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

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    SECRET TRIAL_Monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: After being locked up for nearly a year in a Tehran prison, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian finally had his first day of court this morning. Family members and journalists were not allowed to attend the Tehran Revolutionary Court session. He was accompanied only by his attorney.

    Rezaian, who holds both U.S. and Iranian citizenship, was arrested with his Iranian wife last July. She was released on bail in October. In April, The Washington Post reported that Rezaian was charged with espionage and other crimes, including collaborating with hostile governments and propaganda against the establishment.

    We invited the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations to come on the NewsHour to talk about Jason Rezaian’s case. His office didn’t respond to our offer.

    We are joined, however, by Jason’s brother, Ali Rezaian.

    And we welcome you to the program.

    ALI REZAIAN, Brother of Jason Rezaian: Thank you for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what do you know when what happened in that courtroom today?

    ALI REZAIAN: You know, we know that this was the first day of the court. They were to go in and they would read Jason the charges against him and the information about it. And he would have to respond to those.

    Because it’s a secret court, because it’s closed, we don’t have a lot more information than that. It’s illegal to disclose information. But we know the process and we know that the next thing that’s going to happen is, the judge will set the second day of trial, and there will be more testimony.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, he does have an attorney, as we mentioned.

    ALI REZAIAN: That’s correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this is someone that your family selected, is that right, or helped select?

    ALI REZAIAN: Yes. It was kind of a long, hard process. We selected Leila Ahsan to be my sister-in-law’s attorney, and because of the complexity of the case, we wanted to have another attorney.

    We were hoping to find somebody who also had a lot of English-language skills as well. But the judge wouldn’t allow us to choose some of the people that we wanted. We ended up deciding that we would use Leila for both Jason and Yegi’s case.

    I think there’s an advantage there, because she does know the case very, very well. She’s reviewed it and had a lot of time to know the evidence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re in regular contact with her, but you’re saying you’re — she’s limited in what she can say.

    ALI REZAIAN: That’s correct. I think it’s like some trials here, where they close the court and they won’t let information out during the time that it’s happening.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, what do you know, other than he’s being charged with espionage and what we said about the charges?  What do you know about what evidence they’re providing?

    ALI REZAIAN: You know, I think the best way to sum it up is what Leila said after she reviewed the case file. She said there’s absolutely no basis in the evidence, no basis in the facts for any of these charges against Jason.

    He never should have been arrested. He never should have been taken and questioned. But what we do know is, they’re using some very small things, usually via e-mail, to come up with these ideas that there was propaganda, that he was saying bad things about the government or that he was reaching out to the United States government.

    When they talk about collaborating with hostile powers, the example there was sending a letter basically trying to get a job with the White House and wanting to help the countries come together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ah, because the New York Times reported today that there was a letter that Jason sent to the transition team, the Obama transition team…

    ALI REZAIAN: That’s exactly right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … in 2008, offering to be of help improving relations between the two countries.

    ALI REZAIAN: Yes.

    What he said was: “I have been living in Iran for a long time.”  I have seen the letter.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    ALI REZAIAN: It — “I have been living in Iran for a long time. I know a lot of people. I don’t like the fact that the two countries where I grew up and where I’m living now and where my father was born are so hostile towards each other, and I would like to help the new administration improve relations. Can I help you?”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then — and it was also reported they were using as what they called evidence an application for an American visa for his wife, who, as we said, is Iranian.

    ALI REZAIAN: Yes.

    So, his wife was born in Iran. After they were married, she applied for a visa for a permanent residency here in the United States. That process, you have to go to an embassy.

    Well, there’s no embassy for the United States in Iran. So, Iranians process those in other countries. Jason was in touch with the UAE Embassy in order to process that visa. And after it was put in, he asked for it to be expedited, because that’s what you do. You want the visa as quick as you can get it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, other than that, I mean, and what you have shared, that’s all you know about what they say this case is?

    ALI REZAIAN: Those are the primary things that they’re talking about.

    You know, they have said that he was investigating or reviewing foreign policy and internal policy of the Islamic Republic. They didn’t say that he had access to anything confidential or he tried to, just that he was trying to learn about it, which is what a reporter would do to be able to report.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, you were telling me earlier, Ali Rezaian, that his wife has been able to visit him…

    ALI REZAIAN: That’s correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … every week. What is she reporting?  How is he doing?  How are they treating him?

    ALI REZAIAN: You know, it’s just this long up-and-down cycle. Sometimes, he’s better; sometimes, he’s worse.

    I think his health is generally better, but, mentally, it’s been very difficult coming up to the trial. I think knowing that there is some progress is helpful. How they have been treating him, I think I would say neglect more than anything else, long periods of time of where they don’t interrogate him, or he doesn’t have access to any other prisoners. You know, he’s just kind of by himself.

    Fortunately, he has access to some books, but he’s still locked up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, your mother was able to visit him, what, in December, is that right…

    ALI REZAIAN: Correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … when she was in Tehran, and she’s gone back, but she hasn’t been able to see him this time. Is that right?

    ALI REZAIAN: She was able to see him. She got to visit with the judge, as well as the Revolutionary Guards, before she did. But she got a one-hour meeting with his wife and with my brother last week, and hasn’t seen him since.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

    Well, let me ask you about the judge, because the reports are that this is a judge who is known for handing down tough sentences.

    ALI REZAIAN: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is known about him?

    ALI REZAIAN: A lot of these judges, especially in the Revolutionary Court, there’s not a lot of information about them. People don’t even see their pictures a lot of times.

    But with the judge that is assigned to Jason’s case, he’s really worked on a lot of the more political cases. He’s been assigned things that were political in nature, and has handed down very harsh sentences against people.

    But what I will say is, many of those sentences have been overturned on appeal. There’s an appeals process. Our hope is, as they look at the evidence, which they have, they will see that there’s no evidence there, there’s no basis, and, you know, he will admit that this is something that they want to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ali Rezaian, based on how other journalists who have been arrested, charged with espionage or something similar, have been treated, what are your expectations for your brother?

    ALI REZAIAN: You know, I think we’re fortunate, what’s consistent with what he said and what other folks have said is, they’re typically not very physical with dual nationals, and that’s absolutely what Jason said.

    But I think, mentally, over time, it’s really tough on him. He’s been neglected. He’s been isolated. They play mind games with you all the time, and they have been doing that for 10 months. I’m very scared that it can cause permanent issues for him, you know, fear, anxiety, those kinds of things, as well as depression, which he said: “I’m very, very depressed. I don’t belong here.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: No wonder. One would think so.

    But what about, finally, the U.S. government?  Has it been of help?  What role has it played in all of this?

    ALI REZAIAN: I think, because of the negotiations, they have had a lot of one-on-one discussions with Iran, which is something that wouldn’t have happened in the past.

    But there’s only so much they can do, I think, through the diplomatic channel. The Iranians have insisted that it needed to go through a legal process. They delayed that process illegally, by their own standards, as well as international standards, for six or seven months before they even put it into the court.

    And so now at least it’s moving along. The State Department has passed along notes, passed along information to the government when we have asked to send letters, as well as kept us informed of what’s going on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Ali Rezaian, brother of Jason Rezaian, who is being held by Iranian authorities, we can’t imagine what this is like for your family. We thank you very much for coming to talk to us.

    ALI REZAIAN: Thank you for covering his story.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

     

    The post Isolated in prison for nearly a year, Washington Post reporter starts closed trial in Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Damm Family in Their Car, Los Angeles, California, USA 1987. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    The Damm Family in Their Car, Los Angeles, California, USA 1987. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Photographer Mary Ellen Mark, best known for her striking portraiture and investigative documentary work, died Monday at the age of 75.

    Mark’s career spanned more than four decades, and her emotional photographs capturing the lives of those often overlooked made her one of the most recognizable contemporary photographers.

    Her work took her around the world, from circuses in India to homeless shelters across upstate New York, and took to showcasing the individuals and ideas often unnoticed or underappreciated.

    Ram Prakash Singh with His Elephant Shyama, Great Golden Circus, Ahmedabad, India 1990. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Ram Prakash Singh with His Elephant Shyama, Great Golden Circus, Ahmedabad, India 1990. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    “I’m just interested in people on the edges,” she told The New York Times in a 1987 interview. “I feel an affinity for people who haven’t had the best breaks in society. I’m always on their side. I find them more human maybe. What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence.”

    "Rat" and Mike with a gun, Seattle, Washington, 1983. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    “Rat” and Mike with a gun, Seattle, Washington, 1983. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    One of her most well-known works is a collection of photographs taken of homeless youth in Seattle from the early 1980s. Mark had traveled to the city on assignment with LIFE Magazine in the hope of capturing the underside of what at the time was billed as “America’s most livable city.”

    The intimate photographs of children, many of whom had become drug addicts, prostitutes or left to scrounge for food in dumpsters, was hailed as a brutally raw portrait of a portion of America that had gone largely unseen.

    Amanda and her cousin Amy, Valdese, North Carolina, USA, 1990. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Amanda and her cousin Amy, Valdese, North Carolina, USA, 1990. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    “By choosing America’s ideal city we were making the point,” Mark would later write. “If street kids exist in a city like Seattle then they can be found everywhere in America, and we are therefore facing a major social problem of runaways in this country.”

    The idea of casting light on society’s problems was a common theme throughout much of her work. It appeared in her other famous pieces, like a series of photographs taken from Ward 81 , a wing in a women’s mental institution in Oregon where Mark spent six weeks on assignment.

    Mother Teresa at the home for the Dying, Mother Teresa's Missions of Charity, Calcutta, India, 1980. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Mother Teresa at the home for the Dying, Mother Teresa’s Missions of Charity, Calcutta, India, 1980. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Or her photographs from Bombay, India, a collection of striking color pieces that captured the lives of women in that country’s sex trade.

    Photo by Mary Ellen Mark.

    Falkland Road, Bombay, India in 1978. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark.

    But Mark’s work also had their lighter side. One of her last endeavors was a collection of photographs showing teenagers getting ready for the age-old rite of passage prom.

    Beautiful Emine posing, Trabzon, Turkey, 1965. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Beautiful Emine posing, Trabzon, Turkey, 1965. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Regardless of subject matter, Mark preached simplicity in her photographs. She said she preferred cleanliness to artistic gimmicks and that ultimately what made a good photograph is the message it conveys.

    Tiny in her Halloween costume, Seattle, Washington, 1983. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Tiny in her Halloween costume, Seattle, Washington, 1983. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    “What you look for in a picture is a metaphor,” she told The New York Times. “Something that means something more, that makes you think about things you’ve seen or thought about.”

    Central Park, New York City in 1967. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    Central Park, New York City in 1967. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark

    The post Legendary photographer Mary Ellen Mark dies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Cleveland policemen block the street outside the Justice Center following a not guilty verdict for Cleveland police officer Brelo on manslaughter charges in Cleveland

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    GWEN IFILL: The Department of Justice and the city of Cleveland announced a sweeping legal settlement today that rewrites the rules for the city’s police department after recurring instances of the use of excessive force.

    The U.S. attorney, the city police chief and Cleveland’s mayor all praised the agreement at a joint news conference.

    STEVEN DETTELBACH, U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Ohio: Compliance with this agreement, which means taking on truly systemic change, is going to be — and I say this as a Clevelander — it’s going to be hard work.

    CALVIN WILLIAMS, Chief, Cleveland Division of Police: We talked a lot about the nuts and bolts of this, but what it really comes down to is, we have to, I have to, as chief, make sure that that community policing philosophy is part of the DNA of the Cleveland Division of Police. And that’s what I intend to do.

    MAYOR FRANK JACKSON, Cleveland: I have expressed throughout this my major issue was twofold, one, that it didn’t go far enough, and, two, that we wanted to have substantive, real reform that was sustainable, not just, as the U.S. attorney said, some pretense of reform. So this gives us the tools.

    GWEN IFILL: For more on what it took to get to this agreement, and what happens next, I’m joined by Ronnie Dunn, associate professor of urban studies at Cleveland State University. He also serves on the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations.

    Thank you for joining us.

    In the wake of the Brelo — the Brelo guilty — not guilty verdict this weekend, the officer who was part of the more than 100 shots fired at two people in the car, and as we wait on Tamir Rice verdict, at least one other big high-profile verdict, what is the significance of what the Justice Department and the city agreed to today?

    RONNIE DUNN, Cleveland State University: Well, Gwen, I think it’s a first step along this long road that we need to transform the relationship between the community and the police department sworn to serve them. This is a very robust and comprehensive reform package.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the things that the assistant attorney general for civil rights from the Justice Department mentioned today was, this would restore constitutional policing.

    Most Americans would be surprised to realize that that wasn’t something that was already happening. Can you explain what the definition of constitutional policing is?

    RONNIE DUNN: Well, it’s policing in line with the U.S. Constitution, particularly equal protection under the law and regarding protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and just the protection of citizens’ constitutional rights, regardless of their background, socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation or otherwise.

    GWEN IFILL: That seems pretty straightforward, but it doesn’t seem like that would need a department — Justice Department settlement to accomplish.

    What is in this finding, this agreement, this settlement, that would transform, as the mayor said, would transform the city police department and the city?

    RONNIE DUNN: Well, there are quite a few components, particularly the revamping and revision of the use of force policies, which were the particular finding of the DOJ investigation, excessive use of deadly and excessive force.

    And, as you know, we have had a number of tragic instances which you made reference to. So, it directly addresses that, as well as what is really unique and novel about this is, it places civilian involvement, and the head of the internal affairs unit for the police department will be headed by a civilian. That is novel. That is unique. Nowhere in the nation is that currently in place.

    So, this can truly be a model for policing in the 21st century, if implemented as designed.

    GWEN IFILL: If implemented as designed. We heard the judge say this weekend that part of the reason why the police officer wasn’t found guilty of voluntary manslaughter is that he did perceive a threat.

    So, what does this agreement do to speak to this idea that some people, some officers, some civilians perceive threats which it turns out may not exist?

    RONNIE DUNN: Yes, I’m glad you asked that question.

    It specifically addresses training. There’s a lot of emphasis on training, resources for equipment and training. And specifically to your question, there’s threat perception training, and de-escalation tactics that will be implemented. And that, along with cultural competency and bias-free policing as well, will all be part of this — this reform package.

    GWEN IFILL: When the — when the Justice Department first came out with this finding against the city of Cleveland, it never really mentioned race. But you’re saying that this agreement will speak to things like implicit bias?

    RONNIE DUNN: Yes, absolutely.

    That was insistent and a very salient theme throughout the community forums that were held, both throughout the city relative to this, this investigation, and throughout the state, actually. So, bias-free policing and data collection are definitely incorporated, embedded in the — in this package.

    GWEN IFILL: I know you understand, and you live in and you paid very close attention to what’s happened in Cleveland and Ohio, but part of what the — all the levels of government were saying today is, this would be a blueprint for cities around the country.

    You have written far more widely on this than just Cleveland, so maybe you can tell us, how would it be a blueprint for other cities?

    RONNIE DUNN: Well, as I said, when you consider the fact that it now embeds civilians over the internal affairs division, for example, that is how you would begin to change the culture in — within the police institution.

    We hear so much about the thin blue line and that blue wall of silence, and trying to impact that. Well, this is how — in part, how you begin to shift and change that insular culture within the police agency.

    GWEN IFILL: Do you anticipate any resistance from unions, police unions, or the police officers themselves about the idea that a civilian would be in charge of their internal affairs investigations?

    RONNIE DUNN: Well, I’m sure there will be some resistance initially, but, hopefully, everyone will see through the process, through the implementation process that this is essential for the better. This not only benefits the community. It benefits police officers as well. It makes them able to perform their jobs more effectively, more safely, and provides them with the necessary tools, training, and equipment that they need to do so.

    So, I think that, ultimately, when we look at cities across the country, Cincinnati, for example, where they have come under DOJ guidance with a consent decree, we see that, over time, there has been a transformation in the relationship between the police and the community, where now they have a partnership and true collaborative policing, co-policing, to make the community safer overall.

    GWEN IFILL: Professor Ronnie Dunn of Cleveland State University, thank you very much.

    RONNIE DUNN: Thank you.

    The post Will Cleveland’s police reform offer blueprint for other cities? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 6.17.55 PM

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    GWEN IFILL: The flood disaster that’s stricken Texas and Oklahoma claimed more lives and property today. At least 16 people have been killed since Saturday and dozens more are missing.

    The latest deluge hit Houston after an all-night downpour. Lightning snaked its way across the night sky and the rain fell and fell and fell, 11 inches in about six hours in Southwest Houston. By morning, parts of the nation’s fourth largest city were underwater. Hundreds of cars were stopped in their tracks by rising water, causing all-night backups. In some cases, desperate drivers climbed onto the hoods of their cars, waiting for help.

    But even tow trucks got stuck. Houston Mayor Annise Parker declared the city a disaster area after more than 500 water rescues.

    MAYOR ANNISE PARKER, Houston: The street flooding from the really torrential downpour last night, we have got cars really littered all over the city. And, as the floodwaters go down, that’s one of the things we’re doing is to make sure that no one was trapped in those vehicles.

    GWEN IFILL: In all, about 2,500 vehicles were abandoned by people seeking higher ground. To the west, 40 people were still missing in the hard-hit vacation area of Wimberley, Texas on the Blanco River. Teams kept looking for Laura McComb and her two children, who were swept away in their vacation home. Her husband, Jonathan, was rescued.

    Governor Greg Abbott declared disasters in more than three dozen counties. And, in Washington, President Obama promised federal help.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have FEMA personnel already on the ground. They are coordinating with Texas emergency management authorities. And I will anticipate that there will be some significant requests made to Washington.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, on the Mexican border, the death toll from Monday’s tornado in Ciudad Acuna rose to 14 after search teams found the body of a baby who’d been swept from its mother’s arms.

    So far, there’s no estimate of the damage done in Texas and Oklahoma. But the National Weather Service is warning of more rain and thunderstorms this week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A federal judge’s ruling that blocked a presidential order on immigration will stand a while longer. A federal appeals court panel refused today to set aside the ruling. It bars the president from shielding immigrants from deportation. The Justice Department is expected to appeal.

    GWEN IFILL: The government of Iraq has formally opened a campaign to retake its key western province, Anbar, from the Islamic State group. ISIS fighters captured the provincial capital, Ramadi, last week, after Iraqi forces abandoned the city.

    Today’s announcement of a counteroffensive came as Shiite militias said they are now taking the lead in the operation.

    AHMED AL-ASSADI, Shiite Militia Spokesman (through interpreter): We can see that the city of Ramadi has been besieged from three sides. There are formations from the Iraqi armed forces stationed shoulder-to-shoulder with the formations of Shiite militia. Thus, the city of Ramadi will be blockaded completely. Then, the Iraqi troops will launch a wide-scale attack to liberate Ramadi.

    GWEN IFILL: U.S. officials raised concerns about the Shiite militia’s involvement and their use of a sectarian code name that could offend Sunnis. Meanwhile, in Syria, state TV reported airstrikes in the northern province of Raqqa have killed 140 Islamic State militants.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Government-allied fighters in Yemen have scored their first major victory in months over Shiite Houthi rebels. Officials said today the pro-government forces captured Dhale, a city that lies on the road to the Port of Aden.

    GWEN IFILL: China said today it will expand the reach of its navy and air force to protect its claims in the South China Sea. That came after — days after a U.S. reconnaissance plane flew over areas where the Chinese are building artificial islands. In Beijing, the Defense Ministry dismissed complaints about China’s activities.

    YANG YUJUN, Defense Ministry Spokesman, China (through interpreter): There are all kinds of constructions all over China everyday, such as building houses, roads, bridges and so on. From the sovereignty point of view, China’s construction in the South China Sea is no different than the constructions in other parts of China.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, Taiwan’s president offered a plan aimed at easing the tensions. And Japan announced it will join U.S. and Australian forces in upcoming military exercises, for the first time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, cyber-thieves have broken into an IRS database that holds records of more than 100,000 taxpayers. The agency said today the hackers obtained tax returns and other information. The breach lasted from February through mid-May.

    GWEN IFILL: Amtrak will install video cameras in locomotive cabs, starting in the Northeast Corridor. The announcement today follows this month’s fatal derailment in Philadelphia. The engineer on that train suffered a head injury and has said he cannot remember what happened. Eight people died in the wreck and 200 were hurt.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama pressed the Senate today to extend Patriot Act provisions that authorize bulk collection of phone records. He said — quote — “This needs to get done.”  So far, opponents have blocked Senate action, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling a Sunday session, ahead of a midnight deadline.

    GWEN IFILL: And Wall Street spent the day in a bearish mood over Greece’s debt and the surging dollar. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 190 points to close near 18040. The Nasdaq fell 56 points. And the S&P 500 dropped 22.

    The post News Wrap: Torrential rain and flooding pummel Texas appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Walter De Gregorio, FIFA director of communications and public affairs, gestures during a news conference at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 27. Seven soccer officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday and detained pending extradition to the United States over suspected corruption at soccer's governing body FIFA, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement. Photo by Ruben Sprich/Reuters

    Walter De Gregorio, FIFA director of communications and public affairs, gestures during a news conference at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 27. Seven soccer officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday and detained pending extradition to the United States over suspected corruption at soccer’s governing body FIFA, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement. Photo by Ruben Sprich/Reuters

    Seven officials with the world soccer body Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, were arrested Wednesday, charged with racketeering, wire fraud and money-laundering after a sweeping probe alleging corruption spanning two decades.

    Fourteen people total, including nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives, were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Of the 14 indicted, four individual defendants and two corporate defendants already have pleaded guilty in the U.S. soccer corruption investigation alleging bribes totaling more than $150 million to obtain media and marketing rights to World Cup soccer tournaments.

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the charges on Wednesday. “The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States,” said Lynch. “It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.”

    Swiss authorities on Wednesday arrested several high-ranking FIFA officials on corruption charges at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and plan to extradite them to the United States. Photo by Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

    Swiss authorities on Wednesday arrested several high-ranking FIFA officials on corruption charges at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and plan to extradite them to the United States. Photo by Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

    Also early Wednesday, Swiss authorities in Zurich arrested Jeffrey Webb, Eduardo Li, Julio Rocha, Costas Takkas, Eugenio Figueredo, Rafael Esquivel and Jose Maria Marin as they were attending FIFA’s annual meeting at the upscale Baur au Lac hotel. They are now awaiting extradition to the United States.

    Those who pleaded guilty included Charles Blazer, the former general secretary of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, or CONCACAF, and former U.S. representative on the FIFA executive committee; Jose Hawilla, owner and founder of Brazil-based sports marketing firm Traffic Group; and two of Hawilla’s companies, Traffic Sports International Inc. and Traffic Sports USA Inc. based in Florida.

    “FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football,” the organization said in a statement. “FIFA is fully cooperating with the investigation and is supporting the collection of evidence in this regard.”

    FIFA longtime president Sepp Blatter was not arrested. He is up for reelection for a fifth term on Friday. A FIFA spokesman said the election would go ahead as planned.

    See a full list of defendants. They face maximum jail terms of 20 years.

    The post Top FIFA officials arrested on charges of money-laundering, wire fraud appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Researchers find that methadone and wastewater disinfectants create the carcinogen NDMA, which can filter into drinking water supplies.   Photo by Adam Lister/Getty Images

    Researchers find that methadone and wastewater disinfectants create the carcinogen NDMA, which can filter into drinking water supplies. Photo by Adam Lister/Getty Images

    Like death and taxes, at some point in life, drinking someone else’s human waste becomes inevitable.

    When water flows from the many pipes of our homes, the first stop is a wastewater treatment factory, where most hazardous chemicals and microbes are removed. In an ideal scenario, city planners have geographically positioned wastewater facilities so that none of the drainage flows into another’s city’s drinking water supply. But if you live downstream from any population, then you’re likely drinking someone’s wastewater, says Arizona State University environmental engineer Paul Westerhoff.

    Enter methadone. Methadone is the latest member of an infamous club. Like birth control hormones and the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, methadone leaks into waterways and poses a health risk when it filters into our drinking water, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

    But unlike some forms of pharmaceutical pollution, the danger of methadone waste doesn’t come from the drug itself, but from a chemical reaction with a common wastewater disinfectant. The product of this reaction is the carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine or “NDMA” for short. The World Health Organization describes NDMA as “clearly carcinogenic” due to its ability to cause stomach and colon cancer after ingestion.

    “It’s a very important paper, as NDMA is a very potent carcinogen,” said environmental chemist Susan Richardson of the University of South Carolina, who wasn’t involved with the study. “It’s being commonly found in drinking water well above the health reference level for cancer, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently deciding whether to regulate it.”

    science-wednesday

    About 4 million methadone prescriptions are issued annually to treat conditions like heroin addiction or chronic pain disorders. A little known fact about methadone is that approximately 28 percent of the drug does not get absorbed by the human body after ingestion, but instead, it gets excreted in urine.

    Which brings us back to wastewater. On average, a small fraction of wastewater gets into the drinking supply, Westerhoff said. It’s less than 1 to 2 percent of streamwater — but during a modest drought up to 30 percent of an urban water supply can be of wastewater origin.”

    In an earlier study, Paul Westerhoff and Jacelyn Rice measured the magnitude of de facto wastewater reuse at 1210 of the 1292  drinking water plants in the U.S. that primarily use surface waters and serve greater than 10, 000 people. Credit: Rice and Westerhoff, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, 49 (2), pp 982–989

    In an earlier study, Paul Westerhoff and Jacelyn Rice measured the magnitude of de facto wastewater reuse at 1210 of the 1292 drinking water plants in the U.S. that primarily use surface waters and serve greater than 10, 000 people. Credit: Rice and Westerhoff, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, 49 (2), pp 982–989

    Westerhoff’s team specializes in finding what gets left behind in that wastewater. For instance in January, they reported that urban sewage might harbor millions of dollars in gold.

    For their new study, Westerhoff’s team plus colleagues in Colorado and Toronto went hunting for potential sources of NDMA in runoff from a nearby wastewater plant in Arizona. They focused on water treatment plants that use a disinfectant called chloramine (not to be confused with chlorine). In 2010, nearly a quarter of the U.S. drank water treated with chloramine disinfectants. It’s known that some industrial compounds, agricultural herbicides or over-the-counter drugs like antihistamines can react with chloramine to create NDMA. But the environmental levels of these chemicals in most places are too low to account for the abundance of NDMA found in wastewater supplies.

    To find new sources, Westerhoff’s team treated wastewater like the scene of a car accident. When two vehicles hit each other, their wreckage sprays in a pattern that detectives can later use to reconstruct the incident: the speed of the cars on impact, the angle of the collision.

    The same applies to chemicals.

    “If you smash one molecule hard enough, it will break into a fragment,” said lead author and ASU environmental engineer David Hanigan. In this case, he was looking for a special piece of wreckage — a compound named dimethylamine that forms the backbone of NDMA.

    They passed the wastewater samples through a device — a QTOF mass spectrometer — that could identify a dimethylamine “fragment” in order to trace its origins. After scanning 800 likely compounds, the search landed on methadone. They found that methadone likely accounted for up to 62 percent of the NDMA in the wastewater samples.

    Next, they examined whether methadone could pass from wastewater to potable reservoirs, by testing 10 drinking water sources spread across the U.S. and Canada. (The locations weren’t disclosed, given the sensitivity of the research).

    “These weren’t rivers or streams in the middle of nowhere. People are drinking this water,” Westerhoff said.

    Half of the drinking water samples carried detectable amounts of methadone — in the range of tens to hundreds of nanograms. This methadone content would be too low to get a person high, but more than enough to spawn a risky level of NDMA, the researchers found. They calculated that the consequent levels of NDMA would be enough to be banned in places like Canada, Massachusetts and California, where the carcinogen is regulated.

    Human-generated chemicals are increasing in the environment and in wastewater at treatment facilities (pictured), researchers say. Photo by Jupiterimages/Getty Images

    Human-generated chemicals are increasing in the environment and in wastewater at treatment facilities (pictured), researchers say. Photo by Jupiterimages/Getty Images

    So what’s the remedy?

    It’s unlikely that doctors will stop prescribing methadone, since its use is so vital in the treatment of chronic pain and heroin recovery. Chloramine disinfectant is increasingly used in waste management, given that it produces fewer negative chemical byproducts than chlorine.

    One possible option involves attacking pharmaceutical pollution before it reaches your lips, Richardson said. She calls for the broader the use of activated charcoal — known as granular activated carbon — which soak up methadone, organic matter and other pharmaceuticals without adding chemicals to the water.

    The bigger question is who should be responsible for treatment, said Westerhoff, the downstream drinking water utility or the upstream wastewater plant that is collecting the methadone? Using activated charcoal at treatment plants requires an expensive upgrade in technology, which may explain why only 10 percent of U.S. drinking water is handled this way. In 1992, Cincinnati reportedly spent $63.9 million to add activated carbon to their water treatment, though the final cost to consumer averaged about $1 per month. (Local utility companies issue “water quality reports” on an annual basis that describe how your water is treated)

    “In the end, everyone is responsible for these chemicals, whether they’re accumulating in a whale in the Arctic or showing up in your drinking water,” said Westerhoff, “We can do real damage to our river systems. That’s the takeaway.”

    The post Scientists trace cancer-causing chemical in drinking water back to methadone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

    Photo by Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration issued new rules Wednesday to protect the nation’s drinking water and clarify which smaller streams, tributaries and wetlands are covered by anti-pollution and development provisions of the Clean Water Act.

    Two Supreme Court rulings had left the reach of the law uncertain. The rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are designed to clarify which smaller bodies of water fall under federal protection.

    EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule will only affect waters that have a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected. The EPA has said 60 percent of the nation’s streams and waterways are vulnerable, and these rules clarify which of those waters are protected. The regulations would only kick in if a business or landowner intends to pollute or destroy those waters.

    The rules have already run into deep opposition from farm groups and the Republican-led Congress. The House voted to block the regulations earlier this month, and a similar effort is underway in the Senate.

    Echoing the concerns of farm groups, the lawmakers said the rules could greatly expand the reach of the clean water law and create confusion among officials in the field as to which bodies of water must be protected. Farmers wary of more federal regulations are concerned that every stream, ditch and puddle on their private land could now be subject to federal oversight.

    McCarthy has acknowledged the proposed rules issued last year were confusing and said the final rules were written to be more clear. She said the regulations don’t create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and even adds some new exemptions for artificial lakes and ponds and water-filled depressions, among other features.

    These efforts were “to make clear our goal is to stay out of agriculture’s way,” McCarthy said in a blog on the EPA website.

    McCarthy said the rule will help protect drinking water for 117 million Americans.

    The post EPA issues final rules protecting drinking water, streams appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer, left, and Patricia Schieffer arrive at a state dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in honor of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 28. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer, left, and Patricia Schieffer arrive at a state dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in honor of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 28. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — At 78, Bob Schieffer is entitled to reminisce about the “good old days” of reporting. He believes young people coming into the business can also learn from them.

    Schieffer will host CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday for the last time after 24 years. He’s retiring from a journalism career that began at 20 at a Fort Worth, Texas, radio station and landed him at CBS News in Washington when he walked in on someone else’s interview.

    He’s one of the last of a generation of reporters working at such a high level; he covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a story that gave him one of the biggest scoops of his career.

    “I suppose every generation thinks that the kids younger than them aren’t as good as they were and screwed it up in some way,” he said. “I try not to sound like an old goat, but the fact is there will always be a need for reporters, whether they are doing it on television or a website or for a newspaper that is not on paper anymore.”

    He learned the craft of reporting, and the importance of checking out facts, from hard-bitten newspaper editors. He’s concerned that many young journalists now work in jobs without editors to guide them.

    His Kennedy scoop was a spectacular example of the importance of simply answering the phone. As a newspaper reporter in Fort Worth in November 1963, he picked up a ringing phone to find Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother on the line. She was looking for ride to Dallas to see her son, the suspected gunman in the Kennedy assassination. Schieffer grabbed a notebook and drove right over to her.

    Recently, an aspiring reporter in Texas sent Schieffer a note seeking advice on a school project. Schieffer sent his phone number and the student replied that he’d rather talk via email. Schieffer Rule No. 1: pick up the phone or drop by.

    “How do you ask a follow-up question?” he said. “How do you listen to a person and the tone of his voice to know whether he’s putting you on? The best way to interview someone is face-to-face and I think we ought to get to that whenever we can.”

    Schieffer went to Vietnam on assignment for his newspaper and after he appeared on a local talk show upon his return, a television station offered him a job. “It was $20 a week more than I made at the paper, and I needed that $20,” he said.

    He made his way to a local Washington station and, in April 1969, summoned the nerve to walk in on the CBS News bureau chief without an appointment. He was let into the executive’s office by a secretary who mistook Schieffer for another Bob — longtime NBC News reporter Robert Hager — who actually had an interview scheduled that day. Schieffer talked his way into the job and never left.

    Schieffer never lost his Texas twang. No need. It reinforces his signature of asking direct, to-the-point questions without getting lost in the weeds of political mumbo jumbo.

    “You never felt like he went Washington, which I always felt was his best attribute,” said Chuck Todd, Schieffer’s competitor on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”You never felt he got caught up in groupthink, or got caught up in Washington elitism.”

    Nothing annoys Schieffer more than when he doesn’t ask a question because he fears it’s too simple, or that he already knows the answer, only to find a rival generated headlines by asking the one he neglected.

    Schieffer is disturbed by the changes he’s seen in Washington. It’s a meaner place, he said, partially fueled by Internet anonymity but also by a lack of collegiality. Lawmakers of all stripes and their families used to know each other better but now spend more time in their districts and less time in the capital. Some families never move.

    It has led to an inability to get things done that Schieffer says is a greater danger to the country’s future than terrorism.

    “It has changed the people who run for office now,” he said. “I don’t mean they’re bad people, but they’re different. They have to raise so much money, they have to sign off with so many interest groups to get here that once they’re here they can’t compromise their positions. Their positions are set in stone.”

    Seeing the nation’s leaders up close leads him to conclude, “Some of ‘em I like better than others, some of ‘em I respect and some of ‘em I don’t. I still think most of the people in government are good people, but there are some exceptions.”

    Retirement or not, he’s not willing to reveal those exceptions.

    Soon Schieffer will pack up an office stuffed with memorabilia, much of it reflecting has passion for country music. One picture shows him standing by a bar with Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. After his last show, he’ll walk a few blocks to a restaurant where old friends and colleagues will toast his tenure.

    Chances are he won’t completely disappear from CBS News, with some elder statesman role likely.

    For now, he’s looking forward to a summer off.

    The post CBS’ Bob Schieffer is ready for retirement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Leg shackles are seen on the floor at Camp 6 detention center, at the U.S. Naval Base, in Guantanamo Bay. Photo by Brennan Linsley/Reuters

    Leg shackles are seen on the floor at Camp 6 detention center, at the U.S. Naval Base, in Guantanamo Bay. Photo by Brennan Linsley/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Five senior Taliban leaders released last year from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could move freely around the world next week as their one-year travel ban expires.

    The five detainees were sent to Qatar where government officials agreed to monitor their activities and prevent them from traveling out of the country under the terms of the May 2014 exchange. Bergdahl, who had been held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years after walking away from his Army post in Afghanistan, was released to the U.S. military.

    He recently was charged with desertion.

    U.S. officials have discussed with the Qataris the possibility of extending the travel ban after it expires on June 1. But so far, the White House has not publicly announced any new agreement with Qatar, meaning the five could leave the tiny nation on the Arabian Peninsula at the end of the month.

    “In Congress, we spent a lot of time debating whether the Qataris were going to adequately keep an eye on them in the course of the 12 months,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee. “My point all along was that I’m more worried about month No. 13 than the first 12.”

    Schiff has been privy to the details of the still-secret memorandum of understanding the U.S. reached with Qatar that put the five under a 12-month watch following their release.

    “The Qataris did pretty good — I wouldn’t say perfect,” he said about the year-long monitoring. “But the big question is what comes next.”

    At least one of the five allegedly contacted militants during the past year while in Qatar. No details have been disclosed about that contact, but the White House confirmed that one was put under enhanced surveillance. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week: “I know that at least one has had communication with the Taliban.”

    One or more of the detainees had some members of the al-Qaida-affiliated Haqqani militant group travel to Qatar to meet with them earlier in the year, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. That was an indication that the group was reaching out to communicate with the so-called Taliban Five, said Graham, who predicts all five will rejoin the fight.

    Four of the five former detainees remain on the United Nations’ blacklist, which freezes their assets and has them under a separate travel ban. But the U.N. itself has acknowledged that its travel ban has been violated. In a report late last year, the U.N. sanctions committee stated: “Regrettably, the monitoring team continues to receive a steady — albeit officially unconfirmed — flow of media reports indicating that some listed individuals have become increasingly adept at circumventing the sanctions measures, the travel ban in particular.”

    The State Department insists that U.S. officials work to mitigate the risk of former Guantanamo detainees returning to the fight, threatening Americans or jeopardizing U.S. national security. U.S. officials have noted in the past that the five Taliban leaders are middle-aged or older, were former officials in the Taliban government and probably wouldn’t be seen again on any battlefield, although they could continue to be active members of the Taliban.

    Members of Congress have repeatedly expressed concern about what will happen after the travel ban expires. They have asked the Obama administration to try to persuade Qatar to extend the monitoring.

    “It’s impossible for me to see how they don’t rejoin the fight in short order,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., wrote Defense Secretary Ash Carter in March, asking him to take any step necessary to make sure the five do not return to the battlefield in Afghanistan. And earlier this month, the 13 Republican members of the House Intelligence committee wrote President Barack Obama asking him to urge Qatar to extend travel restrictions on the former detainees indefinitely.

    “If, as scheduled, Qatar permits these five former detainees to possess passports and travel to Afghanistan or Pakistan when the memorandum of understanding expires on June 1, they will be at liberty to play an even more direct role in attacks against the men and women of our military,” they wrote.

    Many lawmakers from both parties were irate when the five Guantanamo detainees were swapped for Bergdahl. They complained that the White House did not give Congress a 30-day notification of the transfer, which is required by law. The White House said it couldn’t wait 30 days because Bergdahl’s life was endangered.

    After the transfer, the House Armed Services Committee demanded the Pentagon release internal documents about the swap. The committee received hundreds, but lawmakers complain that they are heavily redacted. The committee inserted language in the fiscal 2016 defense policy bill that threatens to cut Pentagon spending by about $500 million if the Defense Department doesn’t provide additional information about the exchange.

    Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said the Pentagon has provided the committee with more than 3,600 pages of documents and redactions have been minimal.

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    Spring Fever class discussion

    Teacher Janneke van den Heuvel leads her 8-year old students in a group discussion during Spring Fever week in the Netherlands. NewsHour photo by Saskia de Melker

    “Who here has been in love?” Anniek Pheifer asks a crowd of Dutch elementary school students.

    It’s a Spring morning in Utrecht, and the St. Jan de Doper elementary school gym is decked in heart-shaped balloons and streamers. Pheifer and Pepijn Gunneweg are hosts of a kids television program in the Netherlands, and they’re performing a song about having a crush.

    Kids giggle at the question. Hands — little and bigger — shoot up.

    Welcome to “Spring Fever” week in Dutch primary schools, the week of focused sexuality classes… for 4-year olds.

    Of course, it’s not just for 4-year-olds. Eight-year-olds learn about self-image and gender stereotypes. 11-year-olds discuss sexual orientation and contraceptive options. But in the Netherlands, the approach, known as “comprehensive sex education,” starts as early as age 4.

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    Kindergarteners attend the opening assembly for Spring Fever week at the St Jan de Doperschool in Utrecht, the Netherlands. NewsHour photo by Saskia de Melker

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    You’ll never hear an explicit reference to sex in a kindergarten class.In fact, the term for what’s being taught here is sexuality education rather than sex education. That’s because the goal is bigger than that, says Ineke van der Vlugt, an expert on youth sexual development for Rutgers WPF, the Dutch sexuality research institute behind the curriculum. It’s about having open, honest conversations about love and relationships.

    By law, all primary school students in the Netherlands must receive some form of sexuality education. The system allows for flexibility in how it’s taught. But it must address certain core principles — among them, sexual diversity and sexual assertiveness. That means encouraging respect for all sexual preferences and helping students develop skills to protect against sexual coercion, intimidation and abuse. The underlying principle is straightforward: Sexual development is a normal process that all young people experience, and they have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject.

    “There were societal concerns that sexualization in the media could be having a negative impact on kids,” van der Vlugt said. “We wanted to show that sexuality also has to do with respect, intimacy, and safety.”

    Beyond risk prevention

    The Dutch approach to sex ed has garnered international attention, largely because the Netherlands boasts some of the best outcomes when it comes to teen sexual health. On average, teens in the Netherlands do not have sex at an earlier age than those other European countries or in the United States. Researchers found that among 12 to 25 year olds in the Netherlands, most say they had  “wanted and fun” first sexual experiences. By comparison, 66 percent of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time. When they do have sex, a Rutgers WPF study found that nine out of ten Dutch adolescents used contraceptives the first time, and  World Health Organization data shows that Dutch teens are among the top users of the birth control pill. According to the World Bank, the teen pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world, five times lower than the U.S. Rates of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases are also low.

    “We have to help young people navigate all the choices they face and stand up for themselves in all situations, sexual and otherwise,”

    There are multiple factors that likely contribute to these numbers. Easy access to contraception is one. Condoms, for example, are available in vending machines, and the birth control pill is free for anyone under age 21. But there’s also a growing body of research that specifically credits comprehensive sexuality education. A recent study from Georgetown University shows that starting sex ed in primary school helps avoid unintended pregnancies, maternal deaths, unsafe abortions and STDs.

    Courtesy of Rutgers WPF

    Courtesy of Rutgers WPF

    Proponents of the Dutch model argue that their approach extends beyond those risks. Their brand of sex ed reflects a broader emphasis on young people’s rights, responsibility and respect that many public health experts say is the foundation of sexual health.

    A 2008 United Nations report found that comprehensive sex ed, when taught effectively, allows young people to “explore their attitudes and values, and to practice the decision-making and other life skills they will need to be able to make informed choices about their sexual lives.” Students who had completed comprehensive sex education in the Netherlands were also found to be more assertive and better communicators, according to an independent health research agency that conducted a study of the Dutch programs.

    “We have to help young people navigate all the choices they face and stand up for themselves in all situations, sexual and otherwise,” said Robert van der Gaag, a health promotion official at Central Holland’s regional public health center.

    ‘Little butterflies in my stomach’

    At the St. Jan de Doper school, a group of kindergartners sit in a circle, as their teacher, Marian Jochems, flips through a picture book. The pages contain animals like bears and alligators hugging.

    “Why are they hugging?” she asks the class.

    “Because they like each other,” one girl answers.

    Jochems asks them to think about who they like the most. Several kids say their mom or dad. One girl names her little sister. A few name other children at school.

    “How does it feel when that person hugs you?” Jochems asks.

    “I feel warm from the inside,” one boy replies. “It’s like there are little butterflies in my stomach.”

    Lessons like this are designed to get kids thinking and talking about the kind of intimacy that feels good and the kind that doesn’t. Other early lessons focus on body awareness. For example, students draw boys’ and girls’ bodies, tell stories about friends taking a bath together, and discuss who likes doing that and who doesn’t. By the end of kindergarten, students are expected to be able to properly name body parts including genitals. They also learn about different types of families, what it means to be a good friend, and that a baby grows in a mother’s womb.

    CLICK HERE TO READ A LESSON PLAN

    CLICK HERE TO READ A LESSON PLAN taught to Dutch kindergarten and first graders. Courtesy of Rutgers WPF

    “People often think we are starting right away to talk about sexual intercourse [with kindergartners],” van der Vlugt says. “Sexuality is so much more than that. It’s also about self image, developing your own identity, gender roles, and it’s about learning to express yourself, your wishes and your boundaries.”

    That means the kindergartners are also learning how to communicate when they don’t want to be touched. The goal is that by age 11, students are comfortable enough to navigate pointed discussions about reproduction, safe sex, and sexual abuse.

     

    Let’s not talk about sex

    In the United States, sexual education varies widely from state to state. Fewer than half of U.S. states require schools to teach sex ed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a global nonprofit that researches sexual and reproductive health. And Deb Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit dedicated to sexuality education, says that sex ed in the U.S. still overwhelmingly focuses on minimizing the risk of pregnancy and STDs from heterosexual intercourse.

    And nearly four in 10 millennials report that the sex education they received was not helpful, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

    “We have failed to see that sexual health is far more than simply the prevention of disease or unplanned pregnancy,” says Hauser. That narrow focus, she says, leaves young people with few skills to cope with their feelings and make decisions in sexual encounters.

    Not everyone agrees.  In fact, comprehensive sex ed has yet to take hold in most parts of the country. Utah, for example, requires that abstinence be the dominant message given to students. It bans discussing details of sexual intercourse and advocating for homosexuality, the use of contraceptives or sexual activity outside of marriage.

    Utah state representative Bill Wright has further tried to restrict sex ed. In 2012, he proposed a bill requiring that abstinence only be taught and that it be an optional subject. It passed but was vetoed by the governor.

    Sex ed is “not an important part of our curriculum,” Wright said. “ It is just basically something out there that takes away from the character in our schools and takes away from the character of our students.”

    Utah is far from alone. Half of U.S. states require that abstinence be stressed. “We have created generations of people who are not comfortable with their own sexuality,” says Dr. David Satcher, the former U.S. Surgeon General. That extends to parents and teachers, he says.

    In other areas, the tide is shifting toward an approach closer to that of the Dutch. Two of the largest school districts in the country — Chicago Public Schools and Florida’s Broward County — have recently mandated sex education for elementary school students. Chicago Public Schools requires at least 300 minutes a year of sex education for kindergarten through fourth grade students and twice as much time for fifth through twelfth graders. In the fall of 2015,  schools in Broward County will teach sex education at least once a year in every grade, and the curriculum will include information about topics like body image, sexting and social media.

    Courtesy of Rutgers WPF

    Courtesy of Rutgers WP

    In the Netherlands, schools aim to educate parents too. Parents nights are held to give parents tools to talk to their kids about sex. Public health experts recommend that parents take cues from their kids and make it an ongoing conversation, rather than one awkward, all-encompassing “birds and the bees” talk. For example, they advise, if you walk in on your child masturbating, don’t react shocked; don’t punish or scold them. Have a talk about where it is appropriate for such behavior to occur.

    “We talk about [sex] over dinner,” said one father at a Spring Fever Parents Night. Another said he recently answered questions about homosexuality posed by his twin 6-year-olds during bath time.

    Lessons in love

    Sabine Hasselaar teaches 11-year-olds. In a recent class, Hasselaar posed a series of hypothetical situations to her students: you’re kissing someone and they start using their tongue which you don’t want. A girl starts dancing close to a guy at a party causing him to get an erection. Your friend is showing off pornographic photos that make you feel uncomfortable.

    The class discusses each scenario. “Everyone has the right to set their own limits and no one should ever cross those limits,” Hasselaar says.

    There is an anonymous ‘Question Box.’ in her class during “Spring Fever” week. Students submit questions that teachers later address in class. “Nothing is taboo,” Hasselaar says. One of her students, for example, wrote: “I think I am lesbian. What should I do?”
    Hasselaar addressed the issue in class: “It’s not strange for some girls to like other girls more than boys. It’s a feeling that you can’t change, just like being in love. The only difference is that it’s with someone that is the same sex as you.”

    And in fact, most of the questions from her students aren’t about sex at all. “Mostly they are curious about love. I get a lot of questions like, “What do I do if I like someone?” or ‘How do I ask someone to go out with me?’”

    Questions like these are taken just as seriously as the ones about sex.

    “Of course we want kids to be safe and to understand the risks involved with sex, but we also want them to know about the positive and fun side of caring for someone and being in a healthy relationship,” van der Vlugt says.

    That’s why you’ll find teachers discussing the difference between liking someone (as a friend) and liking someone. There’s even a lesson on dating during which a teacher talked about how to break up with someone in a decent way: “Please, do not do it via text message,” the teacher said.

    “In the Netherlands, there’s a strong belief that young people can be in love and in relationships,”

    After elementary school, these students will likely go on to receive lessons from a widely-used curriculum called Long Live Love.

    “In the U.S., adults tend to view young people as these bundles of exploding hormones. In the Netherlands, there’s a strong belief that young people can be in love and in relationships,” says Amy Schalet, an American sociologist who was raised in the Netherlands and now studies cultural attitudes towards adolescent sexuality, with a focus on these two countries.

    “If you see love and relationships as the anchor for sex, then it’s much easier to talk about it with a child,” Schalet says. “Even a young one.”

    The post The case for starting sex education in kindergarten appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user KT King

    How crucial is failing to helping a young student learn? Photo by Flickr user KT King

    If you’re at all like me, somewhere in your home you have at least one can of WD-40®, because the stuff works wonders. If you teach science, I believe that you ought to have a large WD-40 poster on your classroom wall. Not to advertise the product but to teach a basic lesson about learning: failure is an essential part of succeeding.

    You may know the story of WD-40. More than 60 years ago the three employees of the San Diego-based Rocket Chemical Company were trying to develop a product that would prevent rust, something they could market to the aerospace industry. They tried, and, being methodical, they kept careful records. They labeled their first effort Water Displacement #1, or WD-1.

    I’ll bet you have figured out how many times they failed before they were finally successful.

    Students need to know that adults try and fail and fail and fail — and keep on trying.

    Students need to know that adults try and fail and fail and fail — and keep on trying. More than that, they need to experience failure. While I am a big fan of both project-based learning and blended learning, I believe the most critical piece of the pedagogical puzzle is what we ought to call “Problem-based learning.”

    Projects where the teachers already know the outcome won’t work, especially with older students. Blending technology and teaching so students can add fractions faster? That’s not the best approach either.

    Give students problems to tackle–and make the problems real! Lord knows we have plenty of problems worth tackling that can be given to students. They cannot be intractable (how can we achieve peace in the Middle East?) or trivial and uninteresting (what color should classrooms be painted?).

    A pedagogy based on discovery flies in the face of what seems to be happening in most classrooms and schools, where the emphasis seems to be on “critical analysis” to get the predetermined answers.

    Some years back I interviewed a math teacher in Richmond, Virginia, who told me how he used to take his students down to the James River and challenge them to determine how far it was to the opposite shore. He didn’t give them a formula; just the challenge. Then they put their heads together and, he said, eventually worked it out. Lots of failure…and lots of genuine discovery. Sadly, he said, the new state-mandated curriculum doesn’t allow time for field trips and discovery. Now, he said, he has to give his students the formula and a bunch of problems to solve. Which group of students is more likely to have retained that information?

    Here’s a genuine problem-based project that’s easy to incorporate into the curriculum: Equip every third grade class in the city, region or state with an air quality indicator. Have students go outside and take the measurements four or five times a day. They plot the data. Share the data with other third graders. Look for differences. Take photos to see if the measurements correlate with cloud patterns. Figure out the possible causes. Study weather patterns. Bring in scientists and meteorologists and ask them questions. Write up the findings, including everything that they could not explain. That is, write about the failures, the as-yet-unanswered questions.

    That’s real work, something those third graders won’t forget doing. And, while they may not be aware that they’re also developing a skill set that will serve them well as adults, that is what will be happening.

    Oh, and those kids will probably do just fine on whatever standardized tests the system throws their way.

    This post was originally published on Learning Matters.

    The post Why failure is crucial for a student’s success appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is expected to announce his run for the White House Wednesday.

    Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is expected to announce his run for the White House Wednesday.

    Virginia-born and Pennsylvania-raised, Rick Santorum was a lawyer who defended the World Wrestling Foundation, he’s a former congressman who helped author welfare reform and a father of seven who scored over a million points on Temple Run. He has been on both sides of political contests, most famously upsetting the Republican field and headline writers by winning the Iowa GOP caucus in 2012. The shoe-leather politician visited all 99 Iowa counties and won by 34 votes. (all apparently without caffeine). Here’s where he stands on ten key issues.

    Budget:

    Balance the budget. Cap the size of the federal government.

    Santorum wants to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget. He would also cap federal government expenditures at 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product. To achieve that, the former senator wants to freeze pay for non-defense-related federal employees for four years and decrease the federal workforce by 10 percent.

    Climate change:

    Not caused by human activity. Allow more oil and gas drilling.

    Santorum believes the earth’s climate is cyclical and changes naturally, not as a result of human activity. On the subject of hydrofracking, the Pennsylvanian has said he opposes significant new regulations on the industry. In favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Santorum also supports construction of the Keystone Pipeline.

    Education:

    End Common Core. Keep federal government out of education policy.

    Known as a strong advocate for home schooling, the Republican hopeful does not support federal government involvement in education policy and opposed Common Core standards when they were initiated. As a U.S. senator, Santorum voted for the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which set up a federally-monitored system of education standards. In a 2012 debate, he said the vote was a mistake and went against his personal beliefs.

    Immigration:

    Block the DREAM Act and any pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. Restrict legal immigration. Increase border security.

    Santorum opposes the DREAM Act and President Obama’s waivers for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, as he told CNN in 2012. He is opposed to any pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. In a 2012 debate, the Pennsylvanian agreed with Mitt Romney’s concept of self-deportation. In addition, Santorum has called for more restrictions on the current legal immigration system, arguing an influx of workers has depressed middle class wages. A supporter of increased border security, in 2011 Santorum said the U.S. should finish building a fence along the border with Mexico.

    Obamacare:

    Repeal it. Set up alternate system with tax credits for low-income Americans and high-risk pools for those with previous illness.

    In 2011, Santorum told Fox News that as president, he would repeal all regulations in the Affordable Care Act. His own health care plan would encourage Americans to set up their own health savings accounts using pre-tax savings. Santorum would also boost insurance companies’ reach and competitiveness across state lines. The former senator would give tax credits to some low-income Americans to help buy insurance and would establish high-risk pools for those with history of illness.

    Social issues:

    Ban abortion, with the exception of when the mother’s life is in danger. Pass a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

    Santorum believes life begins at conception and abortions should be banned with the exception of when the life of the mother is in danger. Santorum has signed a pledge to defend marriage as between one man and one woman and supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to set that definition in law. In 2012, he indicated he also opposes same-sex civil unions. The former senator has stated he personally would not attend a same-sex wedding.

    Social Security:

    Raise eligibility age for future beneficiaries. Consider cutting cost-of-living increases.

    Speaking to a New Hampshire crowd in 2012, Santorum argued that problems ahead for Social Security require immediate cuts to benefits for all and deeper cuts for wealthy Americans. A few weeks later on the 2012 trail, the former senator advocated raising the eligibility age for future retirees. His campaign tells NewsHour that the former Senator now would only consider cutting cost-of-living increases for current recipients. In 2005, Santorum supported President George W. Bush’s push to privatize Social Security. His campaign recently told NewsHour that Santorum no longer supports the type of private accounts Bush proposed.

    Taxes and wages:

    Raise minimum wage. Simplify tax rates.

    Santorum’s campaign tells the NewsHour that the presidential hopeful will propose a new overhaul of the tax system in coming weeks. In the meanwhile, on the website for his non-profit organization Patriot Voices, Santorum advocates the complete removal of taxes for U.S.-based manufacturing and a 50 percent cut in the corporate tax rate otherwise. In 2012, he proposed creating a simpler tax code consisting of just two tax brackets, 10 percent and 28 percent. More recently, the 2016 hopeful has proposed increasing the federal minimum wage by 50 cents per year for three years.

    Iran and Israel:

    Ramp up sanctions on Iran. Strengthen alliance with Israel.

    The candidate does not support President Obama’s negotiations with Iran, arguing it lets Iran keep enough infrastructure that it could still build a nuclear weapon in the long term. The former member of Congress said he would have signed the letter 47 Republican senators sent to Iran in March warning Tehran against any deal that was not approved by Congress. On Israel, a CNN video shows Santorum supports expanded Israeli settlements and believes the West Bank is Israeli ground, won in the 1967 Six-Day War, comparing it to Texas and territory the U.S. gained in the Mexican-American War.

    Islamic State:

    More air strikes. Deploy 10,000 U.S. ground troops.

    At the Conservative Political Action Committee’s convention in February, Santorum called for 10,000 U.S. troops on the ground to combat the Islamic State and for a massive bombing campaign against the group. At the same event, he told Bloomberg TV, the U.S. must increase air strikes, aid to Jordan and that under his plan, American forces would not be an “invasion force”. They would be combat-ready as well as help with training and intelligence.

    The post What does Rick Santorum believe? Where the candidate stands on 10 issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Olivia Hajicek of Goshen, Indiana, spells the word "chrysophyte" during the third round of the 88th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor, Maryland May 27, 2015. Spellers in the 88th annual bee range in age from nine to 15 and are the cream of more than 11 million hopefuls who took part in local contests. They come from eight countries and all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and Defense Department schools.  Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters.

    Olivia Hajicek of Goshen, Indiana, spells the word “chrysophyte” during the third round of the 88th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor, Maryland May 27, 2015. Spellers in the 88th annual bee range in age from nine to 15 and are the cream of more than 11 million hopefuls who took part in local contests. They come from eight countries and all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and Defense Department schools. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters.

    With the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee underway this week, it is time to make sure that your orthographic skills are up to scratch.

    Take our quiz and see if you can define the words that were part of the preliminary test for this year’s 285 spellers during competition. Of those 285 spellers, about 50 advanced to the semifinals, the Associated Press reported.

    The championship finals for the 88th annual National Spelling Bee is scheduled for 8 p.m., Thursday, May 28.

    The post QUIZ: Can you define these Scripps National Spelling Bee words? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    BEND IT LIKE BLATTER monitor

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A week that saw global soccer’s top officials arrested on major corruption charges today saw its highest official reelected to run FIFA. Joseph “Sepp” Blatter won a fifth term in office as head of the governing body that runs the World Cup and international soccer, this following what happened Wednesday.

    As FIFA met in Zurich, U.S. authorities brought indictments alleging massive corruption within the organization. The only challenger today, Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, conceded defeat after a first ballot left Blatter just short of the needed tally for victory.

    The 79-year old embattled FIFA chief spoke shortly after his reelection:

    JOSEPH “SEPP” BLATTER, President, FIFA: I take the responsibility to bring back FIFA. With you, we do it, we do it, we do it. And I’m convinced we can do it.

    I am faithful man. And I said now God, Allah, or whoever is this extraordinary, whatever it is, spirit in the world that we believe, we believe, they will help us to bring back this FIFA where we shall be. And I tell you and I promise you, in end of my term, I will give this FIFA to my successor in a very, very strong, strong position, a robust FIFA and a good FIFA. We have to work together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sepp Blatter’s reelection to head international soccer may seem counterintuitive, given what’s transpired in the past 72 hours. But many countries did support him, and with billions of dollars at stake, geopolitics remain a part of this.

    For some further answers and perspective, we turn to Roger Bennett, a soccer analyst and co-host of a show and podcast called “Men in Blazers” on NBC Sports. And Franklin Foer, author of “How Soccer Explains the World.”

    And we thank you both for being with us.

    Roger Bennett, let me start with you.

    How did Sepp Blatter pull off this win today?

    ROGER BENNETT, Soccer Analyst: Because there’s no democracy in FIFA.

    It takes place in FIFA land, where all he needs is to have a machine like the Chicago politics. It’s Boss Tweed. It’s Scaramanga. It’s Mayor Boss Daley. And every single nation — there is 209, even more than the United Nations — has a single vote. And he did it by pulling together Africa, Central America and also tiny islands that he saluted afterwards, the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands.

    He made them all stand up. He said, Oceania, you’re my Ocean’s 11, which is very brazen behavior for a man who on Wednesday it was announced his organization is being investigated by the FBI, the Department of Justice and the IRS. But it’s a medieval fiefdom that he’s running. It’s no democracy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Frank Foer, he did get these votes. There was a vote that took place and he won most of the countries that were casting ballots.

    FRANKLIN FOER, Author, “How Soccer Explains the World”: The Mayor Daley of Chicago analogy is really apt, because he’s run a patriotism system.

    He has all sorts of walking money that he has distributed all over the world to these very, very small countries, but it’s a little bit more than that. I mean, he’s also exploited geopolitical divisions, as you said in the introduction, that there is the sense that the global game of soccer was ruled by Europeans.

    And he gave the first World Cup to Africa, and he gave one to Asia, and so all these — the politics of colonialism have been superimposed on this. Now, it’s a vile exploitation of that rhetoric, but a very effective one.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it still is — to come back to this, Roger Bennett, it is still a system where votes were cast. People didn’t have their arms twisted to vote this way, did they?

    ROGER BENNETT: Absolutely in no way.

    FIFA is run — in the words of the FBI, in the words of the attorney general on Wednesday, they said it turns a World Cup of fraud. They said it’s based on corruption, there’s racketeering. They found wire fraud, so all of the major decisions that geopolitically occur in terms of where these World Cups should happen, who the sponsors should be, they involve — and some of these have been photographed — they literally involve bags of cash.

    So when we say these individuals, this is not democratic vote by any stretch of the imagination. It makes it very hard to dislodge. People have tried to dislodge him in the past. He has emerged stronger, as he did today. He slayed his opposition who stood up to him. But he has never met opponents like the FBI, like the Department of Justice and like the IRS. And they are going to be now a mighty foe that he’s going to take on over the next months, and a conversation that is going to pull in global leaders and global brands. And it’s going to be a very fascinating fight.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, but, Frank Foer, does he really emerge stronger after this vote, or is he — is his rule going forward under a shadow because of what happened?

    FRANKLIN FOER: It’s under more than a shadow. As Roger said, the FBI and the Department of Justice has now launched this major investigation.

    And, look, just like in Chicago, the hope is that you turn the smaller fry and it ends up going to the big kahuna. On top of that, FIFA’s power depends on money. And the money comes from the sponsorship that goes to the World Cup. And it depends on people participating in the World Cup, and there is going to be a lot of noise about major federations withdrawing from FIFA, withdrawing from the World Cup, and if that…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is what the U.S. and some Europeans are talking about doing, or not from the World Cup, but withdrawing from FIFA.

    FRANKLIN FOER: Exactly, well, which would entail withdrawing from the World Cup, which is a major commitment that would remake the global game.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me come back to you, Roger Bennett.

    What do we look forward to in this coming term?  We know the investigations continue. Can international soccer continue in any semblance of a normal operation, given what’s taken place this week?

    ROGER BENNETT: Sepp Blatter won, but he only won in FIFA land.

    The next steps will take place in the real world. We will see what kind of cards the FBI have. I would be fascinated to know what kind of conversations are going on in the boardrooms of Visa, Coca-Cola, Budweiser and McDonald’s, the big American sponsors of this World Cup cycle, now that they know that their brand is being tarnished in the American papers, being linked the 1,200 deaths and rising that are occurring in Qatar through slave labor as they’re setting the stadia for the 2022 World Cup.

    But we don’t have to wait that long to find out what Sepp Blatter’s next move. The women’s World Cup kicks off in Canada next week. It is going to be fascinating to see which of FIFA’s leaders, whether Sepp Blatter himself will turn up for his great tournament that is going to take place with the world watching across Canada, or whether he fears an extradition treaty and rumors that he will be arrested as soon as he sets foot in Canada. It will be fascinating to watch.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Frank, you were going to add something.

    FRANKLIN FOER: Well, two points here.

    One is, he’s always been very disparaging of the women’s game. And that’s one among his many sins. Secondly, we shouldn’t let these U.S. corporations off the hook. Everybody’s known about FIFA’s corruption for well over a decade and everybody played along in this corrupt system.

    The United States Soccer Federation played along in this corrupt system. And that’s the way that corruption works. That’s the way that he has prevailed even today, which is that the system continues until it collapsed. And our tolerance for it is really just kind of an astonishing fact of modernity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just very quickly to both of you and finally, Frank, why should people — there are a lot of people watching who may not pay attention to soccer. Why does this matter to everyone else watching?

    FRANKLIN FOER: Well, first of all, this is corruption on a world, historic, grand scale.

    There are very few organizations that have kind of built themselves up, and with such brazen, out-in-the-open, venal behavior. And it’s persisted for a very long time. And to watch it collapse, as it is collapsing, even if today’s election didn’t throw out the dictator, is an amazing thing to watch. It’s important.

    Secondly, there are human consequences. There’s the death toll that Roger described. There are all the stadia that were built in all these countries, which sucked money from the public coffers. You see these stadiums in just the most ridiculous outreaches of Brazil that are never going to be used ever again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Roger Bennett, what would you add finally to why those who don’t follow soccer should pay attention?

    ROGER BENNETT: I mean, the FBI case revolves around hundreds of millions of dollars of money, wire fraud, racketeering, bribery taking place on American soil.

    The lead protagonist is a whistle-blower, Chuck Blazer, who lived in the Trump Tower, and had creamed off enough money to have a huge floor for his own use and a $6,000-a-month apartment just for his own cats. He’s turned evidence. They’re now trying to roll up with his evidence, and try and roll it up like Avon Barksdale in “The Wire” and land Sepp Blatter.

    But this is an American story that’s taken place in America, the crimes have taken place here. And if America cracks FIFA, it will be their greatest gift to the world since the Marshall Plan.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s an extraordinary story. And we thank both of you, Roger Bennett, Frank Foer.

    Thank you both.

    ROGER BENNETT: Thank you, Judy.

    FRANKLIN FOER: Thanks.

    The post Re-elected FIFA president Blatter faces corruption fallout appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 6.43.59 PM

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kansas Governor Sam Brownback also warned residents of his state to be prepared for high waters, noting that many of the reservoirs are already at flood stage.

    President Obama made a last-minute appeal to lawmakers today to extend the authorities of key Patriot Act provisions before they expire at midnight on Sunday. He said a handful of senators are standing in the way of the U.S. government losing surveillance powers that could help prevent terror attacks.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don’t want us to be in a situation in which, for a certain period of time, those authorities go away, and suddenly we’re dark, and heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity, but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling the Senate back into session on Sunday, just hours before the midnight deadline.

    Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert has resigned from his law firm, amid federal charges of misconduct.

    Multiple media outlets reported today the misconduct involved sexual abuse allegations by an unnamed man. The Illinois Republican was indicted yesterday and accused of agreeing to pay millions in hush money. The indictment itself didn’t describe the misconduct, but it did say that it involved a person Hastert knew from a high school where he taught and coached from 1965 to 1981.

    In Iraq today, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for car bombs targeting two prominent hotels in Baghdad. The blasts lit up the night sky last night, killing at least 15 people and wounding scores more. Hours later, daylight revealed how badly the newly renovated hotels had been hit. Windows were shattered and wreckage was everywhere. A third bomb was defused early this morning.

    Islamic State militants also targeted a mosque in Saudi Arabia today, killing at least four people. The explosion erupted outside a Shiite mosque in an eastern port city. The suicide bomber, who was disguised as a woman, detonated his explosives as worshipers gathered for Friday prayers. A week ago, a similar attack killed 21 people.

    The U.S. has officially removed Cuba from its list of states that sponsor terrorism. Today’s move paves the way for fully restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries after more than five decades.

    But, in Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said negotiations are still under way to determine when to open embassies in each country.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: There continue to be issues that need to be worked out. In the discussions that were convened last week, there was important progress that was made. I don’t have a time frame to give you in terms of any specific announcement. But that obviously is among the next milestones here, which is the opening of a Cuban embassy here in the United States and the opening of an American embassy on the island of Cuba.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Top Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner immediately lashed out after the terror designation was rescinded. Boehner charged the Obama administration — quote — “handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing.”

    U.S. surveillance imagery shows China is putting weapons on one of the islands it is building up in the South China Sea. The Wall Street Journal reported that two motorized artillery pieces are on one of the islands, citing American officials. They said it poses no military threat, but it goes against China’s public statements that the reclaimed islands are for civilian use.

    The Obama administration released new biofuel usage targets today, scaling back on how much agricultural product must blend with the nation’s fuel supply. The Environmental Protection Agency announced ethanol in gasoline would increase, but not by as much as set out in federal law. It was a blow to the ethanol and farming industries, who have lobbied for higher levels.

    The U.S. economy shrank during the first three months of the year after a harsh winter that kept people at home and businesses closed. That government report had an impact on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 115 points to close at 18010. The Nasdaq fell 28 points. And the S&P 500 dropped 13. For the week, the Dow and S&P lost around a percent, and the Nasdaq lost half-a-percent.

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    texasfloods

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: More thunderstorms meant even more flooding in Central Texas today, as the death toll from storms over the last week rose to 27. Torrential downpours dumped as much as seven inches of rain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area overnight. Drivers were stranded for hours, as water covered highways and submerged cars. Rescue crews responded to more than 250 calls for help.

    For more on this, Hari Sreenivasan spoke earlier with Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who recently toured the hard-hit community of Wimberley.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Lieutenant Governor, you have had a chance over the past 24 hours to see some of the devastation on the ground and from the airport. Describe it to some folks in the rest of the country who might just be seeing these images for the first time.

    LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK, (R) Texas: Well, Hari, we have been in the legislative session for the last five months.

    So, yesterday was the first day I was able to get down to the Wimberley are. And the pictures do not describe it. I want to give you this example. I was standing in front of a cliff that was about 40-feet high. That would be equivalent to a three- to 4-story building.

    The water is normally three-foot deep. When the floodwater hit those homes, that water was as high as 48 feet. It took out homes on top of 40-foot cliffs. It’s unimaginable, trees down everywhere down the entire river, trees that stood for 600 years, hundreds of homes, and most importantly the loss of life, 12 missing or lost.

    One body was found 34 miles downstream. If you can imagine the one home that was taken down, Hari, where we lost eight people, they’re still missing, a few bodies have been recovered, it was on stilts about 30 feet high. And the water just rushed down like a tsunami, a 40-foot — 48-foot wall of water, after dark, on Saturday night, in an area that had flooding~, but nothing even close to this in the past.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, given the disaster and the images that we have seen on TV, is this a federal disaster area? Does the state of Texas need help?

    LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK: We do. We have already declared — Governor Abbott has declared has declared 70 counties as disaster counties just since the beginning of May, we have had so much flooding.

    This flooding, the focus has been on this beautiful town of Wimberley. For people around the rest of the country, this is just a beautiful area of antique stores and retirement places and vacation places, but it’s also known as Flood Alley, because it does flood, but normally three feet to maybe 12 feet. The highest was maybe 20 feet.

    So, again, this was at 48 feet at one point. Yes, I think we do need federal help. The state is stepping in, but it’s going to be millions and millions of dollars to reclaim the river and clean up the river. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. We’re going to need help on this catastrophe.

    If you look at it, Hari, you would say it must have been a tornado or a hurricane, but it was literally a river tsunami that hit these people out of nowhere. We had a lot of rain falling upstream that came down. And the good news is hundreds of lives were saved because warning did go out to a number of people down in camps.

    About 150 people evacuated very close to before the water hit. The Department of Public Safety, along with the military, rescued a couple of dozen from the air. And the local on-ground fire chief and his team rescued about 115 people from rooftops, hanging on to satellite dishes.

    It’s a tragedy that we lost 12. It could have been hundreds.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, Lieutenant Governor, I just want to ask, the weather forecast is not on your side. And there are still rivers above flood stage. It could be worse in parts of your state over the next few days.

    LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK: Yes, it could be.

    My home is in the Houston area. And I have been there since ’79. I have seen a lot of flooding. I have never seen it as bad in Houston either as it was either over the last couple of days. Dallas was hit hard. Here in our state capital of Austin, buildings that have never flooded, flooded out. San Antonio has been hit hard. And San Marcos has been hit hard south of Austin.

    This is the worst flooding maybe in total that anyone can ever remember. And when you get 10 to 15 inches rain over a few hours, small creek beds suddenly becomes rivers, and rivers become tsunamis. And that’s what happened. And the rain continues to pour, and we’re watching it very closely and praying.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas, thanks so much for joining us.

    LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK: Thank you.

    The post Texas Lt. Gov. on flood disaster: ‘We are going to need help for this catastrophe’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Mexico's stock exchange building is seen in Mexico City

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    MARTIN FLETCHER: When it comes to Mexico, the news is often of drug cartels…violence…illegal immigration…

    But there’s another story in Mexico…America of course has long been a magnet for Mexican workers, but more and more job seekers are coming here to the state of Querétaro. It’s one of Mexico’s smaller states, about an hour’s drive from the capital. It’s a relatively crime-free area. Socially, politically it’s been stable for a long time, and more and more international companies are flocking here.

    Of all the cities in the world, this small Mexican town had the highest growth in foreign direct investment in 2013 — that’s money invested directly into local business. And its population is growing rapidly too.

    With its colonial center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its new industrial parks, the poster child for Mexico’s burgeoning new economy is here in Querétaro.

    Oscar Aguilar, a local journalist, reports on the growth of the town, and the companies investing here.

    OSCAR AGUILAR: Bombardier, American Airlines, Aeromexico, Samsung, Honda.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Siemens, General Electric as well.

    OSCAR AGUILAR: Yes, yes.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: So this means a lot of jobs for the people?

    OSCAR AGUILAR: A lot.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Those new jobs are attracting Mexicans seeking stability and safety — like Aguilar himself. He was a journalist in the state of Sinaloa, 700 miles away, until –

    OSCAR AGUILAR: The teammate that I had died because of the drug dealers.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: How did he die?

    OSCAR AGUILAR: They arrived into their house, they broke into their house and shot him into the head. Him, his wife, his two daughters, and the two grandmas that were living there. I said no I don’t, I ain’t gonna expose my life.”

    MARTIN FLETCHER: He moved to Querétaro with his wife Anel and daughter, Tammy.

    OSCAR AGUILAR: How was your day? Give me my kiss. My kiss. Good.

    Queretaro means a town that gave me a job, gave me stability, and gave me an opportunity to grow with my family.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Safely?

    OSCAR AGUILAR: Safely.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Last year the murder rate in Mexico declined for the third straight year, though it’s believed that since 2006 at least 70,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug wars.

    But Querétaro, deep in the country’s interior, has been relatively untouched. It has one of the lowest murder rates in the country.

    And now new government reforms aim to bring economic stability and safety beyond small pockets like Querétaro — and extend them to Mexico’s 120 million people.

    Mexican finance secretary Luis Videgaray.

    LUIS VIDEGARAY, SECRETARY OF FINANCE, MEXICO: Perhaps no other country has had such a successful year as we did last year in terms of changing things in the Mexican economy: in energy, telecommunications, the fiscal front, financial reform. We did many things that better the prospects of growth for Mexico.”

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Manufacturing is booming, especially for export. Take the auto industry.

    This April, Ford and Toyota said they would expand their manufacturing operations in Mexico. So far this year, auto companies have announced $5.5 billion dollars in plant expansion and construction.

    And in 2013, Mexico’s 48-year-old president Enrique Peña Nieto began his term of office with a dramatic series of reforms to open up the Mexican economy even more.

    In the energy sector, Peña Nieto broke the 75-year state oil monopoly with a constitutional amendment allowing private companies to invest in the industry.

    On education, the government broke the teacher union’s hold on school staffing by passing a bill to stop the sale and inheritance of teaching jobs.

    And for the broader economy, Peña Nieto and his allies increased competition by passing new tax and banking reforms.

    The president hopes his reforms will bring more success stories like that of Bombardier, the Canadian company that makes the Learjet. Their facility is just a 30 minute drive from the center of boomtown Querétaro.

    PILAR ABAROA, COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, BOMBARDIER AEROSPACE MEXICO: In 2005 there was nothing here. It was a green field.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Bombardier invested half a billion dollars in this division in Querétaro – when we visited last year, the company’s 45 employees had grown to 1,800. Two dozen more aviation companies joined them in the area. And at the time, elements of the new Learjet 85 were meant to be built here in Queretaro.

    PILAR ABAROA: We’re manufacturing from here to here – which is the front fuselage, and we’re manufacturing around from here to here, which is the aft fuselage, and we will do the wings assembly too.

    But in a sign of how reliant Mexico’s economy is on the outside world, Bombardier announced this January it would shelve the Learjet 85 project and lay off employees here in Queretaro.

    Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund lowered its growth expectations for Mexico’s overall economy on weak demand.

    And analysts like S&P Capital’s Joydeep Mukherji say the drug trade still lowers Mexico’s GDP growth by about one percentage point.

    JOYDEEP MUKHERJI, S&P CAPITAL IQ: “Mexico is enjoying a boom in certain sectors. But when you step back and look at the rest of– of the country, you see a very different story. So it’s kind of a– two part story going on now in Mexico.”

    Still, there are hopes that President Pena Nieto’s government will be able to put its ambitious economic reforms into action for the entire economy.

    Those reforms you’re mentioning have been signed into law, but have yet for the most part to be implemented.

    LUIS VIDEGARAY: Absolutely.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: And the distance from signing a piece of paper to implementing them is a long way.

    LUIS VIDEGARAY: Well reform is change, and there’s always resistance to change.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Already the teacher’s union has launched a series of bitter protests,
    While analysts — like political scientist Denise Dresser — believe the billionaire leaders of industry will not easily give up their power.

    DENISE DRESSER: What Peña Nieto would like to see is a more competitive, level playing field form of economic development. But the vested interests are very strong. And those vested interests are not going to give up without a fight.”

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Can Peña Nieto carry out his reforms? What is sure is that he is deflecting Mexico’s narrative away from this, the drug war. To partly this…

    From drugs and thugs to manufacturing hubs. That’s the story the government wants to tell. And there’s a lot of truth in the story of Mexico’s industrial growth.

    Demand for Mexican-made goods has helped drive the manufacturing sector in the country.
    Mexico’s trade with the United States amounts to half a trillion dollars a year, and both sides want that to grow.

    Mexico’s already America’s third largest trading partner after Canada and China. And Mexico’s advantages over China are clear – it’s closer, so has lower transport costs. And its labor costs are static, while China’s are growing.

    And it’s not just factories that are growing here.

    Back in Querétaro, Robert Ibañez manages a growing, state-of-the-art business park — helping put a new face on Mexico, encouraging commercial investors.

    ROBERTO IBAÑEZ: We have a commercial center in here, we have two hotels.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Twenty-four companies rent space here, half from overseas.

    ROBERTO IBAÑEZ: I have Pepsi Cola, Ericsson, I have Axa Insurance Company.”

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Eighteen hundred people work here, and growing fast.

    ROBERTO IBAÑEZ: I am going to build nine more buildings.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: And how many of those buildings have already been rented out?

    ROBERTO IBAÑEZ: Three. I already have three rented.

    MARTIN FLETCHER: Still, skilled labor is key to Mexico’s continued growth. So Querétaro’s leaders established an aeronautical university in a vast hangar next to the city’s air field, less than a mile from Bombardier. All its employees trained here.

    A hundred graduates a year find jobs in Mexico’s growing aviation industry. And their key market is North America.

    This the students’ first exam after three weeks of school. The plane should stay in the air for four seconds…

    It’s a work in progress — like the Mexican economy.

    The post Amid widespread poverty, boomtowns spur economic growth in Mexico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is joined by his wife Katie O'Malley (R) as he announces his intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination during a speech in Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, May 30, 2015.  O'Malley, 52, becomes the third candidate to officially bid for the Democratic nomination, joining Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).  REUTERS/Jim Bourg   - RTR4Y4Y9

    Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is joined by his wife Katie as he announces his intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination during a speech in Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 30. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    BALTIMORE — Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Saturday joined the Democratic presidential race with a longshot challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the 2016 nomination and tried to stake a position to her left on the economy and Wall Street reform.

    “I’m running for you,” he told a crowd of about 1,000 people, serving up a populist message at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, where he served as mayor before two terms as governor. He said “the urgent work” drawing him into the campaign was “to rebuild the truth of the American dream for all Americans.”

    O’Malley has made frequent visits in recent months to early-voting Iowa, where he was headed later Saturday, and New Hampshire, his destination Sunday. Still, he remains largely unknown in a field dominated by Clinton.

    Already in the race is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who could be O’Malley’s main rival for the support of the Democratic left.

    An ally of former President Bill Clinton, O’Malley was the second governor to endorse Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2007. But he said Democrats deserve a choice in the 2016 primary.

    “The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth … between two royal families,” O’Malley said. “It is a sacred trust to be earned from the people of the United States, and exercised on behalf of the people of the United States.”

    He pointed to recent news reports that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would be “fine” with either Clinton or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading Republican contender and the son and brother of presidents, in the White House.

    It was a forceful message that O’Malley will focus on overhauling the financial system, a priority for liberals opposed to the bailouts of Wall Street banks.

    “Tell me how it is, that not a single Wall Street CEO was convicted of a crime related to the 2008 economic meltdown? Not a single one,” O’Malley said. “Tell me how it is, that you can get pulled over for a broken tail light, but if you wreck the nation’s economy you are untouchable?”

    The 52-year-old O’Malley has spoken often about the economic challenges facing the nation and said he would bring new leadership, progressive values and the ability to accomplish things.

    “Our economic and political system is upside down and backward and it is time to turn it around,” he told the crowd. “We are allowing our land of opportunity to be turned into a land of inequality.”

    O’Malley has presented himself to voters as a next-generation leader for the party, pointing to his record as governor on issues such as gay marriage, immigration, economic issues and the death penalty.

    Just weeks ago, riots in Baltimore broke out following the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American man who died in police custody following his arrest last month.

    A few demonstrators gathered near Federal Hill Park to protest O’Malley’s criminal justice policies as mayor, an office he held from 1999 until his election as governor in 2006. “He’s claiming to be this savior of Baltimore, but he’s not,” said Duane Davis, who said he is homeless.

    During O’Malley’s speech, there was sporadic shouting from protesters, including one who blew a whistle.

    And O’Malley’s speech did not go off without a logistical hitch. Technicians lost audio on an introductory video before he took the stage.

    O’Malley was known for his tough-on-crime, “zero tolerance” policies that led to large numbers of arrests for minor offenses. Critics say it sowed distrust between police and the black community. Supporters note the overall decrease in violent crime during his tenure.

    O’Malley has defended his work to curb crime, saying he helped address rampant violence and drug abuse. He has said the unrest in Baltimore should wake up the nation to the need to address despair in poor communities.

    “Last month, television sets around the world were filled with the anger and the rage, and the flames of some of the humblest and hardest hit neighborhoods of Baltimore. For all of us who have given so much of our energies to making our city a safer, fairer, more just and more prosperous place, it was a heartbreaking night in the life of our city,” O’Malley said.

    “But there is something to be learned from that night, and there is something to be offered to our country from those flames. For what took place here was not only about race, not only about policing in America. It’s about everything it is supposed to mean to be an American.”

    Megan Kenny, who held a sign that said “stop killer cops” and yelled “black lives matter,” said she thought O’Malley’s decision to run was “a strange choice,” especially because of the recent rioting. She attributed the unrest to his “ineffective zero-tolerance policy.”

    The 38-year-old Baltimore resident said she thought O’Malley’s decision to run was “very bizarre and out of touch.”

    O’Malley could soon be joined in the Democratic field by former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who plans to make an announcement next week, and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who is exploring a potential campaign.

    Sanders has raised more than $4 million since opening his campaign in late April and sought to build support among liberals in the party who are disillusioned with Clinton.

    One of O’Malley’s first tasks as a candidate would be to consolidate support among Democrats who are reluctant to back Clinton and eyeing Sanders.

    The post ‘I’m running for you': Martin O’Malley announces 2016 ambitions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    RACHEL TUTERA: My gender identity is really based in both my experiences as a woman– and also it’s just deeply rooted in the f– the fact that I’m masculine…

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Rachel Tutera says it wasn’t until she started wearing boy’s clothes as a pre-teen, that she started to feel like the most authentic version of herself. Yet the 30-year-old says shopping for clothes in the men’s department left her feeling insecure and self-conscious. Nothing ever fit her proportions. So she was resigned to thinking that’s just the way it was.

    RACHEL TUTERA: I got used to wearing clothes that hid me. I thought I would just end up being someone who would prefer to be overlooked, or not worth sort of a second glance.

    RACHEL TUTERA: “Typically you show a little bit of cuff …”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: After years of frustration shopping off the rack, Tutera decided to purchase her first tailored men’s suit…and she says the way she felt when she tried it on changed her life.

    RACHEL TUTERA: Having something custom-made for my body basically reintroduced me to my body and I have felt, like, incredibly visible in a way that’s not just causing people to take a second look at me, but I think people see me in a way that may actually be aligned with how I see myself. And that has been the most, like, powerful, mind-blowing thing.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The experience made Tutera want to pass that feeling on to others. So she approached the New York based made-to-order-men’s suit company, “Bindle and Keep” convincing the owner that he was overlooking an under-served market…Not only masculine women, but also transgender men and other gender non-conforming people who want well-fitting, men’s suits. She soon became the company’s LGBTQ liaison, serving hundreds of people all over the country who sometimes spend up to 1,500 dollars for their custom made suit.

    RACHEL TUTERA: This is not just a need that is being recognized in progressive cities.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Has it been emotional for any of your clients?

    RACHEL TUTERA: Yes it has been emotional for sure. Shopping or wearing clothes seems like a really mundane thing. But actually it’s, like, incredibly meaningful and incredibly powerful and it can really, like, make or break an identity.

    ANN PELLEGRINI: There are so many different ways to be gender nonconforming. And there’s an explosion of new vocabularies– to talk about it.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Ann Pellegrini is the Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality at New York University.

    ANN PELLEGRINI: Many gender non-conforming people don’t experience themselves as having been born into the wrong body. But– they might find themselves deeply uncomfortable with the kinds of straightjackets of gender. The ways in which, you know, you’re supposed to sort of present, again, this very narrow notion of femininity if you have a female body, a very narrow notion of masculinity if you have a male body.

    “I’m not stuck in anybody’s body, it’s just who I am as a person.”

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Last month about 17-million people tuned in to watch legendary Olympic gold medalist and cable TV star Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer. They discussed the long-speculated-upon subject of Jenner’s transgender identity. While Jenner identifies as a woman, he has not yet indicated that a new name or pronouns should be used, and he also says he’s heterosexual, introducing many viewers to a complex gender identity-one that doesn’t fit neatly into a male/female binary.

    Yet Ann Pellegrini says even before this big TV. moment, momentum was already building, as recently there has been an explosion of gender non-conforming people in mainstream media, challenging conventional gender roles.

    KATIE COURIC: This is the first time an openly transgender person has appeared on the cover of Time Magazine…Why now do you think, Laverne?

    LAVERNE COX: Because of the internet and because of social media trans people we our voices now, and we are letting our voice be heard.

    JANET MOCK: I think that we are born and we’re assigned a sex at birth. That is a matter none of us have control over. But we do have control over our destinies and over our identities — and we should be respected.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Professor Ann Pellegrini believes that the growing visibility of gender-non-conforming people and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 37 states, has forced the fashion world to acknowledge the presence and buying power of the LGBTQ community.

    ANN PELLEGRINI: The really short answer would be capitalism. At the end of the day it’s about seeing that there’s a market.

    RACHEL TUTERA: I’ve met a lot of people who say things like they’ve been putting off getting married for ten years because they couldn’t fathom what they would wear.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The research company, Gallup, estimates about 780,000 people have joined same-sex marriages since 2004, when Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize them. Since then, more than a dozen fashion brands that specifically cater to what they call the “unconventionally masculine” have taken off around the country.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: And now many mainstream fashion institutions are following suit. In 2012, Ford Models chose female Olympic swimmer and New York artist, Casey Legler, as its newest menswear model. In the same year, Yves Saint Laurent chose a female model as the face of its Spring/Summer menswear collection. Last year, luxury retailer Barneys New York featured 17 transgender models in its spring campaign. And just this year Vogue magazine profiled a transgender model for the first time in the magazine’s history.

    ANN PELLEGRINI: None of these designers would be sort of trying to produce clothes that would appeal to masculine women if they didn’t think there were people who could walk in with a wallet and pull out a credit card.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Though mainstream designers are starting to cater to the needs of the LGBTQ community, some shoppers say that sort of acceptance hasn’t trickled down to their stores.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: What was surprising to you when just trying to shop at a store– and going into a fitting room?

    RACHEL TUTERA: There’s a weird tendency in people to panic when they can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman, or how you or how you may identify.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Rachel Tutera says many gender non-conforming people experience being forcefully removed from gendered fitting rooms by salespeople, and that discrimination and judgment is often inevitable. That’s why three years ago she started a fashion blog called “The Handsome Butch”. The site hopes to empower readers with a simple message, which is that they too have “the right to be handsome.”

    RACHEL TUTERA: It was almost like a meditation I had for myself when I was first shopping. It was, “I have the right to be here”. I think I just had to say over and over to myself, “you have the right to be handsome. You have the right to be handsome–” until it actually felt like a right instead of, like– like, a meditation I was trying to convince myself was true.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Tutera’s work will be featured in an upcoming documentary produced by Lena Dunham of the hit HBO series “Girls”. She says the one thing she won’t be tailoring in the coming months is her message.

    The post ‘The right to be handsome': As the conversation around gender identity evolves, so does the fashion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pose for a photograph before resuming talks over Iran's nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland. March 16, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met for talks over Iran’s nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland on March 16, 2015. These talks resumed Saturday after a framework pact was reached in April. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    GENEVA  — A month out from a nuclear deal deadline, the top U.S. and Iranian diplomats gathered in Geneva Saturday in an effort to bridge differences over how quickly to ease economic sanctions on Tehran and how significantly the Iranians must open up military facilities to international inspections.

    The talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were likely to extend into Sunday, a negotiating round that officials described as the most substantive since world powers and Iran clinched a framework pact in April.

    That agreement, however, left big questions unanswered, which weeks of subsequent technical discussions have done little to resolve.

    Asked about completing the full accord by June 30, Zarif said Saturday, “We will try.”

    World powers believe they have secured Iran’s acquiescence to a combination of nuclear restrictions that would fulfill their biggest goal: keeping Iran at least a year away from bomb-making capability for at least a decade. But they are less clear about how they’ll ensure Iran fully adheres to any agreement.

    Various Iranian officials, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, have publicly vowed to limit access to or even block monitors from sensitive military sites and nuclear scientists suspected of previous involvement in covert nuclear weapons efforts.

    The U.S. says such access must be guaranteed or there will be no final deal. A report Friday by the U.N. nuclear agency declared work essentially stalled on its multiyear probe of Iran’s past activities.

    The Iranians aren’t fully satisfied, either.

    The unresolved issues include the pace at which the United States and other countries will provide Iran relief from international sanctions – Tehran’s biggest demand – and how to “snap back” punitive measures into place if the Iranians are caught cheating.

    President Barack Obama has used the “snapback” mechanism as a main defense of the proposed pact from sharp criticism from Congress and some American allies.

    And exactly how rapidly the sanctions on Iran’s financial, oil and commercial sectors would come off in the first place lingers as a sore point between Washington and Tehran.

    Speaking ahead of Kerry’s talks with Zarif, senior State Department officials described Iranian transparency and access, and questions about sanctions, as the toughest matters remaining.

    They cited “difficult weeks” since the April 2 framework reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, but said diplomats and technical experts are getting back on a “smooth path.”

    None of the officials were authorized to be quoted by name and they demanded anonymity.

    Iran insists it is solely interested in peaceful energy, medical and research purposes, though many governments around the world suspect it of harboring nuclear weapons ambitions. The U.S. estimates the Iranians are currently less than three months away from assembling enough nuclear material for a bomb if they chose to covertly develop one.

    Joining Kerry and Zarif in Switzerland was U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. American nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman and her Iranian counterpart Abbas Araghchi attended, too. European Union negotiator Helga Schmid sat in as well.

    The post U.S. and Iran resume talks on sanctions in Geneva appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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