Articles on this Page
- 04/18/16--14:01: _Why genetic counsel...
- 04/18/16--14:08: _Battle of bilingual...
- 04/19/16--06:46: _Map: Do you live in...
- 04/19/16--08:28: _Ryan won’t back bil...
- 04/19/16--08:29: _What to watch for i...
- 04/19/16--09:09: _GOP leader, House R...
- 04/19/16--10:34: _‘Desperate Journey’...
- 04/19/16--10:55: _How learning steel ...
- 04/19/16--11:26: _UnitedHealthcare to...
- 04/19/16--11:34: _Supreme Court weigh...
- 04/19/16--12:28: _Senate passes bill ...
- 04/19/16--12:48: _Court rules in favo...
- 04/19/16--12:49: _Just 10 days left t...
- 04/19/16--13:06: _Sept. 11 families u...
- 04/19/16--13:26: _Can Latin help youn...
- 04/19/16--14:16: _Congress unlikely t...
- 04/19/16--16:56: _Trump, Clinton triu...
- 04/20/16--06:18: _Obama meets with Ki...
- 04/20/16--06:36: _Carter presses Gulf...
- 04/20/16--07:03: _How two cities orga...
- 04/18/16--14:01: Why genetic counseling is more popular than ever
- 04/18/16--14:08: Battle of bilingual education once again brewing in California
- 04/19/16--06:46: Map: Do you live in an area where Zika could strike?
- 04/19/16--08:28: Ryan won’t back bill allowing 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia
- 04/19/16--08:29: What to watch for in New York’s primary
- 04/19/16--09:09: GOP leader, House Republicans meet on convention rules
- 04/19/16--10:34: ‘Desperate Journey’ series wins Peabody Award
- 04/19/16--10:55: How learning steel pan helps Austin’s underserved youth
- 04/19/16--11:26: UnitedHealthcare to exit all but ‘handful’ of Obamacare markets
- 04/19/16--11:34: Supreme Court weighs law aimed at domestic violence on tribal lands
- 04/19/16--12:28: Senate passes bill that would boost airport security
- 04/19/16--12:48: Court rules in favor of transgender student in bathroom case
- 04/19/16--12:49: Just 10 days left to meet Social Security’s April 29 deadline
- 04/19/16--13:06: Sept. 11 families upset by White House effort to derail bill
- 04/19/16--13:26: Can Latin help younger students build vocabulary?
- 04/19/16--14:16: Congress unlikely to act on Puerto Rico ahead of deadline
- 04/19/16--16:56: Trump, Clinton triumph on home turf in New York primaries
- 04/20/16--06:18: Obama meets with King Salman at start of Saudi Arabia visit
- 04/20/16--06:36: Carter presses Gulf nations to do more in Iraq
- 04/20/16--07:03: How two cities organized their elite enclaves
Erika Stallings’ mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28. When it came back in her early 40s, her physicians started looking for clues.
“That’s when the doctors realized there may be something genetic going on, and that’s when she was tested, and found out she was a carrier for BRCA2,” said Stallings.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes. Carrying a mutated BRCA gene increases a person’s risk for developing certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer.
Because Erika Stallings’ mom tested positive, Erika had a 50 percent chance of inheriting a mutated BRCA2 gene.
But Erika was only 22 years old when she learned of her mother’s diagnosis and not yet ready to put herself through the testing process.
“I had just gotten accepted into law school, I was going to be moving to D.C., my ultimate goal was to get a job and move to Manhattan,” she said. “I don’t want to say I pushed it to the back of my mind, but it didn’t seem super pressing.”
Fast forward a few years. Her law career and her New York life are settled, and she has a supportive boyfriend. She says she finally felt ready to take the BRCA test, and deal with the potential results. In December 2013, Stallings called to make an appointment and was told she first needed to meet with a genetic counselor. The first available appointment was the following May.
This five-month wait was unexpected and unwelcome.
“It just sort of adds a level of stress to something that is already stressful,” Stallings said.
Genetic testing can help diagnose a disease and estimate your future risks, based on DNA. It can even help patients and doctors select the best medicines. It came on the scene in the late 1960s and was employed mainly to screen prospective parents and newborns for deadly inherited diseases like Tay-Sachs.
In the early 1970s, scientists identified the extra copy of a chromosome that causes Down syndrome, and also realized that a fetus’ genes were present in amniotic fluid that could be extracted through amniocentesis. By the 1980s, prenatal screening was common for conditions like Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis, and the field of genetic counseling developed to help people understand their options.
The sheer number of genetic tests has exploded in the past decade or so. There are now thousands of different testable genetic disorders. In fact, demand for genetic tests has been strong since 2013. And there are two main reasons for that.
“The first was the Supreme Court decision that patenting of genes was no longer an option,” says Joy Larsen Haidle, a genetic counselor and past president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors.
In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that Utah-based testing company Myriad Genetics, which developed the BRCA gene tests, couldn’t own naturally-occurring DNA. Almost immediately, other, cheaper tests for these mutations came to the market.
And that same year, Angelina Jolie captured the world’s attention with her op-ed in The New York Times disclosing her “faulty” BRCA1 gene, and her decision to have a double mastectomy to reduce her breast cancer risk.
“Her sharing that information was really important, because it allowed people to identify with her story. If it could happen to Angelina Jolie, it could happen to me,” said Haidle.
She said people became much more willing to talk about their genetic predispositions and seek out testing for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and cystic fibrosis. The number of patients seeking genetic counseling and testing has increased dramatically, according to a 2014 study that looked at how Jolie’s announcement affected interest in testing.
But the number of genetic counselors, the people who help both doctors and patients make sense of these tests, hasn’t expanded enough to keep up with that demand. There are just 4,000 certified genetic counselors in the country today. That’s one for every 80,000 Americans.
“As genetic testing is growing and becoming more widely adopted by everyone for all sorts of different things, not just pregnancy, but cancer, heart disease, there is a disconnect,” said Neha Kumar, chief product officer at Recombine and a trained genetic counselor. “Who will actually interpret and provide those results to patients?”
Recombine offers a screening test for more than 250 genetic diseases parents may pass on to a child.
Clients typically are offered genetically counseling both before and after a test. They discuss the tests, what they may reveal and what the gray areas might mean. Each counseling session lasts between 30 minutes and an hour.
Genetic counselors also are well versed on genetic risk and family history and can help people choose the most appropriate tests.
Haidle pointed out that for lots of patients, especially those not getting breast cancer screenings, the current genetic counseling workforce is meeting demand — appointment wait times are often just a week or two.
Still, the field is facing a bottleneck as it works to increase the number of certified counselors.
“It is going to take a while before we really have the workforce we need to provide the care that individuals out there need,” said Anne Greb, director of the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College.
Thirty-one universities offer the required two-year master’s program and fewer than 300 counselors will graduate this spring, far short of the estimated 650 current job openings around the country.
“They all get jobs,” said Greb of her graduates. “I get emails or phone calls daily from recruiters looking to hire.”
The average starting salary for a counselor is $65,000 to $75,000. Many insurers, including Medicare, typically don’t cover counseling sessions, meaning hospitals must cover a share of the costs of having counselors on staff.
One insurer is taking the opposite approach, though. After the Angelina Jolie spike, Cigna began mandating that anyone interested in getting a BRCA test had to first meet with a counselor, even if a doctor already approved the screening. The move was intended to limit unnecessary tests and save money.
Erika Stallings tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. She said her genetic counselor helped her make sense of the results.
“I just always tell people, it’s not just enough to know you are positive. You have to see someone who can put those results in context with you,” she said.
Stallings decided to have a preventive double mastectomy in 2014 at the age of 29. She’s now volunteering with a breast cancer awareness group, sharing her genetic story with more women.
This story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, WHYY’s health show The Pulse and Kaiser Health News. 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.
Last spring, 9-year-old Derrick Fields sat in his social studies classroom at Sherman Elementary School, learning about the creation of the telegraph. The machine was invented so that “someone can connect to someone who is far away,” he said.
This was pretty normal stuff for a fourth grade history lesson, except for one thing: The entire lesson — from the textbooks to the teacher’s instructions to the students’ short essays — was in Spanish.
In fact, half of Derrick’s time is spent learning in Spanish and the other half in English in what’s known as a dual language immersion program.
Teaching academic subjects in Spanish, or any foreign language, has been widely understood to be illegal in California since 1998. Proposition 227 appeared on the June ballot that year, offering voters a chance to weigh in on whether or not students should be taught primarily in English in public schools. While opponents saw the measure as racist, it was loudly championed by Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley millionaire with political aspirations, as the best way to integrate the state’s booming immigrant population.
Unz’s argument won the day. Proposition 227 was voted into law with 61 percent of the vote. Now part of California’s extensive education code, the law holds that “all children in California public schools shall be taught English by being taught in English.”
For the most part, that has been interpreted as: Don’t teach in Spanish.
“I am in the camp that says it’s just a terrible waste,” said Patricia Gandara, an education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “There are all kinds of social, cognitive and tangible benefits that accrue to those with more than one language. It’s a terrible loss.”
Most schools did away with their long-term bilingual programs, even though Prop 227 didn’t actually outlaw learning in a foreign language. It just made it much harder. But the parents at Derrick’s school were willing to sign annual parental waivers and school leaders were willing to pull together documentation that a dual language program would meet the “special needs” of their students and submit an application for such a program to the state.
It’s “kind of weird” and “kind of hard,” to learn in 2 languages, said Derrick, who speaks English and some Spanish at home. But his parents wanted him to try the dual language program and he likes it. While other students were more enthusiastic about the dual language set-up at Sherman, they were all too young to understand exactly what their school represents.
Programs like Sherman’s will be far easier to justify and create if voters decide to support Senate Bill 1174, known as the Multilingual Education Act, which will appear on the ballot this fall and would substantially revise Prop. 227. If the bill passes, kids like Derrick and his classmates — who are a mix of native Spanish speakers and native English speakers with family backgrounds ranging from African American to Hispanic to Middle Eastern — could be the new faces of bilingual education in the state.
That prospect does not please everyone. On March 21, Unz announced his entry into the California senate race. The sole plank in his platform: Overturn the bill that could revise Prop 227.
“The primary factor behind this sudden decision on my part was the current effort by the California Democrats and their (totally worthless) Republican allies to repeal my 1998 Prop. 227 ‘English for the Children’ initiative,” Unz wrote in the announcement published on his website, the Unz Review.
Statewide however, experts say public opinion has begun to shift towards the idea that being multilingual could be an advantage. And though official numbers are hard to come by — California stopped tracking dual language programs in 2011 — the growing popularity of dual language immersion programs like the one at Derrick’s school indicates multilingualism is an advantage more and more parents wish their children to possess.
Moreover, a growing body of research now shows that high-quality dual language immersion programs benefit both native English speakers and English language learners. Since 22 percent of California’s students are English language learners as well as some of the lowest performing students in the state, such programs could provide a possible solution to an urgent problem.
And yet, the state faces a major obstacle to significantly increasing the number of such programs available to students: a severe lack of teachers qualified for the work.
While nearly 1.4 million children are classified as English Language Learners, only 693 new bilingual teachers were certified in the 2014-15 school year. That’s fewer than any year since 1994-95, when the state certified 835 bilingual teachers.
Given the numbers, even if every teacher who has received a bilingual certification since 1994-95 was leading a bilingual classroom today (many are not), the state would have only one bilingual teacher for every 52 English language learners, or one for every 232 California students. That math isn’t perfect. Neither the California Department of Education nor the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has a record of how many bilingually certified teachers are currently employed in the public schools. Nor is there a reliable record of bilingual certification rates prior to 1994-95. Still, the ratios provide a rough idea of how far away California is from having a robust supply of bilingual teachers.
“If we’re going to commit to bilingualism and biliteracy in our state, we need to invest in new teachers for those programs,” said Pamela Spycher, a senior research associate at the California-based think tank WestEd.
And such programs are becoming more common, even without legislative support. The Glendale Unified School District, just outside Los Angeles, now offers seven dual language immersion programs in languages as disparate as Vietnamese, Armenian and French. In Lakeside Union School District, inland of San Diego, the Riverview and Winter Garden elementary schools offer a trilingual program in English, Spanish and Mandarin. And the San Francisco Unified School District offers dual language education at 15 of its elementary and K-8 schools (nine in Spanish, three in Cantonese, two in Mandarin and one in Korean), nine of its middle schools and three of its high schools. Several of these programs are actively growing.
Research that was not available when Prop 227 first passed now shows that the effort involved in offering such programs could have a big payoff. One study, out of Stanford University, found that it took children learning English in dual language programs longer to master the language than those who learned English in an English immersion program. However, by the end of middle school, the students from the dual language immersion programs were doing better in English and earning higher grades in other subjects, while graduates of English immersion programs often reached a plateau in English and performed consistently worse in other subject areas.
But the public school system in California has not caught up with such findings. English language learners as a group continue to perform worse than their English-fluent peers on every measure of academic success. On the 2015 state assessments only 5 percent of eighth grade English language learners met English standards for their grade level and none exceeded those standards. Statewide, 45 percent of students met or exceeded the eighth grade English standards. In math, merely 6 percent of English learner eighth graders met or exceed standards compared with 33 percent statewide.
Scores for California fourth graders were similarly poor. Twelve percent of English language learners met or exceeded standards in English and 11 percent did so in math.
Back in San Diego, Sherman students blew those numbers out of the water. Forty-nine percent of English language learner fourth graders at Sherman met or exceeded the English standards as measured on the 2015 Common Core-aligned tests.
Overall, Sherman students, who are 84 percent low-income and 74 percent English learners, performed on par with their peers in the San Diego district, including English-fluent children. English language learners in third, fourth and fifth grade at Sherman did as well as (third grade) or better than (fourth and fifth grade) English language learners in the rest of the city on the English portion of the exam.
In Sherman’s front office, there is a sign that reads, “To have a second language, is to have a second soul.”
But speaking a second language is not enough to make a strong bilingual teacher, said Edward Caballero, the school’s principal. Caballero remembers being certified to teach Spanish in the late 1990s after a “two-minute conversation” with the Spanish department head at the University of San Diego. (There are bilingual certification tests now, and several prescribed courses teachers must take.)
“I grew up speaking Spanish from birth, but I didn’t learn how to read and write [in Spanish] until high school and college,” he said. “For the whole grammar piece that I was supposed to teach, I was behind.”
That’s a common situation. Many bilingual teachers today grew up speaking Spanish, or another native language, at home, but spent the vast majority of their school years reading, speaking and writing in English. For most, earning their teaching degrees was no different. Nearly every teaching course offered in the Cal State system is taught in English. And early literacy courses focus on teaching children to read English. That can be a bit of a disaster when translated to a class on how to read in another language.
“They try to teach Spanish with English strategies,” said Francisco Perez-Duque, the language coordinator at Sherman, who is from Spain. “It’s like if you wanted to teach Chinese with English strategies. It’s not the same. It doesn’t work.”
Caballero and Perez-Duque met when Caballero was a fifth grade teacher at a bilingual charter school just outside San Diego called Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School. At the time, the staff was teaching reading using sight words, patterns, and other English-based strategies. When Perez-Duque arrived, he convinced the school’s leadership to shift to teaching Spanish using phonetics, the same way it’s taught in Spain. He also started teaching the teachers Spanish grammar.
“The success came in the first year after the change,” Caballero said. The experience convinced him that teaching Spanish the Spanish way was the only way to ensure his students would the develop the strong early literacy skills he knew would benefit them — in both Spanish and English — later on. When he started Sherman’s program, in the face of some skepticism from the district, Caballero knew there was no room for failure. So he didn’t waste any time. He hired Perez-Duque and after school Spanish grammar sessions for teachers started immediately.
WestEd’s Spycher said Caballero was right to invest in Spanish-language training for teachers and to use teaching methods proven to work for Spanish. In the 1990s, she said, “there was a myth that bilingual education failed. It’s not that bilingual education failed. It’s just that what people implemented failed.”
In many cases, poorly trained teachers ended up with groups of English language learners who weren’t taught academic Spanish, weren’t taught math, history, or other subjects in Spanish and who never transitioned into the English classes in which such subjects were taught. Unz pointed to this state of affairs, which he said was unfair to the Spanish-speaking students, repeatedly during his 1998 campaign to eliminate bilingual education in the state.
And despite the new requirements for bilingual certification, there is still some concern about whether California’s current certification standards are high enough to prepare teachers for success in the classroom. Though most aspiring bilingual teachers do take courses on how to teach English language learners, only a few schools offer such classes in Spanish. In part, that’s because it’s very difficult to find qualified university faculty.
When Cristina Alfaro, chair of the San Diego State University Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education, conducted a faculty search a few years back, she had 20 applicants, only six of whom she felt met the basic job requirements. Of those, only two had both the language skills and the content knowledge she felt her prospective teachers needed.
San Diego State University has one of the most productive and highly regarded bilingual teacher programs in the state. “Right now, in the state of California, I don’t think there’s another program that credentials as many teachers as we do,” Alfaro said. “I want our program to be nationally recognized.”
It has been a fight to keep the program open, though. With budget cuts constantly threatening the California State University system, which prepares the majority of the state’s new bilingual teachers, and bilingual teaching rendered a risky field under Prop 227, such programs aren’t exactly university darlings, Alfaro said.
Plus, the quality of bilingual prep programs varies greatly.
“There are pockets of excellence—places that are doing a beautiful job in some aspects of preparing teachers,” said Spycher, who taught bilingual education in the 1990s and later served on the education school faculty at University of California Davis. “But systemically, there needs to be a major shift.”
The state has taken some steps towards creating policies that better address the needs of English language learners. Funding aimed at improving services for these students increased in 2013 for the first time in years under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, which allocates districts extra money per English learner student. The California Department of Education also adopted new standards for English language development and wrote guidebooks for teachers, describing best practices for teaching English language learners.
However, little has been done to attract young, new teachers to the field. “We’re wasting a whole generation of potential there,” Spycher said.
Even without widespread support, many California students do graduate in full command of two languages. In 2015, 31,816 graduating seniors earned the State Seal of Biliteracy, which was adopted in 2011 and requires students to prove a thorough command of writing, speaking and understanding a second language at a 12th grade academic level. Spycher and others think there should be incentives offered to such students to convince them to pursue a career in teaching.
California faces a statewide teacher shortage, not just a bilingual teacher shortage. And many of the challenges to hiring and keeping great people in these jobs are the same: low pay, high turnover, large classes and needy students from struggling families. But bilingual teaching is a particularly demanding version of the job. Bilingual teachers often end up with the (usually unpaid) extra duty of translator when other teachers or school administrators want to meet with students’ families. And for those teaching in a foreign language as part of a dual language program, the extra work that comes with planning lessons for a wide range of language abilities can be significant.
“A lot of people did it because they were committed,” Gandara said. “A lot of other people said, ‘Hey, this is too much.’”
On top of the extra responsibilities, bilingual teachers also have to overcome decades of prejudice against foreign language speakers, said Alfaro, who remembers being made to wear donkey ears at age five when she came to kindergarten speaking only Spanish. As an adult, Alfaro sought out her former teacher to ask why she’d been put through such a humiliating experience. “I really believed the only way children in this community could be successful was if they learned their English and forgot their Spanish,” Alfaro said the teacher told her.
At Chula Vista Learning Community Charter, a dual language K-12 school near the Mexican border, that idea is anathema to both teachers and students. Here, speaking multiple languages is prized. In addition to Spanish and English, students can also take classes in Mandarin. Jazmin Rodriguez, a junior, said learning multiple languages allows her to read literature from other cultures. Victor Gomez, a senior, said speaking three languages (Spanish, English and now Mandarin) makes him feel he’s going to have a real advantage in the job market. And several students pointed out, proudly, that it is far harder to learn two languages well than to just learn one.
“When you take a class in Spanish, it makes you learn a whole lot more Spanish,” said Cherish Miranda, a junior who spoke only a little Spanish at home before starting classes at the Chula Vista charter school. “It makes the homework harder. I cried the first time I took a test. But it makes you smarter if you challenge yourself.”
To achieve any of these benefits for more of its students, California educators must first find a way to better train far more bilingual teachers. And if the ballot measure revising Prop 227 passes in November, they’d better do it fast.
The post Battle of bilingual education once again brewing in California appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
A third of the world’s population is at risk of catching the Zika virus, according to a new study led by scientists at Oxford University in England.
The study does not guarantee that this number of people will actually contract the mosquito-borne virus, which was causally linked last week to microcephaly and other birth defects. Instead, the researchers combine climate data, mosquito prevalence and the socioeconomic makeup of each region to chart the likelihood of the disease getting a foothold in a particular location. In three maps published today in the journal eLife, the team charts the past, present and future of this mosquito-borne virus.
“Our findings that a global area inhabited by over 2.7 billion people is highly suitable for transmission of Zika virus…emphasize why the World Health Organization has declared the current outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” epidemiologist and study co-author David Pigott from Seattle’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said in a statement.
Earlier prediction maps by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health researchers focused on the locations of the mosquitoes responsible for transmitting the virus. So far, researchers have found 19 species of Aedes mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika virus, but the most common is the tropical pirate, Aedes aegypti. Plus in the relatively recent past, its cousin — the tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus — has blossomed, expanding its range globally.
Based on mosquito location alone, much of the U.S. would be at risk during this summer’s mosquito season, but Messina and her colleagues offer an alternative scenario. The researchers argue that only Florida and Texas are suitable for high levels of Zika transmission because of their population density and climate. Mosquito-borne viruses fester in urban areas, where they can quickly hop between the insects and humans.
That’s why, according to the new study, Brazil’s coastal cities have been hit hard by the virus, while central Brazil and its low densities of people and mosquitoes have been somewhat spared.
“We have comprehensively assembled all the data for Zika occurrence in humans, displayed it as a map and combined it with detailed predictions of where the virus could spread next,” University of Oxford epidemiologist and lead author Janey Messina said in a statement.
Climate plays a deciding role because of temperature and rainfall, and on this point, the researchers make an assumption. Mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika are like pies. The viruses need a certain amount of time inside mosquitoes at a precise temperature and humidity before they can infect humans. Scientists haven’t resolved this climate suitability window for Zika virus, but these conditions are well known for its cousin, Dengue. Dengue virus needs 10 consistent days of balmy weather to incubate inside a mosquito before becoming infectious.
By taking this temperature restriction and mixing it with what’s known about how Zika virus spreads in urban and rural habitats, the team paints a picture of possible locations for future outbreaks.
The potential risk is high in Sub-Saharan Africa, namely in the Democratic Republic of Congo, its surrounding areas and West African nations like Nigeria. India has 400 million people living in coastal and northeast areas that are suitable for Zika, based on the findings, though the country has yet to record a case. China and Oceania, likewise, harbor large regions of possible breeding grounds for Zika, while only the northernmost parts of Australia might suit the virus.
It’s unclear if these areas could also suffer from high levels of microcephaly or other neurological conditions linked to Zika. So far, only Brazil has witnessed a large number of Zika-mediated microcephaly cases (1,113). Fewer than 30 cases have been confirmed throughout the rest of the Americas.
Regardless, public health officials may use the new maps to prepare for the future.
“Our global risk map reveals priority regions where authorities could intervene to control the vector population and where surveillance of the virus should be concentrated in order to improve rapid outbreak response and clinical diagnosis,” Messina said.
The post Map: Do you live in an area where Zika could strike? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan is reserving judgment on bipartisan legislation to allow the families of Sept. 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for any role that elements of Saudi regime may have played in the attack.
Ryan said Tuesday that lawmakers need to review the bill “to make sure that we’re not making mistakes with our allies.” President Barack Obama strongly opposes the legislation. Obama is traveling to Saudi Arabia Wednesday.
“The White House is opposed to it. It’s received some opposition here. We’re going to let these things work the process,” Ryan said. He noted that the White House is sure to promise a veto and “we’ll see where it goes from there.”
The White House says it opposes the bill because it could expose Americans overseas to legal risk.
“If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” Obama said in an interview with CBS News.
Obama’s visit promises to address a host of issues concerning the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, a key ally in fighting terrorism and bolstering stability in the region. The Saudis have long pushed, with no success, for more aggressive U.S. military action to counter Iran in Syria and Iraq.
Ryan said the legislation on Sept. 11 victims did not come up when he met with Saudi officials on a trip to the Middle East.
Senior senators in both parties, such as Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Charles Schumer of New York, support the legislation. Schumer broke with Obama on last year’s nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, which was also strongly opposed by Republicans.
AP Diplomatic Writer Matt Lee contributed to this report.
The post Ryan won’t back bill allowing 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
This has been an unusually big week for New York politics. The Empire State is holding its first competitive presidential primaries in decades — and three of the five remaining candidates have legitimate New York roots.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are poised to win their home state by solid margins. But while the final results may not be that close — especially on the Republican side — there are still some interesting twists to follow as voters head to the polls today.
Trump’s 50 percent problem
Donald Trump is all but assured to win the New York Republican primary. Trump entered today leading Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 30-plus points in the polls. Kasich and Cruz barely campaigned in the state in the days leading up to primary, all but ceding New York to Trump, who was born in Queens and lives in Manhattan.
But Trump needs to capture at least 50 percent of the vote in order to receive a majority of the state’s 95 delegates. Trump currently has 744 delegates, roughly 200 more than Cruz (and 600 more than Kasich). At this point in the race, Trump needs every delegate he can get to have a shot at winning the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the party’s nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in July.
To clear 50 percent of the vote, Trump will need to win congressional districts in New York City and perform well in conservative counties in upstate New York. It won’t be easy: Trump has yet to win 50 percent of the vote in any GOP primary or caucus. The closest he’s come so far was in Massachusetts, where he captured 49.3 percent of the vote.
Can Clinton run up the score?
New York is a big state for Clinton and Sanders, for different reasons. Clinton represented the state in the Senate for eight years, and lives in the Westchester suburb of Chappaqua. This is her home state (though Clinton also has roots in Arkansas and Illinois), a place where she can showcase the loyalty and support she’s built up over the years.
A double-digit win for Clinton would add to her already sizable delegate lead, and nearly put the nomination out of reach for Sanders. He entered the New York primary with a 600-plus deficit in pledged and superdelegates. Clinton has led Sanders by more than 10 points in most statewide polls leading up to Tuesday’s vote.
But Sanders has closed the gap before, resulting in surprisingly close races in states like Iowa where he was not expected to be very competitive. The Clinton camp is hoping to avoid that this time around, and has brought out all the stops to ensure a solid performance on Tuesday. A victory would also end Sanders’ recent hot streak: he has won seven out of the last eight Democratic primaries and caucuses.
Does crowd size translate to turnout?
New York was always going to be a tough primary for Sanders, given Clinton’s close ties to the state. Sanders grew up in Brooklyn, but he left the borough more than five decades ago and has represented Vermont in Congress since the 1980s. Nevertheless, Sanders is hoping for a solid second-place finish driven by a large turnout among young voters in New York City, the state’s most reliably liberal area.
In the past week alone, Sanders has drawn more than 25,000 supporters to two New York City rallies — one in Washington Square Park, and the other in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Sunday. Those crowds dwarfed the size of Clinton’s rallies around the state in the past week.
But will the same people who showed up in Prospect Park to hear Sanders speak on a sunny weekend afternoon go out and vote on Tuesday? In 2008, Barack Obama drew huge crowds around the country — and shattered Democratic primary turnout records in the process.
That year, nearly 1.9 million people voted in New York’s Democratic primary. Roughly 670,000 people voted in the Republican primary in 2008.
Ted Cruz vs. ‘New York values’
Cruz shot himself in the foot back in January when he criticized “New York values” at a GOP debate in South Carolina. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but fast-forward three months and it has become clear that Cruz is deeply unpopular with Republican voters across the state, both in New York City and conservative, rural counties upstate.
To be sure, New York was never Ted Cruz country. Trump is a well-known figure in New York, and the state’s Republican voters tend to be less conservative than Cruz. So a massive loss to Trump wouldn’t be a surprise.
But Cruz is still vying for the Republican nomination, despite his sizable delegate disadvantage. To beat Trump, he’ll need to persuade delegates at the RNC in Cleveland that he has national appeal and can win moderate and independent voters in the general election. Criticizing New Yorkers and then suffering a blowout loss here won’t help his cause.
The disappearing John Kasich
John Kasich has been all but absent from the New York primary discussion. The Ohio governor made a campaign stop in Queens last week, and has held other events around the state. But he entered Tuesday trailing Trump by more than 30 points in the state, and the primary map doesn’t look any better for him in the next few weeks.
Trump has a comfortable lead over Kasich (and Cruz) in the polls in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and other states with upcoming contests. So far, Kasich has only won his home state of Ohio. He has vowed to remain in the race. But the New York primary showed that Kasich has increasingly become a footnote in Trump and Cruz’s battle for the nomination.
WASHINGTON — The rules governing this summer’s Republican presidential nominating convention will be made by that gathering’s delegates, not a small group of GOP leaders, the chairman of the Republican National Committee told House GOP lawmakers on Tuesday.
While not new, Reince Priebus’ remarks reflect an effort by GOP leaders to blunt criticism from presidential front-runner Donald Trump and some grassroots Republicans. They have accused the party establishment of using the rules to try derailing Trump’s candidacy and wanting to open the door to a fresh candidate emerging from this July’s convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
“He is making sure that the rules are the rules, that we follow the rules,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who like Priebus is from Wisconsin. “These are the kinds of questions we’re getting from our own constituents. And so what Reince wanted to do is simply walk members through the process as we’re going into it.”
Ryan, his party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, has often been mentioned as a possible presidential nominee should the Cleveland convention be gridlocked. He has said he will not accept the nomination.
Trump has complained that GOP rules are rigged against him at a time when his chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has aggressively recruited delegates from several states who would vote for Cruz if Trump falls short on the convention’s first ballot of the 1,237 needed to capture the nomination.
Priebus has said the rules governing the party’s nominating battle have existed for a long time and has denied that they have given Trump an unfair disadvantage.
“He said all decisions will be made by delegates at the convention, not by some smaller group of leaders in Washington or somewhere else,” said Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., who attended Tuesday’s meeting at the party’s national headquarters near the Capitol.
Some of the 168 members of the Republican National Committee want to change the convention rules to make it harder for party leaders to allow new presidential candidates to be nominated.
The RNC can recommend rules changes, but none take effect unless they’re approved by the 2,472 convention delegates. Party leaders gather later this week in Florida to discuss whether to propose revamping any rules.
Associated Press reporter Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.
The post GOP leader, House Republicans meet on convention rules appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The steel pan’s history began thousands of miles away from Austin.
The instrument originated in Trinidad, where French plantation owners landed in the 18th century, bringing African slaves with them. The island became a British colony in 1797, and in 1881, British authorities tried to ban percussion among slaves, prompting the creation of alternate instruments like the Tamboo-Bamboo.
After that, too, was banned in 1934, the steel pan — an instrument made from metal containers — rose in popularity as part of Trinidadian street festival culture. Now, the Austin Community Steelband carries some of this history forward among its students.
The school provides free classes and transportation for low-income students in the Austin area, according to Paula Beaird, executive director/founder of Austin Community Steelband.
“We focus on areas and schools where the kids don’t have the opportunity for private music instruction,” she said. “It’s a way to give kids opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Roman Rhone, a student in the program, said the program was unique in the area. “When I tell people around I play steel drums, they say oh, that’s pretty cool, because not a lot of people hear about the steel drums,” he said.
Video produced by Eve Tarlo. This report originally appeared on PBS member station KLRU. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.
The post How learning steel pan helps Austin’s underserved youth appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
UnitedHealthcare will operate only in a “handful” of health insurance exchanges in 2017, down from 34 states this year, company officials said Tuesday.
The company did not provide the anticipated details in its first-quarter earnings announcement released Tuesday morning or in a subsequent teleconference with securities analysts. But a spokesman confirmed Nevada and Virginia would be among the states where it will retain a presence. In the past week, UnitedHealthcare said it would leave Georgia, Michigan, and Arkansas.
UnitedHealth Group, the parent company, warned in November it was considering quitting most marketplaces because of escalating losses on the Obamacare plans. The company on Tuesday said it lost $475 million last year from the marketplace plans and was on target to lose $650 million in 2016.
UnitedHealth is the nation’s largest health insurer overall, but it’s not the biggest in the individual insurance markets that the exchanges serve.
Even so, UnitedHealth’s plan to dramatically curtail involvement in the exchanges would severely limit competition in parts or all of about 10 states — mostly in the South and Midwest, according to an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) That could mean higher premiums for consumers in states and counties left with only one or two insurers, unless another company enters those markets. Oklahoma and Kansas would be left with only one insurer if UnitedHealthcare pulls out.
Obama administration officials sought to play down the impact of the UnitedHealth’s announcement saying the company was not the lowest-cost plan in many of the biggest states. For example, at least 95 percent of the populations of Florida, Illinois and Ohio live in a county where they could find a cheaper plan this year, an administration spokesman said.
So far, UnitedHealthcare is the only large carrier to announce it will leave the marketplaces in multiple states.
“We have full confidence, based on data, that the marketplaces will continue to thrive for years ahead,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “The marketplace should be judged by the choices it offers consumers, not the decisions of any one issuer.”
United officials said they were unwilling to keep losing money.
“The smaller overall market size and shorter term, higher-risk profile within this market segment continue to suggest we cannot broadly serve it on an effective and sustained basis,” CEO Stephen Hemsley said in a conference call with investors Tuesday.
“Next year, we will remain in only a handful of states, and we will not carry financial exposure from exchanges into 2017,” Hemsley said.
He confirmed Harken Health, the company’s subsidiary that markets a boutique-style health plan, would continue next year. It currently operates in Atlanta and Chicago.
Despite the Obamacare losses, the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based company made $1.6 billion in net income on $44.5 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2016. During the same period last year, UnitedHealth Group made $1.4 billion in net income on $35.8 billion in revenue.
This story was originally published by Kaiser Health News. 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.
The post UnitedHealthcare to exit all but ‘handful’ of Obamacare markets appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court Tuesday to uphold a federal law aimed at people who have been convicted of repeated acts of domestic violence on Indian lands.
The case argued at the high court tests whether the law and its stiff prison terms can be used against defendants who did not have lawyers in earlier domestic violence convictions in tribal courts.
The U.S. appeals court in San Francisco threw out a 46-month federal prison term for defendant Michael Bryant Jr. because his earlier domestic violence convictions were handled without a lawyer in tribal courts on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana.
Several justices seemed skeptical of the argument of Bryant’s lawyer, Steven Babcock. Bryant never challenged his earlier convictions or prison sentences of up to a year. Congress has put limits on prison terms imposed by tribal courts.
“So if it’s a valid conviction, why can’t you use it?” Justice Stephen Breyer asked.
Babcock said the use of the earlier convictions in prosecuting Bryant on new charges violated his constitutional right to a lawyer.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees an attorney for criminal defendants in state and federal courts. Under the Indian Civil Rights Act, defendants have the right to hire their own attorneys in tribal court but are not guaranteed that one will be retained by the court for them.
Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Prelogar said Congress, in 2005, provided for prosecutions in federal court and lengthier penalties for repeat offenders “in response to the epidemic of domestic violence in Indian Country.”
Bryant has more than 100 tribal court convictions on his record, including five domestic violence convictions between 1997 and 2007, the government said. In 1999, he attempted to strangle his live-in girlfriend and hit her over the head with a beer bottle, the government said. In 2007, Bryant beat up his girlfriend and kneed her in the face, breaking her nose, the government said.
In 2011, federal agents arrested him under the law at issue on charges he beat two women in the span of several months.
Prelogar said the appeals court was wrong to rule in favor of defendants like Bryant “who have abused and battered their intimate partners again and again.”
A decision in U.S. v. Bryant, 15-420, is expected by late June.
The post Supreme Court weighs law aimed at domestic violence on tribal lands appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Senate approved a bipartisan aviation policy bill Tuesday that would boost airport security, extend new protections to airline passengers and help speed the introduction of package-delivery drones.
The bill, passed on a vote of 95-3, would also extend the Federal Aviation Administration’s programs and powers through Oct. 1, 2017. That authority is due to expire July 15.
A few hours before the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the legislation “will make important strides for our national security and for travelers. It does so without increasing fees or taxes on passengers. It does so without imposing heavy-handed regulations that can stifle consumers’ choice.”
The House, bogged down in a dispute over whether to privatize air traffic control operations, must still act. Airlines have been pressing for privatization, arguing that the FAA’s culture is too slow and inflexible to finish the air traffic system’s transition from old radar technology to satellites. The modernization has dragged on for more than a decade and fallen short of promised financial benefits and reduced congestion.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the bill’s chief sponsor, decided to sidestep the issue given strong opposition scheme from Democrats and powerful GOP committee chairmen reluctant to cede a large share of Congress’ authority over aviation to a private, non-profit corporation.
The bill written by Thune, the Senate Commerce committee chairman, and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the panel’s senior Democrat, targets aviation safety, security and consumer concerns in ways broadly supported by both parties. He is pitching the measure to House members as a way to make important policy changes without waiting for the privatization question to be sorted out, which might not happen this year.
Thune highlights the bill as the friendliest for airline consumers in a generation. Airlines would have to refund checked bag fees to passengers whose luggage is lost or arrives more than six hours after a domestic flight has landed and more than 12 hours after an international flight has landed. Fees for services not delivered, such as advance seat assignments or early boarding, would also have to be refunded.
Airlines’ disclosure of fees for checked bags, seat assignments and ticket changes or cancellations would be standardized so that consumers can more easily compare prices as they shop for tickets. Airlines would also have to inform passengers traveling with children at the time of ticketing if they are unable to seat them together.
The provisions were opposed by the airline industry. Nick Calio, president of the trade association Airlines for America, said they “would take a step backward to pre-1978 regulation polices and make it more difficult for consumers to afford to fly.”
Missing from the bill, though, was a Democratic amendment the Senate rejected that would have barred airlines from further shrinking the size of seats and required the FAA to set minimum dimensions for passenger space.
Responding to last month’s attack in Brussels and the destruction of a Russian airliner by a suspected bomb last year, several security-related provisions were added:
—Authorizing an increase from 30 up to 60 in the number of government “viper teams” that stop and search suspicious passengers in airport public areas that are outside the security perimeter, often using bomb-sniffing dogs.
—Requiring the Transportation Security Administration to use private companies to market and enroll more people in its PreCheck program while ensuring PreCheck screening lanes are open during high-volume travel times. The aim is to reduce crowds waiting for security screening by vetting more passengers before they arrive to get them through checkpoints faster.
—Enhancing the vetting of airport employees who have access to secure areas, expanding random inspections of employees and reviewing perimeter security.
—Requiring secondary barriers on all new passenger airliners to keep unauthorized people from gaining access when a pilot opens the cockpit door. The wife of a pilot killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks led the lobbying effort to require the barriers.
The bill also would remove obstacles to commercial use of drones while enhancing privacy and safety protections. It requires that within two years the FAA authorize package-deliveries by drones. The agency would create a small drone “air carrier certificate” for operators of delivery drone fleets similar to the safety certificates granted to commercial airlines. The rules are needed for Amazon and other companies to deploy fleets of delivery drones.
Another provision would establish criminal penalties for the reckless use of drones, aimed at penalizing operators who fly drones near airports without prior approval. Another provision requiring TSA to restore passenger screening at small airports where airline service has been reduced would force the agency “to reallocate staff and equipment from higher-risk, higher-need facilities,” the White House said in a statement.
The White House criticized the bill’s delivery-drone language as “overly prescriptive” and said it would disrupt the agency’s ongoing efforts to write safety regulations for commercial drone flights.
The post Senate passes bill that would boost airport security appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
An appeals court ruled on Tuesday in favor of a transgender student who says that his school violated anti-discrimination laws by not allowing him to use the bathroom that matches his gender.Gavin Grimm, now a junior at Gloucester High School in Virginia, transitioned to male during his sophomore year. The school allowed him to use the men’s bathroom for seven weeks and change his name in the school record, decisions that did not receive opposition from other students, The Guardian reported.
But parental complaints and a series of public meetings, where some attendees called Grimm a “young lady” and a “freak,” pressured the district to reverse its decision. Grimm sued the Gloucester Country school board in a lower court last fall and is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Tuesday’s ruling reverses the lower court’s ruling and sends it back for a rehearing, according to the Washington Post.[Watch Video]
The ruling falls in line with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, which covers discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. The Department of Education released official guidance in 2014 stating that under that law, students must be allowed to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
“Today’s fourth circuit decision is a vindication for Gavin and a reinforcement of the Department of Education’s policy,” Joshua Block, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “With this decision, we hope that schools and legislators will finally get the message that excluding transgender kids from the restrooms is unlawful sex discrimination.”
This marks the first time a federal appeals court has addressed the topic of how Title IX relates to transgender students in school bathrooms. The fourth circuit also covers North Carolina, the state that passed HB 2 in March. The bill, which mandates that people use public bathrooms that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth, has received backlash from public figures and advocates for the LGBTQ community since it passed.
The post Court rules in favor of transgender student in bathroom case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff has spent every week, for over three years, answering questions about what is likely your largest financial asset — your Social Security benefits. His Social Security columns have prompted so many of you to write in that we feature “Ask Larry” every Monday. Find a complete list of his columns here. And keep sending us your Social Security questions.
Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His book, “Get What’s Yours — the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published before the changes from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 went into effect. The three authors are now doing an overhaul of the book. The new version of “Get What’s Yours” should be out this spring.
Kotlikoff has been keeping readers updated on how the budget act changes a number of Social Security rules with “This is not how you fix Social Security,” “Congress is pulling the rug out from people’s retirement decisions” and “12 secrets to maximizing your Social Security benefits under the new rules,” as well as his answers to viewer questions. We’ll continue publishing updates on what this new law means for you. Stay tuned.
If your optimal Social Security lifetime benefit maximization strategy requires you or your spouse to file for retirement benefits and immediately suspend them by April 29, make sure you do so! I just received an email from a 67-year-old gentleman who just learned about the new Social Security law and asked me if he needed to file and suspend before April 30 to permit his wife to collect about $60,000 over the next four years starting in July. I explained that was absolutely the case, and if he doesn’t meet this deadline by even a second, he will lose $60,000.
I hope that all of you reading this column have a Social Security maximization plan in place. I have a terrible feeling that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are going to miss this deadline, because they were uninformed about the new law and its incredibly nasty and totally unfair deadline.
If you don’t have a clear plan in place, please review my columns (post Nov. 2) and run highly accurate Social Security benefit maximization software to figure out what to do. If you are between 66 and 70 and you should file and suspend, you’d do best, I believe, to camp out in your local office for a day. When you do see a representative, make sure they fill out a retirement benefit application that requests benefits effective on the date you go in, and in the Remarks section of that form, make sure that it clearly states that you wish to suspend your retirement benefit effective the same date.
You can do this online as well, but it is rather confusing. The online form will ask you, “What date should benefits start?” Enter April 2016. Right below, it will also ask you if you want to delay receipt of retirement benefits and just take spousal benefits. Answer “no” to this question, because you are trying to give your spouse spousal benefits, but you’re not trying to take spousal benefits for yourself. Finally, you must specify in the Remarks section that you want to file for your retirement benefit effective April 2016 and also suspend it effective April 2016.
Do not mess this up! Tell everyone you know who is between 66 and 70 to make sure they know what their Social Security plan is before April 29. Bear in mind that Social Security has systematically misinformed its staff about the new law and has provided no warnings to the public that they need to determine if the deadline applies to them.
Judy – Pittsburgh, Pa.: My husband is 66 and has had higher earnings throughout his career. I am 64, and we have been married for 40 years. We are both still employed and plan on working until we are 70. As a result of the new law, I believe my husband has until April 2016 to enroll and immediately suspend his Social Security benefits. Would I be able to wait until I am 66 to claim spousal benefits? Would I be able to claim them now at a reduced amount?
Larry Kotlikoff: Your husband needs to file and suspend before April 30. That’s only 10 days from now! See what I wrote above. You must not file for anything until you reach 66, and then once you do, you should file for just your spousal benefit. When you are 70, you should file for your retirement benefit, and when your husband turns 70, he should restart his retirement benefit.
Felicia – Saline, Mich.: My mother is 66 and recently had a heart attack. She has damage to her heart, and doctors say that even in an ideal situation after recovery, she will no longer be able to work. She started taking Social Security at 62 and receives $777 per month. She worked part time this year making an extra $150 per week. She has about $55,000 in a 401(k) and receives $150 from a pension. She has no real estate and a vehicle worth probably $4,000. She has about $15,000 in debt. What is the next best step for us to ensure she lives comfortably? We will also have to find her new living arrangements upon her release from hospital. If we cannot get her into low-income housing at $450 a month, we will be looking at a $700 to $800 per month payment. Will the 401(k) balance discount her ability to obtain Social Security disability? Will we be able to get her Supplemental Security Income increased?
Larry Kotlikoff: Your mom is too old to collect disability benefits, and I don’t know if she can collect more in Supplemental Security Income benefits. Most likely, the best thing to do is to have her live with you and share resources. The second best thing is to use the remaining funds she has to effectively buy her entrance into a good assisted living facility with an associated nursing home, which will take Medicaid funding when her money runs out. I’m very sorry to hear about her situation. I know far too much from personal experience about what you are going through.
Rose – Pinson, Alabama: I want to apply for divorced spousal benefits when I turn 66 and apply for my own Social Security benefits when I turn 70. I will turn 66 in 2018. Will I still be able to do this considering the changes in the benefit disbursement laws that were signed by Obama in November?
Larry Kotlikoff: Yes, you can do this. You are grandfathered. I presume that you were married at least a decade before getting divorced. That’s critical.
Craig – Conroe, Texas: Like many Americans, I have bounced around and had quite a few jobs in a couple of states. I currently have enough credits to actually qualify for a Teacher Retirement System pension in Texas. However, due to my lack of years of service the amount will be less than 50 percent of what I make now. I am considering moving closer to my family out West, and should I do that and work another 10 years, I should have around 23 years or more of contributions to Social Security. Someone mentioned that may qualify me to reduce the penalty that is imposed by the Windfall Elimination Provision. Clearly, we struggle to live off of a teacher salary now, and I cannot fathom attempting to live off of half that a decade from now. Could you explain how this works when individuals have multiple careers and receive a state pension where Social Security benefits are not taken out? Also, could I receive my state of Texas retirement benefits starting in 2019 at around age 55 (at $3,000 a month), work in the private sector, contribute into Social Security for a decade or so and then apply for Social Security benefits?
Larry Kotlikoff: Regardless of when you take your Teacher Retirement System pension, you can work in the covered sector and potentially mitigate the Windfall Elimination Provision. It may be best to take your Teacher Retirement System pension later if delaying its receipts makes it start at a higher level, because the Windfall Elimination Provision doesn’t take place until you actually start receiving your non-covered pension. In addition, the Government Pension Office provision doesn’t kick in until then. If you are married or are divorced (having been married for 10 or more years), you may be able to collect a spousal or divorced spousal benefit. The Government Pension Office reduces your spousal or divorced spousal benefits by two-thirds of the amount of your pension. I think you need to start using a highly accurate Social Security benefit maximization program that can show you exactly what were to happen were you to spend the next 10 years working in the covered sector. You should also consider continuing to work at your current job to boost your Teacher Retirement System pension. That may be the better route to maximizing your lifetime spending power.
Mike – Vineland, N.J.: My mother passed in 2002, and my father never applied for the widower benefits. She was 66 at the time. He is now 85. Can he get this benefit?
Larry Kotlikoff: If she was the lower earner, probably not. If she was the higher earner, he may be able to add an excess widower benefit. You can either check with Social Security or run online software that figures out the excess widower benefit your father can receive.
Sally – Denver, Colorado: I have been following your columns about the recent Social Security changes, but I am still a little confused as to our own situation. I understand there is a six month grandfather period until April 29, 2016. However, my husband and I recently turned 65 and 64 in November 2015. On November 3, 2016, he turns 66, and three days, later I turn 65. Do we have any options to take spousal benefits at all, or are we out of luck due to our birthdates? I am wondering if I should file for my benefits before my full retirement age sometime before April 29, 2016 — even though I’ll be taking about $250 less per month for life (about $1,400 of my full $1,650 due). Then at his full retirement age in November, he can file for one-half spousal benefits, with the intention to wait until 70 to file for his own benefits. His benefits are higher than mine at the full retirement age. Would he have to file and suspend after full retirement age for his own benefits or not file for his own benefits at all? Would this strategy work for us, or is it foreclosed by the new changes? I would appreciate hearing your answer. I appreciate the information you have published regarding these Social Security issues.
Larry Kotlikoff: The April 29 deadline does not apply to you. Unfortunately, you are both too young to pursue the standard file and suspend strategy. Your second strategy in which you take your retirement benefit early and have your husband collect just a spousal benefit between 66 and 70 may be best. Or it may be best for him to take his retirement benefit sometime before 70 to permit you to just collect a spousal benefit through age 70. On the other hand, it might be best until 70 to collect your retirement benefits. What’s optimal is a very complex calculation.
The post Just 10 days left to meet Social Security’s April 29 deadline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks say they are “greatly distressed” that the Obama administration is working to derail legislation giving them the right to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the attack.
“Your place in history should not be marked by a campaign to foreclose the judicial process as a venue in which the truth can be found,” more than a dozen relatives of Sept. 11 victims wrote to President Barack Obama.
The family members also urged Obama to permit the declassification and release of U.S. intelligence bearing on the topic of possible Saudi involvement in the attacks.
At issue is a bill that would allow victims’ families to hold the Saudi government liable in U.S. court.
House Speaker Paul Ryan tiptoed into the swelling controversy Tuesday, telling reporters that lawmakers need to review the bill “to make sure that we’re not making mistakes with our allies.” Obama is traveling to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday as part of an overseas trip.
“The White House is opposed to it. It’s received some opposition here. We’re going to let these things work the process,” said Ryan, R-Wis.
The White House said it is opposed to the bill because it could expose Americans overseas to legal risk and could damage the U.S. relationship with the Saudi government. The Kingdom has threatened to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if the legislation is enacted.
“If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” Obama said in an interview with CBS News.
Obama’s visit to Riyadh promises to address a host of issues concerning the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, a key ally in fighting terrorism and bolstering stability in the region. The Saudis have long pushed, with no success, for more aggressive U.S. military action to counter Iran in Syria and Iraq.
Top bill sponsor John Cornyn, R-Texas, dismissed Obama’s objections to his Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.
“It makes minor adjustments to our laws to help Americans who are attacked on U.S. soil get justice from those who sponsor and facilitate that terrorist attack,” Cornyn said.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he’ll block the bill until he’s sure the legislation won’t boomerang on the United States.
“I’m asking questions about what does this mean because what we do could bite us later,” Graham said.
Graham, a retired Air Force lawyer and the chairman of the Senate subcommittee that controls foreign aid, said his concerns are rooted in the various groups the United States supports in the Middle East against the Islamic State and Assad.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, cited the Saudis’ threat to “unload hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.” He added that the Saudis are key U.S. allies in the fight again the Islamic State group and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“We need the relationship,” McCain said.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Intelligence committee, said he opposed the bill that has some 22 Senate co-sponsors.
Cornyn said Tuesday he has not discussed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whether he supports the bill and when McConnell may schedule it for consideration by the full Senate. But Cornyn said that’s unlikely to happen while Obama is in Saudi Arabia.
McConnell told reporters he is still looking at the legislation.
Beyond the bill, five senators are calling on Obama to press the Saudis during his visit on human rights issues and raise the cases of two imprisoned advocates when he visits Riyadh this week.
Marco Rubio, Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, James Risch and Ron Johnson sent a letter to Obama on Tuesday asking him to make the issue a prominent part of his trip. They said unless Obama makes human rights a priority, U.S.-Saudi relations will suffer.
AP Diplomatic Writer Matt Lee contributed to this report.
The post Sept. 11 families upset by White House effort to derail bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
With students gone for the day, sixth grade teachers Joy Ford and Ryan Rusk sat in a classroom discussing the Latin root temp. After determining that “contemporary” and “temporary” share the root, which refers to time, the two Woodlawn Elementary teachers then turned to the word “temptation.”
“I’m tempted to eat this chocolate,” said Ford. “That doesn’t have to do with time.”
“But if I’m tempted, I want it now,” responded Rusk. “So could it?”
Along with a half-dozen other K-6 teachers, the two were participating in a study group in which they meet weekly to learn how to incorporate Greek and Latin roots into their daily instruction. The group was doing a “word sort” activity from the book Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Vocabulary Building.
The theory behind teaching Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes, and bases, which some teachers are doing with children as young as first grade, is that it helps build vocabulary more quickly than learning definitions of individual words.
“A single root can generate over 100 words,” said Joanna Newton, the reading specialist at Woodlawn, who runs the professional-development group. “If you teach a kid even 10 roots over the course of a year, that’s like 1,000 words they can potentially unlock on their own.”
Teaching root words also gives students a way to play with language and see it as something they can reason through. “It makes them more aware of words, that words hold meaning, and that the language is purposeful,” said Emily Ulrich, a 4th grade teacher at Woodlawn, who has been using the approach for three years. “It gives them confidence, too, when they’re reading and they see parts of words they’re familiar with.”
The exchange between Ford and Rusk about temp (which, by the way, is not the root of temptation) mirrored the kinds of conversations the teachers were hoping to inspire in their own classrooms. And in many classrooms, it seems to be working—students are finding root words in their group and silent reading, chatting with their peers about what words could mean, and bringing words they’re curious about to class.
“It’s a paradigm shift in the way we teach vocabulary,” said Newton.
‘Breaking the Code’
A group of Ohio professors from Kent State University and the University of Akron—Timothy Rasinski, Nancy Padak, Rick M. Newton, and Evangeline Newton—wrote the 2008 book, Greek and Latin Roots, and designed an accompanying curriculum, which some teachers in Fairfax and other schools around the country are using. (Woodlawn’s Newton is the daughter of Rick and Evangeline Newton.)
According to Rasinski, a literacy education professor at Kent State, teaching young students about morphology (the study of word forms) and word patterns improves their ability to gain meaning from unfamiliar words, which helps with reading overall. “This is one of the most promising ways for developing word knowledge,” he said. “Anybody who’s ever taken Latin in high school sees how profoundly it’s affected English and can help build vocabulary.”
Latin class has long been a staple in high schools, but the idea of teaching Latin in elementary schools isn’t new either. In a 1984 Commentary piece for Education Week, Rudolph Masciantonio, then an administrator in the office of curriculum for the Philadelphia school district, wrote about efforts in Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and other cities to teach Latin to young students. “Educators have long believed that a pupil who knows the Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes has the keys to unlock the meaning of countless English derivatives and cognates,” he wrote.
However, some teachers using root words now say they don’t focus too much on the idea of introducing a whole new language, which can seem overwhelming. “I don’t think [students] see it as ‘I’m learning Latin,’ ” said Chris Schmidt, a 3rd-5th grade gifted education teacher in North Carolina’s Buncombe County district. He uses a program called Caesar’s English to teach vocabulary with Greek and Latin roots. “They see it more as a puzzle. ‘This is something I’m trying to figure out. There’s a code in here, and I’m trying to break that code.’ ”
In many traditional elementary classrooms, students get a list of words to master by the end of the week—perhaps 10 or 20. But in classes using Latin and Greek stems, students often only study one root word per week. From there, they build out dozens of words as a class, and students look for words on their own in other contexts. Many of the activities students do with those root words involve creativity and inquiry. A task called “odd word out,” designed by Rasinski and his colleagues, asks students to figure out which word is different in a set. Sometimes a set will include a word that doesn’t use the same root. But often, there is no clear right answer. For instance, students might see the words “precook,” “preheat,” “premixed,” and “pretest.” One student might say pretest is different because it doesn’t have to do with cooking. Another might choose premixed because it’s the only one with an -ed ending.
“The conversations students have with each other, that’s really that reasoning we’re after,” said Rosemary Floccari, an instructional coach for Akron public schools, who learned about the approach while taking courses at the University of Akron several years ago, and now leads professional development on it.
During a lesson on roots one morning, Ulrich asked her students to figure out the definitions of made-up words. She showed them a story she’d written in which the father was referred to as an “unporter” because he didn’t help bring the groceries inside the house. The students had learned that the prefix un meant not, and port meant to carry. Then Ulrich had students make up their own words using prefixes, suffixes, and roots they had learned.
“I wanted to reiterate that each of these parts hold meaning, and when you move them around it does affect the meaning of the word,” she said in an interview after the lesson.
Newton said that, while teachers shouldn’t use a steady diet of nonsense words, that kind of activity can make for an engaging and helpful review of learned roots. “We want to show the kids how those bases can connect, that they’re the building blocks of words,” she said.
Between 2014 and 2015, Woodlawn saw increases in its standardized test scores for reading, particularly at the grades in which most teachers were using Latin and Greek roots. (The percentage of 4th graders passing went up by 28 percent, and for 5th grade, it rose 19 percent.) However, Newton was reluctant to attribute the gains to the vocabulary approach, since it wasn’t formally required and because of the many other school factors that may have contributed.
The approach is seemingly in contrast to another vocabulary instructional method that’s gained prominence recently: teaching words in context, through thematic units that build background knowledge. Some reading experts, including those who helped write the Common Core State Standards, say the best way to learn new words is by learning about individual topics deeply.
Schmidt, the Buncombe County gifted education teacher, agrees that teaching in context is ideal, and he has students apply their roots in research projects. But overall, he said, learning roots individually is a timesaver.
“Sometimes, it’s just expediency,” he said. “One of the lasting things the kids take from Caesar’s English is the fact that when you learn one stem you have some knowledge of countless words, and that hooks them,” he said.
The common core does ask students to learn common Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots as part of its language standards starting in 3rd grade. But some educators say the vocabulary-building approach is useful even for students who are in the early stages of reading.
Diane MacBride, a veteran 1st grade teacher in the Akron school district, went to a professional-development session on teaching Latin and Greek roots three years ago and has been using the method ever since.
“I thought this would be a great way to develop the kids and help them take control of their learning,” she said. “Having conversations about words in 1st grade is huge. It’s amazing to watch.”
With her students, a root word often takes two weeks, rather than one, to fully learn. “That was definitely one of the challenges—I was trying to do it too fast in the beginning,” she said. “We weren’t going deep enough.”
She said her students get excited when they see the roots they’ve learned in a book they’re reading on their own. And the roots have helped in other subjects—for instance, students picked up on what regrouping meant in math quickly because they’d learned the prefix re.
One challenge with the approach is that students at all grade levels often stumble on false etymologies. A student who learned the prefix un, for example, might think it applies to the word “uncle.” But teachers say that kind of mistake can lead to productive conversation—the kind the Virginia teachers were engaging in at their after-school book study meeting.
During that meeting, the Woodlawn teachers also discussed what to do in a common, yet even more thorny scenario—when even the teacher is stumped by a word’s etymology.
“You don’t have to own all this knowledge,” Newton told the group. “You can put ‘words we want to know more about’ on the board and say, ‘Does someone want to go home tonight and look up some of these words?’ We’re sharing that ambiguity with kids. … That’s what real readers and thinkers do.”
WASHINGTON — Congress seems increasingly unlikely to take action to help Puerto Rico ahead of a May 1 deadline for the commonwealth to default on a nearly half-billion-dollar debt payment.
The blown deadline could push Puerto Rico and its 3.5 million American citizens further into crisis, exacerbating a growing fiscal and humanitarian disaster that’s been largely drowned out by the raucous political campaign season on the mainland.
A GOP-led House committee abruptly canceled a vote on a Puerto Rico debt restructuring bill when it was short of votes last week. The bill is still being rewritten, and as of yet the vote has not been rescheduled, Natural Resource Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said Tuesday.
“I’m not sure that on May 2 Armageddon takes place, but clearly I think it will illustrate that there is a significant problem,” Bishop told reporters. “There are still some people out there saying there’s not a problem… No, there is a problem, they will default on some portion.”
Years of mounting fiscal problems are coming due on the island where residents are U.S. citizens but are barred from voting in presidential general elections. Tax policies written in Washington made matters worse in recent years by forcing investments and jobs out of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has been missing debt payments for months, but on May 1 another $422 million worth of general obligation bonds come due and $780 million more on July 1.
Bishop’s legislation creating a new control board to manage the territory’s finances has run into election-year opposition from all sides in Washington. Some conservatives are suspicious it would open the door to a bailout, Democrats are balking at provisions added to sweeten the deal for conservatives, outside groups are weighing in, a high-spending ad campaign has opposed congressional action, and infighting among different groups of creditors has sown confusion on Capitol Hill .
With the bill still undergoing revisions, committee action is unlikely before next week at earliest. That makes final passage through the House and the Senate all but impossible before month’s end.
Democrats blame Congress’ failure to act on long-standing divisions among House Republicans who’ve failed to unite despite the leadership of their popular new speaker, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan has sought to return power to committee chairmen and rank-and-file lawmakers, but on the Puerto Rico bill and other matters, the approach has yet to yield results.
“Puerto Rico is a crisis and they’re not responding,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, pointing to statistics showing high levels of unemployment and poverty in the territory as taxes rise and schools close. “They confront the same problem that John Boehner confronted, a very significant number of their party that won’t follow leadership,” Hoyer added, naming the former House speaker who was ousted by conservatives and replaced by Ryan.
The post Congress unlikely to act on Puerto Rico ahead of deadline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
NEW YORK — Front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton swept to resounding victories in Tuesday’s New York primary, with Trump bouncing back convincingly from a difficult stretch in his Republican campaign and Clinton pushing tantalizingly close to locking up the Democratic nomination.
“The race for the nomination is in the home stretch, and victory is in sight,” Clinton declared to cheering supporters.
Trump captured more than 50 percent of the vote in New York and was headed toward a big delegate haul in his home state, a commanding showing that keeps him on a path to the GOP nomination if he continues to win. He claimed at least 89 of the 95 delegates at stake Tuesday, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich winning at least three and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in danger of getting shut out.
A confident Trump insisted it was impossible for his rivals to catch him. Indeed, Cruz’s poor showing in New York left him without any mathematical chance of clinching the nomination before the Republican convention in July, though Trump could still end up short of the needed 1,237 needed to seal victory before the gathering.
“We don’t have much of a race anymore,” Trump said during a victory rally in the lobby of the Manhattan tower bearing his name. He peppered his brash remarks with more references to the economy and other policy proposals than normal, reflecting the influence of a new team of advisers seeking to professionalize his campaign.
Clinton’s triumph padded her delegate lead over rival Bernie Sanders and put her 80 percent of the way to clinching the Democratic nomination that eluded her eight years ago. In a shift toward the general election, she made a direct appeal to Sanders’ loyal supporters, telling them she believes “there is more that unites us than divides us.”
Exit polls suggested Democrats were ready to rally around whoever the party nominates. Nearly 7 in 10 Sanders supporters in New York said that they would definitely or probably vote for Clinton if she is the party’s pick.
Sanders energized young people and liberals in New York, as he has across the country, but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset victory he desperately needed to change the trajectory of the Democratic race. Still, the Vermont senator vowed to keep competing.
“We’ve got a shot to victory,” Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press. However, his senior adviser Tad Devine said later that the campaign planned to “sit back and assess where we are” after a string of contests next week.
Of the 247 Democratic delegates at stake in New York, Clinton picked up at least 135 while Sanders gained at least 104.
The fight for New York’s delegate haul consumed the presidential contenders for two weeks, an eternity in the fast-moving White House race. Candidates blanketed every corner of New York, bidding for votes from Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs to the working class cities and rural enclaves that dot the rest of the state.
The nominating contests will stay centered in the Northeast in the coming days, with Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania all holding contests next week. Sanders spent Tuesday in Pennsylvania, as did Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest rival.
Cruz panned Trump’s win in New York as little more than “a politician winning his home state,” then implored Republicans to unite around his candidacy.
“We must unite the Republican Party because doing so is the first step in uniting all Americans,” Cruz said in formal remarks.
Trump needed a strong showing in New York to keep alive his chances of sewing up the GOP nomination before the party’s July convention — and to quiet critics who say the long primary season has exposed big deficiencies in his campaign effort.
Having spent months relying on a slim staff, Trump has started hiring more seasoned campaign veterans. He’s acknowledged that bringing new people into his orbit may cause some strife, but says the moves were necessary at this stage of the race.
Cruz is trying to stay close enough in the delegate count to push the GOP race to a contested convention. His campaign feels confident that it’s mastered the complicated process of lining up individual delegates who could shift their support to the Texas senator after a first round of convention balloting.
Kasich, the only other Republican left in the race, bested Cruz on Tuesday and is refusing to end his campaign despite winning only his home state.
Trump’s political strength, though he boasts of drawing new members to the party, has left some Republicans concerned that his nomination could splinter the GOP. Among Republican voters in New York, nearly 6 in 10 said the nominating contest is dividing the party, according to exit polls.
Still, about 7 in 10 New York Republicans said the candidate with the most votes in primary contests should be the Republican presidential nominee
The surveys were conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.
Trump now leads the GOP race with 845 delegates, ahead of Cruz with 559 and Kasich with 147. Securing the GOP nomination requires 1,237.
Among Democrats, Clinton now has 1,893 delegates to Sanders’ 1,180. Those totals include both pledged delegates from primaries and caucuses and superdelegates, the party insiders who can back the candidate of their choice regardless of how their state votes. It takes 2,383 to win the Democratic nomination.
Associated Press reporters Julie Pace and Jonathan Lemire wrote this report.
AP writers Thomas Beaumont, Lisa Lerer, Ken Thomas, Jill Colvin, Emily Swanson and Steve Peoples contributed to this report.
The post Trump, Clinton triumph on home turf in New York primaries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Barack Obama opened a brief trip to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday with a one-on-one meeting with King Salman in Riyadh. The visit for a Persian Gulf summit comes against the backdrop of increasingly strained U.S. relations with the Saudis, who remain deeply opposed to his outreach to Iran and skeptical of his approach to Syria.
Under crystal chandeliers, the Saudi monarch greeted Obama in a grand foyer at Erga Palace, where the two walked slowly to a reception room as the small of incense wafted. The two offered polite smiles as they sat down side by side for pictures at the start of their private meeting.
“The American people send their greetings and we are very grateful for your hospitality, not just for this meeting but for hosting the GCC-U.S. summit that’s taking place tomorrow,” Obama said, referring to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council summit that starts Thursday.
King Salman, speaking thru a translator, offered similarly gracious words for the president, who is paying his fourth trip here for face-to-face meetings and photos with royal rulers since becoming president.
“The feeling is mutual between us and the American people,” the king said.
The president was slated to spend little more than 24 hours in the Saudi capital before heading on to visits to London and Hannover, Germany.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain are participating in the regional summit, which the White House said would focus on regional stability, counterterrorism including the fight against the Islamic State and al-Qaida, and Iran. Talks are also expected to address the Saudi-led military campaign against Shiite rebels and their allies in neighboring Yemen.
Stepping off of Air Force One earlier at King Khalid International Airport, Obama was greeted on a red carpet not by King Salman but by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the governor of Riyadh. Before Obama landed, Saudi state television did not immediately air Obama’s arrival, but showed the king greeting other senior officials from Gulf nations arriving for the summit.
U.S. officials have expressed hope the latest meeting will build on last year’s Camp David summit, though they acknowledge differences remain between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Obama’s recent comment that the Saudis and Iranians should “share the neighborhood” roiled officials in Riyadh.
The Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom — the world’s biggest oil exporter and the largest buyer of American-made weapons — sees Shiite-led Iran as its main rival. Saudi leaders are concerned that concessions granted to Iran in last year’s nuclear deal will embolden it to pursue what the Saudis view as aggressive meddling throughout the region.
Salman’s reign has overseen a more assertive foreign policy, with Saudis venturing into Yemen and pushing the U.S. to take more aggressive moves to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. Saudi Arabia and Iran back opposing sides in Syria’s civil war and in the Yemen conflict, where the U.S. military is providing refueling and other logistical help to the Saudi-led war effort.
Ahead of Obama’s trip, a group of U.S. senators called on the president to press Saudi Arabia on human rights issues during the visit and raise the cases of two imprisoned advocates, blogger Raif Badawi and a man who defended him, rights activist Waleed Abu al-Khair. Also behind bars is Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who was sentenced to death for apostasy but later had his sentenced reduced on appeal to prison and lashes.
The White House said concerns about inclusive government and improved rights were on his agenda for the visit.
Saudi Arabia in early January carried out its largest mass execution in years, putting 47 people to death, including prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. That move trigged an angry reaction from Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia’s Shiite rival Iran, where protesters set fire to two Saudi diplomatic missions inside Iran. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies responded by severing or downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran.
Maya Foa, death penalty director for the human rights group Reprieve, said Obama’s visit “comes amid a huge surge in repression in the kingdom.” The London-based group is urging the president to raise the case of Al-Nimr’s nephew, Ali al-Nimr, and two other men on death row who were arrested while under 18 during protests in the kingdom’s oil-rich east.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the kingdom’s defense minister, said ahead of Obama’s visit that the Gulf and the U.S. must work together to confront challenges including terrorism, instability and what he described as Iranian interference into regional countries’ affairs.
Associated Press writers Kathleen Hennessey and Adam Schreck wrote this report.
Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Abdullah al-Shihri in Riyadh contributed to this report.
The post Obama meets with King Salman at start of Saudi Arabia visit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Defense Secretary Ash Carter pressed reluctant defense ministers from six Gulf nations Wednesday to provide more economic and political support to Iraq now to help the war-torn nation in its fight against the Islamic State Group.
In a series of sessions, Carter urged the Arab countries to specifically help with the reconstruction of cities of Ramadi and Hit as well as Anbar province, areas that have been won back from the militant group but left in near-shambles. He said helping the Iraqi people go home and rebuild their lives would lead to a more lasting victory and promote a more inclusive government.
The defense ministers’ meeting was aimed at laying the groundwork for a summit Friday among President Barack Obama and heads of state from the Arab countries.
A senior defense official said the defense chiefs had a robust discussion, but came to no solid agreements on the increased aid.
The official said it appears the Gulf nations will be willing to consider doing more. But the Sunni leaders want to wait until they see more political improvements in Baghdad and greater participation and aid for the Sunni population before they agree to do more. Iraq is a Sunni-majority country with a Shiite-led government.
The U.S. has been unhappy with what the Gulf nations have been willing to do in the fight, both with their military forces and financial contributions.
In recent comments to The Atlantic Magazine, Obama described Gulf countries, among others, as “free riders” that show “an unwillingness to put any skin in the game” when it comes to their own regional security. Those comments have chilled Obama’s welcome at the summit.
And, while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states are part of the U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, they have done only limited airstrikes in Syria.
Carter told a news conference later that Sunni support for a multi-sectarian government in Iraq will insure that the Islamic State group “stays defeated.”
“What we would like, and what we discussed today, is to do more,” said Carter, who spoke at Diriyah Palace alongside Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani.
At the meeting were defense ministers from the six GCC nations — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.
The ministers also reaffirmed ways that their militaries can work more together, including in training, exercises and missions with their special operations and naval forces.
One proposal would have each country designate a special operations unit to go through enhanced training so it could work more closely with all the other nations.
The ministers also talked about ways to counter threats from Iran — a high priority for the Gulf countries who have been dismayed with the U.S. move to reduce sanctions on Tehran in exchange for the nuclear agreement.
Al-Zayani said at the news conference that Carter expressed the U.S. commitment to stand with the Gulf nations against Iranian threats, including weapons smuggling into countries such as Yemen.
The U.S. official said that the U.S. wants to see a continued push to interdict the weapons shipments from Iran to insurgent groups in Yemen and other areas. The official was not authorized to discuss the issues publicly ahead of the meeting, so spoke on condition of anonymity.
U.S. officials also want Gulf nations to have a more formal diplomatic presence in Baghdad, arguing that involvement with the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government will decrease the deep sectarianism fracturing the country.
There have been significant investments in the region’s air forces in recent years, but the widely dispersed fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria requires a greater emphasis on special operations missions and naval forces, said the official.
Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, we asked you to take the bubble quiz, based on Charles Murray’s 2012 book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” meant to test how well you know mainstream white American. Today, Charles Murray continues his exploration of the scores and ZIP codes from the bubble quiz in a third post. You can find his first post analyzing the results here, his second here and his third here.
Surprise, surprise. The bubble quiz turns out to be a good test psychometrics wise.
I can’t claim it was part of the plan. The bubble quiz was supposed to be a heuristic device. I wanted members of the new upper class who read “Coming Apart” to come to grips with the degree of their isolation from mainstream white America, and I hoped the 25 items in the quiz would help them to do that. I tried out a draft of the test on the American Enterprise Institute’s interns and research assistants to get their reactions and tweak the wording of the questions, but I didn’t try to construct a psychometrically sound test. And yet that’s what the bubble quiz appears to be.
In my latest download of the numbers from the NewsHour, I have 66,647 cases with complete and interpretable data, which I have defined as cases with participants’ current ZIP codes and ZIP codes at age 10; an age of at least 20; and a bubble score greater than zero and less than 100 (given the nature of the items, the 37 scores of either zero or 100 are awfully suspicious). The distribution of these 66,647 cases is extremely close to a bell curve.
The mean for the NewsHour sample is 40.6 points with a standard deviation of 16.0. Based on supplementary analyses, I estimate the mean for a nationally representative sample to be 44.2.
The first post about the bubble quiz had a graph showing separate lines for the relationship between the bubble score and the socioeconomic status of the ZIP code where respondents currently live and where they lived at age 10. By combining the two ZIP code scores, I get a better measure of the total socioeconomic status experience of people over their life spans. The next graph shows what happens when the bubble score is plotted against that combined socioeconomic status score.
The correlation between the bubble score and the combined socioeconomic status index is .43. For the social sciences, that’s high. For example, the correlation between educational attainment and income is usually around .4. The strongest single predictor of job productivity is an IQ score, and that correlation averages about .4 across studies. If someone took the effort to refine the items on the bubble quiz and added a dozen additional questions, it should be possible to jack up the correlation with the combined socioeconomic status index to around .5 — the average correlation of a child’s IQ with the midpoint of parental IQ.
It’s not just the size of the correlation that counts. The absolute change in score from the bottom percentile to the top is 25.5 points, amounting to 1.7 standard deviations. One’s score on the bubble quiz is, by the standards of the social sciences, a useful and powerful measure of something — exactly what we can argue about.
The graph is based on a sample consisting of people who go online and take a 25-item test. It is not nationally representative. The mean socioeconomic status percentile of the ZIP codes where the respondents lived at age 10 was 61.0. For the ZIP codes where they live now, it was 71.5. But the difference in means in the bubble score between the people who took the test (mean of 40.6) and the estimated mean for a nationally representative sample (44.2) is less a quarter of a standard deviation. Simulations based on a difference of this size indicate that the unrepresentativeness has modest effect on the results.
The question that has consumed many hours of data analysis since my previous post in this series is whether elite ZIP codes in certain metropolitan areas are systematically and reliably associated with larger reductions in the bubble score than other elite ZIP codes. It’s a complicated question. On first inspection, five metropolitan areas stand out: New York, Washington, Los Angeles, the corridor running from San Francisco to San Jose and Boston. But maybe those results can be explained away by population size or the general economic condition of the area. The quantitative techniques for exploring these issues are complex, and I will refrain from presenting any of my results to date for fear I will discover a week from now that there’s a more powerful way of modeling what’s going on.
I’ll leave with you with a pair of maps (not professionally prepared — my apologies) that illustrate why I think there’s something worth investigating.
The first map is of ZIP codes in Minneapolis-St. Paul and its surrounding suburbs. The dark red ZIP codes are in the 98th and 99th percentiles, the lighter red ones are in the 95th to 97th percentiles, and the pink ones are in the 90th to 94th percentiles. In other words, all the shades of red are the top decile. The blue ones are in the 80th to 90th centiles. The yellow ones are below the 80th percentile.
Minneapolis and St. Paul are big cities, with 1.8 million people within their joint city limits. They have a few clusters of affluent neighborhoods, with the largest being on the west side of Minneapolis. But just two of those ZIP codes are dark red, and they contain just 19,000 people. Each is bordered by at least one ZIP code below the 90th percentile. Almost all of the other red ZIP codes in the cluster are also bordered by ZIP codes not in the top decile.
Now, look at the map of Washington and its surrounding suburbs to the west and north.
Washington itself has a much smaller population than Minneapolis-St. Paul — 833,000 people within the District’s borders — but the rest of the ZIP codes shown in the map give it a population that is roughly similar to the population in the Minneapolis-St. Paul map. Instead of just two ZIP codes in the elite 98th and 99th percentiles, however, the Washington metropolitan area contains 42 such ZIP codes with an aggregate population of 776,000 people. Not all of them are on the map, but the key ones are shown: those in Georgetown, the rest of Northwest Washington, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, McLean, Great Falls and Potomac, which together constitute the neighborhoods where the powerful elite in Washington is concentrated. Those ZIP codes form a contiguous blob. Furthermore, with a few scattered exceptions, they are bordered by ZIP codes in the 95th to 97th percentiles, along with others that are merely in the 90th to 94th percentiles. In the District itself, the only place where the dark red blob is bordered by blue or yellow ZIP codes runs along Rock Creek Park — a broad, heavily forested buffer between the homes of Northwest Washington and those of the hoi polloi.
For the 16 respondents from the two elite ZIP codes of Minneapolis-St. Paul, the mean bubble score was 40. For the 991 respondents from the elite ZIP codes in the Washington blob, the mean was 32.6. I’m not treating that discrepancy as proof of anything. But it is suggestive that there’s something worth exploring, just as the maps themselves illustrate how very differently cities have organized themselves into elite enclaves.
And so now I will burrow into the data and see what else is there. I have no idea when I will surface, nor what, if anything, I shall be clutching when I do.