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

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    GWEN IFILL: Now, to our PBS NewsHour Bookshelf.

    The next election will bring new residents to the White House, including a new first spouse. A new book, “First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women,” focuses on the women who have called it home. It’s a culmination of C-SPAN’s year-long history series.

    Judy Woodruff and editor Susan Swain sat down to talk about the book not long ago, in the First Ladies Water Garden at the Botanical Gardens in Washington. Its granite stones were built to resemble the quilt patterns made famous by Martha Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Swain, co-CEO of C-SPAN, moderate of the series on the first ladies, now editor of this book on the first ladies, welcome. Thank you for talking with us.

    I have heard some people say this may be the most difficult job in Washington, to be first lady. It’s a job with no real job definition. People — the expectations are sky-high. People are watching you all the time, and yet you haven’t been chosen by the American people. You haven’t been elected. How did you see that?

    SUSAN SWAIN, Editor, “First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women”: There is a duality in the lives of the first ladies that you see from right very earlier days.

    We have a quote associated with each first lady at the beginning of a chapter. And Martha Washington’s captured this. She says: “I feel like a prisoner of the state. I can’t go out in a public place, and so I stay inside.”

    She really reflected that she was living a life that wasn’t exactly hers and everything was under scrutiny; 100 years later, Grace Coolidge said of being first lady, “It was I, and yet not I.”  There was the public Grace Coolidge and the private Grace Coolidge. And trying to find the sweet spot between those is what is the interesting thing in this book, because some women do it very successfully. Others really chafe under the glare of the spotlight that has always been part of being first lady.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There are so many, Susan Swain, so many remarkable stories in here, some of them poignant, some of them funny. What are your favorites?

    SUSAN SWAIN: Well, my favorites are the ones that I didn’t know anything about. The Coolidges were great lovers of animals. And someone gave the Coolidges a raccoon that they meant them to have as dinner. And the Coolidges were horrified, and so they made a pet of it instead, named it Rebecca, and she moved into the White House. Rebecca is one of my favorite stories.

    I also like Florence Harding. Florence Harding is someone that we always think about all the scandals in the Harding administration. But she was really quite a strong woman. And she had a real sense of marketing. She brought Hollywood into the equation during the campaign, used the newsreels at the time to tell the story of the White House.

    But her sense of duty, she was really very connected to the veterans and veterans’ issues, but she also really wanted to open the White House up to the public. She thought it was the public’s house and would spend countless hours shaking hands as the public went through.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There are some traditions that you see, patterns that you see through the experiences of these first ladies. And one is their interest in beautifying Washington, making this a lovelier place, in fact making the country lovelier, starting with Mrs. Taft.

    SUSAN SWAIN: Washington and cherry trees are synonymous now. People come from all over the country and even all over the world when our cherry blossoms bloom every year. That was Helen Taft’s idea.

    She had lived in Asia with her husband. He was the U.S. representative to the Philippines. And she spent some time in Japan and fell in love with the cherry blossoms. The city was — especially around the Tidal Basin, was really very undeveloped and it was a dirt track that people used to race their carriages on at 15 miles an hour. She had a vision that it could be a place where people would come from all over the city, as they do now — her vision really played out — to walk beneath the cherry blossoms and really enjoy it as family.

    The Japanese government heard about this and donated the first cherry blossoms, which she dedicated in 1912. And then, in the ’60s, Lady Bird Johnson her beautification program, which was a complement to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society efforts. She thought that the capital needed to be a place that people could be proud of, and it would set the stage for other cities around the country.

    And that in fact happened. She planted 3,000 more cherry trees. And then in 2012, it was the 100th anniversary, and Michelle Obama went down to the Tidal Basin and planted centenary trees. So, it’s a tradition that has made its way through 100 years of first ladies history.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We talk a lot about the softer side of their effect on the president and their effect on the country, but, in fact, some of them significant influence.

    SUSAN SWAIN: And that’s one of the things that is so interesting about uncovering their stories, because they had a great deal of influence. But they aren’t recorded. We don’t have to keep records about that.

    And yet they go to bed every night with the most powerful person in the world, and the first person that person talks to in the morning. And most first ladies have learned how to use that Influence wisely.

    Even Mary Todd Lincoln — Abraham Lincoln was devastated after his unsuccessful early run for the Senate. And it was Mary Todd who said, you can do this. What if she hadn’t been that kind of encouragement to him, and we wouldn’t have had Abraham Lincoln rising up in politics?  It goes on throughout history.

    You very well know the story of Nancy Reagan and how powerful she was in a very quiet way in this town. She didn’t have obvious influence, but we know that she watched his back all the time and was his closest personal adviser. They worked as a couple from the time he entered politics.

    The women in the Victorian age, Frances Clevelandwas out youngest first lady, enormously popular, first celebrity first lady. And yet her husband didn’t want her in the public eye. So, she had to find other ways to wield her influence. He’s our only nonsequential president.

    She actually when they lost the White House after the first time, turned and said to the staff, keep the drapes as they are. We will be back in four years. And they were. She was right about that.


    SUSAN SWAIN: She knew. She knew the strength of their political power.

    But I think, over time, you see women emerging more, beginning to get their feet, using the media more as a venue. And then in this modern age, from the ’60s on, we now have this project that every first lady seems to have.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton stands out as a first lady who, of course, went on in her on way to serve as secretary of state, now running for president herself.

    I think the question on a lot of people’s minds since is, she’s given this a serious shot, how much thought is being given to what the role of the first gentleman or first husband would be?

    SUSAN SWAIN: I think it will be very interesting.

    We had an interview with Laura Bush. And she speculated about whether or not we had reached the maturity level as a country to allow the people — the spouses in this job to have their own lives, to have their own careers.

    And of course there’s all kinds of conflict of interest at that level of politics that come into it. But we’re about to put that to the test during this campaign. And lots of questions will be asked about the roles of the two Clintons and what role he might have in the White House.

    The interesting thing is the social side wouldn’t go away in a Clinton White House. So you can’t see the first gentleman being the social partner that the first ladies often are. So, it is fun watching the different trends and things that come full circle throughout the lives of the first ladies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some amazing stories.

    The book is “First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women.”

    Susan Swain, thank you.

    SUSAN SWAIN: Well, thanks for your interest.


    The post How America’s first ladies balanced public and private life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    shia volunteer recruits iraq

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    GWEN IFILL: We turn now to Iraq, and the war against the Islamic State group, where Iraqi Shia militia, many backed by Iran, are often the ones leading the fight.

    That activity was on display most recently in Tikrit, where the Shia were accused of looting and atrocities after retaking the Sunni Muslim city.

    These militia have a long, bloody history with American forces, too.

    The top American commander for the region spoke recently at a Senate hearing.

    GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, Commander, U.S. Central Command: I would like just to highlight, sir, that three tours in Iraq commanding troops who were brutalized by some of these Shia militias, I will not and I hope we never coordinate or cooperate with the Shia militias.

    GWEN IFILL: In the final report in her series from Iraq, NewsHour special correspondent Jane Arraf traveled south of Baghdad, where she was granted special access to the Shia militia group and its training operation.

    JANE ARRAF, Special Correspondent: These men have answered a call by Iraq’s most revered Shia religious leader to fight the Islamic State group.

    But this brigade’s inspiration is Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Their month-long training starts with the basics. “This is an automatic Kalashnikov,” instructor Ali Hussein tells them. “It’s a Russian-made rifle with the best mechanism in the world.”

    When the I.S. group, known here as Da’esh, took over Mosul last year, entire divisions of the Iraqi army collapsed. The Iraqi government turned to Iran and Iraqi citizens for help. There are at least four other training centers like this in Nasiriyah. In this one alone, they have trained 2,000 fighters. Most of them are young men, but the only real requirement is a willingness to fight.

    More than 100,000 men joined up after the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa, calling on those who could to join the fight. Nasiriyah, 200 miles south of Baghdad, has a long history of fighting. At 17, Ali Jabber Hussein is the youngest recruit here. His father was wounded fighting against Saddam Hussein’s forces. Two of his uncles were killed.

    ALI JABBER HUSSEIN, Volunteer (through interpreter): Our father told us to volunteer. He said, why are you sitting here with me? You have to go and defend your country.

    JANE ARRAF: The south of Iraq has particularly close ties with neighboring Iran. Many fighters fled here in the 1990s after the U.S. urged Iraqis to rise up against Saddam Hussein, and then stood by when his regime killed thousands.

    The chaos after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 only deepened the conviction among many here that the United States was trying to destroy Iraq. Like many Iraqis, this commander is convinced the U.S. arms the Islamic State group.

    MAJ. JAMEEL HAMEED KHATIM, Popular Mobilization Forces (through interpreter): The expertise is British, the intelligence is Jewish, and the weapons are American. The Islamic State attacks are part of a British plan.

    JANE ARRAF: Some of these men, like Ali Nasser, fought in Syria with the Hezbollah brigades, a group backed by Iran. They battled anti-government fighters alongside Syrian forces. When the I.S. group crossed into Iraq, the fighters came back here.

    ALI NASSER FALIH HASSAN, Volunteer (through interpreter): The fighting here is much more intense. We haven’t seen anything like this.


    JANE ARRAF: The commanders try to prepare them for the skills they believe they will need in their fight to the north, including kicking down doors and throwing grenades. They say reports of the Shia fighters destroying and looting houses are lies.

    MAJ. JAMEEL HAMEED KHATIM (through interpreter): The media says the popular mobilization destroyed that house or set others on fire. This is impossible. There’s nothing like that. But, of course, if there is gunfire coming from a house, of course we will fire on it.

    JANE ARRAF: The brigade has lost seven fighters. This commander says they included Ahmed al Mussawi, 22 years-old when he was killed north of Baghdad.

    MAN (through interpreter): There were more than 250 Da’esh fighters. The army unit that we were with started to clear the area, fighting from 4:00 in the morning.

    JANE ARRAF: Ahmed’s father has two other older sons still fighting. He considers the death of his youngest son an honor.

    SAYID ABDUL NABI YASSER AL MUSSAWI (through interpreter): He loved the idea of jihad. When he first went, they wouldn’t take him because they said he was too young. And then he went to Sayid Hamza’s 15th Shaban Brigades and said, I want to join you. They say I’m young, but I want to go however I can.

    So they agreed, and he stayed with them until he was martyred.

    JANE ARRAF: Nasiriyah is in the middle of Iraq’s huge oil fields. The people here are among the poorest in the country. Just north of the city, the walls are dotted with photos of those killed in fighting. They were poor when they joined. When they died, many left their families even poorer.

    Shukria found out Hussein, her husband of 30 years, had been killed fighting when someone else answered his phone.

    SHUKRIA RATHIA MUHSIN, Widow (through interpreter): He said, he’s a sacrifice. He sacrificed himself for you.

    We didn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.

    JANE ARRAF: The only money they have ever received from the government or the Popular Mobilization Forces was to bury him.

    The Iraqi government says it will integrate the volunteers into official security forces, but, for now, it says it doesn’t have the funds. Those killed in battle are buried at the Najaf cemetery. It’s the biggest cemetery in the world. An estimated 4,000 Shia fighters have been buried in the cemetery since the battle against I.S. began. This corner has been dedicated to some of the volunteers whose families can’t pay for burials.

    Haj Abbas, an undertaker, says they died defending other Shias and Iraq.

    HAJ ABBAS HAJ KHUTHAIR ALLAWI ABU SAIBI, Undertaker (through interpreter): Some were killed in Jurf al Sakhar. Some of them were killed by bombs in the street. And others were fighters in Tikrit, and some of them were fighting in Ramadi. Every day, there are martyrs, at least 10, 15, 20, 30, because, when they enter the homes, sadly, the houses detonated around them.

    JANE ARRAF: Some of the men had decades of experience fighting. But many others were just beginning their lives.

    “They are fighting for all of us,” says Haj Abbas. “They leave everything behind to defend us.”

    I’m Jane Arraf for PBS NewsHour in Najaf, Iraq.

    GWEN IFILL: And a late word tonight on Iraq.

    There are reports from the wire services that President Obama will nominate Marine General Joseph Dunford Jr. to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He currently serves as the commandant of the Marine Corps.

    The post Shia militias answer the call to fight Islamic State in Iraq appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Children play at the Gilmor Homes housing projects in Baltimore, Maryland

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    GWEN IFILL: In New York today, on the campus of Lehman College in the Bronx, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the independent nonprofit that he says will outlive his presidency by tackling the underlying problems that have led to the unrest in cities like Baltimore. Its goal? To reduce the opportunity gap for black and Latino men.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Those opportunity gaps begin early, often at birth.  And they compound over time, becoming harder and harder to bridge, making too many young men and women feel like, no matter how hard they try, they may never achieve their dreams.

    And that sense of unfairness and of powerlessness, of people not hearing their voices, that’s helped fuel some of the protests that we have seen in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and right here in New York.

    GWEN IFILL: Baltimore is not the only urban area coping with the challenges of expanding opportunity in poor communities, but according to a new analysis by Harvard’s Equality of Opportunity Project, it may be one of the worst.

    As laid out in The New York Times, poor children in Baltimore face even worse odds than low-income kids elsewhere, mostly because they remain in impoverished neighborhoods.

    Baltimore in fact ranks among the worst areas when it comes to mobility.  As this map shows, by the time he or she reaches the age of 26, a poor child growing up in Baltimore city will earn nearly $3,400 less than his or her counterpart in nearby Baltimore County, and about $2,400 less than in suburban Howard County.

    But there’s a bigger picture.

    Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard University is a principal member of the team that did the research. He joins me now.

    We talked about Baltimore as an example of a place where, frankly, young — poor young people are most likely to get stuck. Why is that?

    NATHANIEL HENDREN, Harvard University: Well, we looked at a range of factors that kind of characterize places that have very, very low effects on children.

    And we find that, broadly, there’s five factors or characteristics of places where kids from poor backgrounds don’t do very well. And those are places that have more economic and racial segregation, places with more income inequality, places with less social capital, measures of civic engagement, areas where the family structures aren’t as strong, and areas where the schools aren’t as high-quality.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, some of those things you just outlined sound like common sense.  They’re what we instinctively, kind of intuitively believed, right? But what’s different about this report in proving that?

    NATHANIEL HENDREN: Well, I think what we try to drive home is the variation across the United States in the opportunities that are present for children.

    And what our research documents is that if you take the same child and put them in two different places, it will dramatically shape the way in which their economic outcomes are realized later in life. And so I think documenting the dramatic variation across the U.S. and the impact that places have on that variation is the primary aspect of the work.

    GWEN IFILL: So, let’s move away from Baltimore, where we have been consumed with looking at the most tragic outcome of this kind of entrenched poverty in getting stuck, I suppose, and go to some place like Illinois, Cook County, the home of Chicago, and DuPage County, Illinois.


    Yes, so Cook County and DuPage County, so the western suburbs of Chicago, very close together, but if you take the same child and imagine they spend 20 years growing up in Cook County, on average, they would grow up and earn about $32,000 a year when they turn 26.

    Take that same child, have them grow up just in the western suburbs of Chicago, by the time they turn 26, they would be earning on average about $30,000, so about a 30 percent increase in their incomes just from the differences in exposure to growing up in downtown Chicago vs. the western suburbs.

    GWEN IFILL: The president was talking today about his My Brother’s Keeper initiative and he was focusing particularly on outcomes for young boys of color. Does your research show that that is a particular problem? Why not young girls or even poor white kids?

    NATHANIEL HENDREN: So, I think that’s largely justified.

    If you look across the U.S., there’s much more variation in the impact places have on young boys from low-income backgrounds as opposed to young girls. And so we were mentioning Baltimore in particular. Of the 100 largest counties in the U.S., Baltimore has the lowest impact on low-income boys.

    So, you take a low-income boy that spends 20 years growing up in Baltimore, as opposed to the western suburbs of Chicago, we think their incomes would be 50 percent lower as a result of that experience.

    GWEN IFILL: So, we focus on mobility, but what happens if you can’t move?  You can’t move everybody.


    Broadly, we see the research sort of highlighting two different potential directions for policy. On the one hand, you can try to give people opportunities to move to different places, maybe give them housing vouchers for parents with young kids. But, on the other hand, we really have to think and do more research to really understand what is it about Baltimore vs. the western suburbs of Chicago that is leading to these dramatic differences in their impacts on low-income children’s incomes in adulthood.

    GWEN IFILL: When you talk about the issues that drive this, segregation big among them and flawed education systems being among them, are there policy solutions that exist which aren’t just throwing money at the problem?

    NATHANIEL HENDREN: Well, I think, for us, that’s the important question.

    And I think that, honestly, there’s more research that needs to be done to understand what is it? What is the best lever by which to change neighborhoods to make them produce higher outcomes for low-income kids?

    But I think a lot of this does come back to some of the common sense you were referring to, the quality of the school system, allowing for a greater access to mixings between people of different backgrounds. I think that it’s hard to argue that that is going to reduce outcomes for low-income children and probably is a good start.

    GWEN IFILL: How about the age of kids involved?  Does it matter whether you move when you’re in first grade or if you move when you’re in 10th grade, as long as you move?

    NATHANIEL HENDREN: Actually, it does.

    So, we find is that places matter in proportion to the amount of time you spend growing up there.  So, the longer you spend, every additional year a child spends growing up in a good place improves their outcomes. Moving younger is better, because your child would get more exposure to that good place. But it’s never too late to move to a good place to try to improve your child’s outcomes in adulthood.

    GWEN IFILL: I guess I keep coming back to this question that, if the solution is moving, what happens to what is left, the neighborhoods that are left behind?

    NATHANIEL HENDREN: Yes. No, I think that’s right.

    And, again, what we see this as is highlighting that it does matter where you grow up.  Exposure to good neighborhoods is something that improves child outcomes.  But you’re absolutely right that that doesn’t mean that the only policy solution to this is to just move people to different areas.

    I think we do have to figure out what is it about places that are producing poor outcomes and what is it about places that are producing high outcomes, and really find the right policy levers to bridge the divide.

    GWEN IFILL: Another big question with really complicated answers.

    Nathaniel Hendren in Harvard, thank you very much.

    NATHANIEL HENDREN: Thanks for having me.

    The post Why the place you grow up can limit earning power for life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Baltimore was mostly normal today, but with a bad case of jangled nerves, especially after conflicting accounts this afternoon of another police encounter near the scene of last week’s riots.

    Baltimore police, however, say no one was shot. This weekend, after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lifted a six-day curfew, we found city residents mostly breathing a sigh of relief.

    MAN: I think the curfew was unnecessary from the beginning. I’m glad the mayor pulled the curfew back, because it’s really hurting Baltimore business and it really wasn’t helping anyone. But I guess the city officials have peace of mind.

    BEN FRANKLIN: I can finally work a full night again and possibly make some more money, so I’m pretty happy about that, because that’s been the most painful thing for me, because I’m a creature of the night. Having to be home by 10:00 p.m. is just strange when you’re almost 50.

    WOMAN: It’s such a relief to have this Target open. My dad gets his medicine here.  If he doesn’t have insulin, it’s life-threatening.

    TRACY GLENN: Coming here now, seeing this mall open and that sign up there that says “Mondawmin strong,” we are.

    WOMAN: I grew up here. And I have never seen this city come together the way it has in the last week or so. I mean, it’s wonderful.

    TRACY GLENN: It brings tears to my eyes, because it took all of this to get some justice. State after state, all of these black males are being shot and killed by the police, and nothing is being done. And it took a riot for us to get some justice.  But, in the long run, it hurt us.

    WOMAN: It actually made me feel sick that our kids have to go to such a huge extreme just to feel like to be heard. You know, if you come into the inner city, the neighborhoods, they defund our school system. A lot of our rec centers are closed.

    BARTY DIGGS: When I was growing up, I mean, you had a whole block of people who cared about you and would take time out. The older gentleman in the neighborhood would tell the youth what to do, but now pretty much they’re on their own to fend for themselves now.

    WOMAN: These kids, they need an outlet. If they don’t have an outlet, if they don’t have a way to express themselves, the only thing they know is to be destructive.

    DEONTRAY BENNETT: I went to a recreation center. It gives the kids things to do, so that they’re not just outside running around. As far as them closing them, I don’t think it was a good idea, because most recreation centers I used to go to, when you get there after school, their main goal was for you to finish your homework before you could do anything.

    ASHARD STRONG: All the chaos, we can avoid all this curfew, looting, fires and protesting.

    DEONTRAY BENNETT: I was out, but once it started to get too bad, all the rioting, I didn’t want to take part of anything. The definition of protesting is to try to get justice, not to tear down the city and loot and burn down the city.

    MAN: My hope is that we can level the playing field for disenfranchised people. We can be heard. They can feel like they’re being heard.

    DEONTRAY BENNETT: These kids that’s coming up, they’re watching everything we do. I just pray for Baltimore, and we will — we will make it. We will be all right.

    The post Baltimore residents reflect on riots and share relief for curfew’s end appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: The Republican field grew more crowded, as two more contenders jumped into the race for president today, and yet another announcement is expected tomorrow.

    It’s Politics Monday, so we will talk it all through with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, and Tamara Keith of NPR, who’s on the campaign trail in Las Vegas tonight.

    Let’s start off, ladies, by listening to both the two new candidates, just a bit of what they had to say today.

    CARLY FIORINA, Former CEO, Hewlett-Packard: If you’re tired of the sound bites, the vitriol, the pettiness, the egos, the corruption, if you believe that it’s time to declare the end of identity politics, if you believe that it’s time to declare the end of lowered expectations, if you believe that it’s time for citizens to stand up to the political class and say enough, then join us. It’s time for us to empower our citizens, to give them a voice in our government.

    BEN CARSON, Former Neurosurgeon: I’m not politically correct and I’m probably never…


    BEN CARSON: I’m probably never going to be politically correct, because I’m not a politician. I don’t want to be a politician because…


    BEN CARSON: … politicians do what is political expedient. And I want to do what’s right.

    GWEN IFILL: Amy, Ben Carson got on stage in Detroit with his — introduced his wife, his kids, his entire campaign staff, it looked like, and said, I’m not a politician, but I’m going to run for president for the next almost more than a year.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes. That’s right.

    He is running, and Carly Fiorina as well, as the outsiders. These are two people who do not have elected experience and they think that this is the perfect time to run for president with somebody without elected experience, given how frustrated Americans are with what’s happening in Washington with the political calculations that are going on in Washington.

    They’re going to try to make that the centerpiece of their campaign. And you saw it with both of them. They talked about crony capitalism. They talked about being politically incorrect, saying things that politicians won’t say. Maybe they will get a little bit of traction. The reason they will get a little bit of traction? They certainly stand out in the field, right, the only African-American candidate and the only female candidate.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s actually turning into a pretty diverse field.

    Tamara, let’s talk a little bit about what you thought about Ben Carson’s rollout today. He came — for some people, he’s coming out of nowhere, but he’s gotten very popular.

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Absolutely.

    He really came to prominence the first time because he’s this neurosurgeon who worked at Johns Hopkins University. He wrote a book that was turned into a movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr., who played him. Then, in 2013, he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, stood at a podium a few feet away from President Obama, and trashed Obamacare, said a lot of those politically incorrect things that he’s become known for, and that made him something of a conservative darling.

    And he did the talk show circuit. People have — as he said, people have been asking him to run for president. He said he never dreamed of running for president, but people keep asking him to. There was a recruit Ben Carson effort that raised more than $10 million. Now, much of that was then spent on fund-raising, so it just sort of cycled through, but people were asking him to do it.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to ask you, Amy, a little bit about Carly Fiorina. People are asking him to run. There’s no question. Who’s asking her to run?

    AMY WALTER: I think she’s asking herself to run and she’s hoping that, again, she can set herself up as somebody who is not part of the established system.

    Now, unlike Ben Carson, who hasn’t run for anything, city council, state senate, nothing, she has run one time, lost to Barbara Boxer in the United States Senate race in 2010 in California. But she’s still trying to present herself as somebody who has had a different set of experiences.

    She’s a corporate titan, of course. She ran Hewlett-Packard.

    GWEN IFILL: Which didn’t end so well.

    AMY WALTER: Didn’t really end very well.

    And what Barbara Boxer talked about a lot and attacked her about a lot on the campaign trail in 2010, how many layoffs there were at Hewlett-Packard under Carly Fiorina’s stewardship. So that is going to get certainly a lot of attention as the economy is a big, big issue.

    GWEN IFILL: Tamara, you’re in Las Vegas covering Hillary Clinton tonight. So, it seems that the is what Carly Fiorina wants to be the person to position herself as the only other woman in the race so far to run against Hillary Clinton.

    TAMARA KEITH: Absolutely. Right out of the box, her announcement video features Hillary Clinton’s announcement video, saying, I’m about to do this thing, and then Carly Fiorina clicks the remote control and says, we need to get rid of these career politicians.

    So she is really positioning herself as the anti-Hillary. When she’s spoken at these various Republican cattle calls and other events, she is pretty firmly, viciously attacking Hillary Clinton, in a way that she can because she’s a female candidate. And people in the audiences at these events have been really fired up about that. And so that’s the route she’s taking, is that she’s going to be the attack dog in the field against Hillary Clinton.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you all to race ahead a little bit to tomorrow, because you won’t be here tomorrow, so I have to ask you this today. Mike Huckabee is also getting into the race. And we — you talk about people who have run before. He certainly has, Amy.

    AMY WALTER: He ran before. And there was a very low bar for him when he first ran in 2008. He ended up surprising everybody, winning Iowa, becoming a nationally known candidate, and then of course sort of faltering and petering out.

    Since then, he went on to go and have a stint on FOX as a host. He’s coming back now as a politician, saying that he brings a different set of perspectives into this race. When he ran last time, he was the evangelical candidate. He’s trying to run now as an evangelical candidate, but also on his blue-collar roots, right?He talks about sort of a populist message when he was governor of Arkansas.

    And, like Carly Fiorina, he talks about the fact that he’s taken on the Clintons. He’s from Hope, Arkansas, like Bill Clinton is from Hope, Arkansas. In his announcement video, he talked about taking on the Clinton machine and that is what he wants to use as his claim.

    GWEN IFILL: Tamara, is there room in the Republican field as it’s now organizing itself for someone to be — where is he, in the right, in the left of the field, and especially for fund-raising?

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, I think that he has sort of a challenge, in that he used to be the evangelical, but in this race, there are at least three people angling for that evangelical vote, probably four.

    Ted Cruz is angling for it. Rick Santorum, if he gets in, is going for it. Scott Walker is trying for that group as well. So Mike Huckabee has a much narrower lane this time. He also has a lot of Republicans who think that he’s not a fiscal conservative, who are not happy with his record as governor in Arkansas, and so he has a lot to navigate.

    GWEN IFILL: And let’s talk about the Clintons for a while before we run out of time here, because Hillary Clinton now has Bernie Sanders, an actual official person who is challenging her, but she also has some things she’s trying to clean up.

    She said today that she is going to testify about Benghazi, she is going to testify about her e-mails, one time only, one time only. And then her husband was in Africa with the Clinton Foundation explaining what the Clinton Foundation situation, kind of mansplaining it. How is that going…


    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    It seems that there’s a real Hillary Clinton opponent right now, Bernie Sanders. And then there’s the other Hillary Clinton opponent, which is Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. And I don’t think that is going away any time soon. It just seems every day we have another story about where this money is coming from, who spent it, was it recorded and was it properly given over to the State Department?

    So, lots of questions still swirling about that, but bottom line, there is a big vacuum around the Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton is not — she’s on the campaign trail, not doing all that much talking. The vacuum is getting filled with this stuff.

    GWEN IFILL: That’s a good point, Tamara. You’re out there on the campaign trail, but now her husband has given one more interview than she has, which is to say one since this campaign got under way.


    GWEN IFILL: What do you expect? Do you expect her to be in the position where she has to answer those kinds of questions out there in Nevada?

    TAMARA KEITH: It’s not clear that we’re going to have the access to shout those questions to her as she’s doing another one of these small roundtable events, this time at a high school, where she will be meeting with students to talk about fixing the broken immigration system, as they have described it.

    That’s not a great place to answer questions about the Benghazi committee or about her husband’s somewhat tone-deaf remarks in Africa. He said that they need to pay the bills. That’s what you call an unforced error.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, we will be watching for the forced and the unforced.

    Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, thank you both very much.

    TAMARA KEITH: Thanks.

    GWEN IFILL: For more on what these candidates for president are bringing to the campaign, you can check out our online feature, What They Believe. That’s on our Politics page at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.38.06 PM

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    GWEN IFILL: Former president Bill Clinton is defending foreign donations to his family foundation.

    In an interview airing today, he dismissed speculation that other governments traded donations for official favors — when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. She’s now running for president.

    Mr. Clinton told NBC News the foundation has never done anything “knowingly inappropriate.”

    Also today, the state department said it’s found no evidence that the donations influenced any actions by then-Secretary Clinton. And on a related matter, the former president said he’ll continue to accept speaking fees — of up to half a million dollars apiece — during his wife’s campaign. He said:  “I gotta pay the bills.”

    Also today, Hillary Clinton offered to testify before a special house committee on the attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador.

    Clinton’s attorney said she’s willing to appear once, later this month, to answer all questions on Benghazi and on her e-mail practice.

    Calm seas in the Mediterranean sent waves of migrants sailing from Libya toward Italy over the weekend.

    Thousands were picked up at sea as the European Union struggled to keep up.

    Jane Deith of Independent Television News has this report.

    JANE DEITH, ITN: The boats haven’t stopped coming. In the space of 3 days, Italy France and groups of volunteers have raced to the rescue of almost 7,000 people. Including this this baby girl, born just hours after her mother was in a boat floating off the coast of Libya.

    Last month, EU members promised to send help. This French navy ship rescued 217 people on Saturday.

    But where is the flagship HMS Bullwork David Cameron promised? It left the Gallipoli event in Turkey a week ago, but only tonight is it ready to help after a reported diplomatic wrangle over whether rescued migrants could disembark at Italian ports. It’s understood things were only resolved today. In the last hour, the ministry of defense has confirmed HMS Bullwork and three merlin helicopters are in Sicily waiting for the call.

    At the moment, the rescue mission, operation Tritan, is still relying heavily on passing vessels.

    FLAVIO DI GIACOMO, International Organisation for Migration: It is mainly commercial ships who are patrolling — who are actually in the international waters and are able to carry out rescue operations faster than other ships which are quite distant from the migrants in distress.

    This rescue boat is speeding not towards Italy but straight back to Libya. The Libyan coast guard returning migrants to the country they were desperate to leave.

    WOMAN: We are suffering — can’t you see? Look it! Look it! We are risking our life. We are suffering! Can’t you see we are suffering?

    WOMAN: It’s not a crime for me to risk my life for my family to live good.

    JANE DEITH: Britain does now stand ready to help as the numbers risking it all for Europe continue to rise.

    GWEN IFILL: The surge of migrants has touched off rising political tensions. Some leaders in northern Italy are insisting their regions will not accept any more of the newcomers.

    In Nepal, the earthquake death toll topped 7300 today, including100 trekkers and villagers who were buried in an avalanche.

    And there was word that the climbing season for Mount Everest is likely over. Sherpa guides now say there’s not enough time to safely rebuild the route.

    Central Tel Aviv cleaned up today after protests by Ethiopian Jews turned violent. They said they’ve been subjected to racism and denied opportunity.

    Police used stun grenades and water cannons on Sunday to disperse the crowds. The unrest was sparked by a video of policemen beating an Ethiopian Israeli soldier.

    Israeli president Reuven Rivlin said today the violence “exposed an open, bleeding wound” in Israeli society.

    Violent political protests have claimed 3 more lives today in Burundi.

    The Red Cross said 45 others were wounded. The protests began April 26, after the African nation’s president announced he’d run for a third term, violating a two-term limit.

    In Kenya today, visiting Secretary of State John Kerry, warned against the move.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We are deeply concerned about President Manirakiza decision which flies directly in the face of the constitution of his country. And the violence that is expressing the concern of his own citizens about his own choice should be listen to and avoided as we go forward in these days.

    GWEN IFILL: The UN says 30-thousand people have fled from Burundi to neighboring countries

    Back in this country, officials from President Obama on down praised a New York City policeman who died today.

    Brian Moore was shot Saturday as he tried to arrest a man suspected of carrying a gun. He was the third officer killed in the city in 5 months.

    His death came amid tensions over police actions in Baltimore, New York and other cities.

    The top republican in New York state surrendered today to face federal charges of extortion and bribery.

    State senate leader Dean Skelos along with his son, Adam, turned themselves in to the FBI, in Manhattan. The elder Skelos allegedly used his power to enrich himself and his son.

    Earlier this year, a top New York democrat — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — was charged with taking payoffs.

    Wall Street moved slightly higher on this Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 46 points to close at 18-thousand-70. The Nasdaq rose 11 points And the s-and-p 500 added 6.

    And Britain’s newest princess now has a name: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

    Kensington palace announced today, two days after she was born that she will be known as “Her Royal Highness, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge”.

    Her names honor Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth and the late princess Diana — her grandfather, great-grandmother and grandmother.

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    A view of the car used by two gunmen, who were killed by police on Sunday after they opened fire outside an exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Garland, Texas. Photo by Rex Curry/Reuters

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    GWEN IFILL: The FBI looked for terrorist tie-ins today after two men attacked an exhibit of Muhammad cartoons outside Dallas.

    The Sunday evening shooting in garland, Texas sent investigators across the southwest.

    Federal agents searched this apartment in Phoenix, Arizona — within hours of the shooting — along with a white van and a second vehicle.

    DOUGLAS HAYES, Neighbor of gunmen: They were out here just wailing on the back door over here trying to get it open. There were several different guys that came over and were trying to cut into the door.

    GWEN IFILL: The FBI said the apartment belonged to Elton Simpson. He was identified as an American Muslim convicted in 2011 of lying to the FBI in a terror investigation.

    Investigators say he sent out several tweets before Sunday’s shooting, using the hashtag “Texas attack.”

    Various news accounts identified the second man as Nadir Soofi, Simpson’s roommate.

    Clad in body armor, the two gunmen fired assault-style rifles and wounded a security guard at the garland event center.

    An off-duty traffic officer, also working security, returned fire, killing both attackers.

    JOE HARN, Garland Police Department Spokesman: He did what he was trained to do and, under the fire that he was put under, he did a very good job and probably saved lives. We think their strategy was to get to the event center, into the event center, and they weren’t able to get passed that outer perimeter that we had set up.

    GWEN IFILL: The bodies were still there this morning, covered by a tarp, while a bomb squad searched the gunmen’s car, and blew up several suspicious objects but found no bombs.

    Police said they’re still working on the motive, but the event center was hosting a contest for cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. That’s considered blasphemous under Islamic tradition.

    It was organized by a group led by New York activist Pamela Geller, who campaigns against what she calls “Islamic supremacism”.

    Because of that, garland police had created a security plan months in advance.

    They drew on what happened in Paris last January when Islamism gunmen killed a dozen people at the office of a French magazine after it published Muhammad cartoons.

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    Commandant of the Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, Jr., testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee on military budget matters on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2015. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    Commandant of the Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford Jr., testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee on military budget matters on Capitol Hill in January. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say President Barack Obama will nominate Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, choosing a widely respected, combat-hardened commander who led the Afghanistan war coalition during a key transition in 2013-2014.

    The move cuts short Dunford’s service as the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, a job he began last October. But the rapid promotion is one of several that have marked Dunford’s fast-tracked military career, which saw him leap from a one-star brigadier general to four stars in about three years.

    Obama is tapping Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, a pilot and current head of U.S. Transportation Command, to be vice chairman.

    Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly before the announcement.

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    Republican 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 18. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Republican 2016 presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 18. Huckabee is expected to announce his candidacy today. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Mike Huckabee is a religious leader, talk show host, book tour veteran (a dozen in print), bass guitarist, weight-loss guru and was one of the longest-serving governors in Arkansas’ history. He broke 13 years of Democratic rule in his state and broke Mitt Romney’s heart by winning in Iowa in 2008. Here is where the presidential candidate stands on 10 issues.

    Budget and Entitlements: Balance the budget. Consider raising retirement age for new workers.

    Huckabee advocates a balanced federal budget and frequently points to his record of balancing budgets as governor of Arkansas. On Medicare and Social Security, in April he indicated he would consider raising the retirement age for young people just entering the workforce and keep benefits and eligibility intact for those closer to retirement.

    Climate Change: Scientific predictions are inaccurate. But no hard, definitive stance.

    In 2013, Huckabee wrote that climate change predictions have proved inaccurate, in a Facebook post that is no longer available online. He has not definitively rung in on whether humans have a role in climate change and questions its priority as an issue, comparing the problem to a sunburn on FOX News. In 2007, Huckabee told a climate change conference in New Hampshire that the nation has a responsibility to cut carbon emissions and that he then supported a “true cap-and-trade” system. In later years when asked about the comment, Huckabee said he supports a “voluntary” cap-and-trade system.

    Education: States, not federal government, should set similar standards. Common Core was a good idea and has been misconstrued.

    Known for his support of and within the homeschooling community, Huckabee believes that curriculum standards should be set at the state or local level. Huckabee outlined his philosophy in a 2008 interview with the conservative-leaning CNS News. He opposes federally-mandated testing but had mixed feelings on No Child Left Behind, which he applauded for empowering states and looking at students as individuals. His view on the state-initiated Common Core standards is nuanced. In June 2013, Huckabee wrote a letter to Oklahoma lawmakers endorsing the standards and insisting they are not heavy-handed. In December, Huckabee wrote on his blog that the term “Common Core” had been hijacked by some who had expanded the program too far. He concluded by saying he would like comparable standards for students set by and operated on the state or local level.

    Guns: Allow concealed carry. Protect citizens who use deadly force.

    A gun owner, Huckabee supports expansions of concealed carry laws and has written in the past that he believes they have saved lives. In 2006, Huckabee told a radio show that he supports the “Castle Doctrine” which states that people have the right to stand their ground and use deadly force when under threat.

    Health Care: Repeal the Affordable Care Act. Government should subsidize those facing “extraordinary” costs.

    Huckabee wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The former governor would instead focus on families and individuals with extraordinarily high medical expenses and set up a government mechanism to help pay for some of their costs.

    Immigration: Require most immigrants here illegally to self-deport within four months. Waive deportation for those brought here as children.

    Huckabee has opposed any comprehensive immigration plan that gives most undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. His 2007 immigration plan bolstered border security and required anyone in the country illegally to register with authorities and leave the country within 120 days. When it comes to immigrants who were brought her illegally as children, often called DREAMers, Huckabee believes they should have a legal status and be able to apply for citizenship.

    Social Issues: Ban abortions, except where life of the mother is at risk. Ban same-sex marriage.

    The former Arkansas governor proposes an amendment to the Constitution to make abortion illegal, with an exception for the life of the mother. As president, he also would push for the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Huckabee opposes same-sex marriage and would promote a Constitutional amendment banning such unions if the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay couples. He also opposes allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

    Taxes: Eliminate income tax and the IRS. Replace it with national sales tax.

    Huckabee proposes a national “Fair Tax.” The idea would eliminate income, corporate, capital gains and a number of other taxes and replace them with a single sales tax. He would also eliminate the IRS, arguing the simple system would make it unnecessary.

    Iran and Israel: Contested territory belongs to Israel. No to a two-state solution with Palestinians.

    Speaking in New Hampshire in April, Huckabee rejected the idea of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, saying contested settlement areas in Judea and Samaria belong to Israel.

    On Iran, Huckabee would keep current U.S. sanctions in place until Iran dismantles its nuclear infrastructure. He has sharply questioned negotiations led by the Obama administration.

    Islamic State: Nations in the Middle East region must do more to fight Islamic State, but the U.S. may have to put boots on the ground.

    In a September Facebook post, the former governor praised President Obama’s decision to start airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group. In October, in another Facebook post, the former governor blasted Turkey and other nations for not committing enough resources to fight IS and indicated he thinks the U.S. may have to put boots on the ground.

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    The Obama Administration announced that it would reward up to $18 million for information about the location of some of the Islamic State's top leaders. Here, a black flag belonging to the Islamic State is seen near the Syrian town of Kobani. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters.

    The Obama Administration announced that it would reward up to $18 million for information about the location of some of the Islamic State’s top leaders. Here, a black flag belonging to the Islamic State is seen near the Syrian town of Kobani. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is offering rewards of up to $18 million for information leading to the whereabouts of four top leaders of the Islamic State group.

    Through its Rewards for Justice program, the State Department announced Tuesday that it would pay up to $7 million for information on Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, up to $5 million each for Abu Mohammed al-Adnani and Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili and up to $3 million for Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-‘Awni al-Harzi.

    According to the department, Qaduli is a senior IS official who originally joined al-Qaida’s affiliate in Iraq, Adnani is an official IS spokesman, Batirashvili is a battlefield commander in northern Syria and Harzi is the group’s leader for the border region between Syria and Turkey.

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    Amanda Louise Spayd brings to life doll-sized “wayward creatures” — all from a world that exists in her head. Produced and edited by Ashley Brook, WOSU.

    Artist Amanda Louise Spayd has created a whole world populated by endearing doll-sized creatures. Her fabric creations bring to mind cast-off children’s toys and ill-conceived taxidermy experiments with crooked human teeth.

    “It’s like an orphanage here. It’s like the halfway house for wayward creatures,” Spayd said.

    Their nervous and somewhat spooked appearance gives the impression they were either abandoned or literally loved to pieces.

    “There’s a world that I wish existed, and as an artist I have a rare gift. And that gift is that I can make it, so I’m taking every opportunity I can to actually make this world in my brain happen. It’s very exciting.”

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

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    In April, the Thomas Edison Historical Park added new doll recordings, which were digitized with technology that extracted the childlike voices without damaging the fragile wax cylinder records embedded in the toys. Photos courtesy of National Park Service

    In April, the Thomas Edison Historical Park added new doll recordings, which were digitized with technology that extracted the childlike voices without damaging the fragile wax cylinder records embedded in the toys. Photos courtesy of National Park Service

    One of the earliest known milestones in recorded history sits nestled in an 18-inch doll.

    Inventor Thomas Edison embedded small phonographs inside the metal torsos of thousands of dolls that “talked” or played fragments of nursery rhymes, including “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” The Edison talking dolls, intended for mass production in 1890, are among the earliest known audio entertainment records.

    But much like the homeless American Girl doll, the toy was a major flop.

    The public reacted as one does when confronted with a grandmother’s massive doll collection: You averted your eyes in fear. After six weeks into production, the dolls were deemed too scary and pulled from the market, the New York Times reported.

    And it’s not hard to hear why. The doll recordings, which has been collected online by the Thomas Edison Historical Park, hiss nursery rhymes in a way that doesn’t make the doll an ideal bedtime companion. In particular, a doll’s rendition of “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” an English bedtime prayer, is nightmare fuel. Listen below:

    The Historical Park said the recordings would not have sounded better in 1890 than what we’d hear today because the phonographs were “not optimized for high-fidelity reproduction.”

    “Even with a brand-new, unplayed record, the sound emitted by the talking doll was always distorted and unnatural,” the Historical Park said.

    Surviving recordings have been rare to come by, and by 2011 only two Edison doll recordings were available online to hear, the Historical Park said. Since then, the organization has been able to expand their collection to eight recordings, including two recently recovered recordings from Robin and Joan Rolfs, who were afraid to play the wax cylinder records in their dolls due to their fragility.

    Manufacture of Edison Talking Dolls took place at the Edison Phonograph Works, near the Edison Laboratory, in West Orange, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of National Park Service

    Manufacture of Edison Talking Dolls took place at the Edison Phonograph Works, near the Edison Laboratory, in West Orange, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of National Park Service

    The Historical Park said the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working with the Library of Congress, developed a way to digitized the recordings that extracted the childlike voices from the cylinders without damaging the old wax cylinder records in the toys.

    Called the IRENE-3D system, the technology thoroughly scanned the wax cylinders to create a digital model that captured all the grooves on the phonograph records’ surface, the Historical Park said.

    “With the digital model, image analysis methods are used to reproduce the audio stored on the record, saving it as a WAV-format digital audio file,” the Historical Park said.

    The Historical Park said the dolls’ high price — $10 undressed, $12 to $20 for dressed, depending on the costume — contributed to the product’s fast disappearance from the shelves. Or, maybe consumers decided that the public didn’t need a shrieking rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

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    Actress Ellen Albertini Dow, best known for her role in "Wedding Crashers" and "The Wedding Singer," died Monday at age 101. Photo by Seth Wenig/Reuters.

    Actress Ellen Albertini Dow, best known for her role in “The Wedding Singer” and as J. Peterman’s mother on “Seinfeld,” died Monday at age 101. Photo by Seth Wenig/Reuters.

    No matter how many years it has been since you saw the 1998 Adam Sandler movie, “The Wedding Singer,” there is likely one performance you remember. Rosie, the older adult vocal student who paid Sandler’s character Robbie Hart Sandler in meatballs and performed an energetic cover of “Rapper’s Delight.” Ellen Albertini Dow, the actress who brought Rosie (and The Sugarhill Gang’s lyrics) to life died Monday at the age of 101, Deadline reported Monday.

    “I don’t want to be (considered) an actor good for her age, I want to be known as a good actor,” Albertini Dow told the Los Angeles Times in an interview shortly after the release of “The Wedding Singer.”

    Born in Pennsylvania in 1913, Albertini Dow would not begin her screen acting career until she was in her 70s. She left Pennsylvania to study acting and pursue a career in New York City. There she performed as part of a comedy act and directed stage productions. She also worked alongside mimes Marcel Marceau and Jacques Lecoq in Paris before moving to California to teach acting at Los Angeles City College. Later, she moved to Pierce College to teach in the theater department founded by her husband, Eugene Dow.

    She retired from teaching in 1985, and made her film debut in “American Drive-In” that same year. In addition to “The Wedding Singer,” Albertini Dow appeared in the films “Sister Act,” “Patch Adams” and “Wedding Crashers,” among others. She also made cameos in a number of popular TV shows including “The Golden Girls,” “Family Matters” and “Seinfeld.” In 2013, she appeared in an episode of the Fox sitcom “New Girl.”

    Albertini Dow’s memorable rendition of “Rapper’s Delight” can be heard on the first of two “Wedding Singer” soundtracks. Undoubtedly, the song contributed to the success of the double platinum album, which made the Billboard Top 5.

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    NewsHour shares web 16x9

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    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, to our NewsHour Shares of the day.

    Two balls of fire caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too. A fiery explosion sent molten lava, rocks and gas flying almost 300 feet into the air on Sunday on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. It was triggered by the partial collapse of a crater wall. A section of the wall had broken off and splashed into a lava lake. That bubbling lake rose to a record-high level last week. It sits in a crater within a crater. The area around the volcano has been closed off to visitors since 2008, and no one was injured.

    And out beyond where any human life exists, eruptions of a different sort. The sun is home to the largest explosions in the solar system. A NASA observatory team captured these wing-like flares from solar eruptions over a six-hour period last month. Yesterday, it released images showing a massive eruption of solar filament, snake-like, unstable bursts of plasma spanning millions of miles.

    So darn cool.

    Find all of our NewsHour Shares on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

    See the images here and here.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now: A poet finds the words to tell her own story of grief.

    Jeffrey Brown has our conversation, fresh off the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “The story seems to begin with catastrophe, but, in fact, began earlier, and is not a tragedy, but rather a love story.”

    Those are first lines of a new memoir by poet Elizabeth Alexander titled “The Light of the World.”

    The catastrophe occurred in 2012, the sudden death of her husband, Ficre Ghebreyesus, of a heart attack just days after his 50th surprise birthday party.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER, Author, “The Light of the World“: There’s just a strangeness of absence.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s just so unnatural that he’s not coming to dinner.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: Unnatural, and also someone’s things are around, someone’s smell is around, someone’s garden is coming up that he planted, finding a book and seeing the page marked where he was reading, all of that trace is — was what I found. You know, it takes a while, even though, of course, you know, sadly, you know that they’re not coming back.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The love story is the one they shared for 16 years, raising two young boys, Solomon and Simon, now 17 and 15.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: A happy marriage is hard-won. So we worked to make our marriage and our family. But did I feel awash with fortune even as we struggled through the struggles of the day?  Absolutely.

    “Praise Song for the Day.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Elizabeth Alexander came into the national spotlight in 2009, when she read her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She’s the author of six books of poetry, one of them, “American Sublime,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and she’s a professor of African-American studies at Yale University.

    It was in New Haven that she met Ficre, an immigrant from Eritrea who had fled war.

    One of the things that gives the story such resonance is such an American story, right, a black woman coming, a descendant from slave families, immigrant man, right, escaping war, starting his life anew.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: Well, I’m so happy that you see it that way, because I wasn’t aware of it in the writing, but it is absolutely true, the Americanness of it, the Americanness of, you know, immigrants at what stage in the American story.

    And also many American marriages are mixed in some way that you wouldn’t expect, you know, not just straightforward religious mixing or a black person and a white person coming together, but mixing cultures with some kind of baseline of understanding that draws you to the person who is your partner.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In addition to his family, Ficre had two great passions. There was cooking. He was a chef and had a restaurant in New Haven.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: This is an early watercolor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then there was his painting.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: And then this painting, which I love, which I see every day when I open my eyes, is called “Visitation.” And it is an allegory of our first meeting in Ficre’s studio in New Haven.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The walls of Alexander’s apartment — she moved into Manhattan last year — are filled with his work.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: I was very surprised that I started writing almost immediately after Ficre died. I didn’t think it was anything that was going to become a poem or become a memoir. I just knew that I was keeping track of things in some kind of way, not even looking at what I did, not even thinking much about it, but just doing it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Keeping track of what, your feelings?

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: I wouldn’t even call them feelings. I would call them perceptions and living and surviving. Writing was actually my feet on the earth. It felt like that was how I knew that I was anchored to something and that I needed to track what I was moving through, even though I wouldn’t say it was cathartic or it helped me move through my grief.

    It wasn’t like that. It was actually, now that I look back on it, more profoundly about processing the world through art and writing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: There’s a line where you say, how much space for remembering is there in a day?


    JEFFREY BROWN: That struck me because much of the book is sort of remembering little things.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Even a recipe of his.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: I feel that it’s a book of praise that’s a poet’s prose, because it came from…

    JEFFREY BROWN: A poet’s prose?

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: A poet’s prose, in that I felt that it came from the same visceral place that poetry comes from. It came word first and word by word and always with attention to music.

    The chapters are — they not prose poems, but they’re short, they’re condensed. They have the economy of poetry, because that’s kind of how I’m wired. I knew I could not undo what had happened. I knew I couldn’t really fix anything in time, but I think that in writing we do try to fix moments so that somehow they’re captured, and that’s — I just wanted to be very careful. I wanted to be precise and precisely ask myself what I saw and felt and knew and remembered.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You must have now become part of a conversation of grief in a sense. Do you tell people that you learned, or is this an offering of learning?

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: Grief is so singular, even as it is our universal.

    We have all been through it, or we will all come to it. That is the truth. So I wouldn’t presume to say I did it this way, so you should do it this way or anything like that. Every family, every person, we all know our griefs and our challenges. They just come at different times in different ways. So he and I had each known them in different ways at different points.

    His loss was the biggest one, the most consequential one, but, in that, honestly, was the blessing of having known him. No one is guaranteed love. No one is guaranteed children. No one is guaranteed the synchronicity that we had. So I was very aware always that that was something that was indelible.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The book is the “Light of the World.”

    Elizabeth Alexander, thank you so much.

    ELIZABETH ALEXANDER: Thank you very much for the conversation.

    GWEN IFILL: Elizabeth Alexander shared two of her late husband’s favorite dishes with us, spicy red lentil tomato curry, and spaghetti with a hundred onions. Find those recipes on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just one more day to form a coalition government following March’s election, or someone else will be asked to try. His efforts hit a snag Monday when his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, quit his post and announced that his party would join the opposition.

    Netanyahu shocked many when, just days before the election, he reversed position and said there wouldn’t be a Palestinian state if he remained prime minister, a statement he softened after his victory.

    Despite that and many other setbacks to the peace process, our special correspondent, Martin Seemungal, recently met two remarkable women who have chosen to blaze their own trail forward through the painful realities of the region.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL, Special correspondent: Elisa Moed on the left is an Israeli. Christina Samara is a Palestinian. And they are doing something rare, some would say revolutionary, in this part of the Middle East. They’re in business together.

    CHRISTINA SAMARA, Co-Founder, Breaking Bread Journeys: First of all, it feels good to have a friend and a partner in business who is an Israeli and doing this on a very personal level.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: They are seasoned tour operators who met by chance when they were invited to take part in a panel on marketing the Holy Land.

    ELISA MOED, Co-Founder, Breaking Bread Journeys: Christina and I, we spent a lot of time together. And we found that we really had a shared vision about the type of program that we would like to do and that we could do if we worked together.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: A typical Holy Land tour will begin in Jerusalem’s Old City, visit sites revered by Muslims, hear about Jewish history, see the Western Wall, pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, visit nearby Bethlehem and go north to Galilee.

    Christina and Elisa’s tour goes to those places.

    CHRISTINA SAMARA: The Israelites coming from the Transjordan from the Jordanian side crossing to the land of Israel.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: But also deep into the West Bank.

    CHRISTINA SAMARA: Between Judea, which is south of here, the area of Jerusalem today.

    ELISA MOED: We thought that, by working together, it would provide travelers with what they really want, which is to see Israel and the Palestinian territories, one tour in an authentic way, where they can meet people and really learn about their cultures.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: On this particular day, the tourists are Christian evangelicals from Houston. They signed on because they believe in what Elisa and Christina are doing.

    TORI LORENZO, Tourist: I think that it shows a peace. I think that it shows a coming together that doesn’t normally happen. And I think that’s a beautiful integration.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Few tourists make this journey into the West Bank. It is largely under Israeli control, a source of violent conflict with the Palestinians for decades. In places, Israel’s presence is obvious, sometimes not so. When the tour stops at this gift shop, few realize that because of a line on a map, one aisle is under joint Palestinian control, the next aisle under the full control of Israel.

    Shop owner Mahmoud Ghazal sometimes uses it to make a point about the Palestinian cause.

    MAHMOUD GHAZAL, Shop Owner: We are peaceful people, the Palestinian people. They are looking for peace. They are looking to have peace in the country, but we cannot have the occupation sitting in our areas and in our cities. And it provokes the people, usually.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Modern history then is as much a part of this tour as the ancient history, which is why the bus goes to Nablus, a big city in the heart of the West Bank under full Palestinian control.

    Nablus is considered a hotbed of Palestinian militancy, but the tour organizers think it’s important that they visit here. Jacob’s Tomb is nearby, and there is an ancient market in the Old City here still bustling. Tension is low right now, but security is always a concern.

    CHRISTINA SAMARA: In the morning, we check what is going on in the news. The bus driver and the guide are very aware of the procedures, what to do.

    ELISA MOED: We believe it’s very safe. We take every precaution, ahead of time calling, what have you.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: A few in the Houston group admit they got some worried questions from family.

    JEN CHEESEMAN, Tourist: They were like, oh, you’re going to those places and you’re doing those things, and are you sure that’s OK?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: And they say standing in the center of Nablus was a little unsettling at first.

    WOMAN: We feel we stick out like a sore thumb, for sure.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: There is the language barrier, but some manage to interact.

    MAN: What grades are in you in school?

    MARIE JANSEN, Tourist: I think it’s wonderful that the trip that our church set up is going to spend so much time in Palestine. We only see what we see on the news, and I think it’s good that we see for ourselves the way people live.

    MICHAEL CHEESEMAN, Tourist: I’m not sure what I was expecting, but not — not — not just a normal place.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Definitely not the place you would normally see an Israeli Jew on the street. For Elisa, there are risks being here, but she believes in what she is doing.

    ELISA MOED: People only see a small slice of life on most of the typical Holy Land tours. To come to Nablus is to get an entirely different experience that you’re not going to get anywhere else.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: They call their tour company Breaking Bread Journeys. And food is a big part of the daily routine, going into homes on both sides, sharing meals with Israelis and Palestinians.

    CHRISTINA SAMARA: We want people to understand, get a deeper feel for the communities and all the different religions that are here.

    RUTH LOPEZ TURLY, Tourist: I think many people that we visited, they truly, they genuinely want peace. So that gives me some hope that that is something that is attainable.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The tour even stops at one of the many Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Har Bracha is famous for its wine. The settlements are widely seen as a big obstacle to peace. The international community views them as illegal. Israel disputes this. Har Bracha is on the list because these tourists want to hear from both sides.

    Nir Lavi tells them the settlers are in the West Bank because of an ancestral connection.

    NIR LAVI, Har Bracha Resident: And this connects us very much. If you ask us how come we live here, what we have to — we are we looking, well, we’re looking over our roots.

    ROB DICKENSON, Tourist: It’s an obvious difficulty. They’re saying that. And the Palestinians are saying, I think with some truth to it, that they have lived here for millennia as well. I don’t see how this will be solved.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Chris Seay is the pastor leading the group from Houston.

    REV. CHRIS SEAY, Tourist: We believe there is a lot of truth on both sides to this thing. And so to be here really meeting people, having cultural experiences, not trying to take sides in some of the battles that take — we want to be here and be pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian. And we want to be pro-peace.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: As a Palestinian, Christina had never been to a settlement before she co-founded Breaking Bread Journeys. She admits it hurts to listen sometimes, but feels strongly that it needs to be part of the tour.

    CHRISTINA SAMARA: These are people telling — telling their story to the tourists. And this is what we want them to hear. They can make up their own minds about the situation. Maybe they get a deeper understanding for all the different people they meet here. And this is what we’re offering them, regardless of what my personal feelings are.

    ELISA MOED: I don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward, but I can say that I feel like we’re making a difference in our own little way.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Two women from different sides of a long and bitter conflict working together, hoping it will become a model for others.

    For the NewsHour, I’m Martin Seemungal in the West Bank.

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    GWEN IFILL: The growing outbreak of bird flu is now the largest ever seen in this country. More than 21 million birds, including three million Turkeys in Minnesota, have been killed or are set to be euthanized. A state of emergency has been declared in three states, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    But the virus has also surfaced in 11 other states, and farmers are increasingly worried. The federal government today agreed to add another $330 million to the $84 million in emergency funds it has already set aside to help cover farmer claims.

    U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joins us now.

    Secretary Vilsack, you’re a proud son of Iowa. How would you total up the economic impact so far?

    TOM VILSACK, Secretary of Agriculture : Well, Gwen, I think you need to put this in the proper perspective.

    It’s certainly devastating to every individual farmer who is experiencing this, but this represents about one-third of 1 percent of all the chickens and turkeys in the country today. So it’s devastating for the individual farmer. And we’re there to help and work with that farmer to get through a very tough time.

    The impact on chicken and turkey prices is at this point unknown. It potentially could not have any impact at all, given the small number that we’re dealing with relative to the overall number of chickens and turkeys in the country. It may have an impact on eggs. We will just have to see.

    GWEN IFILL: The federal government is devoting just north of $400 million to alleviate this. What kind of dent can that make?

    TOM VILSACK: Well, we’re not sure that all $400 million will necessary will be used. It’s — at this point in time sort of the outward bound number that we’re working on.

    As of today, we’re looking at approximately $84 million of indemnification costs. This includes paying farmers for the fair market value of the chickens and turkeys that have to be depopulated, as well as the cleanup costs, which can sometimes be quite extensive, in order to ensure that facilities are properly sanitized.

    GWEN IFILL: Where did this come from?

    TOM VILSACK: Most likely from Asia, from wild ducks and geese that develop A.I. and resistance to it, which ultimately, in commercial-sized operations, and even in free-range chickens that are commercial, they don’t have that resistance.

    And so it’s fatal for them, but not fatal for the wild birds that are spreading it throughout the U.S.

    GWEN IFILL: The last time we talked about bird flu, it was an Asian bird flu, and there were humans involved, humans who died. Has there been any concern or any investigation into whether this can make a leap here from species to species?

    TOM VILSACK: There is no indication of that. There’s no indication of any human situation or human illness link at this point.

    This is at this point in time, unfortunately, focused on those individual farmers who are suffering through a tough time, and we’re encouraging the farmers who have not yet been hit by this to take appropriate biosecurity approaches and controls in their operation to try to mitigate and potentially avoid this happening on their farms.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, what are you telling them to do? What actually could stop this from spreading?

    TOM VILSACK: Well, there are a couple of things, potentially. Time is probably the key at this point. As the weather gets a bit warmer, the virus will potentially be killed by it.

    Birds ultimately over time will develop a resistance, and the USDA at our poultry lab in Georgia is currently working on a vaccine. And I know that there are some private enterprise, private sector labs that are also working on a vaccine.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, in Minnesota especially, the chickens who have been involved have been, as I understand it, of the egg-laying population. Does that — is there any reason that humans who are consuming eggs should be at all concerned about that?

    TOM VILSACK: No, it’s just not — that’s not the issue here. The issue is unfortunately primarily agriculture. It’s not human health at this point in time.

    And that’s why we have been focusing at USDA on making sure that producers do what they can to protect their interests and to make sure that we’re there to help them if in fact this unfortunate situation occurs on their farm.

    GWEN IFILL: And one final question about the turkeys which are involved. Is this something that’s going to affect turkey suppliers, turkey consumers come turkey-eating time this fall?

    TOM VILSACK: You know, Gwen, it’s unlikely, and for this reason.

    Unfortunately, a number of countries have decided to ban all poultry and turkey sales to their country, exports from the U.S., which is unfortunate. We think a more appropriate way is to regionalize those bans, which means our export numbers are going to be down, which means that domestic supply actually could be up. So consumers might actually see more supply, not less supply, of turkey and chicken.

    We’re still uncertain in terms of the impact on eggs. We — about 100 billion eggs a year are produced. Iowa obviously, being the number-one egg producer, represents roughly 9 percent of overall egg production. So, we’re still looking at relatively small percentages of the overall food supply.

    GWEN IFILL: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, thanks so much.

    TOM VILSACK: You bet.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: End-of-life planning is gaining favor with more and more Americans. But lagging behind this trend are African-Americans, who research shows are, more so than whites and Latinos, skeptical of options like hospice and advance directives.

    Special correspondent Sarah Varney begins our report in Los Angeles.

    This story was produced in collaboration with our partner, Kaiser Health News.

    SARAH VARNEY, Kaiser Health News: Dr. Maisha Robinson, a neurologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, is on a mission to change how black seniors die in America.

    Dr. Robinson grew up a pastor’s daughter in Tennessee. Now she’s working with pastors like Bishop Gwendolyn Stone in Los Angeles to urge black families to plan for the end of their lives.

    DR. MAISHA ROBINSON, University of California, Los Angeles: If you look kind of in the Bible, all the people, of course, that Jesus healed, all died. They went on to die.

    WOMAN: Right. It’s an awesome idea to remind people. They know, but of course they don’t want to hear it.

    BISHOP GWENDOLYN STONE: It’s not fun thinking about death.

    SARAH VARNEY: African-Americans are more deeply religious than other racial or ethnic groups. Three out of four pray daily and more than half attend weekly church services. In many black churches, the belief is that only God, not a doctor or a patient, decides when a life ends.

    BISHOP GWENDOLYN STONE: I believe that he’s got a home on high for me that’s not made with human hands.

    SARAH VARNEY: But Stone says there’s a basis in Scripture for planning ahead.

    BISHOP GWENDOLYN STONE: And just like Jesus prepared his disciples for his death, we ought to be preparing our disciples for our death. Amen?

    SARAH VARNEY: There is an ideal image of a good death in America, a clearly worded legal directive reflecting a patient’s wishes, avoiding painful and unnecessary medical treatments. But that ideal image is often at odds with the realities of black spiritual life and the lessons African-Americans carry forward from their painful history.

    As late as the mid-1960s, segregated hospitals were common, and legal, throughout the United States. Even in so-called mixed race hospitals, black patients were often housed on separate floors. The notorious Tuskegee syphilis study, a government-led experiment on black males, lasted until 1972 and killed more than 100 men.

    Dr. Kimberly Johnson is a geriatrician and associate professor of medicine at Duke University. She says, for African-Americans, the history of abuse is not a cultural artifact. The toxic distrust of the health care system is still deeply felt today.

    DR. KIMBERLY JOHNSON, Duke University School of Medicine: They receive care in facilities that were largely either segregated or facilities where they — they or their parents or their grandparents wouldn’t have been allowed to have received care. And, as a result, they are really suspicious of the kind of care they receive.

    SARAH VARNEY: Dr. Johnson says black patients and their families then are understandably skeptical when a physician suggests withdrawing medical treatment or stating their wishes in advance.

    Researchers have found about 8 percent of African-Americans, compared to 43 percent of whites, have an advance directive or living will. And, regardless of income, black patients are more likely than whites and Latinos to forgo hospice and say they want to be kept alive on life support, even when there’s little chance of survival.

    Hospice has been much more successful reaching white middle-class patients. But here in Buffalo, New York, an influential group of African-American pastors and their wives are confronting the skepticism and fears about hospice in the black community through personal stories and prayer.

    Narseary Harris and her husband, Pastor Vernal Harris lead the Prince of Peace Temple Church of God in Christ in Buffalo. Two of the Harrises’ three sons, Paul and Solomon, died from sickle cell disease, an incurable condition that causes the red blood cells to break down. Paul endured a painful and prolonged death at age 26.

    REV. VERNAL HARRIS: In the African-American community, to put your loved one in a place like hospice, it was something that you never even thought of. It didn’t matter how ill your — the person was. We believe that, if they were, alive, it was our responsibility to take care of them until they passed.

    SARAH VARNEY: When their next son, Solomon, grew gravely ill, Narseary says a palliative care specialist urged them to choose hospice.

    NARSEARY HARRIS: He said, Mrs. Harris, Solomon doesn’t have a lot more time. And I really want to recommend hospice care for you. I said, ‘We don’t want hospice.’ He said, ‘Mrs. Harris, you don’t have to make a decision right now, but let me just introduce you to Hospice Buffalo.’ And I said, ‘OK, well, we can — we will do that.’ I said, ‘Solomon, you OK with that?’  And he said, ‘OK.’

    He wanted to be cremated, and this is actually his urn.

    SARAH VARNEY: Solomon moved into his parents’ home, and soon caregivers from Hospice Buffalo arrived.

    NARSEARY HARRIS: They talked to Solomon. They explained what they were going to do, and Solomon said, ‘OK, so when do I have to go?’  And they said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’


    NARSEARY HARRIS: You’re going to stay right here.


    NARSEARY HARRIS: We’re coming to you.

    That’s him at school.

    SARAH VARNEY: Looking at family pictures, the Harrises recalled how both sons had convulsed with pain, a problem that Solomon’s hospice nurses addressed. One son’s death wholly redirected the passing of another.

    NARSEARY HARRIS: To see Paul go through that kind of pain, and Solomon going from days of that kind of excruciating agony to being able to sleep, literally go to sleep and not see him, you know, go through that, that was the — I can’t even tell you.

    SARAH VARNEY: At the Harrises’ church, word spread quickly that Solomon was dying, peacefully, at home.

    NARSEARY HARRIS: I said, ‘You guys got to come over and see this for yourself.’


    NARSEARY HARRIS: My sister’s thoughts about hospice changed … my mother’s … the members of our church…

    SARAH VARNEY: Narseary Harris has been sharing her story with the wives of black pastors across western New York and urging them to help reshape the community’s views about hospice.

    But, back in Los Angeles, at a gathering of black seniors, the challenge Dr. Maisha Robinson faces in changing minds is unmistakably on display.

    LORETTA JAMES: I want them to do whatever they can. That means they can resuscitate me, to hook me up to a breathing machine, to take and put I.V.s in me, and keep me hydrated. Do not starve me to death, like they did my mother.

    SARAH VARNEY: Robinson says doctors have to better explain their motivations when it comes to end-of-life decisions.

    DR. MAISHA ROBINSON: It’s the intention that is unclear, many times, in the minds of African-Americans. I think we just have to be much clearer about why we’re trying to have those conversations, or we will continue to see a pattern of people who really want life-sustaining interventions even when there’s limited potential benefit.

    SARAH VARNEY: Changing those beliefs seems a daunting challenge, especially when startling racial health disparities remain. But, for pastors like Gwendolyn Stone, easing the pain of death is a worthy calling.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Sarah Varney in Los Angeles.


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    Chipotle Becomes First Non-GMO US Restaurant Chain

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    GWEN IFILL: For years, consumers have heard warnings and worries over what’s in their food. Increasingly, the industry is taking notice, too.

    The Panera chain was the latest to make a move. It announced plans to remove 150 or more artificial ingredients, sweeteners, and colors by the end of next year. Last week, Chipotle said it plans to remove many genetically modified ingredients. Kraft has also said it will eliminate synthetic colors and artificial preservatives from its famous orange-colored macaroni and cheese. And Tyson’s chicken has pledged to phase out the use of antibiotics in the production of chickens by 2017.

    Some of these changes have been praised. Some have been met with skepticism.

    We look at what’s happening, and what consumers should keep in mind, with Allison Aubrey, who covers food and nutrition for NPR, and Michael Moss, the author of “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.”

    Welcome to you both.

    Allison Aubrey, why are these companies making these moves now? How dangerous is the problem they’re trying to fix?

    ALLISON AUBREY, NPR: I think, in a word, the reason why these companies are making these changes now is that they’re talking to their customers, and consumer sentiment has really changed. People want things that are natural. People have — seem to have developed an allergy to something that seems artificial.

    So, Panera, for instance, today, I talked to its lead chef. And what he told me is that, starting a couple of years ago, they started looking into all of the additives in their food. They came up with hundreds of things in the food supply. And they started asking two questions: What is this stuff and why is it there? When they found things that they didn’t know why it was there, or there was a cosmetic reason for it being, they decided, hey, let’s look for a work-around.

    And probably the best example of this is mozzarella. People had become accustomed to very, very white mozzarella. It’s often treated with titanium dioxide to make it — sort of bleach it. And so Panera looked at that and said, well, you know, if our mozzarella isn’t the whitest shade of white, then let’s take it out. So they did.

    And consumers like that kind of thing. Consumers like the idea of simpler ingredients.

    Well, Michael Moss, let’s talk about that. Titanium dioxide sounds pretty dangerous. But we also are talking about antibiotics in chicken, which makes a really big chicken, right, really big chickens. I wonder how, well, dangerous that really is.

    MICHAEL MOSS, Author, “Salt Sugar Fat”: Well, the danger is the key word here.

    I think many of these ingredients are simply artificial, not wholesome-sounding, but really sort of pose no danger. I was looking at the Panera list. And there’s all sorts of things in there that actually pose no health risk at all to anybody, including vanilla.

    And then I ask the company why, and they go, well, look, we just prefer to switch over from an artificial vanilla to the real thing. And I think Allison really sort of hit a point here. Much of what this is about are these food giants trying to regain the trust of customers who are caring more and more about what they put in their bodies and caring less and less for some of the strategies we have seen from the processed food industry over the years.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, for instance, Allison, genetically modified ingredients carries the smack of something artificial, which isn’t good for you, but how do you get that out of a food chain for a sandwich shop, for instance, where it might affect the sandwich bun, the meat in the sandwich?

    ALLISON AUBREY: Well, for instance, if you take the sandwich as an example, a few years ago, there was an episode where Subway found itself in a kerfuffle over a compound called azodicarbonamide.

    And people were saying, why is this compound in my Subway bread? It turns out azodicarbonamide is also found in yoga mats because it works on texture, and in dough it helps soften up or keep the right texture for dough. In yoga mats, it is sort of a plasticizer that softens out or gives a yoga mat the right consistency.

    Now, it seems crazy, right, that you would have the same compound in a yoga mat as you have in your bread. So you start asking a few question, why is this in here, is there a risk? Well, the risks, according to the FDA, are nonexistent when it comes to the amounts that are found in the bread. Scientists love to point out that the dose is the poison, the dose makes the poison, right?

    So there have been some studies where you look at industrial workers who are exposed to azodicarbonamide, and you start to see issues of breathing or asthma, but in the tiny, tiny doses that we would be exposed to them in bread, the FDA has said, you know, this stuff is OK. The problem is consumer sentiment has shifted and consumers are saying, hey, if this is a compound in my yoga mat, I don’t want it in my bread.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, Michael Moss, how much of this is simply about consumer sentiment and business imperative, and how much of this is about making our food healthier, really?

    MICHAEL MOSS: No, I think — I think almost all of it is business imperative.

    And some of these companies really, I think, do deeply care about the health profile of their products. Another factor, though, they’re getting more pressure from start-up ventures, you know, low capital, but taking high risks and kind of swooping in and looking at the entire food system in this country like they looked at the telecom industry back in the 1970s.

    So, everything from farming to distribution to warehousing to how you store produce in your kitchen is all being rethought. And I think the food giants are realizing that one of the big myths of them is that they can innovate. And they can’t innovate like they used. And they’re going to have to turn to these smaller companies for fresh ideas, which these days to people mean natural, simple, plain ingredients I can understand and feed my kids without worrying.

    GWEN IFILL: Would labeling be enough, Allison, just — if they just said, this is what’s here, or is that something that’s unpronounceable just inherently seems dangerous to people?

    ALLISON AUBREY: I think transparency is only part of the solution, because if you have to do a lot of communication about why something with this long, gobbledygook name of azodicarbonamide is in your food, if it takes you longer than five seconds to explain that, you have sort of lost people.

    And so that’s part of the issue here. I think what’s happening here is that we’re moving to a time when consumers have just accepted whole cloth that simpler is better, that if something isn’t cooked the way you would cook it in your own kitchen, then you should be skeptical of it.

    So, that’s sort of just where we are as a society.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Michael Moss, we should be bracing for more of this?

    MICHAEL MOSS: Bracing for more, and I’m thinking waiters and waitresses are going to be bracing for more customers coming in going, not just kind of where is that beef from, but, like, where is that vanilla from and what’s up with that sunflower oil? Is it organic or not and how many pesticides?

    Yes, you kind of pine for the days when food was food, and you ate what your mom and dad served. You didn’t snack between meals. But I think this is all good. I think that caring about this stuff, up to a point, as long as we don’t start freaking out too much and lose that basic love for food, which is what it should be all about, this is all good.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Moss, author of “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, and Allison Aubrey of NPR, thank you both so much.

    ALLISON AUBREY: Thanks so much for having me.

    MICHAEL MOSS: Thanks, Gwen.

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    Commandant of the Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, Jr., testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee on military budget matters on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2015. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    Commandant of the Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, Jr. was testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee on military budget matters on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2015. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama nominated Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford on Tuesday to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top U.S. military position, replacing Army Gen. Martin Dempsey.

    Five things to know about Dunford:

    Following in dad’s footsteps
    Dunford, 59, joined the Marine Corps in 1977, following in the footsteps of his father, a Marine who served in Korea and later became a Boston police officer. Raised in South Boston and later Quincy, Massachusetts, he’s a die-hard Red Sox fan who kept team caps in his office in Kabul during his 2013-14 Afghanistan tour as the top U.S. commander there. President Barack Obama, during Tuesday’s announcement at the White House, noted: “The only downside in my book is as a White Sox fan, there is yet another Red Sox fan who I’m going to have to be dealing with.”

    He’s Irish Catholic, the same as the current chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey. He attended St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., Georgetown University, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

    “Fighting Joe”

    He earned the nickname “Fighting Joe” when he led the 5th Marine Regiment during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and is known as a relentless, energetic commander. His staff members sometimes carry a voice recorder with them to keep up with his commands and ideas.

    Talking to troops
    His selection as the nominee for chairman was hailed on the Marine Corps’ Facebook page with the customary Marine salute: “Ooh-Rah, Sir!” But Dunford’s own Twitter account had no mention of the announcement, in keeping with his usual self-effacing, soft-spoken nature. Known for his compassion with troops, Dunford often sent handwritten condolence letters to families of the fallen. But he also would talk at length about the toll the Afghanistan war was having on the local forces, and while serving in Kabul he would attend weekly services honoring the Afghans who were killed in the fight.

    On the list
    He was #7 on Fortune magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” in 2014. The magazine quoted Dunford as saying that his first battalion commander told him the three rules to success. The first? Surround yourself with good people. “Over the years,” said Dunford, “I’ve forgotten the other two.”

    The post 5 things to know about Gen. Joseph Dunford appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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