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- 12/28/15--13:18: _When Social Securit...
- 12/28/15--13:28: _Trump, Clinton and ...
- 12/28/15--13:56: _12 stunning snowfla...
- 12/28/15--14:03: _First of 17 detaine...
- 12/28/15--14:25: _South Korea, Japan ...
- 12/28/15--15:25: _Saying farewell to ...
- 12/28/15--15:30: _2015 was a year of ...
- 12/28/15--15:35: _Is it really gluten...
- 12/28/15--15:40: _What’s stirring up ...
- 12/28/15--15:45: _No charges in Cleve...
- 12/28/15--15:50: _News Wrap: Iraqi fo...
- 12/31/15--07:59: _Out of print for 70...
- 12/31/15--08:55: _Syrian refugees fin...
- 12/31/15--10:36: _Obama sips coffee a...
- 12/31/15--11:06: _Was 2015 the end of...
- 12/31/15--11:15: _How federal law dra...
- 12/31/15--11:28: _Democrat O’Malley f...
- 12/31/15--11:29: _What films were und...
- 12/31/15--12:47: _A massive fire in D...
- 12/31/15--14:10: _PHOTOS: How we said...
- 12/28/15--13:18: When Social Security’s advice just doesn’t add up
- 12/28/15--13:28: Trump, Clinton and the Top 10 political stories of 2015
- 12/28/15--14:03: First of 17 detainees to be released from Gitmo next week
- 12/28/15--14:25: South Korea, Japan reach breakthrough settlement on WWII Sex Slaves
- 12/28/15--15:30: 2015 was a year of campaign surprises
- 12/28/15--15:35: Is it really gluten-free? You could soon test it table-side
- 12/28/15--15:40: What’s stirring up this winter’s extreme storms?
- 12/28/15--15:50: News Wrap: Iraqi forces recapture Ramadi center
- 12/31/15--08:55: Syrian refugees find a safe haven in Amish country
- 12/31/15--10:36: Obama sips coffee and talks about nothing with Seinfeld
- 12/31/15--11:06: Was 2015 the end of America as a superpower?
- 12/31/15--11:15: How federal law draws a line between free speech and hate crimes
- 12/31/15--11:28: Democrat O’Malley fails to qualify for Ohio’s primary ballot
- 12/31/15--11:29: What films were under-appreciated in 2015?
- 12/31/15--12:47: A massive fire in Dubai did not stop New Year’s fireworks
- 12/31/15--14:10: PHOTOS: How we said hello to 2016
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.
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.
Nancy: I am a retired Social Security Administration employee of 30 years, and I have worked the last 10 years as a paralegal at a law firm where I represent disability clients. I have a client who will reach full retirement age (66) in a few days. He has a young wife, age 54, and a 10-year-old daughter. His family maximum benefit is currently $3,901 per the records we secured from the internet, and his primary insurance amount is $2,600. The disability insurance benefits (or DIB) claim was filed in September 2014, onset 2010. He is due benefits of about $105,000 retroactively to September 2013 for his family thus far, although his hearing is still pending scheduling. The Social Security Administration has recommended that he withdraw his disability insurance benefits application, and file and suspend instead, as his wife and child would be due $975 each (compared to the $650 each they would receive plus his own disability insurance benefit), and then he could take his benefit at age 70.
First of all, I thought the wife also had to be able to file (that is, that she must be 62 or older). Secondly, his wife has never worked, is from another country and will never build a benefit that exceeds his even if she goes to work after their child turns 18.
I have searched the Program Operations Manual System [the primary guide used by Social Security employees] and cannot find any provisions for file and suspend to provide for auxiliary benefits. I don’t trust the information provided to him by Social Security Administration, since the representative did not lay the figures out for him to compare how long he might have to live before he would regret his decision to keep the disability insurance benefit. Using the figures he was quoted (without a cost of living adjustment increase) and assuming that his family can receive benefits, it would be $93,600 before he attains age 70. My client has a life threatening disease.
Thank you any comments you might share regarding this situation.
Larry Kotlikoff: I don’t see how this family could be due benefits of $105,000 even if the benefits provided are retroactive to September 2013. It seems like too large a sum given what you wrote.
In any case, what Social Security is probably talking about is the child-in-care spousal benefit, which would be available to the wife as long as their daughter is under 16. Between the ages of 15 and 18 (or 19 if still in school), the child would still be able to collect a child benefit. But, as you are indicating, these auxiliary benefits are available to the children and spouses of disabled workers as well. And, yes, the family benefit maximum would limit the total amount available in auxiliary benefits.
Because the wife won’t be 62 by or on Jan. 1, 2016, the new law (passed as part of the Budget Act of 2015) would prevent the wife from filing just for her own spousal benefit at full retirement age. But from what you wrote, the wife won’t qualify to collect her own retirement benefit. So the fact that she won’t be able to file a restricted application for just her spousal benefit while letting her own retirement benefit grow is of no consequence in this case.
Given the husband’s health status, it does sound like collecting his disability benefit and having his family members collect their auxiliary benefits retroactive to September 2013 would be a better move than what your client is being advised to do. But I would need to see all the facts before saying for sure.
I’ve asked former Social Security technical expert Jerry Lutz to weigh in.
Jerry Lutz: Assuming that what the Social Security Administration said is accurately described, the advice given is nuts. There would be absolutely no conceivable advantage to withdrawing the disability insurance benefit, which would amount to a back pay of around $105,000 if you figure 27 months at $3,900 a month.
I can understand the Social Security Administration suggesting voluntary suspension at full retirement age, which would suspend his benefit, but allow the auxiliary benefits to continue. The resulting delayed retirement credits would potentially increase his future benefit amount as well as the benefit amount of his widow were he to die. The suspension itself would have no impact on the auxiliary benefits, which would be paid in the same amount whether he suspends or not. The auxiliary benefits will probably be higher beginning the month he turns 66, as the retirement insurance benefits maximum will apply at that point. The conversion from disability insurance benefits to retirement insurance benefits at full retirement age and the according adjustment of the family maximum is automatic and will happen regardless of whether or not he voluntarily suspends.
With 20/20 hindsight, this may have been a case where the man should have filed for both disability insurance benefits and reduced retirement insurance benefits. If he had done so in September of 2014, he would have the option of taking reduced retirement insurance benefits instead of disability insurance benefits from September 2014 until full retirement age, which would permit the presumably higher retirement insurance benefit family maximum to be paid to the auxiliaries. He would still be technically entitled to disability insurance benefits while receiving the reduced retirement insurance benefits, so no permanent reduction would apply. His unreduced retirement insurance benefit would then resume at full retirement age.
It’s too late to do that now, however, unless he didn’t restrict the application he filed to only disability insurance benefits. I suppose it’s possible that the reduced retirement insurance benefit wasn’t restricted from the original application, and the Social Security Administration is now trying to explain that he has the option of going back and opting for reduced retirement insurance benefits from September 2014 through full retirement age. If that were the case, the only reason to do so would be if the total family benefits would be higher (that is, if the increase in auxiliary benefits more than offsets the difference between the number holder’s disability insurance benefits and reduced retirement insurance benefits). I’m sure that the spouse and child were listed on his disability insurance benefits application, which protects their filing date and allows them to be paid auxiliary benefits back to September 2013. Even if he had also filed for reduced retirement insurance benefits in September 2014, however, the auxiliary rates for September 2013 to August 2014 would be subject to the disability insurance benefit family maximum.
From Donald Trump’s rise to the top of a crowded Republican field to John Boehner’s resignation and the growing influence of the Black Lives Matter movement, 2015 was full of unexpected twists and turns. It was also a year of historic firsts, from the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal to the legalization of same-sex marriage to the first-ever papal visit to Congress.
After spending the year following candidates on the campaign trail and reporting from Capitol Hill, the NewsHour politics team compiled a list of 2015’s top ten politics stories.
1. Donald Trump runs for president
No matter what you think of the real estate mogul and former reality television star, his political popularity is undeniable and unrelenting. Trump has dominated nearly every poll, been center stage in each of the Republican debates, drawn large crowds at rallies across the country and is a constant topic of conversation on social media. But hand in hand with the popularity is the controversy. Trump supporters like the political correctness-free tough talk, but it has gotten him in hot water, even with the Republican Party. Since announcing his run in June, Trump has called Mexican immigrants rapists, dissed Sen. John McCain, offended Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, called for a temporary ban on Muslims coming into America, and most recently said Hillary Clinton’s bathroom break during a debate was “disgusting.” But so far, The Donald is teflon. Votes have yet to be counted and the Republican National Convention is still half a year away. Still there’s no question Donald Trump is the big political story of 2015. Click here for more on Trump’s political views.
2. SCOTUS legalizes gay marriage and upholds Obamacare
This year was chock-full of significant Supreme Court cases, but two decisions rose to the top. First, in a 5-4 ruling in June, the court struck down state bans on gay marriage, giving same-sex couples nationwide the legal right to marry. In many places the historic decision has been implemented smoothly, but one county court clerk in rural Kentucky refused to marry gay couples, sparking a firestorm over religious freedom. After spending nearly a week in jail for violating the law, Kim Davis was ordered to stop blocking marriage licenses to gay couples. The incident grabbed national headlines and even prompted two presidential candidates to visit her: Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.
The second big-deal decision from the Supreme Court also came in June, when six of the nine justices upheld a major part of the Affordable Care Act. Experts said if the court had gone the other way, the result would have likely been disastrous for the future of Obamacare, especially with no clear backup plan from Congress.
3. U.S. and Iran strike nuclear deal
American and Irani diplomats reached a deal over the summer that limits Tehran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for lifting economic sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation. The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the agreement and the Obama administration lauded it as a historic accomplishment. But Republicans in Congress did not share the president’s enthusiasm, and even members of the president’s own party were slow to endorse the deal. In September, the Senate failed to pass a resolution that would have blocked the nuclear agreement. Despite the deal’s likely implementation at the start of the new year, Republicans, including the presidential candidates, have kept up their strong rhetorical opposition.
4. ISIS-linked attacks in Paris and California transform the presidential race
Not only have the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. dominated foreign policy and national security news over the past month, they’ve also completely changed the presidential campaign. Before November, immigration, jobs and spending were the top conversations on the stump and in the debates. But now the 2016 race has become the national-security-campaign. Candidates on both sides are touting their foreign policy and security bona fides more frequently, Republican hopefuls have called on the administration to stem the flow of refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East, and of course Trump controversially called for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the country. The polls show that Americans are increasingly concerned about another attack, and want the next president to be a strong leader on national security.
5. Mass shootings in America
A church in Charleston, S.C., an Oregon community college, a Colorado Planned Parenthood facility, a developmental disability center in California, a movie theater in Louisiana, and a military recruiting center in Tennessee — these are just some of the sites of mass shootings this year in the United States. Each time one of these incidents occurred, the fight over gun control was reignited. The arguments on both sides of the issue aren’t new, and for the most part fall along on partisan lines. But at the heart of the fight is a disagreement about whether more guns will provide protection and save lives in these mass shooting incidents, or whether more controls (like background checks and assault weapons bans) will keep guns out of the hands of people that mean to do harm. For a look at how widespread the problem is, check out NewsHour’s map of every mass shooting in 2015.
6. The House gets a new Speaker
After nearly five years as Speaker of the House and 25 years in Congress, Republican John Boehner decided it was time to go. His unexpected retirement announcement sent Capitol Hill – especially the House GOP – into a tizzy this fall. Boehner’s right hand man, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was the presumed successor, but a little more than a week after announcing his bid for speaker, McCarthy suddenly dropped out of the running. Many Republicans in the House quickly turned to Rep. Paul Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential candidate. Ryan initially and emphatically refused to throw his name in the hat. The Wisconsin congressman eventually gave in, but told members his speakership would come with conditions, including more time with family and less time fundraising. Ryan was finally elected the 54th Speaker of the House in late October, just in time to deal with the budget battle. Ryan is now aiming to set the GOP’s agenda for 2016.
7. Hillary Clinton sent official emails using a private server
Before Hillary Clinton launched her presidential bid in April, news broke that the former secretary of state had used a personal account to send government emails during her four years in the Obama administration. It was later revealed that Clinton’s email was run through a private server located at her Chappaqua, N. Y. home. The email scandal was at the top of the news cycle for months and even became a significant part of Clinton’s day-long testimony before the Benghazi Special Committee. Clinton eventually apologized and called her use of private email a mistake, but Republicans have used the incident to call into question her trustworthiness. Details are still emerging about the security of the server and whether Clinton sent classified information. She insists she followed government protocol and rules at the time. The State Department has released batches of Clinton’s emails each month, and the final release is scheduled for next month, just before the first primary votes are cast.
8. Black Lives Matter takes on the presidential candidates
The Black Lives Matter movement, which originally began in 2012 in reaction to the killing of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, moved well beyond its hashtag activism roots this year. The group has staged protests across the country at police stations, college campuses, businesses and city halls. One of their major targets in 2015? The presidential candidates. Black Lives Matter members have confronted everyone from Sen. Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton to Trump. And although they have not been granted their own debate, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has become a part of the conversation on the campaign trail. The group has yet to endorse a presidential candidate.
9. Pope Francis and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visit Congress
One visit united Congress; the other divided it. When Pope Francis made his first-ever visit to America this year, Washington was ecstatic. Members on both sides of the aisle clamored to be in the presence of his holiness. In his speech to the legislators, Francis discussed immigration, the death penalty, racial injustice, climate change and poverty. The visit received a positive response from Democrats and Republicans (a rarity), and even made then-Speaker John Boehner cry (not as rare). Months before, there was far less bipartisan excitement for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Congress. Boehner broke with tradition by inviting the Israeli leader to address Congress without informing the White House in advance. Netanyahu has been a staunch opponent of the U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement and his decision to accept Boehner’s invitation further strained relations with the Obama administration. So much so that a number of Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, chose to boycott Netanyahu’s speech. Obama and Netanyahu have since tried to mend fences; the prime minister visited the White House last month to discuss security, military aide and Middle East peace.
10. Confederate flag taken down
After flying at a monument on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol for 15 years, the Confederate flag was taken down and moved to a museum this summer. (It had flown on top of the S.C. State House dome from 1961 – 2000.) The historic decision came after nine African-Americans were killed inside a Charleston church in June by a white man linked to white supremacists. The flag has long been seen by many as a symbol of slavery and violence toward African-Americans; others argue it’s a piece of Southern heritage. South Carolina’s decision set off a wave of Confederate flag removals across the South and broader discussions about other Confederate monuments and statues. For more on the history of this symbol of the Confederacy, check out the eight things you didn’t know about the Confederate flag.
Think there’s anything we missed? Here’s a list of the other important political stories in 2015 that didn’t quite make our top ten.
— Federal court halts Obama’s immigration executive action.
— Congressional Republicans attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.
— Obama battles members of both parties on trade agreement.
— Congress passes Patriot Act extension.
— Vice President Joe Biden opts out of running for president.
— Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert pleads guilty in hush money case.
— Several states pass Religious Freedom Restoration laws.
— Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell sentenced to two years in prison on public corruption charges.
And tune into Politics Monday tonight for a look back at the year in politics with NPR’s Tamara Keith and the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter.
The post Trump, Clinton and the Top 10 political stories of 2015 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
No, these designs aren’t the latest in 3D printing technology; they are photographs of snowflakes taken by self-taught Moscow photographer, Alexey Kljatov.Photographing snowflakes has taught Kljatov, 40, to appreciate the beauty of snowflakes, and the perfect weather conditions required to create the intricate crystals. “This is the true wonder of physics, that only random changes of temperature and humidity around growing crystals produces something so unique and beautiful to our eyes.”
Photography first caught Kljatov’s attention when his mother began taking digital macro photographs. Kljatov experimented with magnified photographs of insects and butterflies, and years later, snowflake photography caught his eye. As a lifelong skier, he has always loved snow and winter.
He first saw snowflake images on SnowCrystals.com, California Institute of Technology professor Kenneth G. Libbrecht’s website. “I thought that it is impossible to shoot something like this for amateur photographer, without any experience and expensive microscopy technique,” he said. He now knows it isn’t true.
“Every photographer with a simple point-and-shoot camera can make very good snowflake photos,” Kljatov said. “For this type of photography, patience, persistence and luck means much more than any expensive photo technique.” Kljatov has been photographing snowflakes for the past eight years.
Kljatov describes his process on his website. He photographs the snowflakes on either a dark wool or glass background on his balcony. He uses a Canon Powershot A650 IS with the attached lens at 6X zoom through a reversed Helios 44M-5 lens that he got from an old USSR-made Zenit camera. He has downloaded Canon hack firmware onto his camera, which allows him to shoot RAW and HDR, or high dynamic range, images.
There are factors in snowflake photography that are out of his control. “It is necessary to wait for good snowfalls, which brings a large number of interesting and beautiful snowflakes. They happens not so often, at least, in Moscow, but one lucky day can give you lots of wonderful photographs.”
According to Kljatov, the past six Decembers have been too warm to produce many good snow crystals. “This December, however, [was] unusually warm. … A little snow, which was on the streets, today completely washed away by rains,” he said in an email he sent to the NewsHour on Christmas Eve.
He said he has the most opportunities to take snow photographs in January, February and even March.
Kljatov also enjoys HDR photography of Moscow nightscapes. You can see those here. And see more of his snowflakes below:
The post 12 stunning snowflake photos you won’t believe were taken by an amateur photographer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The first of 17 detainees scheduled to be released from the Guantanamo Bay prison in January will be transferred next week, as the Obama administration continues to reduce the population at the controversial detention center, a senior U.S. official said Monday.
Another three detainees are slated to appear before a review board during January to determine if they can also be considered eligible for transfer to another country, the official added.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter notified Congress earlier this month that 17 detainees would be transferred to other countries in January. Those transfers will begin with several moving out next week. The 17 are more transfers than Carter has approved all year, and they will reduce the total detainees at Guantanamo to 90, with 31 still eligible for transfer.
In the 10 months since Carter took office in February, he transferred 15 detainees out of Guantanamo.
The official was not authorized to discuss the transfers publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The White House has been struggling to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, but efforts stalled in recent months amid staunch opposition in Congress to any plan to move detainees to a U.S.-based prison site. The $607 billion defense policy bill passed by Congress in November includes a provision that bans any movement to the United States.
President Barack Obama opposed the provision, but signed the bill. He promised during his election campaign that he would close Guantanamo, but has been stymied by Congress’ opposition to relocating detainees to the U.S., and by the slow process of transferring prisoners to other countries.
Of the 90 detainees who have not yet been cleared for transfer, 59 are currently not eligible for release to another country. The official said that three of those will go before a review board of senior defense, homeland security, military, intelligence, and other officials in January, to reassess whether they can be approved for transfer.
Under the guidelines, transfers cannot be approved unless officials believe the detainees will not return to terrorism or the battlefield upon release, and there must be a host country willing to take them.
Both Carter and his predecessor, Chuck Hagel, came under fire for not moving fast enough to transfer detainees. Pentagon officials have argued that it is often difficult to find a host country that will take a detainee and provide the security guarantees needed.
The Pentagon and White House also insist that a number of the detainees are too dangerous to be released, so the administration is continuing to pursue plans to find an alternate U.S.-based facility. The Pentagon has been refining cost estimates for several sites.
The post First of 17 detainees to be released from Gitmo next week appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
South Korea and Japan reached a breakthrough settlement of $8.3 million to resolve a decades-long dispute regarding Korean women forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.
The agreement, announced Monday, aims to resolve the emotional and historic grievance South Korea has held since Japan’s colonial occupation, when tens of thousands of women from around Asia, many of them Korean, were sent to military brothels to provide sex to Japanese soldiers. Justice for these “comfort women,” as they are euphemistically called, has been a deeply-contested political issue between the two countries for years.
The pledge from the Japanese government, about 1 billion yen, will establish a foundation to provide support for the victims. It was accompanied by a statement from the Japanese foreign minister saying that Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, “expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences.”
The new agreement comes as both governments are eager to move forward from this historic episode.
Abe told reporters that the agreement was based on his commitment to stop future generations from having to repeatedly apologize. After personally calling South Korean president Park Geun-hye to reiterate his apology, Abe said “Japan and South Korea are now entering a new era. … We should not drag this problem into the next generation.”
For Seoul, the urgency comes as former sex slaves are passing away from old age without closure to the incident. “Most of victims are at an advanced age and nine died this year alone,” Park said in a statement. “I hope the mental pains of the elderly comfort women will be eased.”
But the agreement does not completely resolve the tensions between the Asian counterparts. The issues has been “officially resolved” before; the 1965 treaty that restored diplomatic relations between the two countries offered $800 million for compensation for colonial-era damages and there have been previous apologies from Japanese officials. But South Korea has been reluctant to accept the apologies because Japan has not accepted formal, legal responsibilities for the comfort women and has allegedly erased its wartime atrocities from its history books.
In line with this language, the Japanese foreign minister described the new pledge not as a legal compensation, but as a “project to relieve emotional scars and provide healing to the victims.”
Former comfort woman Lee Young-su, 88, rejected the new agreement due to this language. “I don’t think comfort women victims were even considered [in this resolution]” because Japan had still not taken legal responsibility, she told South Korea’s Yonhap news.
A South Korean NGO called “Justice to the Comfort women” also rejected the settlement, written in a post on Facebook, because the statement was ambiguous and Abe did not even make it himself. “Therefore, it is impossible to accept today’s apology as a sincere one,” the post said.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Seoul considers the agreement “final and irreversible” as long as Japan faithfully follows through with its promises.
All in all, the deal came as good news to the U.S. which has been eager to see the two regional democracies establish better relations to create an unified front against the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.
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“Mein Kampf” will go on sale in Germany next week after its copyright expires on Friday, marking the first time in 70 years the book will be legally reprinted in the country.
The German state of Bavaria has held the copyright for Adolf Hitler’s autobiography since 1945 and has withheld publishing the book, preventing any reprints in Germany. But in 2016, the book becomes available in the public domain, which will make it widely available in Germany for the first time since World War II.
Hitler began writing the first volume of the autobiographical “Mein Kampf” in 1923 while imprisoned in Landsberg prison for an attempted coup to overthrow the government of Bavaria. Published in 1925, the first volume of the book lays out Hitler’s overview of the problems facing German society, his support for dictatorship and the racial hatred underpinning his beliefs.
The book gained popularity in 1933 as Hitler became Reich Chancellor, and by 1945, it was translated into 18 languages and sold 12 million copies.
The Institute of Contemporary History in Munich will release an approximately 2,000-page annotated edition of “Mein Kampf” on Jan. 8, 2016. The version will include critical commentary aimed at deconstructing and contextualizing the work, according to a statement from the Institute. The book will cost 59 euros ($65).
Critics have raised questions about the value of reprinting a book that contributed to inciting racial hatred in the years leading up to the Holocaust, said Steven Luckert, Senior Program Curator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education.
“It’s generated a lot of fears in Germany and elsewhere that once again, Hitler’s words could resonate with audiences,” he said.
But some scholars have argued that continuing to ban the book does not prevent people from accessing it — “Mein Kampf” is available for download online — and that a reprint with historical analysis could have educational merit.
Josef Kraus, president of the German Teachers Association, has voiced support for using the book in schools, saying it could help students think critically about extremism.
“A professional treatment of excerpts in lessons can help immunize against political extremism,” he told German newspaper Handelsblatt.
A reprint that puts Hitler’s words in context could be helpful for students, Luckert said.
“With critical commentary that contextualizes the book, that explains where these ideas come from — the insidious nature of those — I think that can be very helpful for people to understand something about those words and what they mean,” he said. “In a world in which you have a lot of hate, a lot of anti-Semitism, a lot of racism being propagated through various forms of media, I think it’s important to confront those in meaningful ways.”
“Mein Kampf” was never banned in the U.S. but remains banned in Austria and the Netherlands. In France, publisher Fayard will print a French version of the book.
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LANCASTER, Pa. – As people debate allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States, Farhan Al Qadri and his family are actually doing it.
The Al Qadris — Farhan, his wife Muna, and four of their nine children — moved to the United States in June. Their first glimpse of the U.S. was the inside of JFK Airport in New York, before they were shuttled to the farmlands of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where they now live in a three-bedroom rowhouse in the heart of the city.They are part of the fallout of a grueling nearly five-year civil war in Syria that has killed more than 200,000 people and forced millions from their homes.
The Al Qadris fled their hometown of Daraa in southwestern Syria with the few clothes they could carry after their house was caught in the crossfire between government and rebel forces.
Sitting on a flower-patterned sofa one afternoon in December, Farhan Al Qadri scrolled through photos on his phone showing the busted windows of his family’s whitewashed home in Syria, lamenting what they left behind that day in August 2012 when they had to cross the border into Jordan.
The family is safe now in Pennsylvania, but face a whole new set of challenges in a foreign land. He shakes his head at a water leak above the window in the kitchen, where his wife is making a huge batch of yogurt and fresh soup with onions and spinach for dinner.
He’s hoping to earn enough at his $10.50 per hour job washing equipment at an egg processing plant to eventually move into a nicer home, something closer to what his family was accustomed to in Syria. There, he owned a grocery store and an olive grove. But they hold no hopes of returning. “In Syria, it’s very bad now, lots of fighting,” he said in halting English.
Many of his friends have gone to Canada, which has promised to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees. “They help with money, a house and clothes. It’s good for Syrians,” he said. “But here now, it’s difficult, I don’t know about the U.S.A.” because of the current backlash.
“Some think Muslims are not good, and some Muslims aren’t good,” points out his teenage daughter, Maha. “But it’s the same with Americans. Some are good and some aren’t good.”
Maha, 19, who is learning how to drive and is a fan of Adele’s song “Hello,” is looking forward to attending college and possibly becoming a doctor. “Here, there is a future,” she said in the small bedroom she shares with her younger sister.
Last fall, President Barack Obama committed to accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. But following the November terrorist attacks in Paris, more than two dozen U.S. governors said they wanted to halt the Syrians’ entry until they can review the refugee vetting process. Pennsylvania, not one of those states, has pledged to keep its doors open.
The refugee screening process
The Al Qadris were the first of three families to arrive this year in Lancaster, a city of about 60,000 people.
They underwent two years of security and health screenings. During that time, his 19-year-old son Ahmed turned 21. No longer a dependent, he will have to apply to come to the United States on his own. Four other children are grown and live elsewhere: two sons are in Germany, another in Kuwait and a married daughter lives in the United Arab Emirates.
When families apply for refugee status from the United Nations, they go through a multi-level process to verify their identities, background and the threats they face at home. The United States requires another 13-step process for admission, including security clearances, in-person interviews and FBI fingerprinting.
The Syrian families are high priority because they involve children, said Stephanie Gromek, a community resource coordinator with Church World Service in Lancaster, one of the nonprofits that helps resettle immigrants. Still, the vetting process is long and involved, she said. Each family member undergoes the 13 checks and if any step expires before the process is completed, they must redo that portion.
The approved cases are then brought before nine U.S. resettlement agencies, and they determine which of the 360 U.S. cities that offer resettlement has the capacity to take the families, based on medical needs or other resources the city can provide.
Once the families are accepted somewhere, the International Organization for Migration is notified and coordinates their transportation. The family pays back the travel costs after they are settled and start acquiring income.
Each family is given four months of financial support, after which they are expected to become self-sufficient. The federal government provides about $1,000 per refugee, and the resettlement agencies use the money to help get them started in a home, stocked with household items – usually donated by the community – and offer help with applying for medical assistance and jobs.
Media coverage of the Syrian conflict has raised people’s awareness of the Syrians’ plight but also worries among Americans about their own safety, said Gromek. Church World Service seeks to address those concerns by meeting with various groups to educate them about the extensive vetting process.
It helps to explain even just the basics — that a refugee is a person legally in the U.S. who is eligible to work and start contributing to the community, she said.
Around the holidays, her organization launched a one-day fundraising campaign, which became a litmus test of sorts about the community’s support for the Syrians. The nonprofit hoped to raise $25,000 and ended up doubling its goal.
“It was just reaffirming that Lancaster is welcoming of refugees. They do stand behind what we’re doing,” Gromek said.
That’s partly because the city has a history of immigration, starting with the Amish and Mennonites for which the area is known.
Jon Carlson, pastor of the Forest Hills Mennonite Church in the Leola community of Lancaster County, said about 15 members of his congregation are helping a Syrian family of five school-aged children with household items, transportation to medical appointments, home visits and English language instruction. After seeing the images of the chaos in Syria, “to be able to do something tangible felt really exciting,” he said.
“It’s been so frustrating after the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino attacks to hear a lot of really uninformed rhetoric that we’re unable to vet these people and this is dangerous, when refugees are the most thoroughly screened group that come to this country,” Carlson said.
A sampling of comments on articles published by LancasterOnline shows the range of opinions on the newly arriving Syrians, from “keep them out of this country!” to “closing the doors is a cowardly response.”
“How about we take care of America first, our homeless veterans, starving children and jobless families before we give out free aid?” a commenter asked on the Church World Service’s Facebook page, expressing a commonly held view.
According to Carlson, it’s good to have such conversations when allocating and prioritizing resources. “But this is the largest refugee crisis since World War II and is a humanitarian crisis at an unbelievable scale,” so the U.S. as the world’s richest country has a responsibility to respond, he said.
“If you think more broadly about some of the root causes of extremism and violence, the things that we do as a country, the ways that we’re perceived globally, feed into some of those narratives,” he continued. “So if we’re perceived as being unconcerned about the plight of people living in the Middle East, that feeds into the sorts of narratives that become powerful recruiting tools for those looking to engage in extremism and violence.”
Writer Shawn Smucker, who lives in Lancaster with his wife and five children, believes that getting to know the refugees’ personal stories will help allay people’s fears. He’s written in his blog about a Palestinian refugee, who got in trouble at home for speaking out about women’s rights, and a man whose family arrived from Pakistan and is enjoying its newfound freedoms.
Lancaster accepts a few hundred refugees each year from more than a dozen countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Somalia, in addition to Syria.
Gromek said she can’t be sure the controversy over Syrians entering the U.S. is slowing the overseas processing, but her organization had expected to resettle more Syrians by the end of the year than the initial three families.
“I think people are so scared right now of what’s going on in Syria,” said Smucker. “Then, they hear people are coming from Syria and they think they’re going to bring that terror, but that’s just not the case.”
Being a Muslim in Lancaster
About 1,000 Muslims live in the greater Lancaster County region. The Islamic Community Center of Lancaster, which opened in 2013, provides them a place for Friday prayers, Quran studies, movie nights and “mommy and me” groups.
Its members are familiar with the possibility of misunderstanding and fear when it comes to Islam.
Mukaram Syed, an engineer and volunteer member of the center’s Board of Trustees, spends a lot of his time educating others about Islam. The center’s members encourage school groups and others to the tour the site. Particularly after the most recent terrorist attacks, groups have asked the center to make presentations and answer their community’s questions.
“A lot of people don’t know that we believe in one God,” Syed said. “Sometimes, they’re confused about our beliefs.”
The local Muslims haven’t experienced hateful acts that some other cities have, in part because of their involvement in the community, said Syed. The center participates in backpack drives — supplying low-income children with school supplies, coat and blanket collections for refugees and charity runs.
Just in case, the center has security cameras and locked entrances. If there is any vandalism or violence, Syed said he believes outsiders would do it, not their neighbors.
“You have to be part of the fabric. The issues of Lancaster are my issues,” he said. “The work we are doing, we didn’t just start now when something bad happens in Paris. We’ve been doing this from day one.”
The center’s members also are in close contact with the resettled Syrian families.
Farhan Al Qadri happened to call Syed while a reporter was visiting the Islamic Center. He was seeking help transferring money to his son in Jordan. Despite living off food stamps, the father was still thinking of his son, who faces even more hardships, at least for now.
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HONOLULU — President Barack Obama and comedian Jerry Seinfeld compare cars and trade one-liners in a 19-minute episode of “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.”
The episode began airing Wednesday night, and opens with Seinfeld phoning the president. Seinfeld compliments Obama for “cutting all that red tape in Washington” when Obama appears to answer the call directly.
While Seinfeld introduces Obama to a 1963 Corvette Stingray, Obama lets Seinfeld sit in the back seat of the presidential limo, a Cadillac that Obama refers to as “the beast.” Obama says being able to call a nuclear submarine from the car is a cool feature, plus it has seat warmers.
During the course of the show, Obama relishes the thought of some anonymity and describes Teddy Roosevelt as a guy who might be the most fun to hang out with. He says Roosevelt would take a monthlong trip to Yellowstone National Park without anyone knowing where he was.
“Sounds pretty good to me,” Obama said.
“That’s a lot of messages when you get back,” Seinfeld shot back.
The two have some fun at Larry David’s expense. David and Seinfeld co-created the Seinfeld sitcom. At one point, Seinfeld asks how many world leaders are just completely “out of their minds?”
“A pretty sizable percentage,” Obama estimated.
The White House press office noted the show’s release as the president was vacationing in Hawaii.
The show runs on Crackle, a unit of Sony Pictures Television, and can be watched at www.crackle.com.
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Year-end shows are usually a yawn. A few big events of the soon-to-be past year are duly noted and analyzed before the view shifts to the year to come. But 2015 has been truly remarkable.
Parts of the global map literally have been re-drawn. From China building new islands in the South China Sea to the Islamic State taking (and losing) control of entire cities, the global order — and its impact on Americans — has shifted in a big way.
This week on Shortwave we examine these changes, with Tom Nichols, a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and Esther Brimmer, a former State Department official.
This is a podcast. That you listen to. With your ears! Genius.
WASHINGTON — Incendiary rhetoric has seeped into 2016 presidential politics, surfaced in the public debate over accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S. and popped up repeatedly following terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch has expressed concern about the potential for an anti-Islam backlash similar to one that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and vowed that the Justice Department would punish “actions predicated on violent talk.”
“Advocates are certainly reporting to us an increased concern around incidents, threats and potential hate crimes that they’re bringing to our attention,” Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
But the spectrum of hateful expression is broad, encompassing acts that are clearly illegal — such as firebombing a mosque — as well as vague and distant threats that, while noxious, might well be protected by the First Amendment.
Establishing the line between protected speech and a federal hate crime can be challenging for prosecutors and courts and depends on the facts of each particular case. Here’s a look at how federal law treats hate speech:
WHAT DO FEDERAL LAWS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS?
The signature hate crime statute — the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act — makes it illegal to physically harm someone based on their race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation, among other characteristics.
DOESN’T THE CONSTITUTION ALLOW ME TO SAY WHATEVER I WANT?
To a large degree, yes. The First Amendment offers broad free speech protections and permits membership in organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan, that espouse hateful ideologies.
But while the Constitution gives latitude to hate speech and offensive rhetoric, court decisions in the last century have carved out notable — though narrow — exceptions to free speech guarantees and authorized prosecution for language deemed to fall out of bounds.
Comments intended as specific and immediate threats brush up against those protections, regardless of a person’s race or religion. So do personal, face-to-face comments meant to incite imminent lawlessness, such as a riot.
A 1942 Supreme Court decision called Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire — which involved a Jehovah’s Witness who cursed at a city marshal, calling him a “damned fascist” — articulated a “fighting words” doctrine that restricted insults intended to provoke an “immediate breach of the peace.”
ARE THREATS AGAINST THE LAW?
They certainly can be, but that depends on various factors. Determining what constitutes an actual threat — as opposed to a vague and far-off remark — is a tricky, fact-specific question.
In Virginia v. Black, a seminal 2003 Supreme Court decision on cross-burning, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor described “true threats” as statements in which “the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.”
In other words, the more specific and immediate the threat, the more likely it’ll be regarded as illegal.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘Kill all the Jews,’ versus ‘Kill that Jew who was my kid’s school teacher who gave him an F,'” said James Weinstein, a constitutional law professor at Arizona State University.
Justice Department officials say context matters greatly in such cases, making it hard to generalize too broadly. Hateful threats that the target interprets as a joke, or that are discussed among friends but not leveled at anyone in particular, likely would be harder to prosecute federally.
“It requires specificity, it requires intent and it requires a certain sense of imminence,” Gupta said.
HOW OFTEN ARE SUCH CASES INVESTIGATED?
The FBI says local law enforcement agencies reported 5,479 hate crime incidents in 2014.
In a Dec. 3 speech to the Muslim Advocates organization, Lynch said that more than 220 defendants had been charged with hate crime offenses in the last six years. Those include a Utah man who threatened an interracial family with death and a man who admitted tying a rope around the neck of a James Meredith statue on the University of Mississippi campus.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the attorney general said, the Justice Department has headed more than 1,000 investigations into acts of “anti-Muslim hatred” and bigoted behavior, leading to more than 45 prosecutions — including of a New York man who e-mailed death threats to an employee at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and of a Texas man convicted in 2013 of threatening to bomb an Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Among incidents in the last two months: a caretaker at a Philadelphia mosque said he found a severed pig’s head outside on the sidewalk, and CAIR, a Muslim advocacy group, reported getting a hate letter with a white powdery substance at its Washington offices.
“I think, sadly, that number is going to continue,” Lynch said.
The post How federal law draws a line between free speech and hate crimes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley failed to qualify for Ohio’s primary ballot after falling short of the signatures needed to appear before the state’s voters, a spokesman for the state’s elections chief said Thursday.
O’Malley needed 1,000 valid signatures to appear on the March 15 primary ballot. The former Maryland governor’s campaign submitted 1,175 signatures, but only 772 were deemed valid, said Josh Eck, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
O’Malley’s campaign expressed disappointment, though it noted the candidate is on the ballot in 18 other states.
“While this news is disappointing, we are exploring all of our options, and Gov. O’Malley will campaign vigorously in Ohio,” spokeswoman Haley Morris said in an emailed statement.
O’Malley is running an underdog bid for his party’s nomination against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Both Clinton and Sanders were certified for Ohio’s presidential primary ballot, along with a little-known candidate, San Diego businessman Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente.
Clinton already has the support of some key Democratic insiders in Ohio, where she won the 2008 primary over Barack Obama.
The post Democrat O’Malley fails to qualify for Ohio’s primary ballot appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
In a year packed with memorable films and performances, which stories stood out? Mike Sargent, film critic for Pacifica Radio, and Ann Hornaday, film critic for The Washington Post, joined the NewsHour’s chief arts and culture correspondent Jeffrey Brown to talk about this year’s best moments in filmmaking.
Most under-appreciated of 2015
“Age of Adaline”
Sargent said this film, starring Blake Lively in the role of a woman who accidentally gains the ability to never age, was his favorite lesser-known film from 2015. In a story that could have “easily fallen apart,” it kept a strong narrative, he said.
“Love & Mercy”
This film portrays two chapters in the life of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, beginning in the 1960s. Paul Dano plays an early-career Wilson as he produces the “Pet Sounds”-style hits that form the bedrock of The Beach Boys’ early sound. John Cusack portrays Wilson in the 1980s as he seeks mental health treatment and meets his wife Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks in a “stunning” performance, Hornaday said. The movie is a beautiful exploration of the creative process, she said.
Best movie of 2015[Watch Video]
Written and directed by Tom McCarthy, the film is a gripping account of the Boston Globe investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in 2001 and 2002. Hornaday called the film an “exquisite piece of filmmaking.” The film’s strong ensemble, including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, carries the plot forward in a story that uses “fundamental values of narrative filmmaking,” she said.
The film, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander, explores the question of what it means to be human through the story of an inventor that creates artificial intelligence in the form of a female robot. “It’s one of the more thoughtful pieces I’ve seen this year,” Sargent said.
Best performance of 2015
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
Ronan plays an Irish woman falling for an Italian man in 1950s Brooklyn in a “transcendent” breakout performance, Hornaday said. “The way she holds the camera and holds the audience’s attention, as this young woman that’s transforming before our eyes from this young country girl to a woman of the city and an American, and a woman of the future — it’s all there in her face,” she said. “It’s an extraordinary physical performance.”
Tom Hardy, “Legend”
In “Legend,” Hardy gives a “mesmerizing” performance as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two twins that orchestrated some of the most infamous organized crime in British history, Sargent said. “He really creates two separate characters. You completely believe that they’re just two people in the room,” he said. 2015 was a big year for Hardy, who also appeared in “The Revenant” and “Mad Max” and is “coming into his own,” Sargent said.
Watch the NewsHour tonight to hear more of Hornaday and Sargent’s thoughts on this year in movies.
Editor’s Note: Film critic Mike Sargent was mistakenly referred to as Mark Sargent in an earlier version of this post.
Fire broke out at a Dubai luxury hotel Thursday, a couple of hours before the city’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display, which continued as planned at midnight.
Flames engulfed The Address Downtown building while nearby crowds of tens of thousands that had gathered for the massive fireworks display. While onlookers waited for the event, they captured for social media the blaze and smoke that billowed from the 63-story building.
— Jason Falbo (@FalboJason) December 31, 2015
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) December 31, 2015
Dubai’s Media Office tweeted that four teams of firefighters worked to snuff out the fire, which raged on as the New Year’s event lit up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, nearby. Although the cause of the fire remains unknown, the city’s media office said it originated outside the 20th floor of the hotel, adding that the fire didn’t spread inside.
14 minor injuries,1 moderate&1 heart attack case reported due 2 over-crowding&smoke at the fire site,all received prompts medical assistance
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) December 31, 2015
According to the media office, at least 14 people suffered minor injuries, while one person had a heart attack from the overcrowding and smoke at the site.
The post A massive fire in Dubai did not stop New Year’s fireworks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
2015 was the year of hate. The year of hysteria. The year of absurdity. The year of civic activism. The year of ‘No.’ The year of Stephen Curry. The year of Nicki Minaj. The year of Pizza Rat. Or, for some, it was the year of the period.
2015 was many things to different people, but 2016 offers a clean slate, a new year to resolve our shortcomings. Here’s how revelers around the globe bid good riddance to 2015 and marked the start of 2016.