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

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    U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan makes a statement to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington ruling himself out as a potential 2016 presidential candidate April 12, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RTX29NUJ

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The day’s major headline in the presidential race came far from the campaign’s front lines. As the candidates stumped for votes, the spotlight shifted to a man who insisted he won’t join the hunt, now or later.

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), Speaker of the House: I do not want, nor will I will accept the nomination for our party.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The declaration came from House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington: He said he’s not looking to be president under any circumstances.

    REP. PAUL RYAN: Count me out.

    I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee for our party, to be the president, you should actually run for it. I chose not to do this. Therefore, I should not be considered, period, end of story.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even that may not end the talk of turning to Ryan, especially with a contested convention looking likelier all the time.

    In Upstate New York today, front-running Donald Trump pressed to make sure it doesn’t come to that, first by winning New York state’s GOP primary next week, where new polls show him with a wide lead. Trump is also keeping up his running criticism of delegate selection, charging the process is rigged, and that rival Ted Cruz is stealing delegates that are rightfully his.

    DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: I have millions of votes more, but I also have hundreds of delegates more, but that’s not the same thing to me. I think the vote is the thing that you count.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In turn, the Texas senator says he’s simply better organized than Trump and, in a radio interview today, predicted a grassroots tsunami will send him to victory at the convention.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: We’re seeing people who love this country coming out, and they’re crawling over broken glass. It’s not for me. It’s not about me. It’s about the country. It’s about the Constitution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For now, Trump leads Cruz by about 200 delegates, with John Kasich well back in the count. But in New York City today, the Ohio governor warned Republicans, in a clear reference to Trump.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), Republican Presidential Candidate: Some feed off of the fears and anger that is felt by some of us and exploit it feed their own insatiable desires for fame or attention. That could drive America down into a ditch and not make us great again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrat Bernie Sanders also took on the Republican front-runner at a rally in Rochester.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: When we stand together and we don’t let the Trumps of the world divide us up, when we stand together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, campaigned in New York City, with a pitch for equal pay for women.

    HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: I’m very proud that New York and California have raised the minimum wage, because nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in Washington, President Obama appeared to boost Clinton at a new museum on women’s equality. He said he wants future generations to be astonished there was a time when a woman had never been president.

    The post ‘Count me out’: Ryan quells nomination talk appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Barack Obama looks at a sandless sandbag next to its inventor Peyton Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the 2014 White House Science Fair in Washington, D.C. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    President Barack Obama looks at a sandless sandbag next to its inventor Peyton Robertson of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the 2014 White House Science Fair in Washington, D.C. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Some of America’s brightest children will visit the White House as President Barack Obama holds his final science fair to highlight work that excelled in a broad range of competitions.

    Obama began the science fair in 2010, saying the students who produce the best experiments and products ought to be recognized like the sports champions who regularly come to the White House.

    The fair on Wednesday will feature more than 130 participants, including a Connecticut student who created a diagnostic test for the detection of the Ebola virus, a New York student who found a way to improve undersea cement seals to keep offshore oil wells from leaking, and a group of middle-school students from Colorado who created a more functional prosthetic for a local veteran.

    The post Obama plans to attend his final White House Science Fair appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A woman looks at her phone in front of a Verizon FiOS sign in Times Square in New York on March 11. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    A woman looks at her phone in front of a Verizon FiOS sign in Times Square in New York on March 11. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    About 39,000 Verizon workers are protesting the lack of progress negotiating their contract on Wednesday by walking off the job.

    The landline and cable workers’ contract expired about eight months ago. Their coverage area for Verizon’s wireline business — fixed-line phone services and FiOS Internet service — includes Connecticut, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

    The unions say Verizon wants to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier and rely more on contract workers, reported the Associated Press.

    Verizon says it had prepared for the possible strike by training thousands of non-union workers to fill in where necessary.

    The strike is one of the largest in Verizon’s history. Negotiations ended last week without new talks being scheduled.

    The post Tens of thousands of Verizon workers strike over contract dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Fallout continues one week after Mississippi passed a law that allows business owners and employees to refuse services to LGBTQ people based on “sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

    After nearly four decades, organizers have cancelled the annual Mississippi Picnic in New York City’s Central Park, citing the law that defines marriage as being between a man and woman, the Clarion-Ledger reported Tuesday. The picnic draws thousands every year with the promise of fried catfish, sweet tea and Southern fellowship far north of the Mason-Dixon as a way to “to showcase and help preserve the great culture of Mississippi,” according to the New York Mississippi Society, which is responsible for the picnic.

    That is just one example of what backlash against the state since House Bill 1523 became law. Rock singer Bryan Adams cancelled his April 14 show in Biloxi, his website said.

    “I find it incomprehensible that LGBT citizens are being discriminated against in the state of Mississippi,” the statement said. “I cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation.”

    And 95 Mississippi authors, including John Grisham and Donna Tartt, signed a letter Monday that demands their home state repeal the law, saying they “stand opposed to any violation of civil rights, including discrimination against LGBTQ citizens, and call for the repeal of the recently enacted House Bill 1523,” the Jackson Free Press reported.

    Pepsi, Coca-Cola and GE also have asked the state to repeal the law, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

    A handful of Democratic lawmakers in Mississippi are trying to do just that. On Tuesday, they introduced the Mississippi Economic and Tourism Recovery Act, named out of concern that H.B. 1523 will negatively effect one of the poorest states in the nation, the Jackson Free Press reported. If the act received two-thirds of the state House and Senate vote before ultimately going before Bryant, who would have to offer his signature before repealing the law.

    Meanwhile, the American Family Association heralded Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and the state’s legislature for passing the law, saying in a written statement that lawmakers acted “in spite of pressure, fear tactics, lies and intimidation from pro-gay activists.”

    Bryant has said that the law “does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state.”

    Called the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” the law permits business owners and employees to deny service ranging from floral arrangements to foster care to LGBTQ people based on the belief that marriage and sex should only be shared by men and women.

    Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal rejected similar efforts from his state’s lawmakers, saying: “I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia.”

    Mississippi’s law is set to go into effect in July.

    The post Outcry among LGBTQ advocates spreads against new Mississippi law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The PBS NewsHour’s series on migrant issues called “Desperate Journey” is among 60 finalists for the Peabody awards, which recognize programs for storytelling. Winners will be announced in the coming weeks.

    View some of the reports below and see the full series here.

    In June 2015, the U.N. refugee agency reported that the number of displaced people and refugees globally had climbed beyond 50 million for the first time since World War II. The war in Syria was largely to blame and Europe found itself on the front lines of a surge in humanity — refugees and migrants attempting to seek safety, security and opportunity within its open borders.

    Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant dispatched to the Greek island of Lesbos to report on the migrants’ stories. He reported on Afghan and Syrian refugees arriving on rubber rafts to escape conflict in their countries.

    He captured harrowing images of Molyvos Harbour as coastguards and fishermen brought ashore victims and survivors from a boat carrying about 300 people that had capsized, primarily because of overcrowding.

    Brabant reported on Hungary’s controversial “Iron Curtain” aimed at controlling the overwhelming numbers of migrants crossing its borders, and he highlighted the drastically different approaches between neighbors Denmark and Sweden.

    NewsHour correspondent William Brangham, meanwhile, tracked the treatment and sometimes mistreatment of refugees as they pushed north and west.

    Special correspondent Jane Arraf highlighted the plight of Yazidis hunted and haunted by the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and struggling Syrian refugees in Jordan.


    The NewsHour is in good company. View all 60 Peabody finalists named by the Athens, Georgia-based organization here.

    The post PBS NewsHour’s migrant series recognized as Peabody award finalist appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Andy Yeung

    “Golden” from photographer Andy Yeung’s “Look Up” series, for which he photographed architecture in several countries from a dramatic perspective. Photo by Andy Yeung

    Photographer Andy Yeung’s message is simple: just look up.

    Growing up in Hong Kong, where he is still based, Yeung saw geometric repetition and patterns of light hidden in the sky-high structures of the city. He began photographing these elements of the high-rises and skyscrapers he saw; the result was “Look Up,” a series that he hopes will make people reconsider their everyday surroundings.

    I asked him about the hidden textures that he finds in skyscrapers and how he chooses his subjects.

    How did you begin photographing these buildings, and why did you choose this perspective?

    I’m a born-and-raised Hong Konger who’s keen on architecture and landscape photography. I developed a passion for photography at an early age when I received my father’s old camera as hand-me-down. I believe that a great photograph can speak to people’s emotions and make people stop and think, and that’s what I’ve been trying to achieve. For the past decade, I’ve been traveling to different parts of the world trying to capture the beauty in both architecture and nature.

    Hong Kong is a crammed city with lots of high-rises and skyscrapers. It’s smaller than New York in terms of size, but its skyline, made up of 7,000 skyscrapers, is longer than that of New York. I notice that commuters in Hong Kong go in and out of these high-rise buildings every day with their noses buried in their phones, not noticing how interesting these buildings look. As a born-and-raised Hong Konger, I’m deeply concerned that people are so wrapped up in their own lives that they just don’t take notice of the beauty around them. I decided to put together a series titled “Look Up,” hoping people can put down their phones, look up and appreciate the beauty of architecture that they see every single morning.

    Photo by Andy Yeung

    “Black Hole,” a photo taken in Shenzhen, China. Photo by Andy Yeung

    How do you decide what buildings to photograph? What qualities of a building are you attracted to?

    I choose buildings with unique appearances or interesting textures. I’m also intrigued by those old public housing buildings in Hong Kong with repetitive geometric patterns. My favorite site in the city is Victoria Harbour.

    What is your process of composing a photo?

    I usually don’t rush to take building shots right away. I first take a close look at the outside of the building and take time to think about the possible good angles according to the building structure and texture. I don’t think I should try to include everything I see in one single image. I like to keep it simple. In terms of the shooting time, I prefer the “magic hours,” when the light is most beautiful.

    The message I’m trying to send is that people should start to pay attention to the buildings they see and spend time in everyday. The focus is on buildings not the people, hence the no-people choice.

    Photo by Andy Yeung

    “Compact City #02,” a photo taken in the Quarry Bay area of Hong Kong. Photo by Andy Yeung

    What is your favorite photograph that you have produced? Can you tell me about the process of creating it?

    “Compact City” – Quarry Bay, Hong Kong. This is one of locations where “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was shot. I love the fact that the building is rich in colors. It looks like a disaster area at first glance, but when you look closer, you will see it’s not that chaotic. This is very characteristic of Hong Kong architecture.

    I took the picture, then edited it with image enhancement techniques like color correction and selective color adjustments and image retouching techniques, removing other objects from the photo.

    You can see more of Yeung’s photos below.

    Photo by Andy Yeung

    “Four Seasons in the Clouds,” a photo taken in Guangzhou, China. Photo by Andy Yeung

    Photo by Andy Yeung

    “Taijitu #03,” a photo taken at Hong Kong’s Nina Tower. Photo by Andy Yeung

    Photo by Andy Yeung

    “Belief,” a photo taken in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Andy Yeung

    Photo by Andy Yeung

    “Follow the Light,” a photo of the Lai Tak Tsuen public housing project in Hong Kong. Photo by Andy Yeung

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

    The post These photos prove you should look up on your daily commute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A delegate supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks over documents at the Colorado Republican state convention in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 9. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    A delegate supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks over documents at the Colorado Republican state convention in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 9. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — After burning through millions of dollars in a mostly failed attempt to sway Republican primary voters, big-money outside groups opposing Donald Trump have turned to a far smaller target audience: the delegates who will actually choose the presidential nominee.

    Our Principles, which is devoted to keeping Trump from winning, and super PACs backing Ted Cruz and John Kasich are spending their time and money researching the complex process of delegate selection and reaching out to those party insiders. None of the groups have put up ads for Tuesday’s New York primary.

    Delegates are the people — typically longtime Republicans and state party activists — who will have their say at the GOP convention this summer in Cleveland if Trump does not lock up the nomination first in the remaining voting contests.

    The hot pursuit of such low-profile people by outside groups is yet another unprecedented twist in a history-defying presidential primary season.

    The delegate focus comes after the groups’ earlier efforts turned out to be money not particularly well spent. GOP-aligned groups spent at least $218 million on presidential television and radio ads, according to advertising tracker Kantar Media’s CMAG. In one example, last month Our Principles put $2.3 million into ads trying to persuade Florida voters to ditch Trump, but he won the state anyway.

    “At this stage, the delegate fight is the most important part of the race,” said Tim Miller, a spokesman for Our Principles. “The work we’re doing on it is how we get the biggest bang for our buck.”

    The Trump, Cruz and Kasich campaigns all pay specialists to help them with their own delegate strategy. Yet the outside groups can’t resist crafting a role for themselves. By law, candidates cannot direct their helpful super PACs on how to spend money on paid communications. However, candidates and the outside groups keep a close eye on what the others are doing.

    At a donor event last weekend at the Venetian casino resort in Las Vegas, pro-Cruz super PAC officials explained to a rapt audience how they are diving into data about Republican delegates. That super PAC event took place on the same floor as a Cruz campaign finance event, which delved into similar material.

    Douglas Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Convention, said the organizational nature of a potential delegate fight plays into Cruz’s strengths. The Texas senator has cultivated relationships with conservative leaders across the country. Now they’re helping him woo delegates.

    “Cruz hasn’t done things in haphazard fashion,” said Heye, who opposes Trump but is otherwise unaligned. “It takes a real team and the hard work of surrogates and coalitions to succeed at mastering the process in all 50 states.”

    New Day for America, a super PAC backing Kasich, is “executing a delegate outreach strategy,” said spokeswoman Connie Wehrkamp. She declined to give details.


    The free agents

    There are two phases to this fight for delegates. The first involves free agents in states where voters don’t have a say. Each time an anti-Trump delegate is selected, it gets a little harder for the front-runner to reach the 1,237 he needs to avoid a contested convention.

    Our Principles has keenly focused on these delegates, who hail from North Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming.

    The group began reaching out via online advertising back in February, Federal Election Commission filings show. It then worked the phones and mailed literature. Finally, at the state convention site in Colorado Springs last weekend, three of its paid employees and about a half-dozen volunteers distributed “voter guides” likening Trump to President Barack Obama.

    In both Colorado and North Dakota, Trump was shut out of delegates. Wyoming selects delegates this weekend.


    Potential converts

    If Trump can’t win outright, most of the delegates who are initially pledged to him by state rules gain the freedom to vote at the convention for whomever they choose. That’s why the three candidates are looking to make friends with them.

    Incidentally, there are few rules limiting the ways candidates and outside groups can influence the delegates, Republican election lawyers say. So it’s easy to imagine a deep-pocketed super PAC paying for delegates’ accommodations in Cleveland and giving them other perks.

    Our Principles’ Miller said the group is assessing what it will do in this second phase of the delegate hunt.

    Another Trump opponent, the Washington group Club for Growth, has also at least temporarily stopped its TV ads. Spokesman Doug Sachtelben said that while it hasn’t done anything with delegates yet, “nothing is off the table.”

    Pro-Trump forces are also keen to get into the game.

    “We’re running ads and a data program to fill as many delegate slots as we can with delegates who like Trump,” said Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Great America PAC.

    The group has reported to the FEC its plans to spend more than $1 million in ads across the country — some aiming to whip up anger about a potential contested convention.

    “Donald Trump will have the most delegates by a wide margin, but the GOP establishment is determined to deny him the nomination in any way possible, even if it means a contested convention,” a narrator says in one. Callers are asked to give money to the super PAC as a show of support for Trump.


    Associated Press writer Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this report from Denver.

    The post Outside groups deal themselves in for GOP delegate game appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow in 2015. Photo by Alexei Nikolskyi/SPUTNIK/Kremlin via Reuters

    Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow in 2015. Photo by Alexei Nikolskyi/SPUTNIK/Kremlin via Reuters

    MOSCOW — What worries ordinary Russians the most? Price increases, withheld salaries and potholed roads, according to those preparing President Vladimir Putin for his highly choreographed annual call-in show on Thursday.

    The Kremlin has been sifting through more than 1 million questions from across the country to get Putin ready for the television marathon, which often runs four hours or more. With Russia’s economy under stress from low global oil prices and Western sanctions, the Kremlin is particularly attuned to any rumblings of discontent.

    “In order not to be surprised, Mr. Putin is watching the popular mood very intently,” said Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

    The “Direct Line” with Putin, now in its 14th year, provides a way for the president to assess the country’s mood, listen to direct appeals and explain policies, both foreign and domestic.

    For ordinary Russians, the call-in show gives them a chance to feel like their concerns are being heard, playing on a tradition dating back to Imperial Russia, where peasants would appeal directly to the czar.

    For the past week, Russians have been submitting questions to the Kremlin via an online portal or through social media sites. During Thursday’s show, people can phone in and Putin also will take questions from Russians at selected video links around the country, but the event is very stage-managed.

    Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said price increases and withheld salaries are among the major concerns this year. The Kremlin also has been flooded with questions about the state of Russia’s roads, many accompanied by photographs of pockmarked highways, he told journalists.

    The president is also likely to devote a good amount of time to world politics this year, Trenin said.

    “Russia has been at war in the Middle East for a time now. It has been so far successful, but people are worried. People are also worried about what happens in Ukraine next,” he said.

    Nearly half of Russians said they would ask Putin about bread-and-butter economic issues such as income levels and price increases, according to a survey from the independent Levada Center. Only 12 percent, however, said they would ask about Russia’s systemic corruption.

    The survey, conducted March 25-28 among 1,600 people across Russia, highlighted the economic challenges facing the country. A sharp depreciation in the ruble has contributed to high inflation and a rise in the cost of living, while employment opportunities have narrowed.

    When queried by The Associated Press about what she would ask if she had the chance, Moscow retiree Yevgenia Kosyankov said: “Tell me please, Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin), when will we live calmly, confidently and prosperously? Everyone wealthy and not just certain individuals? Thanks.”

    Vladislav Zheleznov, a 20-year-old car mechanic, said he would ask Putin to do more for Russians at the start of their careers.

    “I really want young people to have a job after they finish studying,” Zheleznov said. “I want them not to have the problem of searching for a job and I want for this job to be fairly paid.”

    Despite the leaked Panama Papers financial documents, Russians have largely remained nonplussed about accusations that Putin’s friends, particularly cellist Sergei Rodulgin, were engaged in offshore accounts. Putin has publicly defended Rodulgin.

    Trenin said Putin’s overall message will be clear: “It’s a difficult world, it’s a complicated situation. The West is against us, oil has gone down to the level where we have not seen it for the past 12 years. So it’s tough, but we need to rally around the Kremlin.”

    That message is one many Russians already accept.

    “I probably wouldn’t ask him a question,” teacher Alexander Litvin told the AP. “I would shake his hand and say: ‘Mr. President, you are doing everything right.'”


    Associated Press writer Alexander Roslyakov contributed to this report.

    The post Kremlin queries Russian mood before Putin call-in show appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Nick Annetta, right, of Battelle, watches as Ian Burkhart, 24, plays a guitar video game using his paralyzed hand. A computer chip in Burkhart`s brain reads his thoughts, decodes them, then sends signals to a sleeve on his arm, that allows him to move his hand. Photo by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/ Batelle

    Nick Annetta, right, of Battelle, watches as Ian Burkhart, 24, plays a guitar video game using his paralyzed hand. A computer chip in Burkhart`s brain reads his thoughts, decodes them, then sends signals to a sleeve on his arm, that allows him to move his hand. Photo by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/ Batelle

    Six years ago, while swimming in the ocean surf, 24-year-old Ian Burkhart lost the ability to control his hands and legs. He dove under the surf, and the waves shoved him into a sandbar. But today, thanks to a computer chip implanted into the motor cortex of his brain that decodes his brain activity, he can move his fingers again. He can pick up a glass and pour from it. He can even play Guitar Hero. It’s the first time a brain-machine interface has restored muscle control to a paralyzed human being.

    But Burkhart can only perform these activities while hooked up in a lab. While this represents a tremendous advance, it is still a far cry from restoring everyday movement to the millions of disabled across the globe. The project’s findings are published today in the journal Nature.

    Not a cyborg

    Burkhart’s situation differs from previous computerized neuroprosthetics, which have allowed patients to manipulate cursors on a computer screen or guide robotic arms. Rather than manipulate a digital or mechanical prosthetic, his implant bypasses his spinal injury by feeding his brain signals directly into an electronic sleeve, which in turn, allows movement of his natural arm.

    “There’s technology that links brain signals to complex forms of exoskeletons,” said Ali Rezai, study co-author and director of Ohio State University’s Center for Neuromodulation. “Our approach wanted to move toward as minimally invasive as possible, the least number of surgeries, and to provide…in this case, a wearable, garment-like device that can be worn by the patient.”

    The machine and the person are actually learning together.Burkhart’s implant consists of a chip, smaller and thinner than a dime, that projects 96 wires — electrodes — into the outer layers of the brain.

    Picture a microscopic hairbrush with tiny metal teeth. These electrodes scan impulses from hundreds of neurons in the same brain area that would control his hand. A metal casing protects the computer chip when Burkhart isn’t connected to the sleeve.

    “I don’t really notice it that much anymore. I might notice when I’m having someone help me get dressed in the morning, pulling my T-shirt over my head or something like that,” Burkhart said. “It’s about the size of a few coins stacked on top of your head that’s sticking out that has a protective cap over it. So it’s really not too obtrusive to my everyday life.”

    Swiping a credit card was something Ian Burkhart, 24, never thought he would do again. Burkhart was paralyzed from the shoulders down after a diving accident in 2010, but regained functional use of his hand through the use of neural bypass technology. Photo by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/ Batelle

    Swiping a credit card was something Ian Burkhart, 24, never thought he would do again. Burkhart was paralyzed from the shoulders down after a diving accident in 2010, but regained functional use of his hand through the use of neural bypass technology. Photo by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/ Batelle

    In the lab, scientists plug a gray cigarette-box-sized device into the chip in Burkhart’s brain. This box contains electronic amplifiers that decode the neural signals picked up by the fine electrodes in the brain. A computer uses machine-learning algorithms, which decipher and remember nerve patterns, in order to control an electronic sleeve. The sleeve beams electric pulses onto 130 spots on Burkhart’s arm, forcing his muscles to move in a fluid manner.

    “The machine and the person are actually learning together,” said bioengineer Chad Bouton, who co-developed the new implant while working for Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio. “There are millions of different ways, millions of combinations you could come up with in connecting the neurons and reconnecting those neurons to the muscles.”

    The researchers used machine-learning algorithms to unpack these patterns, which are unique to each person.

    “You’re not going to be looked on as, “Oh, I’m a cyborg now because I have this big, huge prosthetic on the side of my arm,” Burkhart said. “It’s something a lot more natural and intuitive to learn, because I can see my own hand reacting when I think of something, and it’s just your normal thoughts.”

    Hands are supreme

    In 2004, a survey asked 681 people with paralysis — quadriplegics (like Burkhart) and paraplegics (those with leg paralysis) — to rank the functions that they would most like to have restored. Recovering motion to the hands and arms topped the list.

    “At the top of that list for people who were unable to use their arms and legs was arm and hand function,” said neurologist and engineer Leigh Hochberg of Brown University, who wasn’t directly involved with the Burkhart study. “Being able to restore those abilities with one’s own limbs is really in many ways the dream for the research and the hope for millions of people with paralysis.” This is really early research. It is not something that turns around tomorrow and becomes a useful clinical product that would help people with paralysis.

    He should know. Hochberg is one of the principal investigators for BrainGate, a 20-year-old neuroengineering effort that developed the technology behind Burkhart’s implant.

    Hochberg spoke highly of the study, but also cautioned that the research is preliminary: “This is really early research. It is not something that turns around tomorrow and becomes a useful clinical product that would help people with paralysis.”

    That’s true for a number of reasons. For one, Burkhart can only use the electronic sleeve and the rest of its hardware inside a lab. Once there, he has to retrain his brain to operate the sleeve.

    “Initially we would do a short session, and I would feel like I was completely and mentally fatigued and exhausted. Right along the lines of taking a six or seven-hour exam,” Burkhart said.

    The reintroduction period has gotten much easier, he said, so it takes less time to get re-acquainted and learn new tasks. The machine-learning algorithms aid this recalibration by adapting as his mind adjusts.

    However, his body to some degree is working against the foreign electrodes in his head. Their ability to pick up nerve signals has faded over time.

    “We’ve had to really develop new ways to continue to acquire a good signal, and one that can really provide this ability to have natural movement,” said Bouton, who is now with Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York. “What we’ve done is listen to larger groups of neurons. These neurons that are in and around this electrode array in the brain. That’s worked out very well. Those types of signals are looking still very good over the almost two-year period for this study.”

    Patient Ian Burkhart, seated, poses with members of the research team (from left) Dr. Ali Rezai and Dr. Marcie Bockbrader of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nick Annetta of Battelle during a neural bypass training session. Photo by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/ Batelle

    Patient Ian Burkhart, seated, poses with members of the research team (from left) Dr. Ali Rezai and Dr. Marcie Bockbrader of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nick Annetta of Battelle during a neural bypass training session. Photo by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/ Batelle

    Another barrier to widespread use is the physical limit of the hardware. Plugs and wires are bulky and somewhat dangerous if they bump into something else.

    One of Hochberg’s colleagues at Brown University — Arto Nurmikko — has developed a wireless prototype of the BrainGate implant, but so far, it’s only been tested in nonhuman primates and pigs. However, this WiFi-based device has gotten past a major hurdle: bandwidth.

    Implants like Burkhart’s beam a gigabyte of data every three minutes, according to Battelle electrical engineer Nick Annetta. That’s a tremendous amount of data being tossed back and forth, and it needs to happen in the split seconds required to move an appendage. Nurmikko’s WiFi implant can transmit neural data at 24 Megabits per second, which is only about twice as fast as the best LTE network for a smartphone.

    “There’s still years of neuroscience, of engineering and of clinical research that needs to be done to get to the point that we all hope this gets to — being a valuable device that helps people with paralysis,” Hochberg said.

    But in the meantime, Hochberg believes tremendous credit is due to the participants in this research. He said patients enroll in these trials, whether BrainGate research or others, not because they’re hoping for personal benefit, but because they want to help develop and test a system that will help other people with paralysis in the future.

    Rezai agreed: “We’re here because of Ian and millions of patients like Ian who have physical disabilities. And the success of the study is due to Ian. He’s the rock star here.”

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    People hold up rainbow flags during an lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parade. Photo by Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images

    A new executive order in Louisiana protects lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people from employment discrimination. Photo by Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images

    Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an anti-discrimination executive order on Wednesday for LGBT state workers, marking the first time the state’s government has provided protection for its transgender employees.

    The order forbids discrimination against state workers and state contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under former governors Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards, gay and lesbian state workers were protected under similar executive orders, but those did not apply to transgender members of the LGBT community.

    “We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements,” Edwards said in a statement. “I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state. Our goal is to promote the opportunities we have right here in Louisiana. While this executive order respects the religious beliefs of our people, it also signals to the rest of the country that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, but rather, that Louisiana is a state that is respective and inclusive of everyone around us.”

    The order allows for exemption in religious groups “who believe that complying with a nondiscrimination decree would violate their religious beliefs,” NOLA.com reported. Several religious organizations work with parts of state government to provide certain social services, including in the areas of health care and adoption.

    The executive order, which Edwards signed during his first four months of a four-year term, can be reversed by the next governor. It applies only to employees that he oversees and it does not cover some parts of state government, such as the judiciary, that are not in his domain.

    “This order is a clear statement from Gov. Edwards that discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Louisianians is wrong and should not be tolerated in our state,” Matthew Patterson, managing director of Equality Louisiana, told The Advocate.

    Louisiana is the second state whose governor has issued an order protecting transgender people from discrimination; Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a similar executive order in 2014.

    Currently, there is no statewide law in Louisiana against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, though a small patchwork of cities and parishes has enacted local policies to protect LGBT people. Jefferson Parish and Lafayette Parish have passed nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people in employment, as have New Orleans and Shreveport.

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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders greets audience members as he takes the stage at a campaign rally in Syracuse, New York April 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX29NKI

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: First, the latest from the presidential campaign.

    It is less than a week to go until voters in New York state have their say, and the candidates hit the hustings again today. A major East Coast job action was a main focus.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Democratic Presidential Candidate: It’s a question of workers standing up for justice.

    JOHN YANG: For the Democratic hopefuls, it was a day to embrace labor, ahead of next week’s New York primary.

    PROTESTERS: Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!

    JOHN YANG: Bernie Sanders joined striking Verizon workers in Brooklyn.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Today, you are standing up, not just for justice for Verizon workers. You are standing up for millions of Americans who don’t have a union.


    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: You’re telling corporate America they cannot have it all.

    JOHN YANG: Hillary Clinton also slammed Verizon, saying in a statement: “The company wants to outsource more and more jobs. Verizon should do the right thing and return to negotiations.”

    Clinton picked up the support of an electrical workers union in New York, while Sanders snagged the transit workers.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you so much for your support.

    JOHN YANG: The Vermont senator also landed his first endorsement from a Senate colleague. Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley announced his backing in a New York Times op-ed, and on MSNBC, he explained why he broke ranks with 40 Democratic senators backing Clinton.

    SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), Oregon: This really is all about the person who has the boldest, most fierce vision on the biggest issues facing America and the world.

    JOHN YANG: Republican front-runner Donald Trump is stumping tonight in Pittsburgh. But, last night, the New York billionaire appeared in a CNN town hall, with wife Melania joining in.

    ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Melania, do you ever want to say to him, put the mobile device down, that, like, it’s 2:00 a.m., and you’re still tweeting?

    MELANIA TRUMP, Wife of Donald Trump: Anderson, if he would only listen. I did many times.


    MELANIA TRUMP: And I just say, OK, do whatever you want. He’s an adult. He knows the consequences. And…


    JOHN YANG: Trump also lashed out again at party rules that he says are robbing him of delegates. But Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus fired back on Twitter, defending the process and saying: “It’s the responsibility of they campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break.”

    Trump’s rivals, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, campaigned in Maryland and Pennsylvania this afternoon.

    SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate: I am here today with a word of hope and encouragement. All across Pennsylvania, all across the this country, people are waking up, and help is on the way!


    SEN. TED CRUZ: We’re going to seed manufacturing jobs coming back to Pennsylvania, the backbone of the middle class.

    JOHN YANG: Cruz has his own CNN town hall tonight.

    For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn now to the next primary on the calendar.

    On Tuesday, voters in the state of New York will head to the polls.

    Joining us to talk about the politics of the Empire State, Beth Fouhy, a senior editor at MSNBC.com. She joins us from New York City. And from Albany, Karen DeWitt, capital bureau chief for New York state Public Radio.

    And we welcome both of you.

    So, let’s start with the Republicans.

    Beth, Fouhy to you, first. Break it down a little bit for us. Which voters are eligible to vote in the Republican primary? How are delegates selected in New York?

    BETH FOUHY, MSNBC: Well, the only people who can vote in the Republican primary, Judy, are Republicans. This is a closed primary state, and that presents challenges and opportunities to both side.

    In terms of just the overall look at the Republican field, Donald Trump is just really dominating here. He’s, of course, from New York. He’s the big alpha dog of New York, and that that status basically is propelling him throughout the state.

    Most of the polling that we have seen here, the public polling, shows him at or above 50 percent. He’s beating Senator Cruz and John Kasich by as much as 30 points in all this polling. So, right now, the big mystery is whether he can actually top 50 percent, Trump, get all the statewide unpledged delegates, and get 50 percent in those congressional districts, where he could really sweep up a whole lot delegates.

    There’s a possibility, Judy, that he could actually get every single one of the 95 delegates in the state.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as you said, would have to win over 50 percent of the vote in order to do that.

    Karen DeWitt, to you. What about — do you agree with the way Beth has laid it out? And is Trump stronger in one part of the state or another?

    KAREN DEWITT, New York State Public Radio: Well, yes, Trump doesn’t really have a really good get-out-the-vote effort or ground game, but sure here is drawing people to the rallies. And they have been huge, to use his word. A lot of people have been coming to them. He’s been all over the state.

    It’s been very exciting, I think, for New York Republicans, as well as Democrats. I was talking to the New York state Republican Party chair, Ed Cox, and he today, this is New York’s New Hampshire. We get to meet these people firsthand. It is really energizing everybody.

    And, yes, I think Trump is speaking to especially Upstate New York. There is a lot of discontent about the economy. The Upstate economy has been doing terribly for decades. And a lot of people are upset. The manufacturing jobs aren’t here anymore. He’s attracting mainly the white, working middle-class voters who used to have good jobs, may not have them, are worried about their children having to leave the state.

    And he does really seem to be resonating a lot more than Kasich and Cruz, although the way that the delegates are selected, Kasich and Cruz could win some delegates, because it’s congressional district by congressional district, the way the race goes.

    So they could pick up some delegates, and that’s what they’re hoping to do. They know — probably know at this point they can’t win.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Beth, when Karen says Trump doesn’t have much of a ground-level organization, does that mean organization doesn’t matter in New York?

    BETH FOUHY: Well, he hasn’t had much of an organization anywhere.

    I mean, this really is one of these candidacies that, in the places that he’s won, has been primarily the force of his personality, the force of his celebrity, this real power and connection that he has with certain types of voters in different states.

    New York is even — is all of that and more. I mean, New York is his home state, although it has changed quite a lot since he was growing up here. For example, he grow up in Queens, Judy. Queens is now probably the most ethnically diverse place in the entire United States. Flushing, New York, more languages spoken there than any other place in the United States and has more people who are of an immigrant background than any other place.

    All the things that Trump talks about, the sort of pushing away illegal immigrants, concern about the borders, when he comes back to his home borough of Queens, he’s seeing American diversity in all of its glory. And that may be a little bit troubling to him, because it’s not quite the same place that he grew up in.

    Still, he’s very, very popular almost everywhere in New York, and can possibly break through and get that 50 percent in all the congressional districts and sweep the delegates.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fascinating.

    Just quickly, Karen, so what appeal is there for, say, a Ted Cruz to make in New York, or a John Kasich, when Trump seems to have the advantage?

    KAREN DEWITT: Well, I think Cruz did make a real mistake back in Iowa when he discredited New York City values. People haven’t forgotten that.

    New York Republicans are not that conservative. They’re pretty moderate. So I think Cruz has a real challenge here. John Kasich seems to be going for more of the electeds. He met with the Senate Republicans, trying to convince them to maybe tell their friends to vote for him. He’s trying to go the more moderate route. He’s held a lot of town hall meetings, which he seems to excel in. So, they are trying chip away in particular congressional districts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen, staying with you quickly, turning to the Democrats, who can vote in the Democratic primary? And does organization matter for the Democrats?

    KAREN DEWITT: Yes, it absolutely does.

    Of course, it is closed just to Democrats. But you have Hillary Clinton, who has all the established elected officials, from Governor Cuomo, all the way down to local county legislators, to Bernie Sanders, who has the younger folks who are very motivated to vote, but the question is, will they really come out on Election Day? Did they register early enough?

    Some of them may have to do absentee ballot. A lot of them are millennials, and you would have to use snail mail to do an absentee ballot, which they are not used to doing. So, can Sanders get as many voters out as Hillary Clinton likely can with her support from the major elected officials, particularly in New York City, and particularly with her support from the major party unions that are supporting her and will help with the get-out-the-vote effort?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s right. There is such a thing as snail mail, still.

    So, Beth, how do you look at the Clinton-Sanders competition?

    BETH FOUHY: Well, it’s a little bit closer than the field on the Republican side, Judy, but so far, Clinton is quite a ways ahead of Bernie Sanders, and for many, many reasons.

    Let’s not forget, she was a senator from New York for eight years. She was elected in 2000, reelected in 2006. She knows how to run in New York. She knows where to go. She knows the communities she needs to be speaking to. Plus, she was a pretty well-regarded senator. She paid as much attention to the Upstate issues as she did to the folks in the city.

    She was really, really responsive around 9/11 and the needs of the first-responders there, but also Upstate dairy farms and apple farms and those big cities up there that, as Karen put it, have been struggling, like the areas around Syracuse, Rochester, that kind of thing.

    So, Bernie Sanders, even though he’s got his thick Brooklyn accent, hasn’t lived in the state for a long time and is not super well-known. He will get those college students out if they’re registered and can vote, eligible to vote here as Democrats. He’s got a big really tonight in Washington Square Park in Manhattan, where tons and tons of young people are expected to attend.

    He’s been going to a lot of college towns in New York, and there are plenty of them in this state. So he will get a lot of enthusiasm, that kind of enthusiasm that we have seen in other states. But he starts really well behind her because of her experience and her connections here in New York.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Karen, there’s no Brooklyn advantage or no home state advantage for Bernie Sanders?

    KAREN DEWITT: Well, I will say one thing that Sanders is trying to capitalize on is the so-called fractivists.

    These are the anti-fracking activities who were successful in convincing Governor Cuomo to ban fracking in New York. It’s the only state where it’s illegal. And he’s hoping that those voters will come out. They gave Cuomo a primary challenge, supported Cuomo’s primary challenger back in 2014.

    And his challenger, who, by the way, was a Vermont transplant, Zephyr Teachout, actually won a number of Upstate counties. So, Bernie Sanders this week said he’s for a nationwide ban on fracking. He mentions it in his speeches here, and he’s really trying to play that up, hoping he can get those progressives out, a small group, but very motivated voters.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is a lot of delegates at stake, and we know the candidates are working the state hard. And we thank both of you for giving us this insight.

    Beth Fouhy and Karen DeWitt, thank you both.

    BETH FOUHY: Thanks, Judy.

    KAREN DEWITT: Thank you.

    The post Candidates hope for home state advantage in New York appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Communications Workers of America (CWA) workers striking against Verizon cheer as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to them in Brooklyn, New York April 13, 2016.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX29SS7

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

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

    On the “NewsHour” tonight: two reporters on the ground in New York state on the battle for that next presidential primary. We hear the latest on the Republican and the Democratic races. Are Trump’s and Clinton’s lead as solid as they look?

    Then: new hope in paralysis research. A quadriplegic man is given some of his mobility back with the use of microelectrodes and muscle stimulation.

    And training for the unthinkable — the people prepared to launch nuclear weapons, if given the order.

    1ST LT. KATHLEEN FOSTERLING,  Commander Missile Combat Crew, U.S. Air Force: It’s hard to think about it because you don’t know what is going to happen in that situation. You just have to do your job, and whatever the outcome is, it is.

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


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nearly 40,000 Verizon landline and cable workers walked off the job in nine Eastern states today. They went on strike eight months after their contract expired, and with little progress in negotiations.

    Workers in New York and Philadelphia stood in picket lines, protesting what they said were Verizon’s attempts to freeze pensions, make layoffs easier, and rely more on contract workers.

    MAN: The five people in charge of our company make $235 million. They want to take away from me. I have got to work 70 hours a week to make ends meet. How is that right? I get paid a good salary. Forget about the rest of the world that doesn’t get paid as good as we do. I don’t know. Where does it end? When does it end?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Verizon said the real issues are health care costs and contract provisions that are out of date. The company also said it’s trained thousands of non-union workers to fill in, so customers won’t be affected.

    Confirmation came today that the Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, does cause microcephaly, abnormally small heads in babies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that existing evidence also links Zika to other severe brain defects. It repeated the standing advice to pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas where Zika is spreading.

    In war-torn Syria, the government held parliamentary elections today in the areas it controls. The voting took place as peace talks resumed in Geneva. But the Syrian Foreign Ministry ruled any talk of a government without President Bashar al-Assad.

    Meanwhile, lawmakers in Iraq got into a brawl with as the political crisis deepened. The fighting broke out in a dispute over how to clean up corruption. Some demanded the prime minister sack his current cabinet and bring in technocrats.

    There’s been a new incident at sea between Russia and the U.S. Pentagon officials say Russian jets repeatedly buzzed a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Baltic Sea this week, coming as close as 30 feet. A Russian helicopter also made passes. Video from the ship shows a jet sweeping past in what appeared to be a simulated attack.

    The White House today was critical.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: This incident, as you won’t be surprised to hear, is entirely inconsistent with the professional norms of militaries operating in proximity to each other in international waters and international airspace. And we continue to be concerned about this behavior.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Navy says the destroyer took no action in response. It is latest in a series of such incidents in recent years.

    New trouble erupted between migrants and Macedonian police along the Greek border. At least 50 migrants tried to pull down parts of razor-wire fences at a closed crossing that’s become a flash point. Macedonian police fired tear gas again to drive the crowd back. About 11,000 people are stranded in a makeshift tent city on the Greek side of the border.

    Voters in South Korea have dealt a surprise blow to their conservative leader. Early results indicate that President Park Geun-hye’s ruling party lost their majority in Parliament today. The election took place as South Korea faces sagging growth, as well as North Korean provocation. The results threaten Park’s plans for her final 20 months in office.

    A Chinese court today threw out the country’s first legal challenge to laws against same-sex marriages. The case was brought by a gay couple who’d been denied a marriage license. Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the court in Changsha, and greeted the couple after the court turned them down. Their lawyer said the fight will go on.

    SHI FULONG, Lawyer (through interpreter): Today is not the beginning and definitely not the end. The achievement of every right relies on the efforts of everyone and is not achieved overnight. I believe, as long as we try together, we will finally realize the rights of equality.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Supporters say they’re heartened that a Chinese court even agreed to hear the case and that state-controlled news media covered it.

    Back in this country, a task force in Chicago charged police in that city have abused minorities for decades with excessive force and a code of silence. The panel was established last year after an outcry over the shootings of black suspects. In a scathing report, the group concluded that Chicago police have — quote — “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”

    Five of the largest U.S. banks have flunked attempts to create so-called living wills. Federal regulators said today that their plans for surviving bankruptcy without a taxpayer bailout are — quote — “not credible.” J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others have until October to try again.

    The nation’s largest U.S. coal mining company filed today for federal bankruptcy protection. Peabody Energy, based in Saint Louis, has seen its stock value cut in half in the past year. It’s being pressed by cheap natural gas and tougher environmental regulations. Several other major coal companies have already made bankruptcy filings.

    And Wall Street surged again as financial stocks rebounded some. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 187 points to close at 17908. The Nasdaq rose 75 points, and the S&P 500 added 20.

    Still to come on the “NewsHour”: a tale of two New Yorks, courting the state’s urban and rural voters; a major windfall for cancer research courtesy of Facebook’s first president; how science helped a quadriplegic man move his fingers; and much more.

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    President Barack Obama speaks with Kimberly and Rebecca Yeung of Seattle during the 2016 White House Science Fair. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Barack Obama speaks with Kimberly and Rebecca Yeung of Seattle during the 2016 White House Science Fair. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Barack Obama welcomed innovative teens from around the country to the White House Wednesday for the 6th and final White House Science Fair of his administration.

    The event celebrated more than 130 students from more than 30 states, as well as student alumni from each of the prior five White House Science Fairs. Exhibits highlighted innovations in science, technology and engineering, designed by students ranging from elementary through high school.

    President Obama welcomed the students and made sure to emphasize that, despite their age, student contributions to the scientific community remain invaluable to the future scientific discoveries.

    “You don’t always cross the finish line yourself,” the President said. “Sometimes you have a hypothesis or a theory, and other people build off of it.”

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

    Seventeen-year-old Olivia Hallisey won the grand prize at the 2015 Google Science Fair last September for her low-cost, portable diagnostic test for Ebola, which is capable of detecting the disease much faster than current tests. Watching news coverage of the disease on television inspired the junior at Greenwich High School in Connecticut to spend six months developing a solution for diagnosing the highly-contagious disease. Her test shows results in just 30 minutes and is currently awaiting patent approval.

    “I really want it to be used in the field and applied to other diseases like Zika,” Hallisey said, adding that she hopes the test will be used both at home and during travel and capable of being dropped into affected areas by air.

    Middle school students Isha Shah, Sydney Lin and Krishna Patel from Las Vegas showcased their design for the national Future City engineering competition. All three hope to pursue engineering careers in the future and were excited to be sharing their project at the White House.

    “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s absolutely unbelievable,” said 13-year-old Shah.

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    ALL-STAR CELEBRITY APPRENTICE -- Live Finale -- Pictured: Donald Trump -- (Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

    Donald Trump, at the head seat on the set of his show, “The Apprentice.” Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    PITTSBURGH — A handful of former contestants from Donald Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice” say the Republican front-runner should not be president.

    Half a dozen past hopefuls of the hit show, including Season 4 winner Randal Pinkett and Season 1 runner-up Kwame Jackson, are planning a press conference Friday in New York to denounce the GOP front-runner’s bid ahead of the state’s April 19 primary.

    In statements, the contestants slammed Trump’s rhetoric as divisive and accused him of running a “campaign of sexism, xenophobia, racism, violence and hate.”

    “Trump is passionately and strategically reigniting a dirty and divisive culture soaked in a history of prejudice, fear and hate. It is unpatriotic, anti-American, self-serving, regressive and downright lazy,” said Marshawn Evans Daniels in a statement.

    “As alums of ‘The Apprentice,’ we have had the opportunity to work with Donald in various capacities, including as employees of the Trump Organization,” added Pinkett. “Based on that experience and Donald’s campaign, we do not believe he is worthy of becoming president of the United States.”

    Trump responded with a harshly-worded statement slamming the group as “six failing wannabes” to whom he’d shown nothing but respect.

    “How quickly they forget,” he said in the statement. “Nobody would know who they are if it weren’t for me.”

    Trump said he “couldn’t have been nicer or more respectful” of the contenders and said they were only looking for publicity.

    “They just want to get back into the limelight like they had when they were with Trump. Total dishonesty and disloyalty,” he said, warning that, “They should be careful or I’ll play hours of footage of them individually praising me.

    “Ask how successful they’ve been since they left,” he added. “Six failing wannabes out of hundreds of contestants — so sad!”

    Trump has the support of other former “Apprentice” contenders, including Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, who has served as a surrogate and frequent defender of Trump on television news shows.

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    Filipino soldiers gesture at a Chinese Coast Guard vessel on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea in 2014. Photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    Filipino soldiers gesture at a Chinese Coast Guard vessel on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea in 2014. Photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    MANILA, Philippines — In a military buildup certain to inflame tensions with China, the United States said Thursday it will send troops and combat aircraft to the Philippines for regular, more frequent rotations, and will conduct more joint sea and air patrols with Philippine forces in the South China Sea.

    The announcement by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter in a news conference with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was the first time the U.S. disclosed that its ships had carried out sea patrols with the Philippines in the South China Sea, a somewhat rare move not done with many other partners in the region.

    Carter insisted that the U.S. did not intend to be provocative and was “trying to tamp down tensions here.” But Gazmin said he expected that U.S. forces, “with their presence here, will deter uncalled-for actions by the Chinese.”

    The increased troop presence is part of a broader U.S. campaign to expand its assistance to the Philippines as America shores up its allies in the Asia-Pacific that are roiled by China’s building of man-made islands in the South China Sea. While the military boost does not include permanent basing for U.S. troops, China views any increased U.S. military presence and activities in the region as a threat.

    “Military exchanges by relevant countries should not target third parties, much less support a few countries in challenging China’s sovereignty and security, inciting regional contradictions and sabotaging regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement in response to Carter’s announcement.

    Carter said the U.S. will keep nearly 300 troops, including Air Force special operations forces armed with combat aircraft and helicopters, in the Philippines through the end of the month. The U.S. will increase troop rotations to strengthen training and support increased military operations in the region.

    Speaking in the guest house of the presidential complex, Carter said the joint patrols will improve the Philippine navy and “contribute to the safety and security of the region’s waters.” Two patrols have taken place since March. The U.S. also has conducted joint patrols with Japan in the region.

    Carter has said that China’s increased aggression in the region is compelling more countries to reach out to the U.S., strengthening their military ties with Washington.

    The increase in military support comes days after the Philippines’ ambassador to the U.S. asked the Obama administration to help persuade China not to build in the nearby Scarborough Shoal, which is viewed as important to Philippine fishermen. Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. said the Philippines cannot stop China from building there. China has built man-made islands in other contested spots in the South China Sea.

    An oil rig (R) which China calls Haiyang Shiyou 981, and Vietnam refers to as Hai Duong 981, is seen in the South China Sea, off the shore of Vietnam in this May 14, 2014 file photo. Vietnam demanded China move a controversial oil rig on April 7, 2016 and abandon plans to start drilling in waters where jurisdiction is unclear, the latest sign of festering unease among the two communist neighbors. Photo by Minh Nguyen/Files TPX/Reuters

    An oil rig (R) which China calls Haiyang Shiyou 981, and Vietnam refers to as Hai Duong 981, is seen in the South China Sea, off the shore of Vietnam in this May 14, 2014 file photo. Vietnam demanded China move a controversial oil rig on April 7, 2016 and abandon plans to start drilling in waters where jurisdiction is unclear, the latest sign of festering unease among the two communist neighbors. Photo by Minh Nguyen/Files TPX/Reuters

    Charlito Maniago, the leader of a northwestern Philippine village where many fishermen lost access to the disputed Scarborough Shoal after China seized it in 2012, said the joint patrols will bring hope that fishermen can again sail freely to the rich fishing ground.

    “This will boost the confidence of our fishermen because they think the U.S. has the capability to defend them,” Maniago told The Associated Press by telephone from the coastal village of Cato in Pangasinan province. “The presence of America will make China think twice.”

    The Pentagon said the U.S. forces that will remain in the Philippines are already participating in the Balikatan, or shoulder-to-shoulder combat exercises, that will end Friday. About 200 airmen, including special operations forces, will remain at Clark Air Base, along with three of their Pave Hawk attack helicopters, an MC-130H Combat Talon II special mission aircraft and five A-10 combat aircraft.

    This initial contingent will provide training to increase the two militaries’ ability to work together, laying the groundwork for forces to perform joint air patrols.

    Up to 75 Marines will stay at Camp Aguinaldo to support increased U.S. and Philippine combined military operations.

    The troops and aircraft are expected to leave at the end of April, but other U.S. forces and aircraft would do similar rotations into the Philippines routinely in the future. Carter would not say how frequently those rotations would happen, but called it a “regular periodic presence.”

    Last week the Pentagon announced that the U.S. will give the Philippines about $40 million in military assistance to bolster intelligence-sharing, surveillance and naval patrols. Carter said the aid will include an enhanced information network for classified communications, sensors for patrol vessels and an unmanned aerostat reconnaissance airship to help the Philippines keep watch over its territory.

    The U.S. will get access to five Philippine military bases to house American forces that will rotate in and out of the country for training and other missions.

    Scarborough Shoal is at the center of a case that Manila filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international panel, in January 2013 after Chinese coast guard ships took effective control of the disputed land following a tense standoff with Filipino ships.

    The shoal sits about 145 miles (230 kilometers) west of the Philippines, and 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the Chinese coast.

    The court has agreed to take the case. Beijing says the panel has no jurisdiction in the matter.

    Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

    The post U.S. conducts joint patrols with Philippines in South China Sea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A member of a labor union shouts slogans while holding a Puerto Rico flag during a protest in San Juan, Puerto in September 2015. The island's government said it will likely default on a multimillion-dollar bond payment next month, as it tries to lift itself out of a $70 billion debt hole. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    A member of a labor union shouts slogans while holding a Puerto Rico flag during a protest in San Juan, Puerto in September 2015. The island’s government said it will likely default on a multimillion-dollar bond payment next month, as it tries to lift itself out of a $70 billion debt hole. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress needs to “bring order to the chaos” in Puerto Rico and prevent U.S. taxpayers from having to eventually bail out the territory, which is facing a $70 billion debt.

    A House committee canceled a Thursday vote on legislation establishing a control board as Republicans remained divided over how Congress should address the economic crisis. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla has warned that a debt restructuring measure needs to be approved soon with the looming deadline next month for a $422 million bond payment.

    Puerto Rico has said it will likely default on the payment, which would mark the first time the island would default on general obligation bonds protected by the island’s constitution.

    At a news conference Thursday, Ryan said he believes Congress will eventually act, but that many lawmakers are still learning about the issue. He said House Republicans will have a meeting Friday morning to discuss what should be done about the territory’s financial woes.

    He said a control board would help the U.S. avoid an eventual bailout of the territory.

    “My number one priority as speaker of the House with respect to this issue is to keep the American taxpayer away from this,” Ryan said. “There will be no taxpayer bailout.”

    Democrats have worried that a control board would be too powerful, evoking echoes of colonialism.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that the bill should include an oversight board “that is respectful of the people of Puerto Rico and does not undermine the restructuring part of the bill and does not contain extraneous provisions that harm working people.”

    Republicans agree on the urgency of Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, but they have faced opposition from within their own caucus and from Democrats. Obama administration officials warned at a hearing Wednesday that the island is facing total financial collapse if Congress doesn’t step in. Republicans agree on the urgency of the matter, but they have faced opposition from within their own caucus and from Democrats.

    Legislation released by the Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee this week would create a control board and allow the board to facilitate some court-ordered debt restructuring, though it does not give the island the broad bankruptcy authority that territorial officials had sought.

    Some conservative Republicans had objected to the debt restructuring, saying it’s a bad precedent. In an attempt to satisfy those lawmakers, the most recent draft of the bill would give creditors more of a say on debt plans, allowing them a preliminary vote on whether they wanted to voluntarily restructure debt.

    But it was not enough. Several Republicans on the panel expressed reservations about the restructuring.

    The administration has also been involved in the negotiations. Treasury Department official Antonio Weiss said at the hearing that the administration is concerned that the way the bill is written, debt restructuring could take too long.

    The Senate has not yet acted on the issue. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said last week that senators are waiting to see how the House moves forward until they take it up.

    Puerto Rico has been mired in economic stagnation for a decade. The financial problems worsened as a result of setbacks in the broader U.S. economy, and government spending in Puerto Rico continued unchecked as borrowing covered increasing deficits.

    Associated Press writer Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

    The post Puerto Rico faces defaults as Congress stalls on way to help appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration in November 2015. The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to revive Obama's executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration in November 2015. The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to revive Obama’s executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The raging political fight over immigration comes to the Supreme Court on Monday in a dispute that could affect millions of people who are in the United States illegally.

    The court is weighing the fate of Obama administration programs that could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation and grant them the legal right to hold a job.

    Among them is Teresa Garcia of suburban Seattle, who has spent 14 years in the United States illegally after staying beyond the expiration of her tourist visa in 2002.

    She’s already gotten much of what she wanted when she chose not to return to her native Mexico. Her two sons are benefiting from an earlier effort that applies to people who were brought here illegally as children. Garcia’s 11-year-old daughter is an American citizen.

    “That’s why I come, for the opportunity for the children and because it is much safer here,” the 45-year-old Garcia said in an interview with The Associated Press.

    Now, she would like the same for herself and her husband, a trained accountant who works construction jobs. Neither can work legally.

    “To have a Social Security number, that means for me to have a better future. When I say better future, we are struggling with the little amount of money my husband is getting for the whole family. It makes for stress every day. We struggle to pay for everything,” Garcia said.

    The programs announced by President Barack Obama in November 2014 would apply to parents whose children are citizens or are living in the country legally. Eligibility also would be expanded for the president’s 2012 effort that helped Garcia’s sons. More than 700,000 people have taken advantage of that earlier program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The new program for parents and the expanded program for children could reach as many as 4 million people, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

    Texas and 25 other states sued to block the new initiatives soon after they were announced, and lower courts have ruled in their favor. The programs have never taken effect.

    The states, joined by congressional Republicans, argue that Obama doesn’t have the power to effectively change immigration law. When he announced the measures 17 months ago, Obama said he was acting under his own authority because Congress had failed to overhaul the immigration system. The Senate had passed legislation on a bipartisan vote, but House Republicans refused to put the matter to a vote.

    “Fundamentally, we don’t think the president has the statutory or constitutional authority to issue these executive actions,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

    House Republicans told the court that Obama is claiming the power “to decree that millions of individuals may live, work and receive benefits in this country even though federal statutes plainly prohibit them from doing so.”

    The administration and immigration advocates say the immigration orders are neither unprecedented nor even unusual. Rather, they say, Obama’s programs build on past efforts by Democratic and Republican administrations to use discretion in deciding whom to deport.

    The court’s last major immigration decision, the 2012 case Arizona v. U.S., lends some support to this view.

    “A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials. Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. “Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime.”

    The administration and its supporters said the challenged programs do not offer blanket protection, but depend on case-by-case reviews. The protection from deportation also would be temporary, for three years.

    “It’s not permanent status, not a green card, not a path to citizenship. It doesn’t get you a ticket into a voting booth. At best, it’s a tolerated presence,” said Angela Maria Kelley, an immigration expert at the Center for American Progress.

    The programs also could be revoked by the next president, as the Republican contenders have promised. That might leave people who have provided the government with information about themselves in greater peril of being deported.

    Immigration advocates acknowledged that some people might not be willing to raise their hands until they know the outcome of the election.

    The Supreme Court case might not even address the issue of executive authority if the justices determine that Texas and the other states don’t have the right to challenge it in federal court. Such a resolution, which could attract support from both liberal and conservative justices, could enable the court to sidestep the potentially divisive details over immigration and avoid a 4-4 tie following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February.

    A decision in favor of the administration would allow the programs to take effect in the waning months of Obama’s presidency. A loss or even a tie vote would block them for the foreseeable future.

    Garcia said she is eager to apply for the relief Obama offers if it’s made available.

    Garcia said she volunteers in the local schools teaching Spanish to children, providing translation for interactions between parents and the schools and working on the school district’s strategic planning effort. But she has had to turn down offers of a paying job with the school system.

    Armed with the Social Security number she so desires, Garcia said, “I would work starting right now.”

    A decision in U.S. v. Texas, 15-674, is expected by late June.

    The post Obama’s power over immigration drives Supreme Court dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Barack Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, welcomes participants in the annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House on Thursday. Video by PBS NewsHour

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says the sight of wounded service members riding bicycles is a reminder that service doesn’t end when they take off the uniform.

    Some participants in the annual Wounded Warrior Ride who were welcomed at the White House on Thursday are working through less visible wounds, like post-traumatic stress disorder. The ride was established to raise awareness of U.S. service members who suffer the physical and psychological effects of combat.

    Obama says the ride highlights the sacrifices U.S. service members have made in defense of the nation.

    He says service is in their DNA and giving back is what they do.

    After Obama sounded the horn, riders rode a lap around the South Lawn before heading out onto the streets of the nation’s capital.

    The post Obama: Wounds don’t end service for US military members appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Kris Livingston/Flickr

    The agency has left this issue unresolved, only 16 days from the April 29 deadline. Photo by Kris Livingston/Flickr

    I’ve written about this before and must do so again as Social Security has dragged its feet to issue any formal clarification on the issue. The agency left this issue unresolved, only 16 days from the April 29 deadline.

    Some 1.2 million people will turn 66 between April 30 and August 31 of this year. My understanding on first reading the new Social Security law, which passed in November, was that if you turned 66 during this period (or thereafter) you could still a) file for your retirement benefit and suspend its collection (since the new law does not preclude anyone doing that on an ongoing basis), but you could not b) provide anyone benefits on your work record while your retirement benefit remained in suspension, c) collect benefits on anyone else’s work record while your benefit was in suspension and d) could not change your mind down the road and request all suspended benefits be paid in a lump sum.

    Avram Sacks and some other private-sector attorneys who help people with their Social Security problems looked at the November law and reached a different conclusion. In their view, the new law permits someone who turns 66 to still do b, c and d through Aug. 31, 2016, provided they file and suspend prospectively by April 29 and turn 66 no later than four months after they prospectively filed and suspended. (The four months is based on Social Security’s standard practice of taking retirement benefit applications up to four months before the date of entitlement.) Hence, someone turning 66 on Aug. 31 would need to file and suspend precisely on April 29. Someone turning 66 on Aug. 30 would need to file and suspend on April 28 or April 29, etc.

    I assumed that the view held by Avram and the other private-sector private lawyers was invalid and that the standard view (my view) of the deadline was correct. But yesterday, Avram informed me that he had heard of three local offices that had told people they could file and suspend prospectively based on Avram’s reading of the law. These were cases of people who were turning 66 after April 29, but before Sept. 1.

    My view is that if someone is born between May 1, 1950 and Sept. 1, 1950, that individual (who will have attained age 66 between April 30, 2016 and Aug. 31, 2016) will be able to file in April 2016 a claim for benefits to be first paid with a payment for May through August 2016. They will also be able to request in April 2016 that payment of those benefits be suspended, but when the payment of benefits is suspended, no one will be able to receive benefits on the suspended account.

    Here’s Avram’s response to my view:

    I believe this view is totally wrong and that interpretation would be struck down in a court of law. Why? The answer lies in the text of the language used to identify the effective date of the new subsection (z) to Section 202 of the Social Security Act. The relevant effective date paragraph, Section 831(b)(3) of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 states: “The amendments made by this subsection shall apply with respect to requests for benefit suspension submitted beginning at least 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.” In other words, the new legislation is effective based on when the request for suspension is submitted, and NOT when the suspension becomes effective. If you believe that the basis for the effective date of the new rule is when the suspension becomes effective, that is contrary to the plain language of the legislation, and I do not believe it would hold up in court.

    If you can provide some other basis for his interpretation, I would be willing to consider it. But if a request for suspension of benefits to be first paid in May through August of 2016 can be submitted in April 2016, then there is no basis for applying new subsection (z) to the suspension.

    If Congress wanted to state that the new law was effective with respect to suspensions that first become effective with benefit payments for May 2016, Congress could have so stated. But that is not what the law states. The law states that it first becomes effective with respect to suspension requests that are first submitted 180 days after the Nov. 2, 2015 date of enactment. That is, it is first effective with suspension requests submitted on or after April 30, 2016.

    What should you do if you turn 66 after April 29, but before September 1?

    Were I in this boat, I would first run a very precise Social Security software program and set my birth date back four months to see whether filing and suspending retirement benefits was even in my interest to do. If I turned 66 on, say, June 1, I’d run the program pretending my birthday was Feb. 1. If it told me to file and suspend to provide my spouse, young children or disabled children benefits on my work record during months they could receive such benefits and while my retirement benefit was in suspension, I’d have to take a gamble. Here’s why.

    For married people, filing for a retirement benefit — whether or not one immediately or subsequently suspends it — comes at a risk that one’s spouse will pass away. In this case, the surviving spouse can no longer collect a full widow(er) benefit while letting their own retirement benefit grow through 70. Instead, they can only collect an excess widow(er) benefit, which could be small or zero.

    Another risk is that Avram’s view won’t be up upheld by the courts even if legally correct. Our judicial system is far from perfect. Furthermore, were you to take Avram’s view and act on it, your relatives might not be given benefits when you do ask for them, despite what some local office told you would be the case. Or they might provide the benefits and years later decide they shouldn’t have done so and request full repayment.

    This scenario — receiving Social Security benefits for years, which you were told were legally yours, and then having them all clawed back — is the biggest Social Security horror story imaginable. But the nightmare is all too real, as I will explain next week.

    And another risk in following Avram’s proposed strategy is that it will be ruled invalid, and you will have not have pursued the second-best alternative — whatever that might be.

    If you want to file and suspend before April 30, can you do so safely online?

    There is an online form to file for your retirement benefit. I think it’s incredibly confusing and does not provide any clear directions for you to specify that you want not just to file for your retirement benefit, but also suspend it. What I believe you need to do in using this form is a) specify that you want to start your retirement benefit (you’ll need to specify the month you want your benefit to start), b) specify that you don’t want to take a spousal benefit while delaying your own retirement benefit. (You aren’t asking for spousal benefits on your spouse’s work record in this scenario. Instead, you are trying to provide your spouse or child benefits on your work record.) And finally, c) write in the Remarks section that “I wish to file for my retirement benefit effective (fill in the date), but voluntarily and immediately suspend my retirement benefit effective (fill in the same date) in order to receive delayed retirement credits.”

    Frankly, I would go into the local office to file and suspend either effectively immediately or prospectively (again, no guarantee this will work based on Avram’s reading if the prospective filing date is after April 29 and before September 1.) I think it’s pretty easy to get confused by the online form and you only have one shot to get this right. Of course, the folks at the local office can also screw you up, so don’t leave until you see the Remarks section has been properly filled out as above or with words to the precise effect.

    After I had written this column, I received this email from Social Security’s Press Office:

    As you know, a worker must be full retirement age (FRA) to request voluntary suspension. As a result of the new law, a worker must be FRA prior to April 30, 2016 to voluntary suspend his or her Social Security benefits and have other benefits, such as spousal benefits, still payable on that record. If a person attains FRA on or after April 30, 2016 and decides to voluntarily suspend benefits, other benefits on that record are also suspended.

    We continue to provide information and training to our employees, nationwide, and will address this specific issue, again.

    It’s good that Social Security is finally on record on this issue, which I raised back in February, but the courts may differ. I find Attorney Sacks’s reading of the law quite persuasive.

    The post Column: What’s the real deadline for the file and suspend strategy? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    More military families are opting for home school, mainly for the flexibility. Photo by Vgajic/Getty

    More military families are opting for home school, mainly for the flexibility. Photo by Vgajic/Getty

    For active-duty military families juggling frequent moves and long deployments that may take a parent away for more than a year at a time, home schooling appears to be growing in popularity as a means of providing stability in their children’s education.

    “When there’s so much change, there’s value and power in being able to control one item,” said Lt. Col. Eric Flake, who is a developmental behavioral pediatrician for the U.S. Air Force at Joint Base Lewis McCord in Tacoma, Wash. “You don’t always control where you move, and you don’t control when you move, but you can provide a constant through home schooling.”

    But parents who choose that route face a patchwork of home schooling laws across states.

    Although it’s difficult to pin down solid numbers on home schoolers, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates there are 1.8 million home-schooled students in the country, which was 3.4 percent of the overall K-12 student population in 2012. That’s about double the number of home schoolers 10 years ago.

    Among the 1.2 million children of active-duty military parents, more than 6 percent are home-schooled, according to estimates by the Military Child Education Coalition. And, at least anecdotally, that number is on the rise.

    It’s a trend that Mary Keller, the president and chief executive officer of the Military Child Education Coalition, said is driven in part by how frequently military families have to relocate, which is every 2 to 3 years for active-duty members, and that’s not including moving for 6-to-12-month training stints.

    “The tough thing as you move from state to state, you can miss fundamental concepts,” said Keller, who formerly worked as an assistant superintendent in the Killeen Independent School District in Texas, which includes Fort Hood. “You can move and miss fractions just because your sending school hadn’t gotten there yet and your receiving school has already done it.”

    And while friends and houses change, for home-schooled military children, at least the teacher and the curriculum remain the same, said Mariel Barreras, whose husband is in the Army.

    Flexible Scheduling

    The Barreras’ eldest child, at 12, has moved 5 times since he started school.

    Home schooling also gives the family flexibility in their school schedule to spend more time with their father, despite an unpredictable schedule that often has him leaving home for weeks with little to no warning.

    “When we were stationed at Fort Irwin, Calif., my husband had a job where he was home Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday,” said Barreras.

    “The good thing about us being able to home school, I could keep the lesson plans in line with his job: When daddy was home, we didn’t do school, or we did the fun school projects—the field trips, the science projects. Then when he was gone, we did school work, even if it was Saturday.”

    Barreras, who currently home schools five of her six sons, founded the Omaha, Neb.-based Home School Association for Military Families, a support group for military families worldwide. The organization provides resources such as mentoring programs and starter kits to military families who home school or are considering it.

    Along with wanting flexibility in the school-day or school-year schedule, Barreras said parents often cite a dislike of the Common Core State Standards and bullying as reasons for home schooling.

    Barreras said that from her experience, bullying can be an especially tough issue for children in mixed-race families, which she said is more common in the military.

    Still, other families only home school on an as-needed basis.

    The Flake family has lived in Washington, D.C., and Ramstein, Germany, as well as in Biloxi, Miss., and DuPont, Wash., where they currently reside. The 5 Flake children have attended public schools, private schools, Department of Defense schools and have been home-schooled.

    Sierra Flake, a senior in high school, has also taken evening classes at a community college to make up courses that Washington state requires for graduation.

    Staying on Track

    Stephanie Flake, a former teacher, prefers that her children attend public schools, but she opted to home school her 3 oldest while living in Biloxi, Miss., because she was dissatisfied with the schools.

    But she was careful to make sure they could easily transfer back into public school.

    “I used an accredited program so my kids didn’t have to go back and retake classes,” she said. “The hardest thing for home schooling families, if they don’t have the report card, the paper, it doesn’t matter what your kid knows, or how much knowledge they have or how well they test, some states will not let your kid back in at their grade level.”

    In an attempt to standardize public school policies that affect military children, such as attendance and graduation requirements, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have signed an agreement called the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. The compact, however, does not address disparate state home-schooling policies, according to the Military Child Education Coalition.

    Military families that choose to educate their children at home because they can take their “school” with them as they move still face a patchwork of state laws.

    Requirements for what subjects or content tests home-schooled students must take, or what qualifications parents must have to teach their children at home, can vary greatly from state to state, according to a 2015 analysis by the Education Commission of the States.

    “It can be as easy as just filing a private school affidavit, to being required to file under an umbrella school to having to submit all of your lesson plans with the school board,” said Barreras, whose organization also helps families navigate state laws. “It really varies.”

    But, Barreras said, despite all the moving and dealing with different state home schooling regulations, her family tries to embrace the frequent relocations.

    “It’s fun, too,” said Barreras. “When we got stationed out in California the second time, our curriculum said we had to do botany, but we were close to the ocean so we decided to do oceanography.”

    And now that the family is stationed in Nebraska and surrounded by farm fields, “we’re doing botany,” she said.

    The post Growing number of military families opt for home school appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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