Articles on this Page
- 05/30/15--10:21: _What does Martin O’...
- 05/30/15--10:21: _Humanitarian crisis...
- 05/30/15--11:16: _Will lapse in surve...
- 05/30/15--11:28: _Your holiday cheat ...
- 05/30/15--12:00: _Texas approves open...
- 05/30/15--13:05: _China, U.S. at impa...
- 05/30/15--14:30: _Some Australian koa...
- 05/30/15--14:56: _Photos: Anti-Islam ...
- 05/30/15--15:14: _What does ISIS cont...
- 05/30/15--15:18: _How will financial ...
- 05/31/15--08:13: _Vice President’s so...
- 05/31/15--08:30: _How to hook young p...
- 05/31/15--08:30: _When enforcing gend...
- 05/31/15--08:44: _Photos: India swelt...
- 05/31/15--09:19: _John Kerry breaks l...
- 05/31/15--09:36: _Arresting dress: A ...
- 05/31/15--10:41: _Pentagon chief will...
- 05/31/15--11:02: _Senate meets as key...
- 05/31/15--12:12: _Photos: Children re...
- 05/31/15--12:15: _Texas gets more rai...
- 05/30/15--11:16: Will lapse in surveillance laws make the U.S. less secure?
- 05/30/15--11:28: Your holiday cheat sheet to Vesak Day
- 05/30/15--12:00: Texas approves open carry law for handguns
- 05/30/15--13:05: China, U.S. at impasse over Chinese land reclamation projects
- 05/30/15--14:30: Some Australian koalas euthanized over starvation fears
- 05/30/15--15:14: What does ISIS control mean for the people of Palmyra?
- 05/31/15--08:13: Vice President’s son, Beau Biden, dies of brain cancer at 46
- 05/31/15--08:30: How to hook young people on math and science? Robots.
- 05/31/15--08:30: When enforcing gender norms turns violent
- 05/31/15--08:44: Photos: India swelters as near-record temperatures persist
- 05/31/15--09:19: John Kerry breaks leg bicycling in France, cuts overseas trip short
- 05/31/15--10:41: Pentagon chief will hold people accountable for anthrax mishap
- 05/31/15--11:02: Senate meets as key Patriot Act provisions set to expire at midnight
- 05/31/15--12:15: Texas gets more rain but no new damage ahead of dry forecasts
He is a former Baltimore mayor and two-term Maryland governor who now works as a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. Martin O’Malley is known for his sweeping gun control push, cap-and-trade carbon emissions policy as well as his state’s flawed Obamacare roll-out and his now controversial get-tough-on-crime approach. Able to do a mean Johnny Cash impression, he was part of the inspiration behind a character on HBO’s “The Wire.” Here’s where the Democrat stands on eleven top issues.Banks and Wall Street: Separate commercial and investment banks. Increase penalties for financial crimes.
In op-eds and speeches, O’Malley argues for increased structural reform of America’s financial system. He supports reinstating Glass-Steagall, a repealed policy dating back to the Great Depression that separated commercial and investment banks. He has also called for more strict oversight of all financial institutions and harsher penalties for those found guilty of wrongdoing.
Budget: Mix spending cuts with tax increases. Restructure pension plans.
Required by Maryland law to pass a balanced budget, as governor, O’Malley tackled a $1.7 billion deficit by cutting government funding and raising taxes (see more in “Taxes” section below). He also turned to borrowing from the bond market and restructuring the state’s pension program. It is not clear whether O’Malley believes the federal budget must be balanced.
Climate Change: It is real and a “natural threat.” Government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
O’Malley believes that climate change is real and called it a “natural threat” on ABC’S “This Week” in April, distinguishing it from “man-made” threats in that interview. In 2007, while governor, he signed a cap-and-trade program to curb greenhouse emissions and established a statewide Statewide Commission on Climate Change with the goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. O’Malley believes hydrofracking should be allowed with strict limits. As governor, O’Malley passed subsidies for wind farms and called for greener waste reduction practices.
Guns: Increase gun control. Ban dozens of assault weapons. Limit size of gun magazines. Require fingerprints to buy a handgun.
The Democrat is a critic of the National Rifle Association and proponent of gun control measures. As governor of the Old Line State, he pushed for and signed sweeping gun control legislation, banning 45 types of assault weapons, limiting magazine clips to ten bullets and requiring anyone purchasing a handgun to enter a fingerprint database.
Immigration: Create a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. Pass the DREAM Act. Allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates.
O’Malley told the Des Moines Register he supports immigration reform with a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally now. In his interview with ABC’s “This Week,” the Democrat advocated for the DREAM Act, which would give legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to America as children. As governor, O’Malley signed a bill allowing undocumented students in Maryland to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.
Obamacare and health care: Expand the Affordable Care Act. Move to an “all-payer” system.
An Obamacare advocate, O’Malley supported expanding Maryland’s health insurance options before the Affordable Care Act became law. When implementing the new healthcare law during his tenure, Maryland’s online health exchange saw repeated problems. It was overhauled in 2014. O’Malley supported and approved a unique statewide Medicare waiver, designed to move Maryland hospitals away from a fee-for-service payment method. Considered the nation’s only “all-payer system,” the state sets medical costs, capping what hospitals can charge. O’Malley has said he wants to the system to be a model for the nation.
Social issues: Legalize same-sex marriage. Allow access to abortion. Abolish capital punishment.
While governor, O’Malley sponsored the law legalizing gay marriage in Maryland. A practicing Catholic, he argues the stance squares with his faith’s belief in maintaining “human dignity.”
O’Malley has described his view on abortion as “pro choice”. Aides have said he supported a 1992 Maryland referendum which stated that abortions should be legal, without government restriction, until the time in pregnancy when a fetus can survive outside the womb.
The White House hopeful is opposed to the death penalty, a practice he outlawed in Maryland in 2013. In one of his last acts as governor, in December 2014, O’Malley commuted the sentences of Maryland’s four remaining death row inmates.
Taxes and wages: Use tax increases to fund government programs. Raise the minimum wage. Strengthen union bargaining.
While governor, O’Malley advocated the use of tax increases to fund significant budget items. He signed an increase on the state gas tax to fund transportation projects, a boost in the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent and a state income tax change that raised rates for Maryland individuals earning over $100,000 or households making over $150,000.
As part of a campaign against income inequality, O’Malley signed a bill raising his state’s minimum wage to $10.10, phased in gradually. He has since indicated that he could support raising wages to $15 an hour. In addition, he advocates reforming the overtime pay system, and strengthening collective bargaining.
Trade: Block the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
O’Malley recently criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade deal backed by the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans, arguing that it would hurt the middle class. He has since expanded on the point, telling NPR he wants increased labor regulations.
Israel and Iran: Continue negotiations with Iran. Work for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” O’Malley called the potential of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon one of the world’s greatest man-made threats. He supports ongoing nuclear talks between the Obama administration and Iranian leadership. O’Malley advocates a two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians and has said, as allies, both the United States and Israel need to work to ease the tension between them.
Islamic State and Iraq: No specific stance yet. Congress should set clear parameters for any use of ground troops.
O’Malley has yet to announce a specific policy for how the United States should address the threat from Islamic State and current issues in Iraq. In February, he posted a short statement to Facebook saying that any plan should explicitly define its timeframe and that Congress should pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force that clarifies the parameters for use of ground troops.
The post What does Martin O’Malley believe? Where the candidate stands on 11 issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
More than 4,200 migrants trying to reach Europe were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea over the past 24 hours, the Italian Coast Guard said Saturday.
In what was one of the biggest day for rescues in recent years, a total of 4,243 people were saved from fishing boats and rubber dinghies after being found adrift during 22 separate naval operations led by Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Britain, Reuters reported.
Adding to the growing humanitarian crisis, the Italian Navy on Friday reported 17 dead bodies were found in one of the boats off Libya.
The migrants were taken ashore at Sicily where they will be processed and taken to temporary housing.
Scattered at sea, the migrants face extreme weather changes, hunger, thirst and violence while crammed aboard the flimsy vessels.
In April, about 800 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya when their 20-meter-long fishing boat capsized and sank, Reuters reported.
Fleeing war, poverty and persecution in Africa and the Middle East, the migrants are trying to sail to Europe, where more than 80,000 have landed so far this year. The United Nations says more than 35,000 migrants have arrived in Italy alone since January.
About 1,820 migrants have died or gone missing on the sea route to Europe this year, the International Organization for Migration estimates.
The post Humanitarian crisis at sea: More than 4,200 migrants rescued in Mediterranean appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Barring a last-minute deal in Congress, three post-Sept. 11 surveillance laws used against spies and terrorists are set to expire as Sunday turns into Monday.
Will that make Americans less secure?
Absolutely, Obama administration officials say.
Nonsense, counter civil liberties activists.
That heated debate may recede to a simmer if senators, set to meet in an unusual Sunday session, decide to accept a House-passed bill that extends the programs and then send the measure to President Barack Obama to sign before midnight.
While there are compelling arguments on both sides, failure to pass legislation would mean new barriers for the government in domestic national security investigations, at a time when intelligence officials say the threat at home is growing.
“If these provisions expire, counterterrorism investigators are going to have greater restrictions on them than ordinary law enforcement investigators,” said Nathan Sales, a Syracuse University law professor and former Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration.
Until now, much of the debate has focused on the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ telephone calling records. This collection was authorized under one of the expiring provisions, Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Independent evaluations have cast doubt on that program’s importance, and even law enforcement officials say in private that losing this ability would not carry severe consequences.
Yet the fight over those records has jeopardized other surveillance programs that have broad, bipartisan support and could fall victim to congressional gridlock.
The FBI uses Section 215 to collect other business records tied to specific terrorism investigations. A separate section in the Patriot Act allows the FBI to eavesdrop, via wiretaps, on suspected terrorists or spies who discard phones to dodge surveillance. A third provision, targeting “lone wolf” attackers, has never been used and thus may not be missed if it lapses.
Government and law enforcement officials, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have said in recent days that letting the wiretap and business records provisions expire would undercut the FBI’s ability to investigate terrorism and espionage.
Lynch said it would mean “a serious lapse in our ability to protect the American people.” Clapper said in a statement Friday that prompt passage by the Senate of the House bill “is the best way to minimize any possible disruption of our ability to protect the American people.”
And President Barack Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to accuse opponents of hijacking the debate for political reasons. “Terrorists like al-Qaida and ISIL aren’t suddenly going to stop plotting against us at midnight tomorrow, and we shouldn’t surrender the tools that help keep us safe,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
Civil liberties activists say the pre-Sept. 11 law gives the FBI enough authority to do its job. To bolster their case, they cite a newly released and heavily blacked out report by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog that examined the FBI’s use up to 2009 of business record collection under Section 215.
“The government has numerous other tools, including administrative and grand jury subpoenas, which would enable it to gather necessary information,” in terrorism investigations, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.
Section 215 allows the FBI to serve a secret order requiring a business to hand over records relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation. The FBI uses the authority “fewer than 200 times a year,” Director James Comey said last week.
The inspector general’s report said it was used in “investigations of groups comprised of unknown members and to obtain information in bulk concerning persons who are not the subjects of or associated with an authorized FBI investigation.”
But from 2007 to 2009, the report said, none of that material had cracked a specific terrorism case.
“The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” the report said.
The report analyzed several cases, but most of the details are blacked out. In some cases, the FBI agent pronounced the 215 authority “useful” or “effective,” but the context and detail were censored.
In 2011, Bob Litt, the general counsel for the director of national intelligence, testified before Congress that the business records provision was used to obtain information “essential” in the investigation of Khalid Aldawsari, a 20-year-old Saudi-born resident of Lubbock, Texas, who was sentenced to life in prison for plotting to bomb American targets in 2011.
In another case, Litt said, “hotel records that we obtained under a business records order showed that over a number of years, a suspected spy had arranged lodging for other suspected intelligence officers.” Those records gave the FBI the information it needed to get a secret national security eavesdropping warrant, he said.
Sunday’s Senate session became necessary after the chamber failed to act before leaving town early on May 23 for a holiday break. The USA Freedom Act, which passed the House passed overwhelmingly, fell three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed in the Senate, and efforts to extend the current law also failed.
If the Senate proceeds to debate the House bill, there still could be a two-week delay before it passes. GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a 2016 presidential candidate who opposes the Patriot Act, has pledged to do all he can to prevent a vote. But if backers get 60 votes without him, he cannot stop the bill forever.
If the USA Freedom Act becomes law, the business records provision and the roving wiretap authority would return immediately. The NSA would resume collecting American telephone records for a six-month period while shifting to a system of searching phone company records case by case.
If no agreement is reached, all the provisions will expire.
A third possibility is a temporary extension of current law while lawmakers work out a deal, but House members have expressed opposition.
The post Will lapse in surveillance laws make the U.S. less secure? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
If you know anything about Buddhism, you probably know how much of it seems to boil down to advice your therapist might give you. By following even one tenant in the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path — or at least trying to — you are almost guaranteed to improve your life. If the Buddha were alive today, I’m certain he would be a self-help guru. He’d make a damn good one, too.
Although Buddhism is unlike any other religion (in that it does not require belief in a deity), it’s still got some of the classic markers — and the celebration of holidays is one of them. So here, as part of our Holiday Cheat Sheet, is a brief rundown on one of the most important holidays in the Buddhist world: Vesak Day.
Holiday: Vesak (pronounced VEE-sak)
AKA: Wesak or Vesākha
Religion Represented: Buddhism
Celebrates: The life, enlightenment and death of the Buddha
Date: Vesak Day always falls in the spring, but the precise dates vary depending on which calendar is being used — the Chinese, Buddhist, Hindu or Gregorian. In 2015, Vesak Day falls on May 2 (Myanmar), May 3 (Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia), May 4 (Nepal, India), May 25 (China), June 1 (Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam) and June 2 (Indonesia).
On a Scale of 1 to 10: Vesak scores a perfect 10, according to my friend Tracey Nguyen, the granddaughter of Buddhist monks. There is nothing more important than the life and times of the Buddha.
Star of the Show: Siddhartha Guatama, AKA the Buddha
Back Story: Siddhartha Guatama was the Hindu-born son of an Indian king born somewhere between 400 and 560 BC. Although stories of his birth vary, most sacred texts hold that Siddhartha was born in a field in the foothills of the Himalayas. He was said to have magically sprung from his mother’s side, bathed in golden light. Siddhartha’s mother died only days later, and Siddhartha was raised by his father and his aunt inside the sprawling walls of the king’s palace. Siddhartha did not see suffering — illness, old age and death — until he was well into adulthood; and, when he did, it deeply affected him. Before the age of 30, he left his home and his crown behind and became an ascetic, or “holy man” — which meant he would wander his country, meditating, and relying on the kindness of strangers for food. His goal was singular: to find an end to human suffering. At one point during his years-long journey, Siddhartha stopped eating and grew desperately thin and weak. When he became too weak to meditate, he finally accepted food. It was at this point that he experienced his “Enlightenment” and became known as the Buddha.
What’s the Deal with Enlightenment?: According to scripture, the Buddha was sitting beneath a Bodhi tree, meditating, when he devised of the Four Noble Truths (the cause of all human suffering) and the Noble Eightfold Path (the solution). This is what is referred to as his Enlightenment. His realization was rather simple: If people followed the Eightfold Path, they could eliminate their suffering (as he had done!) and thereby achieve Nirvana. It was an extraordinary conclusion, and he spent the next 40 to 50 years expanding on it so that others could practice it for themselves. Much revered, Buddha died at the ripe old age of 80(ish.)
What’s the Eightfold Path?: In layman’s term (and, by that, I mean in my terms), they are as follows:
1. Right Understanding: Understand things as they really are (i.e., the Four Noble Truths).
2. Right Thought: Act from a place of loving kindness and compassion; practice letting go of your desire for material things; do no harm.
3. Right Speech: Be courteous; think before speaking; no lies, back-biting, slandering.
4. Right Action: Behave in a peaceful, honorable way; don’t steal or destroy life.
5. Right Livelihood: Make a living in an industry that does not bring harm to others.
6. Right Effort: Extinguish unwholesome qualities (such as greed, anger and ignorance) while cultivating wholesome ones (such as generosity, loving kindness and wisdom).
7. Right Mindfulness: Be aware and attentive of your body, thoughts and perceptions; note how thoughts appear and disappear within you and how deep breathing can make you more in tune with yourself.
8. Right Concentration: Train your mind to meditate in such a way that all judgment of others and ourselves, as well as all desire, goes away, and only pure equanimity is left.
The Food and Fun: Buddhists partake in any number of Asian dishes on Vesak, but consume no meat — a symbol of their compassion for all living things. They also visit monasteries, give to charity, hang lanterns, decorate with flowers, and listen to lessons offered by monks. Often, they’ll have parades of musicians, dancers, floats and dragons. A Baby Buddha statue is a commonality, and celebrants often pour water over the statue to symbolize, among other things, a pure and new beginning. Most importantly, Buddhists reaffirm their devotion to the Buddha’s 10 precepts and teachings.
Conveying meaning to kids: It’s never too early to introduce youngsters to the Buddha and his Eightfold path, and Vesak is a great excuse. You might also might consider making paper lanterns or drawing pictures of lotus blossoms. Show your child some pictures of Buddhist monks. Enjoy a vegetarian meal. Check out some books: I particularly like Buddha by Susan L. Roth. Make a Buddhist flag and fly it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about talking to kids about religion, it’s that it really helps to have props: A menorah on the table during Hanukkah, a nativity scene at Christmas. Consider picking up a Buddha statuette — something for your child to look at and touch while you talk about Buddhism. It’s the difference between books without pictures and those with; you’re just more likely to hold the kid’s attention if you present something interesting for them to look at.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series that appears in Wendy Thomas Russell’s new book, “Relax, It’s Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious.”
Update (May 30, 2015): Texas lawmakers approved open carry legislation Friday and sent it to Gov. Greg Abbott, who promised to sign it.
The law allows licensed Texans to carry handguns in plain view in belt or shoulder holsters.
In a concession to law enforcement groups, lawmakers removed a provision that would have prohibited police from stopping someone to check for a gun license simply because that person was carrying a handgun openly. Under the version passed Friday, officers will be allowed to do so.
In the lead up to Friday’s vote, police groups demanded that Gov. Abbott veto the bill if the provision wasn’t removed.
The legislature passed the law in a pair of votes largely divided along party lines. The Texas House of Representatives approved the legislation 102-43, with just five Democrats joining the Republican majority. The bill passed the state Senate with 20 Republican votes in favor and 11 Democratic votes against it.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 29, 2015
Original post published on April 19, 2015:
In spite of its reputation for conservatism, Texas’ laws regarding the open carry of handguns have long been closer to those of blue states like California and Illinois.
But now, with the success of recent open carry bills in the Texas legislature, the Lone Star State is poised to become the 45th U.S. state to allow licensed citizens to carry handguns openly in public.
On Friday, the Texas House of Representatives voted 96-35 in favor of House Bill 910, which extends the rights of citizens who have a concealed handgun license to allow them to openly carry a holstered handgun. A similar bill passed the Texas Senate last month; the two versions must be reconciled before heading to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for signing.
Abbot is likely to give the measure his approval. During a February press conference, he said, “I will sign whatever legislation reaches my desk that expands Second Amendment rights in Texas,”according to The Texas Tribune.
Currently, Texans who want to carry a handgun in public must have a concealed handgun license and are required to keep the gun hidden. State law allows residents 21 and older, as well as those on active military duty, to obtain a license after undergoing a background check, taking classes and passing written and hands-on tests.
Some form of open carry of handguns is allowed in 44 other states, though some require permits or licenses, and others restrict the times or places when open carry is allowed. If Texas legalizes open carry, only California, Florida, Illinois, New York, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. will still have outright bans.
Texas already allows people to purchase and openly carry rifles and shotguns without permits, which has prompted gun-rights groups to carry assault weapons into stores and outside the Texas Capitol in order to bring attention to what they see as an arbitrary legal distinction.
Belying the state’s cowboy image, the percentage of Texas citizens who own a gun — 35.9 percent — is below the national median of roughly 40 percent. And Texas voters’ opinions are divided on open carry, with a minority in favor.
A joint University of Texas-Texas Tribune poll released in February showed that the majority of Texan voters — 77 percent — believe people should be able to carry handguns in public in some form. But only 32 percent support open carry, with another 45 percent in favor of allowing those with licenses to carry a concealed handgun, but not openly.
That a minority of Texans support open carries has prompted charges from some gun control advocates that that the State Legislature is being influenced by pro-gun interests.
Alexandra Chasse, a Texas member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told The Wall Street Journal that she feels legislators “are turning their back on the majority of Texans to cater to a narrow special-interest group.”
Among Texas police chiefs, opposition to open carry is slightly higher than in the voting public. A survey released by the Texas Police Chiefs Association shows that nearly 75 percent of the 192 chiefs surveyed answered no to the question “do you think there should be open carry in Texas?”
Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix, who also serves as Legislative Committee Chair of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, told KXAN TV that he feels open carry would make officers’ jobs more difficult.
“It is going to be difficult for the beat cop to know who should have a gun, who shouldn’t have a gun, and frankly there are people out there who shouldn’t own guns,” Mannix said.
Not included in either of the recent open carry bills is another controversial topic — whether people with concealed handgun licenses should be allowed to carry their guns on public college campuses.
The Texas Senate approved one such “campus-carry” measure last month, and the state House of Representatives is expected to pass a companion bill.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story listed the number of states that currently allow some form of open carry as 45. The correct number is 44.
SINGAPORE — China vigorously defended its South China Sea land reclamation projects in the face of persistent criticism from U.S. leaders at an international security summit Saturday as the standoff in the Asia-Pacific region shows few signs of abating.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and other officials sharply condemned the artificial island-building, but provided no details on what steps the U.S. may take to press China into diplomatic talks.
Carter said China’s land reclamation was out of step with international rules, and that turning underwater land into airfields would not expand its sovereignty.
He and others said the U.S. opposes “any further militarization” of the disputed lands. That was a reference to two large motorized artillery vehicles that officials said China had placed on one of the artificial islands.
Chinese officials, in public statements and a private meeting, defended the construction and slammed the U.S. for interfering.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the U.S. was “making absurd remarks about China’s long-established sovereignty and rights, stirring up trouble and slinging accusations regarding China’s appropriate and rational construction activities on its islands. China resolutely opposes this.”
David Shear, the assistant U.S. defense secretary for Asian issues, told reporters that a private meeting with Chinese Rear Adm. Guan Youfei, the chief of foreign affairs at the defense ministry, was “spirited and candid.”
“There aren’t any silver bullets to resolving this,” said Shear. “It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take some determined diplomacy by us and with our partners.”
At the conference, U.S. senators and officials from other Pacific nations questioned whether the U.S. would take action.
Carter and other officials, including Adm. Harry Harris, who just took over U.S. Pacific Command, declined to talk about what diplomatic or military steps the U.S. would be willing to take.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. should not invite China to a major military exercise in the Pacific in 2016. But Harris said China has already been invited, and that the two countries must engage if they are to build a better relationship and lessen the chances for misunderstandings.
But, he said, “we always have the option of changing our approach.”
He also said he was concerned by the artillery weapons, which were discovered at least several weeks ago. Two U.S. officials who are familiar with intelligence about the vehicles say they have been removed. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss the intelligence and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
The Pentagon would not release any photos to support its contention that the vehicles were there.
China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea has become an increasingly sore point in relations with the United States, even as President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping have tried to deepen cooperation in other areas, such as climate change.
“Turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit,” Carter told the audience at the International Institute for Strategic Studies summit.
China’s actions have been “reasonable and justified,” said Senior Col. Zhao Xiaozhuo, deputy director of the Center on China-America Defense Relations at the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Science.
Zhao challenged Carter, asking whether America’s criticism of China and its military reconnaissance activities in the South China Sea “help to resolve the disputes” and maintain peace and stability in the region.
Carter responded that China’s expanding land reclamation projects are unprecedented in scale. He said the U.S. has been flying and operating ships in the region for decades and has no intention of stopping.
While Carter’s criticism was aimed largely at China, he made it clear that other nations who are doing smaller land reclamation projects also must stop.
One of those countries is Vietnam, which Carter is scheduled to visit during this 11-day trip across Asia. Others are Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Carter said the U.S. will continue to sail, fly and operate in the region, and warned that the Pentagon will be sending its “best platforms and people” to the Asia-Pacific. Those would include, he said, new high-tech submarines, surveillance aircraft, the stealth destroyer and new aircraft carrier-based early-warning aircraft.
One senior U.S. defense official has said the U.S. was considering more military flights and patrols closer to the projects in the South China Sea, to emphasize reclaimed lands are not China’s territorial waters.
Officials also are looking at ways to adjust the military exercises in the region to increase U.S. presence if needed. That official was not authorized to discuss the options publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
One possibility would be for U.S. ships to travel within 12 miles of the artificial islands, to further make the point that they are not sovereign Chinese land.
The post China, U.S. at impasse over Chinese land reclamation projects appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
One of Australia’s national treasures is in trouble.
Amid fears of starvation and overcrowding, officials in the country euthanized a group of sickly koalas in the state of Victoria this week, raising objections from animal groups over the welfare of the iconic creatures.
Wildlife officials announced earlier this week they had launched a weeklong health assessment of the “overabundant” koala colony in the eucalyptus woodlands of Cape Otway, a popular tourist destination inhabited by the creatures.
The area’s shortage of manna gum leaves, a staple of the animal’s diet, combined with a population boom of the furry marsupials prompted concerns of starvation for the colony of about 1,000 koalas.
Of the 226 in the sample captured and examined by veterinarians, 48 were deemed “too sick to survive release” and were “humanely euthanized to prevent further suffering,” the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning announced. The rest were relocated to release sites.
“Koala welfare and habitat health continue to be our top priorities,” said DELWP spokeswoman Mandy Watson in a statement.
During the assessment, veterinarians and animal health officials caught a representative sample of koalas that were examined and tagged. Officials said they implanted birth controls in the female koalas prior to their release.
In response to the health assessment, the Australian Koala Foundation condemned the “imminent” koala culls.
“You cannot have it both ways, you either want to protect our national icon (and it’s habitat) and use them as ambassadors or you ruin Australia’s reputation with this disgusting cruelty,” Australian Koala Foundation CEO Deborah Tabart said in a statement. “It is a complex problem and there are no easy fixes.”
In 2013 and 2014, wildlife officials initiated a similar emergency intervention program in response to starving koalas after the population expanded to unsustainable levels. About 700 sick or injured koalas were put down and another 1,500 slowly died on their own, Reuters reported.
Koalas are a protected species in Australia, where they serve as a major tourist attraction and international diplomatic symbol.
The post Some Australian koalas euthanized over starvation fears appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Around 500 people gathered in front of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix on Friday in two opposing groups: one protesting the center and the other supporting it, the Associated Press reported.
Approximately 250 people gathered in front of the center during Friday night prayers, carrying signs decrying Islam as well as Sharia law and terrorism.
Organizers of the anti-Islam protest named the event “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II” and suggested that protesters bring guns to defend themselves in case of a retaliatory attack, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Jon Ritzheimer, a former marine who planned the anti-Islam rally, wrote on his Facebook page that he organized the protest “in response to the recent attack in Texas,” Reuters reported.
Ritzheimer was referring to the May 3 shooting in Garland, Texas, in which two men who had attended the Islamic center shot a security officer outside of a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest.
A roughly equal number of counter-protestors showed up to defend the mosque, chanting “Go home Nazis!” and carrying signs with slogans like, “Stop the hate, provoke peace.”
Despite tension between the two groups, who were separated by a line of police officers, there were no injuries or arrests reported.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Tonight, ISIS is maintaining control of the city of Palmyra in Syria. Now, we’re learning more about how ISIS is treating the people of Palmyra.
For some insight, we are joined via Skype from Istanbul by Anne Barnard of The New York Times.
So, this was the first city that ISIS took control over from the Syrian government. Have their tactics changed in what they do when they get into town?
ANNE BARNARD, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it seems there’s a certain set of steps that ISIS has honed during the two years it started to accumulate territory in Iraq and Syria.
They come in. They carry out some well-publicized atrocities — beheadings, attacking people who they think might oppose them and trying to court favor with some other populations and alternate between the two.
Now, this is the first time that they’ve taken a town from the government and not from insurgents who had taken it previously.
So strangely, here, they don’t expect to have a rival for the antigovernment mantle, so to speak.
So, some people are surprised that they have not been harsher with the general population, especially since Palmyra is a place that made its living off the tourist trade and was quite open with the West.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In your reporting, you say besides the atrocities and the beheadings and the executions and so forth, they’re also trying to take on municipal matters, turning on the water and the fuel.
ANNE BARNARD: Yes. Well, one of their goals is to convince people that they really are a state, and that they can bring administration, that they take over institutions and facilities and provide services.
So, within hours of coming into town, they had executed people publicly in the streets.
At the same time, they were trying to carry out very ordinary functions — opening the bakeries, giving bread for free, and fixing the power plant and the water pumps which had been left not working by the retreating soldiers at the same time, bombing started. So, services have been coming in and out.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The people of Palmyra are caught in a bit — between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand, if they don’t cooperate with ISIS, they could meet with death. And on the other hand, really, it’s the government that they don’t feel a tremendous loyalty to, anyway.
ANNE BARNARD: Yes. I mean, like everywhere in Syria — I visited Palmyra a year ago, so we got to know a lot of people there.
There’s certainly a range of sentiment about the government from pro to anti.
But Palmyra was a place where there was a local rebellion that was put down in 2012.
It’s an almost entirely Sunni town where the security forces had never felt extremely comfortable, especially those that were from other parts of the country.
They told us that a year ago they felt that the people — they couldn’t trust the local people.
So, there definitely was antigovernment sentiment there.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there feeling among some people on the ground that is could be a viable alternative to the Syrian government?
ANNE BARNARD: Well, I asked a guy who say longtime antigovernment activist there. He doesn’t really like ISIS.
He has some relatives who are in ISIS. He said that he was remaining opposed to both ISIS and the government. He said, “You know, people don’t really have a choice. They came into town and it was imposed upon them.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: Are the air strikes by the Syrian government making the Islamic State’s case for them?
ANNE BARNARD: Well, yes. People were very afraid of ISIS when they came in, and their main focus was the executions in the streets, and whether they were going to treat the population harshly.
Now, there’s nearly daily airstrikes. People are reporting having lost friends in these air strikes, including government employees, people that might have been pro-government.
You know, I think now people’s immediate source of fear and worry has shifted from the militants on the ground to the warplanes that are overhead.
But at the same time, they’re keeping an eye on whether ISIS will start to apply some of its harsh practices to the general population.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Anne Barnard of The New York Times, joining us via Skype from Istanbul, thanks so much.
ANNE BARNARD: Thank you.
The post What does ISIS control mean for the people of Palmyra? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Yesterday, the State Department officially lifted its designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
It’s one of the many recent steps by the Obama administration to re-establish diplomatic ties between the island nation and the United States.
Here to talk about the implications of that move is Carla Robbins, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
So, first of all, this was on the list since the early 80s. What put them on this list of state-sponsored terror in the first place?
CARLA ROBBINS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Exporting revolution, cozy relations with the FARC in Colombia, cozy relations with the Basque terrorists ETA and we didn’t like them.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right. And then, now, if they’re off this list, what does it mean?
CARLA ROBBINS: It means more than anything else, that U.S. banks can have relations with Cuban banks, which will make it much easier to follow through on the easing of financial relations that Obama is promoting, and the Cubans said it was the biggest precondition for reestablishing direct diplomatic relations and opening the embassies.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In a practical matter, this means that if a tourist is visiting Cuba, their ATM cards or credit cards will work.
CARLA ROBBINS: That’s the idea. Right now, MasterCard is there. I believe I think American Express is there. But you can’t — there’s no American bank that can do it because of fear that the Treasury Department will punish you.
You know, these terrorism lists, particularly since 9/11 — I mean, U.S. banks have been paying very, very high penalties for it. So, now, you’ll be able to do that.
More than anything else, while the embargo is still in place and will remain in place for a very long time, I suspect, you can do business with private businesses in Cuba, a variety of other trade. We can sell medicines.
We can sell agriculture. We have been able to do that for quite a while.
But the Cubans had to pay before. They had to send the money here. They couldn’t do it through an American bank. It was a very complicated process.
Now, they’re going to be able to clear checks in Cuba and that’s a big deal, not an enormous boon. There’s not going to be a huge, you know, gold rush here, but it’s going to make it easier to do financial transactions.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, you pointed out that distinction that this still does not mean that the embargo is lifted. That is a much bigger scenario and that takes congressional approval.
CARLA ROBBINS: The embargo was an executive order since Kennedy, all the way through to Clinton. It was written into law during the Clinton administration.
Not at the behest of the White House, the Republicans pushed it. And so, now, Congress has to agree to do it.
And what’s really interesting — you know, I was up on the Hill and I was surprised to see nobody on the Hill was going to make a big fight about this lifting of the terrorism list. They’re not going to fight Obama on all these other things.
On the other hand, nobody is going to push very hard to lift the embargo. This is a very long process.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right. And there are still significant disagreements that the two countries have. I mean, the secretary of state said that yesterday. There are also members of Congress that said that.
CARLA ROBBINS: Having diplomatic relations doesn’t mean that we love them. And, ultimately, the U.S. and Cuba have very different goals for this rapprochement.
Obama has been clear — his goal here, have closer contact, is to promote democratic change in Cuba. The Cubans’ goal for this is to get enough, you know, economic bailout so that they can maintain their repressive society for a little big longer.
I think, ultimately — you know, the Castro brothers are very old — ultimately, Cuba is going to move toward some sort of reforms and I think as — also as President Obama said, 50 years of this policy and it didn’t work.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, when these two countries start to establish embassies officially in each other’s countries, what are the kinds of steps that we will see towards this diplomatic normalization?
CARLA ROBBINS: Right. I think the biggest issue right now — and we don’t know how soon the opening could come, the official opening — I find it to be probably sooner rather than later — the biggest question I think is what they’ve been going back and forth is the Cubans keep saying, we don’t want you to be using the embassy to continue to do what you’ve been doing — which is giving — training journalists and meeting with dissidents.
And the Americans keep saying, “What are you talking about? We want to do this.”
I hope the Obama administration doesn’t give up too much on that.
Although they have been signaling that in other authoritarian societies, there are restrictions and they will place restrictions on the Cubans themselves. This not going to be a warm and cuddly relationship for a very long time, I suspect.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Carla Robbins, thanks so much.
CARLA ROBBINS: Thanks so much.
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DOVER, Del. — He was the privileged son of a longtime U.S. senator and two-term vice president, yet Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III was no stranger to personal adversity.
When he was only 3, just weeks after his father, Joe Biden, had been elected to the Senate, the younger Biden was seriously injured in a 1972 car crash that killed his mother and infant sister. His father was sworn into office at his hospital bedside.
As a young college student, not long after his father’s 1987 presidential campaign imploded among allegations of plagiarism, he was back in the hospital, holding vigil with other family members as Joe Biden underwent surgery for a life-threatening aneurysm.
And after launching his own successful political career, Beau Biden was dogged by health problems. In 2010, he suffered a mild stroke at the age of 41.
On Saturday, Beau Biden died of brain cancer, less than two years after he was diagnosed. He was 46.
Although twice elected attorney general, the younger Biden never realized the dream of many Delaware political observers that he would follow in his father’s footsteps as a U.S. senator, and perhaps even become governor.
Biden did, in fact, plan to run for governor in 2016. He made the announcement in an April 2014 email to supporters in which he also noted he would not seek re-election as Delaware attorney general.
The announcement caught Delaware’s political establishment off guard, and also renewed questions about Biden’s health. In the ensuing months, he kept a low public profile and declined news media requests for interviews.
“I think he would have run. I think he would have won,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a fellow Democrat. Markell said he last spoke to Biden in February, when he invited him to a meeting of Democratic governors in Washington, D.C.
“He was serious” about running for governor, added New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon, a longtime friend and political ally of Joe Biden who described Beau Biden as the most popular politician in Delaware. “He thought he was going to win this battle.”
Gordon said he last spoke to Beau several weeks ago, when Biden participated in a conference call on crime issues in Wilmington.
“He was a rock star,” Gordon said. “He had a great image, great character.”
After leaving office earlier this year, Biden joined a Delaware law firm run by Stuart Grant, a prominent Democratic campaign donor and plaintiffs lawyer specializing in corporate litigation. The law firm announced late last month that Biden was expanding his work on behalf of whistleblower clients, but Biden was not available for comment.
Biden, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, earned a law degree from Syracuse University in 1994. He served as a law clerk for a federal judge in New Hampshire before working for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1995 until 2002, including five years as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia. In 2001, he volunteered for an interim assignment helping to train judges and prosecutors in postwar Kosovo.
With his father, then Delaware’s senior U.S. senator, at his side in 2006, Biden launched his campaign for attorney general. He promised to reorganize the state Department of Justice to better combat identity theft, Internet stalking by pedophiles, street crime and abuse of the elderly.
Politically astute, photogenic and backed by his father’s political machine, Biden won with 52.6 percent of the vote.
“He’s supped at this table since he’s been 3 years old,” a beaming Joe Biden said after the victory. Beau Biden was a toddler when his father was first elected to the Senate.
“I’m just proud of him,” the elder Biden added. “I think he will make the state proud.”
During the campaign, however, the younger Biden sidestepped questions about his ultimate political ambitions.
“Sometimes, it’s not good to look too far down the road,” said Biden, who remained similarly cautious about discussing his long-range plans in an interview with The Associated Press after suffering the stroke in 2010.
“Having long-term dreams is a good thing … but having a plan has never worked for me, because life always intervenes,” Biden told the AP at the time. For Biden, his initial health scare was also a reminder to balance his job with family time – advice he encouraged others to follow.
“It’s kind of reinforced how I’ve operated my life,” he said.
As attorney general, Biden established a child predator unit, joined other attorneys general in taking on mortgage lenders over foreclosure abuses, proposed tougher bail restrictions for criminal defendants, and defended the death penalty, putting him at odds with some fellow Democrats.
But a spate of shootings in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington went largely unabated during his tenure, and his office stumbled in some high-profile murder prosecutions, including two cases in which murder charges were dropped. Biden also faced scrutiny over how his office handled the case of Earl Bradley, a pediatrician who sexually assaulted scores of young patients over more than a decade before being arrested in December 2009.
Biden cited his focus on the Bradley case in announcing in January 2010 that he would not run for the Senate seat that his father vacated in 2008 when he was elected vice president.
The younger Biden’s decision stunned political observers, including many fellow Democrats who thought Joe Biden’s former chief of staff, Ted Kaufman, had been appointed to the Senate on an interim basis to keep the seat warm for the son. A fellow Democrat, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, won the seat after Castle, who had been considered the odds-on favorite, was upset by tea party-backed Christine O’Donnell in the GOP primary.
“I have no regrets,” Biden said after O’Donnell’s stunning primary victory scrambled the political calculus surrounding the Senate seat.
Biden coasted to re-election as attorney general in 2010 after Republicans declined to field a candidate against him.
In addition to his work as a lawyer and attorney general, Biden was a major in an Army National Guard unit that deployed to Iraq in 2008.
He was married and the father of two children.
Markell ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in Delaware in honor of Biden.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
This report was written by Randall Chase of the Associated Press.
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LYNN SHERR: Science and SciFi have always attracted Freya Wilhelm, whose favorite TV show as a child was this animated series set in the fantastic future.
LYNN SHERR: But Freya’s life went off track her freshman year of high school, when, as a struggling art student in Manhattan, she descended into a cycle of marijuana, party drugs, psychedelics…
FREYA WILHELM: I was feeling very experimental.
LYNN SHERR: By her junior year, she had added cocaine. And was failing out of school.
LYNN SHERR: What did you see as your future, at that point? Did you look at yourself and say, “What am I doing?
FREYA WILHELM: I kind of just thought maybe I would grow out of it or things would work itself out.
LYNN SHERR: Luckily, school officials transferred her to New York’s Lower East Side Prep, a second-chance school with experience turning around lost kids. One day, she was invited to join the robotics team, coached by Dr. Henry Ruan.
HENRY RUAN: I really saw the difference that made. When we started she was kinda shy and silent member of the team. I didn’t see her very often in the school. It’s not easy to have this kind of change. The person has to put a lot of commitment, a lot of determination, this program is playing some role in that change.
LYNN SHERR: This program challenges students to design, build and program robots for an international competition. It also hooks them on the wonders of — well, look at its name: FIRST, For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
LYNN SHERR: FIRST was created 26 years ago by entrepreneur Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway among other high-tech devices.
DEAN KAMEN: I thought, if we could create a cultural shift that made tech cool to a generation of kids, we might start narrowing the gap between the number of scientists and engineers that we’re producing in this country on a percentage basis to other countries around the world.
LYNN SHERR: What, specifically, is the problem?
DEAN KAMEN: We have a smaller percentage of our kids becoming scientists and engineers than many countries in the developing world. And when you look at the data and see that China’s producing five or 600,000 engineers this year and we’ll produce one-tenth of that, it says, “How’re we gonna compete?”
LYNN SHERR: The gap is even greater when it comes to gender. Women comprise only 13 percent of all professional engineers in the U.S., and only one-quarter of the computer and mathematical sciences workforce.
Getting girls (and boys) interested early is where this competition is a game-changer.
When I first met Kamen back in 1993, 20-some teams competed in a high school gymnasium in New Hampshire.
Today, youngsters from 41,000 schools in 80 countries do battle in venues like New York’s Javits Center, where we watched New York’s regional competition back in March. And participants – particularly girls – report significantly more interest in science, tech and math fields.
LYNN SHERR: Kamen is their rock star. Freya also gets her moment, but as team captain, quickly turns to the competition. The goal is to load up the robot with the most boxes –and a garbage can.
LYNN SHERR: The first match goes badly, but as the team regroups, the real genius behind the program becomes clear.
DEAN KAMEN: Whether or not they built a good robot, I don’t care. What they built was a bit of self-confidence about what’s possible, a new perspective.
LYNN SHERR: For Freya, it all comes together in the final round.
FREYA WILHELM: Yes! We beat one of the really good teams!”
LYNN SHERR: Next year, Freya Wilhelm wants to go to college and study engineering, a childhood fantasy that finally seems possible.
LYNN SHERR: Fair to say that FIRST turned your life around?
FREYA WILHELM: Yes. Absolutely. I think it’s given me– a big 180 degree in my life.
LYNN SHERR: All because she took that FIRST step with Dean Kamen.
DEAN KAMEN: Stay with it!
FREYA WILHELM: I will, I will. Thank you so much. I’m so happy.
The post How to hook young people on math and science? Robots. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Brooklyn fashion blogger Rachel Tutera knows that you might not see her the way she sees herself.
“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 may identify,” Tutera, 30, said. “There are people who find me provocative in a way that I don’t exactly understand.”
As a gender non-conforming person, someone who behaves and appears in ways that are considered atypical for one’s sex assigned at birth, Tutera said she feels constant stress and anxiety from the outside world.
“Whether I’m read as what I am, which is a masculine-presenting woman, or if I’m read as a feminine-presenting man, there’s a lot of danger there — physical danger,” Tutera said. “I’ve gotten shoved by guys, certain slurs.”
Tutera has been the victim of gender policing, the act of imposing or enforcing gender roles based on an individual’s perceived sex. This type of behavior can range from banal actions, like a confused look on the subway, to more insidious behavior like getting thrown out of a gendered public restroom or fitting room, she said.
“Gender non-conforming people get harassed on the basis of not being the right kind of woman, a failed woman, or not being the right kind of man, a failed man,” said Professor Anne Pellegrini, the director of New York University’s Gender and Sexuality Center. Pellegrini said gender policing amounts to a form of cultural oppression.
According to Pellegrini, in most states, transgender and gender non-conforming people are not protected from workplace or housing discrimination. Just a few decades ago, state laws allowed police to arrest individuals for impersonating another sex if the police deemed they weren’t wearing gender-appropriate clothing.
But society’s ideas on conventional gender roles are also changing, Pellegrini says, due, in large part, to the increased visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the media.
Last year, “Orange Is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. Barney’s New York recently featured 17 transgender models in its spring ad campaign. And transgender advocate Janet Mock was profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CNN, the Colbert Report and other news programs.
“By opening up space for different kinds of gender, it actually loosens the hold for stereotype thinking about how you have to do your sex,” Pellegrini said. “We shouldn’t think of someone waking up one morning and saying, ‘Oh, what gender shall I be today?’ Gender is deeper than that.”
Despite their growing visibility, transgender and gender non-conforming people still face danger in their daily lives.
In January alone, eight transgender women were murdered in the U.S., according to the organization Human Rights Campaign.
Cox said many of these “transphobic” violent acts often fly under the radar because the dialogue about the trans population is often centered on an individual’s physical transition instead of the discrimination the person may face.
In January 2014, Cox appeared alongside transgender Victoria Secret Model Carmen Carrera on “Katie,” and host Katie Couric asked Carrera where she was in the process of transitioning from male to female. Carrera refused to answer.
“The preoccupation with transition and with surgery objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to deal with the real lived experiences, with the reality of trans people’s lives,” Cox said. “So often we are targets of violence, we experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community.”
Even well-intentioned people, Tutera said, can be guilty of gender policing by focusing on what society may regard as normal.
“It’s actually nobody’s business whether you’re a man or a woman,” Tutera said. “My saying that may not make sense to some people, and certainly I can understand. But the moment you take that step from speculating in your mind to asking someone, point blank, about their identity, you’re making just such a terrible mistake. There are so many different identities, and this is just part of that.”
[Watch Video]Companies that offer custom-made clothing for transgender and gender non-conforming people are coming to the forefront, as more diverse models gain visibility in the fashion industry — and redefine the parameters of gender identity. Ivette Feliciano reports.
India’s annual pre-monsoon heat wave has been unusually severe this year, especially in the southeastern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Near-record temperatures have persisted for weeks and the anxiously awaited monsoon rains that cool the country in early summer have not yet arrived.
Temperatures in parts of the country have soared above 110 degrees Fahrenheit, making life miserable for many of India’s 1.25 billion inhabitants and presenting serious health and infrastructure challenges to the South Asian nation.
Due to high humidity, the heat index — a measurement of how a given temperature feels to humans — in some regions exceeded 140 degrees. The extreme temperatures have contributed to over 1,800 deaths, making the heat wave one of the deadliest on record.
Heavy use of air conditioners has put excess strain on India’s electrical grid, causing power cuts in some areas, including the capital, New Delhi.
Intense heat in New Delhi even caused road surfaces to melt.
Across the country, measures have been taken to limit fatalities.
Authorities have cancelled leave for doctors as hospitals struggle to cope with the victims of temperature-related ailments like heat stroke and heart attacks.
Many of the victims are the elderly and people who are forced to spend days outside in the intense heat, such as construction workers and the homeless.
Citizens have been cautioned to stay inside if possible and to drink fluids constantly.
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GENEVA — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry broke his leg in a bicycle crash Sunday, apparently after hitting a curb, and scrapped the rest of a four-nation trip that included an international conference on combating the Islamic State group.
Kerry was in stable condition and in good spirits as he prepared to return to Boston for further treatment with the doctor who previously operated on his hip, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said. He said X-rays at a Swiss hospital confirmed that Kerry fractured his right femur.
“The secretary is stable and never lost consciousness, his injury is not life-threatening and he is expected to make a full recovery,” Kirby said in a statement.
Kerry, 71, was taken by helicopter to Geneva’s main medical center, HUG, after apparently hitting a curb with his bike near Scionzier, France, about 40 kilometers southeast of the Swiss border.
Paramedics and a physician were on the scene with his motorcade at the time and provided him immediate attention. They quickly decided to order the 10-minute-long helicopter transport.
The Dauphine Libere, a local newspaper, said Kerry fell near the beginning of his ride to the famed mountain pass called the Col de la Colombiere, which has been a route for the Tour de France more than a dozen times.
Right around the time of his fall, a Twitter feed about local driving conditions warned of the danger due to gravel along the pass. According to the newspaper, some Haute Savoie officials were with Kerry at the time, including the head of the region.
Kerry’s cycling rides have become a regular occurrence on his trips. He often takes his bike with him on the plane and was riding that bicycle Sunday.
During discussions in late March and early April between world powers and Iran, he took several bike trips during breaks. Those talks were in Lausanne, Switzerland, and led to a framework agreement.
Kerry had been in Geneva for six hours of meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday as the sides now work to seal a comprehensive accord by June 30.
The prospect of a lengthy rehabilitation could hamper the nuclear talks and other diplomatic endeavors. Even if Kerry does not need surgery, it was not immediately known when he could fly again after returning to the United States.
Kerry has been the lead negotiator in several marathon sessions with Iran going back to 2013. The injury could affect other potential trips, such as one to the Cuban capital to raise the flag at a restored U.S. Embassy, may be affected.
As for the current trip, Kerry had planned to travel to Madrid on Sunday for meetings with Spain’s king and prime minister, before spending two days in Paris for an international gathering to combat IS.
He will participate in the Paris conference remotely, Kirby said.
Kerry decided to seek treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital because the fracture is near the site of his earlier hip surgery, Kirby said.
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In November 2014, an appeals court in Malaysia overturned a state law that barred Muslim men from dressing as women in a historic victory for the country’s transgender women.
The court found the law unconstitutional, characterizing it as “degrading, oppressive and inhuman.” The verdict was heralded by human rights organizations worldwide as a step in recognition of modern human rights.
But some similar landmark rule changes in the United States were only a few years ahead.
In fact, a person perceived as male who dressed in clothing customarily designed for women could technically be arrested in New York for “impersonating a female” as recently as 2011 — the remnants of a 19th century statewide law prohibiting wearing “the dress of the opposite sex.”
In Columbus, Ohio, where one of the earliest ordinances was instituted, an 1848 law forbade a person from appearing in public “in a dress not belonging to his or her sex.” In the decades that followed, more than 40 U.S. cities created similar laws limiting the clothing people were allowed to wear in public.
The wave of laws in the 1850s represented a “new development specific to gender presentation,” according to Susan Stryker, an associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona.
In effect, the anti-cross-dressing laws became a flexible tool for police to enforce normative gender on multiple gender identities, including masculine women and people identifying as transgender or gender non-conforming.
But as time progressed and fashion evolved, it was increasingly difficult to even define what “cross-dressing” entailed from a law-enforcement perspective, Stryker told PBS NewsHour.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation organization defines cross-dressers specifically as heterosexual men who occasionally wear clothes, makeup and accessories culturally associated with women.
“By the time the counterculture was in full bloom, cross-dressing arrests were routinely getting thrown out of court,” she said. “Arresting cross-dressing people was mainly just a form of police harassment.”
The timeline above shows the evolution of several U.S. laws enforcing sex-specific dress. Most of these laws have since been overturned.
Sources: “Transgender History” by Susan Stryker, “Gaylaw: Challenging the Apartheid of the Closet” by William N. Eskridge Jr., “A Dress Not Belonging to His or Her Sex” by Clare Sears, “Cross Dressing and the Criminal” by I. Bennett Capers,”The Cross-Dressing Case for Bathroom Equality” by Levi and Redman, “Transgender History & Geography: Crossdressing in Context, Volume 3″ by G.G. Bolich, as well as the Transgender Law Center.
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HAIPHONG, Vietnam — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Sunday that he will find out who was responsible for the mistaken shipments of live anthrax to 11 U.S. states and two countries and will “hold them accountable.”
Calling the shipments an “unfortunate incident,” Carter said the Pentagon will make “sure that any public health consequences of this are avoided” and ensure it never happens again.
Live anthrax samples from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah were mistakenly sent to 24 laboratories, including ones in Australia and South Korea. Questions have been raised about possible flaws in Dugway’s procedures to ensure that anthrax samples were made fully inert before shipping them to labs.
Carter spoke after a visit to the Vietnamese Navy’s headquarters at the port city of Haiphong.
He said he was keeping in close contact with Pentagon officials to make sure the department is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address the problem.
Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Work has ordered a comprehensive review of laboratory procedures associated with inactivating anthrax.
Dugway, in a desolate stretch of the Utah desert, has been testing chemical weapons since it opened in 1942.
The CDC said suspect samples from Dugway had been sent to 18 labs in nine U.S. states and a military base in South Korea. Later, the Pentagon said the Army may have mistakenly sent live anthrax to a laboratory in Australia in 2008.
Carter met with Australian Minister of Defense Kevin Andrews during an international security conference in Singapore on Saturday and gave him an update on the problem.
CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said four people at labs in Delaware, Texas and Wisconsin were recommended to get antibiotics as a precaution, although they are not sick. About two dozen people were being treated for possible exposure at Osan Air Base in South Korea.
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WASHINGTON — A midnight deadline drew near for senators meeting in an extraordinary Sunday session to extend surveillance programs, but a lapse seemed unavoidable and intelligence officials worried about giving terrorists greater freedom to operate.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a presidential candidate, has made clear he planned to force the expiration of the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. The chamber’s rules allow him to do it, at least temporarily.
Terrorists “are looking for the seams to operate within,” CIA Director John Brennan said. “This is something that we can’t afford to do right now.” He bemoaned “too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue” and said the terrorism-fighting tools are important to American lives.
Minutes before the Senate began its session, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a brief but strong statement warning of the impact if the parts of the Patriot Act expire.
“Al-Qaida, ISIL and other terrorists around the globe continue to plot attacks on America and our allies. Anyone who is satisfied with letting this critical intelligence capability go dark isn’t taking the terrorist threat seriously,” said Boehner, who urged the Senate to pass the House bill backed by the White House that would remake the National Security Agency’s phone collection program.
Senate backers, however, were three votes short.
Even if the legislation were to gain the needed support, in spite of opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all senators would need to agree to move to a final vote. Paul was not going along.
“I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” Paul said in a statement Saturday. “Sometimes when the problem is big enough, you just have to start over.”
Paul cannot hold off a final vote indefinitely, just for a few days. But until the impasse was resolved, the NSA would lose legal authority to collect and search domestic phone records for connections to international terrorists – the once-secret program revealed by agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions also would lapse: one, so far unused, helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones.
“The American people deserve better than this, especially when it comes to a program that is an integral part of protecting our national security,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who nonetheless predicted passage of the House plan by Wednesday.
A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Maine independent Angus King, found it to be an “unusual position” for Paul “to be talking about essentially unilaterally disarming an important national security tool at a time when I have never seen the threat level higher.”
The White House contended that letting the surveillance powers expire would jeopardize national security.
“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who is engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate,” President Barack Obama said Friday.
The White House-backed USA Freedom Act would keep the programs operating, but shut down the bulk phone collection program over six months and give phone companies the job of maintaining records the government could search.
Civil libertarians dispute the White House’s warnings, arguing that the surveillance programs have never been shown to produce major results.
“The sky is not going to fall,” the American Civil Liberties Union executive director, Anthony Romero, told reporters.
Paul’s opposition complicated matters for McConnell, who oversaw a chaotic late-night session the previous weekend when the Senate failed to pass the House bill and several straight-up extensions of current law.
Paul’s presidential campaign is aggressively raising money on the issue. A super PAC supporting him produced a video casting the dispute as a professional wrestling-style “Brawl for Liberty” between Paul and Obama – even though Paul’s main opponent on the issue is McConnell.
McConnell had little to say in response to Paul’s stalling plan. Spokesman Don Stewart said McConnell called the Senate back “to make every effort to provide the intelligence community with the tools it needs.”
McConnell supports an extension of current law, but even if the Senate could agree to that Sunday, the House was not in session and could not approve it and send it in time to the president.
The NSA has begun winding down the phone collection program in anticipation that it will not be renewed.
To ensure the program has ceased by the time authority for it expires at midnight, the agency planned to begin shutting down the servers that carry it out at 3:59 p.m. Sunday.
That step would be reversible for four hours – by which time it should be evident whether there’s any hope of a last-minute deal on Capitol Hill. After that, rebooting would take about a day.
Brennan spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” while Lee and King appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Associated Press writers Ken Dilanian and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.
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Some schools in areas of Nepal that were hit by two powerful earthquakes on April 25 and May 12 reopened Sunday, the Associated Press reported.
Many children, some accompanied by parents, navigated rubble and debris in order to return to school.
On May 7, five days before a second powerful earthquake struck, UNICEF reported that 90 percent of the schools in the Nepalese districts of Gorkha, Sindhupalchok and Nuwakot had been destroyed.
Lila Nanda Upadhyay, the principal of Rupak Memorial International School in Kathmandu told Agence France-Presse that the school could not yet reopen.
“It is impossible for me to reopen right now. The school ground is filled with debris and we don’t have an open space,” Upadhyay said.
Government inspectors assessed the damage at schools and ordered unsafe or damaged schools to hold classes in temporary structures, according to the AP.
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More rain fell across Texas Saturday night but caused no major new problems, after the onslaught of severe weather during the week killed dozens and prompted President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency in the state.
About 3.5 inches of rain fell in parts of Houston and surrounding Harris County, and more than 3 inches fell in Laredo Saturday afternoon and evening, according to the National Weather Service. Still, no new evacuations were ordered or recommended — and some were even lifted — as weather forecasts predicted the rain was likely to let up this week.
At least 31 people have died in the storms that began in Texas and Oklahoma over Memorial Day weekend, and 11 were still missing Saturday, the Associated Press reported, as flood waters continued to devastate areas around Houston, Austin and San Antonio.
The bodies of two women were recovered on Saturday from the Blanco River in Hays County, the sheriff’s office said in a statement, Reuters reported, ordering autopsies to identify them.
Even though parts of the state have been suffering a moderate drought, flooding in other areas has turned streets in to rivers, destroyed homes and trapped people in cars and houses, as torrential rains have dropped trillions of gallons of water across the state for more than 10 days.
President Obama signed a disaster declaration on Friday making funds available to help rebuild areas of Harris, Hays and Van Zandt counties, where damages are already estimated to exceed tens of millions of dollars. Earlier in the week, the Texas Department of Transportation had already estimated the road and bridge damage at $35 million.
Meteorologists say enough rain has fallen in the past 30 days that it could cover the entire state of Texas with eight inches of water, making May the state’s wettest month on record, according to Texas A&M climatologists.
— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) May 29, 2015
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