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

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    Rower Sonya Baumstein is seen in this still from a YouTube video. She is attempting to be the first woman to row from Japan to mainland North America.

    Rower Sonya Baumstein is seen in this still from a YouTube video. She is attempting to be the first woman to row from Japan to mainland North America.

    Sonya Baumstein departed Choshi, Japan, to attempt a feat no other woman has ever accomplsihed: to row a boat solo across the Pacific Ocean.

    Rowing in a custom-made boat with no motor, sails or backup team, Baumstein, 30, plans to reach San Francisco in late September, having traveled about 6,000 miles across three different currents: Kuroshio, Pacific, and California.

    I worked three years of my life for this,” the Port Townsend, Washington, native told the Associated Press, “It’s going to get bad at times. I just keep my eyes on the prize.”

    Although she’ll be making the journey alone, a support team awaits her ashore, connected via GPS and satellite phone, if anything goes wrong, the AP reported.

    Once she leaves Japan, the next person she’ll see will be in San Francisco,” Andrew Cull, her trainer, told Reuters. She’s driven. Maybe a little bit bullheaded. She gets an idea in her head and will do anything necessary to get it done.

    Her father, Darryl Baumstein, told Reuters, “I’m completely fearful and I think it’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s her goal. Everything in life is about taking chances.”

    Though previously attempted, the rowing expedition has yet to be successfully completed by a woman.

    Rower Sarah Outen attempted the trip twice in 2012 and 2013, but failed both times because of harsh weather conditions and navigational issues.

    Two men have successfully made the trip before. According to records from the Ocean Rowing Society, Gerard d’Aboville and Emmanuel Coindre embarked on solo expeditions across the Pacific in 1991 and 2005.

    The post And she’s off! Rower sets out to become first woman to cross Pacific appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    David Sweat (L) and Richard Matt (R) are pictured  in undated handout photos. Sweat and Matt escaped from a maximum security prison in upstate New York Saturday. Photo by Reuters

    David Sweat (L) and Richard Matt (R) are pictured in undated handout photos. Sweat and Matt escaped from a maximum security prison in upstate New York Saturday. Photo by Reuters

    Law enforcement agencies were busy Sunday searching for two convicted murders who used power tools to make an ingenious escape from a maximum security prison in upstate New York the day before.

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking Sunday after touring the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, called the escape “elaborate” and “sophisticated” and promised a full investigation into different aspects of the escape, including how the duo got hold of power tools.

    The two fugitives, 48-year-old Richard Matt and David Sweat, 34, escaped either late Friday night or early Saturday morning. Their absence was noticed during a 5:30 a.m. bed check on Saturday.

    Matt was serving time for the 1997 kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of his former boss, William Rickerson. While awaiting trial for Rickerson’s murder, Matt fled to Mexico, where he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years for killing an American during an attempted robbery outside a bar.

    He was extradited to the United States in 2007 to stand trial for Rickerson’s murder, according to the New York Times.

    Sweat was serving a life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2002 shooting death of Kevin Tarsia, a sheriff’s deputy for Broome County, New York.

    In a conference call with reporters, Gov. Cuomo gave specifics about the manner of the two men’s escape, the Associated Press reported. According to the Governor, the two had to cut through a steel plate, break through a brick wall and shimmy through a narrow steam pipe before finally sawing through the steel chain securing the manhole cover through which they escaped. The manhole is located roughly a block from the walls of the prison.

    The two men, who were in adjoining cells, made dummies out of extra clothes and placed them in their beds to fool the guards.

    The jailbreak was the first escape from Clinton’s maximum security in the facility’s 150-year history, prison officials said.

    According to a tweet by Cuomo Deputy Press Secretary Gareth Rhodes, the escapees left a note that read “have a nice day” on the pipe they used to escape.

    Hundreds of officers from several law enforcement agencies, including the State Police, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, are searching for Matt and Sweat. Officers set up roadblocks and searched houses in the area surrounding the prison and are using helicopters, K-9 units and bloodhounds to try to find the missing prisoners.

    Matt is white, 6 feet tall, with black hair and hazel eyes and weighs 210 pounds. He has tattoos, including one that reads “Mexico Forever” on his back, a heart across his chest and left shoulder and a Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder.

    Sweat is white, 5 feet 11 inches tall, with brown hair and green eyes and weighs 165 pounds, according to police. He has tattoos on his right fingers and his left bicep.

    Cuomo described both men as dangerous, and officials cautioned anyone who saw the fugitives simply to call the police rather than approach them.

    New York state announced Sunday that it is offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of the two men.

    The post Convicted murderers use power tools to escape New York prison appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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

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

    WASHINGTON  — Republican presidential contender Lindsey Graham says his party has room for transgendered people like Caitlyn Jenner.

    The South Carolina senator calls himself a “traditional marriage kind of guy.” But he says he “can only imagine the torment that Bruce Jenner went through” before becoming a transgendered woman. He hopes that, now, she’s “found peace.”

    The underdog Republican candidate is campaigning on the need to counter threats from terrorists and Islamic State militants. He shares the opposition to same-sex marriage expressed by his rivals but says the Supreme Court is settling that question.

    Graham says if Jenner wants to be a Republican, she’s welcome. And he says if she wants a safe country and a strong economy, she should vote for him.

    He spoke Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”


    The post Lindsey Graham wants Caitlyn Jenner’s vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who just disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a bus station in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29, 2014. Local media reported that ICE had been releasing migrants who pose no security risk at Greyhound bus stations in Tuscon and Phoenix due to a lack of manpower. Those released have to make their own way to their declared U.S. destinations and are required to report to a local ICE office within 15 days. Photo by Samantha Sais/Reuters

    Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who just disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a bus station in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29, 2014. Photo by Samantha Sais/Reuters

    SAN ANTONIO — After tens of thousands of migrant families, most from Central America, crossed the Rio Grande into Texas last summer, the government poured millions of dollars into two large detention centers meant to hold women and children – and keep more from coming.

    But as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement expands the centers to make space for the next wave of arrivals, the agency faces legal and political challenges that could shut them down. And a new flow of migrants raises questions as to whether the strategy has deterred migration at all.

    One center is a purpose-built, 50-acre campus in Dilley, an hour’s drive southwest of San Antonio. Another, smaller center is tucked among derricks in Karnes City. They will be able to house some 3,400 migrants once they reach full capacity, just a fraction of those crossing, leaving ICE with few options besides releasing many with notices to appear in court, as it did in the past.

    Some 130 House Democrats and 33 senators have called on the government to halt family detention, while a federal judge in California has tentatively ruled that the policy violates parts of an 18-year-old court settlement that says immigrant children cannot be held in secure facilities. ICE responded by pledging to improve its centers while it awaits the judge’s ruling.

    “We are moving in the direction of closing these centers down,” said Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

    In April, Judge Dolly Gee tentatively ruled that family detention violates parts of a 1997 settlement in a case known as Flores V. Meese. The settlement stipulates migrant children must be released only to foster care, relatives or – if they must be held – in the least restrictive environment possible in facilities licensed to care for children.

    Gee placed her ruling on hold and kept it secret so that government and immigration lawyers can try to negotiate a solution by mid-June. But a memo describing the ruling by Carlos Holguin, an attorney with the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law in California, says Gee agreed that the settlement applied to all minors in immigration custody, including those accompanied by a parent, and found the new detention facilities not licensed to care for children.

    ICE director Sarah Saldana responded to the court in a statement saying that the agency would review cases of families detained more than 90 days, increase oversight and explore ways to improve conditions. “We understand the unique and sensitive nature of detaining families,” she said.

    In making its case for detention last year, the Department of Homeland Security argued that the centers were necessary to stamp out a widespread belief among migrants that the government was doling out “permisos” for them to stay, actually notices to appear in court.

    According to the memo, Gee questioned whether the centers had served that purpose. Holguin wrote that the court found it “astonishing” that immigration authorities had adopted a policy demanding such expensive infrastructure without solid evidence that building it would discourage illegal migration. Nearly 17,000 families have already been caught at the border during the first seven months of this fiscal year, which began in October.

    Family detention isn’t cheap. An ICE official said it costs $300 per day for each woman or child housed at Dilley. At a capacity of 2,400 people, it will cost the federal government $720,000 a day, or nearly $263 million a year. The smaller detention center in Karnes costs ICE $160 per detainee per day and is expected to have 1,000 beds by year’s end. The only other family detention center is in Berks County, Pennsylvania. For-profit prison operators manage all three facilities overseen by ICE.

    Women with children caught entering the country illegally can be released or placed in detention. ICE says its decisions to detain or not depend on factors that include bed space and the ages and sexes of children.

    The Texas centers provide considerable freedom of movement and boast amenities – Dilley has a huge indoor gym, soccer field and classrooms with touch-screen TVs and computers and the Karnes center has a library stocked with bilingual children’s books. But detainees would much rather have been released on the promise to show up in court, as happened to Jeysel Amaya.

    Amaya, 24, said she left El Salvador because gang members “were threatening me and my sister, because my sister is 16 and (one) wanted to go with her.”

    In late April, she headed for the bus station in the border city of McAllen, her 4-month old daughter strapped to her chest in the same cloth sling she used throughout their 2,000-mile journey, and carrying a notice to show up in court near relatives in Los Angeles.

    The post U.S. detention centers for migrants may be in crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Francois Hollande (L-R) attend a working dinner at a G7 summit at the hotel castle Elmau in Kruen, Germany, June 7, 2015. Leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) industrial nations met on Sunday in the Bavarian Alps for a summit overshadowed by Greece's debt crisis and ongoing violence in Ukraine. Photo by Michael Kappeler/REUTERS

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: At the very start of the G7 summit, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced they’re united in standing up to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

    The leaders agreed to continue sanctions against Russia, even though the E.U. sanctions expire at the end of July. Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited to the two-day summit in the Bavarian Alps. Leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan are attending.

    Outside the summit, thousands of protesters marched in a nearby town, touching off isolated clashes with police. So far, the protests have been far less violent than in past years; 17,000 police officers are assigned to crowd control.

    So, what can we expect the G7 to accomplish in just two days’ time?

    I’m joined via Skype by Wall Street Journal reporter Anton Troianovski, who is covering the summit in Germany.

    So, Anton, what are the two biggest issues being discussed at this G7?

    ANTON TROIANOVSKI, The Wall Street Journal: Well, there’s a lot of different things on the agenda, but the issues looming over all of it are Greece and Russia.

    Greece, as you know, is locked into these — this kind of showdown-type negotiation with its international creditors. They desperately need billions of euros and more bailout funds. But the negotiations between the creditors and Greece remain very tense.

    And, on Russia, President Obama landed here this morning with the goal of making sure that the Europeans are united behind maintaining sanctions against Russia as long as the violence in Ukraine continues. And for now, it appears that that is going to happen.

    ALISON STEWART: What has been the impact of a Putin-less summit? What has his absence meant?

    ANTON TROIANOVSKI: I mean, it shows this new division that we’re seeing in the world, this — this issue that a lot of people are referring to as a new cold war.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel here in Germany, who is hosting this summit, has come under a fair amount of criticism here at home that Putin is excluded. You know, people say, how can you solve international issues where Russia is a key player without Moscow at the table?

    Her response is that the Group of Seven is not just an economic group or a political group, but it’s also a group of democracies with shared values.

    ALISON STEWART: Angela Merkel, Chancellor Merkel, it was a fairly warm welcome for President Obama, although she did have a few pointed references to the surveillance of her cell phone or the surveillance of her particularly.

    How would you characterize that relationship now?

    ANTON TROIANOVSKI: Well, the references today were very oblique, as the thing usually is with Angela Merkel.

    She did mention, basically, that, you know, despite some differences of opinion between Germany and the United States, the alliance stayed strong. You know, the U.S. and Berlin have maintained a united front, by and large, in confronting Moscow over Ukraine. Merkel has led the European sanctions push against Russia, the European diplomatic push with Russia.

    So, that appears to be working. And you could certainly tell, when Obama met Merkel today on this town square near the resort where they’re meeting, she really went all out to say that, the way he put it, U.S.-German alliance was one of the strongest the world has ever seen.

    ALISON STEWART: We should mention, of course, there have been thousands of protesters at this G7 summit.

    What is it they are protesting? What seems to be the most important issue to the activists?

    ANTON TROIANOVSKI: You know, here in Germany, it is probably the transatlantic trade agreement that the E.U. and the U.S. are negotiating right now.

    A lot of people here see this Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, as it’s called, or TTIP, as an agreement that will lower consumer protections here in Germany, bring, you know, American cowboy capitalism to Europe. So, there is a fair amount of opposition to that here.

    Trade is on the agenda to be discussed here at the G7. TTIP is one of the main economic goals that Merkel has over the next couple of years. Climate policy is going to be another key issue here, ahead of the big climate conference in Paris later this year.

    It’s a whole grab bag of things that people are protesting here. But we should also say, for now, it’s been quite peaceful, compared especially to some of the past G7, G8 summits.

    ALISON STEWART: Anton Troianovski, thank you so much for sharing your reporting.

    ANTON TROIANOVSKI: Sure thing. Thank you.

    The post Greece, Russia issues loom over G7 summit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Supporters wave Turkish national and party flags outside the AK Party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, June 7, 2015. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's hopes of assuming greater powers suffered a serious blow on Sunday when the ruling AK Party failed to win an outright majority in a parliamentary election, partial results showed. With 94 percent of ballots counted, the AKP had taken 41 percent of the vote, according to broadcaster CNN Turk, a result which will leave it struggling to form a stable government for the first time since it came to power more than a decade ago. REUTERS/Umit Bektas TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART: A turn of events in Turkey’s parliamentary election. The ruling party was favored to win big, but early results show it could end up losing its majority altogether.

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked the country’s 53 million eligible voters to give his party 400 parliamentary seats. That would have created a supermajority that could rewrite the constitution and give the presidency unprecedented new powers.

    The election has created real tension in the streets. Bombs exploded at a rally for a rival party Friday, killing two and wounding at least 200.

    Joining me to help analyze these early results is Steven Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    And, Steven before we go into the weeds on the — on the results, I want to step back and set the scene for people. Why was this election so important? Why was the world watching?

    STEVEN COOK, Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations: Well, this was an important election because, one, President Erdogan, who had been prime minister for the previous 12 years, had wanted to change the Turkish political system from a hybrid presidential parliamentary system to a purely presidential system, which would mean that all of the power in the political system would flow to him.

    At the moment, it’s the prime minister who is the primary political actor in the system. Under a presidential system, he would have all of the executive power.

    The second reason why it was so power was because a Kurdish-based political party was poised and in fact has passed Turkey’s very high threshold for getting into the parliament. They have now gotten about 11 percent of the popular vote, which means for that, first the time, a Kurdish-based party will be a major factor in Turkish politics.

    ALISON STEWART: And what impact will that have on the way Turkey is governed going forward?

    STEVEN COOK: Well, up until this point, going back to 2002, when the Justice and Development Party first came to power, they have not had to share power in a coalition government. They have ruled essentially alone, with very few checks and balances, I might add.

    Now they will have to go into coalition with another party. It looks like there will likely — at least initial discussions will be between the Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Movement Party, a party which — with which the Justice and Development Party shares a constituency and with whom they have worked previously.

    Together, that would be the most likely coalition going forward.

    ALISON STEWART: Obviously, because of its location, with — sharing a border with Syria and Iraq, Turkey is at the center of so many geopolitical discussions.

    Tell us, who are the actors in the area who will be paying close attention to these results?

    STEVEN COOK: Well, in the area specifically, the Syrian opposition, the Iraqi government, the Egyptian government, the Israeli government, and all of the governments in the Persian Gulf.

    ALISON STEWART: Everybody, is what you’re telling me.

    STEVEN COOK: The entire region.

    And it goes to show how strategically important Turkey is to virtually every conflict in the region at the moment. There has been a significant disconnect between Washington and Ankara over the way to best approach the conflict in Iraq with ISIS and how to deal with the Syrian civil war.

    The Turkish position has been that the best way to deal with the so-called Islamic State is to bring down the Assad regime. The change in government is not likely to fundamentally alter the Turkish position with regard to Syria. It may, though, put a break on the effort on the part of the Turks to fund and coordinate different extremist groups, as they have begun doing with the Qataris and the Saudis, to take on the Assad regime.

    So, there might be some changes in the approach, but, overall, I think Turkish foreign policy will likely remain largely the same.

    ALISON STEWART: In reading the wires and following Twitter, it seems that this outcome, this potential outcome, was unexpected.

    STEVEN COOK: Well, there were a lot of different expectations going forward.

    And I should say there were a lot of different expectations in the last few weeks. No one really can trust the polling that was done ahead of the elections. Everybody certainly expected the Justice and Development Party to do quite well. And they have done quite well. By any standard, other than their own past success, having 40 percent of the popular vote is a very successful political party.

    But the fact remains that, with the Kurdish-based party getting more than 11 percent of the vote, the Nationalists doing better, the — the Justice and Development Party will have less seats than it’s ever had in the parliament since it came to power in 2002.

    I would say, on social media, there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude, given the fact that the Justice and Development Party and President Erdogan in particular have ruled in a kind of thuggish way over the course of the last four or five years. And many Turks resent that kind of arrogance of power.

    ALISON STEWART: Steven Cook from the Council on Foreign Relations, thanks for walking us through the Turkish elections.

    STEVEN COOK: It’s my pleasure.

    The post Erdogan election upset: Turkey’s ruling party loses majority in parliament appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Displaced Iraqis, who escaped the Islamic State violence in Mosul, collected water at Baharka refugee camp in Erbil in the Kurdish region on Sept. 14, 2014. Photo by Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

    Displaced Iraqis, who escaped the Islamic State violence in Mosul, collected water at Baharka refugee camp in Erbil in the Kurdish region on Sept. 14, 2014. Photo by Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

    A year after Islamic State militants took control of Mosul, the number of Iraqis who have fled the besieged northern city has ballooned to more than a million people in need of basic food, water and shelter, Mercy Corps’ Iraq country director said Wednesday.

    “Mosul is pretty much cut off because of (Islamic State) control,” said Steve Claborne by phone from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region where many displaced Iraqis now reside in camps. “Very few people are actually returning to Mosul at this point, so those people who are still there are stuck.”

    The escaping Yazidis, Turkmen and other religious and ethnic minorities have resettled all over the country — some in camps but even more are staying with friends and relatives in other cities and towns, he said.

    Conflicts with Islamic State fighters have spread to Anbar province in the west and to Tikrit, northwest of Baghdad, driving a total of more than 3 million Iraqis from their homes since January 2014, Claborne said. The Iraqi government, with the help of U.N. agencies and other nongovernmental groups including Mercy Corps, has been providing food, shelter, water, health care, education and cash to the displaced people. But because of this year’s drop in oil prices, the cash-strapped Iraqi government is now relying more on relief organizations.

    Members of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard at a security point on Bashiqa mountain, overlooking Islamic State-held territories of Mosul on March 7. Photo by Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

    Members of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard at a security point on Bashiqa mountain, overlooking Islamic State-held territories of Mosul on March 7. Photo by Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

    Mercy Corps provides the recently uprooted Iraqis with cash payments of about $360 to help them purchase basic supplies locally. The organization then assesses those most vulnerable, such as women-headed households or large low-income families, to give them follow-up payments for necessities such as food and rent.

    Mercy Corps has enrolled about 6,000 families in the cash program so far, and other aid organizations are now supplying cash as well, said Claborne. Mercy Corps coordinates with the other groups to make sure the families are receiving a uniform amount to avoid conflicts among neighbors.

    In terms of providing education, some schools have doubled their sessions each day to accommodate the influx of children, though many displaced children still aren’t in school, said Claborne. About half of children living in temporary camps are in school, compared to only about 30 percent outside of the camps, according to Mercy Corps’ latest report on the humanitarian situation.

    “People are not sure what’s going to happen next. There’s been so much unpredictability over the last year. It’s going to take a while longer to sort out, and people are not sure what that means for the economy, their kids’ school and their future,” he said.

    “The displaced don’t know when they can go back and in what condition their homes will be. We’re focused on what people need now just to get by.”

    On Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour, co-anchor Judy Woodruff discusses developments in Iraq, including President Barack Obama’s announcement that the U.S. would send up to 450 more trainers to help Iraqi forces, with former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta, former U.S. Central Command chief Anthony Zinni, former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy and Ret. U.S. Army Col. Andrew Bacevich.

    The post Year after Mosul capture, millions of Iraqis still need basic food and shelter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard during a patrol in the city of Ramadi April 29, 2015.  Picture taken April 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer - RTX1B0RA

    A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard during a patrol in the city of Ramadi April 29, 2015. Photo by Reuters

    Editor’s note: As the war against the Islamic State militants continues, teachers are facing questions about how to address the conflict with students. Educator Rusul Alrubail discusses her family’s personal involvement with the war and how it affected her classroom of immigrant students.

    Last summer I received a message from family in Iraq letting me know that a few of my second cousins were volunteering to join the Iraqi army to fight the Islamic State group.


    Miles and continents away, I could not make sense of the world at that moment. How and why? I was so hurt, hurt for my family back home and hurt that average civilians who have no army training had to volunteer to fight such evil.

    The next day, I decided to share with my class what was happening with my family in Iraq. We started by reading an article from the news. I prompted the students with some comprehension and analytical questions. Students had seen protests on social media calling for an IS blackout and had a lot of questions. But what really touched me was students’ curiosity about how I felt toward these tragic events.

    When students see that a teacher is not afraid to discuss what is happening around the world, especially related to her home country, they in turn feel comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings on similar issues.
    One of my students said, “How are you here today in class with us? That’s serious stuff you’re going through.” Another student shared that she thought what was happening was unfair.

    One of the most touching comments was from another Muslim student who shared some of her fears, saying, “When something like this happens, I worry about how others will see me as a Muslim. So many stereotypes and racism, all because of one group of bad people.”

    The class looked to me for answers, to confirm that racism against Muslims runs rampant when events like this occur. But I also saw solidarity in their eyes. Solidarity that they knew what their classmate was talking about. Solidarity that they think it’s unjust. Solidarity that they’ll stand by us at times like this.

    My students’ display of empathy comes from a special place, as many of them are immigrants themselves. The school’s student body is made up of approximately 70 percent domestic students from a diversity of ethnicities and racial/cultural backgrounds, and 30 percent international students.

    As a former child immigrant, I connect with my students on several levels. It’s important to remember that the immigration experience is not a homogeneous one. I came to Canada as a child; my experience is different than that of my international students, who have recently arrived here and are staying for several years to study. As a result, we connect not because we are feeling the exact same way, but because we find common emotions in each other’s experiences.

    When students see that a teacher is not afraid to discuss what is happening around the world, especially related to her home country, they in turn feel comfortable to share their thoughts and feelings on similar issues.

    Discussions about culture, race and the immigration experience, whether they happen small spontaneous moments or are part of an ongoing class theme, are so vital to students’ understanding of their own emerging identity. Seeing that they’re not alone in their emotions helps them to feel little bit normal about their own struggles to make sense of their new home.

    Rusul Alrubail is an education consultant and Educator-in-Residence at Design Cofounders. She previously taught composition and literature to college students in Toronto.

    The post Talking about my family’s experience fighting the Islamic State has helped my students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The Obama administration has proposed regulating aircraft emissions in much the same way it wants to regulate emissions from power plants, the Associated Press reported.  Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

    The Obama administration has proposed regulating aircraft emissions in much the same way it wants to regulate emissions from power plants, the Associated Press reported. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration proposed Wednesday to regulate aircraft emissions in much the same way as power plants, saying they are a threat to human health because they contain pollutants that help cause global warming.

    Using its authority under The Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency’s preliminary finding of endangerment to human health clears the way for possible U.S. adoption of international emissions standards.

    The International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, a U.N. agency, has been working for five years on developing global aircraft emissions standards for the first time. Final agreement on those standards is expected in February of next year.

    But a final U.S. decision on adoption of international standards is likely to be left to the next presidential administration. EPA officials said the earliest the agency is likely to propose adoption of ICAO standards would be in 2017.

    U.S. regulations would also apply only to engines used in large planes like airliners and cargo jets, turboprop planes and some business jets, and not to smaller jet aircraft, piston-engine planes, helicopters or military aircraft.

    While ICAO negotiations on the standards are still underway, the standards ultimately aren’t expected to go into effect until 2020 or afterward, and possibly as late as 2025, say environmentalists following the matter.

    The international standards are also not expected to apply to airliners in service today or those that might be purchased before the effective date, said Vera Pardee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. The center is one of several environmental groups that sued the EPA to force the agency to issue its finding that emissions endanger public health.

    Airlines typically fly planes for 20 years or more before replacing them. That means it’s likely to be decades before planes that meet the anticipated global standards are in widespread use.

    Airline emissions account for about 2 percent of total annual global greenhouse gas emissions. That sounds small, but it’s nearly as much as the emissions produced by Germany, the sixth-greatest greenhouse gas producing country, according to a study released last year by The International Council on Clean Transportation, an environmental group with offices in the U.S. and Germany.

    Aircraft manufacturers have already made significant strides in increasing fuel efficiency. Since the early years of the jet age in the 1960s, the fuel efficiency of airliners has increased 70 percent, according to Boeing. There’s plenty of incentive to be as efficient as possible: Fuel typically vies with labor as airlines’ greatest expense.

    The U.S. airline industry has a set a target of an average annual improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5 percent, and so far has been successful in meeting that goal, said Nancy Young, vice president for environmental affairs at Airlines for America, trade association for major carriers.

    Alaska, Frontier and Spirit airlines were tied for most fuel-efficient U.S. airlines, the study found. The least fuel efficient was American, which operates a fleet of MD-80 airliners, an older design that is being phased out.

    Changes in the operating strategies of airlines in recent years have also contributed to greater efficiency. Airlines are packing more people into fewer flights.

    However, global aviation emissions are rising because there is more air travel overall. U.S. airlines, which include several of the world’s largest carriers, account for about 29 percent of global airline carbon emissions if both domestic and international flights are included. That’s more than any other nation.

    The world’s two largest aircraft makers have recently introduced into service more fuel-efficient planes designed for long-distance international routes — the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350.

    Airlines, aircraft makers and the Federal Aviation Administration have also been working with biofuels companies to develop alternatives to jet fuel that could potentially reduce the aviation’s industry’s vulnerability to the ups and downs of oil supplies and prices, as well as reduce carbon emissions.

    “We’re not dragging our feet,” said Tim Neale, a spokesman for Boeing. “We’re hard at work on lighter airplanes, and GE is hard at work on more efficient engines. And we’re working a lot of these operational issues with the carriers so they operate the planes more efficiently.”

    Boeing and airline industry officials say they support ICAO’s effort to develop a single global standard, since airlines fly globally. But Pardee said environmentalists hope that if the ICAO standard turns out to be weak, the EPA will move forward with stronger standards for U.S. airlines.

    “The U.S. is clearly the worst carbon polluter in the sky and it has every duty and responsibility to lead,” she said.

    The post Obama administration proposes regulation of aircraft emissions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Individual packages of steak are shown with labels at a meat shop in San Francisco, California June 5, 2015. Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters

    Individual packages of steak are shown with labels at a meat shop in San Francisco, California June 5, 2015. Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans are hoping to repeal a law requiring country-of-origin labels on packages of meat to avoid costly trade retaliation from Canada and Mexico.

    The World Trade Organization ruled against the law last month, saying the labels that say where animals were born, raised and slaughtered are discriminatory toward the two U.S. border countries. Canada and Mexico have said they will now ask the WTO for permission to raise tariffs on U.S. goods.

    The House on Wednesday began debate on legislation that would repeal the law for beef, pork and poultry. A vote was expected later in the day.

    Congress required the labels in 2008, mostly at the behest of the northern U.S. ranchers who compete with the Canadian cattle industry. Consumer advocates also have supported the labels.

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    The Petrobras logo is seen in front of the company's headquarters in Sao Paulo April 23, 2015. Executives at Brazil's Petrobras on Thursday sought to move on from a giant corruption scandal that has plagued the state-run oil company, outlining a back-to-basics recovery plan that left some investors hoping the worst was over. On a call with investors the day after publishing long-delayed audited results for 2014, Chief Financial Officer Ivan Monteiro said the focus was on reducing debt, selling non-core assets and continuing to increase oil production through careful investments in high-return assets. Photo by Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

    Brazil’s oil giant Petrobras is one of the world’s most indebted companies. That, coupled with an ongoing corruptions scandal at the state-owned comapany, is putting the country’s economy in peril. Photo by Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

    For years, executives at Brazil’s state-owned oil giant, Petrobras, took $2 billion in bribes as part of a massive scheme that implicated hundreds of middlemen, congressmen and politicians, prosecutors allege.

    Last week, the company made a rare move and issued a $2.5 billion 100-year bond. It appears to be paying off. Today, two Brazilian prosecutors said Petrobras is the victim in this scandal.

    Still, the scandal has unraveled Brazil’s economy and undermined its government.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    1. A Land Rover brought the scandal to light.

    For years, Brazil’s largest construction companies routinely overcharged Petrobras and funneled bribes back to the company’s top executives and to politicians in the ruling Worker’s Party in return for massive infrastructure contracts, according to prosecutors. Even in Brazil, a country where corruption is rampant, prosecutors had never seen a scheme of this size.

    Making matters worse, at the height of the scheme, Brazil’s current president, Dilma Roussef was Petrobras’ chairman (2003-2010). She denies any involvement.

    Investigators first caught whiff of the scandal in mid-2013 when a senior manager at Petrobras, Paulo Roberto Costa, received a Land Rover from a man suspected of running a black market bank. After he was arrested, Costa went from the state’s main suspect to its star witness. In return for a more lenient sentence, he exposed the details of the scheme, turning in colleagues and executives at Brazil’s largest companies.

    2. 100 people have been accused of involvement, including more than 50 congressmen.

    Since March of last year, more than 100 people have been accused of financial crimes associated with the scandal. One of the suspects took a private jet to turn himself in, while another enjoyed his last, precious hours of freedom at a Rio de Janeiro Hotel Suite before being arrested, according to Bloomberg. Four former executives at Petrobras and 23 construction companies are being investigated, while more than 50 congressmen are under investigation, facing charges or jailed.

    3. The scandal is tainting Brazil’s economy.

    By some measures, Petrobras is now one of the world’s most indebted companies. It has written down $17 billion due to losses from corruption and overvalued assets; stock has fallen 40 percent from a high in early September.

    But no one has suffered more by the widespread theft than Brazil’s working class. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs as a result of the scandal, which has delayed Petrobras’ paychecks and pushed back investments. Hundreds gather daily at Petrobras’ headquarters demanding the money the oil giant still owes them.

    Many of the construction companies implicated in the scandal were the cornerstone of Brazil’s impressive growth over the last decade, building everything from roads and airports, to stadiums for the World Cup and the Olympics. Now, Petrobras has frozen contracts and stopped payments.

    4. Brazilians are calling for the President to resign over the scandal.

    Millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets, calling for the impeachment of the president and the arrest of corrupt congressmen, in the largest protests the country has seen in decades. As of March, Dilma’s approval ratings hover at a dismal 13 percent and the majority of the country wants her impeached, according to Reuters. The numbers stand in stark contrast to her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was by some measures the world’s most popular president, with a record high approval rating of 83 percent.

    5. Brazil’s economy has gone from riches to rags.

    Brazil’s economy, held up as an example of successful and sustainable development just four years ago, is now in the gutter. A slowdown in China’s economy last year all but evaporated demand for Brazil’s natural resources, and the country faces rising unemployment, mounting inflation and a devalued currency.

    The economy is suffering the worst four-year slump in 25-years. Investors are turning up their noses at Brazil’s once treasured bonds, and the Finance Minister is desperately trying to avoid a downgrade of Brazil’s credit rating. Forced budget cuts have slashed funding for hospitals, schools and the social programs Brazil’s burgeoning middle class had enjoyed for more than a decade.

    The post 5 things you need to know about the $2 billion corruption scandal roiling Brazil appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    People await treatment in the outpatient lounge of Redemption Hospital, formerly an Ebola holding center, in Monrovia, Liberia, on Feb. 2. Most hospitals and clinics have reopened as the Ebola epidemic wanes. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    People await treatment at Redemption Hospital, formerly an Ebola holding center, in Monrovia, Liberia, earlier this year. West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has claimed thousands of lives this year. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

    PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien has brought Shortwave listeners and NewsHour viewers a look into the heart of West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, digging deep into the science, medicine and cutting edge research unfolding along with the crisis.

    But behind the science are human beings. Doctors and their patients, victims of the outbreak and brave health workers, putting their own lives at risk. In this week’s Shortwave, we hear the voice of one of these health-workers who lost some of her closest colleagues to the disease they were fighting. Miles also shares his own close call with the virus, and tells us what it was like to wake up the day after his trip to West Africa with one, very scary symptom of the Ebola virus.
    You can hear part one of our conversation with Miles here. Below is his latest video report, part of the series “Cracking Ebola’s Code,” for NewsHour. [Watch Video]

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

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    A volunteer receives an Ebola vaccine in Sierra Leone. Thousands of these voluntary immunizations have been tested so far in the West African nation. Photo by Cameron Hickey.

    A volunteer receives an Ebola vaccine in Sierra Leone. Thousands of these voluntary immunizations have been tested so far in the West African nation. Photo by Cameron Hickey.

    The quest for an Ebola vaccine has been a journey filled with excruciating delays and mad dashes. The latest outbreak in West Africa caused governments and drug companies to jumpstart research that had languished back when the threat of Ebola wasn’t big enough to sustain a commercial market. (Prior to 2013, the virus had sickened fewer than 2,300 people in known history). Human safety trials of two vaccines began last summer — each being given to a small group of healthy volunteers. When no major side effects were apparent, health officials scrambled to launch larger tests in the countries that were most affected by Ebola.

    By the medical world’s standards, these trials are happening at blinding speed, but the success of the containment effort in the winter and spring has made it virtually impossible to prove whether or not the vaccine works. If no one is getting sick, how can you test if the vaccine protects them?


    Even so, health officials say the trials will provide some crucial answers. Here’s a breakdown:

    What Vaccines Are Being Tested?

    Two vaccines are being given to human volunteers in large-scale clinical trials. Both are recombinant vector vaccines, meaning they use a harmless, inactivated virus as a vehicle to deliver a single protein from the outer coating of the Ebola virus. In effect, the vaccines “teach” the immune system to recognize this protein and respond to the real Ebola virus in the future.

    One vaccine was developed by the U.S. Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease. It is produced by the GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company and uses an inactive adenovirus to deliver the Ebola surface protein. The adenovirus typically circulates in chimpanzees, causing mild illness like the common cold. The vaccine goes by the name of cAD3-EBOZ. C is for chimp.

    The second vaccine has the equally catchy name of VSV-ZEBOV. It was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It is now licensed by Merck and NewLink Genetics, a biotech company from Australia. In this case, the Ebola protein is hitched to a live vesicular stomatitis virus, which normally circulates in cattle.

    Other vaccines are in development, including ones that in theory might protect against multiple strains of Ebola and even the related Marburg virus, which causes an equally serious illness. The cAD3-EBOZ and VSV-ZEBOV vaccines are both designed to protect against the Zaire strain of Ebola, responsible for the current outbreak. It’s not clear how well they might protect against other strains.

    Where Are the Trials?

    Launched in February, the Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (PREVAIL) trial is testing both candidate vaccines. Fifteen-hundred volunteers in Monrovia have received either one of the two vaccines, or an inactive saline solution as a placebo. Participants return at regular intervals for testing to see if their bodies are producing antibodies to Ebola — a telltale sign of immunity. Once officials finish analyzing the results, they plan to expand the trial to include tens of thousands of people. The trial is being run jointly by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and the Liberian Ministry of Health (NIAID), although NIAID officials say they are negotiating to expand the trial into Guinea, which is seeing more Ebola cases.

    The Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola (STRIVE) trial began in April and is giving the VSV-ZEBOV vaccine to volunteers in Sierra Leone. All participants are health workers, including sanitation and burial workers, all of whom are at particularly high risk of infection. Unlike the PREVAIL trial, no one receives a placebo. Instead, some participants receive the vaccine immediately, while others are monitored but don’t get a shot until six months later. The rate of infection in the first group will be compared with those who wait. This trial is run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences in Freetown. As of this week, they’re about halfway to the goal of vaccinating 6,000 people.

    A third trial began in Guinea, in March, using what’s called a “ring” strategy. Health workers give the VSV-ZEBOV vaccine to the contacts of people who fall sick with Ebola, and to close contacts of those contacts. So far more than 2,600 people have been vaccinated — some immediately and a comparison group three weeks later. A ring strategy was used to eradicate smallpox, but it has never been used in a clinical trial for a vaccine.

    Health worker prep the Ebola vaccine in Guinea's capital, Conakry. Here, the outbreak continues with two new cases of Ebola being reported last week in the nation’s largest city. Photo by World Health Organization.

    Health worker prep the Ebola vaccine in Guinea’s capital, Conakry. Here, the outbreak continues with two new cases of Ebola being reported last week in the nation’s largest city. Photo by World Health Organization.

    Wait – Why No Placebo in Guinea and Sierra Leone?

    A classic experiment randomly gives some participants the treatment – in this case, a vaccine – and others an inactive placebo. “You’ll never really be able to completely prove that it works unless you compare getting it to not getting it,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease. “Even more importantly, if you examine the data periodically, you’ll be able to see that the vaccine might actually be doing more harm than good.”

    However, in Guinea and Sierra Leone health officials decided that it wasn’t fair or ethical to ask people at high risk of infection to forgo a vaccine that might protect them. They say they’ll still get valuable answers by giving the vaccine to participants at different times.

    Are There Important Differences Between the Vaccines?
    Generally speaking, a live-virus vaccine like VSV-ZEBOV will tend to produce a stronger immune response, and will be more likely to induce side effects. However, until the studies are complete, we won’t know whether that’s true of the two Ebola vaccines.

    One clear difference is that VSV-ZEBOV, like most live-virus vaccines, is easier to produce in large quantity. That probably makes it better suited for use in an emergency situation where vaccine stocks need to be produced rapidly.

    What Do the Results Show So Far?

    It’s too soon to draw conclusions, but an early analysis suggests that the vaccine does induce a good immune response, which in theory should protect people against Ebola. An early analysis from the PREVAIL trial, of the first 600 participants, found no significant dangerous side effects. The CDC and the the World Health Organization say the trials in Sierra Leone and Guinea have not detected any serious adverse events, either, although some participants have reported joint pain, mild fever and other flu-like symptoms.

    The post How close is the Ebola vaccine? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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