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

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    Illustrative image of medicine bottle and cash being measured in weighing machine Related words: pills, drugs, drug plan, Medicare, money, insurance

    An average of 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day of every year and will continue doing so until about 2029. Medicare expert Phil Moeller invites all of you to come along for a DIY Medicare shopping trip.

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.


    Tom – Ohio: I am about to turn 65. An agent has me going on Medicare and said my cost will be $1,461 for Part B and an additional $1,745 for a Medigap Plan F. The agent says this is the total I will pay for all medical coverage and doctors, but that it does not cover prescriptions. He said the plan for this is a rate of $39 per month, plus $360 deductible and co-pays on drugs. He said the total cost — for my drugs, the copays, the deductible and the premiums will come to about $3,500 if I go all generic and drop one brand drug I am on, or it will be $4,830 if I stay on that one drug. Then he told me there are donut periods. What the heck is this all about? Is this the way it is for Medicare? Is there a better way? I want full coverage if this can be had.

    GOT MEDICARE QUESTIONS?

    Ask Phil Here

    Phil Moeller: Tom’s question amounts to a request to take him on a Medicare shopping trip or at least to confirm that his agent has done a good job shopping for him. An average of 10,000 Americans have been turning 65 every day of every year and will continue doing so until about 2029 when the youngest Baby Boomers reach that age. So Tom has lots of company these days. I invite all of you to come along for a DIY (Do It Yourself) Medicare shopping trip.

    For Tom’s benefit, let me start by saying that the numbers his agent gave him seem to be very much in the ballpark. But ballpark dimensions vary, of course, and so do Medicare plans.

    Understanding Parts A, B, C and D

    Tom didn’t mention Part A of Medicare, which covers stays in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (Medicare doesn’t cover so-called custodial care, but only what’s considered medically necessary care). So I’m assuming he has free Part A, which is the case for anyone who has qualified for Social Security benefits or whose spouse has done so. This normally requires at least 40 quarters of work at jobs where a person has to pay Social Security payroll taxes.

    Tom’s figure for Part B costs is the basic premium that newcomers to Medicare will pay this year — $121.80 a month. This means his modified adjusted gross income on his 2014 tax return was less than $85,000 ($170,000 if he is married and filing a joint tax return). People with higher incomes pay surcharges for their Part B and Part D drug-plan coverage. The Social Security Administration administers high-income surcharges on behalf of Medicare. There usually is a two-year lag time in this process, meaning that 2014 federal tax returns will be used to determine the Medicare surcharges that people will be asked to pay in 2016. There can be exceptions for this surcharge, which is called the income-related monthly adjustment amount, or IRMAA. There is an appeals process if you think you’ve been unfairly tagged with a surcharge.

    As for Tom’s Medigap, there are 10 different types of Medigap plans, which are also called Medicare supplement policies. They are sold by private insurers and are regulated by state insurance departments, not Medicare. These plans pay for some things that Medicare does not cover or things it does cover but pays less than 100 cents on the dollar in insured expenses. Plan F is far and away the most popular Medigap plan and is generally considered the most complete as well. Check Medicare’s annual guide to Medigap plans for details, especially the grid on page 11 showing the 10 different Medigap “letter” plans. Tom (and you) can comparison shop these different plans by using Medicare’s Medigap Policy Search tool. By entering Tom’s ZIP code in this tool, I can see that there is a premium range of $116 to $247 for a Plan F policy where he lives. Despite this wide range, all Plan F policies must cover exactly the same thing. Insurers cannot compete on plan features so they compete on price. The price Tom’s agent gave him averages $145 a month, so it’s one of the lower-priced plans available to him. To be safe, Tom should check with his state insurance department to see if the company his agent recommends has had any consumer complaints or other red flags that argue against him buying its policy. Or he could make a beeline to the very cheapest policy, check out its consumer record and save himself more than $350 a year.

    Tom’s information about the costs of his Part D prescription drug plan can also be checked out easily enough. Medicare’s Plan Finder provides pricing information on Part D plans. Because Tom is thinking of getting a Medigap plan, he would be shopping for what’s called a stand-alone Part D plan. I entered Tom’s ZIP into Plan Finder and found 22 stand-alone Part D plans where he lives. He can take this work a step further by entering the names and dosages of his prescription drugs into Plan Finder and seeing what his projected costs would look like for different plans. The tool permits users to generate side-by-side comparisons for up to three plans at a time. He also can substitute a generic for the branded drug he refers to, which is likely what his insurance agent did.

    As for the donut hole, Tom will join millions of other Part D subscribers trapped in the illogical pricing system that passes for Medicare drug coverage. The donut hole, or coverage gap as it’s officially called, limits insurance after Tom and his drug plan have spent $3,310 on covered drugs in 2016 (excluding his premium). He will then be on the hook for larger percentages of the plan’s drug costs until he has spent $4,850, at which point he will be in the so-called catastrophic phase of Part D coverage. Here, he will pay no more than 5 percent of the cost of a drug. Although 5 percent of a really expensive drug can still cost a lot, the catastrophic phase protects most people from budget-busting drug spending.

    Frankly, I think the whole thing is a catastrophe and am glad the Affordable Care Act included the phased elimination of the donut hole. It will be gone in 2020. Until then, welcome to donuts and catastrophic pricing.

    Smart readers, and of course that includes you, will have noticed that Tom’s shopping trip includes Parts A, B and D of Medicare. There is, indeed, a Part C of Medicare. It’s called Medicare Advantage — private insurance plans that can do just about everything that’s covered under Parts A, B, D and even Medigap.

    Medicare Advantage plans have been gaining market share and now comprise about a third of all Medicare plans. The other two-thirds are Original Medicare (Parts A and B), perhaps with a Medigap plan and usually with a Part D plan.

    Medicare Advantage plans must cover what Parts A and B cover. They usually include a bundled-in Part D plan. And they have annual out-of-pocket limits, which means they can protect people from some things that Original Medicare does not cover or covers at less than 100 percent of the cost. This is the role provided by Medigap plans, and in fact, consumers are permitted to buy either a Medicare Advantage or Medigap policy, but not both.

    Original Medicare is what’s called a fee-for-service insurance program. People with Parts A and B are insured to see any caregivers in the country who accept Medicare (and most do) and are accepting new patients. Medicare Advantage plans, by contrast, rely on proprietary networks of doctors, hospitals and other care providers that they control. This can save the plans a lot of money, but may limit your choices to providers in a plan’s network. Even if you can go outside the network for care, you might pay a lot more than you would for in-network care.

    On the positive side, Medicare Advantage plans use some of these savings to cover things like dental, hearing and vision insurance. Original Medicare is expressly forbidden from covering these things, despite decades of harping from senior advocates that older Americans deserve and need such coverage. Well, Tom can get this coverage in some Medicare Advantage plans, as well as gym memberships and other features.

    Now, Tom’s desire for the most complete protection may have caused his agent to steer him to a package of Original Medicare plus the most comprehensive Medigap plan. That’s fine, of course, but he may wind up paying more, and perhaps a lot more, for his insurance than if he got a Medicare Advantage plan. This is especially true if he has to go out and buy private dental, hearing and vision coverage. And nearly everyone nearing their 65th birthday should have such coverage.
    So I’d urge Tom to include Medicare Advantage — Part C of Medicare — in his shopping trip. He can use Plan Finder again to check out plans where he lives. Most plans will include a Part D plan as well (known as Medicare Advantage-Part D plans or MA-PD plans for short). And if he’s already entered his drug information into Plan Finder, he can use the tool again to look at his drug expenses under various MA-PD plans.

    I find it challenging to choose between Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare plus Medigap. I like being able to pick all my own doctors and not be limited to a Medicare Advantage plan’s network. I also really like the savings of Medicare Advantage plans and their coverage of things not covered by Original Medicare.

    MORE FROM MAKING SEN$E

    Which Medigap plan should you get?

    The choice is further complicated by the fact the Medigap plans provide what are called “guaranteed issue rights.” They’re explained on page 21 of Medicare’s Medigap guide. These rights mean an insurer must sell you a Medigap policy and can’t either deny you coverage or raise your rates if you are already sick and have any pre-existing conditions. These rights are provided to people who buy Medigap policies in the first six months they are eligible to join Medicare. But after this, people may lose such rights, and insurers then may charge them more for coverage or not sell them a policy at all. Medigap rules where Tom lives (and where you live) may plan a major role in how easily and expensively you will be able to get Medigap coverage after you’ve had Medicare for a while and either want to buy a Medigap policy or perhaps drop one type of Medigap policy and buy another.

    During Medicare’s annual open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, you are always free to leave Original Medicare and Medigap in favor of a Medicare Advantage plan. You may or may not — and I want to stress “may” here — be able to drop Medicare Advantage and get a Medigap policy with prices and coverage terms you like. For this reason, I urge you to do your homework carefully on this important decision. If you opt for Medicare Advantage for all the right reasons, great. If you’re not totally sold or don’t have the time to fully research your options, consider getting Original Medicare and a Medigap plan now and leave yourself the option to move to Medicare Advantage at a later time.

    The post The do-it-yourself guide to Medicare shopping appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to reporters at the White House after his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to reporters at the White House after his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders talked foreign policy, the economy and “a little bit of politics,” Sanders said Wednesday after their first extended sit-down since the senator’s presidential campaign jolted the race for the Democratic nomination.

    Talking to reporters in the White House driveway, Sanders acknowledged he and the president have had differences, but he said he has largely backed Obama’s agenda. Sanders said the president has been “even handed” in his treatment of the candidates vying to replace him, and he showed no interest in trying to strike any sharp contrast with his host.

    “We have got to do a lot better to protect the middle class and working families,” Sanders said. “But it’s also important to remember how far we’ve come in the last seven years under the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden.”

    The White House said the president considered the 45-minute meeting a chance to discuss ways the two could work together, to reminisce about the thrill of campaigning in Iowa and to talk broadly about the state of the 2016 race.

    The president believes Sanders’ bid is good for Democrats, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

    “That ability to engage Democrats and excite them and inspire them will be critical to the success of Democrats up and down the ballot, whether Senator Sanders is the nominee or not,” Earnest said.

    The long-discussed meeting between Obama and his sometime critic was a moment for the president to display public neutrality in the heated and unexpectedly tight primary race to replace him — refuting suggestions that he’s in the can for Sanders’ rival Hillary Clinton. For Sanders, it was a chance to show he’s got some sway with a president still popular among Democrats.

    But the White House isn’t suggesting Obama and Sanders are kindred spirits, or even close political allies. White House officials says the men lack much of a personal relationship and have markedly different approaches to politics. The president this week declared bluntly he doesn’t see Sanders’ upstart campaign as a reboot of his own battle against Clinton in 2008. Obama allies bristle at comparisons between Sanders and the president.

    Their reaction is reminder that even as Obama watches the nomination battle from a distance in Washington, he is personally tied to the outcome. Obama remains focused on ensuring a Democrat wins the White House and on protecting his legacy. Increasingly, it appears, he sees Clinton as his best hope.

    White House officials says Obama and Sanders lack much of a personal relationship and have markedly different approaches to politics. With the Iowa caucuses just days away, Obama recently showered praise on Clinton and threw some cold water on the Sanders. The president cast Clinton as ready to go on Day One, and Sanders as a compelling political star, but also a “bright, shiny object” in need of some more scrutiny.

    Sanders said Wednesday he didn’t see the interview as a dig. He said he believed the president and the vice president have been “fair and even handed.”

    “And I expect they will continue to be that way,” he said.

    Sanders said with a laugh that he didn’t directly ask for Obama’s endorsement. He did ask for an update on the fight against Islamic extremism and the effort to warm relations with Iran, he said.

    Despite his criticism of Obama on health care, Wall Street regulation and other economic issues, Sanders said that on the “major issues I have stood by his side” against Republican opposition.

    White House officials say Obama’s comments were a as much a reflection of Obama’s high regard for Clinton, as any discomfort with Sanders. They reflected the reality of the relationship between the two men — there isn’t much there.

    Sanders’ visit to the Oval Office will be his first extended meeting with the president since becoming a leading contender.

    The White House says Sanders and Obama first discussed the meeting at a White House holiday party in late December and aides have been working on scheduling it since.

    The session will be private meeting, no photos or statements or formal agenda.

    The visit was one of several trips to the Obama White House for Sanders, typically for large, social events or policy rollouts. But the senator hasn’t been a close ally or regular staple in strategy meetings.

    That’s a sharp contrast to Obama’s relationship with Clinton — which has been both deep and complicated. As his Secretary of State Obama has worked closely with Clinton, spent hours on Air Force One, shared personal moments and some policy clashes. Even since leaving her post, Obama has met privately with Clinton periodically, often for lunches at the White House.

    On Wednesday, Obama met with Sanders before eating lunch with Vice President Joe Biden.

    SUBSCRIBE: Get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks delivered to your inbox every week.

    The post Obama, Sanders talk foreign policy, economy and ‘a little bit of politics’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Law enforcement will hold a press conference on the situation in Oregon, scheduled for 2 p.m. EST Wednesday. Watch that in the player above.

    BURNS, Ore. — FBI officials have established checkpoints around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a handful of armed militants remain inside.

    Oregon Public Broadcasting spoke with the new leaders inside the compound, including Jason Patrick, who said the remaining group of militants are prepared to stay for the long run.

    The children that OPB reported were inside the compound before the standoff are not in the building.

    READ MORE: Several militants arrested, one dead in Oregon occupation

    In a press release early Wednesday, FBI officials said any vehicles approaching the established checkpoints will be stopped and searched, and all occupants of the vehicles must present identification.

    Law enforcement officials said they will arrest anyone who is not compliant with the checkpoint procedure. The only people allowed to pass the checkpoints will be local ranchers, according to the FBI.

    “Anyone coming out of the refuge will have his or her identification confirmed and any associated vehicles searched,” the FBI stated.

    The monthlong occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge took a turn toward a possible conclusion Tuesday night — with the death of militant Robert LaVoy Finicum after an officer involved shooting. At least eight others were arrested, including the leader of the takeover Ammon Bundy.

    Oregon Public Broadcasting is following this event as it unfolds. For the latest, visit their website opb.org.

    View all of OPB’s coverage from the armed occupation in Eastern Oregon.

    The post Occupation turns to standoff as FBI surrounds militants still inside Oregon refuge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for $12 billion over a decade to help feed schoolchildren from low-income families during the summer, the White House said Wednesday. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    President Obama will ask Congress for $12 billion to help feed schoolchildren from low-income families during the summer. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for $12 billion over a decade to help feed schoolchildren from low-income families during the summer, the White House said Wednesday.

    The request will be in the 2017 budget proposal Obama plans to send lawmakers on Feb. 9.

    Nearly 22 million low-income children receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year, but just a fraction of those kids receive meals when school is out. The disparity puts those children at higher risk of hunger and poor nutrition during the summer months when school is out of session, the White House said.

    Benefits under the proposed program would be loaded onto a debit card that can only be used for food at grocery stores.

    A child nutrition bill the Senate approved last week would also put more money into summer feeding programs.

    The Agriculture Department on Wednesday was announcing a pilot program to increase access to the National School Lunch program by reducing the paperwork their parents must file in order to participate. Under the demonstration program, states will be allowed to use Medicaid data to certify students for free and reduced-price lunches.

    States must apply to participate. The department expects to approve five states to participate during the 2016-2017 school year, expanding to 20 states over the next three years.

    Both proposals were unveiled as the White House sponsored a forum Wednesday on child hunger in the U.S.

    The post Obama to seek $12B from Congress for child nutrition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Nara Dreamland, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Inspired by Disneyland California, Nara Dreamland in Nara Prefecture, Japan, was built in 1961. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    As a photographer, I scout the unknown and unseen.

    In my travels, I journey into forsaken places all over the world, trying to capture the momentum of abandonment. For my “Forgotten Theme Parks” series, I went to Japan for the sole purpose of exploring its abandoned structures. This project started in March 2012 and finished in October 2015 along with the release of my first photography book, “Between Nowhere & Never.”

    My pictures are a showcase of past splendor. I visit derelict hospitals, mothballed monasteries, dormant structures, defunct power stations, crumbling castles and everything in between – the result of the intangible desire to explore what mankind has left behind. The reverb of time is my vantage point.

    My photos depict a parallel world, a world that’s hidden within our world. Most of the time we’re not aware of their existence, yet these abandoned places are embedded into our everyday lives. And it’s this everyday life, with all its chaos and worries, that I want to run away from. Escapism is at the basis of my explorations, and it’s this solitude I want to capture in my photographs.

    See below for more of Van de Velde’s work from “Forgotten Theme Parks.”

    Nara Dreamland, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    At the end of the 20th century, Nara Dreamland lost its grandeur and clientele, and finally closed its doors in 2006 after marking only 400,000 visitors that year. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Nara Dreamland, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Van de Velde shot his series of Nara Dreamland at night using long exposures to render the scenes more dreamlike. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Western Village, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Western Village, an amusement park in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, was built in 1975 and closed down in 2007. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Western Village, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    A giant $27 million replica of Mount Rushmore sits abandoned in Western Village, a defunct Japanese amusement park. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Western Village, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    This photo shows a structure in the abandoned Western Village amusement park. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Family Land, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Lit by the powerful lights of a golf course, this enormous Ferris wheel sits abandoned near Lake Biwa in the Shiga Prefecture. The Ferris wheel is one of the only remaining structures at Family Land, a Japanese theme park that closed in 1970. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    Big Mountain Pachinko, Tokushima Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    This photo shows the Big Mountain Pachinko arcade in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan. Pachinko is a mechanical arcade game that is comparable to slot machines. Photo by Reginald Van de Velde

    The word “parallax” describes the camera error that occurs when an image looks different through a viewfinder than how it is recorded by a sensor; when one camera gives two perspectives. Parallax is a blog where photographers offer the unexpected sides and stories of their work. Tell us yours or share on Instagram at #PBSParallax.

    The post What I found while photographing Japan’s abandoned amusement parks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Musician B.o.B claimed this week that the Earth is flat, raising the question: How does one prove the planet is spherical? Photo by REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

    Musician B.o.B claimed this week that the Earth is flat, but how does a person confirm the Earth’s curves? Photo by REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

    “The Earth is round.” Teachers say it. Scientists say it. But how do they know?

    I ask because an Internet conversation has surfaced among celebrities like former television personality Tila Tequila whereby they state the Earth is flat. On Monday, musician B.o.B took up the mantle on Twitter, spurring a spicy conversation with noted astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Tweets were exchanged on both sides, and eventually, rap songs too.

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

    Miss Tequila and B.o.B aren’t alone. Flat Earth thinking dates back thousands of years, when early societies like the Sumerians, Babylonians and Ancient Egyptians believed that the planet resembled a pancake. Christopher Columbus is often miscredited for correcting this idea and discovering the Earth’s curves by not sailing off its edge, but in fact, it was Ancient Greeks, such as Aristotle and Pythagoras, around 2,400 – 2,600 years ago, who first proposed that the Earth was round.

    But you’re not here for a history lesson. You’re here for experiments!

    science-wednesday

    Any mere mortal can validate our planet’s shape with basic household items like lamps, rulers and soccer balls. So without further ado, here are seven ways that B.o.B, Miss Tequila or any round-Earth denier can convince themselves that the Earth is indeed round.

    Experiment 1: Watch a lunar eclipse
    Things you’ll need: functioning eyes, the moon, and a telescope (optional).

    Every now and again, the Earth passes between the moon and the sun, completely blocking its light and casting a shadow across the moon called a lunar eclipse. If you look closely while this happens, you would notice that the Earth’s shadow forms an arc as it creeps across our view of the moon.

    A combination photo shows the moon during a total lunar eclipse as seen from Mexico City, April 15, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

    A combination photo shows the moon during a total lunar eclipse as seen from Mexico City, April 15, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

    You might respond, “You’ve shown the Earth is round, but couldn’t it be round, but still flat — a flat disc?” Well, your eyes and telescope would also spot the 3D spherical nature of the moon. The Flat Earth Society does admit that the moon, the sun and other planets are indeed spherical, but claim that the “Earth is not a planet,” and unlike other celestial bodies, is flat.

    So let’s ignore the moon for now and examine the other member of the eclipse trifecta: the sun.

    Experiment 2: Take a trip to San Francisco and Sacramento
    Things you’ll need: A flight ticket, a long straight stick and a tape measure.

    As theoretical physicist Ethan Siegel explains in great detail, you, me and B.o.B have something in common: we can use the sun to witness the curvature of the Earth. Here is Siegel:

    …the Sun reaches a much higher point (and shines for more hours during the day) during the summer months, and reaches a significantly lower point (and shines for fewer hours) during the winter…

    In fact, if you charted out the Sun’s path through the daytime sky, you would find that it takes its lowest path (for the fewest number of hours) on the Winter Solstice — usually December 21st — and its highest path (for the greatest number of hours) on the Summer Solstice, usually June 21st.

    If you constructed a camera capable of photographing the Sun’s path through the sky over the course of the year, you would find exactly this: a series of arcs, where the highest, longest arc through the sky was made during the Summer Solstice and the lowest, shortest arc was made during the Winter Solstice.

    On a midsummer’s day more than two millennia ago, Ancient Greek astronomer Eratosthenes of Cyrene noticed this too.

    While a scholar at the library of Alexandria, Eratosthenes heard of a deep well in the southward city of Syene (now Aswan, Egypt). Once a year on the summer solstice, the citizens of Syene noticed that sunlight reflected off the well’s bottom. They also saw that sticks and tall buildings cast no shadows, suggesting the sun was directly overhead. But in Alexandria, on the same day, Eratosthenes found that sticks did cast a shadow. By measuring the angles of those shadows and by hiring surveyors to measure the distance between Syene and Alexandria, he not only was able to calculate the curvature between the two cities but also the circumference of the entire Earth.

    Luckily, B.o.B doesn’t need to travel to Egypt to replicate this test, he need only visit our West Coast.

    How did Eratosthenes calculate the circumference of the Earth? Video by Math Centre

    One of the keys to Eratosthenes discovery came from Syene being due south of Alexandria. Stated otherwise, they lie on the same meridian.

    Luckily, the same applies to San Francisco and Seattle. If B.o.B were to ever perform in the two cities on back-to-back days, he could replicate the work of Eratosthenes himself. If he heads to a park on both days, he could jab a meter stick in the ground, measure the angle that the shadow makes with the ground at high noon and reproduce Eratosthenes’ calculation.

    This experiment would work in any two cities on the same meridian, provided they’re 200 miles away from each other.

    Experiment 3. Watch the sunset lying down
    Things you’ll need: The ground and the horizon.

    A sunset is seen on Naples beach in Naples, Florida on May 6, 2015. Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    A sunset is seen on Naples beach in Naples, Florida on May 6, 2015. Photo by Ariel Min/PBS NewsHour

    Perhaps B.o.B and his entourage don’t have the air miles for a trip between San Francisco and Seattle. No problem. All they need is a beach on the Pacific Coast (or an unobstructed view of the horizon).

    As detailed by the folks at MinutePhysics, the horizon is one of the easiest ways to validate the Earth’s curvature. As the sun dips behind the horizon, it slips from your view in a bottom-up direction. If you watch the sunset while lying on your back, and then hop up as the last rays disappear, then you should be able to see the sunset again.

    The same pattern applies to ships as they sail away — their hulls disappear from the bottom up. As MinutePhysics points out, if the Earth didn’t curve and the horizon didn’t exist, when you looked at Chicago from across Lake Michigan, you’d be able to see the the Rocky Mountains.

    Experiment 4: Shadow games and time zones
    Things you’ll need: a 3D globe or soccer ball, a 2D world map and a bright lamp.

    It’s always daytime somewhere and nighttime somewhere else. Five centuries of calculations argue that’s because the Earth is a spinning globe upon which the sun’s rays strike from a single direction.

    You can test this idea with a lamp, a soccer ball and a dark room. Put the lamp and ball next to each other on a table. Now, turn off all the lights, and then switch on the lamp. Half of the ball should be illuminated, while the other half remains dark. If you want a facsimile of how this works for us, then replace the soccer ball with a globe.

    The Flat Earth Society offers an alternative: The sun is a sphere with a diameter of 32 miles that is located approximately 3,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. They argue that the sun moves like a crib’s mobile, circling above our flat planetary disc.

    If the sun is a spotlight, then why don't we see sunbeams when they're not shining directly over us? Image by Moriel Schottlender/smarterthanthat.com

    If the sun is a spotlight, then why don’t we see sunbeams when they’re not shining directly over us? Image by Moriel Schottlender/smarterthanthat.com

    The problem with this spotlight hypothesis is the sun doesn’t behave like a spotlight. Imagine you’re at a Broadway show, and you see a spotlight shining on a lead actor. You can see the light beams hitting their face, yet you’re sitting in darkness. But on Earth, you can’t stand in an open area and then look off in the distance and see the neighboring land basked in light.

    That’s because the Earth’s curvature creates distinct places where light can land, which forms the basis of timezones.

    Experiment 5: Ride a merry-go-round
    Things you’ll need: a ball, a merry-go-round and an adjacent jungle gym to stand upon.

    Have you ever wondered why hurricanes swirl in one direction? The reason is the Coriolis Effect, and as National Geographic demonstrates, you can witness the same effect on a merry-go-round.

    In the video, a woman wants to throw a ball toward someone sitting across from her while spinning counter clockwise on a merry-go-round. But rather than go straight, the ball appears to curve and land to her right. What gives?

    If you hang a camera from above the roundabout, like these scientists from MIT did, you can see what happens. The ball does move in a straight line, but as a catcher rotates on the ride, he moves out of the ball’s path.

    What the Coriolis effect looks like if standing freely above a merry-go-round.  Image by Technical Services Group at MIT's Department of Physics

    What the Coriolis effect looks like if standing freely above a merry-go-round. Image by Technical Services Group at MIT’s Department of Physics

    In contrast, if the camera is attached to and spins with the merry-go-round, the ball appears to curve.

    What the Coriolis effect looks like if riding on a merry-go-round.  Image by Technical Services Group at MIT's Department of Physics

    What the Coriolis effect looks like if riding on a merry-go-round. Image by Technical Services Group at MIT’s Department of Physics

    The Earth is wider at the equator, so it rotates faster there than at the poles. Wind wants to push across the planet in straight lines from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure, but the Earth’s roundness and rotation make the air flows appear to deflect off course. Peering down from space on the Northern Hemisphere, hurricane winds appear to deflect right, while the opposite happens below the equator.

    Alternatively, if you tried to toss a paper plane in a straight line from the equator to a friend in North America, it would appear to curve out of the way. The same would happen if you flew in a straight line from the equatorial city of Quito, Ecuador to New York City. As you journeyed north in the sky, the Earth would rotate beneath you, moving New York City out of your path.

    Experiment 6: Travel to space!
    Things you’ll need: buckets of money

    Space tourism is another option for those interested in seeing the Earth’s curves. The trip will cost upwards of $40 million, but once there, a celebrity can capture all sorts of footage of the planet’s roundness. Just look at these photos from Guy Laliberté, the former CEO of Cirque du Soleil, who traveled to the International Space Station in 2009.

    Or take a gander at any number of photos collected by astronauts and satellites over the last half century.

    Space Station Flyover of the Mediterranean. Expedition 46 flight engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency (ESA) shared this stunning nighttime photograph with his social media followers on Jan. 25, 2016, writing, "Beautiful night pass over Italy, Alps and Mediterranean." Photo by European Space Agency/NASA.

    Space Station Flyover of the Mediterranean. Expedition 46 flight engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency (ESA) shared this stunning nighttime photograph with his social media followers on Jan. 25, 2016, writing, “Beautiful night pass over Italy, Alps and Mediterranean.” Photo by European Space Agency/NASA.

    The Earth is seen rising above the lunar horizon from the Apollo 8 spacecraft on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. Photo by NASA

    The Earth is seen rising above the lunar horizon from the Apollo 8 spacecraft on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. Photo by NASA

    Experiment 7: Dunk a basketball

    Ok, the act of dunking a basketball doesn’t prove the Earth is round, but it does offer an opportunity for a confession: I’ve never been able to dunk a basketball. In my early 20s, I came close. I could jump and grab a 10-foot-high rim. I could even throw down a tennis ball, but my vertical leap couldn’t reach a height that allowed my hand to extend a basketball over a rim.

    By contrast, my 6’8″ roommate Justin could dunk with ease. Now, I could have chosen to believe Justin’s jams were linked to something other than his height. Maybe his shoes had magic properties that lifted his body to loftier heights?

    But throughout middle school and high school, something happened. My leaps improved the more that I played basketball. Growing calf muscles and month after month of countless jump shots corresponded with getting closer and closer to the rim. Justin trained too, and our confidence in the benefits of practicing grew as our leaps did.

    Aside from the sun spotlight concept, Flat Earthers present a wide variety of explanations to discredit everything written above, such as:

    Lunar eclipses are caused by a second object in space — an anti-moon — that blocks our view of the regular moon. (But if that’s the case, why can’t we see the anti-moon at other times?)

    Eratosthenes’ measurements didn’t validate the planet’s curves, but rather that the sun moves away and toward a flat Earth.

    Flat Earther concepts don’t stack up, especially when placed against modern technology like global air travel…or telescopes.

    Instead, their ideas require leaps of faith that far outpace a 5’0 teenager stretching his fingers toward a rim.

    The post 7 DIY experiments you and rapper B.o.B can do to prove Earth is round appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Go is considered the most complicated game in human history. Now, Google has built an artificial intelligence program that beat a professional player.  Photo by Stewart Bremner/via Getty Images

    Go is considered the most complicated game in human history. Now, Google has built an artificial intelligence program that can beat a professional player. Photo by Stewart Bremner/via Getty Images

    An artificial intelligence program developed by researchers at Google can beat a human at the board game Go, which some consider to be the most complicated board game in existence. And this AI program — dubbed AlphaGo — didn’t defeat any ol’ human, but the European Go champion Fan Hui in a tournament last October by five games to nil. The findings, published today in the journal Nature, represent a major coup for machine learning algorithms.

    “In a nutshell, by publishing this work as peer-reviewed research, we at Nature want to stimulate the debate about transparency in artificial intelligence,” senior editor Tanguy Chouard said at a press briefing yesterday. “And this paper seems like the best occasion for this, as it goes- should I say, right at the heart of the mystery of what intelligence is.”

    Known as wéiqí in Chinese and baduk in Korean, Go originated in China over 2,500 years ago. The board consist of a 19 by 19 grid of intersecting lines. Two players take turns placing black and white marbles on individual intersection points. Once place, the stones can’t be moved, but they can be captured by completely surrounding an opponent’s marble. The ultimate objective is control more than 50 percent of the board, but since the board is so intricate, there are numerous possibilities for moves.

    “So Go is probably the most complex game ever devised by man. It has 10^170 possible board configurations, which is more than the numbers of atoms in the universe,” said study author and AlphaGo co-developer Demis Hassabis of Google DeepMind.

    The team’s goal was to beat the best human players, not just mimic them. Hassabis continued that it’s much harder for computer programs to play than chess. During a typical moment in chess, a player has an average of 20 possible moves. For Go, it’s 200 possible moves.

    To unpack this complexity, Google DeepMind created an artificial neural network — a web consisting of millions of computerized neurons. Actually, to be honest, they built two.

    The first — the policy network — predicts the next move. AlphaGo uses this network to narrow its mental search and consider the moves that are most likely to lead to a win. It was trained by observing 30 million moves from games played by human experts, until it could predict the human move 57 percent of the time. The previous record by a computer program was 44 percent.

    The second — the value network — takes a shallower approach, estimating the winner from each move, rather than searching all the way to the end of the game, said co-developer David Silver of Google DeepMind.

    “The policy network suggests intelligent moves to play, while the value network figures out who’s going to win in each of those positions that’s reached,” Silver said. “AlphaGo looks ahead by playing out the remainder of the game in its imagination many times over.”

    Video by nature video

    The team’s goal was to beat the best human players, not just mimic them. AlphaGo accomplishes this feat by discovering new strategies for itself. This method contrasts with using brute force programming, wherein a computer tries all possible candidates for a solution. IBM’s DeepBlue computer used brute force to beat chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1996.

    “[AlphaGo] plays thousands and thousands of games between its neural networks and gradually improving them using a trial-and-error process, known as reinforcement learning,” Silver said. By doing so, AlphaGo evaluated thousands of times fewer moves in its Go game against Hui compared to DeepBlue’s chess match against Kasparov. In other words, machine learning trumped brute in terms of efficiency.

    “Following the Chess match between Gary Kasparov and IBM’s Deep Blue in 1996, the goal of some Artificial Intelligence researchers to beat the top human Go players was an outstanding challenge, perhaps the most difficult one in the realm of games,” said Jon Diamond, president of the British Go Association in a statement.

    Now that AlphaGo has bested the European champion, it’s next challenge will be to face Lee Sedol, who is considered the world champion, in Seoul in March. Not to be outdone, Facebook announced earlier this morning that they are close to creating an artificial intelligence program that can beat a human player.

    The post Google artificial intelligence beats champion at world’s most complicated board game appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Law enforcement personnel monitor an intersection of closed Highway 395 in Burns, Oregon on January 26, 2016, during a standoff pitting an anti-government militia against the US authorities. One person died in an armed clash with police as they arrested the leaders of a group laying siege to an American wildlife refuge, the FBI said January 26. AFP PHOTO / ROB KERR / AFP / ROB KERR        (Photo credit should read ROB KERR/AFP/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It began on January 2, when an armed anti-government group took over a national wildlife refuge in Eastern Oregon. Then, late yesterday, the standoff suddenly lurched into violent conflict.

    And, today, questions swirled about what happened and what happens next.

    After weeks of waiting, federal and state officers corralled the militia leaders during a traffic stop.

    MAN: Looked like they were making some arrests and clogging up the highway. I am glad to see an end to this. Hopefully, it is an end to this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: They were captured as they drove to a community meeting in John Day, Oregon, 70 miles north of Burns, near the wildlife refuge. Gunfire erupted during the confrontation, and the group’s unofficial spokesman, LaVoy Finicum, was shot and killed. The Arizona rancher had said he’d rather die than be arrested.

    Jason Patrick is one of those still occupying the refuge.

    JASON PATRICK, Militia Member: They told us that we could safely leave. Well, the group that was leaving has a dead man in it. There’s another man who left and was in Arizona, and he’s in custody. They have said peaceful resolution the whole time, so it depends on what you believe.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: FBI officials refused today to give details of how the shooting happened, while insisting the whole situation could have been avoided.

    GREGORY BRETZING, FBI Special Agent in Charge: The armed occupiers have been given ample opportunity to leave the refuge peacefully. They have been given opportunities to negotiate. Instead, these individuals have chosen to threaten and intimidate the America they profess to love and, through criminal actions, bring these consequences upon themselves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amanda Peacher is with Oregon Public Broadcasting, and has been covering the standoff.

    AMANDA PEACHER, Oregon Public Broadcasting: It is very tense and a very anxious place here in Burns, Oregon, today. I think a lot of people in this community have been suffering for weeks now, wondering how this is going to end. And while some people in this community sympathize with the militants’ message that federal lands would be in better hands under local control. No one here wanted violence.

    So, I’m seeing a lot of grief and a lot of anxiety and uncertainty as to what could happen next with the remaining occupiers still at the refuge and with the hefty law enforcement presence here in Burns.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Authorities arrested the group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, at the traffic stop along with his brother, Ryan, and three others, Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox, and Ryan Payne.

    Two other occupiers, Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy and Peter Santilli, were taken into custody separately back in Burns. Hours later, an eighth militia, Jon Eric Ritzheimer, surrendered to police in Arizona. Each will face felony charges of conspiring to impede federal officers.

    The group has occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since January 2 to protest federal control of public lands.

    RYAN BUNDY, Militia Member: We want to make sure that they remain open to the public, where people can hunt and fish and hike and camp and watch the birds. We also want to make sure that those who own the rights on these lands can use it without inhibition from government.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the local sheriff, Dave Ward, warned today that it’s time for the standoff to end.

    DAVE WARD, Harney County Sheriff: It’s time for everybody in this illegal occupation to move on. There doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community.

    If we have issues with the way things are going in our government, we have a responsibility as citizens to act on those in an appropriate manner. We don’t arm up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Again, Amanda Peacher.

    AMANDA PEACHER: Those remaining have decided to stay, no matter what it takes. Many have told reporters that they are willing to die there. And they seem to be making preparations to sort of hunker down.

    We have heard reports that they’re building trenches, and that they are armed, although we don’t know to what extent. And they seem ready to stay and potentially fight.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Checkpoints have now been set up along key routes in and out of the refuge to secure the area. One of the occupation leaders says five or six militia members are still holding out there.

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    A sign identifies DeVry University's Chicago campus. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    A sign identifies DeVry University’s Chicago campus. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Another large for-profit college is under government scrutiny — this time, it’s DeVry University.

    The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday sued DeVry, alleging that it misled consumers about students’ job and earnings prospects.

    Illinois-based DeVry has more than 55 campuses across the country and offers online or on-campus degree programs in business, technology and health care technology.

    In its complaint, the commission alleged that DeVry deceived students in its advertising and marketing by claiming that 90 percent of its graduates actively seeking employment landed jobs in their fields within six months of graduation. The agency also says DeVry was misleading when it claimed its graduates had 15 percent higher incomes one year after graduation on average than graduates of all other colleges or universities.

    Both representations, the commission said, were false and unsubstantiated.

    Instead of landing jobs in their field of study, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said, some graduates found themselves working as delivery drivers or restaurant servers. She said anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 students may have been affected by the alleged deceptive advertising.

    DeVry said the allegations are “without a valid legal basis” and that it will “vigorously contest” the complaint.

    “There is no national standard for calculating employment statistics among higher education institutions, and the measures and standards used by DeVry University to support its statistics are appropriate,” a statement from the company said.

    The commission is seeking a court order to stop DeVry from making the advertising claims, via TV, radio, social media and elsewhere. Ramirez said she hopes to seek monetary relief for students.

    “Many students, including those who studied at DeVry, incur significant financial expense to improve their employment opportunities upon graduation,” said Ramirez. “It’s especially important that educational institutions give prospective students the truth about whether their courses will help them obtain the jobs that they want in their chosen field.”

    In concert with the FTC lawsuit, the Education Department announced its own action against DeVry.

    Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said the department has informed DeVry that it must stop making certain claims about its postgraduation outcomes and that it must inform students that it cannot substantiate those claims — or risk losing federal student loan money.

    DeVry has more than 55 campuses in 18 states, including California, Georgia, Illinois and Texas.

    For-profits colleges have come under increasing scrutiny since the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, once one of the largest chains of for-profits.

    Corinthian filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2015 amid fraud allegations. The Education Department has been sorting through thousands of claims from Corinthian students seeking relief from their federal student loans — a bailout that could potentially cost up to $3.2 billion.

    In another case, the Justice Department announced a $95.5 million settlement last November with Education Management Corp., a Pennsylvania company that enrolls students at for-profit trade schools and colleges in the U.S. and Canada. Education Management had been accused of illegally paying recruiters and exaggerating the career-placement abilities of its schools.

    The post FTC sues for-profit DeVry University over job, earning claims appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Paige Bellenbaum with her husband and two chidren.

    Paige Bellenbaum, posing with her husband and two chidren, says a visit to a clinic helped her manage her own postpartum depression.

    Paige Bellenbaum sat on a New York City park bench several years ago with her baby son, Max, when she saw another new mom staring adoringly at her own baby.

    “And she looked at me and said, ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’” Bellenbaum said. “I looked back at her and I said, ‘No, not really, it’s actually the hardest thing I’ve ever done.’” The new mother’s smile faded as tears welled up in her eyes. “I’m so glad you said that,” she said.

    Bellenbaum, who battled severe postpartum depression, said Tuesday’s announcement by a government-appointed task force, which recommends medical professionals screen women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth, was a step in the right direction in the fight to improve women’s mental health. According to the report, the 2009 task force had recommended depression screenings for all adults but had not specifically included pregnant and women who gave birth.

    READ MORE: New guidelines suggest depression screenings amid stress of pregnancy

    The United States Preventative Task Force’s new guidelines urge medical workers to screen pregnant women and new mothers regardless of whether they have services in place to provide treatment, given that mental health services are now more widely available and screenings are accepted as part of mental health care. The recommendation received a “B” rating from the Task Force, making it so that screening for maternal depression must now be covered under the Affordable Care Act.

    “There’s been little to no conversation about this issue on a federal level until now,” Bellenbaum said. She worked with New York lawmakers to pass a maternal depression bill, which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law in August 2014. But like the Task Force’s recommendations, along with a handful of other states, it does not place a mandate on health care providers to talk with women about maternal health issues.

    According to the non-profit Postpartum Support International (PSI), maternal depression or perinatal mood disorders, which occur during pregnancy or after childbirth, may lead to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior as well as psychosis. Symptoms may include anger, sadness, lack of interest in the baby, sleeplessness, thoughts of hopelessness, and in the most extreme cases, thoughts of suicide or harming the baby. Experts agree that there is no one single cause for these disorders, but rather a combination of factors including hormonal and psychological changes as well as social support, according to Dr. Wendy N. Davis, PSI’s executive director.

    “It’s a huge deal,” Davis said about the panel’s recommendations, adding that, “I’m really excited, but the work goes on.” PSI provides free services to families during and after pregnancy and trains health care providers on how to screen and discuss maternal depression with women. “The recommendations from the Task Force are fully-formed and have been distributed to all medical providers who take them very seriously,” according to Davis.

    About 10 to 15 percent of women in the United States will develop some form of maternal depression each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Bellenbaum’s downward spiral initially started with a traumatic labor. She experienced thoughts of suicide, insomnia, and obsessive-compulsive behavior—all signs of severe postpartum depression. “I would rock back and forth and cry and go into the bathroom and just stare at the medicine cabinet and think what I could do to end this,” Bellenbaum said.

    Problems with nursing left her feeling paranoid and resentful of her baby. She didn’t know what was happening, which as a trained social worker, left Bellenbaum feeling embarrassed and ashamed. She withdrew socially, remaining with her baby in the family’s tiny apartment. When she did go outside, Bellenbaum said she would have “flashes of how to escape,” including buying a one-way ticket to the Bahamas to start her life over — alone.

    Bellenbaum’s husband was supportive but wasn’t sure what to do. Her doctors never brought up the possibility that she could be suffering from depression. After months of suffering, she got in a cab and went to a free clinic at a hospital where specialists quickly diagnosed her with severe postpartum depression. She was put on medication immediately, which Bellenbaum said was the start to her recovery.

    “After I came out of the dark from my own personal experience with postpartum depression, I began looking at what kinds of legislation other states and cities have passed to help women suffering from perinatal mood disorders,” Bellenbaum said.

    Bellenbaum reached out to New York State Sen. Liz Krueger who, along with Assembly Health Chair Richard Gottfried, sponsored a maternal depression bill. It passed with both Democratic and Republican support.

    Similar to New York’s law, the federal Task Force recommends screening for depression, which involves a short series of questions between the health care provider and the patient. If a woman shows signs of depression, she may be referred to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment, which may include counseling, support groups or medication.

    “Although the level of awareness and even recognition is increasing, the fear and hesitancy for mothers to reach out is still pretty high,” Davis said. She said the Task Force’s recommendations that expectant and new mothers are screened for depression will help to lessen the stigma around postpartum depression.

    In addition to government and advocacy groups working together, women also need to support each other, Bellenbaum said. After the new mother sitting on the park bench began to cry, Bellenbaum said, “I learned in that moment that women need to be given permission to talk about this issue that is impacting them directly or impacting someone they know.”

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    A man marches with a sign depicting raised hands as students and activists hold a protest march through Manhattan, New York, against the verdict announced in the fatal shooting death of Michael Brown. Since President Barack Obama's election in 2008, polls have shown an overall decrease in the number of people who believe race relations are "very or fairly good."Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    A man marches with a sign depicting raised hands as students and activists hold a protest march through Manhattan, New York, against the verdict announced in the fatal shooting death of Michael Brown. Since President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, polls have shown an overall decrease in the number of people who believe race relations are “very or fairly good.”Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    PHILADELPHIA — More white Americans now share the view, long held by minorities, that racism is a national problem and should be confronted, according to an analysis of recent public opinion polling.

    The review, compiled by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in conjunction with the Northeastern University School of Journalism, concludes that a majority of Americans across racial groups think more should be done to end racism. To that end, the foundation announced Thursday that it is launching a “Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission” to discuss solutions for ending systemic inequality based on race.

    Media coverage, combined with technology, has helped to make a powerful case for racial bias being more of an abiding pattern than a snapshot of any given moment in time, said Jonathan Kaufman, director of Northeastern’s journalism school.

    “When whites see injustice, they’re human, and they understand what it’s like to be afraid,” Kaufman said. “I think that cuts through people’s prejudices and makes them think twice.”

    Kellogg’s analysis, obtained by The Associated Press, notes that since President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, polls have shown an overall decrease in the number of people who believe race relations are “very or fairly good.” In January 2009, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed 79 percent of whites, 76 percent of blacks and 64 percent of Hispanics held that view. The same poll seven years later showed 33 percent of whites, 26 percent of blacks and 38 percent of Hispanics felt the same way. A similar Gallup poll showed a 10-point drop for blacks and 35-point drop for whites on the state of race relations between 2008 and 2015.

    The increased use of technology in documenting racial incidences — such as in the killings of unarmed black males by police — has helped drive new attitudes among whites about the realities of racism in America, researchers found.

    New York Times/CBS polling in 1995 showed only 15 percent of whites believed the criminal justice system was biased against blacks, compared to 51 percent of blacks. By 2015, that number had risen to 44 percent of whites and 77 percent of blacks. Polls from CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation and Gallup showed an increase in the number of whites who believe the criminal justice system is biased against black people.

    An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted in July 2015 found that 47 percent of whites said police sometimes treat minority groups more roughly — compared to 81 percent of blacks who felt the same way — and 52 percent of whites think police treat all races and ethnic groups equally. In the same poll, 45 percent of whites said poor relations between police and the public they serve is a major reason for police violence against civilians, compared to 73 percent of blacks.

    Americans born in the Millennial generation are more likely to say they’re not racist and less likely to use racist expressions. But subconscious prejudices still persist. Hari Sreenivasan visits a psychology lab at New York University, where researchers test subjects’ instinct and decision-making to learn more about these implicit biases. Video by PBS NewsHour

    The Kellogg Foundation, one of the country’s largest philanthropic organizations, was started by the breakfast cereal pioneer in 1930. In recent years, the foundation has focused on efforts to promote racial equity and has committed $300 million a year to advocate groups to address racial disparities for children of color.

    Kellogg is committing $35 million over seven years to the commission, which is based on other such efforts implemented in countries like South Africa after the end of apartheid and on a local level in the U.S. It is the first such national initiative since President Bill Clinton commissioned a national conversation on race in 1997.

    “We’re seeing an unprecedented moment in time where the human will is in a place … for an opportunity for greater shared learning and understanding of one another, a space to create conversation and action,” said Kellogg president and chief executive officer La June Montgomery Tabron.

    Over the next four to six months, more than 70 partner organizations will discuss the commission’s design and create working groups focused on issues like employment, health, segregation and housing, Tabron said.

    Kellogg’s analysis was done taking comparative polling data over the past two decades from CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation; PBS NewsHouse and Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion; The New York Times/CBS; The Wall Street Journal/NBC News; The Pew Research Center and Gallup. Poll questions were not identical, but researchers considered them similar enough to draw conclusions and identify trends.

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    Michigan National Guard members help to distribute water to a line of residents in their cars in Flint, Michigan. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    Michigan National Guard members help to distribute water to a line of residents in their cars in Flint, Michigan. Photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    LANSING, Michigan — Michigan lawmakers directed another $28 million on Thursday to address Flint’s lead-contaminated water supply, allocating money for bottled water, medical assessments and other costs for the financially struggling city.

    The quick and unanimous approval by the House and Senate came just over a week after the funding was proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign it quickly.

    “We obviously have a number of issues that we have to deal with, whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s folks having to pay for water that obviously is undrinkable,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint. “But the most important I think right now … is to start the focus on the assessment and the providing of services.”

    This is the second round of funding enacted since the crisis was confirmed in the fall, bringing the total allocated to nearly $39 million. Snyder has promised to put forward more funding for Flint in his upcoming annual budget proposal, but has not said how much.

    It is unlikely to be as high as the up to $400 million figure mentioned in Congress on Thursday. Senate Democrats proposed that amount in emergency federal aid to Flint, with a requirement that the state match the spending on Flint pipes, dollar for dollar.

    “This is a state responsibility,” Michigan Sen. Gary Peters said at a news conference at the Capitol. “The state broke it. They need to fix it.”

    Flint’s water became contaminated when the city, under emergency state management, switched from the Detroit municipal system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money.

    State regulators failed to ensure the new water was treated properly and lead from pipes leached into the water supply. Some children’s blood has tested positive for lead, which has been linked to learning disabilities, lower IQ and behavioral problems.

    While the damage to Flint’s water distribution infrastructure potentially is $713 million, according to an assessment done by Genesee County and cited in the state’s request for federal assistance, Snyder and the Republicans who control the state Legislature said it is far too early to talk about a wholesale replacement of the pipes.

    Snyder’s administration has estimated it could cost up to $55 million to repair some 15,000 lead pipes. Officials are hopeful that the addition of anti-corrosion chemicals will effectively recoat the lines.

    The state spending bill includes $500,000 for outside experts to study the integrity of the water system infrastructure.

    “Before we start throwing money into infrastructure, we need to know really what the condition is, where the pipes are, how many there are,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville. “There’s a lot of unknowns.”

    The money approved Thursday will pay for developmental assessments of children age 3 and younger, additional school nurses, lead and blood testing, plumbing fixture replacements and other costs.

    The largest allotment — $4.6 million — is for bottled water, filters and replacement cartridges being distributed to residents in the city of nearly 100,000 people. About $3.9 million will be used to treat children with high blood-lead levels.

    Snyder said Wednesday that about 200 children have been identified but more need to be tested. Ananich pointed to an unknown number of people who were potentially exposed before the disaster came to light and were never tested before the toxin dissipated from their body.

    “We have to assume this is population-wide,” he said.

    Legislators said they were able to shift about $3.4 million to other Flint priorities because of charitable donations and the ability to buy water at discounted rates after a federal emergency declaration was issued. The Legislature also voted Thursday to extend Michigan’s emergency declaration until mid-April.

    Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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    Inmates (left to right) Duane Leo Ehmer, Jason S. Patrick and Dylan Wade Anderson are seen in a combination of police jail booking photos released by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Portland, Oregon on Jan. 28. Law enforcement was working on Thursday to convince remaining protesters in a month-long armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon to leave the site following calls from the group's leader to stand down and the death of a member. Photo by MCSO/Handout via Reuters

    Inmates (left to right) Duane Leo Ehmer, Jason S. Patrick and Dylan Wade Anderson are seen in a combination of police jail booking photos released by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Portland, Oregon on Jan. 28. Law enforcement was working on Thursday to convince remaining protesters in a month-long armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon to leave the site following calls from the group’s leader to stand down and the death of a member. Photo by MCSO/Handout via Reuters

    Three more armed occupants of an Oregon wildlife refuge surrendered to authorities on Wednesday after their jailed leader Ammon Bundy urged the remaining militants to “go home.”

    The arrests took place at a checkpoint law enforcement had set up outside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns in central Oregon.

    The three arrested were Duane Leo Ehmer, 45, of Irrigon, Oregon; Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, of Provo, Utah; and Jason S. Patrick, 43, of Bonaire, Georgia, according to the FBI and Oregon State Police, the Associated Press reported.

    Bundy wrote a statement that his attorney read in court: “Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. The fight is now in the courts.”

    A U.S. flag covers a sign at the entrance of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon on Jan. 3. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    A U.S. flag covers a sign at the entrance of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon on Jan. 3. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    About a half-dozen occupiers still remained at the camp late Wednesday, according to the AP.

    On Tuesday, Bundy and other occupiers were arrested in a traffic stop on a remote highway, which resulted in the deaths of one of the militants Robert Finicum.

    People offered conflicting accounts of the death. One of Bundy’s followers said Finicum had charged an FBI agent, who shot him, but a member of Bundy’s family said he had done nothing to provoke the agents, the AP reported.

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    On the 30th anniversary of the loss of space shuttle Challenger, NASA held a day of remembrance Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, including a wreath-laying ceremony. Watch the events here.

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    Geovane Silva holds his son Gustavo Henrique, who has microcephaly, at the Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Recife, Brazil, on Jan. 26. Health authorities in Brazil at the center of a rapidly spreading Zika outbreak have been overwhelmed by the alarming surge in cases of babies born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder associated to the mosquito-borne virus. Photo by Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

    Geovane Silva holds his son Gustavo Henrique, who has microcephaly, at the Oswaldo Cruz Hospital in Recife, Brazil, on Jan. 26. Health authorities in Brazil at the center of a rapidly spreading Zika outbreak have been overwhelmed by the alarming surge in cases of babies born with microcephaly, a neurological disorder associated to the mosquito-borne virus. Photo by Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

    Millions of cases of the Zika virus, with its potential to cause deformities in newborns, might come to the Americas over the next year, World Health Organization officials said Thursday.

    “The level of alarm is extremely high,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on Thursday. “Last year, the virus was detected in the Americas, where it is now spreading explosively.”

    WHO has called an emergency committee meeting for Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, to come up with health guidelines and a coordinated action plan.

    Health officials said Thursday in a conference call with reporters that they don’t have exact numbers related to Zika, but based on the spread of a similar mosquito-borne disease Dengue Fever, there could be 3 million to 4 million cases of the Zika virus, either detected or undetected, in the Americas over a one-year span.

    The speed of the virus’ spread could be caused by a population without immunity to the disease and the potential vast area of the spread from the southern United States to northern Argentina.

    The virus is spread by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which typically live in tropical and subtropical regions in the world. They also are known to spread Dengue Fever, Chikungunya and Yellow Fever.

    The Zika virus can cause fever, rash, joint pain or red eyes. Rarely, is hospitalization needed, and carriers often don’t feel any symptoms.

    City workers fumigate the Centro America neighborhood of San Salvador, El Salvador, as part of preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases on Jan. 27. Photo by Jose Cabezas/Reuters

    City workers fumigate the Centro America neighborhood of San Salvador, El Salvador, as part of preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases on Jan. 27. Photo by Jose Cabezas/Reuters

    The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 in the Zika forest of Uganda, Chan said. It mostly affected monkeys and sometimes humans. The mild symptoms did not cause alarm.

    But lately, with the unexplained outbreak of babies in Brazil with microcephaly, which causes birth defects of an unusually small brain and head, the virus came to the attention of health workers as a possible cause.

    “The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions,” said Chan.

    The lack of immunity and the absence of a vaccine make it even more alarming, she said.

    The U.S. government has begun researching a possible vaccine, but it could take years to develop.

    Health technician Willian Araya shows the cultivated Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae at a laboratory in Ministry of Health in San Jose, Costa Rica on Jan. 27. The Health Ministry confirmed on Tuesday, the first case of the Zika virus in the country, according to local media. Photo by Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

    Health technician Willian Araya shows the cultivated Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae at a laboratory in Ministry of Health in San Jose, Costa Rica on Jan. 27. The Health Ministry confirmed on Tuesday, the first case of the Zika virus in the country, according to local media. Photo by Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

    For the time being, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has cautioned pregnant women from traveling to Zika-affected areas.

    The CDC and WHO have more information about the virus on their websites.

    The post WHO alarmed at spread of Zika virus and risk of deformities in babies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of worker stocking shelves with Barbie dolls by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    File photo of worker stocking shelves with Barbie dolls by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    After more than a half-century of white skin, bleach-blonde hair, blue eyes and unrealistic body dimensions, Barbie dolls are getting a makeover. Mattel Inc., the company that created Barbie, is re-imagining her with different body types, skin color and hair.

    Barbie made her debut in 1959 as the “teenage fashion model” resembling actresses Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth. The doll featured pursed red lips, ’50s-style curly bangs of blonde or brunette, pale skin, long slim legs, and a narrow waist and hips. In each decade that followed, Barbie mirrored the top celebrities, reflecting changes in style and fashion, but generally retaining her unrealistic physique.

    “I think it is important to notice that Barbie has always been a trailblazer,” said Michelle Chidoni, Mattel’s head of communications. “Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, received backlash for creating a doll in the female form. So, Barbie has always been surrounded by conversation and controversy.”

    Barbie’s transformations have reflected women’s strides through history, the company says. After the first female Soviet cosmonaut flew in space in 1963, Barbies came with astronaut attire. Then in the 1980s, the brand launched the “We Girls Can Do Anything” campaign to try to promote her appeal among more consumers.

    Barbie’s 2015 ad — showing young girls aspiring to careers like veterinarians, businesswomen and professors — received mixed reactions during the brand’s “Imagine the Possibilities” campaign. Many reminisced their days playing with Barbies, while others said the ad was clever but “Barbie sets the wrong image for girls regarding body type.”

    The new line of Barbies offers more options for consumers; there’s a curvy Barbie, a tall Barbie and a petite Barbie. Rather than one-size-fits-all, Barbie’s hair and face come in a diversity of shades, even one with blue hair. Kim Culmone, head of design, told Time magazine that in order to reflect the times, the company changed Barbie’s face to have less makeup and a younger look.

    “I think it was important for us offer a variety of dolls to cater to different girls,” said Chidoni.

    For the brand that sells $1 billion in toys in more than 150 countries annually, making such a radical change is risky, some say, according to Time.  One issue with the new dolls is that the clothing is not interchangeable among the different body types.

    “It’s like shopping in a friend’s closet,” said Chidoni. “For 56 years we have not disrupted the system of how the dolls are made, and it will take us some time to catch up and get there so the clothing can fit all dolls in the future.”

    The post Barbie is getting a brand new look, or several of them appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Ronald Reagan delivered a televised eulogy on Jan. 28, 1986, after the Challenger disaster. Video by Reagan Foundation

    Thirty years ago, the nation witnessed one of NASA’s most public failures when the space shuttle Challenger broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean 73 seconds into launch, leaving the memorable image of a Y-shaped plume of smoke across the otherwise sunny sky. It also left President Ronald Reagan with the sizable duty of consoling the nation in the face of so much loss.

    All seven crew members died, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was selected as the first civilian to fly in space.

    “You know how frightened people get when they see things blow up?” speechwriter Peggy Noonan said in her 1986 exit interview. “I kind of figured the entire nation had seen an auto accident.”

    President Reagan and his staff watch a televised replay of the Challenger disaster. Photo courtesy of Bill Fitzpatrick via Ronald Reagan Library

    President Reagan and his staff watch a televised replay of the Challenger disaster. Photo courtesy of Bill Fitzpatrick via Ronald Reagan Library

    Reagan was scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address later that night, but canceled it for a four-minute, much simpler speech focusing on the disaster. It would be months before NASA scientists would learn the below-freezing temperatures compromised the rockets’ rubber O-rings.

    Discussing her speech last year, Noonan said Reagan needed “to do a speech that is aimed at those who are 8 years old, and those who are 18, and those who are 80 without patronizing anybody.”

    Reagan remembered the victims with an ending was literally poetic; it was taken from a poem, titled “High Flight,” written by American aviator John Gillespie Magee in World War II. Magee died at age 19 from a mid-air collision.

    “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God,'” the president said.

    Noonan said she remembered the poem from seventh grade. “It’s always very important to put these things in context again and say, ‘Terrible things happen to pioneers, but the trek does not stop here,'” she said.

    In a effort to maintain excitement about space exploration, NASA selected McAuliffe out of thousands of applicants to become the first in a series of “payload specialists,” or civilian passengers. On the official insignia of the mission, the 37-year-old high school teacher was represented by a red apple.

    NASA also had arranged for live broadcasts of the launch in many classrooms so children could watch the first teacher reach space.

    In lieu of his State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan delivered a four-minute speech hours after the Challenger shuttle broke apart in the sky. Photo courtesy of Mary Anne Fackelman via Ronald Reagan Library

    In lieu of his State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan delivered a four-minute speech hours after the Challenger shuttle broke apart in the sky. Photo courtesy of Mary Anne Fackelman via Ronald Reagan Library

    Speaking from the Oval Office, hours after the disaster, Reagan assured Americans the space program would continue, after he directly addressed schoolchildren.

    “I know it’s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen,” the president said, “It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. … The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

    Reagan said there would be more shuttle flights and, “yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.”

    Despite Reagan’s promise, public enthusiasm for civilian passengers soon waned. Decades later, NASA shuttered its space shuttle program.

    The post President Reagan’s speech to a nation reeling after Challenger disaster appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    PBS NewsHour’s former political editor Domenico Montanaro reported on Buddy Cianci’s run for mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, in 2014.

    The long-standing former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr., who was twice convicted of felonies but still had enough support to run again in 2014, died Thursday at age 74.

    He reportedly was filming his show “On the Record with Buddy Cianci” on Wednesday night when he was rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pains. He died the next day.

    Cianci served as mayor of Providence from 1975 to 1984 and again from 1991 to 2002, making him one of the longest mayors in U.S. history. His terms in office were cut short twice due to felony convictions, including one count of racketeering conspiracy.

    He became a conservative radio talk show host and ran for mayor again in 2014, when he was beaten by Democratic candidate Jorge Elorza.

    “I did my time. I did it like a man. I paid the price. And the law says I can run. And I’m running,” he said at the time.

    The post Twice-convicted but unsinkable former mayor of Providence dies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for $12 billion over a decade to help feed schoolchildren from low-income families during the summer, the White House said Wednesday. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    President Barack Obama does not envision serving on the Supreme Court, the White House said Thursday. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Don’t expect Barack Obama to wind up on the Supreme Court — he doesn’t want the job.

    The White House says Obama’s post-presidency plans don’t include becoming a Supreme Court justice.

    When Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was asked in Iowa if she’d nominate Obama if she were elected president, she responded by saying, “What a great idea.”

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

    But White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama would prefer to spend his post-presidency handling a wider range of issues than what the high court typically deals with.

    Obama himself said in 2014 that he doesn’t envision serving on the Supreme Court because the experience would be too “monastic” for him.

    The post White House: Obama doesn’t want to serve on Supreme Court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Archaeologists removed ancient bones discovered by construction workers at Oregon State University's Reser Stadium Monday. Photo courtesy of Loren Davis/Oregon State University

    Archaeologists removed ancient bones discovered by construction workers at Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium Monday. Photo courtesy of Loren Davis/Oregon State University

    An expansion project at Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium has uncovered ancient mammoth bones under the football field’s end zone.

    Construction crews digging in the north end zone Monday found a 4-foot-long femur bone that experts have confirmed came from a mammoth, a prehistoric species that went extinct at least 10,000 years ago.

    Further exploration with the help of archaeologists revealed thousands of bone fragments from several extinct mammals including bison and some kind of camel or horse.

    Oregon State University's Loren Davis was on site after the discovery of mammoth bones under Reser Stadium Monday. Photo by Theresa Hogue

    Oregon State University’s Loren Davis was on site after the discovery of mammoth bones under Reser Stadium Monday. Photo by Theresa Hogue

    The bones were discovered about 10 feet underground in an area that may once have been a bog or marsh, according to Loren Davis, associate professor of anthropology at OSU.

    “Animals who were sick would often go to a body of water and die there, so it’s not unusual to find a group of bones like this,” Davis said. “We had all of these types of animals in the Willamette Valley back then.”

    Davis was called to the site after the initial discovery and said some of the bones are “actually quite well-preserved.” He and other researchers have found at least one mammoth tooth and portions of a clavicle in addition to the femur.

    They believe they may discover more bones as they continue excavating a large pile of dirt removed from the site. They plan to soak the bones in water to prevent further deterioration and are testing them to determine their exact age.

    The ribs of what Oregon State University officials believe was a mammoth were discovered under the school football field Monday. Photo courtesy of Loren Davis/Oregon State University

    The ribs of what Oregon State University officials believe was a mammoth were discovered under the school football field Monday. Photo courtesy of Loren Davis/Oregon State University

    The discovery of mammoth bones is not unusual in the Willamette Valley, according to OSU spokesman Steve Clark. Similar discoveries have been made around Corvallis, Tualatin and Woodburn.

    “The Willamette Valley was an area where these animals roamed,” Clark said. “There was a temperate climate and over time they died by natural causes.”

    Davis said the animals do not appear to have been killed, and no one has seen any signs of human bones or artifacts at the site. That means the Valley Football Center expansion project can proceed as planned. Without any human artifacts, there are no special rules or regulations requiring the university to preserve or protect the site or the bones.

    An expansion project at Oregon State University's Reser Stadium has uncovered what appears to be ancient mammoth bones under the north end zone of the football field. Photo courtesy of Loren Davis/Oregon State University

    An expansion project at Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium has uncovered what appears to be ancient mammoth bones under the north end zone of the football field. Photo courtesy of Loren Davis/Oregon State University

    The expansion and renovation project began after the fall football season and is scheduled to wrap up by the start of the 2016 season. While experts at the university remove and examine the bones, construction crews have moved to other areas to continue working.

    Eventually, the site where the mammoth bones were found will be locker rooms and meeting spaces for the school’s football players.

    Clark said the university would like to display the bones in addition to using them in research and teaching. And, he said, they might even give the Beavers a boost on the field.

    “You know a mammoth is strong and would be a heck of a linebacker,” he said. “Our football coach Gary Anderson would love this discovery to be an inspiration and a metaphor for the conviction and the strength and achievement of his football team.”

    This report first appeared on EarthFix’s website. EarthFix is a public media project of Oregon Public Broadcasting and Boise State Public Radio, Idaho Public Television, KCTS 9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Southern Oregon Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Ancient mammoth bones discovered under Oregon State’s stadium appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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