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

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    Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Leader and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen waves to her supporters after her election victory at party headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan Jan. 16, 2016. Photos By Pichi Chuang/Reuters

    Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Leader and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen waves to her supporters after her election victory at party headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan Jan. 16, 2016. Photo By Pichi Chuang/Reuters

    Taiwan elected its first female president on Saturday, a member of a pro-independence party, in a victory over her nationalist rival that caused China to issue a stern warning of caution.

    Tsai Ing-wen, 59, called for unity during her victory speech on Saturday, stating she would seek a “consistent, predictable and sustainable” relationship with China after it was announced she had taken approximately 56 percent of the vote.

    “Both sides have a responsibility to do their utmost to find mutually acceptable ways to interact with respect and reciprocity and ensure no provocation and no surprises,” Tsai said, who leads the Democratic Progressive Party.

    The two governments have been meshed for decades in a confusing diplomatic tangle but have increasingly been linked economically, also forming a relative level of peace over the last eight years.

    China views Taiwan as a secessionist province, one that it has threatened to retake with force, while Taiwan calls itself a sovereign state.

    The scenario began playing out after World War II, when allied forces handed control of Taiwan to China. China has been aiming hundreds of missiles at Taiwan since members of Chinese nationalists  fled the mainland and Communists came to power during China’s civil war, according to Reuters.

    Taiwan has a separate constitution and democratic elections and uses its own military force with 300,00 active troops.

    Supporters of Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)  celebrate Tsai Ing-We's victory. Photos By Olivia Harris/Reuters

    Supporters of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) celebrate Tsai Ing-We’s victory. Photo By Olivia Harris/Reuters

    President-elect Tsai favors independence for Taiwan but had struck a conciliatory note during her campaign with the island’s mainland neighbor, though she indicated she would not budge on issues of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

    “Our democracy, national identity and international space must be fully respected and any suppression would undermine the stability of cross-strait relations,” she said.

    After her victory, China on Saturday said it would not allow an independent Taiwan, stating that the two governments would eventually be merged into one.

    “On important issues of principle like protecting the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity our will is as hard as rock,” said a statement released by Chinese state media.

    The United States on Saturday congratulated Tsai and said it holds “profound interest” in maintaining stability between China and Taiwan.

    The post Taiwan elects first female president appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan says the newspaper is elated that its former Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, left Iran today after 545 days in captivity, adding, he looks forward to welcoming Rezaian back to the newsroom.

    For more on that part of the story, I am now joined over the phone by Post executive editor Marty Baron and foreign editor Douglas Jehl.

    This has been an incredibly slow and painful process. There was a point last year in about October when Jason was convicted by an Iranian court. I mean, did that take the wind out of your sails at some point?

    DOUGLAS JEHL, Foreign Editor, The Washington Post: It was a blow. It was one of many blows.

    I think it was clear, though, from the very outset that the process of Jason’s trial before an Iranian court was really a charade and a cruel sideshow, that, ultimately, his fate was going to be resolved by Iran’s political leaders. And that is what has happened this weekend.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What sort of access did you have to the process? Were you getting updates from the State Department? Or were you in touch with somebody in Iran directly?

    MARTY BARON, Executive Editor, The Washington Post: No. We didn’t get updates from the State Department about how the negotiations were going. We weren’t part of the process.

    You know, obviously, our reporters were reporting on it as much as they could, but we were not intimately involved in those negotiations. Or, actually, we weren’t involved at all.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This also reminds the American audience that, I mean, Jason had a lot of people pulling for him. He had an institution that is powerful in Washington.

    You had editors and reporters from around the world making sure that his plight was heard of, unlike the other Iranian Americans or the other Americans that might be in Iran.

    DOUGLAS JEHL: You did have powerful advocates around the world.

    I do believe that the attention to Jason’s case also helped Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, in calling attention to the fact that it was simply unacceptable for Iran to be holding American prisoners in this way.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Doug Jehl and Marty Baron, thanks so much for joining us.

    DOUGLAS JEHL: Thank you.

    MARTY BARON: Thank you.

    The post Jason Rezaian’s imprisonment was ‘simply unacceptable,’ Washington Post staff say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HATAY, TURKEY - OCTOBER 28:  Children are seen in a Syrian family's makeshift tent in Reyhanli district of Hatay Province in southern Turkey on October 28, 2015. Syrian families who fled the war in their country and took shelter in Turkey live in rental houses, tents set up by the volunteers or derelict buildings in Hatay's districts. The number of Syrians in Hatay's Reyhanli has reached 95,000 as the Syrian civil war continues in its 5th year. (Photo by Burak Milli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Over the past year, we have heard and seen the images of Syrian refugees making the treacherous crossing to Europe, but most Syrian refugees live in neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

    In Turkey, about 250,000 Syrians live in refugee camps, but many more live outside the camps in order to find work to support their families.

    This week, the Turkish government announced it would help some of them by issuing more work permits for refugees. Turkey is also poised to receive aid from Europe to pay for refugee support and to slow their migration onward.

    In tonight’s signature segment, special correspondent Mike Cerre reports on Syrian refugees in Turkey torn between returning to a dangerous homeland and struggling to start a new life.

    MIKE CERRE: As fast as Turkey’s government could build the dozens of refugee camps along its border with Syria, they were filled to capacity. Turkey is about to receive $3.2 billion from the European Union to help cover its refugee costs and secure its borders with Europe.

    Turkey has already tightened its southern border to stem last year’s overflow of refugees from Syria. The majority of the refugees are staying here, close to the Turkish-Syrian border. Nearly 2.5 million refugees are in Turkey, the most of any country. But just under 11 percent of them are staying in traditional refugee camps, presenting a whole new set of challenges for international relief agencies.

    Jehan (ph) is one of several Syrian refugees working with the international relief organization CARE helping other refugees. She served as my translator as we traveled with CARE’s relief teams to see how the majority of refugees now live outside the camps, because they couldn’t get in due to overcrowding, or because, when they live in the camps, they are not permitted to go out and look for work.

    We agreed not to identify refugees by their full names or disclose their locations due to their continuing security fears so close to the Syrian border.

    Saddam and his extended family lost their homes in Syria to fighters from the so-called Islamic State group, or ISIS. They have been in Turkey three months and now live in this abandoned shop with no plumbing or electricity that costs $50 a month to rent. Because the only construction and agriculture work they can find is seasonal, their only source of income this winter is their 12-year-old son’s job in a bakery that pays $2 for a 12-hour day.

    Saddam told me that, if the situation here doesn’t improve, he will consider leaving for Europe. Most refugees living in these makeshift shelters that have sprung up in small border towns have used up most of their money and other resources just to get into Turkey. They don’t have the additional $1,000 to $6,000 per person smugglers would charge them to go onto Europe, at great risk in a small boat or crowded truck.

    And going to the United States isn’t even a consideration, given the cost, distance from Syria, and the U.S. immigration restrictions.

    Salah, a former professional basketball player who fled Syria after he completed his graduate degree in business studies, has the means and professional qualifications to emigrate to Europe, but he doubts he would fit in.

    SALAH, Refugee: I could afford to go to Europe. I didn’t go there. So, even for the people who are actually going there, they will be going there until like three, four years, or something like that, and sometimes they will — back. There’s no — none of us actually can — like, it’s a totally different culture.

    MIKE CERRE: Salah is like some Syrians with enough resources and skills to settle in the larger Turkish cities near the border, like Gaziantep. He wants to stay in the region, so he can go back to his hometown, Aleppo, as soon as it’s safe enough.

    SALAH: If you go to Gaziantep, where I am based there, you will see all the Syrians from Aleppo city living in Gaziantep, like, because Gaziantep, it’s really close to Aleppo, like, the same kind of food, the same, like, weather and everything else.

    RANA, Refugee: And, also, we have Syrian coffee here, and also the trademark, it’s Syrian.

    MIKE CERRE: Rana, who was an English literature professor in Syria, is now a social worker helping her fellow refugees get food and housing. She believes many refugees’ cultural ties to the region are holding them back from going to Europe, as much as the financial and legal obstacles.

    RANA: It depends on the mentality of Syrian people.

    For example, if they find jobs, and they could be able afford living in Turkey, I think they would rather stay in Turkey. They don’t need to even exert efforts to learn the language, and they share a lot with the Turkish people.

    MIKE CERRE: That’s especially the case for the Syrian Kurds, like Taksim and his family, who share a common language and culture with the Turkish Kurds, who populate Turkey’s southeastern border. Taksim sold his wife’s rings to pay rent for their apartment in this unfinished building.

    He says they’re considering moving back to their hometown of Kobani, now that Kurdish militias have retaken it from ISIS. The Turkish government says it has spent more than $8 billion on the Syrian refugee crisis.

    By law, all registered refugees qualify for Turkish health care, education and, with a permit, the right to work. But these benefits and jobs are hard to find outside the major cities, where most Syrian refugees can’t afford to live, or in the smaller border towns, which have fewer social services.

    Since speaking Turkish is a prerequisite, few Arabic- and Kurdish-speaking Syrian children attend school here, other than part-time schools, like this one set up by Syrian teachers. A typical job most refugees find is low-paying farmwork. The lack of steady work matching their skills and education is the greatest obstacle to settling here.

    Emad, a shopkeeper back in Syria, occasionally is hired for construction work, but says he gets paid half what a Turkish worker earns. He thinks more about going home to Syria than going to Europe.

    WOMAN: He is saying maybe if he goes to Europe and, like, be far away, he would forget about Syria.

    MIKE CERRE: As the new head of CARE USA, Michelle Nunn went to the region last summer to assess the refugees’ needs and how the groups could best help the host countries.

    MICHELLE NUNN, President and CEO, CARE USA: When I was there and asked people, you know, how are you going to get through the winter, they don’t yet know.

    And what we want them to do is to be able to survive and to actually start to have the opportunity to rebuild and to recreate lives of meaning and purpose, so that they can think about going back to Syria at some point, but also that they can imagine staying where they are, and not risking their lives or the lives of their children to cross oceans and to immigrate.

    MIKE CERRE: CARE is the organization that created the original CARE Package first sent by Americans 70 winters ago to European refugees after World War II. CARE has updated the concept to help Syrian refugees.

    WOMAN: This could be described as the new CARE Package. It’s an electronic voucher.

    MIKE CERRE: The food vouchers that CARE and other organizations manage work like debit cards. But they can be used only to buy food and household essentials. New credit is added monthly with funding from the United Nations and large aid organizations.

    CARE believes the electronic vouchers are now a faster and more flexible way to deliver food and clothing than shipping, storing, and delivering packages.

    These food vouchers started out with a value of $30 a month per person. Today, in Turkey, this voucher is worth about $18 a month per person. That means 60 cents a day for food.

    In addition to food vouchers, CARE is helping refugees with other voucher cards to buy heaters, coats, and blankets to get them through this winter.

    WOMAN: By giving the voucher, rather than a set kit of in-kind donations, it enables the family to choose what’s right for them and to meet their own needs better.

    MIKE CERRE: Too scared to go forward to Europe or back to war-torn Syria, most of the refugees we met are resigned to the reality of living in Turkey for the foreseeable future, especially if the international community fulfills its pledges of humanitarian aid.

    Living just a few miles up the Euphrates River from Syria, these border towns in Turkey are as close to home as they can be.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: See how the story of one Syrian refugee in Turkey caught the attention of the creator of Humans of New York. Visit PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post Inside the harsh living conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A soldier stands guard in front of burned cars across the street from Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 17, 2016, a day after security forces retook the hotel from al Qaeda fighters who seized it in an assault that killed more than two dozen people from at least 18 countries and marked a major escalation of Islamist militancy in West Africa. Photo By Joe Penney/Reuters

    A soldier stands guard in front of burned cars across the street from Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 17, 2016, a day after security forces retook the hotel from al Qaeda fighters who seized it in an assault that killed more than two dozen people from at least 18 countries and marked a major escalation of Islamist militancy in West Africa. Photo By Joe Penney/Reuters

    Four al Qaeda-linked fighters who attacked two hotels and a restaurant on Friday in the landlocked African country of Burkina Faso were killed by security forces more than 12 hours after the siege began.

    President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said 28 people from 18 countries were killed during the attacks in an area known to be popular with westerners. Among the dead were one American and six Canadians, Reuters said.

    Michael James Riddering, the American who was killed, had reportedly moved to the former French colony to start an orphanage with his wife.

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

    Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the assault in the country’s capital city of Ouagadougou.

    “Faced with these terrorists and their vile acts, we must mobilize to ensure the appropriate response to put them out of action,” Kabore said in an address on state television.

    More than 150 hostages were freed as security forces stormed the hotel where the assailants were said to be holed up. Another 50 people were wounded by the jihadists, Kabore said.

    “We heard shots, grenades, detonations,” one Slovenian survivor told Reuters. “It was echoing and extremely loud. It went on for a long time.”

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

    The attacks occurred at the Splendid Hotel, Hotel Yibi and the Cappuccino restaurant, Reuters reported.

    French officials said two of its citizens also were killed, while the Agence France Presse reported Ukrainians, Portuguese, Swiss and a Dutch person died during the attacks.

    The post 28 dead in terror attack as troops retake hotel in Burkina Faso appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump (L) arrives onstage with rivals Senator Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson and former Governor Jeb Bush before the start of the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 14, 2016. The Republican establishment has conceded New Hamshire and Iowa, where primaries will start in February. Photo By Chris Keane/Reuters

    Republican U.S. presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump (L) arrives onstage with rivals Senator Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson and former Governor Jeb Bush before the start of the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 14, 2016. Photo By Chris Keane/Reuters

    HOLLIS, N.H. — After months of predicting a comeback for their preferred candidates, Republican establishment leaders now concede the first two contests of the presidential race, in Iowa and New Hampshire early next month, are Donald Trump’s and Ted Cruz’s to lose.

    That leaves many GOP traditionalists, who fear each candidate would be a disaster in the November general election, pinning their White House hopes on a feat no Republican has pulled off in modern political history: securing the nomination without winning at least one of the first two states on the calendar.

    It’s a risky strategy at best, and party officials are hoping that weaker candidates will drop out before the South Carolina primary that follows New Hampshire, allowing voters to more easily coalesce behind an alternative to the billionaire real estate mogul and the Texas senator.

    “I don’t know how they can convince themselves that they’ll be able to go into South Carolina and get something going, having come in a distant third, fourth, fifth place in Iowa and New Hampshire,” said Mike Dennehy, a New Hampshire Republican operative. “Especially when you will have two candidates who have been very strong.”

    Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz are leading the field in Iowa, according to polls. Photos By Randall Hill/Reuters

    Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz are leading the field in Iowa, according to polls. Photos By Randall Hill/Reuters

    Trump and Cruz are atop the field in Iowa, where voters caucus Feb. 1. Preference polls find Trump with a commanding lead in New Hampshire, which votes Feb. 9, and Cruz in the mix for second place.

    The nine others in Republicans race are fighting to emerge from the pack; there’s little sign anyone will drop out before voting begins.

    Among them are Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Each is competing for the same pool of center-right voters.

    Allies of Bush and Kasich in New Hampshire have been trading phone calls in recent weeks, trying to gauge each other’s thinking about staying in the race. Campaign officials say they have felt no direct pressure from party leaders to drop out before the first two contests.

    But there’s open discussion about the need for some of the more conventional candidates to drop out after New Hampshire votes on Feb. 9.

    “We shouldn’t have a whole lotta folks running,” said Henry Barbour, a Republican national committeeman from Mississippi. “The ones who don’t do well need to get out of the stinkin’ race.”

    Voters, too, appear increasingly ready for the field to narrow.

    “Normally by now a bunch of people would have dropped out,” said Milt Janosky, a 74-year-old retiree at a Bush town hall in his hometown of Hollis, New Hampshire.

    Karen Whitham, a 72-year-old from West Des Moines, Iowa, said of the field: “Some of them should just drop out. Some of them don’t have a chance and they know it.”

    The risk for the more mainstream candidates is that Trump or Cruz generates momentum in the first two states, and it’s too strong to stop as the race turns to South Carolina and beyond. Since 1976, every major party presidential nominee has won either Iowa or New Hampshire, with the exception of Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.

    To be sure, large numbers of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire say they’re still undecided, and previous contests in both states have swung in unexpected directions just days before the caucuses and primary.

    “People in the states make their decisions very late,” Rubio said during a swing through Iowa on Saturday. “They take very seriously their vote.”

    For all the talk of some late tumult in Republican field, the 2016 race has remained surprisingly consistent, with Cruz proving to be the first real threat to Trump’s lead in months.

    In a sign of their increasing separation from the rest of the field, Trump and Cruz have spent the past week focused on tearing each other down, ending the de facto alliance they had maintained to this point in the race.

    Trump has suggested the Canadian-born Cruz isn’t eligible to run for president, and has accused the senator of being a “great hypocrite” for not disclosing loans he took from big Wall Street banks to help fund his 2012 Senate campaign. Cruz has responded by questioning Trump’s “New York values” – a coded suggestion that Trump is too liberal to be a Republican.

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at a campaign event Jan. 16, 2016 in Iowa, where he is trying to stay in the running with Trump and Cruz. Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at a campaign event Jan. 16, 2016 in Iowa, where he is trying to stay in the running with Trump and Cruz. Photo By Jim Young/Reuters

    Trying to stay close behind, Rubio jabbed Trump and Cruz repeatedly as he campaigned across Iowa this past weekend, warning voters they “can’t just elect any Republican.”

    “Being angry about the direction of our country by itself will not be enough,” Rubio said, referencing the conservative anger fueling Trump and Cruz’ candidacies. In last week’s debate, Trump declared that he “gladly” accepted “the mantle of anger.”

    Trump’s strength was a constant theme during Bush’s town hall in Hollis on Friday. Several questioners wondered how an experienced politician can compete in an election dominated by anger with those who have held elected office. “The numbers right now aren’t lying and we don’t have a lot of time left,” one voter said.

    “He’s a talent, he understands why people are angry,” said Bush, one of the few candidates taking on Trump in recent weeks. But there was little he could promise the questioner about his ability to block Trump’s path to the nomination.

    “It’s way above my pay grade to figure out how this plays out,” he said.

    The post GOP establishment concedes hotly contested primary states appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Scientists believe a species of dinosaur on public view for the first time may be the biggest creature to have ever walked the earth.

    Starting this weekend, visitors to New York’s American Museum of Natural History can get close up view.

    The NewsHour’s Ivette Feliciano reports.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: This 122-foot-long skeleton is called a titanosaur.

    When it roamed the earth 100 million years ago, it weighed as much as 10 elephants, or 70 tons, and its neck could have peeked inside a fifth floor window.

    This recently discovered species is so big, it stretches through two exhibit rooms at the Museum of Natural History.

    Paleontologist Mark Norell is the curator.

    MARK NORELL, MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: It gives us our first good, real picture about how we found them, about how big they were, about how tall they were

    IVETTE FELICIANO: A rancher in Argentina’s Patagonia desert discovered the first titanosaur fossils in 2012.

    Two years later, paleontologists excavated 223 more bones belonging to six dinosaurs there.

    Among the excavated bones was this thigh bone, measuring eight feet long.

    MARK NORELL: For a long time we’ve known that animals may have approached this size, but they were largely just quite fragmentary remains, and we couldn’t get a really good look at just how immense these creatures were.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The real fossils are too heavy to mount, so Canadian researchers used 3-D scans to cast lightweight fiberglass replicas of 84 original bones to create the giant skeleton now on view.

    Norell says 3-D printers and other advances in technology help improve the study of these extinct animals.

    MARK NORELL: The discoveries just keep continuing and continuing and continuing, with lots of new specimens becoming available. It’s really been a great time to be a paleontologist.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The species found in Argentina will get its formal scientific name in the next few months.

    MARK NORELL: I think that for years to come international groups of scientists will study this specimen.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: For more, watch “Raising the Dinosaur Giant” on the PBS Series “Nature,” premiering February 17th.

    The post New titanosaur discovery exhibits state-of-the-art paleontology appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    (L-R) U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S.Senator Tim Scott share the stage with U.S. Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson and Governor Chris Christie during the 2016 Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity in Columbia, South Carolina, January 9, 2016. The forum featured six presidential candidates and focused on their ideas for fighting poverty and expanding opportunity in America.  REUTERS/Randall Hill - RTX21NWF

    (L-R) U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S.Senator Tim Scott share the stage with U.S. Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson and Governor Chris Christie during the 2016 Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity in Columbia, South Carolina, January 9, 2016. Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters.

    Six Republican presidential candidates met in Columbia, S.C. recently to discuss poverty in America.

    The forum was moderated by Sen. Tim Scott and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has sought to make combating poverty a priority for his party.

    The candidates conversed at length in small groups, often echoing each other’s calls to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, move anti-poverty programs from the federal government to the states, and incentivize work and marriage.

    Several candidates stressed their own upbringings, including Marco Rubio, the son of a bartender and a maid, and Ben Carson, who grew up in a poor neighborhood in inner-city Detroit.

    “Some people hate rats, some hate roaches, I hated poverty,” Carson said.

    For more perspective on the GOP candidates’ ideas and proposals for taking on poverty, NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan spoke to conservative commentator Reihan Salam, executive editor of National Review:

    Chasing the Dream CtD-Logo21

    Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

    The post What do the GOP candidates have to say on poverty in America? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders shakes hands with rival Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015.  Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders shakes hands with rival Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire December 19, 2015. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    CHARLESTON, S.C. — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been relatively civil so far during their months-long contest. But tensions in the Democratic presidential campaign are poised to flare in Charleston, South Carolina, Sunday night over curbing gun violence.

    With two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley were on a debate stage just a few blocks from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, were nine parishioners were killed during Bible study in a mass shooting over the summer.

    Clinton has used Sanders’ vote on a 2005 law giving gun manufacturers legal immunity to undercut his liberal image. Sanders announced Saturday, on the eve of the debate, that he was reversing his position and is now supporting legislation that would amend the liability law.

    Clinton’s once formidable lead in Iowa has dwindled, and the Vermont senator has maintained a steady advantage in neighboring New Hampshire, adding a sense of urgency in the last debate before the Feb. 1 Iowa contest and the New Hampshire primary a week later.

    Clinton entered the 2016 race as the prohibitive favorite for the nomination, and she has spent much of her time tangling from afar with Republicans, arguing she is best candidate to build upon President Barack Obama’s agenda. But Sanders has become a more immediate threat.

    Sanders has a passionate following among young voters and liberals. For months, he has pointed out his differences with the former secretary of state, most notably his plan to break up large Wall Street banks.

    His latest TV ad suggests he would be tougher than Clinton on Wall Street. That’s led Clinton’s team to say he crossed the line he pledged not to cross into negative campaigning.

    Some things to watch at the debate sponsored by NBC News and YouTube at 9 p.m. EST.


    In the days before the debate, Clinton has railed against Sanders’ support for the 2005 law that gave immunity to gun manufacturers, saying he was unwilling to stand up to the National Rifle Association. Clinton praised Sanders’ reversal on Sunday, telling CNN’s “State of the Union,” she was “very pleased that he flip-flopped on the immunity legislation.”

    She also says his universal health care plan would undercut Obama’s signature health care law and suggests it might require a tax increase on the middle class to pay for it.

    Clinton was likely to take a similar tone in the debate, pointing to her experience and toughness as essential to take on the Republicans.

    But such aggression carried risks for Clinton, who will need Sanders’ enthusiastic supporters next fall if she wins the nomination. If Clinton repeatedly were to attack Sanders, the “Feel the Bern” crowd might not forget it.


    Sanders faces a similar quandary. He has bemoaned negative campaigning and during the first debate declined to rebuke Clinton over her use of a private email server while at the State Department, saying that people were “sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails.”

    Clinton’s campaign says his Wall Street ad crossed the line, a charge Sanders’ team has dismissed.

    Part of Sanders’ appeal is his unconventional background and his authenticity on issues such as income inequality. He’s a 74-year-old Brooklyn native who describes himself as a democratic socialist.

    If Sanders were to get into a nasty back-and-forth with Clinton, he might look like the sort of Washington politician he and his supporters condemn.


    The debate setting lends poignancy to the political dog fight. And Sanders’ election-eve reversal on gun policy adds intrigue.

    Clinton has criticized Sanders on the liability vote and frequently notes that he opposed the 1993 Brady bill, which required background checks on gun purchases from federally licensed dealers, highlighting a rare area where the Vermont senator is at odds with liberals.

    Sanders on Saturday said he would support legislation that would reverse the 2005 law granting gun manufacturers legal immunity. He said he wants the bill to include an amendment that would require the federal government to monitor and report on the law’s effect in rural areas.

    In the past, he has supported immunity for gun manufacturers by saying he wanted to protect small stores in his home state.

    His campaign aides said the decision is not a flip-flop. Sanders backed the 2005 law in part because of provisions that require child safety locks on guns and ban armor-piercing ammunition. And his advisers have said that Clinton has taken multiple positions on gun control during her career.


    The debate will happen a few blocks from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where a 21-year-old white man shot and killed nine people during Bible study last June.

    Clinton is likely to go after Sanders on background checks. She has said she would close a loophole under which the government only has three days to complete the check before a buyer can buy a gun. The accused Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, was able to buy the gun used in the shooting in part because of the provision.

    Sanders would not commit to closing the so-called Charleston loophole, saying on several Sunday talk shows, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that “we’re going to take a look at that as well. But the issue here is what my view has always been, and what is most important, is that we have a strong instant background check.”

    Clinton has aligned herself with Obama’s push for tighter restrictions on firearms, while Sanders has backed the president’s recent executive actions to expand background checks on certain gun purchases.


    The two-term president is popular among Democrats, and Clinton, his former secretary of state, will try to present herself as his rightful heir.

    Clinton tells audiences that the president doesn’t get the credit he deserves for rescuing the economy. She promises to build upon his health care law, take up his push to overhaul immigration laws and curb gun violence.

    Embracing Obama may be another way for Clinton to drive a wedge between Sanders and Democratic voters.

    In an interview with MSNBC, Clinton said Sanders’ Wall Street ad was a “very direct criticism of President Obama,” noting that Wall Street banks were among the president’s most generous campaign contributors in 2008. “That didn’t stop him from fighting for the hardest regulations on Wall Street since the Great Depression,” she said.


    The former Maryland governor barely qualified to appear on debate stage and has been unable to break out of single digits in preference polling.

    He is running low on money, cannot afford a big television advertising buy and is banking on a better-than-expected showing in Iowa’s caucuses. But he is running out of time.

    The debate may be the chance for O’Malley to connect with undecided caucus-goers looking for a fresh face to lead the party.

    His most recent debate performance and appearances at recent forums have been well-received by Democrats. But he cannot afford to be a quiet bystander as Clinton and Sanders duke it out.

    This report was written by Ken Thomas and Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press.

    The post What to watch: Clinton, Sanders square off in last debate before Iowa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signs a series of documents, including the certification to the U.S. government that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had certified Iran's compliance in their report and waivers to implement the lifting of the U.S. Congressional nuclear-related sanctions as outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Vienna January 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX22P86

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama is calling the implementation of the nuclear disarmament pact with Iran a milestone achieved by being unafraid to negotiate with adversaries.

    In remarks at the White House today, the president said the deal cuts off every single path Iran had to build an atomic weapon.

    BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Under the nuclear deal that we, our allies and partners reached with Iran last year, Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb.

    The region, the United States, and the world will be more secure. Inspectors will monitor Iran’s key nuclear facilities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Today, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praised the deal as a victory for the Iranian people and a model for resolving future issues.

    HASSAN ROUHANI, Iranian President (through translator): The people of Iran proved that constructive interaction is true and is the right way. We can have interactions with the world that is in the interest of our people and definitely not at the detriment of others.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A Swiss plane carried three of the five American prisoners freed by Iran out of the country today.

    “Washington Post” reporter Jason Rezaian, jailed in Tehran for a year-and-a-half, was among the men with dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship let go in a prisoner swap.

    Rezaian’s brother, Ali, says his family’s nightmare is ending: “Jason is a loving brother, son and devoted husband whose life was unfairly interrupted when he was arrested for crimes he didn’t commit. Jason’s release has brought indescribable relief and joy to our family.”

    Reaction for and against the historic deal poured in today from presidential candidates here at home and from leaders around the world.

    BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General: I commend the moves by the governments of both countries to improve ties. I’m also heartened by the lifting of sanctions against Iran.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), Presidential Candidate: As president, I will enforce it. And there have to be consequences if Iran veers away from what it has agreed to or what it has been mandated to do or prohibited from doing by the international community.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Presidential Candidate: When I am president, I will repeal the deal with Iran. It will end when I am president. We’re going to reimpose sanctions. And if Iran tries to build a nuclear weapon program, we will stop it.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), Presidential Candidate: If I were president today, I would be meeting with every one of our allies around the world and saying, we’re going to monitor this deal, and if they violate one crossed T. or one dotted I., we need to slap the sanctions back on.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Presidential Candidate: I think the agreement to make certain that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon was a huge step forward. The fact that we had this prisoner release today was a good, important step forward.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli Prime Minister (through translator): It is clear that, from now on, Iran will have more means to use for its terror and aggression activity in the region and in the world. And Israel is ready to cope with any threat.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: While many U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran have been lifted, others remain in effect.

    Just today, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions on 11 foreign companies or individuals for supplying parts for Iran’s ballistic missile program.

    Joining me from Washington to discuss the economic impact of the Iran deal is Bloomberg News White House correspondent Angela Greiling Keane.

    So, what are we to make sense of this? Yesterday, we saw Secretary of State Kerry saying and the E.U. saying sanctions have been lifted. Today, we’re talking about new sanctions still imposed on them.

    ANGELA GREILING KEANE, Bloomberg News: Well, both have the benefit of being true.

    What happened yesterday was, when the nuclear deal reached its implementation day, the U.S. and the other parties to that agreement lifted the sanction that they had imposed because of the Iranian nuclear program. So, those, effective yesterday, are off.

    However, today, not unrelated to the timing of yesterday, the U.S. Treasury imposed new sanctions on 11 Iranian businesses and people, people that do business with Iran. And the reason for those new sanctions is because of Iran’s ballistic missile program.

    Since 2010, the U.N. Security Council has required that Iran not develop or test ballistic missiles that could be used to launch nuclear weapons. But, of course, those tests have continued as recently as last month.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, to clarify, for businesses in the United States, what happens? This isn’t like the opening or normalizing of relations with Cuba.


    President Obama, in fact, used the analogy when he spoke today in the Cabinet Room of the White House, he said, this is very different than Cuba, because, while the U.S. does now have official diplomatic relations with Cuba, it doesn’t with Iran.

    For U.S. businesses, there is still a lot of caution and limitations. Really, the one sector that benefits most for the U.S. is aviation, because the nuclear deal that was reached last summer, it included a carve-out for airplane production and airplane leasing and parts to service that industry.

    But other industries, particularly financial services, are still extremely limited and have reason to be very, very cautious when they proceed with Iran because of the sanctions, such as we saw from this morning, that are still in place.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about the optics of it, in that sense that — for example, Iran says that they are going to buy a bunch of planes, but they are going to buy it from Airbus, right?


    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, is Boeing kind of at a disadvantage that they couldn’t sell nearly as fast? But, at the same time, we have got a presidential race that is happening.


    There is a lot of question marks still. Airbus did announce their deal with Tehran yesterday, and Boeing, even though it has a green light, still has to go through some hoops. They need a license to be able to sell to Iran.

    So, there’s still plenty of opportunity for Boeing. Iran has great plane demand. The average age of their planes is 27 years old for Iran Air. So, there is more opportunity for aviation. But there are risks, in part because of optics. It’s — Iran is indeed not a friend of the U.S.

    And the Obama administration has made very clear that there are serious concerns about human rights, relations with Israel and other allies of the U.S. in the Middle East. And companies that want to do business with Iran do have that concern. How good does it look to be cozying up with Iran?

    And then there is a question mark of what happens if a Republican is elected to succeed Obama. Will the deal still be in place? Will the agreement stand? Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, of course, was President Obama’s secretary of state, so, if she is to win the presidential election, there is little doubt that the agreement would stay in place, because she helped negotiate the early stages of it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, Iran also said that they were going to start production and, I guess, I should say, selling about 500,000 barrels of oil.

    Right now, the U.S. has very, very low oil prices. Does that mean, — basic economics, they increase supply, decrease demand, does that mean that the prices fall further, or is it a real drop in the bucket when you think of global oil?

    ANGELA GREILING KEANE: No, Iran is a major oil producer.

    They used to be the second largest producer in OPEC. So, the effects of the Iranian production on the world oil markets could be large. And, for Iran, while it’s a great opportunity to be able to earn more money and produce more, it really couldn’t come at a worse time.

    The worldwide price of a barrel of oil fell below $30 at the close on Friday. And, you know, a few years ago, we were looking at $100 barrels of oil, to put that in perspective. So, if Iran is to increase production, and therefore increase supply worldwide, basic economics tells you that that will serve likely to depress prices further.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Angela Greiling Keane of Bloomberg, thanks so much for joining us.


    The post What’s the economic impact of the Iran deal? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Jan. 16, 2016 in Vienna to go over details of a nuclear deal. Recent diplomatic measures show relations are warming between the longtime foes, even as critics in the U.S. say the move may hurt security. Photo KevinLamarque/Reuters

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Jan. 16, 2016 in Vienna to go over details of a nuclear deal. Recent diplomatic measures show relations are warming between the longtime foes, even as critics in the U.S. say the move may hurt security. Photo Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Diplomatic triumph or travesty, America’s relationship with one of its most intractable foes took two giant leaps forward this weekend when Iran released four Americans in a prisoner swap after locking in last summer’s nuclear deal and receiving some $100 billion in sanctions relief.

    The announcements culminated a stunning few days of activity for the Obama administration and particularly Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the diplomatic outreach to Tehran at President Barack Obama’s direction through years of slow-grinding negotiations.

    Speaking from the White House, Obama on Sunday hailed the “historic progress through diplomacy,” long the centerpiece of his foreign policy vision, instead of another war in the Middle East.

    Three of the American detainees – Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and pastor Saeed Abedini – arrived in Germany en route to a U.S. military hospital. They will return home after medical evaluations.

    The fourth, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, opted to remain in Iran, officials said.

    The Islamic Republic released the prisoners in exchange for pardons or charges dropped against seven Iranians – six of whom hold dual U.S. citizenship – serving time for or accused of sanctions violations in the United States. A fifth American, student Matthew Trevithick, who had been detained in Iran for roughly 40 days, was released separately.

    For all the celebrations, the timing of the deal, finalized hours after Saturday night’s U.N. confirmation that Iran made good on pledges to significantly back away from atomic bomb-making capacity, suggested that the Americans possibly were used as pawns by the Iranian government to win long-sought economic relief, as critics allege.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency’s declaration unlocked some $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets overseas, and potentially even greater economic benefits through suspended oil, trade and financial sanctions by the U.S. and European Union.

    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Iran at the White House  January 17, 2016. Obama signed an executive order on Saturday lifting sanctions on Iran related to its nuclear program after Tehran fulfilled requirements under a nuclear agreement with world powers, the White House said. Photo By Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Iran at the White House January 17, 2016. Photo By Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    Critics of Obama’s Iran policy at home and abroad pounced on the details of the prisoner exchange and the new economic opportunities being afforded Tehran while it still supports Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

    “This deal is a problematic deal, and it reflects a pattern we have seen in the Obama administration over and over again of negotiating with terrorists, and making deals and trades that endanger U.S. safety and security,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a GOP presidential candidate, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    Nevertheless, the back-to-back breakthroughs reflected painstaking diplomacy by Kerry and administration officials.

    The efforts were beset by several hitches, including the detention of 10 U.S. sailors by Iran last week in the Persian Gulf and U.S. plans in late December to impose new sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile testing.

    The sailors were released after Kerry’s intervention with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The sanctions were delayed until Sunday, after the U.S. detainees left Iran.

    U.S. and Iranian officials hashed out the prisoner exchange over 11 or 12 meetings over a process that took a little longer than a year, sprouting from the even longer set of talks that led to last July’s landmark nuclear accord.

    Just before Zarif announced the final pact with his EU counterpart Frederica Mogherini, Kerry raised the issue of the detained Americans.

    A photograph of Kerry speaking with Zarif and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, captured the moment.

    Texas Senator and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Jan. 16, 2016.  Photo Randall Hill/Reuters

    Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz believes the nuclear deal with Iran hurts U.S. security. Photo Randall Hill/Reuters

    Things progressed significantly by November, when Iran was included for the first time in a meeting in Vienna on Syria’s civil war. Kerry and Zarif met there to discuss the prisoners.

    “We actually shook hands thinking we had an agreement,” Kerry said. “I thought it was done.”

    But the deal bogged down in Tehran and never went through.

    “So we went back to work,” Kerry told reporters on his plane back to Washington late Saturday.

    He described the negotiations as difficult, especially as the Iranians made what he said were unacceptable demands. Kerry said the United States made clear it wouldn’t release an accused murderer or narcotics offender.

    “For a long time, this didn’t move because of the people they were asking for,” Kerry recalled. “We said, ‘No, and no, and no.'”

    “And believe me, it’s hard when somebody says to you, ‘Hey, you give us this guy, we let them all out.’ And you have to say no. And you know you’re keeping people in a not very nice place for the next whatever number of months,” he said.

    “But there have to be an enforcement of our principles and our standards here. And in the end, we came out in the right place on that.”

    Family and friends embrace Bahram Mechanic (in the blue jump suit) and Khosrow Afghahi (in the tan jacket) at Federal Detention Center Houston, Texas Jan. 17, 2016. Several Iranian-Americans held in U.S. prisons after being charged or convicted for sanctions violations have been released under a prisoner swap.   REUTERS/Daniel Kramer      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX22QL1

    Family and friends embrace Bahram Mechanic (in the blue jump suit) and Khosrow Afghahi (in the tan jacket) at Federal Detention Center Houston, Texas Jan. 17, 2016. Photo by Daniel Kramer/Reuters

    More progress was made by Kerry’s meeting with Zarif on Dec. 18 in New York. By then, American and Iranian teams in Geneva were working hard on the details of the swap.

    The U.S. team, led by Brett McGurk, the special envoy for the fight against the Islamic State group, was prepared to release individuals who violated nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, Kerry said. By Saturday night, those sanctions had been rescinded.

    “In the end, the president made the call,” he said.

    One of the last hiccups that delayed the Americans’ departure was an Iranian military official’s misunderstanding about Rezaian’s wife and mother joining him on the flight. After Kerry spoke to Zarif, permission was granted.

    But the various administrative holdups meant that the Swiss crew set to fly the plane ran into a mandatory crew rest. That set back takeoff several hours.

    The U.S. and Iran haven’t had diplomatic relations since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

    The administration says this weekend’s agreements won’t change that situation, but relations are clearly warming. Cooperation on ending Syria’s civil war and even discussions about coordinating their fights against the Islamic State point to the budding ties.

    That has many of America’s closest partners in the region, not to mention Republican and some Democratic lawmakers in the United States, fretful. Republicans have denounced the outreach as a dangerous and undeserved concession to Iran.

    A plane (front) believed to be carrying three Iranian-Americans, who left Tehran under a prisoner swap, prepares to take off at Cointrin airport in Geneva, Switzerland Jan. 17, 2016. Photo By Denis Balibouse/Reuters

    A plane believed to be carrying three Iranian-Americans, who left Tehran under a prisoner swap, prepares to take off at Cointrin airport in Geneva, Switzerland Jan. 17, 2016. Photo By Denis Balibouse/Reuters

    Israel remains steadfastly opposed to the Iran deal and any rapprochement with Tehran. Sunni Saudi Arabia has had tension with Iran since executing a Shiite cleric on Jan. 2, which led to a severing of diplomatic ties between the two.

    Both of these countries, and others, are wary of an emboldened Iran. Some Republicans say the prisoner exchange could mean Iran seizes more Americans as hostages to facilitate future trades.

    But Kerry said the successful talks over prisoners and nuclear matters raise the prospects of more U.S.-Iranian cooperation on other matters.

    Zarif, he said, indicated that if they got the two tasks done, “There are ways to try to translate this and hopefully be constructive in other things. He specifically said Syria and Yemen.”

    “I put a big, ‘Who knows?'” on that, Kerry said, but expressed hope.

    Kerry said he would remain at work on other Americans still being held in Iran.

    The post US-Iran ties warming after nuclear deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidates  former Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders pose together before the start of the NBC News - YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 17, 2016. Photo By Randall Hill/Reuters

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidates former Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders pose together before the start of the NBC News – YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 17, 2016. Photo By Randall Hill/Reuters

    CHARLESTON, S.C. — Turning up the temperature, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tangled repeatedly in Sunday’s presidential debate over who’s tougher on gun control and Wall Street and who’s got a better vision for the future of health care in America. It was the last Democratic matchup before voting begins in two weeks, and both sides were eager to rumble as polls showed the race tightening.

    Clinton rapped Sanders, the Vermont senator, for voting repeatedly with the National Rifle Association, and then welcomed his weekend reversal of position to support legislation that would deny gun manufacturers legal immunity. She rattled off a list of provisions that she said Sanders had supported in line with the NRA: “He voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted against what we call the Charleston loophole. He voted to let guns go on Amtrak, guns to go into national parks.”

    Sanders, in turn, said Clinton’s assertion that he kowtowed to the gun lobby was “very disingenuous” and pointed to his lifetime rating of a D- from the NRA.

    On health care, Sanders released his plan for a government-run single-payer plan just hours before the debate, and used his opening statement to call for health care “for every man, woman and child as a right.” Clinton, by contrast, urged less sweeping action to build on President Barack Obama’s health care plan by reducing out-of-pocket costs and control spending on prescription drugs.

    Clinton suggested Sanders’ approach was dangerous — and pie-in-the-sky unrealistic.

    “With all due respect, to start over again with a whole new debate is something that would set us back,” Clinton said.

    She said that under Obama’s plan, “we finally have a path to universal health care. … I don’t want to see us start over again with a contentious debate.” She noted that even with a Democratic Congress, Obama was unable to move to a single-payer system.

    Sanders dismissed the idea that he’d endanger hard-won victories on health care, insisting: “No one is tearing this up; we’re going to go forward.”

    When Clinton suggested Sanders’ health care plan would impose a heavier tax burden on the middle class, Sanders insisted they’d come out ahead with lower costs overall.

    “It’s a Republican criticism,” he said.

    The two tangled over financial policy, too, with Sanders suggesting Clinton won’t be tough enough on Wall Street given the big contributions and speaking fees she’s accepted from the financial sector. Clinton, in turn, faulted Sanders’ past votes to deregulate financial markets and ease up on federal oversight.

    Then, she took a step back to put those differences in a different perspective.

    “We’re at least having a vigorous debate about reining in Wall Street,” she declared. “The Republicans want to give them more power.”

    Overall, the tone of the debate was considerably more heated than the past three face-offs in the Democratic primary. (backslash)But it also included moments of levity.

    At different points, both Clinton and Sanders prefaced their criticism of one another with the phrase “in all due respect.”

    Sanders took note that he was copying Clinton on that verbiage, drawing a chuckle from his rival amid their pointed exchanges.

    Then Sanders finished his thought on health care, telling Clinton “in all due respect, you’re missing the main point.”

    Clinton, playing to her liberal audience, repeatedly cast herself as the defender of President Barack Obama’s most significant accomplishments, including health care and Wall Street reforms. She argued that the Democratic Party had been working to pass a health overhaul since President Harry Truman and said Sanders’ tear-it-up approach to Obama’s plan would pull the U.S. in “the wrong direction.”

    She cast Sanders’ criticisms of Obama for being too weak in taking on Wall Street as unfair, and declared, “I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street” and getting results.

    “The Republicans just voted last week to repeal the Affordable care Act, and thank goodness, President Obama vetoed it and saved Obamacare for the American people,” Clinton said.

    The debate over gun control — an ongoing area of conflict between Clinton and Sanders — took on special import given the setting: The debate took plan just blocks from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where nine parishioners were killed during Bible study last summer. Gun control has emerged as a central theme in the race, with Clinton citing the issue as one of the major differences between the candidates.

    On Saturday night, Sanders announced his support for legislation that would reverse a 2005 law he had supported that granted gun manufacturers legal immunity.

    His changed position came in a statement after days of criticism from Clinton, who had attempted to use his previous vote to undercut his liberal image.

    Clinton immediately cast the latest move as a “flip-flop.” Sanders said he backed the 2005 law in part because of provisions that require child safety locks on guns and ban armor-piercing ammunition. He also said he supported immunity then in part to protect small shops in his home state of Vermont.

    The third participant in the debate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, tried persistently to insert himself into the conversation. He focused on his record as Maryland’s governor and accused both Clinton and Sanders of being inconsistent on gun control

    Both Clinton and Sanders are competing for black voters in South Carolina, which hosts the fourth primary contest.

    The debate was sponsored by NBC, YouTube and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute.


    Nancy Benac reported from Washington.

    The post Sanders, Clinton clash during Democratic debate in Charleston appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders greets voters during Jim Clyburn's Annual Fish Fry in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 16, 2016. Hours before Sunday's Democratic debate he released a universal healthcare plan that would be paid for by an increase in taxes. Photo By Chris Keane/Reuters

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders greets voters during Jim Clyburn’s Annual Fish Fry in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 16, 2016. Hours before Sunday’s Democratic debate he released a single-payer healthcare plan that would be paid for by an increase in taxes. Photo By Chris Keane/Reuters

    CHARLESTON, S.C. — Vowing to achieve universal health care, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders released a sweeping proposal hours before Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate to create a new single-payer health care system in the United States paid for with a variety of widespread tax increases.

    Sanders’ “Medicare for all” plan was poised to play a starring role in the final Democratic debate before the leadoff Iowa caucuses and came as rival Hillary Clinton has ramped up her critique of Sanders’ health care plans.

    Clinton has pressed Sanders for details on whether middle-class families would face a higher tax burden under his plan, which she has warn would undermine President Barack Obama’s signature health care overhaul.

    Her campaign noted Sanders’ plan was released a little more than two hours before the debate. “When you’re running for president and you’re serious about getting results for the American people, details matter — and Sen. Sanders is making them up as he goes along,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon.

    Sanders would replace the nation’s existing employer-based system of insurance with one in which the government becomes a “single payer,” providing coverage to all. It would eliminate co-pays and deductibles, and Sanders’ campaign argued, bring health care spending under control.

    “Universal health care is an idea that has been supported in the United States by Democratic presidents going back to Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman,” Sanders said in a statement. “It is time for our country to join every other major industrialized nation on earth and guarantee health care to all citizens as a right, not a privilege.”

    His campaign said the plan would cost $1.38 trillion a year, but would save $6 trillion over the next decade compared to the current health care system, citing an analysis by Gerald Friedman, an economist at University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

    But much of the cost would be paid for through a 6.2 percent payroll tax paid by employers and a 2.2 percent “health care premium” on workers. It also relies on taxing capital gains and dividends on families earning more than $250,000 a year, eliminate deductions for wealthy Americans and raising the estate tax.

    The plan would also raise income taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 a year, including a top tax rate of 52 percent for those earning $10 million annually or more.

    While Sanders’ proposal is similar to the single-payer health care plan that he has introduced nearly a dozen times since joining Congress in 1991, it is a reversal of his campaign rhetoric.

    In December, he promised to raise taxes on the middle class only to pay for a plan to provide paid family leave. His other programs, like tuition-free college and health care, would be paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy.

    “I think it is appropriate to ask the wealthy and large corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes,” he said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

    Some liberal activists said Sanders’ plan, like other federal programs such as Social Security, would deliver a better value for low and middle income taxpayers.

    “If you had a universal health care plan people wouldn’t have to pay premiums. They would gain far more than they would shell out in taxes,” said Roger Hickey, a co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future. “Social Security wouldn’t have existed if FDR had said, ‘I’m not going to raise anyone’s taxes.'”

    Advocates of creating a single-payer health care system say it wouldn’t immediately slash spending. With health care accounting for 18 percent of the economy, a change to such an approach would be a shock with wide-reaching consequences. The U.S. still would be likely spend more on health care than any other economically advanced country.

    Instead, single-payer would aim to slow the rate of growth in costs by putting hospitals on budgets, negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and eliminating much of the waste that many experts believe characterizes the U.S. health care system.

    Any expected savings from a single-payer system would likely take time before it showed up, especially when the costs of the transition to such an approach are factored in.

    Associated Press writers Lisa Lerer and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.

    The post Sanders pitches tax hike to pay for universal health care plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at the NBC News - YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 17, 2016. Photo By Randall Hill/Reuters

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens at the NBC News – YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 17, 2016. Photo By Randall Hill/Reuters


    10:54 p.m.

    The Democratic presidential debate has concluded.

    10:51 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders has used his last minute of the Democratic debate to call for campaign finance reform, one of his favorite subjects on the campaign trail.

    He says little can be done to change the economy or jumpstart his “political revolution” as long as wealthy Americans can contribute unlimited sums of money in elections. Sanders has made his call to reverse the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgate of money in politics a central piece of his campaign.,

    He says he plans to start a revolution to “say proudly and clearly that the government belongs to all of us.”

    10:50 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton says that “every single American should be outraged” by the water crisis in Flint.

    Clinton says Sunday night that she sent a “top campaign aide” to Flint, which is dealing with lead contamination of the city’s tap water. She criticized Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, saying he has “acted as though he didn’t really care.”

    Clinton argues that “if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.”

    President Barack Obama has signed an emergency declaration that clears the way for federal aid in Flint. The water became contaminated after Flint switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River as a cost-cutting move. The corrosive water lacked adequate treatment and caused lead to leach from old pipes.

    Bernie Sanders followed Clinton’s remarks by noting that he has called for Snyder’s resignation.

    10:49 p.m.

    Martin O’Malley says at the Democratic presidential debate that the campaign overlooks several critical issues.

    The former Maryland governor notes that he and his fellow candidates haven’t talked much about immigration laws in Sunday’s debate. He called attention to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis and its effect on citizens there. He says there’s not enough attention paid to the proliferation of drug traffickers across both American continents.

    O’Malley says the U.S. political process is capable of solving such problems. “There is no challenge that is too great for us to overcome,” he says, if Americans ” join forces together.”

    10:31 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both say Americans’ privacy rights shouldn’t be violated as the government collects information about potential terrorist threats.

    Sanders says public policy has not yet caught up with the explosion of data collection through the Internet and apps. He says the government should work together with Silicon Valley to ensure “lone wolves,” or terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State group, aren’t using the Internet for their benefit.

    Hillary Clinton is praising President Barack Obama for meeting with Silicon Valley executives, but says Muslim Americans can offer the first line of defense against “lone wolf” attacks. She and the other candidates are slamming GOP front runner Donald Trump’s calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

    10:26 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton describes her relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as one of “respect.” But she also calls him a “bully” with “a mixed record” and promises she would “stand up to him” if she’s elected president of the United States.

    Clinton notes that she spoke out against Putin’s aggressiveness before she ended her tenure as secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s first term.

    She also says she has no regrets for offering Russia a “reset button” when she began her tenure at state. Republican presidential hopefuls use that widely circulated quote from Clinton as a punch line to frame her as weak on foreign policy.

    Clinton argues that establishing a more positive relationship with Russia led to a number of positive developments: an agreement to reduce nuclear arms; the establishment of troop supply lines through Russia to reach U.S. troops in Afghanistan; and getting Russia to agree to sanctions against Iran.

    Diplomacy, Clinton says, means figuring out how to strike deals to “advance your security and your values.” With Putin, that means, “we have to figure out how to deal with him.”

    10:24 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton says President Barack Obama’s efforts to get chemical weapons out of Syria had a “very positive outcome.”

    Asked Sunday if Obama should have stuck by his statements that chemical weapons would constitute a “red line,” Clinton says that as commander in chief “you have to be constantly evaluating the decisions you have to make.” She also said the situation was complicated and noted the “great turmoil currently in the region.”

    Bernie Sanders called the situation in Syria an “incredible quagmire.” He said the first priority in the region should be the “destruction of ISIS,” followed by “getting rid of” Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

    10:18 p.m.

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says on Syria, he’d do everything he can to avoid “perpetual warfare” in the Middle East.

    He’s casting the conflict as a “quagmire.” And he says having Americans involved would be an “unmitigated disaster.”

    10:15 p.m.

    Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders say the United States should re-open its embassy in Tehran, although both say the nuclear deal with Iran and recent prisoner release mark significant steps in the countries’ relationship.

    Clinton says, “we had one good day over 36 years, and I think we need more good days” before rapidly normalizing relations with the nation. Sanders, meanwhile, says that while he does not believe the embassy should be reopened at this time, the goal should be to “warm relations” with Iran, which he called a “very powerful and important country in this world.”

    Both praise the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration but say the United States must keep a careful eye on Iran to make sure it continues to comply with the deal.

    10:06 p.m.

    Democratic presidential candidates want voters to know them as the science party.

    That’s as opposed to the Republican presidential field that includes several candidates who dismiss the scientific consensus that human activity has made the earth warmer over time.

    Martin O’Malley says the three candidates “actually believe in science.” He says Democrats should commit to “a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2050,” leaning on solar and other sources instead of fossil fuels to power the nation.

    Bernie Sanders mocks Republicans as “a major party … that is so owned by the fossil fuel industry and their campaign contributions that they dont’ even have the courage, the decency to listen to the scientists.”

    Sanders says younger Americans “instinctively” recognize the imperative to change consumer behavior, and he agrees with O’Malley’s call to remake the energy industry. He pitches the transition as an economic opportunity. “We need to be bold and decisive,” he says. “We can create millions of jobs.”

    10:04 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders is defending his single payer health care plan, saying that it would save families more money than it costs them in higher taxes.

    Though his plan would increase taxes on all Americans by 2.2 percent, middle-class families would save $5,000 in health insurance costs, he says.

    He adds: “There are huge savings in what your family is spending.”

    Hillary Clinton has attacked Sanders for proposing a plan that she says would raise taxes and reignite a divisive political issue.

    10:01 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are facing off over how they would pay for their policy proposals.

    Sanders said Sunday night that he has explained exactly how he would pay for an “ambitious agenda.” For example, he says he’ll pay for his plan to provide tuition-free public university with a tax on “Wall Street speculation.”

    Clinton says she too has explained how she will pay for her plans. She says she is the only candidate to pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. “I want to raise incomes, not taxes,” she says.

    Sanders says his proposal for a single-payer health care system may raise taxes on middle class families, but will end the need for costly private health insurance premiums. So he says in the end “it’s a pretty good deal.”

    10:00 p.m.

    Martin O’Malley is jumping into the debate over Wall Street regulation between his two Democratic rivals by alleging Hillary Clinton is being untruthful about the strength of her plans to reign in Wall Street excesses.

    He jumped in quickly to say “that’s not true,” when Clinton said her plan for financial regulation has been called the toughest and most comprehensive.

    O’Malley says he would put “cops back on the beat of Wall Street.”

    Sanders, likewise, says it’s wrong that none of the executives of the largest banks faced jail time after the financial collapse.

    9:58 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders is pointing to Hillary Clinton’s campaign contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street as evidence that she won’t be able to impose stricter regulations on the financial sector.

    He says, “I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.”

    Clinton is shooting right back, alleging Sanders’ comments amount to an attack on President Barack Obama’s record on financial regulation. She also says there’s “no daylight” between her and Sanders on the basic premise that big banks need to be reigned in.

    Wall Street regulation is a major point of contention between the two campaigns, with Sanders recently releasing an ad outlining “two visions” within the Democratic party over Wall Street regulation.

    Clinton’s response tying herself to Obama is part of her effort to craft herself as the natural heir to his presidency.

    9:45 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton says she plans to keep pursuing all votes, including from young people who turn out in droves for Bernie Sanders.

    Democratic debate moderator Lester Holt cites polling that suggests the 74-year-old Sanders leads the 68-year-old Clinton by about a 2-to-1 margin among “young voters,” though he did not offer details.

    Clinton cited several points in her platform as reasons she should appeal to young people, such as tuition-free community college, overhauling the student loan system and restoring voting rights laws struck down by the Supreme Court.

    But she stresses that her pitch ultimately is aimed at voters of all ages. “Turning over the White House to Republicans,” she says, would “be bad for” everyone.

    9:42 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders is embracing his identity as a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist,” saying the Democratic party needs “major reform.”

    Democrats need to expand their outreach to traditionally red states like South Carolina and lessen their dependency on Super PACs, he says.

    He adds: “We need to expand what the input is into the Democratic party.”

    9:39 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both say they can work to find common ground in Washington — though they have different takes on how to get things done.

    Asked about how to bridge political divisions, Clinton says Sunday night that she has a long history of working across the aisle. Among her examples was working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, to increase health care access for veterans.

    Clinton says she will “go anywhere to meet with anyone at any time to find common ground.”

    Sanders says he also has a history of working with Republicans – citing collaboration with Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona – but he also argues that a key issue in Washington is that Congress is “owned by big money” and is not pursuing the policies the public wants.

    9:31 p.m.

    A heated Bernie Sanders says the debate over health care reform should be about who has “the guts to stand up to” private insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

    He says the reason the United States doesn’t guarantee health care as a right is partly because of a “corrupt” campaign finance system.

    Sanders and Hillary Clinton are engaged in a fiery back-and-forth over how to further reform health care. Sanders is advocating for a “Medicare for all” plan, while Clinton says she would build on the Affordable Care Act.

    Clinton says she has experience taking on the health insurance industry, noting with a smile that they’ve spent “many, many millions of dollars” attacking her – but says the candidates must be realistic when it comes to health care reform. She says even with Democrats in charge, Congress has failed to pass a bill allowing people to choose to participate in Medicare.

    9:30 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders is defending his proposal for universal health care as being in the true traditions of the Democratic Party and presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

    Hillary Clinton says the Vermont senator’s idea would “tear up” the Affordable Care Act and give Republicans a fresh opportunity to undo one of President Barack Obama’s “greatest achievements.”

    “With all due respect, to start over again with a whole new debate is something that would set us back,” Clinton says.

    Sanders is blasting Clinton’s attacks as misrepresenting the fact that he “has fought for universal health care for my entire life.” He says his plan doesn’t scrap the Affordable Care Act’s vision of expanded coverage, but builds on it by “getting private insurance out” of health care markets.

    He notes that even with Obama’s law, which still hinges on private insurance, about 29 million Americans remain without health care coverage. This issue, he says, “is whether or not we have the guts to stand up to the private insurance companies and all their money.”

    9:25 p.m.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders says in the Democratic presidential debate the U.S. Justice Department should investigate “whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody.”

    He responded to a question from a voter who questioned the fairness of prosecutors being responsible for investigating allegations of police brutality in their local jurisdictions.

    Sanders also used the question to repeat several points that he has worked into his standard campaign pitch in recent months. He praised police officers for doing a “difficult job” but added, that any officer who “breaks the law,” they should face consequences.

    He also says the U.S. “should de-militarize” local police forces “so they don’t look like occupying armies.” And he calls for local agencies to use “community policing,” placing officers in local neighborhoods so they get to know citizens, and to diversify their forces to “look like the communities

    9:21 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders is taking on criticism that he’s not as electable as Hillary Clinton or as popular as her among black voters.

    He says, “we have the momentum, we’re on a path to victory.”

    Sanders says he’s confident black voters will increasingly back his candidacy when they learn more about his positions. He’s pointing to his support in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he’s neck and neck with Clinton, that voters who have had a chance to learn about him are strongly backing his campaign.

    Although Sanders and Clinton are close in the early voting states, the former secretary of state continues to out-perform Sanders in national polls and has wider support among African American voters.

    Sanders is also taking on the argument that he’s not as “electable” as Clinton, telling views he performs better in matchups against Republican front-runner Donald Trump than Clinton does.

    9:20 p.m.

    Martin O’Malley is defending his record in Baltimore and Maryland on criminal justice.

    Asked about his crime policies in light of the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody, O’Malley says Sunday night that “we weren’t able to make our city immune from setbacks” but, “we were able to save a lot of lives.”

    O’Malley said he repealed the possession of marijuana as a crime and repealed the death penalty in the state. He said incarceration rates and violent crime rates dropped under his watch.

    9:16 p.m.

    Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are reiterating their push to reform the criminal justice system, with Clinton saying it’s riddled with “systemic racism” and Sanders deriding it as “broken.”

    9:15 p.m.

    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are clashing early on guns in a Democratic presidential debate blocks from where nine people were killed by a white gunman at a historic black church in June.

    Sanders says Clinton’s assertion that he’s a tool of the gun lobby is “disingenuous” and notes that he has a lifetime rating of a D- from the National Rifle Association.

    He says he’s always supported bans on military style assault weapons, though Clinton counters that he voted several times against the Brady Bill that eventually became law under her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

    Hillary Clinton has hammered Sanders for weeks for voting effectively to shield gun manufacturers from legal liability in gun deaths. Sanders says the bill was unfair to independent gun retailers, whom he has said don’t deserve to be sued. He says he would support legislation that would target manufacturers specifically. Sanders also argues that as a “senator from a rural state that has virtually no gun control” he’s in an “excellent position to bring people together on the politically sensitive issue.”

    9:08 p.m.

    Martin O’Malley says investing in cities will be a top priority in his first days in office.

    Asked about his priorities for his first 100 days in office, the former Maryland governor says Sunday that he would focus on efforts to boost wages, promote clean energy and enhance cities.

    The former mayor of Baltimore says: “We have not had a new agenda for America’s cities since Jimmy Carter.”

    9:07 p.m.

    Bernie Sanders says three of the major issues he’d pursue as president are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges and making health care available to everyone.

    He says he’d focus his first 100 days in office on “bringing America together to end the decline of the middle class.”

    Sanders is centering his campaign on making wealthy Americans pay what he calls their “fair share.” He says his campaign is about “thinking big.”

    9:01 p.m.

    The Democratic presidential debate is underway, with three candidates set to clash over health care, gun policy and more in a forum just a few blocks from the “Mother Emanuel” church where nine parishioners were murdered last year.

    The post The latest: Democratic presidential candidates face off in Charleston appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the NBC News - YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 17, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill/Reuters

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the NBC News – YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina Jan. 17, 2016. Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters

    A look at some of their claims and how they compare with the facts.

    WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders airbrushed the complexities of trying to overhaul health care all over again and Hillary Clinton offered a selective reading of her rival’s record on gun control in the latest Democratic presidential debate.

    A look at some of their claims and how they compare with the facts:

    CLINTON on Sanders’ proposal for a taxpayer-paid health care system: “I don’t want to see us start over again with a contentious debate.”

    SANDERS: “We’re not going to tear up the Affordable Care Act,” but build on it.

    THE FACTS: As Clinton suggests, Sanders’ plan would indeed mean a radical change in direction — one that makes the government the payer of health care for everyone, not just for the elderly or the poorest Americans or members of the military.

    Whether that means building on President Barack Obama’s health care law or ripping it up may be a semantic argument. But at the core, Sanders would switch the country away from a private health insurance system. Employees, employers and others would pay higher taxes in return for health care with no premiums or deductibles, a striking departure from the subsidies and conditions that Obama’s law has overlaid on the existing system.

    Clinton did not exaggerate in describing the huge political battle that it took just to achieve “Obamacare” and the inability to sell Congress on a taxpayer-paid system even when Democrats were in control. (She ran into her own buzz saw on the issue when she proposed an overhaul of health care as first lady under her husband’s administration.)

    Clinton’s team and her supporters have persisted in a dubious, if not bogus, argument that Sanders would wreck Medicare and other health-care entitlements with his proposed overhaul. It would do so only in the course of establishing a health care system in which traditional Medicare, Medicaid and more would no longer be needed — because the government would be insuring everyone.

    She made that argument herself in an earlier debate but did not repeat it Sunday night.


    SANDERS: “I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA.” ”I have supported from Day 1 an instant background check,” as well as a ban on assault-type weapons.

    CLINTON: “He voted against the Brady bill five times,” as well as for allowing guns in national parks and for shielding the gun industry from lawsuits.

    THE FACTS: Both are singling out aspects of Sanders’ record that suit them, but that record is nuanced. Sanders indeed supported an instant background check, and at certain points a three-day waiting period. But he opposed longer waiting periods — of five or seven days — which gun control advocates see as a more effective way to flag people who should not be getting a gun.

    Clinton is right that he opposed various versions of the Brady bill with longer waiting periods. But his poor marks from the NRA reflect a record that does lean toward stronger gun controls. Sanders now says he would support exposing gun makers to lawsuits.


    SANDERS: “You have three out of the four largest banks today, bigger than they were when we bailed them out. … I think it’s time to put the government back on (the banks’) backs.”

    CLINTON: “We have Dodd-Frank. It gives us the authority already to break up big banks that pose a risk to the financial sector.”

    THE FACTS: It’s true, as Clinton said, that the 2010 financial overhaul law, known as Dodd-Frank, already gives the president the authority to force large banks to break up. Sanders has pledged to use that power if elected, while Clinton has not.

    Yet such a move would require the support from numerous regulators, potentially including the chair of the Federal Reserve and head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Sanders would appoint some of those regulators, if elected, but the Senate would have to approve them, and it’s unlikely that anyone supporting breaking up the banks would win Senate approval.

    Dodd-Frank has also given the government more tools to regulate banks and potentially wind them down if they fail, rather than bail them out. Yet despite Clinton’s faith in the law’s ability to curb Wall Street’s excesses, many of those provisions have not yet been tested and analysts disagree on how effective they will be.

    Dodd-Frank also requires large banks to hold more capital as a cushion against loans that might go sour and subjects banks to “stress tests” to ensure they can survive economic downturns. Those greater capital requirements have caused many banks, including JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Citi, to shed assets in order to avoid growing larger and triggering further oversight.


    SANDERS: “This is a responsibility for the U.S. Justice Department to get involved. Whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody, it should automatically trigger a U.S. attorney general’s investigation.”

    THE FACTS: The department already investigates some such deaths, but focuses only on those in which a federal civil rights violation appears likely, such as if an officer knowingly used unreasonable and excessive force. A blanket trigger such as what Sanders proposes would strain resources, because hundreds of Americans are killed annually in confrontations with police, and it might be at odds with the department’s emphasis on enforcing federal rather than local laws.

    Though police shootings invariably draw the attention of federal investigators who monitor events on the ground, only a small number prompt federal probes and even fewer result in criminal charges.

    Federal investigations are time-consuming and to build a case, prosecutors must satisfy a challenging legal burden — establishing a willful and knowing civil rights violation. In perhaps the most notable case of the last two years, the Justice Department opened an investigation after the fatal August 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, but ultimately closed the probe without bringing any charges.


    Associated Press writers Christopher S. Rugaber and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

    The post Fact-checking the fourth Democratic debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    For the first time since it was delivered 51 years ago, it is now possible to hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in its entirety.

    Nobelprize.org released the rare recording of King’s 1964 address today on Facebook. Its release coincides with the 30th anniversary of the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States.

    King delivered the lecture on Dec. 11, 1964, in Oslo, Norway. The Prize was awarded for King’s nonviolent protests against racial segregation and economic injustice in the American South during the early 1960s. King accepted the Prize on behalf of the civil rights movement as a whole.

    Clayborne Carson, director of the King Institute at Stanford University, characterized the address as one of King’s “most important speeches,” one that “lays out his goals for the remainder of his life [and] addresses the problems of racial injustice, poverty and war as global evils rather than specific American problems.”

    The text version of the speech had been published previously in the Nobel Foundation’s annual Les Prix Nobel, which compiles biographies of a given year’s Nobel Laureates as well as transcripts of their lectures. The audio differs from it the text several ways, most notably at the end, where King quotes the spiritual coda of his earlier “I Have a Dream” speech, saying “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” It is not known at present why the audio of the speech was not released sooner. The Nobel Prize Lecture has been a requirement of all Nobel Laureates since the inception of the awards in 1901.

    The post Listen to MLK’s 1964 Nobel Prize lecture appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    What do you do when Missy Elliot shows up at your door?

    Poet Ashlee Haze found herself asking that earlier this month, after one of her poems caught Elliot’s attention.

    In “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliot Poem),” Haze talks about black female representation in media and the effect that seeing Elliot perform had on her life.

    Haze began writing and performing poetry when she was 11. A few years prior, she had heard one of Elliot’s songs for the first time. It was life-changing for her to “see a woman of color who was an unconventional beauty … and to say, ‘That’s somebody I can relate to, that’s somebody who’s a creative,'” she said.

    A few months ago, driving near her home in Atlanta, she heard one of those songs on the radio again and decided to write about Elliot. In her poem, which she performed at the Individual World Poetry Slam in October, she describes that because of Elliot, “I believed that a fat black girl from Chicago / could dance until she felt pretty / could be sexy and cool / could be a woman playing a man’s game.”

    After the piece circulated online, Elliot sent her a message over Twitter, thanking her for the poem and asking for her phone number. Elliot called her to ask if she would be at her home in Atlanta the following afternoon. “I knew it was Missy Elliot because you can’t duplicate a voice like that,” she said.

    The next day, Elliot showed up.

    @missymisdemeanorelliott this one is better!!

    A photo posted by Ashlee Haze (@ashleehaze) on

    Haze said her hero was everything she thought she would be. But for Haze, the meeting was part of a larger cultural conversation about what it means to find your voice as a black woman, she said.

    “The conversation is changing, bit by bit, especially when you have the Beyonces and the Nicki Minaj’s who are really vehicles for this message that black girls are feminist too,” she said.

    Having black female role models — especially those who are unconventionally attractive and proudly feminist — makes all the difference to young women like her, she said.

    “Self-love is really the root of it. You want to love yourself through the images you see,” she said. “If you don’t see people who look like you, who have your textured hair, who aren’t perfect, who have a similar body size to yours, you begin to think that you’re not enough, that what you are is not okay.”

    You can see Haze perform her piece above, or read it below.

    For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliot Poem)

    a brief history of womanhood in hip hop
    your favorite could never
    for colored girls who don’t need Katy Perry when Missy Elliott is enough

    3rd grade. I’m in the hallway, when I’m sure I shouldn’t have been and Cory White comes up to me and asks “Yo! Have you heard that new Missy Elliot track?”
    I reply “Who is Missy Elliot!?!”
    at the time my parents only let me listen to the gospel and the smooth jazz station
    but that day… i went home, ran upstairs to my room
    and closed the door (a cardinal sin in a black mother’s house)
    and waited on TRL to come on
    then it happened. metallics and a black trash bag fill my TV screen
    and I hear the coolest thing I’d ever heard in 8 years of living
    *beep beep, who got the keys to my jeep… Vrooooommm!*
    at that moment I had my life figured out
    I was going to grow up to be Missy Elliott
    I spent the next decade of my life recording and rewinding videos to learn dance moved
    passing that dutch
    getting my freak on
    and trying to figure out what the hell she was saying in work it
    there were so many artists I could have idolized at the time
    but Missy was the only one who looked like me
    It is because of Melissa Elliott
    that I believed that a fat black girl from Chicago
    could dance until she felt pretty
    could be sexy and cool
    could be a woman playing a man’s game
    and be unapologetically fly
    if you ask me why representation in the media is important
    I will show you the tweet of a black teenager
    asking who this “new” artist is that Katy Perry brought out on stage at the Super Bowl
    I will show you my velour adidas sweat suit and white fur kangol I begged my parents for
    I will show you a 26 year old woman who learned to dance until she felt pretty
    feminism wears a throwback jersey, bamboo earrings, and a face beat for the gods
    feminism is Missy, Da Brat, Lil Kim, Angie Martinez, and Left Eye on the “Not Tonight” track
    feminism says as a woman in my arena you are not my competition
    as a woman in my arena your light doesn’t make mine any dimmer

    Dear Missy,
    I did not grow up to be you
    but I did grow up to be me
    and to be in love with who this woman is
    to be a woman playing a man’s game
    and not be apologetic about any of it
    If you ask me why representation is important
    I will tell you that on the days I don’t feel pretty
    I hear the sweet voice of Missy singing to me
    pop that pop that, jiggle that fat
    don’t stop, get it til your clothes get wet
    I will tell you that right now there are a million
    black girls just waiting to see someone who looks like them

    Ashlee Haze is one of Atlanta’s premier word artists. Earning the nickname “Big 30″ because of her consistency in getting a perfect score, she is one of the most auspicious poets in the sport of slam. She has been performing on the Atlanta Poetry circuit since the age of 14 and has been writing over 15 years.She has performed everywhere from small coffee shops to the Apollo Theater. She is a 4-time member of Java Monkey Slam Team, 2011 Southern Fried Poetry Slam Champions. In 2012 Miss Haze was ranked top ten at the Women of the World Poetry Slam. In 2014 she appeared in “3-Minute Activists: The Soul of Slam” a feature-length documentary that examines the lives and work of some of Atlanta’s premier Spoken Word Artists.

    The post The poem that led Missy Elliot to surprise a young fan with a visit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a dangerous greenhouse gas, accelerating global warming. Cost-effective, proven technologies are available to cap emissions from the oil and gas industry, but federal regulators have yet to take comprehensive action.

    LEAKING METHANE — The Aliso Canyon well pad in California is seen in this aerial photograph taken by an environmental nonprofit organization. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in response to the unprecedented natural gas leak at the facility. Photo by Earthworks

    Environmental advocates surveying Aliso Canyon in Los Angeles’ picturesque San Fernando Valley last month saw an ordinary natural gas facility: several tons of industrial steel poking out of the ground toward a clear, blue sky.

    But what could not be seen — at least to the naked eye — was a colorless cloud spewing from a leak in storage well No. 25.

    The fissure at the Southern California Gas Company site, which began in late October, had been sending an estimated 100,000 pounds of methane into the air each hour.

    “It’s pretty alarming when you see that much is just dumping into our air,” said Sharon Wilson of the nonprofit EarthWorks, which took aerial pictures of the leak at the SoCal Gas site. “There’s an awful lot of this stuff going into the air and these videos show it.”

    Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is an invisible climate change “accelerant” — warming the earth at 84 times the rate of carbon dioxide over two decades.

    Thermal cameras have recorded the emissions at Aliso, but the climate damage done by the unprecedented leak will be harder to track — and may extend to the furthest reaches of the globe. 

    “It’s a big, big deal,” said Dr. Steve Conley, atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Davis. “Every month, it’s the weight of an aircraft carrier.”

    “There are plenty of mini-Aliso Canyons that add up to a big climate problem — not just in California, but across the country.” — Tim O’Connor, Director of Environmental Defense Fund’s California Oil & Gas Program
    Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency this month in response to the leak at the facility, which the company estimates won’t be sealed until late February or March.

    Thousands of families who live in nearby Porter Ranch have been voluntarily relocated at the company’s expense. Nearly 2,000 children have been reassigned to schools outside the affected area after kids complained of a range of symptoms, from bloody noses to difficulty breathing.

    Methane itself poses no long-term health risks, but a severe natural gas leak can cause short-term symptoms, including dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache and irregular breathing. Officials believe the ailments community members are experiencing are from an odorant added to natural gas to make it detectable.

    While Aliso Canyon is an extreme example, experts estimate there are thousands of methane leaks across the U.S., compounding the nation’s greenhouse gas inventory and foisting political pressure onto federal regulators to deal with the global warming contributor.


    Natural gas leaks found on Staten Island, NYC. New York City has an older infrastructure that includes corrosion-prone cast iron pipes. The Environmental Defense Fund drove a team of cars outfitted with air sensors for four months in 2014 and found an average of about one natural gas leak for every mile driven in New York City’s Staten Island. In Indianapolis: one leak for every 200 miles. Chicago: one leak for every three miles.

    “Events of this size are rare, but major leakage across the oil and gas supply chain is not,” Director of Environmental Defense Fund’s California Oil & Gas Program Tim O’Connor said in a statement. “There are plenty of mini-Aliso Canyons that add up to a big climate problem — not just in California, but across the country.”

    Tracking an invisible threat across the natural gas supply chain

    Methane seepage can occur at all stages of oil and gas production — from leaks along the more than one million miles of domestic pipeline to intentional burn-offs of the gas at the hundreds of thousands of production sites dotted across the American landscape. Hydraulic fracturing or fracking during the extraction process can leak methane too. The Aliso Canyon leak sprung from a pipe leading to a storage facility buried 8,500 feet underground.

    According to a 2014 Stanford University study, methane emissions may be 50 percent higher than official projections from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Research published last year also found the technology that EPA and others use to measure emissions may itself be flawed, and the amount of methane leaking into the atmosphere is likely “systematically underestimated.”

    LEAKS ACROSS THE SUPPLY CHAIN — Methane seepage can occur at all stages of oil and gas production. Graphic by: Lisa Overton/NewsHour Weekend

    A study published in August, for example, found natural gas facilities lose about 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year, about eight times the estimates used by EPA.

    In towns across the country, methane’s invisibility makes it difficult for residents concerned about air pollution to hold industry accountable for its emissions.

    Rebecca Roter, a homeowner in Pennsylvania, said she founded a local environmental group after seeing proof of infrastructure leaks in her community on a neighbor’s infrared camera.

    “I’m haunted by this today because I can choose not to drink my water, but I can’t choose not to breathe,” she said. “If you’re getting royalties or not, if you’re living in a trailer or a big house. It’s all the same air.”

    Technology’s bandaid for gas leaks

    Natural gas has been touted on both sides of the political aisle as a “bridge fuel” for America — cleaner than coal and free from the contentious geopolitics of foreign oil. In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said natural gas can “power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”

    But research from Cornell University suggests methane leaks may dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, natural gas’ oft-cited green advantage — especially as development increases:

    “Using these new, best available data and a 20-year time period for comparing the warming potential of methane to carbon dioxide, the conclusion stands that both shale gas and conventional natural gas have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than do coal or oil, for any possible use of natural gas and particularly for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating.”

    The industry disagrees with this estimate, but unlike many issues exacerbating climate change that require complicated fixes or political buy-in from foreign actors, keeping methane from escaping into the atmosphere can be as simple as fixing a loose valve or upgrading out-of-date equipment, experts say.

    “Industry is leaving money on the table and the public is paying the price for suffering the health and environmental harms of leakage.”

    Cost-effective, proven technologies are available to cap methane emissions, but federal regulators have yet to take comprehensive action on this dangerous pollutant. And while some natural gas companies have joined programs to monitor and reduce leakage, advocates from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) say there is little evidence of widespread use of green technologies.

    “Failure to employ these health- and environment-protecting technologies is a classic market failure,” said Vignesh Gowrishankar, chief scientist for NRDC, speaking at a 2013 Senate subcommittee hearing on methane emissions. “Industry is leaving money on the table and the public is paying the price for suffering the health and environmental harms of leakage.”

    POLITICAL BATTLE LOOMS — The Obama administration has gone after coal-fired power plants, like the one shown here owned by energy firm PacifiCorp and the Idaho Power Company, outside Point of the Rocks, Wyoming, on March 14, 2014. In August, EPA announced the first regulations addressing methane emissions. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    For years, officials have been primarily focused on reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. On Aug. 3 of last year, President Obama announced an aggressive plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants across the country.

    Two weeks later, EPA detailed the first federal regulations to address methane. The agency has said greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and methane are harmful to public health and welfare, and pose a serious threat to current and future generations. Methane contributes to the formation of smog and ground level ozone. Both are hazardous to human health.

    “Through our cost-effective proposed standards, we are underscoring our commitment to reducing the pollution fueling climate change and protecting public health while supporting responsible energy development, transparency and accountability,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.

    On Capitol Hill, the oil and gas industry has spent many millions in recent years to keep air pollution regulations — including those that might address methane — off the table at the federal and local levels, according to a PBS NewsHour review of lobbying records.

    Industry lobbying against methane rules has increased as government officials began to consider the issue in earnest. In 2012, Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, along with national trade group Independent Petroleum Association of America, were some of the few players lobbying specifically against methane rules. By 2014, that number rose to at least a dozen oil and gas companies, including Anadarko, BP America, Chevron and Hess.

    Despite the political challenges, President Obama has pledged to cut methane emissions from oil and gas production by up to 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. While advocates have applauded the administration’s reduction goals, they point to gaps in the regulations proposed by EPA last summer. The agency has said the new rules are expected to reduce emissions by only 20 to 30 percent.

    The announced regulations will apply chiefly to new equipment, although existing equipment is responsible for the majority of emissions.

    “Reducing emissions from new oil and gas operations is an important first step. The largest source of this pollution, however, is the oil and gas infrastructure that already exists across the country, ” Meleah Geertsma, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement. “Meaningful progress in combating this potent climate pollutant will require an industrywide cleanup — from infrastructure new and old.”

    President and chief executive officer for America’s Natural Gas Alliance Marty Durbin countered that new regulations are “unnecessary and counterproductive,” because the industry is already reducing emissions.

    “Not only do we have an incentive to capture methane — it is the product we sell — but our track record of efficiency improvement and innovation is what drives the environmental, economic and energy security benefits of natural gas,” he wrote in a press release for the organization in August. “A collaborative approach will bring greater reductions more quickly than new and unnecessary regulation.”

    SEEKING RELIEF IN ALISO CANYON — Crews from Southern California Gas Company and outside experts work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon gas field on Dec. 9. Photo by Dean Musgrove/Pool/Reuters

    The American Petroleum Institute agrees, citing record lows in carbon emissions.

    “Competitive forces and industry innovation are driving technological advances and producing clean-burning natural gas that has led carbon emissions to near 20-year lows,” said American Petroleum Institute spokesperson Sabrina Fang. Fang cites a recent EPA study that found methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells have fallen 73 percent since 2011. The report also notes an 11 percent reduction in total methane emissions from natural gas production since 2005.

    These industry improvements came in ​​​part as a response​​​ to standards set in 2012 by the EPA for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — a class of carbon-based air pollutants. The White House says even though these regulations targeted VOCs, they also reduced methane emissions substantially. This trend suggests that regulations and innovation adoption can work.

    What’s next for Porter Ranch?

    But negotiations on The Hill matter little to residents near the Aliso Canyon site who have seen their lives disrupted by the largest recorded leak of natural gas in California’s history.

    Matt Pakucko president and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch, an advocacy group that has long opposed the SoCal Gas facility, said he and his girlfriend have left their home at the company’s expense, but he’s not sure when or if they will return.

    Residents of the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles hold up signs related to a gas leak in their community during the meeting of the California Air Quality Management District in Granada Hills, California January 9, 2016. Southern California Gas Company has been tackling a Los Angeles-area natural gas leak that has been sickening nearby residents for more than two months.  REUTERS/Danny Moloshok - RTX21PNE

    Residents of the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles hold up signs related to a gas leak in their community during the meeting of the California Air Quality Management District in Granada Hills, California, Jan. 9. Photo by Danny Moloshok/Reuters

    “That’s part of the problem, you see beautiful Porter Ranch and that’s all you see,” Pakucko said of the invisible leak. “They’ll maybe stop this or maybe they’ll make it worse … But when is it actually safe to move back in?”

    SoCal Gas chief executive Dennis Arriola said in a statement the company “recognizes the impact this incident is having on the environment.”

    “I want to assure the public that we intend to mitigate environmental impacts from the actual natural gas released from the leak and will work with state officials to develop a framework that will help us achieve this goal,” he said.

    Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council president Paula Cracium said families are relocating mostly out of fear. “You do not want to be the parent that said, ‘Ah, it’s nothing,’ and then five years later, your child comes down with cancer,” she said.

    “Property values have been enormously impacted. Small businesses have been impacted, and the question is whether or not they’ll even survive. We’re hopeful this leak gets fixed in the next month and a half. But we’re not confident.”

    Michael D. Regan, Scilla Alecci and Asthaa Chaturvedi contributed reporting.

    The post California natural gas leak just one of thousands across country appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Sam Denaro, owner of Sam's Citgo in Swampscott, pumped a customer's gas.  The gas station was in a price war with Mike Gambale's Independent Oil Co. which had lowered prices to 46.9 cents a gallon. Both Sam's and Uva's Texaco across the street went to 47.9 cents in hopes of keeping customers.

    Not since the 1970s has America seen $.47 gas, but one Michiagn station dropped its price to just that for a few hours on Sunday. Photo by Charles Dixon/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    Plunging oil prices and a local bidding war drove gas prices to a low not witnessed since the 1970s in one central Michigan town Sunday.

    Lucky drivers in Houghton Lake, Michigan, took advantage sub-$1 prices — and even sub-$.50 prices for a few hours at one station, the Beacon and Bridge Market where prices dropped to $.47 per gallon for unleaded regular gasoline on Sunday evening.

    Other local northern Michigan stations were selling gas for as low as $.95 a gallon, almost half the national average of about $1.88 a gallon. A manager from a Marathon station in Houghton Lake said the price remained at $.95 a gallon for unleaded regular gas for about nine hours.

    While the incredibly low gas prices did not last a full 24 hours — the stations were back up to $1.46 and $1.47 on Monday morning — local residents did take advantage of the low prices while they lasted. So much so that local police were called to direct traffic around the areas of U.S. 127 and M-55 as lines of cars piled up, waiting to fill up.

    While the statewide average for gas hasn’t been below $1.75 since January 2009, gas prices have steadily been on the decline in the U.S. since the price of crude oil dropped to below $30 a barrel last week. A survey conducted by GasBuddy over the last 18 months shows that the national average of gas has gone from $3.58 to the current average of $1.88.

    Gas prices could get even lower as Iran’s oil ministers have announced their plan to boost oil production and ship 500,000 barrels a day, a reaction to the U.S.’s lifting of economic sanctions against Iran.

    The post Gas prices fall below $1 in one Michigan town appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A general view of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the U.S. national holiday in his honor, in Washington, January 20, 2014. King, the civil rights leader who 50 years ago received the Nobel Peace Prize, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. He was born on January 15, 1929, and the holiday commemorating his birth was enacted in the mid 1980s.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANNIVERSARY POLITICS) - RTX17N5S

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, our NewsHour Shares of the day, something that caught our eye that we thought might be of interest to you too.

    In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Nobel Prize Foundation released the full audio recording of his 1964 Peace Prize acceptance speech.

    Here is an excerpt:

    VOICE OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.

    Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices,

    And in the hearts of men, we will come to that great and glad day when men all over the world will be able to join hands, black and men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, free at last, free at last. Thank God all mighty, we are free at last.

    Thank you.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: A speech we don’t often hear, those words particularly relevant now.

    The post When MLK Jr. lamented ‘we have not learned the simple art of living together’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Crews from Southern California Gas Company and outside experts work on a relief well at the Aliso Canyon gas field above the Porter Ranch section of northwest Los Angeles, California in this December 9, 2015 pool photo.   REUTERS/Dean Musgrove/Pool - RTX22LNZ

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn to the natural gas leak in Southern California.

    Earlier this month, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for residents of the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles, many of whom have been suffering from health impacts since the leak began in late October. Relief well drilling efforts continue at the site, but Southern California Gas Company, which owns the well, says it could be late February or March before they are able to stop all leaks.

    Special correspondent Cat Wise recently visited Porter Ranch, and she filed this report.

    CAT WISE: On the surface, it seems a serene, picturesque Southern California town, with gated communities and views. But Porter Ranch, which is home to 30,000 residents in Northern L.A., is anything but serene these days.

    An invisible environmental disaster is unfolding in the hills above the community, where natural gas, seen in this infrared video taken by an environmental group, is now spewing out from one the country’s largest underground gas storage facilities called Aliso Canyon.

    STEVE CONLEY, University of California, Davis: This one leak is roughly equivalent to the entire Los Angeles Basin. It will change California’s emissions for the year, substantially.

    CAT WISE: Steve Conley an atmospheric scientist with the University of California, Davis, owns one of only a handful of planes in the country with specialized equipment that can measure gas leaks from the air.

    For the last several months, he’s been flying the skies over Porter Ranch to monitor methane emissions for the state. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is the main component of natural gas. And it’s extremely potent. It’s more efficient at trapping radiation and heat than carbon dioxide.

    STEVE CONLEY: That first flight, we measured something like 44,000 kilograms per hour. The best number that I have come up with to give people a perspective, it’s close to 100,000 pounds an hour. Every month, it’s the weight of an aircraft carrier.

    My first thought was tapping the instruments, there’s something wrong, because we have never seen anything like that on any of our flights in the past.

    CAT WISE: In recent weeks, as the Southern California Gas Company has begun to drain the reservoir where gas is stored, and reduce the pressure, the amount being released in the air has come down by as much as 60 percent, according to spokesman Mike Mizrahi.

    But the company is still unclear why it happened.

    MIKE MIZRAHI, Southern California Gas Company: We really won’t know what caused the leak until we’re able to stop it.

    But we have estimated that, about 500 feet down the well, there was a break through the encasement around the pipe that’s used to inject and withdraw gas, and that natural gas is seeping through that encasement, up through the ground, and then coming up right about at the wellhead.

    CAT WISE: The well causing all the havoc was built in 1953. Like other natural gas wells in the area, which are regulated by the state, it underwent yearly inspections and weekly pressure testing, but the day-to-day monitoring was done by personnel who smelled the air and listened for the sound of gas escaping. And that’s how this leak was discovered.

    Much focus has been on a safety valve that was removed by the company and not replaced back in the late ’70s.

    MIKE MIZRAHI: The regulations do not require that we put valves or sensors all the way down. The Department of Oil and Gas also has said we were in total compliance at the time of this leak. It’s speculative as to whether a valve in this well would have made any difference.

    CAT WISE: You were in compliance, and yet, when public safety, public health is at risk, why not exceed that?

    MIKE MIZRAHI: Well, in fact, we have a filing before the California Public Utilities Commission that dates to 2014, where we will be enhancing our inspection protocols, as well as our pressure testing protocols, that will hopefully give us the funding to be able to move forward.

    CAT WISE: The well that is leaking is about a mile-and-a-half over that hill behind me. Some residents here have no problems with the gas, but thousands have been sickened by the strong odorants added to methane to make it detectable.

    Local health officials say there are no long-term health impacts, but many residents remain concerned. The Cohens are among those families. For the past month, they have been staying at a hotel about 30 miles from their home in Porter Ranch. They decided to move after all four of them experienced health issues that they attributed to the gas leak, including nausea.

    They are one of about 4,000 households that have relocated, or are in the process of relocating, to temporary housing paid for by the gas company.

    BRIAN COHEN, Porter Ranch Resident: We’re still kind of figuring things out as we go. Everything’s on the fly right now. Our normal routine is not there.

    STACEY COHEN, Porter Ranch Resident: We have to make the best of it. And we have to be positive and be there for our children and for everybody else in the community.

    CAT WISE: On the morning we caught up with them, the Cohens were heading out for 7-year-old’s Weston’s (ph) first day back at school after the winter break.

    But Weston wasn’t returning to his neighborhood school. He and nearly 2,000 other Porter Ranch students have been relocated to two temporary schools miles away.

    L.A. Unified School District got these portable classrooms set up in just three weeks, a project that would normally take six months. The costs so far exceeds $5 million, and the district expects that the gas company will foot the bill.

    All the disruption has been tough on the community, according to Paula Cracium, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council.

    PAULA CRACIUM, Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council: There’s this enormous stain on the community right now caused by this leak, and a stain that’s not going to go away the day after the leak’s fixed, unfortunately.

    Property values have been enormously impacted. Small businesses have been impacted, and the question is whether or not they will even survive.

    CAT WISE: Cracium has been a driving force in the effort to bring attention to the leak, including securing a meeting with Governor Jerry Brown that led in part to his emergency declaration.

    And she is also pushing for better safety regulations at Aliso Canyon going forward. But she says the long-term solution isn’t easy, because millions in the L.A. area depend on the gas stored there for their for energy needs.

    PAULA CRACIUM: We can’t flip on a switch and say no fossil fuels tomorrow. I mean, that’s just not a realistic approach to being able to provide for people and their needs.

    But there’s a certain percentage of the community that is very confident that it can be made safe, and they’re comfortable with it being up there.

    CAT WISE: Resident Matt Pakucko definitely isn’t comfortable with the wells above his home. Pakucko, who is a music producer with a recording studio in his garage, is the co-founder of a group called Save Porter Ranch. They have been advocating that the entire storage facility be closed, even before the leak started.

    As we talked, the wind blew in the gas.

    MATT PAKUCKO, Save Porter Ranch: You can smell the gas right now, right?

    CAT WISE: I do smell it.

    MATT PAKUCKO: Nice breeze and gas.

    People are smelling gas and oil outside their homes in these neighborhoods. It has been going on for years and decades. You can’t have this — these kind of things next to residential neighborhoods. They say that, even if we had that safety valve, it may not prevent this. Are you telling us that you can’t stop a well blowout? Shut the place down.

    CAT WISE: For scientist Steve Conley, the priority is better monitoring of future leaks.

    STEVE CONLEY: As long as we are relying on fossil fuels, as long as we have houses that are using natural gas, we have to have a storage system. We have to store it.

    And if we store it, we’re going to have leaks. One of the things I feel like we have learned from this is that, nationally, we should have a system in place to rapidly respond to these kind of events, because they’re going to happen.

    CAT WISE: Back at the hotel, the Cohen family and another displaced Porter Ranch family are hoping it doesn’t happen again, and that they can go home soon.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Cat Wise in Porter Ranch, California.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The case in Southern California is dramatic, but not unique. Experts say that many smaller and mid-size leaks occur across the country, and while not as huge, combined, can add up to serious environmental damage. You can read more of that research on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post The invisible catastrophe sickening families in California appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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