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

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    Security guards walk the steps of the Supreme Court before Justice Elena Kagan's investiture ceremony in Washington, October 1, 2010. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    The Supreme Court’s election-year lineup is rich in high-profile cases. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s lineup of new cases is fit for an election year.

    Affirmative action, abortion and another look at the Obama health care law all are before the court, and they could well be joined by immigration, giving the justices a run of cases that reads like a campaign platform.

    Also coming; disputes involving public-sector labor unions, the death penalty and the way electoral districts are drawn.

    Decisions in these high-profile cases almost certainly will split the court along ideological lines, mirroring the country’s stark partisan split. What’s more, the most contentious issues won’t be resolved until late June, barely four months before the 2016 presidential election.

    What started as a somewhat sleepy term — especially following major decisions last June on health care and same-sex marriage — has become much more interesting, says University of Pennsylvania law dean Theodore Ruger.

    “This is a court that remains very assertive in its role in declaring what the law is,” Ruger said.

    The accumulation of wrenching social issues and pointed policy disputes at the Supreme Court at this moment is mostly a matter of chance. A legal fight over the regulation of abortion clinics in Texas has been underway for two and a half years. President Barack Obama’s plan to shield from deportation millions of immigrants who are living in the country illegally was rolled out a year ago and almost immediately challenged in court. Faith-based groups that say they are forced to be complicit in providing objectionable birth control to women covered under their health plans have been challenging the Obama administration for more than three years.

    It is still is possible the immigration dispute will not be heard until next fall, if at all.

    Now that the cases are at the marble courthouse atop Capitol Hill, the justices’ decisions could feed campaign rhetoric that already has been heated on abortion and immigration, to name just two issues.

    In June 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts provided the decisive vote that saved Obama’s health care overhaul in the midst of the president’s campaign for re-election.

    A short time later, Republican candidate Mitt Romney proclaimed that as president he would do what the high court failed to do that June — get rid of the health care law. Obama won re-election, and the law survived.

    Ruger said the chief justice wrote a nuanced opinion that appeared to show some sensitivity to the looming election.

    “I think Roberts recognized this was going to be an issue in front of the voters,” Ruger said. The electorate ultimately would decide the health care law’s fate, he said.

    Court decisions close to an election, especially when they produce big changes in the law, also can increase attention paid to those issues.

    This is part of what Texas A&M University political scientist Joseph Ura called the court’s agenda-setting effect. Ura pointed to Brown v. Board of Education’s outlawing of racial segregation in public schools and Lawrence v. Texas’ ban on state anti-sodomy laws as examples of past decisions that altered “the existing arrangement of material or symbolic benefits in our political system.” Researchers found that those decisions “led to a large, sustained increase in the media’s attention” to those issues, Ura said.

    Last term’s big rulings on health care and same-sex marriage already have prompted criticism of the court, and of Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy in particular, from several Republican presidential candidates. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for example, has said that putting Roberts on the court was a mistake, even though Cruz endorsed his nomination in 2005.

    The court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United that led to a flood of what critics call “dark money” in political campaigns remains controversial, and Democratic candidates have pledged to try to undo it.

    The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that established a woman’s right to an abortion produced a backlash that eventually showed up in election returns, said Sara Benesh, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “A lot of scholars say (President Ronald) Reagan got elected because of Roe v. Wade. Pro-life forces really got him moving in his campaign,” Benesh said.

    But there is little evidence that the court itself will become an issue in the campaign, except perhaps on the margins, she said.

    The court and the justices are little known to the public. “It seems to me a long, drawn-out relationship between any decision the court might make and any decision an individual might make in the voting booth,” Benesh said.

    Every four years, interest groups across the political spectrum try to make that connection for voters. Elections matter, they say, because the winner may get to choose justices who will serve for the next quarter century or longer.

    Indeed, with four justices in their late 70s or early 80s, and the court so closely and fiercely divided, any appointment could dramatically change the court’s direction.

    The post High court’s election-year lineup includes affirmative action, abortion, Obamacare appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 20, 2015. Photo by Mandel Ngan/Pool

    President Barack Obama, seen delivering the 2015 State of the Union, will deliver his final address on Jan. 12, 2016. Photo by Mandel Ngan/Pool

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will deliver his seventh and final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 12.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin announced the date on Monday.

    The annual presidential update is required by the Constitution. Obama’s final address will take place just before early primaries get underway in the campaign to replace him.

    The post Obama to deliver final State of the Union Jan. 12 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Chadian soldier rides atop a pickup truck next to a bag of rocket-propelled grenades in Gambaru, Nigeria, February 26, 2015. Niger, Cameroon and Chad have launched a regional military campaign to help Nigeria defeat the Boko Haram insurgency, which aims to carve an Islamic emirate out of northeastern Nigeria. Chad deployed troops last month and is leading efforts to stop repeated cross-border raids by the Islamists, whose operations increasingly threaten Nigeria's neighbours. Picture taken February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun (NIGERIA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR4RFAM

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Tonight, we begin a week-long series on Africa’s most populous country, “Nigeria: Pain and Promise.”

    Special correspondent Nick Schifrin and producer and cameraman Zach Fannin spent more than a month on the ground there, chronicling a nation in the midst of an encouraging and impressive economic boom, but still plagued by income inequality, corruption and terrorism.

    This evening, we look at the government’s attempts to wipe out Boko Haram, a terrorist group that killed more people in 2014 than the Islamic State we hear so much about.

    While the Nigerian military has made significant gains, the killings by the group continue. As we report, some civilians are getting caught in the middle.

    A warning: Some of the images in this report may be disturbing.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: On the outskirts of Maiduguri, the men who protect the city fight with whatever they can find, 40-year-old shotguns and iPhone ear buds. Some carve their own clubs. Others patrol in floral and kitchen knives.

    What they lack in weaponry, they make up for in divinely inspired confidence.

    There’s a couple of shotguns. There’s a few machetes, a few knives, but that’s it.

    ABBA AJI KALLI, Civilian JTF: Yes.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: I mean, what would you actually be able to do if you ran into Boko Haram out here?

    MAN: We chased them out of Maiduguri with stick and we didn’t even have a gun, and when they have AK-47, they have RPG on their hand, but we pushed them out.

    ABBA AJI KALLI: God has put the fear of the Civilian JTF in their heart. Well done.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Fifty-one-year-old Abba Aji Kalli leads the Civilian JTF, for Joint Task Force. He used to be a government auditor. Today, he’s more comfortable on the front lines.

    If we kept walking this way, where would we end up?

    ABBA AJI KALLI: If we kept walking, we would end up in Sambisa.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In Sambisa forest, their headquarters?

    ABBA AJI KALLI: In the forest is the Boko Haram headquarters.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Down this road?

    ABBA AJI KALLI: Down this road.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: His men called call him elder. That’s him in dark gray on the left. He and his vigilantes round up suspects using their own brand of justice. Their biggest fear, boys and girls carrying bombs.

    ABBA AJI KALLI: They are using females to come and detonate their bomb attacks on us. So, if you see anybody, do not take chances.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Those bomb attacks are Boko Haram’s primary weapons. An intelligence official says the groups detonated more bombs in the last six months than the previous six years.

    So many of Boko Haram’s targets today are soft, like this mosque. A man walked in here pretty much to where I’m standing and blew himself up as a group prayed. The explosion was so powerful, it obliterated the mosque’s roof. More than three-quarters of the victims are Muslim. And these attacks are grisly.

    A few days after this one, and you can still smell the blood that stains the walls. Boko Haram celebrates its attacks in slick, ISIL-inspired propaganda. It pledged allegiance to ISIL and now calls itself the Islamic State of West Africa. They embrace ISIL’s brutality.

    Last year, the group captured Mubi and made the city its administrative capital. Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, preached from a local mosque. And his fighters celebrated in newly acquired Nigerian army tanks.

    YA’U SA’EED, Nigeria: Very, very dangerous for everyone, because if you can see the attacks, they have attacked mosques, they have attacked church, they have attacked Christians, they have attacked Muslims. They are very dangerous.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Ya’u Sa’eed could be the most courageous man in Mubi. When Boko Haram arrived, he filmed this video riding this motorcycle into the stronghold to rescue his mother.

    YA’U SA’EED: I called my mom. She said, they’re hearing the sound of gunshots everywhere, gunshots.

    NICK SHIFRIN: He witnessed an exodus, a city of 140,000 people fleeing by any means necessary. In total, more than two million people have fled Boko Haram since the fighting began.

    What did Nigerian army soldiers do when Boko Haram attacked?

    YA’U SA’EED: They do nothing. They not do nothing when they attacked Mubi. And that is nobody, not any single person have shot one single bullet.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But, today, the Nigerian military is firing back.

    It released this video showing Boko Haram fighters fleeing an air force attack. The military success has redrawn the map. At its peak, Boko Haram controlled an area the size of Belgium. Now it controls only three remote towns and a final stronghold, the Sambisa forest.

    Military spokesman Colonel Rabe Abubakar says this year the military’s been transformed.

    COL. RABE ABUBAKAR, Nigerian Defense Force: There has been tremendous change from what it used to be until now, morale of the troops, equipment, leadership. There will never be any territory that will fall back to Boko Haram’s insurgency. Never again.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Mubi might be recaptured, but the reconstruction has barely begun.

    Bridges bombed by Boko Haram are still broken. Street vendors use burned-out cars as fruit stands. Many banks are still destroyed and empty. Boko Haram looted the cash to finance itself.

    Inside, that red frame is all that’s left of the front door, those papers all that’s left of depositors’ accounts. Outside the nearby Church of the Brethren, the damage is everywhere.

    Inside, high above the podium, the fire set by Boko Haram almost erased the cross from the wall. Sixteen parishioners died.

    Elia Usman is the church’s secretary.

    ELIA USMAN, Church of the Brethren: When these people landed in Mubi, they would ask you, are you a Christian or a Muslim? When you say you are a Christian, they will shoot you. There’s not one single church left in Mubi. They bombed it.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But the streets are busy. And those who fled have returned, including Ya’u’s mother, Huraira Muhammad.

    Why do you feel safe here?

    HURAIRA MUHAMMAD, Nigeria: We are going to the market. We are keeping on with our lives. We are scared a bit, but life must go on.

    KASHIM SHETTIMA, Borno State Governor: We want everybody to go back to his or her village. We will provide all the arsenals at our disposal.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Borno Governor Kashim Shettima leads the state at the epicenter of this war. He vows to force all internally displaced people, or IDPs, to return home by May.

    KASHIM SHETTIMA: The population of Maiduguri has snowballed. And it a powder keg waiting to explode. So, I think it’s in our enlightened self-interest to expedite action in rebuilding the homes once they are back in their communities. At least their kids can go to school.

    Now we are really bringing up a whole generation of ignoramuses, of idiots, illiterates. All our schools are closed. All our schools have been converted into IDP camps.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: There is nowhere in the world with more children out of school. The IDP camps are overflowing with people and trauma.

    Hadiza is 17 years old. She was kidnapped by Boko Haram and held for nearly a year. In this war, the spoils of the battlefield are often girls.

    HADIZA, Nigeria: They came and said they wanted to marry me. I wanted to know who I was going to marry. I didn’t realize that the one I was going to marry was a member of Boko Haram. I didn’t know. By God, I didn’t know he was a member of Boko Haram.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Hadiza uses the word marriage only out of shame.

    This really isn’t marriage, is it?

    DR. GERIDA BIRUKILA, UNICEF: No, it’s rape.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: This woman is a UNICEF public health specialist based in Maiduguri.

    DR. GERIDA BIRUKILA: Some girls were raped by different men. So, we know that, in any religion or any culture, that is not marriage.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But for Hadiza and hundreds of other girls, the impact is permanent. She’s six months’ pregnant.

    And what will you tell your child about his or her father?

    HADIZA: I will — my son that when Boko Haram came, I met his dad. But I realized he wasn’t a good person.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: How traumatized are some of these girls?

    DR. GERIDA BIRUKILA: We have children who arrived, and they lost their voice because of what they saw. They saw the killings of their parents. They walked over dead bodies. Although now they are safe, it seems that the war still rages in their minds.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Boko Haram also kidnapped this boy. He is scared they will kill his family if he reveals his identity. I asked him his age. He didn’t know.

    BOY: They asked, where is your father? They asked, if we taught you our values, and you met with your father, would you kill him?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Boko Haram teachers tried to indoctrinate him. Had they succeeded, he would have ended up a suicide bomber, or like this teenager in a Boko Haram propaganda video.

    TEENAGER: Turning to Allah is not difficult. So come and follow his path.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Were you convinced by what you learned from Boko Haram’s teachers?

    BOY: I didn’t believe what they said. How can I believe them when they’re killing people?

    ROBERTSON: When he escaped, the military found him and accused him of being a militant. He says they left these marks on his arms.

    BOY: They tied up my arms with rope from a well.

    MAN: All of them, they are Boko Haram members.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The military has been accused of human rights abuses and indiscriminate arrests. This video is from 2013. All the people rounded up by soldiers were thrown into the most notorious facility in the area, the army’s Giwa barracks.

    What is it like inside of Giwa barracks?

    This woman insists she is not Boko Haram. She spent one year inside Giwa barracks and was never charged with anything.

    WOMAN: One of the female guards was terrible. She doled out perpetual beating and torture that leads to death.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The army spokesman didn’t deny her allegations of abuse.

    COL. RABE ABUBAKAR: It could be that, yes, there could be some isolated cases. But this has been, in this dispensation, in this president’s leadership, the emphasis is anybody, any uniformed man who manhandled a civilian anywhere either on the war front or anywhere, please report, and we will take appropriate action against that.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But it’s not clear that’s possible, when the victims say they’re threatened into silence.

    Were you told never to talk to anyone about what happened to you in Giwa barracks?

    WOMAN: They told us, keep your mouth shut. Don’t talk about anything you saw here.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Eventually, Nigeria will win the battle against Boko Haram, but the years of torture, rape, and kidnapping leave open wounds. The larger war won’t be won until those wounds are healed.

    Nick Schifrin, PBS NewsHour, Maiduguri, Nigeria.

    GWEN IFILL: And you can tune in tomorrow for Nick’s next report on “Nigeria: Pain and Promise,” this one about the nation’s status as the continent’s biggest economy.

    The post Civilians are caught in the middle of the war against Boko Haram appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama walks in the main conference hall during the opening ceremony of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015.    REUTERS/Stephane Mahe - RTX1WH5W

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    GWEN IFILL: The climate talks over the next two weeks are expected to become a turning point in the global debate over addressing the causes of a rapidly warming planet.

    The lofty speeches have already begun, but what do leaders gathering in Paris this week hope to accomplish? And what could get in the way?

    We check in with Seth Borenstein, a science writer for the Associated Press. He joins us tonight from Paris. And Michael Levi is with the Council on Foreign Relations. He’s the director of its Program on Energy, Security and Climate Change.

    Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

    Seth Borenstein, what are all these nations gathered in one place hoping to accomplish this time?

    SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press: Well, this time, they’re hoping to come up with some kind of deal, a binding deal that could reduce the amount of carbon emissions coming from fossil-burning fossil fuels. They have tried year after year, and have failed year after year in the past.

    GWEN IFILL: When you say binding, I just want you to clarify that. Do you mean binding on nations to hit certain targets, binding on nations to come up with certain amount of money? Binding in what way?

    SETH BORENSTEIN: That’s the key question.

    Everyone says they want something binding, but it’s sort of, what do you mean by binding? And that’s one of the issues that’s going to be hashed out here. It does involve lots of new money, billions of dollars, if not eventually trillions. It involves all these nations; 181 nations have made pledges: Here’s what we’re going to do individually.

    Now the binding part is holding them to these pledges, a system to monitor these pledges, and perhaps, if you’re not reaching these pledges, what do you do? And then it’s all got to be designed so that it doesn’t go through the U.S. Senate, because it can’t go through the U.S. Senate because of American politics.

    GWEN IFILL: And American politics means that that requires a two-thirds ratification in the U.S. Senate, and that’s unlikely to happen.

    I want to ask Michael Levi about what we have seen in the past. We have been to these meetings before in Cancun and in Rio and Kyoto and Copenhagen. Is this one any different?

    MICHAEL LEVI, Council on Foreign Relations: I think this one is different.

    I think it’s different because we’re starting to set realistic goals for what these summits can accomplish. We used to go to these expecting to take a global emissions cut that everyone needed to reach and negotiate over how to divide it up, then everyone would go home and execute that.

    It was kind of like old-style arms control negotiations. I would get rid of this many missiles. You would get rid of that many. We would go home, we would do it. It turns out that climate change isn’t like that. Leaders can agree to whatever they want, but actually changing the energy economy is incredibly difficult.

    And it’s a lot more like a domestic policy problem, a domestic politics problem than it is like a traditional foreign policy, national security issue.

    So, what’s different this time is that, instead of putting the burden on Paris to solve the problem, negotiators are asking, how can we build an international agreement that helps countries solve the problem themselves? How do we help them cut their emissions more deeply? How do we help them adapt to climate change?

    I think that makes this fundamentally different.

    GWEN IFILL: Would you say — Mr. Borenstein just talked about the money which has to be committed here. What would you say would be the potential major sticking point in the next 11 days?

    MICHAEL LEVI: I think the biggest sticking point is likely to be over money.

    When we saw the clash in Copenhagen six years ago, the ultimate turning point was over money. This is money that comes from wealthier countries to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, deal with the damages caused by climate change, and transition their energy economies.

    And it speaks to a basic political reality, which is, if you’re from a poor country and you go home from the climate summit, and you say, we have got some pledges, countries are going to take action in the next 10 years, and that’s going to help us avoid dangerous climate change in the next 50, your people are going to look at you and say, what does that mean to me today?

    If you come back with pledges of aid, in addition, then that’s a stronger political proposition. If you look at the basic politics of how this works, it leads you to money.

    GWEN IFILL: Seth Borenstein, we did hear, speaking of money, today we heard private sector giants with names like Gates and Bezos and Zuckerberg promise to make a commitment to a green energy fund. Does that change this in any way? Or is this something for the U.S. to trumpet?

    SETH BORENSTEIN: This is something quite a bit different than in previous years.

    You are seeing — and this has happened in the last couple of years, but it’s especially happening now — private industry money, business is — they’re stepping up and they’re probably doing more than many countries, and that’s helping.

    They’re seeing sort of the reality of the economics and climate change. And they’re saying, if we’re going to — if you’re going to do something, let us volunteer, instead of you impose, and let us help do something with technology.

    So, I mean, what you’re looking at is both technology and business are dramatically different than, let’s say, 1997 in Kyoto. Those are two of the biggest reasons why many people are optimistic this time, because the technology is so different, has improved so much, and your — and the business community, much of the business community is on board now.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Levi, I want to ask you about two countries, not the U.S., involved in kind of whether this will succeed or not.

    One is China and the other is India. How do you begin to take into concern their concerns or their desire to make this happen or stop it from happening?

    MICHAEL LEVI: Well, I think the China front, at least when it comes to the diplomacy, is relatively bright.

    The United States tried before the Copenhagen talks to get on the same page with China, but for the most part didn’t succeed, and the two countries clashed sharply at the Copenhagen summit. This time around, they seem to be considerably more successful. They had an announcement last year of mutual emissions-cutting targets.

    They had another this year that put them on a similar page for the Paris summit. Beijing is reacting to pressure at home to cut local pollution, and the desire from Xi Jinping to find an area where he can work constructively with the world’s biggest power in order to build a more positive story of great power relations in the 21st century.

    So, there, even though China has big challenges in actually cutting emissions, and so does the United States, the two have been able to get on a similar diplomatic pledge. They will clash a bit in public, but I think they have a script in private.

    I think India is tougher. India is a far poorer country than China. It is a country that is going through enormous transition. It’s impossible to predict what Indian emissions or Indian energy use will be in 10 years without policy, let alone to make promises about what will happen to them with policy.

    And India also guards its independence jealously. Even if it thinks it can cut emissions, it’s very wary of signing up on a deal to do that, a bit like a lot of people in the United States. So, you will find India is very sticky at these negotiations. It’s tough often to deal with. It won’t promise all that much.

    But on the ground, in practice, it’s likely to deliver considerably more.

    GWEN IFILL: Seth Borenstein, briefly on that, to that same point, especially on the India point.

    SETH BORENSTEIN: Well, actually, I think you can’t say enough about China. China is the — we will get back to India in a second, but China is the major player here.

    They’re the number one carbon polluter by far. And the difference between now and Copenhagen is just night and day. They are trying to be leaders in all sorts of things, especially in solar technology. So they are one the reasons why there are so many people optimistic.

    India is the reason why there are some people who are still afraid things might fall apart, because India is one of these countries that still wants to talk about the rich-poor divide. There are a lot of poorer countries that continue the discussion of developed vs. developing world, and that helped cause problems in Copenhagen. And they’re worried that this might crop up now. And we’re hearing little glimmers of that here and there now.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, we will be watching all this very closely…

    GWEN IFILL: … as I’m sure you will too.

    Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press and Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations, thank you both.

    MICHAEL LEVI: Thank you.

    SETH BORENSTEIN: My pleasure.

    The post How Paris is different from past climate change negotiations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A man uses his mobile phone to take pictures of the financial area of Pudong New District (rear) on a smoggy day in Shanghai, China, November 30, 2015. Heavy smog and thick fog engulfed many parts of northern and eastern China on Monday, local media reported. REUTERS/Stringer CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1WF9W

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    GWEN IFILL: And in the day’s other news, even as the climate conference convened, a choking smog filled the air in Chinese cities, prompting hazardous pollution warnings. Beijing had its worst air quality of the year, and officials ordered an orange alert, the second-highest level.

    Schools suspended outdoor activities, while factories had to cut back on output.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): The smog is a very serious problem. In my opinion, this is the consequence of having too many cars. There should be more measures to fight this.

    MAN (through interpreter): I have installed air filters at home. When I leave home, I put on a mask. And, in my car, I also installed an air purifying system.

    GWEN IFILL: And in India, heavy smog also blanketed New Delhi, cutting visibility to a mere 200 yards. Air quality in the Indian capital routinely gets worse in the winter, when more coal fires are burning.

    Investigators in Colorado shed no light today on the case against Robert Lewis Dear. He’s accused of killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic. There was no discussion of motive as Dear had his first court appearance, via video link from jail. He’s being held on suspicion of murder.

    In Baltimore, jury selection began for the first of six police officers charged in the Freddie Gray case. He died in police custody last April, triggering protests and riots. Officer William Porter is charged with assault, manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

    And a judge in Chicago set bond at $1.5 million for a white officer charged with murdering a black teenager. Squad car video showed Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting the victim, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. Release of that video led to days of protests.

    In Israel, a judge has convicted two Jewish teenagers of beating and burning alive a Palestinian teen last year. The attack in Jerusalem was part of a chain of events leading to the Gaza war. The judge today delayed a verdict for the alleged ringleader of the killings after he filed a last-minute insanity plea.

    But the victim’s father vowed to pursue justice.

    HUSSEIN ABU KHDEIR, Victim’s Father (through interpreter): I don’t trust those Israeli courts because they rule differently for Arabs and Israelis. We will pursue them. If the Israeli court won’t try them, we want something more than a life sentence. We will go to the International Court of Justice.

    GWEN IFILL: The two convicted minors are expected to be sentenced in mid-January.

    Pope Francis spent the final day of his Africa trip in the Central African Republic delivering a message of peace and reconciliation. The pontiff visited Muslims in the capital city, where conflict between Muslim and Christian militias has raged in recent years. He said religion can never justify violence.

    Turkey refused today to apologize for shooting down a Russian fighter jet last week, despite the threat of new sanctions by Moscow. In Brussels, the Turkish prime minister met with NATO officials and said again his country’s actions were justified.

    AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Prime Minister, Turkey: If the Russian side wants to talk, and wants to prevent any future unintentional events like this, we are ready to talk anything. If they want to improve relations, normalize relations in all sense, we are ready to talk. But no country can ask us to apologize because of doing our job.

    GWEN IFILL: In Paris, Russian President Vladimir Putin charged that Turkey’s real motive was protecting oil supplies coming from Islamic State forces inside Syria. In Washington, the State Department urged both sides to de-escalate tensions.

    Back in this country, the Environmental Protection Agency is requiring more ethanol and other renewable fuels in gasoline next year. The rule issued today is a victory for farm states over oil companies and environmentalists. It could also become an issue in Iowa’s presidential caucuses.

    And concerns about holiday spending weighed on Wall Street, after Black Friday sales fell from last year. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 78 points to close below 17720. The Nasdaq fell nearly 19 points. And the S&P 500 slipped nine.

    The post News Wrap: Heavy smog blankets Chinese cities, New Delhi appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama (L) sits with French President Francois Hollande (R) during a dinner with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2ndR), French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal (3rdR)  and French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius (2ndL) at the Ambroisie restaurant in Paris, France, November 30, 2015. Obama is in France for a two-day visit as part of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21).   REUTERS/Thibault Camus/Pool  - RTX1WKF3

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    GWEN IFILL: The place is Paris. The subject is global warming. The goal is the strongest agreement yet to rein in rising temperatures. What could be difficult talks on the issue began today.

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): On this first day of the conference, we have our backs against the wall.

    GWEN IFILL: The summit opened with a warning from its host, French President Francois Hollande.

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE (through interpreter): This wall is built on all our egoisms, our fears, our resignations. This wall is built on indifference, recklessness, and weakness. But this wall can be scaled and it all depends on us.

    GWEN IFILL: In all, 151 heads of state and government converged on the French capital. They’re hoping to finalize an accord on reducing heat-trapping emissions of greenhouse gases.

    But the Paris attacks loomed in the background, as President Hollande argued the problems of climate and security are linked.

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE (through interpreter): They’re two big world challenges that we have to overcome, because we have to leave our children something more than a world free of terror. We owe them a planet preserved from catastrophe.

    GWEN IFILL: To underscore the point, after arriving last night, President Obama paid a visit to the Bataclan concert hall, one of the sites of the attacks. Today, he was among the first to speak, and he spoke hopefully of a turning point on more than just climate.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let that be the common purpose here in Paris, a world that is worthy of our children, a world that is marked not by conflict, but by cooperation, and not by human suffering, but by human progress, a world that’s safer and more prosperous and more secure and more free than the one that we inherited.

    GWEN IFILL: A similar effort collapsed in Copenhagen six years ago, but, this time, many countries committed to action in advance.

    Last year, Mr. Obama pledged to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade. And China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas producer, has said it will slash emissions by at least 60 percent by 2030.

    For any deal to be meaningful, India, the world’s third largest emitter, would have to make solid cuts as well. But Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today developing nations need room to grow.

    NARENDRA MODI, Prime Minister, India: We have to ensure, in the spirit of climate justice, that the life of a few doesn’t cloud out the opportunities for the many still on the initial steps of the development ladder.

    GWEN IFILL: Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at the summit, echoed that concern and called for addressing economic differences.

    PRESIDENT XI JINPING, China (through interpreter): Countries need to increase dialogue, exchange best practices and achieve common development through mutual learning. At the same time, countries should be allowed to pursue their own solutions that best suit their respective national conditions.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. joined Canada, Germany, Italy and others today in committing $250 million for poorer nations.

    President Obama also announced a private sector initiative led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other billionaires to boost investment in clean energy.

    Still, any broad agreement in Paris will not take the form of a legally enforceable treaty.

    But German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for transparent, credible commitments.

    ANGELA MERKEL, Chancellor, Germany (through interpreter): We need a United Nations framework that is binding, and we need binding reviews. We know that the agreements are made voluntary, but it’s also important that we also stick to what we have promised.

    GWEN IFILL: The Paris conference is set to run through December 11.

    We will explore what’s at stake in Paris in detail after the news summary.

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    The Supreme Court is in today, starting a new term of cases that address several wrenching social issues and policy disputes, such as affirmative action, abortion, immigration and Obamacare. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    The Supreme Court is in today, starting a new term of cases that address several wrenching social issues and policy disputes, such as affirmative action, abortion, immigration and Obamacare. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s lineup of new cases is fit for an election year.

    Affirmative action, abortion and another look at the Obama health care law all are before the court, and they could well be joined by immigration, giving the justices a run of cases that reads like a campaign platform.

    Also coming; disputes involving public-sector labor unions, the death penalty and the way electoral districts are drawn.

    Decisions in these high-profile cases almost certainly will split the court along ideological lines, mirroring the country’s stark partisan split. What’s more, the most contentious issues won’t be resolved until late June, barely four months before the 2016 presidential election.

    What started as a somewhat sleepy term — especially following major decisions last June on health care and same-sex marriage — has become much more interesting, says University of Pennsylvania law dean Theodore Ruger.

    “This is a court that remains very assertive in its role in declaring what the law is,” Ruger said.

    The accumulation of wrenching social issues and pointed policy disputes at the Supreme Court at this moment is mostly a matter of chance. A legal fight over the regulation of abortion clinics in Texas has been underway for two and a half years. President Barack Obama’s plan to shield from deportation millions of immigrants who are living in the country illegally was rolled out a year ago and almost immediately challenged in court. Faith-based groups that say they are forced to be complicit in providing objectionable birth control to women covered under their health plans have been challenging the Obama administration for more than three years.

    It is still is possible the immigration dispute will not be heard until next fall, if at all.

    Now that the cases are at the marble courthouse atop Capitol Hill, the justices’ decisions could feed campaign rhetoric that already has been heated on abortion and immigration, to name just two issues.

    In June 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts provided the decisive vote that saved Obama’s health care overhaul in the midst of the president’s campaign for re-election.

    A short time later, Republican candidate Mitt Romney proclaimed that as president he would do what the high court failed to do that June — get rid of the health care law. Obama won re-election, and the law survived.

    Ruger said the chief justice wrote a nuanced opinion that appeared to show some sensitivity to the looming election.

    “I think Roberts recognized this was going to be an issue in front of the voters,” Ruger said. The electorate ultimately would decide the health care law’s fate, he said.

    Court decisions close to an election, especially when they produce big changes in the law, also can increase attention paid to those issues.

    This is part of what Texas A&M University political scientist Joseph Ura called the court’s agenda-setting effect. Ura pointed to Brown v. Board of Education’s outlawing of racial segregation in public schools and Lawrence v. Texas’ ban on state anti-sodomy laws as examples of past decisions that altered “the existing arrangement of material or symbolic benefits in our political system.” Researchers found that those decisions “led to a large, sustained increase in the media’s attention” to those issues, Ura said.

    Last term’s big rulings on health care and same-sex marriage already have prompted criticism of the court, and of Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy in particular, from several Republican presidential candidates. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for example, has said that putting Roberts on the court was a mistake, even though Cruz endorsed his nomination in 2005.

    The court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United that led to a flood of what critics call “dark money” in political campaigns remains controversial, and Democratic candidates have pledged to try to undo it.

    The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that established a woman’s right to an abortion produced a backlash that eventually showed up in election returns, said Sara Benesh, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “A lot of scholars say (President Ronald) Reagan got elected because of Roe v. Wade. Pro-life forces really got him moving in his campaign,” Benesh said. With four justices in their late 70s or early 80s, and the court so closely and fiercely divided, any appointment could dramatically change the court’s direction.

    But there is little evidence that the court itself will become an issue in the campaign, except perhaps on the margins, she said.

    The court and the justices are little known to the public. “It seems to me a long, drawn-out relationship between any decision the court might make and any decision an individual might make in the voting booth,” Benesh said.

    Every four years, interest groups across the political spectrum try to make that connection for voters. Elections matter, they say, because the winner may get to choose justices who will serve for the next quarter century or longer.

    Indeed, with four justices in their late 70s or early 80s, and the court so closely and fiercely divided, any appointment could dramatically change the court’s direction.

    The post Supreme Court’s new lineup rich in high-profile cases appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference at the conclusion of his visit to Paris, France on Dec. 1, 2015. Obama was in Paris to attend the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21). Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference at the conclusion of his visit to Paris, France on Dec. 1, 2015. Obama was in Paris to attend the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21). Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    PARIS — President Barack Obama expressed optimism Tuesday that Russia will ultimately come around on the need for Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power to end his country’s long civil war, but warned the turnaround would not come overnight.

    Discussing the Syria crisis with world leaders in Paris, Obama also urged Turkey and Russia to set aside recent tensions that have undermined his efforts to strengthen the U.S.-led coalition fighting defeating the Islamic State group. Instead, he asked the two countries to focus on IS as a common enemy and on reaching a political solution for Syria.

    Obama’s remarks on the sidelines of global climate talks came as the U.S. continues to press Russia to focus its airstrikes in Syria against IS, rather than on U.S.-backed rebel groups fighting Assad. Obama said it was possible over the coming months that Russia would undergo a “shift in calculations” and back away from its support for Assad.

    “I don’t expect that you’re going to see a 180-degree turn on their strategy over the next several weeks,” Obama said. “They have invested for years now in keeping Assad in power. Their presence there is predicated on propping him up. That’s going to take some time for them to change how they think about the issue.”

    Obama said he expects that diplomatic negotiations in Vienna to pursue a political solution to Syria’s civil war will move forward at the same time that the U.S.-led coalition applies greater pressure to defeat IS. Still, he conceded the extremist threat that has wrought fear across the Middle East and the West would not be eliminated in the short term.

    “ISIL is going to continue to be a deadly organization because of its social media, the resources it has and the networks of experienced fighters that it possesses,” Obama said, using one of several acronyms for the extremist group. “It’s going to continue to be a serious threat for some time to come.”

    Concerns about IS have overshadowed Obama’s two-day trip to Paris, where IS-linked attacks killed 130 people last month in the run-up to the climate negotiations. Obama had sought to turn the outrage over the Paris attacks and the group’s shoot-down of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt into new resolve for stepping up the fight against IS.

    Yet those hopes have been dampened by the spiraling diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Russia, sparked late last month when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane it said had violated its airspace along the border with Syria. The U.S. sees both Russia and Turkey as critical to resolving the Syria crisis.


    Aiming to head off a rift between the two major Mideast players, Obama urged both to “de-escalate” their conflict and not get distracted from the campaign against IS. Yet in a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Obama also vouched for the NATO ally’s right to self-defense, and he pledged a solid U.S. commitment “to Turkey’s security and its sovereignty.”

    “We all have a common enemy. That is ISIL,” Obama said. “I want to make sure that we focus on that threat.”

    Sitting down with Erdogan on the sidelines of climate talks, Obama said the U.S. was very interested in accelerating its military relationship with Turkey. He also praised Turkey for generously accepting refugees fleeing violence in Syria, and credited Turkey with strengthening security along its border.

    Turkey, too, hopes to avoid tensions with Russia, Erdogan told reporters as he and Obama finished their roughly hour-long meeting. Waxing optimistic about a new diplomatic effort in Vienna aimed at a cease-fire in Syria’s civil war, Erdogan said he hoped it would result in “sigh of relief for the entire region.” The U.S., Russia and Turkey are all taking part in those talks.

    “As the coalition forces, we are determined to keep up the fight against ISIS, and ISIS forces on the ground,” Erdogan said through a translator.

    Yet in a fresh reminder of strains with Moscow, Erdogan repeated his denouncement of Russian airstrikes in Syria’s Turkmen region. He said more than 500 civilians had been killed recently in an area where he said Islamic State fighters are not operating.

    “They are Turkish descendants,” Erdogan said. “That area is continuously bombed.”


    Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.

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    Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) speaks to the media after attending a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry on April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. In his re-election bid, the senator released a new ad Tuesday that attacks his top Democratic rival for supporting more Syrian refugees in the U.S. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) speaks to the media after attending a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry on April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. In his re-election bid, the senator released a new ad Tuesday that attacks his top Democratic rival for supporting more Syrian refugees in the U.S. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — A Republican senator in a tough re-election race is attacking his top Democratic rival for supporting more Syrian refugees in the U.S., marking the issue’s first appearance in Senate campaign advertising.

    In the ad released Tuesday, GOP Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois harshly criticizes Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth for voicing support for allowing as many as 200,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

    “ISIS disguised as Syrian refugees attack Paris. Next target? The U.S.,” the ad says.

    “Mark Kirk opposes more Syrian refugees until it can be done safely. For your family’s safety: Who do you trust?”

    The Kirk campaign said about $180,000 is being spent to air the ad on TV, a relatively tiny sum. But his focus on the issue highlights the Republican view that it can be a vulnerability for Democrats, especially those like Duckworth who opposed recent GOP legislation cracking down on the refugee program.

    Video by Mark Kirk

    The ad’s claims are exaggerated. The Paris perpetrators were mostly French and Belgian nationals, although there was a Syrian passport found near one of their bodies. Authorities have suggested the passport was an Islamic State plant to sow fear of refugees.

    Duckworth, a military veteran, has been outspoken about the need to show compassion to refugees, many of whom are women and young children themselves victimized by the Islamic State.

    Her spokesman, Matt McGrath, said Kirk’s ad “appeals exclusively to fear and the lowest common denominator. He should be ashamed.”

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    An automated machine works on purification of potential hepatitis C virus drug candidate at the Gilead Sciences Inc. lab in Foster City, California on Feb. 8, 2012. A new report from the Senate Finance Committee concluded that Gilead Sciences focused on maximizing revenue, although the company’s own analysis showed a lower price would allow more patients to be treated. Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    An automated machine works on purification of potential hepatitis C virus drug candidate at the Gilead Sciences Inc. lab in Foster City, California on Feb. 8, 2012. A new report from the Senate Finance Committee concluded that Gilead Sciences focused on maximizing revenue, although the company’s own analysis showed a lower price would allow more patients to be treated. Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The makers of a breakthrough drug for hepatitis C put profits before patients in pricing the $1,000 pill that cures the liver-wasting disease, Senate investigators said Tuesday.

    A bipartisan report from the Senate Finance Committee concluded that California-based Gilead Sciences was focused on maximizing revenue even as the company’s own analysis showed a lower price would allow more patients to be treated. There was no immediate response from Gilead.

    The company’s first breakthrough pill was called Sovaldi; priced at $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a full course of treatment. Gilead has since introduced a more expensive next-generation pill called Harvoni, which is highly effective and simpler for patients to take. That one is priced at $94,500 for a course of treatment.

    Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said their 18-month investigation found that the high price tag significantly limited patient access and heaped huge costs on federal and state health care programs. At least 27 state Medicaid programs restricted Sovaldi’s use for only the sickest patients.

    Although professional medical societies recommend the Gilead drugs as first-line treatments for anyone with hepatitis C infection, the Senate report found that the high cost resulted in less than 3 percent of the potentially eligible Medicaid beneficiaries getting treatment in 2014. Medicaid is the federal-state health program for low-income people.

    Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects some 3 million people in the U.S. and claims more lives here than AIDS. More than three out of four infected adults are baby boomers, the age group now entering Medicare. The government estimates that program will spend more than $9 billion this year on drugs for hepatitis C.

    Patients say the disease feels like a bad flu that never goes away. While the disease advances gradually, it can ultimately destroy the liver, requiring a transplant to save the patient’s life. The virus is primarily spread by contact with infected blood.

    The price of drugs is the public’s top health care concern in opinion polls, and the 2016 presidential candidates are increasingly paying attention. Wyden and Grassley said it’s an issue the Senate must grapple with.

    The pharmaceutical industry says the high price of new drugs reflects the cost of research and development. Gilead, in earlier efforts to explain its pricing for Sovaldi, said it compared favorably on a “cost per cure” basis with older drugs that were much less effective.

    The cost pressure from hepatitis drugs on private insurers and government programs is expected to ease as competitor drugs gain a footing in the market. However, Grassley and Wyden said the same sort of cost crisis is likely to arise with other new medications.

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    A week after a video of a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times was released to the public, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the city’s police chief Tuesday.

    Emanuel said he formally asked for the resignation of police of Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Tuesday over the department’s handling of the Oct. 14, 2014, fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Officer Jason Van Dyke faces a first-degree murder charge.

    In a news conference Tuesday, Emanuel told reporters that he talked with McCarthy, 56, about the direction of the department and the “undeniable fact that the public trust and the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded.”

    Emanuel said following McCarthy’s dismissal, the city will work with a new task force that has been created to improve oversight and accountability of the Chicago Police Department. Chicago native and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will be a senior adviser on the Task Force on Police Accountability panel and will include previous members of the Chicago Police Board.

    Emanuel told reporters that McDonald’s death, which sparked peaceful protests over excessive police force, “requires more than just words.”

    Emanuel hired McCarthy in 2011. In an editorial published earlier today, the Chicago Sun-Times had called for McCarthy’s ouster.

    “McCarthy’s resignation is an essential first step for a city that must pursue new strategies to curtail gun violence and reform an unhealthy police culture of weak accountability. McCarthy has been superintendent for four years — longer than all but one of his predecessors. He has played his hand. It is time Mayor Emanuel brought in somebody new.

    The Sun-Times also said there have been previous calls for McCarthy’s dismissal, specifically from Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus who have criticized the former police chief’s lack of transparency amid a rise in gun violence in the city.

    First Deputy Supt. John Escalante will be the acting superintendent.

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    WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01:  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. (R) and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter testify before the House Armed Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. Carter and Dunford testified about the U.S. strategy to combat the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria and Iraq and its implications for the greater Middle East.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., right, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter testify before the House Armed Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill Dec. 1, 2015, in Washington, D.C. Carter and Dunford testified about the U.S. strategy to combat the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and its implications for the greater Middle East. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. is expanding its special operations force in Iraq and Syria to help fight Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday.

    The additional troops will help Iraqi and Kurdish forces battling IS. Carter told the House Armed Services Committee that over time, these special operators will be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture Islamic State leaders. Carter said that will improve intelligence and generate more targets for attacks.

    Carter did not offer troop numbers amid a growing call from some Republicans for more U.S. boots on the ground and a divide among war-weary Americans about the prospect of greater military involvement. Carter also didn’t say where the troops would be based.

    “The raids in Iraq will be done at the invitation of the Iraqi government and focused on defending its borders and building the Iraqi security force’s own capacity,” Carter said. “This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria.”

    There currently are about 3,500 U.S. troops in Iraq, and President Barack Obama had previously announced he was sending fewer than 50 special operations forces to Syria.

    Carter said the U.S. also is expanding attacks on the militants’ infrastructure and their sources of revenue, particularly from oil.

    “Over the past several weeks, because of improved intelligence and understanding of ISIL’s operations, we’ve intensified the air campaign against ISIL’s war-sustaining oil enterprise, a critical pillar of ISIL’s financial infrastructure,” Carter said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. “In addition to destroying fixed facilities like wells and processing facilities, we’ve destroyed nearly 400 of ISIL’s oil tanker trucks, reducing a major source of its daily revenues. There’s more to come, too.”

    Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified alongside Carter, saying that in the past month or so, attacks on IS have disrupted 43 percent of its revenue stream.

    In a later exchange with Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., Carter elaborated on the prospect of using the expanded special operations force in Iraq to conduct raids inside Syria.

    “This is an important capability because it takes advantage of what we’re good at,” Carter said. “We’re good at intelligence, we’re good at mobility, we’re good at surprise. We have the long reach that no one else has. And it puts everybody on notice in Syria. You don’t know at night who’s going to be coming in the window. And that’s the sensation that we want all of ISIL’s leadership and followers to have.”


    AP National Security writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.

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    SAN ANSELMO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Antiretroviral pills Truvada sit on a tray at Jack's Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men who took the daily antiretroviral pill Truvada significantly reduced their risk of contracting HIV.  (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    Antiretroviral pills Truvada sit on a tray at Jack’s Pharmacy on Nov. 23, 2010, in San Anselmo, California. Research has shown that men who took the daily antiretroviral pill Truvada significantly reduced their risk of contracting HIV. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Prudential Financial Inc., one of the nation’s largest life insurers, plans to announce this week that it will offer traditional individual policies to eligible people living with HIV, a condition that for decades has excluded most of them from any but the skimpiest of coverage, company officials said.

    It is the first such offering to be publicly announced by a major American insurer, and it signals a growing recognition that HIV/AIDS has evolved from a death sentence into a chronic but manageable disease, HIV advocates and insurance agents said.

    The coverage, in the form of convertible 10- or 15-year term life insurance policies, will be available to people who are HIV-positive but otherwise healthy, according to the insurer.  “Convertible” term policies can be converted to permanent policies covering an entire life.

    The insurer provided no further details Monday on eligibility criteria or the pricing of policies, although some insurance agents said coverage would likely be higher than for completely healthy people.

    “With advances in the successful treatment of people with HIV, we are now able to offer this population the opportunity to apply for life insurance – a milestone we see as a significant step in the right direction,” said Mike McFarland, vice president, underwriting for Prudential Individual Life Insurance, in a prepared statement.

    As World AIDS Day is observed Tuesday, more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. An estimated 50,000 are newly diagnosed with the virus each year.

    Life expectancies for HIV-positive people now are rising to the point that some American and Canadian patients diagnosed at a young age can live into their 70s. But no cure exists for the disease, which requires access and adherence to medication.  And the longer that HIV/AIDS patients live, the more they are at risk for developing other conditions, including cancer, osteoporosis, and heart, liver and kidney disease.

    The life insurance industry routinely covers people with other chronic diseases, including cancer and Hepatitis C, although at a higher price than for healthy applicants. But HIV-positive people typically cannot buy individual life insurance policies, beyond minimal coverage, at any price, insurance agents said.

    People with HIV/AIDS can’t legally be excluded from the “guaranteed issue” group life insurance policies offered by some employers, but those policies typically don’t pay out more than $50,000. A positive HIV test remains cause for automatic denial of higher-value individual term life insurance policies that require a medical review, agents said. That’s true even if the applicant has an undetectable viral load.

    “We have not yet seen the terms of the life insurance product being offered … but it seems like a fantastic development for people living with HIV in need of term life insurance,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project National Director of Lambda Legal, an organization that works to protect the rights of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS community.

    “Finally, an insurance company has realized that this is the right thing to do and that it is profitable from a business perspective to offer this product to people living with HIV.  Now that there is one company out there doing this, it will encourage others to do the same when they see that there is money to be made in this market,” Schoettes said.

    In offering the new coverage, Prudential has partnered with ÆQUALIS, a financial services startup serving HIV-positive people,  which has researched medical underwriting, life expectancy and other data on HIV/AIDS and has been key to developing the product. The startup will provide information to consumers and insurance agents as well as manage the application process for Prudential.

    In its research, ÆQUALIS co-founder Bill Grant said, the company used data from “viaticals” – insurance policies sold for their cash value by people after their HIV diagnosis – to plot new mortality curves. Many of those sold policies haven’t generated income for the buyers because the patients survived much longer than expected. That analysis was convincing to Prudential and to a German re-insurer that will accept some of the financial risk of insuring HIV-positive patients, Grant said.

    “There’s been just enough history to project long enough into the future to get started on this path,” Grant said.

    Grant said he started the company with business partner Andrew Terrell to address inequities in coverage and to help change the national conversation about HIV/AIDS. He and insurance agents noted that life insurance often is necessary not just to protect loved ones but also for certain business transactions or to adopt children. Grant said he only learned that his brother was HIV-positive when he was denied life insurance coverage that the two brothers needed to complete a business deal.

    The tabloid media coverage surrounding actor Charlie Sheen’s recent disclosure that he is HIV-positive – emphasizing his long-kept “secret” — “is an incredible reminder that this stigma still exists,” he said.

    Before now, some insurance companies have quietly experimented with underwriting policies for HIV-positive clients, but the criteria have been tough to meet. Potential buyers had to be on aggressive antiretroviral treatment since diagnosis, confirm that their viral loads were undetectable and meet certain CD4 lymphocyte (T cell) counts, in addition to meeting age and other health requirements, according to insurance agents who had sought the coverage.

    Aaron Baldwin,  a San Francisco insurance agent who is open about being HV-positive and specializes in financial planning for people with HIV,  said that he provided health and financial information on 20 HIV-positive prospects in good health to one such company, Lincoln Financial Group. All were rejected, he said.

    Ed Hinerman, an independent insurance agent in Nathrop, Colorado, said he also sent Lincoln a HIV-positive client whom he believed met the company’s stringent criteria. “The denial came within hours,” Hinerman said.

    Asked to comment, a Lincoln Financial Group spokesman said he could not speak to the agents’ experiences and added that the company did not currently have a specific underwriting program for HIV-positive people.

    Baldwin acknowledged, however, that medical underwriting is complex, and data are lacking on the long-term effects of HIV/AIDS drugs. Underwriters may not understand the subtleties of HIV/AIDS treatment research, he said.

    For example, a patient may temporarily stop HIV/AIDS medications to participate in a study on “structured treatment breaks” to reduce side effects, Baldwin said. An underwriter might see that as noncompliance. Or an underwriter might note an applicant taking an HIV medication and not understand that it’s for prevention, not treatment, Baldwin said.

    “For an underwriter, it’s probably a hot mess,” Baldwin said.

    Baldwin said the Prudential/ÆQUALIS initiative “represents new hope” for his clients – and himself.

    He is particularly looking forward to obtaining a life insurance policy for one of his clients, a young HIV-positive man whose parents had co-signed on a new round of loans for his medical school education, unaware of his diagnosis. The young man wanted to buy a life insurance policy to protect his parents from that debt if he died.

    “The new offerings will continue to open doors and allow HIV-positive people to protect their loved ones, their families and their businesses,” Baldwin said.

    The post Major insurer will offer individual life insurance coverage to people with HIV appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video produced by Kaysie Ellingson and Hanna Craig.

    Tim Lescher spends most of his day with wild animals. As a zookeeper at the Alaska Zoo, Lescher is responsible for taking care of the zoo’s gray wolves, which he said plays a role in educating the public on a species that has often been misunderstood.

    “The important thing of wolves being here at the Alaska Zoo is to allow the public to see wolves similar to the way they truly exist, not as we’ve perpetuated them in popular culture,” Lescher said.

    Wolves, are pack animals with a strong social hierarchy, and each have their own individual personalities, Lescher said. They can also form a strong connection with humans, he said. “They’re very social animals — they’re not just social between the wolves themselves, but between the wolves and the humans, there’s a very strong bond and strong connection,” he said.

    One group of wolves at the zoo came from a region under Alaska’s predator control rules, which are enforced to reduce the population of predators like bears and wolves. At the zoo, Lescher said it is important to keep wolves’ predator status in mind as he cares for them. “You do have to remind yourself, almost on a daily or weekly basis, that they are wild animals and they’re not pets,” Lescher said.

    Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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    Dan Shears, from the Mohawk nation, sits in a nush wetu, a bark covered long house, in the Wampanoag homesite at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts November 24, 2014.  Plimouth Plantation is a living museum portraying the life of the Native Americans and the English colonists in 1627, seven years after the colonists' arrival.  The three-day harvest festival and feast at the Plimoth Colony in 1621 is the model for the modern-day Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, according to the museum.          REUTERS/Brian Snyder    (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY TRAVEL) - RTR4FDZ2

    Dan Shears, from the Mohawk nation, sits in a nush wetu, a bark covered long house, in the Wampanoag homesite at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Plimoth Plantation is a living museum portraying the life of the Native Americans and the English colonists in 1627, seven years after the colonists’ arrival. Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder

    Editor’s Note: For PBS NewsHour’s latest Making Sen$e segment, Paul Solman traveled to Plimoth Plantation, a recreation of the pilgrims’ 17th century settlement in New Plymouth, to report on the vital role economics played in the pilgrims’ journey to America. There, he spoke with Darius Coombs, the associate director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program, about trade among the Native Americans and the pilgrims.

    In 17th century New Plymouth, the pilgrims’ trade with the Natives focused on the three F’s: fur (beaver and otter pelts), fish and forests (wood, that is). The pilgrims would send these goods back to forest-barren England to repay their debts. The following conversation between Solman and Coombs has been edited and condensed for clarity and length. Watch the full segment at the bottom of the piece.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    Paul Solman: It seems as if many of the colonists came for what we now call the American Dream. Did the Native Americans understand that? Did they know what to make of it?

    Darius Coombs: Not at first. When the colonists arrived in 1620, they had a different way of thinking about living. We had European traders coming over here at least a hundred years before — we had Dutch, English and French — but they came and went. They came, did their trade and left. They didn’t care a whole lot about the land. But when the colonists got here, they did.

    Paul Solman: But the Native Americans understood the notion of trading, profit and business?

    Darius Coombs: Well, we had friendly trade going on. We had trade going on with what is now known as Canada among our own people, as far south as the Carolinas and as far west as the Great Lakes. We got metal and copper from around the Great Lakes. We had trade routes going up there. Now, did we need it for a living? No, it just added to the culture.

    Paul Solman: Was there a sense of becoming rich in the Native American culture?

    Darius Coombs: No, I don’t see that all that much in our way of thinking. You are rich by just being alive, by being part of the land and being part of the surroundings. You had your so-called royal families like all countries around the world, and normally you are born into leadership. Normally the leadership would be passed on from father to son, so the son would become chief. But you are born into your surroundings, and you have respect and enjoy your surroundings.

    Paul Solman: What were the main items you traded with the colonists?

    Darius Coombs: From us, they wanted a lot of otter pelts and beaver pelts. The thing about beaver and otter that make them different from deerskin is that all animals have these long hairs up here. But if you go by the felt, by the skin actually, they have fluffy stuff. That is what we call the felt. And that is what the Europeans wanted. This is what they made their hats out of over in Europe.

    coombs

    Darius Coombs, the associate director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program, shows economics correspondent Paul Solman the beaver pelt that Native Americans would trade with the pilgrims. The Europeans would make hats out of the beaver pelts.

    A lot of the beavers were decimated in Europe, so that’s why they were coming over here to get it. A brand new beaver pelt has long hair, so the Europeans would pluck the long hair to get down to the pelt. They would rather have a worn out beaver skin with the long hair missing already, because then they wouldn’t have to pluck the long hairs out to get down to the felt. A Wampanoag person wouldn’t have any use for it anymore, because without long hair, it wouldn’t, say, keep a baby warm.

    But a native person might want, say, a broken brass kettle with a hole in it or they might want a European hatchet head. So you are getting something from one culture that you then fit in to your own culture. So each side is probably getting the better part of the deal.

    Paul Solman: That’s how all trade works!

    [Watch Video]

    The post How Europe’s insatiable thirst for beaver hats drove trade between the Native Americans and colonists appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Syrian refugee embraces his son after their overcrowded raft landed at a rocky beach in the Greek island of Lesbos, November 19, 2015. Balkan countries have begun filtering the flow of migrants to Europe, granting passage to those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan but turning back others from Africa and Asia, the United Nations and Reuters witnesses said on Thursday. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis - RTS7Z74

    A Syrian refugee embraces his son after their overcrowded raft landed at a rocky beach in the Greek island of Lesbos, November 19, 2015. Balkan countries have begun filtering the flow of migrants to Europe, granting passage to those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan but turning back others from Africa and Asia, the United Nations and Reuters witnesses said on Thursday. Photo by Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Former top national security officials in Republican and Democratic administrations on Tuesday urged Congress to continue allowing the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States.

    “Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism,” the 19 retired military, security experts and others wrote in a letter sent to all lawmakers. “Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the ISIS caliphate is their true home.”

    ISIS is one of the acronyms for Islamic State militants.

    Among those signing the letter are former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and Madeleine Albright. Retired Gen. David Petraeus also signed the letter, as did former Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff and onetime Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel.

    Last month, the House voted overwhelmingly to erect high hurdles for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to come to the United States in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris. The bill would require new FBI background checks and individual sign-offs from three high-ranking U.S. officials before any refugee could come to the U.S. from Iraq or Syria, where the Islamic State group that has claimed credit for the attacks has flourished.

    The administration, which has announced plans to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in addition to the 2,500 who have settled here since 2011, says it already takes around 18-24 months on average for them to make it into this country. They must pass a battery of screening requirements including interviews overseas, fingerprinting and biometric investigations. Many are women and children and only about 2 percent are single men of combat age.

    Republicans have called for a pause in the system, a reflection of their constituents’ anxiety. Forty-seven House Democrats broke with President Barack Obama and backed the legislation.

    The bipartisan group of former officials said they opposed the legislation, arguing that the vetting of refugees is robust and thorough.

    “Given the stringent measures in place, we are especially concerned by proposals that would derail or further delay the resettlement of Iraqis who risked their lives to work with the U.S. military and other U.S. organizations,” the letter said.

    The legislation is pending in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that the issue will be part of the must-pass spending bill that Congress needs to complete later this month to keep the government open.

    The post National security experts support settling Syrian refugees in the U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A U.S. soldier with the 4th Platoon, Bravo Company I-327th Infantry 1st Battalion 101st Airborne Division Air Assault is reflected in the window of his armoured vehicle during a patrol in Siniyah, around 70 km (40 miles) north of Tikrit, November 23, 2007.  REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini    (IRAQ) - RTX3ZJL

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now another installment in our series of NewsHour essays.

    Essays are part of a long tradition at the NewsHour, and in the coming weeks and months, we hope to bring you a range of voices as varied as the ideas they will share with you.

    Tonight, as the U.S. steps ups its military role in Iraq and Syria, we hear from Phil Klay, who served as a Marine in Iraq and is the author of “Redeployment,” a collection of short stories. It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014.

    PHIL KLAY, Author, Redeployment: In January 2007, I arrived at a base on the banks of Lake Habbaniyah in Iraq’s Anbar province.

    At the time, Anbar was the lost province, the heart of the Sunni insurgency. It was a tremendously violent place. In one of those early months, I set up a video teleconference call between some soldiers and their families back home. These soldiers were at the end of a 16-month deployment.

    It was only supposed to have been 12 months, but they’d been extended, so a year to the day after they arrived, they were still patrolling the banks of Lake Habbaniyah. And it was on one of those patrols that they lost two soldiers to an IED.

    They recovered the bodies, mourned their dead, and kept patrolling through a desert that seemed full of violence and devoid of hope. Before they got on air, a discussion broke out about what exactly they should tell their families. They couldn’t tell the truth about how they felt. Their families were worried enough.

    Instead, they’d tell them proud, uplifting things.

    “We can tell them the truth when we get home,” one of the soldiers said.

    It was quiet a moment, and then another asked, “Will we even tell them the truth then?”

    Not long after, that unit returned home and another took their place doing the same mission, patrolling the same banks of same Lake Habbaniyah, except they didn’t come into Anbar, the lost province. They came into the Anbar awakening, right in the middle of the surge.

    Instead of 16 months of a seemingly endless grind of pointless violence, they spent seven months watching insurgent attacks plummet, markets open up, and local police forces swell.

    When they came home, they probably knew exactly what to tell their families: We’re winning.

    Well, it didn’t last. We Americans tried to wash our hands of Iraq, pulling out, not interfering after the 2010 elections, only to watch the unraveling of the fragile stability that had been achieved.

    Operation Iraqi Freedom may have ended, but Operation Inherent Resolve, our current military effort overseas, continues on. I wonder what the situation looks like to troops in Iraq right now. I wonder what they’re telling their families. And I wonder, what do I say to my family now? What, when my son is old enough, do I tell him about my war?

    I volunteered, after all. All of us did. That’s how we wage war now. A fraction serves, and a majority decides in hindsight which politician to blame it on.

    Most of us joined with the hope of making a positive difference in the world. Few of us, I think, got exactly what we asked for. Whatever we were thinking, part of joining the military is about risking yourself for a higher purpose.

    You don’t get to decide the broad course of history, only your role within it. I wish I could evade responsibility for all that’s gone wrong in Iraq and only think about the sacrifices of those I served with, the heroic efforts, the courage of the Iraqis I met, the lives of both Iraqis and Americans saved by the medical staff at my base.

    I wish I could only think about my deployment and how it ended, full of hope. But I can’t. I’m an American citizen, responsible, just like every other citizen, for every part of the war, not just how I felt about the end of my part.

    In a democracy, everyone shares responsibility. Troops don’t issue themselves orders. War is paid for by our tax dollars and ordered by politicians we as a people need to hold accountable.

    So, I guess this is what I will tell my son. I will tell him it’s my job now and until I die to be an informed citizen. I will tell him about joining institutions, government or otherwise, that are working for a better world. I will tell him about failure.

    And I will tell him about the necessity of attempting to change the world and the necessity of facing the consequences when you try.

    The post What I’ll tell my son about fighting in the Iraq war appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A protester walks past a line of police officers standing guard in front of the District 1 police headquarters in Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015. Jason Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman who fatally shot Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, was charged with murder on Tuesday, hours before authorities released a long-awaited video that shows the youth walking away from officers as he is slain by a volley of 16 gunshots. The graphic footage of last year's shooting, taken from a camera mounted on the dashboard of a police car and made public under orders from a judge, sparked mostly peaceful street demonstrations in Chicago on Tuesday.  REUTERS/Frank Polich - RTX1VPMX

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    GWEN IFILL: Now we return to Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired his longtime police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, earlier today. The move comes exactly a week after the city released this dash-cam video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. He fired at the teen 16 times.

    Only now, more than one year after the shooting, has Van Dyke been charged with first-degree murder. The video sparked outrage and protests across the city and calls for a shakeup within the police department.

    Before the mayor’s announcement this morning, The Chicago Sun-Times called on its front page for McCarthy’s ouster.

    Paris Schutz of WTTW Chicago has been covering the fallout and he attended today’s press conference.

    Welcome, Paris.

    So, I have to ask you the first obvious question. What did Garry McCarthy know, and when did he know it?

    PARIS SCHUTZ, WTTW: Well, Garry McCarthy had seen the video before the rest of the public had seen the video. It’s questionable what he knows overall about the case.

    The reason for his firing was because public outcry had gotten so heated, not only from protesters, but from, as you said, The Sun-Times and from African-American aldermen who were about to take a vote of no confidence in McCarthy.

    Now, McCarthy says his hands were tied, that he had removed Van Dyke once he had seen this video, but because of union contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police, he couldn’t actually fire McCarthy from his job. But, today, McCarthy is the fall person, and he’s out of his job.

    GWEN IFILL: So, as far as we know, there wasn’t necessarily wrongdoing, but it was the optics of the situation. I mean, just this morning, Garry McCarthy was on morning television in Chicago. He seemed to be secure in his job.

    PARIS SCHUTZ: He was.

    And even last night, I had asked the mayor’s office whether they are going to announce the firing of McCarthy, and they said, no, they are going to announce the creation of a new task force.

    But there were so many questions about not just the shooting, but the aftermath, why the initial narrative from that crime scene said that McDonald had been lunging at police officers and threatening them, while they clearly weren’t doing that, if you look at the video, and why, overall, there seems to be this culture of protecting cops and not disciplining them.

    McCarthy had also protected the job of another cop, Dante Servin, who while he was off duty had shot an innocent woman. And the state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, the Cook County’s state attorney, had brought manslaughter charges against that cop. The judge acquitted the cop and said you should have brought murder charges. McCarthy defended that job — and kept that cop on the job for several years.

    So, it’s — this has been fomenting for a long time, and the McDonald case was sort of the final straw for many people in the community.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, there are also questions about the mayor’s political livelihood at this point. Are those questions still alive tonight?

    PARIS SCHUTZ: I think he’s done an effective job tampering down the calls for his resignation, but clearly this isn’t going to be enough.

    Now, there is a lot of anger at the mayor, because he — the city was aware that this video existed months and months and months ago. They settled with the McDonald family in February for $5 million because they saw how bad the video was.

    But the mayor’s administration fought back dozens of freedom of information requests from reporters and the public to get that video out. They said it was because there was an ongoing federal investigation, state investigation into this officer, and releasing that video would compromise those investigations.

    But a lot of protesters and onlookers believed that the mayor was trying to save his political future. He was in the midst of a very heated runoff election, so there’s a lot of anger at him still, too.

    GWEN IFILL: And briefly, also, Paris, this task force that was formed, they’re bringing in the former Massachusetts governor, Chicago native Deval Patrick, to run it. Does anybody have any confidence in this task force?

    PARIS SCHUTZ: I think the initial reaction to this task force was incredulity, that this was all the mayor was going to do to respond to this.

    Remember, the mayor hasn’t said anything public about this case since the video surfaced a week ago. I think what most people want, lawyers, editorial boards, is an independent federal investigation into the police department.

    Why is it that so few officers are disciplined? Only 3 percent of officers that have complaints against them end up getting disciplined. And I don’t think at this point the public really trusts the independence of oversight until it comes from someone like the feds.

    GWEN IFILL: Paris Schutz of WTTW in Chicago, thank you very much.

    PARIS SCHUTZ: Thank you.

    The post Chicago police superintendent out amid anger over Laquan McDonald shooting video appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A man sells water along a road in Lagos, Nigeria, November 20, 2015.  REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye - RTS86RC

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    GWEN IFILL: We return now to our continuing series this week, “Nigeria: Pain and Promise.”

    Tonight, special correspondent Nick Schifrin looks at the country’s massive economic surge, new millionaires, growing inequality, and those fighting to provide new opportunities for all Nigerians.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In Africa today, for the young, the hip, the rich, there’s no better place than Lagos.

    TOLA ADEAGBO, Designer: Nigeria’s just the place to be right now in the developing world.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Tola Adeagbo designs handbags for Florian London. Increasingly, her market is in Lagos. This is the world’s fastest growing mega-city.

    TOLA ADEAGBO: Any international business, don’t be shy of Africa. There’s no Boko Haram anywhere, especially not in Lagos.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: This is a nation of superlatives, Africa’s largest population, richest country, and fastest growing economy.

    ANURAG SHAH, Porsche Dealer: I’m very sure that this will be the main hub in Africa when it comes to the luxury goods in near future.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Straight from Germany?

    ANURAG SHAH: Straight from Germany.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Anurag Shah sells Porsches that cost 600 times the average Nigerian’s annual salary. The ultra-rich are growing at a higher percentage here than in the U.S.

    ANURAG SHAH: You have luxury yachts, you have luxury aircraft, you have luxury wristwatches. Every luxury business in Nigeria currently is booming.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: It’s not only the rich. Between now and 2030, the middle class will grow by a factor of eight. Their spending power has made Nigeria the world’s largest consumer of Guinness beer.

    MAN: This is what I drink. This is Guinness. That’s what I like.

    MAN: In Lagos here, you can see many, many things. This is where you can get what you want. I love Lagos very well.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Half the country is under 30. Smart young Nigerians have more money, and they are starting their own businesses.

    TONY ELUMELU, Businessman: These guys are entering the job market. So, if you don’t cater for these guys, there’s going to be insecurity for everyone everywhere in the world.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Tony Elumelu is one of Africa’s richest men. He is trying to build the middle class by investing $100 million of his $700 million net worth in 10,000 young entrepreneurs.

    TONY ELUMELU: The right, sustainable way to intervene in Africa for economic development, for inclusive development is to invest.

    ISAZODUWA AGBONENI, Entrepreneur: When I started initially, I did a free wash, so people were actually attracted to the place.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Isazoduwa Agboneni is one of Elumelu’s first entrepreneurs. She calls herself Neni, as in the founder and lead mechanic of Neni’s Auto Care.

    ISAZODUWA AGBONENI: I was amongst the best five in class. I was like, wow, if I can do well among the guys, so let me give it a try.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Neni’s invested $50,000 of her own money. Tony Elumelu’s money bought an engine lift and will convert this hole into a proper mechanic’s pit. It will make her team faster, and allow her to hire more people.

    ISAZODUWA AGBONENI: Doing this type of thing is going to help the unemployment rate in Lagos.

    TITUS IGWE, Entrepreneur: My name is Titus Igwe.

    TOBIAS IGWE, Entrepreneur: My name is Tobias Igwe. We are the Igwe twins.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Titus and Tobias Igwe are also Elumelu entrepreneurs. Five years ago, the twins were mopping floors when their father died suddenly. They taught themselves how to cook.

    TOBIAS IGWE: It was a means of survival. We’re doing it because we want to survive, because there was hunger. Hunger is imminent. And there’s no way help will come.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, they run Speedmeals mobile kitchen. Within a year, they hope to cook and cater for 1,000 people a day.

    MAN: The most important the part of the part that we love the most, some mouths are hungry. We get to feed them.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: On this day, they give away packaged lunches to prospective clients. And they feed about 100 churchgoers. They are always smiling and always dreaming. Elumelu’s $10,000 rented this new office space.

    MAN: We re going to have computers in all the rooms.

    MAN: We’re going to the moon with this place. That’s exactly what it means.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The twins use their rags-to-riches story to motivate and mentor younger entrepreneurs.

    TOBIAS IGWE: We intend to use the story to encourage and inspire the next generation. If the twins can actually make it in this harsh economy, in these same bad conditions I find myself, who am I? What is then my excuse?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And that’s when the mentees sound like the mentor.

    TONY ELUMELU: Because your success is not only success for you and your family. It’s success for Africa.

    TOBIAS IGWE: And that is the only way African can grow, when young businesses and entrepreneurs begin to support other entrepreneurs. Then the growth can be a chain reaction.

    TONY ELUMELU: If you succeed in employing 100 people, 1,000 people, you’re playing your own part. The fewer level of poverty, abject poverty, we have, the better for everyone.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But that poverty is still everywhere. And the wealth gap here is among the world’s largest.

    In elite neighborhoods, tuk-tuk taxis weave between mansions, and share the road with luxury Mercedes SUVs. The rich build houses that literally look down on the poor, who are getting poorer. In 1980, the poverty rate was 27 percent. By 2010, it was 69 percent, even though the country’s wealth has increased dramatically.

    Nigeria may be Africa’s richest country, but here in Lagos alone, there are more than 100 slums, including this one. This is known as Makoko, where the houses are literally built on stilts on the water. Across the country, more than 100 million people don’t have toilets. And only 2 percent have running water.

    FELIX MORKA, Activist: So, the people live below the poverty line, because — not because they are less citizens of this country, not because they are less deserving, but because the government is failing to provide those services.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Felix Morka is a community organizer for Makoko’s 200,000 residents. The water here is filthy and smells of sewage. And yet young residents learn to swim before they can walk.

    FELIX MORKA: When the government that is supposed to provide those services is not providing those services, then obviously what you have is a lot of deprivations. There’s no potable water. There’s no access to health care, primary health care. The schools are completely private. There’s no official presence in Makoko.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Morka accuses the government of rallying around the rich and penalizing the poor. Three years ago, government-paid thugs tried to drown Makoko, so it could be replaced with a fancy boat club.

    FELIX MORKA: You see a lot of wood stumps sticking out of water. This used to be the foundation of a house, one of the houses that was sliced down by the demolition squad. It was simply an unleashing of violence on the community.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: While the government targeted Makoko, it endorsed what developers hope becomes Lagos’ and Africa’s premier address.

    DAVID FRAME, South Energyx Limited: Nigeria and specifically Lagos today is where China was three to four decades ago.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: David Frame has lived in Nigeria for 30 years. He hopes Eko Atlantic City is his legacy.

    DAVID FRAME: Eko Atlantic City could be that catalyst to establish Lagos as that financial hub for the entire continent of Africa.

    NARRATOR: In the heart of this iconic city, rises the new financial hub of Lagos.

    DAVID FRAME: Slick promotional videos envision a city of the future, four square miles, nearly the same size as Midtown Manhattan, all built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean with 140 million tons of sand. Eko Atlantic is Africa’s largest construction project.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In 10 years, what is all this going to be?

    DAVID FRAME: All the water that you see, from here to the shore, will be reclaimed. So, this will be part of Eko Atlantic.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: This is building for the rich on the world’s poorest continent; 400,000 people will live and work here. They have already sold nearly every plot without any government money.

    DAVID FRAME: And our model is, live in Eko Atlantic, work in Eko Atlantic, and enjoy the facilitates in Eko Atlantic.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The most important part of Eko Atlantic, in fact, the only reason it can exist, are these rocks. They’re called the Great Wall of Lagos. And that is what prevents the Atlantic Ocean from coming in and reclaiming the land.

    The wall will be 5.5-miles-long, and weigh 4.5 million tons. It will keep Eko Atlantic dry, and keep Lagos safe from erosion.

    DAVID FRAME: Whatever the ocean can throw at us, and including the projected rises in sea level, to the end of the century, this wall will protect Eko Atlantic.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Eko Atlantic’s chief developer is Gilbert Chagoury. He and his family are the embodiment of Nigeria’s well-heeled and well-connected. He holds an honorary ambassadorship. And he donated more than a million dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

    Two years ago, Clinton and Nigeria’s most senior politicians christened the new city.

    BILL CLINTON, Former President of the United States: They have reclaimed five million square meters of land from the sea. This is something, I’m telling you, there will be countless numbers of people coming here to study.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The construction is not without controversy. Before Eko Atlantic could be built, the government evicted residents who used to live on the beach. Frame says the neighborhood is better for it.

    DAVID FRAME: The police would attribute a lot of the crime that was going on in the area to people living in those camps. So, it was very necessary to move them out.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But Morka, and those who advocate for the poor, believe Nigeria’s priority should be building equity, not new cities.

    FELIX MORKA: Your need effective balance. You must ensure that whatever policy that drives Eko Atlantic City drives even further for the millions of people who are left behind. Unless that is done, it becomes a very skewed development policy that advances the interests of a few, to the detriment of the majority.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In 35 years, there will be more Nigerians than Americans. For so many here, there’s so much promise and so much pain.

    Building the economy and bridging the wealth gap could change the city, the country, and the continent.

    Nick Schifrin, PBS NewsHour, Lagos, Nigeria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tune in tomorrow night for the next story in our “Nigeria: Pain and Promise” series about the nation’s crippling corruption.

    The post Can Nigeria’s booming economy lift its poorest people? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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