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

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    The sun is seen behind smoke billowing from a chimney of a heating plant in Taiyuan, Shanxi province in China on December 9, 2013. Photo by Stringer /REUTERS

    The sun is seen behind smoke billowing from a chimney of a heating plant in Taiyuan, Shanxi province in China on December 9, 2013. Photo by Stringer /REUTERS

    Remember 2016—it is the infamous year that has already recorded the largest annual change on record in the makeup of the air you breathe.

    Fueled by people’s pyromania and the El Niño global weather phenomenon, carbon dioxide concentrations reached 409.44 parts per million (ppm) on April 9 at an air-sampling station atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, a rise of more than five ppm since the same date last year. And it could get worse.

    “Where you assign the peak will depend on whether the focus is on daily, weekly or monthly averages. The monthly peak is certainly still ahead of us,” says Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California who measures atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) every day at Mauna Loa and other stations, carrying on the work his father started in 1958. “The recent daily values were extraordinarily high, however, so perhaps [they] won’t be overtaken.”

    Carbon dioxide concentrations from March 13 to April 12, 2016 as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.  Photo by Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California

    Carbon dioxide concentrations from March 13 to April 12, 2016 as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Photo by Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California

    The previous record year-on-year increase was 3.7 ppm in 1998. CO2 concentrations typically peak in spring, just before trees, plankton and other plants across the Northern Hemisphere awaken from their winter slumber and begin to greedily suck CO2 out of the sky to fuel photosynthesis and the growth of leaves and cells. But even that titanic greening will not be enough to pull CO2 below 400 ppm ever again, Keeling suspects.

    The fall of 2015 could be the last time the reading dipped below that mark at Mauna Loa, which has become a kind of global bellwether as the first place where CO2 concentrations were actively monitored—and, perhaps, at the 12 other sites where Keeling’s program now makes the same measurements from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

    Carbon dioxide concentrations from April 2014 to April 2016 as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.  Photo by Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California

    Carbon dioxide concentrations from April 2014 to April 2016 as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Photo by Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California

    Atmospheric CO2 has risen by nearly 100 ppm since Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling (pdf), took the first measurements at Mauna Loa in March 1958—and concentrations have jumped by nearly 30 ppm in the past decade alone, propelled by a historic increase in the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

    “The atmospheric and oceanic CO2 increase is being driven by the burning of fossil fuels,” says Pieter Tans, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory, who leads the U.S. government effort to monitor global greenhouse gas levels. “When the burn rate is high, the CO2 increase rate is also high.”

    A 100 ppm, or 0.01 percent, rise in CO2 levels may not seem like much but it has already been enough to warm the globe by roughly a degree Celsius over the past century. More warming is expected as CO2 invisibly accumulates in the sky, where the molecule persists for centuries, and then traps more heat as it insulates the planet.

    And although Earth has seen CO2 levels much higher in the remote past, the human species has not—and our penchant for burning may continue to alter the climate that has allowed our civilization to flourish.

    There is hope, however, as CO2 from burning fossil fuels and other human activities appears to have leveled off in 2015 at roughly 40 billion metric tons of CO2 liberated into the atmosphere. But in recent years massive brush fires deliberately set to clear land in Indonesia and a general increase in forest fires around the world likely helped spur the historic jump in levels from 2015 to 2016.

    A boy rides his bike in the haze along a highway outside the south Kalimantan city of Banjarmasin October 28, 2015. Indonesia's weather agency failed to predict that the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon this year would be worse than in 1997. Last autumn, fires that raged across the archipelago created a haze that blanketed much of Southeast Asia, and, according to authorities, left more than half a million Indonesians suffering from respiratory ailments. Photo by  Darren Whiteside/REUTERS

    A boy rides his bike in the haze along a highway outside the south Kalimantan city of Banjarmasin October 28, 2015. Indonesia’s weather agency failed to predict that the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon this year would be worse than in 1997. Last autumn, fires that raged across the archipelago created a haze that blanketed much of Southeast Asia, and, according to authorities, left more than half a million Indonesians suffering from respiratory ailments. Photo by Darren Whiteside/REUTERS

    El Niño—a warming of tropical Pacific Ocean waters that changes weather patterns across the globe—causes forests to dry out as rainfall patterns shift, and the occasional unusually strong “super” El Niños, like the current one, have a bigger effect on CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The previous super El Niño, in 1998, saw the earlier record CO2 jump of nearly four ppm.

    “During an El Niño, there are ‘anomalous’ patterns of temperature, precipitation and drought over many regions of the Earth. We have observed that the CO2 rate of increase gets an extra boost during an El Niño,” Tans explains. “We also know that most of the extra boost is provided by terrestrial ecosystems, not by the oceans.”

    The current “Godzilla” El Niño is already weakening—and forests in Indonesia or elsewhere can regrow and resume absorbing CO2. But fossil fuel burning will keep pumping out more CO2 year after year, pushing concentrations of the greenhouse gas higher and higher. Last year saw CO2 rise by three ppm from the previous year, among the largest increases on record.

    Unfortunately, 2016 looks set to top that.

    This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on April 14, 2016. Find the original story here.

    The post Humans and El Niño partner to set record spike in CO2 pollution appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks during a campaign event in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Photo by Jason Miczek/Reuters

    Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks during a campaign event in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Photo by Jason Miczek/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he supports the ability of North Carolina lawmakers to pass a law restricting bathroom access for gay and transgender people.

    Cruz said Thursday during taping of a MSNBC town hall in Buffalo, New York, that states can pass such laws because “men should not be going to the bathroom with little girls.” Cruz says, “That is a perfectly reasonable determination for the people to make.”

    But Cruz would not comment on an executive order signed by North Carolina’s governor “to protect privacy and equality” for many state workers “to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.” Cruz says he isn’t familiar with the details of what was signed.

    North Carolina has faced a national backlash from gay rights groups, entertainers and business leaders who say the law unfairly targets gay and lesbian people.

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

    The post Cruz supports N.C. LGBT bathroom restrictions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A general view of the Dubai skyline shows the Burj Khalifa building March 25, 2010.  Outstanding debt held by Dubai World creditors stood at $14.2 billion at the end of December, excluding Dubai Financial Support Fund (DFSF), the state-owned conglomerate said on Thursday. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Tags: CITYSCAPE BUSINESS IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR2C2YJ

    A general view of the Dubai skyline shows the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building. Construction of the world’s tallest tower is usually a sign of hubris and overconfidence, says Vikram Mansharamni. Photo by Mohammed Salem/Reuters

    By 2019, Saudi Arabia is expected to be home to the world’s tallest tower. Developers plan to complete a 1-kilometer (3,281 feet) tall building in Jeddah. With a design inspired by the growth patterns of desert plants, the Jeddah Tower will soar 170 meters higher than the world’s current tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

    But earlier this week, Emirati developer Emaar Properties announced that it, too, would construct a building taller than the Burj Khalifa. Celebrated architect Santiago Calatrava Valls designed the stunning skyscraper known as “The Tower.”  With an expected completion date in 2020 (in time for Dubai to host the World Expo), it’s likely to have observation decks, restaurants and a hotel. On Monday, Prime Minsiter Sheikh Mohammed, the visionary ruler of Dubai,  tweeted about his 1960s visit to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, then the world’s tallest tower, and his dream to bring the world’s tallest building to the emirate.  He also tweeted that “our dream is alive” with an image of the new tower.

    The competition for the title of “world’s tallest” concerns me. As I wrote in my book “Boombustology” and described elsewhere, construction of the world’s tallest tower is usually a sign of hubris and overconfidence. And it’s often associated with bubbles. A quick historical review of the world’s tallest towers suggests today’s scramble for height in the Middle East should be concerning.

    Construction of the world’s tallest tower is usually a sign of hubris and overconfidence. And it’s often associated with bubbles.

    In 1930, at the start of the Great Depression, 40 Wall Street became the world’s tallest building, only to have the owners of the Chrysler Building erect a spire that robbed them of the title. Both, however, were outdone by the Empire State Building, which became the world’s tallest building in 1932. (To read more about this historic race, I highly recommend the book “Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City.”)

    But New York City and the Great Depression were not the only instance of the world’s tallest skyscrapers and bubbles coinciding. Consider Chicago’s Willis Tower (aka the Sears Tower) and the New York City’s World Trade Center towers. Completed in the early 1970s, they prefaced a period of stagflation that to many felt like a bubble bursting. And in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Petronas Towers were completed just before the Asian financial crisis hit Malaysia and Thailand in 1998. The pattern continued: Taipei 101 in Taiwan, built at ground zero of the technology boom (at least in a hardware sense), was announced in 1999, not far from the peak of the technology bubble.

    READ MORE: China is spending nearly $1 trillion to rebuild the Silk Road

    Taiwan held the title until 2007 when, within weeks of global markets peaking, the Burj Dubai was named the world’s tallest freestanding structure. Later renamed the Burj Khalifa, the tower opened during a Dubai debt crisis.

    Want a more recent example? Look East. Fourteen of the 20 tallest towers under construction today are in China.

    Before the Chinese slowdown became obvious to the world, China had plans to take the world’s tallest tower title from Dubai. A local developer hoped to build Sky City on a budget of under $1 billion in under 90 days. Interestingly, after China’s investment bubble burst, the foundation for Sky City has since been re-purposed as a fish farm. Oops!

    Back in the Middle East, nations are carrying out their bold construction plans while suffering from the consequences of low oil and gas prices. The commodity crash forced Saudi Arabia to run budget deficits, call into question the generous benefits it lavishes on its citizens and even consider floating shares of its crown jewel, Aramco. The Saudi stock exchange is down by almost a third, the money supply has shrunk for the first time since 1994, and the credit ratings of local banks are slipping.

    While more diversified than its larger neighbor, the United Arab Emirates has also been feeling the pain of the oil price shock. Dubai’s private sector economy contracted for the first time since 2009, property prices have been falling, and the government is mired in debt. This all comes as the emirate is still trying to complete its bold construction of artificial islands off the coast.

    READ MORE: Why one-percenters spend billions on foreign passports

    Another Persian Gulf nation, Qatar, also appears overconfident in some regards. In 2015, it is believed that the Qataris set a world record price for a work of art, purchasing a Paul Gauguin painting for $300 million. The country already owned the previous world record (set in 2012) for paying over $250 million for a Cézanne. Now, analysts are warning that Qatar has gone through an unsustainable credit boom, which has inflated asset prices. Real estate values, for example, have doubled in the last four years.

    And of course, there’s the upcoming OPEC meeting in Qatar. Analysts will closely watch what happens in Doha, where member states will try to negotiate an output freeze. Many are skeptical that any meaningful progress is possible; after all, most nations are already producing near capacity, making production increases highly unlikely from here. On top of that, Iran hopes to ramp up oil production as international sanctions are removed.

    Looking broadly — at unconventional data points like the skyscraper indicator — can help us navigate radical uncertainty.

    Last month, I had the chance to spend some time talking with noted oil analyst Daniel Yergin while I was in the Middle East. He expressed concern for the region’s ability to cope.  And more recently, he’s stated he believes OPEC has likely lost the power it once had to manipulate world oil prices. The pressures mounting on Saudi Arabia and others are rising.

    All of these data points might easily be dismissed as noise. But I’d encourage you to look at them differently. Yes, it’s impossible to predict oil prices. Sure, the outlook for Middle Eastern economies is blurry at best. But looking broadly — at unconventional data points like the skyscraper indicator — can help us navigate radical uncertainty. And combining these insights with other developments can help us steer a path through these global economic cross currents. Maybe add this fact to the mix: the World Bank is currently receiving more requests for loans (outside of a financial crisis) than at any time in its history.

    In times like these, we need to pay attention to the warning signs and proceed with caution.  We can hope for prosperity and continued growth, but it’s best to prepare for continued uncertainty and possible economic chaos.

    The post Are skyscraper races a warning of economic chaos to come? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump’s campaign manager will not be prosecuted on a misdemeanor battery charge after prosecutors determined there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of forcibly grabbing a female reporter.

    Police charged Corey Lewandowski last month after determining a video recording showed the New York City resident grabbing reporter Michelle Fields by the arm as she tried to ask the Republican presidential front-runner a question as he was leaving a campaign event.

    “Although there was probable cause to make an arrest, the evidence cannot prove all legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support a criminal prosecution,” according to a court document filed by state attorney Dave Aronberg.

    Fields, who worked for the conservative Breitbart News website at the time, tweeted a photograph of her bruised forearm and said she had been yanked backward.

    Lewandowski had denied grabbing Fields and Trump had stood by him, rejecting calls by his opponents to fire him. Instead he went after Fields, accusing her of exaggerating and changing her story.

    The investigation proved, however, that Lewandowski “pulled Ms. Fields back” as she attempted to interview Trump, according to a memo by another prosecutor, Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis. The memo says that Lewandowski could have believed Fields was “making unwanted physical contact with Mr. Trump” that led him to pull her away.

    “Mr. Lewandowski may have had apparent authority to assist in the protection of the candidate, specifically to maintain the ‘protective bubble’ around the candidate,” Ellis wrote. “While the facts support the allegation that Mr. Lewandowski did grab Ms. Fields’ arm against her will, Mr. Lewandowski has a reasonable hypothesis of innocence.”

    At a Wisconsin campaign rally hours after Lewandowski was charged, Trump read Fields’ account aloud: “Maybe he touched (her) a little bit, but I didn’t see,” Trump told the crowd. “It was almost like he was trying to keep her off me, right?”

    Fields weighed in on Twitter: “My story never changed. Seriously, just stop lying.”

    She quit Breitbart shortly after the altercation, saying its editors didn’t support her as they tried to maintain their relationship with Trump. Other Breitbart employees also quit.

    Aronberg said he had talked with Fields and she was disappointed he decided against pursuing the charge.

    The prosecutor also said Lewandowski could have signaled to Secret Service agents if he thought Fields was a threat, and he could’ve apologized.

    “In a case like this we do encourage an apology. Had an apology been given at the beginning of all this, we could have avoided the whole criminal justice process,” Aronberg said.

    The prosecutor’s announcement came days before the New York primary next Tuesday. Trump hopes New York marks an end to the worst period of his candidacy, a stretch that raised new questions about his policy chops and revealed his campaign’s lack of preparedness for a potential delegate fight if the GOP race heads to a contested convention.

    The prosecutor said he understood the case had garnered international attention, but the political climate did not affect his decision.

    Associated Press writer Curt Anderson wrote this report.

    The post Prosecutor won’t pursue battery charge against Trump aide appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders holds a campaign rally in Washington Square Park in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York, New York April 13, 2016. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Bernie Sanders held a campaign rally in Greenwich Village last night. Tonight, he and Hillary Clinton will debate in Brooklyn. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    NEW YORK — New York’s matzo factories and diners will take a backseat to the debate stage and talk show circuit as the entire presidential field — two Democrats and three Republicans — descends on the nation’s largest city.

    Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will hold their first debate in more than a month, a showdown Thursday in Brooklyn that comes at a tense moment in the Democratic primary. Republicans Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich will each speak at a state GOP gala before the latter two candidates make appearances on the late night shows.

    While the White House hopefuls have been blanketing New York state for several days, holding rallies and mingling at local hangouts, Thursday’s events are among the last high-profile opportunities they’ll have to appeal to voters.

    Front-runners Clinton and Trump hope the state can propel them past stubborn challengers and into the general election. Preference polls show Clinton and Trump leading their respective contests heading into Tuesday’s primary, an edge New York billionaire John Catsimatidis attributes to their local ties.

    “I favor them both, as New Yorkers,” said Catsimatidis, a grocery chain owner who hosts a weekly radio show.

    Clinton spent eight years as a New York senator. Trump is a Queens native, built his fortune in New York’s real estate market and lives in an opulent Manhattan high-rise bearing his name.

    Sanders, a Vermont senator who was born in Brooklyn, has also been touting his local roots as he seeks to upset Clinton in New York. While Sanders is on a winning streak in primaries and caucuses, he desperately needs a big victory in New York if he hopes to cut into Clinton’s delegate lead and slow her march to the nomination.

    The Democratic race has become increasingly heated in New York — including Sanders first questioning Clinton’s qualifications to be president, and then reversing himself — and the tensions could spill over onto the debate stage. Even getting Clinton and Sanders to agree on the date and location for the debate was a herculean task, underscoring the discord between the rivals.

    Sanders made an impassioned case to a New York gathering of black leaders Thursday that he’s the Democrat who can best address the nation’s problems and defeat Trump. Addressing the National Action Network conference, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Sanders outlined a litany of policy proposals on jobs, education and criminal justice.

    He said Thursday that he respects Clinton and called her “an extremely intelligent woman with a wonderful resume and a whole lot of experience.” He adds, “In a campaign things get heated up.”

    Meanwhile, Trump hoped that a reversal in charges against his campaign manager marks an end to the worst period of his candidacy, a stretch that raised new questions about his policy chops and revealed his campaign’s lack of preparedness for a potential delegate fight if the GOP race heads to a contested convention.

    A court document filed Thursday in Florida revealed that Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, will not be prosecuted on a misdemeanor battery charge after prosecutors determined there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of forcibly grabbing a female reporter.

    Police last month had charged Lewandowski after determining that a video recording showed the New York City resident grabbed reporter Michelle Fields by the arm. Lewandowski said in response that he “appreciates the thoughtful confederation and professionalism” displayed by the state attorney in Palm Beach.

    Now, a big victory for Trump in New York could preserve his ability to emerge from this latest controversy and clinch the nomination before the convention.

    Cruz, his biggest rival, has been cutting into Trump’s delegate lead and working feverishly to court the delegates who would determine the race at the July convention.

    But New York hasn’t been friendly territory for the Texas senator. Even as he’s tried to embrace East Coast culture, including making matzo with children in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, he’s been dogged by his earlier criticism of Trump’s “New York values” and had to cancel an event at a school because students threatened to walk out.

    Seeking to lower expectations, Cruz said Wednesday that if Trump doesn’t get more than 50 percent of the vote in his home state, “that’s widely going to be seen as a crushing loss.”

    Still, Cruz is looking for opportunities to pick off some delegates both upstate and in the Bronx and Brooklyn. He was participating in an MSNBC town hall in Buffalo before heading back to New York City for the state party gala and his first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

    Kasich, the Ohio governor who has stayed in the race despite only winning his home state thus far, also sees areas where he could pick up delegates in New York. Kasich is eyeing congressional districts in the Albany and Syracuse areas, where he’s arguing that he’s the only Republican left in the race who could defeat Clinton in a fall campaign.

    In addition to his remarks at the state party event, Kasich was scheduled to appear on the NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

    Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz, Scott Bauer, Ken Thomas and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

    The post Entire 2016 field descends on New York City ahead of primary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new study suggests that babies are more likely to learn when an object acts in a way that surprises them. That may be why games like peekaboo hold an infant's attention. Photo courtesy of Brian Warren/Flickr.

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A major health announcement in the U.S. today.

    The Food and Drug Administration said it will permit one of the B vitamins, folic acid, to be added to corn masa flour, used in making tortillas and other favorites of Hispanic households, this to help prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida.

    Folic acid has been in fortify wheat flour since 1996, and is credited with preventing some 1,300 birth defects a year. Health advocates have long petitioned to include it in corn flour as well.

    For more, Dr. Jose Cordero joins us. He is professor at the University of Georgia, former director of the National Center on Birth Defects. He is currently on the board of the March of Dimes, which is one of the groups that pressed for the change.

    Dr. Cordero, thank you for being with us.

    What’s your reaction to this announcement?

    DR. JOSE CORDERO, University of Georgia: Well, it was tremendous joy.

    This is just a tremendous occasion, that, finally, after 10 years of asking for having folic acid included in corn masa flour, finally, it’s here. And it is very important, because, right now, not only in Hispanic households, but we all in the country are eating more tortilla chips than we are eating potato chips.

    So, it is an important source of having folic acid that could help us prevent some very serious birth defects like spina bifida.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What difference do you think it’s going to make? Can you quantify? We talked about the number of birth defects that have been prevented because of adding it to wheat flour. What difference do you think it’s going to make going forward?

    DR. JOSE CORDERO: Well, the difference it is going to make, it is going to reduce the number of babies that are going to be born with spina bifida and anencephaly to serious neural tube defects.

    And it is going to be maybe 40 or a year more, but it could be even more. But the important thing is that we have known that folic acid can prevent these serious birth defects. I think we are at a point that even one would be too many.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Cordero, we know that the company that makes so much of this corn flour already fortifies corn flour sold in Mexico. But it is only now able to do it in the United States. How do you explain the Food and Drug Administration taking this long to make it — to allow it to be fortified here in the U.S.?

    DR. JOSE CORDERO: Well, it is something that’s hard to explain, but the Food and Drug Administration follows some rules on how to process and apply even the citizens petition.

    But I think that the good point is finally it is here, and no longer we will have this contrast, and I would say disparity, where you can get corn masa flour in Mexico and Venezuela and Costa Rica, but not here.

    And Gruma, the company that makes these products, it is — was part of the group and will be getting this product into the market very soon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the Food and Drug Administration says the reason has to do with needing evidence, but, as you say, the evidence has been there for many years.

    I think it’s hard for people to understand why so many years have been allowed to go by, and why, presumably, you know, women have been allowed to give birth to some babies with these birth defects, and this hasn’t taken place, and especially in the Hispanic community.

    DR. JOSE CORDERO: Yes, that’s the case.

    We have that among Hispanics. The rate of these serious defects is about twice as high as it is in African-Americans or whites. So there’s been a disparity. And the FDA was asking for additional information.

    And thanks to March of Dimes, we were able to get the studies done, demonstrate that in fact the product will continue to have sufficient folic acid through the shell life. And I think that that’s what made the difference.

    I’m so glad that we could move forward and celebrate that actually corn masa flour, tortilla chips, or your tortillas when you go to a Mexican restaurant will have folic acid.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Jose Cordero, now on the board of the March of Dimes, we thank you.

    The post Health advocates score a major victory with folic acid appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (L) and Senator Bernie Sanders speak simultaneously during a Democratic debate hosted by CNN and New York One at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York April 14, 2016. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders aggressively challenged each other’s judgment to be president in Thursday night’s Democratic debate, sparring over Wall Street banks, how high to raise the minimum wage and gun control. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Her intent was to mar the voting record of her rival. But Hillary Clinton also cast aspersions on the presidential record of her husband Thursday night in testy exchanges with Bernie Sanders over Wall Street regulation.

    A look at some of the claims in the latest Democratic presidential debate and how they compare with the facts:

    CLINTON: “I’m the only one on this stage who did not vote to deregulate swaps and derivatives, as Sen. Sanders did … and that contributed to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and started the cascade.”

    THE FACTS: The legislation in question was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

    Hillary Clinton was in no position to vote for — or against — it because she was not in the Senate at the time. It’s true that Sanders voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated many financial instruments that were later blamed for intensifying the 2008 financial crisis. Once it passed Congress, Bill Clinton signed it. Hillary Clinton, who became a senator in 2001, is always quick to credit her husband’s economic management, but in this exchange she essentially, if inadvertently, pinned part of the responsibility for the meltdown on the stroke of his pen.

    READ MORE: How the media has shaped the 2016 presidential race

    She said the deregulation contributed to Lehman’s collapse and that, along with a few big failures in the insurance and mortgage industries, “actually caused the Great Recession.”


    SANDERS: “When this campaign began, I said that we got to end the starvation minimum wage of $7.25, raise it to $15. Secretary Clinton said let’s raise it to $12. There’s a difference.”

    CLINTON: “I have said from the very beginning that I supported the fight for $15.”

    THE FACTS: It depends on what the meaning of “minimum” is. Clinton has said she supports legislation that calls for a $12-an-hour wage floor, and would encourage some cities and states to push it as high as $15. The graduated scale is a response to concerns that some localities would not be able to support a $15 minimum without suffering a loss of jobs.


    CLINTON: “I stood up against the behaviors of the banks when I was a senator. I called them out on their mortgage behavior.”

    SANDERS: “Oh my goodness, they must have been really crushed by this.”

    THE FACTS: Sanders had reason to be sarcastic about Clinton’s claim. She has repeatedly cited a speech she gave to the financial industry in December 2007 as proof that she gave Wall Street a dressing down for its behavior as the sector slipped into crisis. In reality, she delivered a much more mixed message.

    MORE: NewsHour’s delegate tracker

    In a video of the speech obtained by ProPublica, she thanked her “wonderful donors” in the audience, said banks were not the main villains in the emerging crisis, “not by a long shot,” and praised Wall Street for its contribution to the economy. At the same time, she said Wall Street had a hand in worsening the crisis and called for voluntary steps on foreclosures and subprime mortgages.


    SANDERS: “It turns out that both Verizon and General Electric, in a given year, pay nothing in federal income tax despite making billions in profits.”

    THE FACTS: In some years, yes. But altogether, they’ve been paying corporate income tax over the past 15 years, while cutting their tax bills far below the 35 percent corporate rate, according to one analysis.

    The analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, a left-of-center think-tank that looked into the two companies’ annual reports, found that Verizon has paid an average tax rate of 12.4 percent over the last 15 years, while paying none for five of those years. General Electric paid an average of only 5.2 percent over the past 15 years, the analysis found — and none over the last decade.

    The CEOs from both companies assert they do pay their fair share. Verizon’s CEO, Lowell McAdam, says the company paid 35 percent of its income in taxes in 2015, an assertion the think-tank disputes. GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, in an April 6 column in The Washington Post, said the company pays “billions” in federal, state and local taxes, but was not more specific.

    Associated Press writers Christopher S. Rugaber and Calvin Woodward wrote this report. AP writer Ken Thomas contributed.

    The post Fact checking the debate: Clinton vs. Sanders on Wall Street appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks with media and supporters during his visit to the Vatican. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks with media and supporters during his visit to the Vatican. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/Reuters


    VATICAN CITY — Bernie Sanders issued a global call to action at the Vatican on Friday to address “immoral and unsustainable” wealth inequality and poverty, using the high-profile gathering to echo one of the central platforms of his presidential campaign.

    The Democratic senator from Vermont cited Pope Francis and St. John Paul II repeatedly during his speech to the Vatican conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of a landmark teaching document from John Paul on social and economic justice after the Cold War.

    Sanders arrived in Rome hours after wrapping up a debate in New York Thursday night, saying the opportunity to address the Vatican conference was too meaningful to pass up. The roughly 24-hour visit precedes Tuesday’s crucial New York primary, which Sanders must do well in to maintain a viable challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

    Pope Francis apologized that he couldn’t personally greet participants at the Vatican conference. No meeting with Sanders was expected.

    But the trip gave Sanders a moment on the world stage, placing him alongside priests, bishops, academics and two South American presidents. Sanders has been at a disadvantage during his campaign against Clinton, President Barack Obama’s former secretary of state, on issues of foreign policy but he was peppered with questions from academics and ecclesiastics in a manner that might have been afforded a head of state.

    Sanders trails Clinton in the Democratic primaries but the trip to the Vatican and his massive rally earlier this week with 27,000 people in New York City may have offered a glimpse of the senator’s aim to become a progressive leader, win or lose.

    The discussions gave him a chance to expand on his core campaign messages about the need to reform banking regulations, campaign finance rules and higher education. Asked about inequality in public education, he said it was “beyond disgraceful” and cited challenging conditions in Detroit’s school system.

    He told the audience that rather than a world economy that looks out for the common good, “we have been left with an economy operated for the top 1 percent, who get richer and richer as the working class, the young and the poor fall further and further behind.”

    “We don’t choose to politicize the pope,” Sanders told attendees, “but his spirit and courage and the fact, if I may say so here, that his words have gone way, way, way beyond the Catholic Church.”

    Sanders also warned that youth around the world are no longer satisfied with the status quo, which includes “corrupt and broken politics and an economy of stark inequality and injustice.”

    A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders holds a welcome sign at the Vatican. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

    A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders holds a welcome sign at the Vatican. Photo by Stefano Rellandini/Reuters


    During the meetings, he sat next to the other main guest of honor at the Vatican: Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose is renowned for his anti-imperialist, socialist rhetoric. President Rafael Correa of Ecuador also attended.

    As he walked through Vatican City’s Perugino gate, Sanders was greeted about two dozen supporters, some of whom carried signs bearing Sanders’ name. “This is the first candidate I have seen in awhile, a matter of fact my entire life, that I feel like wants to make real changes,” said Kevin Jaksik, 29, of Austin, Texas, who now lives in Rome.

    Back home, Clinton holds a significant delegate lead against Sanders, but the senator has vowed to stay in the campaign until the party’s July convention. His message calling for a political revolution to address wealth inequality and the influence of Wall Street on U.S. politics has galvanized many Democrats and independents.

    Despite being enmeshed in an increasingly bitter campaign against Clinton, Sanders aides said the trip was not aimed at appealing to Catholic voters who comprise a large share of the Democratic electorate in New York and an upcoming contest in Pennsylvania.

    Fact checking the debate: Clinton vs. Sanders on Wall Street

    The Vatican has been loath to get involved in electoral campaigns and usually tries to avoid any perception of partisanship involving the pope. Popes rarely travel to countries during the thick of political campaigns, knowing a papal photo opportunity with a sitting head of state could be exploited for political ends.

    As a result, the invitation to Sanders to address the Vatican conference raised eyebrows and allegations that the senator lobbied for the invitation.

    The chancellor for the pontifical academy, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, has said he invited Sanders because he was the only U.S. presidential candidate who showed deep interest in the teachings of Francis.

    The Rev. Matt Malone, editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said Sanders’ trip was unlikely to have much of an impact on Catholic voters, noting that conferences like the one Sanders is attending “happen all the time.”

    “I don’t think that Bernie Sanders going to the Vatican is going to help Bernie with Catholics any more than Ted Cruz going to a matzo factory is going to help him with the Jewish vote,” said Malone, who served as a speechwriter to former Rep. Marty Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat.

    But there were other benefits. The trip offered his extended family a brief respite: Sanders was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Jane Sanders, and 10 family members, including four grandchildren.

    Associated Press writer Rachel Zoll contributed from New York.

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

    The post At the Vatican, Sanders blasts ‘immoral’ wealth inequality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In this week’s quiz, test your knowledge of why young men join al-Shabab, what Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his call-in show, and a new character starring on Sesame Street.

    The post How well do you know the world: Phoning Putin and Sesame Street appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Food and Drug Administration warns consumers to avoid pure powdered caffeine. Photo by FDA

    The Food and Drug Administration warns consumers to avoid pure powdered caffeine. Photo by FDA

    The number of potentially deadly infections from contaminated medical scopes is far higher than what federal officials previously estimated, a new congressional investigation shows.

    As many as 350 patients at 41 medical facilities in the U.S. and worldwide were infected or exposed to tainted gastrointestinal scopes from Jan. 1, 2010, to Oct. 31, 2015, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

    A separate Senate investigation released in January found 250 scope-related infections at 25 hospitals and clinics in the U.S. and Europe. That probe looked at a narrower period, from 2012 to 2015.

    The FDA supplied the new information in response to a yearlong inquiry by Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee.

    The FDA says it is not permitted by law to name the medical facilities involved in the 41 incidents it disclosed. But the device manufacturers weren’t identified either. The full report is expected to be released Friday.

    “It’s really disturbing that the number of patients harmed and the number of facilities where this happened keeps rising,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of the Safe Patient Project at Consumers Union. “It probably indicates the number will continue to increase as authorities dig deeper.”

    In a Feb. 15 document sent to the House Oversight committee, the FDA listed 404 patient infections and 44 more patients who were exposed to contaminated duodenoscopes. But the regulators warned that these device reports “likely contain duplicate patient reporting” and “we estimate the number of unique patients reported to be 300 to 350” for infections and exposure.

    The FDA told the House panel that scope-related infections or contamination occurred at 30 facilities in the U.S. and 11 overseas.

    “I was surprised at how much larger the number of infections was and it made me even more upset about the harm these device manufacturers have caused.” — Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif.
    Lieu said the House investigation uncovered significant gaps in existing law that contributed to a series of superbug outbreaks nationwide, including the ones at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Both outbreaks involved scopes from Olympus Corp., a device manufacturing giant based in Tokyo. At UCLA, three patients died and five more were sickened by antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

    Lieu said he’s introducing two bills Friday aimed at improving patient safety in response to the House findings and reporting by the Los Angeles Times on the outbreaks.

    “I was surprised at how much larger the number of infections was and it made me even more upset about the harm these device manufacturers have caused,” Lieu said in an interview. “There are current gaps in the law we need to close to make sure these situations don’t happen again.”

    Lieu is filing a bill, known as the DEVICE Act, which would impose new requirements on manufacturers. The companies would have to notify the FDA when they issue safety warnings in other countries related to the design and cleaning of their devices. The legislation also would require manufacturers to notify the FDA when they change the design or cleaning instructions of their devices, regardless of whether those changes warrant new government approval.

    Lieu will file an additional bill, a companion to legislation that Washington Democrat Sen. Patty Murray has already filed. It requires the cleaning instructions for medical devices to be scientifically validated to ensure they actually work.

    Meantime, federal prosecutors continue to investigate Olympus and two smaller device manufacturers, Pentax and Fujifilm, over their role in the outbreaks.

    The scope infections occurred during a procedure known as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP.  Nationally, more than 650,000 ERCP procedures are performed each year, in which a scope is threaded down a person’s throat to diagnose and treat problems in the digestive tract, such as gallstones, cancers and blockages in the bile duct.

    In January, Olympus began a voluntary recall of its duodenoscopes and pledged to make repairs to reduce contamination risk. The existing scopes remain in use while the company works on those alterations, which it expects to finish by August.

    Olympus said it needed time to review the congressional report and legislation before offering specific comments.

    A spokesman for AdvaMed, a device industry trade group, also declined to comment until the latest information could be reviewed. In the past, industry officials have said the FDA already has extensive authority to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical technology.

    The FDA said it doesn’t comment on pending legislation as a general policy.

    The legislative fixes seek to address actions taken by Olympus, the leading maker of gastrointestinal scopes in the U.S. and worldwide.

    The Los Angeles Times reported in December 2015 that Olympus kept selling its scopes despite warnings from a 2012 superbug outbreak in the Netherlands.

    In that case, a mechanical engineer hired by Olympus and a Dutch hospital found that the scope’s design could allow blood and tissue to become trapped, spreading dangerous bacteria from one patient to another. In his report, the independent expert called on Olympus to conduct a worldwide investigation and recall the scopes if similar problems turned up.

    The company issued an alert in Europe in 2013, but failed to warn U.S. hospitals about the Netherlands findings. The company didn’t issue a warning in the U.S. until February 2015, a day after the Times broke the news of the UCLA outbreak.

    “Based on the Times reporting it was shown Olympus notified European authorities well before they told the FDA anything. This bill would correct that loophole,” Lieu said.

    Olympus had redesigned its duodenoscope in 2010 in a way that enabled bacteria to become trapped in tiny crevices at the tip of the device, according to experts and regulators. Later, the FDA determined that Olympus had been selling the device in the U.S. without the necessary government clearance.

    Since an FDA warning went out in February 2015, health officials have urged all hospitals to review their cleaning procedures for these reusable scopes and consider additional steps to minimize the infection risk.

    In response, many hospitals started testing scopes for contamination after cleaning and holding them in quarantine for 48 hours to check for bacterial growth.

    Lieu’s legislation would require the FDA to further regulate the rapid-assessment tests that many hospitals now use on medical devices to determine whether bacteria are present.

    Experts urged the House panel to pursue regulation to ensure the tests actually work as intended and don’t produce misleading results.

    “There is no currently available rapid test that has been properly validated that can be used post (high-level disinfection) on duodenoscopes to show that there are no viable bacteria and that the endoscope is safe to use on the next patient,” Michelle Alfa, a professor of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba, wrote to the House committee on Jan. 19.

    The ongoing risk to patients was highlighted by a report Olympus filed with regulators in February about another possible outbreak that included two deaths.

    The company notified the FDA about eight patients who became infected after being treated with an Olympus scope at an unnamed medical facility. Olympus and the FDA have declined to comment on the specifics of the report.

    Device manufacturers are required to file reports to the FDA within 30 days of learning about an injury or death that may have been caused by a device.

    That latest report and others submitted by manufacturers since Oct. 31, 2015, aren’t included in the tally the FDA gave the House committee.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Tainted scope infections far exceed earlier estimates appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, takes his seat to speak at the Fortune's Most Powerful Women's Summit in Washington October 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - RTS49DA

    Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and second wealthiest man in the United States, advises his children to invest in index funds rather than try to emulate what he did. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    Personal finance doesn’t have to be complicated. That’s the subhed of of a new book by journalist Helaine Olen and University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack, titled “The Index Card.”

    The name comes from Pollack’s offhand comment to Olen that all the financial information you need could fit on one 3-by-5-inch index card. And so after popular demand, he wrote down the a few rules on an index card, snapped a photo of it and posted it on his blog. It went viral. Based on that index card, the book offers 10 straightforward rules to live by financially.

    All the personal finance advice you need, according to University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack.

    All the personal finance advice you need, according to Harold Pollack.

    I chatted with both authors on why you should never — never — buy individual stocks, why you aren’t Warren Buffett, the Jim Cramer effect and other personal finance tips. For more, watch this week’s Making Sen$e report, and read an adapted excerpt from the book on first rule, “Strive to Save 10 to 20 Percent of your Income.” The following text has been edited for clarity and length.


    Kristen Doerer: Rule No. 4 in your book is to never buy or sell individual stocks. Why do you suggest that?

    Harold Pollack: Well, there are really a couple of reasons. The first thing is that the research is completely clear that individual investors are just terrible at picking winning stocks. One of the more pathetic studies shows that the stocks that people sold outperformed the stocks that people bought. It wasn’t even random! In another study, 2,800 funds were examined over a long period of time, and I believe 2 of them outdid an equivalent market index.

    “One of the more pathetic studies shows that the stocks that people sold outperformed the stocks that people bought.”

    We chase after shiny objects, and I think we tend to think that the people who do a really bad job in the stock market are the frantic day traders in their basements going crazy, but the truth is it’s really all of us. On the one hand, that’s very humbling news, you’re probably not going to be the person who would’ve bought Apple just in time and held on to it. On the other hand, wow, it saves so much time. You can spend your time and brainpower and emotional energy figuring out how to be good at your day job, how to do things for your family and the people that are close to you in your life — those are the real things that you can control.

    And when you buy an individual stock, the person that’s across the table from you is a person who has more training than you do, who has more information than you do, and this is really their full-time job. That’s just not a game that any of us really should be playing, and we should welcome the fact that cheap index funds are basically going to do a lot better than we can do on our own trying to find out whether Chrysler has the next generation of innovative new mini vans or whatever.

    READ MORE: How to create a savings plan that really works

    Kristen Doerer:  But assuming that you do your research and everything else, is it still a bad idea?

    Helaine Olen: You are still guessing at the future. Studies have repeatedly shown that we have less than 1 percent ability to pick out stocks over and over again so that we’ll outperform the market. We are not beating the indexes. And this this is isn’t just me and you by the way, this is anybody. People think, “Oh, then I’ll go find some professional who can do this.” But this is anybody. This is the dude running the hedge fund, the insurance company, the financial adviser. Less than 1 percent of people out there have the ability to year in and year out outsmart the markets.

    “If somebody actually has this ability, why on earth are they telling me and my $10,000 or $20,000 or $200,000? Shouldn’t they be off finding Warren Buffet somewhere?”

    And then you have to ask yourself the next question that nobody actually thinks to ask, because we are so important in our own heads. If somebody actually has this ability, if I’ve actually stumbled in to an adviser of the less than 1 percent, why on earth are they telling me and my $10,000 or $20,000 or $200,000? Shouldn’t they be off finding Warren Buffet somewhere? Or even better, shouldn’t they be on a yacht off of a Caribbean island trading tax free and making themselves a billionaire? And the answer to question that is yes. That’s exactly what they would be doing. Why would they be telling you? So there’s a certain dearth of common sense that creeps in here too.

    Kristen Doerer: In the book you call Louis Rukeyser, who hosted “Wall Street Week” on PBS, “the world’s greatest villain.” So first of all, what do you mean by that? And secondly, what do you have against PBS?

    Harold Pollack: [laughter] I promise you that I don’t have anything in general against PBS, but people think that the problem people have when they get unwise investment advice is that it’s coming from the sort of gonzo characters like Jim Cramer. And that’s one aspect of it, but Louis Rukeyser was urbane and charming, and he had a wonderful program on PBS that had 4.5 million viewers every week at its peak, which is really more than the Wall Street Journal readership. Many, many people would watch him faithfully.

    Rukeyser would have his pals come on the show, and in a charming way, they would try to identify which stocks were winners and which stocks were losers and what would happen to the stock market over the next year. And the people who guess right were praised, and the people who guessed wrong were gently chided.

    In fact, I was watching one of their programs from 1999, and it was just painful to see some of the stocks being recommended on the show. Sure, some of the picks were good, but the basic point that you shouldn’t be doing this at all was just not emphasized. I think when he started the show it was excusable that he ran the show the way he did, but he didn’t really change with the times, as new research came out that was so definitive that ordinary investors should be investing in index funds. And he legitimated a lot of the less reputable financial journalism that came after him.

    He’s perhaps not the world’s greatest villain — I think there are people like Gaddafi that I’d put ahead of him — but he did spread a harmful message to ordinary investors unwittingly.

    READ MORE: Americans think they know personal finance — even if they don’t

    Kristen Doerer: In your book, you have a subchapter that just says “You’re not Warren Buffett.” Can you tell me a little bit more about why I’m not Warren Buffett?

    Harold Pollack: So none of us are Warren Buffet. In fact, Warren Buffett tries to remind his children that they are not Warren Buffett, and he advises them to invest his fortune in index funds rather than try to emulate what he did. And I think there are a couple of important points — first of all, Warren Buffett has tens of billions of dollars and access to information and resources that the rest of us don’t have. Also, because he is a marquee name, people are offering him deals, because he really is Warren Buffett. If I’m trying to set up some sort of leveraged buyout and I say Warren Buffett is one of my partners, that brings an instant legitimacy to me.

    So there’s really nothing about the way that Warren Buffett invests that I can emulate as an ordinary investor myself. People like Warren Buffett are just doing a fundamentally different activity with fundamentally different sources of information than what I’m going to have. So I have to let go of the possibility that I might become a billionaire by playing them that way.

    Kristen Doerer: So if it’s clear that people aren’t Warren Buffet, if it’s clear that the best bet would be to invest in index funds, why do people continue to think it’s a good idea to invest in individual stocks and play the stock market?

    Helaine Olen: Well, it’s marketed at them. It’s this idea that “We can help you outsmart all of this.” That’s how the financial services industry makes their money; index funds aren’t the cash cow. The cash cow is with people who trade constantly, who would put their money in managed mutual funds, who will do things like options, who can be convinced to invest in hedge funds.

    READ MORE: Poverty makes financial decisions harder. Behavioral economics can help

    Harold Pollack: Why do people go to casinos is part of the answer. So there’s a thrill, and there’s always the possibility that you will be the person who makes it big and speculates. And especially when people are really anxious about having enough money for their retirement or to send their kids to college, of course, people are going to be tempted to take these kind of high-risk strategies with their own wealth.

    Kristen Doerer: And to go back to Jim Cramer, in the book, I believe you mention the Jim Cramer effect, where people would listen to what he had to say on CNBC, a huge swath of those people would then invest in that stock and then the stock would eventually go down.

    “Richard Thaler has commentated that you’re really better off financially watching ESPN than you are watching financial news channels in terms of your stock performance.”

    Harold Pollack: Well, if you knew what Jim Cramer was going to say on his show, many people have tried to basically buy the stock before he talks about it, or people have tried to short the stock after he mentions it. Why? When stocks are mentioned on TV, they sort of get puffed up, and then they tend to plummet. And I don’t know whether Jim Cramer has done worse than anyone in this business, although he’s certainly had some catastrophic bad calls — there’s a famous clip of him saying, “Don’t pull your money out of Bear Stearns.” But certainly, the only value you get from watching Jim Cramer is that you now understand what a herd of people who follow Jim Cramer might do. You really don’t learn much about the fundamental value of the stocks that he’s talking about. And fundamentally it’s just something that people shouldn’t be doing.

    My colleague, Richard Thaler, president of the American Economic Association, has commentated that you’re really better off financially watching ESPN than you are watching financial news channels in terms of your stock performance. And I think the quality of journalism in sports is a lot higher, because if you get it wrong, your hypothesis is rejected right away.

    The post You aren’t Warren Buffett. Stop trying to invest like him. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Picture Rembrandt van Rijn in 1628, living in Leiden, Holland, just a few miles from the sea. He’s young, a curly-haired 22-year-old, and he has just begun to teach his first students, bolstered by the early success of his etchings. It was around then that he began to draw and paint his own face, obsessively, in the first of dozens of self portraits whose creation would span a lifetime.

    Nearly 400 years later, the story has changed. In a video portrait infused with Rembrandt’s influence, video artist and journalist Sophia Allison has linked the 17th-century Dutch painter to a more modern story: her family’s history, rooted in South Central Los Angeles and Chicago, and the tragedies that yield unexpected strength.

    A frame from "Portrait of My Mother," a video project by Sophia Allison. Image courtesy of Sophia Allison

    A frame from “Portrait of My Mother,” a video project by Sophia Allison. Image courtesy of Sophia Allison

    Allison began her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois, where she studied theater, and later continued her studies at Columbia College for photojournalism. “While I was there, that’s where I realized my desire was to focus on issues of marginalized communities that media didn’t know how to cover,” she said. “It really broke my heart to see how stories are constantly being pushed out or just stereotyped and didn’t really understand the history of these people.”

    This is Allison’s history: growing up in Los Angeles, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Allison was in seventh grade. “It was a period that was really scary for me, because I didn’t understand what was happening, i didn’t understand what the outcome would be, and I had to watch my mom go through the whole process by herself,” she said.

    Then, just a few years after her recovery, her husband passed away. “It was such a shock, there was never any time to sit down and talk about everything,” she said.

    So recently, she traveled home to Chicago, where she recorded her mother’s story and filmed her in compositions that rely on sculpted light and natural elements. In “Portrait of My Mother,” Allison revisits those events through her mother’s narrative, focusing on the strength that helped her her get through it.

    Creating the video “became a really therapeutic process,” she said. “So often, people would only focus on the negative with my mom’s story, but I didn’t want that to be the case. I just wanted it to be a human story about a woman who had to find her own strength to survive.”

    Both Edward Hopper and Rembrandt were major influences on the style of portraiture in the piece, she said. “I’ve always been inspired by paintings and what they can create and Rembrandt’s work is so striking. The color palette is so warm, so many reds and browns and golds, and I realized that’s what my piece was,” she said.

    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 This 2-minute video shows what it means to survive cancer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill Thursday that would have made the Holy Bible the state's official book. The bill's supporters plan to attempt a veto override as early as next week. Photo by fStop Images/Getty Images

    Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill Thursday that would have made the Holy Bible the state’s official book. The bill’s supporters plan to attempt a veto override as early as next week. Photo by fStop Images/Getty Images

    Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill Thursday that would have made the Holy Bible the state’s official book, more than a week after the controversial measure reached his desk.

    Echoing concerns in a legal opinion issued by Attorney General Herbert Slatery last year, the governor said an official endorsement of the Bible would violate clauses in federal and state constitutions.

    Beyond the constitutional worries, the House Bill 615 “trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text,” Haslam wrote in a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell.

    If Haslam had signed the bill, Tennessee would have become the first in the nation to designate the Bible as an official state book. The Bible would have joined Tennessee’s roster of state symbols that included a .50-caliber sniper rifle, salamander and raccoon.

    Elsewhere, previous attempts have been made in Mississippi and Louisiana to designate the Bible as an official state symbol, but failed to move forward.

    “If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance,” the governor said.

    Republican Sen. Steve Southerland and other supporters of the bill have already signaled that they plan to override the governor’s veto next week, The Tennessean reported.

    The Tennessean said the governor has “relatively weak veto power,” and that only a simply majority in the House and the Senate is needed to override Haslam’s decision.

    The post Tennessee governor vetoes bill to make Bible the official state book appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Classical violinist Rachel Barton Pine is known around the world for writing her own cadenzas and researching music so she plays it as the composer originally intended. Her 30th album, released this spring, is “Testament: Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin.”

    But she has another passion: she’s a self-confessed head banger, performing heavy metal with a band. She played for us recently when we met up with her at the Community for Creative Non-Violence, Washington, D.C.’s largest homeless shelter.

    Pine visits homeless shelters, hospitals and prisons while she is traveling to give back through music. “I think more and more artists, especially the younger generation, are really understanding the value of community engagement,” she said. “If we were only playing for the converted, we would not be honoring our gifts to the fullest extent.”

    Part of the reason she has devoted so much energy to these efforts is that she grew up in a low-income family in Chicago, with a father who was chronically unemployed. Her mother home-schooled Pine so she could focus on her violin studies from an early age after she fell in love with the instrument at the age of four. By age five, she had given her first recital. At seven, she was playing with a professional orchestra, and by 10, with the Chicago Symphony.

    Now, she “plays it forward” by helping low-income students pay the types of extra costs many people don’t anticipate: travel fees, sheet music and concert clothing. Her Global Heart Strings project also supports aspiring musicians in developing countries.

    Regardless of circumstance, young people need the chance to “explore who they are as artists … to really get in touch with their own personal feelings about the music and their own creativity,” Pine said. “And that’s why it’s so important that every young person have the chance to study music, whether or not they aspire to do it as their life’s work.”

    For Pine, life may be coming full circle. Her four-year old daughter who travels with her and her husband is preparing to give her first violin recital.

    Watch the NewsHour tonight to learn more about Pine’s music and outreach.

    Video by Matt Ehrichs and Jordan Vesey.

    The post Watch: The classical violinist who also plays Ozzy Osborne appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A North Korean nuclear plant in Yongbyon is pictured in 2008 before a cooling tower on the right was demolished. Photo by Kyodo via Reuters

    A North Korean nuclear plant in Yongbyon is pictured in 2008 before a cooling tower on the right was demolished. Photo by Kyodo via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — As North Korea intensifies testing of its ballistic missile technology, a U.S. website said Friday it also sees further signs from satellite imagery that North Korea is looking to produce more plutonium for nuclear weapons.

    The website 38 North, which monitors sites in North Korea associated with its weapons programs, says that an image taken Monday at the Yongbyon nuclear complex shows a rail flatcar at radiochemical laboratory complex where the North separates weapons-grade plutonium from waste from a nuclear reactor.

    It says the tanks or casks seen on the flatcar could be used to supply chemicals or haul out waste products. In recent weeks, exhaust plumes have been seen at the laboratory, also suggesting that nuclear reprocessing activity could be in the works.

    “The presence of a loaded flatcar, together with the presence of exhaust plumes, suggest that North Korea is preparing or conducting a reprocessing campaign to separate more plutonium for weapons,” says the analysis by Joseph S. Bermudez, a specialist in satellite imagery and North Korea’s military.

    South Korean and U.S. officials said Friday that North Korea conducted a failed launch of what was reportedly an untested mid-range missile that could one day be capable of reaching far-off U.S. military bases in Asia and the Pacific. It is the latest in a series of provocations. The North conducted its fourth, underground nuclear test explosion in January and a long-range rocket launch in February that drew the strongest international sanctions yet against Pyongyang.

    Separating plutonium is one of two avenues North Korea has to produce fissile material for bombs. The North announced in 2013 its intention to restart a reactor which had been shuttered for years. This February, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress that North Korea has been operating the reactor long enough that it could begin recovering material for nuclear weapons “within a matter of weeks to months.”

    Last week, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based think tank, said that there’s growing indications that North Korea is separating plutonium but said it’s hard to say with certainty. It estimated that the reactor could have produced about 5 to 7 kilograms (11 to 15 pounds) of weapon-grade plutonium since its 2013 restart — enough for one to three nuclear weapons.

    Pyongyang is already believed to have a handful of crude nuclear bombs and is making progress toward having a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the U.S. mainland.

    The post U.S. researchers see more signs North Korea is producing plutonium appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a town hall in Janesville, Wisconsin on March 29. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a town hall in Janesville, Wisconsin on March 29. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: Presidential elections give teachers a chance to engage students in lessons about the electoral process and what it means to be part of a democracy. But some of the behavior exhibited during this primary season has posed a challenge for teachers.

    Justin Christensen has taught Advanced Placement Government for 10 years at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, California. In 2013, he co-founded a Twitter community of government teachers at #hsgovchat. Christensen said he strives to maintain political balance in his classroom but sometimes finds himself in an uncomfortable situation when discussing Republican candidate Donald Trump and his attention-grabbing techniques.


    teachersloungeLike many teachers all over the country, I stop at a local cafe every morning for my cherished daily cup of coffee.

    As I waited for my coffee one morning in March, I scrolled through my Twitter feed and discovered that Donald Trump yet again fired off tweets the previous night that were getting a lot of attention. The first was a veiled threat to “spill the beans” on another candidate’s wife, and the other seemed to promote fear of an entire religion.

    I would be in front of my students in 90 minutes. Should I show these tweets in class today? What should I say if a student asked me about them?

    Before I got in my car, I took screenshots of both tweets and posed a question to my colleagues on Twitter: “As teachers, how do we respond when (Trump)’s statements would break our own classroom rules?”

    Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 8.17.40 AM

    I did not often encounter this dilemma when I taught AP Government during the previous two presidential elections. I happily presented both sides to my students. In 2012, I even bought cutouts of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I would stand next to each cutout and act as their spokesman. Since my students tended to support Barack Obama, I spent more time speaking on behalf of Romney. I wanted my students to listen to both sides in order to develop an informed opinion.

    This year, I have yet to buy a cutout of Donald Trump.

    As I tried to explain in my tweet that morning, I was uncomfortable acting as a spokesman for someone who would routinely break my own expectations if he were a student in my class.

    For example, he would fail to meet my expectation that students treat each other with respect and avoid profane language. Trump has mocked a reporter with a disability. He has criticized the appearance of Carly Fiorina, Megyn Kelly and Heidi Cruz. He has said he will “beat the s— out of” ISIS. He has stated that he would “like to punch (a protester) in the face.” He has even alluded to his own personal anatomy.

    I also expect my students to use facts to defend their claims. The editor of Politifact, which fact-checks claims by politicians, found that Trump’s “record on truth and accuracy is astonishingly poor.”

    When I posted that tweet that morning, my colleagues on Twitter began to weigh in. Here are a few examples.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 8.23.57 AM
    Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 8.21.15 AM

    Thanks to the Twitter community of teachers that use #hsgovchat and #sschat, I discovered that I was not alone. Other teachers are also wondering how to facilitate conversations about Trump in their classrooms.

    So how should we teach government in the age of Trump? Since that early March morning at the cafe, I have developed five helpful questions to ask my students.

    1. When does Trump’s rhetoric contradict our classroom rules? We need to explicitly name such examples, otherwise our students may misinterpret our silence as support for such language in our schools.

    2. Why does Trump use controversial rhetoric? Invite students to analyze the media industry and research how much free media he received.

    3. What does polling reveal about the coalition of supporters Trump has created? We must invite our students to understand his appeal and analyze its deeper causes.

    4. What do experts think of Trump’s proposals (such as deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants or bringing back waterboarding)? We should ask our students to fact-check and evaluate his claims.

    5. How does Trump fit in the Republican party? We should remind our students that Trump does not speak for many conservatives or Republicans. For example, students should hear Speaker Paul Ryan’s response to Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country: “This is not conservatism. What was proposed is not what this party stands for.”

    Taken together, these five questions have helped me navigate discussions about Trump in my classroom. In our schools, we create expectations for how we talk to each another, conduct research and develop an informed opinion. We must enforce these classroom expectations, even if a presidential candidate breaks them.

    The post Teachers’ Lounge: Teaching politics in the age of Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi Church Protection Act into law Friday, allowing certain members of churches to carry concealed guns into congregations. Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images

    Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi Church Protection Act into law Friday, allowing certain members of churches to carry concealed guns into congregations. Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images

    Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill into law Friday that allows specially trained churchgoers to carry concealed firearms to enhance security at places of worship.

    The Mississippi Church Protection Act is intended to enable churches to establish a “security program,” by designating members to undergo firearms training and carry guns into church buildings, said the bill’s author, Republican State Rep. Andy Gipson.

    The law also allows concealed carry without a license in a “purse, handbag, satchel, other similar bag or briefcase or fully enclosed case.” Under this law, holsters also are allowed.

    Gipson has said House Bill 786 was a direct response to the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting when white gunman Dylann Roof opened fire last year in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine black parishioners.

    Gipson said his proposal gives churches an option to defend themselves against similar attacks, especially when many “smaller churches can’t afford to hire security.”

    “I wish we lived in a world where this bill wouldn’t be necessary,” Gipson said.

    On Twitter, the governor posted a video of him signing the bill into law. “Churches deserve protection from those who would harm worshippers. That’s why I signed HB 786,” he said.

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

    Lorenzo Neal, pastor of New Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mississippi’s capital Jackson and an outspoken critic of the measure, said he thought the bill would make his congregation feel less secure.

    “I actually believe it may create a greater sense of anxiety because now people are unaware who may be carrying a weapon,” he told NPR. “And the church is a place where people are expected to come and … not have to worry about their safety per se.”

    The Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police also opposed the bill, saying it made it easier for anyone to carry a concealed handgun in public, including violent criminals and mentally ill people.

    “By effectively dismantling Mississippi’s licensing system, this bill would block law enforcement who stop an armed suspect from confirming that he isn’t a violent criminal, severely mentally ill, or otherwise dangerous,” said Ken Winter, executive director of the association. “This bill would put law enforcement officers and all Mississippians directly in harm’s way.”

    The National Rifle Association praised the bill’s signing. “Gov. Bryant stood strong for the Second Amendment by signing this significant bill, in spite of billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to spread lies about it,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. “It’s a great day for law-abiding gun owners in Mississippi. This will allow them to carry firearms ​for personal protection in the manner that best suits their needs.”

    The post Mississippi governor signs law authorizing guns in churches appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders holds a campaign rally in San Diego, California. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders holds a campaign rally in San Diego, California. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    LOS ANGELES — If Bernie Sanders can pull off an upset in California, it will be a story that got its start on Hollywood Boulevard.

    In a building that saw the likes of film stars and movie moguls and later was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Sanders’ newly leased Los Angeles headquarters is where his campaign will ultimately go big or go home. Steering the effort is Michael Ceraso, a rangy, goateed 34-year-old who, seven months ago, was working as a deputy program director for Airbnb. He’d never run a statewide campaign.

    Sanders is trailing in state polls but “what gives us an advantage is people power,” said Ceraso, alluding to the fervent crowds of 20- and 30-somethings at the senator’s full-house rallies.

    With time growing short in the primary season, California’s June 7 contest could be a decisive showdown. Sanders told cheering supporters in a Los Angeles theater in March that if he wins delegate-rich California by a significant margin “we are going together to the White House.”

    But to make that happen, Ceraso and his team will have to take on the Clinton political powerhouse.

    After helping to guide Sanders to victory in New Hampshire, Ceraso says he’s not intimidated by Hillary Clinton’s team, which has won elections here before and has deep political ties that date back a generation to her husband Bill Clinton’s administration.

    Ceraso broke into presidential politics in 2008 when he joined then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and last year managed a successful campaign for a local school board. His Twitter feed, a blur of posts about the campaign and tributes to basketball star Kobe Bryant, urges followers to “Stay Frosty Folks” — slang for “keep cool.”

    Clinton comes to the race a tested winner. In 2008, when Democrats around the country were embracing Obama, the former First Lady notched an 8-point win in California. Bill Clinton locked in the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination in the state, which he carried in his two presidential contests. He visited California more than 70 times during his two terms as president.

    This weekend, Hillary Clinton is expected in the Los Angeles area for a fundraiser with actor George Clooney.

    Sanders, meanwhile, was barely recognized by voters a year ago but has since narrowed the gap. An independent Field Poll released this month found Clinton with a 6-point lead over Sanders, with 12 percent of voters still undecided.


    Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Clinton supporter who heads the House Democratic Caucus, says Clinton’s familiarity with state voters will be a critical factor on Election Day.

    “She’s walked with us, and that means a lot,” said Becerra. In California “they know her.”

    With the primary about seven weeks away, the two candidates are quietly installing the nuts-and-bolts infrastructure for their campaigns, shopping for office space, hiring staff and organizing volunteers.

    Ceraso, who started with Sanders as a deputy director in New Hampshire and grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs, has been on the ground in California about two weeks.

    A central challenge for underdog Sanders will be motivating those young voters who can be unpredictable on Election Day. Unlike in next week’s New York primary, which is limited to registered party members, California’s Democratic primary is open to independents. As in past primaries, Clinton is expected to do well with older Democrats, Hispanics and black voters, while Sanders could perform better with younger voters and independents.

    A spike in registration among younger voters might be an encouraging sign for Sanders. An analysis by Political Data Inc. found that registration among Californians between 18 and 24 years old was up 72 percent in the year-to-date, compared to the same period in 2012.

    A central challenge for underdog Sanders will be motivating those young voters who can be unpredictable on Election Day, says Mitchell Schwartz, who ran Obama’s 2008 campaign in the state and supports Sanders.

    Even in an age when campaigns prod supporters across a range of social media “the younger you are, the less likely you are to vote,” Schwartz said.

    MORE: NewsHour’s delegate tracker

    Clinton has other advantages. Some of the state’s most influential Democrats are with her, including Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and top leaders in the Legislature. Sanders’ most visible supporter among elected officials in Southern California is Gil Cedillo, a Los Angeles councilman and former legislator.

    Ceraso, who grew up in a home where money was scarce, said he was drawn to Sanders’ emphasis on income inequality. He finds himself in California somewhat by accident. He was thinking of moving to Washington, D.C., after the New Hampshire campaign, but the contest here evolved into a highly competitive match-up — one that had a role for him at the statewide level.

    In California, 475 Democratic delegates will be divvied up in the election, some based on the outcome in each congressional district, others in proportion to the statewide tally. That will make it difficult for either candidate to win a commanding victory.

    “Both Hillary and Bernie Sanders will get a lot of delegates out of here,” predicted veteran Democratic strategist Bill Carrick, who is not aligned with either campaign. “It’s hard to get a blowout.”

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

    The post Sanders hoping for a California upset appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama board Air Force One as they depart Joint Base Andrews in 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama board Air Force One as they depart Joint Base Andrews in 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters


    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama paid more than $81,000 in taxes last year on adjusted gross income of more than $436,000. Their effective federal income tax rate was 18.7 percent.

    That’s according to income tax returns for Obama and his wife, Michelle. The White House released the returns Friday ahead of the April 18 federal filing deadline.

    Obama also reported donating $64,000 to charity, or about 15 percent of their income.

    His largest charitable donation — just over $9,066 — went to the Fisher House Foundation. The organization aids wounded service members and their families.

    Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, paid more than $91,500 in federal taxes last year on adjusted gross income of more than $392,000.

    The Bidens reported $6,620 in donations to charity.

    The post Obama, first lady pay $81,000 in taxes on $436,000 of income appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video by Associated Press

    NEW YORK — A winner of “The Apprentice” and three other former contestants on Donald Trump’s reality show denounced the Republican front-runner’s presidential campaign as racist and divisive on Friday.

    Randal Pinkett, a business consultant who won the show’s fourth season, said he is grateful for the opportunities that have come his way as a result of “The Apprentice” but added, “because our allegiance to our country supersedes our relationship with Donald, we see today as an act of patriotism, not disloyalty.”

    Pinkett held a Manhattan news conference with three other former black “Apprentice” contestants: Kwame Jackson, runner-up from season one; Tara Dowdell from season three; and Marshawn Evans Daniels from season four, who appeared via a video feed.

    “Trump has created a toxic ecosystem in our political discourse,” said Jackson. “Trump has appealed to the lowest common denominator of fear, racism and divisiveness in our populace. And this mix is never the path to American progress.”

    Trump has criticized the former contestants as “failing wannabes.”

    “How quickly they forget,” Trump said in a statement earlier this week. “Nobody would know who they are if it weren’t for me.”

    Trump has the support of other former “Apprentice” contenders, including Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, who is also black and has served as a frequent defender of him on television.

    Dowdell said her participation in “The Apprentice” meant she could not stay silent.

    “As someone who participated in the show that arguably paved the way for his presidential ascension, I feel it is my responsibility to speak out,” she said. “There has been so much hate and divisiveness in this election cycle that he has particularly fomented. And given the real-world implications of his words, I think we are at a point where we would be irresponsible not to condemn them.”

    Season two’s Kevin Allen and James Sun from season six did not appear as planned because of logistical issues.

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

    The post Former ‘Apprentice’ contestants denounce Trump. He calls them ‘failing wannabes’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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