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

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    Handler Valerie Nunez Atkinson poses with CJ, a German shorthaired pointer from the Sporting Group, after they won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Handler Valerie Nunez Atkinson poses with CJ, a German shorthaired pointer from the Sporting Group, after they won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    A German shorthaired pointer named CJ was appointed top dog Tuesday night at the nation’s most prestigious dog competition.

    The 3-year-old contender beat 2,751 competitors, including a handful of favorites — a German shepherd, bulldog, shih tzu and a Skye terrier who came in second last year — to win Best in Show at the 140th Westminster Kennel Club at Madison Square Garden in New York.

    There’s no monetary award attached to the honors, but CJ’s owners will enjoy valuable breeding rights. CJ, whose initials stand for “California Journey,” has 18 “best in show” wins to his name in six months.

    Handler Valerie Nunez Atkinson runs with CJ, top dog at this year's Westminster dog show. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Handler Valerie Nunez Atkinson runs with CJ, top dog at this year’s Westminster dog show. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    CJ’s grandmother, Carlee, also took the top Westminster title in 2005. CJ’s co-owner and handler, Valerie Nunes-Atkinson, also owned Carlee.

    Following his grandmother, CJ is the third German shorthaired pointer to snatch best in show at Westminster.

    “He has that extra sparkle,” Nunes-Atkinson said about CJ. “He’s an old soul.”

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

    Like a superstitious athlete, CJ has a ritual. He bows down to stretch and sneezes every time he shows, the Associated Press reported. CJ is also co-owned by Alice Manning and Yvonne Hassler-Deterding.

    A borzoi named Lucy took second place.

    The post CJ the German shorthaired pointer wins Best in Show at Westminster appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Reginald Williams, 54, has his eyes tested at Care Harbor LA free medical clinic in Los Angeles, California October 31, 2013. The four-day clinic provides free medical, dental and vision care, prevention resources and follow-up care to thousands of un-insured, under-insured and at-risk individuals and families.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEALTH POLITICS) - RTX14VOK

    The failure of Medicare to cover most dental, hearing and vision expenses is perhaps its greatest failing. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

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

    Marcia – Ariz.:  I started on Medicare Nov. 1 after years with group health and dental insurance. Ironically, I developed my first dental issue in December that required treatment by a periodontist. Why isn’t oral surgery covered by Medicare? I’m very surprised that the dental profession hasn’t lobbied for inclusion. What do older people need? Dental care, annual physicals, vision exams — all excluded (to some degree) by Medicare. How does this make sense, and is there any hope for future coverage?

    Robert – Fla.: I am a 72-year old senior citizen who will have to have approximately $13,000 in required dental work this year. Dental is not covered by Medicare. Can I open and create a health savings account or something like it in order to take advantage of pretax dollars?

    Phil Moeller: The failure of Medicare to cover most dental, hearing and vision expenses is perhaps its greatest failing. Other critics might point to the fact that it does not cover long-term care expenses either. And my favorite personal rant is reserved for its failure to cover nearly all medical expenses incurred outside the United States, even though such care these days is often superior and much cheaper than in the U.S. These omissions have been in place since Medicare was created in 1965, so it’s not as if some new problem has emerged. What has become clearer, however, is that huge and growing numbers of seniors face substantial dental, hearing and vision expenses. Failure to receive adequate care in any of these areas will eventually have a big impact on overall health care and thus on health claims that Medicare does cover.

    Unfortunately, nearly all of the talk in Washington these days is about how to restrain Medicare expenses, not add to them. Until we have a working Congress again and more acceptance of the legitimate needs of our aging population, I just don’t see Medicare’s serious coverage omissions being reversed.

    As to Robert’s question, health saving account plans are only available to people with active employer health coverage (retiree health plans do not qualify). Further, anyone receiving Social Security (which I hope Robert is doing at age 72) is ineligible for a health saving account. Robert’s best bet is to see if some or all of his dental expenses can be deducted on his federal taxes. Only the portion of such expenses exceeding 7.5 percent of his taxable income will be deductible. But this threshold will rise to 10 percent next year for people 65 and older, so in this respect, Robert may have his best shot this year to have Uncle Sam help pay for some of his dental and other deductible medical expenses.

    Kathy – Ky.: In June 2015, I was able to get Medicare on my ex-spouse, because I was disabled — I qualified after getting 24 months of disability benefits as an ex-spouse. Also, I was 62 and allowed to remarry and still collect my ex’s benefits. But in June, I decided that the Obamacare policy I had was better than Medicare. My Obamacare insurer said they would reopen the case and give me a six-month extension while they were processing it. But the insurer said last November that they were dropping my plan. So I went back to Medicare that month and filed again for coverage. They said I had to start all over again and resubmit forms, and it’s taking forever. Does this have anything to do with the new changes to Social Security laws? All I know is that I now have no insurance. Is there any way to speed this up?

    Phil Moeller: I don’t care if the rules formally dictate a do-over. This is awful and you deserve better treatment. This delay, however, has nothing directly to do with the new Social Security laws. It may have everything to do with the fact that the Social Security Administration is criminally understaffed. Such shortages prevent the administration from being able to adequately train the people it does have to understand and carry out their obligations. These duties include managing access to Medicare and deciding when a person is insured by the program. In this regard, the new rules are adding a whole new set of complicated provisions onto an agency that can’t even handle its current workload. You should get in touch with either the Medicare Rights Center or the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (both free services to consumers) and find a counselor who can help you expedite your access to Medicare.

    Glen – Miss.: I am planning to retire at the end of April 2016. I will be 66 on April 12 of this year. How soon do I need to apply for Medicare? And where do I go to apply for Medicare?

    Lynne – S.C.: I will be turning 65 on May 7, 2016, but I’m not retiring until age 66. I now have Tricare Prime, but I will be getting Tricare for Life. When do I need to sign up for Medicare and Social Security? I’m very confused.

    Phil Moeller: Glen’s window for applying for Medicare has nothing to do with his age and everything to do with the date he is no longer covered by an active employer health plan. So long as he is covered by such a plan (and he must be covered as an active employee and not as a retiree), he does not need to get Medicare and is probably better off sticking with his current plan. When he does lose access to that plan, he will have a special enrollment period lasting eight months. However, he should look into Medicare even before his employer plan stops covering him. Having a break in health insurance coverage is a very risky gamble.

    Lynne’s window for signing up for Medicare has already begun. Because she needs it at age 65, she is subject to the program’s initial enrollment period. It is seven months long and begins three months before she turns 65, continues through her birthday month and ends three months thereafter. She would face late-enrollment penalties for failing to get Medicare by the end of August. But the more serious penalty she faces is not having coverage if she encounters a meaningful health care need. And there is a growing gap in coverage dates the later she waits to apply during her initial enrollment period. Many people are unpleasantly surprised by these gaps:

    Month 1 – Coverage effective month 4.
    Month 2 – Coverage effective month 4.
    Month 3 – Coverage effective month 4.
    Month 4 (birthday month) – Coverage effective month 5.
    Month 5 – Coverage effective month 7.
    Month 6 – Coverage effective month 9.
    Month 7 – Coverage effective month 10.

    Michael – Ind.: I turned 64 on Jan. 24, 2016. My wife turned 65 on Jan. 23. She and our 19-year-old son are covered under my employer’s health care policy.  My wife started taking Social Security payments at age 62 in 2013. My son received Social Security payments for a few years before turning 18. I believe my wife has three months to enroll in Medicare Part A (month when turning 65 plus three months). Am I right? If she doesn’t enroll in Medicare Part A now, will she later have to pay a penalty in higher premiums?

    Phil Moeller:  So long as you continue to have active coverage (and not retiree coverage) from your employer’s health plan, your wife need not sign up for Medicare, no matter how old she is. Because your wife is already taking her Social Security benefits, the agency is supposed to automatically enroll her in at least Medicare Part A when she turns 65 and send her a Medicare card. This card also may indicate the agency has enrolled her in Part B of Medicare as well as Part A. She does not need Part B at this time and should call the agency (1-800-MEDICARE) to make sure her Part B enrollment is reversed. Part A is free to your wife (and anyone else who qualifies for Social Security benefits). She definitely should keep Part A, because it may be able to pay for some expenses not fully covered by your employer health plan. There will be no late-enrollment penalties for her, of course, because she is already enrolled in Part A.

    Kathi – Ga.: My mom is 90 and lives with me. She suffers from mild dementia, weakened legs and a minimal appetite. There are several days during the month where I am required to be out of the home all day and other times when I must be gone for part of the day. She has a Medicare Advantage plan. I am wondering whether this will cover a home health aide to just be here when I’m not.

    Phil Moeller: Unfortunately, Medicare will not cover these expenses, and I haven’t heard of any Medicare Advantage plans that will do so. Her needs fall under the category of “custodial” care. This kind of care would be covered by a private long-term care insurance policy, but it’s not covered by Medicare. The agency would cover skilled home care for your mom if her doctor says that such care is medically necessary. Even so, this benefit is generally available for only limited periods, and the doctor would need to re-certify her need for care for each additional period.

    Wendy – Wash.: My husband is not yet 65, but he has Medicare because he is disabled and receiving Social Security payments. This year, there are no supplemental or gap insurance policies available for him to purchase in our remote county, so we did not enroll him in anything additional. Will this result in penalties in the future?

    Phil Moeller: There is no formal penalty for dropping a Medigap plan and later buying another policy. However, there could be a practical penalty when he gets a new policy, because his new insurer might be able to charge him substantially more for the policy than he has been paying. However, because there is no plan offered this year where you live, the state of Washington — states regulate Medigap policies, not the federal government — might well provide him protected access to a new policy that will protect him from such rates. I’d call the SHIP office nearest you and ask a counselor there about Washington’s rules for your husband’s situation. Good luck!

    The post Why won’t Medicare cover dental, hearing or vision expenses? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The bench of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is seen draped with black wool crepe in memoriam inside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    The bench of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is seen draped with black wool crepe in memoriam inside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Is eight enough?

    The Supreme Court has managed to function effectively at less than its full nine-member strength for two extended periods in the past 50 years. The question now is whether the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in the middle of the court term and a polarizing presidential campaign will make it harder for the justices to get their work done.

    Scalia’s colleagues will mourn their longtime friend and fellow justice this week before resuming their work on a lineup of cases fraught with political implications. Their test will be whether they can reach decisions in cases involving abortion, labor unions, President Barack Obama’s health care law, voting rights, immigration and other topics without reaching an inconclusive 4 to 4 vote.

    Adding spice to the mix is the unusual makeup of the court, with four liberal-leaning Democratic appointees and four conservative-leaning Republican appointees.

    One of the term’s biggest cases will be argued on March 2, when the justices weigh whether Texas’ strict regulation of abortion clinics impinges on a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. Scalia would have been a sure vote to sustain the regulations.

    If Senate Republicans hold fast to their vow not to confirm anyone Obama nominates, then the Supreme Court will operate with eight justices not just for the rest of this term, but for most of the next one as well. High court terms begin in October, and the 80 or so cases argued in the course of a term typically are decided by early summer.

    The court would be unable to issue nationwide rulings on any issue in which the justices split 4-4. “That would essentially be putting the Supreme Court in gridlock for two terms,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

    Some Supreme Court law clerks who worked at the court when there was a prolonged vacancy recalled that business proceeded apace, without additional tension and only a handful of split decisions. At the same time, the justices postponed consideration of some major cases while they awaited a new justice.

    The court would be unable to issue nationwide rulings on any issue in which the justices split 4-4. “The main impact of an eight-man court that term … was that the court decided few cases involving significant constitutional law,” Taylor Reveley, a law clerk for Justice William Brennan in 1969-70 and now president of the College of William and Mary.

    The most notable of the deferred cases may have been challenges to the death penalty, according to Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong’s book “The Brethren.” Harry Blackmun joined the court in May 1970, after the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected President Richard Nixon’s first two choices. It was another two years, after the retirements of two more justices, before the court took up the issue and struck down every state death penalty statute.

    The Supreme Court heard about 150 cases in those years — almost twice as many as today — and Blackmun had to deal with hundreds of appeals in which his vote would determine whether or the not the case was heard. In the end, he voted to hear only a handful, according to The Brethren.

    In the 1987-88 term, President Ronald Reagan’s first two high court picks failed before Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in February 1988. Kennedy came on board and the justices ordered new arguments in four cases in which they had been split 4-4, Jan Crawford wrote in her book “Supreme Conflict.” Four hundred appeals also awaited Kennedy’s review, Crawford said.

    Scalia’s death presents an immediate challenge to the court because he had participated in all the cases argued until now. The justices made choices about which issues to hear and which to forgo based on the assumption that Scalia would be sitting with them.

    Chief Justice John Roberts recently lamented a public view that the court is just another political body. He and the others may feel some pressure to demonstrate otherwise, and that could manifest itself in a greater search for compromise, said Michael D. Zimmerman, a former Utah Supreme Court justice and clerk to Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1969-70.

    “When the power dynamics change among them as the membership changes, or the individual members shift perspective, they make pragmatic shifts. From my own experience … I suspect they all take a long view, and that they are realists about these dynamics,” Zimmerman said.

    An early test could be a pending emergency appeal from North Carolina that seeks to keep the state’s congressional districts intact for the upcoming primary elections, despite a federal court ruling that struck down two majority-black districts and ordered a new map drawn by Friday.

    The Supreme Court generally doesn’t like voting changes to take effect close to an election, though some of the liberal justices have objected when the court blocked changes that would have benefited minority voters. Chief Justice John Roberts could act on the appeal himself or involve the entire court, for which he would need at least one liberal justice to join the four conservatives in granting North Carolina’s request.

    Associated Press writer Gary Robertson contributed to this report from Raleigh, North Carolina.

    The post Supreme Court may face extended period with 8 justices appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Every day is bring your child to work day for teacher Edna Boyle, who teaches primary school students at the We Yone school in the George Brook neighborhood of Freetown. Photo by Sara May

    Every day is bring your child to work day for teacher Edna Boyle, who teaches primary school students at the We Yone school in the George Brook neighborhood of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

    Spending time in public spaces is a privilege that many of us take for granted. During a catastrophe, people lose the ability to congregate for long periods of hours or days. In the case of Sierra Leone and other Ebola-affected countries, that time frame extended to months and years.

    After such a protracted period of isolation, when the time finally came to re-enter the public space, the importance of engaging with one another became that much more salient to people.

    When I took these photos, I was working on a photographic assignment for the We Yone Child Foundation, during a two-week photographic seminar with Momenta Workshops in Freetown, Sierra Leone. My assignment was to document two schools We Yone had funded, built and staffed in two different communities within Freetown. In the wake of the Ebola epidemic, the schools had been struggling to muster adequate teaching supplies and staff to accommodate the approximately 300 K-12 students, many of whom now orphaned by Ebola, who wanted to attend classes.

    My first few days in the classroom, I was fixated on trying to visually capture the paucity of educational resources — scant paper, shared pencils, no electricity or ventilation, and creaky, battered benches substituting for desks and chairs. But it soon became apparent that the prevailing experience every day in those classrooms for both students and teachers was one of joy — the joy of coming to school, coming to work, and most of all, the joy of learning and being in the company of others.

    I spent my third day in Freetown photographing the students and teachers in a classroom at the George Brook School. The room was large and open, without walls, lit only by the ambient light falling through some small windows, and packed with benches that had been divided into four different “grades,” each led by its own teacher. In one of the classes, situated in a dark far corner of the room, the students were out of their seats, clustered around their teacher.

    The teacher’s energy was boundless. She was animated, constantly moving, and totally engaged with her pupils. As I drew closer and began to photograph her, I saw she was teaching while carrying a one-year old child on her back, her son. He remained on her back, as curious and alert as the students in front of him, for the duration of the three-hour morning class.

    A student cares for teacher Edna Boyle's 1-year-old son while "Auntie Edna" supervises students outside during recess. Photo by Sara May

    A student cares for teacher Edna Boyle’s 1-year-old son while “Auntie Edna” supervises students outside during recess. Photo by Sara May

    Later, while the students were out at recess, I came back to the classroom and found a student sharing her water and lunch with the boy, while the teacher, “Auntie Edna,” supervised the rest of the students outside. I watched the two of them for awhile, and it was clear the boy had absolute trust in his lunch companion, not once looking for his mother. I found a beautiful symmetry here between a teacher who cares so much about the welfare of her students that she will hike to school and teach five days a week carrying her toddler on her back, and the students who care so much for the welfare of their teacher that they are there to care for her son in the moments when she cannot.

    As my work branched out from the classrooms and I spent more time in the community, I noticed a spirit of irrepressible optimism and energy everywhere I went. Watching people resume their everyday lives as Ebola waned, I could see that public spaces had become instrumental to enabling individuals to leverage their experiences into empathy for one another while rebuilding communal bonds.

    See more of May’s work from the series below.

    Students jump rope during recess at the We Yone School in George Brook, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

    Students jump rope during recess at the We Yone School in George Brook, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

    Edna Boyle teaches at the We Yone school in George Brook, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

    Edna Boyle teaches at the We Yone school in George Brook, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

    Students sit in a classroom at the  We Yone school in Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

    Students sit in a classroom at the We Yone school in Kroo Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

    Two students hand out composition books for an exam at the We Yone school in George Brook, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

    Two students hand out composition books for an exam at the We Yone school in George Brook, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo by Sara May

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

    The post The joy of going to school in post-Ebola Sierra Leone appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    South Dakota would become the first state to restrict transgender students’ access to restrooms if the governor approves a bill passed by the state Senate Tuesday. Photo by Getty Images

    A bill that restricts transgender students’ access to restrooms is headed to South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s desk. Photo by Getty Images

    South Dakota would become the first state to restrict transgender students’ access to restrooms in public schools if the governor approves a bill passed by the state Senate Tuesday.

    The bill would require transgender students in public schools to only use public restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their sex at birth. Schools would also have to provide “reasonable accommodation” for transgender students, such as single-person restrooms or “controlled use” of staff restrooms.

    The Senate voted 20-15 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who previously expressed support for it. Daugaard said last week that he would study the new legislation in detail before making a decision. Advocates say the law is meant to ensure the privacy of students and “preserve the innocence of our young people.”

    Opponents such as the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota and the Human Rights Campaign have called on Daugaard to veto the bill, claiming it discriminates against vulnerable adolescents and may lead to bullying. “History has never looked kindly upon those who attack the basic civil rights of their fellow Americans, and history will not treat kindly those who support this discriminatory measure,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement.

    Some have also questioned the legislation’s legality: federal officials have said that banning students from restrooms that match their gender identity is prohibited under the Title IX anti-discrimination law.

    The post South Dakota bill would restrict transgender students’ access to restrooms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, more than a million people tuned in to PBS on Tuesday to watch the documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” produced by Independent Lens. The conversation continued online, with #BlackPanthersPBS trending worldwide long after the documentary’s end. Reactions ranged from personal memories of the panthers’ influence in the 1960s and ’70s, to comparisons to the current Black Lives Matter movement. Many people had a lot to say about misconceptions they held about the organization and their legacy today. Here are just a few takeaways:

    The Black Panthers weren’t anti-white:

    Although the Black Panthers developed a reputation for being “a violent organization” that was anti-white and “wanted to kill cops” (as described by Los Angeles police officer Ron McCarthy in the film), the Black Panthers believed in violence only as a means of self defense. Founding members chose the panther for a reason: the animal typically only attacks when provoked.

    In fact, non-black supporters of the party were large contributors to the defense funds of Black Panther members who were jailed or on trial throughout the country. Hundreds of young white activists rallied and donated to the New York 21, a group of New York City panther members who were later acquitted of more than 150 terrorism-related charges. The Black Panthers also collaborated with protest groups of all races, including the Young Lords — a Puerto Rican street gang turned political activist organization — and The Young Patriots (sometimes called Hillbilly Nationalists). They were a group of mostly white Americans from Appalachia who fought against poverty.

    Gender roles and gender equality didn’t always match:

    Black women were vital to the success of the Black Panther Party. By the 1970s, women made up the majority of the organization. But even as the movement sought to contradict traditional gender roles and empower women to arm themselves, misogyny was still rampant.

    “The Black Panther Party certainly had a chauvinist tone so we tried to change some of the clear gender roles so that women had guns and men cooked breakfast for children,” former leader Elaine Brown said in the film. Although, she later criticized the documentary for its representation, Brown spoke extensively about the often hypocritical messages of male panther members at the expense of women’s rights.

    Similar to the treatment of women in the civil rights movement, female black panther members were often relegated to the background. Some of the party’s most active organizers including Brown as well as Kathleen Cleaver and Akua Njeri (Deborah Johnson), were overshadowed by their male counterparts in leadership.

    Some viewers also pointed out the absence of Angela Davis, the well-known black liberation activist of the same era. But as director Stanley Nelson tweeted, she was never an official member of the party.

    The Panthers had global support:

    With an unpopular war going on in Vietnam, many places around the world were outright anti-American or strongly against U.S. involvement in foreign affairs. So, tactically, the Panthers garnered support for their cause by meeting with some the U.S.’s biggest critics: North Korea, China and Vietnam. Members also spread the word of black suffrage in the states by meeting with leaders of African nations including Algeria and Ghana. Supporters joined the movement worldwide, some even created their own.

    As Princeton professor Ruha Benjamin tweeted, the Panthers even influenced similar movements around the world. The Dalit Panthers, for example, is an organization of revolutionaries who fought against the caste system in India. They modeled their grassroots activism after their African-American counterparts. Aboriginal activists in Australian founded their own version of the Black Panther Party in 1971. The international reach of the organization was so wide that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, even in the middle of Vietnam war, declared the Black Panther Party “the greatest internal threat to the nation.”

    The Black Panthers were brought down from the inside out:

    A combination of in-fighting and government infiltration signaled the end of the Black Panther Party by the early 1980s. The FBI, under the illegal counter-intelligence program known as COINTELPRO, successfully planted informants within the organization to both stifle its plans and create internal conflict. And it worked. Former agents allege the FBI secretly arranged for panthers to get guns, only to be arrested and sentenced for possessing them during orchestrated raids. Over time, most of the panther’s most vocal members were either in jail or dead. Former informant William O’Neal admitted to providing details vital for agents to execute an offensive that killed emerging leader Fred Hampton and injured several others. While O’Neal was paid a mere $300 for providing information, Hampton’s family received a $1.85 million settlement from the the City of Chicago, Cook County and the federal government.

    As clashes with police climbed, dissent built from within. Former leader Leroy Eldridge Cleaver, who fled the U.S., disagreed with his successor Huey Newton’s reformed approach of community building, instead encouraging even more confrontations with authorities. The FBI capitalized on the internal conflict, calling it an “opportunity to aggravate and possibly neutralized through counterintelligence.”

    “It was a split in the party,” former panther William Calhoun recalled. “And within days we began to feel just how bad it was.”

    It led to a break within the movement between those who supported Cleaver and others who trusted Newton. Those who were disillusioned by the conflict left the Black Panther Party altogether, and the organization’s decline quickly followed.

    The Black Panther legacy remains:

    Many social programs today can trace their beginnings to reforms instituted under the Black Panther Party’s 10-point plan, including a free breakfast program that primarily serves low-income, minority students. The Panthers also opened more than a dozen free health clinics (called the People’s Free Medical Centers) nationwide, offering services like diabetes monitoring and sickle-cell screenings to the poor. More than 40 years later, thousands of health clinics around the country model this community-based initiative.

    If you missed Tuesday’s airing, you can watch “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” here on PBS.org through the rest of February.

    Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correctly identify J. Edgar Hoover — he was FBI director at the time he declared the Black Panther Party “the greatest internal threat to the nation.”

    The post The 5 best takeaways from The Black Panthers documentary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Tech giant Apple has refused a federal court order to unlock the encrypted iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, whose terrorist attack killed 14 people in December.

    The order, issued Tuesday by Judge Sheri Pym of the District of Central California, ordered Apple to render “reasonable technical assistance” to FBI investigators trying to access data on the phone. The phone has a security measure that would erase all information after 10 incorrect password entries, leaving the FBI unable to move forward.

    READ MORE: Fight over gunman’s locked iPhone could have big impact

    In an open letter published Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook decried the court order, claiming that “the government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers.” Cook acknowledged that Apple provides data if required to do so by a search warrant, but asserted that the encrypted data on Farook’s phone is no longer within the company’s reach. The only way to break the encryption, Cook said, would be to create new code to undermine the phone’s software, which would compromise the security of all Apple products.

    In an interview with PBS NewsHour, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called on Apple to comply with the court order, arguing that the information on the phone could prevent additional acts of terrorism. She further stated that if Apple refused to obey the order, it would likely lead to legislation that would force the issue.

    Feinstein appeared on PBS NewsHour Wednesday night to discuss the selection of the next Supreme Court justice.

    The post Sen. Dianne Feinstein calls on Apple to obey court order appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Cate Blanchett

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally: A little more than a week away, the Academy Awards recognize the many elements both seen and unseen that go into filmmaking.

    One of those is the musical score.

    Jeffrey Brown visited Oscar-nominated film composer Carter Burwell recently in his New York studio to see how he creates the soundtracks to the movies.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s one of the elements of film that often goes unnoticed, unless it’s very bad, or, in the case of “Carol,” very good, the musical score.

    CARTER BURWELL, Composer, “Carol”: You know, I think of that theme as being about the heart-beating excitement and mystery of seeing someone and feeling that tug.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Carter Burwell has been composing music for movies for more than 30 years. And for the first time, he’s been nominated for an Oscar for his work on the film directed by Todd Haynes about two women falling in love in postwar America.

    CARTER BURWELL: I don’t want there to be music in the scene, or in the film, just because it’s expected, I want it to be there to say something, and ideally to say something that you wouldn’t otherwise — that wouldn’t otherwise be said.

    You know, “Carol” is a perfect example of this, because it’s very sparse for dialogue to begin with, and also it’s a love story between two women at a time when that actually couldn’t be spoken of openly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Literally unspoken.

    CARTER BURWELL: Literally unspoken. And the music is saying a lot that the characters either can’t or won’t say.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A one-time architecture student and punk rocker, Burwell has composed music for more than 80 films, beginning with the Coen brothers’ “Blood Simple” in 1984.

    Since then, he’s done most of their major films, including the just-released “Hail, Caesar!.” He’s also worked on commercial giants, like the “Twilight” saga, and this year composed music for the Oscar-nominated stop-motion picture “Anomalisa.”

    Burwell often begins by reading a script to determine, with the director, what kind of music, if any, might be appropriate.

    CARTER BURWELL: If it is early in the process, we can have a conversation that at least suggests what type of instrumentation there might be. In other words, how expensive might this music be? Is there going to be a symphony orchestra? Is it going to be a guy with a ukulele?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Wait a minute. So that’s the first thing, is how expensive it is, not the — what are we looking for here, what kind of sound, what kind of…

    CARTER BURWELL: Well, you know, they go hand in hand, but, early on, honestly, figuring out the budget is — especially, you know, I work on a lot of low-budget films, and squeezing everything and fitting it as tightly as you can is important.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He doesn’t begin writing music until he watches early cuts of the scenes, using visual cues, the look the director is after, to determine his musical ones.

    In the case of “Carol,” he created individual instrumental voices, both woodwinds, for the two women.

    CARTER BURWELL: I thought they would be capable of the fluidity that would seem feminine, and also appropriate to the look of the film.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This is before we have even met the two women in the film. Right?

    CARTER BURWELL: Exactly, right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you have introduced the characters.

    CARTER BURWELL: That’s right. I have introduced — that’s right, exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Another example, this time with the piano filling in the dialogue, comes in a key scene in which the two women drive to “Carol”‘s house.

    CARTER BURWELL: The left hand of the piano is playing a rhythm, but it goes into these echoes that pile up and pile up, so that you kind of lose the rhythm. The right hand of the piano is different. It’s crystal-clear, and sort of pointillistic, and very simple.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And we’re inside a different universe now, right, in the car.

    CARTER BURWELL: Exactly, and the way it’s shot, it gets more and more subjective. It’s just a little fur, a glove, something like that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: With “Carol,” Burwell had eight weeks to craft the music, but, in this world, even that is longer than usual.

    CARTER BURWELL: It’s deadline composing. That’s — there are a lot of qualities that maybe make you a film composer, but dealing with deadlines and that kind of stress is certainly an essential one.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Another key to this aspect of filmmaking, Burwell says, is to think of music like any other tool of storytelling.

    CARTER BURWELL: As a viewer and listener, I prefer to be a little less informed. I prefer that feeling of discomfort and uncertainty about, I’m not sure what’s going on. I — what’s happening here in this scene?

    Music, no matter what specific thing it’s saying, it does lend a certain emotional comfort. And if you withhold that — like, the perfect example is the movie “No Country For Old Men.” We realized that whenever we put anything that sounded like music in the movie, the tension evaporated, or lessened anyway. And that movie’s all tension.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have done scores for 80 or 90 films.

    CARTER BURWELL: Apparently.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Apparently, yes. Never won an Oscar.

    CARTER BURWELL: Apparently.


    JEFFREY BROWN: So, are you anticipating, excited by, or trying to stay away from the whole thing, or what?

    CARTER BURWELL: You know, I love this work, and I have great admiration for my — you know, my peers.

    But it’s also not — the industry is not — mainstream awards are not the most important thing to me. But I think it’s great. No, keep your Oscar.


    CARTER BURWELL: No, I’m looking forward to it. It will be — it’s going to be fun.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Carter Burwell, congratulations, and good luck, and thank you.

    CARTER BURWELL: Well, thanks a lot.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From Lower Manhattan, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”

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    GWEN IFILL: A generation has passed since South Africa ended apartheid. And while the country has made progress towards reconciling years of state-sanctioned, violent oppression, the reckoning continues.

    At the same time, there have been smaller, individual efforts to do penance.

    Tonight, special correspondent Martin Seemungal brings us the story of a man who was once the very symbol of apartheid, as he tries to make amends.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: It is an unusual scene in South Africa, a white man in his late ’70s in a black township delivering free food to the needy.

    But it’s not just what the man is doing. It’s who the man is or, who he was. His name is Adriaan Vlok, and he was a cabinet minister during the harshest years of apartheid, known as a ruthless defender of white minority rule over the black majority.

    MONDLI MAKHANYA, Writer, “City Press”: Adriaan Vlok was the manifestation of the evil that the apartheid regime was. And he was the worst of the worst.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Mondli Makhanya was an anti-apartheid activist then. Today, he is an outspoken editorial writer for a Johannesburg newspaper.

    MONDLI MAKHANYA: From the mid-1980s, I would venture to say, other than President P.W. Botha at the time, he was the most evil man in South Africa, and he was the face of the evil of the apartheid regime.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: As minister of law and order, Vlok was responsible for the police, the shock troops in the war against black activists fighting apartheid. A bloody, violent fight, thousands were killed. Tens of thousands were detained, locked up without trial, all under the watch of Adriaan Vlok.

    ADRIAAN VLOK, Former Law and Order Minister, South Africa: Hello.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Three decades later now, in the black township of Olievenhoutbosch, Vlok passes unrecognized as he does his rounds.

    Vlok visits this township every week, delivering food donated by local supermarkets to three day care centers and a charity for the disabled. He is reaching out to the people he once helped oppress to atone for what he calls the sin of apartheid.

    Vlok has always been a devout Christian, but in the early years, he believed in white superiority. His transformation began after the fall of apartheid and the first all-race elections. Over a period of about 10 years, he began to rethink and ultimately repent.

    ADRIAAN VLOK: I told about my sins. I submitted to the Lord and said, Lord, I have sinned. Here I am. Please forgive me.

    I am not offering any excuses. I cannot offer an excuse that this and this were the reason why I did that. I am — I am guilty. I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: So, his mission today is about redemption. It’s about reconciliation.

    Forty-three-year-old Dinah Sekese runs the disabled center Vlok is helping. As an 18-year-old, she joined the protests against the apartheid regime. She knew who he was.

    DINAH SEKESE, Volunteer/Relief Worker: I know the man was — that Adriaan Vlok, for me, was a bad man.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: In the several years she has worked with Vlok, she never showed him the scars from the rubber bullets fired by his police in 1986, but, on this day, she did. She told him it happened during a march on a police station.

    DINAH SEKESE: Stones go…

    ADRIAAN VLOK: From behind you.

    DINAH SEKESE: … over me. And I was like — and then I hear pop, pop, pop, pop, in the front. And almost eight rubber bullets hit me. My arms, or you can see all over, here.

    ADRIAAN VLOK: I can’t take away that scar, but I can love her and I can help her.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Painful memories for Dinah, poignantly ironic that Adriaan Vlok is the one offering comfort.

    Obviously, they were police under your ultimate command.

    ADRIAAN VLOK: Yes. Yes. I feel bad. I didn’t feel good about that. I feel sorry that this has happened. And, as I said, I can’t take away their scars. They are there. They are there as a witness to what we did to these people.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The most infamous case linked to Vlok was the attempt to assassinate Frank Chikane.

    Reverend Frank Chikane was a key member of the anti-apartheid leadership. In the late ’80s, the apartheid government saw him as a significant threat.

    Did you give the instruction to kill Frank Chikane? Or was that — how did that come about? Who made that decision?

    ADRIAAN VLOK: His name was put before me, and I said there is an instruction that you could consider killing him. And I said, do it, so I pass it on.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Vlok says he didn’t know how or when it would be done. In 1989, Chikane’s clothes were laced with poison. He barely survived.

    In 2006, Vlok confessed to his involvement in and was given a 10-year suspended sentence. But he wanted to do more, an act to underscore his sincerity. In a private meeting with Chikane, he offered to wash his feet. Vlok admits he was afraid.

    ADRIAAN VLOK: I have been a guy in this country who had power. I was a minister. And I am Afrikaans-speaking, and I am a white man. And here I am going to bow down on my knees in front of a black man.

    And I stuttered. And I asked him the question, “Will you please allow me to wash your feet?”

    And he was taken aback. He said, “But why do you want to do that?”

    And then we talk a little bit. I said, “Frank, I believe that I have hurt you through apartheid and through what we did to you and your family.”

    He said to me, “OK, you can wash my feet.”

    And I cried. And I think Frank cried. And he prayed, and I prayed.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The people who work with Vlok in the township do not doubt his sincerity.

    DINAH SEKESE: And they say, can you believe Adriaan Vlok can change? I said, I believe what I saw. What I see is what I believe, and then I am ready to tell that Adriaan Vlok has changed.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: And they believe he should be forgiven.

    DINAH SEKESE: Here in our country, the only thing that we appreciate is when a person comes out and says, sorry. Can you please forgive me? It’s what we want. And I believe it’s something that builds this peace that we have in this country.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: But Mondli Makhanya says there is still enormous bitterness among black South Africans because of the crimes committed by the apartheid regime. Not everyone is willing to forgive so easily.

    MONDLI MAKHANYA: Ideally, people like Adriaan Vlok should have gone to prison for a very long time. But it was necessary, in the wisdom of Mandela, that, actually, we make those compromises. But forgiveness comes hard.

    ADRIAAN VLOK: I think it is of the utmost importance, because if you are not prepared to forgive and to be reconciled, what is the — what is the alternative? It is hatred, I blame you, they blame me, and we will not find each other.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: A scene like this would have been unimaginable 30 years ago, South Africa’s most feared apartheid minister embracing young black children singing the national anthem.

    Adriaan Vlok says he will dedicate his remaining years to peace and reconciliation one day at a time.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Martin Seemungal in Olievenhoutbosch Township near Pretoria, South Africa.

    GWEN IFILL: Tomorrow, as part of our yearlong series Race Matters: Solutions, special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault reports on similar reconciliation efforts here at home, in Birmingham, Alabama.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) responds to a threatened law suit over campaign ads from U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a press conference in Seneca, South Carolina February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTX27EQQ

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, in the race for the White House, tensions are heating up in South Carolina.

    Our political director, Lisa Desjardins, reports.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The Republican 2016 race, already full of twists and turns, took one more today, when South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley announced she is endorsing Marco Rubio, four days before the state’s primary.

    Otherwise, the contest has become a blur of blistering attacks, starting with the man at the top, Donald Trump, target, Ted Cruz. Cruz has said that Trump is not truly conservative. Cruz has a series of anti-Trump ads that make the point.

    Today, in Bluffton, South Carolina, Trump again shot back.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: You can’t lie about people like that. It’s just incredible. And, again, I have been in business and I have dealt with some pretty rough hombres, much tougher than Cruz. But I have never dealt with anybody that lied so much.

    LISA DESJARDINS: As for Cruz, consider it the third law of politics. Every Trump attack gets an equal and opposite counterattack.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: Look, ethics matter.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Today, the Texas senator went after Trump’s attempt to block his ads.

    SEN. TED CRUZ: Mr. Trump has sent me a legal cease and desist letter saying, stop telling the voters my record. Now, that is, objectively, legally frivolous.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But this is not a two-man war, and Cruz is also targeting fellow Senator Marco Rubio.

    SEN. TED CRUZ: When you have Donald Trump and Marco Rubio repeatedly putting forth fabrications with no evidence, no basis whatsoever, just trying to throw mud and attack.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Rubio is more focused in his attacks on fellow Senator Cruz and defense spending.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Republican Presidential Candidate: Some people talk to me, and say, well, why vote for you and not Ted Cruz? Well, Ted Cruz voted for a budget that cut it even more. I’m not cutting defense spending when I’m president.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Jeb Bush may not be in the top three right now, but he is not to be left out, firing away in Beaufort today at Trump, Rubio and John Kasich.

    FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: With all due respect, Senator Rubio, your four years or five years or whatever it is as senator does not match up to my capabilities of understanding how the world works.


    FORMER GOV. JEB BUSH: Donald Trump says we don’t need to spend more money on the military. And John Kasich has a similar kind of view. They’re wrong.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Kasich, he kept his distance from the scrimmage, hoping a positive message wins.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), Republican Presidential Candidate: Let’s not be negative about the future of our country or negative about our country today. We’re doing fine.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The Democrats were less sharp-edged. But Hillary Clinton, in Chicago, did seem to dig at her rival, Bernie Sanders.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: We need a president, yes, who is passionate about getting, as much as possible, money out of politics and reining in Wall Street, but we need a president who is passionate about creating jobs and raising incomes, like I am.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Sanders left the campaign trail briefly today, returning to Vermont. Up next? Candidates in both parties hit national television for town halls the next two nights.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just three days away from the next voting contests, we turn our attention to Nevada, where Sanders and Clinton will face off for the third time, as well as South Carolina, which we just heard about.

    Joining us tonight from Las Vegas is Jon Ralston of “Ralston Live,” and from South Carolina, Randy Covington. He’s a professor of journalism at the University of South Carolina. He is also the former news director of WIS Television in Columbia.

    Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

    Let’s start with the Democrats and Nevada.

    Jon Ralston, the race has tightened up there between Clinton and Sanders. What has happened? Why?

    JON RALSTON, Ralston Live: Well, Hillary Clinton had the state locked up. She came here early last year, set up an infrastructure, hired all these operatives from 2008 who had worked here. She reached out to the Latino community. Bernie Sanders was invisible here. His campaign didn’t even arrive until late last year, but then slowly the tide began turning.

    He started to turn. He raised a lot of money, put resources in here, spent money on TV. And then after New Hampshire, Judy, the tide completely turned, when she lost by a landslide in New Hampshire. Her internal polls showed she was hemorrhaging. Suddenly, the Clintons were making New Hampshire and Iowa seem like Nevada, when it is nothing like Nevada. They said it was an all-white state, essentially.

    And so her campaign essentially has been in a freefall here. They have been trying to stop that. And they’re hoping to have a parachute before they hit the ground on Saturday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, Jon Ralston, Hillary Clinton had shown strength among Latino voters. We know she had some strength among the labor unions. What has happened to all of that?

    JON RALSTON: Well, she does have strength among Latino voters here, Judy. In fact, she has had some high-profile endorsements. She has Dolores Huerta, the legendary civil rights activist, campaigning for her here today.

    Henry Cisneros, the former Cabinet secretary, mayor of San Antonio, was here. She has a lot of local dreamers, including maybe the most famous dreamer in the country who was on stage with President Obama. Astrid Silva has endorsed her.

    But Bernie Sanders has made inroads. Even her — even the Clinton campaign acknowledges that Sanders’ message is starting to resonate in the Latino community. So, I think she will win Latinos, but will she win by enough to win the caucus on Saturday?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Randy Covington, let’s turn to the Democrats in South Carolina, where Hillary Clinton seems to be holding onto her lead a little better. What does it look like?

    RANDY COVINGTON, University of South Carolina: For the Democrats, there is not the passion that existed eight years ago when Barack Obama was running.

    Most African-American leaders here are supporting Clinton. The Sanders message is fairly alien in a conservative state. I think it’s fairly safe for Hillary Clinton here. More of the focus, more of the excitement is on the other side.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It sure is. And that’s where all the — as we saw in that report from Lisa Desjardins, that is where a lot of the yelling and the TV spots are directed.

    Randy Covington, why is Donald Trump doing so well in South Carolina?

    RANDY COVINGTON: Well, South Carolina has a long history of being contrarian.

    The Civil War started here. When the civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s, we raised the Confederate Flag on top of the statehouse. His message resonates in a state like this. And at a time in the nation where there is frustration over government, clearly, Trump has tapped into that. And in a state that four years ago in this primary went for Newt Gingrich, I don’t think there is anything surprising about Trump’s strength.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about, though, the message from Ted Cruz? And we know that he and Trump are in a vicious back and forth. Who is listening, who is responding positively to Ted Cruz?

    RANDY COVINGTON: All right, so, Judy, if I could turn the clock back, 16 years, you were at CNN. I was working in television at that time.

    And John McCain and the Straight Talk Express came rolling into South Carolina. And then things got really interesting. And I think we’re at this exact same moment today. You have the apparent front-runners. However, it is much more nuanced and complicated than that.

    Jeb Bush, this is his last stand. And he is putting enormous strength, power, resources into this.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, meanwhile, if I could interrupt, you — I was going to say, you had your governor, Nikki Haley, today endorsing Marco Rubio, which is mixing things…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Does that help him a lot?

    RANDY COVINGTON: Absolutely.

    So, you have Bush, who I think is ascendant, strong debate performance. You have Rubio. Just a few minutes ago, the influential State newspaper here in Columbia endorsed Kasich.

    So, I think this field is very much in play. Probably, most people expect the insurgent message of Trump to win. But everything else is very volatile. Where I live, every day, my phone rings incessantly with robo-calls.

    I brought in my props. This is from my mailbox in the last two days, three pro-Jeb, one anti-Jeb, one anti-Trump, two anti-Rubio, one pro-Rubio. Well, I think there is much more to unfold in the next few hours.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It sounds like, and in the next few days.

    But, meanwhile, back to Nevada and Jon Ralston.

    The Republicans are competing there one week later. How is that shaping up, or is everything on hold until they see how South Carolina goes?

    JON RALSTON: Well, they’re waiting to come here until after South Carolina, Judy.

    But Donald Trump is dominating here in the polls. The other campaigns that are organized here, Cruz, Bush and Rubio, all privately acknowledge they’re fighting for second place, but that could be important, depending on what happens in South Carolina.

    But I think Nevada is going to mirror what is happening elsewhere, that as long as there are three or four candidates running against Donald Trump, he will get his 25, 30, 35 percent and the rest are going to divide it up, until someone decides to get out or a couple of them decide to get out.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in South Carolina, because I think that will have an impact on Nevada, but probably only on who finishes in second and third.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One thing is for sure. It’s not dull.

    Jon Ralston, Randy Covington, thank you both.

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    An iPhone 6S Plus is seen at the Apple retail store in Palo Alto, California September 25, 2015.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith - RTX1SHKT

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    GWEN IFILL: The battle over privacy vs. security is back front and center, as Apple digs in against the FBI and the courts over the issue of access to data on its phones.

    December 2, 2015, that’s the day Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, went on a murderous rampage in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people. Hours later, they were, in turn, killed by police. Ever since, the FBI has been trying to read the contents of a cell phone Farook used.

    JAMES COMEY, FBI Director: We still have one of those killers’ phones that we have not been able to open. And it’s been over two months now. We’re still working on it.

    GWEN IFILL: Last week, FBI Director James Comey told a Senate hearing that the Apple iPhone’s encryption has made it impossible for the agency to access its content.

    Now a federal judge in California has ordered the company to create software that will do just that. But Apple CEO Tim Cook forcefully rejected that order early yesterday, writing in a letter addressed to Apple customers: “In the wrong hands, this software, which doesn’t exist today, would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

    White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest disputed that, saying the government wants access only to the single device associated with Farook.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: We’re not asking Apple to redesign its products or to create a new back door to its products. This is a much more specific request that the Department of Justice has put forward.

    GWEN IFILL: Apple stepped up its protections after NSA leaker Edward Snowden exposed government surveillance of phone traffic in 2013.

    One feature can even erase the iPhone’s contents after 10 failed attempts to unlock it. Prosecutors say they are worried that this feature could be on the phone Farook used. And unless Apple devises a way to unlock it, they could lose all its data. The company now has five days to make its formal response in court.

    Now for a look at the wider stakes surrounding this case, we turn to Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney who focuses on digital civil liberties for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He joins us from San Francisco. And Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush administration and former general counsel at the National Security Agency. He’s now in private practice at Steptoe & Johnson.

    Stewart Baker, Tim Cook says that building this access, this back door access to the iPhone, as he describes it, would permanently weaken privacy. Is he right?

    STEWART BAKER, Former Assistant Secretary, Dept. of Homeland Security: No, I don’t think he is.

    The order says you must defeat this one security feature, which is the automatic erasing of all the information on the phone. And that’s not building a permanent back door into anything. That’s one phone, one order, one security feature.

    GWEN IFILL: So, Nate Cardozo, if it’s just one phone, one order, one security feature, what is the huzzah all about?

    NATE CARDOZO, Electronic Frontier Foundation: Well, it’s not about one phone and it’s not about one security feature.

    The FBI chose this case to get the precedent, right? We know who the shooters were. We know who they were talking to. The FBI already has the metadata. They chose this case because they want precedent that they can order a company to design a particular feature at their whim.

    So, when you hear Stewart or the White House press secretary say it’s only this one phone, that is simply disingenuous.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, are we talking about precedent here, Stewart Baker?

    STEWART BAKER: Well, there is longstanding precedent, 200 years old, that says that if someone has an obligation to help law enforcement to take action, then the government can order other people to help that person carry out his obligation.

    If somebody jumps into a cab and says there is a bank robber up ahead, follow that car, the phone — the cab company has an obligation to follow that cab.

    GWEN IFILL: What is the government standing to make such a request like this?

    STEWART BAKER: So, there is an All Writs Act that has been around for almost 200 years that says that essentially the government can ask someone who is in a uniquely — unique position to help to assist in carrying out an obligation that law enforcement has.

    GWEN IFILL: Nate Cardozo, what slippery slope do you envision here?

    NATE CARDOZO: Well, it is more than a slippery slope.

    Stewart, as you well know, no court in the United States has ever approved an order of this breadth under the All Writs Act. No court has ever ordered an American company to compromise the security of all of their customers. No court has ever ordered a safe maker to make a master key.

    And the courts that have addressed it, the Inray (ph), the company, case that, I’m sure, Stewart, you are aware of, the court found that OnStar could not be ordered to subvert its emergency phone system and turn it into a wiretap act.


    NATE CARDOZO: This isn’t just — this isn’t just a slippery slope. If the FBI is permitted to get the order in this case, that is it. They will be permitted to get a back door order in every case going forward.

    And more than that, Apple will be unable to resist identical demands from China, from India, from Russia. And that is the end of secure devices.

    STEWART BAKER: I have to say that the concern here that Apple has is, they have said this phone cannot be cracked. And now it turns out that may not be true. And they would like to suppress that possibility, because they’re afraid China or Russia might order them to use that capability.

    China and Russia are perfectly capable of ordering Apple to do that tomorrow, whether they have help from a court in this case or not.

    GWEN IFILL: You talk about China and Russia. And I want to ask you both this. How — since you brought it up — which is, how do international actors see this kind of discussion that we’re having here? Does it make us look weak?


    NATE CARDOZO: I think authoritarian regimes around the world are salivating at the prospect of the FBI winning this order.

    If Apple creates the master key that the FBI has demanded that they create, governments around the world are going to be demanding exactly the same access.

    STEWART BAKER: Whether or not they do that in response to this order, if it’s possible to build that capability, then the Russians and the Chinese are going to order Apple to do it sooner or later, and probably sooner, whether or not the United States tells Apple to do this.

    GWEN IFILL: Can I ask you both to be — to make one thing clear? Do you both agree that Apple is capable of doing what they are being asked to do and they’re just resisting it on principle, Nate Cardozo?

    NATE CARDOZO: We think that Apple is capable of doing it for this generation of phone. The phone at issue is an iPhone 5c, which I guess is two generations back at this point. The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6s, it is our belief that Apple is probably not capable, at least not capable of using this exact technique to unlock.

    But we think they are capable of unlocking the 5c.

    GWEN IFILL: And you think that is true, Stewart Baker?

    STEWART BAKER: That is what it appears from what Apple has said, that they think they can do it. They choose not to do it, notwithstanding the stakes for terrorism in San Bernardino.

    GWEN IFILL: So, if you are the owner of one of these phones which could be unlocked if Apple decided to go along with this, how much do — how worried should you be, Nate Cardozo, that your privacy is about to be compromised?

    NATE CARDOZO: Well, you know, every individual should create, should do their own threat assessment.

    If you have particularly sensitive data, if you are a human rights worker in Syria, if you are an LGBT activist in any country around the world where you may be persecuted for your orientation or beliefs, make sure to tune up your security in response to this. Use a pass code longer than four digits.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, I hope that everyone is doing that anyway.

    Stewart Baker?

    STEWART BAKER: Yes, I — certainly there are times when everyone wants to worry about security. But the idea that the desire for security could trump a lawfully obtained search warrant to find out whether we’re at risk of other people who conspired with the San Bernardino shooters right now strikes me as odd.

    And for Apple to say well, it interferes with our business model and our consumer trust to help the U.S. government find out about this possible additional attacker doesn’t make any sense.

    GWEN IFILL: This security vs. privacy argument, it sounds to me like it is just going to continue, Nate Cardozo

    NATE CARDOZO: You know, it’s not security vs. privacy. This is security vs. surveillance. This is security vs. security.

    Before Apple instituted this level of encryption on devices, when devices were stolen, they were susceptible to any run-of-the-mill hacker opening it up. And that is what the FBI wants Apple to return to? That’s crazy.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, we’re going to have to leave it there for now.

    Nate Cardozo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Stewart Baker, former deputy assistant secretary at Department of Homeland Security, thank you both.

    STEWART BAKER: Thanks.

    NATE CARDOZO: Thank you.

    The post Judge’s order to Apple over attacker phone encryption unlocks privacy concerns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley announced her endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio Wednesday. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley announced her endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio Wednesday. Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

    CHAPIN, S.C. — A three-way feud among the GOP’s leading White House contenders escalated Wednesday, with Republican Ted Cruz daring Donald Trump to sue him and dismissing Marco Rubio’s charges of dishonesty just days before South Carolina’s high-stakes primary.

    Yet it was Rubio who may have scored the day’s biggest win as he secured the coveted endorsement of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. The popular governor said she was tasked with identifying the best candidate as she surveyed the crowded GOP field.

    “If we elect Marco Rubio, every day will be a great day in America,” she said alongside the Florida senator during an evening rally in suburban Columbia.

    While a major development, Haley’s endorsement did little to quiet the intensifying clash between Cruz, Trump and Rubio over alleged ethical violations in the days leading up to Saturday’s South Carolina contest.

    The Texas senator has been trying to beat back charges of dishonesty from Trump and Rubio for weeks. He shifted his defense to the next level during an afternoon news conference that highlighted Cruz’s extensive legal training.

    “You have been threatening frivolous lawsuits for your entire adult life,” said Cruz, a Harvard Law School graduate who served as Texas’ top lawyer, speaking directly to Trump. “Even in the annals of frivolous lawsuits, this takes the cake.”

    Trump threatened earlier in the week to bring a defamation lawsuit against Cruz over a television ad that attacks the Republican front-runner’s conservative bona fides. Specifically, the ad features footage of the billionaire businessman in a 1999 interview supporting abortion rights. Trump now says he opposes abortion.

    Trump’s attorney sent Cruz a letter Tuesday charging the ad was “replete with outright lies, false, defamatory and destructive statements” and saying Cruz could be held liable for damages if it’s not taken down.

    Cruz on Wednesday said a lawsuit against the ad has no chance, and said he would like to take Trump’s deposition himself. He also announced plans to run the contested ad more frequently.

    The prospective legal battle marks another extraordinary step in the turbulent 2016 Republican primary season.

    Polls suggest Trump continues to hold a big lead in South Carolina and in upcoming states, as Cruz works to rally the Republican Party’s most conservative wing and Rubio tries to consolidate mainstream Republicans behind his candidacy. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich continue to battle for a spot at the table, while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson struggles for relevancy.

    Haley’s endorsement was a major setback for Bush in particular, who told NBC News on Monday that “she is the probably the most meaningful endorsement if there is” one in the state.

    Suddenly backed by Haley, Rubio continued his assault against Cruz’s campaign tactics. He accused Cruz supporters of using “push polls” and creating a fake Facebook page wrongly claiming that South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy had switched his endorsement from the Florida senator to Cruz.

    “It’s just a pattern of people around his campaign that have continuously done things like that,” Rubio said as he campaigned in Mount Pleasant.

    Cruz denied being involved with anything untoward and called for anyone with evidence to come forward.

    Trump and Rubio are “repeatedly putting forth fabrications with no evidence, no basis whatsoever, just trying to throw mud and attack,” Cruz said. “The insults and the falsehoods and the fabrications have no business in politics. It is incumbent upon all of us to speak the truth.”

    Meanwhile, Trump again called Cruz a liar making desperate moves to boost his campaign.

    “I am pro-life and I do not support taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood as long as they are performing abortions,” Trump said in a statement.

    The New York real estate mogul also repeated his threat to bring a lawsuit over Cruz’s eligibility to be on the ballot, given that he was born in Canada. Cruz and legal experts have said he is eligible because his mother was a United States citizen at the time of his birth.

    “Time will tell, Teddy,” Trump said.

    The post South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley backs Rubio appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The bench of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is seen draped with black wool crepe in memoriam inside the Supreme Court in Washington February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX278NX

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The passing of Justice Antonin Scalia has unleashed a political battle of epic proportions that is reverberating from the campaign trail to Capitol Hill. President Obama has made it clear he will nominate someone. But, in the Senate, most Republicans say he shouldn’t, and, if he does, they won’t confirm.

    We hear now from two senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which first considers any nominee.

    First up, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. She joins us from San Francisco.

    Welcome, Sen. Feinstein.

    So, what is your response to your Republican colleagues who say this should be left to the next president?

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, California: Well, I would say this, Judy.

    Fourteen nominees have been confirmed in the final year of a presidency in history. And, as a matter of fact, Ronald Reagan presented Judge Kennedy to become Justice Kennedy, and he became that and was confirmed in the last year of Reagan’s administration.

    So, it is a well-established fact that this can happen. I mean, I remember back. One of my very first confirmation hearings was Justice Ginsburg. And both the chairman of the committee today, Sen. Grassley and Sen. Hatch, voted for her. And I remember their statements to this day about a president being entitled to his nominees, provided they were qualified, provided they had the requisite skills, the integrity, the moral compass to be enacted.

    And they both voted for Justice Ginsburg. I wish we could go back to those days, because what’s happening now is very destructive of the process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just cite quickly what Sen. Hatch has said. And I’m going to be talking to him in just a minute. He said the Senate has never allowed a term-limited president to nominate someone this late in his term.

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, the record reflects that 14 have been confirmed in the final year. We’re well able to do it in the time that remains.

    Now, why not do it? Because what is left are several very important cases, whereby, if there is a tie vote, the appellate court decision takes precedence, therefore, shorting the justice system for whoever it was that was on the other side of the appellate court decision.

    And we shouldn’t do that. That, I think, is destructive to what is, you know, a very well-put-together system of justice.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, two other questions. Republicans say it was the Democrats who politicized this process with the way they went after Robert Bork, the way they went after Clarence Thomas, that the Democrats started this.

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Yes, well, I wasn’t here then, so I really can’t comment.

    But whoever it was, it seems to me the time has come to end it. And I had hoped that we were in the process of ending it. We have confirmed 11 judges last year. We have 78 pending. And it shouldn’t be that way. And, you know, Barack Obama has almost a full year left. Are you saying then that his hands could be — should be handcuffed and that he can’t make appointments in that full year of his presidency?

    I think that’s a mistake. And one thing, one more thing. What goes around comes around. And I re-read Orrin Hatch’s statement after the Ginsburg hearing. And regardless of what has happened since then, I think he was absolutely right.

    And so the ability to process a nominee becomes very important and I think very significant. And I would hope that Orrin would remember that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Sen. Feinstein, how far to the center should the president lean in choosing a nominee? Should he try hard to find somebody who is going to appeal to Republicans, as well as Democrats?

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Well, I think the answer to that question is yes, if you want to get someone confirmed, I think somebody that has gone through the confirmation process — and there are several who are well-qualified on that score — or somebody that would be seen as outstanding by both sides of the aisle.

    And if either one of those were to happen, I think the chances of confirmation would be very high.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sen. Dianne Feinstein joining us from California, we thank you.

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to a Republican view, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. He’s also on the Judiciary Committee, and he joins us from Salt Lake City.

    Welcome, Sen. Hatch. So the Republicans are in the majority. The president has said he is going to nominate someone to fill the term or to take the place of Justice Scalia. What is going to happen then?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH, Utah: Well, the president has an absolute right to nominate whoever he wants to. And I would vote to protect that right.

    But the Senate also has an absolute right to confirm or not to confirm. And so I do support Sen. McConnell in saying, but, look, let’s get it out of this terrible presidential brouhaha that is going on, and let’s get it over to the next year, and be fair to both sides, because what would happen is whoever wins the presidency is going to be able to make this nomination.

    Usually, you never nominate anyone during the last year of a president. And the reason for that is because — well, there are many reasons, but one reason is because there’s always a very contested Senate primaries and also election, and, secondly, generally, one side or the other is going to get very, very upset about it.

    I would rather get the Supreme Court out of that type of a condition.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we just heard Sen. Feinstein say that there are now 14 examples of nominations to the Supreme Court that took place during the final year of a presidency.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, in the last 80 years, there haven’t been. And I’m talking about 80 years, and except for — except for Justice Kennedy. But Kennedy was nominated in the prior year. And that was only after a bruising set of fights that resulted in basically a choice of Kennedy that both sides went along with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me just come back to you with what not only Sen. Feinstein has said, but so many others, including the president.

    He still has almost a year left in office, that it is the duty of the Senate to consider the nomination. Sen. Feinstein pointed out that when you supported Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the Senate, who clearly was someone whose views were different from yours, you said the president…

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … should — choice should be respected.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, I think the president’s choice should be respected. That doesn’t mean you have to have — you have to accept that choice.

    And, in this situation, just think about it. They are already voting in the primaries. We’re already in full swing in the presidential election, at least the primaries. It’s contentious as can be. It’s the most obnoxious political system, series of problems that I have seen in the whole time I have been in the United States Senate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, are you saying that — then that the majority of Republican would not hold hearings on the Judiciary Committee?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, I think if you are not going to allow it to come up in this brouhaha year, where there’s all kinds of infighting and screaming and shouting, yes, I don’t think any reason — there wouldn’t be any real good reason to have hearings.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And is there any precedent for that, for the Senate ever having refused to consider the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, I don’t know about that, whether there is any precedent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, when the president himself didn’t withdraw the nomination.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, we’re talking about Nino Scalia. We’re talking about his successor.

    We’re talking about something that every Republican — person, every Republican revered and many Democrats revered, by the way, because they knew what a great jurist he really was. And we’re talking about having a system that doesn’t become the brutalized system that occurred in the Bob Bork nomination, one of the greatest legal minds in the history of this country, and they just brutalized him.

    And then look at what they did to Clarence Thomas. The fact of the matter is, I would like to get it out of that type of brouhaha, and get it into the next year, where there should be no brouhaha, and whoever is president should be able to pick whoever that president wants.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you are saying, just to be clear, Republicans would sit on this nomination, not act on it?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, I’m saying the Republicans shouldn’t act on it, because the proper way is to get this done in a way that cools the whole process around electing judges, and in particular justices to the United States Supreme Court.

    I just don’t want the court politicized. And this would be the biggest politicization the court in history. And that is saying something, because there have been some other times that certainly would come close to matching this.

    But, in all honesty, I just don’t want to see the court denigrated any further than it would be in this very caustic election year with the way things are going right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even with a centrist choice?

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, who knows whether it will be centrist or not. We will have to see.

    Yes, the president might pick somebody that everybody can agree with. That’s another matter. I hope he does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sen. Orrin Hatch, we thank you very much.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Well, thank you.

    The post What’s going to happen when Obama nominates a new justice? Top senators weigh in appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I’m Judy Woodruff.

    GWEN IFILL: And I’m Gwen Ifill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On the “NewsHour” tonight: an epic battle on Capitol Hill. We hear from two high-ranking senators about the fight over nominating Justice Antonin Scalia’s successor.

    GWEN IFILL: Also ahead this Wednesday: Apple opposes a judge’s order to unlock the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooters, saying the ruling would undermine customers’ privacy.


    ADRIAAN VLOK, Former Law and Order Minister, South Africa: I am guilty. I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A story of reconciliation: how an apartheid-era police official is now helping the people he once brutalized.

    DINAH SEKESE, Volunteer/Relief Worker: And they say, can you believe Adriaan Vlok can change? I said, I believe what I saw. What I see is what I believe, and then I am ready to tell that Adriaan Vlok has changed.

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


    GWEN IFILL: Turkey’s capital city is alive with fear and anger tonight, after a car bomb killed at least 28 people and wounded 61.

    We have a report on the blast in central Ankara, from Juliet Bremner of Independent Television News.

    JULIET BREMNER: Moments after an explosion was heard across the Turkish capital, flames leapt into the night sky. The bomb had hit a convoy of military buses that had been taking soldiers home from their barracks.

    In the chaos immediately after the attack, the governor said that he believed the bomb had been left in a car. It was rush hour. Commuters broke their journey home to try and help move a parked car that was blocking the emergency services. Unable to access the vehicle, they smashed in through the window and drove it away.

    The buses were targeted close to the Turkish Parliament. The prime minister, president, and security minister were in the middle of a security meeting about Syria when the bomb went off. This is the fourth terrorist attack on Turkey in recent months.

    Last October, more than 100 peace activists were killed during a rally in Ankara. On that occasion, the so-called Islamic State were blamed. On this occasion, early indications suggest it could be the work of the Kurdish separatist group the PKK, striking at the heart of Turkey days after their army had hit Kurds across the Syrian border.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in Syria today, convoys carrying humanitarian aid made their way to besieged parts of the country. It is part of an agreement between the Assad government and the U.N. One convoy arrived in Madaya, a town west of Damascus that has been sealed off by government forces for months. Locals say dozens of people have starved to death.

    GWEN IFILL: Pope Francis spent this final day of his visit to Mexico near the U.S. border. He journeyed to Ciudad Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, and once a cauldron of violence and drug trafficking.

    The pontiff’s first stop was at a prison, where he embraced inmates and preached a message of redemption.

    POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): The one who has suffered the greatest pain, and we could say has experienced hell, can become a prophet in society. Work, so that this society, which uses people and discards them, will not go on claiming victims.

    GWEN IFILL: The final event of the papal trip was a huge outdoor mass this evening.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tensions in the South China Sea escalated today, as U.S. and Taiwan officials confirmed that China has deployed advanced surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island.

    The batteries are on Woody Island in the Paracels claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, but controlled by Beijing.

    WANG YI, Foreign Minister, China (through interpreter): China’s move of setting up limited, necessary and self-defense facilities on the islands and reefs where Chinese troops are stationed is in line with the right of self-defense endowed by international law to any sovereign state. Therefore, there is nothing wrong about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the United States sharply criticized the move.

    Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in Washington as he met with Poland’s foreign minister.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: When President Xi was here in Washington, he stood in the Rose Garden with President Obama and said China will not militarize in the South China Sea. But there is every evidence, every day, that there has been an increase of militarization of one kind or another. It’s of serious concern.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The news came just a day after President Obama called for a peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.

    GWEN IFILL: Iran pushed back today against a proposal to limit supply and boost prices. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Qatar said yesterday they would cap oil output at January levels if other major producers do likewise. But Iran said today that, with international sanctions easing, it will increase oil exports. It called for the other producers to pump less.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Despite Iran’s statement, the price of oil traded higher today, and that kept Wall Street’s rally alive. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 257 points to close near 16454. The Nasdaq rose 98 points, and the S&P 500 added 31.

    GWEN IFILL: And there’s a new top dog in the land. A German shorthaired pointer named C.J. took best in show last night at the Westminster Dog Show in New York. The 3-year-old champion beat 2,700 canine competitors over two days. He’s only been showing for six months, but he has already won 18 best in show awards, culminating at Westminster.

    Go for C.J.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: top senators weigh in on the next Supreme Court nominee; should Apple grant law enforcement access to iPhone data?; political charges and countercharges fly in South Carolina; and much more.

    The post News Wrap: Deadly car bomb rocks Ankara appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivers an address at the The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York City. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivers an address at the The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York City. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    So much for Bernie Sanders‘ big win in New Hampshire.

    Since then, Hillary Clinton has picked up endorsements from 87 more superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention, dwarfing Sanders’ gain from the New Hampshire primary, according to a new Associated Press survey. Sanders has added just 11 superdelegate endorsements.

    If these party insiders continue to back Clinton overwhelmingly — and they can change their minds — Sanders would have to win the remaining primaries by a landslide just to catch up. He would have to roll up big margins because every Democratic contest awards delegates in proportion to the vote, so even the loser can get some.

    After the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders has a small 36-32 lead among delegates won in primaries and caucuses. But when superdelegates are included, Clinton leads 481-55, according to the AP count. It’s essentially a parallel election that underscores Clinton’s lopsided support from the Democratic establishment.

    The disparity is sparking a backlash among some Sanders supporters, who complain that the Democratic nominating process is decidedly undemocratic, rigged in favor of Clinton.

    Some of them — not part of the campaign, Sanders’ people say — are contacting superdelegates who have publicly endorsed Clinton. Their message isn’t subtle, or always welcome.

    “I’m sick and tired of them,” Cordelia Lewis-Burks, a superdelegate from Indiana, said of the Sanders backers. “It’s very aggravating to be bashed on my own computer by these people who it’s probably the first time they’ve ever voted. I’ve been in the trenches since I was 20.”

    Pressure tactics won’t sway Lacy Johnson, another Indiana superdelegate who backs Clinton.

    “They were saying ‘We’re not going to forget this,'” Johnson said.

    “I’m an African-American male who is in my 60s,” Johnson said. “I have experienced the struggles. The experiences they are sharing don’t faze me in comparison.”

    Superdelegates automatically attend the national convention and can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of whom primary voters back. They are party leaders — members of Congress, party officials and members of the Democratic National Committee.

    There are 712 superdelegates, about 30 percent of the 2,382 delegates needed to claim the nomination.

    The Republicans also have some automatic delegates but not nearly as many.

    Clinton’s campaign expresses confidence that she will maintain a strong lead among superdelegates even as she focuses on upcoming voting. “Our campaign strategy is to build a lead with pledged delegates” won in primaries and caucuses, Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an email.

    Sanders campaign adviser Tad Devine said he doesn’t consider an early superdelegate count to be very meaningful because they are free to switch right up until the convention this summer. Sanders’ ability to attract younger people and independent voters, as he did in New Hampshire, will be a strong selling point to change people’s minds, he said.

    “It is hardly an insurmountable lead, and it can change overnight,” Devine said. “We are confident that superdelegates want to be behind the strongest candidates in a general election and have a nominee to help candidates win up and down the ballot.”

    MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Sanders, has started an online petition calling on the superdelegates to back the candidate who gets the most votes in primaries.

    In 2008, some superdelegates who initially supported Clinton did switch to Barack Obama after he started racking up victories in primaries and caucuses.

    But Obama is a Democrat who had worked on campaigns and cultivated relationships with many of the people who were superdelegates. Sanders is an independent.

    “To my knowledge there has been zero outreach to the New Hampshire automatic delegates from the Sanders campaign,” said Kathleen Sullivan, a DNC member from New Hampshire. “Not just since the primary, I mean since he first decided to run.”

    New Hampshire, which Sanders won by 22 percentage points, has eight superdelegates. Six back Clinton and two are uncommitted.

    Many Clinton supporters question whether Sanders could win the general election.

    “He’d get killed!” said Rosalind Wyman, a DNC member from California. “A socialist independent? I can see the negative ads now.”

    Others talk about their relationship with Clinton, who has been in Democratic politics for decades.

    “I never ever abandon my friends,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri. “I don’t think friendship is negotiable, certainly not politically negotiable.”

    Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said, “Superdelegates are interested to see who can win, and many of them have strong ties to the Clintons, like me.”

    Sanders supporters are tired of hearing these arguments.

    “I’m so damned sick of people saying I love this guy but he can’t win,” said Troy Jackson, a DNC member from Maine who supports Sanders. “People need to start voting with their heart, what they know is right,”

    Jackson, a superdelegate himself, said he will push to have all five of Maine’s superdelegates back the candidate who wins the state’s caucuses in March. Three have endorsed Clinton and the other is undecided.

    “I want someone who’s going to fight for me, not cut deals, not compromise on core values,” Jackson said. “While I have respect for Secretary Clinton, she does that too much.”

    AP reporters in every state and U.S. territory surveyed the Democratic superdelegates after the New Hampshire primary. When AP did this in November, Clinton led Sanders 359-8 in pledged support, meaning her already substantial margin has grown.

    Only one Clinton supporter, Luisette Cabanas Colon of Puerto Rico, took herself out of the Clinton column. She switched to uncommitted while she sees how matters involving the territory play out in the campaign.

    AP writers Brian Slodysko in Indianapolis, Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Summer Ballentine in Jefferson City, Missouri, David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

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

    The post Despite a New Hampshire loss, Democratic insiders boost Clinton’s delegate lead appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON -- The House pushed ahead on legislation that seeks to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test by expanding sanctions on Pyongyang, a move with strong bipartisan support despite questions over how effective the new restrictions can be. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a field guide during a winter river-crossing attack drill of the armored infantry sub-units of the motorized strike group in the western sector of the front of the Korean People's Army (KPA)  in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang January 27, 2015. REUTERS/KCNA

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a field guide during a winter river-crossing attack drill of the armored infantry sub-units of the motorized strike group in the western sector of the front of the Korean People’s Army in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang January 27, 2015. Photo by KCNA/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama slapped North Korea with more stringent sanctions Thursday for defying the world and pushing forward with its nuclear weapons program, weeks after it launched a satellite-carrying rocket into space and conducted its fourth underground nuclear test.

    Both actions led to worldwide condemnation of the reclusive country and fueled fears that it continues to move toward building an atomic arsenal.

    Democratic and Republican lawmakers, many of whom argue Obama hasn’t been tough enough with North Korea, overwhelmingly approved the bill last week and sent it to the White House. The House voted 408-2, following a unanimous vote by the Senate.

    Obama signed the legislation away from the news media and issued no statement. Up until Wednesday, the administration had said it didn’t oppose the bill but declined to say whether Obama would sign it into law.

    The expanded sanctions are being imposed as the U.S. and China are in delicate negotiations over a United Nations Security Council resolution on new sanctions. China, North Korea’s most important ally, has raised concerns about measures that could devastate North Korea’s economy.

    The new measures are intended to deny North Korea the money it needs to develop miniaturized warheads and the long-range missiles required to deliver them.

    The legislation also authorizes $50 million over the next five years to transmit radio broadcasts into North Korea, purchase communications equipment and support humanitarian assistance programs.

    “This is an authoritarian regime. It’s provocative. It has repeatedly violated U.N. resolutions, tested and produced nuclear weapons, and now they are trying to perfect their missile launch system,” Obama told “CBS This Morning” after North Korea launched the long-range rocket,

    Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said he hoped the U.N. Security Council and China, in particular, will “take notice of this strong showing of U.S. leadership” and work to put in place similar measures.

    “Let’s stand together with a single voice and one clear message: Any provocation will be met with consequences that will shake the Kim regime to its foundations,” Menendez said.

    Obama consulted with Chinese President Xi Jinping after the Jan. 6 nuclear test, and separately with the leaders of Japan and South Korea after the Feb. 7 rocket launch to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to their security. The U.S. has also opened talks with South Korea about developing more missile-defense systems to eliminate the possibility that a North Korean missile could reach U.S. facilities.

    Japan announced new sanctions last week that include expanded restrictions on travel between the two countries and a complete ban on visits by North Korean ships to Japan.

    South Korea cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals.

    The bill is H.R. 757.

    Associated Press writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report.

    The post Obama signs new sanctions against North Korea for nuclear program appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Vice President Joseph Biden could be the wild card in the Democratic race for the White House in 2016. Photo by Getty Images

    Vice President Joseph Biden said in an interview airing Thursday that President Barack Obama would look for a Supreme Court nominee with support from the GOP. Photo by Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is looking for a Supreme Court nominee with past Republican support, Vice President Joe Biden said, offering some of the first indications of the White House criteria in trying to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

    Biden, in a radio interview airing Thursday, disagreed with Republicans who insist that Obama let that decision fall to the next president, who will take office next January.

    “In order to get this done, the president is not going to be able to go out — nor would it be his instinct, anyway — to pick the most liberal jurist in the nation and put them on the court,” the vice president told Minnesota Public Radio. “There are plenty of judges (who) are on high courts already who have had unanimous support of the Republicans.”

    There are signs that some Republicans are softening their stance, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s insistence that Obama should not even make a nomination.

    Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the Senate should hold hearings on an Obama nominee. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told the Portland Press Herald that a nominee would get her “full attention” and that senators “should carry out our constitutional duty.”

    Sandra Day O’Connor, who retired as a justice in 2006, urged that the vacancy on the nine-member court be filled expeditiously. O’Connor, nominated by President Ronald Reagan, told Fox 10 in Phoenix that she disagreed with those calling to wait for the next president.

    “I think we need somebody there now to do the job,” she said, “and let’s get on with it.”

    But others Republicans held firm.

    Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said it seemed clear that Obama would not get a nominee confirmed unless he were to pick someone in Scalia’s mold, preserving the court’s ideological balance.

    “For that reason, it might be just as well not to have a hearing that would sort of — might mislead the American people into thinking that this is just about the qualifications of the candidate,” Toomey said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Because it’s bigger than that.”

    Republican leaders were working to turn the tables on Democrats. GOP aides circulated a comment that current Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada made during a 2005 debate over judges nominated by Republican President George W. Bush.

    “Nowhere in (the Constitution) does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential appointees a vote,” Reid said at the time. “It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying every nominee receives a vote.”

    Advocacy groups were getting involved, too.

    The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group headed by a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, said it was spending more than $1 million on TV and radio ads in Washington arguing that “next president chooses the next justice.”

    Obama is expected to look closely at a number of appeals court judges, including some who meet the benchmark that Biden laid out.

    Sri Srinivasan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was confirmed by a vote of 97-0 less than three years ago. Senators also unanimously confirmed Jane Kelly in 2013 to the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Biden, who presided over Supreme Court confirmation hearings while in the Senate, took issue with the notion that a Scalia replacement can’t be confirmed during Obama’s final year.

    “To leave the seat vacant at this critical moment in American history is a little bit like saying, ‘God forbid something happen to the president and the vice president; we’re not going to fill the presidency for another year and a half,'” Biden said.

    Associated Press writers Sam Hananel and Alan Fram in Washington, Marc Levy in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Doug Glass in Minneapolis and Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

    The post Biden: Obama seeking court nominee who enjoys GOP support appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Bottles of breast milk are seen at a hospital in Medellin, Colombia.  Volunteers supply the hospital's milk bank, to offer a more nutritious alternative for children whose mothers are not able to provide them with breast milk. Photo by Fredy Builes/REUTERS

    Bottles of breast milk are seen at a hospital in Medellin, Colombia. Volunteers supply the hospital’s milk bank, to offer a more nutritious alternative for children whose mothers are not able to provide them with breast milk. Photo by Fredy Builes/Reuters

    Three new studies released today dig deeper into what makes breast milk nutritious, revealing that part of the secret actually comes from inside an infant. Special sugars in breast milk and certain microbes in a young person’s gut form a tag team that spur the normal growth of a baby.

    In the future, these ingredients — both in milk and human tummies — could help craft better formula and baby care for the millions of mothers who can’t use their own breast milk or are living in countries with poor nutrition. Malnutrition leads to 3.1 million deaths in kids under five per year, accounting for nearly half the childhood deaths experienced worldwide.

    A Malawi meal

    A Malawian man carries food aid distributed by the United Nations World Food Progamme (WFP) in Mzumazi village near the capital Lilongwe. A prototypical Malawi diet consists of corn, legumes, vegetables, and fruit, which  is insufficient for healthy growth on its own. Photo by Mike Hutchings/REUTERS

    A Malawian man carries food aid distributed by the United Nations World Food Progamme (WFP) in Mzumazi village near the capital Lilongwe. A prototypical Malawi diet consists of corn, legumes, vegetables, and fruit, which is insufficient for healthy growth on its own. Photo by Mike Hutchings/REUTERS

    The study began in Malawi, where nearly 50 percent of children under five show some form of stunted growth. By taking fecal samples from healthy and malnourished six-month-olds, biologist Jeffrey Gordon and his colleagues noticed a pattern in Malawi children. As the kids aged, these microbial communities in their guts appeared to take divergent paths.

    “When we think about human development, people tend to consider our human cells and organs, but should we also consider the vast communities of microbes that colonize us beginning at birth?” said Gordon, who works at Washington University in St. Louis. “We decided to focus our attention on this large collection of gut microorganisms that form an organ, a microbial organ.”

    Their team found that these malnourished children fail to develop this microbial organ in a timely fashion. As they grow up, malnourished children develop microbial communities in their guts with less diversity, which Gordon described as being “immature.” These results mirrored a similar study reported two years ago by Gordon and other partners that involved children from Bangladesh, suggesting the trend might be a global consequence of malnutrition.

    To examine what an immature gut could do to growth, the researchers transferred the gut microbes of healthy and malnourished human children into young mice. The team discovered that mice with malnourished microbes became stunted. These mice ultimately weighed less and grew less lean body mass compared to mice with well-fed germs from humans. This contrast surfaced even as both groups of mice ate a traditional Malawi-style diet of corn, legumes, vegetables, and fruit, which, on its own, would not produce healthy growth.

    In a cool twist, housing a healthy mouse with an undernourished mouse permitted the transfer of microbes to the latter, and instead of growing up to be stunted, the recipient grew normally. These findings were published in Science Magazine, and accompanied a second study in the same journal, that identified two species of microbes — Ruminococcus gnavus and Clostridium symbiosum — that could replicate this effect and repair stunted growth on their own.

    But how do these beneficial gut microbes get established in the first place? For an answer, the researchers turned to breast milk.

    Pigging out

    This sow's five pigs developed from cryopreserved and surgically transferred embryos. Photo by Keith Weller.

    By transferring human germs to piglets, researchers found breast milk and microbes pair up to fight malnutrition. Photo by Keith Weller.

    “Human breast milk is the most perfect food we know. So we asked a relatively straightforward question: Is there something different in the breast milk of mothers that healthy children versus breast milk from mothers whose children had malnutrition,” Gordon said.

    Breast milk is “perfect” because it carries buckets of nutrients as well as microbes crucial to developing immune system, but the researchers found that well-nourished Malawian moms produce milk with more sugar relative to malnourished moms. Moreover, most of these sugar compounds had a special chemical attachment called sialic acid that is naturally found in breast milk.

    To test how these sugars influence microbes, the team turned to mice again but also piglets. Once more, they installed the microbial communities from healthy and malnourished Malawian children into these animal models. These mice or piglets were then served one of two diets: the standard, somewhat paltry Malawian diet or that plus these breast milk sugars with sialic acid.

    Animals fed sugars with sialic acid exhibited major increases in growth, including improvements in bone volume and lean body mass, compared with those fed a standard diet. The metabolic engines in their liver, muscle and brain improved too, suggesting their bodies saw a global change in their ability to harness nutrients.

    Intestinal microbiota promotes growth of infant mice. Mice lacking microbiota (right) are thinner and smaller than standard mice (left) carrying intestinal microbes. Photo by Vincent Moncorgé

    Intestinal microbiota promotes growth of infant mice. Mice lacking microbiota (right) are thinner
    and smaller than standard mice (left) carrying intestinal microbes. Photo by Vincent Moncorgé

    These effects depend upon the microbes, Gordon said, because the team did another experiment where they administered the same diet, with or without the milk sugars, to mice without a human gut community. Without human microbes, these mice didn’t witness growth improvements when fed sugars with sialic acid.

    The study also found two strains of bacteria that feed off sugars with sialic acid and may be responsible for the associated growth benefits. Collectively, these findings in humans, mice and piglets were published in the journal Cell.

    But parents shouldn’t rush out to buy sugars with sialic acid for their baby formula, Gordon said. For one thing, these sugars are hard to find. Cow’s milk, for instance, has 20 times less sugar with sialic acid relative to human breast milk.

    Future research needs to make sure that only the beneficial microbes are enriched as a result of sugar supplementation, Gordon said. It’s possible that disease-causing germs in the gut can catch a boost too from extra sugar.

    “We’re going to have to be very, very careful in understanding who is there in this [microbial] community, who could benefit, who could do some harm if these things are around,” Gordon said.

    Plus, based on this study, it’s crucial that a child have the right set of microbes in their tummies, otherwise sugars with sialic acid won’t change outcomes.

    “We have a signature that now allows us to define the state of maturity of this microbial organ [in children],” Gordon said. “We can now envision food-based interventions that can be developed under highly controlled conditions that may be targeted towards these very important elements of our microbial community.”

    The post What makes breast milk nutritious? The secret may be in baby’s gut appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Jockey Victor Espinoza, aboard American Pharoah (C), takes off for the start of the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes as well as the Triple Crown, in Elmont, New York on June 6, 2015. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Jockey Victor Espinoza, aboard American Pharoah (C), takes off for the start of the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes as well as the Triple Crown, in Elmont, New York on June 6, 2015. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: During the last presidential election in 2012, economics correspondent Paul Solman reported on the world of political prediction markets. So what is a political prediction market? It’s an online stock market for political races, where people can wager on political outcomes. Think Clinton is going to win? In a prediction market, you can put your money on it. Think the underdog Kasich is going to make a comeback? You can put your money on that too.

    For tonight’s Making Sen$e segment, Paul revisited the prediction market scene and met some new players in the field. Intrade, which became popular during the 2012 presidential race, was shut down, and Predictit, which limits the amount of money you can wager to $850, arrived on the scene with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission’s blessing.

    Whether you call it betting or investing, one thing is clear: political prediction markets are surprisingly accurate predictors of presidential races.

    Paul sat down with economist David Rothschild, who Making Sen$e first spoke with back in 2012, about Predictit and the accuracy of political stock markets. For more on the topic, tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e report, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour. The following text has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor

    Paul Solman: So since the last time we talked, have political markets grown or shrunk?

    David Rothschild: Well, since the last time we talked, there’s been quite a change in the political prediction market scene. Intrade, which was the most widely recognized market in the U.S., was shut down shortly after the 2012 election, but Predictit has come on the scene in its place. Predictit is directly sanctioned by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and what that means is that Americans can legally go on to Predictit and they can wager on political outcomes — up to $850 per market. That has gotten a lot of Americans in the system, and Betfair and some of these overseas markets that also wager on American political outcomes have picked up a little more slack too. There’s a lot more interest and a lot of liquidity in those markets as well.

    Paul Solman: So how much money are in these markets?

    David Rothschild: We’re talking millions of dollars that are being wagered overall in the American political scene.

    Paul Solman: Even now?

    David Rothschild: Even now. More than enough money to ensure that these are accurate representations of the probability of outcomes that we care about.

    Paul Solman: But how do you know the market isn’t biased? Suppose it’s mainly Republicans playing the market, wouldn’t that bias the result?

    David Rothschild: The great part about markets is that we don’t need to worry about whether or not the average person in the market is smart or whether the average person in the market is biased. What we need to worry about is whether or not there is enough smart money, just on the edge, to take advantage of all those people that are making biased or unintelligent bets. And that’s what makes financial markets tick — it’s really just a small selection of very, very sharp people who are taking advantage of all the other money in the market.

    What we see is that people are going into this market, and they want to make the right decisions and get the best return they can get. And even if some people are on one side, or some people are on the other side, we see enough balance in the way that people approach it, and we see enough smart money to ensure that these markets accurately reflect what we believe to be meaningfully happening outside.

    Paul Solman: If I were going to bet, what data is there to reassure me that it’s not a biased market?

    David Rothschild: Well, the best thing that we could point to in order to show that these prediction markets aren’t biased is how well they have done year after year and election after election in predicting outcomes. We looked at the 2012 elections — the primaries, the senatorial, gubernatorial, presidential elections — and you see something that is as accurate or more accurate than any collection of pundits or statistical polling averages. It’s extremely well calibrated.

    Paul Solman: Do the data support the assertion that prediction markets are more accurate than polls?

    David Rothschild: If you want to compare prediction markets and polls, prediction markets have a few advantages. Number one is that prediction markets know all that polling data. Number two: prediction markets add in other, idiosyncratic data, such as contributions or endorsements, which haven’t yet affected the polls, but which we know will affect the polls. And number three, a prediction market is like a collection of really smart people who have aggregated all this information together, and they have a lot of incentive — money on the line — in order to make the decision, right? Very early in the cycle, when there’s more idiosyncratic information, when there’s more new information that’s hard for polls to interpret — when news breaks, when there’s a debate, when there’s a scandal — prediction markets really get out in front of the polling. Towards the end of the general election, they’re going to converge, because there’s not much other information out there, but in the beginning and when news is breaking, there is a huge difference.

    Paul Solman: And right now?

    David Rothschild: Primaries are actually the time where prediction markets really shine. Markets do a great job because primaries are idiosyncratic; they are hard to make a model for. And so that’s where markets have done a great job in aggregating the information out there and giving us a reasonable assessment of what’s going to happen.

    Paul Solman: Prediction markets obviously incorporate information that polls don’t yet have. But other than that, what’s their advantage?

    David Rothschild: When you have primaries, you really need people’s subjective opinion to get aggregated in an effective way. And that’s what markets do, that is where markets really shine. They understand the oddities of the trajectory of a primary. They understand how endorsements and how strategic voting, eventually, will affect primary systems. This is where markets have a huge advantage over the smartest people just working with polling or historical data.

    Paul Solman: Well, the first primary was in Iowa. How did prediction markets do versus polls?

    David Rothschild: If you just looked at the polls or even at very intelligent readings of the polls before Iowa, you were sure that Donald Trump was going to win. Prediction markets said that he was a little more likely to win, but they were very, very skeptical. They showed this as a razor-thin margin. If you looked at polls of Hillary Clinton versus Bernie, you’d think that it was just a toss-up. Prediction markets showed Hillary Clinton had this tiny, tiny, tight lead, and markets were quite confident that she would prevail in the end. It’s able to read the idiosyncratic nature of this and plug that into the ultimate outcome that is projecting.

    The post A political horse race where you can actually bet on the future president appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Jan. 16, 2016 in Vienna to go over details of a nuclear deal. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The pursuit of peace in Syria may require the United States and Iran to break new ground in their increasingly comfortable diplomatic relationship, propelled by last year’s nuclear accord and their more recent prisoner swap. Another taboo could be shattered soon: Military discussions.

    Iran may be just one of 17 countries invited to the first gathering Friday of a task force the U.S. and Russia are leading to forge a temporary truce in Syria’s civil war. But for the Obama administration, Iran is like no other country at the table.

    Washington considers Tehran the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. And American officials have long insisted they will not cooperate militarily with an Iranian government that has deployed troops to help keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power and which continues to fund and arm U.S.-designated terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

    Administration officials insist Iran’s presence at the talks does not mean the two countries are “cooperating or coordinating” on military matters.

    Yet the ceasefire discussion in Geneva is intrinsically military. And it could put the U.S. delegation in Geneva in the uncomfortable position of poring over battlefield maps with members of Iran’s military or its Revolutionary Guard Corps.

    The officials present will discuss which areas of Syria will be covered by the truce. They will debate which rebel groups should be spared from attack. They will seek agreement on what actions would constitute violations. And they will discuss appropriate responses.

    On all these matters, Iran can have a say. Because the International Syria Support Group and its task force operate on the basis of consensus, Iran, like any other participant, will have an effective veto over the arrangements.

    And that suggests the U.S. and Iran will have to find an accommodation.

    “Implementing a cessation of hostilities requires the participation and compliance of those engaged in hostilities, and that includes Iran,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said. He added, “This does not mean we are cooperating or coordinating with Iran.”

    Kirby said the U.S. continues to see Iran as a destabilizing force in Syria through its support of Assad and Hezbollah. But he said the U.S. has believed since late last year that, for peace to be possible, “all stakeholders must be involved, including those with influence on the armed opposition groups or forces fighting in support of the Assad regime.”

    Syria’s conflict started with violent government repression of largely peaceful protests five years ago, but within months it became a full-blown rebellion against Assad and a proxy battle between his Shiite-backed government and Sunni-supported rebels.

    The war has killed more than 250,000 people, created Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, allowed the Islamic State to carve out territory across Syria and neighboring Iraq, and led Russia and a U.S.-led coalition into separate bombing campaigns in the skies.

    Washington’s hope is that peace between Syria’s government and “moderate” rebels would allow the world to focus single-mindedly on defeating the Islamic State.

    Western and Arab officials have cited plans for chasing the group out of its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, and the key Iraqi city of Mosul before the end of the year. Continued fighting between Syria’s military and the Western-backed opposition could complicate those objectives.

    Iran, as Kirby said, first joined the Syrian diplomacy in November as the United States and its Arab and European allies looked for a new strategy to end the bloodshed. The Iranians have deployed Revolutionary Guard forces and directed Hezbollah fighters to help Assad on the battlefield, and the idea of including them was to make the effort as broad as possible.

    But the ceasefire strategy mapped out last week in Munich goes further than just aspirational talk about “transition governments,” new constitutions and eventual elections that may or may not mean the end of Assad.

    It specifically points to “military officials” in the new task force discussing matters of great military importance: where countries can and cannot strike in Syria, which groups they can and cannot target, and how they can identify and respond to transgressions. Disagreements risk not only ending the ceasefire, but potentially bringing countries closer to conflict themselves.

    Russia has long sought closer military coordination on Syria, and in Munich its foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, immediately hailed the new dimension to the talks as a key development.

    And the Pentagon disclosed for the first time Thursday that it asked Russia to avoid striking parts of northern Syria where U.S. special operations forces are working. Russia has honored the request, it said.

    But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. wasn’t ready for a broader military coordination with Russia, given its military activity in Syria.

    “Russia’s military activities have not been focused on ISIL but rather concentrated on propping up the Assad regime,” Earnest told reporters. “That has resulted in more widespread bloodshed and suffering, and only serves to undermine the stated political goals of the Russian government.”

    He predicted “painstaking slow and difficult and complicated diplomacy” in Geneva.

    “Even as this process moves forward slowly, lives are being lost, and lives are being scarred, because you see innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. You see more and more people forced to flee their homes to avoid violence,” Earnest lamented. “And unfortunately Russia’s actions are only perpetuating that situation.”

    The post A new Iran deal? Syria truce may demand one appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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