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

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    Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 7.35.15 PM

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: A poet honors his father, and both honor their Puerto Rican heritage.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A community organizer in a burned-out building, a young girl taking a ballet lesson, photographs of Puerto Rican life in New York and around the country. They were taken by a man named Frank Espada, who died in 2014 at age 83.

    MARTIN ESPADA, “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed”: He lived many lives. And he evolved from someone who was working in the streets of East New York, where I grew up, to someone who was documenting the condition of an entire people.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What’s it like seeing your father’s work in the Smithsonian?

    MARTIN ESPADA: Surreal.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Martin Espada, Frank’s son, is an award-winning poet, a former tenant lawyer, and longtime professor at the University of Massachusetts.

    His new volume, “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed” — the title comes from a line by Walt Whitman — is filled with poems that remember and celebrate his father.

    MARTIN ESPADA: “I am the archaeologist. I sift the shards of you, cufflinks, passports photos, a button from the March on Washington with a black hand shaking a white hand, letters in Spanish, your birth certificate from a town high in the mountains.”

    The poetry about my father is both elegiac and documentary. Poets often in these situations perform the function of preachers, right? People expect you to say something meaningful in this age where language has become divorced from meaning and we live in a time of hyper-euphemism.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you’re a storyteller. You have got this public role as a poet, but most of all, at that moment, you’re a son.

    MARTIN ESPADA: Yes, first and foremost, and I was feeling that as a son.

    And it’s an undercurrent of loss, of grief, and grappling with grief, and trying to see the ways in which poetry might be able to heal grief, if not for me, then for somebody else.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In his poems, Martin refers back to old home movies that show his father, a man who’d come to New York from Puerto Rico as a boy in 1939, and was an athlete who played semi-pro baseball.

    While serving in the Air Force in 1949, he was jailed for a week in Mississippi for not giving up going to the back of the bus.

    MARTIN ESPADA: He said it was the best week of his life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The best week?

    MARTIN ESPADA: The best week of his life, because he figured out what to do with the rest of it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Frank Espada would become a community organizer. He founded East New York Action in the early 1960s, and worked in the civil rights movement.

    MARTIN ESPADA: There’s little attention paid, up to this point, to what we might call the Latino civil rights movement.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Above all, says Martin, who sometimes worked with his father, he was an artist who documented what he saw. Frank Espada published a book in 2006 titled “The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People,” and his photographic work has been collected by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where Martin and I met recently.

    MARTIN ESPADA: I remember this one. This is a photograph that was taken in Hartford. At first glance, this appears to be a photograph of three kids on the street. And, indeed, it is that.

    But if you look more closely to the right, you will see a notice for a foreclosure sale on those premises. And that is very much a part of what my father is saying in that photograph.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In a poem titled “Mad Love,” Martin Espada refers to specific photographs, as a way of addressing what his father will no longer see.

    MARTIN ESPADA: “Not the poet in a beret grinning at the vision of shoes for all the shoeless people on the earth, not the dancer hearing the piano tell her to spin and spin again, not the grave digger and his machete, the bandanna that keeps the dust of the dead from coating his tongue, not the union organizer, spirits floating in the smoke of his victory cigar, not the addict in rehab gazing at herself like a fortuneteller gazing at the cards, not the face half-hidden by the star in the Puerto Rican flag, the darkness of his dissident’s eye.

    “Now that my father cannot speak, they wait their turn to testify in his defense, witnesses to the mad love that drove him to it.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: You say in last lines here, “Now that my father cannot speak.”

    MARTIN ESPADA: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You feel a responsibility to speak?

    MARTIN ESPADA: Absolutely.

    My father is gone. He can never utter another word. He can never snap another photograph. That’s over. And so now comes my turn. Now I must speak for him. And now those faces, the faces he documented, also speak for him.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From the Smithsonian American Art Museum, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the “PBS NewsHour.”

    GWEN IFILL: You can find Martin Espada’s full reading of “Mad Love” on our Poetry page. That’s on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post A son’s poetic tribute to his father’s fight for civil rights appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    virginia-206

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, our “NewsHour” Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

    One-hundred-and-six-year-old Virginia McLaurin never thought she would live to see a black president in the White House. When she was honored for her volunteer work in Washington, D.C., two years ago, she said her dream was to meet President Obama. After an online campaign, McLaurin was able to fulfill her dream, and even dance with the president and first lady.

    The White House shared the moment in this video it released on social media.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Virginia McLaurin?

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: Hi!

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: How are you?

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: I’m fine.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Oh, it’s so nice to see you.

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: It’s an honor. It’s an honor.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You want to say hi to Michelle?

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: Yes!

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Slow down now. Don’t go too quick. She’s 106!

    FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: No, you are not. You are not 106.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, you got to — you, slow down.

    FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Oh, my goodness.

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: Thank you.

    FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: You are not — I want to be like you when I grow up.

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: You can.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: She’s dancing. Come on.

    So, what’s the secret to still dancing at 106?

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: Just keep moving. I am so happy.

    FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: We are happy to have you.

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: A black president.

    FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Look at him, right there.

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: A black wife.

    FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: That’s me.

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: And I’m here to celebrate black history.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That’s exactly right.

    VIRGINIA MCLAURIN: Yes. That’s what I’m here for.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, we’re glad to have you here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to know what her secret is.

    GWEN IFILL: I have watched that a dozen times, and I crack up laughing at Virginia McLaurin every single time. She’s fabulous.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: She absolutely is.

    The post Watch a 106-year-old woman bust a move with the president appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jason Dalton is seen on closed circuit television during his arraignment in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, February 22, 2016. Dalton, suspected of killing six people and wounding two others in apparently random shootings, was an Uber driver who a TV station reported may have given rides to customers of the car-hailing services during the rampage.  REUTERS/Kalamazoo County Court/Handout via Reuters TV  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX283IV

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I’m Judy Woodruff.

    GWEN IFILL: On the “NewsHour” tonight: Republicans rally in Nevada for tomorrow’s caucus after Donald Trump’s big South Carolina win this weekend, while Democrats take on the Palmetto State.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also ahead: A temporary cease-fire is reached for war-torn Syria one day after the deadliest attack yet by ISIS kills at least 130 people.

    GWEN IFILL: Then: An empty chair sits among the Supreme Court justices, as they hear cases for the first time without the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And why scientists are turning to elephants for hope in cancer research.

    DR. JOSHUA SCHIFFMAN, Huntsman Cancer Institute: It’s as if these elephant cells have said, well, it’s much safer, much better strategy to just kill the cell and start over. If we do that, there’s no way that that cell can go on to become cancer, and that was an aha moment for us in the lab.

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

    (BREAK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Confirmation today that the U.S. and Russia have agreed on at least a pause in the Syrian civil war.

    The formal announcement came from Washington and Moscow, but it left unclear just how extensive the cease-fire might be. Meanwhile, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad called a parliamentary election for April 13. We will have a full report later in the program.

    GWEN IFILL: In the day’s other news: Authorities in Michigan say the man accused in Kalamazoo, in the killings, has admitted he did it. Jason Dalton faced a judge via video link from jail today. He was denied bail, and didn’t enter a plea. Police say Dalton killed six people at random in three separate locations Saturday night around Kalamazoo.

    The local prosecutor said today he’s acknowledged his role, but given no reason.

    JEFF GETTING, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor: I have described this previously as intentional, as deliberate, as cold. This wasn’t a — just a momentary lapse. This wasn’t just a crime. There was nothing that provoked this. There is videotapes of these incidences. He walked up on these people and he shot them.

    GWEN IFILL: Dalton is a driver for the ride-sharing service Uber. Investigators are checking reports that he picked up passengers between the attacks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama administration today defended its handling of a North Korean call for direct talks between the two countries. The Wall Street Journal had reported that U.S. officials agreed to talks, without first demanding the North give up its nuclear program. The White House says it insisted the nuclear issue be part of any talks, and says that’s consistent with longstanding U.S. policy. The North refused, and, days later, carried out a nuclear test.

    GWEN IFILL: Days of violent protests in Northern India may finally be coming to an end. The government agreed on concessions late today.

    The unrest in Haryana state has killed at least 19 people and cut off water to New Delhi, as Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports.

    JONATHAN MILLER: The angry farmers of Haryana have taken the bull by the horns.

    Feeling hard done by, thousands have gone on the rampage to protest against a lack of prospects in a fragile new world where many fall through the cracks. Paramilitary forces were ordered to shoot looters and rioters on sight, and they did.

    Tonight, more than 10 million people in Delhi have no water to drink or to wash in because the protesters sabotaged the Munak canal, which provides the capital with most of its water supply. The protesters belong to the Jat farming caste, of whom there are 80 million across North India, eight million in Haryana, the state northwest of Delhi.

    They want more government jobs and places in state education institutions, half of which are ring-fenced for what the Indian government calls other backward classes, traditionally far more disadvantaged than upper-caste Jats.

    MAN (through interpreter): The generation of the Jat community is in danger of losing out. We are demanding hope for the younger generation. The government should immediately make us part of the quota system.

    JONATHAN MILLER: After days of negotiations, Jat community leaders have, it seems, a forced capitulation. The Haryana state minister promised to table legislation to include Jats in the caste quota system.

    And the federal interior minister has ordered that a high-level committee be set up to address the Jats’ grievances.

    GWEN IFILL: The water service is now expected to resume tomorrow. But it could take days to remove vehicles left blocking highways and to restore rail service.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Uganda, international observers were openly critical after officials announced the 30-year-long president has been reelected. They said Yoweri Museveni took more than 60 percent of vote. But European monitors said he won through intimidation. The opposition charged fraud. And, today, police hustled the main challenger into a van and took him away. He’s been arrested four times in eight days.

    GWEN IFILL: Fiji faced a huge cleanup today after Tropical Cyclone Winston blasted the Pacific Island nation over the weekend. The storm struck with winds of up to 200 miles an hour late Saturday. At least 21 people were killed. Today, people picked through what’s left of ruined villages, and aid agencies warned of a possible health crisis.

    They’re worried about low-lying areas where crops are destroyed and water supplies cut off.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill has announced that she has breast cancer and will take a three-week leave of absence. The Missouri Democrat says in a blog post that she will be taking treatments in Saint Louis. She says — quote — “It’s a little scary,” but her prognosis is good.

    GWEN IFILL: And Wall Street started the week on a high note, helped by an upturn in oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 228 points to close at 16620. The Nasdaq rose 66 points, and the S&P 500 added 27.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Still to come on the “NewsHour”: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio fight to become Donald Trump’s biggest threat; another fragile deal for a cease-fire in Syria; the Supreme Court’s first session without Justice Scalia; and much more.

    The post News Wrap: Kalamazoo gunman admits guilt in court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video produced by Anne Azzi Davenport and edited by Justin Scuiletti.

    What do dance and social justice have in common?

    “No Longer Silent,” a new piece from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, provides one answer. The piece is set to music by Erwin Schulhoff, a Jewish Czech composer whose work the Nazis labeled “degenerate” and banned.

    Dance can help tell stories that have been historically underrepresented, says Robert Battle, artistic director at Alvin Ailey. Battle is the third leader of the dance company, having been selected to replace renowned dancer Judith Jamison five years ago.

    Ailey formed the company in 1958 as a troupe that celebrated African-American culture. The company’s work “is really about … social justice, the notion of inspiring change or choosing some historical importance that he’s trying to convey,” he said. “And for me, I’ve been drawn to that kind of work.”

    After the Nazis banned Schulhoff’s work in Germany, he tried to emigrate, but no country would take him in, including the U.S. He eventually became a Soviet citizen, but before he received his paperwork he was arrested, sent to a concentration camp in Bavaria and died a year later.

    The piece is set to “Ogelala,” a piece that Schulhoff composed between 1922 and 1925. Battle said when he held Schulhoff’s score in his hands, “I felt I was holding his words in my hand. And then I knew I could tell the story.”

    Watch the NewsHour tonight for more on Battle’s work with Alvin Ailey.

    The post Banned by Nazis, composer’s work appears onstage 90 years later appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A small plant is seen at the coast of the drought-stricken Debar Lake west of Skopje, Macedonia. Photo by Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

    A small plant is seen at the coast of the drought-stricken Debar Lake west of Skopje, Macedonia. Photo by Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

    A new study shows that the worst heat waves will become more frequent and hotter across the globe if measures aren’t taken to cap greenhouse gas emissions, the National Center for Atmospheric Research announced Tuesday.

    But it isn’t too late — curbing emissions now could provide some relief, according to the study.

    If left unchecked, greenhouse gases will exacerbate the world’s deadliest heat waves, known as 20-year extreme heat events, the NCAR warned in a new study published in the journal Climatic Change. As the name suggests, these events happen once every two decades, but the new data suggest that these heat waves could become yearly occurrences for 60 percent of the planet by 2075.

    Even with NCAR’s grim estimates of these extreme weather phenomena, Claudia Tebaldi, climate statistician for NCAR and co-author of the study, said in a statement that “we still have time to avoid a large portion of the impacts.”

    If global leaders were able to enact policies that cut emissions, the study said only 18 percent of Earth’s land area would be affected by yearly heat waves in 2075.

    The study, funded by the Department of Energy, also determined that extreme heat waves would be hotter in the future. By 2050, a 20-year heat wave would be 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it might be today for 60 percent of the land on Earth. Another 10 percent of land areas would be sweltering with temperatures that are nine degrees Fahrenheit hotter than what would be expected for an extreme heat wave today.

    Researchers have previously found that heat waves — exceptionally high temperatures for three or more days in a row — have higher death tolls than other weather disasters, surpassing the impact of tornadoes and hurricanes.

    A 2010 heat wave that hit Russia was blamed for 55,000 deaths, while death toll estimates following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina never topped 2,000. A 2003 heat wave in Europe lingered for weeks, killing more than 70,000 people in the region. It’s the worst heat wave in recorded history.

    While record-setting high temperatures are associated with heat waves, it’s the high nighttime temperatures that prove more taxing on the human body. Greenhouse gases prevent temperatures from cooling down at night, adding to the heat stress on the body. The sick, elderly and children are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

    The post Extreme heat waves ​may​ occur yearly by 2075 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rear view of boy with raised hand in class

    Minority students are more likely than others to be identified as having a disability or face discipline, the administration said Tuesday. Photo by Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says too many minority students are being singled out for special education and is asking states to address the issue.

    With new data in hand, the Education Department said Tuesday that disparities persist in the nation’s public schools, where oftentimes minority students are more likely to be identified as having a disability and face harsher discipline than their white counterparts.

    “When we see students in any racial or ethnic group identified with disabilities at vastly higher rates than their peers, we owe it to these students to pause, step back and rethink,” Acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said in a phone call with reporters.”

    It is “something we can and must fix,” he said.

    The department is proposing a new rule with two key parts.

    States would be required to adopt a standard approach to compare racial and ethnic groups and determine when disparities are significant. Basically, it calls for a uniform way to measure when there’s an overrepresentation of minority students in special education.

    Once overrepresentation is identified in a district, school officials would have more flexibility under the proposed rule in how they spend their federal dollars allocated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.

    Currently, when a district is tagged as having significant disparities, it must set aside 15 percent of its IDEA money to provide early intervening services, beginning in kindergarten. The proposed rule would broaden that and include services to students with and without disabilities, beginning in preschool.

    The department said a new analysis of data submitted by the states shows hundreds of districts around the country with large racial and ethnic disparities go unidentified.

    For example, the analysis showed 876 school districts gave African American students with disabilities short-term, out-of-school suspensions at least twice as often as all other students with disabilities for three years in a row. But, in 2013, the department said states identified fewer than 500 districts in total with “significant disproportionality” or overrepresentation.

    King said studies have shown that only between 2 percent and 3 percent of all school districts nationwide have been identified as such.

    The department analysis of state data, he said, showed that in Pennsylvania, 13 districts identified Hispanic students with speech or language impairments at least twice as often as all other students for three consecutive years, beginning in 2012. Yet, King said, Pennsylvania did not find any districts as having a wide disparity in the identification of specific disabilities in the 2012-13 school year.

    Tuesday’s proposal of a new rule follows a 2013 report from the Government Accountability Office that concluded that the way some states defined overrepresentation made it unlikely that any local districts would be identified as having significant disparities and then be required to spend money on intervening and support services for students. The report called for a standard approach for defining when there were sharp disparities to be used by all states.

    The proposed rule will be open to public comment. It’s expected to take months before a final rule is issued.

    The post Proposed rule to help minority students in special education appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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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

    An iPhone 6S Plus is seen at the Apple retail store in Palo Alto, California, on Sept. 25, 2015. Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Apple Inc. will tell a federal judge this week in legal papers that its fight with the FBI over accessing a locked and encrypted iPhone should be kicked to Congress, rather than decided by courts, The Associated Press has learned.

    Apple will also argue that the Obama administration’s request to help it hack into an iPhone in a terrorism case is improper under an 18th century law, the 1789 All Writs Act, which has been used to compel companies to provide assistance to law enforcement in investigations.

    A lead attorney for Apple, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., previewed for the AP some of the company’s upcoming arguments in the case. Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, has also hinted at the company’s courtroom strategy.

    Apple’s effort would move the contentious policy debate between digital privacy rights and national security interests to Congress, where Apple — one of the world’s most respected technology companies — wields considerably more influence. Apple spent nearly $5 million lobbying Congress last year, mostly on tax and copyright issues. Key lawmakers have been openly divided about whether the government’s demands in the case go too far.

    Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym in California ordered Apple last week to create specialized software to help the FBI hack into a locked, county-issued iPhone used by a gunman in the mass shootings last December in San Bernardino, California. Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people at an office holiday party in an attack at least partly inspired by the Islamic State group.

    “The government is really seeking to push the courts to do what they haven’t been able to persuade Congress to do,” Boutrous said in an AP interview. “That’s to give it more broad, sweeping authority to help the Department of Justice hack into devices, to have a backdoor into devices, and the law simply does not provide that authority.”

    The White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, this week disputed that Congress should settle the issue and called the government’s request narrow. Earnest said the magistrate judge “came down in favor of our law enforcement” after evaluating arguments by Apple and the FBI. Apple hasn’t yet made any filings in the case because the Justice Department asked the magistrate to rule before Apple had an opportunity to object.

    “Sending complicated things to Congress is often not the surest way to get a quick answer,” Earnest said. “In fact, even asking some of the most basic questions of Congress sometimes does not ensure a quick answer.”

    Apple intends to argue that the 1789 law has never been used to compel a company to write software to help the government.

    Michael Zweiback, the former chief of the cybercrimes section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, said it was highly unusual for the U.S. to ask Apple to give the FBI specialized software that would weaken the digital locks on the iPhone.

    “There’s a significant legal question as to whether the All Writs Act can be used to order a company to create something that may not presently exist,” Zweiback said. He said as a former prosecutor he was sympathetic to the government’s case, but he described Apple’s arguments as strong and said the issue has broad implications.

    “We are not the only ones who are asking for encryption keys,” he said. “The Chinese government has made similar demands upon them, the European Union has made similar demands upon them, so the implications are really not even national. They’re international in scope.”

    Another expert, Mark Bartholomew, a professor specializing in cyberlaw at SUNY Buffalo, said Apple may have a compelling case arguing that it would be unfair to force it to make its devices less secure, though it’s not clear whether courts would agree that Congress should decide the matter.

    “When you’re requiring a private entity not just to unlock something, or not just to show you something, but to actually change their design — then you start getting into different grounds,” Bartholomew said. “It makes the stakes higher. It makes us, I think, more sympathetic to what Apple is arguing for. It seems more violative of Apple’s independence.”

    The U.S. has used the All Writs Act at least three times — most recently in 1980 — to compel a phone company to provide a list of dialed numbers, but in those cases the technology and tools already existed, said Jennifer Granick, an attorney and director of civil liberties and the Stanford Center for Internet and Society.

    “This is a terrorism investigation that’s solved. We know who did it,” Granick said. “What happens so often is we do something that’s justified for terrorism, but it’s going to get used in regular, run-of-the-mill cases.”

    Apple is challenging government efforts to overcome encryption on at least 14 electronic devices nationwide in addition to the iPhone in California, according to court papers filed Tuesday in a similar case in New York. Lawyers told U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in Brooklyn that Apple is opposed to relinquishing information on at least 15 devices in a dozen court cases in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York.

    Before then, the government said Apple had helped it retrieve information from at least 70 devices since 2008. Those phones, with operating software designed earlier than the iPhone used in California, allowed Apple to use a physical tool to extract data from them. Since late 2014, that capability has not existed on newer phones.

    Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.

    The post Apple to tell judge Congress must decide California case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Association of American Colleges and Universities is urging schools to track the well-being of students, specifically low-income and minority groups. Photo by Sylvain Thomas / AFP / Getty Images

    When students go through college, it isn’t enough for them to excel academically; they should flourish.

    That idea was the focus of a session at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The session was organized by Bringing Theory to Practice, an independent nonprofit group that works with AAC&U.

    The session focused on the role of student well-being in higher education: What can colleges do to promote their students’ well-being? Why is student well-being an outcome that colleges should pay attention to in the first place?

    At the beginning of the session, Ashley Finley, national evaluator at BTtoP, asked the audience whether their colleges use institutional learning outcomes. Many hands went up.

    But when Finley asked how many use outcomes that “specifically, explicitly identify some aspect of student well-being,” no audience members raised their hands.

    The fact that well-being is being discussed as a core outcome at all is important, said BTtoP co-founder Sally Pingree. Even the title of the session — “Documenting Well-Being as a Core Outcome of Students’ Engaged Learning and Inquiry-Centered Work” — was a victory of sorts.

    “Ten or 15 years ago,” Pingree said, “this conversation wouldn’t have happened.”

    But what does well-being mean, and how can colleges measure it? Robert Reason, professor and associate director of research and administration at Iowa State University, offered one solution: the campus climate survey.

    Reason presented the results of the Personal and Social Responsibility Inventory, a climate survey that measures students’ perceptions of themselves and campus culture. It included data from 4,084 students at eight institutions. It broke down the results by race and measured mental health by dividing students into three categories: languishing, moderate and flourishing.

    The ways the results vary by race are critical, Reason said. For instance, Asian-American and multiracial students received lower mental health scores than their white, Latino and African-American peers.

    “Most of the time when we’re talking about the climate, we’re talking about the average,” Reason said. “But different groups of students report different outcomes.”

    On many campuses, Reason said, the average student is white and middle-class — and that’s why colleges need to break down their data, focus on specific populations and target their initiatives accordingly.

    But how do universities design support systems for certain groups without making them feel marginalized? This question was the focus of a discussion in a question-and-answer session after the panel. One audience member, a professor at the College of William and Mary, said her colleagues were reluctant to disaggregate their data.

    Another audience member, from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, offered a suggestion: don’t focus on the person or group; instead, focus on the shortcomings of a flawed system.

    Alisa Stanton, a panelist and health promotion specialist at Simon Fraser University, said her university is trying to include a focus on well-being in its core institutional policies — and that includes looking at the needs of underserved students. Students from Asia, for instance, have a harder time making connections at SFU than do other students. Soon, the university will hold focus groups with students in underserved populations.

    SFU identified 10 conditions for well-being, and Stanton and her colleagues are trying to integrate well-being measures into academic settings. They’ve also created a casebook to highlight examples, like mentorship programs and learning communities.

    “We think about how everything we do on campus can be embedded with a well-being lens,” she said.

    Inside Higher Ed is a free, daily online publication covering the fast-changing world of higher education.

    The post Should colleges track student well-being? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 7:  during a free HIV testing event at by the Whitman-Walker Health February 7, 2012 in Washington, DC.  Whitman-Walker Health held the event to observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

    Naomie Harris, right, explains an HIV test during a free HIV testing event at by the Whitman-Walker Health on Feb. 7, 2012 in Washington, DC. Whitman-Walker Health held the event to observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

    One out of every two black men who have sex with men, and one in four Hispanic men who have sex with men, will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lives if diagnosis rates remain the same, a new analysis released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

    For white men who have sex with men, the rate will be one in 11 people, the CDC said.

    CDC officials used the release of the data to call for expanded efforts to stem HIV transmission so the predicted rates don’t become a reality.

    “The prevention and care strategies we have at our disposal today provide a promising outlook for future reductions of HIV infections and disparities in the US, but hundreds of thousands of people will be diagnosed in their lifetime if we don’t scale up efforts now,” CDC official Dr. Jonathan Mermin said in a statement.

    Using diagnosis and death data from 2009 to 2013, CDC researchers estimated a person’s lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis by sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and state of residence. Overall, they found that the lifetime risk of an HIV diagnosis for someone living in the United States is one in 99, a drop in disease incidence from the one in 78 rate seen in 2004-2005.

     Lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis among men who have sex with men (MSM) by Race/Ethnicity. Image by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Lifetime risk of HIV diagnosis among men who have sex with men (MSM) by Race/Ethnicity. Image by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    While studies have shown African Americans do not engage in riskier sexual encounters than people of other races and identities, according to the CDC, other factors could produce an elevated risk for HIV, including “higher prevalence within the community, which poses an increased risk of infection with each sexual encounter; lack of access to healthcare; poverty; and stigma.”

    The analysis also found:

    • Not accounting for race or ethnicity, one in six men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV if current rates persist. That’s a higher rate than women who inject drugs (one in 23) and men who inject drugs (one in 26). Heterosexual women face a rate of one in 241, and for heterosexual men, it’s one in 473. The report did not include data on gay or bisexual women.
    • One in 20 black men will be diagnosed with HIV during his lifetime, the highest rate among different ethnicities and genders. Black women and Hispanic men both face rates of one in 48, while one in 132 white men will receive an HIV diagnosis. One in 227 Hispanic women will be diagnosed with HIV in her life, while one in 880 white women will be.
    • Geographically, people in the South are the most likely to acquire HIV. At the state level, the highest risk of HIV is in Washington, D.C., where one in 13 residents will be diagnosed in their lifetimes, the data show. Maryland had the second highest rate, at one in 49 residents, while North Dakota had the lowest rate, of one in 670 residents.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on February 23, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post 1 in 2 gay black men may contract HIV in their lifetimes, new data show appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama (C) discusses administration plans to close the Guantanamo military prison while delivering a statement at the White House in Washington February 23, 2016. Obama had pledged to close the facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since he took office in 2009. Standing with the president, are Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Defense Secretary Ash Carter. REUTERS/Carlos Barria  - RTX287VK

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    GWEN IFILL: President Obama’s pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center faced immediate roadblocks on Capitol Hill today.

    For two views on that debate, we turn first to Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of the states where the administration has considered building a replacement prison. He joins us from Capitol Hill.

    Senator Gardner, is this plan, the president’s plan, a nonstarter for you?

    SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), Colorado: Well, I think it’s not obstruction from the Capitol Hill that the president is facing. It’s own law that he signed that he’s facing, a law that clearly states no dollars shall be expended on the transfer or to assist in the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees from Gitmo to the United States.

    GWEN IFILL: So, your objection is not to the closure of Guantanamo, per se, but to the shifting of the detainees to somewhere else?

    SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well, I think there’s two separate questions.

    I think Guantanamo Bay is a tailor-made facility for terrorists, and that’s where they should stay. I also recognize that the law the president signed just last month, late last year, fully states, clearly states that the president shall not spend money to assist in the transfer — transfer. So, their own law — the very law that he signed prohibits his actions of transfer.

    GWEN IFILL: So, what changed in this debate, for people who have been watching it, between what President Bush believed when he left office and what President Obama is trying to do now?

    SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I was in the state legislature in Colorado, and I was concerned about terrorists being transferred then from Guantanamo Bay to Colorado.

    I made it very clearly, as a state legislator during the presidency of George W. Bush, that there could be this transfer. And so I have long held the view that we should keep the Guantanamo Bay terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, and not in our backyards in Colorado.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk a little bit about the price tag, because taxpayers want to know about that. It costs about $445 million to keep Guantanamo Bay open, to maintain it.

    It would cost $475 million, according to the price tag the president put out today, to build a new facility. Doesn’t it make more sense just fiscally to try to build something new?

    SEN. CORY GARDNER: I think there’s a lot of ways that this president could cut spending. And if the president wants to cut spending, then we can start cutting billions of dollars across federal agencies in duplicative, wasteful spending.

    But for this president to say that he’s going the hide behind fiscal responsibility, and that’s what he wants to close Obama — close Guantanamo Bay for, I think that’s just a misnomer. I think he’s just trying to throw a red herring out there while he’s fulfilling a red — a campaign pledge.

    GWEN IFILL: What he says is a red herring is what you suggested before, which is that there’s recidivism, that there is worry about security if you were to take the remaining prisoners and bring them to this — to our soil.

    Do you know — what can you tell me about past evidence that this is true, that this exists?

    SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well, I think there are evidence — there is evidence of people leaving Guantanamo Bay, going back on to the battlefield. There is a recidivist count that we have seen, and it’s well-documented.

    I have also heard from law enforcement officials, though. It’s not just me. It’s not just the Coloradans I interact with each and every day. It’s law enforcement. It’s their locally elected sheriffs. Over 40 sheriffs in Colorado have written a letter to the president of the United States saying, don’t bring these Guantanamo Bay detainees to Colorado.

    Don’t bring terrorists back to the state. I have heard from federal law enforcement in Colorado who are very concerned about what impact this would have on local communities. And so it’s not just something that a Republican or Democrat is saying. It’s what we’re hearing from law enforcement. It’s what we’re hearing from people at town meetings and tele-town halls.

    People are very concerned about the impact this would have on their community and their safety.

    GWEN IFILL: Some of the president’s defenders say that he should use executive action to force this to happen, that, in fact, it’s unconstitutional for Congress to stop the president from deciding where our military assets should be deployed. What do you say to that?

    SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well, again, I think Congress has a right, as we did, passed a law, the president signed it, to state that no money shall be expended. We have the power of the purse. This is something the president cannot overcome.

    If he tries to do it, this will be — this will end up in court, spending millions of dollars that he’s talking about saving now on a costly court battle, all because he wants to fulfill a campaign pledge. Look, the president didn’t put forward a serious plan today. He put forward eight pages worth of a document.

    The iPhone user agreement is longer than eight pages. The plan that he put forward to close Guantanamo Bay is less detailed than an iPhone user agreement. I think that speaks to what the president is trying to do with more of a talking-point document than an actual plan.

    GWEN IFILL: Senator Gardner, while I have you, let me ask you about something else that happened on Capitol Hill today that goes to this question of presidential prerogative, I guess.

    And it’s about the naming of a Supreme Court justice or a nominating — nomination of a Supreme Court justice to succeed Antonin Scalia. Your party leader, Mitch McConnell, and the head of the Judiciary Committee have both said that they will not only not have hearings, but they won’t even meet with anybody the president sends.

    If the president were to nominate a judge from Colorado, would you give them the courtesy of a meeting?

    SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well, look, I think the next president ought to choose the Supreme Court nominee. And I think that is only fair to the nominee themselves.

    And I think that is only fair to the integrity of the Supreme Court. Now, this is a very serious issue. And I think it’s what Joe Biden stated in 1992, what Chuck Schumer stated in 2007. The next president ought to be making this decision.

    GWEN IFILL: But would you personally refuse to meet any nominee, even if they were from your state?

    SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well, again, I think this nominee should be chosen by the American people. And so I would like to make sure that the next president gets the opportunity to make that decision.

    GWEN IFILL: I guess we will leave that there, then.

    Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, thank you very much.

    SEN. CORY GARDNER: Thanks for having me, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: And now we turn to a member of the Democratic leadership, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

    Senator Durbin, I know you heard what Senator Gardner just had to say. Is what the president proposed today, does it have a prayer?

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), Illinois: Well, it appears that the Republican reaction to Guantanamo is virtually the same reaction to the Supreme Court nomination. They have just said they wouldn’t consider it.

    Think about this. We have had about 800 detainees at Guantanamo since 9/11. Five hundred of them were released and transferred by President Bush, 500 of the 800. President Obama has released or transferred 147.

    There are 91 left. We are spending $5 million a year to keep these 91 prisoners at Guantanamo. For what reason? We have over 500 convicted terrorists in federal prisons across America.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask you the same question I just tried with Senator Gardner, which is, what is different now than happened when Senator — when President Bush, George W. Bush, said he wanted to close Guantanamo?

    What is the different — what makes the difference?

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, Senator McCain challenged the administration, the White House, come up with a plan on what you do with these detainees.

    The president is trying to meet that with this proposal today. Now, the details have been left out in terms of where it might be, for obvious reasons. But I think, ultimately, that this is an nonstarter for the Republicans in Congress.

    Just like the Supreme Court nominee, they don’t want any part of it. They don’t want to discuss it.

    GWEN IFILL: But isn’t the where it might be kind of a key detail?

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: It’s an important part of it.

    But keep in mind, if these prisoners, detainees, are brought back to the United States and tried in our courts, they would join, as I said earlier, 500 convicted terrorists currently serving time in federal prisons. There’s been no incidents of an escape from the supermax prisons, for example, across the United States. So, it isn’t a question of safety.

    I have to ask my fiscally conservative Republican friends, do you really think it’s right to spend $5 million a year on each detainee, so that you can beat your chests and have bragging rights about how tough we are?

    GWEN IFILL: So, is this a moral fight we’re witnessing, or a practical fight, or neither?

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I think what the president has said — and I agree with — Guantanamo has become a very negative symbol of the United States.

    You see over and over again in propaganda films being used by terrorists those depictions of the early detainees in their orange jumpsuits. That is the sort of thing that inflames many people. The president is trying to put an end to that problem and that issue. And he’s trying to do it with the help of Congress, but, unfortunately, the Republicans don’t want any part of it.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, what seems to inflame people — politicians domestically is the idea that the president is leaving open the possibility of using executive action to force this action. How do you argue that that is even necessary or constitutional?

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: I wouldn’t assume that.

    You know, I think that’s taking it to an extreme by some. The president came through and said to Congress, join me in doing this together. We have seen the reaction from everybody involved. They don’t want to join the president either to fill the Supreme Court nomination or to deal with Guantanamo.

    GWEN IFILL: If these — these folks are to be released from an island prison, why not — why continue to detain them at all, if they’re worthy of release?

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Because some of them are dangerous. And some of them should not be released.

    About 35 of 91 remaining, the president believes can be safely transferred to another country, just as President Bush did, just as President Obama did. But some of them are too dangerous. They need to be tried. They need to be incarcerated. We need to keep our country safe.

    The president is not saying turn them all loose at all. He’s very careful in choosing those that could be a danger to the United States.

    GWEN IFILL: Is the president suggesting actually closing Guantanamo, or merely — or just moving the problem elsewhere?

    If the concern about international concerns about our treatment of these prisoners is the real one, why wouldn’t those concerns continue to exist if this supermax prison was built in your home state, even though that’s been ruled out, apparently?

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Guantanamo is a symbol.

    And much as we may not like, that it’s being used against us. And the president has said that over and over again. What he said is, keep America safe. Detain these prisoners where they can be held safely, but don’t continue to spend $5 million a year per prisoner to maintain Guantanamo.

    GWEN IFILL: I do have to ask you what I asked — ended with Senator Gardner, which is this decision by the Republican leadership not to hold hearings, not to even hold meetings with anyone the president nominates.

    This has never happened before. What’s your reaction to it?

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: There is no constitutional precedent for what the Republicans announced today.

    Not only did they say, we won’t consider the president’s nominee, we won’t have hearing, we won’t have a vote. Senator McConnell, the Republican leader, said, “I won’t even meet with this nominee.”

    That’s never happened before in history. The Constitution, which we have sworn to uphold, is very clear when it comes to Article 2, Section 2. The president shall appoint a nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. And the Senate shall, by advice and consent, vote on that nominee.

    Those are not vague words. They’re words that impose a responsibility on the Senate, which the Republican leader is ignoring.

    GWEN IFILL: And we will be following that story very closely, of course.

    Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, thank you very much.

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Thank you too.

    The post How do lawmakers feel about the plan to close Guantanamo? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ST. JOHNSBURY, VT - FEBRUARY 06: Used syringes are discarded at a needle exchange clinic where users can pick up new syringes and other clean items for those dependent on heroin on February 6, 2014 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin recently devoted his entire State of the State speech to the scourge of heroin. Heroin and other opiates have begun to devastate many communities in the Northeast and Midwest leading to a surge in fatal overdoses in a number of states. As prescription painkillers, such as the synthetic opiate OxyContin, become increasingly expensive and regulated, more and more Americans are turning to heroin to fight pain or to get high. Heroin, which has experienced a surge in production in places such as Afghanistan and parts of Central America, has a relatively inexpensive street price and provides a more powerful affect on the user.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to the problem of opioid abuse and proposals by governors to tackle it.

    Judy Woodruff has the story.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The dimension of the problem is becoming ever larger. The federal government reported that opioids, which includes prescription painkillers and heroin, were involved in more than 28,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2014.

    This past week, leading voices at the National Governors Association called for new limits for some painkillers like OxyContin and for greater drug monitoring of those prescription drugs.

    The epidemic has hit a number of states very hard, including Massachusetts, where more than 1,200 people died of opiate overdoses in 2014.

    Governor Charlie Baker has proposed legislation that would limit practitioners from prescribing more than three days’ worth of opiates to patients when they’re using them for the first time. Governor Baker also is the head of the Health Committee for the Governors Association, and he joins me now.

    And thank you for being here.

    How did this get to be such a high priority for you, Governor Baker?

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R), Massachusetts: Well, when I was campaigning for governor in 2014, I literally couldn’t go anywhere without somebody having a story to tell me about this.

    And all the stories were for the most part stories that ended tragically, in the death of a family member or a close friend or a co-worker.

    And you hear this enough over and over and over again, and you start to realize that it’s just everywhere. And I — when I took office, I talked about this in my inaugural address and said, you know, we have more people dying of opioid overdoses in Massachusetts than car accidents and gunshots combined, four people a day. There has to be a better way here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you’re proposing a number of things to do about this in your state and through the Governors Association.

    A big part of that is this — what we just mentioned, limiting to three days the prescription. How did you decide on three days vs. two days or four days or more?

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Well, the — first of all, the overall proposal — and we have a good working relationship with our legislature on this.

    And I think they have already done two separate bills on this, and I believe they will do a third. But it’s a prevention and education piece, an intervention piece, a treatment piece, and recovery piece. You got to — our view is, you got to do all of them.

    But on the prevention and education piece, we picked three days for first prescriptions, sort of acute pain, you have a wisdom tooth out, you break a finger, something like that. Our approach to this was to take the CDC preliminary recommendation, which was three days.

    Now, the Mass Medical Society, after we proposed three days, proposed seven.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is your state society.

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Correct.

    And that seven-day proposal ended up in the House version of the bill. They’re now conferencing the two of them. But my guess is, we will end up with some sort of a limit on first prescriptions, which I think is a good thing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Then, I saw the American Medical Association, which is the national organization, is saying — I read their statement today. They’re saying it’s arbitrary, and surrounding circumstances are clinically vague. They say, how do you define major surgery?

    In other words, they’re raising some questions about the three days.

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Well, I think whether it’s the CDC three days or the seven days, Mass Medical Society, my view on this is, we need to separate acute pain from chronic pain.

    There’s no reason to give somebody who has their wisdom teeth out 30 pills. There’s no reason to give somebody who has a minor procedure 60 pills. The stories about this that I heard as I travel, still, as I travel around the commonwealth are overwhelming. It’s like an avalanche.

    Remember, 5 percent of the world’s population in the U.S. We consume 80 percent of the world’s opioids. There’s something that is inherently not right about that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you hearing back right now from the pharmaceutical industry and from the medical community broadly?

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Well, the interesting thing is, you know, most of the practicing docs I talk to — and I talk to a lot of them — tell me that they believe having some limit on first prescriptions is a good idea.

    The dentists I know feel the same way. And, in fact, we got the medical schools in Massachusetts and the dental schools to incorporate for the first time a core requirement that, for graduation, you have to pass a class in pain management and addiction, which has never been true before.

    There’s a lot of interest in this issue and a lot of belief that something needs to be done on the part of the health care community.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I saw that President Obama, that the White House said that the president had declined to endorse the Governors Association proposal. He said words to the effect, limiting prescriptions should be part of a comprehensive approach, that, sometimes — painkillers are sometimes, he said, the only realistic treatment option for people in rural communities.

    What about that?

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Well, I think his overarching notion of it being part of a comprehensive plan is correct.

    Ours is prevention, education, intervention, treatment, and recovery. I think you got to play with all those. But he also said at this meeting — and I thought this was an interesting perspective as well. He said, states are many times the laboratories of democracy. You folks should try a variety of different solutions, and if you come up with something that ends up becoming kind of the standard around the country and a whole bunch of states, then we, the federal government, might choose to just follow you, which I think is fine.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned other legs to the stool.

    What about the provisions to educate and train doctors, physicians, differently?

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: I think that’s a big part of it.

    I hear from doctors all the time who tell me that they don’t necessarily feel they have had the training that they should have on this. And most — you know, the three biggest prescribing groups currently can graduate from medical school without ever taking a course in pain management.

    There is no requirement that you take a course in pain management as an in-service part of your continuing education as a physician. We’re trying to change that in Massachusetts. I mean, this is a very complicated issue. I get that. But I think the more we can do to create an opportunity for both existing soon-to-be doctors and dentists and nurses and physician assistants and current ones to get smarter about this, we should take.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the other part of the argument, Governor Baker, that so much of narcotic abuse, opiate abuse is on the part of people who just are stealing drugs, who just are addicts, and they didn’t get into it because of a bad prescription, but they have fallen into it and there need to be other methods to get to them?

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Well, I certainly think treatment and recovery are a big part of this, and that we need to treat this as a public health issue, and in many cases for the disease that it is.

    And there are a whole series of elements in what we’re doing already in Massachusetts and what we’re proposing to do going forward that factor into that as well.

    We’re also working with a bunch of the local pharmacies to make sure that they have drop boxes and where people can take unused medicine back and deposit it safely.

    There’s no silver bullet to this, but I also believe that we will never change this 25 percent per year increase in deaths, prescriptions and overdoses unless we do some things to disrupt this trend line. And I think you got to bring every tool to the table here, prevention, education, treatment, recovery, and intervention.

    And if you’re not willing to chase all that stuff in a pretty serious way, it’s probably not going to get any better. I know I’m not going to consider success to be taking the increase in deaths from 25 percent to 20. I want to take that number. I want to flatten the number out and start to drive it in the opposite direction.

    Too many people are losing too many people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, we thank you.

    GOV. CHARLIE BAKER: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: And you can tune in later tonight for “Frontline”‘s two-hour documentary “Chasing Heroin.” It paints a larger picture of opioid abuse, from pharmaceutical companies’ push to popularize painkillers, to personal stories of heroin addiction. Check your local listings for the time.

    The post State governments strive to curb epidemic of fatal opioid abuse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: It’s been four decades since a groundbreaking law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, took effect. Today, it helps ensure that more than six million students with disabilities have the right to a free and appropriate public education.

    But, in many places, it’s been a struggle getting schools to comply with the law, and nearly 100 class-actions have been filed.

    Special correspondent John Tulenko, with our partners at Education Week, follows the impact of one such case in California. That’s part of our weekly Tuesday night look at education, Making the Grade.

    JOHN TULENKO: Los Angeles, California, is the nation’s second largest school system. And like other big cities across the country, it’s been the site of a pitched legal battle over special education.

    The story begins in the early 1990s with a student named Chanda Smith, who was dyslexic and by high school could barely read.

    CHANDA SMITH: It’s just like a bunch of words just scribbling on the paper, just everything just scribbling or just — it was very overwhelming. My mom told the teachers and everything. But after the third grade, I never got any help.

    JOHN TULENKO: Now 39 and a mother of four, Chanda continues to struggle with a learning disability.

    CHANDA SMITH: It’s affected me a lot. It’s hard for me to get a job. And I’m always having big worries, because I have to take care of my family. And it’s kind of sad because, when I have to go up to my 10-year-old, “Can you read this for mommy?” You know, I have a grandson now. I want to be able to read him a story. And that’s something that I can’t do.

    I feel like it’s been taken away from me. For what reason? So, you know, it’s really hard and emotional.

    DAVID ROSTETTER, Independent Monitor, LA Unified School District: Chanda was lost. They hadn’t identified her. They didn’t know where her records were. And so they weren’t providing adequate — adequate service to her. They were virtually providing no services to her.

    JOHN TULENKO: Chanda’s story was a familiar one to David Rostetter. He’s a court-appointed monitor charged with ensuring schools in Los Angeles and elsewhere comply with special education laws.

    DAVID ROSTETTER: I have had a lot of superintendents around the country, I will go to them and say, you know, this is really bad over here. I mean, this is a budding lawsuit and it’s patently illegal. And their answer will actually be, literally be: “I will deal with it when we get sued about it. Thanks for your advice, Dave.”

    JOHN TULENKO: That was the case for Chanda Smith. Despite repeated requests for help, L.A. Unified did nothing until 1993, when Chanda’s mother took action. A single case of neglect turned into a class-action lawsuit that exposed a woefully broken system.

    Thousands of students were not identified or misidentified. Nearly one third of all special education teachers were unlicensed. And procedures for tracking student records were nonexistent. The lawsuit pushed Los Angeles into a settlement agreement, imposing federal court oversight until the problems could be fixed.

    That was nearly 20 years ago.

    WOMAN: Good morning to you.

    JOHN TULENKO: Today, much has changed for the district’s 80,000 students with special needs. Evaluations for services, for example, take less than 90 days.

    Most special education teachers are certified. Academic performance for students with disabilities has improved, and the graduation rate is up, although it’s still short of the rate for students with disabilities nationwide.

    The biggest change, to Sharyn Howell, who directs special education services here, has been in people’s attitudes.

    SHARYN HOWELL, Special Education Director, LA Unified School District: I see a much different conversation than I used to see about our students. And it really is about people wanting them to perform academically and having expectations for them.

    What we have been working on for a number of years is to convince people that students with disabilities are all of our responsibility. They don’t belong to the Division of Special Education.

    JOHN TULENKO: Most simply need extra help and are already in regular classrooms. Those with greater needs are just beginning to make the transition.

    In the last three years, the district’s been moving these students from 18 special education centers into neighborhood schools like Grand View Elementary.

    ALFREDO ORTIZ, Principal, Grand View Boulevard Elementary: What used to be two separate communities, now we have become one community, an integrated community.

    JOHN TULENKO: Principal Alfredo Ortiz has managed an influx of new students from the school next door.

    ALFREDO ORTIZ: We have McBride, which is a special education center.

    JOHN TULENKO: McBride was one of the schools exclusively for students with disabilities. It was separated by a chain-link fence.

    ALFREDO ORTIZ: And, as you can tell, the fence has come down. So now we’re one campus.

    JOHN TULENKO: Eighty-nine students from McBride and other schools moved into Grand View, increasing its special education population by 50 percent.

    Most of the new students spend the majority of their day in classes like Maria Ventura’s. She teaches eight students on the autism spectrum. To help develop their social skills, every morning, she invites kindergartners to her classroom for a shared lesson.

    MARIA VENTURA, Special Education Teacher: This is circle time. As a kindergarten teacher, I used to do that. And so when becoming special ed, I collaborated with another kinder teacher and said, you know what, bring me your kids, so that my kids can use them as a model.

    Now you can’t even tell the difference between my kids and the gen-ed kids, because they have learned by watching their peers, oh, this is how I need to sit in a class.

    JOHN TULENKO: Looking around the room, I noticed that nearly half the students with autism weren’t participating.

    You’re bringing them together, but maybe they’re still staying apart.

    MARIA VENTURA: Well, I can’t force it on them. It’s basically their demeanor and how they do it. For example, Sean and Austin and Marigold, they’re much more open to change. Depending on David’s temperament, if he’s not having a good day, I don’t want to force it. We slowly bring them in when they’re ready, because, if we rush them, then it actually goes against what we’re trying to do. We wanted to make a good experience for them.

    JOHN TULENKO: Right.

    MARIA VENTURA: Yes.

    JOHN TULENKO: So it takes time.

    MARIA VENTURA: Exactly. It does take time.

    JOHN TULENKO: However, Grand View’s elective classes are fully integrated, including physical education, gardening and cooking. All this has been a huge transition for teachers.

    ROSALIND BERGSTROM, Kindergarten Teacher: To meet everyone’s need, you know, it is — it’s a lot of work. But we have a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist. And I work with the resource teacher to meet their needs.

    JOHN TULENKO: But it seemed some teachers were having to spend most of their time focusing on the students with disabilities.

    DAVID ROSTETTER: Yes, there are kids who demand extraordinary instructional time. And one of the problems that L.A. is experiencing is a lot of these regular education teachers and special education teachers are just learning how you do integration.

    JOHN TULENKO: It’s still a work in progress, but principal Ortiz says he’s seeing the benefits.

    ALFREDO ORTIZ: It’s amazing how the kids, their interactions have evolved. If a child needs help, we have gen-ed kids who say, hey I will take you, I will go with you. It’s creating leadership.

    JOHN TULENKO: Seeing all these children playing together was undeniably unique.

    I have never seen anything like that.

    DAVID ROSTETTER: That is a fundamental statement. You never saw anything like that because you didn’t grow up and go to a school where that occurred. Socially, people with disabilities, particularly people with physical disabilities have been erased from our environment.

    And so now these kids are going to grow up with each other. And they’re going to make friends with each other. And, hopefully, we will end up with a group of kids as they go into middle school and high school expect to be with each other.

    JOHN TULENKO: But not everyone’s happy with the changes.

    Brandon, can tell me whether you understand me?

    Brandon Buschini is one of the few students still attending dedicated special education centers. His mother is fighting any plans to move him.

    LINDA HILTON, Brandon Buschini’s Mother: The district tells parents that this is still a gift for their child and that they should be included, and that this is — socializing them is important. And they really hang their hat on that, vs. educating them and providing what they really need.

    JOHN TULENKO: In our next report, fears about including students with the greatest needs and the unfinished business of fixing special education in Los Angeles.

    I’m John Tulenko of Education Week, reporting for the “PBS NewsHour.”

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    new steps

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: A dance company steeped in tradition takes bold new steps, and finds direction under a new leader.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “Revelations,” a dance set to gospel songs and spirituals, over five decades, it’s become an American classic, and still the showpiece of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It’s opened the eyes and minds of many, including, in the 1980s, a teenager living in one of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods.

    ROBERT BATTLE, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: I saw myself. I saw possibility. Although the curtain went down, I went up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Years later, Robert Battle heads the company that helped change his own life.

    How did you see your task when you took over the company?

    ROBERT BATTLE: Wow. That’s just to survive.

    JEFFREY BROWN: First survive.

    ROBERT BATTLE: First survive.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Battle is just the third leader of a company that was founded by Alvin Ailey in 1958 as a troupe celebrating African-American culture, and then led to even greater international heights by Judith Jamison, a renowned dancer in the company who was tapped by Ailey to take over.

    Five years ago, Jamison picked Battle to replace her.

    ROBERT BATTLE: I think she thought that this was right for the company, that I would sort of push the boundaries of what people thought was possible.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In his prominent new role, Battle has opened up about his own boundary-pushing, including in a new children’s book. He barely knew his birth mother, was taken in by an uncle and aunt and raised by a cousin.

    He was severely bow-legged as a child and wore metal knee braces until he was 6. Bullied in his dangerous Liberty City neighborhood, he turned to martial arts for confidence, and then, and forevermore, to the arts, music and then dance.

    ROBERT BATTLE: Sometimes, I think young people see people in certain successful positions, and they think, I don’t have the tools for that.

    And what I’m saying is, you do have the tools for that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What made you think you did, when you look back at that young child you were?

    ROBERT BATTLE: I don’t know. I always felt that I was guided. I always felt this sort of maybe — some people would call it this third eye. I always felt that the sense that I was looking down over myself within the context of the rest of the world.

    And so I had this sense that I was supposed to do something. I remember that early on, from growing up in church, watching the preacher preach. And something about that, and watching the rest of the congregation respond and be uplifted, I wanted to do something like that. In fact, I used to imitate the preacher. I would put on my bathrobe at home.

    My great uncle would always tape the services, and I would learn the sermon.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    ROBERT BATTLE: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Leading the congregation, but also the performative side to that as well clearly attracted you.

    ROBERT BATTLE: Yes. Yes. Yes.

    And what’s interesting, and the flip side is, I was painfully shy. I didn’t like school because I didn’t like being sort of an extrovert. But when I took on these sort of roles, I could be bold.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I’m thinking of the child wearing the leg braces, right, to straighten your legs, and then dance.

    ROBERT BATTLE: Yes. Yes. And it comes from the restriction, and then…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Take the braces off and start going.

    ROBERT BATTLE: Yes, yes. It’s not enough to walk. You have to run, leap even.

    Often, when young people say to me, you know, I want to be a dancer, I want to be like that, I said, well, start where you are, start exactly where you are. If you want to be a dancer, consider yourself a dancer, and move from that space. Your imagination costs you nothing, but can cost you everything if you don’t use it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Fast forward, the problem is how to leap into the future while holding onto the past.

    Battle is doing this by bringing new dances to the company from a varied group of choreographers, including recently at Washington’s Kennedy Center Ronald Brown’s “Open Door,” a vibrant Latin jazz romp, and a very different dance choreographed by Battle himself, titled “No Longer Silent,” set to the music of Erwin Schulhoff, a German composer who was silenced and then killed by the Nazis.

    ROBERT BATTLE: Sometimes, I feel a little bit of guilt when I go to take my seat in the back of the theater to watch the audience consume this work.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Guilt?

    ROBERT BATTLE: yes, because I don’t want to bring them down, you know?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Are you also a little afraid of how they’re going to accept it?

    ROBERT BATTLE: Yes. Yes. And I’m very sensitive to that. I see everything when I’m sitting in the back of the house. I can see if somebody’s, like, looking down at their phone, or somebody’s tilting their head not in a way of interest, but in a way of saying, what’s going on up there?

    JEFFREY BROWN: You really sit back there and watch for this?

    ROBERT BATTLE: I try not to, but I can’t help it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. But this goes back to what we were talking about earlier, where you have got an audience, you have got a tradition.

    But you’re also — you feel it’s important to give them something else.

    ROBERT BATTLE: Yes, definitely. Definitely. And I have to make my own statement about how I see the world. I have to. In some ways, I would rather be silent.

    When I was a kid, I had a high speaking voice. And so every time I said anything, people would laugh, you know, the other students. He talks like a girl, you know? So, I didn’t want to talk in front of people.

    I’m still that person. But what I know is, it is necessary, that I’m here for a reason, to tell stories that celebrate our common humanity.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Robert Battle says his newest dance, the first he’s choreographed since taking over the company, reflects part of his own story. He calls it “Awakening.”

    The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is now in the midst of a 20-city North American tour running through May.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jeffrey Brown.

    GWEN IFILL: You can hear more from Robert Battle about the connection between dance, history and contemporary social issues on our Art Beat page. That’s on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    A firefighter checks out a flooded car along Duval Street in Live Oak, Florida, June 27, 2012.  Tropical Storm Debby weakened to a tropical depression after it drifted ashore on Florida's Gulf Coast, even as it dumped more rain on flooded areas and sent thousands of people fleeing from rising rivers. REUTERS/Phil Sears  (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER) - RTR349FK

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    GWEN IFILL: But, first, a trio of new studies provide new alarm about rising sea levels, and the prospect of further flooding along the coasts.

    Among them, seas rose faster during the past century than at any point in the last 2,800 years.

    Hari Sreenivasan is here with more on the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Scientists say this is more definitive proof that human actions are contributing to sea level rise. Already, coastal cities like Charleston, South Carolina, and Miami, Florida, for example, are facing more flood days than in decades past.

    The global climate conversation is working toward keeping temperature rise limited to two degrees Celsius, and even under that scenario, as this animation shows, cities like Washington, D.C., and its well-known landmarks could look very different one day, albeit several hundred years in the future.

    One study estimated that sea rise level could be as much as four feet higher by the end of this century under more dire scenarios.

    Benjamin Strauss is with Climate Central, a research organization that worked on some of this.

    So, Benjamin, when you see your graphs at the very end of it, there’s this almost hockey stick effect. What is it that caused that acceleration of sea level rise?

    BENJAMIN STRAUSS, Climate Central: The sea level is extremely sensitive to global temperature. And by burning fossil fuels and putting carbon in the atmosphere, we have heated up the planet a great deal over the last century.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how do we know in these models — how do you build these models to figure out what sea level rise was like going back 2,000 years? There wasn’t somebody with a stick saying, here it is at 2.5 feet, here it is at three.

    BENJAMIN STRAUSS: Yes, it’s true.

    So, there was a lot of detective work involved. Scientific teams around the world have been studying coastal marshes, taking cores, looking for clues about where things grew, at what times. And this study is special, in that it went beyond each of the individual studies that we have seen in the past, and integrated them all, to put together one picture out of all of that detective work.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, let’s talk a little bit about impacts.

    Take a city like Charleston, a low-lying city already that we know is facing some of these floods. What’s it likely to be like going forward, say, to the end of this century?

    BENJAMIN STRAUSS: Well, really, the sharp increase in floods caused by us that we have seen over the last several decades is only just the beginning.

    We’re a few inches into a problem that’s going to be measured in feet this century. And I’m afraid to say we can expect floods and flooding to accelerate a great deal more, even in the next two or three decades, than in the — than what we have already seen in the last two or three decades.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: As we mentioned, the climate conferences that happen around the world, they’re really trying to figure out this two-degree Celsius target, but your forecasts and your predictions and your models are showing that even at two degrees Celsius, there’s a tremendous amount of increase in sea level rise, and a lot of coastal cities are impacted by this.

    BENJAMIN STRAUSS: Yes.

    In the long run, two degrees Celsius warming probably is not — a lot of today’s coastal cities are probably not compatible with that, whether you’re talking about Miami or Shanghai or London.

    But two degrees is a great deal better than our current path. So there’s some solace in that. And how quickly sea level rises will play a large role in how well we can adapt. I would also say that if we can end up being more ambitious than two degrees Celsius and cut warming down to 1.5 degrees in the long run, the impact there would be about half of what we could expect from two degrees Celsius. So that last half degree makes a big difference.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This conversation about two degrees or a half-a-degree here or half-a-degree there, often, it gets mired in politics, it gets mired in lifestyle changes, and you start thinking globally and different countries.

    I mean, reading your data at some point is an incredibly sort of sad and dire prediction. Is there any way through this?

    BENJAMIN STRAUSS: Yes, well, it is sad, and it’s a difficult line of work, in a way.

    But I take some solace. First of all, there’s a lot we can do to adapt and to deal with change over time. And I take some solace in knowing all people are mortal. Right? But we still live our lives. We still have meaningful lives.

    There are some places on our coasts now which we now know are especially mortal because of sea level rise. It won’t stop them from making contributions for the next decades or the next century, but, over time, we’re going to have to either build tall walls and live beneath — you know, in the bottom very deep bowls, which is a frightening prospect, or else we’re going to have the move.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Ben Strauss of Climate Central, thanks so much for joining us.

    BENJAMIN STRAUSS: Yes, thank you.

    The post What do rising sea levels mean for future generations? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks at a rally at the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows in Reno, Nevada February 22, 2016.  REUTERS/James Glover II - RTX284X2

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to the campaign trail, where the men and woman who would be president are in the midst of a critical week.

    And as political director Lisa Desjardins reports, they have already embarked on the all-important hunt for convention delegates.

    LISA DESJARDINS: If anything, the war of words between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump has heated up ahead of tonight’s GOP caucuses in Nevada. The charge from Cruz today, in Fernley, Nevada: that Trump can’t be trusted.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: Look, I frankly don’t care what position Donald decides to support today or tomorrow or the next day. They change every day. I don’t care what they are. But pick one and defend it and don’t pretend, whenever people suddenly point out what you said, oh, never mind.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But in Sparks, Nevada today, the front-runner kept up his attacks, that Cruz is the dishonest one.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: He’s like a little baby, soft, weak, little baby, by comparison. But, for lying, he’s the best I have ever seen.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Beyond charge and countercharge, the fight increasingly has a new focus, the only race that matters, the delegate count, where Trump has a big lead. After the three contests so far, he’s amassed 67 delegates, according to the Associated Press. That’s far shy of the 1,237 needed to win the nomination, but it puts him well ahead of his two closest rivals, Cruz and Florida senator Marco Rubio.

    Rubio, though, is now riding a wave of Republican endorsements. And in his final pitch to Nevadans today, he stressed his ability to unify the party and the country.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), Republican Presidential Candidate: If you make me president of the United States, I’m not going to tell everyone is going to agree with me. That doesn’t even exist in my home.

    (LAUGHTER)

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO: I am telling you that I will never divide you against each other to win an election.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    LISA DESJARDINS: As for the Democrats, the name of their game is also the delegate count. After their first three races, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are just about even in delegates earned from votes, again according to AP analysis.

    But add the superdelegates. Those are Democratic Party leaders who get an automatic convention vote. They have gone heavily to Clinton so far, giving her a whopping overall delegate lead.

    Sanders is pressing ahead with delegate-rich Super Tuesday on the horizon, his first stop today, one of the states that will vote on March 1, Virginia.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: All over this country, including Virginia, we are closing, closing, closing that gap. And with your help, we are going to win here in Virginia.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: This is Johnson Controls. When the auto industry was going under…

    LISA DESJARDINS: Clinton, too, was looking toward the Super Tuesday states, making a splash on Minnesota’s airwaves, the target, a Wisconsin company that she says moved profits out of the U.S. to dodge taxes.

    HILLARY CLINTON: It’s an outrage. If I’m president, when companies walk out on America, they will pay a price.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Clinton and Sanders make back-to-back appearances tonight at a CNN town hall, before facing off in the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

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

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    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (C) holds a news conference with fellow Republican leadership on possible Supreme Court nominations after their Republican party caucus luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington February 23, 2016. (L-R) Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD) and John Cornyn (R-TX) join McConnell at the podium. REUTERS/Gary Cameron - RTX2898O

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    GWEN IFILL: Good evening. I’m Gwen Ifill. Judy Woodruff is on assignment.

    On the “NewsHour” tonight:

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay doesn’t advance our national security.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama gives Congress a plan to shut down the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center, and Congress pushes back.

    Also ahead: Republicans get ready for tonight’s caucuses in Nevada, one week out from Super Tuesday.

    And the first in our two-part series on how Los Angeles is working to improve its special education programs after a court case exposed a broken system nearly 20 years ago.

    SHARYN HOWELL, Special Education Director, LA Unified School District: What we have been working on for a number of years is to convince people that students with disabilities are all of our responsibility. They don’t belong to the Division of Special Education.

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

    (BREAK)

    GWEN IFILL: In the day’s other news: Senate Republicans made it official: There will be no hearings and no vote on anyone President Obama nominates for the Supreme Court. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said nearly all of his members support that decision, and he said that he won’t even agree to meet with a nominee.

    The announcement gave new life to the partisan war of words that has erupted over the future of the court.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas: It’s up to the American people in this next election, no matter who they choose, to make the nomination for this important seat on the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia served for 30 years. So, this clearly extends far beyond President Obama’s term of office.

    SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), New York: Today’s effort by Senator McConnell to get every member of the Judiciary Committee to sign a letter saying they won’t do hearings is an effort to make this issue go away. It won’t. The American people won’t let it. We won’t let it.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama has said he still plans to nominate a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and he’s urged the Senate to act.

    Scalia died this month in Texas, and the Associated Press reported today he had coronary artery disease, diabetes and other ailments. Texas officials relied on those findings, by the Supreme Court’s physician, in deciding against an autopsy.

    There may be new evidence that the Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual contact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today it’s investigating 14 possible cases in the U.S. All involve women whose male partners recently returned from places affected by Zika. The virus has been linked to birth defects, and is typically spread by mosquitoes.

    The Syrian government and its main opposition group signed on today to a proposed cease-fire, but with conditions. Damascus said it will continue attacking terror groups, and the rebels insisted on an end to sieges and bombardments.

    Meanwhile, at a Senate hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged skepticism that any truce will hold. But he said this is the only viable diplomatic option.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer. So that’s what at issue here, and I’m not going to vouch for this. I’m not going to say this process is sure to work, because I don’t know. But I know that this is the best way to try to end the war, and it’s the only alternative before us if indeed we’re going to have a political settlement.

    GWEN IFILL: The United States and Russia proposed the cease-fire. Kerry said the U.S. is considering plan B options if it fails.

    The flood of migrants and refugees pouring out of Syria and other countries and into Europe has reached dramatic new levels. The International Organization for Migration said today more than 110,000 people have landed in Greece and Italy just since January 1. It took six months to reach that total last year.

    Top U.S. military and diplomatic officials fired new criticism today at China’s actions in the South China Sea. The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told senators that Beijing is seeking hegemony over Eastern Asia. And he said newly installed missile batteries and radar systems on disputed islands pose a serious threat.

    ADM. HARRY HARRIS, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command: In my opinion, China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea, and you would have to believe in a flat Earth to think otherwise. These are actions that are changing, in my opinion, the operational landscape in the South China Sea.

    GWEN IFILL: Secretary of State Kerry also complained of militarization by China. Later, he met with the visiting Chinese foreign minister.

    The price of oil headed south again today, after gains in recent days, and Wall Street went down with it. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 190 points to close at 16431. The Nasdaq fell 67 points, and the S&P 500 gave up 24.

    And chocolate maker Mars has issued a candy recall, after finding bits of plastic in a Snickers bar in Germany. The recall includes Snickers, as well as Milky Way and Mars bars, among others. It covers 55 countries, including Germany, but the company didn’t specify all of the other countries affected.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: the future of the Guantanamo Bay detention center; Nevada votes in the last GOP contest before Super Tuesday; alarming new predictions on rising sea levels; and much more.

    The post News Wrap: Republican Senators refuse to hear Supreme Court nominations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    How hard is it to prepare food in space? It’s one of the challenges astronaut Scott Kelly faces during his year aboard the International Space Station, the longest space mission in American history.

    The two-part PBS series, “A Year in Space” documents Kelly as he tests the mental and physical limits for space travel, laying the groundwork for a manned mission to Mars. Kelly and his identical twin brother Mark are a near-perfect, two-person sample group, allowing biomedical researchers to better understand what emotional, physical and biological changes Scott faced in space, by comparing him to his brother, who spent the same year on Earth. Scientists will use their findings to help develop methods of overcoming challenges of interplanetary travel.

    “A Year in Space” is adapted from TIME’s original digital series and premieres at 8 p.m. EST Wednesday, March 2 on PBS. Check your local listings.

    Editor’s note: The original post has been updated to reflect that the series premieres at 8 p.m. EST March 2, not 9 p.m.

    The post How do you make a chicken taco in space? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Navy guard patrols Camp Delta?s detainee recreation yard during the early morning at Guantanamo Bay naval base in a July 7, 2010 file photo provided by the US Army. President Barack Obama urged lawmakers on Tuesday to give his plan to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a "fair hearing" and said he did not want to pass the issue to his successor when he leaves the White House next year.  REUTERS/U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth/US Army/Handout via Reuters  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX287ZG

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    GWEN IFILL: From President Obama today came a fresh appeal to — quote — “close a chapter at Guantanamo.” From Republicans came an outright refusal. It all focused on a fight that’s gone at least as long as he’s been president.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay doesn’t advance our national security. It undermines it.

    GWEN IFILL: For the president, it may be his final chance to keep a 2008 campaign promise: shutting down the military prison at Guantanamo.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit. It drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running, and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward for less than 100 detainees.

    GWEN IFILL: At its peak in 2003, Guantanamo held 680 detainees. Today, 91 prisoners remain at the detention facility; 35 are expected to be transferred out by this summer.

    The president’s new proposal would send the remaining detainees to an unspecified facility inside the United States. It speaks of 13 potential sites, including civilian prisons and military bases, but makes no recommendation.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The notion of having terrorists held in the United States, rather than in some distant place, can be scary. But part of my message to the American people here is, we’re already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the United States, because we threw the book at them, and there have been no incidents. We have managed it just fine.

    GWEN IFILL: Then-President George W. Bush first ordered foreign terror suspects held at Guantanamo after 9/11.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.

    GWEN IFILL: But in one of his first acts as president, Mr. Obama signed an executive order to shut it down. Today, he pointed out that, early on, the decision appeared to have bipartisan backing.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My predecessor, President Bush, to his credit, said he wanted to close it. It was one of the few things that I and my Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, agreed on.

    GWEN IFILL: But McCain and others have never backed this president’s solution, and have even passed a law that would bar moving detainees to American soil.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell underscored that point today.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: We will review President Obama’s plan. But since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in U.S. communities, he should know that the bipartisan will of Congress has already been expressed against that proposal.

    GWEN IFILL: Presidential candidates also weighed in. Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders welcomed the president’s announcement. And Hillary Clinton has said she too supports shutting the prison down.

    But Republicans, including front-runner Donald Trump, roundly rejected the plan.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: This morning, I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantanamo Bay, which, by the way, which, by the way, we are keeping open, which we are keeping open.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    DONALD TRUMP: And we’re going to load it up with some bad dudes, believe me. We’re going to load it up.

    GWEN IFILL: The president said he is clear-eyed about the tough odds he faces getting Congress to agree with him. But the White House has not ruled out trying to close Guantanamo through executive action.

    We will hear from senators on both sides of the issue after the news summary.

    The post Inside Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video still courtesy of Facebook

    Video still courtesy of Facebook

    Finally, an end to awkwardly liking your friends’ saddest news on Facebook.

    Today Facebook rolled out “Reaction,” a set of new buttons that include Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry. The new options will allow users to express empathy beyond the formerly all-encompassing “like,” which users frequently complained felt like a bizarre reaction to posts involving sad news, such as a death.

    Facebook began testing the new buttons a year ago.

    “Mark gathered a bunch of people in a room and was like, ‘Hey we’ve been hearing this feedback from people for a really, really long time,’” Julie Zhuo, a product design director at Facebook, told WIRED.

    The team decided to use emoji for the new buttons in line with their recent, and very fast, rise to worldwide popularity.

    Facebook announced it was testing the new buttons back in October. During the testing phase, users most frequently selected “Love” from the new options, Facebook engineering director Tom Alison told BuzzFeed News.

    Alison said this was “just the beginning.”

    “The team is still going to be looking at how people are using this,” he said. “We’re going to be learning a lot. We’re going to be iterating on this.”

    The post You can now react to Facebook posts with ‘love,’ ‘wow’ and ‘angry’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks after being booked at the Travis County courthouse in Austin, Texas on Aug. 19, 2014. On Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dropped the second and final felony charge against the former governor. Photo by Ashley Landis/Reuters

    Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks after being booked at the Travis County courthouse in Austin, Texas on Aug. 19, 2014. On Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dropped the second and final felony charge against the former governor. Photo by Ashley Landis/Reuters

    AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ highest criminal court tossed the second and final felony charge against former Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday, likely ending a case the Republican says helped sink his short-lived 2016 presidential bid.

    The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the abuse-of-power charge, which was filed after Perry threatened — and then carried out — a veto of state funding for a group of public corruption prosecutors after the Democratic head of the unit refused to resign.

    In its 6-2 ruling, the court said veto power can’t be restricted by the courts and the prosecution of a veto “violates separations of powers.” A lower appeals court had dismissed the other charge, coercion by a public servant, in July.

    Perry is pleased that the charges have been finally thrown out, said his attorney Tony Buzbee, who called it a “shame that it took that long to get something as weak and misguided as this to be dismissed.”

    “It was a bunch of foolishness from the beginning. I feel bad for him because he was put through this for no reason,” Buzbee said.

    Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, left office in January 2015 while facing the felony indictment handed down the previous summer by a grand jury in Austin, a liberal bastion in otherwise mostly deeply conservative Texas.

    The former governor made just one court appearance in the case, which stems from 2013, when he publicly threatened to veto the $7.5 million in state funding for Public Integrity Unit prosecutors. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who headed the investigative group, had rebuffed Perry’s calls to resign after she was convicted and jailed for drunken driving.

    Perry dismissed the case as a “political witch hunt,” while legal scholars from across the political spectrum raised objections about it. Still, the Republican judge overseeing the case repeatedly refused to throw it out on constitutional grounds, prompting Perry’s appeals.

    One of the judges who dissented in Wednesday’s ruling, Republican Cheryl Johnson, said the decision could leave the public with an uneasy perception that the system went out of its way to clear one of the most powerful governors in Texas history.

    “The constant references to ‘Governor Perry’ could well be seen by the public as an inference that appellant’s position in life entitles him to special privileges and special treatment by this court that others might be denied,” wrote Johnson, referring to how judges addressed Perry during deliberations.

    Michael McCrum, the San Antonio-based special prosecutor who secured Perry’s indictment, long maintained that the matter was built on evidence — not politics — and deserved to go to trial. He can appeal, but that would be a lengthy process. Combined, the original charges carried a potential maximum penalty of 109 years in prison.

    Despite his legal problems, Perry formally announced he was running for president in early June, hoping to convince GOP primary voters he deserved a second chance after his 2012 bid was undone by a series of public gaffes. But his second White House campaign lasted barely three months, and Perry formally dropped out of the race in September.

    The former governor spent more than $2 million on top defense lawyers. His latest White House campaign raised barely half that much in its first month, and it quickly became so cash-strapped that it could no longer afford to pay staffers in key states with early presidential primaries or caucuses.

    Perry blamed the criminal indictment for his sluggish fundraising. But polls showed he was badly trailing in the race despite numerous visits to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He was the first candidate to leave a GOP field jammed with 17 presidential hopefuls at the time.

    Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report.

    The post Texas court clears former Gov. Rick Perry of 2nd felony charge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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