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

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    A volunteer for Ben Carson's presidential campaign died Tuesday after being hospitalized with injuries suffered in a car accident in western Iowa that hurt three other campaign workers. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    Ben Carson suspended campaign events after a volunteer for his campaign died Tuesday after being hospitalized with injuries suffered in a car accident. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    OMAHA, Neb. — A volunteer for Ben Carson’s presidential campaign died Tuesday after being hospitalized with injuries suffered in a car accident in western Iowa that hurt three other campaign workers.

    Carson was in South Carolina at the time of the Tuesday morning accident and suspended his campaign events.

    An official for a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, said the Carson campaign volunteer, 25-year-old Braden Joplin, died late Tuesday afternoon.

    Campaign spokesman Jason Osborne said the crash occurred when a van carrying three Carson volunteers and a paid staffer flipped onto its side on an icy road and was hit by another vehicle. The others in the van were treated at a hospital in Atlantic, Iowa.

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

    Carson posted a picture of himself and Joplin on Twitter Tuesday night, writing: “Rest In Peace Braden Joplin. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

    In a statement released by his campaign, Carson wrote: “One of the precious few joys of campaigning is the privilege of meeting bright young men and women who are so enthusiastic about their country that they will freely give of their time and energy to work on its behalf. America lost one of those bright young men today.”

    Chris Cook, spokesman for Texas Tech University, said the death of Braden Joplin, who attended the university in Lubbock, was a great loss.

    “The loss of life, especially one of our own, is always tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Braden during this difficult time.”

    Other presidential candidates from both parties, including Republican Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Democrat Martin O’Malley, also offered condolences on Twitter. And Democratic contender Bernie Sanders paid tribute at the beginning of a rally in Iowa City, Iowa.

    “I have a lot of respect for any young person who gets involved in the political process,” Sanders said. “Our hearts go out to the family of the young man.”

    The post Carson campaign volunteer dies after car accident in Iowa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally tonight, a NewsHour essay.

    What better way to battle discrimination than with pop culture? Or so thought Haroon Moghul, when he asked J.J. Abrams in an open letter to add an Islamic character to “Star Wars.”

    Here’s more of his thoughts on why a Jedi named Mohammad could help fight fear with hope.

    HAROON MOGHUL, Author: The day before “The Force Awakens” was released, I wrote an open letter to its director, J.J. Abrams, who also rebooted “Star Trek.”

    With tensions between Muslims and our neighbors worse than I had ever known, I asked Abrams to add a positive Muslim character to one of these franchises, maybe, I mused, a Jedi named Mohammed.

    But many readers were dismissive. One wrote simply that Star Wars was set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, where Islam doesn’t exist.

    By missing my point, he made my point. We can accept a Ben Kenobi, though Ben’s a Hebrew name. We don’t seem to have any trouble with Luke Skywalker, even though Luke was also one of the 12 apostles. Captain Jim Kirk, great, but a Captain Hussein Kirk, that made some readers think I wanted Sharia law on the bridge, when I had said no such thing.

    I only wanted us to confront how we treat Muslims. Islamophobia is real, and it’s ugly. Robert Doggart allegedly planned to attack Muslims in New York with guns, bombs, even a machete.

    A former Klan member, Glendon Crawford, tried to build a radioactive weapon to attack mosques. People have been kicked, punched, stabbed, shot, murdered, even pushed in front of trains, targeted for their faith and their faith alone.

    Islamophobia is like racism, not because Islam is a race, but because, for anti-Muslim bigots, Islam functions in the exact same way that race does for racists.

    That doesn’t mean I deny the terrible violence committed by some Muslims, sometimes in Islam’s name. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect everyone’s right to contest ideas and beliefs they don’t agree with, including my own. It just means I think judging every single Muslim by the actions of a few, especially when nearly every Muslim institution and organization condemns those actions, is a problem.

    What someone thinks of Islam depends a lot on whether she knows any Muslims. The challenge is that, out of 322 million Americans, only a few million are Muslim. Even in a transporter, how could we meet and greet everyone in time to change minds?

    That is why I wrote that letter to J.J. Abrams in The Washington Post. Science fiction and fantasy, whether books or movies, are an astonishingly effective ways to reach huge numbers of people, to reflect us back to ourselves, and to provoke us to think differently.

    The original “Star Trek” featured an African communications officer, a Russian navigator and a Japanese helmsman, not to mention a half-Vulcan, half-human first officer. That was back in the 1960s, during the civil rights era, at the height of the Cold War, just a few decades from Japanese internment camps. Yet the television show was wildly popular, and it still is, as are the many spinoffs that grew out of it.

    It didn’t matter where all those characters came from, but where they were going, where no one had gone before. It gave us a vision for our divided planet, of a united future we could want, not dread.

    Can we see someone of a Muslim background being part of that future too? I hope so.

    People often ask me, how can ordinary folks fight extremism and intolerance? I tell them, by imagining a world that’s not just different, but better. You don’t fight fear with fear. You fight fear with hope.

    The post Why the world could use a Muslim jedi appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    No Child Left Offline_BD_frame_2402

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    The digital divide and lack of reliable internet access at home can put low-income and rural students at a real disadvantage when it comes to 21st century skills and connected learning. So when Superintendent Darryl Adams took over the second poorest school district in the nation, Coachella Valley Unified School in California, one of his priorities was getting his students online. But how do you do that in a rural area where many of his students live in trailer parks and remote communities? The answer: the 100 school buses that roll into the parking lot every day.

    In one of the most innovative and successful programs of its kind, Coachella has outfitted school buses with Wi-Fi routers and solar panels and parks them overnight in the most underserved communities. “We wanted to ensure that students had 24/7 access to the Internet. Because learning does not stop at the end of the school day,” Adams said.

    The country’s Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith calls Coachella “an incredibly creative idea” that enables rural areas to take advantage of innovative learning strategies, such as flipped classrooms, which enable students to watch or listen to lectures at home and then do team projects or get extra help at school. Smith said there’s a lot of work to be done in rural areas: census data shows that there are still 5 million households with school-aged children who are not effectively connected to the Internet.

    Read the full transcript of this segment below:

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tonight: an innovative solution to bridging the digital divide for students.

    Too frequently, kids and their parents in rural low-income communities don’t have access to the Internet and high-quality learning technologies. But, in California, a unique project is providing free home access to the Web in one of the nation’s poorest districts.

    Much of the footage for this story was shot by teenagers who are part of our Student Reporting Labs network, in collaboration with PBS SoCal in Southern California.

    The correspondent is David Nazar.

    DAVID NAZAR: Thirty minutes west of the wealthy suburbs of Palm Springs is a desert oasis best known its annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

    But behind the parties and concerts stretches a vast and isolated landscape, home to the second poorest school district in the country, where most families live below the poverty line and struggle just to pay the rent.

    DARRYL ADAMS, Superintendent, Coachella Valley Unified School District: We have some of the poorest of the poor in our country, very economically challenged, and 100 percent of our students are on free and reduced lunch. Some of them living at trailer home parks that some have been condemned recently, or some in railroad, abandoned railroad cars. It’s just unbelievable, some of the challenges they face.

    DAVID NAZAR: Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Darryl Adams believes the right use of technology is critical for the families in this area, like Norma Olivas and her daughter, Anisa Perez.

    NORMA OLIVAS, Anisa’s Mother: I do see students sometimes struggling, and, right now, sometimes, some of the kids struggling to get school, to do certain things. And I wouldn’t want my daughter to go through any that. I wouldn’t want her to be a dropout.

    DAVID NAZAR: When Adams took the job in 2011, the graduation rate was 70 percent, according to the district. One of his key initiatives was to get every student an iPad and Wi-Fi service, but he knew it would be challenge.

    DARRYL ADAMS: We have 1,250 square miles to cover, larger than the state of Rhode Island. So, when we out there were spots in every which way, students weren’t connected, we said, well, how can we get them connected?

    And so one of the ways, we said, look, we got 100 buses. Let’s put Wi-Fi routers on those buses. And let’s park them where the need is.

    DAVID NAZAR: Finding the funding for this fleet of buses was no easy tasks. Nevertheless, in 2012, the community voted for and passed Measure X, a nearly $45 million school bond to fund the Mobile Learning Initiative over 10 years. They called the program Wi-Fi on Wheels.

    ANISA PEREZ, Student, Desert Mirage High School: In the bus, it’s kind of cool that we have Internet, because when the project is due the next day, we can actually spend time to do it.

    DAVID NAZAR: Completing assignments was difficult for Anisa before getting her iPad and Wi-Fi service at home.

    NORMA OLIVAS: We would have to travel actually to go in, go to the library, get the books she needed to look up the information and go home. I don’t make a lot of money, but I will do whatever it takes to make sure she does get a better education.

    DAVID NAZAR: Adams is doing whatever he can to make sure that the 20,000 students in his schools, 98 percent Hispanic and about 10 percent undocumented, develop the skills they need to graduate.

    DARRYL ADAMS: So we realized that we had to provide this to our students in order for them to compete in the 21st century.

    DAVID NAZAR: Installing solar panels on rooftops of the school buses to power the state-of-the-art Wi-Fi routers was a solution proposed by Adams.

    DARRYL ADAMS: Being a musician by trade — I was a music teacher from L.A. Unified when I started out 30 years ago — and, as a musician, you’re always creating and thinking of different ways to do things or to play things or to hear things.

    And so I brought that to my career in education. And I have had some difficulty in the past, because some people weren’t really kind of ready for Adams’ crazy ideas. But this district was. And just about anything we do that’s maybe different and is good for kids, we go with it.

    DAVID NAZAR: CVUSD’s director of technical services, Israel Oliveros, provides the technical support for the entire district.

    ISRAEL OLIVEROS, Director, Technology Services CVUSD: We run power through a conduit that is already existing on the bus. It goes through the front of the bus. That’s where the router is located. Then we do have the antennas pointed in different directions. For the students, that will cover a 150-foot radius.

    DAVID NAZAR: The school districts allows a few of these buses to be parked throughout the East Valley overnight. For students, it’s a lifeline to the outside world.

    DARRYL ADAMS: We wanted to ensure that students have 24/7 access to the Internet, because learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school day.

    DAVID NAZAR: Megan Smith is the chief technology officer of the United States. It’s her job to advise the president on technology and innovation that will improve the future.

    MEGAN SMITH, Chief Technology Officer, Office of Science and Technology Policy: Coachella is an incredibly creative idea. Being able to flip the classroom and be involved in — have video at home, instead of the classroom has a lecture. So, a lot of work to do in the rural areas.

    DAVID NAZAR: There are federal programs in place to help provide Wi-Fi to rural school districts, like the FCC’s E-rate program, which provides about $1.5 billion each year to schools. However, census data shows that there are still five million households with school-age children who are not effectively connected to the Internet.

    Smith says that has to change.

    MEGAN SMITH: There is a lot of creativity that American people have.

    And so whether it’s going to come from a school district, a municipal leader, or one of our national players, we need everybody in on this game working on it. It’s a very, very important, fundamental resource for all of our people. And it drives our economy. And it drives our community and our interconnections.

    DAVID NAZAR: With Adams at the wheel, the graduation rate jumped from 70 percent to 80 percent. Now the superintendent has aspirations beyond students getting their homework done. He wants to connect everyone in the East Valley.

    DARRYL ADAMS: Because we found that we had a problem with some of the third-party Internet service provider companies not willing to go into some of the areas where we serve. So, in the long run, we would like to become our own Time Warner or our own Cox Communication and provide this for our students. It’s too crucial for them to have this access for us not to go down this path.

    DAVID NAZAR: Anisa recognizes that technology and the Wi-Fi on Wheels program is playing a vital role in her education.

    ANISA PEREZ: I want to do this for my mom, because my mom didn’t really get to finish school. So that’s what motivates me to actually do — to finish school and complete my work and get the job I want.

    NORMA OLIVAS: I would want her to have a better life than what I have right now. I would want her to do really, really good in school, so she can get all these ideas that she wants, nice restaurants, different things like that. That’s one thing she always wants to do, travel. And that’s what she’s hoping to go for.

    DAVID NAZAR: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m David Nazar in Coachella Valley, California.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Two of our Student Reporting Labs, Etiwanda High School and West Ranch High School, traveled to the Coachella Valley to shoot the video for this story.

    For a behind-the-scenes look at their journey and how the program is training the next generation of public media producers, visit the Web site at studentreportinglabs.com.

    PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Wi-Fi-enabled school buses leave no child offline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 12: (CHINA OUT) A stray cat looks out of a slot at a little animal protection base on February 12, 2007 in Beijing, China. Beijing Little Animal Protection Association, the only government-approved animal protection institute in the city, estimated that Beijing has more than 400,000 stray cats scattered across the city's 2,400 communities. Beijing and neighbouring Hebei Province are establishing more homes for the increasing number of stray and illegal animals. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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    With an estimated 80 million feral cats in communities across the United States, there is growing a controversy on how to deal with them. Euthanizing cats has been the traditional approach, but many animal rights activists believe that approach is cruel and inhumane.

    An alternative approach — called “trap, neuter and return” — involves setting traps for cats, taking them to a clinic to be spayed or neutered, and returning them to the area where they were trapped. Four hundred cities and counties across the country have adopted “TNR” over the past 25 years, and some pet retailers have supported the initiative.

    But a study of one county’s statistics by Dr. Patrick Foley at California State University in Sacramento suggests that the cat population re-produces far too quickly.

    He explained it this way: “Imagine introducing a single pregnant female to an island. She could produce three female kittens plus herself by the end of the year. That means the population will multiply by four in one year. Next year, if the same thing happens, then there’ll be 16. The year after that 64. If you had money in the bank at that kind of rate, you would be delighted. You would, in fact, be owning the world after a very few years. And so would cats.”

    Foley calculates that in order to be successful, 75 percent of the female feral cat population would need to be spayed, which is ten times the number the county is currently able to support.

    In addition, feral cats hunt and prey on other animals. According to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, feral cats kill around 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals each year. Researchers say feral cats continue to hunt wild prey, even if they are well-fed.

    Read the full transcript of this segment below:

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now a story about cats, not the ones living in homes, but stray and feral cats that live outside.

    By some estimates, there are 80 million feral cats in this country. And the question of how to control them is sparking controversy. Animal rights activists, who want to save stray cats, say there is an alternative to euthanizing feral cats, a method they say will control the cat population that’s more humane and effective. But will it work.

    Adithya Sambamurthy from our partner “Reveal” at the Center for Investigative Reporting has the story.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY, Reveal: Americans have long been obsessed with cats in commercials, cartoons and, of course, on the Internet.

    But for every cat in our homes, there’s a stray one on the loose, roaming parking lots, alleyways, fields and backyards. They’re everywhere, and, increasingly, it’s a problem.

    Take Antioch, California, about 40 miles east of San Francisco. The town is home to about 17,000 strays, one cat for every six citizens.

    At the local animal shelter, Monika Helgemo is overwhelmed.

    MONIKA HELGEMO, Animal Shelter: This one’s here obviously is saying, pet me, pet me. This cat here, see the ears go back? That’s a feral cat.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Feral cats like this one are basically wild animals, and so they’re not candidates for adoption.

    MONIKA HELGEMO: We will do what we can and see if we can find a place for her and go live her life. If not, we’re going to end up having to put her to sleep, euthanize her.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Antioch is typical. There are an estimated 80 million stray and feral cats in the U.S. Traditionally, the only way to deal with this overpopulation was to euthanize them. More than a million cats are killed in animal shelters every year. And that’s made some cat lovers so mad, they have gotten organized.

    ACTIVIST: Are you guys ready to save some more cats?


    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: This is a national gathering of feral cat advocates near Washington, D.C.

    It’s hosted by Alley Cat Allies. They run a network of a quarter-million activists that fight for feral cats.

    BECKY ROBINSON, Founder and President, Alley Cat Allies: We changed the community. We brought neighbors together. We changed cat care forever.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Becky Robinson is the founder and president of Alley Cat Allies. She helped pioneer a population control method called trap, neuter, return, or TNR.

    Instead of killing them, it’s about sterilizing cats and letting them live the rest of their lives outdoors.

    BECKY ROBINSON: Trap, neuter, return for feral cats works. And what we mean when we say it works is that it stops the breeding of a cat, so there’s no more litters of kittens.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: In Antioch, Susan Smith shows me how trap, neuter, return is done. She’s supported by Alley Cat Allies, and she’s trying to get the city to embrace TNR.

    SUSAN SMITH, Activist: I’m going to bait the trap with some wet food, and then some tuna, some albacore.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: The cats are spayed or neutered at a local clinic, given rabies shots, and the tips of their ears are removed to show that they have been fixed.

    Then Smith returns them back to the streets where they were trapped. She continues to feed them in what are known as cat colonies. The feeding is key. Without it, she couldn’t attract other cats in the area to trap them and get them fixed.

    TNR is catching on. More than 400 cities and counties have adopted this method over the past 25 years. Even pet products retailers have signed on, creating nonprofits that have donated millions of dollars to TNR groups.

    Bryan Kortis spent the last five years managing TNR grants for PetSmart Charities.

    BRYAN KORTIS, PetSmart Charities: PetSmart Charities, in wanting to end cat overpopulation, has embraced trap, neuter, return as the most effective way to make that happen.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: TNR’s expansion alarms wildlife conservation groups.

    GRANT SIZEMORE, American Bird Conservancy: This is an emerging conservation crisis.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Grant Sizemore directs the invasive species programs at the American Bird Conservancy in Washington, D.C.

    GRANT SIZEMORE: There were zero domestic cats in North America in 1492, which means that we now have well over 100 million invasive predators roaming the landscape, killing wildlife.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Sizemore cites a study from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute that estimates cats kill around 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals every year.

    On Jekyll Island in Southern Georgia, Dr. Sonia Hernandez and her research team are seeing this from the cats’ perspective. They’re putting cameras on cats.

    DR. SONIA HERNANDEZ, University of Georgia: So far, we have been able to collar 31 cats. We know that a majority of them do hunt, despite the fact that they get fed.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: The cat camera footage shows that even well-fed cats in TNR programs hunt anything they can get their paws on. They’re just hard-wired to hunt. And the food used to attract the cats and trap them also draws in other predators that can cause problems. Raccoons, skunks, and possums compete with the cats for food.

    DR. SONIA HERNANDEZ: We want to be very careful that we don’t encourage a lot of wildlife coming together, sharing pathogens, and then potentially bringing that to people.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Back in Antioch, California, public health concerns prompted the city to propose a ban on feeding cats on public property.

    WOMAN: The cats are not the villains in this.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: There was stiff opposition.

    GIRL: They don’t deserve to starve. They deserve to have a right to live.

    MAN: I’m not afraid of a cat urinating on my foot. I’m afraid of the meth heads that go around my building and threaten me.


    DR. JULIE LEVY, Operation Catnip: How are things going over here?

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Dr. Julie Levy is a professor of veterinary medicine and is considered the preeminent feral cat researcher in the country. She runs one of America’s largest trap, neuter, return programs. It’s called Operation Catnip, and it receives support from PetSmart Charities.

    DR. JULIE LEVY: I’m very confident we’re going to see this nationally as a successful model for cat population control.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: In many ways, Operation Catnip is the best-case scenario for trap, neuter, return. It’s well-funded, with a steady stream of volunteers.

    But when a population biologist analyzed Operation Catnip’s numbers, the results came up short.

    DR. PATRICK FOLEY, California State University: Cat populations were not significantly going down. And that’s probably the single take-home lesson here.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Dr. Patrick Foley teaches at California State University in Sacramento. He says there’s no proof TNR reduces large populations of cats. They just reproduce too quickly.

    DR. PATRICK FOLEY: Imagine introducing a single pregnant female cat to an island. She could produce three female kittens, plus herself, by the end of the year. That means the population will multiply by four in one year.

    And, next year, if the same thing happens, then there will be 16, the year after that 64. If you had money in the bank at that kind of rate, you would be delighted. You would, in fact, be owning the world after a very few years. And so would cats.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: According to Foley’s calculations, Operation Catnip would need to spay about 75 percent of the female cats in the county in order to make this work. That’s roughly 10 times more than they’re able to do right now.

    I asked Bryan Kortis why PetSmart Charities is involved with a nationwide campaign, when the research doesn’t show that it works on large cat populations.

    BRYAN KORTIS: I’m totally comfortable with trap, neuter, return moving forward on a much larger scale than it has in the past, even though we don’t have 100 percent scientific proof that’s been peer-reviewed and published that it works on that large of a scale.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: While Kortis remains committed to the trap, neuter and return of feral cats, his employer is reconsidering. Since we recorded this interview with Kortis, PetSmart Charities announced late last year that it was laying off its entire staff.

    In a statement sent to us, a spokesperson said: “The organization is reassessing its programs, including its support of trap, neuter, return, but they will honor all existing grant commitments.”

    Although one of the biggest funders of trap, neuter and return is having second thoughts, the feral cat movement continues to gain political clout. Last month, after a long standoff, Antioch’s cat feeders prevailed. The city council granted Susan Smith and her allies the right to feed as part of an official trap, neuter and return program.

    When it comes to controlling cats, it’s not only about science. It’s about our emotions. And in the court of public opinion, it seems that America will always back the cat.

    For PBS NewsHour, I’m Adithya Sambamurthy in Antioch, California.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And, earlier this week, I was in New York and spoke with Adithya Sambamurthy.

    As your piece points out, there is still some question about the effectiveness of this approach. So, why are companies and charities putting money behind it?

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Well, it’s a good question. And it’s one that I put to PetSmart Charities.

    And the response that I got is that the founders of the company want to end homelessness — cat homelessness. They want to end the euthanasia of cats in shelters. And they believe that this is the best approach.

    When you look at it through strictly a, you know, animal rights, animal welfare perspective, I think there is something to be said for it. The problem is that, at the city level, at county level, when you’re talking about many thousands of cats, the research just doesn’t show that it’s working at that level.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, so let’s talk about the societal impact. How significant of a problem is this in different communities?

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: The study that I reference is the University of Georgia’s cat camera study. And what’s really interesting here is that, even if you feed cats on a daily basis and you spay and neuter them, they are still going to go out and hunt. They’re instinctual predators.

    The University of Georgia shows that cats are not just killing mice and rats. They’re killing frogs, a surprising number of them, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and birds. And so if you have vulnerable species in your community, it’s a problem.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there any way to domesticate a feral cat if you catch them young enough?

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Yes, I did that. We — I have adopted a kitten that was born to a feral mother. And he’s doing really well and he loves humans.

    So he’s definitely tame now. But, for adult feral cats, it’s very rare. And it’s not a policy prescription. We’re not going to adopt our way out of this problem.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You talk a little bit about the law of large numbers here. How do you ever get control of a population that’s multiplying as quickly as these cats are?

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: It’s really difficult.

    And the one thing that I found is that this is a largely volunteer-driven effort. The movement to, you know, sterilize these cats and put them back outside is largely driven by volunteers, who are incredibly hardworking. They have jobs. They have families. And they do this work.

    Unfortunately, as I’m finding, it’s not proving to work at that scale. It’s just a really difficult endeavor.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Adithya Sambamurthy joining us from San Francisco from “Reveal” and the Center for Investigative Reporting, thanks so much.

    ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY: Thank you, Hari.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For more on this story, visit “Reveal,” the investigative public radio show, at RevealNews.org.

    The post Why activists are fighting over feral felines appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Next: a big finding and discovery in space that has astronomers and plenty of other people excited.

    Jeffrey Brown has our conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Nine planets in the solar system, right? That’s what most of us grew up thinking. Well, that ended in 2006, when Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet.

    But now comes news that there might be a ninth planet after all. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology found evidence of a planet with a mass 10 times that of Earth.

    One of the Caltech astronomers, Mike Brown, joins us now. And I will add that he is also known as the chief culprit in lowering Pluto’s status. His memoir is titled “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.”

    So, sort of making amends here I guess, Mike Brown?

    MIKE BROWN, California Institute of Technology: You know, it’s — I don’t think of it that way. I think of it as, this is something I have been working at for 20 years, and Pluto was just collateral damage along the way.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so let’s be as clear as we can about what you have done here. You have not seen this new planet, right? This is something you surmise. Explain to us.

    MIKE BROWN: Yes, that’s absolutely right, and it’s important to know that we — no one has actually seen this planet yet.

    What we have done is felt it, or, more precisely, we have seen its gravitational effect on the most distant things in the solar system. And from those gravitational effects, we can tell that it must be out there. And this is the same way that Neptune, for example, was discovered, by its gravitational effects on Uranus. So, there’s a long history of this sort of astronomy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re seeing gravitational effects on several — I gather, six small bodies out there?

    MIKE BROWN: There is actually quite a big collection.

    There are six that are doing one thing. There are five more that are doing something else. And then there’s another eight doing something. When you put them all together, it’s a pretty big population that are going in directions and moving in ways that they shouldn’t be doing unless there is something organizing the whole pattern.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, this is — I don’t know if this is a silly question, but this is what confused me. If you can see — or can see those bodies, why can you not see the planet, if you know those bodies are there for sure?

    MIKE BROWN: Yes, so that’s a really good question.

    The planet — the effect of the planet can be felt by probably many thousands of bodies that are out there. We have only found the first score of them. But there must be many thousands out there. So it’s a lot easier to look in a random direction in space and see something that has been affected by this planet than to immediately go and find it.

    So, right now, we know the orbital path of the planet through the sky, but we don’t know where in the orbital path it is, so we’re setting out on a grand search to try to find it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so what — if it is a planet, what do — what else you know about it in terms of size, mass, why it’s so far away from the other known planets?

    MIKE BROWN: It’s actually — having not seen it, we actually know quite a good bit about it, or we have inferred quite a good bit about it.

    So we know that it’s about 10 times the mass of the Earth. It has to be that big to have had the gravitational influence over such a long distance that it has. And at 10 times the mass of the Earth, that makes it a little bit smaller than Neptune.

    So, we think it’s probably a miniature Neptune. It’s probably a gas giant like Neptune. It has no solid surface, just a gas surface. And it has this crazy elliptical orbit. It takes 10,000 to 20,000 years to go around the sun. And the closest it ever gets to the sun is about 20 billion miles, which, to put it in context, is — it’s something like five times further than the distance that Pluto is right.

    But on that 10,000-year journey around the sun, it goes out to 100 billion miles, which is about 25 times the distance of Pluto. So, it’s really quite a long ways out there and on quite an extended orbit.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is not, of course, the first time that astronomers have suspected the presence of a phantom planet at the outer edges of the solar system, right? There is reason to be more confident this time?

    MIKE BROWN: Yes, so, actually, the idea that there is another planet out beyond Neptune or beyond Pluto, when Pluto was a planet, has a long and, I would say, fairly sordid history over the past hundred years, really.


    MIKE BROWN: Every time astronomers would see something that they didn’t quite understand in the outer part of the solar system, the immediate thing that everybody jumps to is must be a planet.

    So, you can go back really over the last century and read all these different accounts of why there must be a planet. Every single one of them has turned out to be wrong. Usually, it’s that the data they were looking at were incorrect. Sometimes, they were misinterpreting data. But they have always been wrong.

    So, we’re saying, yes, for 100 years, everybody’s been wrong, but we’re, of course, right.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Of course. I will go with you for now.

    But, also, this made me think about, and for the layman, how this kind of science is done. Right? This is always a mix of theory and observing, that they both work hand in hand?

    MIKE BROWN: Yes, this has actually been — that mix is personified in the two of us have been working on this problem.

    So, it’s me. I’m primarily an observational astronomer. I look at the sky and try to figure out what’s going on. My colleague, who I think did the heavy lifting here, is Konstantin Batygin. He is a theorist. He understands the gravitational dynamics in gory detail.

    And he and I are four doors down from each other at Caltech. And we would be running back and forth across the hallways for the past two years, really. I would bring in some more observational constraints. He would think about it, put it in the computer, write the equations. We would talk to each other. We would argue.

    It’s — these two different viewpoints, I think, were critical to really making this realization that there has to be this planet out there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so what happens next? How will scientists verify its existence? Do you ultimately have to see it?

    MIKE BROWN: You have to see it.

    Right now, any good scientist is going to be skeptical, because it’s a pretty big claim. And without the final evidence that it’s real, there is always that chance that it’s not. So, everybody should be skeptical. But I think it’s time to mount this search.

    I mean, we like to think of it as, we have provided the treasure map of where this ninth planet is, and we have done the starting gun, and now it’s a race to actually point your telescope at the right spot in the sky and make that discovery of planet nine.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Mike Brown of Caltech, thanks so much, and good luck.

    MIKE BROWN: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

    The post We can’t see this possible 9th planet, but we feel its presence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Ten days to go.

    Yes, the Iowa caucuses are right around the corner. And while the candidates are sharpening their closing arguments, some political figures and thinkers are trying to make their voices heard before it’s too late.

    Enter Sarah Palin, who threw her support behind Donald Trump earlier this week. And just last night, the conservative magazine National Review weighed in — with an unflinching takedown of Trump. For David Brooks, it’s another sign that the primary fight between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz is exposing fault lines within the Republican party.

    And on the Democratic side: could the charisma of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign messaging turn that primary race in his favor? Ruth Marcus says that, like Barack Obama in 2008, “Sanders has turned his campaign into quite a movement.”

    It’s Friday, so no matter the weather, you’re just a click away from the always sharp political analysis of New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.

    Read the full transcript of this segment below:

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. Judy spoke with them earlier today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away.

    And welcome to you both.

    So, as we just heard, a new front has opened up in this battle inside the Republican Party.

    David, you have this iconic magazine of the conservative movement, “The National Review,” going after Donald Trump, saying he’s a menace to conservatism. He’s coming back. Where is this headed?

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, the split is interesting.

    It’s sort of between people who are more ideologically- or philosophically-minded and those who are more rogue- and chaos-minded. And so the rogue side is Sarah Palin going with Trump. The people who are more ideologically conservative, whether it’s “National Review” or the Wall Street Journal editorial page, are suspicious of Trump because he’s ideologically all over the place.

    And so it’s sort of breaking down on that line, a little elite, populists, so the talk show folks are a little more — a lot more pro-Trump than the print folks. And so that’s the breakdown.

    I happen to think that, in voters’ minds, that the last four years have made Republicans less conservative. The economic stress and the economic crisis have made them think, I want somebody on my side. And they are a little more willing to tolerate government than they were, say, 10 years ago. And so I think — and they’re willing to tolerate a little more chaos than they were 10 years ago.

    So, I think, if it’s ideology vs. chaos, I think chaos probably wins.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is good news for Donald Trump, if that is the way it works.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this?

    RUTH MARCUS, The Washington Post: Well, I think breakdown might be the operative word.

    And there is also this division really between various pieces of the Republican establishment. The conservative Republican establishment, as exemplified by “National Review,” is freaking out, I think, is the technical term, about the Trump menace, and that’s the word that “National Review” used, menace.

    The Washington establishment and the party establishment is freaking out about Cruz, because they see, strangely, Trump as — some of them do — we heard from Bob Dole this week — Trump as more electable than Cruz. They do not want to have no shot at a third term in the White — they don’t want to have a third Democratic term in the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, so, but where does it go?

    David, you’re saying that Republicans are less tolerant or less warm to the idea of conservatism. They’re willing to tolerate some chaos. But does that mean — does that automatically mean that Trump prevails over these other establishment candidates?

    DAVID BROOKS: Not automatically.

    I’m still hoping the establishment will get off their rear ends and actually do something and act like an establishment and rally behind one candidate. But you have to say right now, given all the things that have happened this weekend — and, remember, a lot can still happen between now and the caucuses. The final week is like 70 percent of the campaign.

    You could see massive swings. And so you’re looking for magic. Who has magic right now? And given all the things that have happened, I don’t think Bob Dole gives Trump a lot of magic, but Sarah Palin gives him a little. And to me…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You do think so?

    DAVID BROOKS: … the vibe feels a little like, if there is any magic there, Trump has a little of that magic, and Cruz, even in the polls, is falling slightly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see the Sarah Palin endorsement?

    RUTH MARCUS: So, as a general matter, endorsements don’t matter very much.

    But this one, from that low baseline, matters a little more than most. First of all, once again, Donald Trump managed to take attention away from everybody else, including Ted Cruz, who needs the attention more, put it on him, Donald Trump.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For several days.

    RUTH MARCUS: For several days, and also Sarah Palin.

    Also, to the extent that endorsements matter, they matter because they’re validators of something that voters may still have a question about. With Donald Trump — and this is the argument Ted Cruz has been making — the question is, is he a real conservative, can you really trust him to be a conservative, not the guy with New York values?

    With Sarah Palin, who may not be convincing to Republicans inside the Beltway, she can speak pretty convincingly to voters in Iowa who, remember, were for Rick Santorum four years ago.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But she also — David, there are some voters who say they absolutely don’t trust her and don’t care what she thinks.

    DAVID BROOKS: And this is why we shouldn’t hand Trump the nomination. There is a ceiling there. There is a real ceiling there, especially as we get into the more diverse states.

    And so I think, once you get an establishment candidate, a moderate candidate, what we now call moderate, Trump is still very — extremely vulnerable as we get there. If you look at — if you try to break down the party into lanes, which may not be valid anymore, but there’s still 40, 50 percent who are either moderate, have some mixture of conservative and liberal positions, who are just party regulars, not particularly ideological.

    And those people, that’s why Romney has won. That’s why McCain has won. That’s why Dole has won nominations. That’s why W. ran with compassionate conservatism. They’re still there. They haven’t disappeared. The party is radicalized, clearly, but Trump and Cruz are both still vulnerable if there’s a single alternative.



    JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

    RUTH MARCUS: David said “once you get,” and I think that’s the operative term, because how in this time with super PACs and so many candidates still running in that — for that moderate establishment, maybe not moderate, but certainly establishment mantle, how does that sort itself out?

    That’s going to be difficult to do. There is some — a degree of — that can’t be denied of anti-Trump animus even with the Republican Party. I have heard it. I was with a bunch of voters at a Ted Cruz event in New Hampshire earlier this week, and I was surprised at the number of them who were not shopping between Cruz and Trump. Trump was totally off their list.

    DAVID BROOKS: One of the other thing is the ads they’re running against each other.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I was going to ask you about it.

    DAVID BROOKS: And so I think the Trump ads, they — I mean, personally, I find them extremely noxious. They’re extremely anti-immigrant. And they attack Cruz on two grounds, first, that he’s insufficiently anti-immigrant, and, second, that he’s kind of squirrelly and there are some images of him talking to FOX News looking a little squirrelly, and that he’s opportunistic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Squirrelly, meaning?

    DAVID BROOKS: That he flip-flops, which he sort of did on the immigration issue. He took about a week when the immigration reform was passing to try to find the right position for himself.

    And so that’s the inauthenticity and opportunism, where he’s weak. Cruz is hitting back with an ad charging Trump with being a ruthless businessman. I don’t think that is an effective attack line. Donald Trump, people sort of like that. And so, if you just look at the two, the way they’re ramping up their campaigns right now, again, Trump has a little advantage in the ad wars, I would say.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we haven’t talked much about ads in this campaign, Ruth.

    So, in the last hours before people vote, are these going to make any difference?

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, there have not been really kind of breakout ads that have galvanized attention in this campaign more than in previous ones.

    But there was an interesting one that was just released last night from the Bernie Sanders campaign, with which had this very morning in America, if you don’t mind my using that phrase…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: From Ronald Reagan.

    RUTH MARCUS: … with regard to Bernie Sanders, tone to it. It had zero message. From the guy who has a very crisp and explicit message, it’s just Simon and Garfunkel America song with pictures of Bernie Sanders and rapturous voters.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Could something like that work? Because we’re seeing a much tougher race, not as tough as what the Republicans are engaging in, but we’re seeing a much tougher race now between Clinton and Sanders.

    RUTH MARCUS: I watched it a few times. I have to say, it made me smile. And it made me also kind of have flashbacks to Barack Obama 2008.

    And I think Hillary Clinton may be having some flashbacks now as well, because, as with Barack Obama, Sanders has turned his campaign into quite a movement. You see it with the voters in New Hampshire. And you see it with the polls in New Hampshire.

    And it’s not that he has — he can afford to run that ad, because it’s not as if he lacks a message. Voters know clearly what his message is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But he also went after her, David, in that debate on Sunday night on several things, including the speaking fees she collected from Wall Street, from the big financial firms. Is that something that gains traction for him?

    DAVID BROOKS: Among his voters who think Wall Street is the epicenter of evil, I think it is.

    They also had an interesting debate about health care reform. And that was her making an incremental argument, we have got to make our changes gradually, and him making a radical argument. And so it was interesting. That was a substantive, real argument about how you change any system.

    And, again, I’m going to go back to the magic — or maybe a better word is charisma. Some campaigns have charisma at certain moments, and some campaigns are flat in certain moments. Right now, in part, like that ad, Sanders has a little more charisma to her — his campaign, Clinton a little lacking in charisma. And that’s sort of important, because people just gravitate in final days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even though he’s talking — essentially, the argument is whether you just wipe away to what we have done and you go to a single-payer health care system, which most Americans say they don’t want, right, or…

    RUTH MARCUS: Well, it really is this argument about practicality.

    And one of the things that’s interesting is there is actually a parallel argument going on in the Republican and Democratic campaigns. So, Hillary Clinton says, I’m the pragmatist, I’m a progressive, but I’m a pragmatic one. I know how to get results. What he’s saying, maybe it’s a great idea in theory, but he will never be able to put it in practice.

    Oddly enough, Donald Trump is making that same argument against Ted Cruz. He is saying, Ted Cruz, it can’t — well, first of all, he’s a little squirrelly and maybe he’s not really a conservative, and look at this squirrelly answer on immigration, but, also, Ted Cruz can’t get anything done in Washington because he doesn’t know how to get along with anybody, and he’s too extreme.

    And so there is that sort of practicality argument that is emerging on both sides.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It is interesting, because you see Bill Clinton out there, David, making some of these same arguments.

    And, Ruth, you saw him on the trail this week.

    RUTH MARCUS: I was with him. I was having a little flashback down memory lane. Bill Clinton talked about stopping off at the Dunkin’ Donuts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does he have the same — does he bring the same weight, gravitas to this campaign that he did in the past, do you think?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. He’s still good. He’s still a master at arguing, master at making the case.

    And there’s a lot of residual good will toward him. What’s striking to me is how, even he ran as a — and really governed as a moderate, he still has personal good will.

    The other thing that’s going on is — and I think this is also helping Sanders in New Hampshire — and, again, I wouldn’t bet on him to win the nomination — but helping him, Sanders, a little residual resentment among Democratic primary voters about Obama, and his being more centrist than they would like, especially in the first, say, six years.

    And so they’re a little more suspicious of moderation and are more willing to take a flyer on a guy who may not be that pragmatic.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see that?

    RUTH MARCUS: I actually felt a lot of Obama love still there in New Hampshire among the voters that I talked to.

    But I think Bill Clinton, especially among Democratic primary voters and especially in New Hampshire, which was a state that has showered both Clintons with love and success — well, you know, he didn’t win the New Hampshire primary, but he came in second — is a valuable tool.

    I think the really important question for us all to be thinking about going forward is, what if? What if what once seemed unimaginable happens, Bernie Sanders wins both Iowa and New Hampshire?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. Right.

    RUTH MARCUS: The Clinton campaign argument is the demographic fire wall of minority voters in South Carolina and beyond. The Sanders campaign argument is the kind of magic that David’s been talking about and whether people will be — whether that demographic firewall is as strong as the Clinton campaign thinks it is.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Less than 30 seconds. I was going to ask you about foreign policy, the Iran story, prisoner swap. We won’t have time for that, but it is striking that, just a month ago, we were talking about ISIS, the terrorist threat, and that seems to be off the page.

    DAVID BROOKS: It will be back. You never escape it. And I think the Middle East is more destabilized now than in our lifetimes. It will be back when some incident happens.

    RUTH MARCUS: It will be back. And it’s still very much a front-and-center part of the discourse in the Republican primary election.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Voters are bringing it up.

    RUTH MARCUS: Voters are bringing it up and candidates are bringing it up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ruth Marcus, David Brooks, thank you both. And good luck in the storm this weekend.

    RUTH MARCUS: Thank you.

    DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.

    RUTH MARCUS: Same to you.

    The post Brooks and Marcus on GOP backlash to Trump and Cruz, Clinton-Sanders practicality debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada January 21, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker - RTX23GJU

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Turning to the race for the White House, it’s crunch time for the candidates on the campaign trail, with only 10 days remaining until caucus-goers gather to make their choices in Iowa.

    The front-runners are using tried-and-true tactics to turn votes in their favor.

    Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Voting day gets closer, and, what do you know, the race suddenly gets sharper. In each party, the two front-runners, previously friendly, are going on the attack.

    For Republicans, the Ted Cruz-Donald Trump detente has exploded into shots fired.

    DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate: Cruz is going down. He is going down. No, he’s having a hard time. He looks like a nervous wreck.

    SEN. TED CRUZ, Republican Presidential Candidate: Donald has been an active supporter. He gave $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And in the last day, the candidates have each launched new ads, each arguing the other is not a real conservative.

    Trump’s play, immigration. His ad raises Cruz’s past support of some legal status for the undocumented.

    SEN. TED CRUZ: I want immigration reform to pass, and that allows those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Cruz’s ad plays a different card, pointing to Trump’s defense of eminent domain. That’s the taking of private land for development or roads.

    NARRATOR: It made him rich, like when Trump colluded with Atlantic City insiders to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Their fight for the nomination is now suddenly a fight for the soul of the Republican Party. This week, Bob Dole, former Senate Republican leader and presidential nominee, blasted Cruz, saying he would mean cataclysmic and wholesale losses for the party.

    Cruz has said that’s a sign that Washington is scared of him. Other conservatives see Trump as more alarming. “National Review” magazine, a conservative icon, etched its cover with the words “Against Trump,” inside, sharper words still. Editors wrote that “Trump is a political opportunist, that he knows approximately as much about national security as he does about the nuclear triad, which is to say almost nothing.”

    They also wrote that “Trump has shown no interest in conservative issues, limiting government, reforming entitlements or the Constitution.”

    Trump, for his part, was equally stinging, tweeting back that “The National Review” is a failing publication that has lost its way.

    Meantime, with the Democratic race suddenly tighter, Hillary Clinton is pushing her national security credentials in a new ad, and she’s going after Bernie Sanders’ for wanting government-run health care after Obamacare.

    HILLARY CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: I don’t want to rip up this accomplishment and begin this contentious debate all over again. That’s where I disagree with my esteemed opponent, Senator Sanders.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Sanders is getting attention for this more thematic, ad. It portrays a movement of regular working Americans. The images have been criticized for a lack of diversity, in a race where Sanders trails with African-Americans.

    On the trail, the Vermont senator is stepping up his criticism, this morning pointing to Social Security. He’d like to raise taxes on the wealthy to expand it. It is closing argument time, 10 days until Iowa, tight races on both sides. That also means time for closing punches.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.

    The post In both parties, 2016 front-runners go on the attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Snowplow trucks work on the roads as the snow begins to fall in Washington January 22, 2016. The leading edge of a monster snowstorm arrived on Friday afternoon in Washington, D.C., threatening to dump as many as 30 inches (76 cm) of powder on parts of the Middle Atlantic region and bring record accumulations to the U.S. capital. After days of planning by emergency officials and a scramble by residents to stock up on supplies, the blizzard got underway in the nation's capital at about 1 p.m.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  - RTX23LSX

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: A blizzard is bearing down tonight on Washington, D.C., and states to the north and south. The snow moved in this afternoon, shutting down schools, government and transportation, and canceling thousands of flights, forecasters warning that, by this time tomorrow, they will be measuring in feet, instead of inches.

    With store shelves nearly empty, and road crews gearing up, millions across the Eastern U.S. waited for the worst. Forecasters are predicting one of the biggest storms ever in the Mid-Atlantic especially, with up to three inches of snow an hour. As the wall of weather closed in, blizzard warnings or watches went up from Arkansas and Tennessee, through Washington and as far north as New York.

    About six inches of snow fell overnight in the Little Rock, Arkansas, area, breaking a record set more than 20 years ago. It shut down schools and state government offices. And, in North Carolina, the snow started falling before sunrise, triggering a number of fatal wrecks.

    GOV. PAT MCCRORY, North Carolina: Where I’m seeing the accidents is where it looks like it’s a safe road, and people are speeding, and because they assume it’s safe, because they don’t see snow on the roads. And that’s our greatest concern right now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: North Carolina declared a state of emergency, along with Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. So did the nation’s capital, sitting squarely in the blizzard’s bullseye, with estimates that more than two feet of snow will fall.

    MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER, Washington, D.C.: I want to be very clear with everybody. We see this as a major storm. It has life and death implications, and all the residents of the district of Columbia should treat it that way. We have a forecast that I don’t think we have had in 90 years.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In a bid to beat the storm, the federal government closed all its Washington offices at noon. And for the first time, the city’s entire subway system planned to close for the weekend.

    Meanwhile, all the major airlines issued waivers for the weekend, allowing passengers to rebook and avoid the storms. The snow and high winds are expected to continue into Sunday, amid warnings of more than a billion dollars in damage. So far, at least five people have died in storm-related accidents.

    In the day’s other news, bad weather off the Greek islands caused one of the worst migrant tragedies yet. At least 46 people, including 17 children, drowned when two wooden boats capsized as they tried to cross from Turkey. So far, dangerous winter weather conditions have not stopped the surge of people trying to reach Europe by boat. But the rising fatalities make this the deadliest January on record.

    The prime minister of Iraq now says criminal gangs may have abducted three Americans in Baghdad for ransom. But he also says it is not yet clear they were kidnapped at all. The three disappeared in Baghdad last Saturday.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi spoke in Davos, Switzerland, today, where he’s attending the World Economic Forum.

    HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister, Iraq: I have to rely on the information I have. A, we don’t know if they have been kidnapped. They’re missing. We’re still looking for them. There were not demands so far. I don’t believe there is any political thing out of this, because what political gain would anybody get from that?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Other Iraqi officials and some Western security sources have said two Shiite militias are the top suspects in the abductions.

    North Korea announced today it has detained an American college student. He is identified as 21-year-old Otto Frederick Warmbier from the University of Virginia. He had been in the country on a five-day tour. North Korean state TV made the announcement. It said Warmbier is accused of committing unspecified — quote — “hostile acts” and allegedly plotting to destroy the country’s unity.

    The U.S. State Department said it is looking into the report.

    In Somalia, at least 20 people died overnight when Islamist gunmen attacked a popular beachside restaurant. It happened in Mogadishu, and the Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility. The attackers set off bombs and then opened fire on diners, triggering an hours-long gun battle with security forces. It wasn’t clear how many gunmen were among the dead.

    Tunisia’s government imposed a nationwide curfew today in a bid to halt violent demonstrations over youth unemployment. Tensions flared this week after a young job seeker was electrocuted when he climbed a transmission tower in protest. Unemployment in the North African nation has worsened since the 2011 revolution that launched the Arab Spring.

    And back in this country, Wall Street rallied as oil pushed back above $32 dollars a barrel. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 210 points to close above 16090. The Nasdaq rose nearly 120 points, and the S&P 500 added 38. Overall, the market scored its first weekly gains of the year.

    The post News Wrap: South, Mid-Atlantic declare states of emergency for coming blizzard appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    La Loche Community School is seen in an undated photo. Four people were killed in a school shooting in a remote part of Saskatchewan Friday. Photo by Raymond Dauvin/Handout via Reuters

    La Loche Community School is seen in an undated photo. Four people were killed in a school shooting in a remote part of Saskatchewan Friday. Photo by Raymond Dauvin/Handout via Reuters

    Four people were killed Friday in a school shooting in a remote part of Saskatchewan, Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

    A male suspect was was arrested outside the La Loche Community School in Northern Saskatchewan, and taken into custody. “There’s no risk to public safety at this time,” Chief Superintendent Maureen Levy of the Saskatchewan RCMP, said Friday.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a brief statement from Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the annual World Economic Forum. “Obviously this is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Trudeau said. “The community is reeling and all of us across this country, [our] hearts are going out to the families and to the whole community.”

    According to its Facebook page, the school serves pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, with approximately 900 students.

    There is no word on possible motivation.

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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders talks about minimum wage increases during a campaign town hall meeting in Bedford, New Hampshire January 22, 2016.  REUTERS/Katherine Taylor - RTX23M7E

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders talks about minimum wage increases during a campaign town hall meeting in Bedford, New Hampshire Jan. 22, 2016. Photo by Katherine Taylor/Reuters

    DES MOINES, Iowa — Bernie Sanders is attracting Americans who are in search of more than a protest vote.

    Yes, Sanders’ backers say, they’re frustrated with a system they believe is rigged for the wealthy. But many say their support for the Vermont senator in the Democratic presidential race is also driven by real hope in his promise of a political revolution and a belief that his ideas are bold enough to bring economic security to the middle class.

    “I just like a gutsy guy that doesn’t have his hair combed perfect and all that,” Emmett Lahr, a 75-year-old from Glidden, Iowa, said of the rumpled Sanders.

    But it’s more than that. Lahr had planned to vote for Hillary Clinton, but says he’s now “90 percent switched” to Sanders, largely because of what Sanders wants to do for the economy.

    Interviews with more than two dozen Sanders supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire reveal deep antipathy toward Clinton. The longtime front-runner for the presidential nomination is seen by Sanders’ backers as part of the system they want to overhaul. While most Sanders’ supporters seem to view President Barack Obama favorably, some regret that Obama hasn’t been able to achieve more domestic policy goals of the left.

    Sanders’ growing legion of supporters has him positioned for possible victories in the Iowa caucuses Feb. 1 and New Hampshire’s primary Feb. 9. The solid underpinnings of Sanders’ support also make it more difficult for Clinton to cast him simply as unelectable and impractical.

    “I look at Bernie’s opponents and I say, you know, these guys are in it for themselves,” said Robert Digrazia, 72, of Hollis, New Hampshire. “My sense is that Bernie is on my side.”

    For months, Sanders was seen as a formidable liberal foil for Clinton and a Democratic equivalent of Donald Trump – anti-establishment figures with populist appeal and the ability to draw massive crowds. It’s only in recent weeks that polls suggest Sanders has become a threat to defeat Clinton in both of the early states. His campaign believes twin victories would give him an opening to push forward for the nomination.

    “It’s just a question of trying to get momentum,” said Tad Devine, a Sanders adviser.

    Sanders and Trump share outsider appeal as well as overlapping views on trade and foreign policy.

    Steve Stanley, a 63-year-old “union guy” from Earlham, Iowa, said that between Sanders and Trump “you’ve got an alternative” to the politics-as-usual candidates.

    Still, there’s noticeably less anger at Sanders events than among people at Trump rallies, and nearly all of those interviewed were familiar with the outlines of Sanders’ policy proposals.

    “It’s his consistent record that I really like,” said Hunter Hansen, a 22-year-old recent college graduate from Fort Dodge, Iowa. “And the fact that he’s not bought by big lobbyists, big corporate interests. His opinion isn’t bought.”

    Sanders is a fierce opponent of super political action committee, which can collect unlimited donations. He mentions at every campaign event that his average campaign contribution is $27. He also has become increasingly critical of the high-dollar speaking fees Clinton received from the same Wall Street firms that Sanders wants to break up.

    As the race has tightened, Clinton has vigorously attacked Sanders, accusing him of flip-flopping on guns, being a foreign policy lightweight, and calling for plans that are unrealistic. She specifically has challenged his call for free tuition at public colleges and universities and for a taxpayer-financed health care system.

    Among some undecided Democrats, the feasibility of Sanders’ proposals is a concern.

    “Even some of the Democrats won’t want to go along with some of his stuff, so I wonder how much he can do,” said Chris Short, 35, who attended a Sanders gathering this past week in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

    But those backing Sanders or leaning his way give the senator credit for thinking big and being willing to upend a system they no longer believe is working for the middle class.

    “Bernie’s got the gumption and the persistence to win and be a good president,” said Dick Champagne, 74, an independent New Hampshire voter who is backing Sanders and volunteering for his campaign after first favoring Trump.

    Most of Sanders’ supporters who were interviewed backed Obama and remain generally supportive of the president. But there’s frustration over the Asia-Pacific trade deal and the president’s years of dawdling over the Keystone XL oil pipeline. There also is concern that while Wall Street banks have only gotten bigger after the 2008 financial crisis, the economic recovery doesn’t always feel real for the middle class.

    “We definitely want the country to be turned around,” said Lahr, who voted for Obama twice.

    When it comes to Clinton, Sanders’ backers views range from indifferent to disdainful.

    “I have no basis for this, but I don’t like her,” said Carolyn Ferry, a nurse from Eagle Grove, Iowa, who plans to caucus for Sanders. She said she would be willing to accept Clinton as his running mate.

    With about a week until the caucuses, Sanders’ biggest challenge will be channeling momentum into results. His campaign has 14,000 volunteers operating in the state and expects 50,000 Iowans to have attended a Sanders event by Feb. 1.

    But Sanders’ team is aware that his good month in Iowa raises the stakes for a strong finish.

    “I think we have to do very well in Iowa,” Devine said. “I don’t think we can afford a huge loss there.”

    This report was written by Julie Pace of the Associated Press.

    Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Winterset, Iowa, and Sergio Bustos in Nashua, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.

    The post Sanders attracting diverse set of voters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada January 21, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker - RTX23GJT

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada January 21, 2016. Photo by David Becker/Reuters

    DES MOINES, Iowa — Donald Trump and some mainstream Republicans are engaged in a long-distance flirtation. Both sides are coming to the realization that they’ll need each other if the billionaire businessman becomes the party’s presidential nominee.

    The GOP establishment is no fonder of Trump than when he first roiled the campaign last summer with his controversial comments about immigrants and women. But with voting beginning in just over a week, his durability atop preference polls has pushed some donors, strategists and party elders to grudgingly accept the prospect of his winning the nomination.

    “We’d better stop hoping for something else and accept the possibility that he’s our nominee and be prepared to rally around him if that’s the case,” said Fred Malek, a top Republican presidential fundraiser.

    Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee who represented Kansas in the House and Senate for decades, said of Trump: “He’s got this personality where I do believe he could work with Congress.”

    Trump, too, has started to suggest that he’d look for ways to work with Republican leaders if he wins.

    “I’m a dealmaker who will get things done,” he said Thursday during an event in Las Vegas. “There’s a point at which – let’s get to be a little establishment. We got to get things done, folks, OK?”

    However, the establishment’s growing acceptance of Trump’s electoral prospects so far hasn’t manifested itself in tangible support for his campaign. The real estate mogul has not been endorsed by any congressional lawmakers or governors, nor are there any indications of a big wave of major donors planning to get involved with his campaign, despite Trump’s assertion that he’s received “so many calls” from wealthy and influential Republicans.

    If anything, the most visible signs of support for Trump’s campaign in recent days have come from those who see themselves as outside the Republican establishment. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and a favorite of the tea party insurgency, announced her support for him on Tuesday. Amy Kremer, the former chairman of the Tea Party Express organization, announced plans this week to launch a super PAC backing Trump’s candidacy.

    “The one thing I know for sure is that he absolutely is 100 percent pro-American and he loves this country and wants to restore it to greatness,” Kremer said of Trump. “At this point, I really believe he is the only one with the ability to do that.”

    Much of the mainstream Republican reckoning with Trump is rooted in deep disdain for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the businessman’s closest rival. Cruz is seen as more likely to try to upend the web of lobbyists, donors and other powerbrokers who have long wielded enormous influence in the Republican Party.

    Liz Mair, a communications operative who is running one of the GOP’s few anti-Trump efforts, said donors affiliated with other candidates would rather let Trump beat Cruz in the early voting states than let their least-favorite senator gain momentum.

    “They’d rather that he kills Cruz by winning in Iowa and New Hampshire and then try to take him down,” Mair said.

    Even as he’s taken up the anti-establishment mantle, Trump has made some quiet overtures to GOP powerbrokers. He met with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson last year and has also reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, though he hasn’t spoken directly with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

    There are still big swaths of establishment-minded Republican voters and officials who staunchly oppose Trump’s candidacy and believe both he and Cruz are unelectable in November. They say there’s still plenty of time for a more mainstream candidate to mount a serious challenge.

    Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are all seeking to beat expectations in Iowa, then be a top finisher in New Hampshire. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is also in the mix in New Hampshire.

    Having already been endorsed by four senators, Rubio’s campaign says it’s preparing to unveil a series of endorsements from high-profile elected officials in the coming weeks, part of an effort to push more mainstream Republicans to coalesce behind his candidacy.

    “They’re not lining up behind Donald Trump,” Rubio said Friday on Fox News when asked about Trump’s establishment support. “They’re just telling people their opinion about Ted Cruz.”

    Still, John Catsimatidis, a major Republican and Democratic donor, said it’s time for the GOP to accept that when it comes to Trump’s strength, “the facts are the facts.” After donating to several campaigns, including Bush’s and a super PAC supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker before he dropped out of the race in the fall, Catsimatidis says he’s now talking up Trump, a longtime friend, in conversations with other big money donors.

    “He showed his toughness and we need somebody tough,” he said.

    Trump himself has been a fixture of the New York donor class for decades and already has deep relationships with many establishment players. He often talks about how he’s been in politics all his life and has been seen as the “fair-haired boy” showering contributions on both Republicans and Democrats.

    This report was written by Jill Colvin, Julie Pace and Steve Peoples of the Associated Press.

    Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post GOP establishment edging toward Trump acceptance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    INSTRUCTOR: See that man? See that man? He’s threatening people with a knife!

    CHRIS BURY: In Philadelphia, this new police recruit is getting a taste of confronting a suspect that he may have to shoot. This training–in full protective gear–is known as a reality-based scenario.

    RECRUIT: Sir, drop the knife!

    CHRIS BURY: This is a lesson in defusing high-tension encounters….before they turn deadly. In Philadelphia, every officer gets 40 hours of this reality training to learn tactics other than lethal force…even when suspects are armed and dangerous.

    SGT. KENNETH GILL: Is he threatening anybody right now?

    RECRUIT: No.

    SGT. KENNETH GILL: Is he killing anybody right now?

    RECRUIT: No.

    SGT. KENNETH GILL: So, do we have to turn around and jump right in there and take care of it ourselves?

    RECRUIT: No.

    CHRIS BURY: Sergeant Kenneth Gill–a police academy instructor–says the training is designed to teach police officers how to de-escalate emotionally charged confrontations.

    SGT. KENNETH GILL: Slow down the momentum. Don’t always just rush into something. You know, you want to be able to look at your surroundings. What else can i do, except for jump in?

    CHRIS BURY: With so many questionable police shootings caught on camera during the past two years, how police are trained is coming under greater scrutiny, along with calls for reform.

    Studies by The Washington Post and The Guardian found police in this country shot and killed about a-thousand people last year — almost three people a day.

    The post found 987 cases, and the guardian, 1,014. The country’s 18,000 police departments, on average, train officers for only a total of 15 weeks before rookies hit the streets.

    Maria Haberfeld, a professor of police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in New York, blames poor police training–not rogue cops– for many questionable cases of lethal force.

    MARIA HABERFELD: There are police officers who do not belong on the job, who are trigger happy. But this is not the overwhelming majority. To the contrary, this is a fraction of a fraction. But the overwhelming majority are poorly trained.

    CHRIS BURY: For police officers across the country, guidelines about deadly force are based on Supreme Court rulings that justify it when officers feel that they or others are in imminent danger.

    But there are no national standards. And in the wake of so many notorious police shootings, some departments including the one here in Columbus are reinforcing the idea that deadly force should be a matter last resort.

    CHIEF KIM JACOBS: So, he has a knife…

    CHRIS BURY: At the police academy here, veterans and rookies alike are studying videos of police involved shootings.

    CHIEF KIM JACOBS: What else could have been done? Could this life have been saved? How would you do it yourself? Is there a better way?

    CHRIS BURY: Police chief Kim Jacobs–a 36 year veteran of the Columbus police department–became chief in 2012. After the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri police shooting of Michael Brown, who was unarmed, Jacobs ordered new lethal force training in Columbus. Community meetings had convinced her that a change was needed.

    CHIEF KIM JACOBS: Why do people fear us? And I heard that in our community meetings. People fear the police. That’s absurd to me. Because we’re the good people. And yet, people are afraid of how we’re going to react.

    CHRIS BURY: And that is understandable, Chief Jacobs says, when people see videos like this 2014 recording of a police dashboard camera in South Carolina.

    The incident began when state trooper Sean Grubert pulled over driver Levar Jones for not wearing a seat belt. Grubert asked Jones for his driver’s license.

    TROOPER SEAN GRUBERT: Can I see your license, please? Get out of the car! Get out of the car!

    When Jones reached inside his car, Grubert opened fire.

    CHRIS BURY: Did that seem like a threat to you?

    CHIEF KIM JACOBS: I have no reason to think that there was a threat at that point in time. When I think about when I would justify myself pulling the trigger, I want to be certain that I am in imminent danger, and there’s some way that that could happen.

    CHRIS BURY:Jones survived. Grubert was fired and charged with aggravated assault.

    Chief Kim Jacobs: What could the cop do differently?

    CHRIS BURY:In Columbus, such videos are case studies in how not to handle potentially combustible moments. Chief Jacobs says a rush to use of lethal force is a common mistake, and one that contributed to one of Ohio’s most infamous police shooting — the death of 12-year old Tamir rice in Cleveland in 2014.

    Rice had been holding a toy gun in a park when police responding to a 9-1-1 call…drove within a few feet of rice and seconds later opened fire.

    CHRIS BURY: What alternative did those officers have? What could they have done better?

    CHIEF KIM JACOBS: Not gotten that close. They could either get out on foot and approached him and given him orders ‘let me see your hands’ all that kind of thing, they could have tried to find out either via intercom or something else what this person’s intentions were.

    CHRIS BURY: In Philadelphia, a spike in police shootings three years ago led then-police commissioner Charles Ramsey–who retired earlier this month–to ask the US Justice Department for help.

    FORMER COMMISSIONER CHARLES RAMSEY: I wanted to take a look at our training. I wanted to look at our policy to make sure we’re doing everything we can to minimize the number of times that an officer would actually have to resort to the use of deadly force.

    RECRUIT: Turn around slowly! Keep both hands up!

    CHRIS BURY: The Justice Department offered more than 90 recommendations, including increased reality-based training, which emphasizes strategies that give police more time and distance from suspects in high risk encounters.

    SGT. KENNETH GILL: You have to call for backup right away.

    CHRIS BURY: Such tactics include calling for back-up, finding cover or moving away from a dangerous suspect, engaging the suspect in conversation.

    SGT. KENNETH GILL: Slow the momentum. Slow it down.

    CHRIS BURY: Since adopting the recommendations, the Philadelphia Police Department’s fatal shootings are down. In 2013, police shot and killed 11 people. That fell to four in 2014, and only two last year.

    FORMER COMMISSIONER CHARLES RAMSEY: We have to train to make sure that our officers only use the force necessary under the most extreme circumstances, that being deadly force. Period. Doesn’t matter who the offender is.

    CHRIS BURY: But training in deadly force tactics is strictly up to individual police departments. Maria Haberfeld argues that needs to change.

    MARIA HABERFELD: To me, it’s mandatory to identify minimal standards for each and every police department in the country with regards to use of force.

    And not just the length of training, but also the content. Because it’s one thing to train police officers how to use a gun, but it’s another to train police officers what kind of factors go into using deadly force.

    CHRIS BURY: Haberfeld and other criminologists say police departments also need to incorporate more training on race. In Columbus, black people make up 28 percent of the city’s population but only 12 percent of the police force.

    Sergeant James Fuqua says having more officers who reflect the neighborhoods they patrol could help reduce misperceptions and violent exchanges.

    SGT. JAMES FUQUA: Sgt. James Fuqua: I’m not calling anybody a racist or it’s racially motivated. I just think sometimes there’s a misunderstanding with cultural differences.

    CHRIS BURY: Did you get hassled because you were a young black man?

    SGT. JAMES FUQUA: Absolutely– absolutely, just because of the color of my skin and the neighborhood in which I lived. Many times, I was, for lack of better words, harassed. When I got older, I realized that they weren’t bad people, and they were just doing their job. And then once I became an officer, I realized that, you know, they were trying to do their job. but at the end of the day, they kind of did a poor job with the community policing aspect of it.

    CHRIS BURY: Former federal prosecutor Sharon Davies believes police training should also focus on unintended, or implicit, racial bias. Davies heads the Kirwan Institute on race at Ohio State University and is a consultant to the Columbus Police.

    SHARON DAVIES: If those associations are negative, such as presumptions of violence or threat or criminality that can make a police officer see a threat where there is no threat.

    CHRIS BURY: What do you see as potential solutions? I mean– do we need changes in state law? Or do we need much better police training?

    SHARON DAVIES: There’s absolutely no question that all police forces should be trained about the reality of unconscious racial biases that affect all of us. That’s a reality that all of us need to take very seriously, and police officers especially.

    CHRIS BURY: Not even the most advanced training can eliminate lethal force and police are legally justified to use it in order to save lives–including their own. In fact, The Washington Post study found that “in three-quarters of the fatal shootings, police were under attack or defending someone who was.”

    In Philadelphia and Columbus, police are convinced better training can give officers better options than shooting to kill.

    CHIEF KIM JACOBS: You don’t grow up being taught how to deal with the police. The police are taught how to deal with our citizens. And, so, it’s our responsibility.

    The post To avoid deadly shootings, police deploy new training tactics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    While Washington D.C. residents hunkered down on Saturday as Winter Storm Jonas battered a large swath of the Eastern Seaboard, one capital dweller was unfazed by #blizzard2016.

    In a 30-second video posted by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Saturday morning, giant panda Tian Tian took advantage of his naturally warm coat and basked in the snowy bliss of the season’s first major storm.

    Keepers captured the 19-year-old fluffy bear’s unabashed excitement for the fluffy white stuff as he rolled around in 13 inches of snow that blanketed the area.

    By contrast, panda cub Bei Bei was less amused by the conditions when he was introduced to the snow for a few minutes, zookeepers said on Instagram.

    “Keepers said he wasn’t quite sure what to make of the powdery snow and made his way back inside quickly.”

    The post No one loves Winter Storm Jonas more than this giant panda appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    MORI ROTHMAN: In Northern Honduras, outside the city of San Pedro Sula, banana researcher Juan Aguilar and his staff are hard at work trying to develop a new variety of banana — one that’s resistant to the banana plant killing fungus “Tropical Race 4,” also known as “Panama disease.”

    JUAN AGUILAR: For this disease, do not exist any fungicide, no chemical.

    MORI ROTHMAN: The disease is decimating banana plantations around the world.

    From Australia to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In a study published in the journal “PLOS Pathogens,” researchers said: “Clearly, the current expansion of the Panama disease epidemic is particularly destructive….”

    Luckily for these farmers, the disease has not been detected in Latin America, which accounts for 70 percent of the world’s banana supply.  Farmers here grow the Cavendish banana — the most widely consumed banana in the United States and around the world.

    Aguilar, the chief banana breeder at the Honduran foundation for agricultural research, worries that Honduran farm workers who go overseas to work could bring the fungus back even through something as simple as the dirt on their shoes.

    JUAN AGUILAR: One time you have the fungus in the soil, you don’t avoid it.

    MORI ROTHMAN: 60 years ago, a similar fungus wiped out what was then the most popular banana in the world — the Gros Michelknown for its sweet taste and creamy texture.  The Cavendish essentially replaced it.

    But finding a replacement for the Cavendish through cross breeding is tough because most Cavendish bananas are seedless – good for eating, bad for breeding.

    MORI ROTHMAN: So how many seeds will you get out of this entire group of bananas?

    JUAN AGUILAR: My estimation is from this one hundred bunches that we have here maybe we get ten seeds.

    MORI ROTHMAN: Ten seeds from a hundred bunches?

    JUAN AGUILAR: Yes, and this is a lot. And these ten seeds. And maybe two or three will develop in a plantlet who can go to the field.

    MORI ROTHMAN: His workers pollinate each banana plant by hand, harvest thousands of bananas, and look to find a rare seed here and there.

    JUAN AGUILAR: We have here all the bunches where we make crosses.

    MORI ROTHMAN: Through cross breeding, Aguilar combines bananas favored by farmers– like the Cavendish, with plants that are resistant to Panama disease.

    Aguilar cultivates thousands of bananas in search of the most disease resistant one. He numbers each new banana plant, and then sends his best samples to Australia, one place where the disease exists. There it is tested for resistance to the fungus.

    Aguilar is in a race not only to find a resistant variety of the Cavendish, but also to help develop new varieties just in case the Cavendish can’t be saved.

    MORI ROTHMAN: Tell me a little about what you need to make the perfect banana, the next banana that everybody wants to buy in a grocery store?

    JUAN AGUILAR: Ok, we need a good banana for the farmers, we need a banana who is resistant to Black Sigatoka, to Panama Disease Tropical Race 4.  We need a banana that is useful for the buyers, who has a long shelf life, green life, to be transported from Honduras or any American Latin country to us and Europe.

    MORI ROTHMAN: One of the possible replacements is the Sucrier banana, a smaller sweeter cousin to the Cavendish. Aguilar gave me a taste of a Panama disease resistant prototype he created.

    JUAN AGUILAR: This is green. This is very sweet. It still is not ready to go. But it’s ok. This is one of the alternatives to produce. We are trying to develop very sweet, very sweet, dessert bananas.

    MORI ROTHMAN: One problem — it tends to bruise during shipment.

    Even if Aguilar finds a Panama disease resistant version of the Cavendish, he warns that the disease itself can evolve.

    JUAN AGUILAR: If the fungus make his own improvement, we need to develop again a new resistant variety.

    MORI ROTHMAN: So you’re always in a race against this changing disease.

    JUAN AGUILAR: Yes for that reason it’s a cycling process.

    The post Inside the fight to save the bananas we know (and love) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

    Two pediatricians at the heart of Flint’s lead-crisis have some advice on avoiding exposure to lead. Photo by Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images

    The lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan has people across the nation wondering about their own possible exposure to the toxic metal.

    “When pediatricians hear anything about lead, we stand up straight, and we freak out,” says Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the pediatric residency program at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, and one of the doctors who helped uncover that city’s crisis. “We know lead,” she said. “Lead is a potent, known, irreversible neurotoxin.”

    Children in roughly 4 million American homes are being exposed to some form of lead today, according to CDC estimates. The agency also estimates that at least half a million kids under five have “elevated” levels of lead in their blood.

    “Since the time of the Roman Empire, when people lined their aqueducts with lead pipes, we have known [lead] causes problems,” said Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, a pediatrician and president of the Mott Children’s Health Center in Flint, and a member of the Governor’s task force investigating Flint’s lead-contamination crisis.

    “When you move into a house, flush the water lines in case lead and other things are accumulating there. And when you return home from vacation, flush your cold water for about five minutes.”

    Young children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of lead, which can include delayed intellectual development, irritability, learning problems, and increased aggression, Reynolds said.

    “You’ll have more kids with lower IQ and more children who will have learning problems and require services,” Reynolds said. “Start multiplying these things by thousands, and imagine what a school district has to deal with.”

    “Even at levels below what we consider ‘elevated’…it drops your IQ about four points,” Hanna-Attisha said.

    And in Flint?

    “Imagine what we have done to our entire population,” she said. “We have shifted the IQ curve down. We’ve lost potentially these high achievers, and more children now may need special education and remedial services.”

    Beyond Flint, the main source of lead exposure today comes from old lead-based paint in homes and buildings. Even though leaded paint was banned in the late 1970’s, many older structures still contain it. Exposure occurs as that paint peels, chips, or crumbles into dust. Young children, who spend time on all fours and put all sorts of things their mouths, are particularly vulnerable. (A child’s pediatrician can test their blood-lead levels, but a low reading doesn’t necessarily mean there hasn’t been a prior exposure.)

    One of the best general prevention strategies, health officials say, is to keep children and pregnant-women away from old paint. The CDC has this helpful list of ways to avoid exposure to lead-based paint.

    Children should not be exposed to peeling or crumbling paint, should not be in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation and should not play in bare soil.

    The doctors in Flint have gathered some of their own hard-earned wisdom.

    When you move into a house, flush the water lines in case lead and other things are accumulating there, Reynolds said. And when you return home from vacation, flush your cold water for about five minutes.

    If you’re concerned about lead in your water (which almost always comes from older lead water pipes, as opposed to the actual water supply itself), you can have your water tested. Many municipalities provide free lead-testing kits to residents, or they can be purchased individually at some hardware stores or online.

    And if lead is present, there are steps you can take.

    The costliest approach is to remove the lead pipes from your own home. If they’re present, they’re usually the “service line” that connects your home to your local water main, and replacing that can easily run into the thousands of dollars. (Some municipalities offer a stipend to homeowners to complete this work.)

    Buying bottled water is an option, but if that’s too costly, you can buy a standalone filter, a filter that attaches to your faucets, or install a entire-home filter (which filters all the water entering your house). It’s important to check whether your filtration system is specifically certified for lead-filtration, because many store-bought filters do not filter out lead.

    Reynolds also says that when it comes to drinking or cooking with tap water that might contain lead, start with cold water. Warmer water can carry more dissolved lead.

    If you believe you’ve already been exposed to lead, Hanna-Attisha says there are things you can do to lessen the impact of that exposure.

    Among them, education. Given that lead can reduce a child’s intellectual capacity, strengthening a child’s early learning can have positive effects. That means emphasizing things like early literacy programs, and reading and speaking to young kids even more than usual.

    “Nutrition is also a great mitigator,” she adds. “Diets high in iron, calcium, vitamin C help promote the excretion of lead.”

    Hanna-Attisha hopes the lead-crisis in Flint will prompt more attention to needed infrastructure repairs in other cities along with a greater focus on the kids who are likely to be dealing with the downstream effect of lead poisoning for decades to come.

    “As a pediatrician, my job is to take care of that kid in front of me,” Hanna-Attisha said. “My job is to make sure that they have the brightest future ahead of them. And we can sit back and in 10, 15, 20 years, we can see the consequences of lead poisoning — we can see all these kids in special ed, we can see the problems in our mental health system, we can see the problems in our criminal justice system. Or we can do something now.”

    To learn more, click on the following links:

    EPA’s “Lead Free Kids” website has information on prevention, treatment and finding contractors.

    EPA has dietary advice, including recipes, to help reduce lead in people who have already been exposed.

    The California Department of Public Health’s “Frequently Asked Questions About Lead Poisoning.”

    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fact Sheet on how to safely renovate when you’ve got lead paint.

    CDC tips on prevention.

    The post Worried about lead in your water? Flint pediatricians have this advice appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Workers shovel snow during a snowstorm at Times Square in the Manhattan on Jan. 23, 2016. A winter storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the suburbs of Washington, D.C., on Saturday before moving on to Philadelphia and New York, paralyzing road, rail and airline travel along the U.S. East Coast. Photos By Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    Workers shovel snow during a snowstorm at Times Square in the Manhattan on Jan. 23, 2016. A winter storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the suburbs of Washington, D.C., on Saturday before moving on to Philadelphia and New York, paralyzing road, rail and airline travel along the U.S. East Coast. Photos By Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

    A deadly winter storm walloped large swaths of the heavily populated east coast on Friday and Saturday bringing snow, gale-force winds, icy conditions and poor visibility to parts of the region, as officials warned residents to hunker down inside their homes.

    At least 11 deaths were reported from weather conditions (six in North Carolina and Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Washington, D.C., reported one each), and thousands more were stranded for hours along interstates in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, while coastal flooding and power outages also were widely reported.

    As many as 80 million people located in 15 states are in the storm’s path and a blizzard warning remained in effect for 33 million people on Saturday, according to the Weather Channel.

    The storm pounded parts of the south before the weather pattern moved north leaving at least two feet of snow in West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Snow also blanketed areas of Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

    Governors in New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency on Saturday.

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    In New York City, where more than 20 inches of snow was expected, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents to avoid travel, while bus service and some subway lines were shuttered for much of Saturday.

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all New York City and Long Island roads would close at 2:30 p.m., and the above-ground sections of the subway and regional trains would close at 4 p.m. New York City buses closed down at noon.

    New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said drivers of non-emergency vehicles would be subject to arrest if they violated the ban. He didn’t know when the ban would be lifted but with the storm expected to taper Saturday evening, he said officials would re-evaluate later.

    “The best thing to do is stay home,” the mayor said at a press conference Saturday morning.

    With travel banned, city landmarks quickly shut their doors. All Broadway matinee and evening performances were canceled, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced it would close early.

    More than 200,000 people lost power in New Jersey and the Carolinas, while roughly 8,300 flight have been cancelled due to the storm.

    Heavy snow and winds were expected to stretch into New England, while meteorologists predicted conditions would begin to temper by Sunday.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada January 21, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker - RTX23GH2

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at South Point Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada January 21, 2016. Photo by David Becker/Reuters.

    SIOUX CENTER, Iowa — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says his supporters are so loyal they would stick with him even if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot somebody.

    Trump was addressing a rally Saturday at a Christian school, Dordt College, in Sioux Center, Iowa.

    In addition to criticizing his rivals, Trump went after conservative radio host Glenn Beck, who will be appearing at two rallies with Ted Cruz later in the day.

    Beck is among nearly two dozen conservative thinkers who penned anti-Trump essays for National Review magazine.

    Cruz is Trump’s most serious challenger in early-voting Iowa.

    Several Republican contenders are in the state this weekend, with just nine days to go before Iowa’s caucuses open the voting in the 2016 campaign.

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    Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attends a meeting during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France. Photo By Stephane Mahe/Reuters

    Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attends a meeting during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France. Photo By Stephane Mahe/Reuters

    NEW YORK — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking early steps toward launching an independent campaign for president, seeing a potential path to the White House amid the rise of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders.

    Bloomberg has retained advisers and plans to conduct a poll after the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary to assess the state of the race and judge whether there is an opening for him to mount an independent campaign, according to three people familiar with his thinking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about his plans, which were first reported Saturday by The New York Times.

    Bloomberg has set a March deadline to decide on whether to enter the race, to ensure his access to the ballot in all 50 states.

    The billionaire media executive, who served three terms as mayor of New York, is said to be concerned by Trump’s lasting hold on the Republican field and is worried about the impact of Sanders’ campaign on Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination.

    Bloomberg’s efforts underscore the unsettled nature of the presidential race a little more than a week before the first round of primary voting. The months-long rise of Sanders and Trump has shaken up the political establishment in both parties and on Wall Street, who’ve struggled to combat their climb in primary polls.

    A longtime Democrat who became a Republican to run for mayor in 2001 and later switched to be an independent, Bloomberg would strongly consider a bid if the general election looked like it could turn into a contest between Sanders and Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

    He is not ruling out a bid if Clinton is ahead on the Democratic side, though people familiar with his plans believe it is not particularly likely Bloomberg would challenge Clinton in a general election. But they said Bloomberg has expressed concern about the damage caused by revelations she used a private email address and server while serving as secretary of state, and he fears she may emerge atop the Democratic field as a weakened nominee.

    The two New Yorkers have a cordial relationship, people close to them say. They met privately at Bloomberg’s offices a few months before Clinton announced her campaign last April, before an event announcing a philanthropic initiative to measure and track data about issues affecting women and girls. Bloomberg has also spoken at events hosted by the Clinton Foundation.

    To prepare for a potential run, Bloomberg has also instructed aides to research previous third-party runs and is said to be willing to spend up to $1 billion of his own fortune, estimated to be about $37 billion, to finance his campaign.

    Bloomberg, 73, has no personal animus toward Trump – he believes the real estate developer is “a nice guy,” according to one of the people familiar with his plans- and knows him from New York’s social circuit and from dealings with Trump when Bloomberg was mayor. But he strongly disagrees with Trump’s political positions, particularly his stance on immigration, the person said.

    One of the richest people in the United States, Bloomberg has previously toyed with presidential runs, but concluded ahead of the 2008 and 2012 campaigns he could not win. He delivered a powerful late endorsement of President Barack Obama’s re-election effort, though he’s been known to criticize the president personally in private conversations.

    The founder of the financial news and information provider Bloomberg LP, he was a political novice when he launched an unlikely bid for mayor in 2001.

    He was trailing badly in the polls before the 9/11 attacks, but then received the endorsement of the popular then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg played up his business expertise and campaigned as the candidate best able to help steady New York’s economy in the aftermath of the attacks.

    He won a narrow victory and was re-elected handily four years later. He then spearheaded a change to the city’s charter to allow him to win a third term in 2009. He oversaw a gilded age in the nation’s largest city. Manhattan shed its gritty image to become the sparkling star of film and television. Record numbers of tourists arrived. So did young professionals seeking their future. But critics noted the growing gap between the city’s rich and poor.

    The former mayor is largely a social liberal – he fought for same-sex marriage in New York and is pro-abortion rights – and implemented a number of health reforms in New York City, banning smoking in public places and instituting calorie counts on menus.

    He has also became arguably the nation’s most vocal proponent of gun control, using his fortune to bankroll candidates across the country who clash with the National Rifle Association.

    But liberals have found fault with his cozy ties to Wall Street and his unquestioned support for the New York Police Department, which drove down crime during his tenure but engaged in tactics that a federal judge later ruled discriminated against minorities.

    The post Bloomberg eyeing independent White House bid, sources say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    At least four people died and two people were injured Friday during Canada’s worst school shooting in more than a decade.

    The suspected teenage gunman, whose name was not released, killed two family members before turning his attention to a local high school in the remote town of La Loche, Saskatchewan.

    Joe Lemaigre, a friend of the gunman’s family, told the Associated Press the teenager first shot his brothers, before heading to the La Loche Community School where he killed a teacher and an assistant during the rampage. He was taken into custody outside the school, a police official said.

    “After he shot his two brothers, he walked back to school and he shot a teacher and a girl,” Lemaigre said. “They’re both dead. Four of them died. I know the family. Their mother worked in Fort McMurray and his grandfather went to Meadow Lake to do some shopping. That’s when he shot them.”

    La Loche’s acting mayor, Kevin Janvier, said his 23-year-old daughter, a teacher at the school, was among those killed.

    “He shot two of his brothers at his home and made his way to the school,” he said. “I’m just so sad.”

    Janvier told CTV News that the  shooter was a student at the school. Witnesses at the school described screaming and at least six gunshots.

    The small town has a population of 3,000 people and is located 375 miles north of Saskatoon in a community mostly comprised Dene aboriginals, the Associated Press reported. The La Roche school has about 900 students between seventh and 12th grade.

    Hundreds attended at vigil Friday night outside the school.

    “Obviously this is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “The community is reeling and all of us across this country, [our] hearts are going out to the families and to the whole community.”

    In 1989, 14 college student were killed in Montreal at the École Polytechnique. Four students were also killed in 1992 shooting at the Concordia University in Montreal, the AP said.

    The post Teenage suspect in custody after Canada’s worst shooting in years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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