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

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    Rescuers work around derailed carriages of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images.

    Rescuers work around derailed carriages of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2015. Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images.

    Investigators have found no radio communications indicating any object struck the windshield of the ill-fated Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday, National Traffic Safety Board officials said Sunday morning.

    “We interviewed the dispatchers and we listened to the dispatch tape, and we heard no communications at all from the Amtrak engineer to the dispatch center to say that something had struck his train,” NTSB lead investigator Robert Sumwalt said during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.”

    The FBI was called in this weekend to investigate whether there was any link between a grapefruit-sized fracture in the window of the train that had been speeding at 106 mph at the time of the derailment.

    Investigators said that while they were still trying to trace the cause of the damaged windshield, their focus remained on the train’s speed when it crashed.

    Eight people were killed and more than 200 were injured, including the train’s engineer, Brandon Bastion, 32, who told investigators earlier this week that he did not remember details of the events leading up to the derailment.

    Emergency workers look through the remains from the wreck of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia last week on May 13, 2015. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Emergency workers look through the remains from the wreck of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia last week on May 13, 2015. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Almost 20 people injured in the train crash remain in Philadelphia hospitals, five in critical condition but all expected to survive, the Associated Press reported.

    Amtrak is working to comply with an emergency order to install computerized speed restriction systems on northbound trains, a company spokesman said. But it could take until the end of this year to rig the entire fleet.

    Sumwalt said that trains should have been outfitted with cameras.

    “I will say this, that we’ve called for inward facing video cameras for a long time, and we feel that had we had cameras, that would help to help with this investigation significantly.”

    National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesperson Robert Sumwalt holds the final media briefing about this week's Amtrak passenger train derailment at the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel on May 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At least eight people were killed and more than 200 others were injured when an Amtrak train traveling from Washington, DC to New York derailed on May 12 in north Philadelphia. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

    NTSB spokesman Robert Sumwalt holds the final media briefing about this week’s Amtrak passenger train derailment in Philadelphia on May 15, 2015. Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images

    Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 was traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York, carrying 238 commuters and five crew members when it derailed at an area of track known as Frankford Junction in the Northeast Corridor on Tuesday, the NTSB said.

    Amtrak said it will restore service between Philadelphia and New York at 5:30 a.m. on Monday, with full service resuming on Tuesday.

    More than 2,200 trains travel the Northeast Corridor every day, serving almost 12 million passengers per year.

    According to the data from the Federal Railroad Administration, 213 passengers died in train-related accidents in the U.S. in the last 25 years, not including Tuesday’s crash.

    The post NTSB: No indication object struck derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks past an honour guard as he disembarks from his airplane upon arrival at Seoul Air Base in Seoul on May 17, 2015. Kerry will discuss security issues and cyber policy with South Korean officials, amid new fears of North Korea. Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Reuters.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks past an honor guard as he disembarks from his airplane upon arrival at Seoul Air Base in Seoul on May 17, 2015. Kerry will discuss security issues and cyber policy with South Korean officials, amid fresh fears of North Korean belligerence. Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Reuters.

    SEOUL, South Korea– U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in South Korea where he will be discussing security issues amid fresh fears of North Korean belligerence and delivering a speech on cyber policy.

    Kerry arrived in Seoul on Sunday from Beijing and will see top South Korean officials on Monday, less than a week after South Korea’s spy agency said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his defense chief executed with an anti-aircraft gun for complaining about the young ruler, talking back to him and sleeping during a meeting Kim presided over.

    That allegation, if true, adds to concerns about the erratic nature of Kim’s rule, particularly after Pyongyang claimed last weekend it had successfully test-fired a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine.

    Those actions come despite a recent U.S. diplomatic overture to North Korea to discuss resuming denuclearization talks that have been stalled for the past three years. The U.S. quietly proposed a meeting with North Korea in January, before the U.S. and South Korea began annual military exercises that North Korea regards as a provocation. The two sides, however, failed to agree on who could meet and where.

    In light of the new developments, Kerry plans to reiterate America’s ironclad commitment to the security of South Korea, U.S. officials said.

    On Saturday in Beijing, Kerry expressed hope that the successful conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran will send a positive message to North Korea to restart negotiations on its own atomic program. Kerry said he believed an Iran agreement could have “a positive influence” on North Korea, because it would show that giving up nuclear weapons improves domestic economies and ends isolation.

    He stressed, though, that there was no way to tell if North Korea’s reclusive leadership would be able to “internalize” such a message.

    International negotiators are rushing to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran by the end of June under which Iran’s program would be curbed to prevent it from developing atomic weapons in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions that have crippled its economy.

    Nuclear talks with North Korea, which has already developed atomic weapons despite previous attempts to forestall it, broke down three years ago as it has continued atomic tests and other belligerent behavior, including ballistic missile launches.

    North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and is now believed to have at least 10 such weapons despite some of the toughest international sanctions in existence. It conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013, and U.S.-based experts forecast that it could increase its nuclear arsenal to between 20 and 100 weapons by 2020.

    In addition to talks on issues related to North Korea, Kerry in Seoul will be laying the groundwork for a visit to Washington in June of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

    After his meetings on Monday, Kerry is to deliver a speech on cyber security and related issues. Both North Korea and China pose major cyber security challenges. South Korea has faced hacking attacks it has blamed on North Korea, and the United States accuses the North of being behind the massive attack on Sony Pictures last year that resulted in new U.S. sanctions.

    Kerry will use the opportunity to lay out U.S. efforts to combat the threats and to stress the importance of a free and open internet, according to U.S. officials.

    The post Kerry in South Korea to talk security, cyber issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Groceries are carried in plastic bags in San Diego, California September 30, 2014. California signed the first-in-the-nation law to ban single-use plastic bags from grocery stores. In many cases, states like Missouri have stepped in after city officials somewhere in the nation proposed local policies that business leaders didn’t like, such as the ban of single-use plastic bags from grocery stores. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters.

    Groceries are carried in plastic bags in San Diego, California September 30, 2014. California signed the first-in-the-nation law to ban single-use plastic bags from grocery stores. In many cases, states like Missouri have stepped in after city officials somewhere in the nation proposed local policies that business leaders didn’t like, such as the ban of single-use plastic bags from grocery stores. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Alarmed about cities trying to outlaw plastic bags, the director of the Missouri Grocers Association decided to do something about it. So Dan Shaul turned to his state legislator- himself – and guided a bill to passage barring local governments from banning the bags.

    Shaul’s dual role in state government and business may be a bit out of the norm. Yet his actions are not. In capitols across the country, businesses are increasingly using their clout to back laws prohibiting cities and counties from doing things that might affect their ability to make money.

    In the past five years, roughly a dozen states have enacted laws barring local governments from requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees. The number of states banning local minimum wages has grown to 15. And while oil-rich states such as Texas and Oklahoma are pursuing bills banning local restrictions on drilling, other states where agriculture is big business have been banning local limitations on the types of seeds sown for crops.

    It seems no issue is too small for businesses to take to capitol halls.

    Wisconsin has banned local bans on sugary drinks. Arizona and Florida have barred local governments from forbidding toys in fast-food meals. And Utah has barred cities from requiring bicyclists to be served in drive-thru lanes.

    In each case, states have stepped in after city officials somewhere in the nation proposed local policies that business leaders didn’t like. Businesses have warned lawmakers that a potential patchwork of local regulations could be bad for the economy.

    “We need to give companies and businesses some predictability and some consistency in their operations so that they can grow,” said Shaul, a freshman Republican representative from the St. Louis suburb of Imperial, whose anti-bag ban measure is pending before Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

    Environmental activists in Columbia, who pushed for the ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, were jolted by the state intervention.

    “I was horrified, just really demoralized,” when the legislation passed, said Sierra Club member Jan Dye. “They just want to remove local control.”

    The Missouri bill goes beyond plastic bags. It also would also prohibit local governments from requiring businesses to provide employees paid sick leave, vacation or health, disability and retirement benefits. And it would block cities and counties from adopting their own “living wage” requirements.

    States have pre-empted some local policies for decades. A movement to restrict local gun ordinances began in 1971, for example, and has been enacted as law in 45 states, according to the National Rifle Association. State lawmakers in Oklahoma and Michigan this year are pushing similar measures for knives.

    Some experts trace a rise in states pre-empting local ordinances to the 2010 elections, when Republicans won control of 25 legislatures and 29 governors’ offices. Republicans have expanded their power since then and now hold complete control of three times as many legislatures and governors’ offices as Democrats.

    In some cases, those new Republican officeholders have received generous financial support from business interests. Shaul, for example, got about one-quarter of his contributions for his 2014 campaign from people and organizations affiliated with the food industry. In other instances, business lobbyists have simply found a more sympathetic ear in GOP legislatures.

    “The fights over economic policy have overwhelmingly shifted to the states” away from the federal government, said Gordon Lafer, a political scientist at the University of Oregon who studies state labor laws. He added: “There’s kind of a race going on, which is can local ordinances be passed faster than influence at the state level can pre-empt them?”

    In Utah, a new Salt Lake City ordinance requiring businesses to serve bicyclists in their drive-thru lanes lasted only a few months before the restaurant industry persuaded legislators to overturn it. Restaurant owners argued that mixing bikes with cars would be dangerous.

    City officials “were not going to negotiate with us any further,” said Melva Sine, president of the Utah Restaurant Association. So “our only recourse was to go and present the issue before the state legislature.”

    Nationally, the restaurant industry also has backed state efforts to pre-empt local wage-and-benefits mandates. At one national meeting of conservative state lawmakers, a restaurant association executive circulated model legislation based on a 2011 Wisconsin law that pre-empted a Milwaukee ordinance.

    National Restaurant Association spokeswoman Christin Fernandez said “businesses are operating in an already challenging regulatory environment” and some policies are best decided statewide instead of city-by-city.

    For some bicyclists who supported Salt Lake City’s drive-thru ordinance, the state’s action seemed hypocritical. That’s because state lawmakers often object when the federal government sets the rules.

    “It’s just being contradictory, it’s just frustrating,” said Deb Henry, a bicycle rider who is president of the Bicycle Collective, which refurbishes bikes for low-income residents in Salt Lake City.

    But such assertions by local activists and officials may not carry much weight. That’s because the U.S. Constitution says the states hold all powers not delegated to the federal government. Cities and counties, in turn, get their powers from the states.

    City councils and mayors “don’t have some kind of organic legal authority to do whatever they want,” said Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican attorney general candidate from Columbia. “It would be absolute bedlam what some of these communities would do to their citizens if they had that ability.”

    The post States push back against cities seeking business regulations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Members of the faithful wave Palestinian flags before Pope Francis leads a ceremony for the canonization of four nuns at Saint Peter's square in the Vatican City, May 17, 2015. Of the four were two Palestinian nuns, who became the first Arab-speaking saints in the Catholic Church. Photo by Tony Gentile/Reuters.

    Members of the faithful wave Palestinian flags before Pope Francis leads a ceremony for the canonization of four nuns at Saint Peter’s square in the Vatican City, May 17, 2015. Of the four were two Palestinian nuns, who became the first Arabic-speaking saints. Photo by Tony Gentile/Reuters.

    Pope Francis canonized two 19th-century Palestinian nuns Sunday, making them the first Arabic-speaking saints.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and 2,000 Christian pilgrims gathered for Mass in St. Peter’s Square and looked on as the pontiff declared Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas the first saints from Palestine since the early days of Christianity, the Associated Press reported.

    “Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians,” Pope Francis said.

    The historic event has religious and political significance, symbolizing the pontiff’s encouragement for Christians who are facing persecution by Islamic extremists across the Middle East and his support for a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    The canonization ceremony comes after the Vatican’s announcement last week of a new treaty that would officially recognize Palestine as a state, a move that sparked ire among some Israeli officials.

    Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel that the government is “disappointed by the decision.”

    Abbas said he was “proud” of the event. “We want peace for Palestine, peace which transcends religion,” he said as he waved a Palestinian flag outside St. Peter’s Square.

    The post Pope Francis canonizes two Palestinian nuns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Screen shot 2015-05-17 at 3.44.06 PM

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In Southeast Asia, Malaysia is launching emergency high-level talks with its neighbors today, hoping to address the growing humanitarian crisis off its coast.

    More than 5,000 refugees have been stranded at sea, some for weeks, as they try to escape ethnic persecution and poverty in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

    None of the neighboring countries are welcoming the refugees. Food supplies are dwindling and fights are breaking out on board these vessels.

    I’m joined now via Skype from Koh Lipe, Thailand, by Aubrey Belford of Reuters. He has the latest.

    Now, you have been following not just the story in this country, but in other countries as well. What’s happening to these people? How long are they out at sea?

    AUBREY BELFORD, Reuters: What we have been hearing is that people have been out at sea for as long as three months.

    The UNHCR has reported that the exodus out of Rakhine State in Western Myanmar, which is where the Rohingya people come from, has increased quite drastically since the start of this year.

    Since 2012, there’s been over 100,000 of these people fleeing Myanmar.

    And the usual route is to come through Thailand using human traffickers, who then hold them in camps in the jungle for ransom until someone can pay to get them out, to pay for their voyage.

    You know, they go on these voyages no money down. So, there’s been documented murders, rapes, torture in these camps.

    What the Thai government did the other week was arrested what they say is a major trafficker, as well as Thai officials that were implicated in this.

    And what this did was, for all the thousands of people waiting at sea — thousands of them, they’re waiting off the Thai coast until it’s safe to come on to land and then go in these camps, where they’re held for ransom, and then transferred across the border in Malaysia.

    They had nowhere to go. So, what’s happened now is chaos on the sea, pretty much. You have had boatloads of people abandoned and really nowhere to go and nowhere to take them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But you started following a specific boat over the past couple of days. What’s that been like?

    AUBREY BELFORD: Well, we first got word of this boat at the start of last week.

    There were desperate calls coming from this boat that it was stranded. They were just a little bit north over the border in Thailand just floating out in waters not far from Koh Lipe, which is where I am now, which is a quite beautiful resort island really popular with foreign tourists.

    They were floating at sea. They have been found since and have basically been knocked back and forth between the Thai and Malaysian vessels for days.

    And, today, they were towed out west back out into the Indian Ocean towards Indonesia. And we haven’t heard anything else about them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, the Thai government towed this boat back out to sea and said, Malaysia is that way?

    AUBREY BELFORD: Yes.

    Now, the Thai government’s line is that they would let these people in if they wanted to go to Thailand, but they said they wanted to go to Malaysia. The story is a little more murky.

    These are boats under the control of human traffickers in some cases. And we believe that is what happening in this case.

    So, the people running the boat want to bring them to Malaysia, because that’s where their bosses are. The people on the boat, basically, they want to live.

    So, the Thais, we witnessed firsthand — we took a speedboat out, found this boat. We saw the Thai navy pulling them back towards Indonesia. Straight away, when they cross the border, they are intercepted by the Malaysians.

    And another one of our reporters several hours later saw the boat back again on the Thai side.

    So, it’s really — it’s been described by a number of people as maritime ping-pong. And, when you’re there, it really looks like that. And you can see both sides of the ping-pong table.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

    So, these countries are planning on getting together and talking about this in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we still have thousands of people on these boats.

    AUBREY BELFORD: Yes.

    And these are desperate situations. When you pull up — you know, when we pull up beside this boat yesterday, you can see that there’s serious malnutrition amongst people on board.

    I mean, we have been talking to people. We have been reporting before this crisis blew up. And the conditions are extremely bad.

    The food is very minimal. People die regularly on these boats and are dumped overboard, because, keep in mind, they’re at sea for months in many cases.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is there a possible plan that the governments can come up with in the next couple of weeks?

    AUBREY BELFORD: They’re being urged by a lot of international organizations to simply take these people in.

    I don’t know and I haven’t heard exactly what any form and agreement would take. I think that really remains to be seen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Aubrey Belford of Reuters joining us via Skype, thanks much.

    AUBREY BELFORD: Thank you.

    The post Refugees desperate for aid caught in ‘maritime ping pong’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    gps

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: If you have got a company smartphone, there’s a chance you’re being tracked by your bosses.

    More and more companies are reportedly using GPS technology to track employees, even when they’re off the clock.

    One worker who turned off the GPS in her phone got fired. Now she’s taking her ex-employers to court.

    Washington Post reporter Brian Fung joins me now with more on this from Washington, D.C.

    You’re one of many reporters that is following this story.

    First of all, get some — get some of us up to speed. What happened? What is the company? What did they do? Why is she suing?

    BRIAN FUNG, The Washington Post: So, the company involved is Intermex. It’s a company that handles wire transfer services.

    And the woman involved, her name is Myrna Arias. And she’s suing her former employer because her employer installed a type of software on her phone that allegedly will track her even when she’s not on the clock.

    So, the employee involved here, Arias, said, this is an invasion of privacy, and then she allegedly deleted the app from her phone, at which point Intermex decided to fire her.

    So, that’s where we stand now. And it’s at this point a matter for the courts to decide who’s — who’s right here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, the idea of tracking isn’t necessarily new. I mean, GPS has been around for a long time. Smartphones and apps have been around for a long time.

    Why is this kind of piercing through our kind of interest bubble now?

    BRIAN FUNG: Well, you’re absolutely right. We have had this technology for a long time. Employers have long tracked people through GPS in their cars.

    But now that we have smartphones everywhere, and they are so ubiquitous and everyone has one, it is a lot easier to track employees through their cell phones than it is through their vehicles.

    And so what’s happening here is a case of just sort of expansion of tracking technology. And I think some people are reacting against that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. There is also this balance, I guess, between legitimate-use cases vs. — vs. civil rights abuses, right?

    I mean, if I’m going to a specific kind of doctor and you know the location of that during my lunchtime or on the weekends, that might be a violation of my privacy.

    But I’m assuming a UPS or FedEx employee, they would say, look, I just want to make sure they’re making their deliveries as fast as they can.

    BRIAN FUNG: Certainly. And that’s one reason why a lot of employers have raced to adopt this technology, in part to make sure that their employees are working responsibly and reliably, but also safely.

    One of the use cases that Intermex talks about in its marketing materials is, you know, making sure that employees take their mandatory work breaks, in accordance with certain state laws.

    So, you know, this is absolutely one reason why — why companies would be eager to use this kind of technology.

    On the other hand, it also comes with a lot of pitfalls, particularly when companies are tracking their employees when they’re not working.

    As you said, you know, there’s a lot of concern about the kind of information you might be able to glean from someone’s behavior just by looking at their location traffic.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is there a time anymore that we are actually off the clock, not just because we have these phones around that are kind of our digital leashes, but e-mail finds us everywhere we are?

    BRIAN FUNG: Well, I think one way to look at this is to look to the example of Europe, where a lot of companies have actually instituted hard bans on e-mail after a certain time period or after the workday is over.

    And in the United States, of course, e-mail can find you no matter where you are or what time of day it is. It’s just a different culture.

    But, you know, there’s certainly a lot of consternation about, you know, being available all the time, particularly, you know, as more and more people start adopting smartphones and being on social media 24/7.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Brian Fung, a reporter from The Washington Post, thanks so much for joining us.

    BRIAN FUNG: My pleasure.

    The post Is your boss tracking your location from your smartphone? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Islamic State consolidates grip on Ramadi; executions reported

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: For the latest on the events in Ramadi, we are joined now via Skype from Baghdad by Nour Malas of The Wall Street Journal.

    First of all, what is the significance of the fall of Ramadi?

    NOUR MALAS, The Wall Street Journal: This puts another major Iraqi city in the hands of Islamic State.

    It already controls Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. And now Ramadi is the capital of Iraq’s largest province.

    It’s also a huge setback for the government campaign launched last month to reclaim Anbar province, which is really Iraq’s Sunni heartland.

    It is a huge province — province bordering Baghdad. It borders Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria as well.

    We got urgent reports from police members fleeing the city today as Islamic State took over the last government base there, a operations command center.

    Some of the people we were talking to saying they were stepping over the bodies of their comrades as they fled, saying that though Baghdad had sent reinforcements, many of them ended up in the hands of Islamic State, armored vehicles, weapons caches, basically as they just stampeded the last government strongholds in Ramadi.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there concern that it might take Iranian-backed militias to fight Islamic State?

    NOUR MALAS: It’s already taken that.

    The prime minister, as Ramadi was falling today, called in the mostly Shia paramilitary forces into Ramadi to help revert the loss.

    This was a major and controversial move that the government had been thinking about for many weeks. It’s controversial because Ramadi, and Anbar province more broadly, is mostly Sunni.

    And there are concerns over calling in Shiite forces to take part in the fight. It’s also a blow to the government, which has been trying to prove that it can carry out this fight with regular forces on its own.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Nour Malas of The Wall Street Journal joining us via Skype from Baghdad, thanks so much.

    NOUR MALAS: Thank you.

    The post Key Iraqi city of Ramadi falls to ISIS after security forces pull out appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    On May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted, leaving a 200-sq. mile path of destruction. Fifty-seven people died and forests that had been built up over centuries were leveled in an instant. landscape permanently. This year marks the 35th anniversary. Credit: File image courtesy of USGS.

    On May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted, leaving a 229-sq. mile path of destruction in its wake. Fifty-seven people died and the forest that had been built up over hundreds of years was leveled in an instant. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the eruption. Image courtesy of USGS.

    On the morning of May 18, 1980, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook the ground beneath Mount St. Helens and awakened the volcano located 96 miles south of Seattle, Washington, that had been dormant for more than 140 years.

    The earthquake triggered a landslide, uncorked the volcano and allowed a 650-mph explosion of ash, rock and gases to burst forth, blasting rocks northward and releasing a flow of lava.

    In a matter of minutes, more than 200 square miles of forest was obliterated. Fifty-seven people died.

    “It was a watershed event in volcanology in a lot of ways,” John Pallister, the lead for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Volcano Disaster Assistance Program told PBS NewsHour.

    “It was when geologists after the eruption worldwide started recognizing these giant debris avalanches, these giant landslides that are now recognized as a major hazard at volcanoes all around the world, ” Pallister said.

    Mount St. Helens is pictured here before (l) and after (r) the devastating 1980 eruption. Images courtesy of USGS.

    Mount St. Helens is pictured here before (l) and after (r) the devastating 1980 eruption. Images courtesy of USGS.

    While the volcano went into repose for 18 years, in September of 2004, a swarm of shallow mini-earthquakes began to shake the ground. Only twice during the volcanic reawakening that lasted until 2008 were there any significant explosions of volcanic ash and gases.

    Those eruptions presented an opportunity to test newly developed remote instruments.

    Remote monitoring instruments, like the USGS spider, “up close and personally monitor micro-earthquakes that were previously impossible to record from more distant stations,” Pallister said.

    Drones can also capture live video and thermal images of active lava flow. These tools minimize the risk to volcanologists working at the sites.

    In XX snow began to accumulate behind the horseshoe crater left by the 1980 eruption. That ice hardened over the years to form a massive glacier. It is one of the more striking visual changes to the Mount St. Helens landscape. Photo by Dan Dzurisin courtesy of USGS.

    In 1997 snow began to accumulate behind the horseshoe crater left by the 1980 eruption. That ice hardened over the years to form a massive glacier. It is one of the more striking visual changes to the Mount St. Helens landscape. Photo by Dan Dzurisin courtesy of USGS.

    Some of the most striking changes following the 1980 eruption were those made to the landscape that more than 300,000 people visit each year.

    The volcano’s summit lost several thousand feet in height and a horseshoe-shaped crater was left in its place. In 1997, snow began to accumulate and thicken into a glacier that filled the area.

    When asked in a 2010 NOVA special when Mount St. Helens could erupt again, Pallister said it could be two, 20 or 200 years. Today, he says his answer remains the same, but he said researchers now are better equipped to anticipate an eruption, should one occur.

    “Now we should have good warning before it happens,” Pallister said. “And once we see the warning signs, we’ll know better when an eruption will occur.”

    The post What have we learned in the 35 years since Mount St. Helens erupted? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Police confront demonstrators during a protest over the shooting death of Michael Williams on August 15, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Police shot pepper spray,  smoke, gas and flash grenades at protestors before retreating. Several businesses were looted as the county police sat nearby with armored personnel carriers (APC). Violent outbreaks have taken place in Ferguson since the shooting death of Brown by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Police in an armored vehicle confront demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Nine months after police in riot gear dispelled racially charged protests, President Barack Obama is prohibiting the federal government from providing some military-style equipment to local departments and putting stricter controls on other weapons and gear distributed to law enforcement.

    The surprise announcement comes after the White House suggested last year that Obama would maintain programs that provide the type of military-style equipment used to respond to demonstrators last summer in Ferguson, Missouri, because of their broader contribution to public safety. But an interagency group found “substantial risk of misusing or overusing” items like tracked armored vehicles, high-powered firearms and camouflage could undermine trust in police.

    With scrutiny on police only increasing in the ensuing months after a series of highly publicized deaths of black suspects nationwide, Obama also is unveiling the final report of a task force he created to help build confidence between police and minority communities in particular. The announcements come as Obama is visiting Camden, New Jersey, one of the country’s most violent and poorest cities.

    Obama plans to visit Camden police headquarters before heading to a community center to meet with youth and law enforcement and give a speech. “I’ll highlight steps all cities can take to maintain trust between the brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line, and the communities they’re sworn to serve and protect,” Obama said in his weekly address out Saturday.

    In previewing the president’s trip, the White House said that effective immediately, the federal government will no longer fund or provide armored vehicles that run on a tracked system instead of wheels, weaponized aircraft or vehicles, firearms or ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets or camouflage uniforms. The federal government also is exploring ways to recall prohibited equipment already distributed.

    In addition, a longer list of equipment the federal government provides will come under tighter control, including wheeled armored vehicles like Humvees, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields. Starting in October, police will have to get approval from their city council, mayor or some other local governing body to obtain it, provide a persuasive explanation of why it is needed and have more training and data collection on the use of the equipment.

    The issue of police militarization rose to prominence last year after a white police officer in Ferguson fatally shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking protests. Critics questioned why police in full body armor with armored trucks responded to dispel demonstrators, and Obama seemed to sympathize when ordering a review of the programs that provide the equipment. “There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred,” Obama last in August.

    But he did not announce a ban in December with the publication of the review, which showed five federal agencies spent $18 billion on programs that provided equipment including 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft. At the time, the White House defended the programs as proving to be useful in many cases, such as the response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Instead of repealing the programs, Obama issued an executive order that required federal agencies that run the programs to consult with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to recommend changes that make sure they are accountable and transparent.

    That working group said in a report out Monday that it developed the list of newly banned equipment because “the substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement.” The Justice Department did not respond to an inquiry about how many pieces of equipment that are now banned had been previously distributed through federal programs.

    The separate report from the 21st Century Policing task force has a long list of recommendations to improve trust in police, including encouraging more transparency about interactions with the public. The White House said 21 police agencies nationwide, including Camden and nearby Philadelphia, have agreed to start putting out never-before released data on citizen interactions like use of force, stops, citations and officer-involved shootings. The administration also is launching an online toolkit to encourage the use of body cameras to record police interactions. And the Justice Department is giving $163 million in grants to incentivize police departments to adopt the report’s recommendations.

    Ron Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Justice Department, told reporters he hoped the report could be a “key transformational document” in rebuilding trust that has been destroyed in recent years between police and minority communities.

    “We are without a doubt sitting at a defining moment for American policing,” said Davis, a 30-year police veteran and former chief of the East Palo Alto (California) Police Department. “We have a unique opportunity to redefine policing in our democracy, to ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, that it must also include the presence of justice.”

    The post Obama limits military-style equipment for local police appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Synthetic biologist at the University of California, Berkeley show off their brewer's yeast for opiates. The beaker on the left contains a yeast strain that changes color when a key ingredient for opiates is ready. This color-coded biosensor allowed the researchers to make (S)-reticuline (right beaker; white liquid), an important chemical predecessor of opiates like codeine and morphine.

    Synthetic biologist at the University of California, Berkeley show off their brewer’s yeast for opiates. The beaker on the left contains a yeast strain that changes color when a key ingredient for opiates is ready. This color-coded biosensor allowed the researchers to make (S)-reticuline (right beaker; white liquid), an important chemical predecessor of opiates like codeine and morphine.

    Step aside, poppy. Biologists in California and Canada have created strains of yeast that can feast on sugar and make opiates – the key ingredients in pain relievers like morphine.

    The new study, published today in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, represents a coup for scientists and drug companies that currently rely on extracting drugs like morphine and codeine directly from poppies and other plants, a process that’s expensive and can yield impurities that cause harmful side-effects. The discovery could mean cheaper medications — where biochemists brew large batches of pure opiates overnight rather than waiting months for poppy fields to grow. It could also have dangerous consequences if it falls into the wrong hands.

    “This work is going to enable the production of novel [pain-relieving] analgesics that are safer and less addictive,” said MIT political scientist Kenneth Oye, who co-wrote an accompanying commentary for Nature Chemical Biology about possible regulations and was not involved with the research. “The other part of the equation is if those yeast strains work their way into broad circulation, then you’re talking about fundamental changes in illicit drug production and distribution.”

    Yeast could streamline the drug-making process by bypassing plants, which grow slowly and produce only small amounts of chemicals, and moving the process instead to a beaker, where scientists could brew larger quantities of the drug.

    To envision how researchers moved the opiate-making process from plants to yeast, picture a staircase with 15 steps. Glucose, a sugar compound, sits at the bottom, while the top level is filled with morphine, codeine and other members of a drug family known as benzylisoquinoline alkaloids (BIAs). At each step up, a different enzyme transforms sugar into a new compound, adding to the complexity of the chemical structure.

    In the past, scientists relied on yeast for only the final steps, fabricating the opiates from the compounds created at the intermediate steps.

    Scientists have known that yeast could also make the early stages of the process more efficient, but they’ve never isolated the right enzyme to make it work. At that stage, a compound is required called L-dopa, which is made by the enzyme tyrosine hydroxlase. Despite years of searching, scientists had never found a version of the tyrosine hydroxylase enzyme in plants, animals or bacteria that could work in yeast. And using yeast in both the early and late stages of the process would simplify the process.

    Then in January 2014, William DeLoache — a biologist and graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley and lead author of the study – devised a way to fill the L-dopa void. At the time, DeLoache was working with the plant Mirabalis jalapa – the four o’clock flower, whose petals contain a protein that converts L-dopa into a highly fluorescent and colorful pigment, ostensibly to attract insect pollinators.

    “William saw that this protein could serve as a means for detecting when L-dopa is present in yeast cells,” said John Dueber, a synthetic biologist and DeLoache’s thesis mentor at UC Berkeley.

    For today’s study, DeLoache took the four o’clock flower protein and genetically added it to a yeast strain, creating a biosensor for L-dopa, a way for scientists to identify its presence.

    “To me, the heart of the study is the sensor that they developed,” said biochemist Pamela Peralta-Yahya of the Georgia Institute of Technology. And that sensor, she explained, allowed them to identify the enzyme they needed to fill the gap in opiate synthesis. On a hunch, they spotted the enzyme in sugar beets.

    “It’s known that L-dopa is an intermediate in the pathway that produces the pigment responsible for the beet’s violet color,” Dueber said. “So [DeLoache] took a guess at the beet’s gene [for tyrosine hydroxylase], inserted it into the biosensor yeast strain, and the cells glowed.”

    Yeast cells producing the yellow beet pigment betaxanthin, which UC Berkeley researchers used to quickly identify key enzymes in the production of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids (BIAs), the metabolites in the poppy plant that could lead to morphine, antibiotics and other pharmaceutical agents. (Photo by William DeLoache)

    Yeast cells producing the yellow beet pigment betaxanthin, which UC Berkeley researchers used to quickly identify key enzymes in the production of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids (BIAs), the metabolites in the poppy plant that could lead to morphine, antibiotics and other pharmaceutical agents. (Photo by William DeLoache)

    Colorful yeast cells were a neat trick, but their real mission was alkaloid production. So they took the glowing yeast and removed the protein that turned L-dopa into a bright dye. They tried replacing this pigment with a string of enzymes that could yield opiates.

    At first, they struggled, so they reached out to co-author and microbial engineer Vincent Martin of Concordia University in Montréal.

    “Vincent’s lab had demonstrated that they could execute these [first steps] in yeast to synthesize an anti-cancer drug,” Dueber said.

    In the end, by collaborating with Martin’s team, the researchers built a yeast strain that could take glucose and pump out (S)-reticuline, the chemical predecessor for the entire family of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids – whose 2,500 members includes the painkillers morphine and codeine, the antibiotics sanguinarine and berberine, the muscle relaxant papaverine and the cough suppressant noscapine.

    The final brewer’s yeast produces very low amounts of alkaloid, and right now, it is highly unlikely that a drug trafficker possesses the technology or scientists to recreate this study, Dueber said. Even if they did, they would get nearly undetectable amounts of opium.

    But more potent strains are inevitable, he added.

    “Whereas a year ago, I thought that putting all of these enzymes together into a single yeast cell might take a decade, now we’re thinking that high-producing opiate strains might be completed in two to three 2-3 years,” Dueber said. “The regulations need to be reconsidered because they’re not currently written for microbial factories that produce a controlled substance.”

    Worried by this accelerated timeline, the team took the initiative to contact Oye and other policy experts, so the latter could start an independent discussion on how to regulate illicit use, while still maintaining the ability to make alkaloids that could lower the cost of medicines or even create new, safer opiate drugs.

    The fact that these scientists were even willing to talk about the risks at such an early stage was something that I hadn’t seen before, Oye said. Stricter regulatory policy might stifle the researcher’s ability to do future work.

    Oye’s op-ed calls for licenses for producers and security systems to prevent misuse or theft. In addition, they recommend that DNA tags be added to opiate yeast, so if law enforcement confiscates a stolen strain, then they can trace the original source.

    “You want to make these strains less appealing for illicit use, and at the same time, you want to make release of the strains into the general public far less likely,” Oye said. “We’ve taken an unusual step by contacting two regulatory authorities — the International Narcotics Control Board and International Experts Group on Biosafety and Biosecurity Regulation — to get this on the agenda as soon as possible.”

    “The debate and discussion needs to take place before people fully realize the concept,” he said.

    The post This genetically modified yeast can now brew morphine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Jim McGuire/Getty Images

    Photo by Jim McGuire/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:


    The more I talk to people, the more I understand how easy it is to make major mistakes in taking Social Security benefits if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing or, equally important, don’t know exactly what Social Security is doing to you.

    Let me tell you about a doctor I saw last week. I’ll call him Gene. This was my fourth visit to see Gene and since he looked to be of age to take Social Security, I thought I should make sure he was getting the most from it. So I told him I was a bit of an expert on the subject and wanted to make sure that he was following the best strategy. He said he was 71 (I thought he was younger) and that he had waited to take his retirement benefit until 70. He also said his wife, who didn’t have much of an earnings record, had taken a spousal benefit at 66, her full retirement age, when the spousal benefit would start at its full value. Gene also said that his wife’s own retirement benefit will never exceed her spousal benefit so this would be all she’d collect while he was alive.

    I said, “Well, you two did the right thing.”

    He said, “Yes, I think I did. By waiting I got the highest retirement benefit for myself, and by waiting my wife got the highest spousal for herself.”

    Then we talked a bit about Social Security’s financing and complexity. At the end of this discussion he said, “You know, the folks at Social Security were really nice. They even gave me six months of retroactive benefits when I went in to file for my retirement benefit.”

    “Oh, gee,” I said, “when did you file?”

    “Three months before turning 70.”

    “Uh oh,” I said.

    “Uh oh?” Gene said.

    “Uh oh,” I said.

    “Did I do something wrong?” Gene asked.

    “You were trying to wait until age 70 to start taking your benefits in order to get the highest possible retirement benefit, right?” I asked.

    “Yes,” said Gene.

    “Well,” I said. “What Social Security did was to start your retirement benefit 9 months before your reached age 70. This means your retirement benefit is 6 percent lower, on a permanent basis, than it would have been had they not given you the retroactive benefits. It also means your wife’s widow’s benefit, if you die, will be 6 percent lower than it would otherwise have been.””

    “What?” said Gene, clearly concerned. “Nobody told me taking retroactive benefits would lower my retirement benefit.”

    “I’m not surprised,” I said. “Social Security has a long history of pushing people to take their retirement benefits too early.”

    “But why is the benefit 6 percent lower?” asked Gene.

    “Because waiting an extra year between full retirement age and 70 to collect your retirement benefit, raises it by 8 percent per year. So if you went in three months early, they surely treated you as not waiting till 70 in the first place and then, in giving you benefits six months in arrears, they pushed your retirement benefit filing date back another six months. That’s nine months in total. Nine months is three quarters of a year, so you lost three quarters of the 8 percent yearly benefit increase (called the Delayed Retirement Credit). This is how you got stuck receiving a 6 percent (three quarters of 8 percent) permanently lower retirement benefit.

    “They never told me,” said Gene.

    “I’m sorry,” I said. “I wish I had talked with you sooner.”


    Anonymous: My husband is turning 65 in September. I will be 60 in November. We have a mentally disabled son — age 33 — who lives at home with us. He is employed part time and collects his own SSDI income. He no longer collects SSI with the calculations. My husband wants to wait until full retirement age before he starts to collect SS. I believe my son’s SSDI will be adjusted to be one-half of my husband’s amount at that time, but I thought I read that I could also collect half of my husband’s amount — at any age — because I am the caregiver to an adult child disabled before the age of 22, as long as the amount not exceed the family maximum.

    Whenever I call the national Social Security office I get a different answer from the agents. Some say I have to be 62, others are not sure.

    I wonder if you have ever encountered this situation and have an answer for me.

    Larry Kotlikoff: The real issue here is whether the son’s employment after age 22 will be viewed as disqualifying him from being judged as disabled prior to age 22, which is the requirement for the child to collect on the dad’s record and for the mom to collect a child in care spousal benefit. Hopefully, he hasn’t earned more than the SGA level since turning 22.


    Lisa: I am a Missouri public school teacher and thus (as is the case in a number of states) caught in a web of WEP and GPO. I worked in the private sector (more than the requisite 40 quarters) before teaching and anticipate working in the private sector (full time) again after I retire next spring. My husband has worked in the private sector for 35+ years. And yet, apparently, collecting my public school retirement (an anticipated $2,500/month) will prevent me from receiving any of my own or, if widowed, my husband’s SS benefits. I am hoping there is some clever way around this, as I am both not wealthy and very irked at being barred from collecting benefits for which my husband and I have contributed. I’ve visited the SS office and spoken to an attorney (class action suit, anyone?) to no avail. You are my last hope — if possible, I am hoping you will direct me to the definitive article about this circumstance.

    Larry Kotlikoff: Try to get the Missouri School System to give you and all others the option to wait until 70 and collect an actuarially higher benefit. This will entail no present value cost to Missouri’s School System, but it will let you and others take your Social Security benefits for eight years without the WEP or GPO kicking in, i.e., the WEP and GPO only come into play when you start collecting your non-covered pension.

    Lisa: Teachers don’t expect SS benefits for their teaching years (as not taxed for SS), but it seems a miscarriage of justice to lose earned SS benefits and spouse’s earned benefits if widowed simply because one chooses to teach in a public school in states such as Missouri. There is no option to opt out, or to manage when teacher retirement benefits are received (short of not retiring). Teachers do not receive information informing them that they are forfeiting their SS benefits when they become public school teachers, at least in Missouri, which seems like another miscarriage of justice. Many teachers must work in the private sector to augment their relatively modest teacher salaries, and then — irony alert — are further penalized when they do so. Frustrating, to say the least.


    The post A cautionary tale about taking retroactive Social Security benefits appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 18, 2015. Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire, in April. Brian Snyder/Reuters

    ATLANTA — South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham all but confirmed Monday that he will run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, saying he believes he’d be the best commander in chief amid continued Middle East unrest.

    “I’m running because I think the world is falling apart,” Graham said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”

    A foreign policy hawk and a critic of President Barack Obama’s troop reductions in the Middle East, Graham said he believes “more American soldiers will die in Iraq and eventually in Syria to protect our homeland.”

    He pointed to the Iraqi city of Ramadi, which recently fell to Islamic State militants, as proof that the U.S. must assert itself in the region.

    The third-term senator told CBS he will make his official campaign announcement June 1 in his hometown of Central, South Carolina. He would be the only Republican candidate from one of the four early voting states that also include Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

    In his early travels to Iowa, New Hampshire and around his home state, Graham has said he believes national security is the most important issue of the 2016 election and that it matters more than anything else to Republican primary voters.

    He said Monday that the destabilization of Iraq, continued strife in Syria, Iranian influence in the region and the proliferation of the Islamic State militant group combine to pose a grave threat to Americans.

    Graham argued that as many as 10,000 more ground troops could be needed to help train Iraqi security forces to serve as a functional national army.

    He sidestepped questions about whether the U.S. was right to invade Iraq in 2003, a question that has flummoxed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the last week of campaigning.

    “If I’d known then what I know now, would I have launched a ground invasion? Probably not,” he said, referring to false claims that Iraq possessed a weapons arsenal that could threaten American soil.

    “But that’s yesterday’s thinking,” Graham continued. “What do we do today, tomorrow and the day after?”

    The post Graham: ‘I’m running’ to be ‘best commander in chief’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Police officers stand watch from the roof of the Twin Peaks Restaurant in Waco, Texas May 18, 2015.  Photo by Laura Buckman/Reuters

    Police officers stand watch from the roof of the Twin Peaks Restaurant in Waco, Texas May 18, 2015. Photo by Laura Buckman/Reuters

    The police charged 174 people with engaging in organized criminal activity on Monday, after a midday shootout at a shopping plaza in Waco, TX that left nine dead and 18 wounded.

    Warfare broke out at a Twin Peaks restaurant in south Waco mainly between two biker gangs the authorities have now identified as the Bandidos and Cossacks gangs, with as many as five rival gangs involved. Reports say what had started as an argument escalated into a fist fight, a knife fight and then into a gunfight. Everyone involved was a gang member.

    Waco Police Sergeant Patrick Swanton said on the police department’s Facebook page that this was one of the worse crime scenes he’s ever seen. A one million dollar bond has been set for each of the 174 gang members.

    “I think it is important to send a message,” The presiding McLennan County Justice of the Peace Walter H Peterson said in court, describing the amount as appropriate. “We had nine people killed in our community. These people just came in and most of them were from out of town. Very few of them were from in town.”

    On Monday, Sgt. Patrick relayed that the police department has known about rising tensions within the biker gangs for months. Police knew of the gang’s plans to meet at the local Waco Twin Peaks before Sunday and reached out to the restaurant to not serve the bikers several times with no cooperation from the restaurant, this statement on Twin Peaks Facebook page which has now been deleted:

    Statement from Jay Patel, Operating Partner, Twin Peaks Waco franchise:
    “We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today. We share in the community’s trauma. Our priority is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our customers and employees, and we consider the police our partners in doing so. Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police and we will continue to work with them as we all want to keep violent crime out of our businesses and community. We will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime.”

    Sgt. Swanton said on Monday that the police department felt the restaurant’s statement was a “complete fabrication” and the police station had been working with the Twin Peaks National Office when the local chain wouldn’t cooperate. The restaurant chain has since revoked the franchise status of the Waco, TX location.

    The restaurant has also been banned by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission(TABC) from selling liquor for at least 7 days at the request of the Waco police, while the TABC works with the Waco police to “investigate whether the restaurant’s operational or management policies contributed to an atmosphere which allowed the shooting to take place. Any wrongdoing uncovered during the investigation could result in further action against the restaurant, including monetary fines, further suspension, or cancellation of its TABC license to sell alcohol,” according to the press release.

    An investigation is still under way.

    The post At least 170 charged after deadly biker gang shootout in Waco appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Taft Point in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Flickr user Frank Kovalchek

    Taft Point in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Flickr user Frank Kovalchek

    Two BASE jumpers, prominent rock climber Dean Potter and Graham Hunt, were found dead in Yosemite National Park on Sunday after attempting a wingsuit flight earlier that weekend.

    The two men jumped from Taft Point, a cliff 3,500 feet above the floor of Yosemite National Park in wingsuits. According to The New York Times, 43-year-old Potter and 29-year-old Hunt were unable to clear a notch in the cliff, and instead crashed into the rocks.

    When their spotter couldn’t reach the two by radio, she went to their designated meeting spot. Yosemite search and rescue teams began a search Saturday night for the two extreme athletes. On Sunday, a state police helicopter found the bodies from the air, and two rangers were airlifted to the site later that day, Outside Magazine reported. Neither of their parachutes had been deployed.

    BASE jumping, which stands for the four objects to jump from — building, antenna, span and Earth — is regarded as an extreme sport in which participants jump from a fixed object before pulling a parachute. Potter is regarded as one of his generation’s top rock climbers and BASE jumpers. Potter also set both rock-climbing and highlining, or tightrope-walking, records, and is considered a “wingsuit pioneer.” He is also the creator of freebase, which involves rock climbing without a harness and relying on a parachute if he fell.
    BASE jumping is illegal in national parks, and officials at Yosemite National Park have worked to stop the practice in recent years.

    A NewsHour report last year looked at the controversies of using national landmarks for extreme sports like highling, which is legal in national parks.

    “Today’s generation is treating the outdoors as a dirty gym, and that’s not what was thought about 50 years ago with the 1964 Wilderness Act, with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” environmental author Andrew Gulliford said. “So those conservation laws were about preserving nature for nature’s sake. And we have got a new generation of extreme sports enthusiasts who simply want to go out, use the outdoors, photograph themselves with, you know, special little cameras, and then hit the brew pub by dark and talk about their exploits.”

    One highliner told Jeffrey Brown his reasoning behind the extreme sport.

    “It’s this rush of overwhelming happiness, because you have done something that you were terrified of, and then you overcame that fear, and then all of a sudden you’re proud of yourself,” Scott Rodgers said. “You feel empowered, like you can do anything, really.”

    The post Two BASE jumpers die after attempting wingsuit flight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Adnan Syed, seen in his yearbook photo from Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, was convicted for the murder of fellow student Hae Min Lee in 1999.

    Adnan Syed, seen in his yearbook photo from Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, was convicted for the murder of fellow student Hae Min Lee in 1999.

    The Maryland Court of Special Appeals today released a ruling in the latest appeal of Adnan Syed, a man currently serving a life sentence for murdering his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999.

    In February, the court agreed to hear arguments from Syed’s legal team, which claimed Syed received ineffective counsel in his original trial. Christina Gutierrez, Syed’s original lawyer, failed to include testimony from Asia McClain, one of Syed’s former classmates. McClain wrote Syed a letter shortly after arrest, claiming she saw him in the library at the time of the murder and that she could provide him an alibi.

    That alibi was never introduced in court, and it was this oversight that prompted the Court of Special Appeals to remand Syed’s case back to the circuit court for further proceedings. This ruling re-opens post-conviction appeals which had already been closed, in order to allow consideration of McClain’s affidavit, and potentially her testimony.

    “We are very pleased with the Court of Special Appeals’ ruling and we think it’s the fair thing to do,” Syed’s attorney, C. Justin Brown, told the Huffington Post. “And it’s in the interest of justice that this case be remanded to hear the testimony of Asia McClain.”

    Syed’s case was featured in “Serial,” a podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig. The 12-episode series followed Koenig and her producers as they retraced the case over the past year, interviewing witnesses and experts to re-examine the evidence. Rabia Chaudry, an advocate for Syed and the person who originally presented the story to Koenig, last month kicked off her own podcast, “Undisclosed,” which delves further into the legal questions of the original 1999 trial.

    Brown’s ultimate goal is to get Syed a new trial, which could potentially result in his release from prison.”That’s the focus of our efforts right now,” he told NewsHour in February.

    The post Appeals court remands Adnan Syed’s case to Baltimore trial court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ronson

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: social media as a public shaming tool.

    Jeffrey Brown has the latest from the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In December 2013, a young woman named Justine Sacco wrote this tweet: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white.”

    She hit send, and out it went to her 170 followers.

    JON RONSON, Author, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”: She got on the plane, turned off her phone, woke up 11 hours later, turned on her phone, and discovered that her life was utterly destroyed.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She was a Twitter sensation.

    JON RONSON: The worldwide number one.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But in the worst way.

    JON RONSON: In the worst way. It was like hundreds of thousands of tweets along the lines of, we’re about to get this woman fired in real time before she even knows she’s being fired.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The blitz of online outrage did indeed lead Sacco’s company to fire her. She said later she thought was making a joke about her own privilege.

    But that’s not how the Twitterverse heard it. Sacco’s story is just one of many told in the new book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.”

    The author is Jon Ronson, a man who knows his way around Twitter. He has 112,000 followers and has sent out more than 45,000 tweets himself.

    We’re in a renaissance of public shaming, you write, brought about by social media and the Internet.

    JON RONSON: Yes, brought about by this sort of weird approval machine that is social media. So we start to kind of — we uncover a transgressor, sometimes by just like some inappropriate phraseology in some tweet, and then we pile in on that person.

    And because we surround ourselves on social media by people who feel the same way we do, we just mutually approve each other as we carry on tearing that person apart.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the things that you’re writing about, on the one hand, we all have something we want to hide, or at least that we don’t want coming out publicly, right?  On the other hand, now we have this technology that allows everything to come out and it comes out in the nastiest ways often enough.

    JON RONSON: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Even about relatively small things.

    JON RONSON: Yes.

    It’s so interesting you say that, because this is what’s happening. We are destroying people routinely, daily, and destroying them with the thing we are most terrified would happen to us. You know, we all of us have bubbling away within us something that we’re just terrified would destroy our reputation if it came out.

    And yet we are doing exactly that to other people.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In other words, public shaming, once meted out in the stocks in the town square, is now carried out in the new town square of social media. Ronson tells of numerous cases, well-known ones like writer Jonah Lehrer, who was caught for embellishing and fabricating parts of his stories, and lesser known tales, like Lindsey Stone’s, who was fired from her job after posting what she thought was a funny photo of herself making a vulgar gesture at Arlington National Cemetery.

    The stories can be harrowing and complicated, affecting both shamee and shamer.

    JON RONSON: I wrote about a man called Hank who just whispered a slightly “Beavis and Butt-Head”-type sexist joke to the guy sitting next to him at a conference about big dongles, and the woman sitting in front overheard it, and would, unbeknownst to them, photograph them, posted it on Twitter, with a comment, not cool, jokes around big dongles right behind me.

    And the next day, he was fired from his job. And then, as revenge, she was just destroyed. She had two years of rape threats and death threats.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We’re in the early days of social media, right?  Do you think all this is sort of the immaturity, so to speak, or the early period and that we might — people — we would grow out of it?

    JON RONSON: I think people will grow out of it. I think right now we’re like — with social media, we’re like toddlers crawling towards a gun.

    And I hope and think that my book’s going to contribute to that, because my book is like a visit to the slaughterhouse.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A visit to the slaughterhouse?

    JON RONSON: Yes.

    I journey around the world, going into the homes of people who were destroyed as a result of the hitherto unempowered people having power, and not working out how to use it judiciously. And they’re crushed. It mangles them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I’m wondering how you see your role, as an investigative, but participant. You even write in the book about having sort of, as a journalist, participated in shaming, in a sense. Right?

    JON RONSON: And I’m very glad I’m not doing it anymore.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re a reformed shamer.

    JON RONSON: I’m a reformed shamer.

    You know that social media is like this stage for constant artificially high dramas. Everybody’s either a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. But that isn’t true about human beings. We are dimensional. And you know what?  The cure for being cast out is being brought back in with compassion and empathy. And my book is really a call for people to be more empathetic.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.”

    Jon Ronson, thanks so much.

    JON RONSON: Thank you.

    The post How social media led to a ‘renaissance’ of public shaming appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    politicsmonday

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to our weekly analysis of the politics, and the politicians, driving the national debate.

    It’s Politics Monday, with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    We just listened to Senator Sanders just now.

    Tamara, what do we think? Is there room on the stage for an alternative to Hillary Clinton whose name is Bernie Sanders?

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Well, I think there are a lot of Democrats who would like an alternative.

    They don’t — Democrats on the whole are anti-establishment types, at least some of them are, especially the kind who get involved in the caucuses in Iowa, and they don’t really want to be told, well, here’s your option. And so there are a lot of people who are flirting with Bernie Sanders, like the idea of Bernie Sanders, want to — they like what he has to say.

    And so I think that there are a lot of people who are into this. I don’t know — I don’t exactly see what his path is.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, that’s — there’s the path to victory and then the path on messaging, which, listening to Judy’s interview with Bernie Sanders, he was saying a lot of things that, boy, we have been hearing from Hillary Clinton a lot, right?

    GWEN IFILL: Today.

    AMY WALTER: Today, in fact.

    GWEN IFILL: And Secretary Clinton was talking about income inequality and using almost the same language in Iowa.

    AMY WALTER: Yes, talking about hedge fund managers making more than all the teachers, and billionaires, and the deck is stacked, which is an Elizabeth Warren-ism that she is now using.

    She’s clearly — on economic issues, I don’t know that there is that much room in terms for somebody like Bernie Sanders to outflank her. I think where her problem points are with a lot of these liberal Democrats will be on the trade issue, though likely it will be over by the time we hit Iowa, and really on foreign policy.

    That’s really going to be the question for somebody like a Sanders or Martin O’Malley to really get to Hillary Clinton on questions of what — not only what did she do in 2003 on the war — vote for the war in Iraq, but what about now and what about her time as secretary of state?

    GWEN IFILL: Which brings us to, who is going to ask those questions? What about now?

    Tamara, you had a good piece this week on the radio about Hillary Clinton’s question-taking, which is to say, not very much.

    GWEN IFILL: She doesn’t — well, first of all, tell us what you found when you looked to see how many questions she’s taken since being a candidate.

    TAMARA KEITH: So, she — and she had another event today and she didn’t take any questions from reporters. So we can keep the numbers the same.

    (LAUGHTER)

    TAMARA KEITH: She has taken 13 questions that she has answered. Some of those included, how are you feeling, and something along the lines of how awesome is Iowa?

    (LAUGHTER)

    TAMARA KEITH: Not exactly.

    GWEN IFILL: But close.

    TAMARA KEITH: But close.

    And her campaign feels like this is the ramp-up phase, where it’s not about her answering questions, it’s about her hearing from people, and that’s what they’re pushing. And guess what? There aren’t a lot of consequences. Most of the reaction I got to my story was, like, hey, reporters, stop whining.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Amy, is that right? Is that a pretty good bet, that it’s not worth it for reporters to press?

    AMY WALTER: This is definitely inside baseball. This is definitely the sorts of things where voters say, you know what, this is stuff reporters care about, not anybody else.

    At the same time, it is turning into an issue that Republicans are using, too, to bang Hillary Clinton across the head with, saying, you know, see, this is just part of the theme around her. She has a secretive e-mail server. She has secretive donors to the Clinton Global Foundation. She has this imperial sense around her that she is better than us or she can play by different rules.

    That becomes problematic. Answering questions? Tamara is right. She doesn’t need to answer her questions. But if this starts to really develop that she just now seems out of touch…

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s flip this on its head, because last week we saw what happens when Jeb Bush does answer questions. And he didn’t have a good week because he kept coming up with different versions of his answers. And he gave people some room to run against him. So, does maybe Hillary Clinton have a point that it doesn’t pay at this stage to make yourself too open?

    TAMARA KEITH: And she is not competing against 19 other people.

    Jeb Bush, the people who would defend him say will say, well, at least he was answering questions. But, gosh darn it, if there is…

    GWEN IFILL: Did it help?

    TAMARA KEITH: … one question that Jeb Bush has to answer, it’s about the Iraq War. And he really struggled with it. It was a real problem and it sort of pointing to all of that sort of family baggage that he’s trying to get away from.

    GWEN IFILL: What struck me is he at one point, one of — part of his answer, I don’t need to answer these hypotheticals. And we heard Mike Huckabee said, I don’t have to defend everything I have ever done, when he was asked about something he tried to — a diabetic medication he used to peddle.

    And you think to yourself, well, isn’t running for president a hypothetical? Isn’t that the whole point?

    AMY WALTER: Exactly. Everything that you do, it’s, hypothetically, something really bad could happen. How are you going to respond to it?

    I think the best way for these candidates to respond to it is to say, OK, this has already happened. We know that. Let’s stop trying to parse around hypothetically what would happen if X, Y or Z had happened, but now what are we doing going into the future? And I think that’s the bigger problem, quite frankly, for all of these candidates.

    Look, Iraq is a mess. The Middle East is a mess. We have been pointing fingers now for the last few years. The parties have between, it was Bush’s fault, it was — it’s Obama’s fault. Now the candidates have to come up with, what is your plan going forward? I think that’s what voters want to hear and they are not really interested in whose fault it was that it’s such a mess.

    GWEN IFILL: We started this conversation talking about whether there is room on the left for the Bernie Sanders of the world to run against the Hillary Clintons of the world.

    Is there a lot of room on the right for Republicans like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio to take down Jeb Bush, if he is considered still to be the front-runner?

    TAMARA KEITH: I think Jeb Bush has this big target on himself, but these other candidates are finding plenty of lane, and it’s really unclear.

    Jeb Bush at some point is going to say he is officially running for president, and he’s going to have this amazing amount of money, but it’s unclear whether he is going to have the excitement of voters or whether these other folks who are officially running are going to just keep beating him up, up until then.

    AMY WALTER: Well, and this is what’s fun about this race, honestly, which is, you have so many candidates. They are very qualified and they have so many different positions.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes.

    AMY WALTER: This is not one sort of monolithic group singing from the same book.

    They have many — you know, they have many different positions, which is really the big question for Republicans in 2016. Who is going to be able to unite all these many voices into one focused voice going into the general election? This is really a crossroads election for the Republican Party, who they are, what they stand for, do they have a positive message going forward? I think this primary process is going to be good for them.

    GWEN IFILL: If we can fit them all on the debate stage.

    AMY WALTER: That’s a problem.

    TAMARA KEITH: Panorama.

    GWEN IFILL: Amy Walter and Tamara Keith, thank you both very much.

    TAMARA KEITH: Thanks.

     

    The post Why is candidate Clinton not taking many reporter questions? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our series of interviews with the men and women running for president in 2016.

    Tonight: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent seeking the Democratic nomination.

    Welcome to the NewsHour, Senator Sanders.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) Vermont: Great to be with you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you are an independent. You call yourself a Democratic socialist. How is that different from being a Democrat?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I have been in the Democratic Caucus in the Senate for over 24 years.

    But, as an independent, my views, in fact, are a little bit different than many of my Democratic colleagues. I worry very much that we have a billionaire class now which has enormous power not only over our economy, but over our political system as well, as a result of Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

    So, my own view is that we have got to be very, very bold in taking on big money and creating a situation where government begins to work for the middle class and working families of our country, rather than just the wealthy and the powerful.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So that’s the main difference that you would make.

    Why are you running for president?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Judy, I’m running for president because, in my view, this country today, our country, faces more serious problems than at any time since the Great Depression.

    And if you throw in the planetary crisis of climate change, it may well be that the problems today are more severe. Look, for the last 40 years, the great middle class of this country has been disappearing. Median family income today is significantly less than it was in 1999. Millions are working longer hours for lower wages.

    And, at the same time, we have seen a huge shift of wealth to the top one-tenth of 1 percent. So, today — today, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. The top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That is immoral and unsustainable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, and speaking of that, I want to ask you about that. One of the issue is taxes. You have talked about raising the capital gains rate and the tax on dividends for the top 2 percent.

    In fact, you talked about, I think, nearly doubling it. Critics say that is going to put a big damper on job creation and on the growth of this economy.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I know. Critics are often paid by large corporations or corporate think tanks.

    The fact of the matter is right now in America we’re losing about $100 billion every single year because very profitable corporations are stashing their money in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and other tax havens. And that has got to end. Second of all, we have a situation where hedge fund managers, guys that are making many, many millions of dollars a year, are paying an effective tax rate lower than what nurses or school teachers are paying.

    And Warren Buffett makes the point that his effective tax rate, as a multibillionaire, is lower than his secretary’s. That’s got to end. The wealthiest people in this country are in fact going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes if I’m elected president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Another issue is trade. You have been very critical of the trade bill President Obama is vigorously pushing. Hillary Clinton, your rival, has not yet taken a position on this.

    Today, just today, CBS News reported that she has taken $2.5 million in speaking fees from organizations that are promoting this trade bill. Is that a problem?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Sure it’s a problem.

    The problem that we have now is that our political system is increasingly dominated by a billionaire class and by super PACs, who have unbelievable influence over what goes on politically. It is a huge problem.

    But in terms of this trade agreement, in my view, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is a continuation of other disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, CAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China.

    These trade agreements, among other things, have contributed to the that we have lost almost 60,000 factories since 2001 and millions of decent-paying jobs. And I think enough is enough. We have got to rebuild our manufacturing base, not send it to China or other countries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does it matter — we said Secretary Clinton has not taken a position. What does it mean if she doesn’t take a position on this before the Congress votes on it?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think that’s a very fair question. And I think the American people will have to decide.

    If you are asking me why it is that the middle class is disappearing and we’re seeing more income and wealth inequality than any time since the 1920s, trade is a very important factor, not the only reason. And it is hard for me to understand how any serious candidate for president, Hillary Clinton or anybody else, can duck this issue. You can’t. You can be for it. You can be against it. But it is being hotly debated right now in Congress. You have got to have a position on it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In this race, you are going up against someone who is literally part of a political juggernaut in this country in Secretary Clinton. Why do you think you would be a better president than she would be?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I have spent the better part of my adult life standing up and fighting for working families.

    I have taken on virtually every element of the big money establishment, whether it’s the Koch brothers, and the big energy companies, whether it’s the industrial complex, whether it’s Wall Street. You’re looking at the guy who has introduced legislation to break up the largest financial institutions in this country.

    I have taken on the drug companies. I have taken on the insurance companies. I happen to believe that we should move to a Medicare-for-all single-payer system, similar to what other countries around the world have.

    So, I think if people understand that establishment politics just no longer is working, that we need some bold ideas, that we need a mass movement of people, millions of people to stand up and say, you know what, enough is enough, this great country belongs to all of us and not just to a handful of billionaires, if people believe that, I will win this election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re saying she can’t do that?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I don’t think she can, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One other thing I want to ask you, Senator, about foreign policy.

    ISIS, they just achieved a major victory in Iraq in taking over a big city, Ramadi, over the weekend. You have said you don’t think the U.S. should be leading the charge against ISIS. Does that mean that raids like the one that took place last week where the U.S. took out one of the top ISIS leaders and the ongoing airstrikes in Syria and Iraq shouldn’t go on?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: No, no, no, I have supported those efforts on the part of the president.

    I voted against the war in Iraq. And I think, if you go back and you read what I had to say way back when, you know, it will sound pretty prescient in terms of the destabilization that we have seen in the Middle East.

    So my view is, the United States has got to play an active role in defeating this barbaric organization, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be the Muslim countries themselves, supported by the United States and other Western countries, that will defeat ISIS and bring some degree of stability into the Middle East. It cannot be American troops on the ground.

    And I will tell you what I worry about. I think too many of my Republican friends are into perpetual warfare in the Middle East. And that scares the bejesus out of me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the raid last week that took out the ISIS leader, you would — you support…

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: And I supported the airstrikes as well. But I do not want to see perpetual warfare in the Middle East. I do not want to see American combat troops on the ground in the Middle East.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, we thank you.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you very much.

     

    The post Sen. Bernie Sanders on taxes, trade agreements and Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson announced the creation of Head Start, the government program designed to support low-income children and families.

    In our latest American Graduate report, the NewsHour’s April Brown has the story of how it’s changed the lives of millions of children.

    That’s part of a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    APRIL BROWN: In Lisette Steinwald’s preschool class in Silver Spring, Maryland, the theme of what it takes to make a salad can be found in a variety of activities throughout the day, from reading, to a little show and tell.

    The 4- and 5-year-olds she teaches in the Head Start program at Montgomery Knolls Elementary School spend about three-and-a-half-hours with her every day during the school year.

    STUDENTS (singing): Curve it around and slide to the right to make a number two.

    APRIL BROWN: They’re learning skills designed to ease the transition to kindergarten, and are following in the footsteps of more than 30 million children who have gone through the program in the United States over the past five decades.

    NARRATOR: Head Start, a head start for poverty’s children.

    APRIL BROWN: Head Start got its start in the summer of 1965, as one salvo in President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. The early education program for low-income children supported their social, emotional and physical needs and got them ready for elementary school. It drew high-profile supporters, including the president’s wife, Lady Bird Johnson, and actor Gregory Peck.

    GREGORY PECK: Sadly, there are little children who are already headed for lives of frustration and misery. No one ever read them a story, taught them a nursery rhyme, showed them about colors, letters and numbers. When they start school in the first grade, they will be so far behind the others, that they may never catch up.

    DARREN WALKER, President, Ford Foundation: In 1965, I was sitting on the porch of our little shotgun shack in Ames, Texas, with my mother and a woman approached the house. She introduced herself and told my mother that she was representing a new program called Head Start.

    APRIL BROWN: Darren Walker’s mother signed him up in the program’s inaugural year, and he recently shared his story at a gathering of supporters and alumni from around the country hosted by the National Head Start Association.

    DARREN WALKER: Head Start changed my life. It allowed me to begin to imagine, to think about the world outside of my environment and to think creatively about what my life might be.

    APRIL BROWN: Today, Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s second largest private philanthropic group, which is a funder of the NewsHour.

    In honor of Head Start’s 50th anniversary, the organization is paying for new research on early brain development in an effort to improve outcomes. Walker says the foundation has come full circle since it supported research in the 1960s that led to the creation of Head Start in the first place.

    DARREN WALKER: What we were interested in at Ford was how we could, at scale across America, have a program that would create an educational revolution, that would build a new social mobility escalator.

    WOMAN: Isabel, do you have a toothbrush at home? No toothbrush.

    RUSS WHITEHURST, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution: The evidence is that it did some good when it was first introduced in the very poor counties in the South. It’s a different day.

    APRIL BROWN: Russ Whitehurst is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and has studied preschool programs extensively. He says, even though it’s an iconic program, evidence has revealed that Head Start’s long-term outcomes are questionable. Whitehurst points to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the 2014 follow-up report, which found almost no evidence of lasting impacts for Head Start children beyond the third grade.

    RUSS WHITEHURST: They were not better readers. They were not doing math better. They didn’t have better social development. They didn’t have better health outcomes.

    APRIL BROWN: But the executive director of the National Head Start Association, Yasmina Vinci, says other factors should be taken into consideration when looking at that research.

    YASMINA VINCI, Executive Director, National Head Start Association: Even when you’re vaccinated, vaccinations do not last forever. You have to have a booster. And when our children don’t go to schools that are well-funded and well-run and schools that are ready for them, they certainly do lose some of their advantage.

    APRIL BROWN: However, even the White House has acknowledged Head Start programs haven’t always been pushed to do their best.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If a program wasn’t providing kids with quality services, there was no incentive to improve. Under the new rule, programs are going to be regularly evaluated against a set of clear, high standards.

    APRIL BROWN: In 2011, President Barack Obama expanded accountability reforms introduced by George W. Bush, and this year has appropriated about $8 billion for Head Start services.

    Still, Russ Whitehurst says the program isn’t meeting the needs of many low-income families. He believes they would better served with vouchers to choose their own preschools, especially since many Head Start centers are open just a few hours a day.

    Numbers proving Head Start’s success are hard to come by, but the program’s supporters say they know it’s changed many lives.

    YASMINA VINCI: We see the children who are now graduating from high school and getting scholarships, staying in school, not dropping out of high school.

    DARREN WALKER: I remember that I started to learn to read and that I would read to my mother when I came home, and she was so proud of me. And it was one those moments that I learned that, when I did well in school, my mother would be proud of me.

    APRIL BROWN: Back in Maryland, Lisette Steinwald’s class continues their exploration of salad, taste-testing a variety of ingredients.

    LISETTE STEINWALD: Raise your hand if you like lettuce more than carrots, because we’re going to count. All right, one, two, three-and-a-half.

    APRIL BROWN: And at the end of the day, Zyriana Barazarte is happy to share all the things she learned in her morning at Head Start.

    ZYRIANA BARAZARTE: I learned how to make salad, how to read, and how to sing songs.

    APRIL BROWN: Zyriana’s mother, Zoila Barazarte, who is deaf, says the program has been good for her daughter.

    ZOILA BARAZARTE, Mother: She’s learning a lot of vocabulary from the teacher. She’s learning listening skills. She’s learning how to share.

    APRIL BROWN: Just a few of the outcomes Head Start was originally created to nurture.

    I’m April Brown for the PBS NewsHour in Silver Spring, Maryland.

    The post What’s the legacy of Head Start 50 years on? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Many of the images that first called the nation’s attention to the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer were ones like these, video of the police force responding in strength and sometimes resembling a small army, including officers clad in military gear, pointing rifles at the crowds and using tear gas.

    The clashes in Baltimore and New York City have reinforced those images as well. Much of this equipment was made available to local police departments in the years after the 9/11 attacks. But, today, President Obama announced a ban on the sale or transfer of certain military-style gear to local police, including tracked armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and firearms of .50-caliber or higher.

    He spoke in Camden, New Jersey.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there is an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting and serving them. It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.

    So, we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefields that is not appropriate for local police departments.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A closer look at what’s behind this decision, and its potential impact.

    Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is the co-chair of the President’s Task Force on Policing, which has been working on these issues. And Richard Beary, he is the president of the International Association of Police Chiefs. He’s the former police chief of the city of Lake Mary, Florida, and now he’s chief of police for the University of Central Florida.

    And, gentlemen, we thank you both.

    Chief Ramsey, let me start with you. What the president did today was one of really picking up on one of the recommendations of the task force you led, have been leading, the recommendations you made. Why is this necessary?

    CHARLES RAMSEY, Co-chair, President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: Well, I think it’s clearly necessary that we be able to, as police, justify any equipment that we receive, not just from the military, but also using federal grants to get some of the equipment.

    Obviously, we need a broad range of equipment. Police handle everything from missing children to active shooters. And obviously the kind of equipment that you would need to respond effectively varies a great deal. But some military equipment is more appropriate for the field of battle, not the urban streets of our cities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chief Beary, you agree that this is the right thing to do to ban access to this kind — some kinds of military-style equipment?

    RICHARD BEARY, President, International Association of Chiefs of Police: I think everybody is looking for a balance.

    We at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, we understand that we have to have the support of the community, but at the same time, as Chief Ramsey says, law enforcement is dealing with lots of new threats. Twenty years ago, whoever heard of an active shooter?  Now we hear about it all the time.

    So we have to make sure that we balance the needs of the public and the safety of the officers and those that are sworn to protect the public. And that’s what we’re trying to do here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Chief Ramsey, how do you think about achieving that balance and how much of this has to do with equipment and how much of it has to do with the training of the police themselves, the culture that they work in?

    CHARLES RAMSEY: Well, I think most of it has to do with training, but probably the most important aspect of this is policy.

    At what point in time is it property to deploy certain types of equipment?  And there are need to be standards in place, policies in place to guide the officers so they have clear direction. And I think that we have seen some instances where certain types of equipment were deployed, in my opinion, at a point in time when it wasn’t really necessary. And that’s what creates a lot of the problems.

    So it’s training, it’s policy, it’s all of those things combined that I think we need to make sure are in place, and I think that the government is right in seeing to it that we do have those things in place before providing that kind of equipment to an agency.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chief Ramsey, what’s an example of the time and place when it was — the wrong thing was used?

    CHARLES RAMSEY: Well, when you’re talking about mass demonstrations, depending on the crowd, and we’re not talking about all-out riots like we saw the first day in Baltimore, when things really spiraled out of control, and even later in Ferguson, when things spiraled out of control, but when it first started, I know that in — I was in Washington, D.C., and now Philadelphia.

    We try to start off without using certain types of equipment. We have them available, but it’s certainly out of sight. We don’t want to incite a crowd. So I think it’s way in which you deploy, depending on what it is you’re responding to and what you’re dealing with. People have a right to protest, and if you show up with riot gear, and heavy armored vehicles and so forth when people are just simply out peacefully demonstrating, you’re going to get exactly that. You’re going to wind up with a riot, more than likely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chief Beary, same question. How do you strike the right balance and how much of this is the equipment and how much of it is the training and the approach and the culture of the police force?

    RICHARD BEARY: Well, a couple of important things come to light.

    Number one, what we know is that 90 percent of what law enforcement agencies across this country have received from the military had nothing to do with tanks and guns and things like that. The majority of the equipment that we have received are radios, and equipment, things that help us do our job in the community. So I think we need to make sure we understand that.

    Secondly is, training is absolutely — is an essential part to responding to any type of situation. So I agree with Chief Ramsey. It’s about training, it’s policy, but it’s also about having that just in case you need it, because you just don’t know when a crowd is going to go bad. A perfect example was in Waco, Texas, yesterday. They didn’t expect the shoot-out that they had there.

    So it’s a real combination, and that’s the delicate balance with trying to be a police chief in this country, is to make sure you have your people prepared, you have the equipment that you need, at the same time, not coming off like you’re trying to intimidate the community that you serve.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chief Ramsey, I would like you to respond to that and also address — I mean, how much of a problem do we have in this country right now between police and communities who feel that they are just not understood and not respected by the police?

    CHARLES RAMSEY: Well, you know, it depends on the city, the relationship that police and community have.

    Obviously, there are some areas and some pockets in many of our cities where relationships are strained. That’s not necessarily new. I started my policing career in 1968 in Chicago and we had areas of our city where no one would talk to you, provide information and so forth. I mean, there was tension between police and community.

    Now, we have engaged in community policing for the last three decades at least, and I think we have done a very, very good job of establishing relationships and also reducing crime, but we have left some communities behind. There still remains some tension and we need to really be sure that we build bridges, that we close those gaps with those communities as well. And they tend to be communities of color and communities that are challenged in many ways with poverty, lack of educational opportunities of quality and things of that nature.

    So we have got a lot of work ahead of us. But the community has to work alongside us. This isn’t just a police issue. It takes the community also reaching out to us, as we reach out to them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Chief Beary, finally, how do you — how much of a problem do you think the country has?  How much of the country has this kind of a problem that we’re talking about and to what extent do you think banning these so-called militaristic-style pieces of equipment will make a difference?

    RICHARD BEARY: Well, I don’t think what the government has banned will have that big of an impact.

    What our concern is, is really the stuff that they have — equipment that they have limited and we’re waiting to see how the rules are going to roll out to how we justify the use and things of that nature. Certainly, when it comes to community policing, that is a key part of the solution.

    However, we know there’s a lot of issues going on in our communities from poverty to mental health issues. There’s a host of issues that are going on. And the IACP, for over 20 years, has called for a national summit on criminal justice, the entire system. And we’re hoping that all the things combined will lead to that commission to take a look at the whole system and how to better handle the delivery of service to our communities and treat our people and men and women who work for us and the citizens with respect.

    So there’s a lot of work ahead. I think it’s also important to note that there are a lot of communities across this country that are doing a great job and law enforcement doing a great job. There was a Reuters poll that was done in January this year. And three-quarters of the people that responded to that survey said they have confidence in their local police department.

    So there’s a lot of good things being done across the country. We just need to continue to enhance that and deliver the service that our communities expect.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chief Richard Beary, who is president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and Chief Charles Ramsey of Philadelphia, we thank you both.

    RICHARD BEARY: Thank you.

     

    The post Will banning military-style gear for police reduce tensions? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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