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

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    File photo of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., taken on May 18, 2015, by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    File photo of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., taken on May 18, 2015, by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Torn as ever over race, the Supreme Court on Wednesday weighed whether it’s time to end the use of race in college admissions nationwide or at least at the University of Texas.

    With liberal and conservative justices starkly divided, the justice who almost certainly will dictate the outcome suggested that the court may need still more information to make a decision in a Texas case already on its second trip through the Supreme Court.

    “We’re just arguing the same case,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said, recalling arguments first held in 2012 in the case of Abigail Fisher. “It’s as if nothing has happened.”

    Kennedy said additional hearings may be needed to produce information that “we should know but we don’t know” about how minority students are admitted and what classes they take to determine whether the use of race is necessary to increase diversity at the University of Texas.

    Fisher has been out of college since 2012, but the justices’ renewed interest in her case appeared to be a sign that the court’s conservative majority is poised to cut back, or even end, affirmative action in higher education.

    Their skepticism about it was on display during more than 90 minutes in a packed courtroom.

    “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked at one point, challenging a part of Texas’ argument that says its program is needed to increase diversity at the classroom level.

    Justice Antonin Scalia suggested it’s possible that some black students would benefit from being at a “slower-track school,” instead of Texas’ flagship campus in Austin, where some are “being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

    But it was not clear from the arguments whether Kennedy would go as far as his conservative colleagues to deal a blow to race as a factor in college admissions.

    Potentially complicating the outcome, Justice Elena Kagan is sitting out the case because she worked on it at an earlier stage at the Justice Department, before joining the court. Her absence creates the possibility of a 4-4 split. That would resolve the case in Texas’ favor, but say nothing about the issue nationally. The other three liberal justices appeared solidly in favor of the Texas program.

    The arguments focused on whether the university has compelling reasons to consider race among other factors when it evaluates applicants for about one-quarter of its freshman class. Most students are admitted to the university through a plan that guarantees slots to Texans who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.

    Fisher says the “top 10″ program works well to bring in Hispanic and African-American students, without considering race. Bert Rein, representing Fisher, said the university can take other steps to diversify its student body without explicit reference to race, including reducing its reliance on standardized test scores.

    But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has said she benefited from affirmative action, said Rein was calling on Texas to take steps that would “reduce its educational quality.” Justice Clarence Thomas, an affirmative action opponent who has said he felt stigmatized by racial preferences, was customarily silent during the arguments.

    Texas says the “top 10″ program alone is not enough and that the school needs the freedom to fill out incoming classes as it sees fit. Gregory Garre said on behalf of the university that minority enrollment plummeted at top public universities in California and Michigan after they ended the consideration of race.

    “Now is not the time and this is not the case to roll back student-body diversity in America,” Garre said.

    Justice Samuel Alito said the university is engaging in “terrible stereotyping” by suggesting there is something “deficient about the African-American students and the Hispanic students who are admitted under the top 10 percent plan.”

    Twelve years ago, the justices reaffirmed the consideration of race in the quest for diversity on campus. Their decision set a goal of doing away with such programs in 25 years.

    “When do you think your program will be done?” Roberts asked Garre, who would not provide a date.

    The court first heard Fisher’s case in 2012; the case ended inconclusively with a tepid decision that ordered a lower court review. The federal appeals court in New Orleans has twice upheld the Texas admissions program and rejected Fisher’s appeal.

    Fisher’s case was conceived by Edward Blum, an opponent of racial preferences. Blum also is behind lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina that aim to eliminate any consideration of race in college admissions.

    Texas is unique in marrying the top 10 plan to a separate admissions review in which race is one of many factors considered. The university’s current freshman class is 22 percent Hispanic and 4.5 percent African-American. White students make up less than half the school’s freshmen.

    Eight states prohibit the use of race in public college admissions: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

    The Obama administration, dozens of colleges and many of the nation’s largest businesses support Texas in defending its program.

    There also are competing arguments over whether racial preference programs actually limit the number of students from Asian backgrounds, who are disproportionately represented in student bodies relative to their share of the population.

    A decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 14-981, is expected by late June.

    The post Supreme Court torn over Texas affirmative action program appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    General view of chairs with bags with the message, "Act, Climate, Planet" at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France on Dec. 1, 2015.  While President Barack Obama attended the 2015 climate talks in Paris, House Republicans voted Tuesday to disapprove of the president's plan to stem greenhouse gas emissions. Photo by Stephane Mahe/Reuters

    General view of chairs with bags with the message, “Act, Climate, Planet” at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France on December 1. Photo by Stephane Mahe/Reuters

    Editor’s note: We’ve asked several climate experts to answer the question, “What would constitute success at the Paris climate talks?” This column is part of a series that will run over the next few days. Scott Barrett is a professor of natural resource economics at the Lenfest-Earth Institute at Columbia University.


    The Paris Agreement should affirm the central reason that countries are meeting: that every country can be made better off when all nations act together to address climate change. It should also underline that each country has a responsibility to play its part in the global effort.

    The only real novel aspect of this agreement compared with previous ones is a provision for peer review of the pledges that countries have made that would oversee whether they’re ultimately fulfilled. This needs to be kept in the agreement. Ideally, it should be strengthened. I don’t think the review will have a significant effect on what countries end up doing, but this provision does put the need for enforcement center stage. Countries will only be willing to play their part in the global effort if they are assured that other countries will play their part.

    READ NEXT: We are the last generations able to stop climate change

    More important than what happens in Paris is what happens after Paris. Even an optimistic reading of Paris shows global emissions increasing through 2030. This trend needs to be reversed. In the new year, negotiators should turn their attention to developing new agreements that shore up the Paris Agreement, focusing on individual gases and sectors. These negotiations will be more technical and less political in nature. They could also be more effective than Paris in reducing emissions.

    Countries will only be willing to play their part in the global effort if they are assured that other countries will play their part.

    The media hasn’t noticed, but one such negotiation is already underway. An amendment to the Montreal Protocol — an agreement to protect the ozone layer — is being developed to phase down a chemical called hydrofluorocarbons, or”HFCs.” HFCs don’t deplete the ozone layer, but they are a potent greenhouse gas, and they can be controlled successfully under this agreement. This is because Montreal contains an effective enforcement mechanism: a trade restriction between parties and non-parties. Negotiators should look for more opportunities like this one. They are out there.

    READ NEXT: In Paris, too much focus on the ‘politically feasible,’ too little on the environment

    Even this won’t be enough. A subset of countries, a “coalition of the willing,” should also begin a serious effort to develop a “backstop” technology for limiting climate change, an industrial process that can remove carbon dioxide directly from the air on a very large scale.

    The post Column: More important than what happens in Paris is what happens after Paris appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey Jr. testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington December 9, 2015. The couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino last week were radicalized before they met online and spoke of jihad and martyrdom to each other as early as late 2013, Comey said on Wednesday.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTX1XXWU

    FBI Director James Comey Jr. testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 9, 2015. The couple who killed 14 people in San Bernardino last week were radicalized before they met online and spoke of jihad and martyrdom to each other as early as late 2013, Comey said on Wednesday. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The two San Bernardino shooters were radicalized at least two years ago, well before one of them came to the U.S. on a fiancée visa, FBI James Comey said Wednesday. Comey said the couple discussed jihad and martyrdom as early as 2013.

    Comey’s comments to the Senate Judiciary Committee were the most specific to date on the path toward extremism that Syed Rizwan Farook took with his wife, Tashfeen Malik.

    Comey said the two embraced radical Islamic ideology even before they began their online relationship and that Malik held extremist views before she arrived in the U.S. last year.

    Though the FBI believes the pair was inspired in part by Islamic State ideology — Malik pledged allegiance to the group’s leader in a Facebook post around the time of last week’s massacre — agents are still looking for other motivations and sources of radicalization. That search continues because the couple’s interest in extremism predates the terror group’s emergence as a household name, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    “ISIL inspiration may well have been part of this, but these two killers were staring to radicalize towards martyrdom and jihad as early as 2013,” said the FBI director, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “And so that’s really before ISIL became the global jihad leader that it is.”

    The latest disclosure also suggests that the government’s vetting process failed to detect Malik’s radicalization when she applied for the visa.

    Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and member of the committee, said that “after this hearing today, every American will be asking the question, how did this woman come in on a fiancée visa?”

    Comey said he didn’t know enough to say whether weaknesses in the visa process enabled her to enter the U.S.

    Malik came to the United States in July 2014 from Pakistan after being approved for a K-1, or fiancée visa, and married Farook the following month. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has said the Obama administration is now reviewing the program. He did not say what changes were being considered.

    Malik’s father, reached in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, condemned his daughter’s actions and said he is “very, very sad… I am in such pain that I cannot even describe it.”

    The father, Gulzar Ahmed Malik, has been a resident in the kingdom since the early 1980s, the Saudi Interior Ministry says. His daughter was from Pakistan but traveled to Saudi Arabia. A former classmate, Afsheen Butt, said Malik showed drastic changes after a trip to Saudi Arabia in late 2008 or early 2009.

    Comey described the couple as an example of homegrown violent extremists who appear to have radicalized “in place,” drawing a distinction between the San Bernardino attack and the one last month in Paris that officials suspect involved planning and training in Syria.

    The FBI has revealed little else of what it’s learned about Farook and Malik and their planning, except for details about the weaponry they had, materials they had to make more pipe bombs and that both had been taking target practice.

    A U.S. official said Tuesday authorities are looking into a deposit made to Farook’s bank account before the shooting. The official, who had been briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity, would not characterize further the nature of the deposit or why it had caught the attention of investigators.

    Though Comey declined to answer questions about whether encrypted communication had been used before the attack, he did use the appearance to reiterate his longstanding concerns that criminals, terrorists and spies can use encryption applications on their smartphones to evade detection from law enforcement.

    “Increasingly, we are unable to see what they say, which gives them a tremendous advantage,” he said.

    He said one of the gunmen in last May’s shooting outside a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest in Garland, Texas had exchanged more than 100 messages with an overseas suspected terrorist prior to the attack that investigators still had been unable to access. Investigators were concerned that the location might be targeted, and ensured that law enforcement officers were ready. The two gunmen were shot dead by police.

    “We have no idea what he said because those messages were encrypted,” Comey said. “And to this day, I can’t tell you what he said with that terrorist 109 times the morning of that attack. That is a big problem. We have to grapple with it.”

    America’s counterterrorism infrastructure has had success flagging individuals who try to travel abroad to fight alongside militants, fund operations overseas or who communicate online with overseas terrorists. But it’s been far more challenging for law enforcement to identify each individual who self-radicalizes online.

    Shahzad reported from Islamabad. Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington, Brian Melley in Los Angeles and Asim Tanveer in Multan, Pakistan contributed to this report.

    The post FBI: California shooters radicalized at least 2 years ago appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Businessman Dropping Clock Into Piggy Bank

    Approach your longevity risk like you’d approach any other kind of insurable risk. In this case, it means waiting to collect much higher benefits.

    Editor’s Note: Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for over three years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security original 34 “secrets,” his additional secrets, his Social Security “mistakes” and his Social Security gotchas have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions.

    Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours — the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published in February before the changes from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 went into effect.

    For the past few weeks, Social Security expert Larry Kotlikoff has been keeping readers updated on how the budget act changes a number of Social Security rules. We’ll continue publishing updates on what this new law means for your Social Security benefits. Stay tuned.


    Steve: I’ve read a number of your articles over the years and appreciate the attention you are bringing to our troubled Social Security system. At 57, I really wonder how this all going to unfold over the next 20+ years. But there’s one thing I don’t understand — the advice from every financial planner is to not take Social Security benefits early but to wait at least until full retirement, and even longer, because your benefits will be reduced.

    Yet here’s what Social Security says:

    As a general rule, early or late retirement will give you about the same total Social Security benefits over your lifetime. If you retire early, the monthly benefit amounts will be smaller to take into account the longer period you will receive them. If you retire late, you will get benefits for a shorter period of time but the monthly amounts will be larger to make up for the months when you did not receive anything.

    (Source: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/agereduction.html#chart&sb=0)

    So if I’m worried about the government being able to make full Social Security payments down the road, or if I think I can invest the monthly SSA benefit and earn a greater return now, why wouldn’t claiming it early make sense? Wouldn’t it be better to get as much in the bank now rather than rely on promises of future payment from a clearly broke federal government? And if it’s the same total benefits over my lifetime, how am I penalized financially for taking it early?

    Larry Kotlikoff: This is among the most economically backwards statements out of a long list of statements that Social Security has posted on its website. Before addressing your concerns, let me make a public demand on behalf of economists to the commissioner of Social Security.

    Dear Acting Commissioner Colvin,

    Impanel a team of economists and Social Security technical experts to rewrite every word on your website, which is chock full of false, misleading and incomplete information. And leave the economists — and only the economists — to rewrite every statement on your website that references longevity risk and whether to take benefits early or later.

    If you were in my class and wrote this statement — “As a general rule, early or late retirement will give you about the same total Social Security benefits over your lifetime” — on an exam asking how to think about when to take Social Security, I would, quite frankly, flunk you. Let me explain. You are running an insurance company. Insurance company executives do not generally say on their websites that, as a general rule it doesn’t matter whether or not you should buy insurance. But this is precisely what your statement implies if you bothered to give it a moment’s thought. First, as an absolute rule, there is no general or average rule that applies to retirees taking Social Security. Any given retiree is only going to die once. A “general” rule suggests that what happens on average, as in across a large group of retirees, matters to a given retiree. It doesn’t. Any given retiree can’t play the averages. By analogy, Acting Commissioner Colvin, as a general rule your house won’t burn down. But if you were running a property insurance company, you would know enough to fire anyone who posted on your website that, as a general rule your house won’t burn down, so don’t buy home owners coverage.

    To repeat, Social Security is an insurance company. Your institution can play the odds/count on the averages. But your clients can’t play the odds or count on the averages. They will die exactly once and that may be at age 100. If they do live excessively long, they will face horrendous financial risk. This is why they need longevity insurance and why they need to cover the catastrophic loss, which is not living to their life expectancy, but to their maximum age of life. You are in the business of selling longevity insurance. When someone waits to take dramatically higher retirement benefits starting at 70, they are giving up eight years of reduced benefits (since they could start their retirement benefits at age 62). These eight years of low benefits that are lost by not taking them represent the premium they are paying for the increase in benefits post age 70. That increase in benefits is the additional annuity they are purchasing by waiting. So Social Security is actively in the business of selling annuities, which is longevity insurance, but no one in your institution seems to have the slightest inkling that that’s what you are about. If you did, you would not tolerate for a nanosecond statements on your website that come close to consumer fraud, which I define as misleading the public to purchase a product under false pretenses.

    Now back to you, Steve. I hope the above makes clear that your job is to ignore that statement by Social Security and approach your longevity risk like you’d approach any other kind of insurable risk — go for the maximum coverage. In this case, it means waiting to collect much higher benefits. As for your retirement benefits being cut, that seems highly unlikely. Finally, investing in the bank will yield a zero or negative or very low rate of return. Investing in the stock market will produce a high expected rate of return, but it comes with huge risk. In contrast, Social Security’s benefit increase from being patient embeds an enormous internal rate of return as well as incredibly generous actuarial factors. Being patient and taking 76 percent higher benefits starting at age 70 relative to age 62 is one of Uncle Sam’s all-time best deals. Plus, if you are married or divorced after being married 10 or more years, the higher benefit will likely be passed to your wife or ex-wife if you predecease them.

    The post Column: Ignore this piece of advice from Social Security to get maximum coverage appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a press availability after signing a pledge with the Republican National Committee (RNC) at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York September 3, 2015. Trump on Thursday bowed to pressure from the party establishment and signed a pledge not to run as an independent candidate in the November 2016 presidential election.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson  - RTX1QZDM

    U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a press availability. A petition in the UK to ban Trump has gotten over 300,000 signatures. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    A petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK has gotten over 300,000 signatures.

    The petition first appeared on Parliament’s e-petition website Tuesday afternoon. Under the rules of the website, petitions that get over 100,000 signatures are debated in Parliament and petitions that get over 10,000 receive a response from the government. In the past year the government has responded to 61 petitions and 14 were debated in the House of Commons.

    Under UK law, someone can be denied a visa to enter the UK if “it is conducive to the public good not to admit a person to the UK because of their character, conduct or associations.” The petition says that “the UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech” and argues that this ban should extend to Trump. Individuals previously banned include leaders of the Westboro Baptist Church, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Trump has been staunchly criticized over the past few days after comments he made Monday calling for Muslims to be banned from entering the U.S.

    The home affairs spokesman for the Labour party, Jack Dromey, tweeted his support for the petition, and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett is also in favor, according to the BBC.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Treasury chief George Osborne said he disagrees with Trump’s comments, but the UK has no current plans to ban him.

    The post UK petition to ban Donald Trump gets more than 300,000 signatures appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An opposition supporter holds a Venezuelan national flag during a gathering to celebrate the victory of their deputy candidates on a street at San Cristobal in Tachira state, Venezuela December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. - RTX1XN9H

    An opposition supporter holds a Venezuelan national flag during a gathering to celebrate the victory of their deputy candidates on a street at San Cristobal in Tachira state, Venezuela, on Dec. 7, 2015. Photo by Carlos Eduardo Ramirez/Reuters

    Election officials in Venezuela confirmed Tuesday evening that a coalition of opposition parties won two-thirds of the seats in the country’s National Assembly following elections on Sunday.

    The final results showed that the Democratic Unity Roundtable won 112 seats, including three seats reserved for indigenous candidates, and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela won 55.

    The opposition’s victory is the first time it has won a national election since former President Hugo Chávez and his socialist political movement came to power in 1998. President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded Chavez, will now have to work with National Assembly controlled by the opposition, and promised he would protect his predecessor’s socialist revolution against what he described as “bad guy” leaders of the opposition.

    The new National Assembly faces issues including high inflation in Venezuela, shortages of basic necessities like toilet paper, and rising crime. Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, said that there will be no simple solutions to these issues.

    “The world has to realize that Venezuela is broken in so many places, economically and institutionally, that the task ahead of repairing it is enormous,” Davidow told the LA Times.

    The post Venezuelan opposition wins supermajority in National Assembly appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An EB-5 visa means that $500,000 can buy U.S. citizenship. Photo by Flickr user LucastheExperience.

    An EB-5 visa means that $500,000 can buy U.S. citizenship. Photo by Flickr user LucastheExperience.

    A little-known employment-based visa program has soared in popularity in recent years. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program gives green cards to wealthy foreigners who invest in commercial enterprises and create 10 full-time U.S. jobs.

    In a two-part series, airing this Tuesday and Thursday, Making Sen$e reports on how wealthy individuals can emigrate to the United States. You can watch the first report at the bottom of this page. But first, here are 10 things you didn’t know about EB-5:

    1. You can jump to the front of the line if… you have $500,000 or $1 million to invest.

    For wealthy foreigners looking to come to the U.S., the EB-5 immigration visa is an easy solution. In return for investing $500,000 in any new U.S. commercial enterprise in a “targeted employment area,” the U.S. government will grant green cards to the investor and his or her family, provided the investment creates 10 U.S. jobs.

    The investor also has the far less popular option of investing $1 million in any new U.S. commercial enterprise regardless of its location.

    2. Where do these EB-5 investments go? Nearly everywhere: 44 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.

    brookings

    Map courtesy Brookings Institution

    This map from a Brookings-Rockefeller report shows that nearly every state in the U.S. has profited from EB-5 investments. (Note that the data end in 2012.) Through “regional centers” in these 44 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, wealthy foreigners can invest in targeted employment areas.

    3. A “targeted employment area” can include parts of high-rent midtown Manhattan.

    That’s because the area can be drawn in creative ways.

    “This has been done by ‘gerrymandering’ the boundaries of the Targeted Employment Area to include, at one end, the affluent census tract in which the building project is located, and at the other end, perhaps many miles away, a census tract with high unemployment,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a statement to Congress.

    “The statute, for better or for worse, leaves it up to each state to decide how to designate these high unemployment areas,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University and founder of Invest In the USA, an industry trade association for the EB-5 Regional Center Program. “It’s up to states to decide how liberal or restrictive they want to be in terms of where they want to draw the lines.”

    Technically, the EB-5 targeted employment area must have an unemployment rate of at least 150 percent of the U.S. national average.

    As a result, New York City can end up with a targeted employment area that includes Manhattanville Houses, a public housing project in West Harlem, and the ritzy Hudson Yards in midtown, the biggest real estate development in U.S. history, which is partly funded by EB-5 investments. The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2012, the unemployment rate in the census tract that includes Hudson Yards was 4.5 percent — that is, below the national average. By combining four more census tracts, including part of West Harlem, the unemployment rate of the new targeted unemployment area shot up to 18.1 percent.

    4. EB-5 visas became wildly popular after the 2008 market crash.

    First, a little background: The program was created in 1990 to “stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. In 1992, a pilot program was introduced, in which applicants could invest in “regional centers” — government-certified, but privately-run operations — that pool EB-5 money for development projects. The program has regularly been reauthorized.

    For the first 18 years of its life, the EB-5 program was rarely utilized. With the advent of the Great Recession in 2008, things changed. Banks weren’t lending money as they previously had, and businesses were grasping for capital.

    By 2008, businesses and developers in particular began turning to EB-5 investments for a cheap source of capital. In 2003, 64 EB-5 visas were issued. In 2008, that number jumped to 1,300.

    And in April of this year, the EB-5 visas hit their annual quota of 10,000 visas for the second year in a row. The wait for an EB-5 visa has now stretched to an estimated two to three years.

    5. Chinese nationals make up the great majority of those coming to the U.S. via EB-5 visas.

    Brookings

    Graph courtesy the Brookings Institution

    About 90 percent of EB-5 visas granted in 2014 — a total of 8,308 visas — went to Chinese nationals.

    Among the leading reasons Chinese millionaires apply to the EB-5 program in large numbers: desire to escape rampant pollution and to provide an American education for their children. NewsHour’s P.J. Tobia talked with supporters and critics of the EB-5 program in his Shortwave podcast earlier this year:

    6. It’s overseen by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

    Critics have questioned whether the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency that’s meant to issue visas, not money, is equipped to effectively monitor business investments.

    This fear is not unfounded. In July 2014, this investigative piece by Fortune Magazine on the EB-5 program detailed the case of a man who fraudulently raised $160 million from nearly 300 Chinese investors in Chicago. The man siphoned off a portion of the funds for himself, which he spent on luxury goods and to fund a cosmetic surgery business. It took a whistleblower to raise the red flag on this case.

    Yale-Loehr notes that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services now has economists on staff and has been working with the Securities and Exchange Commission to stop fraudulent securities offerings.

    7. It was created to compete with Canada’s immigrant investor program.

    The U.S. government created the EB-5 program in 1990 to compete with Canada’s immigrant investor program, which had been around for four years already. It, too, was immensely popular with wealthy Chinese businessmen.

    There were a few key differences in the programs, however. Canada’s program required wealthy foreigners to loan money to the government and did not require that the investment create any jobs. Critics felt that the government did not use the funds appropriately.

    Citing little economic benefit, Canada decided to discontinue it in 2014. Later in 2015, the government decided to begin a new pilot program that required investments of $2 million in Canadian-based startups.

    8. If a wealthy foreigner invests in an EB-5 regional center, it suffices to show that they have indirectly created 10 full-time, U.S. jobs.

    In 2014, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services estimates that the EB-5 program created 49,000 jobs since 2012. Yale-Loehr contends that while some doubt the estimates of EB-5 program job creation, the calculation methodology is valid.

    “But,” said David North, a Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and longtime critic of the program, “you can, using any reasonable methodology, add in indirect creation of jobs. That’s a loophole that allows the program to go forward.”

    What areindirect jobs”? Those “shown to have been created collaterally or as a result of capital invested in a commercial enterprise affiliated with a regional center by an EB-5 investor.” In other words, if you as an investor helped put up a building and a supermarket opens up next door and hires 10 people, you can say that your investment is responsible for those 10 jobs.

    9. It’s up for reauthorization on Dec. 11.

    The EB-5 program was originally up for reauthorization in September. After being temporarily extended, Congress is looking to take up the EB-5 reauthorization before it expires on Dec. 11.

    Which bring us to this next point…

    10. EB-5 is popular on both sides of the aisle.

    Despite criticism of the program, EB-5 is one of the few immigration programs that has received bipartisan support. As Yale-Loehr notes, everyone likes seeing jobs created in their district at no expense to the U.S. taxpayer.

    Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) have introduced a bill to amend the program and increase transparency and oversight to prevent fraud. The bill would raise the minimum investment from $500,000 — where it’s been since the early 90s — to $800,000 and prevent future gerrymandering of targeted employment areas. The EB-5 program would be reauthorized for five years.

    But, says Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), citizenship should not be for sale. In a Roll Call op-ed, Feinstein stated: “The bottom line is that the EB-5 regional center program sends a message that American citizenship is for sale…. When the program comes up for renewal in December, Congress should allow the program to die.”

    It is, however, unlikely that Congress will let the program die. Grassley-Leahy’s bill will likely be attached to the omnibus appropriation bill due Friday, according to informed sources. Whether Congress will be able to address it this Friday or not remains a question, and there may be another one-week extension.

    [Watch Video]

    The post 10 things you didn’t know about ‘immigration for the 1 percent’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Steven Depolo

    The holidays can be a time for exploring multicultural celebrations in the classroom, says educator Syd Golston. Photo by Flickr user Steven Depolo

    Editor’s note: During the holidays, teachers often grapple with finding ways to educate students on all types of traditions. In their efforts to follow the principle of separation of church and state, many educators steer clear of religion all together.

    In this update to her 2014 essay, Syd Golston, a former president of the National Council for the Social Studies, discusses how educators can approach the holidays and how shying away too much from these topics may also bring a certain peril for students’ understanding of world religions.


    It’s called “the December Dilemma.” As the Christmas holidays approach, schools are aware that the First Amendment issue of separation of church and state isn’t just something students encounter in social studies classes, but a real and present concern for teachers and administrators. Is it OK to decorate the school and the classroom for Christmas? What kinds of concerts and plays are constitutional in a public school?teacherslounge

    There are two good resources I recommend to educators. For a short set of directives, take a look at the First Amendment Center, an educational organization which specializes in advice and resources for teaching, and for a more extensive guide, check out the Anti-Defamation League’s website.

    Dr. Michelle Herczog, History-Social Science Consultant at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, cites California’s “Three R’s Project” (Rights, Responsibility, and Respect): “Fortunately, our civic agreement in America, found in the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights, binds us to the promise to protect the right of each person’s freedom of conscience.” California is probably our most diverse state; these words are particularly significant after the tragic shootings in San Bernardino.

    Herczog adds: “As we enter the holiday season, it is important to remind ourselves of the rich, diverse religious and cultural traditions that are represented in schools and school communities across our nation. Public schools should approach the holiday season as an opportunity to inform and educate students about the origins, meanings, and traditions of various holidays in ways that do not engage students in celebratory activities. By treating the holiday season as a ‘teachable moment’ students can learn about the various backgrounds and traditions our diverse society has to offer.”

    Cheryl Drazin, the Southwest Civil Rights Counsel of the Anti-Defamation League, says that there are two kinds of complaints she often hears: religious-based practices and parties in classrooms and all-school celebrations. Still, many schools have avoided the advancement of any certain religion by taking the approach of inclusive study of many holidays at once, most of which occur in or near the winter solstice anyway: the Jewish Chanukah, Hindu Diwali, Buddhist Tet, Kwanzaa, and Bayram, a holiday celebrated by Muslims and non-religious people from around the world.

    The guiding principle is this: no doctrinal religious belief or non-belief can be promoted by a public school and its employees, but none can be disparaged either. Over time, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed this principle, but the decisions can be hazy around the edges. There must be a clear educational purpose, not a religious one, to holiday celebrations; that is surely clear when a high school choir sings Handel or an art class studies Renaissance nativity paintings, but what about the Christmas tree? In Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union (1989), the court wrote that Christmas trees have the standing of cultural icons and not religious practices. Tree in the classroom? Yes. Crèche beneath it? No.

    The worst idea is to avoid controversy by failing to teach about religion, at holiday times and throughout the school year. In Florey v. Sioux Falls School District, the court wrote:

     “The First Amendment does not forbid all mention of religion in public schools; it is the advancement or inhibition of religion that is prohibited. … Hence, the study of religion is not forbidden “when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.” … We view the term “study” to include more than mere classroom instruction; public performance may be a legitimate part of secular study. This does not mean, of course, that religious ceremonies can be performed in the public schools under the guise of “study.” It does mean, however, that when the primary purpose served by a given school activity is secular, that activity is not made unconstitutional by the inclusion of some religious content.”

    It is not just permissible but imperative in our global society to understand the religious history and practice of world religions. It’s often cited that Americans suffer from a woeful ignorance of the difference between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. Students in the early grades should have an age-appropriate introduction to world religions that is particularly appropriate in December. Secondary students would benefit from thoughtful inquiry and discussion of the role that many religious traditions and holidays play in the world’s regions, historically and currently.

    Diversity education expert Dr. Cynthia Tyson, Professor of Multicultural and Equity Studies in Education at The Ohio State University, writes that such learning is critical, even for our youngest students. “As social studies teachers we can engage in critical multicultural and culturally responsive/sustaining curriculum to develop the essential consciousness in students that will support them as they become contributing citizens.”

    In this particular December, when misconceptions about the Muslim faith abound and Christian exceptionalism has produced a frightening narrowing of understanding in a nation singular for its diverse heritage, we should plan to teach more about world religions than we ever have before.

    From my own experience, we are getting better at separation of church and state in schools. In 1985, my son John’s 6th grade teacher assigned students essays on “The True Meaning of Christmas to Me.” Recently, I attended John’s son’s band concert, where the 5th and 6th graders played a couple of Christmas carols, a Beatles song, and the finale of the 1812 Overture.

    What does your school do about the December Dilemma? What are your thoughts?

    This post was originally published on Dec 15, 2014. It has been updated.

    The post This holiday, talking about religion in the classroom is more important than ever appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Dallas, Texas on September 14, 2015.  Photo by REUTERS/Mike Stone

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Dallas, Texas on September 14, 2015. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Stone

    Despite widespread condemnation from critics at home and abroad, Donald Trump’s poll numbers aren’t suffering. His lead has only increased since he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, proving that such inflammatory rhetoric resonates with many Republican primary voters and alarming party elites who now see the businessman as a serious threat to win the GOP presidential nomination.

    Whether this strategy translates to a win in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 — or helps propel Trump to the nomination — remains to be seen.

    Trump has already emboldened his current GOP rivals to speak out more openly against Muslims, a shift that could influence the national debate for years to come.

    But in the meantime, critics are starting to look beyond the 2016 presidential race to gauge the potential long-term impact that his rhetoric might have on voters’ attitudes towards Muslim Americans.

    Trump has already emboldened his current GOP rivals to speak out more openly against Muslims, a shift that could influence the national debate for years to come.

    “The spectrum of what can be said has been expanded considerably” thanks to Trump, said Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in U.S.-Islamic relations.

    READ NEXT: Obama urges nation not to give in to fear

    Last month, two weeks before Trump proposed his ban on Muslim travelers into the U.S., former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said that the country should only accept Christian refugees from Syria. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida raised eyebrows when he appeared to compare Islamic extremists to Nazi Germany.

    Both comments stirred up controversy. But they were largely overshadowed by Trump, who has succeeded in making anti-Muslim attacks that would have been seen as extreme in past elections seem moderate and mainstream today, Hamid said.

    “Now candidates like Rubio and Bush can seem more reasonable, because they’re condemning Trump, even though they’re indulging in the same sentiments generally,” Hamid said. With Trump leading the way, “people can get away with a lot more than we thought was possible. That’s one of the lessons of this electoral experience.”

    Since Monday, Trump has defended his proposed ban, saying that the measure is necessary in the wake of the Islamic State’s attacks in Paris last month and the recent mass shooting in California. These events have spurred new concerns about national security and prompted President Obama to make a rare address from the Oval Office on Sunday.

    A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released Thursday finds 38 percent of GOP primary voters support Trump’s plan to keep Muslims out of the country.

    “We need safety,” Trump said in a television appearance this week. “It’s not about religion. This is about safety.”

    But it’s likely more than safety driving the rhetoric. Republican presidential contenders have consistently targeted Muslim Americans to mobilize support in recent elections, even without the presence of events like the San Bernardino shooting or the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    An analysis of Pew Research Center data from 2002 to 2014 shows that anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. has spiked temporarily in each of the past three elections, and is rising again now.

    During each campaign season, respondents reported having a higher negative impression of Muslim Americans than in non-election years, and said they believed Muslims are more likely to incite violence than members of other religious groups.

    islam-pew-3

    It’s unclear whether candidates drive election-year spikes in anti-Muslim sentiment, or whether they simply respond to voters’ fears. Either way, Muslims have become popular scapegoats in every election since George W. Bush became president.

    The tactic appeals to a “segment of the U.S. population that doesn’t want to see more diversity,” said Angela Davis, the director the political science program at the University of Alabama. For those voters, many of whom are male, conservative, older and white, the nation’s changing demographics “represent a decline of America and American values and norms,” Davis said.

    Muslims have become popular scapegoats in every election since George W. Bush became president.

    In 2012, Herman Cain said he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet if he became president. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who won the GOP Iowa caucuses that year, said that equality was strictly a Judeo-Christian concept and didn’t exist in Islam.

    “We’ve seen anti-Muslim comments from most of the Republican candidates” for several election cycles, said James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute. “In some ways, nobody should be surprised that Donald Trump is tapping into this vein.”

    “Trump is the culmination of a poison that’s been infused into the body politic for several years,” he added.

    So far, Trump’s penchant for outrageous statements has kept him ahead in the polls since he entered the race last summer, a stretch of dominance that has dwarfed the brief periods when Cain, Santorum and other long-shot candidates led the GOP field in 2012.

    Few predicted that his candidacy would last long, given Trump’s scant interest in policy, as well as his willingness to make potentially damaging, off-the-cuff remarks that traditional politicians would never utter in public.

    But as Trump continues his ride atop the polls, it is becoming clear that the real estate mogul has more political savvy than his opponents on both sides of the aisle have given him credit for.

    “His strategy has two components to it,” said Jeff Link, a political consultant in Iowa who served as an outside adviser on Obama’s 2012 campaign. “One is, get in the news. And two is, always err on the side of acting with strength. Be the toughest, be the strongest.”

    Wayne Barrett, an investigative journalist who wrote a definitive biography of Trump’s early years, said he believed Trump applied the same strategy when he proposed his ban on Muslims entering the U.S.

    READ NEXT: The history of lies on the campaign trail

    “It’s calculated to appeal to a certain base. He’s only trying to get a significant slice of the Republican vote,” Barrett said. “I think he looks at things from a narrow perspective, and his business now is winning Iowa.”

    Whatever happens in Iowa and beyond, Trump’s heightened anti-Muslim rhetoric could leave a lasting legacy, just as past rabble-rousing candidates helped bring highly controversial views about race and other issues into the political discourse.

    American historian Dan T. Carter drew a parallel between Trump and George Wallace, the longtime governor of Alabama, whose segregationist platform in the early 1960s opened the door for the Republican Party’s race-based appeals to conservative Democratic voters in the South.

    “It’s not so much the policies of Donald Trump that are going to be adopted — I don’t even know what they are,” said Carter, the author of “The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism and the Transformation of American Politics.”

    “Trump can, in effect, do what Wallace did in the 1960s, and that is turn American politics in a direction that is harmful in the long run,” Carter said.

    The post Could Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric influence politics well beyond 2016? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Syrian refugees receive welcome bags at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada December 11, 2015. After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first Canadian government planeload of Syrian refugees landed in Toronto on Thursday, aboard a military aircraft met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.     REUTERS/Mark Blinch - RTX1Y6W2

    Syrian refugees receive welcome bags at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, on Dec. 11, 2015. After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first Canadian government planeload of Syrian refugees landed in Toronto on Thursday, aboard a military aircraft met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo by Mark Blinch/Reuters

    A group of 163 Syrian refugees received a special welcome early Friday morning from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other politicians at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

    “Today, we welcome many Syrian refugees who were forced to flee their homeland because of war and conflict. Canada is doing the right thing by providing refuge for those so desperately seeking safety. This is a significant step in fulfilling our plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the coming months,” Trudeau said in a statement.

    Among the refugees who arrived last night were Kevork Jamkossian, his wife Georgina Zires, and Madeleine, their 16-month-old daughter. The Toronto Star reported that Jamkossian expressed his gratitude to the Canadian leader.

    “We really would like to thank you for all this hospitality and the warm welcome and all the staff–we felt ourselves at home and we felt ourselves highly respected,” Jamkossian said.

    Canada has promised to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, and 25,000 by March. Trudeau said last month that he is “very much committed to keeping Canadians safe” while continuing to bring Syrian refugees into the country.

    See more images from the group’s arrival below.

    TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 11: The first Syrian refugee family to disembark at Toronto Pearson International Airport makes their way into the Canada Border Services Agencys processing area on December 11, 2015. (Photo by Kenneth Allan/Canada Border Services Agency/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    The first Syrian refugee family to disembark at Toronto Pearson International Airport makes their way into the Canada Border Services Agency’s processing area on Dec. 11, 2015. Photo by Kenneth Allan/Canada Border Services Agency/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Syrian refugees are presented with a child's winter jacket by Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) on their arrival from Beirut at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada December 11, 2015. After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first Canadian government planeload of Syrian refugees landed in Toronto on Thursday, aboard a military aircraft met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  REUTERS/Mark Blinch  - RTX1Y6VA

    Syrian refugees are presented with a child’s winter jacket by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, on their arrival from Beirut at the Toronto Pearson International Airport on Dec. 11, 2015. Photo by Mark Blinch/Reuters

    Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helps a young Syrian refugee try on a winter coat after she arrived with her family from Beirut at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada December 11, 2015. After months of promises and weeks of preparation, the first Canadian government planeload of Syrian refugees landed in Toronto on Thursday, aboard a military aircraft met by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  REUTERS/Mark Blinch  - RTX1Y6W6

    Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau helps a young Syrian refugee try on a winter coat after she arrived with her family from Beirut at the Toronto Pearson International Airport on Dec. 11, 2015.  Photo by Mark Blinch/Reuters

    The post Syrian refugees receive warm welcome in Canada appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Santa Mark, a Santa Claus impersonator from Ansonia in Connecticut, sits in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City on November 28. Photo by REUTERS and Andrew Kelly

    Santa Mark, a Santa Claus impersonator from Ansonia in Connecticut, sits in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City on November 28. Photo by Reuters and Andrew Kelly

    When I became a parent 10 years ago, I made this deal with myself: No matter how uncomfortable it might be at times, I would always tell my child the truth. Way too often, it seemed, parents risked the trust of their children by telling them lies — white lies, black lies, all the lies — and rarely were any of them really necessary or justified. Plus, honesty was a value I wanted to model.

    That worked out great until Santa Claus came along and screwed everything up.

    I don’t remember when my daughter, Maxine, first heard about Santa. Chances are good I wasn’t even aware of it. The symbol of “the spirit of Christmas” is steeped in our culture. As an American child, there was no way Maxine was going to miss the Santa boat.

    When I became a parent 10 years ago, I made this deal with myself: No matter how uncomfortable it might be at times, I would always tell my child the truth. That worked out great until Santa Claus came along and screwed everything up.

    Still, it takes parental support to keep the Santa boat afloat. Parents buy the gifts; parents fill the stockings; parents take their kids to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap; parents help pour the milk so the kids can make sure Santa is greeted warmly when he shimmies down the chimney at night. And, if I didn’t want to burst the little bubble implanted in Maxine’s head by society, I was going to have to do what I said I wouldn’t: lie.

    I’m not the first to have mixed feelings about Santa Claus. In his 1993 book, “The Trouble With Christmas,” Tom Flynn laid out five main arguments against engaging in the Santa myth with children:

    1. To perpetuate the Santa myth, parents must lie to their kids.

    2. To buoy belief, adults often stage elaborate deceptions, laying traps for the child’s developing intellect.

    3. The myth encourages lazy parenting and promotes unhealthy fear.

    4. The myth makes kids more acquisitive, not less so.

    5. The myth appears to exploit age-appropriate cognitive patterns that religious children use in forming their ideas of God.

    Although I think there’s a whole lot of exaggeration in Flynn’s list, some of his points hit close to home. So it was with great relief that I read a second essay written by author Dale McGowan, who argued that “figuring out that Santa is not real” is a wonderful rite of passage for children, as long as parents tread lightly around the myth, and stay alert for the first hints of skepticism.

    Seen in the right light, Santa is not a lie; he’s a mystery. And it’s up to each little boy and girl to unravel the mystery for themselves.

    “I avoided both lying and setting myself up as a godlike authority,” McGowan wrote, “determined as I was to let [my son] sort this one out himself.” Then, when McGowan’s son was 9 and asked point-blank whether Santa was real, McGowan turned the question around: “What do you think?”

    “Well,” his son answered, smiling. “I think all the moms and dads are Santa. Am I right?”

    McGowan smiled back and told the truth — and his son was no worse for the wear.

    Since then, I have come to see the Santa myth as a perfect opportunity for Maxine to hone her critical thinking skills, to sift through evidence, separate out what makes sense from what doesn’t, and come to her own conclusions.

    Seen in the right light, Santa is not a lie; he’s a mystery. And it’s up to each little boy and girl to unravel the mystery for themselves.

    Through the years, I’ve helped Maxine set out cookies for Santa and address letters to the North Pole. I’ve proclaimed that “Santa must have come!” when she has found her stocking bulging Christmas morning. But I’ve also made sure to expose her to evidence pointing to the truth. (Many books and movies provide evidence; so do the opinions of older/wiser children.) I’ve never rationalized the inconsistencies that exist within the Santa myth — why every mall has its own Santa, how Santa gets around the world in one night, or why some poor children don’t have toys on Christmas morning. I called it doing “Santa Lite” — passively supporting the myth without making overt statements about the truth of Santa’s existence.

    I knew our Friend in Red was living on borrowed time, and I worried that, when the jig was up, she might feel sad about losing him — or, worse, feel betrayed that we had misled her.

    Last year, when Maxine was 9 and clearly teetering on the precipice between belief and non-belief, I put together a special gift for her. It was a box containing her favorite Christmas decoration — a vintage curio I’d inherited from my mother — along with an assortment of her favorite candy. A note on the box said: “For Maxine — when you discover the ‘truth’ behind the mystery. Congratulations!” I knew our Friend in Red was living on borrowed time, and I worried that, when the jig was up, she might feel sad about losing him — or, worse, feel betrayed that we had misled her. I hoped the gift might soften the blow.

    I stowed the box on a shelf in our garage — awaiting the day it would be needed.

    That day, as it turned out, was last Saturday.

    Having just returned from a trip to Colonial Williamsburg for Thanksgiving, Maxine was trying out a feather quill pen for the first time. I watched her write, “Dear Santa…” on her paper, and then I watched her stop, look at me, and take out a new piece of paper. “Is Santa real?” she wrote in the messy ink. Then she looked at me again, awaiting an answer.

    “What do you think?” I asked.

    “I don’t know,” she said. “Is Santa real?”

    I hesitated, during which time she picked out a new piece of paper and wrote: “Please tell me about it. I do not want to find out alone.”

    Maxine's letter about Santa.  Photo by Wendy Thomas Russell

    Maxine’s letter about Santa. Photo by Wendy Thomas Russell

    I went straight to the garage.

    When I got back, I said, “Are you ready?”

    “Yes,” she said.

    Then I explained to her that Santa is not a person, but an idea. Mom and dads and grandmas and grandpas are all Santa. And, now, she would get to be Santa, too. I gave her the gift, and she opened it. “I remember this!” she said when she saw the curio. And then: “Candy!”

    We emphasized how important it was to keep the Santa mystery intact for other children, and my husband, Charlie, pulled up the famous (and famously wonderful) editorial from The Sun on his phone. You know the one — “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Written in 1897, the editorial is ridiculously on point and surprisingly poignant.

    The candy, unfortunately, had gone completely stale. “When did you buy this stuff?” Maxine asked, presenting me with a calcified gummy bear. I laughed. “Last year!”

    “We’ll get you new candy today,” Charlie said.

    I searched Maxine’s face for signs of disappointment, but there were none. Instead there was relief (she finally knew the truth), pride (her pressing curiosity had paid off), and excitement (now she would get to help keep Santa “alive” for her younger cousins).

    Plus, there was candy. New candy.

    It was the the least we could do after lying to her all these years.


    Editor’s note: This article is updated from a column that we ran on December 15, 2014.

    The post What I said when my daughter asked me about Santa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Spartanburg, South Carolina, November 20, 2015. Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Reuters

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Nov. 20, 2015. Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Reuters

    NEW YORK — About a dozen protesters disrupted Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s speech at a $1,000-a-plate New York City luncheon Friday, criticizing the billionaire businessman’s recent anti-Islam rhetoric as security staff forcibly ejected some of them from the event.

    Four protesters chanting “Trump is trying to bring us down, targeting people black and brown,” tried to storm a side entrance into the speech at Manhattan’s The Plaza Hotel as security staff pushed them away.

    The protesters were affiliated with various Arab-American and Muslim-American groups, as well as groups for racial equality.

    One of those protesters, Jorge Gonzalez, fell down a flight of stairs after a hotel security worker pushed him. He said he was uninjured. Another was thrown to the ground in the hotel lobby and two reporters from The Associated Press were also forcibly removed from the hotel lobby.

    Later in Trump’s speech, about nine other protesters from various advocacy groups stood up to denounce his recent comments to temporarily bar Muslims from entering the U.S., protesters said.

    “I’m really frightened by that kind of rhetoric,” said Martha Acklesberg, 69, a member of the group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, who along with Judith Plaskow, 68, paid to hear Trump speech and then disrupted it in protest.

    Trump, said Acklesberg, briefly stopped his speech during their protests and quipped, “when you’re the front runner you get a lot of attention.”

    The event, sponsored by the Commonwealth Club, a Pennsylvania Republican group, was closed to the press.

    The post Protesters disrupt Donald Trump speech at NYC luncheon appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An image from "George," a book by Alex Gino that follows the story of a young transgender woman. Photo courtesy of Scholastic

    An image from “George,” a book by Alex Gino that follows the story of a young transgender woman. Photo courtesy of Scholastic

    Books represent some of the first opportunities children have to explore the world. But in the U.S. where children’s books remain overwhelmingly white among a growing young minority population, those books are usually far less diverse than the groups of children reading them.

    “I think it’s really important for kids to see themselves in literature,” Ann Marie Wong, editorial director of the Scholastic Reading Club, said. “They deserve to have that indescribable feeling when you get a book and it really speaks to you, when you feel like you’re not alone.”

    Scholastic recently teamed up with We Need Diverse Books, an organization that advocates for diversity in children’s and young adult literature, to offer a reading list for libraries and classrooms. The list highlights titles that tell a range of stories about people of color, LGBTQ identities, disability and other stories that are less-often told.

    Wong and Dhonielle Clayton, vice president of We Need Diverse Books, stressed that good storytelling on a range of topics benefits all children and young adults, not just ones who belong to the communities they portray. “By having kids read cross-culturally, it really helps them have a common language of accepting and understanding,” Clayton said.

    Check out our list below for some of Wong and Clayton’s favorites for kids and young adults.

    Picture books

    caption

    Photo courtesy of Scholastic

    “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña
    CJ rides the bus with his grandma after church every week, but wonders why his family doesn’t have a car like some of the other kids he knows. On the ride, he talks with his grandma about his community and meets a variety of characters in illustrations by Christopher Robinson. The book explores what it means to address class and identity at a young age, Clayton said. Wong described the book as “a wonderful story about family and community.”

    “Red: A Crayon’s Story” by Michael Hall
    This book follows the story of a crayon that is labeled red, and who everyone insists is red, but who draws in blue. The crayon’s story shows kids that it is okay to identify outside of the labels that are assigned to you by the rest of society, Clayton said. “This metaphor can extend to lots of different things,” she said. “I use it a lot to talk to my kindergartners about when you feel different on the inside, but the way you look on the outside doesn’t match.”

    “Tutus Aren’t My Style” by Linda Skeers
    Emma, who loves pirates and playing with frogs, is confused when she receives a tutu in the mail as a gift from her uncle.  The book addresses expectations for young women and “opens up a conversation, especially for younger kids, about ‘boy stuff’ and ‘girl stuff,'” Clayton said.

    Middle readers

    Photo courtesy of Scholastic

    Photo courtesy of Scholastic

    “George” by Alex Gino
    George is a fourth-grader who was assigned the male gender at birth, but who knows that she is a girl. When her school decides to put on the play “Charlotte’s Web,” George decides to audition for Charlotte, beginning a process of understanding what her gender identity means for herself and her community. Clayton said this story was the first book she has seen for middle readers that has a transgender protagonist.

    “The Marvels” by Brian Selznick
    Selznick has long been a popular author among middle readers. “The Marvels” spans the story of Billy Marvel and his descendants from 1766, when Marvel is working on a whaling ship, to early 20th-century London. The book is more than 600 pages long, but 400 of those pages are illustrations. Wong recommended this book for kids who are interested in art or history.

    “Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood” by Vasha Bajaj
    Young protagonist Abby Spencer decides she wants to meet her father, who is a star in Bollywood, and the resulting journey is an exploration in her identity and relationship with her father. The book is a valuable look at the experience of being first-generation, Clayton said.

    “I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives” by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka with Liz Welch
    This nonfiction memoir is told from two perspectives: a young woman in Pennsylvania and a boy in Zimbabwe become pen pals for a class assignment in 1997. They chronicle their story in six years of letters between the two. “You see how they grow up differently and what their lives and experiences are like, and also how they come to help each other,” Wong said.

    Young adult

    “Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel” by Sara Farizan
    Leila, an Iranian-American teenager, is a junior in high school when she meets Saskia and develops a crush on her. The book addresses the intersection of Iranian and LGBTQ identity, Clayton said.

    “All American Boys” by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds
    This is the story of how police violence affects two young men: Rashad, a black teenager who a policeman beats up in a corner store after mistaking him for a shoplifter, and Quinn, a white teenager who witnesses the incident. The story shows the lasting effect of police violence on a community through the perspectives of both teens. “It talks about the bystander affect and what you do when someone is falsely accused, and how you stand up for things that are right,” Clayton said.

    “None of the Above” by I.W. Gregorio
    Gregorio’s book follows a teenager as she learns she is intersex — and then as her identity is leaked to the school. This is a rare representation of an intersex young adult, according to Clayton. “I really like this book because I haven’t read a book about an intersex character before for teens,” she said.

    The post 10 children’s books that feature diverse characters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Afghan refugees are seen on a beach, moments after arriving on a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos, September 15, 2015. Two decades of frontier-free travel across Europe unraveled on Monday as countries re-established border controls in the face of an unprecedented influx of migrants, which broke the record for the most arrivals by land in a single day. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RTS18LD

    Afghan refugees arrive by dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos. Photo by Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

    The world is currently facing the worst migration crisis since World War II: millions are displaced and thousands have died this year alone. A substantial number of those fleeing their home countries are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, collectively making up more than half of all asylum-seekers around the world in 2015, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

    Their plight has had a profound effect on global politics, which have gotten only more complex following the November terrorist attack in Paris that prompted Europe to grapple more intensely with security and its open borders. To help clarify how and why the situation has had such an extensive effect on different countries, here is a region-by-region look at where these migrants have traveled and how governments have responded.


    NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES & THE PERSIAN GULF

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    Turkey currently hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees of any country in the world. Since the crisis began, Turkey has accepted more than 2 million refugees, more than double that of any other nation. Lebanon also has taken in a sizable number, with just over 1 million currently living in the country. This number represents a quarter of Lebanon’s total population, and means that Lebanon hosts the world’s highest percentage of refugees per inhabitant. Jordan and Iraq also have accepted a substantial number of Syrian refugees.

    Life isn’t easy for refugees in these countries. In Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, they do not have official permission to work. Most do informal or under-the-table work, and many operate from their savings until it runs out. In Lebanon, the U.N. estimates that nearly 90 percent of refugees are in debt. Additionally, almost half of the Syrian refugee children in Lebanon do not attend school, largely due to the prohibitive cost of education and their need to work to earn money for their families.

    To the south, the richer Gulf nations of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have not signed on to refugee conventions, and therefore have not formally accepted any Syrian refugees.


    ENTERING EUROPE

    While the number is smaller, many migrants coming from Middle Eastern conflict zones endeavor to apply for asylum in Europe instead of settling in closer countries. The main path for them is to travel from Turkey across to Greece, up through the Balkan states, typically from Macedonia into Serbia, then on to Hungary or Croatia, then Slovenia, and finally into Austria and Germany. So far in 2015, almost 800,000 people have chosen this route. According to the U.N., 93 percent of those traveling this route are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    TemplateThe journey is perilous. This year alone, over 3,500 people have either died or went missing trying to cross seas to Europe. Even the land route is not completely safe. Incidents such as one where smugglers left 71 migrants to suffocate in a truck outside of Vienna illustrate just how dangerous it can be.

    There also are numerous difficulties for countries hosting refugees. From September to November, nations along the route from Turkey to Austria received between 1,000 to 12,000 migrants per day, with the median number of persons crossing the various borders daily hovering around 5,000. Registering the large number of people is a huge logistical challenge for most countries, as is providing shelter and food.

    In order to avoid a large influx of migrants arriving, many countries have begun attempting to control the flow through their borders. Hungary has built a razor wire fence along its border with Serbia and Croatia, effectively closing it and forcing most migrant traffic through Slovenia. Both Slovenia and Macedonia also are erecting fences, although they state that these are merely intended to direct migrants to legal crossings.

    Since the Paris attacks, the Balkan nations (Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia) have declared that they will only allow Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis across their borders. This policy is leaving many people stranded, and has in some cases led to violent clashes with police.


    INSIDE THE EUROPEAN UNION

    Source: European Commission

    Source: European Commission

    Since 2013, the system Europe has had in place for dealing with those seeking asylum is the Dublin Regulation. Under that rule, people wishing for asylum are required to register at the first country in which they arrive. These measures are meant to prevent migrants from applying for refugee status in countries with the most liberal policies.

    However, the regulations have begun to break down in the wake of the migrant crisis, especially as some countries have been taking in disproportionately large numbers of asylum seekers. Greece, which has teetered on the edge of financial ruin, cannot cope with registering the large numbers of migrants it receives. Out of almost 1 million applicants this year, Germany has received 343,675.

    In an attempt to develop a unified response to the situation, in May and again in September, the EU approved relocation plans. Under the plans, 160,000 migrants would be moved from Italy and Greece to other EU countries. Each country was given a quota of migrants to take in, based on their GDP, unemployment rate, population and how many asylum seekers they had already accepted.

    The move was controversial. Unlike most EU issues involving national sovereignty, it was not approved by consensus, but instead by majority vote. Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against it, while Finland abstained. Additionally, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland all had “opt-outs” for the agreement. Ireland, however, offered to accept 2,900 extra refugees, while Denmark agreed to take in an extra 1,000. Instead of participating in the quota plan, the UK has said it will take an extra 20,000 refugees over the next four years directly from camps in the Middle East.

    Since the plan’s approval, just over half of the nations involved have made places available for refugees. Of those, only six (Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, France, Germany) have taken in refugees.


    AROUND THE WORLD

    Some other countries around the world have volunteered to resettle Syrian refugees. Canada welcomed its first group of an eventual 25,000 Syrian refugees on Friday. Australia agreed to take in a similar number, and will accept just under 18,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees. The United States has pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, however, this plan has caused considerable controversy.

    As they stand, the relocation plans still do not provide a permanent solution to the crisis, as people continue to pour out of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq every day.

    The post A region-by-region guide to the Middle East’s migrant crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video by the Syria Campaign

    Syrian activist and journalist Rami Jarrah appeared on a live stream on Friday to answer questions about daily life and the political situation in Aleppo, Syria.

    The Syrian Campaign live-streamed Jarrah, who lives outside Syria but traveled to Aleppo five weeks ago, answering questions that people submitted via Twitter at the hashtag #AleppoLive. He also translated answers from people he said were Aleppo residents standing beside him.

    First, Jarrah addressed present conditions in Aleppo, where both the Syrian government and Russian forces have recently carried out airstrikes. Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin have said the strikes are aimed at weakening the Islamic State, but Jarrah said the strikes only serve to weaken Syrian opposition forces and their civilian families who live in Aleppo.

    When one person asked what a normal day is like in Aleppo, he translated several men’s answers. One said: “A normal day is, we see massacres and a lot of airstrikes. This is a normal day in Aleppo … If you don’t hear any attacks, if you don’t hear bullets being fired, if you don’t see signs of war, this is something we’re not used to.”

    Jarrah grew up in London and was visiting family in Syria in 2004 when he was detained over a legal complication with his passport, The New York Times reported. He decided to stay in Syria after the case was concluded, and after the revolution began in 2011, he began corresponding with Western media outlets, including the PBS NewsHour, under the name Alexander Page. In Oct. 2011, a friend told Jarrah that the government had learned his real name, and within a couple of hours he had fled the country with his wife and child.

    Several children joined Jarrah on the stream to answer questions about their daily lives and whether they were attending school. Jarrah translated for one child who said that he had to work to help his family, and another child who said that he used to attend a school that was hit by airstrikes so regularly that he stopped going.

    “Every time we want to go to school, we’re attacked,” the child said.

    Jarrah also addressed the use of the pejorative term “Daesh,” which is credited to Syrian activist Khaled al-Haj Salih, for the Islamic State. The group will kill anyone who uses the term in their presence, since using it is act of resistance against the notion that they are a state, he said.

    He highlighted the work of the White Helmets, a Syrian aid and rescue organization that works to save people trapped after a strike. “They’re usually at the scene of an attack very soon after an attack,” he said. “Sometimes they’re working for days taking people out from the rubble of one attack.”

    But the White Helmets have suffered an equipment shortage recently, particularly fuel, which the group depends on to transport injured people and remove rubble, Jarrah said. He then translated a statement from a man next to him, who said, “Without them, there’s no life in our city.”

    Recording information, or taking video and photos, from inside Syria is extremely difficult. Jarrah recounted how he recently tried to film at a hospital, but hospital workers barred him from filming, saying that other institutions had been “punished” after videos of them appeared online. Jarrah said when he asked why, they answered: “Assad doesn’t want us to show the world that we have a civil society.”

    When asked how people outside of Syria could help the situation, he said the best thing they could do was try to understand what is happening inside the country. He summed it up in one sentence: “The people here are terrorized by both ISIS and the Syrian regime, and it’s important to understand that.”

    In fact, many Aleppo residents are afraid to discuss the Islamic State for fear the group could track them down, he said. “There is a constant worry in talking about ISIS … They know that ISIS will kill them if they ever came back to these areas and they knew that they had been talking,” he said.

    The post Journalist live-broadcasts from inside Syria in #AleppoLive chat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman leaves the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June. REUTERS/Keith Bedford (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY IMMIGRATION POLITICS) - RTR36VFP

    Wealthy foreigners have invested $500,000 each into Vermont’s Jay Peak Resort through the EB-5 immigrant investor program. Now, some of them aren’t so sure they will get their money back. Photo by REUTERS/Keith Bedford

    This week, Making Sen$e has been covering a little-known visa immigrant investor program, known as EB-5, which is now up for Congressional reauthorization. By investing upwards of $500,000 into a commercial enterprise, wealthy foreigners and their families are granted green cards, so long as the investor can prove that 10 U.S. jobs have been created as a result of his or her investment.

    Proponents have touted the program as a job creator with no cost to the U.S. taxpayer. Critics question the ethics of selling visas and say that the program is prone for corruption. In one particularly egregious case, a man fraudulently raised $160 million from nearly 300 Chinese investors in Chicago, siphoning off a portion of the funds for personal use.

    On Tuesday, Making Sen$e laid out the controversy surrounding the EB-5 visa program, and on Thursday, Paul Solman reported from Vermont’s Jay Peak Resort, where a showdown has been brewing between the developer and CEO of Jay Peak, Bill Stenger, and 20 of the resort’s earliest EB-5 investors, who fear they will won’t ever see the half a million dollars each they invested in Jay Peak.

    VT Digger, an investigative Vermont news website, has been following the controversy and reported in June that Jay Peak was under a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.

    Here’s a snippet of what’s been going on in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, first in Bill Stenger’s own words:

    We’ve been working on the four-season concept at our resort for about 20 years, and we’ve been implementing it now for about the last 10 years.

    The ability to borrow money in 2008 was almost nonexistent. And because of the EB-5 funding that was available to us at that time, we were able to implement our plan. Commercial lending of that magnitude in a rural community was impossible to find, and frankly, it’s still impossible to find.

    In the last seven years we have invested about $250 million in the Jay Peak Community, and we have constructed three different hotels, a beautiful indoor water park, an ice arena, a conference center, a wedding facility, a number of restaurants and spa facilities. We’ve grown our business from what was about 125,000 visits a year to close a million now. Our revenue growth has gone from about 6 million a year to this year we are approaching 60 million. Our employment numbers have grown, we are now employing 1,600 people in the wintertime, and we have had a tremendous indirect effect in jobs around our community. And we have made tremendous impact on the local economy throughout our region.

    It’s important that the investor benefit. It’s important that the government benefit. It’s important that the business benefit. The state, and in our case the regional center, looks at each business plan and determines: Will it be a good business for the state? Will the investors be benefiting as well? Is it an investment that is worth investing in? It’s certainly not an investment that can be guaranteed, because the federal law prohibits that.

    As Bill Stenger notes, technically all investments must be “at risk” investments, but as Reuters has reported, it’s not unusual for developers and regional centers to promise more than they can deliver.

    VT Digger reported that Bill Stenger lost the trust of Jay Peak’s first EB-5 investors, precisely because those promises weren’t delivered. VT Digger’s Anne Galloway and Hilary Niles report:

    A group of immigrant EB-5 investors are incensed that Bill Stenger, president and CEO of Jay Peak Resort, seized ownership of the Tram Haus Lodge and turned their half-million dollar equity stakes in the property into IOUs.

    Investors had no knowledge of Stenger’s actions until five months after they were executed.

    Stenger and his partner at Jay Peak, Miami-based Ariel Quiros, dissolved the company on Aug. 31, 2013, turned the investments into unsecured loans and “waived” investors’ legal rights, according to documents obtained by VTDigger. Stenger says he sent an email to investors with the promissory note on Jan. 24 of this year, but he did not mail official, paper copies until May.

    After the investors sent letters of complaint to Stenger and the state, Jay Peak agreed to change certain terms of the IOU in a take-it-or-leave-it offer earlier this month.

    In an interview, Stenger said he did not need to consult with the 35 limited partners in Jay Peak Hotel Suites, LP, before he dissolved the company, because Jay Peak had the legal right to do so under the limited partnership agreement with the investors.

    Stenger said he regrets not communicating better with both investors and state officials, and he takes full responsibility for the “big mistake.”

    “I made a mistake in not communicating with the investors, and I should have,” Stenger said in an interview Friday. “And I’ve apologized to them, rather profusely, that it was my oversight in not reaching out to them in August when that decision was made. And I was wrong. It was not intentional.”

    About half of the Tram Haus investors in the state’s first EB-5 project, however, say they have lost faith in Jay Peak and the state-run Vermont Regional Center, which oversees all EB-5 developments in Vermont. One investor said he had his life savings invested in the Tram Haus, and most fear they will never recoup their investments in the property.

    As EB-5 investor Tony Sutton notes, he’s not sure whether he’ll ever get his money back: “As time has gone on, and we have seen what else has happened at Jay Peak, we have become more and more concerned that we might never see the bulk of the money, which is due in 2018.”

    VT Digger’s Anne Galloway has ongoing coverage on the EB-5 developments in Vermont. Stenger and his partner Ariel Quiros alone have half a dozen new EB-5 projects pending in neighboring Newport, including a stem cell manufacturing facility affiliated with the South Korean biotech firm, AnC Bio. Galloway has covered this topic as well.

    For more on the controversy at Jay Peak, watch Thursday’s Making Sen$e report:

    [Watch Video]

    The above excerpt of Paul Solman’s conversation with Bill Stenger has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    The post Does the EB-5 visa program take advantage of investors? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    shields-brooks copy

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, let’s talk about Paul Ryan for minute.

    Mark, how is he doing?

    MARK SHIELDS: He’s doing fine, Judy, until — this is a test coming up, of course, with the budgeting, keeping the federal government open.

    He’s got a certain honeymoon period. And I think he’s been the beneficiary. First of all, he has to deal with the Freedom Caucus and the conservatives who were the bane of John Boehner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The bane of John Boehner.

    MARK SHIELDS: And I think he’s benefited, in a strange way, by the chaos created by Donald Trump.

    He looks, in comparison, by — a grownup. And I think, at the same time, that, for the first time, there is nervousness and anxiety among Republicans that they could lose their congressional majorities next November.

    So, there is less tolerance, perhaps, for all the hissy fits and tantrums that have been thrown by House members in the past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Contrast with Boehner?

    DAVID BROOKS: It is.

    First of all, I have to say there are very few successful Republican beards. And I think he’s pulling it off. So, that’s very important to the brand.

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID BROOKS: Not since Lincoln, maybe, have we had a good Republican beard.

    But he — the way you believe something is as important as what you believe. What Chris Van Hollen said in that piece, that he is more conservative than John Boehner, that is certainly true. But he is more communicative. He’s also just warmer. And he’s ostentatiously respectful to other people.

    And so just that manner has helped him. It’s also helped him, frankly, that Boehner did a lot of the heavy lifting on the government shutdown stuff before he left, on raising the spending caps and some of that other stuff, so it will be a lot easier. And that’s a tribute to what Boehner did before he walked out the door there.

    And then the devolution of power is just big. You are managing an organization. And you give some people some control over what they’re doing. I would say, since I came to Washington, in almost every institution, power has grown more and more centralized, either in the White House or in Congress or in agencies, smaller zones of trust.

    And so to reverse that is kind of revolutionary and kind of impressive.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if you look at — as David just said, you’re looking at Paul Ryan as someone who is more conservative than the leadership the Republicans had before, so you would think there would be more push and pull, but it looks like he’s trying to get things done.

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, he is trying to get things done.

    But it comes down to the continuing resolution. This is the maximum power that a minority who are in opposition or have a particular case, a cause or point of view, for them to exercise it and to influence the threat.

    The Republicans could not have a shutdown of the government right now. They can’t. And so he’s got to limit…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why not? Why not?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, because this is a party that, quite frankly, right now is on the cusp of a nervous breakdown, I think it’s fair to say, with the Trump candidacy and what’s going on and just the rhetoric in that whole debate.

    You heard Ileana Ros-Lehtinen say in her piece to Lisa the Republican brand, that she looks to Paul Ryan to save the Republican brand, which is damaged. And so he’s got to get that done. So — and this is the time where you bring up riders. Riders are the last children, really, of special legislation.

    There’s not supposed to be a rider on appropriations.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: These are issues that are separate from…

    MARK SHIELDS: They’re not supposed to be on appropriation, but everybody wants to bring up his cause right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.

    MARK SHIELDS: And so that’s the problem he faces.

    He’s got to get it done. They want to see him succeed. And they don’t want him to fail. He does have one great advantage. And that is that he didn’t plot and scheme to get this job. It was really thrust upon him. So I think that’s an advantage, that he didn’t crawl all over — crawl over carcasses and corpses to get there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: When it comes to Trump, David, I know we have been talking about him, but this week, with the statement about keeping Muslims out of the country, is this just more of the same of what we have been hearing from Donald Trump, or are we hearing something at a completely new level?

    DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s a different level.

    The man is a genius for attention, an addict of attention, and therefore a genius of getting it. And so this I think is a different level for a couple of reasons. First, it is bigotry of a naked sort. The Mexican stuff was bigotry, too, but this strikes me as a higher level.

    Second, an offense against religious liberty. And, third, because of the way Trump has now risen to prominence, it has reverberations around the globe, in the way the stuff even he said earlier about Latin Americans didn’t.

    And so it’s done enormous damage to America’s reputation abroad. And so I do it’s something different. Politically, it’s a total winner. I mean, let’s be clear. The polls show it, and for a number of reasons.

    People, as we heard earlier in the program, are scared about terrorism. Secondly, there has been a pent-up, silent frustration about political correctness. So anybody who says something politically completely incorrect, and properly incorrect, for some people, that’s like a liberation. It’s, finally, somebody’s saying the truth.

    And so he’s benefiting from that. And so it’s right now a total winner on the Republican primary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And if it’s a winner — and, Mark, the polls do show that — I think I saw 40-some percent of Republicans agree with his statement.

    But when you talk about the electorate overall, it’s only about 20-something percent.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    No, it’s a real problem for the Republicans, Judy. It’s a problem for the country. I mean, we saw it this week. Karl Rove, George Bush’s amanuensis, his master strategist, said that — wrote that the nomination of Donald Trump is a gift to the Democrats and would doom the Republicans.

    We saw 20 Republican leaders, as reported by Robert Costa in The Washington Post, had a secret meeting, that they were that concerned, that anxious to somehow provoke and guarantee that there will be a brokered convention in Cleveland next summer to do anything, apparently, to deny him the nomination.

    What he did this week, with — talked about as being intemperate, or being outrageous, or ethnic slurs — this really, to use a term I’m reluctant to use, was un-American. I mean, religious tolerance is in the citizenship papers of this country. It was put there by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, specifically to include Jews and nonbelievers and Muslims.

    It wasn’t — so that it wasn’t simply Christians or Protestants of a certain sectarian — and so, I mean, this was just — this was really so offensive and so outrageous. I mean, when — and I thought the timid and rather tepid reaction of a lot of Republicans — when Dick Cheney becomes the moral templar of your party to say this is unacceptable, and I think a word has to be said on behalf of both Cheney and George W. Bush, that, after 9/11, they deliberately, consciously didn’t bring any — made sure that this would have a religious element to it, the war in Iraq, the ill-fated war in Iraq.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What effect — David, you said, short-term, it helps him politically, but what effect is it having on this race? How is it changing the shape of this presidential…

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    Well, first, on the Republican Party, it doesn’t — not — looking at the data, it doesn’t seem to be bleeding over into hurting the Republican brand. If you look at the party approval, it pretty much where it was. It’s slightly up where it was three or four months ago.

    People may disapprove of Donald Trump, but, so far, they don’t see him as a typical Republican, maybe because he’s running against the party. I continue to believe — and I will believe to my dying day — that he will — his numbers will collapse. I have said it here on a weekly basis, and I don’t think any of this matters until the final months.

    But events like Paris…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re getting close.

    DAVID BROOKS: We’re getting close. And events like Paris — and his genius for attention — what he does is, he takes a concrete issue or a broad issue which is complicated and he turns it into sometimes brutal and sometimes horrific simplicity.

    And so there is this broad fear of security and terrorism. He — specifically Muslims, and that, like, lodges in people’s minds as something simple and bold, and somehow he seems to some people like a strong leader.

    Do you hate women? The question that was asked to him in one of the debates. No, just Rosie O’Donnell. How much money are you worth? He could say 6.8 million — he says $10 billion. So, there’s a genius for attention by turning everything into concrete, very specific things that lodge in the mind. And that is a demagogic genius, but let’s face it, he has it.

    I still think the electorate will turn, but he is not to be underestimated for that demagogic ability.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark, you said a minute ago that Republicans had — some Republicans hadn’t been strong enough in their disagreeing or denouncing what Trump said about Muslims.

    But it’s been interesting to watch Ted Cruz, senator from Texas. He’s one who seems to be rising in the public opinion polls. What is it that he’s saying? And his statement about Trump, if I got it correctly, was, I don’t agree with him, but he has a right to say that.

    And then there was, I guess, the story that came out today or yesterday where, in private, he said he thinks Trump is going to collapse, but then — Trump later shot back, and Cruz said, oh, Trump’s terrific.

    But how do you explain Ted Cruz?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, if you want to know what a candidate really thinks, you tape him in an off-the-record fund-raising meeting. And that’s where Ted Cruz did say that, that he didn’t think Donald Trump had the judgment to survive and to win the presidency.

    Ted Cruz has just been right up to Donald Trump’s left shoulder. Donald Trump insinuates, as David puts it, that Barack Obama may not be a total American because he won’t say radical Muslim terrorist, or extremist, and he won’t use that term, he won’t, in other words, give it the religious component, and he says, there is something going on there, he says.

    Well, Ted Cruz calls him an apologist for radical Islam instead. Now, it’s one thing, Judy, if I disagree with you and say you’re mistaken or you’re ill-informed. When I start demonizing your motives — and he does that. He does that in speech. He’s sort of Donald Trump with better academic credentials, a better haircut and probably 60 I.Q. points.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, other than that, what would you add about Ted Cruz?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, Cruz is interesting because he’s universally unpopular.

    MARK SHIELDS: Universally.

    DAVID BROOKS: In the law firm, at school, among the Republicans — when he was working with George W. Bush’s campaign, he could not get a serious job after that, because everyone said, I will not work with that guy.

    He comes to the Senate, Republican senators, if they had a vote between some Democrat to be majority leader and Ted Cruz, they would vote for the Democrat. He is just unpopular. And he’s used that unpopularity to his benefit in this campaign. Look, they all hate me.

    And so, if you’re running an anti-Washington campaign, the fact that everyone who works with you hates you suddenly becomes a plus.

    The other interesting is, for a guy who runs on principle, he’s extremely tactical. He’s very deft at moving this way and that. And so the Republican Party faces this problem, that they don’t want Trump, but the alternative might be Cruz, and they don’t want that either.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will leave it on that note, David Brooks, Mark Shields.

    The post Shields and Brooks on the GOP’s Trump problem, Paul Ryan’s speaker leadership appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Steve Jobs from banksy.co.uk.

    “Steve Jobs” from banksy.co.uk.

    The British street artist known as Banksy has struck again. This time, a new piece portraying Apple founder Steve Jobs as a refugee adorns a wall in a migrant camp in Calais, France.

    The “Jungle,” as the refugee camp in Calais has come to be known is an improvised camp where hundreds of migrants have set up tents in hopes they can cross the English Channel and into the U.K.

    Banksy’s design shows Jobs in his well-known attire of jeans and a black turtleneck, carrying an original Mac computer in one hand and cloth sack slung over his shoulder. On his website, Banksy captioned his new work: “the son of a migrant from Syria.”

    Steve Jobs was adopted, but his biological father, Abdul Fattah Jandali, was born and raised in Homs, Syria, a city that has been devastated in the war.

    The Dubai-based news site Al Arabiya reports that Jandali, born in 1931, moved to Lebanon when he turned 18 to study at the American University of Beirut. In 1954, Jandali moved to the U.S. because of political unrest in Lebanon. After the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, people on Twitter began sharing the fact that Jobs’ father was a migrant from Syria. 

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    It is unclear whether Jandali would be characterized as a refugee or migrant under current United Nations standards. The UN Refugee agency defines a refugee as a person fleeing armed conflict or persecution. Migrants “choose to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons.”

    This isn’t the first time Banksy has put his mark on the “Jungle.” Banksy previously installed in the camp a sign that read “Dismal aid,” a twist on the “Dismaland” exhibition he mounted in Somerset, England, this year.

    The post New Banksy mural portrays Steve Jobs as a refugee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington December 10, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron     - RTX1Y4FP

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn to newly-elected speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican Paul Ryan.

    He promises to overhaul internal House procedures, giving rank-and-file members more say. And he’s laying out an agenda for his party. Ryan is already facing one of his biggest challenges, keeping the government running.

    Our political director, Lisa Desjardins, reports.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, Speaker of the House: What’s next?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Paul Ryan is on a roll. In his first four working weeks, the new speaker presided over passage of a $600 billion defense bill, a plan to tighten screening of Syrian refugees, and a five-year highway bill, the types of big controversial bills that had been stuck in Capitol gridlock sometimes for years.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: I became speaker just over a month ago, and I would like to think we have hit the ground running. We are dealing with everything from highways, to ISIS, to funding the government.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This wasn’t the plan for the 45-year-old from Wisconsin. He’d just started his dream job as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. But the father of three young children agreed to become speaker, thanks to two chaotic weeks when sharply divided Republicans could not agree on anyone else.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Thursday was a great day. Thursday was a day where we came together as a conference and unified, and agreed to proceed together with a vision.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And his vision is about ideas. Ryan is a student of political philosophy, influenced by his mentor, the late conservative Jack Kemp, who saw free markets and tax cuts as the best antidotes to poverty, and Ayn Rand, the divisive author who stressed individualism.

    Ryan is an admirer, but has been careful to say he doesn’t fully embrace her philosophy. He is a bootstraps conservative, setting out to retool not just the Republican House, but the Republican agenda itself.

    REP. PAUL RYAN:
    Put together a positive agenda, and take it to the American people. Give the people of this country the choice that they have been yearning for.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But as Ryan aims to win Americans’ confidence, Democrats say he is dangerous.

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), Maryland: He is more hard-edged ideologically than Speaker Boehner was. Speaker Boehner was a rock-ribbed — rock-ribbed conservative. Paul Ryan had sharper ideological edges.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Congressman Chris Van Hollen may be the Democrat who knows Ryan the best, after four years of working as his Democratic counterpart on the House Budget Committee. Van Hollen says Ryan’s agenda is extreme, including his Medicare plan that would end the senior health care program as it exists now and replace it with limited-amount vouchers.

    REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: It would do great damage to Medicare. It would end the Medicare guarantee.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Ryan argues that, without such changes, Medicare will go bankrupt. It’s a pragmatic, mathematical view. And that wins him love from conservatives. But those same conservatives are also his biggest challenge.

    REP. SEAN DUFFY (R), Wisconsin: This is Paul Ryan’s real first big test.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Fellow Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy is talking about the government funding fight, a fight that is electrified with red-hot conservative issues, including Planned Parenthood funding and how to screen refugees.

    REP. SEAN DUFFY: These packages, they’re never great. They’re big, they’re long, they spend a lot of money. This thing’s going to stink no matter the way you look at it, and Paul Ryan is going to have to make it smell as rosy and lilacy as possible. We will see how well he does.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This kind of battle has paralyzed the House and its leaders for years. Do Republicans take a hard stance that they know the president will block, risking a government shutdown, or do they fund the government, at the expense of their own values? Do they compromise or do they dig in?

    REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), Florida: That’s why sort of threading that needle in a very careful way. He’s surfing his way through some very big surf that our GOP Caucus is throwing at him.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen believes Ryan is succeeding.

    REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: People are trusting him. Yes, there’s going to see how it all works out, but, as of now, even the most malcontent and discontented Republican member, of which we have a few — you’re never going to make everybody happy — has got to see that he’s really trying his best to make the process work.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And process is key. House Speaker John Boehner was ousted, in part, due to complaints from conservatives who felt that leadership ignored them. Now Ryan is changing House process.

    A few big items, giving members what’s called regular order. That means opportunities for everyone to propose and vote on more amendments, and for committees, not party leaders, to drive debates. Also, to engage everyone, he added one more all-member meeting each week.

    Congressman Dave Brat was one of the unsure conservatives who didn’t vote for Ryan as speaker, but he says, so far, he is impressed.

    REP. DAVE BRAT (R), Virginia: So, next year, we anticipate regular order. That’s a huge gain. I’m on the House Freedom Caucus. We have been fighting for that and that bottom-up leadership.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But in a time of threats from Islamic State, concerns over immigration, and continued job fears, process only goes so far. Ryan is challenging his party to come up with a clear agenda.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: If we want a mandate, then we need to offer ideas. And if we want to offer ideas, then we need to actually have ideas.

    LISA DESJARDINS: As he pushes for new ideas, Ryan is also tackling his party’s identity now: pushing back against presidential GOP front-runner Donald Trump, and Trump’s call to block Muslims from entering the United States.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Normally, I do not comment on what’s going on in the presidential election. I will take an exception today. This is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and, more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.

    REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: He’s going to improve our Republican brand. I hate to use that word brand, but that’s the way people look at this nowadays. And it’s been tarnished, and we’re going to earn that Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval again.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Those are big national goals. But first, of course, the new speaker must keep government running. The funding deadline is just days away.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins us now from Capitol Hill.

    So, Lisa, whatever Speaker Ryan is able to get done this year, we know — and you mentioned it — 2016 is an election year. Typically, Congress practically grinds to a halt during election years.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What are the expectations for him then?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, I think Paul Ryan is looking at this election year in a very different way from most speakers of the House, Judy.

    I spoke to one of his senior aides tonight, who said that Speaker Ryan thinks the party may not have a nominee until June or after, and that that is way too long for the party to wait to really spell out an agenda. So here comes Speaker Ryan. He’s ready to step in and is planning to try and articulate some policy, some proposals early next year, even as Republicans are fighting for the White House.

    He could be wading into some tricky waters, but even though Speaker Ryan is not running for president, it seems he could be a major architect for whoever does become their candidate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just very quickly on this budget shutdown, what does it look like? Are they going to keep the government open?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    Well, the lights are still on here. And they’re going to be on actually a lot this weekend. There will be staffers around the clock this weekend trying to work out dozens of still hitches, different items that the two parties need to agree on.

    Next week, we will know a lot more. So far, it looks like they could work this out. But, Judy, while the deadline has been moved to next Wednesday, I will make a little prediction. It might get moved again. We will see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That would be a shock.

    (LAUGHTER)

    LISA DESJARDINS: Imagine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: My pleasure.

    The post How Speaker Ryan is retooling the GOP agenda appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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