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

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    Nepali military personnel carry a body recovered from a collapsed building after the April 25 earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 10, 2015. Fresh avalanches and poor weather conditions have called off rescue operations in the northern region. Photo by Athit/Reuters.

    Nepali military personnel carry a body recovered from a collapsed building after the April 25 earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 10, 2015. Fresh avalanches and poor weather conditions have called off rescue operations in the northern region. Photo by Athit/Reuters.

    Hampered by poor weather conditions and avalanches in northern Nepal, authorities said Sunday they would suspend the search for bodies following last month’s 7.8 magnitude-earthquake.

    Ensuing avalanches on Friday and Saturday and continuing rain and fog has made the work dangerous for police and army rescuers, government administrator Guatam Rimal told the Associated Press.

    Rescuers have been moved to higher and safer ground, and will resume rescue efforts once the avalanches stop, Rimal said.

    In Langtang Valley, a popular attraction for trekkers and climbers about 60 kilometers north of the capital city of Kathmandu, 120 bodies have been recovered so far, including nine foreigners.

    Official said the exact count remains unclear, but as many as 180 people may still be buried under the snow, Reuters reported.

    The April 25 earthquake, the worst to hit the country in over 80 years, killed more than 8,000 people and injured more than 16,000 others.

    As many as eight million people have been affected by the earthquake, according to UN estimates.

    The post Rescue work suspended in Nepal after fresh avalanches hit northern region appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An investigation revealed the Department of Defense paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million. Photo via Getty Images.

    An investigation revealed the Department of Defense paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million. Photo via Getty Images.

    The United States Department of Defense paid the National Football League more than $5 million in taxpayer money between 2011 to 2014 to honor U.S. soldiers and veterans at games, an investigation revealed this week.

    Nearly $5.4 million was given to 14 NFL teams across the country, the bulk of which ($5.3 million) was supplied by the National Guard and the rest paid by the Army and Air Force, according to government records obtained by NJ.com.

    But instead of purely heartfelt salutes to soldiers from hometown football teams, the halftime segments were reportedly part of paid promotions under federal advertising contracts for the military.

    Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called out the spending as an “egregious and unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars.”

    ‘Those of us go to sporting events and see them honoring the heroes; you get a good feeling in your heart,” Sen. Flake told NJ.com. “Then to find out they’re doing it because they’re compensated for it, it leaves you underwhelmed. It seems a little unseemly.”

    The National Guard contributed $5.3 million in taxpayer money, the bulk of the DOD payments. Photo via Getty Images.

    The National Guard contributed $5.3 million in taxpayer money, the bulk of the DOD payments. Photo via Getty Images.

    In New Jersey, the Defense Department and the New Jersey Army National Guard paid the New York Jets a total of $377,000 during the four-year period, according to the federal contracts.

    The team’s agreement included money for a Hometown Heroes segment to salute soldiers on the stadium’s Jumbotron at the team’s home games and also tickets for the soldiers and their friends in box seats.

    The investigation revealed the Atlanta Falcons collected just over a million dollars, the most cash for any team, and the Green Bay Packers received the single largest payment of $400,000.

    “They realize the public believes they’re doing it as a public service or a sense of patriotism,” Sen. Flake said. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

    The rest of the teams paid by the federal government were the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Rams.

    See a a full list of NFL teams that have received taxpayer money from the military for similar arrangements.

    The National Guard has defended the advertisements, saying they are an effective recruitment tool for the service.

    “Promoting and increasing the public’s understanding and appreciation of military service in the New Jersey Army National Guard increases the propensity for service in our ranks and garners public support for our Hometown Team,” Patrick Daugherty, a spokesman for the Guard said.

    The post Report: Defense Dept. paid NFL millions of taxpayer dollars to salute troops appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A fluttering Chinese flag casts its shadow on the headquarters of the People's Bank of China in central Beijing November 24, 2014. The bank announced its third round of interest cuts in six months on Sunday.  Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

    A fluttering Chinese flag casts its shadow on the headquarters of the People’s Bank of China in central Beijing November 24, 2014. The bank announced its third round of interest cuts in six months on Sunday. Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

    In an effort to counteract an ongoing economic slowdown, China’s central bank cut interest rates for the third time in six months.

    The People’s Bank of China announced Sunday that it will lower its one-year lending rate to 5.1 percent and its one-year deposit rate to 2.25 percent. The rate changes will take effect Monday.

    Inflation stayed subdued in April and both imports and exports slid, casting doubt on whether the world’s second-largest economy will meet Premier Li Keqiang’s 2015 growth target of 7 percent, and raising expectations of further central bank action

    “The economy requires substantial stimulus to get back on its feet,” Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics research in Hong Kong at HSBC Holdings Plc told Bloomberg Business.

    “But monetary easing on its own may not do the trick: China also requires a fiscal kick to steady demand,” Neumann said.

    China’s rate reduction builds on its other recent efforts to increase support for the country’s slowing economy. Last year’s growth rate of 7.4 percent — down 0.3 percent from 2013 — was China’s lowest in 24 years. Growth this year is expected to be even lower.

    China’s economy slowdown is a function of myriad factors including a sluggish global economy, a cooling real estate market, decreased competitiveness, high debt levels and the near-impossibility of indefinitely maintaining the dazzling growth the country has seen over the last quarter century.

    Last week, the International Monetary Fund predicted China’s growth rate would stabilize around 6 percent by 2017, the BBC reported.

    Many analysts expect further rate cuts in the coming months, since recent cuts have been slow to affect

    Li Huiyong, an economist at Shenwan Hongyuan Securities, told the BBC: “This won’t be the last cut. “The rate could be lowered to 2 percent at least, and we expect the economy to gradually stabilize in the coming two quarters.”

     

    The post Chinese central bank announces further rate cuts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    songwriting

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    DARDEN SMITH, FOUNDER: Songwriting with Soldiers to me is this incredibly beautiful, kind of evolution you might say of what I’ve always wanted to do, which is tell stories and write songs.

    MONTE WARDEN: One of the most wonderful things about music is a great song lets you know you are not alone.

    MARIO CAVAZOS: My purpose here today is to spread a message of hope and inspiration for other soldiers that are suffering from PTSD – help understanding as far as what’s happening, that it’s okay.

    DARDEN SMITH: And what we found was the collaboration process with songs, in particular, is very cathartic. It makes them feel better. It releases something. It allows people to step across a border that they didn’t know was there.

    CHUCK HAWTHORNE: We’re losing 22 veterans a day to suicide. A day. I guarantee you they’ve saved lives with this program.

    SANDI PRIMOUS: I’ve thought about giving up. I’ve thought about hurting myself. I’ve thought about throwing in the towel. It’s just something about music. It changes everything.

    DARDEN SMITH: I feel incredibly lucky to have found this new way of writing songs that’s using the craft of songwriting in service of someone else.

    The post After trauma of combat, soldiers find solace in songwriting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. first lady Michelle Obama talks with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio while they attend the Whitney Museum of American Art Dedication Ceremony in New York April 30, 2015. As de Blasio steps into the national spotlight, experts believe he might risk being perceived as someone who has forgotten about his home city. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters.

    U.S. first lady Michelle Obama talks with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio while they attend the Whitney Museum of American Art Dedication Ceremony in New York April 30, 2015. As de Blasio steps into the national spotlight, experts believe he might risk being perceived as someone who has forgotten about his home city. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters.

    NEW YORK– Mayor Bill de Blasio’s political vision – and his political travels – have increasingly reached far beyond the borders of New York City.

    On the same day last week, he made an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” co-authored an op-ed for the Washington Post with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and was featured in a glowing Rolling Stone profile. This week, he’ll head to Washington to present a national liberal political agenda and then is on to California to give a pair of speeches.

    And so far in 2015, he’s made as many trips to the Midwest – two – to lecture on income inequality as he has made official visits to the city’s borough of Staten Island.

    It is commonplace for New York City mayors to become national figures, but some experts believe that de Blasio – not even 18 months into his first term – is risking being perceived as someone who has forgotten about his home. A poll last week showed that fewer than half of New Yorkers believe the city is moving in the right direction.

    “He’s entering a path that can be dangerous for big-city mayors,” said Kenneth Sherrill, a retired political science professor at Hunter College. “It’s not unusual for a New York City mayor to be a national speaker for urban issues. But it is unusual for one to be so concerned about his national political party and its issues.”

    De Blasio – whose staff insisted that his focus is New York – made little mention of a national focus during his campaign, instead promising to give a voice to those who felt forgotten during a gilded decade when the gap between the rich and the poor widened.

    Since taking office, he’s argued he can do that by impacting the national political conversation.

    “We’ve got to change the politics of this country to be able to serve our people and the issue of income inequality is even deeper,” de Blasio said last month. “Anyone who represents everyday people needs to be a part of this effort.”

    De Blasio said that as he convened a gathering of national progressives at Gracie Mansion. They will meet again Tuesday in Washington where they will unveil a liberal platform that calls for the national adoption of some of de Blasio’s work at home, including paid sick leave and free universal pre-kindergarten. The group has said it wants to move political candidates – including Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom de Blasio has yet to endorse – to the left on many issues, namely the fight against income inequality.

    De Blasio has delivered that same message across the country in recent weeks as he takes steps to become one of the nation’s loudest liberal voices. First came a trip to Nebraska and Iowa. Then, Wisconsin. And after his appearance at the U.S. Capitol, he’ll fly to California to deliver two more lectures.

    According to the mayor, his message may better received there than at home, where he has been bogged down at times with municipal concerns like a revolt by the police unions and an at-times disagreeable governor.

    “A lot of people outside New York City understand what happened in the first year of New York City better than people in New York City,” he told Rolling Stone. “But I’m convinced something very special happened here.”

    A large swath of New Yorkers are less sure, according to a poll released last week by the Wall Street Journal-NBC 4-New York and Marist College. Though the mayor’s overall approval rating rose to 44 percent from 39 percent, only 45 percent believe the city is heading in the right direction, the first time that dipped under 50 percent since November 2013.

    Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College, said de Blasio becoming a national figure could lead to benefits – like perhaps increased federal funding – for New York, but the mayor ran the risk of “coming off as self-aggrandizing.”

    “It could be perceived like he’s eyeing something bigger, not for the city but for himself,” Zaino said.

    De Blasio is trying to balance the national and the local: The day after his “Morning Joe” appearance, he delivered a budget presentation and attended the wake of a slain police officer. His lead spokesman, who insists the mayor has no interest in higher office, said de Blasio can “walk and chew gum at the same time.”

    “I think that we have seen this mayor take on multiple issues and challenges simultaneously and achieve results all the while staying focused on the needs of New Yorkers,” spokesman Phil Walzak said.

    Vincent Ignizio, a Republican and Minority Leader of the City Council, said he no issues with the Democratic mayor traveling the country “as long as it doesn’t distract with the issues at home, and so far it hasn’t.”

    “But it’s a problem that it looks like you care more about the people of California or Iowa than the people on Staten Island,” he said, noting how infrequently de Blasio has traveled to the Republican-heavy borough. “He needs to be the mayor for all people, not just those who agree with him.”

    The post Now in national spotlight, is NYC Mayor de Blasio forgetting his city? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    mothersdayWhile Mother’s Day should be spent celebrating the important women in our lives, it could also be a very lucky day for scammers.

    The Better Business Bureau advises shoppers to be wary of Mother’s Day vendor scams, especially online, which can affect both the gift givers and those on the receiving end.

    Here’s what to look out for:

    Phony floral sites
    Scam artists attract shoppers to fake floral sites, waiting to obtain their financial information. Make sure to visit the official sites of local and trusted flower shops. When you search for a local shop, the results will most likely include national companies that have placed ads ahead of the actual site, CBS reports. Be wary of additional fees charged by call centers, and if ever unsure, research the company’s rating and history before making any purchases.

    Fake e-cards
    Pause before going right ahead to click the link, which could actually install spyware or other malicious software into your computer.

    “What the scammers are after is trying to obtain this information to perhaps subject these consumers to identity theft,” said Christopher Brown of the Federal Trade Commission.

    The FCC says to avoid clicking the links when possible, and make sure the e-mail is from a name you recognize.

    Facebook scams
    Police in Lancaster, South Carolina, have warned moms about a popular Mother’s Day post that is circulating on Facebook that asks mothers to post their children’s names and birth dates, which is enough information for the scammers to obtain a duplicate Social Security card and steal the child’s identity.

    Other red flags
    According to the BBB, some other things to look out for include:

    • fake online stores that attempt to steal your credit card information
    • emails offering bogus Mother’s Day vouchers
    • Links that claim to have shipment tracking information
    • Emails that contain spelling or grammar errors, unnecessary use of caps locks and suspicious links

    The post Spoil mom with gifts on Mother’s Day, but watch out for these scams appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    fastfoodYou probably didn’t need another reason to avoid fast food, but a prominent British researcher has one for you.

    While the highly processed ingredients and huge portions typically aren’t doing you any favors, new information says it can also kill off beneficial gut bacteria that help burn calories.

    The findings are the result of research into the links between gut bacteria and health conducted by genetic epidemiology professor Tim Spector of King’s College London.

    He found that diets composed of a relatively small number of ingredients, most of which are highly processed, are toxic to these bacteria. In fact, many of them can die off within days of beginning such a diet.

    Spector will elaborate on the research in his upcoming book, “The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat,” which focuses on the role that a diverse diet plays in fostering a healthy microbes in the human body.

    In one study discussed in the book, Spector enlisted his 23-year-old son, Tom, who agreed to spend 10 days eating nothing but McDonald’s chicken nuggets, fries, burgers and Coca-Cola.

    “Before I started my father’s fast food diet there were about 3500 bacterial species in my gut, dominated by a type called firmicutes,” the younger Spector, a genetics student told The Australian.

    “Once on the diet I rapidly lost 1,300 species of bacteria and my gut was dominated by a different group called bacteroidetes. The implication is that the McDonald’s diet killed 1,300 of my gut species,” he said.

    This discovery suggested to his father that many cases of obesity may not simply be due to overeating.

    “Microbes get a bad press, but only a few of the millions of species are harmful and many are crucial to our health,” Professor Spector told The Australian.

    “What is emerging is that changes in our gut microbe community , or microbiome, are likely to be responsible for much of our obesity epidemic, and consequences like diabetes, cancer and heart disease,” he said. “It is clear that the more diverse your diet, the more diverse your microbes and the better your health at any age.”

    Previous studies made similar findings: Professor Rob Knight of the University of Colorado Boulder, who collaborates with Spector, famously showed that transferring gut bacteria from obese humans to mice could make the rodents gain weight.

    Spector’s book claims that the diversity of microbes in the human body has decreased almost a third over the last century. But there’s also good news: Foods like dark chocolate, garlic, coffee and Belgian beer may help increase gut microbes.

    The post Fast food kills gut bacteria that can keep you slim, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) poses for members of the media with foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council as they meet to discuss Middle East concerns about an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, at the Chief of Mission Residence in Paris, France, May 8, 2015. President Obama hopes to reassure the Gulf nation leaders that a nuclear deal with Iran with not destabilize the Middle East. Photo by Andrew Harnik/Pool/Reuters.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) poses for members of the media with foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council as they meet to discuss Middle East concerns about an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, at the Chief of Mission Residence in Paris, France, May 8, 2015. President Obama hopes to reassure the Gulf nation leaders that a nuclear deal with Iran with not destabilize the Middle East. Photo by Andrew Harnik/Pool/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON– Leaders of Gulf nations unnerved by Washington’s nuclear talks with Iran and Tehran’s meddling across the Mideast look to President Barack Obama to promise more than words and weapons at Thursday’s Camp David summit.

    They want commitments from Obama that the United States has their backs at a time when the region is under siege from Islamic extremists, Syria continues to unravel, Iraq is volatile and Yemen is in chaos.

    “I think we are looking for some form of security guarantee, given the behavior of Iran in the region, given the rise of the extremist threat. We definitely want a stronger relationship,” said Yousef Al Qtaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States.

    “In the past, we have survived with a gentleman’s agreement with the United States about security. I think today, we need something in writing. We need something institutionalized.”

    What are the expectations for Obama’s meetings with Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman?

    Weapons sales. A renewed call for a coordinated missile defense system. More joint military exercises. Better cooperation on cybersecurity, as well as maritime or border security. Making the countries’ defense systems work in concert.

    “I don’t believe there’s a single GCC country that doesn’t think a defense shield for the region is a bad idea. I think everyone’s on board,” Qtaiba said. “The challenge is how do you turn on a regional defense system when different countries are purchasing different equipment and at different paces? How do you link it? How do you get the radars to talk to each other?”

    A high-level Saudi official told The Associated Press in Riyadh that his country wants a defense system and military cooperation similar to what the U.S. affords Israel. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to disclose details of the Saudis’ wish list at the summit, said they also want access to high-tech military equipment, missiles, planes and satellites, as well as more technology and training cooperation with the U.S.

    The U.S. and five other nations are working to finalize a deal intended to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchange for easing penalties that are choking the Iranian economy. The White House says the Gulf countries would be better off with an agreement that blocks Iran’s path to an atomic weapon.

    But the nuclear deal is not the only source of unease.

    Arab allies feel threatened by Iran’s rising influence and they fear a nuclear pact will embolden Tehran. They worry that the deal would unlock billions of dollars that Iran might decide to use to further intrude in countries or support terrorist proxies.

    Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Obama will have to work hard to convince the Arab allies that they do not need to fear fallout from any nuclear deal.

    “Right now they feel that they have no support from this administration so he has a steep hill to climb,” said McCain, pointing to Saudi Arabia’s decision to act unilaterally in Yemen.

    McCain, R-Ariz., said that’s why the Saudis gave Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command, only “an hour’s notice they were going to strike Yemen.” Saudi Arabia has led airstrikes against Iranian-backed rebels who have toppled the Yemeni government.

    Secretary of State John Kerry is optimistic, but declines to say exactly what kind of reassurances Obama is prepared to offer at Camp David.

    “I can just tell you in general terms that they have to do with the intensifying and strengthening of the security-military relationship between the United States of America and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, as well as dealing with new challenges that we face in the region, foremost of which is the Iranian interference in the affairs of the countries of the region,” Kerry said Friday in Paris.

    He said U.S. officials were fleshing out a series of commitments that will create a “new security understanding, a new set of security initiatives,”

    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said he expected the summit would lead to ways that “joint action will be more effective and more expansive in all areas, whether it relates to cybersecurity or defense against ballistic missiles or military training or equipping.”

    Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate panel overseeing foreign aid, warns against the U.S. offering a massive arms package in exchange for Gulf nations’ support of a nuclear deal. Graham, R-S.C., said he isn’t opposed to upgrading the military capabilities of Arab allies, but “if it has a hint of being connected to the Iran deal, I will do everything I can to make sure they never get one bullet or one plane.”

    Jon Alterman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington wonders if there is anything the United States can do that would reassure the Gulf states when it comes to Iranian expansionism in the region.

    “It seems to me that where they most want reassurance is where the U.S. is both least able and most unwilling to provide it,” he said. “My guess is that the summit is going to leave everybody feeling a little bit unsatisfied.”

     

    The post Gulf nation leaders look to Obama for reassurance of fears over Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Farifax County emergency personnel - Kathmandu, Nepal

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS ANCHOR: As we reported, the death toll from the earthquake in Nepal has now surpassed 8,000.

    Pamela Constable of The Washington Post just returned from that country, joins us now from Washington.

    What is the state of affairs on the ground there now? We see pictures of helicopters trying to deliver aid. Are people getting it?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes and no.

    It depends very much where they are. I would say that aid is certainly beginning to reach much of the country, including some of the worst affected areas, but still yet to reach some of the more remote mountainous areas to the north.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And there are still continuing reports of landslides and maybe small aftershocks that caused them. What kind of an effect does it have on the people trying to get with by and recover from this?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: It has multiple effects, one, of course, of which is psychological, because people are, in fact — the Nepalese people have amazingly resilient and resourceful and accepting ways of dealing with these things.

    I have been incredibly impressed with everyone I met, even in the worst affected areas.

    But just when you think it is over, to have another landslide, to have another building fall, it can be, I think, depressing and hard on people who are trying their best to sort of start over again.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, you took some photographs while you were there. What about the people that are being sheltered?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: OK. The pictures that accompanied my stories were all taken by Matt McClain, Washington Post photographer.

    We worked very closely on this trip together. People had been pitching tents in the city.

    That was quite an experience to see how people were really scrambling, scrounging, finding scavenged bits of plastic and wood and brick and metal and making these amazing shelters for themselves, again, incredibly impressive.

    But many, many places, especially in rural areas, people are still literally sleeping outdoors on the ground around their villages, afraid to go back to the dwellings that have collapsed.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, so, there was also another picture that was interesting. It was of someone burning a funeral pyre.

    I mean, it was something that you don’t think of, what has to happen to all the bodies after the fact.

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: Yes. And the culture of Nepal, which is Buddhist and Hindu, you know, they do have these ceremonies where they put the bodies on burning — burning pyres and they usually cover them with flowers and then burn them.

    And for the first several days after the quake, the main place where that is done in Kathmandu called Pashupati was — was just — it was an assembly line.

    It was very, very depressing to see, waiting lines for people to be — to be cremated by the river.

    It has slowed down now, but that’s only in the capital. Most of the victims, if you add up the totals, were in rural areas. And it is harder to know what has happened there with the bodies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mm-hmm. And has the weather there improved right now? Or what is it like if people are sleeping outdoors in tents?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: It is much better. The first couple of days after the quake, there was a lot of rain and mud, and it was very uncomfortable.

    But everywhere we went over the past several days, both rural areas and in the capital, it was much nicer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what has the government response been like?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: It has been very mixed. You know, I have seen police and army everywhere we have been.

    They have been incredibly professional and helpful, really helped not only secure, but also rescuing people, finding people, helping them.

    There was one case where they actually brought a solar panel to a camp so that people could charge their cell phones, very impressive performance, especially by the national police.

    The civilian government is really — has really not done very well. There has been a lot of chaos.

    A lot of extra rules were put in place for customs to bring in aid. A lot of aid was really blocked at the main airport for a long time. There was infighting going on between political parties during this whole disaster.

    It is a little better now, but I think many people, Nepalis, have expressed a lot of disappointment in the politicians and the civilian leadership during this crisis.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Pamela Constable of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: You are very welcome.

    The post Avalanches, poor weather roil search and rescue missions in Nepal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Illinois Pensions Lawsuit

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS ANCHOR: There was an important court ruling on Friday.

    The Illinois Supreme Court voted unanimously to strike down a law passed in December of 2013 that was meant to rescue the state’s pension system.

    For more about the implications of that decision and what it could signal for other states, we are joined now from Chicago by Karen Pierog. She has been covering the story for Reuters.

    So, bring us up to speed here. If somebody wasn’t paying attention to what the law was in 2013, what did it try to do?

    KAREN PIEROG, REUTERS: Well, the law was aimed at trying to ease Illinois’ $105 billion unfunded pension liability, and also to lower the annual amount of money that Illinois has to pay towards pensions every year.

    And Illinois has had a structural budget deficit for decades. And it’s — it’s — it was having a very hard time trying to come up with money, you know, to pay for essential state services.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: At the time, the legislature said, this is an emergency, a fiscal emergency, they need to act, it is almost like putting out a fire.

    They took certain steps, like increasing the retirement age, suspending cost of living adjustments.

    So, what did the Supreme Court — or what did the state court say to those arguments? Why did it find this unconstitutional?

    KAREN PIEROG: The high court basically said that, you know, Illinois kind of — it was a prefabricated emergency, that Illinois could have done things. It could have raised taxes.

    It could have extended the amortization period for the pensions. And it also pointed out that, you know, hey, you know, if it is an emergency for this situation, you know, will the state call emergencies for other situations and violate other parts of the constitution?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And so are other states watching what happens and what has been happening over the last couple of years?

    KAREN PIEROG: Well, I think so.

    But you have to look at each state’s, you know, special circumstances. Illinois’ constitution is pretty ironclad.

    It says that, you know, public workers have a contractual right and their pension benefits cannot be impaired or diminished.

    And one of the only other states that has the exact same wording is New York state. And, actually, Illinois copied its wording from New York.

    And New York has dealt with its problems by setting up different tiers for pensions. So, you know, in a particular year, new hires will get, you know, a less generous pension as time moves on.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, put this in perspective. How bad is Illinois’ pension problem compared to other states in the country?

    KAREN PIEROG: Illinois — Illinois’ pensions are only about 43 percent funded. So, compared to all the other states, it has the worst-funded pension system.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what are some other states that have pension problems?

    KAREN PIEROG: Well, New Jersey, you know, its pensions are only 44 percent funded.

    And they passed a pension reform law. But that is a subject of litigation right now, because, while the employees, you know, took cuts and, you know, higher retirement ages, Governor Christie did not live up to his side of the bargain, and he didn’t make full pension payments, as he was required. So, now that is in court.

    In California, back in 2012, they did pass, you know, some initial pension reforms. And now the former mayor of San Jose is trying to put an initiative on the ballot that would, you know, make further reforms to pensions in that state.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What does Illinois plan to do now that the courts have weighed in?

    KAREN PIEROG: Well, the — we have a new governor here in Illinois who, you know, is an untested politician. It is his first, you know, turn in government. He was a venture capitalist.

    And he wants to put forth his own plan, which would be to freeze the current workers’ benefits where they are right now, and then move them going forward into a less generous pension plan.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Karen Pierog, thanks so much for joining us.

    KAREN PIEROG: Thank you.

    The post How will the Illinois pension law rejection affect other states? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Senate on Tuesday will begin debate on a new trade aggrement which would allow the president "fast track" authority. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    The Senate on Tuesday will begin debate on a new trade aggrement. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s bid for new trade agreements faces big tests in Congress this week, mostly from his fellow Democrats.

    Pro-trade senators must produce 60 votes Tuesday to begin debate on “fast track” authority that Obama seeks. It would let him present Congress with proposed trade agreements that lawmakers can ratify or reject, but not amend.

    If Obama receives fast track authority, which previous presidents have enjoyed, he’s expected to ask Congress to approve a 12-nation trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Participants include Japan, Vietnam, Canada and Mexico. Other trade proposals could follow.

    Here are five things to know about the trade debate:

    DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION

    Most congressional Democrats, especially in the House, oppose new trade deals, saying they hurt U.S. workers and cost jobs. Labor unions and liberals are leading the fight, pitting them against a president they usually support.

    Most Republican lawmakers support expanded trade. But Obama still must recruit a respectable number of House and Senate Democrats to pass fast track.

    The first test will come Tuesday in the Senate. Fast track opponents can block Senate action unless roughly six to 10 Democrats join Republicans in preventing a filibuster.

    Obama is getting scant help from Democrats who face tough elections next year. Last week, for instance, Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois announced she opposes the fast track bill because it “does not ensure that American workers are put first.” Duckworth is making a bid to oust GOP Sen. Mark Kirk.

    INVESTOR-STATE DISPUTE SETTLEMENT

    Its name is ungainly, but this issue is increasingly cited by critics of fast-track legislation.

    Investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, lets foreign companies sue national governments in special tribunals over alleged violations of free-trade agreements.

    Critics say it could allow multinational corporations to seek huge payments from countries while sidestepping traditional courts. Public Citizen calls ISDS “a parallel legal system for corporations to privately enforce sweeping investor rights.”

    Obama disputes those claims. “There is no chance, zero chance, that the U.S. would be sued on something like our financial regulations, and on food safety, and on the various environmental regulations that we have in place, mainly because we treat everybody the same,” he told Yahoo Politics. “We treat our own companies the same way we treat somebody else’s companies.”

    Some lawmakers are unconvinced. Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii says he opposes Obama’s trade agenda because of ISDS concerns.

    “It could enjoin a country from enforcing its own laws,” Schatz said, “and the referees in all of this are privately appointed arbitrators.”

    LEGISLATIVE PACKAGING

    Several Democrats say they will back fast track only if three other trade measures also pass. One, to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act, is fairly uncontroversial.

    The second calls for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides federal aid to workers displaced by trade agreements. Republicans reluctantly acknowledge they must accept the program to gain enough Democratic support for fast track, but many don’t want to vote for it.

    The third bill involves customs enforcement. It includes a measure to take action against countries that value their currency artificially low, which makes their exports more attractive. The Obama administration opposes the “currency manipulation” measure but doesn’t consider it fatal.

    Senate leadership aides said Friday they were unsure how the various trade bills will be packaged legislatively.

    AMENDMENTS AND UNCERTAINTIES

    Even if pro-trade senators muster 60 votes Tuesday to begin debate on fast track, senators can offer amendments that could prove troublesome.

    GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is pushing a “currency manipulation” provision that administration officials consider more problematic than the one in the customs bill. Portman, a former U.S. trade representative, failed to add his amendment in a committee meeting. But he says he’s “cautiously optimistic” he will prevail in the full Senate.

    Even if he does, however, his provision would have to survive eventual House-Senate negotiations to reconcile differences in their versions.

    CHINA’S LOOMING SHADOW

    China isn’t a party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but it looms large in most trade discussions.

    Obama says the United States will assert world leadership on trade matters if the Pacific-rim pact is enacted, and China will assume that role if it fails.

    But some critics invoke China’s clout to make counter arguments. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a Democratic leader, says the current trade talks must deal with China’s alleged currency manipulation, even if China isn’t in the 12-nation Pacific pact. He authored the customs bill amendment that the administration would rather avoid.

    The post 5 things to know about trade as Senate debate begins appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    George Zimmerman listens to testimony from forensics animation expert Daniel Shoemaker during his trial in Sanford, Fla. on July 9, 2013. Pool photo by Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images

    George Zimmerman listens to testimony from forensics animation expert Daniel Shoemaker during his trial in Sanford, Fla. on July 9, 2013. Pool photo by Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images

    Updated on May 11, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. EST | George Zimmerman, the Florida resident who was acquitted in the death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2013, sustained minor injures from a shooting incident Monday afternoon, the Lake Mary Police Department said.

    Monday’s dispute involved Matthew Apperson, the same man that was in a road rage incident with Zimmerman last year, Lake Mary police said in a news conference. Apperson called 911 to report the shooting, while Zimmerman tracked down an officer to say he was shot at, Lake Mary Police Officer Bianca Gillett said.

    Investigators have yet to interview either man, and no charges have been filed, she said.

    Details about the incident remain scant, but Zimmerman’s attorney Don West said a bullet missed his client’s head.

    “I think [the bullet] broke a window and lodged in his vehicle,” West said.

    He also said that Zimmerman was sprayed with debris and glass from his vehicle’s busted windshield, the Associated Press reported.

    According to West, Zimmerman was released from a nearby hospital.

    Video by the Associated Press

    Initial reports said Zimmerman was shot in the face, but police have yet to confirm details about Zimmerman’s injuries. Mary Lake police announced via Twitter that it will hold a news conference at 4 p.m. EST today.

    Monday’s shooting continues a string of run-ins with law enforcement for Zimmerman, including, most recently, an aggravated assault charge for throwing a wine bottle at his ex-girlfriend. The case was dropped in January when she recanted her account.

    A Florida jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in July 2013 in the death of 17-year-old Martin. The Justice Department also closed their investigation into the fatal shooting, citing “insufficient evidence” to pursue a civil rights case against Zimmerman.

    The post George Zimmerman sustains minor injuries in Florida shooting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The number of Americans with food allergies is growing at a robust rate, says Dr. Kari Nadeau, director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University.

    The number of Americans with food allergies, to peanuts for example, is growing at a rapid rate, says Dr. Kari Nadeau, director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University.

    Several weeks ago, I took my two sons to a friend’s birthday bowling party. There were about 20 children there and four of them, including my boys, couldn’t eat the birthday cake because they had food allergies. And at my younger son’s preschool, the school cook has a detailed list posted in the kitchen of all the kids who have food allergies, and the foods they must avoid. She makes everything from scratch, and she’s become very creative about using ingredients in her recipes that aren’t on that list. My two-year-old can’t eat eggs, so she uses applesauce for his muffins. When you talk to her, she will say she is surprised by how many students now have allergies. She says it wasn’t like that even 10 years ago.

    Those small examples from my own world reflect a national trend many of us have heard about for years: food allergies are on the rise.

    “This is becoming an epidemic that we need to be aware of, we need to get educated about,” says Dr. Kari Nadeau, who is the director of the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University. “The data shows that it’s very high in our population, probably about 17 to 18 million people in the U.S., and in other countries it’s about 18 million people.”

    Patients enrolled in Stanford’s clinical trials are given incrementally larger doses of the foods they are allergic to about every two weeks until they are able to tolerate a serving size of that food. The length of time it takes a patient to go up a serving size depends on the patient. And Dr. Nadeau warns, patients should never try this treatment by themselves; it has to be done under the direct supervision of a doctor and in a clinic. Photo by Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research

    Patients enrolled in Stanford’s clinical trials are given incrementally larger doses of the foods they are allergic to about every two weeks until they are able to tolerate a serving size of that food. The length of time it takes a patient to go up a typical serving size for a food depends on the patient, but can be as little as four months. But Dr. Nadeau warns that patients should never try this treatment by themselves; it has to be done under the direct supervision of a doctor and in a clinic. Photo by Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research

    I interviewed Dr. Nadeau for a report that airs this evening on the PBS NewsHour about the groundbreaking food allergy research she’s leading at Stanford.

    According to the Stanford center’s website, 90 percent of food allergies are caused by these eight foods: cow’s milk, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, shellfish, fish and eggs.

    The question on many people’s minds, including my own, is why do so many children have allergies these days? Dr. Nadeau and other scientists are still trying to figure that out, but they are starting to make some progress. “This [food allergy trend] is doubling every ten years,” said Dr. Nadeau. “That’s beyond just a generational effect. So how much are genes involved in this, and how much is the environment involved in this? That’s what we’re studying right now.”

    One big focus in the scientific community right now is diet. During our conversation Dr. Nadeau highlighted new research, including a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggests certain foods should be introduced to infants to help prevent food allergies.

    Dr. Nadeau says that by diversifying your child’s diet early on, under supervision of a doctor, you can try to prevent the consequence of having these food allergies. She recommends different types of proteins, rice, wheat, a little bit of egg, and a little bit of nuts. She talks about how the diets of pregnant women can also have an effect on their children’s allergies:

    One frightening fact I learned while reporting this story is that adults who have food allergies have a 65 percent chance of passing those allergies on to their children. When you start to think about the implications of that, it’s hard to imagine the number of people who have food allergies going down anytime soon. But Dr. Nadeau recently discovered something in her lab about the patients who have gone through a treatment known as oral immunotherapy, where they are slowly given increasingly larger amounts of the very foods they are allergic to. The process essentially builds up the patient’s immunity to those foods that once were poison to them.

    It’s important to emphasize that Dr. Nadeau’s research is still in a very early stage, but the discovery she describes in this clip could mean future generations might not be plagued by the genetic misfortunes of their parents or grandparents:

    The oral immunotherapy treatment protocols that Dr. Nadeau and her team have developed are now being used on clinical trial patients in Seattle, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. Several private companies are exploring ways to deliver the allergen doses in capsules and patches, and the Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing those treatment options.

    You can learn more about Dr. Nadeau’s research and clinical trials at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research website.

    The post Millions in the U.S. impacted by food allergies, but a cure may be on the horizon appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for more than two years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security original 34 “secrets”, his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions.

    Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published in February by Simon & Schuster.

    Watch Larry explain how Paul and his wife could collect an extra $50,000 in Social Security benefits:


    Last week economist Alicia Munnell wrote the following in a MarketWatch column:

    The president’s fiscal-year 2015 budget included language to “eliminate aggressive Social Security-claiming strategies, which allow upper-income beneficiaries to manipulate the timing of collection of Social Security benefits in order to maximize delayed retirement credits.” This is a great idea. Work that our center did more than five years ago showed that this option could cost Social Security as much as $9.5 billion annually, and that benefits go to those with the know-how to game the system.

    In another column entitled “Let’s Close Down Social Security Gaming” she writes, “Today people are writing bestselling books about how to get the maximum out of Social Security.”

    Alicia seems to be referring to my New York Times bestseller, “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” which, as my byline indicates, I recently co-authored with NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman and journalist Phil Moeller. But is maxing out “gaming the system”? At the end of a broadcast story he did on Social Security for the NewsHour, Paul asked me if we were promoting “loopholes” in the Social Security rules. I replied that you could view it as a loophole but that on the other hand, couples who benefit from strategies like file-and-suspend pay a lot of taxes. And there are other loopholes in our tax system like the mortgage interest deduction, for example.

    GOT SOCIAL SECURITY QUESTIONS?

    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    “Would it be fair for some of us to take it and others not because we didn’t know about it?” I asked. “I don’t see any reason why people shouldn’t get what is theirs, what they’re legally entitled to.”

    Our fiscal system, in general, and Social Security, in particular, is an incredibly complex maze of entangled provisions, most of which were put into place in piecemeal fashion over the years. Saying that provision X is unfair because it benefits double-income earners and should be eliminated begs the question of whether all the other provisions in our fiscal laws that disadvantage them are also unfair. Our system is replete with positive taxes and negative taxes, which we call benefits. If you want to make the case that the system is unfair, you need to look at all the net taxes people in different situations are paying.

    We have roughly 25 major fiscal systems at the federal and state levels (Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, the Alternative Minimum Tax, Supplemental Security Income, Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Obamacare, the New High Income Medicare taxes, the progressive Part B Medicare premium, the FICA payroll tax, progessive federal tax brackets, state income taxes, state and local sales taxes, federal and state estate and gift taxes, 12 different Social Security benefits, federal and state corporate income taxes, and the list goes on) that impact what we pay on net to government.

    I’m in the process of doing research with Alan Auerbach, an economist at Berkeley, to put all of these programs together to understand the system’s true progressivity — how net tax rates differ across households of higher and lower means. I’ll be writing about our findings in this space in a few weeks, but for now let me assuage my dear friend Alicia with these words. “Telling people how to get what’s theirs” doesn’t game the system. Nor does taking all the benefits to which you were legally entitled, including the “free” spousal benefit using the file and suspend strategy (which you did), game the system. It’s not our jobs as individual citizens to make the system more equitable by paying more taxes or taking fewer benefits unless we can persuade everyone else in our shoes to do the same think, which we most certainly cannot. It’s our government’s job to do something that it’s yet to do — understand who is paying what on net with all fiscal programs put on the table. If this overall picture looks unfair, then it’s our government’s job to fix it.

    And it’s the job of academics, like me and countless others, including my dear friend Alicia Munnell, to consider the overall picture before proposing major changes. Finally, even ignoring all the other fiscal policies, Alicia’s proposed “simple fix” of eliminating filing and suspending, and imposing deeming after full retirement age, would produce as many grievous inequalities as it fixes, including some that are effectively extremely sexist.


    Richard — Concord, Calif.: I recently received my earnings record from SS and there are 2 years of income that don’t make sense. In this statement there are two columns: “taxed Social Security Earnings” and “Taxed Medicare Earnings”. Every year the two columns are identical except for two years where (1997) SS earnings are 0 and Med earnings are an amount that seems normal . The following year (1998) shows SS earnings that seem a bit lower than the norm but the Med earnings are more than double the SS earnings. The rest of the earning years match in both columns, before and after the two years above. SS requires a W-2 for each year in question before they will even consider that there may be an error. I don’t have W-2s that go back that far and SS says they aren’t responsible for keeping these records. IRS only offers copies of income statements that go back 4 years. How can I dispute this or at least get copies of my old W-2s to validate there is an error? Thank you in advance for any help you may be able to provide.

    Larry Kotlikoff: I’m going to ask Jerry Lutz, former Social Security technical expert, to answer your question. I’ve not heard of this situation. The fact that have to keep decades of earnings records for the government is simply mind boggling.

    Jerry Lutz: First, we need to consider whether or not Social Security’s records are wrong. Wages from some employers are subject to Medicare tax but not Social Security tax (e.g. federal employees who started working prior to 1983). Was there a change in your employment during the period in question that may explain the discrepancy? If not, I would try contacting my former employer to see if they still have copies of the W-2s. Social Security can accept secondary evidence of wages, but it’s unlikely that you would have kept any of those documents for this long. This is why the Social Security Administration recommends checking your earnings record for accuracy at least every three years.


    Anonymous — Alexandria, Va.: There is a large age gap between me and my husband: he is 56 and I am 33. We have two children under the age of 6. I have not worked in several years, but will be working soon and will likely be earning a fairly high salary near the cap amount. What is the best strategy for us to maximize benefits? I am obviously a long way away from taking benefits, but we would like to plan ahead.

    Larry Kotlikoff: When your husband is 67, in 11 years, your children will be eligible to collect a child benefit on his work record as long as they are under 18 or under 19 and still in high school. I’m presuming that neither is disabled. If one or both were disabled, having become disabled before age 22, they could collect child benefits at any age. At 67 your husband can file and suspend and permit the kids to collect child benefits. He can then restart his own retirement benefit at 70 at its highest possible value. You two may be eligible, depending on your earnings, for child-in-care spousal benefits (if one or both kids are under 16). But the benefits to the kids and possibly to you will be limited by the family benefit maximum. It may be better for your husband to file even earlier than full retirement age so he can activate the child and, potentially, child-in-care spousal benefit early. This will mean a reduced retirement benefit for him, but may maximize your household’s total lifetime benefits. Under this strategy, which I call Start-Stop-Start, your husband would stop (suspend) his retirement benefit at full retirement age (67) and then start it up again at 70.


    Aaron — Woodland, Calif.: My mother is 80, still working, collecting Social Security since she was 62. She gets about $840 per month, which is not enough for her to live on without working. She was married to a fellow many years ago. They separated after a few years, but never actually got divorced. He remarried, without ever divorcing my mother, about four years after marrying my mother. My mom also remarried at some point in there, then divorced that second marriage after a few years. The first guy died in 2000 or so. His widow is collecting some kind of benefit on his record. Can my mom collect any kind of benefit from his record, given that she never got a divorce? I know its probably not within the spirit of the law, but she needs help, and the spirit of the law was also to make it so little old ladies don’t have to work when they are 80. I help her out a bit, and when she really can’t work any more, she will move in with me and my family, but that will mean giving up her home that she worked her whole life to own. I wish she could stop working and enjoy her retirement, her garden, and her surprisingly good health while it lasts.

    Larry Kotlikoff: You should check with Social Security on this one, but her second marriage was probably never legal. This means she should be able to collect widow’s benefits from her first husband’s work record simply by presenting Social Security with a copy of her marriage certificate and his death certificate. Write back and tell us how this turns out. But be up front with Social Security. We don’t want your mom carted off to jail for fraud.


    Anonymous: I am 63 years old and just applied for, and will start receiving, my deceased ex-husband’s Social Security survivor benefits. He died two years ago, age 66. The people at social security told me, that I would get substantially more on his earnings record than my own. We were married for 16 years. I never remarried. He did, but she is about one year younger than he. My question to pose to you is: will this benefit I receive continue until I die or does it change and will it impact any money his second wife gets? I am a bit confused about all of this. Thank you.

    Larry Kotlikoff: I presume you were married for 10 or more years. What you receive has nothing to do with what his second wife receives. You may do better by filing right now for your own retirement benefit and waiting until 66 — your full retirement age — to take unreduced widow benefits. Whether this is optimal will depend on when your ex took his own retirement benefit. If he took it early, it may be best to take your widow’s benefit right now. This is due to the RIB-LIM formula I discussed in prior columns and that I and my co-authors discussed in our book. Highly precise commercial software can suggest when it’s best to take which benefit.


    Teresa — Spartanburg, S.C.: My husband will be 66 this September, which is his full retirement age. I am 47. We have two children: a 20-year-old and a 13-year-old. My husband makes much more money than I do. He plans to work until age 70. Our plan is for him to file and suspend his benefits and then for me and our younger child to get spousal/child benefits. Are there rules on what we have to do with that money? We would like to put our daughter’s checks into a trust for her to use for college but someone said you could only let a child have $2,000 in savings from Social Security. I make about $31,000 a year and we want to maximize my husband’s check in order to help me later on. He makes about $80,000 a year.

    Larry Kotlikoff: Your plan makes sense. What you will get will be limited by the family benefit maximum. Also, your oldest child is too old to collect unless he/she is disabled. If you are working, you may lose some or all of the child-in-care spousal benefits due to the earnings test. But your lost benefits should be reapportioned to the child benefit(s).

    The post Playing God with Social Security fairness appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    1/13/13: Foxborough, MA: FIRST QUARTER.......Patriots quarterback Tom Brady broke the NFL record of Joe Montana with his 18th career playoff victory with the New England victory, but the only thing that was broken on this first quarter pass was the left forearm of tight end Rob Gronkowski (not pictured) who caught this pass, but came down out of bounds and out of action for the rest of the season. The New England Patriots hosted the Houston Texans in an NFL Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium.     section: sports topic: Texans-Patriots (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

    A new report says that Tom Brady was likely aware of deflated footballs during the AFC Championship game. Photo by Jim Davis/Globe Staff.

    Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been suspended from playing the first four games of the upcoming NFL season for his involvement in the notorious Deflategate. The Patriots have also been fined $1 million and removed from a first-round draft pick in 2016.

    “We reached these decisions after extensive discussion with [NFL Executive Vice President] Troy Vincent and many others,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report.”

    An NFL-commissioned report released Wednesday said that “it is more probable than not” that Patriots’ personnel did in fact deflate the team’s footballs during the playoff game against the Colts. The report also claims that Tom Brady — who was later named Super Bowl MVP — was “generally aware” of such inappropriate activities.

    The report points to ongoing text message conversations between locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski about plans to deflate the team’s balls that dates back to October 2014. It also alleges that prior to the championship game, Jastremski had taken the game balls into a bathroom for one minute and 40 seconds.

    “Based on a series of simulations,” the report says, “[Consultant] Exponent determined that the air pressure in thirteen footballs could be readily released using a needle in well under one minute and forty seconds.”

    After the Colts complained that several of the game footballs were underinflated, the NFL confirmed that 11 out of 12 were under the required 12.5 and 13.5 psi measurement.

    The report states that a “contrary conclusion requires the acceptance of an implausible number of communications and events as benign coincidences.”

    Patriots CEO and Chairman Robert Kraft initially responded to the report:

    “To say we are disappointed in its findings, which do not include any incontrovertible or hard evidence of deliberate deflation of footballs at the AFC Championship game, would be a gross understatement.”

    The post Tom Brady suspended for 4 games over Deflategate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: combating extremism in Europe.

    Denmark is often referred to as the happiest place on earth, but its sense of peace and serenity was shell-shocked earlier this year when an Islamic extremist shot and killed two people in Copenhagen. The country, like other European nations, is struggling to stop its citizens from joining the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations in Syria.

    NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant caught up with one devastated mother who is urging the government to do more to stop the tide of extremism.

    Right now, I’m just looking for more videos to see if I can get any knowledge about my boy.

    MALCOLM BRABANT, Special Correspondent: Karolina Dam’s worst fear came true in the cruelest way. An Islamic State death notice on Facebook alerted her to news that her eighteen-year-old son, Lukas, had been killed in an American airstrike on the Syria-Turkey border.

    KAROLINA DAM, Mother of Lukas Dam: I need peace and quiet now. I need to get on. I need — I don’t want him dead. But I need — I need to know things. And I don’t know if he’s alive. I don’t know if he’s in jail or if ISIS has killed him. I don’t know anything. It’s hard. You can’t sleep. I wake up with nightmares everywhere.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: But you don’t believe he’s alive, do you?

    KAROLINA DAM: No.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: How strong was the evidence that he was killed?

    KAROLINA DAM: There’s no evidence.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Lukas had attention-deficit disorder, and, according to his mother, suffered from relatively serious autism.

    After dabbling in petty crime, he was put in a home for vulnerable teenagers. He became a Muslim a year after this video was taken.

    KAROLINA DAM: I don’t want to classify my son as a terrorist, because he’s not. My boy is the victim in all this. He has been manipulated. He has been abused and pushed into this fight that he and others have won.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Lukas fell under the spell of hard-line groups like Hizb ut Tahrir, an international party that campaigns for Sharia law and a worldwide caliphate.

    MAN: So, first of all, I would like to tell the enemy to look very closely at this flag, at the black flag, not the white flag, but the black flag, because this is the black flag that the U.S. will see. This is the black flag that the U.S. will see coming over the horizon. This is the black flag they will see coming across the Atlantic in front of an army that loves the prophet, that loves Islam.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Mrs. Dam said she did everything in her power to prevent her son from traveling to Syria. She took away his passport and alerted his social workers.

    KAROLINA DAM: It’s not the easiest task for a parent to keep on calling the authorities. But it is the right thing. The wrong thing is them not doing anything about it.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Mrs. Dam went to Copenhagen’s city hall to try to get some answers from one of the deputy mayors. No officials were prepared to talk on camera.

    Mrs. Dam had received an apology from city hall for the failings of the system. Official admitted that social workers should have alerted Copenhagen’s de-radicalization program to fact that Lukas Dam was in danger of going to Syria, so that he could have been stopped at the airport. But the program wasn’t informed until four months after Lukas left the country.

    Sources within city hall tried to shift the blame on to Denmark’s intelligence agency, claiming it was twice tipped off about the Lukas Dam case. The agency has refused to comment.

    But Professor Magnus Ranstorp was willing to discuss the issue. He heads the Copenhagen Anti-Radicalization Task Force, which is due to deliver an action plan in August.

    MAGNUS RANSTORP, Head of Copenhagen deradicalization task force: We were looking at, how can we improve the system? How can we involve civil society more? How can we can we involve parents as well? So we are looking over the system to see how we can — how we can be more efficient.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: This is a recruiting video for the so-called Islamic State, and the key figure is the 21-year Dane to the right of the picture. Like Lukas Dam, he was a Christian convert with learning difficulties named Victor Kristensen.

    After appealing to his Danish brothers and sisters to join jihad, Victor blew himself up in a suicide attack. He was radicalized at this mosque.

    As part of the nationwide effort to neutralize extreme Islamic rhetoric, this Muslim lawmaker, Fatma Oktem, wants to ban certain radical preachers.

    FATMA OKTEM, Denmark Parliament Member: We know that the young people are visiting the mosques and they are listening to the religious leaders. So it’s very important that people who are talking about religion can talk about peace and harmony and integration, not about hate.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Lawmakers are deeply concerned about the rising influence of groups like Hizb ut Tahrir and are disappointed that Danish prosecutors have just ruled that it can’t be outlawed, as it is in countries like Germany and Russia.

    SOREN ESPERSEN, Foreign Affairs spokesman, Danish People’s Party: We ought to make sure that Hizb ut Tahrir is forbidden in this country, as they are in many other countries. And I think that the various ministers of justice have failed, because, in our relation, in our constitution, it says that those kind of groups that work for violence and in a way push for violence should be closed.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Hizb ut Tahrir insists it is not breaking any laws, and attributes its rising popularity amongst young Muslims to what it describes as Denmark’s anti-Islamic policies.

    ELIAS LAMRABET, Spokesman, Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic party: It’s a clear sign of intellectual bankruptcy in the Danish Parliament, because they cannot withstand thoughts with thoughts. They cannot counter arguments with argument. This is really what we are used to in dictatorships and the like.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Denmark has changed dramatically since the Valentine’s Day shootings that killed filmmaker Finn Norgaard at a free speech forum and security guard Dan Uzan at Copenhagen’s synagogue.

    There is a sense the country has lost its innocence. Before the attacks, security used to be very discreet. Now the police are overstretched on full alert in case of a new atrocity. These officers were deployed to protect a Jewish deli close to a mainly Muslim district after it was vandalized.

    The Valentine’s Day shooter, Omar El-Hussein, killed by police in a brief exchange of fire, was a hero for a significant number of Muslims. The government here is investing tens of millions of dollars in various de-radicalization programs to try to dampen enthusiasm for extreme Islam displayed at his funeral.

    If they return to Western Denmark and the police fail to find evidence that they committed crimes in the Middle East, they will be offered a place on a rehabilitation program.

    JORGEN ILUM, Commissioner, East Jutland Police: We don’t roll out the red carpet. But we are there to try to help them reintegrate into the society, because we believe that is the most secure thing we can do in order to protect society from these young people becoming even more radicalized.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: One person with an insight into the minds of the jihadis is Morten Storm, a former Islamic radical who claims to have worked as a double agent for the CIA and helped them target al-Qaida leaders in Yemen.

    MORTEN STORM, Former Islamic Extremist: I think the authorities have been naive. At the same time, I think it’s a disgrace. I think that they are underestimating the ideology and the motivation of these people.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: After her city hall meeting, Karolina Dam talked to one of the officials involved in Copenhagen’s de-radicalization program. She curses the Islamic extremists who brainwashed her son and hopes that others can be saved.

    KAROLINA DAM: I can’t do anything about it now. I can do whatever I can to help them prevent it happening again. And that would be in the spirit of my son. That’s what I need to do.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: In the meantime, Mrs. Dam has little alternative but to continue her lonely search among the Islamic State videos online, despite ISIS’ announcement that Lukas was killed.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Malcolm Brabant in Copenhagen.

    The post Can Denmark solve its Islamic extremist problem? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: It’s family feud time for both Republicans and Democrats, as presidential candidates look for ways to stand out in a crowded field, and liberals go to war with the White House over trade.

    It’s also Politics Monday, so Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR are here to sort it all out for us.

    Let’s start with the Republican feud. Remember “Spy vs. Spy” in “Mad” magazine?  This is GOP vs. GOP. OK, so we heard Rick Santorum at a meeting this weekend, another one of the Republican cattle calls.

    And this is — let’s just listen from — first to what he had to say.

    FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, (R) Pennsylvania: The Republican Party nominated people who have checked one of three boxes. Number one, you were a vice president. We have nominated former vice presidents. Number two, you were the son of a former president.

    (LAUGHTER)

    RICK SANTORUM: And, number three, you came in second the last time and ran again.

    GWEN IFILL: Of course, he came in second when, and is running — and is possibly running again?

    Rick Santorum hasn’t announced he’s running for president, but he clearly sees part of his path is to take down the others.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Right. And so really he’s saying is, it’s between Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum.

    I’m glad we cleared that all up. We’re done. We don’t need to talk anymore about Republicans. I’m sort of defining the Republican field right now. It’s like the dating game, all right, where you have Republican primary voters are in no mood to settle down. In fact, they’re happy, I think, with this big field of potential candidates.

    And they want to date and meet people. They’re not ready to get married yet. So, each one of the candidates then goes to these cattle calls — I’m going to be at one in Iowa this weekend — and tries to make the best case to these — hope — to their suitors. But I don’t think we are going to end up any time soon with an obvious candidate or two candidates, in the way that Rick Santorum would like to present it.

    I think this field is going to stay as crowded as it is for some time. And it’s going to be the debates and it’s going to be the actual contests that winnow it down.

    GWEN IFILL: Tamara?

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: They’re all trying to stand out in a very, very crowded field. And they’re doing that. All of the governors are saying, well, you don’t want another senator, do you?

    And all the senators are saying, well, don’t — you don’t want a governor. You want somebody with foreign policy experience. They’re all trying to differentiate themselves. In reality, each one is going to get a little pop when they announce. And then they all sort of, like, tumble back into the field.

    GWEN IFILL: And then you see them doing things like competing for subsets of the Republican vote, in this case especially the evangelical vote, because there is just not one candidate who can corner that market.

    This weekend, we saw Jeb Bush at Liberty University, the Christian school in Virginia, giving a commencement speech. And we saw Scott Walker, who also hasn’t announced he’s running, but people think he is, the governor of Wisconsin, in Israel wearing a yarmulke and appealing in that way.

    AMY WALTER: That’s right.

    So, the thing is, you don’t win the nomination, the Republican nomination if you are not in line with the evangelicals socially and culturally. If you’re too far outside of that realm, you’re not going to win. At the same time, if you’re too closely aligned, you get pigeonholed as an evangelical candidate, you are probably not going to win either.

    This is the place where Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee were stuck in the last two elections. They got pigeonholed as, well, they can appeal to this one subset, but they don’t really appeal broadly. When I talk to those campaigns now, they’re spending all this time saying, why don’t people take us seriously on other issues?  We’re talking about so many other issues.

    So it’s finding that balancing point of, you don’t want to turn — you can’t be too far to the left, but you also can’t turn off the moderate voters.

    GWEN IFILL: But, Tamara, is it possible to split that too finely so that nobody gets anything?

    TAMARA KEITH: There are so many of them competing for that tiny…

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    TAMARA KEITH: The evangelical share of the Republican Party isn’t really that big.

    They have an outsized role, in particular in Iowa, which happens to be the first-in-the-nation caucus. And so there’s a lot of tailoring to that group. But, I mean, if we’re looking at Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee — Jeb Bush went to Liberty University. Ted Cruz announced at Liberty University. Bobby Jindal is working that angle too.

    GWEN IFILL: If you’re at Liberty University, when they go home for the summer, they’re going to not…

    TAMARA KEITH: Where are they going to do their events?

    GWEN IFILL: Where are they going to go?

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s go to the Democratic family feud on the other side.

    And it’s all about this Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which they’re waiting to see if Congress will allow the president to have the fast track to approve. And in this case, it’s the president at war against his own people.

    Let’s listen to what he had to say, in particular in an interview this weekend with Yahoo! News in which he talked about Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, who has been kind of leading the fight against it.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Elizabeth is a politician like everybody else. And she has got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that.

    And, on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.

    GWEN IFILL: Fact and scrutiny.

    Her response, of course, in an interview today The Washington Post, with a blog in The Washington Post, was to say that: “The president has committed only to letting the public see this deal after Congress votes to authorize fast track. At that point, it will be impossible for us to amend the agreement or to block any part of it without tanking the whole TPP. The TPP is basically done.”

    So the two of them are taking these little shots across the bow to each other over a pretty big issue.

    AMY WALTER: It is.

    And the good thing and the bad news for Democrats at this point in history is they’re the most ideologically unified that we have seen them in years. That’s great if you’re the president presiding over a unified party, except when you want to go against party orthodoxy, in this case a trade deal.

    And labor unions are going to be very upset with you, liberals very upset with you. At the same time, he doesn’t have many moderates left in his party. They have all been wiped out in the last two wave midterm elections. So, this is — as I said, it’s good when you are all on the same page and you can pass legislation that everybody agrees on.

    But when you’re the president and you try to go against the tide, this is what’s going to happen.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes.

    And the president is lobbying hard. He has to win over his own party on this. And Elizabeth Warren, I think, has the advantage of speaking for most of the people in her party on this particular issue.

    And I will just say that she’s also going to be on “Morning Edition” tomorrow talking with Steve Inskeep. She phoned in, which is to say full-court press from Elizabeth Warren. She’s not backing down on the president.

    GWEN IFILL: We will be listening, Tamara. Nice plug.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: I want to ask you, though, where’s Hillary Clinton in this?  Because she has been kind of mysteriously quiet in a pretty big intraparty fight.

    TAMARA KEITH: She was asked about trade like two or three weeks ago in New Hampshire. She didn’t directly even answer the question.

    She sort of indirectly answered the question. And she’s been silent on it ever since, in part because she doesn’t get to ask — she doesn’t take a lot of questions from the media, or, well, like pretty much any.

    GWEN IFILL: And it’s a lose-lose proposition for her to even step into that voluntarily.

    TAMARA KEITH: No way. No, I wouldn’t volunteer for that.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Tamara Keith of NPR, we will be listening. And Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, we will be reading.

    AMY WALTER: Thank you.

    TAMARA KEITH: Thank you.

    The post How GOP 2016 contenders are vying for the evangelical vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now to the dramatic increase in food allergies, and what can be done about it.

    You might recall the big news earlier this year, when scientists said that the best way to head off peanut allergies in children is to expose them to the nuts early on. But what about for those who already have allergies?

    The NewsHour’s Cat Wise, who has a personal connection to this disease, has our report.

    CAT WISE: I have two young boys with life-threatening food allergies. A year ago, my older son ended up in the E.R. after accidentally eating a muffin with walnuts. Both boys are allergic to eggs, so cake at friends’ birthday parties is not an option, much to their frustration.

    Our experience is not unique. One in 12 American children has been diagnosed with a food allergy. The rate of those food allergies has doubled over the last decade. Every year, 90,000 people visit the E.R. with food allergy reactions, and nearly 200 die.

    While some people outgrow their allergies, most are never cured. But that life sentence may be about to change.

    WOMAN: All right, Ms. Parker, how are we doing? 

    PARKER ANDERSON: Good.

    WOMAN: We’re going to do your food challenge today.

    CAT WISE: Twelve-year-old Parker Anderson has been allergic to peanuts and tree nuts since she was a toddler. She’s come to Stanford University to enroll in a first-of-its-kind clinical trial, in the hopes that she may one day be able to eat nuts.

    WOMAN: Alright, five milligrams. All right, a little bit on the lips. Don’t lick it off. OK? All right, how does that feel?

    PARKER ANDERSON: Fine.

    WOMAN: OK. No itching?  Doesn’t tingle at all?

    CAT WISE: Anderson, who spent five years on a wait-list to get here, is being given a small amount of one of the very foods she’s allergic to, pistachios. It’s the first step in a treatment she’s about to begin called oral immunotherapy to train her body not to react to nuts.

    PARKER ANDERSON: It’s a little scary, but I know that it will get better, like, over time. They’re going to desensitize me to all my allergies, so that I can start eating it normally, and not have to worry anymore.

    DR. KARI NADEAU, Director, Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research: You’re giving back the very same food the person is allergic to.

    CAT WISE: Dr. Kari Nadeau is treating Anderson and the 300-some patients currently enrolled in trials. And she is the tour de force behind the food allergy research program at Stanford.

    DR. KARI NADEAU: What are some of the foods you have always wanted to try that you haven’t so far? What’s your wish list?

    PARKER ANDERSON: Oh, peanut butter banana smoothie.

    DR. KARI NADEAU: Oh, peanut butter banana smoothie, OK.

    Very carefully, we start with minuscule amounts of that food, and you give it at levels that won’t cause a reaction. And you give it to the person, make sure they’re doing OK, and then you tell them to take it every day for another two weeks. Then they come back in the clinic, and we dose you up here. Always, we increase the dose while you’re here in the clinic.

    CAT WISE: A number of research institutions around the country, and even some private practices, are treating food allergy patients with similar methods.

    But Dr. Nadeau has pioneered a way to treat people who have multiple allergies, up to five, at the same time. And she’s found a way to dramatically reduce the time it takes to desensitize patients through the use of an immune-suppressing asthma drug called Xolair.

    DR. KARI NADEAU: We gave the Xolair, and then at eight weeks, we give that first dose of the food. It only takes about 16 weeks to 24 weeks then to be able to get someone up to a serving’s worth of food that would normally take two years to three years.

    CAT WISE: In a small room in the clinic basement, known as the food pharmacy, nutritionist Katherine Lloyd has one of the most important jobs on the research team: ensuring patients get the right dose. She uses a highly sensitive scale to measure minuscule amounts of allergens. The smallest dose she distributes, 0.5 milligrams, is the equivalent of about 1/16th of a single peanut.

    KATHERINE LLOYD, Nutritionist: You just have to be very precise, because, if you give them too much, they may have a reaction. And I do kind of feel like a pharmacist down here, just measuring out. It’s almost as if I’m counting pills.

    CAT WISE: On the day we visited, 4-year-old Hudson Brown, who has multiple food allergies, including peanuts, was getting one of those carefully prepared doses. He’s been in the trial since August and now eats about eight peanuts a day, with the help of some chocolate pudding.

    WOMAN: This is your first bite of 2,000 milligrams. This is your maintenance dose. Ready? Oh, awesome. Don’t eat the spoon, though, OK?

    CAT WISE: Nationally, based on a small number of studies that have looked at a small number of patients, it seems that Caucasians and Asians have a higher likelihood of developing food allergies, but much more research is needed, according to allergy experts.

    At Stanford, more than 700 youth and adult patients have completed treatment since 2003. Nearly 90 percent have had their allergies go away, although Dr. Nadeau cautions it is too early to use the word cured. The remaining patients either moved away, stopped taking their doses regularly, or had unrelated health issues.

    WOMAN: Oh, my goodness. Those are awesome breaths, dude.

    CAT WISE: While no one has died or had a life-threatening reaction, the treatment is not an easy experience. In addition to being time-consuming, most patients at some point get stomach problems, skin rashes, or sore, itchy throats. But for those who stick with the program, the results can be dramatic.

    GIRL: I eat this one first. Then the cashew.

    WOMAN: Yes.

    GIRL: Then the peanut, because that’s — because this is what I like the best.

    CAT WISE: Maya and Carly Sandberg were among the first patients to go through the multi-allergen studies with Dr. Nadeau.

    WOMAN: At last, the biggest dose.

    CAT WISE: They are now continuing to eat nuts several times a week to keep up their immunity, something that patients who complete the study are encouraged to do. Their mom, Michelle Sandberg, is a pediatrician, who says the results of the trial surprised her.

    DR. MICHELLE SANDBERG: Initially, the goals were basically to decrease the risk of anaphylaxis. I never dreamed that there would be desensitization or a cure. But, as time passed, and as Dr. Nadeau saw the data, you know, these kids were being fully desensitized. Everything is completely normal. We buy any product we want. They eat the same snack at school as the other kids. At birthday parties, they go alone. They eat the cake, restaurants, everything.

    DR. MICHELLE SANDBERG: OK.

    CAT WISE: Oh, wow.

    DR. MICHELLE SANDBERG: Yes.

    CAT WISE: Lots of different kinds of nuts.

    DR. MICHELLE SANDBERG: Pretty much every kind of nut.

    CAT WISE: In fact, nuts are a big part of the family diet now.

    It’s amazing for me, with my own kids having nut allergies, to see this.

    DR. MICHELLE SANDBERG: Now, actually, my goal is to get as much nuts into my kids as possible.

    CAT WISE: Dr. Nadeau’s research efforts recently got a big boost. Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who has severe food allergies, donated $24 million to Stanford to advance scientific understanding of the disease.

    In the lab that now bears Parker’s name, Dr. Nadeau has a team of scientists working on a variety of experiments aimed at understanding the underlying causes of allergies.

    DR. KARI NADEAU: We are where cancer therapy was 20 years ago. There’s a black box right now behind what is the cause of allergies, and how can we improve and treat allergies? And that’s exactly what we’re studying in the lab on the cell level, on the DNA level, but, importantly, is that we do our science to directly, in real time, help people with the disease.

    CAT WISE: Its research that may one day aid my own children, and the millions like them with food allergies.

    DR. KARI NADEAU: Many families, in fact all of them, they live 365 days in fear. They really live a life where they observe life, and rather than live it. And so at the end of the study, what I would really like to be able to accomplish for those families is so they can live life, so a child doesn’t have to sit out of a birthday party, and be on the side eating their own type of food.

    CAT WISE: And she hopes, if things go according to plan, Parker Anderson might just be able to eat that peanut butter banana smoothie she’s been craving later this year.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Cat Wise in Palo Alto, California.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This weekend marked a major milestone in the fight to end the Ebola outbreak. Liberia was declared Ebola-free after 42 days without a new case. Many took to the streets to celebrate.

    And efforts are under way to rebuild schools, hospitals and other clinics. The disease has killed more than 10,000 people in West Africa, including 500-plus health care workers. While the outbreak has slowed considerably, there are new health complications for survivors.

    Dr. Ian Crozier is one American health care worker who nearly lost his life while volunteering in Sierra Leone with the World Health Organization. After contracting the virus, he was evacuated to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital and he eventually recovered. Months later, the virus was found in his eye and it nearly blinded him before a series of procedures and treatments. He is still experiencing a number of other symptoms.

    And he joins me now.

    And, Dr. Crozier, welcome. And we’re so glad to see you doing much better.

    DR. IAN CROZIER, Ebola Patient/Survivor: Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s a pleasure to be anywhere.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us, first of all, how are you doing? It’s, what, been eight months since you were first diagnosed.

    DR. IAN CROZIER: So, I’m doing remarkably well, given what I have been through.

    First of all, I’m fortunate to be here and to be alive, and, secondly, to be looking at you through two fairly clear eyes is quite remarkable. So still struggling with a few symptoms that have been part of my sort of post-Ebola syndrome, but I’m doing much better than I was a few months ago. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us briefly about what happened in your eye, and is it gone? Is the Ebola now gone from your eye?

    DR. IAN CROZIER: So, in early December, I developed what we call uveitis. Forgive the medical-speak, but it actually reflected a great deal of inflammation inside the eye, to put it simply.

    And once that began, it became obvious that it was going to be severe and that it was going to be sight-threatening. As part of my evaluation, because we were really worried about a risk for other viruses after a long hospital stay, Steve Yeh at the Emory Eye Clinic introduced a needle into the front room of my eye, the anterior chamber, and there he found incredibly, incredibly high numbers of active and replicating Ebola virus, which was a great surprise at the time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that was treated. And, today, you are much better, but, as I understand it, it may still be there.

    DR. IAN CROZIER: Yes.

    So, to get back to your question, I received some experimental treatment and a lot of anti-inflammatory medicine, steroids by mouth, steroids by injection into the eye, and topical steroids. And, unfortunately, to actually know for sure that the virus is no longer there, we would need to reintroduce that needle and tap the eye again.

    And given the fact the pressures in my eye have been low, that procedure’s risks probably outweigh the benefits. That may come down the road. There is every indication, given the clinical improvement that I have had — it really has been sort of a Lazarian return of the eye, that the virus is no longer there. But I can’t say that for sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But we — it’s our understanding that it’s not contagious, though.

    DR. IAN CROZIER: So, it’s very important to point out, actually, this was inside the eye, in the anterior chamber.

    My tear fluids, the conjunctiva, which is outside the eye, those swabs were all negative, even at very high levels inside the eye. So, it’s important to point out that, even despite finding Ebola inside the eye, there’s no risk of transmission by casual contact.

    This is important because Ebola survivors on the ground are facing a fair amount of stigma already. And I don’t want this finding to add to that difficulty.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, this was not only an enormous physical challenge for you, battling your way back, but it has to have also been a psychological challenge. You have spoken of having survivor’s guilt.

    DR. IAN CROZIER: Yes, I suppose, though unwarranted, I have a fair amount of survivor’s guilt.

    You know, if you had told me on day one of my symptoms that within a week, I would develop multisystem organ failure — it’s an ominous term, but my brain failed, and my kidney failed, and my lungs failed. And I needed sort of a level of critical care that really had never been given to that degree before, especially in someone who survived.

    As I was going through that, I’m, of course, incredibly grateful to the WHO and to the State Department. I would have been dead in a week, had I not received that care. But I’m also haunted a little bit by many of my patients and some colleagues and friends who didn’t have that opportunity, and that really reflects an inequity in global health that I think we’re all about trying to change for years now.

    It’s particularly gratifying to me that this — my eye case, which is really on the front edge of essentially a new disease — we had a little signal back in the 1990s of some eye disease in survivors, but this is really a new disease in some ways. And so the fact that my case can hopefully directly and immediately and relevantly be translated to West Africa and prevent West African eyes from going blind is very gratifying, because I certainly struggle with holding those two things in tension.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and I did want to ask you about that. You just — you just went back to Sierra Leone a few weeks ago. And what did you find there?

    And it is the case, as you say, that your own experience can be of help, as doctors try to figure out the post-Ebola difficulties that other survivors are having.

    DR. IAN CROZIER: Yes. So, people are obviously taking care of survivors on the ground there.

    And John Fankhauser at the ELWA Hospital, an SIM mission hospital, who has been caring for survivors for some time now and is in a sense one of on-the-ground expert, was seeing patients with eye disease. He invited a small team from Emory headed by Dr. Steve Yeh.

    And we, within a short week, saw over 100 Liberian survivors with eye complaints. And though we need to learn a great deal about this disease, it is important. I think the window will be short in which to diagnose and to classify and to provide treatment for these eyes. And this really was the first look, in one sense, especially by Steve, who had fairly rapidly become the world’s expert in this disease.

    And so we saw indeed that Liberian survivors, some portion of them are developing eye symptoms and some of those patients are developing sight-threatening disease. If we can change the natural history of that process, it will be remarkable and extremely gratifying to me, if my case can be useful that way.

    You can imagine that a survivor who has, in a sense, survived their first death in the unit and come out and then faces the tragedy of a second death — you know, going blind is not so far down the food chain from dying. And if we can change the natural history of that process, I would like to be part of that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Dr. Ian Crozier, it is quite a journey you have been on. I know everyone is celebrating with you your remarkable recovery, but also listening to what you say about the lessons learned and what more has to be done.

    Dr. Ian Crozier, we thank you.

    DR. IAN CROZIER: Thank you, Judy.

    The post How Ebola can hide in the bodies of survivors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: And Margaret joins me now.

    Margaret, we saw at the State Department, but at also the White House in the Briefing Room today very aggressive pushback of the notion that this was a snub, this last-minute decision not to come, especially on the part of the Saudi king. What really happened?

    MARGARET WARNER: What happened was, remember when this was laid on by the White House, last month, right after coming up with this political framework for an Iranian nuclear deal.

    And the hope was that, with the right assurances, the Gulf countries would at least give some sort of tacit approval to pursuing this deal. Instead, what the White House felt was a great compliment, being invited to the White House, Camp David, I’m told by people close to the palace in Saudi Arabia that King Salman felt he was being summoned to Washington.

    He didn’t like being lumped in with all the GCC members. Then — because Saudi Arabia should be first among equals. Then he — after talking to Secretary Kerry and after the meeting in Paris on Friday, it became obvious he wasn’t going to get really the assurances he wanted, and that being from a culture where it’s rude for your host to say no, he didn’t really want to be taken up to Camp David and then asked to sign something that he later would want to back off from.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, the president did talk to him today to kind of smooth things over, we assume.

    MARGARET WARNER: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: But at the root of this, Iran. Right?

    MARGARET WARNER: At the root of this, Iran, and also the fact that the U.S. and the Saudis, despite all these years of at least some sort of partnership over oil and many other things, really don’t know how to — don’t understand each other very well.

    But, yes, it’s not only that Iran after 10 or 15 years, whenever the negotiated time period expires, that Iran could be a nuclear weapons-capable state. It’s the Saudis fear that once the international community strikes a deal with Iran, Iran will, one, gain in stature and legitimacy, might even supplant the U.S. as a major partner in the region, and that, as sanctions are slowly lifted and it has more money, it will able to even better fund a lot of these groups, proxies that are destabilizing other countries in the region, whether it’s Shiite groups in Bahrain, whether it’s Hezbollah in Syria, whether it’s the Houthis in Yemen.

    GWEN IFILL: And, well, let’s talk about Yemen a little bit, because I wonder if that’s partly also on the agenda for this weekend, or if there is anything that can be accomplished at this meeting in Camp David?

    MARGARET WARNER: I think what the Saudis wanted was — or at least certainly the UAE wanted — was some kind of a mutual defense pact, almost like NATO.

    And the Americans said they told them a couple of weeks ago that was a nonstarter, that wasn’t going to happen. But the U.S. is talking about not only selling them more weaponry, if that’s what they want, but helping the GCC develop greater capabilities to defend against all these unconventional threats, whether it’s cyber, whether it’s threats to their own oil infrastructure, and make it more interoperable with the U.S.

    And there will be some sort of document that reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the security of its allies. For instance, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the U.S. was in there. One person close to the Saudi culture who spent a lot of time there said, don’t underestimate the human factor here.

    When the 79-year-old king was confronted with the idea that he had to get on a plane, fly to Washington, get on a helicopter, chopper up to Camp David, sit around in the woods, and then asked to sign on the dotted line, that’s not his idea of fun.

    GWEN IFILL: May have been just as simple as that.

    Margaret Warner, thanks again.

    MARGARET WARNER: Thank you, Gwen.

     

    The post Why did Saudi King Salman pull out of Camp David talks? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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