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

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    The Bontrager family crisscrosses the state, performing for Ted Cruz. Photo by Dan Bush

    The Bontrager family crisscrosses the state, performing for Ted Cruz. Photo by Dan Bush

    KALONA, Iowa — Initially, Becky and Marlin Bontrager disagreed about the number of children they wanted to have. Becky says that she wanted six, while her husband was hoping for closer to four.

    They ended up with 10, all of whom were homeschooled on the family’s farm in this small rural town in central Iowa. Today, all of the siblings, who now range in age from eight to 25, tour the country with their parents in a family gospel and bluegrass band.

    Early this morning, Marlin and his son Joshua, 19, scanned a to-do list for Iowa caucus day while 21-year-old Allison, the second-oldest daughter, and two of her younger sisters prepared a pumpkin pancake breakfast in the kitchen.

    READ NEXT: Here’s how the Iowa caucus works

    Marlin Bontrager is one of three national chairmen of Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s “Homeschoolers for Cruz” coalition, which is helping get out the vote in a state where evangelical voters, including many in the homeschool community, will help decide the winner of tonight’s Republican caucuses.

    The Bontragers are among Cruz’s most loyal supporters. Everyone in the family, down to Lincoln, 12, who wore a Cruz sticker to the breakfast table, seemed energized by his campaign.

    “I love Ted Cruz because he’s passionate about the values I care about,” said Joshua. His mother was more direct: “I think it’s God who is helping him rise to the top,” Becky said.

    Spreading the gospel — and politics — through music

    This is the first time that the Bontragers, who are both 48, or their children, have been actively involved in a presidential campaign. But in many ways their volunteer work for Cruz, which includes performing at his campaign events, represents an extension of the family’s mission to spread the gospel through music.

    The eldest Bontrager children all began playing musical instruments around age 8. Formal music lessons followed, and as the family grew, it started performing at a local nursing home.

    In 2005, the Bontrager Family Singers were invited to perform at four state prisons in South Carolina. It was their first experience performing outside state lines. At one of the events, Marlin asked the inmates, a group of about 150 men, to raise their hands if they were fathers. Hands shot up around the room.

    “This is the first time ever in my adult life that we’ve had a candidate that I’m fired up about,”

    “That hit me pretty hard,” Marlin said, adding that it helped foster a belief that’s now central to his personal politics: “Almost every broken policy in Washington right now can be traced back to the breakdown of the family.”

    Visiting the prison, he said, was “a life-changing experience.”

    The prisons in South Carolina became a regular stop on a concert tour of Southern churches, jails, and county fairs. Today, the family spends six months a year on the road, performing at venues across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

    The shows combine traditional entertainment with a strong evangelical Christian message.

    “We play some bluegrass instrumental pieces, but we’re also focused pretty heavily through our music in giving the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Marlin said.

    When the home is the classroom

    When they’re not on tour, the Bontragers are back in Kalona, tending to the family’s 500-acre corn and soybean farm. The family also owns a hotel in town, the Dutch Country Inn, and are shareholders in a biodiesel plant in central Iowa.

    The family’s five younger, school-aged children devote the first part of their day to reading, math, and other traditional classroom work. They spend the rest of their study time learning through hands-on activities and carrying out chores around the farm.

    The Bontrager family at home. Photo by Dan Bush

    The Bontrager family at home. Photo by Dan Bush

    “I’ve got a son, for example, who has much more of a bent in mechanics, so I try to give him as many mechanics jobs as I can,” Bontrager said.

    The aspiring mechanic, Carson, was named after the retired neurosurgeon and long-shot 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson; Marlin and Becky chose the name after reading Carson’s 1996 book, “Gifted Hands.”

    Another son, Mitchell, 23, wants to be a pastor, and is learning how to preach.

    Becky, who had the couple’s first five children in seven years and has taken on most of the homeschooling duties, acknowledged that homeschooling wasn’t always easy, especially at first.

    “Those were really hard years,” she said in an interview at the family’s farm, adding that at first she felt “totally outnumbered.” But as time went on, Becky said she accepted and even grew to appreciate the many challenges of feeding, clothing and teaching so many children at once. Chelsey, her eldest child at 25, said she plans eventually to raise her family the same way.

    “The older I get, the more I realize how much I’ve been blessed to grow up the way I did,” Chelsy said. “I’m super grateful I was homeschooled and raised in a Christian family.”

    In some respects, the Bontragers follow a freewheeling curriculum. At the same time, their approach has a coherent educational philosophy rooted in religious study — family members spend time alone each morning reading the bible — and a running conversation about Christian ethics and responsibility that would not take place in a public school.

    “It’s very hard to send children to public school and teach them character,” Marlin Bontrager said. At home, the children can learn to “love the Lord and have good Godly character.”

    All of the elder Bontrager siblings, including Carson, who is 20, live at home and help out on the farm, though they also have additional jobs and hobbies apart from music and agriculture. Allison, 21, is interested in pursuing a career in editing and public relations; Joshua has thought of running for public office someday.

    Between school, farm work, church and touring, the family’s busy schedule left little room for politics in the past.

    How Cruz is mobilizing Iowa’s Christian homeschool community

    Marlin Bontrager backed the winner of the 2008 Iowa Republican caucus, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, but did not become involved in his campaign. The family was on tour in 2012, when former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won the state’s GOP caucus, and missed out on the excitement surrounding his razor-thin victory over Mitt Romney, the party’s eventual nominee.

    But something changed after Cruz entered the race last spring and began courting conservative religious primary voters.

    “This is the first time ever in my adult life that we’ve had a candidate that I’m fired up about,” Marlin Bontrager said of Cruz.

    Iowa’s conservative and largely evangelical Christian home school community is a natural constituency for Cruz, who has cast himself as the outsider Republican candidate most willing to take on the party establishment, liberals, and the mainstream press.

    Cruz is proposing a drastic, across-the-board reduction in the size and role of the federal government, including in the area of education.

    The freshman senator has pledged to eliminate the Department of Education in order to give states more control over curriculum and testing standards, and has come out in favor of homeschooling and other alternatives to public education.

    At the same time, Cruz is an ardent opponent of gay marriage and abortion. He peppers his campaign speeches with passages from scripture, and often laments the decline of religion and traditional family values in American life.

    It’s a message that resonates with the Bontragers and other homeschool families across Iowa who were interviewed for this story.

    Like Cruz, homeschool advocates underwent their own uphill battle for acceptance in Iowa. Homeschooling was banned in Iowa until 1991, when the state passed a law approving the practice after years of debate and legal battles over the issue.

    Today there are more than 10,000 homeschool students in Iowa, according to state data — a tiny fraction of the roughly 500,000 school-aged children in the state. But due to its decades-long campaign for legalization, the homeschool community is far more organized and politically powerful than most people realize.

    “Homeschool families are especially politically active, and I think that that comes from the history of the community itself,” said Drew Zahn, the communications director for The Family Leader, a prominent religious rights group headquartered in a suburb outside of Des Moines.

    Zahn is a staunch Cruz supporter. He and his wife have had 16 children together, and are homeschooling all of them. Years ago, “there was definitely a stigma” attached to homeschooling, Zahn said.

    “I don’t see that as the case at all anymore. Here in Iowa, homeschooling has become part of the mainstream.”

    Due to its decades-long campaign for legalization, the homeschool community is far more organized and politically powerful than most people realize.

    Small but established voting blocs in Iowa can also make a big difference in the final outcome of the caucuses. In 2012, only 121,503 registered Republicans — or 19.7 percent of the state’s registered GOP voters, on par with the average turnout rate for the party’s Iowa caucuses — voted for a primary candidate. Santorum won the contest by just 34 votes.

    In deciding which candidate to support in the Iowa caucuses, Amy Zobel, a mother of five who runs a homeschool association in Cedar County, said she was drawn to Cruz’s hawkish foreign policy platform and opposition to immigration reform. But Cruz’s social values and views on education were also a deciding factor.

    “He has a good handle on what America needs,” Zobel said. “I also know that he’s a proponent of homeschooling, and I know he’s a Christian.”

    Cruz was not a unanimous choice in the Bontrager household. Initially some of the family members leaned towards Huckabee and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is polling in third place behind Cruz and Trump.

    Chelsy, the eldest Bontrager sibling, said she quickly switched her allegiance to Cruz after hearing him speak and reading more about his political career. Eventually Marlin’s enthusiasm caught on and the rest of the Bontragers came around. “We wanted it to be a family decision,” Marlin said.

    The Bontragers have performed at numerous Cruz campaign events. The senator’s father, Rafael Cruz, a pastor and one of the campaign’s most effective surrogates, spoke at a Labor Day festival on the family’s farm last September, and has appeared twice at the Bontragers’ church in Washington, Iowa.

    At a service there last night on the eve of the caucuses, the Marion Avenue Baptist Church’s spacious auditorium was filled with more than 200 parishioners, many of them wearing Cruz campaign buttons and tee-shirts.

    The senior pastor, Joseph Brown, endorsed Cruz in a fiery Sunday sermon, before urging his flock to exercise their “God-given responsibility” to go out and caucus. Afterwards, the entire Bontrager clan trooped on stage for a brief live performance.

    Cruz is counting on people like Marlin Bontrager to help him win Iowa. If he loses, it will seem in retrospect like a risky bet. But supporters insisted up to the day of the caucus that evangelical voters, and homeschool advocates in particular, would turn out for Cruz.

    If Cruz wins, Zahn said, the homeschool community will be “an important part of his rise and success.”

    On the farm this morning, Marlin ticked off the list of tasks he had planned for the day: canvassing, calling undecided voters, setting up the caucus precinct. Early on in the primary cycle, the family wasn’t sure Cruz could win.

    But with Cruz running a close second to Donald Trump in the final days before tonight’s caucuses, there was growing excitement at the breakfast table that the senator could pull it off.

    “It’s not a done deal. We’re just getting started with voting,” Marlin said.

    “But he has a prayer,” Chelsy said.

    Allison chimed in from the kitchen, where she was almost done making a batch of pumpkin pancakes. “You mean chance,” she said. “What did I say?” Chelsy asked.

    “Prayer.”

    Becky smiled. “Allison is the editor in the family.”

    The post One homeschooled Christian family band’s mission to elect Ted Cruz appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Colombian women receive information from a health worker about how to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, at a train terminal in Bogota, Colombia on Jan. 31. Photo by John Vizcaino/Reuters

    Colombian women receive information from a health worker about how to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, at a train terminal in Bogota, Colombia on Jan. 31. Photo by John Vizcaino/Reuters

    The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus, and its possible link to an explosion of birth defects in Latin American countries, a public health emergency in need of a coordinated international response on Monday.

    Even though the connection between the mosquito-borne virus and congenital defects in newborns is not fully proven, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said it was enough to sound the emergency alarm.

    In Brazil and French Polynesia, outbreaks of microcephaly in newborns last fall caused concern among health workers, who also witnessed a rise in Zika cases. Babies with microcephaly have abnormally small heads associated with incomplete brain development. There also is a suspected connection between the Zika virus and the paralyzing neurological condition known as Guillain-Barre syndrome.

    READ MORE: How does Zika virus shrink a baby’s brain and other FAQs

    Health experts at the WHO emergency meeting in Geneva on Monday determined that the new clusters of microcephaly alone were sufficient to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern “because of its heavy burden on parents on mothers and on the community and society,” Chan said at a press conference following their meeting. “There is urgent need to do a lot more work and establish whether or not there is a definitive association” with the Zika virus.

    “Can you imagine if we do not do all this work now and wait until the scientific evidence comes out, then people would say that ‘why didn’t you take action?’” said Chan.

    WHO was criticized after the Ebola virus outbreaks in 2014 and 2015 primarily in West Africa for not reacting quickly enough. The world body instituted new procedures to try to avoid a similar health crisis.

    In Brazil alone, health workers saw 4,000 cases of microcephaly suspected of being caused by Zika virus in the mother, and in 270 of those cases, the link was confirmed, said Bruce Aylward, WHO’s executive director of outbreaks and health emergencies.

    So far, two dozen countries and territories have reported outbreaks of the Zika virus, including most recently the U.S. Virgin Islands. (See a full list on WHO’s website.)

    The mosquito that spreads Zika, known as Aedes aegypti, typically lives in tropical and subtropical regions in the world.

    The same mosquito spreads Dengue Fever and Chikungunya diseases, which also are exploding in record numbers in Central and South America, said Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. Researchers will be trying to figure out if those diseases are connected in some way to the growing number of cases of microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, she said.

    WHO stopped short of issuing a warning to pregnant women traveling to countries with known Zika cases as the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has done. Instead, WHO says women should consult with their physicians and take personal protective measures, such as using mosquito repellent, staying indoors when possible, wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors, and sleeping under mosquito nets.

    “The committee found no public health justification for restrictions on travel or trade to prevent the spread of Zika virus,” said Chan. “At present, the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites in at-risk individuals, especially pregnant women.”

    The post WHO declares international emergency over Zika virus appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Some poems are a long time coming. This is the story of one of them.

    Nate Marshall was walking on a Chicago street the weekend after his 13th birthday when a police officer stopped and harassed him, he said. Years later, that experience would become “When the Officer Caught Me,” the final draft of a poem he started trying to write just after it happened.

    “Hip hop was making me feel like I had a right to be pissed off when things happened to me, and that I had a right to articulate that anger.” — Poet Nate Marshall
    That day forced him to confront the idea that as a black man growing up in Chicago, he could be at risk for harm because of the way someone else perceived him, Marshall said.

    “With all the regular discomfort of being a 13-year-old in a 13-year-old body, your body now has a different import, because it’s beginning to mature,” he said. “You don’t just have to deal with how you feel about you. You also have to deal in a very visceral life-and death-way with how people feel about you and your body.”

    As a young teenager, hip-hop was beginning to give Marshall an idea for how to voice his anger, a relationship he said he wanted to explore in the poem. “When the officer caught me, my legs crumpled like the stubborn plastic wrapper of a rap CD, finally ripped open and free,” he wrote in the piece.

    At the time, “Hip-hop was making me feel like I had a right to be pissed off when things happened to me, and that I had a right to articulate that anger,” he said. “I wouldn’t be a poet without the police, and I also wouldn’t be a poet without ‘F*** tha Police.'”

    Spoken word similarly empowers poets to speak to their experiences in a public way, one that is even more accessible to audiences than the printed word, he said.

    “If I’m writing poems with the idea that I’m going to present them out loud, or present them in some sort of public way, the barrier for entry is much lower,” he said. “In some ways, I think the difference comes that the set of writers who are thinking in that way are thinking of their work as potentially populist and popular. They’re wanting to make it so that the work is accessible across difference, across class.”

    You can see Marshall perform his piece above or read it below.

    when the officer caught me

    what is the age when a black boy learns he’s scary?
    -Jonathan Lethem, “Fortress of Solitude”

    me & darnell crossed
    at the stop sign
    in front of a car ready
    for getaway, like every car
    in our neighborhood.

    the voice shot out, a stray bullet
    of accusation. stop, police.
    our jog became sprint.
    how could you blame us?

    we were terrified

    at the potential
    of older versions
    of us hopping out of the car
    ready for the come up.

    when the officer caught me
    my legs crumpled
    like the stubborn plastic wrapper
    of a rap CD, finally ripped open & free

    when the officer caught me
    my grape pop tumbled to the crabgrass,

    spilled like piss. my fear
    or the fear i now evoked
    when the officer caught me
    i cried. i gulped

    answers to his questions
    i endured the slip of hand
    into pocket. the groping
    of birthday money

    & the accusation of drugs
    this was the first time i used
    my magnet school namedrop
    to subdue my scary

    it was not the last time.

    when the officer caught me
    i fell hard into the reality
    of being 13 & black
    & wild hundreds.

    darnell in his 3 year older wisdom,
    a witness to my new manhood.
    my answers to interrogation
    a reading of torah.

    the cop a rabbi at this bar mitzvah
    this is how black boys are baptized
    into black manhood while they are still
    boys & scared & going

    to get their backpack from grandma’s
    crib for school tomorrow & scared
    & learning how to steel a sobbing face
    into a scary one.

    This poem appears in Blood Percussion (Button Poetry, 2014). Nate Marshall is the author of Wild Hundreds (University of Pittsburgh) and an editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (Haymarket Books). His last rap album, Grown, came out in 2015 with his group Daily Lyrical Product. Nate is a member of The Dark Noise Collective. He won a 2015 Ruth Lilly/Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Wabash College.

    The post How police harassment and hip-hop turned a Chicago teen into a poet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A picture of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hangs outside a house in West Des Moines, Iowa, United States, January 15, 2016. Picture taken January 15, 2016.    REUTERS/Jim Young        TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX2502Y

    Watch Video

    GWEN IFILL: Now back to Judy in Iowa.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We close out, Gwen, with a look at the deep divides that have opened up inside the Republican Party in this election, and a fight over core conservative principles.

    Our report is part of a collaboration with The Atlantic.

    DAVID FRUM, The Atlantic: The great debate that’s been going on inside the Republican world since 2012 is, do we need to change the pizza or do we need to change the pizza box?

    EZRA KLEIN, Vox: The Republican Party is riven by very real disagreements that it doesn’t actually have a mechanism for solving.

    BILL KRISTOL, The Weekly Standard: As a conservative, why would one support Donald Trump? There’s just no evidence of any history of belief in conservative principles, of commitment to conservative causes.

    JIM DEMINT, Heritage Foundation: Whether it’s Trump or Cruz or several others, if you hear someone say something, a lot of us will say, well, I wouldn’t have said that, but I’m glad somebody said it.

    ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), Former House Majority Leader: Our party has taken an anger detour that is evident every day when we look at the news and watch the polls.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Frum, your article in “The Atlantic” is “The Great Republican Revolt.”

    So, boil it down for us. Who’s revolting, against whom and why?

    DAVID FRUM: The Republican Party had planned a dynastic succession for 2016. One Bush would follow smoothly after another Bush. Everything was positioned for this Jeb Bush succession.

    And, instead, the Republican Party got a class war.

    BILL KRISTOL: When you look back at 2012, it’s pretty amazing that the Republican Party nominated a very wealthy Republican who had, in Massachusetts, done a version of Obamacare, as their nominee, in a party that hated Obamacare, that was unhappy about Republican elites, as well as Democratic elites.

    DAVID FRUM: They believed Mitt Romney was going to win. And he didn’t. That was a big shock and surprise. The Republican elite, the donors, the members of Congress, had collectively done an analysis of what they believed had gone wrong in 2012.

    The only thing the party had done wrong was, it had not been open enough on immigration. Fix that, and everything would fall into place.

    EZRA KLEIN: That was the theory. That was a plan. And that’s why you begin by having, right after the 2012 election, a very serious effort, including many top Republicans, like Marco Rubio, John McCain, to push immigration reform.

    Of course, that dies in the House, because rank-and-file Republicans and conservatives on talk radio actually didn’t want immigration reform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ezra Klein, you’re the editor in chief of the news and analysis Web site Vox.

    Is immigration the chief issue you see dividing the party?

    EZRA KLEIN: I think a lot of these issues, trade, immigration, they have a real subtext of economic insecurity.

    We’re in a place right now as a country where the demographic changes that we’re going through are significant and they are fast, not just with immigration, but with relative birth rates and other things in recent years. So we’re just about to hit the point where a majority of infants are minority.

    We’re sort of a majority-minority nation if you’re under 3 years old. That is a profound change for people to live through. And I think it’s a change that the political system doesn’t really know how to talk about or doesn’t — and, for that matter, frankly doesn’t want to talk about.

    DAVID FRUM: When you ask the question, do you think you will be better off in 10 years than you are today, do you think your children will have a better life than you, the most pessimistic group in America are whites without a college degree. And the second most pessimistic group in America are whites with a college degree.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, into this situation steps New York billionaire Donald Trump. What happens?

    DAVID FRUM: Donald Trump is one of America’s great marketing geniuses. And Trump has, as great marketers do, an intuitive understanding of what the customer wants.

    So, he saw this opportunity. In the spring of 2015, if you asked Republicans, you gave them a straight binary choice, what do you want to do with illegal immigrants, do you want to somehow legalize them, or do you want to deport them, you made the choice that stark, what you saw was a majority, more Republicans said deport than legalize.

    So, the great marketer came along and said, I see a niche. I see a niche. And it’s the bigger niche. And I can have it all to myself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bill Kristol, you’re the editor of The Weekly Standard, a longtime leading voice among the neoconservatives in this country.

    You have said that if the Republicans nominate Donald Trump for president, you’re ready to support a third party. Is that still your position?

    BILL KRISTOL: It is. I suppose I should leave the door a little bit open, because who knows what the world would look like in June or July if that were to happen, what Trump would have said, what positions he would have taken.

    But, at the end of the day, could you trust him to appoint constitutional Supreme Court judges? Could you trust him to be serious about limiting the scope of government? Trump just seems to have no interest in any of that.

    EZRA KLEIN: Trump, unlike a lot of Republicans, says he’s going to protect Medicare, protect Social Security, that he believes in the government. He’s not here to cut your government programs. What he’s here to do is make sure the government is helping you, the downscale, economically struggling white voter.

    And this money’s not going to be going to immigrants who are flooding across a border to take advantage of our generosity. And that, for a particular part of the party, is very appealing. And for other parts of the party, it’s really noxious.

    DAVID FRUM: Even now, about two-thirds of Republicans find Trump unacceptable. He is unpopular with the more affluent, the more educated and the more religious within the Republican Party. And those are the people who usually do tend to prevail in Republican contests.

    BILL KRISTOL: A lot of the conventional view is — just lumps Cruz and Trump together. But I think Cruz and Trump are very different. And it’s not an accident that they’re now fighting a big war.

    Cruz, people can like him, dislike him. At the end of the day, Cruz clerked for the chief justice of the United States. Cruz has argued many cases in the Supreme Court. Cruz wants a very conservative form of limited government, constitutionalism and so forth. And that’s really what his — the agenda he’s believed in for 20 years is all about.

    It’s very different from Trump.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what happens to the Tea Party in all this? We don’t hear about the Tea Party, per se.

    BILL KRISTOL: I think Trump has done a pretty good job of hijacking, in a way, the Tea Party impetus, and, in my view, in an unhealthy way.

    That is, I think the Tea Party believed in constitutional government. It was trying to re-limit government. It was — it hated Obamacare. It didn’t like the bailouts there are good reasons not to like.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim DeMint, you’re the former senator from South Carolina. You’re the president of the Heritage Foundation. Some call you the godfather of the Tea Party movement.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JIM DEMINT: OK.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How did you get that designation?

    JIM DEMINT: I finally saw we weren’t going to change the system with the same people who were there.

    And I went out across the country and began to try to help primary opponents to Republican establishment candidates. And the country rose up in 2010, put a lot of new people in the House and the Senate. And there were a lot of complaints by the establishment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Eric Cantor, it was 2014. You were the majority leader of the House, presumed to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives. You lost a primary battle to an unknown economics professor, Dave Brat, a member of the Tea Party.

    Now, with the passage of time, do you better understand what happened?

    ERIC CANTOR: Certainly, there were a lot of factors at work. And I do think, though, very much, if you look at what is going on today, was a real anger out there on the part of a lot of people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think is the source of the anger?

    ERIC CANTOR: That real anger out there in the grassroots, when people would go home and there would be layoffs, and wage-earners in their 40s and 50s who say, hey, wait a minute, what happened to my job, and then didn’t have the skills to go find another job, members of Congress going home and seeing that, and saying, hey, something’s broken.

    And then that again compounds itself, which leads some people to say, hey, wait a minute, we got to throw it all out and go to the extreme, because we are in that bad of a situation.

    JIM DEMINT: In 2010, this wave of Tea Party sent a whole new group to Washington. Nothing happened. 2012, the Republican Party took back — they pushed the Tea Party out. They tried to run the presidential race with Karl Rove and other top-down approach. And it was a disaster.

    But, in 2014, the candidates were back out there for the Senate and the House campaigning on, OK, we’re going to do it this time. Give us a majority in the Senate. Nothing happened after they got the majority.

    And so what you see now is people basically saying, the heck with these guys. It doesn’t matter what they promise. They’re not going to do anything.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You had what happened to Eric Cantor in 2014.

    JIM DEMINT: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then, last year, the downfall of — or the resignation of Speaker Boehner.

    What’s been going on in the House of Representatives?

    JIM DEMINT: John Boehner, who we used to be friends, but he saw conservatives and this idea of limited government as more of an obstacle and a frustration. And he punished conservatives who really tried to push for some fairly simple things.

    What John Boehner found is, he couldn’t crush the conservatives, but he — but he made it painful for them.

    ERIC CANTOR: When you hear people say, hey, you aren’t trying hard enough, you didn’t shut the government down, you didn’t allow the government to go into default, I mean, these are all things that, to me, so counterintuitive. I mean, nobody understands what that would really mean if you went into default, and all the people that could potentially get hurt.

    People will say, yes, things are that bad, go ahead, and just blow it all up, so we can reconstitute it.

    EZRA KLEIN: This is part of the problem for the Republican Party, and particularly for the Republican base. They will run elections based on these promises of deep confrontation and tremendous results.

    And then, once in office, they can’t deliver on that much, because the American system of government requires a lot of compromise and a lot of consensus for anything to get done. That leads to a cycle of disillusionment within the Republican base, because they feel they voted for these politicians. These politicians made clear promises. They didn’t deliver on the promises.

    But one thing that has become, I think, really toxic is the way the base tends to interpret that disappointment, is that the real issue is that the politicians went and got bought by Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do moderates have a place in the Republican Party?

    DAVID FRUM: The most important kind of moderation that’s needed is Republicans need to preach respect for the work and the institutions of government. The government has to be made to work.

    The government is — I think all Republicans agree, is too expensive. But that doesn’t mean that we’d be better off without one, or that you want to destroy the traditional agreements and understandings that make the American government work.

    Republicans have really stressed those since 2009, and that’s been dangerous. So, we have to rediscover some respect for the institutions of government, and also accept that, in a democracy, you don’t get all — your way all the time. And it’s not a failure of the system if you do not win every particular argument.

    The post Fight over core principles expose deep GOP divides appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A still from an early version of "The Oregon Trail" computer game that taught school children how to navigate the pioneer life in the mid-1880s in America. Image courtesy of Internet Archive

    A still from an early version of “The Oregon Trail” computer game that taught school children how to navigate the pioneer life in the mid-1880s in America. Image from Internet Archive

    One of the three co-creators of “The Oregon Trail,” took to Reddit on Monday to field questions on the video game, which introduced scores of school children to the trials and tribulations of pioneer life in America, including bouts with dysentery.

    Don Rawitsch said he “wanted a game to help me teach about the Westward Movement in the mid-1800s,” but added in the Reddit thread that the game was missing a Native American viewpoint.

    “Oregon Trail” is populated with helpful Native American characters, but their back stories are never explored, nor does the educational game shift from the perspective of its white, male protagonist, who leads a group of settlers from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

    Image courtesy of Internet Archive

    Image from Internet Archive

    Invented in 1971, the game gives players with a set amount of money to buy essential gear, food and teams of oxen. Along the way, the wagoners could suffer from snake bites, broken limbs, various illnesses (fevers, typhoid, measles, cholera, oh my!) and experience delays from strong thunderstorms and blizzards on the 2,200-mile journey. Players can also customize tombstone epitaphs for anyone who dies in their party, including their own.

    Rawitsch also shared his thoughts on the “gamification” of education, a tip on when to ford a river, and, of course, whether he’s had dysentery. Here are some of the his best responses:

    Q: Is there anything you wanted to include in the game but had to cut due to memory limitations?

    Not due to memory (well, maybe my own). But it would have been interesting to add a Native American viewpoint, perhaps a character who watches the wagons come into that territory.

    A Reddit commenter then asked if people complained about the negative portrayal of Native Americans, who would sometimes in the game attack wagon trains on the trail. Rawitsch said these attackers weren’t actually Native Americans.

    We were careful in the original version to say “riders attack.” In fact, often the attacks came from white bandits, not Indians.

    Q: “Gamification” is a popular topic of research right now for its potential impact on education and training programs. Do you still feel like history is a good candidate for acquiring knowledge through simulation/games.

    Absolutely. It gives people a chance to “feel” history by participating. It provides a way to “test” the results of alternative historical outcomes. But history is also enlivened by stories, so you need to read it as well.

    Later in the thread, Rawitsch also said, “Play is critical, especially for younger kids, but there are still ways of making learning fascinating for older kids.”

    Video by YouTube user hkasuki

    Q: What is the strangest bug/error you encountered while making the game?

    Once some kids from Alaska wrote MECC claiming to have a fool proof method for winning. They entered a negative number for food spending which the program subtracted from their money, which actually added to their money. They got rich. We quickly added an input check to all money questions to reject negative numbers!

    Q: Would you ever recommend fording the river under any circumstance?

    Fording the river usually works if the water is shallow (say 2-3 feet). River depth is displayed for the player in the personal computer version of the game.

    Q: What will you put on your tombstone?

    He helped kids learn.

    Q: Have you personally ever had dysentery?

    No, thank goodness.

    A 1990 version of “The Oregon Trail” is available to play on the Internet Archive.

    The post ‘The Oregon Trail’ could have used a Native American viewpoint, co-creator says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A sign directs Democratic caucus goers to the home of Gary and Mary Weaver in Rippey, Iowa February 1, 2016.    REUTERS/Nick Oxford - RTX2502K

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    GWEN IFILL: As we wait for voters to finally have their say, political director Lisa Desjardins joins us now to share what she’s watching for and what you, too, can watch for later tonight.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Lisa, what’s your secret things of list you’re watching for?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Got my charts. I got my maps.

    I’m excited in real time to sort out what’s going on. And I think this will bring together everything we have heard on the program tonight. Let’s start with the Republicans and what to watch for.

    If you look at a map of Iowa, you can see four basic areas where you should watch for Republicans. These are areas where there are a lot of Republicans show up.

    GWEN IFILL: Oh, look, we have a map of Iowa.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Look at this. I love television.

    If you look in the upper northwest corner, that is a conservative hotbed. That is an area where you would expect a Ted Cruz needing to do well. Now, if you look closer to Des Moines, then you see areas where it’s less conservative, but there are more people. And that’s an area where, say, Mitt Romney did well four years ago, because he got out a lot of people, they didn’t feel strongly about him, but a lot of them showed up.

    This sort of correlates. If you look at the political divide in the Republican Party, you see this conservative vs. moderate trend in Iowa. There, you see in the brighter red kind of the Mitt Romney or Ron Paul groups. Those are bigger cities.

    And as much as Hari talked about the lack of racial diversity compared to the rest of the country in Iowa, they do share with the rest of the country, Iowans, a common divide in America, which is urban vs. rural. And I think you will see that tonight play out in the Republican Party. It will be close to watch.

    GWEN IFILL: So, you take the same formula and apply it to the Democratic Party, what does that map look like?

    LISA DESJARDINS: So glad you asked.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think we have a map for that.

    I think, with Democrats, the key is to watch education centers, higher education centers. Iowa has many of them, if you look at the University of Northern Iowa, University of Iowa. I’m interested in particular in the Des Moines area. There is a huge community college there. These are all places, Gwen, where Bernie Sanders needs to get out his vote.

    If we see large voter turnout, speaking to Amy’s point earlier in Politics Monday, that’s a sign that Bernie Sanders is going to have a big night. Now, if these places with young populations do not have large turnout for the Democrat, that’s a good sign for Hillary Clinton.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: Sorry.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Which one of these candidates is exploiting those metrics the most efficiently at this point?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, we will see tonight, but I think, in the Democratic side, there is a sense that Hillary Clinton has a more data-driven operation, that she has identified her voters, that she is the one more likely to get them out.

    Now, Bernie Sanders is counting on people coming to show up who he doesn’t know. Maybe they’re just coming because they believe him in, same kind of voters who surprised everyone in the thousands by showing up at his rallies.

    On the Republican side, Ted Cruz is playing that role of the data wizard. And we will see. He’s had a rough last weekend. We will see if that holds up.

    GWEN IFILL: Late night tonight, Lisa?

    (LAUGHTER)

    LISA DESJARDINS: Oh, yes. And I was up for the whole nine yards last time.

    One reason it might be a little faster, Gwen, though, is an app — imagine, technology. Now the Republican and Democratic parties are both using an app so that caucus organizers will hit their phone with the numbers of votes. It even rejects what they enter if it doesn’t add up correctly.

    GWEN IFILL: Oh.

    LISA DESJARDINS: So, we may be getting more real-time numbers. Republicans, we expect first. The Democrats, they usually take longer.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, you can always spend another night staring at your phone.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yay.

    GWEN IFILL: And that’s what we will be doing.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: Thanks very much, Lisa. Talk to you later.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Great.

    GWEN IFILL: Curious about how the caucuses actually work? Well, we have got you covered. Check out our helpful explainer at PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post What to watch from the Iowa caucuses appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: And on that note, we now turn to the analysis of Brooks and Cottle. That’s Michelle Cottle of The Atlantic and David Brooks, columnist with The New York Times. Mark Shields has been under the weather, but we look forward to his full recovery and his return to our campaign coverage very soon.

    Welcome to both of you.

    David Brooks, give me a sense about — Charlie Cook, the great prognosticator who writes for The Cook — of course, runs The Cook Political Report, he wrote a story today about the difference between emotion and organization.

    In this election, in this caucus, what are we seeing?

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, we’re seeing emotion both on the Sanders side and the Trump side.

    You know, I think Trump revolutionized American politics, whatever happened tonight, with that first debate performance way back when, when he started insulting the looks of other candidates, insulating the moderators, live-tweeting throughout the campaign, calling people morons and idiots.

    He introduce an entirely new vocabulary into American politics, an entirely different style of doing politics. He was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013. He basically took the professional wrestling rhetoric and brought it into American politics.

    And that revved up a lot of people, a lot of people who feel shut out, who feel looked down upon, who feel resentful or who just feel they are not being heard. Suddenly, it was the style, it was the grammar. They felt that was against political correctness and they felt revved up.

    The question is, will they turn out tonight? If they do, it will be some sort of historic night, not only for Trump, but a change in the way we think about political rhetoric and the way campaigns are run.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Michelle, assuming that all these rules have gone out the window, as David suggests, is that a good thing?

    MICHELLE COTTLE, The Atlantic: Well, I think Americans think it’s time to shake up the political process.

    So, I think, whatever happens, you know, in the long run with Trump, I think he’s had an impact and kind of woken up both parties as to the dissatisfaction with how the entire process was being run. So, I think it will go beyond this election, and even the people who roll their eyes at him starting out have had to kind of go, hmm, well, he’s resonating on some level.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you, starting with you, and then I will turn to David on this. Why — as we watch the caucusers head out tonight, why is the Democratic race so close?

    MICHELLE COTTLE: Well, you know, the Clintons have their charms, but Hillary Clinton has had a particular problem with inspiration. She is not an inspirational candidate.

    And that’s kind of what Sanders is pitching these days. We were talking earlier about, it’s not about the issues. It’s kind of more a tone that’s dominating this race. And Hillary Clinton has the experience and the pragmatism thing down perfectly, but she’s not the hopey, changey candidate this time around.

    And so despite having really good organization and a lot of turnout, Bernie is the guy who’s making people’s hearts go pitter pat out there.

    GWEN IFILL: So, David, whatever happened to the Obama coalition that surprised everybody in Iowa in 2008?

    DAVID BROOKS: The financial crisis happened, and a lot of things happened.

    I what has happened is, there has been a tectonic shift in the landscape of the American electorate caused by the financial crisis, caused by wage stagnation, caused by the — just the economic strain a lot of people are under.

    And on the Democratic side, that led to Bernie Sanders, somebody who said, we’re going to get government a lot more radical in helping the little guy. And the Republican side, I think it sort of had the same deal. Donald Trump is ideologically completely inconsistent, but he’s sort of on the side of the little guy.

    And so a lot of us were reading all these sociology books called “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray, “Our Kids” by Robert Putnam of Harvard, and we were seeing an America that was bifurcating. And I think I sort of missed how that would affect this campaign, but it is affecting the campaign.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, David, let me ask you this. Is ideology, as you point out — if Trump has exploded our idea of ideology, does that mean ideology is dead? On the other hand, Bernie Trump — Bernie Trump — Bernie Sanders used to be all about ideology. Does that mean it’s stronger?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, it means the parties are polarized, because on one side, you have got Bernie Sanders calling for a massive increase in government. On the other side, you have got Ted Cruz calling for a massive decrease in government.

    So we’re splitting apart ideologically as well. I don’t think ideology is dead, but it’s being reacted to in different ways in the two parties. In the Democratic Party, it’s an economic — people want some economic change.

    In the Republican side, people want — they fear immigrants are driving down their wages. They want some cultural change. They want a change in authority structures. So we have got the fundamental problem which is being refracted in two different ways.

    GWEN IFILL: Michelle, what is the — what is left for the establishment bracket, as we have come to call them, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, John Kasich?

    MICHELLE COTTLE: Well, coming out of tonight, people are going to be looking very closely at how well Rubio does.

    Rubio is seen — right now, he’s trending a bit in the days running up to the caucuses. He’s seen as the establishment’s last, best hope at this point. So, if he outperforms expectations, or at least hits expectations, then I think you will see people move to coalesce around him.

    GWEN IFILL: I promise I won’t hold you to this, except that I will.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GWEN IFILL: What margin does someone like Marco Rubio or even someone like Bernie Sanders, what margin is a victory for them tonight?

    MICHELLE COTTLE: Well, I think if you’re looking at a third-place victory for Rubio, he needs to do, you know, better than middle teens. He needs middle teens and up. Anything below that is going to be seen as a big disappointment.

    Above that, you know, he doesn’t have to win. He doesn’t even have to come in second. Now, if he manages to come in second, there is going to be a complete uproar. But, going forward, if he becomes the guy who outperformed or at least hit expectations in his trending in Iowa, then you will see the establishment kind of coalesce and get excited about that possibility.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s almost — only fair that I hold your feet to the fire on the same point, David. What is your — what margins are you watching for tonight?

    DAVID BROOKS: First of all, I think this is going to be a long campaign, so this will be a chapter, not a death knell for anybody.

    But I agree with Michelle. I think if Rubio’s north of 16, he looks pretty good. I think if Cruz is north of 24 or 25, he looks pretty good. If Trump is up at 30, if all his people show up, then he looks amazing. And so — but I could possibly see Cruz winning this thing.

    We know his voters will turn out. The Trump voters are a bit of a mystery.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: Go ahead.

    DAVID BROOKS: On the Sanders side, I think he has got to get north of 43 or so, and then he will look pretty good.

    GWEN IFILL: You mentioned in passing — and I’m going to ask Michelle about this — the difference between Iowa and everyplace else.

    Going forward, this is a chapter. It’s true. And, tonight, we’re obsessed with it, but, tomorrow, we will be obsessed with New Hampshire and then down the road. How different is Iowa than the rest of the country as we go forward in this process?

    MICHELLE COTTLE: Well, Iowa is — as we have noted, it’s very white, it’s rural, it’s older voters. It’s also — its Democratic electorate is very liberal.

    Those quants at FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers and found the three best states in the country for Bernie Sanders is Vermont, Iowa and New Hampshire. And then after that, you can’t really win the Democratic primary if you can’t talk to nonwhite voters. And so it’s going to be very — it’s going to shift dramatically once we’re past this for the Democrats.

    GWEN IFILL: But Hillary Clinton has been to Iowa on her behalf or her husband’s behalf for a long time. Why is this — why is he such a real challenge to her? Is it because she has tied herself so closely to the president or something else?

    MICHELLE COTTLE: Well, it’s a couple of things.

    One, the numbers have been thrown around. There’s a big chunk of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers that consider themselves socialists. They’re more liberal. The Clintons are not the left wing of the party. They also don’t talk in terms of revolution.

    So, temperamentally, the zeitgeist just isn’t there. In 2008, there was much talk about how the organization wasn’t there and Hillary didn’t spend enough time in the state. This time, she has tried to remedy that. But there is also still this sense that she’s not as down and removed. There’s too much security, there’s too much structure.

    I have talked to Iowa voters who complain that, when they go to her events, they can’t really get close to her. So, it’s just — it’s a combination of things that make it tough for her. But it’s one state and it’s a state that’s tiny and we will move on.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, David, it’s almost become — we’re exploding conventional wisdom left and right tonight, but one of the pieces of conventional wisdom involving Hillary Clinton is that it’s just her moment isn’t quite there, that she hasn’t connected, that things like these e-mails have raised such a dust that it makes people think, I don’t know if I trust her.

    Is that something that is just unique to the early voting states?

    DAVID BROOKS: It’s a drag on her, but I would just point out that, eight years ago, she got a lot better after a defeat, got a lot better as a candidate. I would also point out that, when her husband ran in 1992 — I forget the exact numbers — he lost a ton of the first 10 contests.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: This thing can go on, and she will get better.

    She hasn’t found a focus yet, the way Sanders has a focus. He was born with a focus. She has not found it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if in a month or two, she’s honed on something just caused by the pressure of defeat, the near-death experience.

    GWEN IFILL: And I wanted to circle back to the establishment question with you, David, because, as we speak tonight, none of — I think Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie and John Kasich are all already in New Hampshire.

    They have already — John Kasich said, ah, I’m moving on. Is that — we have seen people survive after losing in Iowa, obviously. Is that possible for Republicans as well in this environment?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, totally.

    Rick Santorum won here. Mike Huckabee won here. This can nominate — this can sometimes give — hand victory to people who don’t move on. And so for a Chris Christie, there was never going to be a good kind of place. So, we will be sitting here in April, I think, still talking about this race, especially on the Republican side. So they still have decent shots.

    GWEN IFILL: We will be sitting here in April, Michelle?

    (LAUGHTER)

    MICHELLE COTTLE: We will be sitting here in April talking about this.

    GWEN IFILL: We will be sitting here.

    MICHELLE COTTLE: We will just know a lot more by then.

    It’s going to be fascinating to see what the Trump story coming out of Iowa is, because it’s going to be about Trump, no matter whether win, lose or draw.

    GWEN IFILL: Yes.

    MICHELLE COTTLE: But, you know, come April, we will have a lot more votes having passed, and the story will be completely different.

    GWEN IFILL: Michelle Cottle of “The Atlantic,” thank you for joining us tonight, and David Brooks, we will talk to you all night long.

    MICHELLE COTTLE: Thanks.

    The post Brooks and Cottle on Iowa caucus expectations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now we want to dig into the numbers just a bit, not just the results, but key facts about Iowa and Iowans.

    Hari Sreenivasan breaks it down — Hari.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Thanks, Gwen.

    Our data team looked to see Iowa’s track record in picking winners and how similar Iowans are to the rest of the country. The caucuses are far from a perfect predictor of who goes on to become the party’s nominee or eventually to the White House.

    In fact, for Democrats, it is slightly better than flipping a coin. The caucuses have picked the candidate correctly 55 percent of the time. For Republicans, the process has only been right 43 percent of the time.

    For example, in 1992, three-quarters of Iowa Democrats stood behind longtime Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. That year, Bill Clinton only received 3 percent of the votes, but later went on to serve two terms as president.

    We do have better indicators today to which candidate has been on the minds of Iowans in the week leading up to tonight. Over the last week, Facebook users in Iowa had more to say about Donald Trump than any other presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat. You saw that same trend nationwide. Behind Trump on the Republican side were Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson. And among Democrats, Iowans had the most to say about Hillary Clinton, followed by Bernie Sanders and then Martin O’Malley.

    Of the issues that most concerned Iowans on Facebook, crime and criminal justice, abortion, taxes and the Affordable Care Act, there was only one topic the rest of the country was talking about. That’s Wall Street and financial regulation. According to Facebook, the rest of the nation is also talking about topics including religion, racism and discrimination, jobs and Benghazi.

    But who are today’s Iowans, and how do they compare to the rest of the country? They register to vote slightly more than the rest of the nation. In 2012, three out of four Iowans were registered, vs. two out of three Americans. Among Iowans 18 or older, the state’s median household income is $53,712, almost exactly the national average.

    And the poverty rate, 11 percent, is also similar the rest of the United States. But there is a significant difference. And that’s race. According to the census, about nine out of 10 Iowans are white. Nationwide, that number is far lower, about two-thirds. Fewer Latino and African-American voters call Iowa home, compared to the rest of the nation — Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: Thanks, Hari.

    The post How good is Iowa at picking White House winners? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz attends a campaign event in Iowa City, Iowa, United States, January 31, 2016.   REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX24U94

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Almost every presidential election produces a bloc of voters who become a barometer for the outcome. On Friday, we looked at the role women voters of different ages will play in the Democratic caucuses here in Iowa.

    Tonight, we look at a bloc of voters who will help foretell results on the Republican side.

    In some ways, yesterday was just like any other Sunday at The Kathedral, an evangelical Christian church in Iowa’s capital, Des Moines. Worshipers came together for a morning of prayer and enthusiastic song.

    But when it came time for the sermon, Pastor Kenney Linhart left no doubt what he expects his congregates to do come Monday night.

    KENNEY LINHART, Pastor, The Kathedral: You want to see things change in Iowa? Do you want to see the glory of God come down to Iowa? Then you need to be involved in the political process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Only a fraction of Iowa voters typically go to caucus. But of those who attend on the Republican side, half are expected to be evangelical, or born-again Christians.

    Iowa pollster Ann Selzer says, even as her latest survey shows Donald Trump leading among Republicans overall, Ted Cruz is ahead among evangelicals.

    ANN SELZER, Selzer & Company: We see surprises all the time coming from the evangelical vote and that’s why you have to look at Ted Cruz and his ability to organize that group as a potential surprise on caucus night.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was evangelicals who helped propel Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum four years ago to victory here. This year, not only are Huckabee and Santorum competing for those votes. So is a cluster of other Republicans.

    Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson:

    O. KAY HENDERSON, Radio Iowa: Nine months ago, Rand Paul was trying to lock in evangelical supporters. You have Ben Carson, who has really kept a core of support, and that comes from the states’ evangelical churches.

    You have Donald Trump, who has lined up an important endorsement from the president of Liberty University. And you have Ted Cruz, who has an effort to try to get a pastor in each precinct in Iowa.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, Matt Strawn, says the evangelical voters these candidates are after don’t all have the same priorities.

    MATT STRAWN, Former Chairman, Iowa Republican Party: Take a look at Ted Cruz. Part of his coalition with people like Bob Vander Plaats, radio personality Steve Deace, very anti-establishment evangelical Christians, the type that want to blow up the system and start over, as opposed to maybe a larger group of Iowa Christian conservatives that would be the progeny of the Pat Robertson movement in the 1980s, Ralph Reed Christian Coalition, more pragmatic Christian conservatives who want to work within the system to shape it towards their beliefs.

    And they’re the folks that are your traditional caucus-goers that are still largely up for grabs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This latter group, Strawn says, have elected mainstream Republicans to office here for years. But that’s exactly what Christian conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats says he doesn’t want to see this time. He’s backing Cruz.

    BOB VANDER PLAATS, The Family Leader: We trust conversions on the road to Damascus. We question conversions on the road to Des Moines. And so we take a look at, what were they doing before they ran for president? And so, at age 13, you know, he’s memorizing the Constitution. He’s deeply threaded with the Judeo-Christian world view.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: What I want to ask of each of you is that you pray just a minute a day, that you say, father God, continue this awakening, continue this spirit of revival. Awaken the body of Christ.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The divide has grown into a kind of internal war. Another prominent voice inside Iowa’s Christian conservative community, Pastor Jamie Johnson, says Cruz has hit a ceiling within the group.

    JAMIE JOHNSON, Former Senior Director, Rick Perry for President: It could be his personality, that he naturally seems to rub people the wrong way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Johnson, who pastored churches for 25 years, believes Trump could surprise everyone tonight.

    JAMIE JOHNSON: I would say that Iowa’s evangelicals are cautious, but excited about the possibility of a President Trump. And they feel that he may have the iron will that is necessary to do a lot of the things that have frustrated Iowa evangelicals and probably evangelicals across the nation for many years now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bob Vander Plaats couldn’t disagree more.

    BOB VANDER PLAATS: He’s a guy that says he doesn’t have to ask God for forgiveness. He’s a guy that disparages prisoners of war by saying, “I like veterans who aren’t captured.” He’s a guy who mocks people with disabilities.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: My mother gave me this Bible, this very Bible, many years ago.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kathedral’s Kenney Linhart questions Trump’s sincerity.

    KENNEY LINHART: How tattered are the pages of that Bible? And how much of that Bible does he know?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Pastor Jamie Johnson argues many Iowa evangelicals are even more focused on finding a strong leader for the country and someone who can win in November.

    JAMIE JOHNSON: I think there’s a willingness on the part of many self described born-again Christians that are willing to take a chance on Trump, and pray that God will guide him in a moral and ethical direction.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Johnson defends Trump’s expressions of faith, as do voters like Kathy Simpson, who showed up yesterday to hear Trump speak in Council Bluffs.

    KATHY SIMPSON, Trump Supporter: There are people who don’t think Trump is a religious person. I know that he is a religious person.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some who belong to Pastor Linhart’s church have a different take. Several brought up Trump calling a New Testament book 2 Corinthians.

    DONALD TRUMP: 2 Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ball game.

    LIZZIE MONROE, Member, the Kathedral: If he can’t pronounce the Bible verse the correct way, it doesn’t give me a lot of faith. I mean, my 2-year-old knows how to say a Scripture.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Brenda McGinnis is enthusiastically for Marco Rubio.

    BRENDA MCGINNIS, Rubio Supporter: I have heard him talk about his salvation. I have heard him use the name of Jesus Christ, which is very important to me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rubio spoke about his faith to a crowd near Des Moines this weekend.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Republican Presidential Candidate: You better hope that my that my faith influences me, because I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ taught us that, in order to follow him, we have to care and love for one another.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pastor Linhart likes what he hears.

    KENNEY LINHART: Marco Rubio has come out so well with his faith so strong, not just said he is a Christian, but that he believes that the word of God should direct his life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Whether it’s the deciding factor or not in the Republican contest, Pastor Linhart believes it’s critical for the Christian community to make its voice heard.

    KENNEY LINHART: As you go about this election cycle tomorrow night, you pray and ask that God shows you the men and women who are subjected to his spirit, because if God is going to change the nation, he’s going to do it through human vessels.

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    Professor David L. Heymann (L), Chair of the Emergency Committee, and World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan hold a news conference after the first meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee concerning the Zika virus and observed increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations in Geneva, Switzerland, February 1, 2016. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy - RTX24YVP

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    GWEN IFILL: Good evening. I’m Gwen Ifill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I’m Judy Woodruff here in Iowa for our special coverage of tonight’s presidential caucuses.

    We will be looking at the role of evangelicals in shaking out this crowded Republican field.

    KENNEY LINHART, Pastor, The Kathedral: You want to see things change in Iowa? Do you want to see the glory of God come down to Iowa? Then you need to be involved in the political process.

    GWEN IFILL: And we talk with Amy Walter and Tamara Keith about what’s happening on the ground as candidates make their final push.

    Plus, David Brooks and Michelle Cottle are here to analyze the race.

    All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”

    (BREAK)

    The World Health Organization today declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency. The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to birth defects in the Americas involving babies born with abnormally small heads, or microcephaly.

    In Geneva today, Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, issued a call for action.

    DR. MARGARET CHAN, Director-General, World Health Organization: The committee advised that the causes of microcephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and a public health threat to other parts of the world. In their view, a coordinated international response is needed.

    GWEN IFILL: The WHO says restrictions on foreign travel and trade are not needed yet, but it’s advising pregnant women in affected countries to take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

    In Afghanistan, new violence underscored the government’s struggle to safeguard its own capital. A suicide bomber blew himself up at a police headquarters in Kabul, killing at least 20 people and wounding nearly 30 more. The Interior Ministry said the Taliban attacker detonated the bomb as he waited in line to enter the facility. Most of those killed and injured were civilians.

    The U.N.’s special envoy for Syria announced today the official start of talks aimed at ending the country’s civil war. That came after a meeting with the main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, or HNC, in Geneva. It wants an end to the sieges and starvation of Syrian towns.

    STAFFAN DE MISTURA, Special Envoy for Syria, United Nations: We are actually listening with attention to the concerns of HNC. And we are going to tomorrow discuss and listen to the concerns of the government. The discussions are starting, but, meanwhile, the challenge is now, let’s also have those who have the capacity of discussing this at a different level time to discuss about cease-fire.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, the U.S. envoy charged with fighting the Islamic State was in Northern Syria over the weekend.

    Brett McGurk is the first senior U.S. official to set foot in Syria since August of 2014. He met with a variety of groups battling the militants, and said ISIS forces do not stand a chance.

    Back in this country, newly released documents shed a bit more light on last may’s Amtrak crash in Philadelphia. Eight people died and nearly 200 were hurt. Interview transcripts show the engineer, Brandon Bostian, saying he remembers trying to pick up speed, then hitting the brakes when the train hit a sharp curve, going too fast.

    But lawyers for the victims said they don’t believe him.

    ROBERT MONGELUZZI, Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky: There was no problem with the signals, no problem with the tracks, no problem with the locomotive, no problem with the brakes. And what we have learned is, the problem was Brandon Bostian.

    We believe that his inconsistent story speaks volumes about him and his credibility and believability at trial.

    GWEN IFILL: The National Transportation Safety Board says it has not yet reached any conclusions about the cause of the crash.

    And on Wall Street, stocks struggled to hold their own after a new plunge in oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 17 points to close below 16450. The Nasdaq rose six points, and the S&P 500 dropped a fraction of a point.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: how the evangelical vote can make or break GOP candidates and why Republicans are revolting against the establishment; plus, full analysis of the Iowa caucuses from David Brooks, Michelle Cottle, and our Politics Monday duo.

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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea (R) greet volunteers during a visit to a campaign office in Des Moines, Iowa February 1, 2016, the day of Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus.    REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX24Y59

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    GWEN IFILL: It’s finally here, caucus night in Iowa.

    People will gather at sites all over the state to cast the first actual votes of the 2016 presidential election year. It comes after endless months of campaigning and more than $200 million spent on ads. The potential payoff? Forty-four delegates for Democrats, 30 for Republicans, and bragging rights.

    Judy and the “NewsHour” team are on the ground in the Hawkeye State tonight — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Gwen, the candidates we’re watching on this final day are also chasing another precious commodity, momentum. And so the focus in these final hours for them is on making sure anybody who is leaning or committed shows up when and where they’re needed.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Republican Presidential Candidate: Thank you so much. Thanks for all your help.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Most candidates were on the ground here in Iowa one last time today, making one last pitch to voters who may not have made up their minds, and urging those already on their side to turn out tonight.

    On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is facing the question, will his supporters, many of them first-timers to the caucuses, show up? He revved up volunteers in Des Moines today.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: So what is our job today? It’s to make sure we have the highest voter turnout possible. That happens, we win. Let’s go get them. Thank you all.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton was also in Des Moines. With pastries in hand, she cheered her volunteers through their last-minute push.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: Thank you. We will do it together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In late polls, Clinton has a small advantage. But with Sanders well ahead in next week’s New Hampshire primary, Clinton’s feeling the pressure here.

    HILLARY CLINTON: Come caucus for me tonight. OK?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On the Republican side, Donald Trump is also relying on first-time caucus-goers for support. He made his plea today in Waterloo in Northeastern Iowa.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: We are leading all the polls and we’re leading in Iowa, but it doesn’t mean anything. You have got to go out tonight and caucus. Hopefully, tonight, we’re going to have the beginning of what is going to be in a certain way a very positive revolution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Trump has opened up a lead in recent polls on his closest rival, Ted Cruz. But the Texas senator is hoping his campaign’s organization and outreach to evangelicals will work in his favor.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: We have now been to all 99 counties in the great state of Iowa. This is our final stop on caucus day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Marco Rubio, who’s polling third here, has been tamping down expectations, even as he works overtime.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: We recognize we’re not the front-runner. We know we are an underdog, but we feel good about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The candidates who’ve struggled in Iowa aren’t even sticking around for the caucuses.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), Republican Presidential Candidate: If I do well in New Hampshire, everybody’s going to know who I am.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John Kasich, staking his campaign on the New Hampshire primary, was there through the weekend.

    And while Jeb Bush and Chris Christie were here earlier today, both will be following caucus results from the Granite State.

    There is one more wild card: the weather. Much of Iowa is in for a winter storm in the hours just ahead. Whatever tonight’s results, the presidential race is heading into new turbulence all its own.

    GWEN IFILL: Hi there, Judy.

    You and I combined have covered our share of Iowa caucus nights, but this one seems more mysterious, more kind of amazing and unpredictable than ever.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re right.

    You and I both covered these Iowa caucuses before. And I can remember some really unpredictable ones in the past, but, Gwen, nothing like this.

    When we’re on the Republican side, you have a man who never served in public office before running for the highest office in the land, and he’s been leading in the polls ever since he first got into the race. That’s Donald Trump. The question tonight, of course, as everybody has been saying, is, can he translate that enthusiasm into getting people to show up to their local schoolhouse, their church, or wherever these caucuses take place and get them to stand there and stand up and say, I’m for Donald Trump?

    On the Democratic side, just as unpredictable, Hillary Clinton, the favorite, and yet Bernie Sanders, the one Democratic socialist in the U.S. Senate, is giving her a run for the money. And the question is the same there. Can he turn that enthusiasm into votes?

    GWEN IFILL: It seems like all the conventional wisdom is out the window tonight.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it really is.

    And, you know, I just heard the most revered pollster in the state say, Ann Selzer, says that she — when people say what are the issues in this campaign, she said there really haven’t been issues, especially on the Republican side. She said, this is an election about mood and about who can take the country to the next level, to the future.

    And so she compared it — she said, this is an election that stands alone. And I think we will see tonight if that turns out to be the case.

    GWEN IFILL: Good to see you on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines tonight. Thanks, Judy.

    Judy will be back with a closer look at the key voters who could determine tonight’s outcome after the news summary.

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    If your doctor texts you a reminder, are you less likely to forget to take your medicine? Studies point to yes. Illustration by Getty Images

    If your doctor texts you a reminder, are you less likely to forget to take your medicine? Studies point to yes. Illustration by Getty Images

    A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but that’s hardly useful if a patient doesn’t remember to take it in the first place.

    According to a new analysis, there could be a possible solution: text message reminders sent to patients’ phones from the doctor. Researchers found that texts could push people to do better at adhering to their drug regimens and, along the way, save the health system a fair bit of money.

    The paper, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, reviewed data from 16 studies, all of which explored whether mobile telephone text reminders sent to patients made them more likely to take their medicine. In total, the studies included in this meta-analysis tracked the behavior of almost 3,000 chronically ill patients, looking at how well they complied with medication regimens, and found the text messages had an impact.

    Across the various studies, patients went from having a 50 percent rate of following through on medication to a nearly 68 percent rate.

    On its face, that looks like quite a jump. But readers should view the findings with a degree of caution, the authors noted. They pointed out that several of the studies they examined relied on participants to self-report how faithful they were with their prescription drugs. Since people often misremember or misreport this kind of information, that measure isn’t always the most reliable. In addition, the studies included in the analysis lasted on average about three months, though chronically ill people take their medications for years. Thus, the studies may not have accounted for whether patients eventually experience text message fatigue and consequently paid the reminders less attention. If that is the case, then text messages could initially be effective but, over time, lose their power in helping people take medicine.

    “It’s one way to think just sending messages is simple, and people will like it,” said Robby Nieuwlaat, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Canada’s McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “But they can also be irritating at some point if you don’t need it.”

    That could be a factor, said Laurie Buis, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan, who has also researched the subject. But it’s clear people want such reminders. “There is a lot of consumer demand for these types of interventions.”

    The paper also compares studies from a host of countries. Two were based in the United States, but others were conducted in China, Spain and Kenya. Some texted patients every day. Others messaged them every week. Still others used strategies like aligning a text message with timing for when patients should take particular doses. Some sent patients reminders that had been personalized. Others didn’t. Those differences could introduce variables that made the texts more or less effective, or they could have introduced other considerations for which the analysis doesn’t account.

    Taking medicine is, of course, important — especially for people with chronic conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Chronically ill people are also often on multiple medications, which can be hard to track and easy to forget about.

    That means if text reminders do work, they have “the potential to prevent major clinical events such as heart attacks, strokes and premature death,” study co-author Clara Chow wrote in an email. Chow directs the cardiovascular division of the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia.

    Not taking medicine isn’t just bad for your health — it’s expensive, too. Experts estimate patients not complying with their drug regimens cost the United States between $100 billion and $289 billion each year. If text reminders do prove effective, they could offer an easy, low-cost tool to address that problem.

    “Text-message based interventions can be delivered at low-cost, they can be easily scaled with computerized message management systems,” Chow said. “So they are likely to be cost effective in health care.”

    But the issue of who pays for the text messaging also raises questions.

    Texts are cheap to send, but they still aren’t free, Nieuwlaat said. He wrote a commentary analyzing the study. As researchers further probe how helpful they could be, doctors and patients need to think about who would pay for that kind of service and if it’s worth the investment.

    “If it’s on the patient side, it has to be acceptable to the patient — maybe they pay a bit more for the text messaging they receive,” he said. If health systems or doctors subsidize text reminders, they’ll “have to think about whether they think it’s worth investing the money, considering the potential benefit.”

    There also needs to be more research to better quantify how influential these messages could be, Nieuwlaat added.

    For instance, researchers need to study more than just whether patients remembered taking their medicine, he said. Other questions, such as how often pharmacists refilled prescriptions and whether patients get healthier, would be powerful measures.

    Meanwhile, even if text messaging is effective, it addresses only one reason people don’t take their medicine, Buis said. Text messages are a good reminder if you forget something, but people often don’t take medicine for other reasons — they can’t afford the drugs or they dislike particular side effects.

    Plus, even if almost 70 percent of respondents ended up taking medicine, that isn’t everyone, she said, adding that a more comprehensive strategy is still necessary.

    Though it isn’t enough alone, she said, “text messaging can help move the needle.”

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    Personal genetics company 23andMe finds a genetic profile for morningness. Photo by PeopleImages.com

    Personal genetics company 23andMe found a genetic profile for morningness. Photo by Getty Images

    Being an early bird, or “morningness,” comes naturally to many people. But why?

    A new study from the genomics company 23andMe attempts an answer with a genetic survey of nearly 90,000 people. Rather than spot one or two genes, this study highlights a panel of 15 genes and possible associated mutations that may help define what it means to be an early bird.

    One strength in this study, as is the general case with 23andMe investigations, comes from its large pool of subjects. Their 1 million customers submit saliva samples of their DNA and also participate in genetic research by filling out online surveys about their lifestyles and behaviors. The result is a catacomb of the human genome — a person’s library of genes — and how it differs among people.

    “For each individual, we can measure roughly a million positions across the genome where there is some variation among people,” 23andMe statistical geneticist David Hinds said. “Then there are about another 14 million genetic variants we can infer based on statistics.”

    His team can look at close to 15 million positions in people’s DNA to see whether or not mutations or variations in those spots are associated with a particular outward behavior, like depression, obesity or sleep. For this study, published today in Nature Communications, Hinds and his colleagues looked at how the first two of those behaviors relate to the third.

    Proportion of morning people by state. Photo by 23andMe

    Proportion of morning people by state. Photo by 23andMe

    They asked 89,283 customers take two online surveys with a bevy of questions, including whether they were an early bird or a night owl. Computer algorithms sifted through mutations and found 15 genes that are associated with being a morning person.

    Seven genes involved a usual suspect: circadian rhythms, otherwise known as the machinery that regulates your alertness during the day. Another four genes had loose ties to circadian cycles — for example, the APH1A gene. This gene controls the production of a protein responsible for the creation of beta-amyloid, the malevolent agent behind Alzheimer’s disease. This finding doesn’t immediately tie APH1A to the aging disorder, but it may offer clues into why sleep loss precedes the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Night owls were more likely to sweat in the their sleep, according to a study by 23andMe.The final four genes didn’t have overt ties to sleep cycles, but together, these 15 genes form an early bird profile of genetic traits.

    “This study provides evidence that there is a strong genetic part in your preference to mornings or nights,” said Youna Hu, who recently moved from 23andMe to Amazon’s A9 project.

    But does this morningness profile predispose a person toward other quirks?

    In their surveys, 23andMe uncovered a few patterns in human behavior connected waking early. Night owls were more likely to sweat in the their sleep (31.7 versus 27.1 percent of respective totals) and to have insomnia (39.7 versus percent 20.9 of respective totals). As found previously in other studies, men were more likely to stay up late, older people preferred morning lifestyles and night owls tended to have elevated rates of depression and a higher body mass index.

    The team took a closer look at whether their 15 morningness traits played a causal role in depression and BMI, using a statistical method called Mendelian randomization, but they couldn’t prove one triggered the other. They did, however, spot a link between morningness and the FTO gene, which has been connected to obesity in past studies.

    The study has some caveats. For one, people aren’t always truthful when they self-report on an online survey. Some known circadian genes didn’t relate to morningness or eveningness, which suggests that either these traits don’t play a role in distinguishing the two groups or the study didn’t survey enough people to make the distinction. Also, the results don’t apply to everyone. More than 97 percent of the participants had European ancestry, and cultural differences are known to influence sleep patterns.

    But still, Hinds sees these large surveys and genetic catacombs as keys to teasing apart the basis of behavior.

    “It’s interesting to see how really large genetic studies have started to cast some light on how our biology influences our preferences and behaviors,” Hinds said. “More of these kinds of findings are going to come out over the next couple years now that this kind of data is available.”

    The post Do you have the genetic profile of a morning person? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Lillian Renfro, 5, “roasts” a “marshmallow” during free-play time in her classroom at Nance Elementary school in Clinton, Oklahoma. Pretend play has been shown to help young children develop self-regulation and critical thinking. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    Lillian Renfro, 5, “roasts” a “marshmallow” during free-play time in her classroom at Nance Elementary school in Clinton, Oklahoma. Pretend play has been shown to help young children develop self-regulation and critical thinking. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    CLINTON, Okla. — One of the biggest employers in this hardscrabble working class town in western Oklahoma is the Bar-S Foods Company meat packing plant, where many of the city’s 9,500 residents work. Clinton also boasts a Route 66 Museum, a somewhat epic indoor waterpark, and free universal preschool for every 4-year-old in town.

    Ninety-one percent of the town’s 170 4-year-olds enroll in a public program annually, said Tyler Bridges, the assistant school superintendent. About 140 attend the state-supported district preschool while another 15 or so attend the local Cheyenne-Arapahoe Head Start program.

    Those high numbers are impressive especially since only 53.7 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are in school nationally and the U.S. ranks 30th for preschool enrollment among OECD nations, a common proxy for nations with advanced economies. That’s despite decades of research showing that early education improves students’ chances of succeeding in school.

    “[Prekindergarten] has been around long enough now, I don’t think anyone thinks about it.” Tyler Bridges, Assistant Superintendent in Clinton, Oklahoma.
    But in Clinton, some things are just taken for granted: movie-worthy sunsets, churches on nearly every corner, and sending kids to preschool when they turn 4.

    “It’s been around long enough now, I don’t think anyone thinks about it,” said Bridges of the town’s preschool program.

    The same might be said of the state as a whole. Since 1998, Oklahoma has had fully funded preschool for every child, regardless of family income. As long as a child is 4 by Sept. 1, he or she is qualified to attend school for a year prior to entering kindergarten. Seventy-six percent of the state’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in 2014, a total of 40,823 children and one of the country’s highest enrollment percentages, according to the latest annual State of Preschool report by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

    “I think it is popular because it is funded,” said Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. “As more attend, you can have a more enriched opportunity for everyone.”

    Related: Should college tuition be free or paid on a sliding scale? Just ask preschool advocates

    Public preschool is high on the Democratic agenda right now. In 2013 President Barack Obama called for $10 billion in federal funding to help states start new programs, primarily for children from low-income families — a call he has repeated every year since. Likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has also made early education — an issue she’s championed for 40 years — a priority in her campaign.

    Although Congress hasn’t approved Obama’s grand vision, it has incrementally increased funding for Head Start in recent years and awarded nearly $1 billion in competitive grants to states hoping to start or expand early education programs.

    76 percent of Oklahoma 4-year-olds are enrolled in the state’s universal prekindergarten program.
    But offering preschool to all kids might seem to be an even more radical move. Oklahoma is one of just four states (the others are Florida, Vermont and West Virginia) along with the District of Columbia that offer universal preschool access to all age-eligible children regardless of family income. Oklahoma’s program was the first of the group and enrolls more students than Vermont or West Virginia. Florida’s program enrolls nearly four times as many kids, but its quality standards are far lower.
    Principal Janalyn Taylor exclaims as Layla Lee, 5, shows her how she’s made a moving robot out of “cubelets” in the maker space at Nance Elementary in Clinton, Oklahoma. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    Principal Janalyn Taylor exclaims as Layla Lee, 5, shows her how she’s made a moving robot out of “cubelets” in the maker space at Nance Elementary in Clinton, Oklahoma. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    A few other states, like Wisconsin and Georgia, come close to offering universal programs, but most states are light years behind the leaders. Even Massachusetts, generally seen as a leader in education, only serves 14 percent of its 4-year-olds in state preschool.

    Related: Want a free year of preschool in California? Have a fall birthday

    While the discussion of a federal expansion of early education funding has become mired in partisan politics, free universal preschool is widely accepted here. “We’re certainly not battling this at the legislature,” Hofmeister said. “That is not a conversation that I hear.”

    Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, called Oklahoma a role model for the many other states currently considering expanding their public programs.

    “Oklahoma provides universal preschool as part of the public education system,” Barnett said. “So that means bringing all of the quality standards, all of the focus on learning and teaching, to the preschool program. And most states don’t do that.”

    30th — U.S. rank for preschool enrollment among OECD countries.

    On a fall afternoon in Clinton, it was easy to see how preschool students benefitted from having the power of the K-12 system behind them. At Nance Elementary School, the town’s center for all of its prekindergarten through first grade students, Anita Smith’s pre-K students had scattered around a basement “maker space” stocked with high-tech toys. The room, meant to inspire interest in science and technology, was paid for with a district-wide grant from the Oklahoma Educational Technology Trust.

    At one table, Matthew Hernandez, 5, played with LEGO-like toys that contained tiny electronic circuits. When he clicked them together properly, they made a light flash. Across the room, Lexa Panana, 5, zoomed a remote control robot around the floor in front of the whiteboard while Layla Lee, also 5, put together blocks called “cubelets,” to build her own robot. Asked what she was doing, Layla barely looked up to explain the obvious: “I’m playing,” she said.

    “I’m not sure [public prekindergarten] is a liberal or conservative issue. It’s about people wanting to do the best thing for kids.” Malinda Lindsay, principal at Muskogee Early Childhood Center in Oklahoma.

    Critics of prekindergarten programs attached to K-12 schools have worried that such programs could become too focused on building academic skills in age-inappropriate ways. Oklahoma’s program attempts to address that by requiring lead teachers to have bachelor’s degrees in education with a specialization in prekindergarten and a 10:1 student to adult ratio in every classroom. It also has high early learning standards, Barnett said.

    Related: Preschool education: Go big or go home

    Investing in preschool at the same level as K-12 has paid off here. Oklahoma was one of only 13 states to see significant growth on fourth grade reading scores this year as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Oklahoma was the fourth most-improved state in that category. Its fourth grade reading scores have trended upwards since 2002, the year before its first cohort of preschool grads reached third grade. And though Oklahoma has a long way to go to catch top scorers like Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, the state is now on par with the national average fourth grade reading score for the first time in over a decade.

    Janice Scott, a teaching assistant at the Early Childhood Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, leads a morning session with many of the center’s students while their teachers prep art and science lessons. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    Janice Scott, a teaching assistant at the Early Childhood Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, leads a morning session with many of the center’s students while their teachers prep art and science lessons. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    Many Oklahomans say a major reason preschool works here is because, as long as quality standards are met, towns and districts are able to create programs that fit their needs.

    Local control is important in Muskogee, 222 miles east of Clinton, a small town near the Arkansas River that looks more Old South than Wild West. At Muskogee’s Early Childhood Center, Principal Malinda Lindsey leads 15 prekindergarten classrooms serving 285 children, the vast majority of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, a federal indicator of poverty. She takes the idea of local control all the way to the classroom, allowing teachers to design classroom environments that work for them even if that means things look vastly different from room to room.

    “We’re not certainly battling this at the legislature — that is not a conversation that I hear.” Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister

    In Nerissa Whitaker’s classroom a boy named Kash McDaniel, 4, practiced writing his name at a well-stocked writing and art station. Down the hall, in Elizabeth Salas’ classroom, Dante Larson, 5, served coffee and bacon from a play stove to Natalie Hernandez, also 5, who snuggled a baby doll while chatting on a play cell phone. In yet another classroom, this one lit softly and featuring nature-oriented toys and decorations, Grace Marder, age 4, tried to find the right words to describe the leaf she’d found during an earlier nature walk with her class. The leaf was now glued to a piece of white printer paper.

    Kash McDaniel, 4, practices writing his name in Nerissa Whitaker’s classroom at the Early Childhood Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma. So far, he’s pretty much at “K.” Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    Kash McDaniel, 4, practices writing his name in Nerissa Whitaker’s classroom at the Early Childhood Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma. So far, he’s pretty much at “K.” Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    “It’s red,” she confidently told her teacher, Jana Dunlap. But then she struggled to find another adjective. Dunlap prompted her with a list of possibilities: smooth, bumpy, rough? “Bumpy,” Grace said finally and watched as Dunlap carefully wrote, “It’s red and bumpy,” below the leaf.

    With so many struggling to make ends meet, most of her students’ families could not afford private preschool, Lindsey explained.

    “For children like these, the opportunity to get a free public education offers them a strong start that is vital to success later on,” she said.

    Teacher Jana Dunlap works with Grace Marder, 4, to come up with adjectives to describe a leaf the child found on a nature walk outside the Early Childhood Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    Teacher Jana Dunlap works with Grace Marder, 4, to come up with adjectives to describe a leaf the child found on a nature walk outside the Early Childhood Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

    That’s a sentiment expressed by many liberals — but Lindsey said it’s also in line with the traditional conservative values of protecting children and helping families. In the end, Lindsay said, support for preschool should transcend politics.

    “I’m not sure it’s a liberal or conservative issue,” she said. “It’s about people wanting to do the best thing for kids.”

    This story was written by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about early education.

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

    The post Oklahomans have embraced free, universal early education — and it’s working appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    AURORA, CO - December 17: Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson talks about the changes that are coming to better help keep the schedule for the completion of the VA hospital Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at Veteran's Affairs Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. VA Deputy Secretary Gibson spoke to the reporters about the missteps that took place that halted the project and how the new agreement with Kiewit-Turner will start to bring workers back to the site on Monday. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

    Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson speaks Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, at Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. Gibson said he will punish two officials accused of involvement in a job scam. Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs says he still intends to punish two senior officials accused of manipulating the agency’s hiring system for their own gain.

    Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson demoted Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens last month after they forced lower-ranking managers to accept job transfers and then stepped into the vacant positions themselves, keeping their senior-level pay while reducing their responsibilities.

    The demotions were later reversed by federal judges, who said higher-ranking officials knew about the women’s plans and did nothing to stop them.

    Gibson said Tuesday he did not believe it was right for Rubens and Graves to go unpunished when charges against them were sustained.

    “I do not believe it’s the intent of Congress, and I don’t believe it’s the right thing” to allow employees who commit wrongdoing to go unpunished, Gibson told reporters in a conference call. “I intend to take some punitive action” against Rubens and Graves.

    Rubens earns $181,497 as director of the Philadelphia regional office for the Veterans Benefits Administration, while Graves receives $173,949 as head of the St. Paul, Minnesota, benefits office.

    Gibson did not specify what action he would take against Rubens and Graves, but said he was unlikely to remove them from the government’s Senior Executive Service, as he did in demoting them last month. Two judges reversed his decisions in separate rulings, arguing that penalizing Rubens and Graves was inconsistent with the VA’s failure to discipline the higher-ranking officials.

    In a related development, Gibson said he was launching a one-week investigation of two other VA officials named in the judicial rulings on Rubens and Graves: Danny Pummill, a top benefits administration official in Washington who was aware of the women’s actions, and Beth McCoy, an official who also pressured a regional manager to leave his position. McCoy was never disciplined and was later promoted.

    Gibson said he intends to interview both Pummill and McCoy, adding that “if there is evidence of misconduct not available previously, I will take actions” against them.

    The post VA leader vows penalty for officials accused in job scam appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WEST DES MOINES, IA -  FEBRUARY 1:  (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    Democratic Party leaders faced criticism Tuesday after a close count in the Iowa caucus between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

    DES MOINES, Iowa — Four years after the Iowa Republican Party was criticized for mishandling an extremely close caucus, Democratic Party leaders faced similar scrutiny Tuesday over how they and their volunteers handled the state’s signature political event.

    The neck-and-neck contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Monday underscored the complicated math Democrats use to determine the winner and the bumpy process for getting there.

    Surprised by the higher-than-expected turnout, organizers reported overcrowded meeting rooms and delays caused by long lines of people registering to vote. Some precinct chairs initially failed to report results due to errors or technological glitches, leaving the nation waiting for a winner to be declared until Tuesday.

    Clinton was named the winner after winning by less than four “state delegate equivalents” out of 1,405, the measurement the party uses to calculate caucus-goers’ preferences.

    The Iowa Democratic Party said Tuesday that it would not do any recount of the close results. Sanders spokesman Ted Devine said his campaign does not have “any plan or intention” to challenge the results, citing Sanders comments from Monday that the race appears to have ended in “a virtual tie.”

    “It is Groundhog Day today,” said John Deeth, a Democratic Party activist who organized caucuses in Johnson County, recalling the 2012 criticism of the state’s Republican caucuses. “And it feels like Groundhog Day. We’re having the same thing happen, just on the other side.”

    Deeth said he was concerned that some locations ran out of voter registration forms.

    In 2012, Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn declared Mitt Romney the winner of a tight race. But days later, Rick Santorum was declared the winner when the results were certified. Strawn resigned and the party went through a review to improve its training of volunteers and reporting of results.

    That work paid off Monday as GOP officials smoothly handled a record turnout that gave Ted Cruz a victory over Donald Trump.

    Tuesday was the Democrats’ turn for criticism and calls for reform.

    Jill Joseph, a Sanders supporter, said the Des Moines precinct she attended was too small for the high turnout and the line was drastically slowed because there were only two people signing in the flood of caucus-goers. Dozens of voters left and the precinct, lacking a trained volunteer chairperson, failed to report results.

    Activist Julie Stauch of West Des Moines, a Clinton backer, said she heard similar “horror stories” about voter check-ins and registrations being poorly managed and rooms that were packed.

    “I think the longterm story is more about poor management by the Iowa Democratic Party and county parties in terms of selecting space,” said Stauch, who chaired a precinct that was packed into a school cafeteria.

    Bob Mulqueen, a Sanders precinct captain in Des Moines, said party officials relocated his precinct several miles across town to a school that wasn’t easy to find. “I remember calling my Sanders folks and most of them said, ‘where the hell is that?'” he said.

    Democratic Party officials said problems were isolated and that the majority of nearly 1,700 precincts went smoothly. They said that it was difficult to find volunteers to run every site and locations willing to house the gatherings, adding that minor glitches were amplified because of the historically close election.

    “I think the folks that care about the process did very well last evening, problems aside,” said Danny Homan, a labor leader who is vice chair of the Iowa Democratic Party. “Sometimes stuff just happens.”

    The post Iowa Democrats face criticism over missteps at caucus sites appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses journalists during a joint news conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias (not pictured) at the ministry in Athens, Greece, December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RTX1X6E9

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses journalists during a joint news conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias at the ministry in Athens, Greece, Dec. 4, 2015. Photo by Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The State Department said Tuesday that John Kerry, when he was a senator, used a private email account to send information now deemed classified to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her personal server.

    Spokesman John Kirby said then-Senator Kerry used a “non-official account” to send a May 19, 2011, message to Clinton and then-national security adviser Tom Donilon. Portions of the message were classified as “secret” last week and censored when it was released along with about another 1,000 of Clinton’s emails on Friday. The non-redacted portions of the message in question refer to developments in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    There was no indication that the information in Kerry’s email was considered classified at any level at the time it was sent or if Kerry, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would have considered it particularly sensitive. Several hours after Kerry sent the email, Clinton forwarded it to a staffer with the instructions “pls print.”

    Kirby said the account that Kerry used to send the email from his iPad is no longer active.

    Another email that Kerry sent to Clinton on his iPad, from Aug. 28, 2012, was released in full on Friday with no redactions. Another email from Feb. 4, 2012, apparently not sent from Kerry’s iPad, was classified in full at the “confidential” or lowest level. Officials said both of those two messages were sent using non-official emails.

    The post Kerry used private email to send Clinton now-classified info appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    THIS PICTURE CAN ONLY BE USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH BCAST STORY ON NYT PHOTO ARCHIVE.

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    BY KENYA DOWNS

    The New York Times is digging deep into its own archives, revisiting historical moments the paper may have missed. As part of a series for Black History Month, The Times is sharing never-before-seen images while exploring the untold stories behind them.

    The Times staff combed through more than five million photos and 300,000 negatives for this project. Some capture historic events while others highlight well-known figures like actress and singer Lena Horne, and civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “It’s quite a dive into history,” says Rachel Swarns, New York Times’ metro columnist. “Readers are really responding.”

    Readers are even chiming in with their own memories. After The Times posted a photo from 1949 of Jackie Robinson giving a speech to the Sociology Society of City College in New York, reader feedback uncovered that he was talking about his work with the YMCA in Harlem. Robinson had five months of the baseball off-season coaching underprivileged children.

    Swarns says there are a variety of reasons why these photos were never published. Those include having a small staff and the limited use of photos at the time. But just as important as why these photos went unpublished, are the photos that were never taken and the stories that never told. Swarn acknowledges there are many holes.

    “We have also really got to be frank and honest and acknowledge that this was a time period when African-Americans were marginalized in media,” Swarns says. “Some of those holes likely have to do with the biases of our editors at the time.”

    The New York Times will publish images daily throughout Black History Month.


    Read the full transcript of this segment below:

    GWEN IFILL: Now: digging through an archive of previously unpublished photos that help fill in a portrait of African-American history.

    Again to Hari in New York.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The archives come from The New York Times and include hundreds of images taken from old negatives.

    Some of the pictures capture a historic moment, like this one taken inside Malcolm X’s house in Queens after it was firebombed. Some include well-known figures like Run-D.M.C., or this one of Lena Horne that was taken inside her apartment for a profile of her, but it turned out there was a backstory. As famous as she was at the time, she still could not get anyone to sell her a co-op without the help of Harry Belafonte.

    Others feature important events like school integration.

    Rachel Swarns is part of the team unpacking the project and asking why they went unestablished. She joins me now from The New York Times newsroom.

    How did you embark on this? The New York Times archive must have hundreds of thousands of photos that never made the cut.

    RACHEL SWARNS, The New York Times: It is, as you can imagine, quite a dive into history.

    Our archives, which is known as the morgue, has about five million pictures, about 300 stacks of negatives. We truly didn’t know what we were going to find when we were going in, but we thought it would be pretty fascinating.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s this — most of these photos that you’re publishing now never have seen the light of day, so to speak.

    There is one that almost anybody will recognize. It’s the portrait of Dr. King. But, really, it wasn’t just taken as a portrait. Tell us the story behind that.

    RACHEL SWARNS: Well, what we really wanted to do was look at photos that just had never appeared before.

    And the photo of Dr. King is fascinating because the one that our readers have seen over and over and over again looks like it was shot in a studio, but, really, it was a roundtable. He was doing a television interview. And that photo actually never even appeared in The New York Times, because the story that day ended up being about protesters throwing eggs at Dr. King. And we didn’t have that photo.

    So, some time later, a photo editor cropped that photo and made the photo that so many of our readers have seen over the decades, but it was never a formal studio sitting.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, that photo is probably something that I saw from high school textbooks onward.

    So, you have another photo that you recently published of Jackie Robinson giving a talk. What’s the story behind that?

    RACHEL SWARNS: Part of the great thing about this project is that we are unveiling unpublished photos, but we really want to engage in a conversation with our readers.

    So, this is a mystery. We had this photo of Jackie Robinson speaking at City College, but there was never a story, and we have no idea what exactly he was doing or what exactly he was talking about. So, we posted the photo, which is a lovely photo, and then we asked our readers: Were you there? Do you know someone who was there? Is there anyone who can tell us about this story behind this photo?

    And within a couple of hours, we actually got a response. We were still digging for more anecdotes and for people who are actually in that photo. But, you know, readers are really responding.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what happened? The readers turn in there, are saying, hey, this is a photo from this year? And then you pick up the story from there.

    RACHEL SWARNS: That’s exactly right. It was from 1949.

    We shared what we knew. And, almost immediately, people started writing in. And what we have found so far is an article from 1949 from the undergraduate newspaper at City College, and it describes a little bit about what Jackie Robinson was doing. And he was talking about his work with underprivileged kids at the Harlem YMCA.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What are the reasons that these published — or these photos went unpublished? They were great photographs in some cases. The photographers were sent out there on assignments. Clearly, someone commissioned these to be taken. Then why didn’t they make the papers?

    RACHEL SWARNS: You know, there are a number of reasons why photos doesn’t go — published.

    And the truth is, we won’t know the whole story behind them. But, you know, one of the things we discovered as we were digging through the archives is that, as powerful as the photos we’re showing to readers, as powerful as they are, what is almost as powerful is the photos that we cannot find.

    The whole question of who was shot and who was not is a real one. And the photos that are missing, that’s a big question. And there are reasons why some of these people are not in our archives. And we didn’t have a whole huge staff of photographers at the time.

    You know, the newspaper didn’t put a premium on images, like it does today. We were called the gray lady because we put a premium on words, lots of them. But we have also really got to be frank and honest and acknowledge that this was a time period when African-Americans were marginalized in society and in media.

    And some of the holes that we discovered, we could not find a single staff photograph of WEB Du Bois, the scholar and intellectual, of Richard Wright, the writer, Romare Bearden, the painter, and we think that some of those holes likely have to do with the biases of some of our editors at the time.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Rachel Swarns of The New York Times, thanks so much.

    RACHEL SWARNS: Thank you.

    The post New York Times unveils lost snapshots of black history appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Oklahoma preschool

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF:  There’s growing interest in a number of cities and states to try funding universal pre-kindergarten programs.

    Philadelphia is the latest city that wants to create one.  Oklahoma has long been home to early childhood education that’s widely cited as a model.

    Special correspondent Cat Wise reports on how a liberal political priority became popular in a conservative state.

    It’s part of our education series on Tuesdays, Making the Grade.

    STUDENTS:  A is for apple, apple.

    CAT WISE:  In Oklahoma, the ABCs start before kindergarten.

    STUDENTS:  D is for dog.

    CAT WISE:  Children here begin public education at just 4 years of age, some as young as 3.  It’s preschool for anyone who wants it, and it costs the state about $7,500 per child per year.

    WOMAN:  I like all those colors you’re using.

    CAT WISE:  The program is hailed as a national model by the Obama administration and advocates who believe early education creates long-term benefits.

    WOMAN:  What color is that one?  Very good.

    CAT WISE:  It’s a costly government program in one of the reddest of red states, but it appears both Democrats and Republicans believe it’s working.

    WILLIAM GORMLEY, Georgetown University:  It’s not every day that a very conservative state, like Oklahoma, establishes a new social program.  It’s not every day that a very poor state like Oklahoma establishes a new social program.

    CAT WISE:  William Gormley is a professor of public policy at Georgetown University.  He has studied Oklahoma’s pre-kindergarten program in Tulsa for 15 years.

    WILLIAM GORMLEY:  Students are nine months ahead of their peers in their pre-reading skills, seven months ahead of their peers in their pre-writing skills, and five months ahead of their peers in their pre-math skills.

    CAT WISE:  Those differences were obvious to Lee Elementary School teacher Patty Eaton from the start.

    PATTY EATON, Lee Elementary School:  Their skill level was quite a bit above the other children that were coming in without the pre-K program.  It was pretty incredible to see the difference between the two.

    Tulsa resident Coral Renteria says her 4-year-old daughter, Lindsey, is thriving.

    WOMAN:  She’s only been in pre-K for about two months, and she’s singing everything, like her ABCs.

    CAT WISE:  And what are the songs you sing?

    CHILD (singing):  A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

    WILLIAM GORMLEY:  At kindergarten entry in Tulsa, the single best predictor of a child’s verbal test skills is not race, or income, but whether that child was in pre-K the previous year.

    CAT WISE:  While the research shows early gains for children here in Oklahoma, the big question is, will those gains persist in later years?  Critics of Oklahoma’s program say the costs of pre-kindergarten outstrip long-term benefits, which remain unclear.

    LISA SNELL, Reason Foundation:  There’s some positive outcomes for the kids, but then, by second grade, third grade, those fade out.

    CAT WISE:  Lisa Snell is an education analyst at the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank.

    LISA SNELL:  If you’re talking about things like graduation rates, test scores, college graduation, the economic future of these kids, I think we have a more difficult time linking the investment in early education to long-term outcomes.

    CAT WISE:  Snell points to Oklahoma’s fourth grade reading scores, which have remained stagnant since universal pre-K was introduced.

    LISA SNELL:  So far, they have had a pretty mediocre response at best in terms of the progress that their kids are making later in school.

    CAT WISE:  But advocates for Oklahoma’s pre-K program say looking at test score trends can be misleading, since Oklahoma has seen a recent influx of children who speak English as a second language.

    Principal Raye Nero of Tulsa’s Sequoyah Elementary School says more students are showing up at school less prepared.

    RAYE NERO, Principal, Sequoyah Elementary:  My demographics are very challenging.  I have parents who have an elementary education raising their kids.  So, our kids are not learning at home like they should.

    So, not only are we teachers.  We’re parents.  We’re teaching social skills.  We’re teaching emotional skills.  We’re teaching academic skills.  So it’s difficult.

    CAT WISE:  And those students who are in pre-K, they’re seeing gains, but there’s a lot to make up for, I guess.

    RAYE NERO:  A lot, but I still believe, the earlier we get those kids, and can put them in this kind of structure, will help them in the long run.

    CAT WISE:  It falls on pre-K teachers like Kegan Waters to bridge that learning gap.

    WOMAN:  Four kids in my class out of 20 are speaking only Spanish when they walk in the door.

    CAT WISE:  Lindsey, Coral Renteria’s daughter, was one of them.

    WOMAN:  Her first language is Spanish.  In two months, she’s caught up on her English like I couldn’t imagine.

    CAT WISE:  In just two months?

    WOMAN:  In just two months.  I’m very, very happy.

    CAT WISE:  Across the country, 44 states pay for some version of pre-K classes, but only four states and the district of Columbia offer universal preschool.  The fact that all residents, not just families with low income, can enroll here could be why the program receives wide political support in a conservative state like Oklahoma.

    DAVID BLATT, Oklahoma Policy Institute:  Whether you’re talking about urban areas or rural areas or suburban areas where you have middle-class families that tend to get out and vote, we have come to expect that there’s going to be a 4-year-old program there.

    CAT WISE:  David Blatt is the executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

    DAVID BLATT:  Nobody has decided to go out to their constituents and say, we’re going to do away with this free early childhood program that you have been counting on.

    CAT WISE:  Take Jennifer Doverspike.  She’s a Tulsa mother who entered her 4-year-old daughter Lucy (ph) in her neighborhood pre-K program.

    JENNIFER DOVERSPIKE, Mother of Pre-K Student:  And I’m very proud of it, as a Tulsan and as an Oklahoman, to have a program like this that’s so great.

    CAT WISE:  Doverspike loves the high-quality instruction.  Oklahoma pre-K teachers must have a college degree, an early education certificate, and they are paid the same salary as all K-12 teachers.

    JENNIFER DOVERSPIKE:  As a parent, I am thrilled that this program exists, but a preschool is more beneficial to disadvantaged children.

    And if it wasn’t the amount of money we’re spending on the program — where can that money go to best serve our citizens?  And the money is best served for children who truly need preschool.  A parent like me taking advantage of the program is a parent that could have been sending her child to a different preschool and spending money on it, and is now taking advantage of this because it’s free.

    CAT WISE:  For his part, Professor Gormley continues to compare outcomes of the 2006 pre-K and non-pre-K students who are now in Tulsa’s ninth grade.

    WILLIAM GORMLEY:  Do they differ in their letter grades?  Do they differ in their standardized test scores?  Do they differ in their behavior?  Are there more suspensions if the kids were not in pre-K?  Is there more absenteeism if the kids were not in pre-K?

    All of these factors have been shown to be really important in determining future success in school, future success at work, and future success in life. 

    CAT WISE:  Seventy-five percent of families here enroll their children in pre-kindergarten.  Some cities, including Denver, Seattle, and New York, have recently put in place Oklahoma’s universal model, while a number of states have chosen to increase funding for low-income pre-K.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Cat Wise in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    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 Seeing success, conservative Oklahoma banks on universal preschool appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    San Francisco police officers stand on Lombard Street, a popular tourist spot also known as the "world's crookedest street," in San Francisco, California August 26, 2015. A tourist from Thailand was robbed of a camera near the site on Tuesday and sustained non-life threatening injuries after being shot, authorities said. Local media reported that two suspects were arrested following the incident. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith - RTX1PT69

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: But, first, more on the continuing debate over police departments and the disputed use of force.

    Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced it will review the conduct of the San Francisco Police Department. It comes after the fatal shooting of Mario Woods, a 26-year-old African-American man, in December.

    Police said Woods was brandishing a knife and less lethal methods had failed to stop him. But cell phone video has cast doubt on the police claims.

    Our colleagues at public station KQED cobbled together two cell phone videos taken of the shooting, first in real time, and then slowed down.

    A warning: This does contain violent gunfire.

    (GUNFIRE)

    WOMAN: Oh, my God!

    GWEN IFILL: Hari Sreenivasan has more from New York on the efforts to change police departments and behavior.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In San Francisco’s case, the city voluntarily asked the federal government to do the review, but there have been many other investigations and settlements with the federal government that are not undertaken voluntarily.

    “Frontline,” along with The Washington Post, have looked at how those have worked in cities like Los Angeles and Detroit.

    Sarah Childress is a digital reporter for “Frontline” who has worked on this project, including an in-depth interactive called Fixing the Force.

    She joins us now from Boston.

    So, Sarah, San Francisco’s case is a little abnormal, in considering the investigations that you have launched, but — because they’re doing this of their own accord.

    SARAH CHILDRESS, “Frontline”: That’s right.

    This is actually a separate process from what the Justice Department calls its pattern of practice of investigations, where they investigate a department and then compel them to implement reforms. This is what — it’s under a separate office in the Justice Department, and it’s called their collaborative review process.

    And they — so the Justice Department does conduct investigation, a review, but then they recommend reforms, and it’s up to the departments to decide whether or how to implement them. And that’s what’s happening in San Francisco.

    So, there will be no binding agreement and no — the Justice Department won’t be able to sue the department if they don’t actually implement reforms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, we hear about these investigations oftentimes because of very high-profile abuse of force or something that kind of makes the news.

    But, as you point out, these investigations have been going on for quite some time.

    SARAH CHILDRESS: That’s right.

    The Justice Department has been investigating police departments since 1994, when they first got the authority to do so. So there’s been about 68 investigations in that time. This collaborative reform process, though, is pretty new. It’s only been — they started it back in 2011. And so there has only been about seven departments that have gone through this process.

    And so it’s difficult to tell how it works. Actually, only one department, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, has actually finished the entire reform process under this collaborative review process. So it’s difficult to say how effective it will be.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Given the amount of time and money the Justice Department along with the local police agencies are spending, are these plans working?

    SARAH CHILDRESS: Well, it’s a great question.

    And it’s really hard to say. We spent several months investigating this with The Washington Post, and we found pretty mixed results. In a lot of cases, officers get better training, better equipment, and certainly they become more professional, but in terms of actually changing how those officers are policing, whether it’s changing — reducing use of force, for example, reducing the amount of time citizens are filing complaints, that was much more difficult to tell.

    Most of these agreements, when they’re court-enforced, it’s at least a five-year process. I mean, look, transforming a police department takes a lot of time. It’s a lot of money. And it’s a lot of effort. So you can’t just do these things overnight.

    And so I know that activists, when they talk about reforms, they want to see progress right away. And with these sorts of long-term investigations and reform process, that usually isn’t the case.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As you pointed out, this also not just takes time, but it takes money. And a lot of these things don’t exactly end exactly at the end of year two or year five. So who foots the bill?

    SARAH CHILDRESS: Well, it’s up to the cities. And they’re responsible for paying for all of these reforms.

    There is a process by which they can apply for grants, and sometimes the Justice Department will provide technical assistance or other help, but it’s really up to the cities. You know, and, in some cases, these can cost millions, especially with larger departments. If you’re implementing new training, new equipment, hiring additional staffing, you know, it’s — in the case of Los Angeles, which was one of the longest-running reform process, over a decade, it cost an estimated $300 million.

    You know, that’s a lot of money.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there any metrics that measure outcomes? Is there less abuse of force after one of these interventions?

    SARAH CHILDRESS: Well, that’s a great question.

    And that’s one we actually tried to answer in our investigation with The Washington Post. And we came up with mixed results. In some cases, departments definitely were using less force. Officers were better trained. And they were — departments were better able to investigate incidents, officer-involved shootings.

    But, in other cases, the data was really mixed. There isn’t a national standard on use of force, so it’s really difficult to compare a department to a department, or even within the department, once the Justice Department comes in and starts changing how they report use of force.

    So the short answer is, it’s hard to say. We really don’t know yet.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Sarah Childress from “Frontline,” thanks so much for joining us.

    SARAH CHILDRESS: Thanks for having me.

    The post Does federal review lead to real police department reform? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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