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

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    KARLA MURTHY: David Cross has lived on the streets of Sarasota, Florida, since 2008, when he lost his home to foreclosure. The 65-year-old former gas station worker now spends most of his days at the local library.

    DAVID CROSS: The library is a safe place. It’s air conditioned. You don’t have to be bothered by the so-called riff-raff.

    KARLA MURTHY: One night in August, he slept outside the library, which he did from time to time. What time was it when you got woken up by the police?

    DAVID CROSS: About ten past four in the morning. I was sleeping right there.

    KARLA MURTHY: The police issued a trespass warning, which would have banned cross from the library for an entire year.

    DAVID CROSS: I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself…

    KARLA MURTHY: The reason Sarasota police cited for his warning was a city ordinance against “lodging out-of-doors,” which prohibits sleeping or camping outside on public or private property without permission. Across the country, advocates say a growing number of cities have been criminalizing homelessness. According to a survey by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the number of cities with city-wide bans on camping or sleeping outside has increased 50 percent since 2011.

    MICHAEL BARFIELD, VP OF ACLU OF FLORIDA: Being homeless is not a crime in this country.

    KARLA MURTHY: Michael Barfield is Vice President of Florida’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. In September, the ACLU sued Sarasota on behalf of David Cross and others, arguing: “Criminalizing the sleeping in a public space when there is no publicly available shelter violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.” The suit also challenges Sarasota’s ban on panhandling, arguing that it “constitutes speech protected under the First Amendment.”

    MICHAEL BARFIELD: They get, accumulate criminal convictions that affect their ability to obtain employment, to obtain a valid driver’s license. All of these things that would help them get out of the cycle of chronic homelessness, the city is using as tools that keep them within that cycle.

    KARLA MURTHY: Sarasota is called “paradise” by the people who live here. It’s become one of the top-rated places to retire. But like many cities around the country it’s found itself in the middle of a debate for how to treat the growing number of people here living on the street.

    There are more than 300 people in the city of Sarasota classified as “chronically homeless,” meaning they’ve been on the streets for more than a year. All together there are about 1,400 homeless people in Sarasota County, an increase of nearly 70% since 2009.

    After the lodging ordinance passed in 2005, the National Coalition for the Homeless declared Sarasota “the meanest city in the country.” In 2011, the city removed benches from a park popular among homeless people.

    TOM BARWIN, SARASOTA CITY MANAGER: We’re trying to deal with the situation in the most humanitarian way that we can.

    KARLA MURTHY: Tom Barwin has been the city manager since 2012 and says ‘the meanest city’ label is outdated.

    TOM BARWIN: As far as these labels, meanest city x or y, I mean it’s really the police departments and the community having very few other options or choices to try to keep the peace.

    KARLA MURTHY: Police Chief Bernadette DiPino says her department is responding to calls about the homeless from the community.

    BERNADETTE DIPINO, SARASOTA POLICE CHIEF: It was an issue because of the complaints we got from citizens about people sleeping, and doing other things in their doorways, and panhandling, and being aggressive in begging for money, and people sometimes are just scared by homeless just by the way they smell, or the way they look, or the way they’re acting, so we get a lot of complaints.

    KARLA MURTHY: But Chief DiPino she says the city has altered its approach. Citations for lodging out-of-doors have fallen nearly 80 percent since she took over the department in 2013.

    BERNADETTE DIPINO: Our police department really shouldn’t be the first person dealing with an individual that’s homeless, although we do, because we are the ones that are in the street, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    KARLA MURTHY: Last year the police department and the city created “HOT teams” that pair officers with caseworkers to connect the homeless with available services. I followed a HOT team as it patrolled a densely wooded area on the outskirts of Sarasota, where a group of homeless people had set up an illegal encampment. Instead of issuing citations, the HOT team provides information.

    CALVIN COLLINS, SARASOTA POLICE SOCIAL WORKER: You have our cards right there. Resurrection House. I’m at the Health Department on Wednesdays.

    KARLA MURTHY: Calvin Collins is a HOT team social worker who works with the homeless all over the city.

    CALVIN COLLINS: Oftentimes, they suffer from either mental illness or substance abuse issues, and we just have to continue to motivate. And many of these folks have said, ‘You know, I don’t want help, I’m happy where I am.’ But we have to continue to engage them and hopefully one day, they’ll want to change their situation.

    KARLA MURTHY: Officer Dave Dubendorf says HOT teams check up on this camp about once a week.

    DAVE DUBENDORF, SARASOTA POLICE OFFICER: These guys all know me by first name, I know them by first name. They feel very trusting, they’re easier around me.

    MAN: And this guy is going to help me get out of here.


    DAVE DUBENDORF: This guy needs to help himself get out of here too…

    MAN: I know…

    KARLA MURTHY: Officer Dubendorf says the anti-lodging ordinance is just a tool in his toolbox.

    DAVE DUBENDORF: Sometimes we need that tool to try to drive somebody to want to get help, because a lot of these guys, we’ve been working at it for years and years. If we can use that, it may not be the right thing, but you know what, if it gets them to want to get back up on their feet and be safe, I’m all for it.

    KARLA MURTHY: In downtown Sarasota the HOT team engages with some people near the bus station, including 52-year old Dorothy Meehan.

    CASEWORKER: What do you need to get all that stuff?

    KARLA MURTHY: Meehan gets around in a wheelchair since she was injured in a hit and run accident last year. Sarasota police have issued her more than 50 citations mostly for minor offenses including drug possession and carrying an open container. But also for lodging out-of-doors and trespassing. She’s been jailed a dozen times.

    DOROTHY MEEHAN: The reasoning behind a lot of the city ordinances really have nothing to do with anything criminal. It’s basically just that somebody didn’t want to see you there.

    KARLA MURTHY: Last month, the Florida ACLU added Meehan as a plaintiff in its lawsuit challenging the policy of arresting people for sleeping outside.

    DOROTHY MEEHAN: I understand if it’s a nuisance, alright, you’re making a big mess, you’re causing a ruckus, or there’s tons of people where they can’t control the situation. But if I’m sleeping by myself, I’m sleeping, I’m not fighting with anybody, I’m certainly not arguing, I’m not drinking. I’m sleeping. And I don’t see what the crime is against that.

    KARLA MURTHY: We’ve talked to a lot of homeless people here in Sarasota, and some have said, when we meet the police they are trying to help us, and some of them don’t feel necessarily that way, and feel like they’re just making it a crime to be homeless. What’s going on here?

    BERNADETTE DIPINO: I really can’t answer that, because the homeless that I’ve had dealings with, and the information that I’ve received back from people that have gone out and talked to the homeless is very positive about our police department. Our officers are working very hard to have relationships with people out on the street and try to get them help.

    KARLA MURTHY: It seems like the city has really changed the way they’re dealing with homeless people in terms of having a caseworker go out with police officers. Has that made any difference?

    MICHAEL BARFIELD: I think it has made some difference. It is a positive sign. But at the same time, the city is using this sort of carrot and stick approach, and they don’t have the resources to fulfill the promises they make to people for assistance.

    KARLA MURTHY: What resources are available for the homeless in Sarasota is the center of this debate. There is only one large homeless shelter in Sarasota, which is run by the Salvation Army. Ethan Frizzell is in charge.

    ETHAN FRIZZELL, SALVATION ARMY: So what are we against? Drinking, drugging, and dying on our corner. What are we for? Housing!

    KARLA MURTHY: The shelter is zoned for 260 beds, most of which are reserved for people who enroll in Salvation Army programs for things like substance abuse and help finding housing. There is room for walk-ins to stay overnight. Most stay on these mats, which are laid out in the cafeteria after dinner. Six beds are set aside for the homeless brought in by the police.

    ETHAN FRIZZELL: So if they’re drinking or whatnot, this, this is fine.

    KARLA MURTHY: The ordinance says that before a citation or an arrest is made, a police officer has to offer to bring that person to a shelter, which is usually the Salvation Army. But the Florida ACLU lawsuit argues that the shelter is at or above capacity most of the time.

    MICHAEL BARFIELD: You either have a shelter, or you don’t criminalize behavior that requires a shelter.

    ETHAN FRIZZELL: Are there days that we’re very full? Yes, we are. But it’s because some people come in on days of terrible weather or whatnot, but they don’t want to come into any program that will change their lives or help them to housing.

    KARLA MURTHY: Two years ago, the city of Sarasota and the county agreed to build a new emergency shelter, but officials are now at odds about the size and location of any shelter. The city is now considering a ‘housing first’ approach, a model that’s been used around the country. It places the chronically homeless in permanent apartments first and then offers support services. Sarasota estimates it would cost less than the 10 million dollars a year the county currently spends on treating or incarcerating the homeless. City Manager Tom Barwin says he’s confident the city’s ordinances pass constitutional muster and calls the lawsuit a distraction that misses the larger national issue.

    TOM BARWIN, SARASOTA CITY MANAGER: I don’t think it’s advancing any solutions. We’ve got this huge, gaping hole in the mental health infrastructure. That’s the real problem, and here in Florida, we’re the third-most populated state in the country, yet we’re 49th in funding mental health, okay.

    KARLA MURTHY: David Cross appealed his trespass warning to the police and won, so Cross can still hang out inside the library. But he still worries about run-ins with the police.

    DAVID CROSS, HOMELESS: They’re doing everything possible to get the homeless element out of the city.

    KARLA MURTHY: So then why not leave?

    DAVID CROSS, HOMELESS: Where am I going to go? It’s beautiful here. I’m 65 years old. You come to Florida to retire.

    The post Debate over how to treat the homeless simmers in Sarasota, as more cities crack down appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Across the country, advocates say a growing number of cities have been criminalizing homelessness. Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 3.57.38 PM-1

    According to a 2014 survey of 187 cities by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the number of cities with municipal bans on camping or sleeping outside has increased 50 percent since 2011.

    The bans included various activities from camping and sitting in particular outdoor places to loitering and begging in public to sleeping in vehicles. (The bar chart to the right shows the proliferation of ordinances banning these activities.)

    Nearly a third of homeless individuals were considered “unsheltered,” or living on the street, parks or in vehicles, in 2015. While that figure has been on the decline since 2007, it still remains stubbornly high in major cities.

    Last year, the nation’s 50 largest cities saw an overall 11 percent increase in ‘unsheltered’ homeless individuals, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Using data from the 2014 report “No Safe Place” by National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the interactive map below shows the cities across the country that have instituted bans on sleeping outdoors, sitting and loitering in public places and living in vehicles.

    Watch the full report from PBS NewsHour Weekend on the debate over how to treat the homeless in Sarasota, Florida, as more cities crack down. 

    The post Interactive map: Number of U.S. cities criminalizing homelessness doubles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A protester holds a sign at the steps of the Supreme Court last year as arguments began to challenge the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employers provide coverage for contraception as part of an employee's health care. Abortion rates have dropped by more than a third since the 1970s, according to recent CDC report.  Photos by Larry Downing/Reuters

    A protester holds a sign at the steps of the Supreme Court last year as arguments began to challenge the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide coverage for contraception as part of an employee’s health care. Photos by Larry Downing/Reuters.

    Abortion rates in the United States are at their lowest levels since the government started tracking them in the 1970s.

    A report issued Friday by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics said that in 2012, the year with the most recent data, there was a 35 percent drop in abortions during the past two decades 0r about 13 abortions for every 1,000 women.

    “Abortion has been on a nearly steady decline since the rate peaked in 1980,” said Sally Curtin, a CDC statistician, to CBS News.

    In 2012, 699,202 legal induced abortions were outlined to the CDC for women between 15 and 45, the report said. More than 90 percent of abortion took place during early stages of gestation, while women in their 20s accounted for the majority of abortions.

    In 1990, there were 27.4 abortions per 1,000 women and 1.6 million abortions overall. By 2010 that number dropped to 16.7 abortion per 1,000 women or 1.1 million abortions, according to the report.

    A Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive box is seen in New York in 2013.  That year, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make "morning-after" emergency contraception pills available without a prescription to all girls of reproductive age. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    A Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive box is seen in New York in 2013. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    The CDC said the decline in abortions can partly be attributed an increased use of obtain birth control. The pregnancy rate has also fallen by 10 percent since 1976, while teen pregnancies also dropped by 67 percent.

    Kathryn Kost, a researcher at the Guttmacher Institute who co-authored the report, told CBS News that many people are deciding to start families later and that both men and women are more effectively using contraception.

    “Across the states, the rate of unintended pregnancy is going down,” she said. “That suggests that fewer women are getting pregnant when they don’t want to. It’s happening across the board, and affects the birth rate and the abortion rate.”

    The post Abortions drop by 35 percent since the 1970s, reports says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Republican establishment has flexed its muscle in New Hampshire’s presidential primaries for years. But in the unpredictable 2016 election, the state’s standard political playbook faces challenges on two fronts.

    Donald Trump’s brash brand of populism is resonating with voters, and he’s sustained a commanding lead in statewide preference polls for months. While several experienced politicians are well-liked, some party elites fear none will emerge as a consensus choice in time for the Feb. 9 primary, allowing Trump to win a plurality.

    “If the center-right doesn’t coalesce here, it runs the risk of allowing a far-right, ideological candidate to go unchecked,” said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire-based Republican strategist backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

    Kasich is competing most directly for support with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Some centrist voters are fond of former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, but she is lagging behind the others.

    A decisive victory in New Hampshire could reset a race dominated by Trump’s unexpected durability. A weak showing would leave the establishment – generally understood to mean party leaders and insiders, mainstream donors and other influential figures who avoid the ideological extreme – with few options for a quick rebound.

    The primary is sandwiched between contests in Iowa and South Carolina that favor conservatives. Centrist candidates will have to survive the Southern states that vote in the delegate-rich contests March 1 – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia – before the race turns to more hospitable territory.

    With less than two months until voting begins, some in New Hampshire’s establishment see Christie as best-positioned to carry their presidential hopes out of New England. Christie has been a constant presence in New Hampshire for months, despite being largely ignored in national political circles, and has begun to pull in big endorsements.

    “The excitement is with Governor Christie,” said Jeb Bradley, the state Senate majority leader. Bradley endorsed Christie this month and said that among the experienced politicians running, “he represents the best chance to win.”

    Still, Bradley added, “Mr. Trump is pretty strong.”

    Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul and reality television star, has shown little sympathy for the establishment’s woes.

    “I’m sorry I did this to you, but you got to get used to it,” Trump said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    Republican leaders are worried about more than Trump. Some are equally wary of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, an uncompromising conservative deemed unelectable as president by some GOP leaders, ultimately siphoning off Trump’s support.

    Even if Christie’s standing strengthens, it’s unlikely he can clear the field before the primary. Kasich and Bush are largely staking their bids on New Hampshire, where they are spending significant time and money. Rubio has endeared himself to more mainstream Republicans despite being ushered into office as part of the 2010 tea party wave. His advisers believe he can pull support from a broader pool of voters than can the three governors.

    “People who have traditionally been active in the party are spread across a whole series of major candidates,” said Judd Gregg, a Bush supporter and former U.S. senator from New Hampshire. It’s not like 2012, Gregg said, when most officeholders past and present backed Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee.

    To Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman, the establishment candidates are “all so clustered that anyone can win that bracket.”

    So far, Republican operatives – some insisting on anonymity to discuss private conversations – say there is no organized effort to persuade one of those candidates to leave the race before the primary in order to narrow voters’ choices. But there have been preliminary discussions about what to do if four or five of those candidates finish within a few percentage points of each other in New Hampshire and all want to stay in the race.

    Republicans have discussed asking a party leader such as Romney or U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to step in at that point and help broker exits for some candidates. These strategists said Romney and Ryan have not been approached about doing that and probably wouldn’t be until after the primary.

    Cullen said he hopes the whittling down happens “organically.” He suggested that even if the experienced politicians finished bunched together, those at the bottom may have no choice but to step aside.

    “A pretty good candidate is going to finish sixth or seventh in New Hampshire,” he said.

    The post Large 2016 establishment field puts New Hampshire GOP leaders on edge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A view of damage at the burned Islamic Society of Coachella Valley on Saturday. A fire that broke out at the Southern California mosque on Friday appears to have been intentionally set and is being investigated as a hate crime, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said. Photo by Sam Mircovich/Reuters

    A view of damage at the burned Islamic Society of Coachella Valley on Saturday. Photo by Sam Mircovich/Reuters.

    Police have arrested a 23-year-old man for setting a California mosque on fire Friday as congregants were preparing for an afternoon prayer service.

    Carl James Dial Jr. was arrested Friday night and charged with a hate crime for starting the blaze. He is also facing  arson and burglary charges and is being held in lieu of $150,00 bail, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.

    Carl James Dial Jr., 23, is shown in this booking photo provided by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in Indio, California December 12, 2015.  Dial was arrested on suspicion of carrying out a hate crime and arson, online jail records showed and the arrest was in connection with a fire at a southern California mosque, according to media reports.  Photo courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff's Dept/Handout via Reuters

    Carl James Dial Jr., 23, is shown in this booking photo provided by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in Indio, California December 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff’s Dept/Handout via Reuters.

    The fire took place at the Islamic Society of Coachella Valley, and is one among several incidents across the United States that have taken place against Muslims since the San Bernardino shootings last week.

    The Coachella mosque is located about 75 miles from San Bernardino where 14 people were killed by a husband and wife last week.

    While investigators have yet to identify the cause of the fire, the mosque’s acting imam Reymundo Nour said people there described hearing a “loud boom” before flames were spotted in the lobby of the religious building.

    Nour indicated he believed a firebomb was the cause also framing it as a terrorist attack, according to the Associated Press. No one was injured, the police said.

    “It’s reprehensible and the people who perpetrated that act should be treated the way we would any other terrorist,” John Benoit, the Riverside County Supervisor, told the Los Angeles Times.

    In an interview with NBC News Dial’s father said he thought his son was attending a college class when he witnessed him carrying backpack on Friday.

    “He was caught up in social media,” Dials father said. “Social media has produced people like my son, without person-to-person contact. I believe he was lacking in social skills.”

    In 2014, the same mosque was hit by bullets though no one was charged for the incident.

    The post Police arrest man, 23, in suspected arson-hate crime at Coachella mosque appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A new agreement may allow Swedish police to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who has been staying in Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012. Photo by Olivia Harris/Reuters

    A new agreement may allow Swedish police to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who has been staying in Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012. Photo by Olivia Harris/Reuters

    After more than three years inside the Ecuadorian embassy, authorities will likely allow Swedish police to question Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder accused of sexually assaulting two women in 2010.

    Ecuador and Sweden signed an agreement this week after more than a year of negotiations, Reuters said.

    Assange, a 44-year-old Australian, has been allowed to stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 to stymie British authorities from extraditing him to Sweden, where he is alleged to have committed the crimes.

    Assange, who said he is innocent of the charges, is also concerned that the United States will seek his extradition for leaking classified military documents and diplomatic correspondence in 2010. The leaks have been called one of the most significant national security breaches in U.S. history, according to Reuters.

    “This is essentially a deal on legal assistance on a criminal matter, and when it is finalized later this week it will open the door for the Swedish state prosecutor to question Mr Assange,” Cecilia Riddselius, a Swedish Justice Ministry official, told the AFP on Sunday.

    “It is without doubt an instrument that strengthens bilateral relations and will facilitate, for example, the fulfillment of judicial matters such as the questioning of Mr Assange.”

    The post Swedish authorities may be allowed to question WikiLeaks founder appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting in Rome, Italy, December 13, 2015. Western powers on Sunday met envoys from Libya's political factions to nudge them towards agreeing on a unity government, hoping this would stop the spread of Islamic State militancy in the chaotic North African country. REUTERS/Remo Casilli - RTX1YHQQ

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Governments from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East are calling for all sides in Libya’s four-year civil war to agree to a cease-fire.

    Delegations from 17 countries, including the United States, met in Rome today with 15 representatives of Libyan factions. They discussed a United Nations plan to create a national unity government within 40 days.

    One concern is the current power vacuum could be filled by the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, whose presence in Libya has grown since the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

    Reuters reporter Patrick Markey has been covering the Libyan conflict. He joins me now by Skype from Algiers.

    So, first of all, for an American audience, why is Libya so crucial in this, and what state of government or — exists today?

    PATRICK MARKEY, Reuters: You know, at the moment, we have two rival governments, one in the east, one in Tripoli, each backed by different armed factions.

    Most of them are former rebels who used to fight against Gadhafi, but then turned against each other during the last four years. And in this chaos and in this turmoil and the security vacuum, the Islamic State has managed to establish a foothold, mostly in the city of Sirte, but also in other areas like Benghazi.

    Obviously, this is a concern for Italy particularly because it’s only 300 kilometers away from the Libyan coast on the Mediterranean — across the Mediterranean, but also for North African neighbors like Tunisia, which has seen at least two major attacks on its tourism industry carried out by Tunisians who were trained in jihadi camps in Libya.

    So, there’s a lot of international interest and pressure at the moment to force some kind of resolution to this crisis.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In terms of ISIS, they have been attacking oil fields, military checkpoints. They pretty much control the city of Sirte, right?


    Well, they have slowly gathered their presence there over the last year or so. You know, there was this attack on the Corinthia Hotel in the beginning of the year, several attacks on oil fields, the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians that was carried out, and also consolidating themselves and drawing more foreign fighters to their base there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While these conversations happen in Rome to try to get these factions to agree, I’m imagining there’s hard-liners inside Libya that want nothing to do with this agreement.

    I mean, and caught in the middle are just average Libyan citizens. I mean, what’s life for them like right now in this state of flux?

    PATRICK MARKEY: Well, as you said, you know, the — there are two governments, and it is very chaotic.

    There are problems with inflation. There are problems with some supplies in places like Tripoli. There’s also a kidnapping problem. There’s also the problem of conflict in places like Benghazi.

    So, for ordinary Libyans and for some of the political leaders, people are just looking for some kind of a resolution. But there are big questions about the people who don’t agree with the agreement and some of the armed groups who may resist.

    So there are still a lot of questions about how this government will work, whether it will be able to form some kind of united front, whether the different armed groups on the ground will come together and hold a cease-fire to work together against Islamic State, or, as they have in the past, fall into factional fighting again, which has been the problem for the last several years.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Patrick Markey of Reuters joining us via Skype from Algiers, thanks so much.

    PATRICK MARKEY: Thank you.

    The post World powers seek unity government in Libya to deter Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A woman walks past a map showing the elevation of the sea in the last 22 years during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015.  REUTERS/Stephane Mahe  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY  - RTX1Y96P

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining me now for further analysis of the climate change summit accord is Michael Levi. He is a senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations here in New York.

    So, the big question is, what does this mean for United States?

    MICHAEL LEVI, Council on Foreign Relations: For the United States, this means that we are done with 20 years of fighting over the basic architecture of an international agreement, and if we flesh this out right, we will have a framework where we can have more insight into what other countries are doing, a regular process for pressing them to do more, and some greater certainty about the international structure that we are working within.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: These are big compromises that are made between a lot of different countries.

    What did the United States want that it didn’t get?

    MICHAEL LEVI: I think the United States would have liked essentially no distinction in the agreement between developed and developing countries.

    This has been the fight for years. It would have liked exactly the same language about obligations for developed and developing countries on transparency, on updating their commitments, on what those commitments would look like, the basic elements of a deal.

    They got a lot of those distinctions removed, but there are still bits and pieces of that in the agreement. And that’s a sign that we will still continue to fight about those over the next year and in the years to come.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, you were in Paris. I heard there was actually not quite a scuffle, but a disagreement on the word, whether it should be shall or should, right, whether countries shall make these commitments and these reductions and economic changes or should.

    I mean, now it’s basically — it went towards should, and everything seems rather voluntary.

    MICHAEL LEVI: Ultimately, all of these steps are voluntary.

    We saw in the Kyoto protocol that we had mandatory requirements, legally binding requirements that countries didn’t adhere to anyhow. So, I think we can get overly obsessed with should vs. shall.

    The critical distinction that the United States was focused on there is that shall would have sent the agreement to the Senate for ratification, where it would have died, and should allows it to actually exist.

    So, better to have an agreement that is not absolutely perfect, but that exists, than one that you love, but can never fly.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what are the commitments that the United States has to make now, even though it doesn’t have to go to Congress? I mean, will we have to create some laws to say, here is how we are going to decrease our emissions?

    MICHAEL LEVI: So, there are two basic elements here.

    First, the United States has made a pledge to reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025. Without new policies, we are not going to get there. Whether we need new laws or just new regulations under existing law remains to be determined and will depend not only on politics, but on how technology and the economy evolves.

    So, there’s that piece on U.S. emissions. The other is that the agreement is going to include rules for transparency, for review of countries’ efforts, for updating of countries efforts. The details of those could matter a lot.

    And it will be not only China and India and others who are scrutinized, but the United States that is scrutinized. So, U.S. negotiators will be looking to nail that down.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And every five years, we sort of have to say, here is what we’re going to try to do. And everything else can see this, and we can see what everyone else is doing.

    MICHAEL LEVI: That’s right.

    So, we have said, here’s what we’re going to do between now and 2025. Some time between today and 2020, we will extend that to a 2030 goal to align it with other countries. And then everyone will participate in this regular five-year process.

    What worked in this past year was, the spotlight Paris shone got countries to actually go work on serious policies that could reduce emissions. And the hope is that, if you do that every five years, you can mobilize that same kind of political focus.

    And that’s the fundamental thing here, is, this is a recognition this is not a technical, legal effort.


    MICHAEL LEVI: It’s about driving better politics that enable better policy on climate change.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Michael Levi from the Council on Foreign Relations, thanks so much for joining us.

    MICHAEL LEVI: My pleasure.

    The post What does the landmark climate change accord mean for the U.S.? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Young common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) on tree, Africa

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    STEPHEN FEE: At this 200-acre expanse near Shreveport, in Western Louisiana, chimpanzees have the run of the place.

    It’s called “Chimp Haven,” a sort of retirement community for chimpanzees, our closest genetic relative in the Animal Kingdom.

    The National Institutes of Health decided last month to end its support for biomedical experiments on chimpanzees, and it will send them here to live out their days.

    NIH Director Francis Collins says such medical testing is no longer necessary.

    DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: A lot of the things that we used to depend on chimpanzees or other animals, we can now actually do in other ways that are probably more reliable in terms of their predictability about what would happen in a human being.

    STEPHEN FEE: The NIH began winding down its testing on chimpanzees two years ago, keeping just 50 of them on reserve.

    Since then, there’s been just one request to use an NIH chimp for research — and it was withdrawn. So Collins made the decision to release the remaining 50 primates.

    FRANCIS COLLINS: Those chimps who participated in research, whether it was on AIDS or hepatitis C, they gave us all a gift by the things that we learned. But science has moved on, and it’s clear at this point, that there is not a compelling reason for those infectious diseases or other reasons to continue to do this research.

    STEPHEN FEE: Animal welfare groups have long pressed to end that testing on chimps.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in June to classify captive chimps as “endangered,” in addition to chimps in the wild.

    The NIH owns 491 chimps and 193 have already moved to the federally funded Chimp Haven.

    The rest will be relocated here in the coming years, as funding and space permit.

    The post Medical testing on chimpanzees no longer allowed, the National Institutes of Health says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey, Tuesday. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey, Tuesday. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — CNN is inviting Gov. Chris Christie back to prime-time in the upcoming Republican presidential debate.

    The New Jersey governor, who had been dropped from the main stage during the last debate, is one of nine Republican presidential candidates to qualify for the network’s prime-time event on Tuesday. Also among them: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who was “on the bubble” of qualifying late last week, the network said.

    Front-runner Donald Trump will appear at center stage, flanked by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz, who is surging in Iowa. Other GOP hopefuls who qualified for the main stage include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

    Qualifying candidates were required to meet one of three criteria in polls conducted between October 29 and December 13 that are recognized by CNN: an average of at least 3.5 percent nationally or at least 4 percent in Iowa or New Hampshire, the first states to with contests toward the Republican nomination.

    The network says lower-polling GOP hopefuls will debate earlier Tuesday night. They are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

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    California is overhauling its substance abuse treatment system for low-income people, embarking on a massive experiment to create a smoother path for addicts from detox through recovery.

    Low income patients in California seeking addiction treatment can now rely on Medicaid to pay for more of the cost.

    California is overhauling its substance abuse treatment system for low-income people, embarking on a massive experiment to create a smoother path for addicts from detox through recovery.

    The state is the first to receive federal permission to revamp drug and alcohol treatment for beneficiaries of Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal in California. Through what’s known as a drug waiver, state officials will have new spending flexibility as they try to improve outcomes and reduce social and financial costs of people with substance abuse disorders.

    Under the waiver, the state plans to expand treatment services, including inpatient care, case management, recovery services and added medication. Beginning next year, drug treatment centers will be able to get reimbursed for providing this much wider range of options to people on Medi-Cal.

    READ MORE: How the ‘quietest’ drug epidemic has ravaged the U.S.

    Only a small fraction of low-income Californians with substance abuse disorders receive treatment, largely because of restrictions on what Medicaid will pay for.

    “This is going to radically transform the way the most marginalized people in California … can access treatment services,” said Brandon Fernandez, development specialist at CRI-Help, which provides care in Los Angeles County.

    The changes stem in part from the Affordable Care Act, which required that substance abuse treatment be covered for people newly insured through Medicaid or insurance exchanges. The health law allowed states to expand Medicaid to cover millions more people.

    Drug rehabilitation providers say the changes will give addicts a better chance at getting — and staying — clean. But they fear the state won’t raise traditionally low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for treatment, making it harder to provide the new services and produce the outcomes California is hoping for.

    Now, Medi-Cal beneficiaries will be able to access up to two 90-day residential stays each year (with a possibility of one 30-day extension) if providers determine that it is medically necessary.
    California’s Medi-Cal drug treatment program currently costs about $180 million annually, paid through a combination of state and federal funds. There aren’t any estimates for costs under the new approach, set to begin next year. But the idea is that the changes will lower overall health care expenses by enabling more people to get sober and healthier so they stop rotating through treatment centers, jails and hospitals.

    Nearly 14 percent of Medicaid recipients are believed to have a substance abuse disorder, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

    The five-year pilot project was approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in August. Under the waiver, California counties will approve treatment for Medi-Cal patients based on medical necessity and criteria established by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

    Currently, federal rules limit drug treatment centers’ ability to get reimbursed under Medicaid for residential care. Clinics with more than 16 beds essentially cannot get paid, except for treating pregnant and postpartum women. That restriction will be dropped for California under the waiver.

    Now, Medi-Cal beneficiaries will be able to access up to two 90-day residential stays each year (with a possibility of one 30-day extension) if providers determine that it is medically necessary. Certain populations, including those in the criminal justice system, can get approval for longer stays.

    John Connolly, deputy director of substance abuse prevention and control for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said the waiver is also designed to provide better coordination between physical, mental health and substance abuse services. That, along with more access, could result in fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations, he said.

    “It’d be nice to have a job and have my family back and just be normal.” — patient Caitlin Knoles
    That’s potentially good news for patients like Caitlin Knoles, who says she gets turned down for treatment of her methamphetamine addiction every time she tells residential centers she’s on Medi-Cal. More than once, she has ended up in the hospital because of her addiction.

    “It’s hard,” she said. “I can’t get help.”

    The only way she can reliably get clean now is in jail, she says.

    “It’d be nice to have a job and have my family back and just be normal,” said Knoles, 24, as she sat outside a liquor store in Laguna Hills.

    For the first time, substance abuse disorders will be treated like a disease rather than a short-term illness, said Marlies Perez, chief of the substance use disorder compliance division for the state Department of Health Care Services.

    “Even though we know it’s a chronic condition, we have treated it acutely,” she said. “If they relapse, they have come right through the front door again.”

    “We are really paving the way in California with this waiver,” she added.

    Much depends, however, on reimbursement rates, which are still being negotiated. Clinic officials say they need higher rates to expand services and handle the influx of clients, many of whom will be seeking rehab for the first time.

    “There is a cost to raising the bar on treatment,” said Albert Senella, president of the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives. “If the rates aren’t adequate … we are not going to be able to effectively meet the [new requirements] and the needs of the population.”

    Senella, CEO of Tarzana Treatment Centers, also said many clinics across the state don’t have money upfront to prepare for the overhaul, which will require improving technology and adding and training staff. For now, no plans are in place to provide counties or clinics with start-up funds.

    Eli Veitzer, interim CEO of Prototypes, which provides treatment services in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, said the waiver provides an “incredible opportunity” to transform care.

    But in addition to fears about rates, Veitzer said he is also worried that 90 days — the limit for residential treatment — won’t be long enough. Someone may be able to stem their addiction in three months but will still need more time in a treatment facility to prepare for life outside.

    “If their ability to function independently in the community is not addressed, they are likely to relapse,” he said.

    Danny Montgomery, a 33-year-old patient at Tarzana Treatment Centers, said he needed more than a few months to get clean after nearly a decade on heroin. The addiction, which he estimated cost him up to $100 a day, caused him to lose his job and nearly lose his family.

    “The whole thing is a process,” said Montgomery, who lives in the San Fernando Valley. “You get the substance removed from your body but you have to retrain your mind.” Montgomery said he tried to get a bed in a residential treatment center but couldn’t find one that would take Medi-Cal.

    He tried to get clean on his own but it never lasted. Months after beginning his search, Montgomery was finally able to get a spot at Tarzana. He said Los Angeles County is paying for his stay, which began in May.

    As worried as they are about reimbursements, clinic operators said a big advantage of the new approach to drug treatment is that it could help stabilize their funding. Providers now depend largely on counties to pay for residential treatment for low-income residents.

    “You always suffered the vagaries of the budget cycle,” said Vitka Eisen, CEO of HealthRIGHT 360, which provides drug treatment in the Bay Area.

    The waiver means increased oversight of treatment centers. Last year, a state audit found widespread fraud and questionable billing among Medi-Cal drug treatment providers. The audit followed reports by the Center for Investigative Reporting that clinics were billing for fake clients.

    Perez, of the state Department of Health Care Services, said the new system builds in more levels of accountability, including more stringent requirements for clinics and more local control over contracting.

    The changes will be phased in next year, beginning first in Bay Area counties before going to Los Angeles and Orange counties.

    Knoles, the methamphetamine addict from Orange County, said she hopes that more people like her will be able to get treatment.

    “I’ve had a lot of friends die from addiction,” she said. “Imagine if they’d gotten the help they wanted and needed, things would have been different.”

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post California to increase addiction treatment for Medicaid recipients appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Facing up to life in prison, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl talks about his decision to walk off a base in Afghanistan in the first episode of the "Serial" podcast. Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images

    Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off a base in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban, will face desertion charges in a general court-martial. Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years and freed in exchange for five detainees in Guantanamo Bay, will face charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in a general court-martial, the Army announced on Monday.

    If convicted, Bergdahl could get life in prison on the misbehavior charge and up to five years for desertion. He also could be dishonorably discharged, reduced in rank and made to forfeit all pay.

    READ MORE: Bowe Bergdahl describes his life in captivity at the hands of the Taliban

    Bergdahl, 29, of Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province on June 30, 2009. He was released in the prisoner swap in late May 2014 that touched off a firestorm of criticism, with some in Congress accusing President Barack Obama of jeopardizing the safety of a nation for a deserter.

    A date for an arraignment hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be announced later.

    Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, said the convening authority — a high-ranking officer charged with deciding whether evidence warrants a court-martial — did not follow the advice of a preliminary hearing officer.

    Lt. Col. Mark Visger had recommended that Bergdahl’s case be referred to a special court martial, which is a misdemeanor-level forum. That limits the maximum punishment to reduction in rank, a bad-conduct discharge and a term of up to a year in prison.

    READ MORE: Second season of ‘Serial’ is released, tells Bowe Bergdahl’s story

    The U.S. Army Forces Command charged Bergdahl on March 25 with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.”

    Misbehavior before the enemy was used hundreds of times during World War II, but scholars say its use appears to have dwindled in conflicts since then. Legal databases and media accounts turn up only a few misbehavior cases since 2001 when fighting began in Afghanistan, followed by Iraq less than two years later. By contrast, statistics show the U.S. Army prosecuted about 1,900 desertion cases between 2001 and the end of 2014.

    Fidell has argued his client is being charged twice for the same action, saying in a previous television interview that “it’s unfortunate that someone got creative in drafting the charge sheet and figured out two ways to charge the same thing.”

    Separately, Fidell, a military justice expert who is also a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School, complained about political figures who have made derogatory statements about Bergdahl.

    Fidell asked that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “cease his prejudicial months-long campaign of defamation against our client. In October, Trump called Bergdahl a “traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed.”

    Bergdahl’s disappearance and the possibility that he might face light punishment had angered many in the military, given that his fellow soldiers took considerable risks in searching for him. The Pentagon has said no one died in searching for Bergdahl.

    Fidell also asked the House and Senate Armed Services committees to avoid further statements “that prejudice our client’s right to a fair trial.” The House committee last week issued a 98-page report criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to swap the five former Taliban leaders for Bergdahl.

    Fidell pointed to the fifth page of the report that said the committee would remain abreast of the disciplinary process and ensure that “Sgt. Bergdahl’s behavior is adjudicated as required.” Fidell said he read that as a call to “hammer” Bergdahl for his actions.

    Bergdahl hasn’t spoken publicly about his decision to walk away from his post or his subsequent five-year imprisonment by the Taliban and the prisoner swap in May 2014 that secured his return to the United States. But during the past several months, he spoke extensively with screenwriter Mark Boal, who shared about 25 hours of the recorded interviews with Sarah Koenig for her popular podcast, “Serial.”

    Bergdahl says in the interviews that he walked off his base to cause a crisis that would catch the attention of military brass. He wanted to warn them about what he believed were serious problems with leadership in his unit. And he wanted to prove himself as a real-life action hero, like someone out of a movie.

    “As a private first-class, nobody is going to listen to me,” Bergdahl says in the first episode of the podcast, released Thursday. “No one is going to take me serious that an investigation needs to be put underway.”

    Bergdahl acknowledges his motives weren’t entirely idealistic.

    “I was trying to prove to myself, I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me … I was capable of being what I appeared to be,” Bergdahl says. “I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world I was the real thing.”

    He also discusses the psychological torment of being held captive for years.

    “How do I explain to a person that just standing in an empty dark room hurts?” Bergdahl recounts. “A person asked me, ‘Why does it hurt? Does your body hurt?’ Yes, your body hurts, but it’s more than that. It’s mental, like, almost confused. … I would wake up not even remembering what I was.”

    AP National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.

    The post Bergdahl to face desertion charge in general court-martial appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Social Security, Calculator, finance, personal finance, Photo by Getty Images

    Under the new Social Security rules, not every one should file and suspend. Social Security expert Larry Kotlikoff explains. Photo by Getty Images

    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” 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.

    Madeline: My friend Kerry turned 62 today, and her husband, Richard, is 66. Can Richard file and suspend, and can Kerry start collecting spousal benefits while she still works?

    Larry Kotlikoff: Richard should not file and suspend, and Kerry should not start collecting anything right now. Were Richard to file and suspend and were Kerry to start collecting spousal benefits right now while she works, several very bad thing​s would likely happen. Kerry would be “deemed” to be filing for her retirement benefit and would receive what amounts to something close to the larger of the two benefits. This is likely to be her own retirement benefit if her full retirement benefit is more than half of Richard’s full retirement benefit. At first glance, she might consider this a very good thing. “Why look!” she might exclaim. “I’m getting more than half of Richard’s benefit.” But what she wouldn’t have realized is that she wasn’t getting a penny from Richard. It was all coming from her own retirement benefit, which had been permanently reduced, because she had been forced to take it early.

    There’s another curious twist to this case. Since Kerry is still working, she would also face the “earnings test,” which reduces current benefits for anyone her age earning more than a modest amount. ​

    But the earnings test comes with a silver lining. Whatever benefits Kerry might lose under the earnings test between age 62 and the day she reaches full retirement age would be returned to her in the form of a permanently increased benefit starting at full retirement age. Indeed, if she to lose all her pre-full retirement ​age benefits due to the earnings test, the bump up would provide her with her a regular full retirement benefit from full retirement age on.

    ​Why would Kerry get all the money back in the form of higher checks? Having never received any money in benefits, Social Security would look at her as having never taken early retirement at all. So Kerry would be eligible to receive her full retirement benefit, just as if she’d waited for four years. She could then suspend that benefit and take it at 70 when the checks would have grown by 32 percent since age 66. ​(And, yes, she can still do this under the new law. She just can’t provide benefits to anyone else while her retirement benefit is in suspension. She also can’t receive benefits from anyone else’s work record.)

    So under this scenario, Kerry would end up with no impairment to her age-70 benefit. But she’d receive not a penny in spousal benefits ever, assuming, as I am, that her own full retirement benefit exceeds half of Richard’s full retirement benefit. On the other hand, if her own benefit is less than half of Richard’s, by taking it early, she will receive a spousal benefit, but it will be permanently reduced.

    The next really bad thing about this strategy is that if Kerry were to pass away prior to Richard reaching age 70, he could not file for just his widower’s benefit while letting his own retirement benefit continue to grow through age 70. Rather than getting a full widower’s benefit, he would get an excess widower’s benefit (the difference between his widower’s retirement benefit and his own retirement benefit, inclusive of any delayed retirement credits).

    But because Richard is the larger earner (again, my assumption), if Kerry passed away before Richard reached age 70 and took his own retirement benefit, Richard’s widower’s benefit would be zero. Why would​n’t Richard get the excess widowers benefit if his own retirement benefit was in suspension? Because Social Security doesn’t care about whether you suspend. The nanosecond you file for your retirement benefit, you are in “excess benefit hell,” as I like to say, and can never collect a full auxiliary benefit while letting your own retirement benefit grow.

    The only reason that Richard might want to file and suspend, despite the morbid possibility of losing out on widower’s benefits if Kerry passes away, is the equally morbid possibility that Richard could contract an incurable disease and want to take his suspended benefits in a lump sum check. Doing so won’t be possible (thanks to the new law) for those who file and suspend after April 29, 2016. But Richard can file and suspend now and still have this option to request his suspended benefits in a lump sum. If he doesn’t file and suspend, he won’t have the option, even though he is not collecting any retirement benefits until 70 under both scenarios. There is, however, a downside to asking for suspended benefits under morbid scenario two — namely, that this would permanently lower Kerry’s widow’s benefit.

    So what should these good folks do? The answer is they should, given what I’m assuming (including that neither is mortally ill), do nothing whatsoever for four years. At that point, Richard will be 70 and will take his age-70 benefit. And when Kerry reaches full retirement age at 66, she should file for just her spousal benefit. This will provide her a full spousal benefit. At 70, she can file for her own retirement benefit.

    This strategy will maximize this couple’s lifetime benefits. They are very lucky to be of the right ages to escape the restrictions of the new law.

    Matthew: I read Ron Lieber’s article, “The Social Security Maze and Other U.S. Mysteries,” in the March 13 issue of the New York Times and wanted to ask you for assistance in filing my Social Security Administration appeal.

    The appeal involves the collection of monthly survival benefits. My wife, Jill, died in February 2010 at age 63. I turned 64 in November 2009. Shortly thereafter, I applied for and received the lump sum death benefit. As you know, the lump sum death benefit application states: “I apply for all insurance benefits for which I am eligible under title II.” At that time and afterward, my salary was too high to receive a monthly survivor benefit based upon Jill’s lifetime Social Security contributions. Also, I decided not to take monthly benefits based upon my Social Security until I reached age 70 in November of 2015. I did not know and Social Security did not inform me that upon reaching my full retirement age of 66 (in November of 2011), the amount of my salary would no longer be a consideration and that I would be eligible to receive monthly survivor’s benefits from Jill’s Social Security. Furthermore, I was not told that receiving this benefit would not reduce the benefit that I would begin to receive at age 70 from my own Social Security.

    In August of this year, I received a letter indicating that I should apply online for my retirement benefits, which would begin in November of this year. After I applied, I was informed that I could receive survivor’s benefits for the prior six months, but not back to November 2011.

    In summary, the Social Security Administration knew my wife had died because of the lump sum death benefit application. They clearly knew that when I was 66, I was eligible for survivor’s benefits based on her Social Security and that my salary was not a consideration. However, they didn’t notify me. But they did notify me when I was a few months short of my 70th birthday that I could receive six months of survivor’s benefits. Why wasn’t I notified earlier?

    It appears that if I had decided to take earlier benefits based on my own Social Security, they may have told me that I was eligible for spousal benefits. This would be a form of discrimination against those who delay receiving benefits until age 70.

    I had read several years ago in an IRS tax publication that one had to be married for 20 years in order to receive spousal benefits. I now understand that the correct period is 10 years. We had been married for 16 years. I am now trying to locate this publication. Are you aware of this?

    Of course, denial of monthly spousal benefits is a gross injustice after Jill’s lifetime of payments to the Social Security Administration. The appeal is due at the end of December. Any advice that you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Larry Kotlikoff: You can be married nine months and get widow(er)’s benefits. I agree that this is a terrible injustice and a true disgrace.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Social Security has any legal obligation to inform anyone about any benefit they are eligible to receive and fail to collect. If you could prove that they mislead you or made a mistake in handling your benefit request, you’d have a basis for appeal. But I don’t see a basis given what you’ve written. In short, this is unfair, but totally legal. And it’s something that Social Security has been doing for years and not just with respect to widow(er)’s benefits. If they granted you redress, they’d have to grant redress for millions of others who lost benefits, because they didn’t know they were available and Social Security couldn’t be bothered to tell them.

    I asked John McAdams, who works at Social Security and has been blowing the whistle on these kinds of practices, to weigh in.

    John McAdams: If you had gotten lucky — that is, if you happened to get a good claims representative when you applied for the lump sum death payment — you would have been told about getting survivor benefits when you turn 66, and you would have received something like the following in your notice: “At this time, I am only interested in applying for the lump sum death payment. I understand that I may be eligible to receive survivor benefits when I stop working or when I attain my full retirement age of 66 in November of 2011. I understand I would need to file a claim with Social Security at that time.”

    But no, we are not required to have that discussion or to include such wording in the notice. The good ones do it, but it’s not required.

    And no, we don’t notify claimants when they reach full retirement age and are eligible for survivor benefits. If a claimant is already receiving survivor benefits and their own retirement benefit at some point surpasses their survivor benefit, we do send a notice saying something to the effect of: “You can get more on your own record — call us now to apply for it” — with no mention that if you wait longer, you’ll get a more substantial increase.

    Jeanie: I got your book a while back and did all my calculations. Now the file and suspend strategy is kaput.

    Ideas? We are both 60. We have an $113,000 mortgage on a $700,000 house, another $300,000 in savings and we will (hopefully, probably) inherit another $300,000.

    If we wait until 66.7 to collect Social Security, I’ll get $1,200. My husband will get $1,700. I feel like we will never be able to retire!

    Larry Kotlikoff: The new Social Security rules are a nasty piece of work that have pulled the rug out from millions of people’s retirement plans. As you know, you and your husband are both too young to be grandfathered in by either of the new law’s two grandfathering provisions.

    So what’s best to do? If you both have even moderate earnings histories and could live to 100, you should both wait until 70 to collect your retirement benefits. Until then, you should definitely keep working. You simply do not have enough resources to get by on reduced Social Security benefits for a retirement that could well last longer than your working careers.

    You should also consider downsizing your home and moving to a place with low taxes and living expenses. But this depends on both of you finding jobs in the new location.

    I’m sorry for delivering this tough love on top of the AARP-sanctioned changes to Social Security that the President proposed and that Congress formulated in some back room, based, no doubt, on the uninformed prejudices of some Social Security-illiterate Hill staffer with absolutely no time for public debate. The passage of the Budget Act of 2015 was a sad day for America.

    The post Column: What you need to know about file and suspend under the new Social Security rules appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Video by All Def Poetry.

    Poet Aziza Barnes is obsessed with what we say when we think no one is listening.

    Often, that unguarded language will expose a lot about our relationships to the power systems that govern the U.S., especially race, she said.

    “There are so many terms in black and brown communities for saying the wrong things,” she said. “There are so many hidden ways we police ourselves that just don’t apply to certain people.”

    Barnes grew up in Los Angeles, a child of lawyers and voracious readers, writing about the coded ways people talk about race.

    “We have to interrogate why black bodies are viewed as disposable bodies and the behavior that comes along with that.”
    For instance, when people talk about incarceration, it almost seems like they are talking about killing insects, she said. “‘Well, they need to be in jail, they can’t invade our spaces’ — it’s the same language we use to [justify] murdering insects,” she said.

    “I Could Ask, But I Think They Use Tweezers” grew from Barnes’ long struggle to find the language to talk about the murder of a friend. He was shot and killed at 18, just before he planned to train to be a firefighter. (She asked us not to share his name out of respect for his family’s privacy.)

    The poem, told in broken but interconnected fragments, parallels the physical effects of gun violence on the body — how bullets break apart a system. “It’s all very firmly connected, and if one part is struggling to survive, then the rest are compensating for that part,” she said.

    These stories are not uncommon in a country that does not value black life, Barnes said. “I’d be hard-pressed to find someone close to me that hasn’t had to deal with something like this,” she said. “It’s more than a tragedy. It’s disgraceful.”

    Gun violence, and its effect on communities of color, “can’t be solved with political correctness, or an idea of political correctness, or any more police or any more prisons,” she said. “We have to interrogate why black bodies are viewed as disposable bodies and the behavior that comes along with that.”

    You can watch Barnes read the poem above or read it below.

    I Could Ask, But I Think They Use Tweezers

    the shoulder isllllllla complicated organlllllfemorallllllllllllllllartery lymphlllnodes tendons all those joints iflllllla bullet goes
    thru you there’s alsolllllllthe clothingllllllllohlllllyeah what did you thinkllllllI mean if it’s just thisllllllllthen that’s different but
    if it’sllllllltwo layers of thatllllthose are other impurities the bodylllllllllllllllllllllllllldoes it’s job just one
    lllllllllllllllllllllllllllfunction to release what can’t stay he walked into the ER smiledlllllllllllllllllllllll“I need a doctorllllllthanks
    lllllllllman” blood stops moving to the bigllllllllllllllllltowns the brain is a big town the heart is a big town the kidneys are
    llllllllllllllllllllllhot spots like Vegas builtllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllto handle armies on vacation the blood learnsllllto bend another
    way like the legs of a cranelllllllllllllllllllllthey make bullets differentlllllllllllnow-a-daysllllllllllllllllllin thellllllllllllllgood-ole-days
    llllllllla bullet went in and out andllllllllllllllllllllllllthe holes matched now alllllllllll.22llllllllllllla .38llllllexpands in the body
    absorbs like a tamponlllllllllllllllfunctionlllllllllllllllllllllllllpull in all lifellllllllhe was ordering drive thru foodlllllllllllllMcDonalds
    food notlllllllllllllllreally food maybe likellllllllllfrench fries maybe likelllllllllllla Sprite maybe like a #2
    lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllthings that don’t feel like food in the mornings downlllllllllllllllllllllllllthe street from my house
    lllllllllllfrom his mama house a clogllllllllllllllllllllat the 3rd counter this guy has a gun a gun haslllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllan
    operation has composition is orchestralllllllllllllllllllllllis an organ of some complication ephemeral
    lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllthe bullets are small a shoulder is innocuous until you become a nurse the only
    lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllreason he died was speed and proximity but if it’s a couplelllllllllllllllllllllllayers of cloth well you
    have to get that out too

    Aziza Barnes is blk & alive. Born in Los Angeles, Barnes currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi. Aziza’s first full length collection, “I be but i ain’t” is forthcoming from YesYes Books. Aziza is a poetry & non-fiction editor at Kinfolks Quarterly, a Callaloo fellow, a graduate from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a current candidate for an MFA in Poetry at University of Mississippi.

    The post What gun violence looks like, in one powerful poem appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Bill Cosby is suing seven of the women who have accused him of sexual assault.

    In a statement filed Monday, Cosby claims the women have been making “malicious, opportunistic, and false and defamatory accusations” against him.

    Although nearly 60 women have accused the 78-year-old comedian of sexual assault, the seven women Cosby is suing have also sued him for defamation.

    Three of the seven women sued Cosby in December 2014, after he claimed they made up their stories to tarnish his reputation and make money off him. The other four women joined the suit in November 2015.

    The women claimed that their reputations were damaged due to Cosby’s denial of their allegations and use of disparaging language against them. The women further say that when they went public with their allegations, Cosby allowed his representatives to brand them as liars.

    Cosby’s lawsuit was filed in response to these women’s claims.

    Cosby says in the countersuit that the women are “engaged in a campaign to assassinate” his reputation and character. Cosby’s lawyers argued that their remarks were personal opinions protected by the First Amendment and legal declarations made in his defense.

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    Tyrone West died in police custody in Baltimore in the summer of 2013. The officers who arrested West were cleared of wrongdoing, but since Freddie Gray’s death, West’s case is receiving more interest from the public. Filmmaker Kobie Brown profiles West’s sister, who organizes weekly protests against police brutality.

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    Portrait of mother hugging daughter in kitchen

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we return to another one of our NewsHour essays.

    Tonight, Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford University undergraduate dean and author of the book “How to Raise an Adult,” shares ideas on her belief that the job of parents is to put themselves out of work.

    Here’s her perspective on why it is important to get out of the overparenting trap.

    JULIE LYTHCOTT-HAIMS, Author, How to Raise an Adult: We parents seem to have forgotten a simple, unassailable fact: We’re mammals.

    Sure, we may be mammals with clothing and cell phones, but, like our counterparts in the wild, our job as parents is to put ourselves out of a job, and raise our kids to be independent adults who can raise their own offspring one day. If you think about it, it’s how we evolved to this point as humans.

    But, these days, too many of us feel our child simply will not be successful in life unless we constantly protect and prevent at every turn, hover over every happening, micromanage every moment, take care of every little thing.

    Yes, we can help our kids get a short-term win when we overhelp, such as the better grades that come when we remind them to put their homework in their backpack, or bring it to school when they have forgotten it, or outright do some of the work for them.

    And our overinvolvement certainly makes life more pleasant for our kids. Often, we let them off the hook for doing the mundane tasks of life, such as chores, and instead we prioritize their homework and enrichment activities over all else.

    But this leads to young adults who can’t do the basic tasks associated with living life on their own. A fellow college dean on another campus told me of a kid whose parents installed a webcam in the dorm room in order to wake their kid up each morning in college. A student told me of a friend whose parents always filled her car with gas, so she never learned.

    And then while driving one day in her 20s, she noticed her tank was low on fuel, and she ended up filling the car with diesel, instead of unleaded. And some parents are so accustomed to arguing over grades in high school and college, that they expect to do the same in the workplace.

    A manager at a prestigious company told me of hearing from parents of an employee who were dissatisfied with their — quote, unquote – “child’s” performance review.

    Do parents do that? Yes, parents do.

    Look, we love our kids with a driving force we can barely comprehend. I think of it as an aching, fierce, terror joy. Of course, we want the very best for them. And we love to be needed, and we feel a great deal of satisfaction when we ensure that their needs are met.

    But overhelping can come at a significant long-term cost to our kids. It deprives them of the chance to build self-efficacy, a critical aspect of psychological wellness that comes from seeing that one’s own actions lead to outcomes, one’s own actions, not one’s parents’ actions on one’s behalf.

    We end up raising kids who fail to launch, who don’t have their the wherewithal to do for themselves, and who still need us to act as the adult in their lives.

    No matter how impressive our kid’s childhood GPA or resume may be, we have simply not done right by our kids, our society, our species, if they have reached the age of chronological adulthood, but don’t have the skills, habits, mind-sets, and confidence to do for themselves.

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A picture taken on November 4, 2014, shows olives in an olive tree in Sainte-Lucie-de-Tallano in the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. Corsica is on alert to protect olive trees against a killer bacteria coming from Italy, the Xylella fastidiosa, which has already wreaked havoc in the Italian region Apulia (Puglia) and threatens the entire Mediterranean orchard. AFP PHOTO / PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA        (Photo credit should read PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images)

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: Olive oil is a staple in many of America’s kitchens, and much of it is produced in Italy. But a mysterious infection is now threatening that industry and a way of life.

    Jeffrey Brown recently traveled to the olive groves of Southern Italy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s the heel of Italy’s boot. The Salento region may be less known than the country’s more famous tourist areas. But it boasts beautiful port towns and idyllic country roads lined with farms, vineyards and, most of all, its renowned olive groves, some thousands of years old.

    GIOVANNI MELCARNE, Oliver Grower (through interpreter): For us, these are not only trees that produce olive oil, but they are the Salento landscape itself. Without these trees, the Salento will no longer exist.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A deadly bacteria dubbed an olive Ebola has infected some million trees so far, about 10 percent of the trees in the larger Puglia province. Some of those olive groves have been in families for generations.

    That’s the case for Giovanni Melcarne, a grower who believes 500 of his 5,000 trees are now infected.

    But you’re fairly certain that all of this will be lost.

    GIOVANNI MELCARNE (through interpreter): By what we have seen so far in the past few months, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The bacteria is Xylella fastidiosa, and for years has been found in a variety of plants in Brazil and California. It is commonly known as Pierce’s disease.

    But this strain was discovered two years ago in Italy by Donato Boscia, a virologist at the National Research Council in Bari, while he was visiting his father-in-law’s farm.

    DONATO BOSCIA, Virologist: My father in law said, “Donato, please, tomorrow, we can go in the field. I want to show you some abnormal — of the olive trees.” And I went there and I was shocked.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The first signs of infection are dried-out leaves, known as leaf scorching.

    Eventually, the whole tree withers. It’s thought to have come to Italy via Costa Rica, hitching a ride on a decorative coffee plant. And it’s spread by insects feeding on tree tissue. Boscia’s team is monitoring that spread by confirming samples, studying its carriers, and testing the live bacteria on various olive subspecies to see which might be resistant.

    DONATO BOSCIA: We are sure that the only tool that we have at the moment available to try to prevent the appearance of this disease, of this quick decline of olive is try to prevent the arrival of the bacteria.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Italians take their food very seriously, and on nearly every table is a bottle of good olive oil. On average, Italy trails only Spain in oil production, responsible for 15 percent of the world’s virgin olive oil and half of U.S. imports in an industry that pulls in more than $2 billion a year to the country.

    Its popularity has only grown, as it’s been touted for a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease. With so much at stake, for Italy and the rest of Europe, the European Union earlier this year established a buffer zone to contain the bacteria to one province in the south, a controversial move that left many growers angry.

    GIOVANNI MELCARNE (through interpreter): We are very dissatisfied. The E.U. is only interested in blocking the advance of the bacteria to the north. This area, the area of the breakout, has been left to its fate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The measure required the cutting down of infected trees and even seemingly healthy ones nearby.

    GIUSEPPE SILLETTI, Regional Director, Italian Forestry (through interpreter): My job would be a lot easier if not for all the misunderstanding. Every group has different thoughts on how to tackle the problem.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Giuseppe Silletti, regional director of Italy’s Forestry Service, is the man tasked with implementing that plan for the Italian government and E.U. But he says he’s not getting the help he needs from farmers.

    GIUSEPPE SILLETTI (through interpreter): I have news that the owners do everything they can to hide the disease. If they have a tree with symptoms, they prune the plants, so they look healthy. This is very bad, because it prevents us from being able to identify how much the disease is spreading.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, many farmers and activists are skeptical of both the government response and the scientific research on the bacteria.

    Virologist Donato Boscia was even accused of introducing the bacteria into Italy.

    DONATO BOSCIA: Saying to these people, sorry, but we are, how to say, a cancer, like that, so something that you can not cure, that your time is limited, there are — no therapy, is something that is difficult to accept.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Some, like olive grower Roberto Polo, believe a variety of factors, including pesticides, are to blame.

    ROBERTO POLO, Olive Grower (through interpreter): I believe that it is not only the bacteria to blame for the rapid drying out of the olive trees, but a combination of causes which have compromised the immune system of the trees. In practice, we have seen a reduction in the ability of the trees to defend themselves from external attacks of any kind.

    ROBERTO ZILETTI, Business Owner: It’s a matter of time. It will come.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Polo’s neighbor, Roberto Ziletti, owns the Antica Masseria del Fano, an old farm that’s been converted into a bed and breakfast with its own prize-winning olive oil production.

    ROBERTO ZILETTI: Historically, there are people that believe that these things always happen, and it will — as it arrives, it will go away, alone.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just naturally.

    ROBERTO ZILETTI: Naturally.


    ROBERTO ZILETTI: I don’t know if this is true. Probably, it’s true, but the matter is that these days the problem is very, very big.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The government has been attempting to enlist more cooperation from farmers by paying them to cut down their own infected trees. That plan was dealt a blow last month when a regional Italian court temporarily halted the removal of outwardly healthy trees in the infected zone, until the bacteria could be proven as the cause of the disease.

    Researcher Boscia responds this way:

    DONATO BOSCIA: We do not have the proof that the bacterium alone can cause the disease, but the disease appear only when the bacterium arrive there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Also unknown is the incubation period, meaning many more trees could be infected and not yet symptomatic.

    GIOVANNI MELCARNE (through interpreter): In Italy, we have 100 different opinions. But what is certain is that these plants are dying, that these plants are drying, and we don’t know what the future will be. And we don’t even know that there’s a solution to this situation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And there are already signs the bacteria has spread farther north, even to France and Corsica, though not yet infecting olive trees, suggesting this problem isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    From the boot of Southern Italy, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Italian olive trees are withering from this deadly bacteria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Migrants, who were stranded between Greece and Macedonia, rest next to placards hung on a metal fence, outside the Tae Kwon Do stadium at the southern suburb of Faliro, in Athens, Greece, December 14, 2015.  REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RTX1YMFW

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to overseas.

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says that he will not allow his country to become what he calls a warehouse for refugees. And Europe’s border agency is expected to send agents to Greece soon in an attempt to stem the inflow of migrants.

    Currently, refugees from only the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are being permitted to transit Greece to countries farther north.

    But, as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports, there’s now a roadblock on that trail, leaving many migrants from other countries with some tough choices.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Spanish lifeguards respond to a call from volunteers scanning the horizon on the cliffs of Lesbos. They’re heading out to the channel to shepherd the flimsy inflatables to safety.

    After several rough days prevented crossings from Turkey, the seas are calm. A flotilla of overcrowded rubber dinghies is using the shortest crossing between the two countries. The occupants have paid $1,000 a head for the journey. In the distorted economics of the migrant trail, safe arrival represents value for money, especially for Syrians like Hamza Hussein.

    HAMZA HUSSEIN, Refugee: You need to kill Bashar. They are killing people now. I am too — I can’t speak now, please. Thank you.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: In the middle of the picture, you can see a lifeguard trying to help a refugee who has plunged into the sea 50 meters off shore. Mohammed Asti Mimi is an Iraqi, given priority by Europe in the new two-tier migrant trail.

    MOHAMMED ASTI MIMI, Refugee: Yes, I have been swimming. I have been swimming, because I thought was funny, jumped into water.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Having secured a foothold in Europe, the Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis are assured of a relatively swift passage to the destination of their choice. But all other nationalities on this beach have arrived as the gates have shut, after Greece’s neighbor, Macedonia, said it would only admit people from these three conflicts.

    Farmer Costas Bayotis, who helps the refugees ashore and salvages the rafts’ components, disapproves of what he believes is a discriminatory system.

    COSTAS BAYOTIS, Farmer (through interpreter): In my opinion, all the world is suffering. If they’re from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, or Bangladesh, they are all in the same situation and must be helped. They have all got souls. The politicians are more educated than we are, so let them try and come up with a solution for a better tomorrow for these people, the best possible.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Dawn at the next step on the migrant trail, Piraeus, the country’s key port on the mainland, where, daily, ferries arrive carrying thousands of people, aiming to pass through Greece as quickly as possible.

    The intention of most is to travel more than 300 miles north to Macedonia. At the ramps, scores of travel agents offer bus tickets to the border.

    MAN: Macedonia. Macedonia.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: But this is the ultimate destination for those who are not Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan: a fenced-off former Olympic martial arts stadium in Athens. All other nationalities have been transported here after last week’s closure by Greece of a camp at Idomeni on the border with Macedonia.

    Food is in short supply, and volunteers have struggled to pacify the newcomers.

    MAN: We are here to help you.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: “We are here to help you,” called out a volunteer, urging everyone to stay calm.

    MAN: Help us. Don’t push.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: It’s been a venue for violence, stabbing, protests and arrests.

    MAN: Conditions are a problem. There is a sleeping problem. There is a food problem. There’s a big line. That people are from Morocco and all these countries. Yes, the fighting is a problem.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Outside the stadium, we met 22-year old Tassdaq Hussain from Pakistan, one of those deported from Idomeni last week, when Greece acknowledged that Macedonia wouldn’t compromise over its wide-ranging ban.

    TASSDAQ HUSSAIN, Refugee: But now I have no idea how to go to Germany and other countries, because this border is sealed for us and Iranians and some countries. We request to European Union and other countries, help us and please try to open the border for us.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: In common with other excluded nationalities, Hussain’s options are to seek asylum in Greece, leave the country within 30 days, or be repatriated with a small financial grant.

    If the government gives you money to go back, will you go back?

    TASSDAQ HUSSAIN: How much money do they give? We have spent more than $4,000, more than $4,000. They give us 400 euros. This is too much — little. This is the main problem. Many People have sold all his fields, his animals, his house, and like this. They have no business here. If they have good — why come here? If anybody is comfortable in their country and their homeland, why come here?

    MALCOLM BRABANT: In the Greek Parliament, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, once a supporter of open borders, made it clear that times have changed, as a result of Macedonia’s ban and European pressure.

    ALEXIS TSIPRAS, Prime Minister, Greece (through interpreter): It is true that, if this influx continues, there is a danger for the country to be turned into a warehouse for immigrants. Well, the country must not and will not become a warehouse. We welcome the establishment of a European Coast Guard. It is welcome, and the Greek forces will contribute.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Europe’s reinforcements will arrive at a time when Turkey is supposed to be stemming the flow of migrants, in return for more than $3 billion and a promise to speed up the process of joining the E.U.

    But the large number of boats landing in Lesbos has left some analysts like Ioannis Papageorgiou wondering what Turkey is doing for its money.

    IOANNIS PAPAGEORGIOU, Political Scientist: I think it’s a disgrace that we have to suffer — suffer blackmail from Turkey as the European Union, but it’s realpolitik. I’m not sure that they will be able to fulfill their side of the bargain. And I’m not also sure that the European Union will fulfill its side of the bargain either.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Many of those people now arriving in Lesbos face real frustration, because it looks as though the migrant trail has been severed.

    Greece’s neighbors, Macedonia and Bulgaria, are effectively blocked. And the only other possible available route over land is Albania. Now, that nation is mountainous. It’s freezing cold in winter, and overall is much more dangerous than any other Balkan country. But the traffickers are considering opening that up as the next possible option, even though they’re well aware that people may possibly die there.

    But, having survived the game of Russian roulette that is the sea crossing from Turkey, the refugees have become used to making calculated risks. The hope of finding safe haven and relative prosperity keeps driving this historic movement of humanity.

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

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    Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz greets supporters in Concord, New Hampshire, Nov. 12, 2015. Cruz has moderated his normally-strident rhetoric recently in an attempt to cast himself as an electable alternative to Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the current GOP front-runners. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

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    GWEN IFILL: And now, for more on where the race stands, including some surprising new poll numbers, we turn to our regular Monday night duo, Tamara Keith of NPR, and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Welcome back.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Thank you.

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk — get right to these numbers, very interesting, over the weekend.

    We saw a Des Moines Register poll, the Iowa Republican poll, the gold standard. And in it, we have Cruz at 31 percent, up 21 percent from the last poll in October, where he was only at 10. Trump is at 21 percent, essentially the same where he was before.

    That is a big deal. But right after that, today, we saw a new Quinnipiac Iowa poll, in which it’s — basically, it’s a tied race. Trump is at 28 percent. He’s up 3 percent from 25 percent last time they went in the field, and Ted Cruz is at 27 percent, up 4 percent, so they’re like neck and neck, 28-27 percent, well within anybody’s margin of error.

    What’s happening? What is this Cruz surge?

    AMY WALTER: Cruz has benefited from a couple of things. The first is, the decline of Ben Carson. That wasn’t on the poll chart, but what you would see is Ben Carson really plummeting in the polls.

    GWEN IFILL: He went from 28 percent to 13 percent in that Des Moines poll.

    AMY WALTER: Yes, in that Des Moines Register poll. And you saw a drop-off too in the Quinnipiac poll. So, he has dropped off. And that has benefited Ted Cruz most significantly.

    But the other thing that Cruz has been able to do is, he’s put the three most important legs of the stool together for Iowa. He has got evangelicals, very conservative voters. Of course, I’m going to forget the third one.


    AMY WALTER: As I remembered that — the evangelicals and people who are Tea Party supporters.


    AMY WALTER: OK. See, I need to go to my notes, but I knew there were three.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    AMY WALTER: So, he’s getting strong support from all three of those groups. Those are the groups that determine who the winner of Iowa will be.

    GWEN IFILL: Does he also do well among people who hate Washington? He came to Washington, but then immediately went to war against Washington. He calls it the cartel.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, he came to Washington, joined the Senate, and proceeded to help government — shut the government down.

    I mean, he led the government shutdown. And then, interestingly — and thinking about Ted Cruz reminded me of this — less than a month after the government shutdown ended, he went to Iowa, and he gave a big speech at the Iowa Republican Party statewide dinner. And he has been building the groundwork in Iowa since before the government shutdown.

    He came to Washington to raise his profile, and he did with things like the government shutdown, and then he goes to Iowa years before an election, and has people text in to join Ted Cruz’s army. And he has a huge infrastructure. He has a huge ground game, especially in Iowa, but also in Southern states, which will be key after Iowa.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, one interesting detail, last week, before this latest round of polling came out, Donald Trump immediately started trashing the poll, in advance, possibly anticipating on — I don’t know whether he’s doing his own polling — that things were not going as well.

    And so what we were all holding our breath, thinking, what will Trump say about Cruz, who has taken pains not to publicly criticize Donald Trump? What will Trump say?

    And, then very quickly yesterday, I believe it was on “FOX News Sunday” — let’s take a listen — this is what he had to say.

    DONALD TRUMP: You look at the way he’s dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a — frankly, like a little bit of a maniac. You’re never going to get things done that way.

    Look, I built a phenomenal business. I’m worth many, many billions of dollars. I have some of the greatest assets anywhere in the world. You can’t walk into the Senate and scream and call people liars, and not be able to cajole and get along with people. He will never get anything done. And that’s the problem with Ted.

    GWEN IFILL: But Donald Trump…

    AMY WALTER: It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?

    GWEN IFILL: That is something interesting.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    That is the argument against Ted Cruz, is that he led the fight to shut the government down, that he leads a lot of fights, but he doesn’t have a lot of victories. And yet, coming from…

    GWEN IFILL: Or friends.

    AMY WALTER: Or friends.

    And yet coming somebody who is more than happy to take on the establishment and tell them where to stick it, I don’t know that this is the guy that’s going to be able to unite America either.

    GWEN IFILL: Donald Trump has been an interesting character in all of this. He has been the naysayer, and it feels like, right behind him, Ted Cruz has been waiting to take that mantle away.


    The New York Times had a very interesting piece of audio of Ted Cruz at a closed door fund-raiser, saying that he was going to hug Donald Trump and Ben Carson until they — you know, until gravity took hold of their campaigns, which he fully anticipated gravity will take hold, and then he will be there, just waiting to scoop up all that support.

    GWEN IFILL: Then, in that same — in that same appearance, he raised questions about their judgment.

    TAMARA KEITH: Absolutely — well, because he was behind closed doors, so he didn’t have to hug quite so tightly.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    TAMARA KEITH: Then, of course, the audio got out. And that is in part what prompted Donald Trump to really pick a fight and start the tweet storm, which Ted Cruz was like, I’m not taking the bait.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: Tomorrow night, another — another — yet another in a series of weeknights spent watching debates for the three of us. So, we’re going to — they’re all gathering in Las Vegas. What do they have to do?

    There are a lot of people we didn’t mention in these polls who are having — who are struggling as well.

    AMY WALTER: I don’t think that this debate is going to change the trajectory of this race. I think we have seen the race now basically come down to three, maybe four people. And it’s Donald Trump and it’s Ted Cruz and it’s Marco Rubio.

    The one person who I think is sort of on the bubble right now is Chris Christie, who is doing better in New Hampshire. And I think this environment that we’re in right now, one where terrorism and security is the top of the mind for voters, especially Republican voters, that plays well to Christie’s strengths.

    And I think he will be making that case a lot tomorrow night, and making that distinction between himself, governor in New Jersey, been around during terrorism strikes, I know how to deal with this, these other guys don’t know what they’re doing.

    GWEN IFILL: How does Marco Rubio distinguish himself in that kind of field?

    TAMARA KEITH: I think that there is more pressure on Marco Rubio heading into this debate than there have been in past debates.

    He’s continually had a strong debate performance, but now people are sort of expecting him to have a strong debate performance. And so I think a lot of people will be watching him for that performance. The question, though, is, he has these good debate performances, and then there is this buzz, and then he maybe moves up a couple points. He doesn’t have the big surge that Ted Cruz has.

    In part, that is because Ted Cruz is competing on the anti-establishment, Tea Party, evangelical side, and Marco Rubio is competing on the other side of the Republican Party, the establishment side, which is a very crowded neighborhood right now.

    And I think, ultimately, the winner is going to be the person, like Ted Cruz, who is an establishment candidate, but puts themselves as anti-establishment.

    Ted Cruz is a member of the United States Senate, has been part of the Bush administration in his past, but now is running against…

    GWEN IFILL: I’m going to be watching Ben Carson to see if he can break out, or anybody else on the fringes. It’s going to be — I think it’s going to be very interesting.

    AMY WALTER: It will be interesting, I don’t doubt.

    GWEN IFILL: Call me.

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both very much.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    The post What’s behind the Ted Cruz surge? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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