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

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    A Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, in the Mediterranean Sea. These whales contain seven times the amount of a toxic chemical known as DDT than the same whales in the Atlantic Ocean two decades ago, researchers have found. Photo by F. Bassemayousse

    A fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, in the Mediterranean Sea. These whales contain seven times the amount of the toxic chemical DDT than the same whales in the Atlantic Ocean two decades ago, researchers have found. Photo by F. Bassemayousse

    The fin whale is a slender, graceful giant and one of the world’s largest mammals. It can grow as long as a tennis court and weigh as much as 10 elephants. It is known for an unusual feature: a jaw that is dark on the left side and white on the right, creating a sort of asymmetrical smile.

    Scientists have found that this whale and its Mediterranean comrades face an insidious, deadly threat in the sea: toxic chemicals that seep into their bodies and build up in their blubber. These chemicals lead to to higher rates of death, disease and stillbirths among the whales and deformities in their offspring.

    science-wednesday

    Fin whales in the Mediterranean Sea contain quadruple the amount of toxic chemicals known as PCBs than the same whales in the Atlantic Ocean two decades ago, researchers have found. They used the Atlantic whales for comparison because little data existed for whales in the Mediterranean prior to when the chemicals were banned. PCBs in the sperm whale are twice as high as sperm whales in the Atlantic at that time. Levels of the chemical DDT are also high.

    This is despite the fact that these chemicals have been banned in most countries for at least 14 years. The study was published in the journal Environmental Research on July 8.

    A Long-Finned pilot whale, globicephala melas. This whale is a social, deep diver with a bulbous head and more brain cells than a human. Its dark grey coloring on top is complimented by a lighter underside - often appearing in the shape of a heart. In the Mediterranean Sea, these whales contain levels of PCBs in their fat stores that are 95 times higher than that of the same animal off the coast of Tasmania, researchers have found. Photo by F. Bassemayousse

    The long-finned pilot whale is a social, deep diver with a bulbous head and more brain cells than a human. Its dark grey coloring on top is complimented by a lighter underside – often appearing in the shape of a heart. In the Mediterranean Sea, these whales contain levels of PCBs in their fat stores that are 95 times higher than that of the same animals living at the same time off the coast of Tasmania, researchers have found. Photo by F. Bassemayousse

    When it comes to hazardous chemicals, the Mediterranean Sea is a toxic soup. Long-finned pilot whales contain levels of PCBs in their fat stores that are 95 times higher than that of the same animal off the coast of Tasmania, researchers found.

    Persistent organic pollutants are manmade toxins that don’t naturally degrade. In the 1950s, such chemicals were commonly used for industry and agriculture and found in tough plastics, electrical wire and pesticides. Half a century later, these chemicals were banned in most countries after being linked to infertility and weakened immunity, among other health problems. But the same durability that made the chemicals great for industry now poses lasting problems for our environment. They persist, carried by wind and water, and are accumulating in the food chain – especially in the Mediterranean sea.

    Researchers acquired tissue samples from free-swimming whales by piercing them using a crossbow. The tissue was processed and analyzed using a technique called gas chromatography, which separates a sample into its pure components, counts how many toxins are present and identifies the toxins by their chemical signature. They examined fat, or blubber samples from 70 fin whales (balaenoptera physalus), 61 sperm whales (physeter macrocephalus) and 49 long-finned pilot whales (globicephala melas) in the Mediterranean sea. Blubber samples were screened for more than 30 pollutants including PCBS, or polychlorinated biphenyls and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT — two chemicals that were banned in most countries by 2001. Then they compared their findings to previous studies.

    A researcher from the World Wildlife Fund in France obtaining a tissue sample from a whale in the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers detected high levels of chemical pollutants in these tissue samples. Photo by F. Bassemayousse

    A researcher from the World Wildlife Fund in France obtaining a tissue sample from a whale in the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers detected high levels of chemical pollutants in these tissue samples. Photo by F. Bassemayousse

    “The concentrations, not only for PCB, but for pesticides like DDT, are still very high in the Mediterranean despite the fact that in Europe, PCB was banned more than 40 years ago,” said Krishna Das, a marine scientist at the University of Liege in Belgium and senior author of the study.

    Overall, long-finned pilot whales showed the highest levels of toxicity, followed by the sperm whale and fin whale.

    The amount of PCBs in the blubber of the long-finned pilot whale, which is actually a species of dolphin, is more than double the threshold that scientists have determined as toxic for dolphins, Das said. A toxicity threshold has not yet been established for whales.

    “It is quite shocking how high the levels were in the pilot whales and the sperm whales,” said Paul Jepson, a marine scientist from the University of Oxford who was not involved in the study. “I wasn’t totally surprised because the Mediterranean is an incredibly polluted region – arguably one of the most polluted hotspots globally for PCBs.”

    To avoid high consumption of marine pollutants, pregnant woman are encouraged to limit their fish intake, Jepson said. “But our whales or dolphins can’t be given that advice.”

    Persistent organic pollutants are lipophilic, meaning they dissolve in fats and not water. When dumped into the ocean, they stick to plankton or other tiny organisms. These creatures and their accompanying pollutants get gobbled up by bigger marine animals. The result: mammals higher up on the food chain accumulate fat stores latent with toxic chemicals that never get excreted.

    When whales go through periods of starvation, their blubber breaks down, and POPs can get released into their bloodstream, wreaking havoc on the immune and reproductive systems.

    “Blubber is a very dynamic tissue,” Das said.

    The concentrations that researchers observed in these Mediterranean whales could decrease immunity and increase their risk for disease, Jepson said.

    A Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. These whales contain quadruple the amount of the toxic chemicals known as PCBs than the same whales in the Atlantic Ocean two decades ago, researchers have found. Photo by  F. Bassemayousse

    A Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. These whales contain quadruple the amount of the toxic chemicals known as PCBs than the same whales in the Atlantic Ocean two decades ago, researchers have found. Photo by F. Bassemayousse

    “But the biggest concern, from a conservation perspective, is that they can suppress the reproduction of adult females.” Female whales with high toxin levels are at risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or giving birth to babies with malformations.

    Marine mothers use their fat stores to produce rich milk for their babies. These calves can rely on this milk for many months. In dolphins, this lactation period can cause babies to take on 80 percent of their mother’s chemical burden. “The highest concentrations ever recorded have often been in newborn calves,” Jepson said.

    “If something happens to these whales from the Mediterranean sea, it won’t be counteracted by whales from the Atlantic,” Das said. These Mediterranean whales are genetically different from the same whales in other regions, making them irreplaceable.

    And the chemicals don’t break down. Scientists are working to develop safe, cost effective disposal methods, but the dominant disposal strategy is simply storing them in isolation. The chemicals can also be chemically treated or burned, but such treatments can be dangerous, costly and produce other toxic residues.

    In addition to the 150 million people that live on the Mediterranean coast, 170 million tourists visit each year. High occupancy is harsh on the ecosystem. Industrial waste, agricultural runoff, naval traffic, fishing, shipping and offshore oil activities all contribute to the sea’s pollution.

    Unlike the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean sea is a semi-enclosed body of water, making dilution a slow process.

    Grey on top with a white belly beneath, the Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalus, is a slender, graceful giant and one of the world's largest mammals. It can grow as long as a tennis court and weigh as much as 10 elephants. Photo by  F. Bassemayousse

    The fin whale is a slender, graceful giant and one of the world’s largest mammals. It can grow as long as a tennis court and weigh as much as 10 elephants. Photo by F. Bassemayousse

    Still unclear is why Mediterranean whales are now showing higher pollutant levels than they did when PCB’s were still in use.

    Das suspects that these high pollutant levels are more than just an unwanted legacy. “There is a strong use of black market PCBs. But that is only a hypothesis,” she said, and added that old equipment that relies on PCBs could have been sold to developing countries.

    Abiola Olanipekun from the United Nations Environmental Program, says it is possible that countries that agreed to ban the chemicals could still be illegally importing and using them. Lack of monitoring or general unawareness could all contribute to their continued existence.

    Jepson theorizes that the increases are due to storage leaks or illegal dumping brought about by pressures to comply with pollutant legislation. “I’d be surprised if anyone was using them, but I think people have problems getting rid of them because they are so persistent – that is probably more the problem. Regulations to remove PCBs can be quite expensive,” Jepson said.

    Countries badly afflicted with malaria still use DDT (not to be confused with DEET), to fend off mosquitoes.

    Since the 2001 ban of the Stockholm Convention’s “dirty dozen,” more pollutants have made the list, including some polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs. These chemicals are fire resistant, residing in our computer screens and the foam of our furniture. Jepson’s lab started to detect PBDEs in dolphins off the coast of the United Kingdom in the 1990s, but levels have decreased since some were banned in 2004 and remain relatively low.

    As of 2013, 179 countries ratified the Stockholm convention. Among the countries that haven’t resigned is Italy, which borders the Mediterranean sea, and the United States.

    The US still manufactures and uses PBDEs that are outlawed in Europe. In order to re-sign the Stockholm Convention, two thirds of the senate must vote and the US must change current legislation that conflicts with the treaty – the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

    The post Mediterranean whales bear the brunt of industry’s historic toxins appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, March 6, 2013. The facility is operated by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo and holds prisoners who have been captured in the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Photo by Bob Strong/Reuters

    The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, March 6, 2013. The administration is finishing up a draft of a plan to close the prison at Guantanamo. Photo by Bob Strong/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A White House spokesman says the administration is in the “final stages” of drafting its latest plan to close the prison holding terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    President Barack Obama’s efforts to shut the prison have been stymied by opponents in Congress for years.

    Press secretary Josh Earnest says closing Guantanamo remains a priority. Earnest said Wednesday it’s a waste to spend more than $100 million per year on a prison holding only 116 detainees. And he said terrorists use Guantanamo Bay as a recruiting tool.

    Earnest said the president has decided to veto a defense spending bill now being negotiated in Congress if it includes provisions that would make it harder to close the prison. But Obama has failed to carry out similar veto threats in the past.

    The post White House finishing up plan for closing Guantanamo Bay prison appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dylann Roof, charged with murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston last month, listens to the proceedings with assistant defense attorney William Maguire during a hearing at the Judicial Center in Charleston

    Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old man charged with murdering nine worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston last month, listens to the proceedings with assistant defense attorney William Maguire during a hearing at the Judicial Center in Charleston, South Carolina on July 16, 2015. Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The man accused of slaying of nine black church members in Charleston last month was indicted Wednesday on 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, firearms violations and obstructing the practice of religion, which could include the death penalty.

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the federal grand jury indictments of 21-year-old Dylann Roof. The charges have been expected since Roof was arrested following the June 17 shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston.

    Roof, who is white, appeared in photos waving Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags, and purportedly wrote of fomenting racial violence. Survivors told police that he hurled racial insults during the attack.

    Prosecutors haven’t said whether they’ll seek the death penalty against Roof.

    Federal officials had previously said that the shootings generally meet the legal requirements for a hate crime and that federal charges were likely.

    Roof already faces state charges including nine counts of murder.

    Hate crime cases are often challenging for the government because it must prove that a defendant was primarily motivated by a victim’s race or religion as opposed to other factors frequently invoked by defense attorneys, such as drug addiction or mental illness.

    Last year, a federal appeals court in Ohio overturned hate-crime convictions against Amish men and women accused in beard- and hair-cutting attacks against fellow Amish who were thought to have defied the community leader.

    The court held that the jury had received incorrect instructions about how to weigh the role of religion in the attacks and that prosecutors should have had to prove that the assaults wouldn’t have happened but for religious motives.

    Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina.

    The post Accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof will face federal hate crime charges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    After the FBI refused to devote its forensics expertise to solving wildlife poaching and trafficking cases, the world’s only lab for solving wildlife crimes was built in Oregon. Video by EarthFixMedia

    Laura Daugherty balances a small tray on one gloved hand, like a waiter at black-tie restaurant.

    Today’s main course is ring-necked pheasant — freshly skinned and raw.

    Her patrons are a teeming pile of flesh-eating beetles.

    “I’m sure they’re pretty hungry,” she says of the half-inch long insects. “And this is a nice fresh body for them to work on.”

    Daugherty places the dark pink meat onto an egg carton and lowers it into the Plexiglas tank. Within minutes, the beetles find their dinner.

    Daugherty is an evidence technician at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland, Oregon. And despite the table-service, the flesh-eating beetles are more co-workers than guests. Forensics scientist use them to strip animal carcasses down to the bone — often to reveal trauma and help determine cause of death.

    In the case of the ring-necked pheasant, Daugherty is creating a skeletal model. The lab’s scientists will use it as a baseline to help solve poaching or animal trafficking cases in the future.

    Unlike any other

    While there are other labs around the globe that specialize in specific types of plants and animals, the Ashland forensics lab is the only one in the world dedicated to solving crimes against all kinds of wildlife. It’s been that way since the facility opened in 1988 under Ken Goddard, who’s been the lab’s director ever since.

    “Much like any other police crime laboratory, we do two basic things: We identify evidence,” Goddard says. “In a triangular fashion, we attempt to link suspect, victim and crime scene together with that evidence.”

    Pieces, parts, products and whole animals are seized by law enforcement officers and sent to the Ashland lab for analysis. Photo by Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

    Products, parts and whole animals are seized by law enforcement officers and sent to the Ashland lab for analysis. Photo by Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

    It’s something that wildlife enforcement officers tried to get the FBI to do for them after the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. But Goddard says the FBI didn’t have the techniques to identify animals, and that the bureau made it known cases involving human victims would take priority.

    “The huge demand for wildlife by human populations has to be regulated — has to be stopped. At least slowed down. Or we’re simply going to lose them.” — Ken Goddard
    It became clear that a designated forensics lab was needed.

    Scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Lab are at the forefront of wildlife forensic science. Goddard says the lab handles up to 500 cases per year and examine as many as 15,000 pieces of evidence.

    In the lab, a menagerie of the colorful, the unusual and the hunted is interspersed among the high-tech equipment of forensic science.

    The facility features a pathology lab where medical examiners determine how an animal died. There’s a ballistics lab where bullets can be linked to poachers’ guns. In the genomics lab, DNA testing is used to determine species.

    There’s also a morphology lab where biologists who specialize in birds, reptiles or mammals identify what they call the “pieces, parts and products” that come through the lab’s doors on a daily basis. That’s the most common request they get.

    A wolf pelt used by scientists at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Lab for identification. Photo by Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

    A wolf pelt used by scientists at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Lab for identification. Photo by Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

    “You would not continue an investigation unless you’re pretty sure you’re dealing with an endangered or threatened species,” Goddard says.

    For example, if wildlife agents comes across a suspicious piece of fur, they can send it to the lab for testing. What happens to the case will be far different if that fur turns out to be from a common coyote instead of an endangered wolf.

    Serving the world

    Many of the Wildlife Forensics Lab’s cases are brought by U.S. government inspectors and special agents. But the facility is also the official crime lab for CITES — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Ratified in 1973, the CITES treaty is the international agreement that governs trade of rare plants and animals.

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    There are currently about 1,000 species of plants and animals protected at the highest level, meaning they’re illegal to trade except under special circumstances like for use in scientific research.

    It is up to each of the 180 individual countries that have signed on to CITES to enforce it. In the United States, the Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible. This means evidence from most cases of suspected CITES violations in the U.S. eventually ends up at the lab in Southern Oregon.

    Expanding focus

    In recent years, CITES has expanded its efforts to protect trees from illegal logging and trade. About 50 tree species are now protected under the convention and U.S. agents have begun seizing shipments of illegally trafficked wood from those trees. Rare species like Brazilian rosewood garner a hefty price on the blackmarket. It’s a type of wood that is prized in making furniture and musical instruments.

    Endangered rosewood species are prized for making musical instruments like guitars. Photo by Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

    Endangered rosewood species are prized for making musical instruments like guitars. Photo by Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

    But wood identification can be challenging because no one ships whole trees. Once the limbs, leaves, fruit and DNA-rich sapwood have been removed, scientists are left with wood grain and structure. That’s not enough to differentiate an endangered tree’s wood from wood from a common but closely related tree.

    But what if you could tell apart wood from closely related tree species by their chemical scents?

    The lab’s deputy director, Ed Espinoza, started puzzling over that when an inspector asked if he could identify an incense tree called agarwood, which is so aromatic it’s used to make perfume.

    It occurred to Espinoza that he may be able to use a sophisticated machine at the lab called a DART-TOF (Direct Analysis in Real Time – Time of Flight) mass spectrometer.

    “This instrument is kind of like a massive nose almost,” he says.

    The experiment worked, so Espinoza and his team began collecting baseline samples of protected trees from around the world. Now the forensics lab can use the DART to identify many types of endangered wood down to the species level.

    Scientists at the USFWS Forensics Lab are using innovative techniques to identify wood samples. Photo by Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

    Scientists at the USFWS Forensics Lab are using innovative techniques to identify wood samples. Photo by Jes Burns, OPB/EarthFix

    Shelley Gardner is the illegal logging program coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service. She says advances in wood identification technology give law enforcement a better chance to successfully prosecute trafficking cases.

    “I think [law enforcement agents’] interests increase, knowing they can, if they are investigating a case, send a sample to a laboratory,” she says.

    With an Interpol-estimated value of up to $100 billion, any tool that can help stem the huge business of black market timber and wood products is welcome.

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    Making a difference?

    “I think we’ve had a real impact in that we’ve enabled investigators to go forward into cases they simply never could have done before,” Lab Director Goddard says.

    This holds true for identifying wood and wildlife products. For example, the lab developed techniques to quickly identify the species of sturgeon by DNA-testing roe. Once perfected, the lab was able to help U.S. law enforcement curtail the illegal importing of caviar.

    “Curtail” is the critical word here. Goddard says it wasn’t law enforcement that ultimately dried up illegal caviar imports, it was overfishing sturgeon in the Caspian Sea.

    “I was taught long ago, as a young deputy sheriff, don’t expect to accomplish a lot in your job,” Goddard says. “Law enforcement doesn’t resolve issues.”

    But both Goddard and Espinoza say they could be more effective with additional resources — ideally an international network of labs that would develop regional expertise, share data and build on wildlife forensic science.

    The Ashland facility will soon get some help closer to home. This year, the lab will expand its capacity to handle cases by adding six new scientists to its staff of 17. Even so, says Goddard, the lab can only do so much to curb human desire for plant and animal products.

    “We’re not stopping the demand for ivory, the demand for rhino horn, the demand for all these varying medicinals, the food, the seafood,” he says, pointing to education and better enforcement as the path forward.

    “The huge demand for wildlife by human populations has to be regulated — has to be stopped. At least slowed down. Or we’re simply going to lose them.”


    This report first appeared on EarthFix’s website as part of its “Wildlife Detectives” series. EarthFix is a public media project of Oregon Public Broadcasting and Boise State Public Radio, Idaho Public Television, KCTS 9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Southern Oregon Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post This lab is like CSI … for endangered wildlife appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shares

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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.

    GWEN IFILL: Tonight, our NewsHour Shares of the day, something that caught our eye which might be of interest to you, too.

    The Associated Press, in partnership with the newsreel archive British Movietone, is releasing over one million minutes of video footage posted to YouTube. It’s a treasure trove of iconic milestones in history and some rarely seen and quirky moments as well. Some of our favorite finds, the eruption of Italy’s famed Mount Vesuvius in 1938, a 1935 elephant race through the streets of Chicago, and a home exercise machine for dogs from 1937.

    The post You can now watch a century of historic newsreels on YouTube appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    gregory pardlo

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: an unlikely winner of a major literary prize.

    Jeffrey Brown profiles a poet who captured the details of daily life in verse.

    GREGORY PARDLO, Winner, 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: “I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen, a skillet whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye.”

    I spend so much time in the classroom, and then I come home and it’s washing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen, and doing laundry. And I don’t want to leave any of that stuff out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Gregory Pardlo is a teacher, student, husband and father, and now a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. His reaction when he heard the news?

    GREGORY PARDLO: The kind of cliche of, I’m sure they made a mistake. Well, yes, I was absolutely certain there was a huge mistake.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He had reason. His prize-winning book, “Digest,” is just his second, and Pardlo isn’t well-known even within the small poetry community.

    He grew up in a middle-class family in Willingboro, New Jersey, near Philadelphia. His father, an air traffic controller, was one of those fired by Ronald Reagan during the 1981 strike.

    GREGORY PARDLO: I remember walking the picket lines with him. It was an inspiring time for me. It was a very hard time for my father, because this was his narrative. This was the big story of his success in life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Gregory Pardlo would face his own struggles and circuitous path to poetry, dropping out of Rutgers, for example, doubting he was good enough to succeed. He says he worries about that with his own students.

    GREGORY PARDLO: Watching that just reminds me of the little kid that I was who had, not necessarily ambitions, but certainly thought anything was possible for a long time, until I bought into the stories about African-American boys.

    And I guess one of my missions, if I can say that I have one, is to have my students and have my readers question the limits that they place on themselves.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Having left school, Pardlo joined the Marine Reserves and later managed a bar for several years where jazz musicians, working for peanuts, taught him an important lesson.

    GREGORY PARDLO: Watching them night after night and becoming familiar, starting to understand what actually goes into the discipline of an artist, of a musician, certainly, and having a regard for, having a respect for how much work that it actually entails.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Today, with several degrees in hand and now a teaching fellow at Columbia University, Pardlo and his family live in Brooklyn.

    It gets into his poetry, as do seemingly disparate ideas and people, the ancient philosopher Heraclitus and the contemporary comedian Chris Rock.

    GREGORY PARDLO: That actually speaks to the title of the book, is that I’m a digest of all these — of all these identities, of all these interests.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How much of you, your family life, your history, the books you read, how much of that do you want to put into the poetry?

    GREGORY PARDLO: All of it, as much as I possibly can.

    When I have a speaker on the page that is predictable — I think the one thing that a poem cannot abide is cliche. And I don’t want the speaker to be predictable. I don’t want a single line to be predictable.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pardlo speaks openly of other struggles he’s had, including a battle with alcoholism. He says his family, his wife, Ginger, and their two daughters pulled him out of it. And now the Pulitzer gives him a new sense of responsibility.

    GREGORY PARDLO: I want to be happy. I want a life that I feel good about. I want a life in which I feel productive.

    He who does the work gives birth to his own father. And I want a life in which, you know, to whatever extent my words have an impact on the world, I at least feel like I’m in the conversation about what we do with the society we live in.

    The one rule I set for myself is to make decisions that are good for my family and my kids. I want them to be proud of me. I want them to be happy. That’s a cliche I can live with.

    “I was born passing off the problem of the 20th century. I was born. I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves. I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Pulitzer winner wants his readers to question their limits appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    new teachers

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    GWEN IFILL: It’s likely that everyone watching has spent time in a classroom, either as a student or a teacher. At 3.1 million, school teachers make up one of the largest portions of the American work force. And because teacher turnover is very high, there are probably even more former teachers.

    The NewsHour’s special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has the story.

    JOHN MERROW: It’s graduation day for students at Montclair State University, which has one of the largest schools of education in New Jersey.

    WOMAN: It gives me pleasure to state that 665 members of this class are certified and qualified to teach in the public schools of the state of New Jersey.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JOHN MERROW: These graduates are among the more than 200,000 women and men who’ve just completed teacher preparation programs across the country.

    WOMAN: I’m trying to find a job in elementary education K-6.

    MAN: So, I’m a math major. I want to become a math teacher.

    WOMAN: Certified in special education. I would like a teaching job anywhere in New Jersey.

    JOHN MERROW: Is this a good time to become a teacher? Salaries haven’t kept up with inflation, tenure is under attack, and standardized test scores are being used to fire teachers.

    Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania says teaching attracts a certain kind of person.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL, University of Pennsylvania: We have these surveys that ask people, college seniors, you know, what do you want out of a career? Is it money, is it prestige, is it security, is it problem-solving, is it intellectual challenge, is it doing good and helping people?

    WOMAN: If it wasn’t for the people in my schools, I would have never have graduated or been here. So I want to be in the systems to help other children.

    MAN: I’m not really looking for wealth or riches or anything like that.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: It’s not that they, you know, want to live on a low salary or something like that. It’s that their main driver is to feel that they can make — make a difference.

    JOHN MERROW: First, however, they need jobs.
    If you want to be a teacher in the fall, give me a hand. If you have a teaching job in September, raise your hand.

    WOMAN: Not yet.

    JOHN MERROW: If you have a teaching job, raise your hand. One — one hand. Wow. Not yet? Not yet?

    WOMAN: Applying. We’re all applying.

    JOHN MERROW: Nationwide, job prospects for teachers vary widely by state, school district and subject matter. In this part of New Jersey, jobs are hard to find. School districts surrounding Montclair told us they’re receiving thousands of applications for just a few dozen teaching positions.

    WOMAN: It’s very competitive.

    MAN: There’s enough of us graduating, not enough jobs.

    JOHN MERROW: This isn’t new. Between 2010 and 2012, Montclair State graduated 555 elementary school teachers, but only about half have found jobs in New Jersey.

    WOMAN: It’s a little tough right now, but I’m hoping that I’m going to get something soon.

    JOHN MERROW: If and when they do get hired, chances are at least 40 percent of them will leave teaching in the first five years. Why do they leave?

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: Lots of reasons. But the biggest set of reasons has to do with the quality, the caliber of the job. It’s the amount of support. It’s the amount of student discipline and behavioral problems in the building. It’s how much say teachers have in the decisions in the building that affect their jobs. Do they have input and voice?

    And I’m sorry to say that the more poor schools, the urban schools have higher teacher turnover than do the more affluent schools and the suburban schools.

    JOHN MERROW: Standing in line with all these young soon-to-be-graduates, I noticed most of them were women.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: Yes, the teaching occupation’s becoming more female-dominated. It was always a female occupation. People thought that was going to decline in the last 20, 30 years, as all kinds of male-dominated occupations, professions have opened up to women. However, the opposite has happened. Teaching is becoming even more female, and we have now passed the three-quarters mark.

    MAN: There’s not too many elementary men in the field, unless you are a physical education, art and stuff like that.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: There’s large numbers of elementary schools in which there’s not a single male teacher. This is a big concern.

    JOHN MERROW: But there’s been a huge effort to try to recruit men.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: That has never succeeded.

    JOHN MERROW: The student population is changing dramatically; 20 years ago, 65 percent of students were white, today, 49 percent.

    To keep up, school districts have been recruiting minority teachers to work in high-poverty schools with large numbers of minority students.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: The numbers of minority teachers have more than doubled. But the catch is that those schools and districts often are less attractive places to work. And, as a result, minority teachers have distinctly higher quit rates than do non-minority teachers.

    JOHN MERROW: So minority teachers are more likely to teach in…

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: In high-minority and urban schools, yes.

    JOHN MERROW: And more likely to leave teaching?

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: Yes. In fact, minority teachers in affluent schools, they don’t quit at any higher rates than the white teachers. No, it’s — it boils down to the working conditions in these places. So the data tell us we need to start paying far more attention to the retention, not just recruitment, but also retention of minority teachers.

    JOHN MERROW: And so efforts to recruit minority teachers have resulted in only a 4 percent gain over the past 25 years. The teaching force remains more than 80 percent white, and most of the new hires are young.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: And you have schools now where, you know, there’s hardly any veterans around. The most senior teacher is someone in their fifth or sixth year. So from a taxpayer viewpoint, there’s maybe a benefit to this.

    WOMAN: We are fresh out of school, we are first-year, and they don’t have to pay us as much.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: On the other hand, we — common sense tells us — and also we have research showing — that experience counts, that teaching’s a complex job, there’s a lot of different aspects, not just simply raising students’ test scores, and that — and that you get better over time.

    WOMAN: It’s a struggle at first, but you just got to keep trying.

    WOMAN: And I feel confident in the classmates that I have seen and in myself that we can be the change they want to see in teachers.

    JOHN MERROW: So what do all these changes in teaching add up to?

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: Maybe all these changes aren’t so much new, as they’re returning to the old patterns. So when the public school system was invented over a century ago, it was — teaching was quite explicitly and intentionally made an occupation that was women, young women. Indeed, you — when you got married, you had to quit. So it — there was a lot of transiency.

    JOHN MERROW: That was then.

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: That was then. Now we see that it’s the nation’s largest occupation. It’s getting bigger all the time. It’s becoming more female. And its instability is increasing.

    So, maybe the data are telling that these transformations are not something new; they’re returning to the old.

    JOHN MERROW: So, the title of this movie is not back to the future, but forward to the past?

    (LAUGHTER)

    RICHARD INGERSOLL: It could be. It could be.

    JOHN MERROW: A fair number of these newly certified teachers may yet find jobs, because school districts continue hiring right up to the beginning of the school year, even into it.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Merrow, reporting from Montclair, New Jersey.

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    Photo by Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s look closer at some interesting news out today from a major conference on Alzheimer’s disease here in Washington.

    Two drug companies, Eli Lilly and Biogen, announced new progress in the development of the first drugs to slow the progression of the disease, rather than simply alleviating symptoms. Both drugs target the buildup of amyloid plaques, which many believe contribute to the disease.

    Researchers found the drugs helped reduce cognitive loss in patients who had mild symptoms. But some observers in the field say the improvements for patients are too small and uncertain.

    Here to discuss these developments is Keith Fargo. He’s the director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association.

    Keith Fargo, welcome to the program.

    So, some promising news. Let’s take these drugs one by one. They’re difficult to pronounce, so I’m going to give it a try.

    Solanezumab…

    KEITH FARGO, Alzheimer’s Association: Correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … is the first one. What are the findings in connection with it?

    KEITH FARGO: So, the findings here are, really, for the first time ever, we have a drug company reporting out the results of a drug study showing that their drug may actually slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain.

    When people think about Alzheimer’s disease, they normally think of the cognitive symptoms, memory loss, et cetera. But Alzheimer’s disease at a core level is a universally fatal disease of the brain. And the currently available treatments for Alzheimer’s disease do nothing to slow down the progression of that disease. They really only treat cognitive symptoms and only for a period of time.

    And these two new potential medications look like they may actually slow the progression of the underlying disease.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what is in this drug, and what does it do to the brain?

    KEITH FARGO: So, this — Solanezumab and the other drug we’re discussing or we will discuss actually are antibodies against a protein in the brain called amyloid.

    You may have heard of plaques.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sure.

    KEITH FARGO: Senile plaques, they used to be called, or amyloid plaques. Both of these attack the protein that makes up that plaque.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And destroy it or…

    KEITH FARGO: Exactly, so they may help stop it from clumping together in the first place or they can help to clear it out of the brain. So the idea is to slow down the formation of those plaques.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the second drug that there is some excitement around today is Aducanumab. What is the difference there and what exactly does it do?

    KEITH FARGO: Well, they’re somewhat similar, in terms of the fact that they’re both antibodies.

    They target different parts of the proteins, so they may have — and we don’t fully understand all of the mechanism yet, but they may work a little bit differently, although at the end of the day they’re both antibodies and they both do target that amyloid that makes up the plaque.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We are hearing, as we said in the introduction, though, from some other researchers that it’s still early, that there’s not a big enough sample. What are you and the others at the Alzheimer’s Association say about that?

    KEITH FARGO: Those are all very valid concerns that we share. These are exciting results that we have seen at the international conference here this week, but you’re not — with drug development, you’re not done until you’re done.

    And the fact is that the trial for Aducanumab was a phase one trial, which means I think less than 200 people were in that trial. The trial for Solanezumab is several thousand, because that’s actually a phase three trial, but you still have to repeat that and make sure that what you saw the first time around, you see again in a second study.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what happens next with regard to both of these drugs.

    KEITH FARGO: Well, the drug Solanezumab is already being studied in a second phase three study as we speak. And we should see the results of that probably in 18 months to two years.

    And then the other drug, Aducanumab, the company that makes that drug has just launched two large phase three trials. And we should see the results of those in two to three years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Keith Fargo, who for — for people out there who have a family member, for someone who is worried about having Alzheimer’s themselves, when could they look possibly to see something like this — if it’s proven effective, when could they actually have access to one of these?

    KEITH FARGO: For both of these drugs, you’re looking at least 18 months to two years before these things are available from your doctor.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So it’s a while.

    KEITH FARGO: It is. It is a while.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the other little bit of I guess interesting news — it’s not promising — that we were hearing about yesterday is that the findings about women with Alzheimer’s, that not only are there more women, many more women than men who have Alzheimer’s, but that the progression of the disease is much faster in women. What is known about that?

    KEITH FARGO: Well, I would actually say that it is promising, in that I think it tells us that we’re learning more about the disease.

    So, as you mentioned, Alzheimer’s disease is much more common in women than men. Women are essentially twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than men are. The conventional wisdom for many years was that it was simply because women live longer and age is the largest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. But scientists are now seeing that maybe that’s not the case. Maybe there are differences between men and women that can account for women being actually at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease other than simply longevity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are there theories about why?

    KEITH FARGO: There are.

    And, of course, the first thing that springs to mind for many people is there may be hormonal differences. But that may be a little simplistic. Certainly, there are different life courses for men and women, especially men and women who are of the age to be at the highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease now.

    Certainly, if you think about educational opportunities in the past and how different they were for men and women, we know that education is a risk factor — or low education is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Certainly, occupational opportunities have been different as well.

    And we know that high-complexity occupations are protective against Alzheimer’s disease. There are also potentially genetic differences between men and women that could explain this, too.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The XX chromosomes, rather than the XY.

    KEITH FARGO: Exactly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Keith Fargo with the Alzheimer’s Association, we thank you.

    KEITH FARGO: Thank you.

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    Patrons relax and play with a cat at Crumbs & Whiskers. Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    Patrons at Crumbs & Whiskers cozy up to one of the resident cats. Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    On a sunny morning at the recently opened Crumbs & Whiskers, a café in the tony Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C., Monica, a regular, relaxes on one of the many cushions. She stretches, walks to the far wall and with a quick spring jumps onto a shelf almost as high as the ceiling.

    She yawns, licks herself, then curls up and closes her eyes.

    It’s a typical day for Monica, who is one of roughly twenty felines who reside in this cat café.

    “Business has been really good,” said café owner Kanchan Singh. “We’ve had to turn people away on weekends and weeknights. It’s insane.”

    Popular in Asia since the late ‘90s, cat cafés spread to Europe, then North America, and have recently found their way to the U.S., where they have veritably exploded. Since the first locations opened their doors in December of 2014, nine have sprung up across the country, with eleven more announcing their intention to open soon.

    Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    Patrons capture playful kitten Vegas’ attention. Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    These eateries have everything you would expect of a typical café — drinks, a selection of baked goods, and plenty of places to chill or work. They also have resident cats.

    “I think it’s a lovely idea,” said Charlotte Nusberg, a local retiree. “It’s really fun just watching people play with animals, and seeing the latest in cat furniture design.”

    While Nusberg and her friend Sara Rix spent time getting to know a handsome tabby named Wookie, others cuddled, petted and spoiled some of the other playful kitties. Across from them, a group of friends gossiped over iced coffee. In a corner, a man worked on his laptop.

    These cafes aren’t just fun places to hang out. In the United States, most of them also partner with local Humane Societies or pet rescues to make all their cats available for adoption. For Singh, the animal welfare angle was her main reason for opening the café, which launched in June.

    Kanchen Singh, founder and owner of Crumbs & Whiskers, raised more than $35,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to open the shop. Video shot and edited by Ariel Min

    “I went to a cat café in Thailand, and I immediately fell in love. When I came back and started looking into it, I realized I could use it to facilitate adoptions. I’ve always loved animals in general and especially cats, and that’s when I was sold on it.”

    But can cat cafés actually help facilitate pet adoptions?

    Lauren Lipsey, director of rehoming for the Washington Humane Society, says she thinks Crumbs & Whiskers is making an impact.

    “I think offering an opportunity to visit adoptable cats who are not in our area expands the appeal of the Humane Society,” Lipsey said. “Potentially you could have people walking by, see an animal who’s available and go home with it. … So I think it’s definitely expanding our reach.”

    Even if the cat cafés are successful in increasing adoptions, however, there’s concern over whether or not there’s long-term demand for them. So far, business at Crumbs & Whiskers is booming. Even with a $10 cover charge, reservations are recommended, and the café has been so busy they have had to turn customers away. But there is still a question about whether this will last.

    “Having come once, I don’t know if I’d come again.” Nusberg admitted on her visit.

    “I guess that’s the key question,” Rix said. “Is this a novelty, or is it sustainable?”

    Some cats are shier than others, Singh says. Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    Some cats are shier than others, Singh says. Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    So far, at least, there are reasons to be optimistic. Cat cafés in other countries have certainly proven their staying power, and the ones in the U.S. appear to be doing well, both in business and adoptions. Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, which opened in October, has adopted 222 cats since they opened.

    “Business has been amazing,” owner Ann Dunn said. “We’re open Wednesday through Sunday and it’s packed out there. Our café is full of people who are playing with the cats all day everyday. … It’s been really great.”

    Only time will tell for Crumbs & Whiskers.

    “I think that to sustain it we have to prove to the community the value in terms of adoptions, in terms of the customer experience,” Singh said. “We have to show people that you don’t have to own a pet or go to a shelter to spend a fun time with a cat.”

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    carhacking

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    GWEN IFILL: Now a cautionary tale of a different kind of computer hacking that you will want to see.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story from our New York studios.

    ANDY GREENBERG, WIRED: It’s not fun to have your two-ton SUV’s brakes hacked just as you’re parking in front of a ditch.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Writer Andy Greenberg found that out the hard way. For a story on Wired.com, he decided to be a willing victim of car hacking by two researchers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek. The two-and-a-half-ton guinea pig? A 2014 Jeep Cherokee that Greenberg drove on a Saint Louis highway.

    CHARLIE MILLER, Security Engineer, Twitter: Remember, Andy, no matter what happens, don’t panic.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s easier said than done. Without warning, and from miles away, they blasted the air vents, and started blaring the music.

    ANDY GREENBERG: I can’t turn it down.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After turning on the windshield wipers and wiper fluid, they killed the engine, forcing him to bring the car to a halt on the highway, as cars and semis sped by.

    ANDY GREENBERG: All right, I’m going to pull over, because I have PTSD.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The hack is possible through an Internet-connected system in the car called Uconnect that controls the entertainment and navigation, and enables communication through phone calls and Wi-Fi.

    Below a certain speed, hackers can even control the jeep’s steering, as long as it’s in reverse. They can adjust the locks, and disable the brakes. Many automakers now produce vehicles that function like smartphones on wheels, but that convenience also allows hackers to now engage in wireless carjacking.

    Miller and Valasek have been researching car hacking for years, and found the Jeep Cherokee to be the most hackable model.

    CHARLIE MILLER: These cars had units exposed to a particular service that probably they didn’t want to. It lets you do things like query it for information like the GPS or the VIN or some other things, but it also lets you just run commands.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Miller and Valasek alerted Chrysler, sharing their research for months. The company, however, is wary of this disclosure.

    CHRIS VALASEK, Director of Vehicle Security Research IOActive: We want to release this information because more people like us need to be focused on this problem.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Just yesterday, Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal introduced legislation that requires cars sold in the U.S. to meet standards of protection against digital attacks.

    For more about the vulnerabilities and the concerns around all this, Andy Greenberg, senior writer for “Wired” magazine, joins me now.

    So, why did you do the hack?

    ANDY GREENBERG: Well, this was all actually the work of Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, these two researchers.

    They have been trying to do this for three years to actually gain Internet wireless access to a vehicle remotely. And they finally succeeded. And this is the first time not only that they have demonstrated that, which they did to me on the highway, but also that they have named the automaker, they have detailed some of the — how they did it.

    And they are going to talk about this at a conference next month. And they’re finally going to actually release some of the code itself, so that — not enough that it could be easily replicated, but enough that other researchers can see what they have done, can test it out. This is like how good science is done.

    And I think all of it is meant to send a message to pressure the car industry to solve these problems, to take security vulnerabilities seriously.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How easy or difficult is it? Should we be concerned that there’s, what, 400,000 cars with this kind of software inside it?

    ANDY GREENBERG: Everybody who has this one computer, Uconnect, in their Chrysler dashboard needs to download this patch that Chrysler actually released very quietly last week.

    And they can download it to their computer, put it on a USB drive and just update the software and protect themselves from this serious attack. But the question is whether somebody else could create a new hacking technique that would affect Chrysler vehicles or others. And that’s very possible, but it’s not easy.

    Both of these guys are brilliant hackers. One of them is a former NSA analyst. I wouldn’t expect some kid in their basement to come up with a new technique, but with what is already out there, anybody can do what Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek have done to at least mess with the dashboard functions. And that’s mischief enough.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, let me get this right. My phone can get an update automatically from Google or from Apple, but Chrysler is not automatically updating the cars. Can you take it into your dealer and have it done that way?

    ANDY GREENBERG: Right. For the Chrysler vehicles that need this patch, you have to do it yourself with a USB drive or take it to the dealership.

    Some carmakers already do what they call over-the-air updates, where they don’t automatically update, but you can do it from the computer itself in the car. And, in fact, every automaker practically is moving towards over-the-air updates. They know that this is a fix that needs to happen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the things that every automaker is also moving toward is having greater amounts of technology in cars, right, basically, these smartphones on wheels.

    And when we think of the Internet of things, how everything’s getting so connected, does that just mean that everything is also so much more hackable?

    ANDY GREENBERG: When I talk to security experts about the whole industry, they say that, yes, the industry is trying to solve this problem, but things are getting worse faster than they’re getting better, and that’s because the auto industry just wants to add these features.

    They’re competing to have more interconnected features, navigation, and safety and entertainment and that those things also provide a nice monthly revenue stream for the cellular service. So every one of those features is also a potentially hackable bug, too.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s also the piece of current legislation that was proposed yesterday by a couple of senators, but when is there a scenario where the law and technology are on the same playing field? Sometimes, it seems like the law is 10 years behind catching up to technology to try to legislate it and regulate it.

    ANDY GREENBERG: I think that there are legal standards for the safety of automobiles. They have to have seat belts, they have to have air bags, you know, so this is kind of the modern equivalent.

    It will be, of course, very difficult to legislate something this complex. This isn’t just a safety issue. It’s kind of a cat-and-mouse game with a whole world of hackers, and it has to be a dynamic kind of solution to a very dynamic problem.

    So, you know, it’s not entirely clear that legislation can fix this, but what is clear is that the auto industry needs to wake up somehow. Whether that is through consumer pressure, per their own self-regulation or through Congress taking action, something needs to happen.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Hacking seems to follow every sort of online leap forward. Right? Bank accounts have been hacked, credit card companies and so forth, the transactions that we have from multiple vendors. Having your car hacked, when you were driving that car, what was going through your head when you basically lost control step by step?

    ANDY GREENBERG: Well, it’s incredibly unnerving.

    You kind of — if you have driven for some number of years and you have come to assume that the pedal does something and the steering wheel does something, and to realize that it’s just kind of a fallible machine that can even be controlled by someone else or kind of what feels just like a virtual invisible force somewhere far away, it definitely produces a unique kind of anxiety.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Was it the smartest idea to do it on a freeway in Saint Louis?

    ANDY GREENBERG: In retrospect, maybe not.

    But I wasn’t — I didn’t actually know what these guys were going to do. They said — they just told me to drive onto the highway. And then at first, they were just messing with the radio and the windshield wipers. When they cut the transmission, I was shocked myself.

    And I think probably all of us — they didn’t know, for instance, that there wasn’t going to be a shoulder at the point when they did it to the highway. So, in — maybe all of us would have chosen to do it on a closed course if we would have known how it would have gone.

    But in the end, I think it was important to show how scary it can be. Nobody was hurt. And in the end, we have this example instead of just how dangerous this kind of vulnerability is. And I think it sends an important message.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Andy Greenberg of Wired, thanks so much for joining us.

    ANDY GREENBERG: Thank you.

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    Helmuth Rasboel

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the world’s leading Nazi hunters set his targets this week on a 90-year old man in Denmark.

    Efraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Center has accused Danish authorities of being reluctant to act against a former guard who served at a forced labor camp where hundreds of Jews were murdered during World War II.

    NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant takes an inside look at Zuroff’s quest and hears from the accused firsthand.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: After pursuing war criminals around the world and securing a string of successful prosecutions, Efraim Zuroff’s latest mission brought him to Copenhagen.

    EFRAIM ZUROFF, Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Jerusalem: I hope to see to it that an official government investigation will be initiated against this person who served with the Danish troops, S.S., Waffen-S.S., in Belarus, and was serving at a camp in which 90 percent of the Jews who were in that camp were murdered or died because of difficult conditions during the period that the Danish troops were in charge of the camp and were guarding the camp.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: And this is Zuroff’s target, Helmuth Rasboel, who, as a 17-year-old, voluntarily joined the Danish Free Corps, one of the Nazi battalions from countries occupied by the Germans.

    Zuroff’s case against Rasboel is largely based on new evidence gathered by historian Dennis Larsen. The two men spent several hours poring over documentation and maps of the camp in Belarus.

    DENNIS LARSEN, Historian and co-author, “School of Violence”: The gallows were there, and the tree where hangings were conducted is there. And every morning, there was a selection, and to see if the Jews could work or not. And they were actually starving so often, they could not. And when you couldn’t work anymore, you were taken by the S.S. down to the gravel pit and they were shot.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: And these are believed to have been some of the victims of the Bobruisk camp, 100 miles from the Belarusian capital, Minsk. This is a German propaganda film. These are Polish Jews who were transported from the Warsaw ghetto. They were in poor physical shape when they left the ghetto.

    According to historians, 1,400 Jews lost their lives in this labor camp.

    DENNIS LARSEN: The Danish S.S. Freikorps, Denmark’s S.S. company, were in fact guards. And it’s a fact they were — they guarded these Jews in this camp in the period of 1942 and 1943.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Fellow historian and co-author Therkel Straede says there is evidence that guards carried out atrocities against Jewish slave laborers, although nothing specific linking the Dane at the center of this case.

    THERKEL STRAEDE, Historian: It’s definitely justified to file charges against somebody who was a guard in an annihilation camp. This is one of the smaller ones, which is not very known, but it was — you could say the atrocities that were committed there was just as bad as in Auschwitz.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Armed with the authors’ evidence, Zuroff went to a downtown police station to file his complaint and to urge the Danish authorities to expand their investigation. He believes this case is the tip of the iceberg and there may be up to 30 Danish Nazis still alive who are guilty of war crimes.

    EFRAIM ZUROFF: OK, first of all, we handed in quite a bit of information. To be perfectly honest, I’m not so expert in the workings of the Danish Justice Ministry to be able to say that I am confident. All I can say is that we will do whatever we can do try and encourage a serious investigation, an in-depth investigation. It’s the good guys against the bad guys.

    Ninety-year-old Helmuth Rasboel invited us into his apartment to tell his side of the story. He says his Nazi uncle pressured him to join the Free Corps. He admits that, as a young recruit, he patrolled the camp perimeter. His drawing is different from the historians’ map. But Rasboel insists he committed no crime.

    HELMUTH RASBOEL, Former Nazi and member of the Danish Free Corps (through interpreter): The Germans treated the Jews very badly, which we could not help but see, but we had no influence over it. When you were 17 years old, what can you do? I can tell you that it was unpleasant to watch. They beat them up with bats. But I had never seen the Germans kill Jews. I did see some of the Jews lying dead.

    QUESTION (through interpreter): A complaint has been filed against you. How do you feel about that.

    HELMUTH RASBOEL (through interpreter): You know what? I am 90 years old. What the hell are they going to do? Even if they prosecute me, before they even get started on that, I am going to be dead and buried. I have never even touched the hair on the head of any Jew. In my opinion, a war criminal is someone who goes after civilians.

    I have never done anything to any civilians. What does a 17-year-old know about politics? Nothing. Had I not lived with that uncle, may he rest in peace, had I not lived with him, it would never have happened. Then, perhaps, I would have been in the resistance.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Last week, Oskar Groening, age 94, the former Nazi S.S. officer known as the Bookkeeper of Auschwitz, was sentenced to four years in prison. He counted the bank notes confiscated from Jewish prisoners. This was expected to be one of the last Holocaust trials.

    Efraim Zuroff believes in pursuing old Nazis to the grave.

    EFRAIM ZUROFF: First of all, the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers. Second of all, old age doesn’t turn people who committed murder into righteous Gentiles.

    Third is the fact of our obligation to the victims. In other words, our obligation is to try and find the people who turned innocent men, women and children into victims simply because they were classified as enemies of the Third Reich.

    And I would add, also, that a continuing search for these people is an indication of the seriousness and horror of Holocaust crimes. The trials are important to fight against Holocaust denial and distortion. And, quite frankly, these are the last people on Earth who deserve any sympathy, because they had absolutely no sympathy for their victims.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: If this case was being tried in Germany, there would be more chance of success, because there guards of death camps can be prosecuted. But, in Denmark, the criteria is completely different.

    According to leading law experts, being a witness to a crime doesn’t make a person an accessory. One professor of law told me that she doubted that this case would go to trial because of the lack of eyewitnesses, because of Rasboel’s age at the time, and also because the Danish wartime government, which at first collaborated with the Germans, encouraged youths to join the Nazi battalions.

    Helmuth Rasboel’s secret past has now been exposed and one of his biggest fears is that his Jewish friends will now disown him.

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

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    Public photo from Facebook.

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    So how does that disputed video change our understanding of what happened? And where does that promised thorough investigation stand?

    For that, we turn to Alana Rocha, multimedia reporter for The Texas Tribune. I spoke with her a short time ago.

    Alana Rocha, thank you for joining us.

    This story seems divided into two parts, the story about the disputed video and of course, three days later, the dispute over how she died. Let’s talk about the video first. What is at the root of that dispute over what we saw on that video?

    ALANA ROCHA, The Texas Tribune: Well, her initial reason or the officer’s initial reason for pulling her over was simply changing lanes without signaling.

    She tried to explain to him, when she was saying why she was frustrated, that she saw him coming behind her, and she wanted to get out of the way and maybe she just wasn’t thinking and didn’t signal. But she’s obviously frustrated, expresses that to him. He obviously doesn’t like her attitude and uses unnecessary force is what DPS is saying, that he, you know, violated protocol in that stop.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there any way, looking at that video, that you can determine — I know you have had a chance to look at more of it than we were able to show on the program — that she did anything that we see on tape that was illegal?

    ALANA ROCHA: No.

    I mean, I think that him asking her to put out the cigarette was the straw that broke the camel’s back, if you will, and you hear him put down his clipboard after she refuses that request and says, “I’m in my car, I’m within my rights.”

    We have talked to legal experts since that video came out yesterday saying she is within her rights to be smoking in her car. But they also say that when a law enforcement officer asks you to do something, whether it’s right or not, sometimes it’s best to just comply. And she doesn’t.

    GWEN IFILL: So, when the administration or when the city said they’re going to investigate the cop’s — the officer’s behavior and investigate whether — and take him off the street, as it were, that is still an open question about whether his behavior was acceptable?

    ALANA ROCHA: It wasn’t.

    We heard that at yesterday’s press concerns from the Department of Public Safety, of which he’s a trooper and representing that agency. They took him off the streets. He is on administrative duty, from what I understand is the latest, and that he violated protocol, as far as always being professional and courteous. He wasn’t, clearly, in that video.

    And, also, I mean, they’re trained to de-escalate situations, and he clearly tried to further infuriate her.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. So, let’s talk about the second piece of this, which is how she died, which we also don’t have the clear answers to, as we could tell from listening to the family’s news conference today.

    What do we know about what happened after she was arrested, how she came to be in a cell by herself and then be in a position, if it’s true, to commit suicide?

    ALANA ROCHA: Details released Monday from both the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and the DA, we asked if her mental health was ever evaluated. They say they give all inmates a questionnaire or ask them a series of questions to try to determine that and said that, and said that you know — they really didn’t see the results.

    We are hearing from the closed-door meeting — from an official in the closed-door meeting yesterday that, evidently, in that questionnaire, she said that she had attempted to commit suicide prior. I believe that the official said it was the result of losing a baby.

    But back to where or how she was categorized when she came into the jail, because of the nature of the charge, assault of a public servant, she was deemed high-risk, and so she was separated from other inmates and that’s why she ended up in a cell alone.

    GWEN IFILL: So, that’s how a traffic stop became being held over the weekend for $500 bail?

    ALANA ROCHA: Right, and there was a lot of question.

    And you hear later in the video that DPS released of the traffic stop — you hear the officer say that, “I told her she was under arrest after she kicked me.” But, really, he told her that she was under arrest right when she refuses to put the cigarette out and makes her — tries to make her get out of the car.

    GWEN IFILL: Why is this being treated as a murder investigation? Is that just something that happens automatically?

    ALANA ROCHA: Evidently, yes.

    We didn’t hear that at Friday’s press conference, but, Monday, they did make it clear that it’s being treated as a homicide or worked as a homicide investigation. And because of that — or that’s because, rather, the Texas Rangers, whenever there is a person who dies in police custody, whether it be a jail or prison, they just try to put everybody at ease I guess by doing everything as far as, you know, in this case doing DNA of the trash bag to see who else’s DNA aside from hers would have been on that.

    Of course, you know, we can expect, rather, that we’re going to see some of the other officers’ DNA on that, just because somebody had to put that bag in the trash can.

    GWEN IFILL: What can we say about Waller County, Texas? Is there a history? We remember watching this as other conflicts have unfolded in the last year, and it always emerges that there was some friction that existed between the black community and the police officers at the time of these flash points. Was there a history here as well?

    ALANA ROCHA: From what I gather, yes.

    I got into town on Sunday and attended a memorial service at Hope AME, which is right in front of where she was stopped initially, packed church. Several faith leaders took a few minutes each to speak. They initially said that it wouldn’t be political, that they would just offer up well-wishes for the family in this time of mourning.

    But as the speeches went on, you heard white and African-American reverends take to the podium and talk about the history of racial profiling in that community. And you do have a large African-American population there with Prairie View A&M, a predominantly African-American college, in that county.

    GWEN IFILL: Alana Rocha of The Texas Tribune, thank you very much.

    ALANA ROCHA: Thank you.

    The post Should Sandra Bland have been arrested? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Waller County Department of Public Safety officer points a Taser as he orders Sandra Bland out of her vehicle, in this still image captured from the police dash camera video from the traffic stop of Bland's vehicle in Prairie View, Texas, July 10, 2015. A Texas lawmaker who met with the family of a black woman found dead in her jail cell after her arrest following a routine traffic stop said on July 21, 2015 she should never have been in police custody in the first place. Democratic State Senator Royce West told a news conference there would be no cover-up in the investigation of the death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Chicago-area woman, three days after she was arrested in Prairie View, Texas, northwest of Houston.  REUTERS/The Texas Department of Public Safety/Handout via Reuters  

ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.  - RTX1LA6N

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    GWEN IFILL: There are new developments in the case of Sandra Bland, the woman who was found dead in a Texas jail three days after being arrested for a routine traffic violation.

    The full video of the arrest recorded from the police officer’s dashboard camera cast new light on the arrest as her family searches for answers.

    BRIAN ENCINIA, Texas State Trooper: OK, ma’am.

    GWEN IFILL: The video shows state trooper Brian Encinia approaching Sandra Bland’s car on July 10 in Waller County, Texas. He pulled her over for failing to signal a lane change.

    BRIAN ENCINIA: You seem very irritated.

    SANDRA BLAND: I am. I really am, because of what I’ve been stopped and am getting a ticket for. I was getting out of your way. You were speeding up, tailing me, so I move over and you stop me. So, yes, I am a little irritated.

    GWEN IFILL: The dispute escalated when Encinia asked Bland to put out her cigarette. She refused, and he ordered her out of the car.

    SANDRA BLAND: I don’t have to step out of my car.

    BRIAN ENCINIA: Step out of the car.

    (CROSSTALK)

    SANDRA BLAND: No, you don’t have the right.

    (CROSSTALK)

    BRIAN ENCINIA: Step out of the car.

    GWEN IFILL: Encinia threatened to drag Bland out. She refused. Then he pulled his Taser.

    BRIAN ENCINIA: Get out of car! I will light you up! Get out!

    SANDRA BLAND: Wow.

    BRIAN ENCINIA: Now!

    SANDRA BLAND: Wow.

    GWEN IFILL: The two can still be heard yelling as the incident continued outside the dashboard camera’s range, as a second officer apparently arrived on the scene.

    But a bystander filmed this video with a smartphone, in which an upset Bland can be heard saying the officer threw her to the ground. The trooper has been placed on administrative leave. Police officials said he violated traffic stop procedures. Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days later.

    Authorities said she hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag. But family and friends disputed that finding. Jailhouse video released Monday showed no officers near her cell for 90 minutes before emergency technicians wheeled in a stretcher. Waller County’s district attorney now say Bland’s death is being treated like a murder investigation.

    Today, Bland’s body was flown back to her home outside Chicago, where she will be buried Saturday. Her family spoke this afternoon.

    SHARON COOPER, Sister of Sandra Bland: She was pulled over for something so insignificant, and because of an officer who felt like maybe his ego was bruised and got in the way.

    Not once did he ever say he felt threatened. But when you tell me that you’re going to light me up, I feel extremely threatened and concerned, and I’m not going to get out of my car.

    CANNON LAMBERT, Bland Family Attorney: We want the answers, and Sandy demands them. And we will find them.

    GWEN IFILL: Texas Governor Greg Abbott, in a statement today, said: “The family deserves answers. The Texas Rangers, working in coordination with the FBI, will conduct a full and thorough investigation and work toward the goal of ensuring justice in this case.”

    The roughly-50-minute dash cam video released late yesterday drew criticism for apparent jump-cuts, which led to charges that it had been edited. The Texas Department of Public Safety denied that accusation, and said the glitches occurred when the recording was uploaded for public viewing. A second, corrected version of the video was released this afternoon.

    The post Video reveals hostile turn in Sandra Bland traffic stop appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    GWEN IFILL: Senior Obama administration officials were on Capitol Hill today to rally support for the Iran nuclear deal. House lawmakers streamed into a secure meeting room for a classified briefing from Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

    Reaction so far has been mixed, as Congress begins its 60-day review period.

    REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R), Texas: I think it’s fair to say there is bipartisan skepticism about whether Iran will meet its commitments under this deal, about the whether administration will hold them to it, and about what happens to all of Iran’s other activities that concern us so much.

    REP. JIM HIMES (D), Connecticut: You can always dream of a better deal, but look at where we were when Iran was a nuclear threshold state before this negotiation began, and consider where the deal puts you in contrast to where we were. And then consider the question that frankly is very, very difficult to answer, which is imagine not doing it and where does that put you?

    GWEN IFILL: Republican House Speaker John Boehner also vowed to do everything possible to stop the nuclear deal from becoming a reality. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the agreement in September.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The FBI reported that the gunman who killed five U.S. military service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last week acted alone. The bureau gave an update today on its investigation into 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez. The special agent in charge, Ed Reinhold, said it was too soon to paint a full picture of Abdulazeez.

    ED REINHOLD, FBI Special Agent in Charge: At this point, it’s too early in the investigation to determine whether or not his — whether or not he had been radicalized. So we are pursuing that as a possibility, but it is too early in the investigation to determine. At this time, we’re treating him as a homegrown violent extremist. We believe he acted on his own that day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Reinhold also said preliminary reports indicate all of the victims died from bullets from the same gun.

    GWEN IFILL: The suspect in the deadly shooting rampage at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, will face federal hate crime charges; 21-year-old Dylann Roof killed nine black worshipers in last month’s attack.

    Today, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch unveiled the charges in Washington.

    LORETTA LYNCH, Attorney General: We have here a defendant who is alleged to have harbored discriminatory views towards African-Americans, to have sought out an African-American house of worship, one that was particularly noted because of its age and significance, and he also sought out African-American parishioners at worship, implicating several hate crime statues. Racially motivated violence such as this is the original domestic terrorism.

    GWEN IFILL: No decision has been made yet on whether authorities will seek the death penalty.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There were words of warning today from the trustees who oversee the Social Security system. The Disability Trust Fund will run out of money in late 2016, triggering an automatic 19 percent cut in benefits. The trustees urged Congress to act before that happens in the middle of a presidential campaign. Congress could shift revenue from Social Security’s larger retirement fund, but Republicans are pushing for fundamental changes in the program itself.

    GWEN IFILL: More teenage girls are now using the morning-after pill. A new survey released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one in five teen girls have taken the emergency contraceptive. That’s up from one in 12 a decade ago. The pills are more accessible now that they are available without a prescription.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Greece tonight, lawmakers moved toward a crucial late-night vote to reform the country’s banking and judicial systems. The high-stakes vote is required by Greece’s international creditors in order to clear the way for a third round of bailout negotiations. Failure to pass the economic measures could trigger fresh fears about Greece’s future in the Eurozone.

    GWEN IFILL: Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei got his passport back from the Chinese government today. The artist posted a photo to social media showing the passport in his hands. It was confiscated four years ago, when he was detained by authorities for three months, but never charged. Ai has long been outspoken against the ruling Communist Party. The artist plans to attend an exhibition in London this fall.

    The White House is in the final stages of drafting a plan to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. White House spokesman Josh Earnest announced that today. He sad the plan would be shared with lawmakers in Congress as soon as it’s finished. Republicans have largely opposed President Obama’s plan to shut it down, arguing that transferring dangerous prisoners to other countries may lead to their eventual freedom.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Scholars in Britain have discovered the fragments of one of the oldest known copies of the Koran. University of Birmingham researchers said radiocarbon dating indicates the two-page folio is at least 1,370 years old. That suggests they were written within a few years of the founding of Islam.

    And Islam scholar David Thomas said the parchment could also have been made from an animal alive during the Prophet Mohammed’s lifetime.

    DAVID THOMAS, Islam Scholar: The parts of the Koran that are contained in those fragments are very similar indeed to the Koran as we have it today. And so this tends to support the view that the Koran that we now have is more or less very close, indeed, to the Koran as it was brought together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The university didn’t originally realize what it had because the pages had been bound with leaves of a similar, but newer Koran manuscript from the late seventh century.

    GWEN IFILL: Stocks turned south on Wall Street today after disappointing tech earnings reports. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 68 points to close at 17851. The Nasdaq fell 36 points and the S&P 500 dropped five.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: American novelist E.L. Doctorow has died. He passed away yesterday in New York from complications of lung cancer. Doctorow was best known for his works of historic fiction like “Ragtime,” “Billy Bathgate,” and “The March.” His critically acclaimed novels would earn him a number of top literary honors, from the National Book Award to the National Humanities Medal. E. L. Doctorow was 84 years old.

    The post News Wrap: Chattanooga shooter acted alone, says FBI appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This April 1, 1954, photo shows actress Marilyn Monroe with her husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio during their wedding ceremony at San Francisco City hall. Watch video from that event, below. Photo by AFP/AFP/Getty Images

    This April 1, 1954, photo shows actress Marilyn Monroe with her husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio during their wedding ceremony at San Francisco City hall. Watch video from that event, below. Photo by AFP/AFP/Getty Images

    The Associated Press and British Movietone are uploading more than 550,000 clips to YouTube that feature news events dating back to 1895, becoming the largest collection of archival news content on the video sharing website.

    Filmmakers, historians and curious individuals will all have access to freshly released footage while the two archival providers will gain a popular platform to promote licensing deals.

    The archival footage is a visual record of the people and events that have shaped history, says Alwyn Lindsey, AP’s director of international archive. “At AP we are always astonished at the sheer breadth of footage that we have access to, and the upload to YouTube means that, for the first time, the public can enjoy some of the oldest and most remarkable moments in history.”

    The content is being added to two YouTube channels: AP Archive and British Movietone. Here are 10 of the notable clips containing milestone events, historical figures and cultural trends of the 20th century.

    Berlin Wall Comes Down, 1989

    The wall separating East and West Berlin during the height of the Cold War was taken down on Nov. 9, 1989. This clip shows the beginning stages of the demolition process.

    Nelson Mandela released after 27 years in prison, 1990

    After serving 27 years in prison, the South African apartheid activist Nelson Mandela was freed from prison. This clip shows him walking free and raising his fist triumphantly.

    Hindenburg disaster, 1937

    While flying above Lakehurst, New Jersey, German passenger airship The Hindenberg, caught fire midair killing 36 of the 97 people onboard. This clip shows flames engulf the Hindenberg and crash into the ground below.

    Mount Vesuvius Erupts, 1938

    The volcano, most known for destroying the city of Pompeii, erupted in 1938 and captured on video. The clip title proclaims the video to be the first pictures in sound of boiling lava within a crater of a Volcano.

    Typhoon Disaster East Pakistan, 1970

    One of the deadliest natural disasters struck East Pakistan in 1970, killing an estimated 500,000 people. The clip shows the tragic aftermath with dead bodies and starving survivors left behind.

    World Cup, 1966

    England and West Germany played against each in the World Cup Final in 1966, five years after Berlin Wall had been built. The clip shows the highlights of that match.

    Babe Ruth Signs Contract, 1930

    Babe Ruth, one of America’s sports icons, signed a baseball contract in 1930 for £16,000. The clip shows him signing that contract and hitting at batting practice.

    Monroe and Joe DiMaggio Married, 1954

    Actress Marilyn Monroe, married Yankees baseball star Joe DiMaggio in 1954. The clip shows them laughing and kissing each other, and then driving away as crowds wave.

    Early Driverless Car, 1971

    Scientists presented a driverless car in 1971 and said by 2000 everyone could be sitting back in these vehicles. The clip shows the car traveling along a road.

    Crazy 1960s Hats

    The clip shows women posing for cameras and wearing fancy vintage hats from the 1960s.

    The post From the Hindenberg to Marilyn Monroe, 10 moments from the new archival footage released to YouTube appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Transgender individuals are still fighting to receive health services despite provisions and requirements in the Affordable Care Act. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Transgender individuals are still fighting to receive health services despite provisions and requirements in the Affordable Care Act. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images


    Transgender people are still fighting for access to crucial health services despite the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance companies not deny coverage based on gender or health history.

    The issue stems from the fact that enrollees must check a single gender box when they sign up for a plan sold on the individual or small group markets, according to advocates and health care providers.

    “What happens is that the health insurance companies have specific codes and they put you in as female or male; you only get services that go with that code,” said Robin Maril, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people.

    But someone who is transitioning from a woman to a man or vice versa might still have organs associated with the other gender, such as a uterus and breast tissue for someone born as a woman, or a prostate for someone born as a man. In addition, the transitioning process can take years, and some transgender people forego reassignment surgery because of cost or other reasons.

    As a result, they might still need annual mammograms or pap smears even if they are transitioning to men, or prostate exams if they are transitioning to women — not to mention treatment for problems typically regarded as gender-specific. They could range from sexually-transmitted diseases to life-threatening illnesses such as cancer.

    “The idea that you have insurance and you’re still being denied basic care is outrageous,” Maril said. She noted that before the health law, many insurance companies had exclusions barring transition-related care or care to transgender people in general, citing it as a “pre-existing condition.”

    Under the federal health law, insurance companies selling policies in the individual or small group markets cannot deny coverage to transgender people or to those who are in the process of transitioning their sex. In addition, the administration released guidance in May telling insurers that they cannot deny coverage of sex-specific preventive services to transgender people. But advocates say that has not always happened in practice.

    America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, said that plans are complying with the law.

    “Health plans want to make sure patients have access to the care they need, and this latest guidance was aligned with those efforts. Plans do cover medically necessary care and preventive services for transgender individuals,” said Clare Krusing, of AHIP.

    United HealthCare and Cigna did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kaiser Permanente, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Health News, said it has a process to address denials based on gender. Aetna said it has a process to cover these claims and is working to delink services from gender identification.

    The challenges with insurers lead some transgender people to forego an insurance plan altogether or to stick to their birth gender on their insurance ID cards.

    Eli Strong started transitioning from female to male before passage of the Affordable Care Act, while he lived in Washington, D.C. and had employer-based coverage. In 2008, he changed all his legal identification to male, but kept his health insurance ID as female, because he had not yet gotten a hysterectomy. He didn’t want to have to fight his insurer over a gynecological exam.

    “I was afraid that my insurance company wouldn’t cover annual exams, or anything having to do with organs that insurance companies deemed as non-male,” Strong said. “I resented having to keep my insurance marker as female because the way I saw it, that simple marker shouldn’t determine what coverage I received. What should determine my coverage is whatever organs I currently have, or conditions I am diagnosed with.”

    Strong finally changed his insurance ID to male in 2014 after having a hysterectomy. But some of his transgender friends have not had as easy a time navigating the system. Others, he said, changed their insurance IDs to their new gender and contacted their insurance companies after a claim was denied to explain their transgender status, with limited success.

    Insurance difficulties can create additional anxiety for people already fearful about seeking health care. Strong said that before his hysterectomy, “I put off having annual [gynecological] exams … because it was also so incredibly uncomfortable to be a bearded man in a gynecologist’s office.”

    “Most transgender men still have a cervix, so they need a pap smear, so you have to create an environment where they feel comfortable talking about themselves,” said Harvey Makadon, director of professional education and training at Fenway Community Health, a LGBT health center in Boston.

    Meanwhile, the insurance industry argues the responsibility for clarifying health service needs should fall to the health care provider, arguing that the doctor can explain the patient is transgender in the notes section of a submitted claim.

    But that doesn’t always work, says Dru Levasseur of the Transgender Rights Project at Lambda Legal. Most insurance billing systems are automated and reproductive services like mammograms and prostate exams are flagged with a corresponding “female” or “male.”

    Levasseur says the service is denied automatically if the gender and service don’t match. To allow payment, he and others say, an insurer could put a hold on the claim, verify it with the health care provider and then manually override the code. “The onus should be on the insurance companies,” Levasseur said.

    Medicare already has codes that allow providers to identify the person getting, say, a pap smear or a mammogram, as transgender, which allows the claim to be processed, according to the AAPC, a trade group representing physician-based medical coders. Transgender advocates and the AAPC say the same can be done with private insurers.

    But the gendered service claims system is there for a reason and changing it is not as easy as flipping a switch, said Andrew Naugle, a consultant at actuarial firm Milliman. The system, he explained, is part of quality control mechanisms meant to filter out treatments that shouldn’t happen, like a child being prescribed a drug not deemed safe for that age group.

    Though there’s no reliable data quantifying the relationship between the coding issues and denials, Sarah MacCarthy, a RAND Corporation health researcher said, “there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that it’s challenging to access services, and if even if they are accessed, they continue to be of low quality.” Some plans and providers say they are committed to changing that.

    Deborah Espinal, executive director of health plan policy at Kaiser Permanente, said her organization is intent on removing barriers to care. “We see many patients in transition that have a need for preventive services that cross genders, and we work to ensure that KP is both socially and medically sensitive to our transgender members before, during and after their transition,” Espinal said.

    Advocates say their goal is to add new categories, such as ”transgender man,” or “transgender woman,” into insurance application forms, as well as into research, to get a more accurate picture of the number of transgender people, how many are denied coverage and how these denials affect health outcomes.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website. KHN’s coverage of aging and long term care issues is supported in part by a grant from The SCAN Foundation.

    The post Transgender people still denied health services despite Affordable Care Act appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Salvadoran father carries his son while running next to another immigrant as they try to board a train heading to the Mexican-U.S. border, in Huehuetoca, near Mexico City, June 1, 2015. An increasing number of Central Americans are sneaking across Mexico's border en route to the United States, but many of them don't end up making it very far. Picture taken June 1, 2015. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters

    A Salvadoran father carries his son while running next to another immigrant as they try to board a train heading to the Mexican-U.S. border, in Huehuetoca, near Mexico City, June 1, 2015. An increasing number of Central Americans are sneaking across Mexico’s border en route to the United States, but many of them don’t end up making it very far. Picture taken June 1, 2015. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters

    Since last summer, the number of Central American migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has decreased. By a lot. The Washington office on Latin America, a think tank in in D.C., projects a 39 percent decrease from last year in the number of children who make it to the U.S.

    So are Central Americans suddenly choosing to stay home? Have the issues of gang violence and endemic poverty been solved?

    According to Maureen Meyer, who works at the think tank’s department on Mexico and migrant rights, the situation on the ground in Central America has actually gotten worse.

    “You can look at the situation in El Salvador where they are reporting homicide rates now the highest they’ve been since the country was in Civil War in 1992,” she told Shortwave. “You have very deep institutional crises both in Guatemala and in Honduras. I think a lot of people continue to leave the Northern Triangle countries for their life.”

    And they’re ending up in Mexico, where officials have cracked down on apprehending migrants, which have led to some dangerous unintended consequences, Meyer said.

    On this week’s Shortwave, what precipitated this crackdown, and what is the U.S.’s role in this continuing border crisis?

    The post U.S. outsources its migrant problem … to Mexico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Turkey has agreed to let the U.S. military use a key air base near the border with Syria to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State, senior Obama administration officials said Thursday, giving a boost to the U.S.-led coalition amid a surge of violence in Turkey blamed on IS-linked militants.

    The agreement, which President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed in a phone call Wednesday, follows months of U.S. appeals to Turkey and delicate negotiations over the use of Incirlik and other bases by the U.S.-led coalition — a sensitive topic in Turkey. American officials said access to the base in southern Turkey would allow the U.S. to move more swiftly and nimbly to attack IS targets.

    Turkey has yet to publicly confirm the agreement, and the U.S. officials requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly. The White House declined to confirm the agreement, citing operational security concerns, but noted that Obama and Erdogan had agreed to “deepen our cooperation” on the fight against IS in their phone call Wednesday.

    “Turkey is a critical partner in degrading and defeating ISIL, and we appreciate the essential support Turkey provides to the international coalition across the many lines of effort,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, using an alternative acronym for the militant group.

    Incirlik Air Base, located in southern Turkey across the border from the Syrian city of Aleppo, is a joint U.S.-Turkish base. The U.S. Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing is based there, and its proximity to IS strongholds in Syria makes it a strategically advantageous place from which to attack the militant group. Turkey shares a 1,250-kilometer (775-mile) border with Iraq and Syria.

    Turkey’s consent came as the country finds itself drawn further into the conflict by a series of deadly attacks and signs of increased Islamic State activity inside the country. On Thursday, IS militants fired from Syrian territory at a Turkish military outpost, killing one Turkish soldier and prompting Turkish retaliation that killed at least one IS militant. Earlier in the week, a suicide bombing blamed on IS militants killed 32 people in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border.

    Turkish officials have raised concerns that the bombing was part of a campaign of retaliation for Turkey’s recent crackdown on IS operations in the country. In the last six months, Turkish officials say, more than 500 people suspected of working with IS have been detained. An investigation of recruitment networks in Turkey netted 21 terrorism suspects this month.

    The post Turkey allows U.S. to use key base to launch airstrikes against Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MILAN, ITALY - JUNE 23:  Daniela Zuccotti wears a Max & Co jacket, H&M jumper, Converse shoes, and a Pirovano on June 23, 2015 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Melodie Jeng/Getty Images)

    DeeDee Gordon, an expert trend spotter, explains today’s macro trends. Photo by Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: New Yorker columnist Malcolm Gladwell featured DeeDee Gordon as a fashion-trend “coolhunter” in his 1997 article, “The Coolhunt.” The name stuck. At the time, she was working for Converse, spotting trends for the company.

    Gordon is now a leading international trends expert and the president of innovation at Sterling Brands, where she advises many of America’s largest corporations on brand building and new product development.

    Paul Solman caught up with Gordon to talk about how trends are affecting today’s marketplace. The text of the following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and length. Tune in tonight to learn more about the coolest trends and how businesses are capitalizing on them.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    Paul Solman: What is coolhunting?

    DeeDee Gordon: People started talking about coolhunting back in the late 90s. There’s a group of people who would go out and scour the streets looking for the next big thing. They would take that information and report back to large companies that were trying to design products for youth culture.

    Paul Solman: How did you get involved with Converse?

    DeeDee Gordon: I was running a store on Newbury Street in Boston —

    Paul Solman: That’s the fancy shopping street.

    DeeDee Gordon: Yes, but I wasn’t running a fancy store. This was a store that revolved around surf culture and street culture. It was very youth culture oriented.

    Paul Solman: Was this a clothing store?

    DeeDee Gordon: Clothing, surfboards, skateboards, snowboards, music, anything that young people were into at that time. I was in my mid-20s, so I could say that I was part of the culture too. And companies would come into my store and ask my opinion on all kinds of things. What do you think of this sneaker or what do you think of the color of this shoe? What do you think of this ad campaign?

    Paul Solman: Did you think it was a little weird?

    DeeDee Gordon: Sure. And I realized that they were making really big business decisions out of my opinion—one person’s opinion. And it just didn’t feel right to me. I realized that there was an opportunity for me to not only gather my own opinion, but the opinions of my friends and my friends’ friends and other such like-minded people. So I created a report that actually gathered all of this information about what people were doing, what they thought was cool and what was happening in their area of the world. I started publishing it through an agency in San Diego.

    Converse is one of the companies that would come in and ask to look at things. I started developing a relationship with one of the women that worked there, who was also in “The Coolhunt” article. I started doing consulting work for them, and I would report on trends and things that were happening in culture. I would look for patterns and products.

    Paul Solman: What’s an example?

    DeeDee Gordon: Well, it could be a new color. It could be taking a shoe, a basic tennis shoe, and turning it into a sandal. Out here in Los Angeles, there were Latino kids who were wearing Adidas slides with socks. They were like sport sandals. And so we — the Converse team — created a shoe that was inspired by that. And that was the one that Gladwell wrote about. It was a very popular shoe. And it was that shoe and the One Star that kind of defined a generation. It was the shoe of the 90s.

    Paul Solman: Do you know to this day why?

    DeeDee Gordon: People could just identify with it. And I also think that Latino and Hispanic culture was really starting to take hold in the U.S., and young people were really excited by it and interested in it.

    Paul Solman: How do you know whether or not something will be cool today?

    DeeDee Gordon: So I don’t cool hunt. I haven’t cool hunted in a long time. I now run a business, and we do new product development for clients. We look for opportunity and for white space. That is, we look for a very obvious space that isn’t being filled by a brand. So we can study a whole group of people, and later on we look for a type of product or category to fill that space. There’s an opening here for us to create something.

    When I do my trend research today, I’m really looking at more macro trends. I’m looking for larger scale movements that aren’t going to go away quickly. One of the trends I think is really important now is “gender untethered.” Specifically, we look at gender fluidity and how that’s going to impact the future, impact brands. Another trend is “agri-culture” where people want to know where their food is coming from or where the materials from their clothing is coming from.

    “Frugeois” is another one. It’s our commentary on frugal living. Millennials are extremely conscious of what they’re spending. They are looking for deals. They are looking for things that are going to last a long time. They are looking for things that they can reuse. They are responsible. They are green. So they want things that are cheap and that are designed to function, that last and look really good.

    Paul Solman: So what is your definition of cool?

    DeeDee Gordon: My definition of cool… it’s something that’s popular. It’s something that makes you feel good. It’s gratifying. It feeds into the brand of me. That is, it supports my self-identity. In this day and age, people spend a lot of time defining and branding themselves. How do people view me?

    The post The story behind Malcolm Gladwell’s favorite coolhunter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new study reports a natural compound that can clear up cataracts. Photo by WIN-Initiative/Getty Images.

    A new study reports a natural compound that can clear up cataracts. Photo by WIN-Initiative/Getty Images.

    If you live long enough, chances are you’ll get cataracts.

    Cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, are linked to nearly half of the world’s cases of blindness, primarily in low-income countries that lack access to surgery. Cataracts also cause vision problems for 94 million people worldwide.

    A study released this week shows that a natural chemical, produced in our bodies, can uncloud cataracts. The findings were made in rabbits and dogs, but if they hold true for humans, the chemical could greatly reduce the need for eye surgery to treat the condition, researchers say. But some scientists are skeptical of the finding.

    The first signs of cataracts may appear as early as 30 or 40, though vision problems don’t typically start until 60.

    “The population burden is huge. Basically everyone gets them by the time that they hit 80 or 90 years old,” said J. Fielding Hejtmancik, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health who wasn’t involved in the study.

    Throughout our lives, cells in the lens of our eyes migrate from the outer region of the lens to the center. As they do this, they stretch. Whole structural portions of the cell, like the nucleus and mitochondria, break down and eventually disappear entirely, clouding our vision in the process. The cells in the outer rim of the lens are young, while the cells in the center you’ve had your whole life.

    The life of an eye lens. New lens cells, which are modified skin cells, start on the upper rim of the eye's lens and migrate to its equator. The cells squeeze inwards and then elongate, creating a stack of layers like the innards of an onion. At the same time, the cells ditch their machinery, like its DNA-packed nucleus and mitochondria, in order to keep the lens clear. Courtesy of Moreau K.L. and King J.A.,Trends Mol Med., 2012.

    The life of an eye lens. New lens cells, which are modified skin cells, start on the upper rim of the eye’s lens and migrate to its equator. The cells squeeze inwards and then elongate, creating a stack of layers like the innards of an onion. At the same time, the cells ditch their machinery, like its DNA-packed nucleus and mitochondria, in order to keep the lens clear. Courtesy of Moreau K.L. and King J.A.,Trends Mol Med., 2012.

    Lens cells are stuffed to the brim with proteins called crystallins. In fact, the protein content in lens cells is greater than any other cell in the body. Even so, the supportive covering of the eye remains transparent, allowing light to project the picture of the world onto our retina. The key to this clarity comes from how the crystallins are arranged. Like open window blinds, the proper orientation lets light through.

    Many factors tweak the structure of these proteins over a lifetime, causing them to clump together and obstruct vision.

    UV light exposure is one offender; it oxidizes proteins, changing their structure. Some genetic mutations can create these clumps too, leading to cataracts early in life, which is where ophthalmologist Kang Zhang of the University of California, San Diego found a clue for the new treatment.

    “By screening families across the world for mutations that affect vision, we found four kids in two families with genetic aberrations in an enzyme called lanosterol synthase,” said Zhang, whose team reported the findings July 22 in Nature.

    As its name suggests, this enzyme makes lanosterol — an oily compound found in the skin or in waxy substances like lanolin, a substance used to protect and treat skin. Zhang and his colleagues showed that the mutations shut down that enzyme.

    The researchers suspected that the lanosterol prevented the clumping of proteins in the human eye. To test that, they grew lens cells with crystallin clumps in a Petri dish. And indeed, after adding lanosterol to mix, the protein aggregates dissipated. Zhang’s team suspects that lanosterol breaks apart the crystallin clumps like a detergent splits dirt.

    Buoyed by this result, the team tested whether eye drops of lanosterol could clear up age-related cataracts in dogs over the course of six weeks. A trained examiner then looked at before and after pictures of the eyes, and scored them based on a veterinary scale for canine cataracts.

    “We saw an increase in the lens transparency and also decreased cloudiness of the cataract,” Zhang said, suggesting that lanosterol reversed the course of the disease. And since lanosterol is a naturally-occurring compound in our bodies, the side effects might be minimal in future human trials, he said.

    Canine eyes with naturally occurring cataracts, before and after receiving lanosterol treatment. Controls (right columns) show dog eyes that didn't receive treatment.  Courtesy of Zhao et al., Nature, 2015.

    Canine eyes with naturally occurring cataracts, before and after receiving lanosterol treatment. Controls (two columns on right) show dog eyes that didn’t receive treatment. Courtesy of Zhao et al., Nature, 2015.

    So that’s it…case closed…cure for cataracts found, right? Not so fast. Some outside experts are remain skeptical.

    “It is very difficult to determine conclusively the effect of any reagent, including lanosterol, on cataracts,” said University of Washington biologist John Clark, who is also president of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the world’s largest eye and vision research organization.

    Clark points to the fact that the study didn’t directly look at whether the lanosterol deficiency caused crystallin clumps in the four kids with cataracts. Historically, these clumps would be examined if their lenses were removed after surgery, he said, but this study didn’t mention such an investigation.

    There is also a chance that lanosterol keeps the membranes of lens cells from rupturing, another contributor to cataracts, Clark said.

    “Not all cataracts are the same, and it is not a single disease,” UCLA ophthalmologist Joseph Horowitz said. Some cataracts become extremely hard depending on the stage of the disease, he said. As clumps form over the years, they become tougher to penetrate, and Horowitz questions the compound’s ability to break it down.

    Zhang admits that lanosterol needs several more years of study before it’s ready human trials and agreed that the drug likely won’t break hard cataracts. But as all cataracts start as mild to moderate cases, he said, early intervention with lanosterol might stop future clumping.

    “We did everything we can do experimentally to show lanosterol can dissolve crystallin protein aggregations in cell cultures, in rabbit and dog cataract lenses, Zhang said. “Obviously, we need to do more and our data need confirmation from other researchers. This is just a beginning.”

    Horowitz’s skepticism stems in part from prior natural compounds that have been falsely marketed as cures for cataracts, such as the antioxidant carnosine (or N-acetylcarnosine).

    “Carnosine is snake oil,” he said. “It isn’t approved by the FDA. It isn’t approved the Eye Institute. And only one group showed that it could deaggregate lens proteins,” Horowitz said. “But it’s a natural product, so people can buy it in a health store.”

    Like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, cataracts fall into a category of condition where people crave a “magic bullet” that can cure everybody, but Clark says such a drug is unlikely.

    “Problems of aging, such as cataracts, are complex and multifactorial. We’re in a time of great optimism where we can quantitatively measure individual human diversity,” Clark said. While the idea of a “magic bullet” may still inspire us, scientifically we need to seize this moment to learn about the myriad nature of biomedical problems of aging, like cataracts, to improve the quality of life of our society, he said.

    Hejtmancik agrees, but adds that Zhang’s research advances our understanding: “I view the research as opening a new door and pointing in a new direction in cataract therapy.”

    The post Could these new eye drops cure cataracts? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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