system. Obama’s push for a trade pact with 11 Pacific nations will put Clinton between the centrist wing of her party and union leaders who oppose the deal. On Friday, her campaign said she would be “watching closely” efforts to negotiate a final agreement.

    “There’s probably been some modicum of reassurance, but I wouldn’t push it too far because it’s just too early,” said Jared Bernstein, former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and now a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Biden is considering a White House run.

    The post This time around, Clinton aligns position with progressive Democrats appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Hundreds of people participate in a peace march after anti-immigrant violence flared in Durban

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to South Africa.

    This weekend, the leader of that country, Jacob Zuma, canceled an overseas trip, this following days of violence there against immigrants.

    For more, we are joined now via Skype from Johannesburg by David Smith of The Guardian newspaper.

    David, we should say that you are on battery power. You are talking to us during a blackout.

    What has been happening there over the past few weeks? What is the source of this violence?

    DAVID SMITH, The Guardian: There has been an outbreak of xenophobic violence targeting many African foreign nationals living in South African, and at least six deaths, and the U.N. estimates more than 5,000 people displaced, many to transit camps set up around major cities.

    It’s what, you know, many would say is due to underlying problems of unemployment and poverty, and, you know, has been condemned by the South African government and many civil society leaders, and really a flare-up and a trend that we have seen over at least 10 years.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, the people who are being attacked, where are they from?

    DAVID SMITH: Zimbabwe, in many cases, Malawi, Mozambique, many from Nigeria, a few other African countries.

    Sometimes, they are — they are fleeing conflicts and violence in their homeland. Sometimes, they are economic migrants.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How about is the unemployment situation in South Africa that is prompting some of this backlash?

    DAVID SMITH: The official unemployment rate in South Africa is about one in four people.

    Most experts would say that’s actually an underestimate and it is closer to one in three. And the worst affected of all are young black people, where it’s, some estimates, half.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This has also prompted a reaction from South Africa’s neighbors. Tell me a bit about that.

    DAVID SMITH: Yes, there have been demonstrations at several South African embassies around Africa.

    There has been an incident where South African vehicles were pelted with stones in neighboring Mozambique. There have been threats to close South African businesses. This, sadly, has really driven divisions between South Africa and the rest of the continent.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Smith of The Guardian newspaper, joining us via Skype from a dark Johannesburg tonight, thank you.

    DAVID SMITH: Thank you.

    The post What’s behind the wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Turning now to Europe: About 300 American military trainers have arrived in Ukraine, prompting an angry response from the Kremlin.

    For more about this, we are joined now via Skype from Moscow by Andrew Roth.

    He has reported the story for The New York Times.

    So, what are the American advisers doing on the ground?

    ANDREW ROTH, The New York Times: Hi, Hari. The American advisers who came in, they’re from the 173rd Airborne, which is based in Italy.

    And they have come to train Ukraine’s National Guard, about 1,000 members of the National Guard who were engaged in combat in the east of the country. And they’re going to be working on what they said were sort of military training, as well as specifically focusing on the officer corps.

    So, this is a very new unit in the National Guard, so their officers, a lot of them haven’t had much training yet at all.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, this is short of supplying any arms or weapons to Ukraine. The United States has refused to do that, right?

    ANDREW ROTH: So far, they have. So, the United States has supplied some what is called nonlethal aid to Ukraine.

    That involves — that includes promises to supply Humvees, both armored and unarmored, drones.

    But they haven’t yet agreed to supply lethal aid, weapons, in particular anti-tank weapons that both people who are on the front lines, soldiers who are on the front lines…


    ANDREW ROTH: … as well as officials in Kiev, desperately want.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So what’s the reaction been in Moscow, where are you?

    ANDREW ROTH: The reaction in Moscow has been strong negative suggestions by President Putin’s spokesmen that this could destabilize the situation in the country.

    We interpret that to mean new conflict or a new outbreak of violence in the southeast, although there have been a lot of terrorist acts in several cities in Ukraine as well.

    But the Kremlin has really drawn a red line at supplying lethal aid.

    So, I think that it’s not absolutely certain that the arrival of these military trainers is going to change the — the situation in the southeast.

    What seems far more important to them is that countries like the United States and Europe and even Israel don’t supply weapons to Ukraine. That seems to be their real red line.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Andrew Roth of The New York Times, joining us via Skype from Moscow, thanks so much.

    ANDREW ROTH: Thanks.

    The post U.S. troops are in Ukraine for training and the Kremlin isn’t happy about it appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: News from Washington tonight that, for nearly two decades, during the 1980s and ’90s, top FBI forensic investigators routinely gave flawed testimony, overstating the evidence they had against criminal defendants.

    In more than a dozen cases, the defendants were later executed or died in prison.

    Spencer Hsu broke the story in today’s Washington Post. He joins us now.

    So, you said that this is a watershed moment in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals. Break this down for us.

    SPENCER HSU, The Washington Post: What has been found has been, as you say, that, for more than two decades, nearly every examiner and nearly every criminal trial in which FBI experts gave testimony against criminal defendants, they overstated the strength or the significance of a match.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you said that about a quarter of all the wrongful convictions, the people who have been exonerated later on, the testimony of hair examiners or bite mark comparisons have actually helped sway juries or judges.

    SPENCER HSU: That’s right.

    Out of about 329 DNA exonerations, a quarter, more than a quarter have involved invalid forensic science. One of the issues here is that, unlike DNA, which has a — was developed, you know, by scientists for scientists, a lot of the earlier pattern-based techniques, comparing hair, fiber, bite marks, even tracing bullets to — being fired from specific weapons, were developed in the lab by law enforcement.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s just say, for example, if a defense attorney figures out that some of the evidence used in a trial for their client includes testimony from one of these FBI inspectors, what happens to them?

    Does this mean that the judge automatically grants a new investigation or a retrial?

    SPENCER HSU: Not necessarily.

    The FBI has offered to retest, in cases where errors were made, DNA, if DNA evidence is available. The federal government has offered to drop procedural bars to post-conviction appeals as well.

    But, for states, most states make it difficult to challenge old convictions in the absence of DNA. Only California and Texas have laws that permit it in cases when forensic evidence is recanted or undermined by scientific advances.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What is the FBI going to do to fix this?

    SPENCER HSU: They have said that they will do a root cause analysis after all the reviews are completed. Again, they have offered to retest DNA, when DNA evidence is available, and to allow federal cases to be brought.

    They are agreeing to review scientific testimony and lab report standards to make clear what is erroneous and what is acceptable in 19 other techniques. They say they did this for hair in 2012, when our reports surfaced and they launched this review.

    The ball now again goes to state authorities, as well as to the courts, to determine if they will change these precedents, more rigorously challenge the admissibility of scientific evidence.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Spencer Hsu of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

    SPENCER HSU: Thank you.

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    Credit: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend

    Credit: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend

    In spite of its reputation for conservatism, Texas’ laws regarding the open carry of handguns have long been closer to those of blue states like California and Illinois.

    But now, with the success of recent open carry bills in the Texas legislature, the Lone Star State is poised to become the 45th U.S. state to allow licensed citizens to carry handguns openly in public.

    On Friday, the Texas House of Representatives voted 96-35 in favor of House Bill 910, which extends the rights of citizens who have a concealed handgun license to allow them to openly carry a holstered handgun. A similar bill passed the Texas Senate last month; the two versions must be reconciled before heading to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for signing.

    Abbot is likely to give the measure his approval. During a February press conference, he said, “I will sign whatever legislation reaches my desk that expands Second Amendment rights in Texas,”according to The Texas Tribune.

    Currently, Texans who want to carry a handgun in public must have a concealed handgun license and are required to keep the gun hidden. State law allows residents 21 and older, as well as those on active military duty, to obtain a license after undergoing a background check, taking classes and passing written and hands-on tests.

    Some form of open carry of handguns is allowed in 44 other states, though some require permits or licenses, and others restrict the times or places when open carry is allowed. If Texas legalizes open carry, only California, Florida, Illinois, New York, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. will still have outright bans.

    Guns on sale are stored in a case at a gun store in Fort Worth, Texas June 26, 2008. Texas is poised to legalize open carry of handguns for licensed residents. Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

    Guns on sale are stored in a case at a gun store in Fort Worth, Texas June 26, 2008. Texas is poised to legalize open carry of handguns for licensed residents. Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

    Texas already allows people to purchase and openly carry rifles and shotguns without permits, which has prompted gun-rights groups to carry assault weapons into stores and outside the Texas Capitol in order to bring attention to what they see as an arbitrary legal distinction.

    Belying the state’s cowboy image, the percentage of Texas citizens who own a gun — 35.9 percent — is below the national median of roughly 40 percent. And Texas voters’ opinions are divided on open carry, with a minority in favor.

    A joint University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll released in February showed that the majority of Texan voters — 77 percent — believe people should be able to carry handguns in public in some form. But only 32 percent support open carry, with another 45 percent in favor of allowing those with licenses to carry a concealed handgun, but not openly.

    That a minority of Texans support open carries has prompted charges from some gun control advocates that that the State Legislature is being influenced by pro-gun interests.

    Alexandra Chasse, a Texas member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told The Wall Street Journal that she feels legislators “are turning their back on the majority of Texans to cater to a narrow special-interest group.”

    Among Texas police chiefs, opposition to open carry is slightly higher than in the voting public. A survey released by the Texas Police Chiefs Association shows that nearly 75 percent of the 192 chiefs surveyed answered no to the question “do you think there should be open carry in Texas?”

    Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix, who also serves as Legislative Committee Chair of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, told KXAN TV that he feels open carry would make officers’ jobs more difficult.

    “It is going to be difficult for the beat cop to know who should have a gun, who shouldn’t have a gun, and frankly there are people out there who shouldn’t own guns,” Mannix said.

    Not included in either of the recent open carry bills is another controversial topic — whether people with concealed handgun licenses should be allowed to carry their guns on public college campuses.

    The Texas Senate approved one such “campus-carry” measure last month, and the state House of Representatives is expected to pass a companion bill.

    Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story listed the number of states that currently allow some form of open carry as 45. The correct number is 44.

    The post Texas on the verge of passing open carry law for handguns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Vermont Battles With Deadly Heroin Epidemic

    Used syringes are discarded at a needle exchange clinic in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. In late March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency and issued an executive order suspending a state law prohibiting needle exchanges. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    A southeastern Indiana county at the epicenter of a drug-related HIV crisis has seen a significant uptick in new cases of the virus since it began a temporary needle exchange program more than two weeks ago.

    Indiana State Department of Health announced Friday that 120 confirmed HIV cases have now been tied to Scott County — up from 106 the week before. The department also reported 10 preliminary cases. The county usually sees around five HIV cases per year.

    Health officials note that part of the sharp increase in reported cases is likely due to increased testing for the virus.

    “We have seen a significant increase in the number of HIV cases reported this week, but we believe that is because we have been able to offer more testing with the help of additional staff from CDC,” State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams said in the Friday health department announcement.

    In late March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency and issued an executive order suspending a state law prohibiting needle exchanges, allowing a 30-day needle exchange program because of a sharp increase in HIV cases among intravenous drug users in southeastern Indiana.

    The exchange, which is only for Scott County residents, provides users with enough syringes for one week and gives them thick plastic boxes called “sharps” in which they can place used needles and return them for safe disposal.

    The state health department reports that since the needle exchange opened on April 4, it has handed out 5,322 clean syringes to 86 participants and received about 1,400 used needles.

    According to an Associated Press report, a spokeswoman for Gov. Pence, Kara Brooks, said Friday that the Governor was reviewing information from health officials, and would soon reach a decision on whether to extend the needle exchange past its current April 25 end date.

    Pence has previously opposed needle exchanges, arguing that these programs promote drug use. In his announcement of the 30-day exchange, Pence said:

    In response to a public health emergency, I’m prepared to make an exception to my long-standing opposition to needle exchange programs … I don’t believe effective anti-drug policy involves handing out drug paraphernalia.

    According to health officials, the Scott County outbreak is mainly centered around intravenous use of a potent prescription opioid painkiller called Opana.

    The post HIV-stricken Indiana county sees uptick in new cases appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A Photograph of Rescue Teams on the Capsized Hill of USS Oklahoma Seeking Crew Members During the Attack of Pearl Harbour. December 7th, 1941. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images)

    A Photograph of rescue teams on the capsized hill of USS Oklahoma seeking crew members during the attack of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images

    The remains of hundreds of unaccounted-for Pearl Harbor service members will be exhumed and analyzed for identification, following a broadening of U.S. military disinterment policy announced by the Department of Defense earlier this week.

    Sixty-one caskets containing the commingled remains of up to 388 sailors and Marines will be taken from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific – also known as the Punchbowl – and sent to a laboratory in Hawaii in three to six weeks’ time, according to the DOD.

    “Amazingly, the Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work just made the decision, hey, you know what, the right thing to do is to exhume these people if we can identify them and return them to the relatives,” Tom Gray told one of the hosts of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “As it Happens” on Friday.

    Gray’s second cousin, Edwin Hopkins, was among the 429 who perished when the USS Oklahoma capsized after being struck by Japanese torpedoes during surprise attacks on the Pearl Harbor naval base the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

    In 2008, Gray’s family found out that Hopkins’ remains, along with those of 26 other service members had been identified in 1943, but those identifications were overturned, WNPR reported in 2014. The information was uncovered thanks to research by Pearl Harbor survivor, Ray Emory.

    Since then, Hopkins’ relatives have gone “back and forth with the Navy” as Gray put it on the CBC show, to see that the remains are exhumed and positively identified in order to bury them in the family’s plot at a cemetery in Keene, New Hampshire.

    398341 05: Paul Goody, a veteran of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor who served on the USS Oklahoma, remembers all the dead not counted for as a result of the attack during the 60th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 2001 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The ceremony was held to honor the U.S. servicemen who died when Japanese planes attacked the Pacific fleet starting U.S. involvement in World War II. (Photo by Charles Gabrean/Getty Images)

    Paul Goody, a veteran of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor who served on the USS Oklahoma, remembers all the dead not counted for during the 60th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 2001 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Credit: Charles Gabrean/Getty Images

    According to the new terms concerning unidentified remains, there must be a 60 percent chance that remains sharing a casket can be individually identified in order to remove them.

    The DOD has collected and analyzed DNA from 84 percent of family members of USS Oklahoma victims, as well as obtained 90 percent of the medical records for the crew that died aboard the vessel.

    It will take an estimated five years to complete the identifications, using current forensic and DNA testing technology.

    The post U.S. seeks to ID remains of ‘unknown’ Pearl Harbor victims appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab participants and newly named fellows,

    PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab participants and newly named fellows, top row: Ben Root, Alex Trevin and Chloe Golan; Bottom row: Isabel Evans and Erykah Williams.

    This summer, 18 talented young storytellers from 11 states will convene in the nation’s capital with a common objective: to help build the future of public media.

    The middle and high school fellows are participants in the first Student Reporting Labs Academy in Washington, D.C. They’ll work alongside public media mentors to produce original digital content and sharpen their journalism and production skills. They will also help program leaders develop strategies to engage young people with the news and current affairs and ensure that diverse youth voices are active in the conversations about critical issues facing the nation.

    These young journalists have reported on the challenges of keeping schools safe, how political advertising reaches young people and service projects at their own schools, all of which have contributed to the NewsHour’s broadcast and digital platforms this year.

    Here is the list of this year’s fellows:

    Georgie Abbey, Royal Oak High School
    Annie Collick, Royal Oak High School
    Isabel Evans, Philip’s Academy Charter School
    John Fabella, Maui Waena Intermediate School
    Chloe Golan, Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High
    Evan Gulock, Royal Oak High School
    Alexander Lischak, Trumbull Career & Technical
    Alex Maxwell, Judge Memorial Catholic High School
    Sydney Payne, Carlsbad High School
    Keenan Penn II, Fraser High School
    Alizah Rizvi, Philip’s Academy Charter School
    Ben Root, Stephen F. Austin High School
    Jakira Smith, Free Spirit Media and Simeon Career Academy
    Giel Marie Tolentino, Maui High School
    Alex Trevino, Stephen F. Austin High School
    Nicholas Weiss, Cedar Crest High School
    Zoe Whitney, Maui High School
    Erykah Williams, Vista PEAK Preparatory

    To learn more about the students and to watch their submission videos, please visit the official SRL Academy Tumblr.

    Student Reporting Labs is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of the public media initiative, “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen,” which is helping communities improve education opportunities for all students and build the next generation of skilled graduates. Student Reporting Labs is also funded by National Science Foundation.

    The post PBS NewsHour names 18 fellows for inaugural student reporting academy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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